Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 7, 2006 12:00 PM
* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."
Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.
He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.
He'll chat about anything...
Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .
New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .
Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.
I finally figured out what to do with Classic Peanuts. It is being shamelessly marketed by a syndicate that is taking advantage of our idiotic national nostalgia, which isn't as good as it used to be, anyway. If they have that little respect for us, we shouldn't have any respect for them. This occurred to me yesterday when reading Classic Peanuts. I had a nifty idea. We should treat Classic peanuts as a wall, to be defaced with clever graffiti. When I proposed this to Chatwoman -- that she let me DRAW ON Classic Peanuts for this chat -- she recoiled in babbling fear. WHAT IF THEY SUE US FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT? So, to obtain the tiny gag you are about to see, I had to ask Eric Shansby to take time away from his wenching and studying at Yale and REDRAW the strip, with one thing added, so we can reasonably argue it is parody and satire and what have you. Are you happy, now, sniveling little C'woman? If Eric flunks out at school or in the sack, it is your fault.
All for this.
Okay, then. I promised last week that I would report back to this after consulting myself exhaustively on the issue of gay men and perceived effeminacy.
To recap: A reader sought absolution for hoping that a son of his, whom he suspects is gay, does not turn out to be a major drama queen. He (the poster) felt he was not at all prejudiced against gays, but did find extremely effeminate gay men to be distasteful. I answered that he was merely objecting to extreme behavior, and that I saw nothing wrong with that stance. I compared it to disliking women who act ditzy for attention, or men who make kissyface noises at women in the street. Distasteful, too.
A gay man wrote in to say that the poster and I were both exhibiting bias, that effeminacy in some gay men is not learned, but innate. I promised I would revisit this matter after due contemplation.
Accordingly, I have since taken long walks alone on moonlit nights, gazing out wistfully into the middle distance with a sincere expression on my face. I have discussed this matter with friends both gay and straight over leisurely crustacean dinners at corporate expense. I have consulted shamans and aroma therapists and persons who offer life counseling based on an examination of the entrails of animals. I have had furtive intercourse with dozens of strangers. I now believe this:
Gays come in all shapes and sizes and behaviors, but many gay men will frankly tell you that the face they present to the world is carefully constructed to modify and minimize the sort of behavior that had them called "sissy" when growing up. Whether you call it effeminate behavior or gay behavior, it is an intrinsic component of not all gay men, but many gay men. Saying that you have no prejudice against gays except if they act really effeminate is not all that different from saying you have no prejudice against black people unless they start, y'know, acting all "black" on you. Or saying you are not prejudiced against Jews unless they're really Jewish-sounding, if you know what I mean. Doesn't sound so great, does it?
To use the word of the hour -- that attitude is, on some level, distasteful. It IS prejudice. I take it back. To the poster who wrote that he'd wish his son didn't turn out that way -- I understand, and commend your honesty, but I can't entirely absolve. I don't entirely absolve me, either.
Okay, then. On another topic of recent discussion, got a gleeful if slightly shocked e-mail from Molly at vet school today. Yesterday her anatomy class was addressed by two vets who supervise a local slaughterhouse. They brought in 18,000 pounds of bloody cow meat, all of it containing tumors and lymphomas. Hearts and lungs and diaphragsm and and plucks ("hearts plus lungs plus trachea--what you can pluck outta 'em") and uteruses and intestines and skinned heads. The blood was so profuse, they had to place sandbags on the floor to contain it. But the interesting thing is that some of this stuff -- the things that were not technically malignancies -- came from cows that were otherwise used. We ate the rest of em.
Take the poll . You are showing some smarts! You are learning about comics!
To Ponder: I have two highly disturbing and in some ways opposite hypothetical questions for you.
1. Imagine you are transported back to Austria the beginning of the 20th century for five minutes and five minutes only. You are holding seven-month-old Adolf Hitler in your arms. He is smiling at you with all the innocence and trust of any baby. You have no kind of object with you, just your hands. What would you do?
2. Suddenly you are empowered with the ability to reverse all of Bush's decisions within the past five years regarding Iraq. With a wave of a wand, you have the ability to erase the memories of everyone in the world and bring back to life all those who have died because of the war -- plus restore Sadaam Hussein to his absolute power, his brothers to their houses of "luxury," and all of the people of Iraq to their previous life under a totalitarian regime, plus all the other acts this regime might have committed these five years since. Would you?
I'm think I'm fairly sure of my answers, but the first in particular has haunted me ever since it occurred to me as a spin-off of the "if you had a gun and Hitler in front of you would you kill him?" question, which is pretty much a no-brainer by itself.
Gene Weingarten: This isn't as hard as it may seem on first glance. I am presuming that in the first case, you are supposing that one goes back in time with full knowledge of what is to come.
With Hitler, what I would do would depend on the circumstance I found myself in at the moment of my appearance. If I were in a room not only with the baby but also, say, Hitler's father, Alois, close at hand -- I would have to act quickly, raising the cute little trusting baby high, and whacking his head down on some hard, sharp object, such as a table edge, in the hope that it would actually rip off. If I were alone with the cute little trusting baby, however, with no danger of being intercepted or interrupted, simple strangling would do.
Let us not cringe here, people. We are talking about Hitler, and cannot be concerned with the niceties of babyness; once you make time travel possible, you are essentially declaring the passage of time to be a chimera. Baby Hitler is adult Hitler. Same thing.
A strong case can be made that the Holocaust -- possibly even World War II itself -- might not have occurred absent Hitler. None of the brutes around him, none of the other architects of Nazism, possessed the charisma to have launched that party into national prominence. Yes, the seeds of German aggression were there, ever since Versailles, but Hitler was the spark for the full madness. It's highly unlikely that anything WORSE would have happened in his absence.
You can say, well, playing with history is a dangerous thing, a butterfly flaps its wings in India, and ... yadda yadda yadda. Yes, but we are talking about Hitler, and the Holocaust, here. No Holocaust does have some interesting possible implications, including no Israel. Which is, indeed, an interesting implication, isn't it?
The second question is even easier. I would do nothing. I am only a person with an opinion, albeit a strong opinion. I don't know enough to take the extraordinary measure of a history-reversing action. I might WANT to, but I wouldn't.
Lansing, Mich.: Oh, COME ON! Incomprehensible? I try to kill the incomprehensible ones when I'm doing the lettering! This one was TOTALLY comprehensible!
Gene Weingarten: Jef, Jef. Even virtuosos like Mozart and you must be willing to admit the occasional goof.
Alexandria, Va.: The "stool" cartoon reminds me of a picture I saw of a sign in a hospital. They must have supplied some kind of stepstool as an aid for disabled folks to use in the restroom. The sign was affixed to a bathroom stall door and read, "Please replace stools after use."
So, yeah, I knew the right answer to that poll question immediately.
Gene Weingarten: Very nice.
Rip-Off: Wow, did McPherson rip-off Pastis in Friday's Close to Home or what? Seriously egregious stuff.
washingtonpost.com: Close to Home , ( March 3 )
Gene Weingarten: This was completely shocking, because Pastis's WEEK LONG riff on this subject was long enough ago for McPherson to have yanked this one. Especially since Pastis is in many more papers than McPherson.
Kissimmee: Gene,A comment you made in your last chat (about remembering when you got to second base) reminded me of a very important question that I hope you will address. What are the bases? This came up with a group of friends and there were at least a couple of different versions. We were mostly agreed that sex is the so-called "home run," but were split on what acts constituted first, second, and third. Also, is there a generational difference? Would you consider third to be something different than a person in his or her 20s?
Gene Weingarten: That's a good question! When I was of an age to count bases, the delineations were clear. Apologies here to all women, who are rightly revolted by this sort of insulting juvenalia. First base was a passionate kiss, second base was mammary palpation, third base was an even more exciting palpation, and a home run was, indeed sex.
The rise, as it were, or oral sex as a pre-coital staple may have changed things. Is there anyone under 30 who can enlighten us? Are the still bases? Is there still a game?
Countera, CT: You're going to publicly humiliate Stephan Pastis for the glaring error in Wednesday's strip , right?
Gene Weingarten: I don't see an error. But I'd love to slam Pastis. Enlighten us.
Frederick, Md.: Here are the lyrics to my new favorite song.
With that honky tonk badonkadonk
Keepin' perfect rhythm
Make ya wanna swing along
Got it goin' on
Like Donkey Kong
Shut my mouth, slap your grandma
There outta be a law
Get the Sheriff on the phone
Lord have mercy, how's she even get them britches on
With that honky tonk badonkadonk
(Ooh, that's what I'm talkin' bout right there, honey)
I think I need help. I think I may need to move a bit farther east of the West Virginia border.
Gene Weingarten: Nothing to be ashamed about. Those are good lyrics.
Baton Rouge, La.: I'm often unable to view certain comics that you link. In the poll today, it was Piranha Club and Blondie. The link says "No Referrer" in place of the comic. Could you please post the solution to this problem in the FAQ?
washingtonpost.com: Can the reader who figured out the work-around for this a few months ago please resend?
Gene Weingarten: Note.
Tattoo, again: Hi, Gene. I'm the woman who hates tattoos and whose husband, of course, wants to get one. Sorry I couldn't stick around for the rest of the chat last week. But to answer your (and Hank's) questions: The tattoo would be on his upper arm, and while he hasn't settled on a design yet, I know him well enough to be certain that it won't be a cheesy faux tribal design or a cartoon character or a naked lady or anything like that. For a tattoo, it will be well, and thoughtfully, designed.
And after pondering your anecdote about how you shaved your beard because your wife hated it more than you liked it, I'm leaning toward giving in on this one. I really think he wants the ink more than I don't want him to have it. So there you go. He'll be thrilled, and I'll live with it. I feel so grown up right about now.
Gene Weingarten: More important, in the ever-so-exciting game of marriage, you will win a major redeemable chit.
Oscars, Washington, D.C.: What did you think of Jon Stewart's hosting job at the Oscars on Sunday? Most critics thought he was awful, and being a huge fan, I loved watching him and enjoyed his presence. I'd like to hear your opinion, being the arbiter of all things funny.
P.S. I love the Oscars and this was the first year my husband watched with me because he, too, is a big Jon Stewart fan.
Gene Weingarten: I was working and didn't watch. You know, I think I CONTRIVED to be working. I didn't really want to watch Stewart in that venue, because I, too, am a fan and I didn't think he'd do well in something that scripted and formulaic. Just wrong for him: It would be like watching me trying to act, which is something you should be glad you missed, last night, at Arena Stage.
Shales savaged Stewart, saying he was worse even than Letterman. Backstage at Arena last night, the conversation among us lesser luminaries touched on this subject, and the discussion mostly involved whether he was ACTUALLY worse than Letterman or Chris Rock. The consenses was no, and no, but still.
Chicago, Ill.: Gene, I have a question about Bruce's enjoyment of mock duck. Does he feel guilty about all of the ducks, chickens and turkeys that were killed so that we could compare the texture of the real birds to the soy-based alternatives. I worked at a lab that developed most of the early versions of these fake meats, primarily focusing on getting th texture right, because taste is much easier to fake, and let me tell you, we cooked a lot of birds for each different type of product and wouldn't have had to do so if Bruce and others didn't insist on soy products that looked and tasted like real meat. Isn't that a bit hypocritical rather than just enjoying tofu and other products that that don't need to be compared to killed animals so that they come out right?
Gene Weingarten: Analogous question: Is it OK to buy a fur coat made in, say, 1920?
McLean, Va.: Liz has a blog!! (It's a good one, too.) Can her own chat be far behind?
washingtonpost.com: Thanks... but yes, very far behind. I get enough chat right here every Tuesday.
Gene Weingarten: I am now officially requesting Chatwoman to link to her blog. Actually, it is a demand. Link to your excellent, celebrity-flogblog, baby.
washingtonpost.com: If you say so, boss: Celebritology
Former Fat Kid... : Grrrrrrrrrrr ... (in the second section)
The general idea behind the story is Maryland State Senator Paul Pinsky is lobbying to require a body mass index test for all students. So, with a nation of people becoming more and more overweight and childhood obesity on a dangerous rise, why am I growling?
Easy... we can't keep picking on fat kids. As a former fat kid (though now a gorgeous and only slightly curvy adult) people have no idea social exclusion they face. They are singled out on a regular basis for teasing and ridicule every day. Let me assure you these kids know they are fat. These kids don't want to be fat; in fact, most of them would give anything to not be fat. Height and weight day is a fat kid's worst nightmare. This is only going to add to their insecurity by giving them yet another fat label.
I fully agree that childhood obesity needs to be addressed. It's on the rise and it's becoming pandemic. I work in an elementary school and see very few kids eat healthily. Dessert is a given, fried foods dominate the cafeteria, lunchables are the norm. Fat, thin, healthy or not, kids don't eat well. Slapping a fat kid with another label isn't going to solve this problem. In fact, most fat kids either eat for comfort (thus will eat more after hearing from yet another source they are fat) or will eventually turn to an extreme method to lose weight (anorexia or bulimia) and this test is another push down these roads. Healthy living needs to be addressed in school age children, but it needs to be addressed with all kids equally, since today's thin child is tomorrow's plus size stay at home dad. Schools have to serve healthier foods-eliminate whole milk in favor of skim, remove the fried food for baked and eliminating chips and ice cream are easy starts. Adding more playground time, upping the gym class requirements (from once a week or one semester) and increasing after school activities to keep kids from the TV and video games are inexpensive ways to involve children in healthier lifestyles. Most local colleges have seniors studying for their R.D. license who need an internships. Why not help them create a program for students on proper eating habits?
Whatever happens, we have to stop picking on the fat kids. They are an effect, not a cause. Isolating them puts a Band-Aid on a massive, sucking chest wound, and that Band-Aid only causes more problems.
Gene Weingarten: I agree with this completely. It sounds like a bonehead idea.
What, us learn?: We are showing some smarts and learning about comics? Maybe you're finally learning to write questions that aren't completely subjective while insisting that there are right answers.
These were the best questions you've written so far because they centered on specific criteria. You used to write questions like "Which of these is the dumnest?" whereas now you're asking "which of these blew an opportunity for a spectacularly funny, if unprintable, punchline?"
Congratulations, Gene! You're finally showing some smarts and learning about polling!
Gene Weingarten: Also noted.
Thanks a lot: I've never smoked, I don't do drugs, I rarely drink anymore, and I've given up trying to find a sex partner who is reasonably attractive and not a total jerk. That leaves me with one thing I truly enjoy: cheeseburgers. Sure they're fattening, so I limit myself to once a month or so. But I still enjoy them.
And now you have to tell us about the tumors.
Thanks for taking away my last fun thing.
Gene Weingarten: I shall send this to Mol.
BTB on Google: Gene, you've probably already received numerous e-mails and comments about this, but I just wanted to say that, while I really enjoyed your last BTB column on how to have fun with gmail, you missed the real point entirely.
Gmail is a "free" e-mail service -- it doesn't cost you any money to have an account, but as a condition to having a gmail account, you voluntarily agree to let Google "read" your e-mails and insert ads related to the text. In other words, you knowingly trade your right to privacy for a "free" e-mail account.
However, the subpoenas that Google is currently fighting are completely unrelated to their gmail service. Instead, the government is demanding information on Internet searches that individuals have performed using the Google search engine. This is something entirely different.
Google's resistance to these subpoenas is simply not comparable to its treatment of gmail messages. This is a very important distinction, and by overlooking it you also overlook what is truly scary about the government's demands. Unlike with gmail, people do not voluntarily and knowingly waive their privacy rights when they perform a search on Google (or Yahoo or any of the others) -- in fact, most people expect that information about their searches are private.
Gene Weingarten: I understood all of this. I was writing a humor column.
Alexandria, Va.: What are the best books you've read lately? I get plenty of news constantly and I've stretched my comics budget too far with some costly collections lately, so I'm looking to dive back into "serious" literature at the library. Have you got any recommendations chatwoman?
washingtonpost.com: Actually, I just finished reading our own Jackie Spinner's account of her time spent reporting from Iraq. I really enjoyed it, but if you're looking for something more along the lines of escapism, you might want to skip this one.
Gene Weingarten: I'm miffed you didn't ask me. You think about serious reading, and immediately you conclude that only C'woman can be of service?
Well, for your information, I am currently reading "Casual Day Has Gone too Far," by Scott Adams. It is a work of astonishing genius. On this one page, Dilbert is going for a job interview and he is asked "What do you consider your biggest fault?" And he says "Sometimes I work too hard," with a thought balloon that says, "Good one!" And the interviewer asks "Why is that a fault." And Dilbert panics and says, "Well, uh, I work so hard that I forget to eat and bathe for days. Eventually I starve to death at my desk. I become a bloated, stinking corpse. Insects breed on my body. I spread disease to the entire company."
In the end, Dilbert returns to the office, and Wally asks him how the interview went. Dilbert says "They wanted somebody hungrier."
So. You could go there, or Jackie Spinner. I recommend both.
Lansing, Mich.: Um, actually, that was me -- Patty. I do Jef's lettering for him. (I also copy-edit and critique, whether he wants me to or not. It's all part of the package.)
Gene Weingarten: Well, Patty, you in particular should know better than to be defensive. It wasn't even your muddy IDEA. Though spousal defense is understandable.
Maryland: Have you seen this brilliant new commercial with the couple shoe shopping? The man is sitting there waiting and the woman is contemplating three different pairs of black shoes. She turns to him and says "What do you think?" and they show his perspective of three identical black shoes.
While this is only mildly funny in itself, what is truly brilliant about this commercial is that she is actually looking at three different black shoes in the main part of the commercial. Only when she shows them to him do they all become the same shoe. I noticed this and my husband didn't even after I pointed it out. The shoes all looked the same to him throughout. I imagine any couple watching the cartoon would have a similar meta-exchange, which made it much funnier than it objectively was.
Gene Weingarten: Shoe blindness is a version of refrigerator blindness, the affliction that makes a man incapable of finding anything in the refrigerator once it is opened. Women are not afflicted with this disease.
Men also never know where anything is in a department store. Whereas if you take a woman -- any woman -- blindfold her, stuff her into a Blackhawk helicopter, and transport her 350 miles to an unfamiliar city, bring her STILL BLINDFOLDED into any part of a department store, remove the blindfold, and ask her where pillow shams might be located, she will blink once, note her immediate surroundings, and say something like "one floor up, to the left of the escalators, past the bed linens but before you get to housewares."
My wife has seven pairs of identical black shoes.
Loservile, Ireland: For the over-50s. First Base: An Actual Date; Second Base: Holding Hands; Third Base: Peck on The Cheek; Home Run: Glad To Be Home By Twelve.
Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaha.
Krill Killers?: Killer whales eat seals, fish, etc. It's blue whales and the other "toothless" baleen whales that suck up krill and eat 'em.
Tell Pastis for me:
Go back to Cetaceology 101, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and his top hat is impounded as well.
Gene Weingarten: Ahhhh. Absent dissent from an ichthyologist, we will accept this and hold Pastis up to ridicule. Again.
Arlington, Va.: Your CPOW choice was downright silly. The four runners-up were all better. The Close To Home gag, had it been drawn by Gary Larsen, would be considered a minor classic.
Gene Weingarten: No, the CPOW had a certain interesting virtue. It can make you laugh out loud.
Arlington, Va.: Gene wrote: "many gay men will frankly tell you that the face they present to the world is carefully constructed to modify and minimize the sort of behavior that had them called 'sissy' when growing up."
This is true of many straight men as well.
Gene Weingarten: Not a bad point.
Killing Hitl, ER: There was actually a fairly entertaining book written on this very idea by a comedian named Steven Fry. It wasn't exactly a literary masterpiece, but I enjoyed it. Basically it involves someone in our time developing a sterilization pill, and going back in time and putting some of it in Hitler's parents' well. Therefore, no Hitler. Anyway, this guy (forget is name) who would have been killed in World War I due to one of young Hitler's goofs on the battlefield ends up basically growing up to become Hitler on steroids. Good things do not happen. Anyway, it's called Making History, for anyone who's interested. I'd characterize it as a good beach read.
Gene Weingarten: Hm. I would say there are too many mediocre Hitler what-if books to endure another one.
Second, BASE: Gene,
I'm 24 and when I was growing up there were indeed bases and they were just as you described. Once I hit college, though, the whole base thing was looked on as sort of juvenile and it all became "hooking up" making it much harder to extract details from friends. With bases, we all knew what went down. No pun intended.
Gene Weingarten: Good pun, just the same.
McLean, Va. (by way of St. Paul): Gene, since you are such a fan of baseball, could you please take a moment in your chat to acknowledge the passing of Kirby Puckett?
I grew up in the St. Paul suburbs watching and rooting for the Twins. No matter what happened before or what may yet come, Puckett's time with us will always be the Golden Age of baseball in Minnesota. We'll miss him, but we'll always be glad that at least we had him with us for a while.
Gene Weingarten: Kirby Puckett was a great hitter, of a type there are too few of. A scientific hitter. If he hadn't been so round, he could have BUNTED .300.
Actually, I also liked him for his roundness.
To Jef: Relax. Yours is not the MOST incomprehensible...geez.
Gene Weingarten: Uhhh, well.......
Bethesda, Md.: Can we get body mass indexes for members of the Maryland legislature?
Gene Weingarten: Heh heh.
Bethesda, Md.: Gene-
I meant to ask this question last week and then missed the chat. Hopefully it's not too late.
I just wanted to get your opinion of the George Will piece from two weeks ago where he made the claim that conservatives have happier lives than liberals. Being that you're an avowed liberal and many would consider humor an important part of happiness, I figured your thoughts might be interesting.
My opinion? I think Will could have had a three word column on this one -- "Ignorance is bliss."
washingtonpost.com: Smile if (and Only if) You're Conservative , ( Post, Feb. 23 )
Gene Weingarten: I think he was right, though I wouldn't have quite as smug about it as he was.
I think it is easier to be a conservative. You do not have to think as much, beause issues are more black and white. That delivers a sense of general contentment, because the world seems more orderly.
I think there are very intelligent, deep-thinking conservatives, but I also think it is easier for a dumb, incurious, narrowminded person to be a conservative than to be a liberal.
Women and Beards: Last week, you mentioned that you shaved your beard at the request of your wife. I am assuming that she is one of a substantial number of women who just don't like beards. I am wondering why these women feel so strongly.
My brother's wife is the same way and he's hinted that it has to do with performing a certain sexual act that requires a man's mouth. (Can we use the technical word for this here?) Is this why most women don't like beards? Because they don't want their genitals scratched? Or does it have to do with simple kissing? Or do they just like the look of a guy without a beard?
For what it's worth, my own wife likes my beard. But she also does not enjoy that sexual act which I mentioned earlier. However, she also would not like my beard if it was short and scratchy. An inch is very short for me and I never trim it less than that.
This might make an interesting poll topic: Do you like beards? If not, why?
Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am going to go very gently here. Your tenth and eleventh sentences have me laughing aloud.
EVERY SINGLE WOMAN READING THIS will understand. And most men.
Herndon, Va.: Re: bases. For me and my peers (I'm in my late 30's), 3rd base usually meant some form of oral stimulation.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I guessed as much. Isn't it great how society evolves in important ways?
Sacramento, Calif.: The error in the Wednesday Pastis strip is obvious. The car at the drive through looks like it's a stick shift. NO ORCA HAS EVER BEEN KNOWN TO DRIVE A STICK.
Gene Weingarten: Very, very true. Also, how is he going to step on the brake?
Atlanta, Ga.: Gene,
One of my co-workers (hetero-male-married) insists that ALL men, regardless of whether they will admit it or not, have tried on their wives bras and panties. Is this true? My husband denies this completely, but my co-worker says no man will ever admit it. I'm wondering what YOUR chatters have to say on this.
Gene Weingarten: This cannot be a real post. This is not real. But it is funny.
Pennsylvania Ave., Washingotn, D.C.: Gene:
I find myself in a mindmeld with you a surprising amount of the time. Well maybe not so surprising... same gender... same age. Same politics. A child of the '60s and all that implies. BUT... I must tell you that your are WAY off base on this reclining airline seat thing. You had several chatters last week refute your position and I won't belabor the group with a rehash. However, I did take the opportunity to talk to my wife (admittedly 13 years my junior)... but a seasoned business traveler with over 100 thousand miles under her lap belt. She said she has NEVER heard of anyone thinking that reclining one's seat was rude. Have you had a chance to reflect on your assessment of airplane etiquette further?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, and I am correct. We heard mostly from dissenters last week, because I did not post the voluminous applause. In the updates, however, I did offer an amendment. The shape of most airline seats boinks a short person's head forward uncomfortably when the seat is in the upright position. I graciously permitted a small incline for those persons, though frankly I would prefer that they sat upon a pillow.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.
Four out of five of you saw correctly that Baldo was bootlegging a spectacular coprophage joke.
In my mind, our good friend Jef Mallett made the most egregiously puzzling cartoon. Though all of them were quite difficult.
Frazz was doubly difficult because it relied on your understanding an implied question, which was "Why is the symphony playing Mozart and not 50 Cent?" or something. Then you had to understand that old Caulfield is implying that the REASON must be that the symphony orchestra doesn't want to pay royalties, and doesn't have to, to Mozart. THEN you have to figure out that in the last panel, "symphony" means "symphony orchestra," and not a symphony, perhaps one by Mozart.
Too much, too much.
The Blondie joke was the one that had a serious presentation problem. The wrong ghost is telling him to go ahead and eat it. For the joke to work, it had to be the one that had been urging him NOT to eat it, relenting.
And last, B.C. blew the punchline. His punchline was sort of idiotic. But if it had read "adj. Describing the sort of store that sells really fancy cheesecakes, eclairs and hot fudge sundaes," it would have been pretty good.
Comics access problem: I wasn't the original problem solver, but this solution was posted, and it works for me: if you have Norton Internet Security or somesuch, turn off the Privacy Control.
This probably means thousands of people are stealing my identity, but dammit, I can see the comics.
Gene Weingarten: Okaaay...
Lynchburg, Va.: Re: Bases
From a 20-something female, yes they still exist. The bases I grew up with were the same as you describe.
Gene Weingarten: Hm. I would have thought girls aren't even privy to the bases.
Oh for the love of Pete: Icthyologists study fish. Whales aren't fish.
Gene Weingarten: Ichthyologists also study marine mammals. Don't they?
Buzzard Point, Washington, D.C.: Well, for hooking up, we developed our own system of ranges. First base was a "fish hook", home run was a "harpoon".
Made for some good "Jaws" references. "You're gonna need a bigger boat..."
Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.
Oscars "Tab" Ad: Did you and/or Liz catch the ads during the Oscars for the new pink "Tab" energy drink for women? As a guy, they left me conflicted between acknowledging their sexiness and squirming at their, well, sexism.
My wife's reaction? She turned to me and calmly asked "Why don't they just call it "Slut Cola'?"
washingtonpost.com: Speaking of the new Tab, did anyone read this really interesting New Yorker bit about an apparent love of Tab among journalists: The Tab Scare
Gene Weingarten: I knew of none of this. The original Tab still exists?
Washington, D.C.: Why don't you kidnap baby Hitler and raise him to be a good person?
Gene Weingarten: Because you have to return to the present, alone, in five minutes. Duuuuuh.
Bethesda, Md.: While it is clear that without Hitler there would have been no Holocaust, it is argueable if without Hilter there would be no Israel. After all the Balfour Declaration on which the Post-WW I mandate for Palestine was based was written well before the rise of Hitler. It would have been much more difficult, but I would not say impossible, and in one way it might have been easier since there would have been 6 million more Jews in Europe to populate the country.
Gene Weingarten: I am not an expert on Middle Eastern history, but I think the impetus of collective guilt would not have been there.
Blogg, 'IN: Love Chatwoman's new blog. That is all.
washingtonpost.com: Thank you!
Gene Weingarten: Awww.
Arlington, Va.: As I male, I have not only never tried on my wife's bra and panties, but I have no desire ever to do so. Wearing her shoes is all I need.
Gene Weingarten: Noted.
Icthyologists : Mycologist are "fun guys".
Gene Weingarten: I once went to a convention of mycologists, hoping to write a funny column on how boring they were. They were so boring, I couldn;t write a column. Molly did get a mushroom t-shirt out of it, and because I never wrote the column, I couldn't even expense-account it.
Vermont & L: "Out of the Gene Pool" was funny, not bewildering. Any time someone pulls something gross-looking out of her lunch bag, someone inevitably says, "that looks like some sort of science project!" The gag is that this one time it actually IS a science project. Killed me.
Also, Pastis drew the drive-through speaker on the passenger side, where it never is (unless the killer whale drove through the wrong way).
Gene Weingarten: I cannot tell you how many weenies mentioned this drive-thru fact.
Bethesda, Md.: I've been reading and participating in your chats since the beginning, and I'm curious if you could do some navel gazing for us. How has your writing changed as a result of this chat? I know it really appeals to your two-minutes-later humor and you enjoy the chats immensely, but are you the same Gene Weingarten that started them three years ago?
washingtonpost.com: Actually, Nov. 27 was four years and counting...
Gene Weingarten: Yes. At the beginning I tried to be funny in every answer. It was exhausting and unproductive, and people complained that I seemed to be straining. So I relaxed a little, and just started answering questions directly; sometimes funny, sometimes not. Now people complain that I am too serious.
How many ADHD kids does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Let's ride bikes!
Alexandria, Va.: Gene,
On Friday I went into the office break room. There's a radio in there and, unaccountably, it was playing "The War Song" by Culture Club. This song is 23 years old and I haven't heard it in 22. I found myself singing and, yes, dancing to its bouncy melody and inane lyrics ("War, war is stupid/And people are stupid/And love means nothing/In some strange quarters..."). An attractive coworker, of my preferred gender and sexuality, was bopping to the tune as well. We exchanged a laugh or two and then returned to our jobs.
My question is not the sixth-gradish one, namely do you think I should tell her I "like" her. It is the fourth-gradish one: Was I dancing to this song because I like it, or because it is "camp" and therefore hilariously funny?
What I'm really asking you, arbiter of humor, is: What is "camp"? I once heard a smart person (not me, darn it) define "camp" as "laughing, as adults, at things we took seriously as children." Do you think that's right?
(Please answer, so I can tell this woman that I "like" her.)
Gene Weingarten: The dic is very helpful here, as it were.
Camp, meaning five, is defined as "banality, mediocrity, ostentation, artifice, etc. so extreme as to amuse or have a perversely sophisticated appeal." This strikes me as an extraordinarily good definition.
Oddly, "campy" is described in its second meaning as "flaunting effeminate homosexual mannerisms, usually for amusement," which seems off to me.
Tell the woman you "like like" her and give her some really ostentatious kitch.
Wisconsin: Ha ha, that Ave's Taxidermy and Cheese shop reminds me when I hired a guy who lived in the countryside outside Madison, Wis., to rebuild my computer, based on the price-comparisons I'd done on the Internet for local computer repair.
He picked up the computer from my apartment to work on it, but when he was done I drove out to his place to get it.
When I knocked on the door of his workshop, a woman answered wielding a large, bloody knife.
In one half of the workshop, the guy had his workbench, cluttered as you'd expect with electronics and computers. On the other side of the workshop, three rabbits hung from the ceiling, in the process of being skinned by the guy's mom.
It was kind of awesome.
Also, the guy did a very good, very inexpensive job on the computer. It would've been better if I'd gotten some fresh meat thrown into the deal, but maybe that's only for repeat customers.
Gene Weingarten: On Pennsylvania Ave. near my home is Eddie's Laundromat and Restaurant.
Oye Como, Va : Gene -- what's your take on the "Brokeback Mountain" controversy raging at Achenblog? Did you see both movies? Do you think "Crash" won because of homophobia among some members of the "Academy" (silly, pretentious word for a bunch of Hollywood types) or perhaps because Hollywood was reluctant to be seen as embracing a gay-themed movie? Personally, I thought they were both solid movies, but "Crash" was more complicated and thought-provoking, which is the kind of movie I prefer. Signed, Straight Male Who Was Okay With Brokeback Sex Scenes
Gene Weingarten: I didn't see Brokeback. The reviews suggest it was a good but not great movie. I did see Crash, which I thought was great. It so seldom occurs that the best movie of the year wins Best Movie that I'm hoping this was a matter of merit.
I also don't think the Academy voters -- a blind ballot sort of thing, not a committee consensus -- is likely to be swayed either by political correctness or fear of red state America. They can be swayed, however, by false patriotism, emotional manipulation, etc. Syriana, for example, which was a pretty blatantly anti-American screed, probably had no chance.
Syriana was also a fairly bad movie, in my opinion, though obviously that doesn't disqualify it from winning Best Pic.
Alexandria, Va.: Congrats on tweaking the flavor of your corporate ownership! To sanitize my Google experience, I use CustomizeGoogle , a Firefox plugin which blocks most of their more evil services like click tracking and ads. It's the suburban way to non-violently protest.
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Gmail Intuition , ( Post Magazine, March 5 )
Gene Weingarten: Yep, thanks. About 6,000 posters mentioned this.
I actually LIKE the ads. They are funny.
Inkville, DC: Gene-
I'm a young woman with three, easily hidable tattoos. One of them is my husband's name tattooed in Korean at the small of my back. One night, I was out to dinner with a guy at a Korean restaurant. When the waitress brought the bill she handed it to my date and called him by my husband's name! (The husband and I were separated at this time.) Apparently, while leaned over my meal, my tattoo was visable and she assumed the gentleman I was with was the same as the tattoo name! Highly embarassing but super entertaining! And at least I know I got the translation right on the tattoo!!
Gene Weingarten: This was the best of several true tattoo posts.
washingtonpost.com: Dispatch from Shansby:
A barking throng of torch-bearing beagles has burned down Eric Shansby's embassy at the Humane Society.
Shansby has gone into hiding.
-The artist's attorney
Gene Weingarten: Noted.
Takoma Park, Md.: I have a contest to propose for your chat. (I would send it to the Empress, but I fear her standards are too high.)
Just this morning I was reading The Correspondence of Alfred Marshall, Economist: v. 3, which you may borrow when I'm done. In this volume there is a surviving fragment of a letter that badly needs completing. Marshall is writing to his 14-year-old nephew, who has recently lost an eye, a thumb, and a finger from an explosion that occurred when he was trying to make gunpowder. After condolences, the fragment of the letter reads:
"You are now able, if you can only find the proper comrades, to take part in playing again the following practical joke: --
Three friends went for a walking tour. It happened that...."
I can think of no one better qualified than your readers to complete the story.
Gene Weingarten: He might emerge as an object lesson after a lecture of the dangers of the new rage, "double socket sex," involving two fingers in electric socket while the eye socket is used for ...
Never mind. Maybe the Empress will be interested.
Gene Gene the humorous problem solving machine...: My consternation begins thusly...I have a three-year-old daughter and my wife and I are trying to break through the mental block she's put up as far as going poopy on the potty is concerned. She has no problem peeing and yes, I am unable to refer to the process as anything other than "poopy on the potty" anymore.
Anyway -- one of the articles we read mentioned a series of progressive steps that we should use in order to get her to be comfortable. One of said steps is to make sure that her feet don't dangle when she is sitting on the can.
Now, I'm a guy who is 6'2" and I've never had a problem with dangly feet so I asked my wife why this should be a problem. She gave me this look that clearly indicated she thinks I'm an idiot and said that her feet should touch a base of some sort in case she needs to, you know, bear down (and my wife gave me a nice visual demonstration as she said this, which just enhanced the whole discussion).
So my question is, am I doing something wrong? Because if there's any leg work that needs to be done then I lift my legs up, not press down. Oh yeah, of course I'll take any advice on breaking my daughter's mental block but I'm really curious about the whole leg pressing down thing. Might have to re-asses my whole procedure...
Gene Weingarten: Re-asses!
Washington, D.C.: Women not privy to the bases? This is one of the first things I recall being told about "sex." I was in second grade. The bases were kissing, kissing with tongue, up the shirt, down the pants. With no explanations. But we were rapt with attention. As we got older the bases changed. But in general it's mouth, top, bottom, all the way. I'm 32. And my face is a little red and embarrassed at the moment. I may need therapy.
Jef's OK: The Frazz really wasn't that confusing. As soon as I saw the punchline of the Mozart strip I knew exactly what he was saying. And I liked that he didn't telegraph the setup.
Gene Weingarten: Thanks for writing in, Jef.
Liberal, Kansas: Re your comment: "I think it is easier to be a conservative. You do not have to think as much, beause issues are more black and white."
Conservatives think that it's easier to be a liberal for the exact same reason--think of the old "knee-jerk liberal" line. Everyone thinks they see subtleties that people of the opposite political persuasion don't see.
Gene Weingarten: I acknowledge the possibility of this.
Yes, I am a copy editor, thank you.: My dictionary calls ichthyology the branch of zoology having to do with the study of fish. If I were cleaning up after you, I probably would have gone with marine biologist.
And girls are privy to the bases. We have, in fact, been known to round them.
Gene Weingarten: I would have thought, actually, that women had different bases. Like, third base would be if you saw the guy cry.
Help: I was at a sporting event this weekend, and a guy made a comment about my, well, big ta-tas. If he had said it to me directly, I would do what I normally do, which is smile big and say, "Thank you" (they never know what to do with that). But this guy made a "clever" remark to his pals. I was stunned into silence, but a few minutes later thought of the perfect retort. So, my question is, how do I stop replying this in my head and get over the fact that this guy probably thinks he got one over on me?
Gene Weingarten: He doesn't "think" anything. That's the point.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Gene,
I'm sad because I loved someone who has been cheating on me for a year and just wants to be with the other woman because she allegedly wants to have fun and no future. (She sent me an e-mail which indicates the opposite but he disagreed; every one of my friends say I am right.) He is very reticent about using the "love" word and used it with me and not her (again, her note would have thrown that in my face) and says he is making a big big mistake. Yes, I should be "happy" to be rid of a scumbucket but any other pearls of wisdom. I have tried to see some parts of this and it's really not the affair that hurts but being with someone who introduced me to his mom, kids, and seemingly in a relationship that is worth nothing to him. How do men throw away good women?
Gene Weingarten: See previous response, sweetie. Sorry.
Alexandria, Va.: The only thing that woke me up during Syriana was when my girl clutched my arm while wincing at the gruesome part. Otherwise, it was one of the best naps I ever had. I give it 4 stars.
Gene Weingarten: It was essentially incomprehensible, and immature, and paranoid.
Hope laughs like crazy: Just popping in to give you an update...and ask a question...
First, Baby Hope is the best laugher! If you look at her and smile, she smiles and if you talk to her, she will laugh. Her laugh is so infectious that you will start laughing (you just can't help it!) the more you laugh the more she laughs. It is wonderful!
So the question, are second children generally more laid back than their older siblings? I am noticing that with Hope, but don't know if it's just her, or a general thing. Regardless, she is very laid back and a lot of fun to have around! (even when I'm exhausted, that little giggle makes me feel better.)
Gene Weingarten: Hi. My guess is that she is more laid back because you are more laid back, because you've done this before.
Crash vs. Mounta, IN: Gene -- Do you think a movie can be the best of the year, yet not have enduring power? I really think that Crash, even though it was very good, is also a movie "of the moment," and that five to ten years from now it's going to look more like an artifact than a landmark. Capote and Brokeback, though less "riveting" and provocative, are the movies that I think will endure over the years.
Gene Weingarten: I think you are right about this, but I think being of the moment is pretty important, too.
Washington, D.C.: Women not privy to the bases? This is one of the first things I recall being told about "sex." I was in second grade. The bases were kissing, kissing with tongue, up the shirt, down the pants. With no explanations. But we were rapt with attention. As we got older the bases changed. But in general it's mouth, top, bottom, all the way. I'm 32. And my face is a little red and embarrassed at the moment. I may need therapy.
Gene Weingarten: Imagine how embarrassed EYE am, printing this.
Call me: Gene,When was the last time you used a hard copy phone book to look up a number?
Gene Weingarten: Years.
Alternate Nazi History: "Fatherland." Scary, but great. And an interesting take on the "what-if" America, as well. An actual alt-history classic, in my opinion.
Gene Weingarten: Yes. See, THAT should be read.
Burke, Va.: "I would have thought, actually, that women had different bases. Like, third base would be if you saw the guy cry. "
I want to know more. What would the other bases be?
Gene Weingarten: Ladies?
Crash!?: I saw Crash and thought that it was fairly manipulative and failed to address the invidious, covert racism which is much more prevalent in this country. I remember seeing Crash and thinking, repeatedly, "Who SAYS this stuff to someone else!?" The movie was filled with someone saying something mean and racist to someone else. I know that people do say mean, racist stuff, but such comments were a cornerstone of the movie and didn't seem realistic. (I think I saw an essay on MSNBC that made the same point, but better.)
Gene Weingarten: Okay, ready? Here is what you failed to see: Crash was a joke. A complex, nuanced, risky, dark comedy.
Cloo, NY: SYRIANA: As is common in recent years, George Clooney received an Oscar for being a great-looking person who made himself unattractive for an acting role.
Gene Weingarten: True. True. You get a lot of credit for that. But if that were so important, Felicity Huffman would have won best actress.
Actually, she should have won. Her performance in Transamerica was breathtaking.
Re: Hitler: Myself, I would be hesitant about offing little Adolph. This has nothing to do with cuteness or baby innocence. Germany in the 1920's was ripe for the rise of a despot. What if it had been someone with some actual military competence? In addition, the nuclear age was inevitable; what if Germany (or Stalin) had the bomb before we did?
As any number of Star Trek episodes tells us, Messing with history would be a tricky thing. There are, at least in theory, worse outcomes to the first half of the 20th century than the one we experienced.
Gene Weingarten: You have to play the odds. The odds are in favor, strongly, killing Hitler. Of course it could backfire, but it's about odds.
Suburb, IA: You liked Crash? Weren't you bothered by some of the improbable coincidences in the plot? Like the two cops parting ways and then concurrently stumbling upon separate significant characters, completely at random, in a city of tens of millions? That was lazy and contrived writing in the name of overwrought drama.
Best original screenplay indeed.
Gene Weingarten: See previous answer. You didn't really get it, IMHO.
Baltimore, Md.: So you'd kill baby Hitler, but you regret the death of a wife strangling, mistress-punching fireplug that never knew when to quit beating his women? Good call...
Gene Weingarten: Actually, I had forgotten that about Kirby. But that goes to the purity of the sport; who a player is, and how he plays the game are entirely different matters. I once rooted, for his whole career, for an antisemite. It wasn't about that.
Lansing, Mich.: Alternate bases:
They'd HAVE to include buying tampons for a significant other...
Gene Weingarten: Ooh, yeah. That would probably be second base. I am wondering what the equivalent of a homer would be? Defending you to his mother? Defending you to his mother and REFUSING TO TALK TO HER AGAIN?
What?: Crash was a preachy, trying to do too much, indulgefest film school project. I would have preferred a whole movie with the black couple -- let's explore the racism within the black community, let's look at the damage that cop incident did. Etc.
Syriana was brilliant. If you found it incomprehensible, that is pretty sad. It was not hard to follow--it was , like real life politics -- messy and incestuous and interwoven beyond belief. Read the news, people.
And if you think that is true about George Clooney watch Good Night and Good Luck, Out of Sight, and Three Kings. He is wonderful.
Gene Weingarten: Good night and good luck was a weak movie. I refer you only to the idiotic, pointless subplot about the husband and wife who couldn't reveal they were husband and wife.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Thanks Gene. I'm sitting crying because I have started to delete his phone messages. I couldn't do it completely. It wasn't the affair or length that upsets me; it's the messing with my mind. If you know of any guys who would like a funny, snarky, well read but low maintenance redhead, let me know.
(I know I must be funny because a man stopped me at a restaurant and said he had been enjoying my laugh all throughout the meal.)
Gene Weingarten: Send your email address to the chat. I won't post it. Let's see what happens. Minneapolin men?
Weekend at Adolf's: If Nazism hadn't arisen, Einstein would have stayed in Germany. Von Braun never would have come here. German Socialists would have been in power, allied with the Soviets, and they would have had a big leftie bomb.
Gene Weingarten: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Interesting, but probably wrong. Germany in the 30s would have been very very inhospitable to Jews, regardless.
There Must Be A Name For This: Also, Arlington's "Indian Spices and Appliances"
Gene Weingarten: Nice!
Hmm: Why is it that I respect your opinion and I don't even know you? Like now I want to rent Crash but no longer want to see GN & GL. And feel pretty darn OK about not "getting" Syriana.
Gene Weingarten: Syriana was gettable. It just wasn't particularly worth getting.
Trying on women's undies....: My seven-year-old son put on my wife's bra the other day and sort of danced around with it on. He cracked himself (and me and his six-year-old sister) up with this for a few minutes.
I think I remember doing something similar many years ago. Does this count?
Gene Weingarten: No.
Arlington, Va.: Gene, do you have any idea what's going on in Friday's Speed Bump ? I mean, I can tell that it involves donkeys, frottage, and midget sex (and kudos to The Post for printing such outre material), but where's the gag?
Gene Weingarten: I went back and forth on this one, as it were.
The horse is getting a horsie ride, and clearly not enjoying it because horsies are not built to like horsie rides, I guess.
It is a little icky, however. And does, somehow, remind me of this unwise bit of marketing:
washingtonpost.com: Unclean Sweep
28, down: So, a big block of real estate opens up on the COMICS page, and the editor of said page does not think to fill it with actual COMICS?
This really fries my behind.
Is there no one to appeal to about this? And yes, I did e-mail my dismay, but no response from the Power-That's-She.
Gene Weingarten: I am most bothered by the inclusion of that wussy Jumble. The regular Jumble is much better. This one is for 9 year olds.
Gene Weingarten: To paraphrase Houston, I copy us down.
Thank you all for a really good discussion. I'll be updating as usual.
Same time next week.
Chicago, Ill.: The best explanation of Crash I've read is that it's a Dickensian social satire -- characters who are types, not psychologically realistic human beings, engaged in stereotyped actions which reveal their type with unusual clarity. You know, just like in Bleak House.
Gene Weingarten: This is exactly right.
Gene Weingarten: First, I want to express enormous gratitude to the legions of people who wrote in, in humbling numbers, to compliment me for having given Snoopy an anus. The Empress of the Style Invitational called it "a fantastic achievement." Von Drehle believes my work on Earth is now done. Shansby, the artist who carried out this effort and must share some of the glory, said it made him feel "sort of dirty, like a putting a rack on the little red-headed girl." I just want to say that it was the culmination of a lifetime of concentration on the comedic arts, and to thank my deceased mother for her inspiration.
I cannot forbear pointing out, however, that this act of artistic genius was not without precedent. Much like Warhol's soup can or Duchamp's urinal, its brilliance involved context. I must give credit to Ms. Hilary Price, who actually included a canus (canine anus; my neologism) in Rhymes With Orange just this past week.
Elsewhere on the comics front, Pastis finally showed up to explain his controversial Pearls strip, which came under fire yesterday for several perceived logical inconsistencies.
"The killer whale wasn't ordering the food for himself. He was ordering it for a blue whale that's staying at his house. And although I'm sure it's already obvious to you, that blue whale is an architect, currently staying with the killer whale while he works on reconfiguring a local fast-food restaurant's drive-thru."
I also want to mention that during the discussion yesterday, when we were on the subject of "third base," I remembered something from my youth that was so funny I jiggled the desk laughing and knocked a coffee mug to the floor. It was a raunchy old bucolic saying from rural America about how to tell if a woman is ready for sex. I was going to ask Ms. Lizzie for permission to post this, and then decided, no, there was no way she would allow it. So, after the chat, I told her about it and asked if she would have permitted it. What followed was a near hour of stony silence, which, in the frantic pace of writer-producer dialogue, is the equivalent of six months of marital stony silence and bed death. Suffice it to say you will not be reading it in this here update but if you know it, hang onto that coffee cup.
Burke, Va.: During the '20s Germany was actually one of the better places in the world to be a Jew until the rise of Hitler.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, and indeed, Einstein did not leave Germany until Hitler took power in '32. I may need to rethink this. Einstein and Von Braun might well have been Germans during the period of time that atomic bomb theory coalesced with bomb-making technology...
By implying that women have different bases than men, and that ours would be things like, "seeing a man" cry, you're suggesting that women only care about emotions and men only care about sex. It's this kind of thinking that helps fuel the whole, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" We women LIKE SEX TOO. Quite possibly, as much as men do. We're not all emotional saps hoping to see a man cry then trap him into marriage before he can find a tissue. Sheesh.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, several women (those who were not gleefully providing emotional bases) made this point. I was not contending otherwise.
In a dialogue that appeared in "I'm With Stupid," I suggested in the introduction that we should promise people that if they buy the book, they will "get laid." Gina responded that this approach would not work with women, because unlike men, women know they can always "get laid." Gina suggested a more emotional promise.
Gina was not suggesting that women do not want or enjoy sex, she was simply stating that the OBTAINING of sex was not the issue so much as the quality of the sex, the quality of the man delivering said sex, the emotional fealty of such man, etc. She and I agreed there was some truth in the old maxim: Men accept marriage as the price they pay for sex; women accept sex as the price they pay for marriage. A slight difference in emphasis.
So. I contend that for guys, the baseball structure is an immature, mechanical guideline to gauge how much they are getting, and how quickly they are getting it. The alternate structure for women supposes a higher and more nuanced criteria. It's also funny. You know?
Women's Bases: If third base is seeing a guy cry, then a home run must be MAKING the guy cry.
Gene Weingarten: There we go!
Adolf as a Baby: There was a Twilight Zone about this. His nanny was from the future and killed the baby Adolf. The housekeeper stole a gypsy baby to replace him and it didn't stop anything, it was the environment, not the child. Really freaky episode.
Gene Weingarten: Several people mentioned this. I don't remember it, which is odd, because I thought I had seen all the TZ's. Of course it raises the obvious and boring questions of whether you CAN change history. In this case, you'd have consider the notion that the time traveler actually CAUSED Hitler. That he killed a baby who would not have been a monster, and replaced him with the monster.
Gene Weingarten: Regarding the "bases," a young single woman from Washington writes:
I would say that a home run is when you finally reach that place where you are truly and genuinely secure enough in knowing that your man thinks you are feminine and sexy that you can fart (accidentally, though perhaps intentionally if the need is severe) in his presence. A couple of my girlfriends agreed with this. Definitely more significant, and indicative of trust and/or intimacy from the female perspective, than making a guy cry.
I love this analysis, and belated add another reason why it surprised me, and continues to surprise me, that the bases have been part of female lexicon: The whole construct of "bases" implies achievement. Scoring. Attainment of goals. This is consistent only with the traditional male role of attempting to make as much headway as possible. The female is in complete control of this game. She is not a player so much as the umpire. She, and she alone, determines the degree of headway the male achieves. Therefore, the bases, to a woman, as a marker of achievement, make no sense at all. No?
Also, thanks to a reader who reminded me of what is clearly the greatest musical exegesis on bases.
Gene Weingarten: Here is an important link submitted by Trish Gomersall. Unlike many things in this chat, it is family-friendly. It is also impossible to watch without laughing. I dare you.
Gene Weingarten: A reader in Rockville writes --
This happens every time I go clothes shopping with my wife. She will go about the store, leaving me standing there with nothing to do but lean on a clothing rack, check out the other women and (on occasion) hold her purse. Then, after she has finished, she will come back to where I am still standing, and ask "Are you ready?"
Arlington, Va.: Gene,
What's your official legal opinion on the judge's footnote contained at this link?
Gene Weingarten: It's great!
Medford, Mass.: I was disappointed in today's poll for one reason only. That you created it yesterday and therefore couldn't include today's very bizarre B.C.
This was a "well, duh" punchline that was better suited for a Family Circus panel. I can just imagine Billy sitting on his dad's lap asking why there are no touchdowns in baseball. Or maybe Dolly would ask why they call it football if they throw it with their hands.
There are no "no-hitters" in hockey. Thanks for the sports lesson, Johnny.
Gene Weingarten: Well, it was dumb, but it was slightly less dumb than you think. He is making a joke about all the fights in hockey.
washingtonpost.com: B.C. (March 7)
Gene Weingarten: On the subject of meat-eating, we received this, an excerpt from a book by Howard Lyman. The easily outgrossed may wish to avert their eyes:
I am a fourth-generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher. I grew up on a dairy farm in Montana and I ran a feedlot operation there for 20 years. I know firsthand how cattle are raised and how meat is produced in this country... if you knew what I know about what goes into them and what they can do to you, you'd probably be a vegetarian like me... If you're a meat-eater in America, you have a right to know that you have something in common with most of the cows you've eaten. They've eaten meat, too.
When a cow is slaughtered, about half of it by weight is not eaten by humans: the intestines and their contents, the head, hooves, and horns, as well as bones and blood. These are dumped into giant grinders at rendering plants, as are the entire bodies of cows and other farm animals known to be diseased. Rendering is a $2.4 billion-a-year industry, processing forty billion pounds of dead animals a year. There is simply no such thing in America as an animal too ravaged by disease, too cancerous, or too putrid to be welcomed by the embracing arms of the renderer. Another staple of the renderer's diet, in addition to farm animals, is euthanized pets -- the 6 or 7 million dogs and cats that are killed in animal shelters every year. The city of Los Angeles alone, for example, sends some two hundred tons of euthanized cats and dogs to a rendering plant every month. Added to the blend are the euthanized catch of animal control agencies, and roadkill. (Roadkill is not collected daily, and in the summer, the better roadkill collection crews can generally smell it before they can see it.) When the gruesome mix is ground and steam-cooked, the lighter, fatty material floating to the top gets refined for use in such products as cosmetics, lubricants, soaps, candles, and waxes. The heavier protein material is dried and pulverized into a brown powder -- about a quarter of which consists of fecal material. The powder is used as an additive to almost all pet food as well as to livestock feed. Farmers call it 'protein concentrates'. In 1995, five million tons of processed slaughterhouse leftovers were sold for animal feed in the United States . I used to feed tons of the stuff to my own livestock. It never concerned me that I was feeding cattle to cattle.
In August 1997, in response to growing concern about the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or Mad Cow disease), the FDA issued a new regulation that bans the feeding of ruminant protein (protein from cud-chewing animals) to ruminants; therefore, to the extent that the regulation is actually enforced, cattle are no longer quite the cannibals that we had made them into. They are no longer eating solid parts of other cattle, or sheep, or goats. They still munch, however, on ground-up dead horses, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys, as well as blood and fecal matter of their own species and that of chickens. About 75 percent of the ninety million beef cattle in America are routinely given feed that has been 'enriched' with rendered animal parts. The use of animal excrement in feed is common as well, as livestock operators have found it to be an efficient way of disposing of a portion of the 1.6 million tons of livestock wastes generated annually by their industry.
Snor, ER: Gene, I need your upstanding medical advice. My boyfriend told me that last night I kept him acutely awake and alert while studying for his midterm by snoring so loud the walls rattled. In his words: "Not cute, girly snores, but ungodly-I-can't-believe-a-human can-snore-so-loud snores." This is the first time he has brought snoring to my attention although I was aware that I snored and now I am seeking ways to eradicate it (paranoia has set in as I really like this one). I'm not overweight, I don't smoke, not taking sleep inducing drugs, try not to sleep on my back and I don't know what to do. Also, I'm in my mid-20s and am one of those "heart you" girls.
Gene Weingarten: Um, if you find a cure, please tell me.
It's an issue at my house, only my wife is not the perp.
Washington, D.C.: Am I naive? (Yes) I was actually shocked to read your column and realize that gmail "reads" the content of your e-mails. Tracking which Web pages I go to? Fine. But reading my e-mail? And I don't care if it's a person or not, it's reading. It's cataloging. Why isn't this more upsetting?
Gene Weingarten: There is no question that it feels creepy. It also seems kind of eerie sometimes, because it seems to intuit subjects not just from words but from combinations of words, or phrases. In one conversation with my friend Rachel, I was chastising her for not responding to an email quickly enough, and facetiously accused her of not caring about my needs and feelings.
The ad that accompanied this was for Professional Breakup Counseling.
Dog Bites, Man.: Gene, I'm a manly Manitoba man with a large dog. It's often dark up here when I take him for his walks. When it comes time for him to do his doo, if he's not in a spot illuminated by the porch light, I'll bend down next to him with the plastic bag from the newspaper so I can catch things before they get lost in the darkness. I'm afraid a neighbor will see me and think I'm the one doing something when I'm really just trying to be a hygienic neighborhood dog owner.
Sometimes, in daylight now, when I'm walking briskly AFTER the dog stop, I find the plastic bag is swinging jauntily. When I realize this is happening, a song runs through my mind. It's A-Tisket, A-Tasket. But I'm a manly man, Gene.
Gene Weingarten: During the winter, I used to try to catch Harry's poo before it hit the ground and got lost in the snow. But -- apparently with some primitive desire for privacy -- he would rotate away from me. It became a comical dance.
Gene Weingarten: The rib and I were always good citizens with Harry, but sometimes, especially in his senescent years, he would poop twice in a walk, leaving us bagless for the second one. You feel furtive and hunted, like a criminal.
This became a code between us, the rib and I. "A two-bag night" became a catch-all term (haha) for any bad or humbling experience.
Silver Spring, Md.: If Crash is a joke, then why does everyone involved with it talk about how it boldly promotes tolerance and understanding? Is the whole think a big conspiracy joke?
Gene Weingarten: Because dark comedies can have social import. See Dr. Strangelove.
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