Tuesday, November 29, 2005; 12:00 PM
* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."
Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.
He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.
He'll chat about anything... especially cups that runneth over.
Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .
Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.
I am irrationally happy today because yesterday I wrote what I believe may be the funniest line I have ever written. It is a sad testament to the feebleness of my life that the line consisted of four words, and that this accomplishment fills me with a feeling of well-being and pride and joy the likes of which I have not felt since, say, the births of my children.
This line will occur in an upcoming column, and I shall send an autographed copy of one of my books to the first chatter who correctly identifies it.
It will be a relatively short intro today, because people have complained that in recent weeks the intro went on so long that people took the entire hour to catch up in real time, and because there are some very intriguing posts to answer, and because I haven't all that much to say, anyway.
It is with some pride, and some fear, and some sheer horror that I report the success, so far, of the Weingarten Chatters Yahoo Group , which has gathered more than 200 members in the last week. Get-togethers are being arranged. Identities exchanged. Maps are drawn. Flags are placed. I am guessing there will be some coitus. It is terrifying. I watch, apart, in awe.
Yesterday, the Harford Courant ran THIS PROFILE of Eric Shansby, my column's kid cartoonist. Bear with a slightly difficult beginning: It gets pretty interesting midway through.
I link HERE to a really compelling piece that ran in yesterday's Sun Times. If I ever have to flog my shame in public (and I probably will, someday) I hope I have the talent and gumption to do it like this guy did.
Several readers have e-mailed me to ask what THIS WAS ABOUT in Sunday's Pearls Before Swine. It was Pastis's tip of the hat for an idea I gave him: That other animals should, just once, try to eat the crocs. And no, for those of you who delicately asked, there is nothing "going on" between Pastis and me.
On the interesting name front, I was delighted to notice that the agent for baseball player Billy Wagner is named "Bean Stringfellow," which is not an aptonym but has to rank up there among the goofiest names of all time. Moreover, I also encountered one of those slap-to-the-forehead aptonyms that have been there all along, if only one was attuned to receive it: Specifically, the name of the famously fatherly Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno.
I have just received this important communique from the Empress of the Style Invitational (subject line: "BULLETIN!!!!") reporting that she has learned, officially, that the German word for "nipple" is "brustewartze," which means "breast wart."
This week's poll was a command performance, and it turns out to be very interesting. At last, you have a pretty good demographic profile of precisely who you people are. Pretty likable and interesting people. There are a few disappointments to me, largely on grounds of diversity. I do see some small but fascinating stats resulting from the gender split, so far. We'll discuss this through the chat.
We need to all glare at Mike Peters for the egregious suspension of disbelief he requires to prosecute a weak joke in Thursday's Mother Goose and Grimm . Who the hell gives a letter to the mailman?
Okay, let's go
Silver Spring, Md.: Mr. W., Why the knock on AOL in your Sunday column? I'm not a computer scientest but AOL works for me. Am I just to stupid to understand the putdown people put on AOL?
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: A Pop Quiz , ( Post Magazine, Nov. 27 )
Gene Weingarten: With its rules for proper chat etiquette, and online chat censors, and ridiculous polls and whatnot, and the fact that it still costs money whereas other, equally good or better venues do not, makes AOL for dummies and children. I remain an AOL subscriber.
Gene Weingarten: With its rules for proper chat etiquette, and online chat censors, and ridiculous polls and whatnot, and the fact that it still costs money whereas other, equally good or better venues do not, makes AOL for dummies and children. I remain an AOL subscriber.
Gene Weingarten: I repeat what I just said. Do I have to spell it out for you, people?
Baltimore, Md.: Gene,
How did you react the first time your child came home using a curse word? I would like to figure out how to teach her not to use it, but not to put soooo much emphasis on a word, that in itself, is just a word. Any ideas?
Gene Weingarten: I didn't give a crap. Just didn't. Never watched my tongue around the kids, in particular, either. And neither is foul-mouthed.
Ethical Dilem, MA: I accidentally realized I can see my neighbor's wife undressing through their bedroom window from inside my house. I did not see her all the way naked, but close. Please help me answer the following ethical questions:
Was I wrong to continue looking when I realized I could see her?
Can I look again?
Can I look just until I see her naked once, and then never again?
What if I am not trying to look, but the situation again presents itself where I innocently am there at the right time?
Does your answer change if I tell you that she is really hot?
Does your answer change if I tell you that she and her husband are jerks?
My personal solution to this dilemma is that I feel no compunction about seeing something through to the end when I happen upon it innocently. So I don't feel guilty about continuing to look the first time. But what about the next time?
Although I am severely tempted, I feel like it is crossing the line to camp out and wait for her to undress (plus my wife might catch on). but I do find myself glancing over at their window waaay more often than I should in the hopes of "innocently" seeing something. It is simply impossible not to glance over when you know you might see a hot neighbor naked. And as a guy, it is simply impossible to stop looking when I see a hot neighbor walking around her bedroom in just a bra and panties.
I thought about sending them an anonymous note to close their shades, but they will know it is from me -- their house is directly behind ours.
What should I do? I want to do the right thing, but I want to do it after I see her naked at least once. Does that make me a terrible person? As they ask in the law, what would a "reasonable man" do in this circumstance?
Gene Weingarten: Number one, I am laughing.
Number two, I believe this is one of the more intriguing ethical questions I have ever encountered. I am posting this early because I would like to hear from many of you. I am particularly interested in the gender breakdown of your views.
On the one hand, I am inclined to respond the way I have to questions about whether it is okay to think terrible, lascivious, evil thoughts, without acting on them: To me, what goes on in the head, stays in the head.
Legally, what you are describing is not peeping-Tom behavior, though it does recall a very nice 1950s standup riff by (I think) Jackie Vernon. A woman calls the police complaining that her male neighbor is bathing in the nude in clear view of a window. The police come, and look out the window, and say, "But, lady, all you can see is his head." And the woman says, "Not if you get up on top of the refrigerator."
So, legally, you are fine. Morally, I am inclined to say that you are a sleazy, voyeuristic cad -- which more or less defines all men. Let me ask you this: Let's say you were caught looking. Either by your neighbor, or by your wife. Just caught, red handed. How would you feel? If the answer is, "really, really ashamed," then I think you know the answer to your question. Which is not to say that will alter your behavior. Because you are a sleazy, voyeuristic cad, like so, so many of us.
Gene Weingarten: I actually addressed this topic in a column a couple of years ago, involving whether a man is morally wrong to inspect -- briefly, as it were, just a momentary scan -- the pantied posterior of a woman in a short skirt standing ten steps above him on an escalator.
Now, I will reveal that prior to writing this column I surveyed a number of heterosexual colleagues of mine, and all but one agreed with me that this action, while not particularly noble, is excusable, given the difficulty in NOT making this observation, since when one is riding on an escalator, one is looking up, anyway, and, you know. The one exceptions was a friend whom I will identify here only by his initials -- DVD -- who said that in such circumstances he would, and has, just discreetly looked away. Because it is the right, honest, and mature thing to do. Damn him.
Washington, D.C.: The Cthulhu Circus -- Family Circus comics with captions lifted from H.P. Lovecraft stories:
Gene Weingarten: Very nice.
Anonymous: I love (not) that the designations on your poll are "pro-choice" and "anti-abortion." Did you do this purposefully to stir up the righteous indignation of conservative-leaning chatters like myself? Why not change "pro-choice" to "anti-life?" At least make it even, either "pro-choice or pro-life" or "anti-life or anti-abortion."
Gene Weingarten: Bullhockey. These are designations that best describe the positions. They are the ones used by almost all newspapers, which are striving for objectivity.
"Pro-life" is incredibly loaded. I am "pro-life." Who isn't "pro-life"?
Why not just say "pro-decency"?
Charlottesville, Va.: Gene, please enlighten me: what is the big fuss over cell phones in public? I understand why it's rude if a person is talking loudly on his cell in a restaurant, or having some sort of inappropriate sex-themed talk. But it seems to me that a scenario where one person is talking on a cell is, all things being equal, no different than two persons having a conversation in person. Shouldn't acceptable venues for the latter be acceptable for the former? Surely I'm missing something.
Gene Weingarten: I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this very subject, and it seems to be a place where logic and emotion have no common ground. I, too, find it annoying when someone is speaking on a cellphone in, say, an elevator. Or standing on a streetcorner beside me. I cannot defend my feeling logically, for precisely the reason you give. It may simply be that this causes a moment's confusion -- who is talking to whom? -- but really, that doesn't explain the degree of distaste people have for this.
Actually, I can amend that: I hate the hands-free headsets. I don't mind much when someone is obviously talking on a cellphone. So maybe it Is about that confusion.
Anyone care to weigh in on this?
St. Petersburg, Fla.: Gene -- I'm firmly in your camp in the digital v. analog watch debate; I like the concept of "spatial time" that a quick glance at my analog watch gives me. But I fear our era may soon be over.
My nine-year-old niece is very bright, quick, self-confident, funny and fully computer literate. And she can't tell analog time. The cause isn't a visual impairment or learning disability. She is simply scornful of the need to learn the skill; you may as well suggest that she learn the mummification techniques of ancient Egypt.
When I try to convince/cajole/gently chide her into learning analog, she can riposte with a withering sarcarm that makes this middle-aged uncle feel like he's been dead for three months, and nobody's gotten around to burying him yet.
The "times," they are a'changin'.
Gene Weingarten: You need an intervention there.
Most people, even young people, wear analog watches. Americans may be fat and lazy, but we still have a basic sense of design.
Delray Beach, Fla.: I live in Florida. I don't fit any of your geographical demographic choices. Harumph.
Gene Weingarten: I know. I somehow missed "Southeastern states" completely. If you knew the haphazard way these polls are composed, it wouldn't surprise you. You'd be amazed I managed to include, say, Virginia.
Gene Weingarten: Actually, I see that I typed "southwest" a second time, instead of "southeast." In a sense, this is even MORE idiotic.
Rockville, Md.: Would have picked (and I imagine that many of your readers would have too, simply because they're your readers) humor as the most important personality trait.
Gene Weingarten: That's precisely why I didn't include it. It would have gotten 60 percent of the vote, rendering the whole thing both obvious and meaningless.
Liar, Liar: Gene, you claim to love us, but why oh why are there no female figures to choose from in the poll? Amelia, Rosa, Gertrude, Jane, Cleopatra just to name a few. Stop being such a dink and include a darn woman!
From an early 20, D.C., pro-choice, Lincoln as my last resort panty-throwing fan.
Gene Weingarten: Oh, please. It would have been ridiculous and condescending. Would anyone of any gender in his/her right mind choose any of those people as the single person to most admire? AMELIA EARHART? CLEOPATRA? Versus... Lincoln?
Allegany, N.Y.: "Who the hell gives a letter to the mailman?"
Well, I would if I forgot to put it in the mailbox ahead of time and I saw(in my case) her coming up the walk. Common enough occurence in rural America.
Gene Weingarten: But not if you were afraid of the mailman.
Lansing, Mich.: Look and enjoy guiltlessly, I say. If the neighbor's too stupid to close her blinds when she's getting undressed, she's probably too stupid to notice someone watching. Besides, she might be into that.
Gene Weingarten: Do OTHER women agree with this?
West Philly, Pa.: Gene, I'm a man in my thirties. Back when I was younger and wilder, I got a Prince Albert, which for your more sensitive readers I will describe as a body piercing in the region you probably least want to think about body piercings. After a few years I decided to take it out. Ever since then, I've had to sit down to pee. Well, I could stand and pee but I'd pee all over my shoes.
Just thought you'd be interested.
Gene Weingarten: Okay! Well, this is a new one. I did hear from three different men who have a medical condition that simulates your self-induced one. It is called hypospadia. The urethral opening is on the bottom of the penis, and they, too, must pee sitting down.
Arlington, Va.: I don't get it. As of 10:30 a.m., 12 men and 15 woman said that they consider Bush "a good president." Do any of these 27 people care to explain why? I'm not trying to be a jerk, I just really don't see it. I'd like some real examples too, not just the "I support him because he is the president" cop-out answers.
Gene Weingarten: They will say that he is a visionary on Iraq, and that the rest of us are wusses for giving up. That Iraq will turn out to justify the cost, in terms of world peace and the spread of freedom across the globe. Oh, and that he has given us two importantly good Supreme Court justices. Right, you lonely 27?
You know what cements for me the disaster that is our current president? The fact that he will not listen to dissenting views. Will not have a real meeting with real Americans who have not been hand-picked to support him. Will not accept bad news. Remains willingly isolated from the truth. Very, very scary.
Washington, D.C.: Holy Goodness, there are a lot of Catholics on this chat! Who'da thunk it? And what's with all the Virginia residents? This is not at ALL what I was expecting. I would guess that a lot of people on this chat work in non-profits, which is why so many selected "other" as their professions. And what's more, it's good to know that most people can see that Bush is, in fact, terrible, rather than not quite up to par.
I am, for the record, 26, female, work at a professional association, D.C. resident for most of my life (U St area), college graduate, and while I admire you, I do not "heart" you, largely due to the fact that it's an annoying term and gratingly nonsensical. And I'm single, chatters.
Gene Weingarten: I fear I agree, on the heart thing.
I did not include at least two occupations I should have, which might result in the large "Other" response: Finance/banking, and Science.
Gene Weingarten: Also, vet. Though I would think vets would answer "Medicine."
WTH?: A self-proclaimed computer scientist who uses AOL? Dude, I don't even know where to start! Why would you pay for that? Why, why, why? I'm even irritated that I have to pay Comcast for a bunch of crap I don't use (like their e-mail, portal, whatever else) when really all I want is DNS and an IP address. The rest I do myself, including hosting our own e-mail at home. And I'm a CHICK who works in IT. The guys I work with are even more insane (for instance, I only have one LAN at home). No way are you really a "computer scientist."
Gene Weingarten: I use it out of laziness, and the fact that a LOT of people (and places like ebay) have that address on file. Yes, I am an idiot.
Washington, D.C.: Would the jackas--er, chatters who said they admire Reagan more than Ghandi, Lincoln, and Einstein please submit an explanation before I lose my lunch?
Gene Weingarten: I think those might be righties tweakin the rest of us a little.
Looking: Female, 40 something, conservative. If you are undressing with your shades open you are asking to be watched.
Gene Weingarten: Wow. Women have no sympathy for the exhibitionist! The posts are coming in furiously.
Look or Not Look: As a gay man, I would absolutely not look at the neighbor; she is entitled to her privacy. (Of course, if it is a hot guy, all bets are off....)
Gene Weingarten: Noted.
Oakton, Va.: Given the poll results so far, it appears you erred by not including Karl Marx as a choice for most admired historical figure.
Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.
The Quiz: Gene, you got your own quiz wrong. Any fast food connoisseur knows the key missing ingredient in your fantasy sandwich was a pickle. Well, two pickle slices. No self-respecting McDonald's burger goes without. Even Phyllis Richman commented on their absence in the ill-fated Arch Deluxe line. Nobody will miss the tomato, but they'll be lighting torches over a pickle oversight.
Gene Weingarten: But there is less funny about a pickle, when it is slice, except for the great, great joke about the pickle slicer. It is only in UNsliced pickles that the potential for humor abounds, as referenced below.
New York, N.Y.: I was too shocked to laugh at the Family Guy's slew of cucumber-pickle jokes this week. I believe that's the first time that's ever happened to me while watching TV.
Gene Weingarten: Well, Dan and I were laughing our butts off. I tried to explain it three times just now, and kept erasing my explanation. You had to be there.
Dilemma: You gotta look, especially if she is hot, and it helps that she is a jerk so you don't have to feel that you are taking advantage of someone nice in the situation. There is no dilemma here.
Gene Weingarten: Thanks, guy.
Obviously, I agree. With some mild icky feeling. I would do it. I could not NOT do it. I would draw the line at, like, racing to the window at promising times, because i would feel like a geekyboy.
RE: Women undressing: I undress all the time with the blinds open. My live-in boyfriend always yells at me that people can see me but I don't really care. Somehow it feels different when I'm changing on the third floor of an apartment building, than say, if I was changing under a tree by the road. Plus I just don't think it's worth the effort to close the blinds (all three of them) when I don't see anyone blatantly looking in my window. This doesn't make women stupid!
Gene Weingarten: So, ah, ahem, where do you live?
Peeping at your neighb, OR: Don't do it! I lived on the inside of a U-shaped building in college, and believe me, the show across the way was fabulous. There were quite a few women who were carefree with the blinds. I got busted though, and it was not a pleasant social experience after that. Several years later, I realized the woman I eventually married was one that I'd seen performing with her current boyfriend. We're now divorced.
Gene Weingarten: I'm not entirely sure what the lesson is here, though.
Why I like you, Gene: Because, for instance, you include yourself with "the idiots" who use AOL.
I have been working with computers since the days of BASIC -- I remember taking a summer computer class at my high school where we wrote programs using PUNCH CARDS, for chrissakes. So I "know" and "am experienced" with computers, and yes, I don't really want to change over my email addresses; I'm not sure what I'd switch TO that would be any better; I've heard horror stories from people who have tried to discontinue their AOL service and how hard it was for them to get through to a live person on the phone to actually discontinue the service... all that...
...but mainly, what it is, is I'm lazy and stupid. Like you.
Can I buy you a beer?
Gene Weingarten: Sure. Stupid, lazy guys need to stick together. Also on AOL are Vondrehle, and Pastis, and several other of my idiot friends.
Washington, D.C.: You left off FDR. That's traitorous. I can't believe how much you hate America.
Gene Weingarten: Shoulda included him. Get all the red-daiper babies.
Peeping Tom: Is he sure his hot, annoying neighbor doesn't know that he can see and isn't giving him a show?
That aside - I'd say it's fine. She's clueless enough to get undressed in front of a window then the show she puts on is free for anyone watching. As for waiting to see her naked - give up expecting to see her naked and I bet it happens.
I'm a woman btw and I accept the fact that when I run downstairs naked to get clothes from the dryer that whoever sees me just gets a free show and I wouldn't be offended to find out someone watched.
Gene Weingarten: Is there a single woman out there who would have contempt for the guy?
Gene Weingarten: Er, I didn't mean a "single woman." A married woman would do, too.
Shansby: That's a great picture of Eric with the article. I'm curious if it was taken at his home. I'd imagine the moose head alone would be the inspiration for many humorous drawings.
Gene Weingarten: Looks like it was taken in some hoity toity Yalie club, no?
Land of Cleve, Ohio: In response to Anonymous, the current administration is anti-abortion but not pro-life because they support the death penalty and war. Pro-choice means you might not like abortion (no one really does) but should be available for those who want or need it. You sir, were correct on the labels.
Gene Weingarten: Well, right.
Stephan, Santa Rosa: Re: Ethical Dilem MA
I'd put my drawing desk right in front of that window. It'd sure beat the air conditioning unit I stare at now.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I once asked Kornheiser a similar question, about finding himself in a secluded place where he could get a constant peep show. Asked him what he'd do. He said, "order out for lunch."
Rosslyn, Va.: I wishwishwish I could join the Yahoo group (and no, not solely for the coital potential) but Yahoo sites are blocked here at work.... I weep.
washingtonpost.com: Join at home!
Gene Weingarten: Noted.
Public cell phone use: Your description of someone talking on a cell phone in an elevator made me realize exactly why public cell phone use annoys me so much: if two people were talking in an elevator, they are implicitly making their conversation public. If they were, say, talking about the new restaurant down the block, you could weigh in with your two cents about it without seeming rude. If a person is talking on a cell phonee however, he/she is engaging in an undeniably private conversation but forcing you to hear one side of it. You are not permitted to weigh on on what the person talking says because you are only privvy to half the discussion.
Or, put another way: imagine you're at a coffee shop with a friend and an acquaintance of your friend comes over to say Hello. Perfectly fine because your friend can introduce you two and you can all chat. Now imagine that your friend answers his phone and talks for five minutes to his acquaintance who called. Obnoxious.
Gene Weingarten: But he is your FRIEND. He is ignoring YOU. This is not true with a stranger.
Lansing, Mich.: Would you feel guilty about looking if she WASN'T hot? When Jef and I first got married, we sat on our apartment balcony one evening and watched in horror as the woman in the townhouse directly across the way wandered from one end of the house to the other, shedding clothes along the way. It was like a car accident. We couldn't look away.
Gene Weingarten: Good question.
Bethesda, Md.: Gene,I'm one of the "President Bush is good" people. I would have preferred a more mildly positive choice, but given between "good" and the two "bads" you offered, I had to go with good.
Things I like include the tax policy, handling of the terrorism issue (you all point to Iraq as if it's the only thing going, it's not), and supreme court appointments. Not a huge fan of the continued lack of coherent immigration or energy policies (no pres has ever had either) or the balloning budget, but on the whole it's been positive. I prefer him to the alternative (Gore and/or Kerry) who'd have gone backwards on tax policy, liberal with the judges, and God only knows with regards to the terrorists.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, thanks for entering the lion's den.
New York, N.Y.: You don't have to explain the cucumber-pickle joke. I got it. I'm laughing about it as I think of it now. I just couldn't believe it was actually on television.
I would LOVE to see what you tried to type though. Is there any way to explain the joke without getting fired? Liz?
Gene Weingarten: Nonono, the Family Guy did not HAVE the cucumber joke. It just reminded me of the cucumber joke. You all know it, I am sure.
Washington, D.C.: Wow I fit your female readership to a T. I think I have to stop reading your chat. Whereas I thought I'd found some special connection, apparently I'm just bred to find you interesting. So, it's been nice knowing you Gene. God speed.
Gene Weingarten: You are all individuals, to me. But just the women.
More on the watches: This has been bothering me since the last chat: I now wear an analog watch with the small digital "bar" on the bottom. Sometimes it has the same (or generally the same -- I could see how this would be a problem for the excessively anal) time as the analog dial, other times it has the date -- and sometimes, I've noticed, it even reads "-- --" for some reason. Is this OK?
Even if it's not (and a friend I asked in your stead never really answered me, so I'm worried), I'll note that my alarm clock is one of those old fashioned ones that has numerals, but they're actual little plates (or half-plates, I guess) that flip down into place. Does this offer any redemption?
By the way, the Rite Aid circular on Sunday pictured a spiffy analog watch at 50 percent off -- a bargain at $10.
Gene Weingarten: The only thing uglier than a digital watch (I mean, other than puke on wedding cake, or something) is an analog watch with a digital readout beneath it.
I have specifically exempted from my wrath digital alarm clocks and the like. One of my favorite clocks is here in my basement office. It is a 1950s-era desk clock that is digital, but works by moving four rotating ten-sided wheels. To show how space-age modern it was, it was made in the shape of what must have seemed like the most technologically advanced object possible -- a TV set.
Gene Weingarten: Speaking of which, did you all see the great Rhymes with Orange on this subject? Liz, can you find it? Monday, maybe? Friday?
washingtonpost.com: Folks -- Gene lost his internet connection. He'll be back in about 3 minutes. In the meantime, tawk amongst yourselves.
washingtonpost.com: Rhymes With Orange , (scroll back to Nov. 28)
washingtonpost.com: Rhymes With Orange , (scroll back to the Nov. 28th toon)
Gene Weingarten: Here we go. Sorry about the delay, peeps. I have wireless problems in my house.
Baltimore, Md.: Tell me if this is typical guy behavior -- I just went to the Weingarten group on Yahoo and as I read through the posts, I Googled the name of every woman I came across to see if there were pictures of her on the Web, all as a precursor to deciding whether I wanted to join and/or go to the get-together being planned.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, it is revoltingly male.
Washington, D.C.: Re: Phrase Origins
In all of the discussion of how certain phrases got started, I have to wonder about, "It was the least I could do." When I thank someone, and their response is, "It was the least I could do," I know they mean well, but if you take that literally, they're saying they thought of all the things they could do for me, and they picked the easiest, cheapest, least complicated and required the least effort.
Thanks... I'm glad I mean so much to you.
Gene Weingarten: I've never heard this expressed before. You're right.
New York, N.Y.: Maybe it was the lack of coffee, or my unabashed "regionalism" but I spent at least a few minutes searching the "where do you live" question for the "NYC" choice. Once I figured out it wasn't there, I was forced to confront that I don't know where I live. I don't consider NYC northeastern -- that's that other part of New York, with the trees and cows. Not Mid Atlantic -- that probably ends in Jersey. Have I turned into one of "those" people?
Gene Weingarten: It's northeastern.
Indianapolis, Ind.: Re: to look or not to look. My husband and I discussed marriage for years before we agreed to it. We had been together for quite some time, way beyond the "passion" years, well into the "best friends who are both attracted to and irritated by one another" years. We agreed that people, naturally, stray, and that our marriage should be based on getting our desires in line with our wills. A year after we were married, my husband looked and I found out. We are still together and doing well, but I am still very hurt and my husband is still very remorseful -- not because of the natural predilection, but because the nature of the promise was violated. The person weighing this decision should consider the nature of the promise he made to his wife. Perhaps decency is relative?
Gene Weingarten: So you really expect your husband, as a matter of fidelity, not to look at good looking women?
Boy, I don't buy that. That is mind control. I didn't give up my mind when I got married. That's like a wife being mad or hurt if you DREAMED about another woman. It happens. Er, not to me, of course.
Bethesda, Md.: Good morning Gene,I am asking this question here because I know that even though I will be mocked and ridiculed, I will get an honest answer.
And you'll still tell me I'm hot.
Who is Bob Woodward? I don't mean "who is he in relation to Watergate," but rather, what has he been up to over the past 30 years that I've missed? I've always assumed his name to be synonomous with Watergate but didn't get that he was of other importance. I hear all about how people are shocked -- shocked! -- at his relationship with current and past administrations. Who is this guy, and why does it matter?
Gene Weingarten: Wow.
Bob Woodward has written maybe a dozen books since Watergate, ranging from the definitive story of how John Belushi died to the definitive story of how the Supreme Court works, to the definitive story of the buildup to the war in Iraq. He is America's most famous investigative reporter. He also does occasional blockbuster stories for the Washington Post, and wrote most of those in a package that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, for coverage of the War on Terrorism.
He is the single most famous journalist in America, bar none. He is the principal reason many current journalists between 40 and 55 became journalists.
So you didn't miss much.
Gene Weingarten: AND you are hott.
Potomac, Md.: A riddle for you and your chatters: Why did the anatomist find this recent MSN headline to be so hilarious?
"Police Say Fake Doctor Fondled Woman In Vestibule"
Gene Weingarten: Actually, this headline is funny on its own, even if you do not know what the vulvar vestibule is. It's almost funnier if you don't know.
Washington, D.C.: Re: the poll. SEAFOOD? You can't eat seafood for very long without getting sick of it. Same goes for beef and pork. Grains/beans/rice is obviously the correct choice here, although I can accept vegetables or chicken. Anyone who picked any of the other foods is a fool.
Gene Weingarten: You can't eat seafood for a very long time without getting sick of it? You cannot imagine a rotating diet of clams Posillipo, seared tuna with capers, sashimi of all sorts, raw oysters, crabs, lobster, clams in black bean sauce, braised mahi-mahi, calimari in white sauce, mackerel, trout almandine, calimari in red sauce, salmon, mussels marinara, Chilean sea bass, porgie, catfish, snails in garlic sauce, etc.
You are an idiot. Seafood is the best choice.
Gene, you're kinda hot: For the first time I saw an actual photograph of you (as opposed to the fun cartoons that Yalie does)in a Post print ad. Now I heart you more than ever. Gene, you're cute (much cuter than Dave Barry) and you should just learn to accept it.
I mean, you're no George Cloony, but still...
Your friend (50, female, lawyer, liberal, city dweller, Protestant, liar)
Gene Weingarten: Ah, thank you. I was wondering what planet you were from, until the end.
"Other" Occupations: Hello -- this is D.C. How about consulting?
Gene Weingarten: Well, I would say you work for private industry.
State of confusion: Your column this week refered to a "week-long 'cruise to nowhere,' featuring a bottomless bugger."
Er...what's a "bottomless bugger"? Doesn't being bottomless defeat the whole point of buggery?
Gene Weingarten: Huh? Wha? Buffet. It said buffet. Please tell me it said buffet.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi Liz, how are you? You don't use AOL, do you? How are things with Mr. Liz?
washingtonpost.com: Although your questions would've set the stage for an exciting hilarious chat, alas, Gene is back.
Gene Weingarten: Actually, this reminds me. Liz HAS AOL. Lizzie, the computer expert. Fellow idiot.
Re: Mind Control: I only expect my husband to live by the same rules he expects of me. And dreams do not occur by choice -- looking does.
Gene Weingarten: Sorry, you are asking too much of a man. Marriage is not imprisonment of mind. I may adopt the pose of a misogynist, but I respect women enormously, and you are crossing a line here.
Fairfax, Va.: Gene, the other night, my boyfriend of a year and a half woke me up because I was apparently talking in my sleep -- about some hot guy!!! I love my boyfriend, and would never cheat on him, but does a dream like this call that into question? I don't even know what to say about it!
Gene Weingarten: It does not.
Washington, D.C.: Gene, I have a dilemma that only you can solve. I very much admire fine mustaches like the one you don but my girlfriend refuses the very notion of me sporting a 'stache or beard. I understand your theory of relationships as a game and this is one battle I would very much like to win. How I wish I were alive in the '70s, when manliness was defined by the likes of Burt Reynolds!
My girlfriend sometimes gets excruciatingly bored in class today and after reading every other chat will reluctantly read this one -- so she may just read your advice that will give me a sweet 'stache!
Gene Weingarten: Forget the stache. Sorry, dude. I would have a beard, but my wife hates it. It matters to me that she hates it.
You want the equivalent argument? What if your wife decided she wanted to gain 20 pounds, because it made her feel more comfortable? Would you say that this is her choice, entirely, and that your feelings don't matter at all?
She doesn't like mustaches. They bother her. Respect her.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.
I see some interesting things. The most dramatic is that men are meat lovers and women are not. I do not know what this means, but the numbers are pretty dramatic.
Second, I am pretty slack-jawed astonished at the proportion of people deserting the religions they were born to, for no religion. I feel pretty confident this is an anomaly of this chat audience.
Third, a lot of people living in the suburbs would rather be living elsewhere: Women tend to want the country, men the city. Very intriguing.
Pat the Perfect, ME: As much as I favor abortion rights, I have to say that the use of "pro-choice" and "women's right to choose" is disingenuous; it's clearly designed to avoid being associated with the nasty word "abortion."
Since, as you said, very few people think abortions are a great social good, I would submit that it's no more misleading to call pro-abortion-rights "pro-abortion" than to call the other side of the debate "anti-abortion."
I'm not saying we should do that; I'm just conceding that these terms are NOT neutral.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, pthep. So what duality do you suggest? Give us new terms.
[wc] Moderator!: Hey there -- I'm the moderator of the Gene Yahoo group, affectionately shortened to [wc] for the sake of brevity.
In reponse to the googler, that is the key reason that I chose to not include my real name! I prefer some degree of annonymity, since you could easily find my address and phone number, plus it makes me a little sad knowing there are no pictures of me on the internet (yes, I've googled myself.)
Gene Weingarten: Noted. And thank you.
de nada de rien: "It was the least I could do", in response to "thanks so much!", is parallel to the literal translation of the Spanish and French phrases for "you're welcome": de nada, and de rein - "it's nothing". It's meant to offset the indebtedness of gratitude.
Gene Weingarten: Understood, but when you break it down, it sort of falls apart in a comical fashion. No?
Gaithersburg, Md.: The article about Eric didn't say what high school he went to. It was Blair, wasn't it? Would you ever consider coming back to Blair to talk? My daughter is getting discouraged about writing for Silver Chips and I'm sure you would inspire her in some way (notice I don't say which way). Would it help that I'm the one that bought Eric's cartoon that he donated to the silent auction at BLair last spring?
Gene Weingarten: It was Blair, and yes, I would go back.
Rightie, USA: You're so right. I'm a token rightie and I changed my answer from Lincoln to Reagan just to make a little conservative funny. You lefties are so easily provoked. Go smoke some weed already!
Gene Weingarten: Understood.
Quitting AOL: We had a problem a while ago with trying to find a way to cancel our AOL subscription. Ultimately, in order to get a live person on the phone, we decided to send a nasty e-mail to a friend, who would report us. At that point, you need to call an AOL operator to have service reactivated.
After our service was suspended and we called the operator, we were warned that another such e-mail would result in a suspension of service. When we asked if we could instead immediately terminate our service, the operator started to stutter and said that he's not really in a place where he can do that.
So, ummm, I'm really not sure how we ended up getting rid of AOL.
Gene Weingarten: That's GREAT.
Weingarten Sighting: Gene, did I spot you on the Blue Line Friday-before-last? Someone who looks like you got on around McPherson Square and got off around Pentagon City -- and I spent that entire time composing this message in my mind in such a way as to increase the chances that the fabulous Mrs. Liz would let you see it. How'd I do?
washingtonpost.com: Fair to middling.
Gene Weingarten: Sorry, after all that buildup, not me. It is sad that others must trod the world looking like me.
The few, the proud: Wow. I appear to be the chat's only practicing Muslim. I have no idea what to do with this information. I'd drink to that, except, you know...
Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. Welcome. It is a little disconcerting to me how white and Judeo-Christian we all are.
Keokuk, Iowa: Aside from Tom Toles, who is admittedly great, who do you think are the best political cartoonists? Do you have a favorite?
Gene Weingarten: Oliphant, Luckovich. Wright, in Palm Beach.
Looking at attractive folks when married: My parents have a "look but don't touch" rule, and have been happily married for over 30 years. My husband and I have pretty much the same rule (aside, of course, from innocent touches like hugs for opposite-sex friends). It helps that I'm bi, so we can woman-watch together - he isn't, but he doesn't mind my looking at attractive men either. He knows where my heart is, and I know where his is, and _that's_ based on far more than looks (although he's quite good-looking).
Gene Weingarten: Well, yeah. Of course.
Today's poll: So where is the question about throwing virtual panties at you?
I chose maturity as the most important trait because with that comes the rest of the things you listed. (Assuming we can be mature and still "heart" you).
Signed, one of your many female fans!
Gene Weingarten: Maturity would be my last choice. Sorry. Absolute dead last in that group.
Arlington, Va.: what does it mean when your girlfriend describes you as "like vanilla ice cream, but in a good way?"
washingtonpost.com: She wants to be spanked.
Gene Weingarten: Thanks, Liz. I agree.
Virginian, single, hispanic woman lawyer: Even though I consider myself a strong independent, rather than either a liberal or conservative, the only question that really had me stumped is the pro-choice/anti-abortion question. I am both. Strongly both. I hate abortion, I think it is one of the worst things that a person can do. I believe that too many people use abortion as a late contraception device (which it is not). That being said, I also am a HUGE advocate of pro-choice because these are my beliefs and I cannot dictate what others do with their bodies. Plus, I do not know their circumstances and the circumstances can make a difference. Although I might not be able to think of any at the moment, there may even be circumstances where even I might consider having an abortion or understand if a loved one had an abortion. So thus, I certainly do not believe that some governmental body, be it legislative or judicial, should be able to dictate its judgement on others.
How should I have handled that question? I answered pro-choice because I thought your choice of anti-abortion was an easy way of phrasing advocating more government restrictions on women's rights to get abortions.
Gene Weingarten: That's exactly right. I think most people who are "pro-choice" are not in favor of willy-nilly abortions.
Urin, AL: Psychosis or entertaining bathroom behavior: Every Monday I have a three-hour drive on I-95 and need to visit the rest stop for coffee disposal. Since it's before 6 a.m., I have my choice of any of 12 urinals. Each time I use the next one down the row from last week. I'm now on my sixth cycle. Do I need to worry about OCD or can I continue guilt-free?
Gene Weingarten: You need to worry about OCD.
Gene Weingarten: Man works in a pickle factory. Comes home one day all disturbed. His wife asks what's wrong. "I have this compulsion to stick my penis in the pickle slicer," he says.
"That's horrible," the wife says. "You need to get help for that."
The man says he can handle it on his own. Weeks pass. Then one day he comes home, white as a sheet and trembling.
"Omigod," the wife says... "you didn't... you didn't"
"I did!" the man sobs.
"Well, what happened!!??"
"I got fired!" he said.
"No, I mean with the pickle slicer.."
"Oh, she got fired, too."
Buffetville: Ha ha. Online, at least, it says "bottomless bugger," not "bottomless buffet."
Man, when you're touch-typing, you gotta make sure you set your hands properly on the home row.
Gene Weingarten: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That's great. LIZ, AUGGGHHHHHHH.
Arlington, Va.: The variety inherent in the term "seafood", with which you regaled an earlier commenter, shows how you've stacked the choices, since beef and pork are offered as single choices. A choice of "seafood" should properly be compared against a similarly broad category like "meat." Otherwise, if you're going to make beef and pork single choices, you should do so for the fish as well, and force people to opt for specific fish, like "scrod" or "haddock."
Gene Weingarten: Maybe.
Iowa: Will there be updates this week? Life is oddly bereft without them.
Gene Weingarten: No, they begin after Xmas.
Jax, Fla.: I have recently run into an interesting bathroom habit that I was heretofore unaware of, specifically when you should flush or not flush. The apparent rule of thumb is "if it is yellow, let it mellow, if it is brown, flush it down." Now, being a female, I find this appalling. Women flush if we so much as blow our nose and use the potty as a tissue receptacle. As I had several males in my household over the holiday weekend I found this was not the case for both sexes. The guys found it acceptable not to flush should there be no poop in the potty when they were finished. I should probably mention that I have known these three men (and one woman but she was skeeved out by this behavior as well) for long enough to consider them family, but still... Ewwww!
When did this behavior become common? Have I missed something? I use water conserving toilets and do that pop bottle trick in the tank so it takes less water to fill, but not flushing blows my mind.
Gene Weingarten: Mine, too. These guys give a bad name to guys. We've already been correctly labeled sleazy, voyeuristic cads.
But we are not pigs. Well, most of us are not pigs.
Ward 4: It does NOT say buffet. It says bugger.
And as for the looking - what is WRONG with these women? My husband is married, not dead, and he is, well, a man. As long as he is coming home to me and is happy with me, what do I care what he looks at? Face it ladies, insecurity is ugly, and dangerous to your relationship.
Oh, and while I'm on a roll - the looking at the neighbor bit - tacky. Try not to do it, but it's not your fault when you see her by chance.
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: A Pop Quiz , ( Post Magazine, Nov. 26 )
Gene Weingarten: This is amazing. It must have said buffet in the paper, right?
Who is Bob Woodward?: I'll do you one better. When I first moved to the area I was tutoring a girl who was Bob Woodward's god-daughter. Her 8th grade history class was studying Watergate and I said "You know, you should really call your godfather on this one" and she said "Why?"
Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.
Vienna, Va.: A man named Ronald MacDonald robbed a Wendy's restaurant in Manchester, N.H., yesterday.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you.
Middletown, Md.: I keep meaning to ask... a few chats ago you alluded to another dog's name along with Harry. Does that mean you got a new dog?
Gene Weingarten: No, I was referring to Satchel, the dog in Get Fuzzy.
Gene Weingarten: I am still dogless. Undogged.
Washington, D.C.: Hey. Hey! In your seafood explanation you have seafood paired with other foods -- capers and whatnot! I didn't know we could have ADORNED food, or I would have chosed the clear, obvious winner, PORK. How I love thee.
Gene Weingarten: I said you could season it as you wished.
washingtonpost.com: Listen tough guy -- I WORKED at AOL for five years. That is why I had an AOL account... which was my first e-mail account some 10 years ago. I don't want to give it up. BUT -- I have DSL at home and only check AOL mail via the Web site. So there.
Gene Weingarten: I really want to wean myself from AOL but don't know how.
Falls Church, Va.: I am a recent follower; I was looking for more humor from The Post. I've really enjoyed getting hooked on the chats. So, I have two questions. Do you have an FAQ? If you don't have much of a history with the chat, a lot of it doesn't make sense. It's been fun learning.
Secondly, I've always wondered who would have a good answer to this question, and thought it might be you. There was some discussion last week about The Post deliverers. What is a good tip amount? As mentioned last week, it's not quite like the 12 year old kids carrying around big bags anymore (as I remember my brother doing so long ago.)
Gene Weingarten: A FAQ is a very good idea. We will have one in a few weeks.
If you have it to give, I'd tip $20. That's what I give the mailman, and the job is the same.
Ten is okay.
Gene Weingarten: Actually, know what would be great? If you submit FAQs to me at weingarten(at)washpost.com. Explanations of things that the newcomer to the chat should know: VPL, the insane dwelling on digitalia, and thus such. Written with pith and humor. I'll compile em into the best of, and post them on the site.
And on that note, we're out of here. Sorry for that midchat technoglitch. See youse next week.
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