Chatological Humor* (Updated 7.1.05)
Tuesday, June 28, 2005; 12:00 PM
* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."
Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.
He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.
He'll chat about anything.
Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .
Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.
This is going to be my favorite intro of all time. It will probably be boring for you, but who cares about you?
Today, I get Payback. As many of you know, my editor, Tom the Butcher, used to work for me. Now that the roles are switched, he exacts his revenge through petty little tyrannies too numerous to mention. But some are dramatic. Just last week, for example, he flatly forbade me not only to write, but even to REPORT, a particular column on the grounds that it would be (and I am quoting verbatim) "just a series of [penis] and [vagina] jokes."
Now, I freely admit that this column WOULD have been just a series of [penis] and [vagina] jokes, but I ask you, is this any reason to kill a column? Has this man never read a single word I have written?
Anyway (here is where you come in) before T the B killed the column, prohibiting me from even making the phone call around which the column would be based, I had occasion to write down verbatim the questions I was going to ask. (I do that, when I have a column that is essentially going to be a transcript of a conversation . Many interviews take unexpected turns, of course, but this helps me get part of the conversation completely accurate. )
So here is the transcript of what was to be my half of the conversation with a doctor in Texas.
Me: Is this Dr. Richard Chopp?
Me: As a responsible journalist, I like to keep abreast of important developments in the world of science and medicine. So in the course of my research I happened upon your excellent website for the Urology Team, and it quickly became one of my favorite websites. Just to establish the seriousness of my inquiry, would you say that urology is a vitally important field of medicine whose practitioners help people every single day?
Me: Ok, swell. Now, to the specifics. According to the website, you go by the nickname "Dick." Dick Chopp. Is that right?
Me: And you are a specialist, among other things, in performing vasectomies?
Me; Okay, now, I also notice that one of your partners is named Dr. Hitt.
Me: Dr. Hitt and Dr. Chop, specialists in the treatment of groin-related difficulties.
Me: Okay, another one of your partners -- this is where it kind of gets exciting, from a purely medical perspective -- another one of your partners is named Dr. Hardemann, right?
Me: And Dr. Hardemann specializes, among other things, in curing male erectile dysfunction, including through penile implants. Is that right?
Me: Okay! Do a lot more male patients request the services of Dr. Hardemann, if given a choice betweeen him and Dr. Dick Chopp? Is that a problem between you?
Me: Okay, now I also notice that your website -- and I would like to repeat this is an excellent, professional website that reveals that your urology practice is the finest in Central Texas -- also indicates that you offer treatment for female sexual dysfunction. And I tried to click on that area, but it apparently is unfinished, so the only thing on the page for female sexual dysfunction are the words "Coming Soon." Is that a promise, to your clientele?
Okay, then! See, it didn't go to waste.
Now, on a related matter involving Tom the Butcher's horrendous savagery - he held a chat yesterday about the magazine's cover story Sunday. It was a terrific story in which Tom assigned eight writers, me included, to cover a single Nationals baseball game, as a way of showing the impact the new team has had on the city. I will grudgingly hereby admit that, no doubt by accident, Tom edited the thing brilliantly, integrating the work of eight different people into a seamless whole.
Now, during the chat someone wrote in observing that the piece was marred by the fact that so little was heard from the writer covering The Best Seat in the House; Tom of course recognized that the poster was me, and noted in his answer that he had made some deletions in my copy, and that I was suffering from "separation anxiety."
Then a chatter proposed that, in today's chat, I publish the deleted material. And Tom said that was a good idea.
Hahahahahaha. What a rookie error. Under ordinary circumstances, I would not publish deleted material. It would be an act of insubordination. But HE SAID IT WAS OKAY. It's on HIS head.
Here, then, are the final two observations by the fan in The Best Seats In the House, deleted via meat cleaver by T the B:
From the best seats in the house:
Here, looking right into the Nats' dugout, one can observe the subtleties of human nature. For example, male human nature is to be filthy swine, which explains the sebaceous-looking carpet of discarded paper cups and spit. But another bit of human nature is observable, too. In the top of the sixth, with runners on base, Cristian Guzman makes a stunning, sliding stop of a grounder headed up the middle for center field. Braking with a his left foot, he leaps up, steps on second and whips a perfect throw to first to nip the runner, for an inning-ending double play. As he returns to the dugout, he receives accolades from his teammates, that peculiar high-five, rock-rock, fist-to-fist acknowledgement. There's a gantlet of these as he wades through the sebaceous goo. But it his face that is instructive: It is stone. This happens every time a man returns to the dugout after doing well. In the testosterone-laced protocol of dugout behavior, the player being congratulated must show himself to be a picture of stolid insouciance; at the major-league level, one apparently must be so blasBbout one's skills that it is uncool to exhibit either joy or exuberance at one's own most prodigious achievements. It's kind of sad, actually, thinks the flabby guy occupying the best seat in the house.
From the best seat in the house:
The proximity of the dugout and the on-deck circle afford a terrific opportunity to study people up close. In the poker faces of manager Frank Robinson and coach Don Buford, you detect wisdom and savvy and maybe a certain joyful iconoclasm that's got to come from being a smart, mature person, living inside baseball, among its outlandishly outsize egos, for more than 50 years.
But you see something else entirely faces of the nervous, earnest young men parading before you into the on-deck circle. In the faces of Wilkerson, Carroll, and Church, you see something familiar. You realize you've seen it before - a thirsty ambition coupled with a palpable fear. With their fresh-scrubbed, painfully close-shaven faces, their angular jaws and scared, rabbit eyes, they have the look of a young U.S. Senate staffer who knows he's lucked into the best job of his life, wants so much more, and understands he can lose everything in a heartbeat In short, on these baseball faces you are seeing exactly what you might expect to see in a business as ruthless and unforgiving as this one, where your mistakes are public, and all the glory can end anytime, in a single misstep.
Or, the opposite. Carroll - the scarediest, rabbitiest, pink-cheekiest, youngest-Republican-looking of them all - leaps on a Obermeuller fastball that's caught a little too much of the plate, and ropes a clean single to right, assassinating the perfect game.
As he stands at first, careful to exhibit not a hint of joy or exultation, your eyes drift over his shoulder and waaay up into the stands, up, up into the stratospheric sections of right center field, beyond the overhangs, beyond the birds, where a few human flyspecks sit - the rabble - the poor sods who can know none of your joy, share none of your insights, up there where the view is poor and the air is thin. Your heart is filled with pity, and your nose bleeds for them. You laugh at your little joke, which they'd be too proletarian to understand, anyway.
Okay, then, enough Tom bashing. But isn't he an idiot?
Lessee, take today's poll. It's one of my favorites, and when I discuss the results later on, I will have the benefit of a Special Secret Statistic that Liz will give me.
It was a great comic week. The CPOW and runner up both made me laugh out loud. They are linked to, below.
Also, there are two egregious things that happen in the Curtis also linked to. Can you find them?
Okay, let's go.
washingtonpost.com: Comic Pick of the Week: Pearls Before Swine , ( June 27 )
First Runner-Up: Speed Bump , ( June 27 )
Virginville, Pa.: "The Hummer"?
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: A Source of Embarassment , ( Post Magazine, June 26 )
Gene Weingarten: Indeed. Yes, thank you. It made me laugh, too, when I thought of it. I don't believe I will be embarrassing anyone here to say that it confused the two female copyeditors at the magazine, Spike and Grumpy, leaving it to the one male copyeditor, Officer Obie, to explain it. When he arrived at work that day, he never anticipated having to do that.
Washington, D.C.: I'm sure I'm the millionth person to ask you this.. Why did you decide to use Alston and Bird Law as the phone number at the end of Sunday's article? Was is it their location to the White House? Are you on their payroll?
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: A Source of Embarassment , ( Post Magazine, June 26 )
Gene Weingarten: The Hummer was so unconcerned about remaining anonymous, that he gave me his actual office phone number. A rather hugely brazen joke, no? I love this guy.
Washington, D.C.: Have you ever explored the cultural origins of humor? I've been thinking lately of what the French call "wit" -- trenchant political/social observation pithily phrased. Is it humor as a means to an end (making the political point) rather than an end unto itself? And if humor is used as a vehicle for something else, does it count as "humor" to you? Or is all humor meant, at some level, to transmit ideas?
Put another way, what's the difference between Voltaire and Richard Pryor? I think there is a difference, only I couldn't really tell you what it is. I'd appreciate your thoughts.
Gene Weingarten: Certainly. Happy to oblige. Humor is truth.
Virginville, Pa.: So Ronald Reagan was voted "The Greatest American." Let it out, Gene. Let it all out.
Gene Weingarten: There's really nothing to say, is there? I mean, really. Ronald Reagan beats out Washington and Lincoln and Franklin and King. What is there to say? Really. What? Also, I believe Geo W. Bush was number 6.
So, yeah. There it is. Yessir. We are the spit-for-brains nation.
Your City and State: "I believe that the community is already in process of dissolution where each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy, where non-conformity with the accepted creed, political as well as religious, is a mark of disaffection; where denunciation, without specification or backing, takes the place of evidence, where orthodoxy chokes freedom of dissent; where faith in the eventual supremacy of reason has become so timid that we dare not enter our convictions in the open lists, to win or lose."
Judge Learned Hand, 1872-1961
Gene Weingarten: WOW. I am honored to publish this.
Nyssa, OR: Since you chat about anything, I was wondering if you have any insights into the fact that I have no visual memory. If I close my eyes and try and picture something, all I see is static.
For example, if I think of an apple, I can imagine how it feels in my hand, the sound of crunching into it, the taste of it, even the smell, but no image. Any description I would give (red, round, etc.) is an abstract concept to me. I can't even picture my kids' faces, although I certainly recognize them when I see them.
Is this common? I've always assumed it is just a normal variation of brain wiring, but maybe I should be in a journal article or something.
Gene Weingarten: Wow. You've got me flipping through a neurology textbook. (Yes, I have "Principles of Neurology" here at home.) But I'm not finding anything on visual imaging in the brain. I shall consult an expert.
Gene Weingarten: To paraphrase Shakespeare, you have a "mind's eye," but it is blind. I am still looking.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, well here is one of the advantages of posting early. I have referred your case to Dr. Anthony Reder, a brilliant neurologist at the University of Chicago. He was one of my best sources for my book. Ready?
There is something missing in your head. If this condition was of recent onset, Dr. Reder would suspect a stroke. But since you've always had it, it suggests a small part of your brain is simply nonfunctional, or gone, or rendered inactive because of a lesion of some sort.
You're a lucky guy that's all it is.
From Dr. Reder:
"Visual sensation comes into the occipital lobe, at the back of the brain, but then it is forwarded to the right parietal lobe for further processing. That is where this person's problem is-- in the part of the brain on the side of the head near the right ear, where your thumb and first finger would be if you put your hand over your ear.
"It's a really strange condition and I haven't heard of it before. He may have a small cyst there, or some other lesion, but it would be benign and no cause for concern. Basically, for some reason he is missing some wiring in his brain."
Lansing, Mich.: OK, I loved The Post's Sunday magazine story on the Nats game (and I correctly pegged you as the occupant of the best seat).
But all in all, I still don't get the appeal of major-league baseball -- and I say this as a former sportswriter. It's tediously slow-moving and has tons of inexplicable rules and requirements (the infield fly rule? DH or no DH?). It also relies excessively on the generation and maintenance of scads of more-or-less incomprehensible statistics.
I had dinner a couple of weeks ago with a half-dozen male coworkers -- several of them former college athletes, most of them current sports fans -- and we had a lively discussion about earned-run averages that started with my revelation that I know how to calculate one. (Earned runs times nine divided by the number of innings pitched. Remember, I used to be a sportwriter. Also, my dad played catcher in high school and college.)
But what exactly IS an earned-run average? And why should I care about it? Or about baseball in general?
Teach me, master!
Gene Weingarten: Okay, I don't even know where to begin, Patty.
First off, that is a nicely concise description of how to calculate one's earned-run average. I am impressed.
Now, I am not some sort of George Will-ian who insists on comparing baseball to the rhythms of life and the cadence of the American Dream, or whatnot. It is a game. It just happens to be the perfect game, however, no pun intended, in the sense that it requires the subtlest of skills of any sport (evidence: Only in baseball is it nearly unheard-of to move directly from school into the major leagues. It takes a few years of minor-league play, even for the best and most talented, to be ready to compete in the Show.)
It is also, by far, the most mentally challenging of sports. It is seldom, in any other sport, that you hear of a game turning on a "mental error," which happens all the time in baseball.
it is also beautiful. Physically. Ballparks are gorgeous. The layout of infield and outfied: gorgeous. Try looking at a basketball court and thinking, gorgeous. Look at a football field, even one played in the same field as baseball. Not gorgeous.
Bats. Gorgeous. Wood. Grain. Tapering.
Also, faces. Look at Joe Torre's face. Gorgeously ugly.
Wow. I just realized that "gorgeous" is an ugly-looking word. But, whatever.
Try watching a baseball game from a great distance, but live, like Von Drehle did in this piece. You see something you never see on TV, or from a closer venue: The whole field reacts to every moment of play. Everyone is constantly moving, shifting, to accommodate an innumerable host of possible outcomes at every second of play.
Chemistry: Look at what is happening, so far, to the Yankees and the Nats. One team is peopled by the most talented players in the game, and is losing. One team is peopled by largely ordinary players, and is winning. I don't think this happens in other sports. It is ineffable.
Ineffable. I'll leave it there. Baseball is ineffable.
Boston, Mass.: In your opinion, which cartoon character has the dorkiest outfit?
Gene Weingarten: Dagwood. Clearly.
Medic,AL: I have to say that I am most impressed by your ability to come up with a plausible diagnosis from a poster's symptoms. Seriously, you're at least as good as an upper year medical resident. What exactly did you read in your hypochondriac years? Also, what do you think is the funniest medical term? My personal favorite is borborygmi.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Borborygmus is great. I think my favorite sounding illness is Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. It doesn't LOOK that great, but when you say it out loud, it is sheer poetry.
Speaking of sheer poetry of the spoken word, do you realize how gorgeous the following lines are, from "Werewolves of London"?
Ya hear him howlin around your kitchen door, ya better not let him in.
Little old lady got mutilated late last night, werewolves of London again.
Just let them lines roll on your tongue. Zevon was a genius.
Gene Weingarten: Oh, and as for my semi-expertise: I spent two years reading medical tomes, for my hypochondria book. Essentially, I was researching minor symptoms, and tracing them back to the direst possible causes. You pick up a lot that way.
And it is only semi-expertise, which I am reminded of every so often when I make some sort of confident, sweeping pronouncement or diagnosis, and an actual doctor person writes in to correct me.
(The book did not sell particularly well, which means it was not reviewed a lot of places. There was only review I cared about, though, and waited in fear for it for almost a year. It finally came, and I was hugely relieved. The Journal of the American Medical Association not only decided the book was funny, but reported somewhat grudgingly that it was almost free of medical error (though they nipticked a couple of small ones. That review is actually out there on the Web, somewhere. )
Chantilly, Va.: SOS SOS NEED EMPRESS' HELP
In the current Invitational contest, must the book summary that is to be derived use all the pictures, or just one? Just spoke with another loser and we came to different conclusions.
Gene Weingarten: 'press? You around?
Gene Weingarten: I'm pretty sure you are supposed to use em all in one book, but the question is out there, now.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Loved the "group assignment" article in the Post Magazine on Sunday. But inquiring minds want to know -- how did you finagle the "best seat"? And, offering $100 to that woman for her seat? They're paying you WAY too much (unless the $100 was part of your expenses graciously covered by The Washington Post for "research").
Gene Weingarten: We finagled what we THOUGHT was the best seat by buying it, with the help of the Nationals' press office. But it turned out that though it said it was Row 1, it was in fact Row 3 (there are also rows A and B, in front.) So I had to persuade a very, very nice mom (sitting in Modell's seats) to put her toddler on her lap.
As the story recorded, though, I then concluded it was not the best seat, and tried to bribe a woman to exchange hers for mine, with a $100 sweetener.
That had been negotiated with Tom the Butcher in advance, just in case. I brought bribe money. On my expense account, it would have appeared as "tips and miscellaneous."
Arlington, Va.: Havng read Sunday's baseball story and admired its remarkable editing, and having now read the deleted portions you posted above, I think Tom the Butcher derserves a VERY large raise.
Gene Weingarten: I am posting this because I am obliged to.
Even though it almost certainly was written by T the B.
Washington, D.C.: Yes, Tom is an idiot. The first section, about the player being congratulated in the dugout, would have been among the best parts of the story.
Gene Weingarten: This, however, probably isn't from Tom.
VPL tangential: Gene,
Speaking of VPLs, what about VBLs (visible bra lines)? I always wondered if it was tacky or sexy or just plain ignorant. We could go into strap dynamics and cup line visuals and all that other jazz. I just shrug in my ignorance. Please enlighten me.
oh, and I'm a girl. and I heart you. and poo on the person who denigrated Those Who Heart U.
Gene Weingarten: Isn't this clear? MEN LOVE VISIBLES. All visibles. Men are visual creatures.
(This is presupposing that we are discussing women of pleasing proportions, such as every woman in this chat.)
Oblivi, ON: RE: Curtis problems...Pollen isn't a molecule.
Did I win the whale dong bone?
Gene Weingarten: Pollen isn't a molecule. Plus, it is not ONE pollen thing that is the culprit, so the whole premise is ridiculous.
And there is something else, pointed out to me by my son.
Liberal Polltaker: I can't do it. I can't answer the poll. Not with the instuctions "which of these best represents your feelings." Maybe as "which of the following do you absolutely disagree with the least," but not like it is now. Did you set it up with the conservative answers first, then flop them around?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, I started with the conservative, and the flopping was easy.
You have to choose the one that least infuriates you. Hint: immigration.
I'm a woman: and "The Hummer" made me laugh out loud, too. Apparently your female editors need to get out more...
Gene Weingarten: You said it, not I.
The best seat in the house: That's what's cool about low-minor league baseball, too: for a few bucks, you can talk to the players in the on-deck circle.
Last time we sat on the screen (well, not on it, but touching it), the wives had fun checking out the young guys' um, cups, and we had fun telling the young guys that the wives were checking them out. The best part was watching the 18-year-olds trying not to smile.
Gene Weingarten: I love minor league ball. We try to catch at least one Keys game a year. And by the way, that sort of makes my previous point: These guys are fabulous athletes, but the level of play is clearly inferior. They are making mental errors.
Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Why do you work for Tom the Butcher now? Were you demoted? Did you plagarize? Did you hit on someone's daughter? Or is he simply a rising star that surpassed you?
Gene Weingarten: I hit on HIS daughter.
New York, N.Y.: Donald Duck doesn't beat out Dagwood for dorkiest cartoon outfit?
Gene Weingarten: Okay, yes, he does. I stand corrected.
Bigfatli, AR: I refuse to believe that a former sportswriter sees the infield fly rule as inexplicable. What sport did you cover, rugby?
Gene Weingarten: Frankly, it isn't easy. The tough part is explaining why it is necessary, which, of course, it is. The only Flaw in baseball.
Down town: Alright, the best chat of the week!
What is your opinion of Family Guy? Like it? Hate it? Not seen it?
Gene Weingarten: Completely brilliant.
Washington, D.C.: Opus strikes me as visually very funny, even when the text doesn't. The facial expressions, the ridiculous characters like Bill the Cat, the "camera" angles -- Breathed gets it right. Got me to thinking, what is the funniest comic visually? Not necessarily the best drawn, but one that is just funny to look at?
Gene Weingarten: Well, the greatest disparity, by far, is Mutts. The drawings are fabulous, and the gags nonexistent.
Arlington, Va.: Gotta go with T the B. Some of that was worthwhile, but on the whole, needed to be cut.
Gene Weingarten: The hell you say.
(I agree. Just yankin' his chain. He did good.)
The Perfect Game - didjano...: Baseball is the only game where only the defense holds the ball.
Of course golf is perhaps the only sport where top professionals can be woefully out of shape (Craig Stadler and others) and actually smoke during competition (Jack Nicklaus and many, many others).
Gene Weingarten: Have you never seen David Wells? or Sidney Ponson?
(I don't call golf a sport.)
New York, N.Y.: How does one go about describing what a "hummer" is without subjecting onesself to a sexual harrassment/work indecency lawsuit?
Gene Weingarten: One works in a newspaper, where people are tough and free speech is encouraged. And explaining things is part of the job description. Seriously. It's not ordinarily an issue.
Conservative polltaker: I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this "flag burning" thing is absolutely ridiculous.
I vaguely agreed with one or two of the other statements too, but my agreement with the flag-burning one was by far the most accurate, so I voted for just that one. If I had to pick another one, it'd probably be the environment one.
What's the super secret statistic?
Gene Weingarten: The super secret statistic is how MANY answers the average conservative and liberal gave. Because the answer should be quite instructive.
Liz, please check your secret source and let me know in our secret channel of communication.
The Empress of The Style Invitational: Right, this week's contest asks you to name and tell about the single picture book Bob Staake was working on on that page of his sketchbook. You can also supply text for one or more of the sketches. By the way, the "enlarge this picture" link for the cartoon on washingtonpost.com is now working fine.
Gene Weingarten: Gotcha, thanks, YRH.
J.A.,MA: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura is way funnier than TTP ... especially when you see the poor slob with the blotches and bruises all over him.
Gene Weingarten: True, true. Anything "idiopathic" is funny.
Winnie-the-Po, OH: Gene, I'm sure you're familiar with the idea of deaths occurring in "threes" -- that is, when a well-known or accomplished person dies, two others of similar stature die shortly thereafter.
Anyway, did you notice that Paul Winchell, the original voice for Tigger, died this past weekend, and today the obituary appeared for John Fiedler, the original voice for Piglet?
Gene Weingarten: It's real scary who will be next. I hope it is not Gilbert Gottfried!
Knoxville, Tenn.: Your mentioning Gilbert Gottfried last week reminded me that my daughter and son-in-law had met him several times at, I think it was, the DC Improv Comedy Club, in the late '90s.
So I just emailed her about this.
She wrote back, "He was so friendly to us and such a nice person. He talked to us, in a 'normal' voice, for quite a while and he even let us take pictures of us with him."
But I didn't know until I read it today that he is the AFLAC duck's voice! Cool!
(As a child of the 60s I am entitled to use the word "cool.")
Gene Weingarten: HE IS THE DUCK?
All hail the quizmaster: When you interviewed him for the article last week, did Dave George tell you about the Daily Quiz? Years ago, Dave (then known as the Quizmaster) would send out 10-question quiz a couple of times a week or so (the "Daily" part was usually a lie) to a list of his friends and friends-of-friends. He would then send out the "correct" answers to the quiz, which consisted of the funniest answers submitted by the participants. At its peak, the DQ had, if I remember correctly, over 1,000 participants. I think there are still archives floating around in cyberspace somewhere. I miss the DQ a lot, and it was nice to have an update on how the Quizmaster is doing.
Gene Weingarten: I had no idea. Anyone have an archive?
Wait, Wa, IT: Previously you have said that you don't see what all the fuss in cartoonist circles about Mutts artistry is all about. Now you are putting forth that the drawings are "fabulous?"
Gene Weingarten: No, no. I believe I have always complimented the drawing. Very retro. I say this at the real risk of your shaming me with an archive bite. So have at me.
I'm a woman: Get out a lot, way too much, actually. Have no clue and don't want to Google it at work - so help us out on the hummer
Gene Weingarten: It is a sexual act, the precise equivalent of "Deep Throat."
Flogging: I, too, have also always suspected that golf was not a sport, but haven't been able to develop a robust definition of "sport" that excludes golf. Why do you say it's not? I feel like it's something to do with the quiet (anything where etiquette demands that you shut up so as not to disturb the athlete will never feel like a sport) but this doesn't strike as quite essential.
Gene Weingarten: Well, because a 25 year old has no appreciable advantage over a 45 year old. Ridiculous. Not athletic.
Egregious Curtis: How many noses does the mightiest king have?
Gene Weingarten: Nah, the second point is that the dinosaur -- even the DRAWING of the dinosaur -- is an egregious ripoff of Calvin and Hobbes.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene,
So have you tried out the new Post puzzle Sudoku. What do you think? As someone who isn't a fan of crossword puzzles (my vocab stinks!) I love it! It took me a while to figure out the rules but now that I've got them I'm hooked! I can see this becoming a new addictions!
Gene Weingarten: It's becoming a national craze. And I admit, I reacted with dubiosity when I discussed it with Deb Heard, the editor of the Style Sexion. I am a word guy, not a number guy.
It's not really numbers, its logic. And I like it. I think it's something really new and different.
New York, N.Y.: If I send in questions on Monday, do you see them?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, I do.
Washington, D.C.: I feel the need to mention that at one point at my place of employment, a discussion came up about the possibility of some of the clientele purchasing various automobiles without paying duty. The question arose as to whether or not it was possible to purchase a "Duty-Free Hummer."
Not only did no one at the table understand why I started giggling, neither did my boss when I related to the tale to her later that day. What is wrong with people in Washington?
On another topic, speaking of mental errors in baseball, when do you figure the O's are going to get rid of Jorge "Your Yankees MVP" Julio?
Gene Weingarten: About when the Mets get rid of Brandon Looper.
Hey, maybe they can trade one for the other.
trick pony, 1: "Red and Rover" was truly odd today. fyi.
washingtonpost.com: Red and Rover , ( June 28 )
Gene Weingarten: It was. I liked it, in an existential way.
Washington, D.C.: TtheB obviously doesn't get the volume of questions you do on your chats. He answered three of the four questions I submitted yesterday (the fourth was another version of the much-asked "which writer did what?") The most important one was the one asking to see your unedited copy!
Gene Weingarten: Ah! Thank you!
Arlington, Va.: Man, you have to scroll a lot to get to the actual questions. Don't you have a column where you write about payback?
Gene Weingarten: My goal is to have these chats be MUCH better than my column. Total payback to Tom.
Washington, D.C.: Some baseball nerd wrote into one of the reporters doing a baseball chat that a ball bouncing over the outfield wall is not a "ground rule double" even though the reporter (and every announcer in the world) calls it that. Looking up the definition on MLB I see that it defined for EVERY single park. This is why I find baseball ridiculous. The rules are like the freaking tax code.
Gene Weingarten: Here is what bugs me about ground rule doubles: In about four-fifths of the times someone hits a GR double with runners on base, the runner on first would have scored had it not bounced into the stands, yet the umps invariably hold that runner at third. Outrageous.
Yes, I am a baseball geek. Obviously.
College Park, Md.: I'm almost afraid to ask, but -- what was it Dan pointed out to you about Curtis?
Gene Weingarten: The Watterson thing I alluded to.
Duty-Free Hummer: So, is that when you don't have to call the next day?
Gene Weingarten: Precisely.
Connecticut and L: Love the Zevon reference and you are right...
"When California slides in the ocean like the mystics and statistics say she will..
I predict this motel will still be standing...until I pay my bill."
He had a way
Gene Weingarten: Man, that's great, too. He really did. He was, literally, a poet.
"Better not let him in" doesnt sound like a great line, but you know it is when you hear him sing it.
Old Town, Alexandria, Va.: Being a person with English as a second language, I am not sure what the phrase "dry humor" really means. Is it complimentary when someone comments that you have a dry humor or should that be taken as an insult?
Gene Weingarten: I would say it is a compliment, unless it is intended as an insult, suggesting you have a sense of humor so dry that it is basically not there.
A dry sense of humor, truly, is a sophisticated sense of humor.
Geek Central: Gene, a few weeks ago you used the word "hardy" in a column. I've always used "hearty." Is there a difference, and if so, can you tell me what it is and why you chose that word?
Yes, this has been bothering me for weeks. Yes, I am a sad, sad person.
Gene Weingarten: Hardy means able to exist in extremes of conditions. Strong. Hearty means cheerful or enthusastic.
Evilness of Blogs: Last week you said you didn't want to update the chat on Mondays since then it would be a blog and you won't do a blog.
Can I ask... why not?
Gene Weingarten: EVERYBODY has a blog, and so few of them are good. Achenbach's is actually good. But it is a rarity.
Baseball: So, are you now a Nationals fan?
Gene Weingarten: Definitely.
Splitting pants: I split my pants in the crotch with alarming frequency, and it almost always takes a second wearing before I remember to sew them up. They aren't too tight, though -- I'm a chef and they're baggy chef pants. The waist is elastic so throughout the day the pants creep down, which lowers the crotch, too. I squat down to pick something up, and RRRRIP.
I throw the pants in the wash intending to sew them up once they're clean, but I usually forget and wear them again. Then the next time I squat down in the walk-in refrigerator I feel this WHOOOSH of cold air at my crotch. "What the..." flashes through my mind, and then I remember.
And yes, I'm a woman.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you for sharing!
Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.
I am going to do something unusual this week, and beg for time. This is a complex poll, and I am going to try to analyze what it means in tomorrow's update.
But here is the special fact, and it resonates with significance: Conservatives tended to choose several items. Liberals, only one. And that one was clearly grudging.
It's a very very interesting stat, isn't it?
That, Night: I was at that game. Stands weren't even close to full when the first pitch ended up in the bleachers. The only other interesting moment for me was a guy behind us correctly predicting that the fans wouldn't notice the no-hitter going on in front of them till around the 7th inning. Which was when it fell apart.
Subtle sport baseball, not for part-time observers like myself.
Gene Weingarten: I could be wrong here, but I believe that I was the one who informed Tom the Butcher, to his suprise, that it was a perfect game, on my cellphone, during the fifth inning.
Lexington, Ky.: Your chat is already better than your column. I usually enjoy reading the Sunday column, but Tuesday at noon is a must for me.
Gene Weingarten: Shhh.
Pru, DE: Gene,
My wife, previously dainty, gave birth to our first child a few months ago. Since then she has begun to use words like "poop" and "fart" with alarming ease and regularity. Last week she even said "armpit."
Should I be concerned about my daughter growing up in a home like this?
Gene Weingarten: My God you scared me. "Dainty" is not quite the word you meant, and I assumed you were going to be complaining that your wife had gained weight after childbirth. I would not have touched that subject with a tentpole.
I can imagine how the indelicacies one must endure during the process of childbirth-- not the least of which involves lying on a gurney while a series of businesslike strangers casually insert their hands into you to test for things, might indeed alter forever one's notions of what is proper conduct and language. I wouldn't worry about it at all.
Sport or Not?: If golf is a sport, then so is darts, or heck, lawn darts. They require hand-eye coordination, but not much else. So I guess that would include video games, too, except for the walking. Oh wait, you don't have to walk if you have a golf cart! But you have to carry all those clubs...unless you have a caddy.
But you have to hit the ball. I've heard it's really, really hard.
Gene Weingarten: It is. I suck at it, which is one of the reasons that I refuse to call it a sport.
Plagarism City: The artist of "Curtis" has completely ripped off Bill Watterson in his first panel.
Gene Weingarten: Um, yes. You are a little behind.
You ARE A LITTLE BEHIND. Hahahahha.
Paging Dr. Gene: I have a potential diagnosis, but it's really freaking me out, so maybe you can come up with something better. Symptoms: tingling/numbness/cold feeling in my legs and arms, joint pain, temporary blindness (last about 45 minutes), headaches. What do you think?
Gene Weingarten: Yikes. Lupus?
Washington, D.C. (Neurosurgeon): Sekuler and Kahana at the Brandeis Psych department believe that blocked, absent, and persistently unclear visual memory may, in the absence of actual cerebral trauma or damage, be linked to unconscious memory suppression. A pt may, for example, suppress a particular graphic memory in order to consistently suppress a different, disturbing memory.
Gene Weingarten: Right, but would he suppress ALL visual memories?
Conservatives chose more items: Ooooh, is it possible that we're actually sentient and able to look past the orthodox party positions to think for ourselves?
That's really gonna chap some liberal hides--next you'll tell us Bush got comparable grades to Kerry!
Gene Weingarten: That is one interpretation! I do not discount it!
Another may be that since conservatives are in power, there is more for liberals to be sputteringly angry about.
Burke, Va.: Here's one interpretation of the poll results. Conservatives, contrary to popular opinion, are actually much more flexible in their beliefs than are liberals. They can see that there can be a point of view different from their own, whereas liberals see their beliefs as simply "right."
Gene Weingarten: As I said, this is not inconceivable.
Golf: "Well, because a 25 year old has no appreciable advantage over a 45 year old. Ridiculous. Not athletic."
Weeeeellll... I know he's on his last legs, but what about Clemens v. Just-About-Any-Whippersnapper-Out-There? And pitching is, by far, one of the most athletic positions in sports.
By the way, if we're thinking of a definition of sports that excludes golf, could we also make sure it excludes NASCAR?
Gene Weingarten: Right, but this is a total aberration.
Canadian in Switzerland: I understand the appeal for baseball, but I hate watching it on TV because NOTHING HAPPENS for long periods of time, broken up by mostly standard plays.
Whereas in a good hockey game, the puck is always moving and the situation is always changing. I would submit that hockey is also quite the thinking man's game. The difference is, you have to read a fluid situation, not a static one, think fast, and out-move the other guy. There's also a lot more physical aspects to it too, which make it more entertaining to watch. All around pretty much the greatest sport on earth.
Gene Weingarten: I spent years hearing about how hockey was the best sport to watch in person, then went to a game and was bored to tears. Fast, furious, incomprehensible action and most goals appeared to happen by accident.
Leesburg, Va.: Last night, while lying in bed with my wife, I asked her to pull my finger. After refusing to perform this rather simple task, she asked me why people found the Pull My Finger joke to be funny. I told her that all fart jokes are funny, but she didn't seem to understand. She couldn't find any kind of humor in regards to farts and fart related jokes are funny. We both decided that it would be best to have you explain why the Pull My Finger joke is so funny.
Gene Weingarten: Because we try to pretend we are neither machines nor animals. Farts show us that we are animals, and pull my finger suggests we are machines. You are welcome. I did this in fifteen seconds.
Alexandria, Va.: My interpretation of your poll is that your liberal issues were poorly chosen. Us Catholics tend to disagree with all you retards on a lot of issues, only one of which was actually in the poll.
Gene Weingarten: WE Catholics, not us Catholics.
Liber, AL: I really wanted to choose three! I hate that American politics is such a dichotomy right now, but I just couldn't help it. It hurt to choose just one (welfare).
I've consulted to Immigration in the past and to EPA, currently, so I know that USCIS/ICE is doing what they can (and are quite well funded!) and I recognize that defending the environment and identifying sustainable energy should be a high priority. So I couldn't choose either of those, and the rest were really unthinkable.
I want to be a moderate, but it's just too difficult. I feel guilty about the poll.
Gene Weingarten: Well, then it worked!
Washington, D.C..: Gene, will you please remind people that the city/state combos really aren't that clever if the state abbreviation isn't a real state? For example: "Wait, Wa, IT."
Gene Weingarten: Noted.
Left Field: Best quote of the week, from today's Richard Cohen column:
"Right-wingers are the useful idiots of our times..."
Gene Weingarten: I didn't read Richard today. Was he discussing this in connection with Lenin?
New York, N.Y.: I have to agree with the Swiss guy. Baseball on TV bores me to tears. But when you go to the park, smell the smells, take in the majesty of the total game in person, it is a wondrous event. I can't wait to take my yet unborn child to his or her first game.
Gene Weingarten: It is true, baseball is meant to be attended. I prefer to watch football on TV. But football, in person, is a godawful game to watch. Almost unwatchable.
Montgomery, Calif.: I am not a fan of the Governor of California, but I had to appreciate, that WHILE RUNNING for Governor he appeared on Leno and announced during a chat about cars, that he had asked Maria to give him a Hummer for his birthday.
Gene Weingarten: Really? With a sense of irony?
Conservatives Chose More: ...because they hold their noses and vote their pocketbooks because they are greedy bastards and know it's wrong.
Gene Weingarten: Another interesting view. I'll bet you punched only one, right, mister angry?
Bethesda, Md.: "Beause if I did, then this chat would become a Blog, and I refuse, on moral grounds, to have a Blog."
Gene, you are writing a four-day-a-week blog. Claiming otherwise is like having sex with men but claiming not to be gay. Get out of the closet, you blogger.
Gene Weingarten: Ha.
You can have sex with men and not be gay. Absolutely. I absolutely believe this. I am prepared to reveal how in just a second.
Ugly Words: From an earlier chat, an ugly word for a beautiful thing: masturbate. Why don't we change it to something like "the sound of one hand reading"?
Gene Weingarten: I'll take that up with the proper authorities.
STATISTI, CA: "But here is the special fact, and it resonates with significance: Conservatives tended to choose several items. Liberals, only one. And that one was clearly grudging.
It's a very very interesting stat, isn't it?"
THAT'S THE CONSERVATIVES WHO ARE ON THIS CHAT. YOU'D GET A DIFFERENT RESULT WITH A DIFFERENT SAMPLE, FOR EXAMPLE, A HANNITY CHAT, OR A RANDOM SAMPLE.
Gene Weingarten: Possible. I don't discount that, either.
And now, time to go. This is getting repetitive, but it is exciting: We hit a new record for total questions today. Thank you all.
Next week, same time.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, the promised further analysis of the poll results:
Yes, by a statistically significant margin, conservatives were far more likely to express reservations than liberals. WAAAAAY more likely. Most selected three things that bothered them about their party's positions or performance, whereas virtually all liberals selected only one. From which we can conclude that liberals would have chosen none, if it had been allowed.
The implications of this were raised in the chat. I think you can conclude that conservatives are more reasonable people, or that they are morally bothered by compassion-versus-strict conservatism issues. Or that liberals have more to complain about, because they are not in power.
As far as the specifics, they didn't surprise me. I think many liberals, quietly, are offended by the tradeoffs occasioned by welfare, and suspect the system is broken or paternalistic.
What surprised me was the fact that conservatives were unsure on abortion and gay marriage; frankly, as one chatter suggested, this might reflect that this chat attracts a certain KIND of conservative.
The good kind.
Kissing, Women: Just read your last update from last week. My reaction as a confirmed heterosexual woman was UGH! GROSS! I NEVER kiss other women on the lips, not even my daughter. I remember flinching when she wanted to kiss me on the lips by the time she was about four years old. Men just have fantasies about women on women sex so this whole "all women are lesbians" thing (some quote my husband keeps throwing at me) is a wish fullfillment type of thing. They want it to be true to fill their fantasy, but it ain't so. No more true for women than men.
Gene Weingarten: Hm. Is this true? I'd like to hear from some heterosexual women about this. There is a presumption (I do not think this is just wishful thinking) among heteresexual men that women simply have no problem with mouth-kissing. I think it's because WE have no problem with mouth-kissing women, so it sure makes sense on a visceral level.
Gene Weingarten: See next post.
Choosing, BI: About women changing teams, indeed women are more likely to be bisexual than men (for most men, claiming to be bi is just a stop on the way to gayville), so it may look like some woman have more choice. I've also met several woman that wish they could change teams because men are pigs. Oink.
Gene Weingarten: Oddly enough, this and the previous post are unrelated.
Gene Weingarten: (I think.)
Today's Doonesbury: I have been a fan of Trudeau's work for 30 years, but I'm thinking today's strip was pretty insensitive. A tsunami joke?
washingtonpost.com: Doonesbury, (June 28)
Gene Weingarten: I see nothing wrong with this toon. Except that tsunamis don't roar at 600 mph.
Gene Weingarten: (I think.)
Hypochondr, IA: What is your opinion of osteopathic medicine? I used to think they were just a branch of homeopethic medicine, but a friend of mine has almost convinced me otherwise, but I bow before the master and ask your advice for the definitive answer.
Gene Weingarten: Osteopaths are real doctors. They have a slightly odd medical religion, but that's all.
Weirwolf's of Washington: So, you were listening to the geezer rock station this morning, weren't you? By coincidence, my 12-year-old daughter and I were playing the album in the car the other day, so she already knew how to ow-OOOOO properly. Fatherhood had his moments.
BTW, when WZ played here in '78, when the song was still new, he did sing "Weirwolves of Washington... "
...Walking through the streets of Georegtown in the rain.
He was looking for a place called Chez Odette
For to get a big dish of quiche lorraine..."
Gene Weingarten: Indeed.
Score!: I have a complaint with a standard sports reporting convention. Announcers in mosts sports will say "no score" to mean zero to zero. But, there is a score; it's zero to zero! Is 4 to 0 in the third inning half a score?
Gene Weingarten: Very good point. No, the only half score is 0-0 going into the bottom of the first. That would be half a score.
Washington, D.C.: So how did you manage to wrangle your way into the best seat in park? Did you have to bribe Tom the Butcher?
Gene Weingarten: Very good. It was my idea to do the best and worst seats, and Von Drehle fought me for the worst seat and won. Better comic potential, and pathos potential, as he demonstrated. I came to believe I got the better of the deal, though.
It is an amazing experience to sit that close. You are IN the game.
Yr Update, OK: Gene Weingarten: . .. For the record, I am five foot ten and 172-177.
Oooh. Thank you for this update. For the last couple of months (or however long it's been) since you commented that you had to look UP at your 5'2" wife, I've been wrestling with an attempt to reconcile your persona with a squeaky fireplug. Sorry. Logical and literal --- Like the Miami reviewer, I too, would have missed the satire.
Gene Weingarten: I said I had to look up at my wife? I look up TO my wife? At certain times, I suppose, yes, I have looked up at my wife, yes. Um. But I do not recall ever having implied I was dwarfy.
Weath, Errrrr: Re: the query in last Thursday's follow-up from the person with the pet peeve about weathermen and pilots referring to storms, etc. as "weather" instead of "bad weather."
I'm not a weatherman, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I did take Meteorology 101 in college as an elective and was told that weather actually is clouds, rain, storms, and so on -- on a clear day, there is no "weather" as far as the meteorology term-makers are concerned.
For what it's worth.
Gene Weingarten: But -- and I mean no disrespect here to meteorologists -- that is idiotic.
Need We Even Menti, ON: It's so obvious to every reader of this chat, but for posterity I think we should acknowledge the guilty verdict passed down on Edgar Ray Killen.
Gene Weingarten: What I like about this post is the presumption that, historically speaking, the contents of this chat will be more important than, say, the contents of page one of The Washington Post.
New York, N.Y.: I passed by the John R. Deady Funeral Home in south Philadelphia this weekend. I had to tell you about that.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you.
Iowa: Would you go to jail rather than reveal the (anonymous) sources for a newspaper story you'd written?
Gene Weingarten: Well, yes.
Missing poll question: Gene, I wish you had included questions in the poll along the lines of:
Lean-Con:"I worry that the religious right is trying to hijack the Republican Party"
Lean-Lib:"I worry that radicals/anarchists/people who actually hate America/the PC crowd are trying to hijack the Democratic Party"
I don't have the correct bogeyman for the Lib question, but I'm sure if you took some time you could come up with a good one.
Gene Weingarten: Yep, that would have been good.
puzzle, DD: Gene: can you explain today's "B.C.?" I am completely baffled.
washingtonpost.com: B.C., (June 28)
washingtonpost.com: Is it some sort of anti-cremation message?
Gene Weingarten: No, it is Biblical. The snake has been consigned by God to eat dust, and I think he is worried about further offending the deity by complaining. Knowing Johnny, I am pretty sure I'm right.
Re: Paging Dr. Gene: The person with numbness, tingling, and temporary blindness could have multiple sclerosis. Unlikely to be a stroke with that distribution, though, if that was what he/she was worried about.
Gene Weingarten: I know. I didn't want to say it.
Macon, Ga. (former home of the Macon Whoopie): This is a rather startling line from a Chicago Tribune story:
"'You have to be careful, because breathing is a powerful thing,' said Harvey, who sometimes sneaks into the office bathroom for a few calming deep breaths." Does anybody else do this?
Gene Weingarten: Egad. I hope not.
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