Chatological Humor* (Updated 6.23.06)
Tuesday, June 20, 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.
First things first. Today I announce the arrival of THIS INDIVIDUAL . She is Mattingly. Mattie is six months old, adopted last weekend by my daughter from the Humane Society of Washington. Mattie is staying with us for the summer, then will be living with Molly in Ithaca, in a big house with two other vet students, two other dogs, and a capacious back yard. In the lottery of life, Mattingly hit it big. She's a 50-pound generic dog of affectionate temperament, apparently orgiastic parentage, and one remarkable quality: Her brain appears to be on the outside of her skull. I deduce this from the fact that every time she ponders something, such as how to consume a hosta frond without being seen, the top of her head convolutes dramatically. More on this as it develops.
Mol and I went to the Nats-Yankees game on Friday, at which time I learned it is impossible to love two teams simultaneously. The lifelong Yankees fan in me oozed to the surface. After the Yanks pulled out an eighth-inning comeback and won it in the ninth, a fan rebuked me for wearing a Nats hat but cheering for the enemy. I stammered something insufficient. It was unsupportable, unavoidable, and irretrievably disturbing.
I learned something interesting in the following two games, however, both won by the Nats in dramatic last-minute fashion: While the joy of winning in such a situation of torn loyalties is undiminished, the pain of losing IS diminished! I didn't hate it when the Nats beat the Yanks, not nearly as much as if it had been any other team. There is a psychological lesson in this that may well, someday, end all wars on Earth. I shall have to study this and write a monograph on the subject, one day.
A theme discussed in this chat during the last several weeks was how the standards and protocols of the online Washpost, and the print Washpost, are indeed different, despite the brass's insistence that they are Identical, Indistinguishable and Forever Fused As One. I, alone, stand in the middle, loving both sides equally, but proclaiming -- to the extreme discomfiture of ms. Washingtonpost.com -- that there is, and must be, a difference.
Today, I offer a dramatic example. (As she reads these words, Chatwoman is cringing.)
Last week, The Empress of the Style Invitational received a hilarious entry to an upcoming contest. She laughed at it, and sent it to me, and I laughed at it. We both knew she could not possibly publish it, because -- lacking context and explanation -- it might well be offensive. Then we both realized that I could publish it here, because (listen closely) THE FORUM, TONE and PROTOCOLS ARE DIFFERENT.
This one is interesting as an example of something we have discussed here recently: How ethnic humor can be funny, under certain circumstances involving lack of hostility, and how stereotypes -- when presented in a ridiculous fashion -- lose their power to offend. The stereotype here is about Jews. Both the Empress and I are Jewish. We read this and laughed, not because it is true but because it is so silly.
The contest asked people to alter an existing word by one letter, creating a new word with a new definition. Here is the entry:
Jewbilation: The intense feeling of joy one gets when, after wandering in the desert for forty years, one finally finds that nickel.
Thanks to Ed Ramras for pointing out this recent correction from the New York Times. It may be the first case of a retractonym:
"A sports article yesterday about the absence of World Cup soccer games on the Armed Forces Network misstated the surname of a Pentagon spokesman who said the network's budget did not include money to pay for broadcast rights. He is Cmdr. Greg Hicks, not Kicks."
And Jean Keller alertly discovers yet another aptonymic wrinkle: One dependent on foreign pronunciation. In the World Cup, Costa Rica's goalkeeper surrendered three goals in a loss to Ecuador. Everything got through him. His name is Jose Porras.
And last, the wet-your-pants photo of the week .
You will want to take today's poll. You will want to take it because there is one overall correct answer to all of this, and many of you are not seeing it, and it is not entirely your fault. Analysis of this song is complex. Fortunately, I have done it for you in an unassailable manner, which I will share midway through the chat.
I hope you all saw last week's incredible Doonesbury sequence, where B.D. carries out an entire, profound conversation with Zonker without once saying a word.
Okay, let's go.
Sunday's column: You really aren't going to tell us, are you?
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: My Girl Friend's Back , ( Post Magazine, June 18 )
Gene Weingarten: Nope. A major secret held for more than a year by five people I totally trust. You got as much as you are going to get. Sorry.
Chicago, Ill.: Gene,
I'm sure you'll find ways to disagree with me in a thoroughly deprecating way, but I find the clumsiness to be what is most attractive about this song. I only gave it a good rating, but if its strength lies in its honesty, it connects with me better that it is not well formed. After all, when I am honest, I am rarely articulate. It is when I am dishonest that my words have been carefully crafted making them both beautiful and false.
As an added bonus, the lyrics doubt themselves constantly and neurotically apologize for themselves, something I often do when I am in love.
Gene Weingarten: We will deal with this. You are almost right, except where you are tragically wrong.
Arlington, Va.: Is it, um, really a good idea to have a dog living with a bunch of student veternarians? Isn't there a risk that Mattie could wind up as someone's emergency extra-credit submission?
Gene Weingarten: I would say that, in return for having one of the greatest lives a person of her species could have, Mattie will have to put up with the occasional practice rectal exam. Hey, I would probably accept that deal, too.
Alexandria, Va.: Mattingly? Are you serious? I should go out and get my own dog and name it Hernandez. At least he won a World Series in the 80s.
Gene Weingarten: Hernandez would be a good name for a dog!
Union Square, New York, N.Y.: Hi, Gene. As an editor and writer, I must tell you that you are using the wrong thesaurus. The best thesaurus, by far, is the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus. Not only does it give the best and most nuanced word descriptions, but it also has mini essays about word usage by some really interesting writers (including the Post's Michael Dirda). And some of the entries are really funny! You should give it a try. Also, I met the editor in chief at a conference once and she was really cute.
washingtonpost.com: I have this thesaurus. It rocks, or should I say it kicks butt, blows one away, blows one's mind, or is on fire, man!?
Gene Weingarten: I shall get it. The editor is Christine Lindberg, and a Googlesearch shows a Ms. Christine Lindberg but that CAN'T be the one, can it, Chatwoman?
Gene Weingarten: Jerk?
washingtonpost.com: Yes, jerk. The most returns are for some 1970s soft porn star named "Christina Lindberg."
Gene Weingarten: If you had looked at CHRISTINE, as I said, instead of angling for an opportunity to take offense, you would see only one woman, who is quite beautiful, un-trashy, but somewhat young to be the editor of a Thesaurus. I am clean. You, madam, have transformed yourself into a caricature.
Baseball loyalties: I sympathize with your problems at the Yanks-Nats games. I'm an O's fan and a Yankees fan (raised in NJ/CT; family and now live in O's territory). It's very difficult the 18 times a year they play each other, but you're right--them losing to each other is way less painful than them losing to anyone else.
I also discovered something deeply disturbing last night. My annoyance with Nats fans ribbing me about them taking 2 from the Yankees got me to the point where I wanted them to lose last night more than I wanted the Red Sox to lose. Never before had I been rooting, even mildly, for the BoSox. I am very upset about this development.
Gene Weingarten: You should be. You just turned my stomach.
Washington, D.C.: I know you're not much for soccer, but I think you really need to get a load of this defender for Brazil, Kaka. People are always dumping on him because he's too old, but he's already dropped a goal in the tournament. I guess he's still got some gas left in the tank.
Gene Weingarten: hahah.
Falls Church, Va. : At first I thought the best line was #8, then i switched to 15. I hope i was right... or at least improving my answer
Gene Weingarten: The best line is the last line.
Bristol, Conn.: You had an affair with Gina, didn't you? Or EVEN BETTER! DAN had an affair with Gina!
Gene Weingarten: Haha. No. Nothing romantic.
But I like that last guess. Inspired.
Arlington, Va.: "There was juice in the carton?"
Perhaps the funniest six words you have ever written. I had coffee shooting from my nose. Great column.
washingtonpost.com: There's No Cure for This Ringworm , ( Post Magazine, June 11 )
Gene Weingarten: Thank you! But the best line I ever wrote was describing my plumber, using a plumber's helper with great force, as a modern day John Henry, "a stool-drivin' man." Sadly, that will always be the best line I ever wrote.
Fairfax, Va.: Of course you realize that a lot of parents who name their daughters Madison, nickname them Mattie. Your daughter's dog is really a Madison.
Gene Weingarten: She is Mattie, not Maddie. I would not have permitted my daughter to go there.
Tick Tock: Hi Gene, I just received a family heirloom that really needs some help. It's a mid-1800s-built mantel top grandfather clock that has fallen into some serious disrepair. The key for winding it is long gone, one of the weights is missing, and it's been seriously banged around. Any idea where I could go to get this beauty restored, and if it's really worth it (is it going to cost me a kajillion dollars)?
Gene Weingarten: It will cost you two kajillion. Seriously, probably $800 or more. If it's worth it to you: Ecker's Clock and Watch Shop, Bethesda.
Fairfield, Calif.: Your last chat featured poop shame, pee shame, cart shame, pregnancy shame, and one tragically frugal gentleman who has what can only be described as date shame. Allow me to suggest a few others, a few of which your readers will undoubtedly suffer from already:
Food shame: After all, what goes in must come out. You may be enjoying that lobster poached in clarified butter with squid ink reduction and white truffle risotto, but everybody is staring at you and wondering if you hover.
Drink shame: See above. You order a blueberry almond martini.. 20 minutes later, you look a little restless. You're fidgeting with things. You're playing with your purse (what's in there?). Hey everyone, look, she's leaving to GO PEE.
Sneeze shame: The nasal equivalent of vomiting in public.
Key shame: DC is the wealthiest, most educated area in the country, and your Honda doesn't have keyless entry? What are you, homeless?
Gene Weingarten: Only one of your four has any merit. Sneeze shame. It is something we all should have, but few do. The vomit analogy is apt.
As far as your drink shame: "A blueberry almond martini" alone should impel drink shame.
No one over 22 years old should ever have a mixed drink involving more than two ingredients, and, ideally, one of them should be ice. Frozen slush is not acceptable for an adult drink, nor is anything containing even a single sweet ingredient, with the sole exception of margaritas, and only if the Cointreau is minimal and, of course, the drink is on the rocks.
Ah, Bernie Taupin....: I have long wondered how bad Elton John's own poetic efforts must be if he finds setting Bernie's words to music an improvement. I will admit to liking quite a few EJ songs but it's almost always in spite of the lyric. My particular pet peeves are
(a) how often BT blows a simple rule of construction by using a really bad rhyme when a perfectly good, and obvious, one was available; and
(b) how often he makes the narrative into a nonsequiter, often just by using the wrong !#$#!- connector when, again, the correct one was both obvious and available. Case in point:
"Don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have, oh they need love to help them heal"
Why oh why the hell are those two thoughts connected with the word "but"???????
Gene Weingarten: Not to mention the fact that these lyrics alone are revoltingly bad.
About Face: Dear Gene,
I was a participant in your sidewalk survey last week. Will you be sharing your results with the chatters or in an upcoming column? I'm very curious!
Gene Weingarten: Ah. Hello. Which lady were you? I believe this column will appear Sunday. I roamed the streets, asking attractive women to caress me. For journalism. I got paid to do this.
A tree grows in Boston: I was reading a story in Sunday's Boston Globe about how the city forestry service is performing a census of trees on its streets, so they can manage them better. I gasped when I got to the following sentence: "The inventory will allow the city to better care for its trees, said city forester Leif Fixen."
Getting Back to Roots , ( The Boston Globe, June 18 )
Gene Weingarten: A Hall of Famer.
Sunday's Opus: Gene, who are the two politicians pictured in the first panel? I recognized Tom DeLay at the bottom. I suspect that the other two are would-be theocrats like DeLay, who has compared people who oppose his agenda with the people who killed Jesus.
washingtonpost.com: Opus , ( June 18 )
Gene Weingarten: They are Frist and Hastert.
Lancaster, Pa.: Thanks for the poll today, Gene. However, I must admit that I wasn't sure how to respond to it. Anytime you've polled us on songs I've been unsure how you will interpret them. I guess I am saying that it is hard for me take the poll honestly, without thinking or answering in a way I think you would. But, I like "Your Song" by Bernie Taupin (sp?) and Elton John. When I first read the lyrics I thought, wow, these are kind of nonsensical at times. So I first called it "not a very good song." But, after reading it over a few times, I think the lyrics do a great job of conveying how inarticulate and clumsy a person in love can be. I feel like you could either strongly agree or think that the song is a pile of hogwash.
Gene Weingarten: Well, you have touched upon the essential question here, and I spent a great deal of time thinking about just that issue. Then, to figure out for sure how I felt, I rewrote the song. More to come shortly.
Potty Bre, AK: Gene, I have a medico-scatological question and I don't know who else to ask. I have noticed a dramatic increase in farting frequency as I work my way up to a pooping session. Then, as soon as the poop has been deployed, the farting stops immediately. Do you think the farts are generated by the poop itself, or are they merely escort farts that like to travel, remora-style, alongside the poop?
On the topic of poop, I also shamelessly exploit a corollary of the all-women-have-Poop-Shame rule, the Fart Shame rule. Namely, since most people assume that women also suffer from Fart Shame, I can release legions of escort farts in my male-dominated office space without anyone getting suspicious (I am female).
Gene Weingarten: Thank you for writing in, Your Majesty. I knew the Queen of England frequented these chats, but I believe this is her first submission.
I really like the concept of the remora-escort fart, but you have the fart before the horse, here. Imagine that the colon is a piece of PVC tubing, and the poop being a hacky sack, slowly working its way down the pipe. Okay? Now, in the small intestine, the hackysack pretty much fills up all the space, meaning gases are trapped behind them, but when the solid material passes into the colon, which has a wider diameter, some of those gases can squeeze past it, especially since both the outer countours of the hacky sack, and the colon, are irregularly shaped. By the time the solid object had traversed the transverse and descending colons, much of the gases have leaked ahead of it.
Boston, Mass.: Funny that you picked "Your Song" as the latest case for dissection, because there's a current pop hit, "These Words" by Natasha Bedingfield, that's basically a modern-day updating of the Elton John song, in a more self-conscious meta fashion. Instead of the earnestness of "Your Song," there's a tone of good-natured complaint here: if she didn't like the guy so much, she wouldn't be stuck with writer's block! As with the John/Taupin tune, there are some clumsy bits, but I think this is one of the more charming and clever pop hits I've heard in a while.
THESE WORDS (N. Bedingfield/A. Frampton)
Threw some chords together
The combination D-E-F
It's who I am, it's what I do
And I was gonna lay it down for you
Try to focus my attention
But I feel so A-D-D
I need some help, some inspiration
But it's not coming easily
Trying to find the magic
Trying to write a classic
Don't you know, don't you know, don't you know?
Waste-bin full of paper
Clever rhymes, see you later
These words are my own
From my heart flow
I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you
There's no other way
To better say
I love you, I love you...
Read some Byron, Shelley and Keats
Recited it over a hip-hop beat
I'm having trouble saying what I mean
With dead poets and drum machines
I know I had some studio time booked
But I couldn't find a killer hook
Now you've gone & raised the bar right up
Nothing I write is ever good enough
These words are my own
From my heart flow
I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you
There's no other way
To better say
I love you, I love you!
I'm getting off my stage
The curtains pull away
No hyperbole to hide behind
My naked soul exposes
Trying to find the magic
Trying to write a classic
Waste-bin full of paper
Clever rhymes, see you later
These words are my own
From my heart flow
I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you
That's all I got to say,
Can't think of a better way,
And that's all I've got to say,
I love you, is that okay?
Gene Weingarten: This is a perfect example of what My Song could have been. This is quite clever, filled with voice and nuance.
Missed connection: You: Standing on the Metro Center Red line platform by the trash can last Friday 6:30-6:45 p.m., wearing a Yankees shirt and shorts.
Me: Slacks and and a ponytail, running to the Orange line, yet managed to get whiplash from a potential Gene sighting.
Could this be true?
Gene Weingarten: Sadly, no.
Alexandria, Va.: Gene -
Your response to the woman who found out her boyfriend was searching the Web for local escorts has been really bugging me the past two weeks. I've had some painful real life experiences in this area, and can confidently say (1) he has taken advantage of these opportunities and wasn't "just looking", and (2) it is cheating.
The first is easy to figure out -- his emotion, upon having the Web site pop up, was disgust. Now, any man who had been "just looking" would have looked guilty as hell at that point. The only reason a man would feel disgust in this situation is because he is disgusted at being caught.
For the second point, you are right that there are gradations to cheating, ranging from impure thoughts (acceptable to almost every woman) to failing to mention a second wife and set of kids (unacceptable to almost every woman). But secretly seeking paid companionship definitely falls into a category of cheating that should trigger a full-scale re-evaluation of the relationship.
First off, there is the deception involved. Paying for sex on the side is one of those deceptions that quickly gets out of control, because you end up having to lie about both your time and money. It is really hard for two people to plan their lives together when hundreds of dollars keep "disappearing" every month. And even for those who make enough that this isn't an issue, the time and emotional energy that get invested in this type of lifestyle is a drain on the marriage.
However, the killer is the risk of STDs. You (sort of) agreed with this point in one of your updates, but given your strange influence over the behavior of your readers (God help us all) I really hope you address this point explicitly in your main chat.
Even if the man practices "safe sex" in these encounters, he risks bringing disease into his marriage, and that is a betrayal of the worst kind. For most terrible mistakes, a man can atone, even if only by leaving and giving her a chance to find someone who deserves her love. But nothing says "I'm a selfish bastard who doesn't care if I poison your life forever" than a case of genital herpes.
Er -- that came out more bitter than I intended, but I think I'll leave it. I know this is too long for a chat anyway but I hope it has given you something to consider. I really think there are men in your audience who will believe you when you say paying for sex isn't cheating. For the sake of the women in their lives, I hope you will publish a strong retraction.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, I think you are right about all of this, and, to me, the STD factor is the most significant one.
I never said that paying for sex extramaritally wasn't a betrayal. It is, and a significant one. I just said it was not an EMOTIONAL betrayal equivalent to, say, cheating with one's wife's best friend. I said I thought their are gradations of infidelity, and that this one was a step below the class A felony.
But I think the possibility of disease -- which I hadn't considered initially -- raises the level of crime here so you could argue it is equally heinous.
Wellsville, Md.: I wondered as I filled in the poll, do you have a favorite bit of music that was sung in a foreign language, and you have never accurately translated the lyrics (or perhaps have no idea at all of the song's meaning)?
Gene Weingarten: Yeah. I really like that "my la hee, my la ho..." thing the fat kid sang on that video some months back. I know we've all seen it, but Liz, can you find that? Just so we can close our eyes and listen to the song?
washingtonpost.com: Numa Numa Dance
Houston, Tex.: Gene, do you think its appropriate for a guy to dedicate a song to his girlfriend when the songwriter obviously intended the song for a same-sex lover? On a related note, do you think its funny or ironic when an Evangelical Christian conservative couple blithely pick an Elton John or Melissa Etheridge love song as the centerpiece for their wedding ceremony? Or is love universal and are such considerations narrow-minded or bigoted?
Gene Weingarten: Love is universal. Such considerations are bigoted. But I think you are misrepresenting the origins of "Your Song." The lyrics are not Elton John's. They were written by Bernie Taupin, who is straight.
Washington, D.C.: Bris-attending shiksa here, reporting back after the big day. It actually was not too bad -- the room was big, so we could hang back some. The mohel did a good job blocking the view of the action, and the baby gave just one big yelp but otherwise took it amazingly well. The mother was fairly calm, too, although she would have preferred that the baby be circumcised in the hospital (and out of her sight, presumably). Then we ate, which is an activity I enjoy.
I also wanted to let you know that I'm spotting misuses of begs the question all over the place these days, and it bugs me a lot more than it did in the past, before I knew the enormity of the offense (I vaguely knew that it was wrong before, but now I know for sure). One of the mis-users was Lisa De Moraes, which shocked me since she writes very well, normally. I think you need to talk to her about this so she doesn't do it again.
Gene Weingarten: This is a nonsequitur, but your being an appealing, attractive, loving and hott shiksa reminded me of something related to the Jew-joke discussion in today's intro.
Some months ago, I got a letter from a 17-year-old New Orleans girl girl who was running for senior class president at her Catholic high school. She asked me to help write her campaign speech. I said I'd be delighted, and used it as my column. (Chatwoman, can we link to this?)
Tom the Butcher deleted a whole section from the story, declaring in his grating little adenoidal whine that it was inappropriately sexual, and marginally offensive. I did not fight him too hard -- sometimes, rarely, T the B will issue some pronouncement that is not ALTOGETHER craven or moronic. Though I muttered and blustered, I suspected this might have been one of those rare times when Tom was saving me from error.
I am going to publish the deleted section from the speech here, because, removed from its original context, Tom's principle objection disappears.
Here it is:
" ... I also want to briefly address a few people who could not be with us today. I refer of course to those Jewish boys we see on the streets, and on the public buses, the ones who seldom speak to us, but who look at us -- and our freckled, button-nosed, fresh-scrubbed faces -- with a sort of ... longing. Gentlemen, we do not disrespect you. Someday, some of us may even marry you. But in the meantime -- and I mean this with no rancor whatsoever -- eat your hearts out. Thank you. "
Tom's main problem with that paragraph was its somewhat sexual subject matter, which he felt was icky in a column written for a 17-year-old. As I said, I didn't fight real hard. But there was a secondary objection to this, raised by another editor. That one was both more debatable and more interesting.
The editor contended that this paragraph would make Jewish women feel unattractive. I responded that 1) Finding shiksas attractive does not imply that un-shiksas are unattractive. To make that case, one would have to believe, obnoxiously, that Jewish men are "supposed" to be with Jewish women, ergo liking shiksas is a rejection of their natural mates; and 2) This paragraph was defensible as simple journalism -- I was describing a phenomenon (shiksa lust) known to every Jewish boy ever born of woman.
So, my question here is: Would Jewish women have reasonable cause to take offense at that paragraph?
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Oh, Lord... , ( Post Magazine, April 30 )
Arlington, Va.: Mattingly is a good name for a dog, but my dog's name is Cool Papa.
Gene Weingarten: Very nice. A more obscure baseball reference.
Silver Spring, Md.: While we're talking about Elton and Bernie: Rocket Man .
Gene Weingarten: We have played this before, but this cannot be played too many times.
Mixed Drinks: I insist that you except from your rule sugar cubes and absinthe. The sugar cube goes on a slotted spoon and cold water is dripped onto it for a nice effect, both colorific and insanity inducing.
Gene Weingarten: Okay.
Charlotte, N.C.: As long as we're on the subject of lyrics...
You can't fight the tears that aren't coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like a movie
You bleed just to know you're alive
Great, good, bad, awful?
Personally, I think they're great, and from a band people tend not to think of when they think of poetry, the Goo Goo dolls. Do you find that the look of a group, or its genre, for lack of a better description, affects how we judge lyrics? Were people more likely to judge that crappy Elton John song as "artistic" because his songs are love songs and he's a diva personality?
Gene Weingarten: Those are terrific lyrics.
The Goo Goo Dolls look pretty normal and intelligent to me. I was amazed the first time I realized that someone who looked like TAFKAP could write lyrics.
B-more: I know you'll never agree with me, but personally I find "aggressive nudity is uncool" to be your best 4 words ever.
Gene Weingarten: I don't actually remember writing those words.
Drink shame: So one a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate a woman that orders a Belvedere martini neat with olives? What if she is also smoking a cigar?
Sorry, I am trying to separate myself out from your herd of overly attractive women...
Gene Weingarten: Ordering a martini with a specified brand of liquor is a little ooky, though if it is neat I suppose that is not impermissible. The cigar is good. Gina smokes cigars from time to time, actually.
Ref: Affair with Gina: Dude, you can have an affair and it doesn't have to be a ROMANTIC one!
Gene Weingarten: Not me.
Arlington, Va.: Your Kaka poster has no idea what he/she is talking about. Kaka is not a defender for one thing. And he is most certainly not old or maligned by anyone. He is one of Brasil's brightest young stars and a total hottie. And his goal in their first match was a thing of beauty.
Gene Weingarten: He was stretching for a poopy joke.
Arlington, Va.: So, the fact that the empress also is Jewish, makes me wonder if you ever have written about the correlation if any between being Jewish (or the Jewish experience) and having a sense of humor, or about Jewish comedians.
Gene Weingarten: I think Jewish people and black people have a cultural advantage, in the humor department. Being an oppressed minority helps you see things in a funny way.
North Potomac, Md.: I just wanted to thank you for increasing my breastmilk production....let me explain.
I have to pump my milk at work three times a day and the only thing I can do while holding the funnels against my breasts is hit the page down key with my pinky. So I read transcripts of chats on The Washington Post to pass the time.
Earlier today I read a transcript of your most recent chat and I got an extra ounce of milk than I got at the same time yesterday... I attribute this extra milk to reading your chat because they say that being relaxed increases your milk production.
I'll bet you never expected to be responsible for something like that!
Gene Weingarten: Imagine if you had heard a baby crying at the same time.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada: OK, this is about the woman in the last chat who was complaining about the guy who was ticked that she waited until after dinner to dump him.
Obviously that guy needs to get his priorities straight. But the important underlying issue here is, why was the guy expected to buy dinner? I thought we were living in an age of equality. Almost every girl I've ever dated has insisted on paying her share. One said the reason was that she was disgusted by the impression that girls had to be "dependent" on guys to pay for them. So, my question is, what's up with that?
Note: I'm not saying I wouldn't pay for dinner. I would GLADLY pay for dinner, because dinner with a girl beats the crap out of anything else I might have planned. I'm just saying. Maybe it's cause I'm 22, and the girls of my generation are more liberated.
Gene Weingarten: This is a good point, and one I forgot to mention. There is no reason the woman should not have been splitting the check, anyway.
The custom of the guy paying is culturally anachronistic and sexually patronizing. It implies something uncomfortably transactional. But, somehow, it is ingrained. Pat the Perfect and I are close friends who seldom see each other during the course of a work week, because she works nights and I work days, often at home. So, every once in a while we meet for a lunch or early dinner. Sometimes, I pay; sometimes she pays. It is totally fair. Our financial situations are similar. And yet EVERY SINGLE TIME SHE PAYS, I feel guilty.
I don't think money should be a big deal in dating -- just an incidental, dealt with casually on a commonsense, gender-neutral basis. Theoretically, the person with better finances should pay, most of the time.
Maybe that's the way it works, nowadays with young 'uns. I'm guessing no.
Gene Weingarten: This reminds me. I got an email from a guy who contends that when a woman accepts an expensive meal, she owes the guy SOMETHING -- affection, respect, laughter, whatever. Just for the record, here is a list of what a woman owes a man in return for an expensive meal, in decreasing order of importance:
Toled'OH: How many people here find the comic strip "Curtis" to be entertaining on a regular basis? I don't, yet I find myself reading it sometimes "because it's there" in the newspaper, and half the time I'm led to wonder how the strip would survive if comics-page editors likely didn't feel an obligation to run a minority-based strip. If that's the motivation, personally I'd love to see my local paper pick up Jump Start instead -- it's much more entertaining.
Anyway, last week, Billingsley had a thread featuring the super-egotistical Michelle character, in which she says she auditioned for Sesame Street when she was little and was turned down because she "upstaged Miss Piggy." Um, as far as I can recall from my childhood, Miss Piggy never appeared on Sesame Street -- she was a character created for The Muppet Show. Any thoughts as to whether this was a mistake, or is there any chance that Billingsley included this erroneous reference deliberately to catch Michelle in a lie?
Gene Weingarten: You overrate cartoonists. They're not that deep. They make mistakes. This was an error.
But I disagree with you about Curtis. It is an interesting strip, and I don't think it is in the paper just because it is minority-based. It has a realism I like, and a bit of a wicked sense of humor. There is violence, there are taboos (the dad SMOKES!) and there are subtle motivations among the characters.
Sad Aptonym Land: Very sad aptonym from the Post:
A Grim Look at Dimming Sight
By Carolyn See
Friday, June 16, 2006; Page C08
Gene Weingarten: Indeed.
Okay, the poll.
The song, obviously, is Elton John's "Your Song," with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. You all know the song. It is beautiful. It is beautiful despite some of the most inane and clumsy and insipid lyrics ever put to music.
The pairing of John and Taupin is possible the most unequal pairing in all of songwriting. Elton John is a musical genius, and Bernie Taupin is a hack of the first water. But this song is beyond bad, largely because Bernie wrote it at 17. Yes, seventeen, sitting at Elton's kitchen table, being doted on by Elton's ma.
Dylan at 17 could write songs. Bernie at 17 wrote crap sandwiches with fart sauce.
Yes, I know this is supposed to be inarticulate. It is a song about the inarticulateness, and sweet purity of young love. And yes, part of the song is the ability of Elton John to turn banal and hesitant and inexpressive lyrics - stammered, half-completed thoughts -- into a beautiful ballad. That's part of the point of it. All true. And for a while, I was leaning toward accepting these lyrics for what they were.
But look at them. They go beyond simple and inarticulate into moronic -- and moronic plays against what this song is trying to achieve; it becomes laughable. And you don't want to laugh here - you want your heart torn out.
"But, then again, no"????
He thuddingly rhymes "words" and "world," "song" and "done," "did" and "live," where other, decent simple rhymes are possible. He uses the dreadful word "quite" not once but TWICE. He writes as bad a line as ever appeared in song, the one about feeling "cross" about the verse, and an almost equally bad one about how the sun "is for people like you that keep it turned on." This is an immature sentiment even for a seventeen-year-old.
To check this, I asked Tim Page, the Pulitzer prizewinning music critic, to re-read the lyrics and weigh in. Here's Tim:
"It's a dreadful song, just aswirl in pretense and general meaninglessness. Some of the tics in the lyrics are the high-school-poetaster equivalent of Tourette's Syndrome. "If I was a sculptor -- but then again no" --that's gibberish, pure and simple, just trying to use up a few measures. Far better to go all the way beyond meaning and write "da doo ron ron" or "Cisco Kid was a friend of mine," which at least have the faint possibility of meaning something to someone somehow. "Anyway -- the thing is -- what I really mean -- like,umm -- I means to say -- er, moving right along" is an emotional stutter; I half expect him to break into one of those Vegas bad comedian apologies ("I was born in New York but I'm really dying out here...)"
But I still was not satisfied. Would it be possible to re-write this song in a way that kept its naivete and fumbling use of language - that kept the stammer and inarticulateness - but was not such a terrible affront to the listener's intelligence? One that retained the two or three actual good lines, intact? Yes.
It's a little bit funny this feeling I've got --
I can't say what I want but I feel it a lot
I don't have much money but if I had some to give
I'd buy a big house where we both could live.
If I was a sculptor -- well, I'm not, so that's out
If I could write poems, I would, but I doubt
I could write one that came up with anything new.
So my gift is my song and this one's for you.
And you can tell everybody this is your song,
It may be quite simple, it may not be long
I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind
-- my thoughts are all swirled --
How wonderful life is 'cause you're in the world.
I sat on the roof and kicked at the eave
You weren't around and I tried not to grieve
And the sun's been quite kind while I wrote down these words
Surrounded by thoughts of you, and by birds.
I know I don't know how to write a real song
I keep trying to say things that come out all wrong .
Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean
Is yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen.
Charlottesville, Va.: I have a friend who got married to that song from a Puccini opera, "O Mio Babino Caro," because she really liked the music. I like the song too and looked up the lyrics. Turns out it is all about how much she loves her FATHER and will never let any other man in her life.
It's a good idea to find out what a song means before you use it.
Gene Weingarten: It is, indeed. Even when there is NO language barrier. Best example: "American Women," played at the White House. Second best example: "Born in the USA," played before a dumb, flag-waving crowd.
Hahahaha!: "No one over 22 years old should ever have a mixed drink involving more than two ingredients, and, ideally, one of them should be ice."
I love that. Can I use that in the future?
Gene Weingarten: It's yours.
Alice In Chains: Possibly the best band to constantly write lyrics that didn't mean anything to anyone who wasn't a coke-head was Alice In Chains.
What's your favorite song without words or with words which you ignore?
Gene Weingarten: It might have been "Your Song!" I never really listened to the words until this weekend, when I was in a car with Molly and Dan, and they were talking about something I didn't understand, so I actually focused on the radio. That birthed the poll.
Best Line # 12: How nice would this city, county, hell even world be if people took the time to say this to those they loved. Imagine the difference in this world if all children of the world heard this from their parents. Best line, bar none!
Gene Weingarten: As you notice, I kept that line.
Herdon, Va.: Speaking of the cultural wasterland that was 1970's music. Gramatically speaking, has there ever been a lyric in the history of music worse than: "In the desert you can't remember your name/ Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain"?
Gene Weingarten: Tim Page reminded me of a wonderful Randy Newman line about this song: "It's about some kids who think they took acid."
Dave Barry reminded me of a Rich Jeni line about this song: "You're in the desert. You got nothing to do. Name the $%*! horse."
Je, WY: As a Jewish woman I don't take offense at the paragraph. My husband and my 2 sons all have had shiksa lust. I've have shaygetz lust. I think a lot of it is the lure of the forbidden , the exotic, the unknown.
Gene Weingarten: Precisely.
John Pri, NE: Where do you place John Prine in the pantheon of songwriters/lyricists? He's obviously no Dylan or Springsteen (my top two), but I think he's very underrated -- especially among my generation (I'm 26). Prine has written a few undeniable clunkers over the years (although Dylan certainly has, too), but it's tough to refute the greatness of 'Sam Stone' and 'Grandpa Was a Carpenter,' among others. He can also be simultaneously funny and poignant which, judging from the numerous lame attempts from lesser songwriters, seems to be a difficult balance to achieve. Your thoughts?
Gene Weingarten: I think John Prine is the second best living songwriter. Really. At least of those whose lyrics I know. His lyrics are magnificent.
Gaithersburg, Md.: I was taught that a woman ALWAYS owes a man something when he pays for dinner or takes me to the theater, whatever. The woman owes the man a thank you. Even if you hated the guy, the food, the concert...
Gene Weingarten: I would say he could behave in a way in which a thank you is inappropriate.
Your (that is YOUR) Song: I'm sorry, because I doubt you meant for this to happen, but I laughed out loud reading the fourth paragraph, mainly the part about the birds.
Gene Weingarten: Understood. But remember: I was GOING for naive, trying to be childish. But pure and sweet.
New York, N.Y.: "Surrounded by thoughts of you, and by birds."
Gene Weingarten: Heh.
West Coast: Thanks, Gene, for ruining what used to be a perfectly dumb song. Yeah, I knew it was clumsy and dorky, but the tune made up for it. Now that I've been subjected to the naked lyrics I'll never be able to sing along in the car without feeling like a complete dipwad.
Gene Weingarten: Interesting, no? Stripped of that music, it really is naked and shivering, isn't it?
Knoxville, Tenn.: Okay, this is a purely Liz-oriented question. With all of the celebration on the front page about this being washingtonpost.com's 10th anniversary, did the idea cross anyone's mind that it might be interesting to look at the page's evolution through the years? I have a vague notion of my freshman year of college when I moved to D.C. and started reading the site, but I think it would be cool to see what it looked like as it evolved. Since the Wayback archive doesn't track post.com, I look to you, Liz, Chatwoman and master of her domain, for answers.
Oh, and Gene, you're very funny and, uh, something about underpants.
washingtonpost.com: Ya know, I now work exclusively from home, so I was not privy to the planning of the 10-year post.com fest. If it makes you feel any better, here is a link to a ridiculously old Bob Levey chat in an embarassingly late-'90s-ish template. As an added bonus, most of the art won't load on my machine.
Here is also a link to Gene's first regular chat . We had to twist both of his arms REALLY hard to get him to do it. Another interesting thing about it: The show was initially conceived as a bi-weekly chat. The first chat was Aug. 24, 2001. The second was scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001. Then, Sept. 11 happened and all regular programming was canceled until November.
That first show is a time capsule from another world.
Gene Weingarten: Good lord, that first chat of mine is indeed a time capsule. Among many other things, it was the first time Lizzie and I combined on a chat. But there are many intriguing nuggets in there. Mostly, I am amazed by how SHORT it is. They work me harder now.
Silver Spring, Md.: We are now three years and three months into the Iraq war. Three years and three months into WWII (our piece of it, anyway), we were racing for Berlin, and Marines were raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Gene Weingarten: Don't get me started.
Pentagon City, Va.: I was at a wedding where a guy sang the song Alison in honor of the bride, Alison.
Gene Weingarten: Maybe her aim was true.
Washington, D.C.: It's gotten to the point where I don't want to open the Style section, because I might accidentally see and then read "The Pajama Diaries." Please Gene, oh please, make it stop!
Gene Weingarten: I find it annoying, too. It is just ... annoying.
Gene Weingarten: Basically, it's like Cathy, only with an even MORE limited range of subject matter.
Pat the Perfect, ME: Oh, I wouldn't want you to feel guilty. You can pay all the time.
Gene Weingarten: B-but wouldn't that make you feel ... cheap?
Baltimor, ON: A chatter in John Kelly's Friday chat declared the following "the funniest thing in the world":
Apparently it's a clip from a Japanese "learning basic travel English" video/show that teaches a Japanese person what to say if/when mugged/robbed. And it crosses it with aerobics instruction. Believe it or not.
As you have set yourself up as the ultimate arbiter of humor, I'd appreciate your analysis. In particular, would it be quite the same if it didn't give the appearance that Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld" has found a new acting career in Japan, one totally in keeping with his George Costanza character?
Gene Weingarten: This is just spectacular. It is a joy on so many levels, I started writing them down, then stopped. There were too many, and they came too quickly.
Where to begin? The surreal nature of the whole enterprise. The man who appears to be menacing a woman with the handle of a teaspoon. The cameraman's apparent fascination with the female underarm. The fantabulous headgear of the spoon-wielder. The fact that the women are chanting that they were "rubbed" by two men. The fact that the whole video only works in instances of two-man robbery. The fact that when the British officer tells the woman to speak more slowly, she does, even though she clearly knows no English. There's more.
Towson, Md.: If Gina were to move to the Old Dominion state, would you be allowed to refer to her as Va. Gina?
Gene Weingarten: I have referred to her, once or twice during an argument, as 'Gina. Haha. Then I run.
Fairfax, Va.: So have you been watching any of the World Cup, or do you fall into the "soccer sucks" group?
Gene Weingarten: Been watching some. I have a question for people who know more than I. Why is it that in soccer -- and only soccer -- we see people get what appear to be horrendous injuries (they are thrashing around, gnashing their teeth, screaming) and then they are back in play about five minutes later. What is that all about?
Dullest, Va.: Two items:
1. According to this site you can't say "MAN A**" in the Washington Post. Can you say "MAN A**" in the chat?
2. Looking at Sunday's Prick City , the point I should take from the strip is that the flower will sprout even after the "cut and run", right?
(Also, in the interest of accuracy, shouldn't Carmen's hand have been blown off by an IED in the first panel?)
washingtonpost.com: No, but you can say MANASSAS.
Gene Weingarten: Indeed. I might even argue it will sprout ONLY after the cut and run. Haha. Didn't know Stantis was a Democrat, did you?
Herndon, Va: Re: Greatest living Song Writers
Okay we all know you consider Dylan #1, so if Prine is #2
Where do Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon (okay recently deceased) and Loudoun Wainwright fall for you?
Gene Weingarten: Leonard Cohen is in the pantheon. The only one of those who is.
Falls Church, Va.: Last Tuesday I wore an empty ostomy bag around all day to help me adjust to the fact that I might need to have a colectomy. It's funny now that I know I don't have colon cancer and won't be needing the bag -- but I desperately wanted it to be funny at the time, too. I considered doing something absolutely horrid with the bag -- like fill it with plastic worms and "accidentally" let someone see it -- but I was too nervous about the pending diagnosis.
Gene Weingarten: I think the people who are best able to deal with adversity in life -- the ones who don't go to pieces -- are the ones who are capable of seeing humor in it all.
Your Wearing of the Bag seems parallel to preoperative transgendered folk, who live the life long before they take the knife, a neat bit of doggerel I just coined and hereby copyright C. Gene Weingarten 2006 all rights reserved.
Both make some sense, and have humorous undertones. Unlike the guys who wear milk-filled brassieres when their wives are nursing. That's ALL humor.
Another clock question: Gene, I have a Seth Thomas mantle clock, purchased in 1951, that has three keyholes in the face. The one in the middle winds the clock, but I have no earthly idea what the other two are for. I'm afraid to stick the key in and turn, not knowing what I'm winding up? Can you help me?
Gene Weingarten: One winds the hourly chime, the one that chimes the hour. The other winds the Westminster Chime, which goes off every quarter hour in different combinations of notes. It is a complicated clock you got there.
Kaka poster: God, I love messing with the heads of soccer people. They're so easy.
Gene Weingarten: What they are is both earnest and embattled.
Sesame Street: Sesame Street had both Miss Piggy and Kermit on. When Disney bought the muppets they were retired from Sesame Street.
I can prove this: One of my daughter's books is "Big Bird visits the farm." One of the pigs in the pen has very long lashes and Big Bird comments, "You look like someone I know from home." I always have to skip that part since it would make no sense to my daughter.
Gene Weingarten: My research showed that Miss Piggy was seldom if ever on Sesame Street. The Count made a couple of cameos. No?
Arlington, Va.: I'm having a real struggle with the "Your Song" analysis and re-write. I mean, the damned song (with tune/melody) is so ingrained in my consciousness to a degree that it's psychologically impossible to consider the lyrics on their own merit. Why don't you redraw the Mona Lisa, fer crying out loud?
Gene Weingarten: I would redraw the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had done the pencil sketch, but had some 17-year-old fill it out in crayon.
First chat?: You sure that's his first chat? I submit the following excerpt:
Fairfax, Va.: Is Lisa your moderator again today? Or did you scare her off last time and they had to find a new sucker, I mean person, to help you out?
washingtonpost.com: Lisa's on vacation, so one of her several serfs -- Liz -- is producing today. And we consider it an honor to produce Gene's show. Really.
washingtonpost.com: I said it was his first regular chat.
Gene Weingarten: Right. I had done two or three as experiments.
19th and L Streets, Washington, D.C.: As much as I like John Prine, the 2nd greatest living songwriter is Guy Clark, the Texan who has written "L.A. Freeway," "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train," "Home Grown Tomatoes" and about 150 other great ones. Consider this lyric from L.A. Freeway, addressed to his wife Susan as they left California for Texas:
Pack up all the dishes
Take note of all good wishes,
Say goodbye to the landlord for me,
Son of a bitch has always bored me.
Throw out them L.A. papers,
Moldy box of vanilla wafers,
Adios to all this concrete,
Gotta get me some dirt road back street.
Gene Weingarten: So. Let's just get this straight. You are comparing this favorably to Prine, then?
Washington, D.C.: RE: Old Dogs Web site -- Gene, how often does it update? I haven't seen news pics or profiles in two weeks!!!
Gene Weingarten: I do it about once a week, and we are still in search of perfect dogs.
Soccer: Both of my sons have played soccer for years and both have had soccer related injuries requiring surgery. After receiving those injuries during the game they got back into the game after a few minutes. I think the screaming helps convince the ref that the other side committed a foul and the adrenaline gets them back into the game.
Gene Weingarten: So the injuries are real, but the screaming is a tactic?
Thrashing like fish...: They thrash around like fish out of water in order to emphasize that they were fouled....or not. Some soccer injuries really do hurt, but most of the time you are trying to get attention for the foul you received or you weren't fouled but want a free kick. Simulation (diving) is an offense of the laws and deserves a card (Saudi Arabia got one yesterday). Rolling around like an idiot impresses the referee only once, then you are s--t of luck.
Gene Weingarten: I didn't know simulation was an offense. Cool. This is a pretty cool sport. Wouldn't it be great if, occasionally, there was an actual shot on goal?
Jewish woman here...: "So, my question here is: Would Jewish women have reasonable cause to take offense at that paragraph?"
Not by me, no. It made me laugh.
Gene Weingarten: Good, then.
Snark City: Someone wrote:
'I have a friend who got married to that song from a Puccini opera, "O Mio Babino Caro,"'
You see? Once the gays start to marry, the floodgates are open! People are marrying songs now! Songs about Electra complexes!! We're circling the drain, people! We better reform our ways before people start marrying sound effects, like ... rim shots.
Gene Weingarten: You have me laughing here.
Lansing, Mich.: One of my favorites ways to entertain myself at a bad wedding reception is by asking the DJ to play "Under my Thumb." (So far, none have done so, but it's fun to see the reaction...)
Gene Weingarten: Excellent! Or "You're havin' my baby."
Mattingly: I believe the pooch in question is aptly named, insofar as Don Mattingly WAS a dog.
Sure, he had a high average. He hit third, in front of Dave Winfield, a true Hall-Of-Fame slugger. Since they couldn't pitch around him, Mattingly got a steady diet of fastballs. Leading off was Ricky Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter in history. And the greatest base stealer. So, in essence, Mattingly had a man in scoring position every time he came to bat. Then he was fed fastballs.
What did he do after Ricky left and Winfield wasn't protecting him? Yep.
Most overrated player in history. A true dog.
Gene Weingarten: What he did after Ricky left was he got serious degenerative spinal illness, I believe.
Herndon, Va.: Hi, Gene! I'm the young opera singer who sent you an article a while back. I just wanted to comment that the aria "O mio babbino caro" is actually a girl begging her dearest daddy to pretty please let her marry the boy she likes, because otherwise she's totally going to throw herself off the Ponte Vecchio bridge and it will be all his fault for not relenting. Not incestuous in the least, and a very pretty melody line, if a bit saccharine.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you! It's nice when this chat can, once in a while, get something right.
World Cup: The players don't get to that level without being able to draw fouls, which requires a lot of acting.
Also, think about the last time (if ever) you got kicked in the ankle. It hurts like an (expletive deleted) when it happens, but will generally work its way down to a dull throb after a minute or two. The same (I assume this in principle) applies to other collisions, like when Trinidad's Dwight Yorke took one in the goolies last week, and the telecast ever so helpfully showed him pouring cold water down his shorts after checking to make sure everything was still there. (Clearly he'd never heard the "don't rub yourself on international television" rule.)
Oh, and it's Britannia (1 t, 2 n's) unless you're talking about the cheap clothing line.
Gene Weingarten: Gotcha. And, see, another actual fact makes its way into the chat.
More production: for Ms. Potomac -- if she wants more relaxation, she needs to take a few rubber bands, knot them together, put funnel in one loop, put other loop in the hook of her drop front bra -- instant hands free action.
Now, she can really scroll through washpost and all the chats and past columns.
Gene Weingarten: I'm putting this in as a public service announcement, even though I don't understand it at all. But it is making me laugh.
Gaithersburg, Md.: "I would say he could behave in a way in which a thank you is inappropriate."
Then you say, "thank you for dinner and don't ever call me again" or "thank you for dinner, the police will be calling on you tomorrow"
Gene Weingarten: Ok, that would work.
Itsallinaname, Washington, D.C.: Two items from inside the Beltway:
Aptonym (or is it an antiaptonym) -- Edmond Fitzgerald, Maritime Administration, Director, Office of Insurance and Shipping Analysis.
The "JohnsforMayor" campaign posters could use a preamble such as "Given all the crap the City Council produces, we need..."
Gene Weingarten: That first one is excellent.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, we're done! Thank you all, muchly. There will be the usual updates daily, and I'm back next week, right here, right now. Well, an hour ago.
Gene Weingarten: We begin today with a fascinating Wikipedia entry about the "num-numa" song. This entry treats it with scholarly reverence, as though it were Mozart's "Die Zauberflote." The most interesting fact is that the num-numa song has been covered by more than a dozen bands in and double handful of countries, including one cover version by a group of Hassids.
New England: I am a born and raised New Yorker and was raised a Yankees fan, as it should be. Until the age of 18, this was no issue. But I went to college in Boston and have lived in New England ever since. The problem; I realize I like watching Sox games, a little too much. Now, I'm never going to turn on my home team but I also know it is simply not possible to be fans of both at the same time. I fear my head will explode from conflict. I am deeply shamed. How do I rid myself of this nagging feeling that I have done something horribly wrong and adulturous?
Gene Weingarten: This sort of depends on your religious beliefs. You have committed lust in your heart, which, according to Jimmy Carter, is a sin calling for private repentance. As a non-practioner in matters of faith, however, I absolve you. What happens in the brain, stays in the brain.
What is essential, however, is that you take no physical actions in furtherance of a betrayal. In short, you must come to terms with yourself prior to any visit to Fenway. You may not go and root for the home team; if there is danger of that, you must not go. This is much the same as a married man who faces a three-way choice: Purge himself of his intense interest in his hot young coworker; get himself transferred to a different department; act on his desires. Option one is preferable, if possible. Option two is painful, but maybe necessary. In option three lies tragedy and, ultimately, self-revulsion.
I urge that you purge.
Now, as it happens, I faced a more immediate dilemma seven years ago. It tore me apart. I wrote about it online, the day before game four of the 1999 World Series, in October 1999. In my case, it was a different sort of conflicting loyalty: Self interest versus the good of my team.
I had scored tickets to game five of the world series between the Yankees and the Braves. Molly and I were going to go. The Yankees had won games one, two, and three. My dilemma was: Do I root against them in game four, so that I could attend five?
I didn't know what to do. I watched the game in misery. When they won game four, it was a diseased moment: Half elation, half regret.
Baltimore Md.: You know how they always play state songs at conventions -- "Sidewalks of New York," "California Here I Come" and so on? At the 1964 Republican convention, the Georgia delegation took the stage, and the band struck up "Marching Through Georgia," which is about General Sherman laying the state to waste!
Yes, listen to the lyrics of any song you think you want to play for any occasion.
Gene Weingarten: Nice:
"Sherman's dashing Yankee boys will never make the coast!"
So the saucy rebels said and 'twas a handsome boast
Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host
While we were marching through Georgia.
So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train,
Sixty miles of latitude, three hundred to the main;
Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain
While we were marching through Georgia.
"Reckon with the Host." This song is about sending the sons of Georgia to Hell at the hands of Avenging Angels of Death. Very nice.
Curtis: I thought I read that the cartoonist was eventually going to have the dad stop smoking.
Gene Weingarten: If he does, I predict it will involve a protracted period of giving-up-smoking surliness, sullenness, and physical abuse of both kids.
First Chat: Liz, could you link to the Bill Gates column mentioned in the first chat? I don't remember it, and my curiosity is piqued (pet peeve: when people say their curiosity is peaked).
Gene Weingarten: Liz, this is the column that resulted from my attending Kay Graham's funeral. Search for me, Gates, and Graham, and "ush."
washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Aug. 19, 2001)
Linda article: Do you have an opinion about the anti-stay-at-home mom writer (Linda something)? As a woman who stopped working to stay home with my kids because it makes me happy and we can afford it, I was getting angry when I read her chat,stating that my decision wasn't "personal", it adversely affected women everywhere. And, oh, that I didn't have a right to my higher education, because I am wasting it on housework and baby drool.
Then I took a deep breath, and decided she is like Ann Coulter, someone spouting off hate to sell books. They exist on both sides of the political spectrum.
Gene Weingarten: She is someone spouting off to sell books.
I believe that women who want to be mothers are scrood by biology, in terms of their choices in the modern world. Nothing is perfect. The last thing women need is a sense of guilt over what choices they DO make.
I think it's all about what will most give you inner peace. You seem happy with your choice; ignore the harpy.
My wife chose to work, because she knew herself. She knew that if she ended her career to raise children she would resent the children, be a bad mother and an embittered wife. So she found terrific daycare, and went about her life.
A few weeks ago, driving a rental car when out of town on business in a semi-rural area, my wife was listening to heartland conservative bible belt radio, because that is all she could find on the dial (other than soft country music.) A woman was calling in to say she needed to pray for God's help to combat this terrible urge she had to leave her children in the care of others and get a job. She was a Stanford graduate, and felt herself dreadfully impelled to actually have a career, but knew it was against God's and her husband's wishes. The preacher deejay prayed for her to have the strength to hold out against these demonly urges, and asked his listener to do the same.
In that car, the rib was screaming louder than that preacher was praying.
washingtonpost.com: Unleashing the Wrath of Stay-at-Home Moms, (Post, June 18)
bone next to sk, IN: Soccer injuries that result in moaning and crying are typically whacks to the ankle - bone and skin, no meat. Those hurt A LOT for a few minutes, then fade quickly. Gene -- you wear glasses. Ever gotten whacked squarely on the side, so that the nosepad whacks into the side of your beak? Brings a tear to your eye, and then five minutes later it's gone. Same thing.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, several people made this point.
Wedding Songs: My friend was in a wedding where the bride and groom danced to "Tears in Heaven." Nothing says, "Live happily ever after" like a song about a man grieving his dead child.
But I pay way too much attention to music, anyway. I had to vote against cute little Smurfette Paris in this past season's American Idol because she sang "Midnight Train to Georgia" with a big smile on her face throughout the song. I was yelling at the TV, "He's LEAVING! On the midnight train to Georgia! You're not supposed to be happy about this!" My husband and stepdaughter just shook their heads sadly...
Gene Weingarten: Laughing here.
Cognitive dissonance is interesting. Do you know the group Flogging Molly? The song "Every Dog Has Its Day"?
Terrific song, basically shouted and snarled -- similar to many songs by The Ramones. It occurred to me that I would like to write a song that is sung the same way, but the lyrics would be a tender love ballad. I may do this one day, give it to Eric Brace of Last Train Home.
Gene Weingarten: Thanks to the several readers who point out that in Midnight Train, Gladys is accompanying her man out of town on his dream. It's a love song, but I would agree it is not a smily love song. She's uprooting her life to be with her man -- a powerful, wrenching decision.
Iowa: How many Jews does New Orleans have? Because where I went to high school, that paragraph would have been really mean. You would have been talking about a particular kid.
(Accurately. But that's beside the point.)
Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.
Formerly from Minnesota, now in Virginia: Gene, quick question. The girlfriend of my ex-boyfriend (who lied to me for a year about this woman who he was seeing along with at least another woman, too) has been reading my blogs every day, sometimes 2-3x a day. It's a boring blog about me losing weight, some snarky comments about the town and some photos. Besides being creeped out and mad at him for not telling me and lying AGAIN to me about it, can I have any fun with this? I already heard she grilled him to death about a comment I made shopping (she thought we were together). I just don't know just how potentially psycho she can be... I asked and he said "I don't think she would do anything stupid." And he is a big liar.
Gene Weingarten: I think you need to tell her best friend that you heard he "like-likes" someone else, then keep calling him and hanging up when he answers and then you can mail his brother panties without explanation and every time you answer the phone when it might be him, say "Jerome, is that you?" and then bake him brownies laced with Ex-Lax and then secretly tell on him to his boss in a letter signed "The Contessa."
A life, sweetie. All three of you need a life.
Comix Part Ti, ME: For those who don't read Speed Bump on T-Th cause TWP cheats us out of it: I think last Thursday's Speed Bump might have given Gene nightmares.
Gene Weingarten: This is funny, but actually a bit of a ripoff (probably inadvertent) of an old New Yorker cartoon. Two guys are talking. The first guy looks VERY displeased. The second guy is saying "Do you not are satisfied with my work as the translator of the books of you?"
Alexandria, Va.: The reason women don't like VPL: for lack of better description they're unprofessional, sloppy, and demonstrate a lack of pride in craftmanship (in this case, the craftmanship of the appearance we create to present to the world).
Look at it this way. You build a house. Do you just slap up the drywall and paint over it? No. You tape and spackle and sand and spackle and sand some more until you can no longer see the seams between the drywall sheets. Skipping that part, or leaving wrinkled visible drywall tape or visible screws is sloppy and poor craftmanship.
Or you are designing a stage set. You do not let the audience see the backside of the stage decorations.
Or you are making "Star Wars." You do not let the audience see strings holding up the Millenium Falcon as it flies.
Yes, fine, men like women in underwear. And apparently you need help (?) (really?) imagining us in our underwear and VPLs help with the imagining process. Really, though, I am not getting dressed in the morning with the intent of helping my coworkers visualize me in my underwear. I am getting dressed in the morning with the intent of presenting myself in a pleasing and professional manner to the world. I do not want you noticing my drywall tape.
Gene Weingarten: This is the best and most articulate argument so far in the debate over VPL. I get it. I believe you.
Pentagon City, Va.: With you working from home or The Post's downtown building and Liz working from washingtonpost.com in Arlington, how many times have you two actually been in the same room?
Gene Weingarten: Six or seven. But in terms of intimate knowledge of each other, we are practically married. We could pass those tests the INS gives newly marrieds, in separate rooms, to test whether the marriage is a citizenship sham or not.
washingtonpost.com: Or, to put it another way, really embarrass one another in a hostile divorce.
Gene Weingarten: This just in...
Gaithersburg, Md.: The fundamental differences between men and women have been discussed endlessly here -- and in your most recent book. I submit two more examples.
1. My neighbor's seven-year-old child was recently told to take the dog out of his cage and into the yard to go to the bathroom. While the dog was taking care of his business, the child decided to pee as well -- on the dog! When asked why the child peed on the dog, the child said it was funny.
2. We had kids playing in our yard this weekend in a big blow up pool. They were also playing with water guns. Two siblings, ages 6 and 8, were part of the crowd. At one point, the six-year-old was the only kid in the pool. The eight-year-old told the six-year-old to pee in the pool so that they could then use the pool water to fill the water guns and shoot their friends with pee. Naturally, the six-year-old peed in my pool. Fortunately, the other kids saw this and told my husband before the water guns could be filled up. Again, the children were asked why they did this. And the answer was the same -- they thought it was funny.
Is there any question on the gender of these three children?
Gene Weingarten: Peeing on a dog as it is peeing is absolutely hilarious. It is a degree of humor that is almost Duchampian. This kid may be a prodigy.
Herndon, Va.: Hi Gene: I have a little complaint for The Post online today. Yesterday, I clicked on the link to read the story about Phil Merrill's body being found when out of no where a flying pizza cuts across my screen. I know you guys need to sell advertising, but an ad which features a flying pizza on the same page as a story about the body of a prominent Washingtonian being found? Surely there is a more appropriate place for that ad -- like maybe on the Reliable Sources page?
Gene Weingarten: The kid peeing on the dog already had me laughing, now I am drooling.
Yes, the flying pizza is another one of those dissonance problems. This one, however, pays to assault you. I doubt you're going to see this one fly off the page.
Lyrics: Since we're evaluating lyrics, what do you think about the following sets of lyrics, from different points in the same song?
Night after night she cooks a dinner for one
And then washes up one lonely pan
Tomorrow night she'll be alone again
But tonight she's gonna find a man
She's only looking for mister right now
She's given up on finding mister right
The only thing that she knows for sure is
She won't be lonely tonight
So she hits the bar with one thing in mind
And it ain't just having a beer
After far too many dark nights alone
She ain't leaving alone from here
She's got her eyes on a number of guys
And her hands all over a few
Just waiting to see which one it'll be
And knowing any one will do
Gene Weingarten: Pretty good. I don't recognize it, and it won't Google. What is it?
Dogpatch: What verb does Mattingly best modify?
Gene Weingarten: It would have to be a phrase: "The dog rolled in molasses mattingly"
Gaithersburg, Md.: I apologize in advance to you and anyone else who follows this link and subsequently gets nothing done the rest of the day.
Gene Weingarten: This is DIABOLICAL. We might have to revisit this next week.
Gene Weingarten: Actually, this is a guy thing. No woman would do this. Guys would spend hours on it.
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