Chatological Humor* (UDATED 5.12.06)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 9, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

Daily Updates: 5.10.06 | 5.11.06 | 5.12.06

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...

This week's poll: Men | Women

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 .

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Today, I am in fear -- genuine fear over the possible repercussions of an arguably insane and irresponsible act I will be perpetrating in this very chat. It has been in the works for months, I have had ample time to prepare, but a case can be made that no preparations could be sufficient and that -- quite literally -- the world might end. When the first atomic bomb was detonated near Los Alamos, N.M., some scientists suspected it might actually set up a chain reaction of fission that would incinerate the planet.

We're dealing with a potentially similar phenomenon here. It would be the electronic equivalent of an atomic bomb; namely, the sudden rush of hundreds of millions of trillions of electrons to one place, at one time, causing (in scientific terms) a suckage of wattage that will induce a global electromagnetic implosion with attendant slimestorms. In case this DOES end the world, please be aware that you are all good people who have lived worthy lives and will no doubt receive whatever rewards are due you according to your individual personal belief systems, and also that, yes, I really do imagine all female chat participants naked, and thanks for the show.

Okay, then. Here goes.

Remember when my old Labrador retriever, Harry S Truman, died last year, and I wrote THIS (scroll up one entry) on the day of his death, and followed it up a week later with THIS (scroll up one entry) eulogy? Remember how readers wrote in weeping at their cubicles around Washington and elsewhere in the country? Remember that a reader then suggested that I write some sort of book about dogs? Remember all that?

Now, on the one hand, I was completely aware that this was a nakedly manipulative idea, one that would turn any writer into an emotions huckster, a sentimentality racketeer, a schmuck of seismic proportions. On the other hand, heh heh, Simon and Schuster was quite interested, actually.

The book will be called "Old Dogs." It will be published in late 2007. It will contain an essay by me about old dogs, and 60 to 75 elegant black-and-white portraits of dogs 10 years old and older, by my partner, Michael Williamson. You will remember Michael as the photographer who joined me in Savoonga, Alaska, for our piece about the Native Americans there. Michael is a brilliant photographer. He's got two Pulitzers, and a love of dogs that equals my own.

Okay, brace for the end of the world. The temblor should begin in the east -- an east wind, such a wind as never blew. It will be cold and bitter, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.

Today we launch this WEB SITE, (olddogsbook.com) in which we are asking you to send in snapshots of your old dogs. Yes, yes. We know what will happen. Michael and I will sift through all 40 million snaps, select dogs we want to see, and contact their owners. No money is involved (er, for you.) What you get is immortality for your friend.

For logistical reasons, most of the dogs we use will be from the mid-Atlantic region, but Michael will travel farther for the perfect face. You'll also probably see many of the local dogs in a cover spread in The Washington Post magazine.

Okay, then!

I received an enormous amount of mail on this column proposing new rhymes for the word "orange," the vast majority of which came from persons with tin ears blandly informing me that "door hinge" rhymes with orange. Only in Liverpool, folks, only in Liverpool. I also had an interesting exchange with an online lexicographer named Grant Barrett, who complained that the only reason people think there is no rhyme for orange is that they are stuck with antiquated, limiting notions of rhyme. Grant contends that it is perfectly acceptable to rhyme from only the final syllable of a word (not, as I and virtually all actual authorities contend, from the final ACCENTED syllable). That means, Grant says, that these are all sorts of rhymes for orange: Grunge, muskellunge, and expunge.

My response is that these things are dastardly almost-rhymes, the equivalent of wearing orange and pink. They clash. Better not to rhyme at all than to assault our ears with those.

The best actual rhyme I received was from an old poem often misattributed to Ogden Nash, but actually written by Willard Espy:

The four eng-
ineers
Wore orange
brassieres.

And also this, by Tom Lehrer, which depends on the second pronunciation of "orange":

Eating an orange
While making love
Makes for bizarre enj-
oyment thereof.

Thanks to Jen for this link, which supports a contention from a previous chat, namely that women are nuts.

And thanks to Matt Davis, who -- referring to yet another "first" disclosed in this chat some weeks ago, discovered this recent example of a canus in the newspapers.

Please take today's poll. I am delighted that there is relatively little agreement among respondents. There are no correct answers, but there are My answers, which are particularly wise. I will disclose them forthwith.

Two weeks have gone by largely uneventfully in the comics. The CPOW is April 30th Doonesbury. The First Runner Up is April 26 Frazz. Honorables to April 29 Speed Bump, April 27 Pickles, April 28th Speed Bump, and April 26th Flying McCoys.

Can anyone tell me what huge humor mistake Borgman and Scott made on the April 30 Sunday Zits?

Okay, let's go.

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Anonymous: Hygiene: Boy did you pick a lousy week to take off. For a whole week people have opined on the one area where you are the self-acknowledged authority: was Stephen Colbert funny at the White House Correspondents Dinner? I saw it and laughed many times, but I'm a fan. Sure, some parts of his routine could have been tightened up (like the overly long "audition tape") but he made dirty hand gestures at Justice Scalia and got him to laugh at it. That's got to be worth something. So tell us, objectively and empirically, was he funny or just an insensitive jerk, as so many seem to posit?

Gene Weingarten: I'm glad it's worked out this way, actually. Because you have heard everyone else offer their opinions on whether Colbert was funny, and now you can learn for a fact whether he was.

Stephen Colbert made some serious humor errors in what was at its mean little heart a completely fearless and brilliant presentation. These errors were so serious they undermined its effectiveness and produced what was, in the end, something of a failure. He needed an editor, apparently didn't have one, and it cost him dearly.

His biggest tactical error was in constantly addressing the president, sitting to his right: "This man here..." It made the whole thing seem like a cheap assault, because Bush was defenseless, and just had to sit there with an insincere smile on his face. Cobert could have told the identical jokes (which were mostly ostensibly about himself) without shooting himself in the foot, as he did. Almost everyone in the audience was uncomfortable, for a reason. Journalists tend to have highly developed senses of humor -- but they also have a highly developed sense of fairness.

Colbert's second mistake was technical: He started badly. A big mistake. You want your first few jokes to really work. His first few jokes were wince-inducers, and that cast a pall on a room that really wanted to laugh.

His third mistake was the audition tape. Just not worth it.

So that's the bad stuff. It was a shame that stuff was there, because the good stuff was pretty transcendent. Best lines:

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

The administration is not "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. That's a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking, it is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."

On the presidents 32 percent approval rating: "You have to think of the glass as one-third full. I wouldn't drink it though. The last third is usually backwash." (This got almost no laugh; people didn't really get how vicious and great it was.)

George W. Bush is constant and unwavering in his beliefs: "If he believes something on Monday, he believes it on Wednesday, no matter what may have happened on Tuesday."

During the runup to the war, the media performed brilliantly: the public "didn't want to know, and you had the good sense not to find out."

Geo W. Bush believes in freedom of religion: Whether you are Jewish, Muslim or Shinto, there are "infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior."

Colbert also noted that he believed that there are more nerve endings in the gut than in the brain. He is aware that (derisive smile) "books" say this is not true, but he knows it is true because he believes it in his gut.

This stuff was truly great. It was an almost great performance. But, sadly, it wasn't a home run. It was a solid triple to deep left center, but Colbert got thrown out at home trying to stretch it to a homer.

And that's the truth.

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Herndon, Va.: Gene, you say your last words will be about wishing you'd spent more time at the office. But what will you have on your tombstone? I think George Carlin said he would have "He was just here a minute ago." on his.

I am going to have, "He always knew this would happen." on mine.

What about you?

Dave

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I have written of this already. My tombstone will be in the shape of a fire hydrant. It will be in Congressional Cemetery, which allows dogs. The inscription will read: A Funny Man Who Loved Dogs.

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New York, N.Y.: I seem to have a deep rift with the rest of my sex. To all those women who want to spend $2 million on a piece of art -- WHY???

Gene Weingarten: BECAUSE IT IS A VERY SMART INVESTMENT.

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Springfield, Virginia: Gene --

Why, why, WHY does WTOP keep telling us that its various reports are coming from the "glass-enclosed nerve center" of WTOP? Am I getting better traffic and weather reports because the reporters are surrounded by glass? Are the news reports more reliable because they didn't use concrete for the walls? Would building the place out of brick mean I couldn't trust the stock market reports? Did I choose the wrong building material for my house? Gene, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

And what are you enclosed in, anyway?

Gene Weingarten: It suggests the reporters don't actually leave the building; they just look outside and report what they see.

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Undisclosed Location: Important Cartoon Controversy Update! I just remembered this important fact, which shockingly has not been discussed in this chat: Gary Larson drew a "Far Side" comic with the prophet Mohammed in it.

Description: A bald man with a big beard sits in a very small house. Outside, an enormous mountain is at his door. A sound effect at the door says "Ding dong!" Caption: "Again the doorbell chimed. With his wife out of town, and not expecting any visitors, Mohammed began to grow uneasy."

No riots ensued, as far as I remember.

Gene Weingarten: When I wrote about the controversy, I wanted Eric to draw a cartoon of an bearded guy approaching a mountain. And the bearded guy would be labeled "Not Mohammad" and the mountain was to be labeled "Not a mountain." It got nixed.

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Alexandria, Va.: I took the poll and got to the last question and thought to myself, "No way would I go to church for money." Being an atheist in a family of mid-life Christians, I am actively opposed to accepting Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. But having said that, and already finished voting, I'm completely rethinking this.

If I live for another 50 years and spend four hours a week doing church-y things, with the million dollar option, I'd be earning approximately $96/hour. As long as I wouldn't actually have to believe it, I could be polite and not say anything for a few hours a week. Then I could go do something useful with that money.

I totally voted the wrong way on that question.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, you did. In my opinion.

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Portland, Maine: That Van Gogh cartoon this was absolutely gross. I mean, I'm an artist and I'm going to have to go home and clean all my brushes and supplies cuz I'm just wigged out by the thought. I'm not normally squirmy or anything but wow, gross.

Gene Weingarten: We actuall toned it down, as it were. Eric's original was puke-inducing.

washingtonpost.com: Orange You Glad..., ( Post Magazine, May 7 )

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Charlottesville, Va.: "Assume any necessary breach in the space-time continuum, and assume you have a translator, if needed."

I chose Hitler. The necessary breach in the space-time continuum is about 116 years (1890). But no translator is necessary, thank you. I'd rather dine alone.

Gene Weingarten: Understood. Or you could eat HIM. If cannibalism is EVER justified....

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Is there any prank that you have come up with that has an extremely long fuse that you would actually consider doing? The reason I ask is that it occurred to me when my son was born to tattoo "I wish I had hair." on his scalp so that in the event he went bald later in life it would be revealed. I particularly like the idea of him shaving his own head in college or sometime in order to look cool and finding the tattoo. That being said, I would never actually do such a thing. I told my son about it, actually, and we talked about how most pranks are funnier to consider than to do (he's still young). Are there any outside of George Bush's tax policy that you know of actually occurring?

Gene Weingarten: That is a very funny prank! ANY tattoo on a baby's head would be hilarious.

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My wife is crazy: My wife and I were having a debate last night, and we both agreed that you should be the one to decide who's right. She thinks that the phrase "not really" means maybe. I told her that it means no. For example, if my wife asked me if I was excited to see some girly movie, and I said not really, that means that I may want to see it. I think saying not really is the same as saying no, I'm never going to see that girly movie. So, who's right?

Gene Weingarten: It is between "no" and "maybe." It is "No, but what do I get if I acquiesce?"

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Chicago, Ill.: Are you mad the William Saleton over at Slate, owned by the Post, has taken the aptonym schtick (only he calls it aptronyn I believe) and last week even tried to publicize the lawyer named Sue Yoo that you had already found?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

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That was me!: I was the chatter who originally suggested you write a book about dogs. One could argue that the impending end of the world is my doing. The first flutter of the butterfly's wings, as it were.

So, what's my percentage?

Gene Weingarten: You get a book. Identify yourself to Ms. Kelly.

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Central Virginia: I have a question of national marital importance. How soon should your husband back you up when your children are stinkpots? Is 30 seconds reasonable? I think that's more than reasonable! That's a long silence after your child is sassy, when your husband doesn't even have his mouth full. He feels two minutes is about the right amount. Today I yelled at my 5yo when I was stinking mad at my husband. And then, worst of worst, --I-- had to apologize to said child when he should have been apologizing to me for his behavior. Aaargh. So I was doubly mad at the dad. I know I'm wrong for yelling (I really rarely yell, which was why it was so traumatic), but am I wrong about the time? Should correction be totally immediate? What is it with men????

Gene Weingarten: Thirty seconds is too long. That situation calls for immediate backup. It is like a cop being down.

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Artsy-fartsy: OF COURSE buying a piece of art is a great choice. It will appreciate in value, and in the meantime you get to look at it everyday (and for $2 million, it should be pretty fabulous).

Gene Weingarten: Yep.

_______________________

A Zit Problem: Gene,

The problem with Zits is that this is the same shirt he wears every day in every single strip. There trying to squeeze two great jokes, teenage guys just caring about girls and the meta "same clothes everyday," into one strip.

That was the failure.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. Good guess, but there was a far greater failure.

_______________________

Dog Book: I don't suppose you are going to dedicate a chapter of your book to dogs who have already gone to heaven? Do you need any photos of the dearly departed? (And who were over 10)

Gene Weingarten: No. Sorry, but this is about portraiture. You are not Michael Williamson. Trust me.

_______________________

For Chatwoman: Hi there! I read the book recommendation you made in chat a few weeks ago: "Tell Them I Didn't Cry" by Jackie Spinner. It was amazing. Will she be having a Washington Post chat?

washingtonpost.com: You know, she actually did chat about it when the book first came out. I'll try to find the link for you.

Gene Weingarten: And post it here.

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Spotsy, Va.: Gene, 1/22/06:

"At its heart, laughter is a tool to triumph over fear... We need it, because life is scary. Nature is heartless, people can be cruel, and death and suffering are inevitable and arbitrary. We learn to tame our terror by laughing at the absurdity of it all."

Gene, 4/25/06:

"I'd be entertained enough by discovering there was a heaven and all that religious silliness was true. It would just totally blow me away, I would laugh myself into a total fetal ball of laughter."

So laughter is, at its heart, a feral expression of terror? Or joy? In laughter, do we shriek at the absurdity of nature, or rejoice at the wonder of creation? Perhaps it's not as black and white as you thought?

Gene Weingarten: It's completely black and white. You that that being consumed in laughter at discovered there is a heaven and a hell and that my assumptions all along had been horribly and tragically wrong and an insult to God, who would be deciding my fate ... is unrelated to a profound and sudden fear?

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Washington, D.C.: No discussion of sink-peeing can be considered complete without mentioning Peter (Ha!) O'Toole (Ha ha!).

"He was in London, doing a play called THE LONG AND THE SHORT AND THE TALL, for which he won the drama critics actor of the year award in 1959. "Robert Shaw had the dressing room with the loo and I didn't," he explains. "I had the one with the big sink." One night after the performance, he was standing in his dressing room, peeing in the sink, when he heard an unmistakable voice behind him. "Hello," said the voice. "my name in Katherine Hepburn..."

Gene Weingarten: Ever see The War of the Roses? Great scene where Michael Douglas arrives drunk at his ex-wife's fancy dinner party, walks into the kitchen. "What are you doing," Kathleen Turner calls to him. "I'm pissing on the fish," he says. And he was!

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Zits: The strip shows Jeremy sinking a long trick shot. HAHAHAHAHAHA! White guys can't play basketball!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha. A worthy observation, but it is TECHNICALLY possible.

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New York, N.Y.: Not to beat a dead (and somewhat boring) horse, but in the "Classic Dave Barry" published this week, your dear friend and mentor said

"And let's talk about you people who always send your food back in restaurants. (I KNOW this has nothing to do with handicapped parking; I can't stop myself.) I mean, sure, if the food is truly BAD, if it has RODENTS running around on it, OK, send it back; but what about you people who ALWAYS send your food back, thereby turning EVERY SINGLE MEAL into an exercise in consumer whining?"

Care to comment?

Gene Weingarten: Well, Dave and I disagree profoundly about food. It stuns me what he will eat; he ridicules me for my adventurousness, which I think he regards to be a form of snobbery. But what's to take issue with here. But no one likes a person who ROUTINELY returns food in restaurants. That person is just a jerk.

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MIL Mistake: Hi, Gene,

I know this isn't your normal sort of question, but I'd appreicat your point of view.

My husband and I recently bought our first home; we have a baby on the way.

We bought some new furniture - our first furniture that is ours, not mine or his. My MIL does not like our couch. She first brought this up by offering to buy us a slipcover. Hubby told her no. Then she bought one for us and showed us how nice it is, don't we think we would like it? We told her no.

Then, in the confusion of moving, she put it onto the couch. Since we were crazy busy we did not take it off and give it back for about a week; sometime in that week it got a stain - an (ahem) milk stain. Embarassing.

Well, I washed the slipcover and hubby returned it to MIL, who immediately noticed the stain. She has exploded at hubby for being so inappropriate, and involved most of his family. Hubby is upset with me for not telling him that the stain was still there. I kinda feel like she crossed the line and don't feel bad about any of it excpt that she is being nasty to hubby.

I also feel like we didn't have any choice but to return it to her; otherwise she won't get the message that no means no. I hate that she just ignored us and did what she wanted anyway.

So what do you think? Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Your MIL sounds like a truly meddlesome jackass; pushing a slipcover as a way of criticizing your taste is rude and stupid.

But you know all that.

Please explain a "milk" stain. Is this a euphemism? If not, why is there a milk stain if you have a baby on the way? I am missing something here, and will be ridiculed by dozens, yes?

_______________________

Zits mistake: Not sure this is it, but couldn't imagine him saying that to his Mom.

Gene Weingarten: No, this was a humor mistake: He should not have had that panel in the middle. It was a pointless telegraphing. The joke would have worked MUCH better with just the punchline coming out of nowhere.

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Why art?: I didn't choose art because it was a good investment, though it would be. I chose it because it was the only option that I could keep without having to spend additional money. I could store a valuable piece of art in my current home. But I certainly couldn't store a boat or plane there.

Gene Weingarten: Also a good point.

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washingtonpost.com: Personal to the book suggester... we got your info.

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Re: Valerie Plame: Sunday's Reliable Source was the first time I had seen Plame's picture. Joe Wilson is one lucky man. Do you suppose when Karl Rove said that "Wilson's wife is fair game," he was speaking not as a political operative but as a heterosexual male with healthy urges?

Gene Weingarten: That was another good line by Colbert. He introduced Joe Wilson as "the most famous husband in America since Desi Arnaz."

washingtonpost.com: Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson (Photo)

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Re: women's clothing: This vanity sizing thing sucks! It wastes your time because you have to try on more clothes just to find one thing that fits. And shopping online or through catalogs is just throwing away money on shipping and handling because chances are you'll have to return the stuff because it didn't fit.

We're not buying clothes because the number on the label is lower than it used to be and we're stupid enough to believe we're smaller. We buy them because we need clothes and that's what's available. It's an insult to our intelligence. I'd like to bitch-slap the people who came up with this idea.

Gene Weingarten: I'm with you. I think it is demeaning.

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Chicago, unwilling to submit to truisms: Greetings,

When the pastor included the truism, "There are no U-Haul trailers behind a hearse," I turned to my lawyer and asked him if we could take care of a truism.

His quote: "I can set it up so your casket is a U-Haul trailer if you want."

Given that I want to have my ashes scattered over a large outdoor food event with a press release the next day, I told him it wouldn't be necessary to go too far.

Gene Weingarten: I never heard of this truism. What does it mean?

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First law of parenting: is you ALWAYS back each other up. No matter what. You may, later, in private, discuss if you disagreed with the other spouse and have future ground rules.

If (well, let's be reasonable) when a child gets a bit cheeky to me, there is very little worse in the eyes of my hubby.

(Of course, the standard disclaimer about not counting if there is abuse, yada yada yada)

Gene Weingarten: There is another rule we always followed. Always back the kid up, against the world, absent absolute proof that the kid is wrong. We once had someone come to our house to complain about one of our kids. The rib did all the talking. She was an incredibly cold prosecutor. By a half hour later, the people left terrified they were going to get sued, or something. Afterwards, the rib and I agreed that we didn't know for sure what our child had done, and were going to find out, but for the moment there was only one right side. Molly's.

Oop, I disclosed it was Molly. Well, it turns out she hadn't done anything wrong.

_______________________

Burke, Va.: So when are you going to get a new dog?

By the way, I really missed you last week -- I asked Eugene Robinson a question about VPL on the theory that there isn't that much difference between the name Gene and Eugene. Unfortunately he didn't take it. Perhaps if I had asked him about VPL on American Idol...

Gene Weingarten: The rib and I are in negotiations over this very subject.

_______________________

I'll buy the book: Especially if you include the pic of my son and Melbourne (Blue Heeler), who will sadly not be with us at the time of first publication.

I think you may be as overwhelmed to get the million copies signed, however.

-Brian

Gene Weingarten: Send in Melbourne's pic. Michael works fast.

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Silver Spring, Md.: In my on-going campaign to slowly turn you into an underground hip-hop fan I submit to you these lyrics from the acclaimed DangerDoom project that came out last year. In four lines there's enough renferences to your work to beg the question -- Ha just kidding. Refuse their brilliance if you dare...

Artist: Danger Doom (Danger Mouse and MF Doom)
Album: The Mouse and the Mask
Song: El Chupa Nibre

-The super flow with more jokes than Bazooka Joe
-A mix between Superfly Snuka and a superhoe
-Chew a MC like El Chupa Nibre
-Digest a group and sell the poop on eBay

On second thought maybe this isn't a good idea. If you show up at one of these shows looking like Gene Shalit you might submarine the whole genre as you implied in your call to arms to get parents to Eminem concerts back in the day. Stay Away. Cool lyrics, No?

Gene Weingarten: I am a sucka for interior rhyme, as you know. AND poop. So what's not to like about poop interior rhyme?

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Invitation, AL: If you by any chance know the Empress, perhaps you could ask her about the current Invitational contest, week 661: "This week, give us a funny new title for an existing movie."

Does "existing" include movies that were recently in the theaters, say, anytime this calendar year, such as those that were included in the March 2006 Academy Awards? Movies have such a short pre-shelf (DVD) life now, and the movies on screens right seem destined to disappear soon into DVD land.

Gene Weingarten: I am pretty sure existing simply means a real movie, as opposed to a made-up movie. Casablanca is an existing movie.

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Truism: It means 'you can't take it with you'.

Gene Weingarten: Evidently. Several people said that. But I still don't get it.

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Looks like a milk stain: Gene - really - when's the last time you had sex with your beloved on the couch?

Gene Weingarten: Well, I figured as much, but I never heard this particular euphemism.

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The Empress of The Style Invitational: Missive From the Empress: In this week's contest, which is to rename in either hilariously wordy or hilariously pithy fashion an "existing movie," I mean any actual movie already made. It doesn't have to be on a marquee at this moment.

However, given that I stole this contest from one done in 1999, movies made since then can't possibly repeat the winners of that contest.

washingtonpost.com: Style Invitational: Week 661

Gene Weingarten: Ah, here we go. The definitive answer.

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Washington, D.C.: What's with these paralyzing muscle cramps I get in my legs when I lie down to bed? What can I do about em? Am I dying? Is this Lou Gehrig's disease coming on?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, you are dying, as we all are. But not from the cramps.

Depending on where you come from, these things are called either muscle spasms, cramps, or charley horse. When they occur in the arch of the foot they are painful. In the calf they are nearly incapacitating. In the thigh or buttock they are totally incapacitating, creating 90 seconds of pain some people have compared to childbirth or a broken elbow. Sometimes they can occur in the ankle, lifting the big toe to a nearly 90 degree angle.

Some people get em a lot (me and my daughter) and some people get them not at all (my rib). Various doctors have various theories and nostrums, and to the best of my knowledge, no one has really figured out their cause or treatment. Some dox will tell you to drink more water, take more potassium,cut out caffeine. Of course, doctors will ALWAYS tell you to cut out caffeine, whatever your complaint.

A good trick: When it happens, stand on a door jamb, with your heel on the high part and your toes on the floor. Press down. It helps.

Those things really, really suck.

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Bathroom Smuggling: Ok, so I have been addicted to reading ever since I learned how. I read while I walk, I read while I eat (if my family lets me), and I even sometimes read while in traffic or at red lights. Obviously I bring books into the bathroom with me, because I can't stand to spend so much time just sitting there with nothing to do. However I can't seem to get over the embarrassment of walking into or out of the bathroom at work with a book. Sure, everyone poops, but I don't actually want people to know when I'm pooping! (Plus my boss might think I was wasting time.) I've tried shoving paperbacks into my (small) purse (my purse is usually too full, half the time paperbacks are only printed in those stupid expensive and large format, and then what about hardbacks?), stuffing newspapers and magazines into my pants (I look fat and awkward), and wrapping the book in a black plastic bag (oh come on EVERYONE knows what that is), but nothing seems to work. Do you have any advice? Does anyone else here???

Gene Weingarten: Make a secret compartment in a watermelon, and put the book in it. No one will make any assumptions about why you are bringing a watermelon into the bathroom.

I love women. I love love love every single one of you except certain Republican legislators.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

Well, first off, the girls and the boys think pretty alike here, except for the unsurprising fact that women are far more likely to hit the genie up for a physical makeover than the men are. Life is still not fair to women.

The other gender divide, also unsurprising, is that so many women BUT VIRTUALLY NO MEN wanted to visit with Jane Austen or QE1. Since these two are historically less vital than many of the others, I presume women were expressing a desire to discuss matters of feminism - perhaps more to impart things that would startle their dinner guests than to learn from them. Do I have this right, ladies?

To me we have to begin with the question: What do you want to accomplish in this dinner. I see three possible goals:

1)Meet someone incredibly important and amazing.

2)Reveal something to someone, to gauge their reaction,

3)Learn some great secret.

Perhaps because I am a journalist, I lean to number three. And there are only three plausible candidates: Jesus and Shakespeare and Oswald. I know Oswald shot JFK and acted alone, and even if he didn't, this mystery just ain't that great. Plus, he'd be a sullen jerk at dinner. I'd sure like to know if Willie was some illiterate dunce. Still, my final choice is the same as yourn. Jesus might well be so elliptical and mysterious that you wouldn't know what you'd just seen, but I'll take that chance.

The really bad choices would probably be a) Van Gogh, unless you could get him to paint you something. He was a sullen geek. Also, Hitler. I mean, it would be neat to tell him how reviled he is (category 2), but it wouldn't bother him all that much.

To me, the only reasonable answer to question two is something that will appreciate in value, without great risk. The horse is almost guaranteed to return nothing. I'm going for the art. The business you could buy for $2 million would be SO small it would probably just be a headache.

With the genie, having musical talent is tempting, but I am taking the ten years. I would like ten more years of productivity, such as it is.

And I am willing to learn and practice Christianity, sanely, for $10 million. Ten million is do-whatever-you-want-for-the-rest-of-your-life money. That's worth going to church and being a good guy about it, and maybe learning a little about humility and faith.

Any less? No way.

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Springfield, TV: Did you see Sunday's Simpson's use Weingarten as the name of a rich couple that lived up the street from the Simpspons? Homer intercepts their package from Omaha Steaks. Do you know/like Matt Groening?

Gene Weingarten: I know! It was weird. "Brenda and Scott Weingarten," I think. I don't know Groening, and I am sure this was unrelated to me.

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Zits problem: Jeremy would never confide in his mom. He might have said that to Hector, but definitely not his mom!

Gene Weingarten: I already explained it! You can stop guessing.

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Small business beats art: Basic financial theory says that small business is the better investment than art.

You won't get a normal rate of return from the appreciation of the art because art offers some intrinsic value to its owner--you can look at it. People accept a lower rate of return for that.

You should expect to get a normal rate of return from a small business because it offers no value except for its economic return. The return is the only thing the business has going for it, so the return has to be pretty good.

Put it another way: If small business doesn't pay a better return than art, why would anyone invest in a small business--which is no fun--when he could be collecting art--which is fun?

Gene Weingarten: It is far more likely that the small business will depreciate in value than that the art will. IMHO.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm female and I want the boat. I knew I should have picked the art because it was the better investment, but that assumes I'm going to sell whatever I buy. Do I have to sell? I still want the boat. Forget the art - it's like buying the practical skirt.

Gene Weingarten: Personally, I'd rather have a lesser Van Gogh than a boat. Boats are boring.

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Worst charley horse ever!: In the tongue and lower jaw. Made me want to smash my face in with a brick.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, very bad. But preventable. You can catch that one and stop it.

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Chicago, Ill.: In terms of backing your kid up against the world. What do you think of the mom who got arrested for helping her daughter and friends make ex-lax cookies for a teacher who gave her a bad grade. The prank backfired when the teacher gave them out to the class and four kids got sick.

Gene Weingarten: A really, really stupid stunt.

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Hiccups: Frequently when I eat fresh, raw vegetables-especially carrots-I get the hiccups. Why is this? It's extremely annoying, not only because I love veggies but because I'd like to be able to idly snack on them instead of something less healthful. Any ideas why this happens and how to prevent it? What are the hiccups anyway?

Gene Weingarten: The hiccups are a maladventure of the diaphragm. Yes, they can mean cancer. That was the subtitle of my book.

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Bowie, Md.: Gene said, "I have known women get freaked out to discover that men do not use toilet paper for number one. Ever. You gals all knew that, right?".

Nope, we don't. At least we didn't until my brother saw my 3 year old nephew go to the potty and then proudly wipe his little pee-pee. You would have thought the world had ended. Us single mother's raising boys are at a loss sometimes. Maybe there should be a manual... Well, uncle took it upon himself to make sure that his manly nephew, was raised properly and not sissified by us girls. Nephew is now a well-adjusted 14 year old. We did good.

Gene Weingarten: Thank God that problem was addressed. I love and respect single moms, but you can be a menace in areas like this.

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Sock, shoe, sock, shoe: Wow, I tried that the other day. Felt really weird - like I was in an alternate reality. Tell the rib from me that she's a freak!

Gene Weingarten: It makes me love her all the more.

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Back, Wash.: Now, how true is that "backwash" thing, really? This has been a topic of argument in our house forever.

Gene Weingarten: I doubt it is true at all, but it didn't need to be true for the joke to work.

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EuGene, OR: I used to get those muscle cramps all the time. If I woke up in the middle of the night and moved a foot AT ALL, my calf would tighten up like a [woman-of-the-night] in church. Potassium helped me. Eat a banana a day and they go away.

Gene Weingarten: Others say that is nonsense. You are exhibiting anecdotal medicine. I'm not saying you are wrong, but that may not explain why they stopped. Stop the bananas and report back to this chat.

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Advice: My boyfriend and I are raising his kid from a previous marriage. The mom's now a sometimes heroin addict, has given up three kids for adoption in five years (one was born addicted), can't keep a job, and was living with her abusive boyfriend in a friend's garage last we knew. (We've tried to help with the abuse.) She rarely ever manages to see her kid, and cannot have any responsibility over him.

So, as drug addicts are wont to do, she has stolen money from us. We try to plug leaks and keep no cash in the house, but life comes at you fast. We've never been able to prove anything, and so have never filed police reports. Recently, however, she found an ancient checkbook and wrote a check to a friend for $300, signing her married name. The bank cleared it despite the fact that she's off the account, which nearly caused us serious difficulties. We filed a police report at the bank's direction, but not before contacting her to give her the opportunity to return the money to us. She claimed she'd just been paid by the employer she supposedly currently has and would be over that night-then, unsurprisingly, never showed and disappeared again.

Now the bank wants us to press charges. We're unsure. We're tired of being stolen from and want our money back (the bank should credit us if we do this), but we're not sure how we'll be able to face our kid when-not if-he finds out we put his mom in jail (assuming the warrant eventually caught up to her). Furthermore, we're worried jail will teach her things like better ways of scoring smack and breaking into our apartment.

Do you or the other chatters have any advice, legal or ethical? We're not even sure what kind of penalties a puny $300 fraud charge would carry.

Gene Weingarten: This woman desperately needs help, and sometimes the courts are the only place to get it. Many plea agreements involve drug treatment. I would turn her in, for her own good, and if an when the time comes to explain this to her son, you have an explanation that is both true and right.

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Gene Weingarten: Sorry, back. Lost my web connection.

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Alexandria, Va.: Rep. Abraham Lincoln, speaking in the House in 1848, in support of the candidacy of General Zachary Taylor for President:

"But, as General Taylor is, par excellence, the hero of the Mexican War, and as you Democrats say we Whigs have always opposed the war, you think it must be veryawkward and embarrassing for us to go for General Taylor. The declaration that we have always opposed the war is true or false, according as one may understand the term "oppose the war." If to say "the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President" be opposing the war, then the Whighs have very generallyopposed it.... The marching an army into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops and other property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovoking procedure; but it does not appear so to us.... But if, when the war had begun, and had become the cause of the country, the giving of our money and our blood, in common with yours, was support of the war, then it is not true that we have always opposed the war. With few individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the necessary supplies...."

Why do leaders like this no longer exist? Where have you gone, Abe Lincoln? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Gene Weingarten: Lincoln was a Whig???

I guess so, before there was a Republican party.

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Manassas, Va.: According to Barbara Wallraff in the book "Word Fugitives" you were the "Czar" of the Style Invitational until 2003 and that now Pat Myers, the "Empress" controls the weekly contest.

Have you been outed, or is this yet another in a long line of baseless accusations?

Gene Weingarten: I deny it. Several people have made this error.

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Re: Colbert: What's your take on all the liberal bloggers who are now saying it doesn't matter whether Colbert's performance was funny? My view (card-carrying liberal that I am) was that it didn't work, for many of the reasons you mentioned - I just didn't laugh, even though there were good lines - but, also, that it does matter whether it was funny, i.e., worked - because what's the point, otherwise? That's where I think humor can be so effective, in making people think about things they'd otherwise accept unquestioningly - but, if it's not funny, no one who's not already convinced will bother to listen.

Gene Weingarten: Of COURSE it matters whether it was funny. If it wasn't funny, it was a total disaster.

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MIL: I mailed a Mother's Day card to my mother today (I have to be away this weekend). Each year, I wonder if it will be the last one -- she has Alzheimer's. She doesn't know me anymore and I really sent the card as a gesture for myself and for my father. SO, when I read the comment about the controlling MIL, I got so sad. Why, oh why, when life is so short and when the good times can be so few, are people so petty? Will an ugly sofa matter in 100 years?

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

You are totally correct. Nothing taught me this lesson than getting what appeared to be a fatal disease. I really don't hold grudges or sweat small stuff anymore.

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Lexington Park, Md.: Rhymes with oranger?

Were oranger a real word, and given your northeastern accent, would it rhyme with derringer?

Gene Weingarten: No. I pronounce it ARE-indge.

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For the Leg Cramp:: Don't ask me why but my mother has similar leg cramping at night and she was told to put a bar of soap at the end of the bed, under the sheets. If you feel the coming pain, rub your foot on it and the pain disappears. No, she's not a kook and no, she's not David Blaine. I actually tried it, also, and haven't had one since, even after football or hockey.

Gene Weingarten: WHAT? Has anyone else heard this? Is it the SHAPE of the bar of soap, or the soap itself that supposedly works?

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Alexandria, Va.: Ditto on bringing reading material to the bathroom. It is definitely noticed. Also noticed is bringing a purse to the bathroom, especially when not done every time. Then it is glaringly apparent that it is that time of the month.

Gene Weingarten: But ... so what?

Guys just don't care.

Er, about the first thing.

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For the lady who has to read in the loo...: When I have to "go" at work, and I need something to read, I bring a folder in, so it looks like I'm on my way to a meeting, and am stopping in the Ladies Room. In the folder I usually have a story from the Post I've been meaning to read, and have printed out, and I always have a backup of crossword puzzles. I am SO glad there are others like me, I always thought I was strange.

Gene Weingarten: Good solution, though I still don't know why a solution is needed.

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St. Mary's City, Md.: 'What's a popped collar?' Gene, you are so adorable. (Try googling it. Look for frat guys with pastel colored polos.)

Also, I'd like to second the comment about guys in excessive jewelry. A friend of mine talks about the pinky ring rule all the time. (You can't trust guys who wear pinky rings. Ever.) In fact, she and I were in a class together, watching a video with some skeezy politician, being all skeezy. When he lifted his hand to gesture, there was the pinky ring. My friend and I looked at each other and cracked up.

I heart you, obviously.

Gene Weingarten: And I heart you. Yeah, I did google popped collar. They all look jerky, even this guy's.

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Wash First, OK?: Regarding the urologist who suggested that washing one's hands BEFORE using a urinal was the way to "go": a few years ago at the Sidewalk Cafe in Richmond, VA, I was enjoying their Buffalo Wings (best wings in Richmond, by the way) when I was struck with the need to urinate. I did so (sleaziest bathroom in Richmond, by the way) and washed my hands before returning to the table to finish my wings. Within minutes, I was struck by an uncomfortable sensation in my, uh, Area. Sure enough, some of the wing sauce had transferred onto Omar (the tentmaker, get it?) and I was in terrible pain. Since then I still wash after, but if I'm eating wings or anything spicy, I wash METICULOUSLY before as well. So do all my friends who were with me on that fateful day, who are more than happy to recount the incident to anyone who doesn't know about it.

Gene Weingarten: I'm posting this because I like Omar.

Many years ago, the Yankees had a lousy player named Omar Moreno. His nickname on the bench was Omar the Outmaker.

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Breaking Aptonym News: Walmart is in a lawsuit with a man who claims to have invented the round, yellow, smiling face symbol. Walmart's spokesman in the matter: John Smiley.

Gene Weingarten: Thanky you!

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Not even giving up my location for this one! : Gene, I'd like to take advantage of the anonymity of the chat, and your medical "expertise" - hoping for an explanation of a strange conversation that I've not been able to forget for many years now.

At a doctor's visit to evaluate a minor digestive complaint, the doc asked whether my poop floats or sinks. Huh? How does THAT information help?

Gene Weingarten: Persistent floaters -- particularly when this represents a change from mostly sinkers -- mean there is too much fat in your poo. That could signal malabsorption of fat, which could mean several bad things, including pancreatitis or an obstructed bile duct. Those things, however, usually involve pain. No pain with floaters? Could be ... pancreatic cancer!

I have a whole CHAPTER on poo.

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Threshold, Not Jamb: Buddy, the door jamb is on the side. I think you meant to advise the person with the leg cramps to stand on the threshold, which is on the floor.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. Sorry.

Although, isn't threshhold a subset of jamb? No?

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Cartoon error: The Speed Bump cartoon of April 29 that you highlighted is funny, but would be funnier if they specialized in trademark law. You can't copyright your name.

Gene Weingarten: Also true.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Your answer to the last question of the poll reminds me of the Groucho Marx joke where he asks a woman if she would sleep with him for $1 and when she says no then asks if she would do it for $1 million. When she says yes he says "now that we know what kind of woman you are let's negotiate on the price (or something like that). Don't you think your response that you would change religions if the price is right a similar answer -- you wouldn't prostitute yourself for small amount but would for a larger amount?

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely. Life itself is about that decision.

But in this case, I wouldn't think of it as prostitution. I would be learning about Christianity. No harm in that. I suspect plenty of good Christians are unsure of whether they believe absolutely in the divinity of Christ.

You do Groucho an injustice. The woman says, "One dollar! What do you think I am?" and he says: "We have already established what you are, we are just haggling over price."

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Old Dogs: I was getting all verklempt aver the picture of Harry when I noticed Huckleberry hound. Now I have snot on my monitor.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, the public's pictures won't start appearing until tomorrow.

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Boston, Mass.: I'm heading down to your old stomping grounds (Miami) next week for a friend's wedding. Anything to definitely see or do? Should I stop in and have a beer with Dave?

Gene Weingarten: Go to Dania and spend a night at Jai Alai. Best evening to be had in Miami.

Gene Weingarten: Get someone who knows what he's doing to explain the betting, though.

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Transplanted, but connected electronically: I also hate charlie horses. Not because I get them -- I don't -- but because my girlfriend does. Not at random times either. She tends to get them when we are "romantically entangled," which pretty much puts the damper on the mood, to say the least.

She's taken to stretching her legs if that sort of thing is in the offing.

Gene Weingarten: It's one of those rare occasions during sex when one doesn't WANT something hard.

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Boston, Mass.: Hi Gene, I was dropping off a friend at South Station on Sunday, and decided to pick up a book while I was there for the T ride home. There in the humor section of the small kiosk in the middle of the station, were three copies of "I'm With Stupid", perhaps the only book my wife and I will ever both enjoy reading. Does the offer still stand for us to mail you the book in order to tremendously increase its value with your signature (and maybe Gina's too)? Or, better yet, will you be in the area any time soon? Loving the book so far. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Send it to me at the Post. 1150 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20071. If you want Gina to sign it too, it'll take a while getting back but we can do it.

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Ashburn, Va.: Prom's coming up. Any advice? How about some Molly-or-Dan stories?

Gene Weingarten: Here's something I don't think I've ever revealed before: Mol went to her prom with Rob Barry. They were an item for a while!

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Rockville: I avoid carrying a purse into the bathroom during that time of the month by wearing pants and stuffing the...supplies into my socks.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am laughing my arse off here.

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Snoopy Officemate: where do all these people work that their coworkers are observing what they bring to the bathroom with them, and whether it's the same every time?

FYI, I also do the "bringing paperwork to a meeting" cover and then pop into the men's room for an afternoon read.

Gene Weingarten: I just have to keep coming back to the truism: Everyone poops. There is no shame in it. Except, apparently, to women.

Ben Franklin said "Fart proudly." Same principle applies.

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Unfortunate Names: I was walking through Kensington the other day, and came upon a real estate agent's sign that just cracked me up. Thought you'd enjoy it.

Gene Weingarten: Very nice.

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Jane Austen: It's not to discuss feminism. She was very, very funny. You'd have loved her.

Gene Weingarten: She was mostly funny in print and in epistolary correspondence, no? She was not an observational wit, was she?

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Essington, Pa.: Staining the slipcover and then returning it was the perfect response to a bitchy mother-in-law.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, this is a good point.

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Silver Spring, Md.: When a faculty votes no confidence in a president who hasn't even started yet, it seems to me there is nothing but prejudice behind that vote.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, CLEARLY there is nothing but prejudice behind that vote. I think the voters would agree. They don't like that "type of person."

We are talking Gaullaudet here, and the would-be president who did not learn sign language until her 20s.

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Lansing, Mich.: Re: Old dogs

You missed ours by a month. (Sniff.) A retired racing greyhound who lived to 15 and a half.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry.

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Bowie: "Gene Weingarten: Go to Dania and spend a night at Jai Alai. Best evening to be had in Miami."

If you like the smell of old cigarettes and spilt beer.

Gene Weingarten: Wrong. It is kind of elegant, upstairs, near the restaurant.

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South Riding, Va.: I fold the newspaper and place it down my sock, inside my pants leg, and then go in the bathroom. There's enough slack in the pants leg so that no one can tell.

Gene Weingarten: I hide the book in the seat of my pants.

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Mount Olive: The problem of dinner with Jesus is that unless it's the last supper, there's no way to figure out if he's the genuine article or just some deranged preacher.

Gene Weingarten: Well, the theory of the question is that whoever is doing the arranging KNOWS it is the historical Jesus. So I guess this would be God as the middleman.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Why does Liz always change my city from G'burg to Gaithersburg?

washingtonpost.com: Because, wherever possible I'm charged with changing entries to Post/AP style. Big fun for me, too, sport.

Gene Weingarten: Liz has one of the greatest jobs at the paper.

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Herndon, Va.: Gene,

A chatter implied that if he could go back in time to take out Hitler, he would. What historical figure would you do in, if you could?

Gene Weingarten: We had this discussion, some months back. I'd probably take out Alois Hitler, about ten months before Hitler was born.

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Monthly purse run: A friend of mine stuffed the item up her sleeve, then had to gesticulate on the way to the Ladies' Room. Centrifugal force took over, and the thing flew about 30 feet away.

Honestly ladies, we don't notice.

Gene Weingarten: They'll NEVER believe us. No matter how many times we tell em.

They also don't believe we don't care if they gain five pounds. Isn't that great?

Okay, folks. Done for the day. I'll be updating as usual. And thanks again for a zitload of questions. sorry about those I couldn't get to.

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UPDATED 5.10.06

Gene Weingarten: Several readers pointed out that it was not Groucho who was negotiating with the lady over her price. The quote has been widely attributed to Churchill, but that's not right, either. It appears to have been George Bernard Shaw. I'm not entirely sure about this, because Shaw is also famous for his response to a hot young woman who suggested that they get married, so the child could haver her body and his mind: "But, madam, what if it had my body and your mind?"

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Wetumka, OK: Am I the only one who really WANTS to enjoy David Blaine's schtick and just can't? I find myself wanting to root for someone going for a breath-holding record but kept thinking "he's faking those underwater gasps for air" or "those 'paramedics' are just pretending to treat him for liver failure".

Gene Weingarten: I like David Blaine. Lizziegirl, can you link to a poem about David Blaine I had in Outlook in 1999 or 2000?

washingtonpost.com: The Ballot of David Blaine, (Post, Dec. 10, 2000)

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Auuuggghrange or perhaps Doh-range: My husband was good friends in college with a very beautiful and famous actress. He insists on seeing every movie she makes regardless of reviews, content, or quality. I believe that you have made disparaging remarks about her from time to time (she often plays distraught mothers in peril or whose children are in peril).

My husband works for a company that provides equipment to the film industry. So he does have contact with production assistants when they come in to pick up orders.

Several years ago, this actress was in town filming a movie. When the production assistant came into my husband's shop, he gave the PA his card, explaining that he knew the star from college and he'd like to hear from her if it was ok with her.

He got nothing.

BUT...several months later he got a voice message from her on his office phone. Of course she remembered him and would love for him to give her a call to catch up on old times. She left her HOME phone number.

He was so excited to hear from her. This was great! He automatically deleted the message.

What would Gene do?

I suggested he find the name of her agent or publicistwrite, email, whatever to explain what a doofus he was, apologize profusely, and pass on the message to the actress.

He never did anything but is still wallowing in the horror of this one act of stupidity.

Gene Weingarten: Let me tell you what I would do. I would kiss you half to death. Does your husband have any idea how lucky he is?

No, you have no idea what I am talking about, because you are a girl.

Gad, you are a peach.

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Carrots: Chew more thoroughly, eat more slowly. The lumps going down your esophagus are triggering the spasms in your diaphragm.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this is possible. It would irritate the vagus or phrenic nerves.

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An Undisclosed Location: Gene,

Years ago, a Post columnist (Levy?) would from time to time run a contest whereby readers would create words to describe specific (usually awkward) social situations. After a stated period of time the columnist would declare the "winner" of the contest (you know, as if someone could take something that is sooo subjective and declaratively state one way or another that... oh. Never mind). The exact name of the contest escapes me, but in its day it was possibly as popular as the one currently attended to by the mighty Empress of the Style Invitational. Or not.

Anyway, I oft reminded of it when I encounter a social phenomenon that I'm certain many other chatters face on a daily basis. This social situation begs that something new be added to the lexicon of English words to capture the essence of the matter succinctly and once and for all, and therefore I come to you, Supreme Arbitrator of All Things Subjective. Here is the situation:

You find yourself walking behind someone at a relatively non-threatening-personal-space-invading distance, when that individual comes upon a door that you both must enter. Being polite, that individual (and use the word "individual" not to be PC, but because in my experience this behavior is gender neutral) proceeds to hold the door open for you as well. Now, ordinarily this would simply be considered polite, except that in this case you are more than a few steps behind. If you continue at your present pace, the time it would take you to reach the door would approach something just this side of being rude, so now YOU feel compelled to trot up to the door in order to accept the courtesy extended. This feeling that now compels you is called....

What?

And Gene, try to be declarative.

I'll hang-up now and listen to your answer....

Gene Weingarten: Doorkiness.

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Arlington, Va.: A follow-up to the previous question where someone asked

"A chatter implied that if he could go back in time to take out Hitler, he would. What historical figure would you do in, if you could?"

If you could go back in time, what historical figure would you do?

Gene Weingarten: I would do my wife, at age 22. To me, she's a historical figure. And I just can't see how she'd have cause for complaint.

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Lunching behind closed doors in a govt office in D.C.: Gene, I've been a fan of Doonesbury since my early high school days and know that Trudeau's strips can be full of political poking, but what do you think of his storyline of late, of BD's return from Iraq, his therapy (of which you made a CPOW) and all? I recall the strip where BD was in the hospital after losing his leg and only those long-time fans got the joke of "can't stop staring" because it was the first time BD didn't have some sort of helmet on. I think Trudeau is doing a great job of touching on the sensitive issues with gentle humor. What say you? I heart you.

Gene Weingarten: I think Trudeau has been doing some of the best work he's ever done, and that is quite a thing to say.

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UPDATED 5.11.06

Gene Weingarten: As predicted, the responses to calls for old dog pictures have been rather overwhelming, to Olddogsbook.com. And your descriptions of your dogs confirm what we have always known about Post readers, and readers of this chat in particular: You are smart and funny.

Please note three things: 1) We don't mind if you send us pictures of deceased dogs -- we are dog nuts, too -- but we're not going to post those. We need only live dogs for the book. 2) Not all the pictures you send will be posted on the site. We're only using photos that will read well onscreen. 3) No, there is no time limit. This site will remain open until the book is done.

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Male for Jane Austin: I am a male, straight, who selected Jane Austin. She was the only one on the list with a sense of humor.

washingtonpost.com: That's, umm, Austen.

Gene Weingarten: Lincoln had a superior sense of humor -- bawdy, in fact. Shakespeare, if he is the guy who wrote the plays, had a brilliant sense of humor. You have no idea if Socrates had a sense of humor. Washington had none, it is true; Eliz probably also had none. Jesus probably ... not. he had a lot on his mind.

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Germantown, Md.: As one of the few men who put Jane Austen down, I feel I must defend my choice. My sole criterion for a dinner would be who would provide the most entertaining and charming conversation. Surely (have you ever read her?) Miss Austen would be the superior choice, surpassing (except perhaps in her own opinion) Jesus in her insights into humanity.

As for Jesus, don't forget that we really know very little about this guy except what was written by some fanatical adherents years after his death. You might be surprised a bit at your dinner companion.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, dude, the whole POINT would be to be surprised by Jesus. Whatever you learned would be cataclysmically important. If he was a ranting, the-end-is-coming frothing-at-the-mouth eschatological preacher, as some believe, that would be enormously important. If he was a preternaturally calm, self-possessed, otherworldly philosopher, that would also be enormously important. Virtually no incarnation of Jesus would NOT be enormously important. If he was, basically, a politician, that would be enormously important. You know?

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Eugene, Ore.: What is this "feel the pain coming?" That's like saying, "feel the bullet coming." My cramps happen so fast I've almost passed out from jumping out of bed so fast.

Gene Weingarten: I find there is an "aura" of about five to 10 seconds, like the sort of things felt by epileptics before an attack. Unless I am asleep. That's bad, when you are asleep, because it is the crescendo of pain that wakes you.

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A Modest Proposal: ...wasn't funny, but that didn't make it a disaster.

Gene Weingarten: A modest proposal WAS funny -- in a genteel way common to the time. It was so outrageous that it was perforce funny.

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RE: Queen Elizabeth: No! I voted for Queen Elizabeth, and I completely disagree with your reasoning. (Well, okay, figuring out a big secret is a good reason.) Do you have no room for people that you just find fascinating?

QE1 is interesting for the same reason that the television character Buffy was interesting and ended up being ridiculously popular among almost all the women at my college. (Yes, I'm in my mid-twenties.) The idea of someone who is fated to take on an essential duty, one that is so important it cannot be refused, despite the fact that it will prevent her from ever having a normal life (and will cut her off from friends, family, and potential lovers, because no one else can possibly understand the depth of what her duty requires of her).

I have to think that in private moments, young guys have to sometimes imagine themselves the same way--as being tragically destined to live a life of great importance, even if no one else can understand or know. I mean, that's the whole conceit behind Spiderman or Superman or pretty much any comic book ever, right? At some point you probably grow up and mature and blah de blah blah. But for now, Elizabeth seems to encapsulate that fascinating idea for me, and I'd love to just listen to her talk about what is was like to live her life in that situation.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is beautifully described. I might worry that Liz would be completely unwilling to discuss her inner emotions with a commoner. But that is a risk with most of these people, of course.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, is it true that no one in Prince George's County wears pants? I've shied away from PGC primarily for this reason, but recently I've heard that in fact some folks up there DO actually wear pants. I am so confused.

Gene Weingarten: That is ridiculous. They wear pants. Otherwise everyone would see that they all have shaved pubes.

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UPDATED 5.12.06

Gene Weingarten: Put your hands together for this guy. Your sound must be pretty high..

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Herndon, Va: Welcome Back! I saw this just after your last chat and have waited nearly two whole weeks to share it.

YES it Real and YES it would work. The question is would you (or my fellow chatters be willing to use it?)

The reponses I've gotten from my informal polling of co-workers range from "hey that's a clever Idea!" (almost all men) to "I'd literally rather die first" (Largely women).

Has poop shame become so pervase that the toliet is now taboo even in life saving situations?

Gene Weingarten: I am in love with this invention. Yes, only a guy could have come up with it.

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Womanville: For the woman concerned about bringing her purse to the bathroom at work during that time of the month. Try a menstrual cup (the keeper for example). Its a rubber cup that catches the flow. You only have to empty it twice a day (in the morning and before bed), so you don't have to worry about changing it during work hours. It is also better for your health and better for the environment than pads or tampons and it will save you money!

Is this post too graphic even for this chat?

Gene Weingarten: I feel weak. I need air. Now where is that toilet snorkel?

washingotnpost.com: Did we really haveto go here?

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You, know: Oswald shot JFK and acted alone.

Damn you know a lot (warning: sacrasm in here).

Gene Weingarten: Sacrasm?

Listen, I am more sure that Oswald acted alone now than I was 20 years ago. Why? The simple passage of time. A conspiracy would have involved a lot of people who by now would have been on their deathbeds. If you see what I mean.

It's just so implausible.

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Soap for leg cramps: An old wives' tale with no basis in fact or medicine: Snopes: Soap Dope.

Gene Weingarten: Sounds like it is a little more than an old wive's tale, actually. The accretion of enough anecdotal evidence sometimes amounts to common wisdom, and common wisdom is often medically right.

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One Last Poll Question: If you give me the $2 mil before taking the time trip, I can buy out Van Gogh.

Gene Weingarten: Are you kidding? Two grand probably would have done the trick. Vincent was penniless, and no one thought he was any good, except his brother.

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Gualledet: At least it's a quiet protest.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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Baltimore, Md.: Great, GREAT idea for the dog book. I'll look forward to it. One little nit, though: While I love all dogs, my preference is for the bigger ones (Boxers, Shepards, Danes, etc.), which tend to have a shorter lifespan. I would argue, then, that a 10-year-old Boxer is "older" than a same-aged Jack Russell. They've more character, "knowledge" and range of emotion. Smaller dogs tend to live to 15, 16 and older and don't acquire the same attributes till they're maybe 12 or 13. So I hope your book notes this and is a bit skewed toward bigger dogs.

Gene Weingarten: I think we will find that most of the large breed dogs we use will be closer to 10 or 11years old. And that the pipsqueaks will be 14 and over.

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