Chatological Humor* (Updated 10.7.05)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 4, 2005; 12:00 PM

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

Daily Updates: 10.5.05 | 10.6.05 | 10.7.05

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. Especially deez.

This week's poll: Men Only | Women Only

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 .

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

A few months ago my wife and I got into a cab at National Airport. I gave our address to the driver, and then offered some elaborate advice on how to get there. It immediately became apparent, however, that the driver was not proficient in English and wasn't understanding me. And so, helpfully, I repeated the instructions in Spanish.

The problem was that the driver was clearly Chinese. My wife rolled her eyes: She had seen this behavior before. I speak two languages, and if I am misunderstood in one, I will automatically and almost unconsciously try the other. It is stupid and embarrassing, and often it comes off as patronizing. But I do it.

Today, I am seeking examples of similarly stupid and embarrassing things you do. Embarrassing tendencies or habits you might have. True ones only, please. And publishable ones, though, as today's poll suggests, not much fails to be publishable in this chat.

For complex reasons involving a story I am working on, I am also seeking humorous facts or anecdotes or observations or even JOKES about the United Nations. If it's funny, I'm interested. You can send 'em here, or to my e-mail at weingarten(at)washpost.com.

Next, I direct your attention to Saturday's Blondie . What, precisely, is it that Dagwood is saying that requires the word to be hyphenated? Holy Moses? Is that an insult to Jews? Holy Moley? Is that an insult to Italian people? My best guess is "Holy Mtfkr!" I think we all need to write to the syndicate protesting this kind of language on the comics pages.

In case you doubted that the 60s were dead, buried, and legacy-less: Dylan's actual recording of The Times they Are a Changin' is being used in a Kaiser Permanente ad. And Donovan's gorgeous "Catch The Wind" in a car ad. (I actually trace the end of the 60s to the rise of the neocon movement in the 80s, when it became snotty-hip to be reactionary. So, this, then, is merely the final dirge.)

On a related matter, has anyone watched "The War at Home," the new sitcom sandwiched between "Family Guy" and "American Dad?" Has there been a more painfully bad sitcom birthed in the last decade? It manages to be mean-spirited without being edgy, and vulgar without being funny. The jokes are so lame that even the laugh track sounds grudging. Everyone associated with this disaster, from the sorry-ass writers to the talentless actors to the key grip, should be pilloried. Literally. Locked neck and ankles in a pillory. That should be next week's show: The whole cast and production crew, hunched in pillories, trying to crack wise with each other for a half hour. Couldn't be worse than the show.

Jennifer Sawday of Long Beach, Calif., was so moved by our cats-in-sinks Web site from last week that she sent in this important LINK .

And thanks to several readers who pointed out that the California state legislator leading the battle against same-sex marriage is "Dennis L. Mountjoy."

Today's poll is clearly the classiest one we have ever done; it is going to be the lead item in my Pulitzer Prize nomination this year for Distinguished Commentary. Originally, today's poll was going to involve the "Blondie" cartoon linked to above. But (I said "but") an outpouring of mail from last week, on this very subject, forced me to void that. (I said "void.") As you have no doubt noticed, this poll is showing the single most dramatic gender divide in the history of our polls. As always, I shall deconstruct it midway through.

The Cartoon Pick of the Week is Saturday's Non Sequitur . The first runner up is Monday's Non Sequitur . The honorable mentions are Sunday's Non Sequitur and Friday's Non Sequitur . Wiley had a very good week; I think God is thanking him for ending that serial comic, and demoting Lucy.

I also cannot forebear calling your attention to Friday's Pearls Before Swine , a great sight gag. And Monday's Speed Bump . I would have mentioned these in the previous paragraph, but was not about to sacrifice the purity of the "Non Sequitur" double hat trick.

Okay, let's go.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Re: today's poll. Is the question about taking reading material into the bathroom meant for work, for home, or for in general? I ask because I am happy to read in the bathroom at home (I keep old magazines in there for that reason) but at work I would rather DIE before I take reading material into the stall. Can you clarify? Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Questions one and two are about work.

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Loser, Dublin, Ireland: Hi Gene. I just loved your slowed-down reading of The Hollow Men (did you know that T S Eliot is an anagram for "toilets"?). It evoked in me a sense of desolation, hopelessness and profound disappoinment -- just what I need from a humor column on a Sunday morning. I was left with an overwhelming feeling of emptiness, so I partook of a jumbo Irish breakfast, which I subsequently threw up through acute nihilism. This poem -- and your reading of it -- is a debasement of humanity, a quest for failure, characterized by despair through consequent guilt, a repetitive miasma of loss, of spiritual flaccidity, and inability to attain love. Thank you for that.

P.S. I'm posting a day early because I'm not sure I'm going to be here tomorrow.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to what people found if they logged onto the url printed at the end of my column on Sunday.

Here is the true horror behind that reading, which was, indeed, by me. When you slowed down my voice to what should have been a comical degree, it almost sounded like a normal male voice.

washingtonpost.com: End of the World

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Orlando, Fla.: Fun poll today. It brought to mind something I was discussing on another board -- bathroom etiquette. There was lots of talk about cleaning after yourself, being polite, etc. The most heated debate, however was the use of the handicapped stall. If there is no other open stall and nobody waiting, some say using that stall is fine. Others say if you don't have to due to physical disability, you should never use it. I'm on the side of using it unless it is otherwise needed. But then I get the argument that I'm now holding up the stall for those that may need it while I'm in there. I say we all have to wait for a stall sometime so c'est la vie. What do you say?

Gene Weingarten: I use the same rule that I use in deciding whether to take the elevator in the subway:

If it's empty and there are no handicapped people who need it (or bike people or pregnant women or 500-pound people or whatever) I use it.

Same with the potty. The handicapped should definitely have access to bathroom facilities, but we all have to wait SOMETIMES. They should never have to wait more than one person for it. This is common sense, no?

Gene Weingarten: I should clarify, re the elevator. If there ARE handicapped people, but I can fit in with them, I'll use it. But you knew that.

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Stealth Poop, AR: Gene,

You were too hard on the lady who refuses to poop with other people in the bathroom. I also go on a frenetic empty-bathroom search when it becomes absolutely necessary to conduct such activities. In fact, I've developed a sort of methodology:

1. Come equipped with a full bladder. If you enter an already-occupied bathroom, you're going to need an excuse for being there. Don't use up your excuse all at once, though, in case your next location is similarly unsuitable.

2. Given your need to conserve precious resources (see point 1), choose your timeframe appropriately. There are a few lulls in the day: The 9:00 hour, after people have come in to the office but before they're feeling the effects of their coffee, the 1:00 hour, (same principle, substituting lunch), and anytime after 5:00 will probably be fair game.

3. If necessary, "going into the bathroom to wash your hands" will do the trick, although it lacks the same credibility. If you have to resort to this ruse repeatedly, make sure you keep hand lotion at your desk. The pink stuff can be brutal.

4. Multiple flushes are ESSENTIAL. Someone could walk in at any moment.

Incidentally, my boyfriend can only poop at work. He struggles with it at home. Now THAT is weird.

Gene Weingarten: I am beside myself with wonder at this all.

Gene Weingarten: (Just FYI -- There were dozens of sort-of similar posts, but this one, received yesterday, was the one that finally persuaded me I had to change the poll. And as you can see, this lady is not a lone neurotic.)

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Silver Spring, Md.: From the Post profile of nominee Miers:

"But she has no judicial experience and not much appellate experience. She clerked for a federal district judge more than 30 years ago, and Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht says he has dated her 'off and on' for decades."

Say WHAT?

Gene Weingarten: Um, offhand I would say that people are scrambling for evidence that makes her seem as though she has something of an actual personal life.

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Cubeland, Washington, D.C.: Gene,

I have an important piece of information for you that is right up your alley. Did you know that women can pee standing, without any "accessories" to help them, up as well as men can. I learned this important fact from a nurse, while on a trip to Turkey. She had traveled in Egypt years ago, and turned off by the "facilities" she encountered there, put her education to work and learned that by pushing on certain muscles in the lower abdomen, she was able to line things up well enough to hold her own -- or rather not -- with the best of men. The word spread quickly among the women on the trip, who then felt it their duty (she said duty!) to experiment in the name of science. The first to try it was the nurse -- who failed. But another tried it in a late night exercise off the bow of the sailboat we were on -- and notified everyone by her gales of satisfied laughter. I tried it too, in a rather long shower stall in a marina, but no go. But another succeeded. In the end, we concluded that regular sex was an important factor, or at least regular devotion to exercising the kegels.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you so much for sharing. Now, if this were really IMPORTANT for women to be able to do, the men of the world would be delighted.

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Virginia: I've been reading your on-going discussion of stick shift cars. I have two cars, one automatic, one stick. The reason I like driving the automatic is that it's a lot easier to drive and dunk fries in ketchup if you don't need to shift gears. In other words, a fantastic argument for why everyone should be driving manuals -- you're a lot less likely to drive and eat, drive and talk on a cell phone, etc. Also, stick shifts are kind of tricky to parallel park on hills if all of your neighbors have fancy car alarms that go off when you accidentally tap them trying to fit into a tight spot.

Gene Weingarten: IRRESPONSIBILITY ALERT:

Some few weeks ago, I found myself, in my car, on the Beltway, on the phone talking to Pat the Perfect while taking notes and smoking a cigar.

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Humor at the expense of others: Gene wrote: If the person I am making fun of is less powerful than I, I try to make myself at least an equal part of the butt of the joke.

What about the product defenders that you make merciless fun of on a regular basis?

Gene Weingarten: You mean those prank 800-number calls?

Lissen, no one gets hurt by those. The people I am talking to are almost never upset: They welcome the comic relief in a day of unrelieved drudgery. And my calls are so idiotic and off the wall, they don't really reflect badly on the company or the product. I have been doing this for years now (the idea was first given to me by Post editor Sharon Scott) and I have yet to receive a single complaint from a company.

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High Gene: So, who had the "drug conversation" with your kids?

My husband experimented some (not as much as you, but it seems clear that -most- people didn't experiment as much as you), while the wildest time for me was underage drinking in college.

Did you say "I did all of this, so you shouldn't," or how did you and your wife approach it?

Gene Weingarten: I did the drug talk because at the time I was dying of a drug-induced disease. Man, did it make that drug talk easy. And it wasnt hypocritical.

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Loo Lit: In response to your poll questions, one thing that I hate to think about is how "germy" reading material becomes once you have used it for that purpose. I am a guy that loves to read books on cooking, but I am loathe to bring them in with me, because if there is something in the book that I want to try out, I can't get it out of my head that this book has been in the bathroom with poop vapors (Dave Barry is to blame for this). Anyhow, I have a rule that once magazines especially have become bathroom reading, they stay in the bathroom until they are tossed out. Books just get a two week quarantine in a well ventilated room.

Gene Weingarten: Loath. Believe it or not, it is "loath."

Also, you are a woman. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

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Gene, Gene, Ge, NE: You were so full of yourself on Tuesday with getting back at Chatwoman that you never made mention of the death of Don Adams. I've forgiven you your little frolic and detour, but expected that you'd have made up for it by now in one of the daily updates. Imagine my disappointment this morning (9.29) when again I saw no mention of Mr. Adams. I thought it was Rodney who never got no respect. Come on, say a few words for another great comic actor (I'm reluctant to say genius, though I admired him greatly). Did you like the show? Did you have a favorite episode? Have you heard about his stand-up days? Did you ever meet him? Did you know that originally 99 was to have been named 69? And that "86" is an old term bartenders used to cut off a patron who'd had too much? (Of course you knew these things, I'm guessing you know even more. Share?)

Gene Weingarten: I think I can address this simply and humbly.

This was my list of the Greatest Sitcom Characters of All Time:

1. Ed Norton ("The Honeymooners"); 2. George Costanza/Larry David ("Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm") 3. Archie Bunker ("All In The Family"); 4. Alex P. Keaton ("Family Ties"); 5. Eddie Haskell ("Leave It to Beaver") 6. Latka Graves ("Taxi"); 7. Alice Kramden ("The Honeymooners"); 8. Kingfish Stevens ("Amos n' Andy"); 9. Barney Fife ("The

Andy Griffith Show") ; 10. Lois Wilkerson ("Malcolm in the Middle"); 11. Edith Bunker ("All In The Family"); 12. Maynard G. Krebs ("The Life and Loves of Dobie Gillis"); 13. Ralph Kramden ("The Honeymooners"); 14. Cosmo

Topper ("Topper"); 15. Sgt. Ernie Bilko ("The Phil Silvers Show") 16. Cliff Claven/ Norm Peterson ("Cheers"); 17. Roseanne Connor, ("Roseanne") 18. Bill Bittinger ("Buffalo Bill"); 19. Louis DiPalma ("Taxi"); 20. Frasier and Niles Crane ("Frasier"); 21. Sophia Spirelli Weinstock ("The Golden Girls"); 22. Det. Phil Fish ( "Barney Miller"); 23. Hawkeye Pierce ("M*A*S*H"); 24. Larry Sanders ("The Larry

Sanders Show"); 25. Dr. Robert Hartley ("The Bob Newhart Show"); 26. Ricky Ricardo ("I Love Lucy"); 27. Thurston Howell III ("Gilligan's Island"); 28. Lucy Ricardo ("I Love Lucy"); 29. Ted Baxter ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show"); 30. Granny Clampett ("The Beverly Hillbillies").

I missed Max Smart. It was my only error. He should be number 9. That bumps Granny, which I regret. She is the start of The Second Thirty.

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Rockville, Md.: Gene, I need some advice:

I'm about to move to Germany. As I understand it, the stereotypical German sense of humor is quite different from ours. Actually, what I have heard is that many germans have no sense of humor at all, though I hope that is fals. The idea of living in a place where I can't laugh with my co-workers, roommates, etc. terrifies me.

Do you have any suggestions for ways for to quickly develop an appreciation for German humor? "Poop" seems to mean the same thing in German as it does in English, so there's got to be some common ground...

Gene Weingarten: One of my biggest disappointments was learning -- contrary to what I had originally been told -- that there is, in fact, a German word for humor. It is "humor." In trying to get that German wsentence translated for my column Sunday, both Babelfish and another source seemed to indicate there was no such word. I was going to do a followup column on that fact alone.

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Arlington, Va.: This is my embarrassing habit. I work on the upper floor of a multi-story building. When leaving for the day, I punch the lobby level, and do not pay attention to what floor I'm getting off on. When the elevator stops, I start to leave, even if it's a lower/non-lobby level floor. This, to me, is humiliating, as the same person has seen me do this weird "Oops" dance at least once a day for awhile. Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: Me, too.

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The '60s: Gene, once the musicians of the '60s have sold out and their music is used in ads, that era is dead. Sold to the Man.

It has been dead for some time. There was some CSN song in a Boeing ad a few years ago.

Gene Weingarten: But this is .... Dylan.

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Washington, D.C.: So I was out with my girl on Saturday night and saw you and your wife in Chinatown. Do you prefer people say "hi" when they recognize you? Or just whisper behind your back?

Gene Weingarten: I prefer pointing and hooting.

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Arlington, Va.: Hola Gene:

Despite living nearly 30 years in El Paso, Tex., my uncle learned only about ten words in Spanish. When faced with the need to communicate with a non-English speaking person, he would just shift into speaking English with an exaggerated Spanish accent. This was completely unconscious on his part, and he still denies that he did it. But, everyone in the family heard it many times.

Gene Weingarten: That's GREAT. That's worse than what I do. Wow. That could get a man killed. That's like going into a Chinese laundry and saying, "Me wantee clothring, chop chop."

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New York, N.Y.: Aptonym of the moment:

22-year-old gets cocaine counts

Police on Sunday arrested a 22-year-old Durham man charged with trafficking in cocaine, according to warrants.

Donnell Michael Blowe of 3614 Dearborn Drive was charged with possession with intent to sell or deliver 37 grams -- about 1.3 ounces -- of cocaine, trafficking in cocaine and resisting a police officer, warrants said.

Blowe was held on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court today.

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

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Krypt, ON: Unanswered Questions:

1: Did Nicolas Cage name his boy "Kal-El" knowing that your chat would happen a day later?

2: Is there a grade school in America that the child can attend where he won't be subject to daily beatings by his classmates?

3: Does Superman now have to name his first-born "Nicolas"?

4: What kind of g-forces would the Flash be subjected to if he were to run the bases at the speed of light (or Mach 1, if he were to be the newer, sissified Flash)?

Gene Weingarten: I asked Cage to hold off on the announcement until the earliest possible Tuesday. I do think this will be the beginning of a trend. Superhero names. Wouldn't that be great? "Here are my sons, Jason and Dr. Death."

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Washington, D.C.: I was at Sunday's Nationals game, seated next to a man and his young son. At one point, a batter fouled off a number of pitches, and each time the umpire put a new ball in play. Finally, the boy turned to his father and asked, "Daddy, how many balls does the umpire have?"

After I finished spitting beer out of my nose, I wondered how you would have answered that question.

Gene Weingarten: I would have patiently explained it to the youngster: "Son, I'm afraid your question might be misinterpreted by immature people who insist on finding vulgarity even in a child's innocent inquiry. The umpire has a leather bag around his waist, and he begins each inning with at least seven or eight baseballs, which he uses every time a ball is scuffed or hit out of play. This storehouse is replenished if he runs out. He only has two nuts, though, same as everyone."

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Superno, va: Does The Post staff break down pretty much like high school -- with the news columnists and reporters representing the valedictorians and honor society members and school officers; and the sports columnists representing the popular, arrogant jocks; and people like you and Achenbach representing the smart-asses who made fun of the other two groups for caring about school government and sports while underachieving and doing too many drugs and wishing in their heart of hearts that they were the popular, arrogant jocks? Inquiring minds want to know.

Gene Weingarten: It's an interesting theory, but it doesn't work, for a particular reason. You are forgetting that this macrocosm -- the Post culture -- is in itself a microcosm. We are all journalists, which means we all grew up pretty much as the smart-asses, faultfinders, pranksters, nihilists, and cynics. Your model falls apart in many places, but probably most profoundly in your description of the sports writers. They are the OPPOSITE of the strutting jocks. They became sportswriters because they could not be jocks, and, some might argue, they have more contempt for jocks than most of us.

I suppose that, after having lived among each other for so long, there is a degree of role specialization that has developed among us, but it is minor. See, we still have society at large to envy, snipe at, sabotage, and whatnot.

You are also completely ignoring a central element of our culture: Editors. The bosses.

Now, if I had to make grand, sweeping, pronouncements, I would say that the editors, by and large, are the valedictorians and honor society members. By virtue of their responsibilities, they are the adults and by-the-rule-players. But, because they grew up as iconoclasts (same as the rest of us) they are appalled by their role as sellouts, and filled with self-loathing. Nowhere is this more evident than with the innerly conflicted, morally anchorless, wretchedly tormented vessel that is Tom the Butcher.

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Yow, SA: Gene,

What is your take on what Kurtz was saying about the tensions within the Post? Is it really that bad? Are the editors and reporters at each others throats? Since you were/are both, I assume that you would be able to smoothely move between the lines. What's the point in letting everybody know what the dirty laundry is?

Besides, I thought editors were supposed to be grizzled, hard nosed warriors with a bottle of bourbon in the desk draw. Kurtz makes them sound like a bunch of toadies who will do whatever the sales department wants.

And why weren't you quoted, or were you deliberately keeping your lightly grizzled head down? They quoted Stuever for gosh sakes. How many people quote Hank Stuever?

washingtonpost.com: Suddenly Everyone's a Critic , ( Post, Oct. 3 )

Gene Weingarten: I have not done one of those reviews yet. Mine is scheduled for early November, and I plan on asking you all for help.

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Embarassing habit: I'm a nose-picker. Always have been. I can distinctly recall telling myself at different ages that I would stop one day (in middle school, I figured for sure I'd stop in high school, lest I be shunned...in high school, I figured there was no WAY I'd be nose picking as an adult in college, etc. etc.) but I continue unabated. At this point (decades later) I realize that I'm not going to stop, and have gotten good at being discrete, but it's kind of embarassing nonetheless.

Gene Weingarten: Discreet, not discrete. But if you are never caught, ever, than it should not be embarrassing? No?

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Neurotic Too: Can we PLEASE spread the word about the value of the spacer stall? I realize that you may like to be oh-so-close to those who potty at your place of work, but in a room of five empty stalls and one occupied stall, WHY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH would you choose the stall direcly next to the one occupied stall? Why? WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE, PEOPLE. Choose to use a spacer stall. Some of us have potty privacy issues. OK?

AND THE COURTESY FLUSH. LONG LIVE THE COURTESY FLUSH.

Gene Weingarten: I had a long, long debate with Tom Scocca of the New York Observer about the purpose of the courtesy flush. He contends it is all about odor. I contend it is all about sound. We never resolved this to either of our satisfactions, nor will we ever.

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Gene, Gene, Gene...: Please, read read your polls before posting them in the future! Please! Don't you realize how terribly important it is to all of us that your polls be done right? Do you want the earth's magnetic poles to reverse abruptly because of your oversight? (I'm taking a geology class, and I'm pretty sure that was the trigger in the past.)

If you mean "at work" then say "at work!" Question number two, as is stands, is not about work. You didn't write it as being about work. You may have intended to, and you may have been thinking of it that way, but you did not write it that way.

How can you deconstruct when people are answering the question you wrote, rather than the question you imagine them answering? Question two is a perfect example: of COURSE you don't take reading material into the bathroom with you at work, unless you are Wally in the Dilbert strip. But it's perfectly reasonable to take (or keep) reading material in there at home. And the answers you got don't mean what you apparently assume they do, because people can't read your mind, only the poll question, so that is what they answer. You are analyzing responses to a question that wasn't asked.

I think we all know you can't spend as much time on your polls as you do on your column. But you could read 'em over at least one time before sending them to the PollMistress, couldn't you? Pretty please with sugar on top?

Gene Weingarten: My, my. Difficult day at work, Bobo? Perhaps you need a potty break.

Clearly, this caused no damage whatsoever, because the answers are completely consistent.

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Washington, D.C.: What's your screensaver look like?

Gene Weingarten: It is a photo of Harry sniffing another dog's butt.

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Farragut North Metro, Washington, D.C.: Last week a freshman from Virginia Commonwealth University posted part of an article written by Lisa Chun that stated, in part:

"Poorly written but highly amusing articles can be a drug. They provide an odd fix that an article about socioeconomic issues could never satiate. Unimportant, silly and egocentric topics are bruises that run along the arms of bad columnists. If the bad columnist's soul could be personified, they would look scrawny, pale, bloodshot and happily high while they prostitute journalistic guidelines for enjoyable writing. Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten are the Courtney Love and Robert Downing Jr. in this world of unprofessional columns, and they're loved by their fellow addicts."

I think the general conclusion was that this was one humorless babe. However, I was so intrigued by the excerpt that I read her whole piece. After carefully dissecting her diatribe, I concluded Ms. Chun was trying to be funny herself using, of all things, sarcasm. I e-mailed her to suggest that I while recognized her goal, she had, unfortunately, failed. She wrote back:

"I was dead serious... my mother and father were brutally murdered by comedians. I witnessed this atrocity at the tender age of 7 and was then sent to live with my relatives who were circus clowns who beat me all the time. I was then raped by Peewee Herman at the age of 13. I hate funny people and laughing. I was really serious in that article. And I hate Kripsy Kremes, my boyfriend choked on a Krispy Kreme... he was listening to a knock-knock joke when he was eating the donut and then he choked on it and died. Thank you for saying I was not funny... the evil things funny people do sometimes... - Lisa Chun"

In light of Lisa's response, I suggest we forgive her her trespasses (such, as you pointed out, her spelling of Robert Downey, Jr.'s last name) and welcome her to our hearth and home.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, yes. If you check out my update last Wednesday, I said the same thing. After the chat, I read the entirety of her piece, not just the excerpt, and decided it was clearly satirical. I apologized to her.

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Stig, MA: Gene, the surreptitious work pooper needs to know that it is women like her who make this a problem. By declaring the rest of us (the ones with enough fiber in our diets, thank you very much) skeevy, she is just adding to the stigma. I suggest she avoid the fruit n yogurt parfait at McD's for lunch. She'll be pooping within the hour without any time to consider privacy. (What is up with that anyway? I can eat any dairy I want, ice cream, milk, regular yogurt, but soft serve frozen yogurt shoots through me like, well, something that shoots though things really fast. Diagnosis?)

Gene Weingarten: Do we really want to get into a fiber debate here? Sigh. I suppose we do. Th floor is now open.

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Saint Paul, Minn.: Gene, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press picked up Below the Beltway but it's in the Op-Ed section. Here I thought maybe you had some important editorial on a controversial topic. Is this just a huge mistake or is there something I don't know?

Gene Weingarten: No, they are running it for a while as an experiment. I have to admit the Op Ed page doesn't seem like a natural place for it, but maybe they have a funky Op Ed page. I've always like the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Their only egregious error was having once employed Leiby.

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Fairfax, Va.: Concerning VPL: Not sure if you have heard this one before, but my boyfriend and his friends refer to the visible connection of the east, west, and south strings of a girl's thong peeking over of a pair of pants as the Flux Capacitor. If you cannot recall what it looks like from Back to the Future, do a google image search. Where did this come from? I doubt they made it up on their own...

washingtonpost.com: Flux Capacitor

Gene Weingarten: Hm. This doesn't do it for me.

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding last week's Flash playing for the Yankees discussion, it occurred to me that there would be major, possibily catostrophic problems with the scenario you proposed. If the Flash ran as fast as you supposed, wouldn't the resulting localized sonic boom in the midst of 40,000 people cause tremendous damage?

Gene Weingarten: There would be a boom, since he is outrunning the speed of sound. However, I believe the size of the boom is proportional to the mass of the object making it, and that, therefore, this would not be a problem. Are there any physicists who can weigh in on this?

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Gene-

I'm submitting early because I have a lunch meeting at the chat time, but I wanted to respond to the woman whose question you posted in last week's update. Women do not poop in the work bathroom if someone else is in there, unless it is an absolute emergency. You didn't believe it, but I'm here to tell you it's true.

At a work happy hour several years ago, several women started talking about this exact phenomena, and we all admitted to the exact same thing -- we try to wait to go until we think the restroom will be vacant, and if it's not, go search for one that is. Not only that, if a woman is going #2 and someone else comes in, 90 percent of the time, she will stop going and wait until the other woman pees, washes up, and leaves before she resumes her business.

This behavior is not something regularly discussed, so men wouldn't be aware of it, but it's just as universal among women as flushing with the feet.

Gene Weingarten: I simply cannot believe I did an entire book with Gina, including an entire chapter on bathroom behavior, and this never came up. I am inclined to believe this, but can a few women confirm?

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Embarras, IN: My weird habit is that when I walk up stairs I count them, out loud. OCDish I know, but I think it's more habit than anything else. Don't know why I do it, just something I've done since I was a child. As a result I usually take the elevator at work.

Gene Weingarten: Weenie. It makes my taxi behavior seem completely sane.

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Alexandria, Va.: You drive an old Mazda, right? Does it have a Whitman Vikings sticker in the back window and the remains of what appears to be a Mondale bumper sticker on the back bumper? If so I saw you driving around noon on Sunday. I was driving to RFK, planning on getting there early for the last game of what's been a great season. I thought you might be heading the same place, but you continued straight when I turned. You should have gone to the game, though. The loss sucked, but it was a great experience. The city loves this team, and the teams loves the city back. I think I moved here at just the right time. (This is my first full summer in D.C. Had they moved here last season, I wouldn't have known I was moving out here early enough to buy the 20 game season ticket package.)

Gene Weingarten: Yes, that was me. Glad I didn't go, though. I have been only to wins since Jeremy Weiss broke my curse.

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Weather: I just checked the tropical outlook report on weather.com. The current typhoon in the Pacific is named Longwang!

Gene Weingarten: Indeed it is. Any joke with "blow" would be too easy, so I shan't make one.

Gene Weingarten: Mike Connaghan just memoed me, urging that if anyone was going to go out in Typhoon Longwang, they wear rubbers.

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Mr. Mojo: So, are you implying that The Hollow Men has something significant to say about the state of humanity, or that listening to T.S. Eliot is enough to make someone wish the world was going to end?

Gene Weingarten: Both. (This is in reference to what happened to anyone who logged on to the website given in my column on Sunday.)

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Facetio, US again: Gene, as a long-time, virtual-panty-throwing fan, I just wanted to tell you that you made my week. I'm the one who wrote to you about the meaning of sarcasm in the last chat. Probably no one noticed, what with all the scintillating discussion about the Flash and VPL. But I did. I cannot believe that I TAUGHT Gene Weingarten something about WRITING. This is like teaching Shaquille O'Neal something about basketball.

And no, I am not being sarcastic.

Since I am on the subject of your writing genius, I was wondering if you would consider writing a book about dogs, or simply compiling your existing writing about dogs into a book. I think the pieces you have written about Harry, and other dogs like Wendy the liquor store dog, are some of the best writing I have seen. It would mean, of course, that you couldn't be a smartass all the time, since the subject of dogs seems to bring out your generous heart.

Gene Weingarten: I know very little about writing, but thank you. I was also taught something about writing by something that Caulfield said in a recent Frazz. I explain this in the intro to Jef Mallett's first Frazz compliation, which is on the bookstands now, or is soon to be.

I am actually talking with someone about writing a book on dogs. A particular, unusual focus.

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Alexandria, Va.: I took my blankie ("Binkie") with me to college as a freshman. I tried hard to hide it when not sleeping on it on my pillow at night, but my roomate knew. I was horrified when she confronted me on it.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: Gene, please help. Once I go to bed, I spend the next two hours getting up every 15 minutes to go pee. Obviously this interferes with my attempts to get eight hours of sleep. Prior to going to bed, I haven't needed to go pee for at least a few hours. Does brushing my teeth send some sort of signal to my bladder? Should I stop drinking at 4 p.m.? Go to bed two hours earlier? What can I do? I need my sleep!

Gene Weingarten: If you are the sort of life form with a prostate gland, that may be your problem.

This is actually not a small problem, whatever it is. It's more than an inconvenience: It's really disrupting your life. See a urologist.

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Herndon, Va.: Hi Gene, I had two points about last week's fine chat. Couldn't the Flash catch even home runs by simply running to where the ball was dropping in the stadium or out, and then zipping back to the field with the ball? Also, how come Chatwoman considers the Flash nerdy when she herself makes an impressive reference to an almost-forgotten 1983 fantasy movie? I was a little turned-on when she mentioned "Krull."

washingtonpost.com: Umm... takes one to know one?

Gene Weingarten: No, the Flash could not run into the stands. You can DIVE into the stands to catch a ball. But you cannot catch it once you have landed. It's sort of the opposite of football's both-feet-in-bounds rule.

Gene Weingarten: I cannot comment on Krull. I know nothing of Krull.

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Gene Weingarten:

Okay, the poll.

Never in the history of polls has a gender distinction (I said "stinc") been so clear. Women are weirded out by poop. Perhaps this is understandable. Aren't women more likely to experience the effects of fecal distress?

Haahahahahaha. That was a rare example of neonatal-colonic entendre humor. You may go an entire lifetime without witnessing another.

Okay, getting hold of ourselves here. In numbers vastly greater than men (at least 2-1 across all criteria), women seem to find pooping icky and disreputable, and many take pains to avoid doing it in the vicinity of others. Perhaps the most astonishing divide occurs over the issue of taking reading material into the john. Men do it, in huge numbers and without apology. Women do not do it much at all, apparently because it is a thumbprint of evil, a scarlet letter, a clue to the shameful wickedness they are about to indulge in.

How do I interpret this? Let me hold in my interpretation for a few minutes. What's yours?

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RE: Habits: My wife has a coworker who says, "Bless Me" after every sneeze, followed by a whispered, "Boogies". Embarrassing? Yes. Does The Sneezer know this? Probably not.

Gene Weingarten: I am laughing, here.

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Silver Spring, Md. -- Spanish Accent: My husband is even worse than that person's uncle. We've travelled to a lot of spanish speaking countries, and our spanish is barely passable at best. If my husband runs into a native Spanish speaker in this country, even if their English is absolutely perfect, they've lived here for 20 years, and left their country when they were five, my husband starts talking in this weird Spanglish, and punctuates everything with "Si?". I swear this is the truth and very humiliating for all involved!

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

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Chantilly, Va.: I'm puzzled as to why a married person ogling the opposite sex is frowned upon. My wife and I used to play this fantasy game when out walking. (It's good for boring shopping malls.) The rules: There are only 10 members of the opposite sex left on the planet and you're about to encounter them as they walk by. You get to choose one as your spouse for life, and you have to confirm the choice immediately to your spouse as the person appears in front of you. If you name no one, you get stuck with #10. You can't drop a pick; if you choose someone and Angelina Jolie happens into view it's too late. Both spouses play simultaneously. By the way, the 10 is an adjustable number. If you're out, say, on Saturday night with lots of dating couples around, you'll probably do well. Once we were in Potomac Mills shopping center, and we raised the 10 to 25 and then to 100 and still found no one even remotely attractive. (But what did that say about us?) So I mentioned this game to a friend and she told me she and her husband had invented the game, not us.

Gene Weingarten: I play this alone. And I think "spouse for life" is an adorable way of describing it. So your husband is choosing his woman based upon his judgment about her compatibility, making assumptions about her sense of humor, politics, and so forth. Uh huh. Yeah, me, too.

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Wal, KS: Wouldn't opposing teams intentionally walk the Flash?

Gene Weingarten: Sure, if you are okay with his stealng three bases on the next pitch.

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Orlando, Fla.: It's not the "stolen" names that bother me (after all if they hadn't stolen at least a few boys names we would all be Gertrude and Odette), it's the huge variety of spellings. I work at an elementary school and there are SEVENTEEN different spellings of Kirsten. No, I'm not exaggerating that either.

Mom's-to-be reading this... it is not cute, it is irritating. Your child will spend the rest of their life having to spell their name for people. Also on that note, unless it's a family name avoid all variations of Katherine (Kristin, Kristina, Caitlin, etc). They are over used and your daughter will have at least one other one in her class. There are lots of great names that haven't been beaten to death with various misspellings. I promise your child will thank you for this later.

Gene Weingarten: Laura Blumenfeld once wrote a great story about people who got body piercings. At one point, she was in a mall and found three teenaged girls who were in total agreement that body piercings were all about showing your individuality. They were in total agreement on this. Their names, as I recall, were Kristen, Kirsten and Kirsten. Liz, can we find this story? I edited it, in about 1997. The Kirstens section is worth the whole story.

washingtonpost.com: Holier Than Thou , ( Post, Feb. 7, 1993 )

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VPL: Gene, Can we have a poll question on VPL? It somewhat unnerves me to think that because of this chat, I think of you each morning as I don my undergarments. Please, I need to know the consensus -- do I let them show or not?

Gene Weingarten: Maybe next week.

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Re: Bethesda: This woman agrees with Bethesda's post on pooping etiquette in women's bathrooms. I'll go at work, but only if I can find an empty restroom. If someone comes in, I wait until they finish. It's all about not being identified as a pooper. And really, most women are aware of this tradition and respect it.

Gene Weingarten: WE. ARE. ALL. POOPERS.

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About Japan: In Japan, women sometimes cause themselves severe gastrointestinal distress by holding back whenever anyone might be able to hear them. This is a big problem because of their cramped living areas. So they have devices which play music or the sounds of a running stream whenever anyone is sitting on the toilet seat. This lets the women cut loose with no fear of being dishonorable.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I have written about this. It is called the "Sound Princess."

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Reading material: As a matter of fact, I will not poop unless I have something to read -- often it's this chat that I will print out to read. I'll read the contents of my wallet if I have to.

Sometimes at work, when the printer is tied up or my computer is slow there have been occasions that I've almost pooped in my pants trying to aquire solid reading material. It's these events which force me to read Lysol cans, my wallet, money, etc.

Gene Weingarten: As my son can attest, I am currently laughing my arse off.

"What are you laughing at?" he asked.

"You'll see," I said.

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Zelig Syndrome: I also have an unconcious habit of imitating people I am speaking with -- especially if they have an accent.

I can't help it!

I realized how bad it was when I ordered Chinese takeout on the phone and my husband gently told me they'd understand me just fine without the Chinese accent.

Gene Weingarten: Really, you all are making me feel much better about my dysfunction.

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Beautiful Silver Spring, Md.: Attending the last Nats game on Sunday, I just then realized the potential of the pun "Deez Nats" after seeing it on a T-shirt. Let it be known that, as an awkward white person, I am always looking for opportunities to introduce inappropriate rap references into the discourse; I am the jackass who rhymes along with the hip-hop songs selected by the batters at Nats games, for example. (Side note: Shouldn't Cristian Guzman have changed his song from the Terror Squad's "Lean Back" at some point during his nearly season-long struggle through ugly, flailing at- bats? Wouldn't you want some new luck at some point?)

And so I listen to The Chronic and enjoy a good G-funk ballad as much as anyone, but I had never before realized that "Deez Nats" was such a natural construction. While I enjoyed the last game as much as one can enjoy such an uninspiring loss, the game was tinged with regret as I considered how many months of fandom I had lost without having this pun in my repertoire. "Whose Nats?" I would have said after an especially fine play. "DEEEEEZ NAAAATS!" Or: "Hey Lance Cormier! Get a load of DEEEEEZ NAAAATS!"

I guess I am warning you all not to sit near me next year. (I'm also the guy who makes the Commando reference every time our backup catcher is up by saying "LET OFF SOME STEAM, BENNETT!")

I miss baseball already.

Gene Weingarten: I doubt if the pun registered on the makers of the t-shirt. But maybe.

YOU MISS BASEBALL?

I am just beginning to really get into it. We got a heck of a month coming.

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Decatur, Ga.: As a woman I a confirming, if a someone comes into the bathroom when I'm going, I stop. Also, the woman will usually leave the bathroom, once they realize a "pause" is going on. I do the same when I realize a woman is occupied on the stall.

Gene Weingarten: I love women. I just do. I just do, and that's that.

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Bethesda, Md.: Why do people always say when they're posting early? Who cares?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure. They still haven't figured out that it all gets out at the same time, or something.

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Eeeewwww: So if men don't mind pooping when other men are in the washroom, does that make them party poopers?

Gene Weingarten: Haha.

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Seattle, Wash.: I recently started working at a bookstore where Kevin Trudeau's "Natural Cures" book is displayed prominently as part of the "Bestsellers" fixture. Inevitably, customers will pick it up and ask me what I've heard about it or, even worse, indicate that they have an interest in purchasing the book. What are my moral and ethical obligations in this situation, and how do I fulfill them without losing my job?

Gene Weingarten: "They just had a big story about it in the Washington Post magazine!"

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Chestertown, Md.: The Post ran an article about the new Calvin and Hobbes compilation that is being released, and in it the author questions the nature of Hobbes, whether he was real, and I realized something profound about Hobbes:

Hobbes represents Calvin at an older age, looking back. Hobbes is Watterson, looking back at himself, as Calvin, at age 6, which is why he acts, at times, as a father figure, sometimes as best friend, sometimes as a sibling. It's part of why Hobbes has different a different attitude towards Suzy, but also why he tries to keep the kid out of trouble but also not tell his parents, and why he often lets himself get dragged into the kid's schemes. I think Watterson was reminiscing about what he was like as a kid, the trouble he got into, and he's imaging what it would be like if he could go back there, what he'd tell the kid, and he wrote himself in as a imaginary stuffed tiger.

I think this is why Watterson didn't make a big deal out of whether or not Hobbes was real, it didn't matter. He wasn't completely real, but he was also more than just a figment of Calvin's imagination.

I think that a lot of us who were of that generation and spent most of our childhood as Calvin-type kids are finding ourselves more like Hobbes as we grow older... but just hopefully we won't wind up as Calvin's Parents.

washingtonpost.com: Calvin & Hobbes Strike Again , ( Post, Oct. 4 )

Gene Weingarten: It's not a bad interpretation; remember that Hobbes was the one who always found Suzy Derkins kind of hot, while Calvin was completely skeeved out by her.

This was a good story. I would also like to direct you to a piece written by Frank Ahrens when Cal and Hobbes ended. It is one of my favorite pieces ever written about this strip. Liz, can we link to it? I believe my headline was "Goodbye, Kid."

washingtonpost.com: So Long, Kid , ( Post, Nov. 19, 1995 )

Gene Weingarten: Ah, yes. "So Long" was better.

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Washington, D.C.: A few weeks ago I had a brilliant plan. To avoid having strange people come up to my cubicle and ask me for assistance, I moved my name tag to the empty cubicle next to mine.

Now, strange people looking for the "IT guy" just wonder where I am all day. Or why I have no chair. Or computer.

The Man With No Name, however, is always at his desk. Smiling.

Gene Weingarten: Decent people hate you.

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My own little soapbox: Are Lynn Johnston and Darby Conley the vanguard of a new comics movement designed to rid the comics of amusing and/or insightful observation and commentary and replace them with educational dreck on subjects close to their hearts? I feel like I'm in 6th grade, watching a filmstrip about tooth decay or forest fires. If they are spearheading a new era in comics philosophy, it raises the disquieting probability that the only remnants of what comics used to be will be the zombies: the still-living strips of dead creators. Peanuts will be the benchmark.

If they're not pushing to change comics, then how many shovelfuls of drugs did Johnston, Conley and their editors take before embarking on such a folly?

Gene Weingarten: This has been a terrible couple of weeks for both comics. Lynn has done it before, but I fear Darby is ill or something. I'm gonna check with someone who is close to him. So hang on.

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Sex and the SAT: We'll certainly have to agree to disagree that Jeter (a name generally preceded by a certain colorful participle in our house) is an object of any lustful contemplation. But I think you've got the distinction wrong. It's not that men are visual and women are relational. Men are visual and women are verbal. Or, to put it in SAT terms -- pornography : men :: erotica : women. So, yeah, when I (an old married lady of almost 10 years) see a tasty man, it might spark a whole scene in my head rather than just a simple visual of him all nekkid. But rest assured, those scenes certainly do not include tuxedos, French restaurants and soulful eye-gazing. That sounds like the kind of claptrap Gina would come up with. (And, um, sweetheart, that eating off the plate thing is just way over-thinking.)

But women don't you know, FULLY mentally undress guys. Cause comedy kills the mood.

Gene Weingarten: So, um, you're generally laughing during the most intimate moments? Okay. I kind of dig that.

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Laurel, Md.: I am astounded as to the question of whether the Flash can see his own butt. If he wanted to see his butt, he would just have to look in a mirror.

washingtonpost.com: Occam's razor, of course.

Gene Weingarten: Incorrect. Occam's razor indeed. He would be seeing a reflection of his own butt, which is to say he would be seeing the flipside of his own butt.

You need two mirrors to see your own butt.

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Policy Office, Stadium Construction Bureau: So the reason women take so long in the bathroom is because YOU TAKE TURNS? Doesn't that kill the whole argument for potty parity? Why should we build more toilets for women if you're only going to use one at a time?

Gene Weingarten: I am guessing all rules are suspended for stadiums, right ladies?

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Holey Crap!: I'm awake! Why would the Post put such a horrible picture on their Web page? That scared me half to death! Goths don't even use that much eyeliner. I mean, congratulations and all, but can we get Ascroft to come back and drape a sheet on her?

Gene Weingarten: I thought this was appropriate. We are approaching Halloween.

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House of Crazy Animals: We adopted a new cat this weekend. Our old cat is going nuts. At one point, we decide to introduce the new cat to our ferrets. Now, the old cat can't stand the ferrets because they are very curious and immediatly sniff her. She runs away and they chase her. It's funny, but she can't stand it.

We let the new kitty (in carrier) and the ferrets (caged) learn each others smells, and then let the cat and one ferret out of their cages. They instantly sniffed each other's butts. If only I had a camera.

I think they'll be good friends. Now we just need to get the cats to tolerate each other.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I am not sure I have ever heard of interspecies buttsniffing. But I never had a dog and a cat at the same time.

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Women & Poop: Gene, this poll is just one more on the list of reasons why I don't understand my gender. Seriously. I was a tomboy as a child and to this day tend to relate more to men than women.

However, I try to avoid VPL at all costs, and have even started to ask my husband if he can see my panties since I started to read this chat. VTS is okay, but only under certain circumstances.

Gene Weingarten: VTS?

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Arlington, Va.: Gene, could the fascination with and attractiveness of VPL be a generational thing? I'm 52 and like you I am very much in favor of VPL.

Gene Weingarten: I don't know. Perhaps we need to put this to a poll, afterall. With both gender and age splits. Liz will just love this poll.

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Arlington, Va.: Further to the discussion of Washington Post High School: Who would you identify as the cheerleaders?

Gene Weingarten: Believe me, there are no cheerleaders.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene: I am a woman in my late 20s, and I was only recently informed that there are certain times or circumstances -- such as early in the morning or after particular physical activities -- that call for males to pee sitting down. I was shocked. Is this really... true?

Gene Weingarten: Well, no.

It's no easier, under such circumstances as you tactfully describe. Now, peeing in the SINK ...

BUT WE NEVER DO THAT!

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VTS: Is "Visible Thong Strap."

Usually practiced by 13-14 year old girls.

Gene Weingarten: Ah.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene, you ignorant slut! A "double hat trick" of Non Sequiter cartoons would be 6, since one hat trick is three goals.

A related question: since a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, an assist, and a fight all in one game, would a Hart hat trick be offending an ethinc group, a religious group, and the handicapped all in one cartoon?

Gene Weingarten: I am not an expert in hockey, but I thought that a hat trick was 3, and a double hat trick was three plus one. Has anyone EVER gotten six goals?

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Capitol Hill: What is in an open Hill trash can on a rainy day near a dog park?

Poop soup. I just like saying poop soup. Say it with me, you can help but smile. Poop soup. Poop soup. Poop soup.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you so much.

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Gas Habits: Well -- this doesn't happen that often, but a nurse once told me the "heart attack" I was having at 13 was really just gas pains. All I had to do was lay on my stomach with my arms straight out in front of me, slightly raised and roll side to side in order to push the gas out. It worked, and I've done it ever since. But there have been very inopportune times when I have felt those daggerlike gas pains and have been caught a few times by friends, and boyfriends, "just lying on my stomach" on the concrete. Does that count as an embarrassing habit?

P.S. I am one of those ladies who poops so rarely that I am jealous of all of you who even HAVE to hold in your poop. Lucky ducks.

Gene Weingarten: I bet there is a relationship between your gas pains and your lack of poop frequency.

Hey, I just wanted to say that we've been kidding all this time about chat privacy. We actually know who you are and will be adding your names to the transcript of this chat.

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It's all a ruse...: As a public poop-o-phobe, I can tell you that the stealthy pooper's assertions (heh, heh) about needing to fake the hand wash, engage in the courtesy pee, etc., while noble, aren't necessary. Every woman knows about "the code." If you enter a stall and there's someone else in another stall, you simply engage in a standoff. The other person will figure out your intentions after a few moments of no audible activity from your end (heh, heh) and will either hurry up and finish in order to give you your privacy, OR they'll wait you out if they're engaged in similar activities. If they were there first, squatter's rights apply, as it were. Now if there's alot of bathroom turnover at the time, you might as well give it up and try again later -- the whole social contract breaks down. Pooping in the bathroom while someone else is in there just isn't right, why would you want to expose someone else to your ass cloud?

BTW, airports are the exception to this rule.

Gene Weingarten: Your name, too! And thanks for sharing!

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Albuquerque, N.M.: IANAP (I am not a physicist), but... I can testify from my own experience that a rifle bullet passing just above your head at more than the speed of sound is VERY loud. It sounds like the rifle is going off next to you. And that's from something that weighs, what, 100 grams or so.

If the projectile was, instead, some 160-pound dork in red tights, I should think the shock wave would cause tissue damage to the infielders.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Well, this is, indeed, a potential problem. I guess he would have to run just UNDER mach one.

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Dog and Cat Butts: My cat and I moved in with my boyfriend and his dog recently. My cat had previously lived with my old dog, but he was always sleeping so he didn't really show her anything about dogs. Now, my boyfriend's dog loves smelling her butt and eating her litter. In turn, she loves rubbing her butt in his nose. They play at this every night when I am home and I shudder to think of what they do when we aren't there.

Gene Weingarten: This is a really disgusting version of the Brady Bunch.

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Kensington, Md.: A physician, I too dabble in languages, sometimes to my detriment and embarrassment. An injured Salvadoran worker once asked me what he needed for his thumb laceration. I wrinkled my brow, dug up what I thought was the word for "stitches" (puntos), and told him, "Necessita tres putas." He howled in laughter, threw up his hands, and exclaimed, "What a country!"

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahahaha. Thats great. What a diagnosis.

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Jocks vs. Sportswriters: Oh boy are you right on that one! I had the great misfortune to work at Sports Illustrated for a few years. The writers had huge egos and were a bunch of nerds. It was a riot to watch them at the annual party for the Swimsuit Edition. They would follow the models around like puppies while all of the women staffers would stand by the bar and laugh at them. Interestingly, the photographers were mainly hunky.

Gene Weingarten: Well, see, you are describing journalists in general, not just sportwriters.

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Fluxcapacit, OR: The small piece of material at the top back of a thong is called the Bermuda Triangle or a fluke (whale's tail).

Gene Weingarten: Fluke. A great term.

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Double hat trick: Darryl Sittler of the Leafs once scored six goals - part of a 10-point night. Still a record.

Why isn't it Maple Leaves?

Gene Weingarten: I've always wondered about Maple Leafs.

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Palookaville: When my daughters were tots, they used to love it when I would blow lightly through their hair when I was holding them. It tickled them and made them giggle. So naturally, it was quite common for a two-and-a-half-year-old girl to say to me in a room full of strangers "Blow me, Daddy!"

Also, my two oldest were playing in one of those rooms-full-of-balls at a McDonald's Playland. The younger one came out crying. I asked the older one what happened. "Maddie got kicked in the balls," she said.

Gene Weingarten: This has got to be the classiest chat in the entire history of chatdom. I simply cannot believe I have not yet been fired.

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Gene Weingarten: On that point, I am going to exit. Going to evacuate the chat, as it were. Thank you all for being anal explosive today, and not holding it all in.

See you on the updates. If I still have a job.

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UPDATED 10.5.05

Baltimore, Md.: A few weeks ago, you wrote that a tenet of your humor was not to make fun of a person in a lesser position. I tend to agree with that, but here's my question -- people in certain jobs (ER doctors/nurses, public defenders and the like) tend to have very cynical or biting senses of humor, probably as a way of keeping the job at arms length. Would you consider this type of humor funny or mean and uncalled for? I'm a public defender, if that makes any difference. Oh and I almost forgot... poop.

Gene Weingarten: Humor is a defense against the implacably horrible nature of life, with its random tragedies and such. People whose jobs require them to be immersed in such things use bleak humor to cope. Oddly enough, the opening paragraph of my column this Sunday will address just this issue.

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The Swamp, Va.: Dear Gene,

I'm afraid Anal Retentive Woman has never learned about the all important bathroom concept regarding the Illusion of Complete Privacy. I believe men using urinals follow a similar concept although I admit I am just assumming. When it comes to public bathrooms with several stalls we are supposed to pretend that each stall is completely soundproof and smellproof. No one inside or outside the stall acknowledges that anything is actually taking place. As far as anyone is concerned toilet stalls are just places to rest for a moment before washing your hands.

Who could be "skeeved" by resting?

Gene Weingarten: Another example of The Illusion of Privacy is the Cone of Silence that exists between cubicles in the modern office. You never hear the domestic problems of the guy next door, because of this Magical Cone of Silence.

Japanese people are very experienced in this area. Paper-thin walls.

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Confucius, DE: What's Deez?

If you were POTUS (and civil war hadn't broke out)...

What is the most important and distinctive trait you would want in a SCOTUS justice that you have never yet seen on the SCOTUS but desperately think it needs?

(Fluent ASL peformer, mime artist, the ability to deliver opinions in perfect rap...?)

Gene Weingarten: I want a justice who will ask completely off the wall questions of the lawyers, just to see how they handle it. Because the lawyers have to be completely deferential to the justices. So what are you going to say if Justice Gottfried asks you what you got in your pants?

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Certiora, RI: I don't know why people are so upset about the president picking someone with no experience as a judge for the Supreme Court. I mean, before getting the job, he had no experience being president, and look how well that's turned out!

Gene Weingarten: Excellent point!

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Hypothetic, AL: Just wondering... Since it seems that every time I turn on the tube or radio I see or hear a "Postie", I was wondering who among you is the funniest. Who would win an amateur stand up contest if you competed against each other? Would would tell the best version of "The Aristocrat" joke?

Poop.

Gene Weingarten: Kornheiser would win the standup. That's because he is completely comfortable, and at his funniest, in front of a mike. And he looks hilarious.

The funniest person at The Post is David Von Drehle. He could do my job far better than I do it, in half the time. But he is too important AND he has that "von." No humor writer can have a von, and he knows it. So he is stuck.

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UPDATED 10.6.05

Boyd, Md.: Gene, in the pantheon of crossword puzzles, where doth the Sunday NYT magazine puzzle rank? I finished the last 3... am I special?

Gene Weingarten: In the last few years, the Sunday Times puzzle has decreased in quality -- creativity and such -- but not in degree of difficulty. It is still hard, and completing it is certain something to be proud of.

The SECOND puzzle on the page is often much more interesting, and much harder. The Acrostics (every other week) are far better, and more difficult, than the crossword. As are the diagramless and the occasional off the wall ones.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: So how surprised were you that the "dried apricot" line made it through editing?

Gene Weingarten: Well, I discussed it with Shroder, and we agreed it could go. Anyone who understood it would not be offended. Anyone who would be offended would not understand it.

More amazing is what is contained in the post below.

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Dried Apricots:

Just thought you should know -- while reading this week's BtB online, I found these advertising links at the bottom of the page:

Apricots Dried

Nutsite.com offers a wide assortment of dried fruits, Jordan almonds, peanuts, nuts, seeds, candy and gift baskets.

www.nutsite.com

Dried Apricot

Moist and sweet California sun-dried apricots at great prices. Organic certified. Gift packs available. Shop online.

www.apricotking.com

National Raisins and Dried Apricots

National Raisin Company is one of the largest raisin processors in the industry. Located in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley, we provide raisins, apricots and currants in bulk.

www.nationalraisin.com

p.s. is there something wrong with me (a woman) if I really don't care that much about shoes?

Gene Weingarten: This one!

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Wash DeLay out of D.C.: Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

Gene Weingarten: I don't usually publish jokes that are making the rounds. But this one is awfully good.

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Arlington, Va.: From the 10/02 New York Times:

Robert Lawless, a law professor at the University of Nevada...

Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Gene Weingarten: It does.

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UPDATED 10.7.05

What about Fantasizing?: Gene,

In your recent poll about fidelity, you forgot to mention fantasizing about other people while you're with your spouse. If, for example, I fantasized last night that Lynda Carter was tying me to my bed posts with her magic lasso while I was with me wife, would that be unfaithful?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it would be.

If you are going to pleasure yourself, don't you think its a little rude to use your wife as a tool?

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Name spellings: I'd like to second the person who begged moms-to-be not to use slightly-off spellings of names.

I'm a Kimberley. I have spent more time correcting school records, credit card records, driver's licenses, voting cards, etc than I care to remember. And there's no easy way to do it -- I tried telling someone once that I was "Kimberley with an e" and got back the paperwork as "Kemberly."

Worse... my mother always told me she named me for the Kimberley diamond mines in South Africa. (I'm a gem... aww...) But after she died, my father said he insisted on the spelling. He worked for Scott Paper and their rival was Kimberly Clark -- he didn't want my name spelled like the rival company's. So my name actually springs from toilet paper.

Sigh. Poop.

Gene Weingarten: You poor thing!

Still, you made me laugh.

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Driving stick...: I am a woman who has only owned manual shift cars but here's the thing I currently own a jazzy convertible sports car that draws a lot o' attention from men who apparently think it's a hot ride with a hot chick in it (I get stopped in traffic and parking lots etc with men yelling compliments about this car)... but they ALWAYS ask me, is it a stick shift. What is THAT about? This is not a Ford Echo! It's a convertible sports car that I was driving at breakneck speed minutes before I screeched to a halt at the intersection where you asked me this stupid question!

Gene Weingarten: What it's about, sadly, is that it is possible to get any car today in an automatic. Including hot little sports cars. Because Americans are fat and lazy.

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Anal-Butt Ga,ME: When we're waiting at the airport or engaged in some other boring task, my husband and I play the Anal-Butt Game. The first person says anal (insert word), butt (insert word). the two inserted words have to have some kind of relationship to one another. The next player makes a similar statement, but the second inserted word must rhyme with the previous second word. No word can be repeated. An example: Anal Weingarten, Butt Humor... followed by Anal Cancer, Butt Tumor. Play continues until someone can't think of something new, or there is such a stunning and brilliant rhyme that you might as well concede.

Has anyone else ever heard of this game? Or did my husband just come up with a great way to make me say anal and butt alot?

Gene Weingarten: Let's make it hard and add an end-of-word bridge requirement:

Anal Scuttlebutt, Butt Rumor...

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