Chatological Humor* (UPDATED 7.21.06)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 18, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 7.19.06 | 7.20.06 | 7.21.06

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...

Sorry, there is no poll this week due to a COLOSSAL SOFTWARE FAILURE, abetted by HUMAN ERROR in the field of Information Technology. We profoundly regret having wasted the time of the many of you who already submitted your votes and vow to PUNISH those responsible. This message was WRITTEN by Gene Weingarten, and the RANDOM capitalizations reflect HIS extreme frustration and EMBARRASSMENT and PISSED-OFFFEDNESS at the lamentable state of affairs. Thank you.

Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

I am particularly cheesed off this morning because we have no poll. We DID have a poll, about poetry, and you had voted in large numbers -- overwhelmingly incorrectly, of course. The results would have afforded me an opportunity to lecture you obnoxiously about the subtleties of epigrammatic doggerel. Alas, Post IT professionals appear to have temporarily mislaid their competence, and all votes were lost. To the dismay of Chatwoman and me, this error occurred once yesterday, and again today, so we finally just trashed the whole thing. I care about your time (and mine) and am both sorry and embarrassed. Hoping to achieve a small, appropriate measure of retribution for all of us, I have composed the following bit of epigrammatic doggerel to commemorate this occasion:

Higgledy piggledy


Put out a poll in which

Folks vote en masse.


Upscrewing bigtime, the

Paper inserted its

Head up its a**.

Okay, then.

In other news mildly embarrassing to newspapers, we find that in America today it is suddenly okay to publish the S-word, in all its intact glory. That is because it was uttered by none other than the president of the United States, into a mike he didn't know was there ( Bush's Bull Session , Post July 18 ). This is something that happens periodically in American print journalism: The Elizabethan gentility that we practice is breached not because we decide the American public is mature enough to read actual commonplace human discourse delivered the way people actually speak, but because some supposedly dignified newsmaker says it in a public forum. We are like kids who must receive permission from our elders. (Our official stance is that we must demonstrate that we had no CHOICE but to use this horrible, offensive, vulgar word that everyone over 12 routinely utilizes, because it became news. They MADE us do it! )

It's a gosh-darn, gee-whiz delight every time it happens, isn't it? Not too long ago The Post actually published the F-bomb ( Cheney Dismisses Critic With Obscenity , Post, June 25, 2004 ) when it was uttered by Cheney on the Senate floor. But my favorite example of this was this photo of Vice President Rockefeller, gamely returning a salute from a hostile crowd in Binghamton, N.Y., in the 1970s. This ran on page one of the New York bleepin' Times!

Thanks to Judi Chamberlain for sharing all this excellent statuary from around the world, and to Phyllis Reinhard, who pointed us to this story, which contains two delightful names: One, the aptonymic cop who found the skeleton, and the other, well, "Candy Haas."

DOVER, Del. (AP) - A decomposed body was found Monday stuffed inside a plastic bin in the home of an elderly woman that was condemned after being overrun with more than 100 cats, authorities said. The body was inside the box in the home for about a year, according to police.

Police believe the remains are those of 84-year-old Mary Haas. They issued a warrant charging her two daughters, Pamela Haas, 48, and Candy Haas, 43, with abuse of a corpse and conspiracy. The women turned themselves in to police Tuesday afternoon and were arraigned at Magistrate Court.

Dover Police Capt. Lester Boney said the body was found four days after police condemned the residence, which was home to more than 100 cats and three dogs... The residence, which neighbors said reeked of animal feces, had long been the talk of the neighborhood.

Also, thanks to Jason Meyers who found this wonderful sentence in the Detroit Free Press, in a story is about an eatery seeking to transfer its liquor license so they could move to a new location:

"In denying the license transfer, City Council members expressed concern that Hooters -- whose name could be interpreted to refer to a portion of the female anatomy, despite the big-eyed owl on its signs -- did not fit the image city planners hope to project with a redesigned Big Beaver corridor."

Also, thanks to Dr. Andrea Bonior for correcting an error by a poster from last week's chat. Dr. Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the relationships counselor for The Express, the Washington Post free Metro daily. She is a consummate professional whose work is greatly respected AND a total hottie babe, judging from her column photo. She writes:

"As a psychologist I have to point out that the terminology used in the discussions of the 'wannabe pedophile' Lewis Carroll is inaccurate. By definition, pedophilia is the sexual attraction to children -- it does not mean that it must be acted on to warrant that label or diagnosis. It merely must cause problems in the thought-possessor's daily functioning (which, you might argue, if indeed he or she is desperately fighting the good fight against the urges, then that could certainly create difficulties socially, occupationally, emotionally, etc.) So, yes, assuming the posted stuff about his urges is true, Lewis Carroll WAS a pedophile. If he succeeded in not laying a hand on children, then it's a MOLESTER that he was not."


Okay, the comic pick of the week is Sunday's Opus . Runner Up Sunday's Doonesbury . Honorable is Friday's Speed Bump .

Can anyone explain Friday's B.C. ? Can anyone point out the EGREGIOUS error in Friday's Close to Home ?

Okay, let's go. I'm ticked off. I hope it doesn't show in my answers.


Washington, D.C.: "lacerating, fire-hose diarrhea"

Oh my goodness Gene, that was the best mental image I have ever received from reading one of your columns. I thank you for that and for letting me indulge in rampant immaturity. Did You Ever Wonder, 'What If...?' , ( Post Magazine, July 16 )

Gene Weingarten: You're very welcome, I am sure.


GOOD NEWS!: Gene's off his MEDICINE. This DISCUSSION should rock!

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I was a little upset. Usually I write the intro moments before the chat begins, after answering as many questions in advance. This time I wrote it first, right after learning of the screwup, because I wanted to use my anger. That's an acting term I learned from my friend Rachel. Use your anger. Use your exhaustion, boredom, etc. These things are not bad. They are tools.


Just wondering: If you have time to write about how pissed off you are about the horrible, no good, very bad human error in IT, how come you don't have time to get your comic picks and intro in early enough for us to read them before the chat?

Gene Weingarten: Possibly next week. This is a valid request.


Totally Grossedo, UT: I moved here from California a few months ago. Yesterday, while driving on the freeway, yellow steam started coming out of all of the vents. I tried to turn off the A/C, but it wouldn't stop. I made it to a local garage. When I picked up my car this morning, they said the A/C drain was clogged and the wires had gotten wet. It was clogged with DEAD SPIDERS! The yellow steam was spider body parts blowing ALL OVER ME! YEWWWW! I knew there were spiders living in the motor compartment when I was in California, but I didn't know they could clog the A/C. I've now washed my hair six times.

Gene Weingarten: In my column a week ago, I revealed that we eat a pound of spider eggs a year.

You're welcome.


West Wing, undisclosed location: Please tell us it was Liz who messed up the poll, and the punishment involves some sort of bare bottom spanking. Not that we readers are perverts or anything: this is strictly in the interest of maintaining order within your discussion. NOT FOR POSTING. MERELY EVIDENCE OF THE RELATIVE DEPRAVITY OF YOUR ADORING FANS.

Gene Weingarten: Oops, I accidently hit the Enter button.

No, Liz is blameless.


McPherson Square, Washington, D.C.: I'm being sold off in a charity bachelorette auction in two weeks. Any tips or suggestions on how I can drive up my sale price?

Gene Weingarten: Wear fishnet stockings and those shoes that come to a sharp point at the toe.


Close to Home: Dude's clearly not going to reach home in time to beat the throw.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. This is good, I swear it. A very interesting answer.


Close to Home: Who coached that catcher how to throw to second. He doesn't need to step away from the plate to throw. What is he doing so far away from the plate?

Gene Weingarten: Nope.


Lost in Hawaii, Literally: For those who wondered: yes, I really was serious when I mentioned I did not understand the "no soap, radio" joke. No one had even done this prank on me. I have heard references through the years, once goggled it only to find a list of jokes I did not understand, and when you mentioned it, I finally had to ask: what is so funny about it. Now I understand. But, yes, you did a great job with the joke and you really did have me going.

Well, back to work, but first, a little roo roo.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, thanks for writing back. I was pretty sure you were serious. It was my favorite part of last week's chat.


Baltimore, Md.: Gene: I presume you have seen, many times now, the notorious "open mic" comment by President Bush. Leaving aside the fact that the man talks with his mouth full -- and leaving aside his use of the most common scatalogical term in English -- I was struck by the utter simplemindedness of what he was saying to Tony Blair: "Get Syria to tell Hezbollah to stop this SH-- and it'll all be over."

Can a 60-year-old man who has twice been elected president of the United States think the world really works that simply? And what must his poor father be thinking when he sees that clip?

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I disagree with you. Complex geopolitics, when filtered up to the top, often boils down to "Get xxx to stop doing xxxxx." And I like that Bush and Blair are comfortable enough with each other to talk like that. This quote is probably the first mildly positive thing I have seen from Bush in about three years.


Palookaville: "...EGREGIOUS error in Friday's Close to Home..."

Left-handed catcher, dude.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. In the history of baseball, to my knowledge, there has NEVER been a lefty catcher. Now, can anyone tell me why?

This is my favorite question to test how knowledgable anyone is about baseball. Even the catcher for the Nats didn't get it right; we asked.


Re: "Drank the Kool-Aid": Please, please, can people stop using this as a metaphor for every stupid everyday instance of conformity? For the love of God, people, if you know where the expression comes from, you should be able to see how tasteless and horrific it is. If you don't know where it comes from, look it up, because you sound like an insensitive idiot using it for every damn situation (or, say, I dunno, hypothetically, in a cartoon).

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, it's pretty horrific. If you don't know what it means, Google "Jim Jones" and Guyana.

Final irony: It wasn't even Kool Aid. It was something called Flav-R Aid.


Female Sha, ME: Gene --

Question for you, based on a recent exercise class event. I had run run run to get there, and hadn't had time to go to the bathroom before. Well, we start doing some squats (pretty quick ones, up-down-up-down, following the music). All of a sudden, I start farting -- not a big, musical one, but little ones on every squat, perfectly in time with the music. The only way to make them stop would have been to stand up, but that would also have attracted attention, which was precisely what I didn't want. So I just kept going and prayed that they stopped and no one noticed.

Now, I should note that I have never, ever had any kind of bathroom shame. It would just never occur to me to stop peeing if someone else is there, hover, or flush with my foot -- as a matter of fact, I had never even HEARD of those things before I started reading this chat (thanks for the info, btw -- certainly explained some things). But here, I was absolutely mortified -- wanted to sink into the floor (now, of course, it's hysterical, but at the time, boy, it was like suddenly finding yourself back in 3rd grade). So my question for you is, why? If I don't have bathroom shame, why the sudden attack of fart shame?

Gene Weingarten: I am only publishing this to demonstrate, clearly and convincingly, that this chat is journalistically fearless. We will not let considerations of decency and maturity derail us from a dispassionate exploration of important psychological truths.

In bodily functions, context is everything. One is supposed to pass gas in a bathroom. I know women try to deny this, but it is true. The reason you were embarrassed is that it was embarrassing; but do not worry -- it is unlikely the other women in the class will henceforth refer to you, among themselves, as Tootles.


Re; B.C. : I assume that there was mild humor in the notion that the son either wore the father's shirt or the father dressed the son that day for school.

Gene Weingarten: Is that the whole joke? That is terrible.


Vienna, Va.: How does The Post approach using words that are somewhat inflammatory, but appropriate, versus using a synonym? In other words, would they let you use "boner" to describe a mistake or insist on a different word? Remember when a City Council member used the word "niggardly" a few years back, and there was a major hue and cry because of it? Would The Post let you use that word or insist you use "cheap" or "thrifty" instead?

Gene Weingarten: Before the flap, sure. Not now, because the word has this gigantic, ridiculous history.

We're also not allowed to refer to Hymietown, Mont. anymore.

Okay, I made that up.


Pittsburgh, PA: What's the opposite of an aptonym? I wondered about this when I read about a boy named Trout who drowned. (

Gene Weingarten: An inaptonym, obviously.


Fairfax, Va.: With everything thats going on in the world, don't you think it's time for more Islamic cartoons?

Gene Weingarten: It occurred to me the other day, and I immediately shared it with Dave Barry, that "Cartoons of Mohammed" would be a great name for a rock band.


Yourstru., LY: "In the history of baseball, to my knowledge, there has NEVER been a lefty catcher. Now, can anyone tell me why?"

Because they don't make left-handed catcher's mitts!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahahaha.


Com, MA: Would you and PtheP please tell me which of the following is correct: July 2006 or July, 2006? I have seen it written both ways on official looking documents (diplomas, certificates, business letters, etc.), but that comma doesn't look right. This is irritating me.

Gene Weingarten: No comma, right Pat?


OMG WTF: Dude, Gene, I'm drunk right now. Don't worry, I'm totally submitting this Monday night. Anyway, our country and this world terrify me. I come look at when I get home from the bar, 'cause I'm a total dork, but I just see these headlines and it sucks. Everything is scary and crazy and tsunamis and global warning and missiles and rockets and killing and anti-stem-cell-that-could-help-my-nephew and racism and sexism and OMG, tell me something hopeful. Is there any chance for this world?

Gene Weingarten: You write well, drunk. That's got to count for SOMETHING, right?


New Raz, OR: Dear Gene,

For my 15th birthday, my parents game me an electric razor and I have been using one ever since. Now I am 27 and my latest razor has finally kicked the bucket. I have never used anything other then an electric, but all of my guy friends say that a regular razor is much closer and less irritating. So three weeks ago, I buy the Schick Quatro...and it is TERRIBLE.

My question is, am I doing something wrong? I know that I am supposed to shave with the grain (i.e. from sidburns down, from chinline down) but it is very painful under my chin and leaves little bumps. Also, it isn't even a remotely close shave. Not nearly as close as my electric. And do I need to use aftershave? I don't want all that goop on my face if I don't have to have it there.

I wish that I had that father/son experience where he stands behind his son in the bathroom mirror and teaches him how to shave, but alas, I never got that. (I should tell my dad that's why I'm gay. Ha!) I would ask my guy friends these questions, but I am a grown man and a grown man doesn't ask another grown man for shaving lessons. So I ask you, in all of your wisdom and all of my anonymity.


Gene Weingarten: Stick with an electric. I believe men's faces come in two kinds: Faces that need a blade, and faces that need an electric. I never was happy with an electric. I became pizzaneck.


Close to Home: There have been left handed catchers, and I've actually been one. The reason you usually don't see them is it is harder for a left handed catcher to throw around a bare runner going to first on a bunt. Yet, since we don't have to turn as much as right handed catchers, we can learn to compensate for that.

Gene Weingarten: Er, I hate to contradict a guy who has done it, but, nosir, it would be EASIER to throw behind a runner going to first. He is running outside the baseline.


Arlington, Va.: I am the only one who thinks W's mic was not turned on by accident, but rather that some low-level tech person figured it would be really funny to turn it on and see what would happen?

Also this totally unrelated bit -- did you see the article in yesterday's Style section about the British gardening guru named Flowerdew?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, it never explained whether that was a madeup name, which I suspect it was.

I once wrote an interview that was obviously made up. The person I was talking to was May Dupnaim. Many people did not get it.


Suitland, Md.: Hi! I'm a black woman who recently had a cashier in Waldorf go out of her way to avoid touching my hand when she took my money and gave me my change. She didn't do this with any other customers, so I doubt that she's a germophobe. This was extremely funny to me because she kept fumbling and dropping things, which then forced herself to interact with me even longer. Was this truly funny? Have you ever been a victim of racism/anti-Semitism and found it humorous?

On a related note, I've found that left-handed people are usually funny. Since I'm a lefty, is this prejudice on my part?

Um, poop, panty lines, love of dogs, a 27-year-old who hearts you.

Gene Weingarten: I like your attitude. It's like mine.

When someone shows that sort of prejudice, it is he or she who becomes the ridiculous character, the object of amusement and joyfult contempt.

We have a neighbor who is a major jerkface. Everyone hates him, because he is a mean-spirited, petty, busybody tattletale -- the sort of person who will call the police if a neighbor leaves his garbage pail in the front of the house an hour longer than one is supposed to. Most people avoid this guy, or glower at him. I laugh out loud every time I pass him. MUCH more effective.

I don't notice anti-semitism. Seriously. I cannot recall a single time I felt I was patronized because I am Jewish, and I look pretty darn Jewish. I just don't notice it, I suppose, because it is just such a ridiculous way to deal with people.


Frustration: Does your purview include the crossword? Sunday's puzzle contained a clue of "hint." The word they were looking for? Infer. Of all the people you'd expect to be word weenies, crossword puzzle creators would be high on the list.

Gene Weingarten: Oh. My. God.

Was this the puzzle in the ... Wapo Mag?


Providence, R.I.: I would guess that lefty catchers are so few because most batters are righty, and a lefty catcher would have to throw through the batters box if a runner was stealing second.

Another guess: my grandfather played semi-pro ball in the '20s, and was a lefty pitcher. He had to catch as a righty because the team did not have a left-handed catcher's mitt.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. Why do you think there are no lefty catchers mitts? Because there are no lefty catchers? But why is that?


Falls Church, Va.: Gene, one of my colleauges is having a colonoscopy tomorrow. Nothing's wrong, this is just routine maintenance. Needless to say, all of us male coworkers find this hugely amusing, especially the massive clean-out he has to undertake tonight. The female coworkers, by contrast, are uniformly sympathetic to the poor schlemazel, and they think we are gross and insensitive for finding this situation humorous. Who's right?

Gene Weingarten: You both are. Women can't help being better humans.


In the Crouch: There are actually at least two catchers in major league farm systems who are left handed. One is in the Nationals farm system, I believe. Get Svrluga or Sheinen on the horn!

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe it.


Tribute, MS: Please explain how you met your wife in your best Spillane type prose.

Gene Weingarten: I am better at Chandler. This is adapted from something I once wrote in a book. When I wrote it, I was thinking about my wife:

She was the kind of dame who gets your attention if you're the kind of man who doesn't know the difference between ecru and puce, if you get my drift. She was brainy but not mouthy. She walked fast but fine, like a woman who knows how a woman is supposed to walk but doesn't give a damn. Not that she walked like a man. A goat can't impersonate a fish.

This was back when you called a dame a skirt, and for good reason, which is there wasn't much of it. What little there was was doing its best not to draw attention to itself. You don't put Venetian blinds on a Rembrandt.

Did she know what she was doing to me? Does a cat know what it's doing to a mouse that's lying there, half dead but liking it? Yeah, mice like the kill. They say they don't but they do.


Yuckville: Is it just a schtick, or is there an actual rationale behind you introducing a female as being accomplished and a total hottie babe? If I were ever mentioned by anyone I'd prefer that they sidestep the superficial dept. The gender/age/looks thing is so inescapable - from interactions w/ strangers to VIPs introducing you to an audience. I just want to be anonymous, and, if known, by things that I actually have contributed to.

Gene Weingarten: I did it because her pic adorns her column, and it has crossed the mind of every single hetero male reading that column. Also, I happen to know she doesn't mind.

_______________________ Can we keep talking about left-handed catchers, because I, for one, am really enjoying it.

Gene Weingarten: Glad to oblige, Lizzie. Does NO ONE know?


Manitowoc, Wis.: In fact, the article mentioned that there had been generations of Flowerdews in that part of England. The British have all the interesting names -- I've never met a Gotobed in the U.S.


Gene Weingarten: Ooop, really? Then, I retract. A very good aptonym.


Brisbane, Australia: The anti-abortion website you linked to in your July 12 update reminded me of a web page I ran across about a year ago. The page basically consisted of a young woman's lengthy diatribe against the fascist corporate pigs in Amerika and how there were no depths to which they wouldn't sink. The main point of reference in her screed turned out to be one of the funniest articles that I've ever read in the Onion. The last paragraph alone is worth the price of admission.

Gene Weingarten: Fabulous.


Anonymous: Runners typically steal third not second. It's much easier. The runner takes advantage of being in the pitcher's blind spot. Also, the pitcher, not the catcher, should be the one throwing the ball. The catcher would only throw the ball in the rare situtation that he had dropped it.

Gene Weingarten: This is completely idiotic and incorrect.


Washington, D.C.: Really Gene? You like the pointy shoes? Have you seen the Wizard of Oz? And have you seen a woman's foot after wearing them for a couple of years? My sister has a garden spade instead of a foot, and she's only 30.

Gene Weingarten: I do not like the pointy shoes or the fishnet. But it will allow bidders to expect they might get lucky.


Have a heart: C'mon, Gene. Everyone makes mistakes. Things happen. After I-don't-know-how-many years of flawless polling, you're going to malign the whole IT department for a little glitch?

Incidentally, I'm not an IT professional myself. But I do think it's wise to treat them nicely, because they can take revenge on you in ways you can't imagine. Not to mention the fact that you should just be nice to people in general, and be a little forgiving, for goodness sake!

Gene Weingarten: Understood.

But it happened twice!

I am over it now.


Drank the cyanide-laced cool-aid: Umm, isn't this a bad metaphor because the people who drank the cool-aid are dead?

Gene Weingarten: It is not a great metaphor, true. But it was the ultimate act of group-hypnosis, basically. (Though, as I recall, many drank the drink at the point of a gun.)


Lack of Leftys, IL: Ask Yahoo:

Dear Yahoo!:

Why are there no left-handed catchers in Major League Baseball?


Chatham, New Jersey

Dear John:

Two words: stolen bases.

If you're a student of baseball, then you know that the catcher has many different duties: choosing pitches and signalling them to the pitcher; catching pitches; fielding pop-ups and bunts; tagging runners at the plate; and finally, perhaps the most difficult task, throwing runners out when they attempt to steal second or third base.

The very best catchers in the Major Leagues rarely throw out even half of the runners that attempt stolen bases. A slow delivery from the pitcher, an off-speed pitch, a pitch in the dirt, or, of course, a speedy runner -- any of these complications can make retiring a runner a difficult proposition.

So, you ask, how does being left-handed interfere with throwing out baserunners? It has to do with the fact that most batters are right-handed and therefore stand in the batter's box on the left side of home plate. A left-handed catcher would need to throw through that batter's box or move over and throw directly over the plate -- added problems that would hinder even the most talented athlete.

Since most baseball coaches, from Little League to the Majors, are aware of the inherent difficulties of left-handed catching, they undoubtedly encourage talented southpaws to find other positions on the diamond -- outfield, first base, or even pitcher, where left-handedness is largely viewed as a competitive advantage.

So, there you have it. The subtleties of handedness when it comes to being a baseball catcher. Other positions where left-handedness is all but unheard of: third base and shortstop.

Lefty catchers are rare, but that's not to say that no left-handers have ever played the position. According to sites we found by searching on "left-handed catchers," both Mike Squires and Dale Long moved over from their regular positions and played multiple games at catcher.

Perhaps most interesting was our discovery that the game's greatest player, Babe Ruth, was a left-handed catcher. At the National Sports Gallery, we learned that a young Babe caught left-handed, despite the lack of equipment. In his own words:

"We had no catcher's mitt built for left handers, of course. We were lucky to have any kind of mitt. I'd used the regular catcher's mitt on my left hand, received the throw from the pitcher, take off the glove and throw it back to him left handed. When I had to throw to a base, trying to catch a runner, I'd toss the glove away, grab the ball with my left hand and heave it with everything I had."

Gene Weingarten: This is it, though it doesn't emphasize the real reason. With a righty at the plate and a runner on second, the runner will almost always just be able to steal third in a trot. The catcher simply could not throw to third in time, around the batter.


Lefties: A left-handed catcher would have a hard time throwing stealing runners out at second as most batters are righties. But it would be damn-near impossible to throw somebody out at THIRD.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, this came in first, and it is the right answer. It's all about third base.


Pat the Perfect, ME: "July 2006" vs. "July, 2006":

It's just a question of style, i.e., an arbitrary decision made so that the publication will do it consistently one way or the other. Most news publications, including The Post, omit the comma. If you do use the comma, though, you need to use TWO commas if you're putting the phrase in the middle of a sentence: "The July, 2006, meeting," just as you would for "the Boring, Md., resident."

Speaking of boring, is this the best thing you could find to ask me? Doesn't anyone want to know if I'M wearing pants?

Gene Weingarten: I'll open this up for general consideration.


Oprah: So Oprah is denying that she and her friend Gail are gay. My immediate thought--who cares? Even if she were--really, why does it matter? When Ellen and Rosie came out a few years ago I felt the same way. Don't get me wrong--I fully support gay marriage, etc. I just don't understand why such statements are deemed newsworthy.

Gene Weingarten: Lizzie, as the expert on celebs, do you want to explain?


Stomach Critters: Gene,

As a Lyme Disease survivor (recently off all those antibiotics after 18 months) I can say that you accurately described what happens when you are on hardcore antibiotics (as I was) and missed your dosage of mega-acidophilus. You don't want to know the pain.

Gene Weingarten: Um, I don't recall opining on this subject.


Poop Sha, ME: Gene,

We discovered a whole new form of poop shame recently. We were on vacation in Poland, and were waiting at a train station when my sweetie decided that he needed to poop. So he went and sought out the bathroom, which we already knew was likely to cost him money (most public bathrooms do). What we didn't expect was that he would encounter there a menu, with varying prices depending on which services you intended to use. The menu was all in Polish, which we don't speak, but he was quickly able to decipher the men's menu based on the fact that there were three items, and, as he says, there are only three things a man is likely to do in a bathroom: poop, pee, and wash his hands. So, essentially, he had to announce ahead of time to the toilet-tender that he wanted to poop. (And then talk about pressure to perform! When you've paid good money to poop, you want to make sure you get your money's worth!) Sure enough, when he went back to the bathroom, the toilets were in one direction, and the urinals in the other. This led to some interesting speculation. What if you didn't have enough money for a toilet--could you just poop in the urinal? If you were low on cash, would you have to sacrifice the hand-washing? Isn't a toilet really a "buy a poop, get a pee for free" bargain? Might they want to consider charging by the kilo? The possibilities are endless...but in any case, I imagine it would have been a very difficult spot for someone with severe poop shame.

Gene Weingarten: Best post of the day, by far. It needs no commentary by me.


Northern Virginia: Hi Gene. A question: a young former employee is scheduled for leave, returning for four weeks after six months in Afghanistan. During his absence, I've been keeping an eye on his girlfriend, taking her to lunch every so often, listening to her talk about the struggle of being coupled with an infantryman. He has confided in me via email that he plans on volunteering for duty in Iraq. He has not told the GF this. What she does know is he is planning on proposing while home. She has told me that she assumes he is not planning on reenlisting. He's already signed up. Do I warn her? Having been an army wife, I know the pain of separation coupled with fear. She has told me she could not take it. I have advised him to tell her before busting out the ring, but I think he plans to do the opposite, which is why I am tempted to stick my nose where it clearly does not belong. I've reminded her that I managed happy marriage to a lifer who has taken his training and turned it into a wonderful post-military career. We've been together 27 years now. What do I do?

"Hi Gene." And you're always talking about peoples bathroom habits!

Gene Weingarten: You do NOTHING.

This is not a close call. This is none of your business.

_______________________ Re: Oprah. I don't think her denial is as huge as the alternative possibility, but the headline "Oprah Denies She's Gay" certainly gave me pause and although I won't run out and buy O Magazine to read further about her relationship with Gayle, I bet you many will... thereby lining Oprah's pockets. Which, in the final analysis, is only fair. Better her pockets than the tabloids', I guess.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Re: Close to Home

42 is a retired number for every team.

Gene Weingarten: Haha. Actually, it is a retired number for every team, because of Jackie Robinson. And this is a terrible, terrible injustice. Current players are grandfathered in, but all 42s will have their number retired when they retire.

Consider: Mariano Rivera is 42.



Response to Female Sha, ME: I can do one better which will help dissapate your fart shame:

Being on a college ladies' water polo team, we had "dry land" calesthenics in the wee hours of the morning for strength training. A dreaded exercise consisted of doing pull-ups, but of course being women, our coach allowed us to partner up. One girl would be doing her pull-ups, while the partner would stand behind, holding up the pull-upper's ankles for balance and reduced weight.

One morning, as I was approaching the end of my pull-up set, my torso quaking from the exercises we had done, I farted in my poor partner's face. Oh, the indignity!! Of course, the whole team, save a girl on the end, heard the fart, resulting in everybody bursting out in laughter and simultaneously dropping from their pull-up bars.

My coach was utterly speechless.

The girl on the end, still doing pull-ups, shouted, "What just happened?"

Gene Weingarten: Think what we'd be missing in this chat if you had to sign your name to your posts.


Fusi, ON: I use both electric and bladed razors depending on my needs since they have different advantages/disadvantages. I can tell the poster to get himself a Mach3 or a Fusion. I've tried the Quattro and had the same experience as the poster. It cut up my face. I couldn't figure out why until I examined the razor. There are two small wires that hold the 4 blades in place. I believe these are what causes the irritation with the Quattro. I have not experienced these problems with Gillete products.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Does Pat Wear Pants?: Not interested.

Isn't this common knowledge anyway?

Gene Weingarten: Well, EYE certainly know.


Central Virginia: Dang! I never get my comments posted, but I am always able to humbly participate in your noble chat endeavor by taking the weekly poll. But today, on the day that I have a noon meeting and can't even read the chat in real time, there is not a poll posted.

P.S. I'm already liking Agnes way more than Pajama Diaries (which admittedly isn't saying a whole lot). I peeked at the last week or so of Agnes strips and find it kind of cute and sassy. Did you read the on-line chat about Pajama Diaries where the author said that she had to quit looking at your chat? I felt bad for her, but not enough to want PD to remain on the comics pages.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, Lord. No, I didn't see that.

Now I feel even worse than I did at the start of the chat. That is the worst part of doing what I do, and the only way I can not be crippled by it is to persuade myself that nothing I write has any weight or any ability to injure.

Gene Weingarten: I will probably be punished in a very appropriate way. I hope to have a comic strip (done with my son) out in a year or so. I promise I will be thickskinned to savagery.


Virginia Square, Arlington, Va.: After my office mate read this to me and I stopped laughing, I knew it was too good not to share with you and the Chatological community.

From Volume 59, Number 4, July/August 2006 edition of Archaeology magazine in the "From the Trenches" section:

"Speaking of icons, it seems the most recent examination of King Tut has resolved one of the questions that has been burning on the minds of Tut aficionados for years, namely: where is his penis? It was present when he was discovered in 1922, but a 1968 X-ray study of Tut's mummy failed to turn it up, leading to speculation it was stolen. Never fear, says Zahi Hawass, Tut's member is no longer MIA. It was found lying loose in the sand the body was resting on, detached from Tut, but still intact."

Who knew it was a burning issue...

Gene Weingarten: Thank you for sharing this.


Hot chic, ks: Gene:

Just wondering. There's a really large construction project across the street that I watch at lunch. In do doing, I ignore all hot chicks, preferring to watch the work.

Should I slit my wrists now for being past it?

Gene Weingarten: It's not a good sign.

It has occurred to me that you can chart a man's life by the joy he receives evacuating and having sex. The lines cross somewhere. That's a bad moment. I am not there yet, but if I ever reach it, well, let's say I will make sure my will is in order.


College Park, Md.: Gene,

Since I share your opinion on extravagant weddings, I'm pretty sure you're going to agree with me on another point and I need some help. My partner and I just bought a house, and we plan to have a housewarming when some renovations are done, and my partner wants to create a gift registry for this housewarming. I think this is beyond tacky, but she insists that it's perfectly fine because we can't get married, so we won't be doing that sort of registry. Still, I think it's tacky. What say you, Gene?

Gene Weingarten: Tacky tacky tacky tacky.

Of course, I think wedding registries are tacky, too.


Boston, Mass.: Gene Weingarten: Yes, this came in first, and it is the right answer. It's all about third base.

Oh the questions that COULD have answered.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, thank you.


San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Gene, have you seen these photos of President Bush and German leader Merkel? It's certainly another odd interaction with world leaders at the G8 by Bush, would you agree?

Gene Weingarten: I can't watch this and not laugh.


Cabin John, Md.: I know you're pissed off by the "colossal software failure", but I just want to make sure you put the blame where it belongs: If it hadn't been for the disatrous overextension of the Post's IT resources caused by Bush's Iraq and other misadventures, your problem undoubtedly would have been prevented and/or fixed.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Yes, it is Bush's fault.


Poolesville, Md.: After 17 years in our family, my in-laws' dog, Pepper, passed away a week ago (I just found out yesterday), and I find myself shocked at the intensity of the grief I'm feeling. This wasn't my dog, I am not what you'd call a dog person, and yet, I don't seem to be able to stop crying about it. I have known my husband and his family for 12 years, so for as long as we have had a shared history, Pepper has been there, and I just cannot imagine our life without her. My biggest regret is that I never got to submit her picture for your book. She really was quite the lady.

Gene Weingarten: You are not really grieving for Pepper, at least not entirely. A child grieves entirely for a dead dog. With humans, it is more complex; you are grieving over mortality. A dog's life is a human life in microcosm.

I will be explaining this better in the Old Dogs book.


Why it matters if Oprah is gay: Caveat one: I am a gay woman.

Caveat two: I personally could not care less if Oprah is gay. I have no opinion about her except that her taste in books is saccharine.

One reason why people care about this is because being gay makes you a member of an invisible, but discriminated against, minority. The more gay people who are out, the more visible they become and thus the harder it becomes to discriminate (the thinking being that you're less likely to make life harder for someone you know .)


Gene Weingarten: Makes sense. There is a very very famous and well-liked baseball player whom I strongly suspect is gay. I really would like him to come out, because I think that would do more to eliminate descrimination against gays than just about any other single event I can think of.


Virginia: Dear Dr. Hypochondriac,

In early April, I discovered a small, pea-sized lump in the middle of my shin, right next to the shinbone. Since then it has grown to be about an inch long, a half-inch wide, and fairly solid. It hurts a little when I push on it. The wait time to see my doctor is practically MONTHS unless I'm dying. Should I call and tell them I'm dying?

Gene Weingarten: Pain is a good sign, actually. But, yes, I think you need to tell them that you are worried it is cancer. That should get you in. They HATE malpractice suits.


Poll Ire: Okay, we have hit the very first time I am actually mad at you. Your IT people didn't lose the poll results on purpose, and they felt no joy in having it fail a second time. They feel bad and they are stressed enough as it is. Users who slam them in public, even in cutesy double dactyls, go on the -presidential curse] list.

Just sayin'.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Immor, AL: "The Elizabethan gentility that we practice"....

Elizabethan gentility? Crikey. If there were a period known for leaning towards the bawdy, it would be the Elizabethan. Shakespeare is full of colourful ways of swearing, innuendo, references to body parts and bodily functions, and scenes designed to pander towards the love of violence amongst the "groundlings" they let into plays. And he's very typical of his age. It's also the beginnings of the age of adventure, with lots of privateers after Spanish gold, and much buckling of swash. A lot of people wrongly assume that people who wear corsets and big neck ruffs must have been uptight. I think it just gave them a sense of humour.

Gene Weingarten: You're right. I meant Victorian.


Kensington, Md.: Boy are you P.O.'d. Wow. Anyhoots, it is my humble opinion that the comic survey is some sort of cruel joke. How else can you explain the choice of the three strips presented by the folks responsible for the best comic section in the country? They're all horrible. Move Dilbert from Business or Doonesbury from C3 if you have a space to fill! Run Sherman's Lagoon daily. Anything but one of those three. Hopefully that space is Classic Peanuts.

Gene Weingarten: Are you referring to Pajama Diaries, Watch Your Head, and Agnes?

PJ was bad. I liked Watch Your Head. And I love Agnes. Watch Agnes for a while. The characters are excellent.


Call It a Rant, OK: Maybe it's the heat (104 where I am). Maybe it's because it feels like the whole world is falling apart. All I know is that my very large issues with George Bush have, all of a sudden, been replaced with irritability over seemingly minor peccadillos. To wit: (Twit?)

- On a global stage, why does he need to chew like a toddler?

- Why does a Yale graduate hold up his end of a conversation like this, "Gotta go to the airport. Get on a plane. Gotta get home."

- Is it really that difficult to learn the names of world leaders? Middle-schoolers and arguably dimmer-witted television anchormen do it every day.

- Why does he walk with his arms held out from his sides, like he's got a six-shooter on each hip?

- I was stunned, but very happy, when Bush created monument-status protection for a unique Hawaiian archipelago. He did this after Jean-Michel Cousteau came to the White House and showed him a documentary about the area. All very good. But evidently this is what it took for Bush to grasp the issues there. Is it really to much to ask to want a president with an innate curiosity about the world?

Yes, we know we have an "average Joe" as president. He takes pride in that. But I don't want an average Joe in the White House. I don't want to feel like I can toss back a beer with the president. I want somebody who's smarter than I am. I've forgiven people a lot of things if they're smart (within reason). What I can't forgive is a wasted opportunity by somebody who refuses to engage himself.

Of course, this isn't funny. So no need to post. But I have to admit I'm feeling a little bit better. Thanks for the Gene Therapy!

Gene Weingarten: Gene Therapy. I like that.

These are all good observations. The one I have made before is the last one: I don't want to be smarter than the president of the United States. That makes me very upset.


Capitol Hill: Hi Gene,

Just wanted to say that I've been buying a lot of paint lately, and your son is worlds more professional, helpful and intelligent than those other two young knuckleheads who work with him. They make me want to stick a paint stirrer in my eye. But Dan is great.

Just thought you should know.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. I think there are rotating knuckleheads, so this doesn't malign anyone specific.


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Gene, if its any consolation, the poll was (insert Bushism for not very good).

Gene Weingarten: That poll was GREAT.


Washington, D.C.: Gene,

My wife and I have been invited to a birthday party in Riga, Latvia. Although we've never met anybody involved in the party (we were invited by the daughter of the man whose birthday it is, an email friend we've never actually met), we've decided to go, and we leave Thursday. At the party, would it be rude to ask to use the host's computer so I can follow baseball scores and trades?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but I'd do it, too. I have a warm spot for Latvia. They published my Hypo book. The Latvian edition is a prized possession of mine.


Springfield, Va.: For the guy who said that there are two lefty catchers in the minors, one of whom is on a Nationals affiliate, you are wrong. The only halfway lefty catcher in the National's farm system is Robert Sandora who plays for the Single A Savannah Sand Gnats. He bats left, but throws right, therefore not combatting the problem of not being able to throw runners out.

Gene Weingarten: So he is not a lefty catcher! A lot of catchers bat lefty. That don't mean nothing. Jorge Posada is a switch hitter.


Defending Bluto, OK: Liz seems to think there are are timeless, universal rules of fashion, for example "Flat-front pants good, pleats bad."

I remember in college a girlfriend insisting that, while the styles of her middle-school years, which she and the culture had thankfully grown out of, were horrific, the current styles were timeless and would never, ever appear laughable. I begged to differ. This was in 1983. I think I've been proved correct.

So Liz thinks pleated pants are always and forever wrong, huh? That the "What Not to Wear" folks have discovered unalterable rules for good taste. And that pleats=slob is one of them. Hmmm. I suppose she thinks this fellow's a loser.

And I'm sure she wouldn't look twice at this bozo .

Yah, those pleats look terrible! What a couple of wankers those guys are!

Cheers! Cary Grant must have resorted to pleats during his LSD experimentation years. And as for Gregory Peck, who is a fine example of a good looking man... those pants do nothing for him.

And, as for your argument, it would be as if this photo of Barbra Streisand argued for the appropriateness of the white 'fro.

Thank you, come again.

Gene Weingarten: Wait a minute. I like that look on Babs. Or maybe that's Liz's point, eh? On Babs, it looks good?


re: the baseball player coming out: I don't think you're right (unfortunately). Remember way back when Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive? Lots of little kids assumed that meant he was gay and were very disappointed.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, it would be hard on him, at least for a while. But it would make a whole bunch of knee-jerk bigots think about this. Because they love this guy.


Expat from C'ville: What foreign languages have you studied? What languages do you think are the funniest? I'm trying to learn Danish, and it's not going well. It doesn't help that when I listen to my "Teach Yourself Danish" CD that I start laughing. I mean, don't these people ever listen to themselves? They sound ridiculous!

On the other had, my European keyboard has special keys to do this: ¿, and this: ¿, and this: ¿.


Gene Weingarten: I read and speak moderately good espanol. Maybe third-grade level.

German is the funniest language. I bet there is a word in german that translates to "the-thing-that-lifts-the-rubber-flap-in-the-tank after-you-push-the-thing-that makes-the-toilet-go-flush-after-pooping. Then there would be a separate word that takes all of that and adds "manufacturer of" at the end.


Bush-Merkel: This is Bush's frat boy side showing itself. I read a while back that in the past he always enjoyed coming up behind an acquaintance and putting him in a headlock. Too bad Merkel's security detail wasn't there to react instinctively.

Gene Weingarten: But this was .... the chancellor of Germany! And a woman! I mean, wow. I half expected him to follow up with a noogie.


Washington, D.C.: Yesterday my best friend (who turned 30 the day before, in a grand irony most women will understand) went to a new gynecologist to switch off the pill because, as happens to many women, she thought it was lowering her libido.

She is getting married in two months, fyi, and tells the doc this.

He then proceeds to try to TALK HER OUT of a new method of birth control, warning her not to be "selfish" or "too career driven" and saying she should have kids now before it's too late. (She has no known fertility problems, nor did he diagnose any.) My friend was stunned into silence, and called me after the appointment freaking out.

I think she just ran into a religious zealot posing as a doctor. That is, he may have the medical degree, but his real job is to preach. I advised my friend to write a letter to her insurance carrier (and CC the doc) explaining that she would like to see a new doctor without being charged for an out-of-plan visit.

What do you think she should do? Was it, perchance, a Georgetown hospital GYN?

Gene Weingarten: I'll let you girls hash it out.

_______________________ No, I did not mean that Babs looks good that way. Sheesh.


Ellicott City, Md.: So I was driving sunday morning listening to Washington Post Radio. Someone named Liz was on, no last name given doing celebrity chatting, was that this chat's Liz? Indeed. Every Sunday morning at 10:10 a.m. Gene can't get enough of it.

Gene Weingarten: She's the Man.


Burning Question: I have a medical question for you, if you don't mind.

I'm starting to feel the beginning of a urinary tract infection. I've had enough of these over the years to know what they feel like, and this is definetly one. My mother says to drink lots of cranberry juice. So, as I'm drinking my juice, I wonder if this folklore medicine has any truth to it.

If it doesn't clear up in the next couple of days, I'll go to the doctor anyway. I was just hoping to nip this in the bud, so to speak.

Gene Weingarten: I believe I once actually read the results of a study that confirmed cran did help a UTI. Knocked me on my arse.


New York, N.Y.: Jon Stewart pointed out last night that considering the universe of things the President COULD have said into the microphone, we got fairly lucky.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


Tammy, Tammy: I've always wanted to have a job writing sympathy cards. Here is my first foray:

A figure stands before a small lump of dirt in the backyard with the caption, "Sorry your dog died." Open the card, and the same character is pictured, but the perspective is zoomed out so you can see a larger lump of dirt next to the small one. Caption, "At least your grandmother will have some company."

Gene Weingarten: I like it.


Fart Sha, ME: I came down with a cold a few months after being diagnosed as diabetic. I got some sugar-free cough drops. In the fine print it says "Excessive consumption may have a mild laxative effect". Well, I had several during a long meeting. A few hours later my guts were distended beyond anything I have experienced before or since. It was like someone had inflated me with a tire pump. I realized things were not going to get better quietly. So, I walked 100' past cubicles with my butt cheeks pressed tightly together, drove the five miles home, walked up three flights of stairs, and finally made it to my bathroom. I was in there for three hours. The funniest part was watching my cats watch me. They kept tilting their heads from one side to the other then delicately sniffing the air. The look of disgust that followed would start me laughing which bring on another round of farts. The noise fascinated them.

Gene Weingarten: Really, people, we aren't getting enough flatulence humor this week.


Jewish Girl: Hi Gene,

I wrote in last week about the election speech in which you suggested that a non-Jewish girl tell teenage boys that they should "eat their hearts out" because, at that moment, she was unavailable to them. And you said that because this was addressed to the boys, and not the girls, that this statement was funny and not offensive.

Could you explain why this statement is not also addressed to Jewish girls? Isn't she saying to every Jewish girl in the audience, "I'm prettier than you?" How is that funny?

Gene Weingarten: Why is it saying that?????

You think because Jewish boys have a thing for shiksas it means they find Jewish girls unattractive? That sure don't describe me, at that age. And I had shiksa lust BAD.


re: left handed catchers: If The Flash were left-handed, he would make a GREAT catcher!

Gene Weingarten: Well, sure, because he could just RUN the ball to third.


Gay Baseball Player: Gene, have you noticed the phenomenon when a famous man is considered a sex symbol by women, other men, even his colleagues, will deride him as gay? I've seen it happen with Duran Duran, Tom Cruise, Jeff Gordon, and Jeff Garcia. Is this just jealousy? Or are men biologically programmed to react this way to other men with matinee-idol looks? I do know that biologically, women's taste in male appearances can vary based on the time of their cycles.

Gene Weingarten: I think it's a joke. I am constantly assuring my wife that every man she finds attractive is probably gay.


Silver Spring, Md.: "The wait time to see my doctor is practically MONTHS unless I'm dying."

This person needs a new doctor. There is no primary care physician or first-contact dermatologist worth this wait.

Gene Weingarten: True.


Sexism/Racism?: There is a commercial for car insurance on TV lately that bothers me. It starts with a white woman in a car apparently stopped in the middle of the street to put on lipstick. She is rear-ended. Her insurance agent magically appears in the seat next to her and she asks "Am I covered?". Next, a black woman is driving while listening to the lottery results on the radio. As each number that is called matches her lottery ticket, her driving gets more reckless. She runs over cones, almost hits a gardener, and runs into a truck full of mulch. Her insurance agent magically appears in the seat next to her and she asks "Am I covered?". A number of things about this commercial bother me.

1 - Both drivers are women even though the insurance companies own actuaries would tell them men are involved in more accidents than women. Both are made to look extremely foolish.

2 - In the first case the driver who rear-ended the woman is at fault. He should be asking if he is covered.

3 - Both insurance agents are male (perhaps taking care of the little woman?)

4 - The white woman has a white insurance agent. The black woman has a black insurance agent. I can just imagine the thought process behind that choice.

Am I too sensative or is this commercial really offensive?

Gene Weingarten: If you are describing it correctly, it sounds pretty bad.


New York, N.Y.: Your perspective on the propriety of the headbut also depends on your nationality .

Gene Weingarten: This is very nice.


Silver Spring, Md.: I must bring your attention to this very important scientific discovery.

Gene Weingarten: This, too, is excellent.


Clifton, Va. 2: Umm, I really, really think the Kool-aid reference is to the Merry Pranksters (Ken Kesey, et al.) in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-aid Acid Test. Drinking the spiked Kool-aid demonstrated, you were either on the bus or off the bus....

Gene Weingarten: Nope. The reference is to becoming part of a cult. That's the only way it can be read.


OB/GYN horror stories: Yep - similar thing happened to me. I was told by mine (older female) that I was wasting my life as I wasn't married and pregnant yet. I was 27. And as it was right after the "exam", I was still butt naked in that horrible gown. Proceeded to lecture on a lot of other items too. Your friend's doctor was WAY out of line and she needs to get thee to another doctor quickly as possible. Just because they have a lovely degree does not mean they are right for you.

Gene Weingarten: Many women are agreeing with this. Ms., too.


re: preaching gynos: Hey! Don't assume because Georgetown is a Catholic University and Catholic hospital, they dispense morality along with medical advice. I go to a Georgetown hospital gynocologist who writes my prescriptions (for everything) without question.

BTW, preaching gynos would be an excellent band, I'm sure.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed, on the name.


Cranberry Juice: However, most cranberry juice is sweetened, which actually adds fuel to the flames. You need 100 percent pure, unsweetened juice and lots of it. God bless you if you can get it down, but it works.

Gene Weingarten: A public service announcement.


Hey, Nerdo Times Two: Many chats ago I noted that the drive-thru window in a "Pearls Before Swine" was on the passenger side rather than the driver side of a killer whale's car. Your response? "Whatever, nerdo."

Now you are pointing out that a left-handed catcher on a totally stylized baseball field is an unforgivable error in "Close to Home"? Whatever, nerdo times two.

Gene Weingarten: Liz, you are not sposta be submitting questions on your own.


Baseball and culture: "Gene Weingarten: So he is not a lefty catcher! A lot of catchers bat lefty. That don't mean nothing. Jorge Posada is a switch hitter. "

You said you wanted the gay player to come out of the closet on his own!

Gene Weingarten: Haha.


Chesterfield, Va.: Bob Dylan song about Israel .

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. Not Dylan's best. Too direct. Not poetry.


Charlotte, N.C.: Will wonders never cease?


Will wonders ever cease?

Gene Weingarten: "Never," right, Pat? They seem to mean the same thing, except the first carries more of a sense of wonder, as it were, which is the point of the expression.


UTI city: I've had tons of these. The good news is that they were almost always caused by sex. The bad news is that, while cranberry juice will ease the pain a bit, it has no power to actually cure the bacteria that ails you. Go get some Cipro.

Gene Weingarten: Also noted.


Po, LL: Would it be too much to ask to tell those of us that did take the poll why we were wrong? I suspect I may have been right.

Gene Weingarten: I hope to do the poll another time. So we will try again. A lot of you love one of the poems that is very bad. Very few of you saw the value in the very best of them.


Baseball: Some years ago I was out with a group of friends and a guy asked my best friend if she was a switch hitter. She replied "No, I've never even been up to bat."

I've always loved that answer.

Gene Weingarten: Nice.


UTIs: Do UTIs go away on their own? If I suspect I have one, I'm running to the doc for those antibiotics. I hate Hate HATE UTIs and want them to be gone as soon as possible.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, actually, that would be my advice, too.


Arlington, VA: Liz (sorry, Gene) -

I have to defend Georgetown OB/GYN practice -- they actually were pushing me into birth control after the birth of my first child (admittedly at age 30).

I also know a number of women who get the same lecture at age 30, no matter who they go see.

Thanks. Wasn't my experience. Apologies for stereotyping the entire dept., tho.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, okay. I feel like Dr. Phil.


UTI Help: The person with the UTI should try cranberry juice plus Uristat - it's an OTC that turns the agony into a faint tickle. Seriously. It's a miracle drug for people who often get UTIs.

Gene Weingarten: Sigh.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: By the way, I was in D.C. over the past weekend. I lived in the area about 10 years ago, and every time I go back, the traffic is worse. This time, it was beyond awful, no matter what time of day I was on the road. Jeez! How do you stand it? My solution was to take the Metro any chance I could.

Gene Weingarten: Try going crosstown in Manhattan.

Believe me, our traffic is NOTHING.


Gay Player: Can you give us a team, at least? Assuming it isn't Piazza...

Gene Weingarten: No. Not fair. Besides, it is just a guess.


RE: Gay catcher: I've heard all the same rumors you have about the gay baseball player, and I'm curious why you think this has NOT come out to the general public? It's not so much a secret, but it's still a secret overall. Why do you think that is?

And as a second point of discussion, a couple years ago a gay magazine threatened to "out" him on their own, without his approval. They eventually declined. What would be THEIR purpose in outing him?

Gene Weingarten: Their purpose would be the same reason I would hope he'd do it on his own.

And I think we are talking about a different guy.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Right, the expression is "Will wonders never cease?" As in "Won't wonders ever cease?" It's not that different in meaning from "Will wonders ever cease" but that doesn't happen to be the expression.

-- Entirely Nude in Md.

Gene Weingarten: I just HAVE to end on this one. Thanks, Pat.

Okay, I'll be updating this week, but... NO CHAT NEXT WEEK. It's not my fault. A shortage of producers. Sorry.


UPDATED 7.19.06

Gene Weingarten: Thanks to Karen Cumming, who lifted this from a Washington Post chat:

Considering the subject of today's chat, how could you have missed this?

"Sweat-gland secretions themselves don't smell bad. But when bacteria (which also smell just fine) that are immersed in the sweat (they thrive in moist environments) dine on the fat- and protein-filled apocrine secretions, they produce foul-smelling excretions of their own.

Which is to say: The scent we know as B.O. is basically . . . bacteria passing gas."


Gene Weingarten: And thanks to William Jones, who seems to have a LOT of time on his hands:

Monday, in Howard Kurtz' chat, the following comment and Howard's response appear:

Ellicott City, Md.: How many words per minute can you type? You, by far, answer more questions in a single hour chat than any other chat host at The Washington Post. Keep it up.

Howard Kurtz: One of my many hidden talents.


When I took the text of the chat, pasted it into a Word document, and removed all of the text submitted by the commenters, I got about 3 ½ pages of text. Using Word's word count feature on the text yielded a total word count of 1,697, organized into 39 paragraphs.

Performing exactly the same steps on your chat today, and removing both the commenters' submissions and Liz', gave me 9 ½ pages of text, and a total word count of 3,078 organized into 158 paragraphs. So you had almost twice the words and more than three times the number of paragraphs.

Gene Weingarten: Howie Kurtz waaaay outstrips me in terms of multitasking AND speed. I beat him here through illusion and simulacra: I spend hours before the chat answering early questions.


Kool A,ID: Gene,

I worked with a friend who had grown up in Lebanon. He didn't know the Jim Jones story and so was confused about the meaning of "drink the Kool-Aid." When I explained it to him, he told me of the story that he had thought of when he heard the expression.

There was a king where the well in the kingdom had been poisoned. Everyone who drank from the well became insane. Finally, when only the king and his most trusted adviser remained sane, they decided to drink from the well. That way, the could once again lead the people.

As it turns out, I think this story captures the meaning of the expression even better.

Gene Weingarten: Very good! Deep, as it were.


Washington, D.C.: Are you or are you not prepared to write a limerick or a Higgledy-piggledy poem about some news event that is in the paper today?

Gene Weingarten: Thoughts Upon Geo W. Bush's Back-Kneading of the German Chancellor

Higgledy Piggledy
Clueless George Doubleyew
Greets the world leaders with
Frat-boy cachet.

Raising the issue that
Something about this guy
Rubs the wrong way.


From a lefty: "In the history of baseball, to my knowledge, there has NEVER been a lefty catcher."

As in most things, your knowledge is minimal on this question. Here's a list of MLB's left-handed catchers, with number of games played (source -- Baseball Fever forum):

1,073 Clements, Jack

272 Trott, Sam

202 Tate, Pop

186 Sutcliffe, Sy

128 Harbridge, Bill

99 Hines, Mike

75 Humphries, John

71 Tenney, Fred

52 Twineham, Art

50 Baker, Phil

45 Donahue, Jiggs

35 Oldfield, Dave

34 Householder, Charlie

21 Malone, Fergy

16 McMahon, Jack

12 Krehmeyer, Charlie

7 WallL, Joe

5 Foster, Elmer

3 DiStefano, Benny

3 Hillebrand, Homer

2 Egan, Jim

2 Long, Dale

2 Squires, Mike

1 Cassidy, John

1 Eden, Charlie

1 Marr, Lefty

1 Mullen, John

1 Powell, Martin

1 Redmon, Billy

1 Short, Chris

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Seldom is the expression "the exception proving the rule" more apt.

Okay, there were a few. But most of these were pre-1910, and most were for just a few games. Obviously, there is a big, honking reason why there are so few lefty catchers. And we explained the reason.

I just learned that Don Mattingly, who is left handed, played third base in two games one year. If you know anything about baseball, you know it is basically IMPOSSIBLE to play third if you are a lefty.

Every exception is a wild a curious anomaly, obviously.


UPDATED 7.20.06

Pittsburgh, Pa.: I have been planning my parent's 50th wedding anniversary party and the guest list has increased quite a bit due to the fact that several folks we thought wouldn't be able to attend have decided to attend. While this has been a wonderful thing for my parents, it has strained the budget a bit for me. Anyway, my husband and I were planning a trip to Toronto, which he suggested that we cancel because this party is getting "out of control" in terms of the cost (and the fact that we would return home only three days before having to depart for the party -- which is out of state). I did see his point, but on further reflection, realized that I'M the one paying for the party (and my brother), not him, since these obviously aren't his parents. No way should he have to bear any significant expense in paying for the event.

Then today, he told me that, in essence, if I take complete responsibility for taking care of our daughter while he works on a grant for the next week, he will give me $5K toward the party. I was headed out the door to go to work, otherwise I would have smacked him in the head. He probably thinks he's helping me financially, but I thought his comment was so out of line I'm sitting here still shaking mad.

So, I think a trip to the woodshed is due when he gets home tonight. I would stand on the corner with a paper cup and beg for change before I took money from him to pay for this party.

Am I right to be so angry?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, you are right to be angry.

Frankly, I also don't quite understand the topology of your relationship; a marriage shouldn't be a transaction. You don't exactly seem to relate to each other as husband and wife.

In a related observation, I never quite understand separate bank accounts, in a marriage. Isn't a marriage about sharing everything? The rib and I have never had separate accounts, because it would just be silly.


19th & Kst, N.W., Washington, D.C.: About a year or so ago, someone wrote in saying that people in D.C. are entirely too impatient (true). They gave an example of someone behind them at a stop light who honked their horn just a few seconds after the light turned green. The person who wrote in said that those few seconds have no impact on people getting through the light and that folks should be more patient. I'm curious as to what you think about this. I think it is imperative that the car in the front of the line -- at the green light -- should think of those behind them, I do. I think that those precious few seconds trickle down the line of cars and that a car that should have been able to get through the light was now rejected that possibility and has to wait again, slowing down traffic even more. If I'm at the front of the line, I look at the lights that are perpendicular to my light to gauge as to when my light will be turning green and accelerate accordingly, hopefully allowing as many cars to get through as possible. Anyway, just wanted to let that person know that those few seconds matter to me. And yes, I may just be trying to justify my own impatience.

Gene Weingarten: I am totally with you. When the guy at the light fails to move in the first two seconds, he is consigning people a few cars back to the dreaded moment of either missing the light or having to roar through a changing light and risking a head-on. When I am at the light, I make sure I move the second it turns green.

I actually think honking is the DUTY of the car directly behind the guy who is asleep at the wheel. If he really doesn't know the light has changed, he might be screwing everyone. (I have seen such a situation, where the only one who makes it through the light was the guy who was asleep, roused into attention by the honking behind him. And this explains why I am an atheist. No just God could allow such a thing.)


University-land, USA: Gene, would you mind expanding on your comments from last week about Ann Coulter: "As far as plagiarism, if you are referring to the link below, that is total nonsense. A ridiculous cheap shot. These things are not plagiarism."

I watched the video you linked, and if any of my students (I'm a college prof) submit papers with a string of sentences that nearly match someone else's writing, they are summoned into my office for a chat (I use freeware provided by UVA to search for similarities).

I certainly don't think it's worth getting worked up about Ann Coulter, but in my view that's plagiarism. What's the difference?

(If it matters, I teach engineering, and these are lab reports.)

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, take a look at this video. What they are talking about are a few throwaway, boring sentences. These are not significant observations or proprietary information. It would be as though I copied this from an encylopedia: "Cairo is a city of 3.2 million, a thriving metropolis on the Nile." I mean, who cares? It's just information, not really the significant intellectual property of anyone.

A real cheap shot. Shameless (MSNBC via YouTube)


Northern Virginia: Thought you'd get a kick out of this (yes, it is sad to pick on those who may have mental difficulties, but still). Rarely is a headline quite so...visual.

Gene Weingarten: It's just a perfect headline.


Gene Weingarten: This just in --

I wanted to let the person with the bump on her leg to know that it sounds like the beginning of erythema nodosum, which is an inflammation in the legs. It starts off as one small bump in the shin area, but then it spreads and the bumps get bigger and will eventually hurt on their own. It's caused by anything from a reaction to a medication (including birth control) to a disease or virus to stress and fatigue. Or, as my doctors put it, "really, anything can cause it." She'll probably be sent to a dermatologist, and be put through a few tests. The good news is that the treatment is relatively easy- a few super-strength advils and some steriod cream. Now, I am not a doctor or anything like that, but i've had erythema three times in the last seven years, and no one knows why! And, the first time I let it get so bad that when I finally went to the derm, he took a picture of my legs so he could show his med students what an 'advanced case' looks like! Cool, huh?


Gene Weingarten: And thanks to Eric Benson from Arlington, who submitted this link, as a definitive and axhaustive discussion of lefty catchers:

It's interesting, but I do not buy its conclusion that the reason there have been VIRTUALLY NO lefty catchers EVER is simply the result of myth. That just flat-out makes no sense. If you read the article carefully, the only explanation he doesn't refute convincingly is the real one: The throw to third.


UPDATED 7.21.06

Virginia: We don't need no stinkin producers!

No, but seriously, of all the chats, how the hell does YOURS get cancelled for lack of producers? You get the most submissions, don't you?

Oh, and why can't you tell us how many posts you get? Last week at least two people said how many Qs were submitted...

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure if this is still considered confidential information or not. If you're reading this in the update, then Liz has permitted it. My chat gets between 500 and 900 posts per hour. Watch for Gene turning up in a different venue on Tuesday.


Minneapolis, Minn.: "I did it because her pic adorns her column, and it has crossed the mind of every single hetero male reading that column. Also, I happen to know she doesn't mind."

As a woman, I mind even if she doesn't. Should I have to worry about putting up my picture and every male deeming a hottie or not. Shame!

Gene Weingarten: Okay, now wait a minute. Wait just one cotton-pickin' minute. Let's deal with the issues here. Just how hot ARE you? And what are you wearing?

Hahahahahaha. Okay, now, seriously, I think you are mis-framing the issue.

Dr. Bonior is not some private woman whose photo is on her Web site. She is public, a subject of public debate. She is a professional relationships counselor in a newspaper, who advises people about their love lives. She included this picture with her columns, and she is very sexy looking. This is funny. Or, at least, interesting. I don't think it is demeaning to her, or other professional women, to point this out.

I think I made it clear I was respecting her professionally. I was quoting her as an authority on a complex psychological issue. The rest was a joke.


Clarksburg, Md.: Runners usually steal third because of catcher indifference, that's because the runner on second is already in scoring position and the catcher does not want to chance a bad throw.

Gene Weingarten: Have you ever actually watched a baseball game? I thought not.


UTI Veteran: Pee after sex. I haven't had one since my gyn told me to try that.

Gene Weingarten: Are you listening, ladies? Pee after sex. Reading between the lines, I would add that if you are married or in a long term relationship, you should also have sex more often with your guy, who really loves you even if he doesn't show it all the time.


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