Chatological Humor* (Updated 7.8.05)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 5, 2005; 12:00 PM

* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."

Daily Updates: 7.6.05 | 7.7.05 | 7.8.05

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 .

This week's poll: 35 and Younger | 36 and Older

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

First, I want to begin with the story behind today's somewhat unusual poll. On Friday, I was in Miami, working with Dave Barry on a project, the two of us deep in teleological reflection on and contemplation of the humor of flatus, and such other profundities, when I received an email communication from Chatwoman. Chatwoman was informing me that since Monday was a holiday, I needed to come up with a poll RIGHT THERE AND THEN . I fired back a righteously indignant message pointing out that things of quality take time, whereupon Chatwoman informed me that it was fine with her if we HAD no poll, that it was entirely my right to backslide on my responsibilities to the public, and that it probably would not signal the beginning of an inexorable quality-slide culminating in my chat being taken over by some snot-nosed kid like "Dan Zak," the Style section intern with the world-class byline. (Short bylines are world-class. Dan's byline is the best since the disappearance from the Post, some 15 years ago, of the great "Ted Gup.")

So, grumbling, I produced this entire poll in less than four minutes, which is about the amount of time necessary to type it, reflecting the degree of thought put into it. (Your favorite COLOR?) At the last minute I asked Chatwoman to do an age-split, more to annoy her with extra work than in the hope of actually generating an interesting result.

Now, I do apologize for the shoddiness of this whole sordid enterprise, especially since it grew out of simple petulance and lassitude. You are chat connoisseurs who are accustomed to, and deserve, better. But here is the interesting thing. Just as some of Picasso's fifteen-second sketches have been lauded as works of genius, this poll may someday be seen as the same. Not only are your answers revealing, but they are interpretable. Much to my surprise, Correct Answers Do Exist.

Now, as it turns out, today's poll SHOULD have involved another matter. I see from my mail that there is an urgent issue out there that simply must be parsed, and I am excited by the possibilities. So I am going to lay it out here, and ask for comments, and will post the most intriguing. I fully expect that this chat will end for all time any bogus competition from other chats for the most posts. Carolyn, eat your heart out.

In the chat last week, I made a joke about changing my sex. Someone asked whether my wife would be pleased with this, and I facetiously answered something about how women seem to be able to CHOOSE to change teams, so it might work out okay.

Then, in the chat update, someone noted that, indeed, women ARE more likely to be bisexual than men, and asked why. I said I didn't know, but wondered if it had something to do with a greater openness and squishy peopleness, observing that hetero women seem to have less compunction about mouth-kissing other women than hetero men have with the idea of mouth-kissing a man. (I stated, for the record, that hetero men would have ENORMOUS, GIGANTIC problems with the idea of mouth-kissing men.)

In a message awaiting me today, one female chatter has said that I am way offbase, and that hetero women react with a distinct "ew" to the kissing of other women on the lips. (I need to observe here that we are talking entirely about chaste, friendly kisses, not overtly sexual kisses.) This female chatter basically suggested I know nothing about women.

So, the gantlet has been tossed. Hetero women, am I wrong about this? I have just taken a scientfic poll in my household, asking my daughter, who is sitting five feet from me, and she agrees with the poster. "Ew." So far, then, the vote is 2-0 against me.

So, in this chat, I'd like to hear from heterosexual women on this topic. But we needn't stop there. What about gay men: Are you grossed out by the thought of kissing a woman on the lips? Does that provoke the "ew" response? And lesbians! Help us out here. Is kissing a man a grossout?

I don't really need to hear from hetero men, because I really believe I represent the majority of us, but by all means, if you feel I'm wrong, pipe up, too. (I know some men who grew up getting lip-kissed by their daddies, an Eastern European practice I consider pretty darn odd, frankly. But I'm guessing they will feel as I feel today.) And no, I am not particularly proud of this; we should be above this sort of thing. But still. Also, it's not logical: Back in another era I never had a problem sharing a, um, cigarette with a guy, so why should direct lippiness make much of a difference? It just does.

This may be the most all-inclusive inquiry this chat has ever launched. We are marginalizing and disenfranchising only bisexuals, whose response we presumably already know. To these people I apologize from the bowels of my weeping liberal heart. I would also like to refer to the intriguing headline in today's NYT Health Sexion: "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited."

Okay, we have a compound CPOW today, two really elegant Frazzes. The runner up is today's Zippy, because it made me laugh. And Zippy never makes me laugh.

I hope you all saw Friday's Prickly City. What an idiot that guy is. And I'm not even talking politically. We need to drop this strip.

Okay, let's go.

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washingtonpost.com: Comic Picks of the Week: Frazz July 2 | July 5

First Runner Up: Zippy the Pinhead ( July 5 )

Also mentioned above: Prickly City , ( July 1 )

Today's Poll: 35 and Younger | 36 and Older

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Palesti, NE: Gene --

Interesting interview Sunday, but I can't believe you didn't nail the question that all humankind has been waiting, nay hanging on for so many years:

What is Jesus Christ's middle initial?

H.? F.? Some shocking other answer?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: What in the Name of God...? , ( Post Magazine, July 3 )

Gene Weingarten: Sigh. I had a whole exchange with the lawyer over this, in which I used a line generated from a chat. Acknowledging that His middle name had to begin with an H, I asked the lawyer if it was Howard, as in, "Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name..."

Tom The Butcher took it out for reasons of taste; I think T the B himself did not find it tasteless, but was bowing to the wishes of others.

By the way, my wife, who grew up in Catholic schools, remembers being completely confused as a young un by the line from the Lord's prayer, which she heard as "Our Father, who aren't in Heaven..."

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Woodstock, Md.: I want to hire Pishevar as my personal attorney. A lawyer that can state his case convincingly and clearly, and a sense of humor to boot!

Gene Weingarten: You know, I had the same thought. This guy is very smart.

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Springfield, Va.: Holly Molly! Just read Sunday's column. Have you been struck by lightning yet? Prayer Beads or Wiccan spells? Evangelicals in SUVs?

Does your Rabbi read your column?

Gene Weingarten: No complaints yet.

Holy Molly?

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Anonymous: Hi Gene,

In my online personal ad, I list favorite authors as Bill Bryson, Gene Weingarten, and Vladimir Nabokov. Are you intimidated being placed in such rarified company? And do I owe you anything for all the tail you are going to get me?

Gene Weingarten: NONE of those writers will get you tail. You have named a famous geek, a famous jerk, and a guy who seems to appreciate the finer points of pedophelia.

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Seattle, Wash.: Sunday's Foxtrot: OK, I admit to being a total dummy, but I can't figure out the jumble in Sunday's comic. Please, please tell me the answer -- it's driving me crazy.

-A Panty-throwing Fan in Seattle

washingtonpost.com: Foxtrot , ( July 3 )

Gene Weingarten: Paige Displays Abnormal Stupidity

Gene Weingarten: Frankly, a little disappointing.

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Re: Zippy cartoon: What does it say about me that I recognized the Alabama 3 lyrics and had to Google the other set?

Gene Weingarten: You are over 40 but under 50, is what it reveals about you.

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RE: 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."

Okay, clearly this woman has incest confused with women kissing women. My mom insisted, and still does, that I kiss her on the lips ever since I was a young'n. As I got older it started to make me feel weird. Now, I don't care. But, as a confirmed heterosexual woman, when I made out with my two female best friends in college, several times, I didn't feel weird at all. Perhaps I'd grown more liberal, or perhaps I was helped by my friend booze. But I didn't wake up in the morning and feel gross. It was all in good fun. In fact, kissing another woman is the same as kissing a man minus the scruff. Kissing other women allows us to explore the forbidden, to have fun, and be carefree. I think this woman has a case of the homophobic heebie-jeebies. Maybe if she went out and kissed her female best friend she'd find it wasn't so bad.

Gene Weingarten: Holy crap. This is more than I could have hoped for. Lizzie, please don't close this chat down. It's very promising so far.

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Omi,GD: Did that Prickly City idiot spell "optimist" wrong or what? Bleah.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. I mean, jeeeeez Louise.

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Bethesda, Md.: Straight woman here -- and my vote goes to the EW column. My brand new sister-in-law is a lip kisser and it has taken me well over a year to get used to it. I'm all for a cheek kiss (face cheeks only!) but the lip thing, blech.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, see! You sister in law is a lip kisser. So, it happens, right?

Does any hetero man know of a hetero man lip kisser? ANYONE?

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Kiss, ME: One of my best friends is a gay male (I'm a hetero female) and we lip-kiss every time we see each other. The idea of making out with a woman grosses him out, but the peck on the lips as a "hello" doesn't bug.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, that's interesting. That is what I expected.

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Oakland, Calif.: Re the poll: many, if not most, of the things that you listed in the spice column, are herbs and not spices.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. There's a difference? Honest, I didn't know.

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Hanover, N.H.: Twenty-something hetero girl who hearts Gene, here... got no problem mouth-kissing other chicks. Just friendly. No big. (I also kiss my dog on the lips, though. So feel free to disregard my opinion.)

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I kiss my dog on the lips, too. And he's a guy. But that's nothing.

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lay, Z: now that we know what Piage displays, what is the fill-in that the lion did? or whatever the animal was?

should it be holey moley?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, Holy Moley.

Oh, I forgot that last thing. It was "Lepton."

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Hetero Kiss, Va.: I'm a female hetero... wouldn't say kissing another woman as "ew" although I've never done it. Regardless, ask your chatters how many of them have seen two straight women kiss? What about two straight men? We've ALL seen two straight women kiss; I've never seen two straight men kiss.

Gene Weingarten: Right, that is my point. I mean, NEVER. (Except, I think, father and young son.)

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Baltimore, Md.: YOu forgot to further explain this:

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.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, right. Here is how: You are a woman.

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NO,VA: Re: Chick-on-chick kissing -- In my circle of friends, this is highly acceptable. It's not a turn-on (that I am aware of), but the ladies (and yes, I am one of them), often kiss each other. FWIW, we are all late-20s/early 30s and all in committed relationships with men who think this kissing thing is weird but, shockingly, have not tried to stop it.

Gene Weingarten: Well, then I was on to something, yes?

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Washington, D.C.: It's past July 4th, and your Yankees are in third place.

Gene Weingarten: Not for long.

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Boston, Mass.: Gene, A really attractive girl responded affirmatively to my email asking (in a veiled manner, of course) for a date. This was not expected. What do I do now?

Gene Weingarten: Dip her pigtails in the inkwell.

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Pastis article: Nice article on MSNBC about "Pearls Before Swine." And I can now breathe a sigh of relief. My daughter has been reading and rereading collections of "Peanuts," and I was worried about her sense of humor. But if Pastis loved "Peanuts" as a kid and can still manage to have such a dark humored strip, then all is fine in the world.

washingtonpost.com: A 'Pearl' of a Strip , ( Newsweek.com, July 1 )

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, and here's a tip: Pastis lives right near Mark Felt. Make of that what you will. On the day of the disclosure, he telephoned me from his car, to tell me that Deep Throat has an unkempt lawn.

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Washington, D.C.: You posting to other columnists' chats again? Someone from 'Eastern Market' submitted this dialogue from The Simpsons to Lisa de Moraes as one of the best TV lines ever:

Editor: That's what I like, a reviewer who doesn't immediately poo-poo everything he eats.

Homer: No, that doesn't usually happen until a few hours later.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I love that line, too. Completely and wonderfully immature. But that was not me.

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Yaounde, Cameroon: Gene,

In response to Patty Mallet's question in last week's chat, I think people love baseball because they were raised with it. Think about it -- when was the last time you met someone who cultivated a taste for baseball as an adult? Every diehard fan will tell you about the first time they went to a park, and it's usually before they were 10. I don't have the mind for numbers like my dad and brother do (they can quote you stats from 20 years ago), but nothing puts me in a better mood than going to a game. Well, almost nothing. I took a class in college called "Baseball in American History" and you would have thought we were in a religion class.

Two years ago I was in a French class taught by someone from Togo and expressed my displeasure during the morning discussion of how the playoffs were going. He then asked me to explain baseball, in French. Do you have any idea how hard that is? By the time I was done, I was at the whiteboard and had multiple diagrams. And every other African teacher I told the story to that day had the same response. Baseball was baffling to them.

Just a theory. By the way, football makes my brain bleed. And I'm a chick.

Gene Weingarten: I don't really have much to add here, except that I suspect you are right. And it is interesting how someone can really love sports, but have extreme preferences. I was just talking to Dave Barry, who loves football and basketball, but has no interest in baseball. I love baseball and football, but have no interest in basketball. Desson Thomson loves soccer and nothing else, but he is a foreign film aficionado, so need I say more?

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Burke, Va.: Regarding the liberal/conservative poll analysis: Gene, can it be you really are missing the most obvious reason for the high number of conservative soft spots? It's because the current conservative world is in flux, and is internally inconsistent. Traditional conservatism wants smaller government, lower taxes, less intrusion, less regulation, etc. The Republican Party, however, has sold its soul to the Baptist Church for a honkin' payout of votes; and they want to regulate the bedroom, the clergy, the schools, your neighborhood OB/GYN, and so on. Any sentient conservative has got to have whiplash from watching this happen. Dang straight they have questions.

Gene Weingarten: I'm trying to remain centrist on the interpretation of the poll results, but this explanation makes some sense to me. Anyone conservative want to take this on?

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College Park, Md.: I'm one of the conservative lurkers in this chat and wanted to chime in on the poll last week. I don't think there are any real underlying motives to conservatives willing to change more about their party than liberals. Liberals have been locked out of everything with the recent election. If they start compromising with Republicans, then what's the point of ever electing a Democrat again? They'll just be Republican-lite.

The Dems need to hold onto all their values and hope to convince Americans that they are right. I'll bet if the current political climate were reversed, the conservatives wouldn't want to change any of their core beliefs.

Gene Weingarten: This is another view, and I like it, too.

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Double/Triple/Quadruple EW: Never kissed another woman on the lips - that includes female relatives, by the way. Reaction is EW across the board. Have never been kissed by another woman on the lips either; a drunk woman tried to kiss my ear one time in a bar, and that was an EW too. (probably an EW if it were a drunk guy also).

You know nothing about women.

Gene Weingarten: Your knowledge of women may be a little thin, too, lady.

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Moscow, Russia: Gene - the Eastern European thing applies to grown men, too, and not just family members. I am the product of a midwestern whitebread Catholic family, and I have kissed grown Russian men on the lips. Not every day, mind you, but it happens. And it's a quick peck, not a passionate tongue thing. It was wierd the first time, and still is a little wierd, but I'm not dying of shame when it happens.

Gene Weingarten: This doesn't count, if you are really from Russia. What time is it in Moscow, anyway?

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Kissing, Women: I was the original "EW" poster and I do know the difference between homosexuality and incest. No, I'm not homophobic, I just don't like the idea of kissing women on the mouth. I don't think that makes me homophobic. Actually it probably would be closer to say I'm germophobic as I don't like the idea of kissing strange (or even normal) men (besides my husband) on the mouth. It's just that kissing women just ain't my thing.

Gene Weingarten: Who suggested you were homophobic? My daughter and plenty of other women here agree with you, and I don't assume any of them are homophobic.

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For Boston, Mass.: I can tell you what NOT to do. Don't ask the girl out, and if she responds saying yes, but not for the night you asked, don't then not respond to her and not call to set something up. Oh, and don't call her the NEXT night at 11:45 p.m. and not leave a message. This will guarantee you will never see or hear from her again.

Gene Weingarten: I think I understand this, but am not sure. Too many double negs.

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Another Hetero Female: Regarding the poster who said that a hetero woman thinking "ew" about being kissed on the lips means she's got a homophobic vibe going on, or whatever: For Pete's sake. A woman doesn't like kissing other women on the lips, and now she's a homophobe? Having preferences makes you a hater, or afraid of people who are different?

Please.

I don't particularly like eating some of the various things I've been called upon to eat thoughout the course of overseas assignments. I've thought "ew" as I've done so. That doesn't mean I hate/am afraid of the people who gladly scarf down insects and cow eyes. I just prefer not to do so myself.

Same with kissing women.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I can't think of a weird food I wouldn't try, so long as it didn't involve cruelty (live monkey brains) or something.

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Kissimee (you fool): OK, I'm a lez. I have two different friends who come at me with a lipsmack when we greet -- one is straight, the other a lesbian. I dodge them as much as I can without appearing too blatantly squeamish. This is about GERMS, peeps. I kiss my girlfriend on the lips all the time, natch, but, ahem, that's different.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Valid.

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Infield FLy Rule: Gene:

You may be the final word on things funny and comics, but you have a lot to learn about baseball.

Anyone who doesn't like the Infield Fly Rule does not fully understand its purpose. The Infield Fly Rule is a good thing, and although it does cause an automatic out, it protects the team at bat!

The rule states simply that if there are less than two outs, and runners on first and second or bases loaded, and there is fly ball in the infield, the batter is out and the runners do not have to advance.

If this rule wasn't there, you would see cheap double plays. The infielders would let the ball drop, then throw to third and then to second to get a double play. And who wants to see that?

Now, the DH is terrible. I love NL baseball.

Gene Weingarten: Why on Earth do you think I feel differently? It corrected the only flaw in an otherwise perfect sport. I am disappointed only that it was necessary, but without it, the game would have really stupid moments.

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Washington, DC: Was last week's "Pearls Before Swine" a collection of gems, or what? I've never seen anyone take a story line that far in a long time. Pastis elevated his game on those six strips.

washingtonpost.com: Pearls Before Swine , ( starting June 27 )

Gene Weingarten: It was great. I think I might have stopped it a couple of days earlier; it was almost overkill. But it was also genius.

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Over here: I'm a bisexual female and like making out (and, y'know, stuff) with guys and girls, but I don't like the idea of lip-kissing anyone as a casual greeting. That's more intimate than I want to be unless the intimacy is about to go further.

It just seems awkward.

And, actually, I think if I did have to lip-kiss anyone to say, "Hey, good to see you!", I would rather do it with a straight guy than a straight woman. I'd probably feel like the straight woman was falsely flirting with me. With the guy, there's a chance it could go somewhere.

But, you know, this really doesn't have anything to do with biological differences. There really are plenty of cultures where it's much more common to lip-kiss, whether you're a man or woman, and people are comfortable with it because it's the norm.

Gene Weingarten: Getting a lot of responses like this, across the board.

Still haven't heard from a single hetero guy who does it. Except some Russkie.

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Washington, D.C.: I thought you might like to know that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has a website, sistani.org, at which he answers questions. I sent him one a month ago: why does he say on his Web site that chess is haraam (forbidden by Islam) while cricket games are halal (permissible)? Today I got back an answer:

"In His name, the Most High -

Chess is forbidden and cricket game is halal. Chess is means for gambling. It has been made haram by the Quran and traditions.

Board of Istifta, Office of Grand Ayatollah Sistani"

My reaction is mixed. On the one hand, I think it's cool to ask a question of this dude (or his office) and get a reply back. On the other hand, the fundamental illogic of the answer (nobody bets on cricket matches?), coming from the man upon whom much is riding in Iraq, is freaky.

Gene Weingarten: I love religious zealots. Don't you see the humor in that answer? HE WILL SAY WHATEVER HE WANTS TO SAY EMPLOYING ANY MEANS OF INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY, TO JUSTIFY THE ORIGINAL DOGMA.

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Grosser than a lip kiss: My MIL used to jab her tongue into the inside of her cheek to make a lump for you to kiss. I couldn't go through with it. Her kids finally convinced her how unappealing it was. I still get the heebies just thinking about it.

Gene Weingarten: HAHAHAHAHA. I am laughing here. Urk.

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Homosexu, AL: Gene, As a lesbian, albeit the one who proposed to you during a chat several months ago (and let the record show that you accepted in a rather breezy sort of way), let me say that yes, I kiss men on the lips (chastely) but would in fact be "ew'ed out" about French kissing a guy. Okay, as I write this, I realize this may affect your acceptance of my marriage proposal. I'm okay with it if you want to reconsider. I still heart you.

Gene Weingarten: No, your offer is still on the table. I can still see explorable vistas.

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The Written Word: Gene,

The holiday weekend inspired a question for you. Which do you think is the more challenging and impressive (not necessarily more important) accomplishment -- writing the Declaration of Independence, or writing the Constitution?

Gene Weingarten: The Constitution, by a longshot. The Declaration was basically a list of whining grievances. It was beautifully written, but the largest part of it is simply yelling about what a jerk the King is.

The Constitution is possibly the most brilliant and farsighted political document ever written. With, um, some small idiocies, among them that whole three-fifths thing.

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Birmingham, Ala.: I shared your questions for Dr. Chopp and his colleagues on the Urology Team with my husband, who doubted the existence of said doctor. He immediately went to the Web and, upon finding their Web site said, "I'd never let them touch me!"

But now we are both wondering, did you notice the fact that the Urology Team is located on Jollyville Road?

Gene Weingarten: I did notice that. And for the 3,459th time, guys, I don't make things up, unless it is clear I am making it up.

I got an email Sunday from someone who said she really, really liked my column on Jesus Christ, and wondered how I came up with wacko concepts like that.

Seriously: Would that column have been remotely funny if I had made the whole thing up?

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Re: straight girls and their gay boyfriends: I've full-on made out with my gay best friend. He's never had sex with women, but when he was quitting smoking, he was really craving the taste of nicotine. He walked up to me after I smoked a cigarette, lunged at my lips, and well, we made out. He was a fantastic kisser. A year or so later, he was a groomsmen in my wedding.

Somewhat different note: I'm trying to convince myself that all the people who are totally grossed out by a friendly peck on the lips aren't total homophobes, but it's not working. There's nothing sexual about it, people!

This reminds me of the time my boss's wife asked me if I had any lesbian friends. (I was on record as having gay male friends. It was a conservative place.) I told her I did, and she asked me if they didn't make me feel uncomfortable. I told her no, of course not. She was like, "but don't you feel like they're hitting on you all the time?"

I just stared at her for a minute, and then said "do you feel like every guy you know is hitting on YOU all the time?"

It took her a minute to get my meaning, but she shut up about it after that.

Gene Weingarten: 1) This is beginning to resemble the Playboy letters page. I like that.

2) I have made the same observation, when someone says something stupid about being uncomfortable around gays.

... as far as homophobia, nah. We are talking about an intimacy, albeit a mild one. You can be uncomfortable with it without being prejudiced.

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Washington, D.C.: Hygiene,

I just took your poll. I'm an over 36 year old, black male. I was raised in the AME church and yet I chose the Jewish Deity as the best representation of God.

I'm sure part of the reason is my understanding that the God of Abraham is in fact the SAME Deity that is worshiped in both the Mosque and the Church. Another reason is I find that I truly appreciate the dual nature of the God of the Old Testament (He "loved" mankind, but was not adverse to punishing the evils of mankind).

But by far my main motivation was that I simply cannot identify with "Christianity" as it has been hijacked by the Ultra Far Right in this country. I wasn't even aware of the depth of this distaste until your poll forced me to face the issue.

What any of this has to do with poop, I am at a loss to grok, but as usual you will make all right about midway through this chat.

I'll hang up now and await your response...

Gene Weingarten: Well, I'll explain the poll slowly. In parts. I think your reasoning is interesting, but I would question whether the OT God, and the NT God can really honestly be described as the same God. He sure does change his attitude a lot, doesn't He?

Can't speak about Allah. I am pretty ignorant.

I believe the only sane and responsible answer to this one is "Other." It is a ridiculous question, whatever your religious beliefs, and the only appropriate answer is, basically, "I'm not answering this."

For example, I am probably closest to being an atheist, but I would never declare Christianity or Judaism or Islam "unworthy," even in comparison with something else. There is a lot of wisdom and worthy philosophy in major world religions.

Sorry.

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Learning to love baseball: Oh, nonsense. I had zero interest in baseball until I started dating a Yankees fan at the age of 29 -- married him, and love the game. It's actually the easiest of the sports to adopt at a late age, because there's time to explain what just happened and why the players did what they did. I watch baseball by myself now, when my husband's not around. Football? Yeah, football I'm never going to get. The players line up and then there's chaos, and then everyone stands around for a while. But baseball's fantastic.

Gene Weingarten: My wife has never much liked baseball. But we went to the Nats game yesterday,, and there was this great rundown play between third and home, involving multiple players. It fascinated her, the choreography of it. She started asking good questions. I think that play might have turned her!

She also seems to really be impressed with Jamie Carroll. I think that bothers me.

By the way, we sat in the center field loge. A completely surreal experience. Ever been there?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi there, Re: the poll, are people reading a little more into this than they should? When I saw how many people in my group (under 35) said blue was their favorite color, I was really surprised. Then I thought maybe they're thinking this is a political thing? My favorite color is red but I'm a blue stater, through and through. Will their (possible) wrong answers skew the poll results?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I think politics entered the color answers, but I can't be sure. Poll after poll confirms that

Americans, for some reason, Really Like Blue.

Garlic is the best spice, though salt is the most versatile and either answer would have been correct. I am shocked, however, at the low vote for tarragon. Very uneducated palates out there. Those of you who chose it, congratulations.

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poll question?: Here is an interesting question for a poll. Regardless of the whole germ thing (which I can see as valid) are the women who don't kiss other women the same ones that won't get undressed in front of other women.

I am a honest to goodness nudist so I can't count myself, but I am just curious?

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Men are more likely to not be bothered by getting nekked in front of other men, but are waaaay more likely to be freaked by the lip thing. Very interesting.

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Michigan: Gene,

Maybe I'm not 100 percent hetero, but I have been married for 20 years and have fathered two children.

I sometimes have the urge to kiss a guy I am talking with -- almost any guy. My boss, for example.

I do not think it would be icky. But it would also not be platonic or "just friendly."

For the record, I have kissed two men, in my experimental period.

Gene Weingarten: Okay! Okay, then!

It is said that sexuality is not a toggle, but a continuum, and I cannot discount that. I surely don't have enormous knowledge on this subject.

But I would say, speaking from my ignorance only, that you are a closet bi.

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Re- Yankees fan joke: I thought it was a wonderful gesture by the Yankees to erect a statue of Bernie Williams in centerfield.

Then I realized that WAS Bernie Williams.

Gene Weingarten: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

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Student Again: Gene, I am in my mid-20s and I too (heart) your chats. I am re-reading some moral and political philosophy as I prefer to return to school. This quote blew me away: "The mind that is hampered by fear lest something old and precious be destroyed is the mind that experiences fear of science. He who has this fear cannot find reward and peace in the discovery of new truths and the projection of new ideals. He does not walk the earth freely, because he is obsesed by the need of protectings some private possession of belief and taste. For the love of private possessions is not confined to material goods." -- John Dewey, Individualism: Old and New

Gene Weingarten: Very good, and, for reasons you may someday discover, my son and I have been reading John Dewey of late. I know this quote.

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Daddy versus ME: My Dad and I often have heated political discussions. I contend that conservatives are meaner -- as evidenced by the style and content of conservative talk radio and television. Of course, Dad denies there is any such thing as conservative talk media (they are simply telling the truth) and that all news is liberally biased except for Fox News. He also contends that Rush Limbaugh's presentation is "tongue in cheek" and therefore not taken seriously.

Anyway, how mean is it that the GOP sponsored a Howard Dean scream contest? Do you think it qualified as humor or am I taking things too seriously?

Gene Weingarten: You are taking things too seriously. That is deft use of political humor.

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Gene's not short?: Gene -- I too remember the chat where you implied that you look up to your 5'2" wife and have since pictured you as a very diminutive person. Strangely, I'm relieved to find out that you're not.

Gene Weingarten: I DO look up to my wife (5 foot 3, not five foot 2). But I look up to her the way I look up to, say, Nelson Mandela.

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Yorkville, Ill.: Gene,

I attended a wedding in Yorkville, Ill., at a lovely chapel maintained by the local historical society. In the men's room above the toilet was posted this message:

"Please don't put anything other than toilet paper in the stool. Thanks."

I laughed out loud realizing that it was too late to decide what I put in the stool.

Gene Weingarten: Hey, Yorkville, Ill. sounds like hicksville. Maybe they were warning you not to use and flush a corn cob.

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Blogs: After thinking about it, I don't buy your "I don't do blogs" reason. Yes, in general, blogs are poorly written and not worthwhile. But, quite frankly, most chats are poorly managed, awkward, and difficult to follow. And yet you still do a chat...

washingtonpost.com: Hey, thanks a lot, Bucko. Way to belittle the past four years of my career in one sentence. And, I mean, chats really aren't that difficult to follow unless you're of sub-par intelligence and following them while also trying to do your inane little job at the same time. And yet, you still type in questions...

Gene Weingarten: You have riled Chatwoman. This is not a wise thing to do. Trust me on this.

There, there, Chatwoman. This person bad. Baaaaad person. We ignore this person.

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Comics: You rarely talk (write? chat?) about the serial comics. Is this because you completely ignore the Spidermans and Mary Worths, or are they simply too bad to mention?

Gene Weingarten: I don't make a huge amount of money and I am not a very important person, but I feel I have a really good job. I define a really good job as one in which you spend the vast majority of time doing things that interest you and that you care about, and the least possible amount of time doing things that bore or anger or frustrate you. My good-to-bad ratio is really high. I try to keep it that way.

Part of my job entails reading the comics daily, and reading them closely and critically. That can cause some pain and torpor. If I were compelled read the serials with the same critical intensity, the goodness of my job would plummet precipitously.

The serials, in general, are not "so bad they are good." They are so bad they are bad. Perhaps one day soon though we can devote a chat or a poll to the serials.

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Gene Weingarten: And lastly, on the poll, the only correct answer is "irony." The least correct answer is "sarcasm." I will explain why in tomorrow's update. I fear I have to run now to deal with a small personal matter. But I will reveal that just before the chat, I asked Dave Barry to take the poll question on the most worthy form of humor. He insisted on adding a last category, which he checked: "Roo-roo."

Back tomoro, and then next week, same time. Thanks.

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ManKisser, Md.: My best friends and I have made out on many an occasion, as well as open-mouthed kissed purely as a greeting. The fact that we are all heterosexual males in our early 20s (alright, one of us is admittedly a bisexual) and in bars filled with homophobic frat boys never seemed to bother us. An openmouthed kiss is an open-mouthed kiss, and my friends have lush, welcoming lips. Is shaking hands or doing an even more homoerotic (in my opinion) manhug a better greeting? Methinks not.

Gene Weingarten: I, uh.

Wow.

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UPDATED 7.6.05

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the correct response to the humor question in the poll was "irony." This is because it is the purest answer: Irony is the source of almost all good humor, depending on our understanding that the world is an illogical, irrational, utterly terrifying and unpredictable place inhabited by selfish, illogical, hypocritical people.

Satire is more labored, a deliberate effort to make fun of this. Practiced at its best, it is highly worthy. Parody is a subset of satire, and thus more limited. Wordplay is effete, but sometimes elegant. Sarcasm is usually really dumb and obvious; a child understand sarcasm. I witnessed this the other day, when Dave Barry suddenly declared to his five year old daughter, Sophie, that it was Opposites Time, and they began conversing in a primitive form of sarcasm:

"Don't buckle up now, because I don't love you and don't care if you get hurt in a car accident."

"I hate you too, Daddy..."

Etc. Quite nice and elegant on a five-year-old level, at which, incidentally, the brilliant young Sophie got the better of her dad. He would inevitably forget the conceit after a few minutes, but she never would.

It's great, at five.

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Gene Weingarten: Oh, an important correction for yesterday. I gave the incorrect CPOW, forgetting the best comic of the week. For those of you keeping score, please note that the two "Frazzes" should have occupied the coveted first-runner up status. The CPOW is this comic, because it is just kind of brilliant:

Baby Blues (July 3)

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McLean, Va.: Heterosexual woman here: Gene, you're not off base. True story: When I'm intoxicated, I crave physical interaction. Since I am in a serious romantic relationship (with a very handsome man), this is a big no-no. So my boyfriend and I have a deal. If offered, I can kiss my girlfriends. Somehow, they always offer, I always accept, and my cravings go away. A kiss is a kiss, and women kiss remarkably well. Men, on the other hand, would NEVER do this.

Gene Weingarten: I just don't know what to say. I ... just ... don't. Okay, you got me hot. I'm not PROUD of this, but I'm not embarrassed, either.

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It's All About, ME: About the kissing. I'm a hetero female and I can't think of a single friend of mine that doesn't recognize that the girl-on-girl kiss, (the peck-on-the-lips kiss) turns most guys on. So, it's not an "ew" response, it's more like harmless fun, teasing the guys. I think it's a generational thing. (I'm in my mid-20s) A better question, though, is why guys kissing guys doesn't turn straight women on the same way... thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: I think the reason guy-guy doesn't turn a woman on is that she (correctly) sees the guys as gay. I think the reason girl-girl turns a man on is that he (correctly) sees the women as adventuresome/open/friendly.

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Ew: I have never kissed another woman on the lips (except for my mom, at a young age) and don't really feel the need to. However, I did attend a women's college, and saw a great deal of girl-on-girl action during four years there. Postscript: I saw many of my girl-on-girl-action friends at a recent wedding. All of them are now married or engaged to men.

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting! Maybe girls CAN change teams.

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Need your help ge, NE: This past Friday my wife of three years had a discussion which scared the bejeebers out of me. She admitted that she doesn't like to be around gay women, because she worry that they'd hit on her. More worrisome, she's against gays marrying because she feels marriage "...is for men and women." I was alarmed, but then she followed up with "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

Ahhh... I'm dumbfounded and I've lost all respect for her. Really, this never came up previously, maybe because she knows I tend to lean left. Can this marriage be saved... more to the point, should I bother? Her parents are normal... is it possible the babies got switched?

Gene Weingarten: I think there's a lot of room for political/social differences in a marriage; presumably you married this person for reasons other than her political views. However, her use of the old "Adam and Steve" confabulation is a sign of humor impairment, which is unforgivable. Split up, before you have kids.

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UPDATED 7.7.05

New York, N.Y.: On Friday, Lisa de Moraes had people send in popular catch-phrases from TV shows. I'm curious about your take on them. Here, more or less, are the ones people sent in.

That's all folks -- Bugs Bunny/Road Runner
Ayyyyy -- Happy Days
Cheeseburger,cheeseburger -- SNL
But NOOOOOO!! -- SNL
You look mahvelous -- SNL
"We're going to pump... you up -- SNL
"Well, isn't that special -- SNL
Good night, Gracie! -- Burns and Allen
To the Moon -- The Honeymooners
And now for something completely different -- Monty Python's Flying Circus
Waaaaahhhhhhhh! -- I Love Lucy
Aiiiyyyy!! -- Happy Days
Dy-no-mite! -- Good Times
To boldly go where no man has gone before -- Star Trek
Hey kids, what time is it? -- Mr. Rogers
I'd like to buy a vowel -- Wheel of Fortune
Jane, you ignorant slut -- SNL
Danger, Will Robinson -- Lost in Space
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition -- SNL
Luuuuuccccy! -- I Love Lucy
I'm Chevy Chase and you're not -- SNL
Nevermind. -- SNL
They killed Kenny -- Southpark
Who loves ya, baby? -- Kojak
Book 'em, Danno -- Hawaii Five-O
I love it when a plan comes together -- The A Team
Eat My Shorts -- The Simpsons
I'm Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you? -- the Simpsons
Not that there's anything wrong with that -- Seinfeld
Yada yada yada -- Seinfeld
Get out! -- Seinfeld
Yabba dabba doo! -- The Flintstones
I'm smarter than the average bear -- Yogi Bear
I pity the fool! -- The A Team
Kiss my grits! -- Alice
I'm Larry. This is my brother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryl.
Kipt'n, she's burnin' up! -- Star Trek
Sock it to me -- Laugh In
Here comes the judge -- Laugh In
Watchu talkin' 'bout, Willis --
Let's be careful out there -- Hill Street Blues
I know Nothing! -- Hogan's Heroes
Would ya believe -- Get Smart
I asked you not to tell me that -- Get Smart
Sorry about that, Chief -- Get Smart
Da Plane! -- Fantasy Island
Don't have a cow -- the Simpsons
Just the facts, ma'am -- Dragnet
The clock on the clubhouse wall says its time to go -- Mickey Mouse Club
Y? Because we LIKE you -- Mickey Mouse Club

Gene Weingarten: I believe "What time is it, kids?" is Howdy Doody, not Mr. Rogers. Or maybe Mr. Rogers reprised it. My kids never watched Mr. Rogers; he was simply too sedate for them. All of these lines are worthy, in the sense that they stay in the consciousness, though any list that contains "Dynomite" and, say, "to the moon, Alice!" is inherently suspect. Interesting how many great lines came from SNL, isn't it?

And: It reminds me that about a year ago when I discussed the great sitcom characters, I missed one. Max Smart was a great sitcom character, maybe one of the top ten. Another great Max Smart line, from the third season or so, was this one, used after someone had attempted some incredibly daring act, such as jumping from rooftop to rooftop. The action would happen offscreen, and then Max would turn to Ninety-Nine, put to fingers about an inch apart, and say, "Missed it by THAT much."

washingtonpost.com: And isn't "No one expects the Spanish inquisition" from Monty Python -- not SNL, as listed above?

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EWville: Married woman here, 27, who can only say EWW to kissing another woman on the lips. Would certainly kiss the cheeks, either one or two, but would feel very icked out about kissing a friend on the lips.

And, EWW part deux... you're a Yankees fan? I can't heart you anymore. I've come to realize that as someone who grew up in the Red Sox Nation, I have a visceral reaction to anything Yankees. I want to hit the caps off the heads of the fans I see. It's similar to the urge to rearend a car with a Bush/Cheney sticker on it. Fortunately I resist those urges but in my head, you have a little less shine for me now. Bummer.

Gene Weingarten: Well, first, I would have thought last season might have purged that hostility.

And second, if you prefer, think of me as a Nats' fan. I am.

If the Nats play the Yanks in the World Series, I would have no choice but to root for the Yankees this year. Forty-five years of loyalty is not that easily broken, as I am sure you know. Next season, who knows? I am definitely in the tank for the home team.

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I Don't Understa, ND: I find it a bit ironic that Pastis works for Charles Schulz's estate. I happen to like Schulz's work; "Peanuts" was a brilliant strip back in the '60s. But today its reruns (which are not even the best "Peanuts" material) are keeping artists like Pastis off the comics page. Have you ever talked to him about whether he approves or disapproves of "Classic Peanuts"? I take it he'd definitely be opposed to "Classic Family Circus."

Gene Weingarten: Our discussions on this subject must remain private.

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Herndon, Va.: Salt is a mineral; garlic is a bulb; and rosemary, thyme, oregano, and tarragon are herbs. Pepper is therefore the only correct answer. Someone needs to go read Kim O'Donnel's chat!

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, yeah. Eleventeen hundred people spanked me on this. Oooh.

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The Burbs, Md.: Gay male here responding to your question, but I have no "ew" factor to report on mouth-kissing women. I mean, you know, since I'm no longer in the second grade. Besides, they usually smell nice and they usually tell me I smell nice. (I have no idea if that's significant...) And the straight women I know have no "ew" factor about mouth- kissing their female friends. Straight male friends have even mouth-kissed me with no "ew" factor. But all that said, we are all theater people, and I suppose that puts us in a whole other subset to begin with! A nice-smelling group of theater people...

Gene Weingarten: I really like theater people. Kissing women because they smell nice is such a logical and excellent thing, I'm sitting here grinning.

And the fact that straight male friends will kiss a gay male fills me with a sort of admiration and shame, too. We have not evolved far enough, clearly.

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USED 7.8.05

Anonymous: I'm a hetero guy, per your request, and my dad once lip kissed me after a visit. I was startled (!) and these days I think he must have been mad at me about something. It remains pretty weird from my perspective, and I suspect it sounds strange, too.

Gene Weingarten: I realize I did leave out a whole genre of male lip-kiss: The Mafia rubout kiss. Which tells you you are doomed.

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Pinnochio: Gene, is the Pinnochio story supposed to be some old sexual morality tale? I just saw a commercial on TV with Pinnochio but am confused if there's actually a moral to the story. For that matter, is the Washington cherry tree chopping story another sexual morality tale? Am I reading too much into these things?

Gene Weingarten: If Pinocchio is a sexual morality tale, it is a little perverse and off the point, no? He tells a lie, so grows bigger? I would think growing smaller would be a more appropriate punishment.

This does of course bring to mind the old joke about Raggedy Ann and Pinocchio, which I dasn't retell here. I suppose I could reveal the punchline: "Tell a lie! Tell the truth! Tell a lie! Tell the truth!" Okay, then.

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Alexandria, Va.: Could you link to PtheP's diatribe against a commentor in the Achenblog? A hilarious piece of writing that would be of great interest to your wider audience...

washingtonpost.com: Here tis.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

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Alexandria, Va.: Because I anticipate that this week's "Pearls Before Swine" will be contenders for comic of the week (especially Friday), you might be intersted in this article: Mockery is Highest Form of Flattery, (East Valley Tribune, July 1)

Gene Weingarten: Yep, Pastis had told me he passed it by Keane in advance. Keane is renowned among toonists for having a good self-deprecatory sense of humor.

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Url: About Dave George and its "Daily Quiz" (see last week chat), you asked for archives.

Here they are: The Daily Quiz Home Page by Dave George

Gene Weingarten: Cool.

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