Chatological Humor* (Updated 11.3.06)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 31, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 11.1.06 | 11.2.06 | 11.3.06

Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.

He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.

He'll chat about anything...

This Week's Poll: Men | Women

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

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon. Booga booga.

Today's intro will focus on Murphy the puppy, the subject of my column on Sunday . The column you read is four sentences shorter than the column I wrote, courtesy Tom the Butcher. Here is how it happened:

After I handed the column in, Tom called me and said he was worried about one little section that might cause people to vomit, which he contended was a bad thing to happen on a Sunday morning. But Tom kind of liked the section, so he decided to seek another opinion. He asked managing editor Sydney Trent to read it. Sydney is not only an excellent editor, but, by virtue of being an actual woman, is perforce more qualified than Tom to rule on matters of taste and decency.

Five minutes later, Tom called me back.

"We have to lose it," he said. His voice had that hollow, haunted tone that Roy Scheider used in Jaws, when he told Richard Dreyfuss that they needed a bigger boat.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because," Tom said, "I watched Sydney reading and laughing and then I actually saw when she hit that part."

"How did you know?"

"Because suddenly her jaw dropped, her eyes bugged, and all the color drained from her face. I saw this. I was physically present for this."

So, we cut it out. But since it is neither Sunday nor morning, I deliver it to you now, in context. I think you'll locate it:

... Hers is particularly entertaining poop. If you've ever had a pound puppy, you know they come with worms. It's a standard feature, like wiper blades. What you don't know if you've never owned a puppy is that "worms" is not a colorful, metaphorical term for something more scientific, the way, say, "athlete's foot" is. No, these are worms. You mistake them for anything else, and you certainly can't miss 'em. They could bait a hook for marlin.

--

This column engendered two kinds of reader response. The first was a deluge of e-mails from owners of Plott hounds. Many of these people wanted to tell me about theirs -- sweet, affectionate, intelligent dogs who have destroyed their homes, marriages, and peace of mind. Yes, Plotts apparently can be a bit of a handful. One woman advised me to put Murphy up for adoption immediately before everything I know and love on Earth is corrupted by the Satanic malignancy that is the Plott Hound.

One theme that runs through many of these warnings is that Plotts have ravenous appetites for non-foodstuffs, including many substances commonly found in furniture. A nice, succinct, funny summary of this can be found in this excellent Web site , in which the blogger writes about her Plott, BD ("Brown Dog.") -- (S-word alert! You may avert your eyes.)

So far, Murphy has splendidly discharged her duties as family dog -- much affection, obvious intelligence, no house destruction at all -- but she definitely dines ubiquitously. She will leave a bowl of food half full, go outside, and eat wood chips. She has consumed the bristles of a broom. Yesterday, I was with her in the front yard, talking to my neighbor Kim. A professional gardener, Kim looked down and said, "Uh oh, I think she's dug up a bulb." And yes, Murphy did seem to be happily chomping on something bulbous, but the damage was done, so I let her keep it. Minutes went by. She was still chewing it. Finally, I extracted it from her mouth. It was a partially eaten rock.

So, those Plott hound letters were the deluge. There was a second kind of mail I got, which was more of a drizzle. It was, however, acid rain, if you get my drift. Many people contended that I was showing extreme cultural bias against poor rural Americans, specifically in this paragraph:

Our puppy and her sister had been rescued from an extremely rustic northern Virginia county composed mostly of shotgun enthusiasts and second-year cosmetology students. The diet staple of the county is weasel jerky. The average household consists of Cletus and Sharleen and the young 'un, Skeeter, who acts a little hinky but is fine if you don't rile him none. Actual true fact: Two of the towns in this county are named "Fleeburg" and "Leaksville."

I promised several of these readers -- many of whom actually hailed from Page County, to which I was referring -- that I would address this issue in the chat today, and explain why I intended no offense. Then I told them that they could actually join the chat and give their opinions, assuming they could locate one of them new-fangled "computer" thingummies that look like a typewriter with a TV attached. Haha. I am a dead man.

Okay, here's my answer:

That paragraph in my column is completely indefensible. Seriously, it is, so long as you are applying to humor the same standards of fairness and sensitivity that you would apply to an op-ed essay or a news story. But you shouldn't do that. The nature of humor is that it is not to be taken literally. Humor traffics in exaggeration.

Was I trying to say that my pup came from an area where people live in a rustic, rifle-totin' way that would seem unsophisticated to someone with the elitist, cityboy snob-sophisticate persona I adopt in my column? Yes, I was. But my specifics were ludicrous. Weasel jerky? What I was making fun of was not the reality but the ridiculous Beverly Hillbilly stereotype. That paragraph was so over-the-top it yodeled out: Just kidding, people.

Which brings us to the question: Do I have a RIGHT to kid about this? A couple of letter writers asked if I would have joked in the same way about black stereotypes - watermelons, and such. No, I would not. There is a toxicity in those stereotypes, and I would not go there.

What's the difference? Rural Americans have not been lynched and beaten and marginalized for centuries based on poisonous assumptions that persist to this day. It's a completely different theater of operations, for a writer. This is not a valid comparison.

A better comparison would be making fun of New Yorkers like me for being rude and obnoxious. Or Canadians for being bland fuddyduddies. Or blondes for being vapid. These things might be judgmental. They're not "nice." They might have the effect of keeping in play stereotypes that some people find annoying or ignorant. But they do not, in my opinion, cross a line that must not be crossed. And they are, at their heart, just jokes, without serious cultural baggage.

(I did get a few letters from Page County residents who seemed to get the joke. One was from Jim Logan, a government-studies teacher at Luray High School. Jim invited me to visit the school and join the students for lunch. On Tuesdays, he said, "we have possum belly and pork fat." )

Above all -- and I know this is self-serving -- I contend that you have to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who is trying to make you laugh. That should be your default position, absent serious evidence of malign intent: He's trying to entertain us, let's give him a break.

Okay, then!

On the subject of dogs and Halloween, we deliver THIS , which circulates on the Web under the subject line "Why dogs bite people."

On the subject of Halloween, Jean Sorensen of Herndon, who teaches preschoolers, was looking online for Halloween-related songs, and found this cheerful one:

Title: Safe Treats (sung to Frere Jacques)

Never eat your treats

Never eat your treats

Till they're checked

Till they're checked

Show them to Mommy

Show them to Daddy

Make sure they're safe

Make sure they're safe

And on the subject of today's poll ( Men | Women ), Amber Haugeto writes: OK, so we've all seen the Dove Ad with the fantastically distorted modeling advertisement ostensibly contributing to the rampant self-hatred and warped sense of body image that zillions of women like me suffer from.

But we're still much, much smarter than guys .

Guys all over the country are right now sitting protectively crosslegged.

Anyway, please take the poll. The last question is getting a very interesting answer, which I believe I can explain.

The Comics Pick of the Week is a slam dunk: Sunday's Doonesbury . First runner-up is Wednesday's Frazz . Honorables: Thursday's Frank and Ernest , Today's Zits , and Sunday's Get Fuzzy , which appears to be about Murphy.

There is a pretty good object lesson in the quality extremes of political cartooning if you compare the aforementioned Sunday's Doonesbury with today's unconscionable Prick City .

And last, there is a riddle in today's Frazz . You may remember that every Halloween, Caulfield becomes a cipher, dressing up as some character from literature. We're supposed to guess. Yesterday we learned that he was not going to utter a word, and today (link) we see the character. Anyone?

Okay, let's go.

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Gene Weingarten: I should point out that I do not know who Caulfield's character is, but Jef Mallett has promised to confirm it, if anyone guesses.

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Murphydog: I saw you and your puppy and she is very cute! She was trying to break into the liquor store. Does she get along with the liquor store dog and vice versa?

Gene Weingarten: She gets along with everybody, human or canine. (Er, except for intruders, whose throats she rips out.)

But Wendy the Liquor Store Dog wants no part of an exuberant pup.

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So, Gene...: ...a guy goes into a restaurant and orders Eggs Benedict... and when the waiter brings it out, it's served on a hubcap.

And the guy says "Why did you serve my Eggs Benedict on a hubcap?"

And the waiter sings "'Cause there's no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise..."

Thank you, you've been lovely, please tip the servers on your way out.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Driver's License Sha, ME: Gene,

Can you do a poll in a similar vein, men and women separated, asking them to indicate the weight they filled out in their driver's license application, and then to indicate an approximation of their actual weight? I know mine's off by at least 15 pounds.

I'd be so curious to see how - if at all - the margins of deception vary between the genders!

I know that I never reveal my actual weight to anybody. In fact, it's the only thing about me that I REFUSE to tell my husband, whom I started dating in 1999 and married in 2005.

P.S.: At an Old Country Buffet I once watched a 6-foot-plus 300+lb dude confidently stack approximately ten chicken-friend steaks on his plate and head back for his table. If he has any buffet shame at all, does this mean that he would have ideally opted for 15 or more?

Gene Weingarten: My driver's license has my correct weight on it -- 175 -- but I do have a different, completely dispiriting document in my wallet. I am looking at it now. It is my actual draft card from 1969. My weight is ... 145.

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The Addams Family: Gene,

Since today's Halloween and there's an author out there doing a book tour on her biography of Charles Addams, creator of the cartoon family, what do you think of the rhyming structure in the show's theme song?

"They're creepy and they're kooky,

Mysterious and spooky,

They're all together ooky,

The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum

Where people come to see 'em

They really are a scream

The Addams Family.

(Neat)

(Sweet)

(Petite)

So get a witches shawl on

A broomstick you can crawl on

We're gonna pay a call on

The Addams Family."

Other than the "Scree-um" line...and the continuous use of rhyming "on" with "on"...and creating a word like "ooky"...actually, it's pretty bad.

How would you rewrite it?

Gene Weingarten: I wouldn't. It's excellent.

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Urgent Problem!!: This problem arose even before today's article in the Post: My wife and I are planning to humiliate teens who trick-or-treat our house by giving them condoms. We're getting a lot of pushback from people we know. Keeping in mind that we don't mind if we anger our neighbors (and in fact would enjoy being sued by someone over this), we need to know: is this funny? Or too much?

washingtonpost.com: Ghosts of Halloween Past: Teenage Trick-or-Treaters Unmasked , ( Post, Oct. 31 )

Gene Weingarten: Okay, listen up.

You know I am a smartass cynic, right? I condone edgy jokes. I am a pretty tasteless guy.

Do not do this. Repeat, do not do this.

There are many reasons, but only two you need to know. 1) It's more creepy than funny. 2) At least one parent is going to be seriously angry with you, and may even direct a cop to your door.

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McLean, Va.: Hi Gene -- I'm a college senior, and I need good last-minute ideas for a Halloween costume. I'm not really going for blood and gore, rather something that will make people either go "oh yeah!" or will make them laugh. Can you help a girl out?

P.S.: I heart you AND Liz.

washingtonpost.com: Awww, thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Two giant pieces of styrofoam. Front and back. Encase yourself. You are a urinal deodorant cake.

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Its all about confidence: So I am not fat. But I would be if I didn't exercize. I love food. But my best friend and I approach eating very differently. We are both 24 years old, weigh 135 lbs and are about 5'4. She's cute with big boobs, I'm cute with a nice butt. Everythings cool.

She comes for dinner and I cook. She says "I don't want very much, so don't make any for me". I think she thinks she burns calories by SAYING she won't eat something. But then she eats it anyway. She would never be first in line for the buffet. Ever. She'd probably rather die. If there was a buffet and she was the only one in the room, I don't know that she would eat, for fear someone might walk in and see that she went first. I, by contrast, would knock over a grandmother if she was moving too slow in the line.

Its all about confidence. I also think there's a fair amount of projection. If you notice what's on other people's plates (I don't) then you assume everyone else is looking at yours. Maybe women are looking at what I eat and making assumptions, I don't know what they'd assume. Women need to calm down. Start exercizing regularly then start Eating the cupcake, the fried chicken, the ice cream. You'll be way happier.

Gene Weingarten: Maybe women are looking at other people's plates BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY. BECAUSE THEY WON'T GET FOOD FOR THEMSELVES. It's a cycle.

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Comics Queen: Hey, Weingarten, you self-centered ingrate, I read your chat about your Doonesbury piece last week and you didn't even mention that I was the one who not only suggested you do the profile, but then followed up with reminder messages to make sure you didn't drop the ball! But do you even throw a thank you my way? NOOOOOO! Do you even mention I saved you from an embarrassing error when I read the piece prior to publication? NOOOOO! So, for once, I am going to draw a line in the sand for all the copy editors in this newsroom who save all you reporters (AKA dunderheads) from yourselves time and time again and NEVER get any appreciation.

It was a great piece, and I loved reading it, but it wouldn't have existed at all if it wasn't for me.

Your offended colleague,

Suzanne Tobin

P.S. I look forward to some serious groveling and a lunch at an expensive restaurant of my choice.

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure who this person is.

Are you the quiet one in the corner who snaps chewing gum and is always reading romance novels?

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Flowers for Algernon?: Is that the Frazz character?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think so.

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Alexandria, Va.: Your description of the adopting experience reminded me of mine three years ago when I tried to adopt a cat from a humane society in Maryland. At the time my Lab (Tucker) was seven years old and in perfect health and he had been with me since he was eight weeks old, I bought him from a breeder. I figured this pet ownership experience plus a well paying job would make me a shoe in for adoption. I had chosen to adopt the oldest cat (five years old) who had been with the society the longest (two years), he had previously lived with dogs and had been scheduled for termination for well over a year according to the staff. In other words I choose the cat no one wanted. I even offered to donate (on top of the adoption fee) the cost to rescue another animal (you know to sweeten the deal).

I did not get the cat. My girlfriend at the time went with me to scout the inventory. The woman in charge of screening people asked her lots of questions and discovered that she had cats of her own, and that they were outdoor cats. Those familiar with this process know that this is a criminal offense. When I asked why I was denied I was told because my girlfriend allowed her cats to go outside. I pointed out that we were not married, did not live together and I had no plans to let the cat outside. I was then told that they couldn't take the risk that my girlfriend would use sex to convince me to let me cat outside. I am all for doing your best to ensure the animals new home is right for them, but wow I was totally unaware of a rampant sex for letting the cat outdoors crime wave! I promptly went to Petsmart, adopted Max, dropped a $300 donation, and Max has made it three years in perfect health, and has not once been allowed outside. The girlfriend did not fare so well for unrelated issues, and she never once attempted to use sex to force me to let the cat outside. My new concern is that my current girlfriend and I have decided not to have kids and as a result do not intend on getting married, what does this do to our chances of adopting in the future?

Gene Weingarten: Oh yeah. This is the notorious Lysistrata Gambit, in which devious she-devils tease men into frothing desire and then force them to throw their cats out the window before they are sated. There was a gang of these women in Montgomery County years ago. It was the Great Gaithersburg Feline Defenestration Holocaust.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, okay, Suzanne.

Yes, you suggested that I do Trudeau when he declined to do a comics chat with you, on the theory that he might conceivably go for a greater degree of publicity. You were right, okay? And, yesm, you caught me having Sam confess she's afraid of her daddy to the wrong person. You were right again, okay?

But I can't take you out for dinner. It just wouldn't look... right. Two famous comics people like us. Opposite sex. Obvious "chemistry." People would talk.

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Frazz -- Caulfield is...: the invisible man.

Gene Weingarten: Nope.

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Do Not Distribute Condoms: Do not give out condoms on Halloween, not because of any controversy, but because it violates one of my rules of life:

Never arm the children.

If you distribute condoms, expect your house to be barraged with water filled condom missiles.

Gene Weingarten: Good point. Water or something else.

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Luray, Va.: As I e-mailed you, when I read the article to my students here at Luray High School in Page County, we got the joke and picked up on your humor. I think most people did not get offended. I was born and raised in Page County and chose to return here for my teaching career. We do have a sense of humor, and the kids were eager to give examples of the people you described -- Cletus, Sharleen and Skeeter. We laughed and went on. We did not think that you meant to offend or hurt us in any way. We should always remember that it is healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves.

Gene Weingarten: Cool. Thanks for writing in, Jim.

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Baltimore, Md.: Billy Budd swabbing a deck

Gene Weingarten: Nope.

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Sleepless in Annandale, Va.: Your comment recently (last week?) about never passing gas in front of your wife reminded me of a story from when Hope was born. I was in hard labor-the last stage before pushing, when Moms know, it can be hard to even get a word out-and no drugs (what was I thinking?). My husband was right there with me helping me with the breathing and focusing outside my body and all that other stuff you're supposed to do. Well, as the baby progresses it can create a lot of pressure. So completely beyond my control I let loose the most tremendous wind you can imagine. Then, in a barely audible voice, I said "excuse me".

My husband and I started laughing hysterically (great for getting through the pain I might add). Here I am in hard labor, about to pass a baby (and hopefully nothing else unpleasant, although that happens too) and I'm excusing myself for passing gas! It was just absurd and it still makes me laugh. Anyway, after that, I think the cat is out of the bag.

Gene Weingarten: You know, Holly, this is funny but it is also something of a milestone. I have said many times that this chat gets most of its best material specifically because it is anonymous, and people will say almost anything if their identity is protected. We have had ladies discuss their wiping techniques, and so forth.

However... WE ALL KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

I am so honored. We all are.

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Herndon, Va.: You want to know why one would reject gay marriage. It's a quick two-parter.

First part: The standard argument for gay marriage -- all we're doing is giving traditional marriage a tweak to be more inclusive for folks who love each other -- is risible. It is risible because no one knows what the long term effects on social institutions. No one knows the effects of the willingness to enter into marriage that will result from opening it up in this way. If you think you can easily foresee it, you are deluded, because such transformations are largely unpredictable.

Second part: Traditional marriage is such an important good, especially for children, that you shouldn't screw with it, especially in big doses.

And don't try any analogies with anti-miscegenation laws. (1) The character of marriage as man/woman is as cross-cultural, cross-societal as can be. Anti-miscegenation is a blip in comparison. (2) The biological reality of man/woman is as plain as can be; the biological reality of race is dubious at best.

Gene Weingarten: First part:

You are theorizing, then, that if gays are permitted to marry, straights will be so skeeved out that they will STOP getting married, because the institution has been polluted? That is wildly offbase, in my opinion, but it is also irrelevant. It is like arguing against desegregation of schools on the grounds that white parents will yank their kids out rather than let them mingle with black kids. Too bad. There are things that are right, and society demands that we do them. You cannot decide public policy by caving in to prejudices.

Second part:

Haven't we already "screwed" with traditional marriage, within the traditional marriage structure itself? Half of marriages end in divorce! The system ain't working so great right now, maybe tinkering with it can help, in the sense of letting people enter the system who will be fiercely grateful for this status, and not take it for granted the way so many straights do.

But this is all pap. The fact is, it is the right thing to do. All posts like this do is confirm my point: It is impossible to argue against gay marriage, unless you feel that gays are somehow inferior. Say it. SAY IT. Say it.

You know, I would have a certain intellectual respect for someone who said "I think marriage should be between a man and a woman because gayness is aberrent and a sickness and we should not sanction it the way we sanction the union of a man and a woman, which is, by comparison, pure and healthy."

But very few people will say it this way. Because they know how it makes them look. It makes them look like what they are. So, instead, we get logically ridiculous posts like this one, and the one that follows.

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Nasal Sex: On the Gay Marriage question, I really have no issue with it. Gays should be allowed to forge what ever legal unions that anyone else is allowed to have, but what concerns me is the effort to equate gay rights with civil rights. I don't want to be forced to have to hire someone based on their preferred bedroom activity. I am afraid that the gay marriage issue is really a ploy to legitimize the perception that gays are a minority deserving of discrimination protection/quotas. I agree gays are a minority and that in many ways they are discriminated against, however I do not agree that they deserve any special treatment in the eyes of the law based on their own private sex lives (and they should be private). By that reasoning, I would earn protections and rights if I declared that I preferred nasal sex. Therefore, I do not oppose gay marriage, but I refuse be hoodwinked into the false mindset of civil rights for gays. Thanks, I had to get that off my chest.

Gene Weingarten: Well, seriously, thank you for sharing that. I am impressed by your honesty and your willingness (even given that this is an anonymous forum) to expose your thickheaded bigotry.

Do you not understand that gay people are a minority historically persecuted for what they are, and that what they are is every bit as innate as being black or having breasts? It's not just what they do in private in the bedroom, dorko -- they're persecuted for who they are. How they express themselves. The image they present to the world.

What on earth do you mean by "special treatment"? Was it special treatment when laws were passed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race? Or gender? How is this different, if you acknowledge that gays are a minority that has been the victim of bias?

Or is it that you think that -- unlike blacks or women -- gays are a little bit "icky"? You're just a little uncomfortable with their being treated as actual people?

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Halloween Frazz: I think that today's Frazz strip, in combination with Monday's, makes it pretty clear that Caulfield is posing as Chief from Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Fine, although it seems too easy--I seem to remember it being much harder to guess Caulfield's "costume" in previous years.

What bothers me about today's strip, though, is that Mallett clearly seems to be making a parallel between Caulfield's teacher and Nurse Ratched. Eek. Isn't that a bit much? She's overbearing and has no sense of humor, yes, but a manipulative sadist? Maybe I'm oversensitive, but I actually think that Mallett went over the line with this one.

Gene Weingarten: I believe you got it. A clue is the Oregon t-shirt. I am waiting for confirmation from Jef.

Gene Weingarten: And yes, Jeff has just confirmed this. Good for you. Oregon was a subtle hint. That's where it took place.

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Pat the Perfect, ME: Chief Bromden?

Gene Weingarten: Almost perfect, but not fast enough, sweetiepie.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Gene, I used to be really hooked on Limericks. In fact, during the Clinton impeachment chatfest, I tried to get everyone to post in Limerick. It was nice. Really mean people started writing mean Limericks that weren't quite as mean as prose-ranting mean. Here's one I wrote to a particularly nasty poster(since rededicated to Rush Limbaugh):

It may not be manners he lacks

in his vicious and mindless attacks;

he's simply devoid,

to quote my friend Freud,

of that which belongs in his slacks.

So now I'm kind of hooked on double dactyls. Instead of lying awake seething about Republicans I lie awake trying to think of six-syllable words. Here's my first attempt. Please be kind. I triple-heart you, want to have your puppies, and will snap like last year's wishbone if you respond harshly.

Speaking in tongues, evan-

gelical Christians ex-

pect that the Rapture will

come any day;

I'll be ecastatic when

every last one finds his

extraterrestrial

home far away.

Yes?

Gene Weingarten: Your limerick was better.

Your meter is fine, but this is not really a double dactyl. A dd requires that the first line be double-dactylic gibberish, a la Higgledy Piggledy.

But more important, the really good dactyl ends with a clever play on words or an original thought. Yours is pretty pedestrian ... essentially, saying -- good, let em all get snorked up into another realm.

Also, one hyphen in a double dactyl is acceptable, but not classy. Two is a defeat.

Sorreeeee.

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Great Divi, DE: Thanks for mentioning the Addams Family.

Out of the great divides of the human experience - Cat person vs dog person, coke vs pepsi, boxer vs. brief etc. - I think there is no greater indicator of intellectual aptitude than the Addams Family versus The Munsters divide.

Smart people= Addams Family; cretins = The Munsters.

Discuss

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Addams was much more cerebral. But Herman Munster was a funny character.

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Lansing, Mich.: Jef Mallett:

This is great! I'm taking notes; I shouldn't have to think too hard for the next several Halloweens.

ps -- Gene and Suzanne, dinner: I'm buying. Watching really smart people catfight is WAY better than even the biggest dumb people.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Washington, D.C.: My heart is breaking. Last night, we had to put our family dog to sleep. She was 16 and a half years old. I was 10 years old when we brought her home and to be honest, I don't really remember what life was like without her. She had such a warm and friendly "personality" that everyone who met her couldn't help but love her (there wasn't a dry eye in the vet's office last night).

She was a Pavlovian dog through and through. We would give her Frosty Paws (dog ice cream) every time we celebrated a birthday, so the second she saw a birthday cake or wrapped presents, she would go nuts, jumping around and singing (she was a Cocker Spaniel, so she had that little singsong voice that Cockers get when they're excited) until we put the ice cream in her dish. She loved going on trips in the car with our family, and a number of times, as we were packing up the car to go to a relative's house, we'd look around and say, "where's Ladybug?" and she would have already "packed" herself in the backseat of the car -- she knew that suitcases meant a trip and she wanted to make sure she was going along too.

She was always underfoot, she was always trying to find and eat more food, and it was a losing battle to keep her from licking the dirty dishes in the dishwasher when we were cleaning up after a meal.

When we took her out for a walk, her back legs seemed to want to go faster than her front legs, so she'd sort of trot diagonally down the street. She hated thunderstorms, and -- back when she could still hear -- she would sometimes shoot into whichever room the most family members were in and stick to one of us like glue; 15-30 minutes later, we'd start to hear the first rumblings of thunder, and we knew she'd just heard them first and wanted to be with us when the storm came.

As she got older, it was harder for her to jump up into my parents' bed at night, so they put an ottoman at the foot of their bed so she could climb into and out of it as she pleased. My parents were always bumping into it and stubbing their toes on it, but there was never any question about keeping it there for her.

I will miss her sweet face and wagging tail so much when I go home to my parents' house. I will miss taking her for walks and I will miss falling a sleep with her curled up on my feet. But in the end, she didn't suffer (her heart just gave out, and it happened pretty quickly) and I'm so grateful for that. She had a good long life and a family that loved her so much -- she really wasn't a pet to us, she was the fifth member of our family. I just knew that if anyone would understand what my family is feeling today it would be you and the readers of your chat. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say a few words about our beloved Ladybug.

Gene Weingarten: I love that diagonal trot.

I don't believe in the supernatural, or the spiritual, but I make an exception with doggies. Every time a really neat dog like Ladybug dies, her spirit is re-born in a new puppy. This is simply self-evident, because of how many neat dogs there are.

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Sperryville, Va.: Gene -- saw the piece. I must say I was upset about the part about Page, but I think I now "get it." I guess I was most upset cause the girls at the Shelter where I got Murphy from have worked hard and long to get the Shelter in shape. It has gone from one of the worst places in Virginia to a "model" shelter that all of Virginia can be proud of. Perhaps you could mention that although Murph originated in Page -- you adopted her through SPCANOVA.org -- Her sister is currently looking at me, she just 10 minutes ago chewed the ottomon leg! She's a wonderful dog and still needs a home!

Gene Weingarten: See next post.

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McLean, Va.: Gene - I admire your decision to get a pound puppy, but do you really think there is something inherently immoral about buying from a reputable breeder? (I am specifically excluding, of course, puppy mills.)

I am honestly torn about this. On the one hand I can understand the desire to rescue unwanted dogs, but I also have sympathy for those who want to make sure they are not receiving damaged goods, or simply really want a puppy of a specific breed.

Isn't there some personal choice inherent in this? I mean, you seldom hear about people picketing the maternity ward at hospitals because there are so many worthy children available to adopt.

washingtonpost.com: Hounded , ( Post Magazine, Oct. 29 )

Gene Weingarten: I don't condemn people who buy from individual breeders. I condemn people who knowingly buy from puppy farms, where the moms are treated very very badly as birthing machines. Pet store dogs are often from places like this. You can inquire, and they have to tell you.

Wife and I were tempted to buy from a breeder, mostly because the process of going to a pound is heartbreaking. It tears us apart. You have to steel yourself before going, and then talk yourself down afterwards.

We did it anyway. And then, oddly, unintentionally, found ourselves with a purebred.

By the way, I am pretty sure Murphy's sister is still up for adoption. Her name is Bindi, and you can find her picture at www dot spcanova dot org slash doglist dot htm. I have written it that way for complex reasons involving this chat system's inability to publish a website.

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Washington, D.C.: This was submitted to Rob P.'s chat yesterday. Rob answered without even mentioning the porn.

Is there any browser out there that doesn't have the "Print" icon close to the address bar? I ask because the other day, I was surfing with my laptop (wireless) while my wife was on the desktop (wired). The printer is by the desktop. I wanted to click on the address bar to change the address and I hit print. Of course the current page printed. And of course, it was porn. Any way to prevent this from happening again?

Gene Weingarten: The reason Pegoraro didn't address the porn issue is that he is Robert Pegoraro and not Roberta Pegoraro. Because any woman would have come up with a really surefire way for this guy to assure it never happens again, and it wouldn't have involved the "browser."

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Washington, D.C.: Is Borat funny?

Gene Weingarten: Yes!

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Eastern Shore: So, Gene, we know you're fond of the boots and skirt combo on women, what do you think of fishnet stockings? Personally, I find mesh on flesh particularly delightful.

Gene Weingarten: Honest answer:

I find them incredibly trashy and therefore unsexy, unless they are being worn in an ironic fashion -- e.g., as part of a Halloween hooker outfit -- in which case I WILL drool.

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Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: My dog's name is Molly, my daughter's name is Murphy. Oh, the horror.

Gene Weingarten: Your daughter's name is Murphy? Wow. Props, big time.

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Gay Marriage: What's your position on polygamy? (Either direction, -andry or -gyny.) I don't think there are any arguments that can be made in support of gay marriage without also being in support of polygamy.

Personally, I'm fine with that. Anything consenting adults would like to do is fine with me. However there are people who say polygamy is "different" somehow, though I have yet to hear a convincing argument.

Gene Weingarten: Can someone weigh in with a good argument against polygamy? I am sure there is one.

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Food ly, IN: Hey Gene, I was flying this weekend from Boston to Cape Cod on Cape Air. At check in, they ask how much you weigh. Honesty is fairly important in this instance, in the interest of not plummeting to a watery death in an overburdened aircraft. They weigh bags, and weigh carry-ons, but don't weigh the people because they fear the embarrassment would cause people to no longer use their service. So they add 10 pounds for men, and 20 pounds for women. Isn't that a little firghtening?

Gene Weingarten: That's GREAT. How do you know this is true?

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1969 weight: Don't feel bad, I weight 135 pounds more than I did in 1969. Of course, I was 1 year old then.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Delray Beach, Fla: Weingarten --

When I first knew you almost 30 years ago you were funny in person, but not in print, although the Michigan legislature and an Guatemalan Green parrot were certainly available every day as absurdities.

Hiw did you get so funny and topical? Did it ruboff from editing Dave Barry at Tropic or is it only a Washington Post occurance?

Was there a moment or an evolution?

Keep it up. The web is a great thing for those of us in the Red Zone.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Okay, I am thinking. You knew me in Lansing. You're not Heldman or McDiarmid. You are a retired government guy. Jack Bales, maybe. You were with the Dept. of Natural Resources.

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Lansing, Mich.: Jef Mallett again:

No deliberate Nurse Ratched allusions. Which, you're right, that could be seen as a little creepy. Oopsie.

No, the dentist costume is left over from a gag last week and gets revisited Friday. Again, with no deliberate Nurse Ratched allusions. Sadism, though! But HAPPY sadism.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Gene:

I was horrified and laughing hysterically by a "survey" I just got from a non-existent group -- they called themselves commonsensemaryland.org, but no such Web site exists, although the survey was paid for by commonsenseohio.org, which does exist.

Amongst other nearly equally inflammatory questions ("do you believe that the words 'under God' should remain in the pledge of allegiance?"), they asked if I supported "...biomedical research on unborn babies."

Now, I of course answered that I DO support biomedical research on unborn babies, for really, how else are we going to develop products that lessen the toll of acne on our teenagers? And make the advent of wrinkles on the faces of trophy wives all over America a little later in their lives?

Gene Weingarten: Good answer.

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Dreamsofgene, Va: I had the dumbest dream last night. I dreamed you wanted to park your car and your pickup truck in my driveway so you could go somewhere. My husband and I realized we needed to use the driveway, so we decided to move your vehicles to the side of the road. I was going to move your car (the Mazda) but then I realized in the dream I couldn't drive stick shift. My husband had to move it. I moved the pick up truck, but then I realized I locked the keys inside. You didn't seem too mad about that, though. I woke up feeling...odd.

Gene Weingarten: Mazda update: My skull shift knob broke, so I bought a new shift knob on ebay. A real 8-ball.

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Houston, Tex.: You think Tom the Butcher is bad? Have you seen what the Houston Chronicle did to your Trudeau article? It went from 19 printed pages down to 8! They took out the Jane Pauley revelation, the stuff about his kids, hell, they didn't even print the accompanying Doonesbury strips! It's still a pretty good article, but man, they really took a hatchet to it. Did you know this was happening?

Gene Weingarten: Well, I just learned it from you.

I am not gonna read it.

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Baby Humor: Hello, Gene,

You may not remember, but you were the first person to realize I was pregnant about 14 months ago when I had sore breasts for what I thought was no reason.

The baby is now 5 months old, and in the mornings when I go to get him dressed, he looks at me with an expression that says, "Mommy! You were hiding, but I found you!" He then goes into a laughter that just screams of self-satisfaction with seeing through my clever ruse mixed with amazement that I thought I could get one over on him.

Is this a good sign?

Thanks,

Proud-and-no-longer-sore Mama

Gene Weingarten: It is. And I believe you are my first pregnancy diagnosis. That is because this was anonymous, in a chat. Ordinarily I would not tell a woman she was pregnant unless she was actually in the process of giving birth. This is very risky territory.

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Fort Collins, Colo.: I desperately need your help. Hax will not cut it with this, I need a man's opinion.

I swim, and many mornings at the pool I see the same people. One of them is a very attractive man, let's call him Tall Speedo Guy. Over the course of about a year, TSG and I have exchanged pleasantries and glances and have finally worked up to minor conversations. There is very limited opportunity for intercourse at the pool, because we're working out and our heads are under water most of the time. But we have overcome that obstacle. So now, I'm to the point where I think it would be nice to get to know him a little more. Should I wait on him to see if he's interested? Or should I just bounce right over there and ask him if he wants to go get coffee and talk swimming sometime?

I think it goes without saying that he has seen me practically naked, and as a female reader of this chat, that I am hot.

Gene Weingarten: I think you should invite him to lunch.

I think there are a lot of guys who are shy, and a lot of really good relationships that never happen because of women who adhere to an outdated notion of the physics of courtship.

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Del Ray, Alexandria, Va.: Hi Gene,

I need your help! I love Halloween. But, the last few years, I've noticed a lot of the following which ticks me off:

1. Older kids with no costumes

2. Grown-ups who are trick-or-treating along with their children. Seriously, they have their own bag.

3. Grown-ups who have a bag and when you look at them quizzically, they say "It's for the baby" (outside of the gate someone will be pushing a stroller with an infant or under one year old baby in a costume).

I've figured out what to do for the baby people, I've bought some Gerber snacks that are individually packed. Those people will get an "Oh, I've got special snacks for babies!" and a pack of Gerber fruit chews.

The old kids I don't mind so much as long as they are wearing a costume. But what about the adults? I say, you've got a job, buy your own candy! Can you or anyone else think of a good thing to hand out to adults? THANKS! Seriously -- I am not a crank, but -- trick-or-treating belongs to kids!

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, in my neighborhood there are two waves of trick or treaters. They start around four or five o'clock, and these are little kids in terrible costumes. This lasts about two hours. Then there is an hour or two down time, and then bored looking adolescents start showing up. They don't even say trick or treat, just hold out a bag. I tell em we've run out of candy.

This year, we're not answering the door at all. It would drive the puppy crazy. We'll be good neighbors again next year.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

How much does a comic strip earn the creator each day/year?

Can these people be pulling down six figures a year? If so, let me tell you about my latest comic idea...

Gene Weingarten: Comic strips are a poor person's business, unless the strip becomes very big, in which case they are a very rich person's business.

Rule of thumb is that the cartoonist makes about $500 a year for every newspaper his strip appears in. A strip that is pretty successful but not an American icon will be in about 100 newspapers. This would be even a very good strip like Frazz. (I'm guessing; Jef, you may correct me if I am way off in the numbers here.)

A strip that is really, really successful might be in 250 newspapers (Pearls Before Swine, also a guess).

It's only when you hit Garfield-Doonesbury-Family Circus stratosphere that it becomes a highly profitable enterprise. These guys are in 1,000 or more papers.

I should point out that by 1,000 or more papers, I am using the industry accounting standard, which counts the Sunday paper as separate. If you are in the daily and Sunday Post, that counts as two papers.

Cartoonists also make money on compilation books. But this is also not a huge figure.

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Montgomery, AL: My 16 month old is going trick or treating as a crocodile tonight. My husband and I are going to wear khaki shirts and shorts a la Steve Irwin. I find this hilarious. Others that I tell are horrified. Who's right?

(P.S. I was really sad when I saw several Payne Stewart costumes six days after his plane crash, but I think this is different)

washingtonpost.com: And then there's this .

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

By definition, there is no such thing as a tasteless Halloween costume.

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Annandale, Va.: Yesterday, a radio announcer said "it's 35 degrees outside and it'll be going up to 70. Wow. The temperature will double today!"

My question: How ignorant do you have to be to be on the radio?

Gene Weingarten: Ah, this reminds me of something. In the Post the other day, a writer noted that the Cards had a regular season record of 83-78, "which is five games over .500."

Does anyone see why that is both 1) defensible, but also 2) wrong?

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The last argument is always, "well don't call it marriage": I was thinking about this. So, most reasoning people who can be forced to concede the bigotry behind denying gay people the right to marry go through a series of rebuttals. My religion says no, well it's not traditional, well they can't naturally have children, etc. Usually the last thing in the series is, "well, just don't call it marriage," thus the civil commitment idea. I always wonder, why? Why do you care so much about what somebody else is doing and what their relationship is called, and why do you think that it affects your relationship. And this is what I think the answer is: a deep seated fear. Along the lines of the unknown, and the fear of some sinister plot to recruit others to that "deviant way of life." I think that these straight people who argue that any gay relationship cannot be called marriage are secretly afraid that if gay commitments get the label "marriage" then there may come a day when just saying "I'm married" does not identify you as straight. Or saying, "my husband or my wife" does not serve as an automatic and easy ouster of your heterosexual privilege. And people are afraid of losing their privilege. Just a thought.

Gene Weingarten: I'm with you till the end. I'm married to Zelda here will remain an indication that you are straight, unless you are Bertha, in which case it won't. I do think this is about fear, but not about fear of being gay.

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Dog Adoption: I also wanted to throw it out there that there are rescue organizations where you can adopt pets. I just adopted a dog from Tara's House (tarashouse.net). Tara's House takes animals from high-kill shelters in West Virginia and places them in homes. It's a non-profit run solely by volunteers who foster the animals and help to find them homes. One of the benefits of going thru Tara's House is that our dog had been fostered in a home for a few months, and the foster owner was able to provide us with info on his temperment and likes/dislikes.

I suppose that the predictability of getting a dog from a breeder is appealing to some people, but it seems selfish to me. There are SO MANY wonderful animals who deserve a safe and loving home.

Gene Weingarten: I know. I don't really want to proselytize, though. You can get some beautiful pups at breeders.

I will say our experience with Murphy (and Mattingly, Molly's new dog) is probably going to keep us at the pound if and/or when there is a next time.

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Polygamy: The argument against legalizing polygamy is simple: It would be impossible to enforce all of the contracts inherent to marriage if three or more people were involved.

You can support the right of three people involved in a polygamous relationship to live together, etc., but it's impossible to legally "marry" them.

Gene Weingarten: Can't you simply require a certain boilerplate contract? In which rights are enumerated?

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Sad Marital, State: "I know that I never reveal my actual weight to anybody. In fact, it's the only thing about me that I REFUSE to tell my husband, whom I started dating in 1999 and married in 2005."

That is deeply, deeply sad on so many levels. She is what? Afraid he won't love her anymore even though he CAN SEE WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE? Cares so much about her weight, the actual number, that she hides this from the person she is supposed to be closer to than anyone in the world? I want to cry.

Gene Weingarten: Listen, I believe, in marriage -- whatever it takes.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

The answers are pretty straightforward and unsurprising until the end, which we'll get to in a minute.

Women are bedeviled by the eating thing, men largely unconcerned. What I don't entirely get is lying about your weight. I pretty consistently weigh between 172 and 180 pounds. When I am standing in front of someone, they are looking at me and thinking "this guy weighs about 175 pounds." If they ask me my weight, and I say "155 pounds," they will be looking at me and thinking, "this guy weighs about 175 pounds and is also a liar."

Now, that last question. Women, in far greater numbers say they wouldn't care if their guy is porking up a little. Absolutely understandable. Men are more shallow AND more hypocritical. They'd care more about what the woman looks like, regardless of what THEY look like. This contributes to the women's terrible food anxiety, because they know men feel this way.

However, men are also much less likely to TELL their woman that she's porking up than women are likely to tell their man. That's because (this is good news for the guys) we know our babes' anxieties, and love these people, , and don't want to hurt them. We love you.

My wife has no weight problem, and never has. But if she did, I'd never say anything because I'd be afraid that within a few months she'd weigh less than our dog.

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Comics Queen: Your first reply made me LOL. You know I love ya, ya big lug.

Gene Weingarten: Yesm. Mutual.

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Frere Jacques?: Just catching up (pant, pant), haven't had time to read all the posts yet, so I imagine I'm probably the 47 gazillionth poster to tell you that the words to Hallowe'en song referred to up toward the beginning don't fit the tune or meter of "Frere Jacques."

Are your contributions today being ghostwritten?

Gene Weingarten: I actually made em work. You can. It's terrible, but you can.

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Because: It's five HALF GAMES over .500

Gene Weingarten: Yes. Though you could say, okay, what if they were 78-78, and then won five games. That's five wins over .500. But it's a bogus argument. Because if they had lost five more of their 162 games, their record would have been 78-83.

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Porn & Print icon: You cna customize your toolbar. So you could move the icon or even delete.

Gene Weingarten: Clearly you are a guy.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, I am a lesbian. A big one. And I just wanted to say thank you. Reading your responses to the folks who have issues with my marrying my partner makes me want to cry in a way that is not fitting, given my butch-dyke gender identity. But it's good. Sometimes I forget that there are good, reasonable and decent people like yourself out there. People who have no reason to involve themselves in this other than fairness and the fact that it is the right thing to do. So, thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Awwww. Well, I'd give you a great big kiss, if you'd let me.

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Lansing, Mich.: Jef once more, and you're a little low on the numbers, but close enough for ballpark.

All of which will be forgotten in the shock of the earlier entry, in which a woman finds a man in a Speedo attractive. This is big stuff! I used to wear those when I trained in the pool, but was a very happy guy indeed when they started making them in mid-thigh lengths. Wow. I may have been self-conscious for nothing. Then again, maybe I just need to look more like Tall Speedo Man.

Gene Weingarten: I've seen Jef, and he's pretty trim and hardbodied. He's a bike rider. But the man's ears have to be a problem, aerodynamically.

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Polygamy: I'm not sure about this. It just seems that polygamy seems sexist to me. Do you ever hear or read about a woman with multiple husbands? I haven't. It always seems to be a man with a harem of women. Granted these women seem fine with the deal, but I just don't know.

Gene Weingarten: But... if they're fine with the deal...?

There is an inverse condition. It's called polyandry. But you don't hear much about it. I wonder why.

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Hanover, Va.: I've always thought the "games above .500" stat sounded a little odd. Sure, a team that is 78-78 is playing .500 ball. As 83 is 5 more than 78, you'd think you are 5 games above .500. But . . . if you've played a full season of 162 games (one more than a team that has gone 83-78), the '.500 ball' standard is 81-81. So, the team that has won 83 games is really only 2 games above .500.

So, depending on how you look at it, you are either 5 games over .500 or 2 games over .500. Which seems confusing and so very, very wrong -- sort of like "biannual", which can mean twice per year or once every other year.

washingtonpost.com: zzzzzz

Gene Weingarten: Let's not wake Liz. Then I can get by with a LOT of bad stuff.

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Washington, D.C.: Women may lie about weight, but men lie about height. I am 6' tall and I can't tell you how many times a guy says "How tall are you?" "6'" "Nah, can't be because I'm 6'1" as he stands obviously 5'9". I just nod and smile at this point because I have learned that any effort to disagree with them often ends up in "Lets stand back to back." Eeee.

Gene Weingarten: This is absolutely correct.

I tell people I am five ten, and the last time I measured, I was. But the last time I measured was 1970.

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Oxford, Miss: The best argument against polygamy is that it is historically intertwined with abusive and non-consentual relationships. Polygamy is entirely about domination of the one spouse over the many. The many are there to better serve the needs of the one, but not so much vice-versa. I'm sure you could have very balanced and completely consentual and healthy polygamous relationships but it's far from the norm. Not the same with one-on-one gay or straight relationships.

Gene Weingarten: This is absolutely true, but we ARE dealing with consenting adults.

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Comics, DC: Is Suzanne still there? My cartoonist son needs a job.

Gene Weingarten: Suzanne doesn't actually HIRE cartoonists....

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Doof, US: I don't get Sunday's Doonesbury.

Gene Weingarten: It is an inversion of what the White House is so good at -- posing false choices, as in "If you don't support the president, you support the terrorists."

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Costumes: What's so funny about dressing up to imitate the sudden death of a public figure? (ie, Steve Irwin costumes) I appreciate tasteless humor generally, but I don't see the appeal here. It's not very creative I guess I just find it crude and kind of offensive.

Gene Weingarten: I repeat. There is no such thing as an offensive Halloween costume.

Remember when one of the princes dressed in a Nazi uniform? Bad judgment, but not tasteless.

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Mazda update: "My skull shift knob broke, so I bought a new shift knob on ebay. A real 8-ball."

Now THAT'S tacky!

Gene Weingarten: Nope. Because I know it is tacky. It would only be tacky if I didn't know.

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Washington, D.C.: Lying about your weight - I know nobody who is any good at judging weight. I know people who weigh a lot more than I do, and look a lot smaller, and people who weigh less than I do and look huge. I have no way to judge.

So I never can tell from looking at someone how much they weigh.

I bet that's fairly common.

Gene Weingarten: Besides, the number means nothing. For example, I am five ten and 175 pounds. Tiki Barber is five ten and 210 pounds. Which one of us do you think most women would want to spend the night with?

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Burke, Va.: What does Suzanne actually do if she doesn't hire comics?

Gene Weingarten: No one actually knows. It's one of the great mysteries at the Post. Len Downie once created a task force to find out, but they just threw up their hands.

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Page County: Yes, I knew you were going for humor. But it was a sorta sad rehash of all the snarky comments elitist urban writers do all the time. I could go on and on with NYC comments. Take the best of your hometown and improve on it, no matter urban or rural, and you'll do just fine in life. But when it's all said and done I'd still rather be a child of the South and the hills than a Honker from New York.

Gene Weingarten: See, there you go. A honker! I'm not offended. And that's me you're talking about.

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Jef: Is Jef single? Funny , swims, biker, sounds like a real catch.

If single: Hey Jef want to goout for dinner sometime.

Gene Weingarten: Patty, you want to respond to this?

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Arlington, Va.: I have a pain in my abdomen that started over the weekend (I'm a 25-year-old female). I have my annual physical next Monday but am concerned that in the meantime, I might die of a ruptured appendix. Or that despite not being aware that I'm pregnant, that I might have an ectopic pregnancy.

The pain is on my lower right side, where my appendix is. When my brother had his appendix taken out he was also sore on the left side, but mine is fine. I am also able to pass gas, which WebMD says wouldn't be the case. I don't think I could be pregnant as I'm currently mid-cycle and not all newlyweds screw like bunnies.

Am I safe to hold out until Monday and assume I won't die in the meantime?

Gene Weingarten: If the pain is getting worse, you should not delay.

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Fairfax, Va.: steve irwin (and other similar themes) is a a funny costume for the same reason that poop jokes are funny. because we really are nasty unfeeling animals at our core, regardless of of what pretense of civility we may delude ourselves with.

-POOP-

Gene Weingarten: I would argue it is funny for two reasons:

1. Because it IS tasteless. It is shocking, and shock is a key element of humor.

2. Because the whole Steve Irwin death became such a ridiculous media circus. It's a comment on celebrity.

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Houston editing: Can they do that? What are the rules about editing something in syndication?

Gene Weingarten: They can do whatever the heck they want. They are buying the use of a wire service that carries Post stories. The stories are there for them to edit, or butcher, as is there wont. This is one reason it is hell to be an AP reporter, where you don't even have your own newspaper to get it right.

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Van Ness, Washington, D.C.: Gene, is it possible to be all for gay marriage and civil rights, but against Affirmative Action?

Gene Weingarten: I would say yes. They are not remotely the same.

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Dogs who get along with everyone: Malamutes are notorious for this. The standard joke is that not only will a malamute let burglars in, he'll show them where the good stuff is, help them load the truck, and give them gas money. I'm guessing Murphy is the same. You know, except for the ripping their throats out part.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. I want to make this completely clear. Murphy has already killed several people.

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Re: Well, don't call It marriage: Gene, I agree with both the question and your response. If opponents aren't afraid of being gay, then what are they afraid of?

BTW, I disagree with the theory that homophobes are gays who are in denial. That sounds like the creation of someone who wanted to have a moral victory over Matthew Shepherd's murderers. I believe homophobes simply refuse to let go of the old myth about all gay men being predators.

Gene Weingarten: I think people who resist change in a social fabric are very afraid that their values will be overtaken by more liberal and free values. An assault by barbarians.

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Re: Fort Collins: From someone who has been in that exact situation:

Lunch is good.

Conversation during lunch is better.

Some reticence on the part of dudes you swim with is due to inherent shyness.

Other reticence is due to the fact the dude is married.

You have no context. Keep that in mind, and keep your expectations at floor level.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is wise.

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Herndon, Va.: Brilliant as you are, I am VERY worried people are actually asking you for medical advice. I guess it's another manifestation of our medical care crisis.

Gene Weingarten: You shouldn't be worried that people are asking me for advice. You should worry that I give it.

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Arlington, Va.: RE:I suppose that the predictability of getting a dog from a breeder is appealing to some people, but it seems selfish to me. There are SO MANY wonderful animals who deserve a safe and loving home.

We got our dog from a breeder and our kid from an orphange.

Gene Weingarten: I hope this is true, because it is a spectacular answer.

We'll exit on this. Thank you all. Thanks for dropping in, Jef. I'll be updating as usual.

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UPDATED 11.1.06

Gene Weingarten: This just in from my friend Tom Scocca:

You left out options covering a different form of buffet-line inhibition: manners. I don't let my id run completely wild at the buffet table, not because I'm worried about what other people will think of my eating habits per se, but because I want to be reasonably polite. So I try to allow my elders and people who look hungrier than me to get in line first, rather than charging to the front. And I refrain from cleaning out the high-value targets at one swoop, because I want the people behind me to get a shot at tasting them if the buffet-tenders are slow to refill.

Also, I don't come away with a whopping plateful purely because it's bad tactics. You're never going to read the field completely correctly by eyeball alone. The first plate should be a modest assortment of sample portions. Then one should refine one's attack on the return trips, after discovering which things taste best -- and specifically which dishes turn out to be most pleasing when consumed in volume.

I do look with contempt at the greedy slobs who make food-mountains on their plates, because their greed makes them into amateurs. "You greedy slobs," I think, as I pass by on my way to get thirds. And fourths. And fifths. There is no reason one cannot be both a trencherman and a gentleman.

(Needless to say, I see no shame whatsoever in hitting the line over and over and over again.)

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Gene Weingarten: And continuing with today's all-Scocca theme, this is from Tom's brother Dave, who offers two excellent points on issues from yesterday:

On gay rights/civil rights. Here's the thing -- when people say "being gay is a CHOICE", we need to remember that RELIGION is a choice. If you're going to argue that a "chosen" trait is inherently undeserving of civil rights protection, then even if the jury is still out on sexual orientation it's clear that religious discrimination should logically be allowed.

Conversely, if you believe that religious discrimination is a violation of civil rights, you have already accepted that a "choice" can define a protected classification just as much as an innate characteristic.

Point two:

There is no valid comparison between gay marriage, which does not change the concept of marriage much at all (one person legally binds to another, with mutual responsibilities) and polygamy, which does. Polygamy makes marriage a completely different thing.

Currently, certain responsibilities (next of kin, emergency medical situations) go to the one person who is the spouse. A single spouse can be conflicted about a decision but cannot openly disagree with himself or herself. What happens if a decision must be made for someone by two spouses who disagree? (Would this just handled the same way as multiple children making decisions on behalf of a parent? Or--since that often includes the parent granting power of attorney or medical decision-making power -- would one spouse grant "super-spouse" power to one among the multiple others, making the relationships unequal?)

Marriage originally had a great deal to do with property rights and inheritance. Does a new partner added to a relationship have a full share of property rights from the outset? If SP marriages are allowed, is there a requirement that multiple widowed partners inherit equally?

What are the rights and responsibilities of a spouse-of-a-spouse? Say A is married to B, who is married to C, who is married to D. What rights and responsibilities does D have with respect to the A household, or to biological children of the A-B relationship?

It just seems to me that many of the legal structures we have surrounding (two-person) marriage are based in the mathematical fact that there is exactly one relationship between two people. With three people there are three two-person relationships, with four people six two-person relationships, and so on. (Binomial coefficients, to be precise--for N people, there are N! / ( 2 * (N-2)!) two-person relationships.)

A single two-person relationship is inherently reciprocal (if A has a responsibility to B, then B has that same responsibility to A) in an unambiguous way.

So I think the legal structures would have to be significantly changed (recognizing the ambiguity of reciprocity, and taking the multiple two-person relationships into account) before polygamous marriage could be meaningful/ practical.

I like to think it is not merely bias/ tradition which makes me conclude that legalizing polygamy would require a more significant redefinition of "marriage" than does allowing same-sex marriage.

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Before you go!: Why isn't 70 the double of 35???

Gene Weingarten: Because we are talking about temperature. The scale of temperatures does not begin at zero degrees Fahrenheit. There is an absolute zero somewhere down there. So the difference between 35 degrees and 70 degrees is just a tiny increment in temperature, given the whole range, not a "double" of it. Right, Russ?

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Halloween Costume: This past weekend my boyfriend and I went as John and Jackie Kennedy, complete with blood splatter, bullet hole, and "I love Dallas" pin. Everyone our age (mid to late 20s) loved it (but did think we were getting some bad karma for it). Anyone our parents' age was horrified. My mother said to tell no one that she knew what I had dressed up as.

Obviously neither I nor my friends remember Kennedy so we were not upset by the costume. Anyone who does found it distasteful (when told of it, they didn't see it). So my question is, was it inappropriate and are we going to hell? Does age/culture allow certain jokes sometimes and not others?

Gene Weingarten: There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. A. Tasteless. Halloween. Costume.

See next post.

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Steve Irwin costume: It's not only not tasteless, it's absolutely necessary: it will only work this year. Next year it will be outdated.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.

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UPDATED 11.2.06

Gene Weingarten: Seven readers called my attention to this illustration that appeared in Sunday Source, wanting to know what the heck was that thing coming out of the woman's chin. I admit I had not noticed anything awry in this Picasso-like illustration. However, I am not a woman, like six of the seven readers were.

Elsewhere on the adolescent humor front, thanks to the anonymous female reader who dryly pointed out the fact that last weekend, the USC Trojans played the OSU Beavers.

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Gene Weingarten: And on the boy front, thanks to Max Shenk, who made me laugh out loud with this:

I am a man, living in Lansdale, Pa., and I have found the greatest buffet in the world near where I live. Hennings, a local, family-owned, single-store-only grocery store nearby, has a breakfast buffet, at which one of the items is locally cured and smoked thick sliced Alderfer BACON, 39 cents a pound.

All... the... bacon... you... can... eat.

This has given me great insight into my buffet line habits. At first, when I saw the TWO CHAFING PANS STACKED FULL OF BACON, I thought it was too good to be true. I restrained myself: "Well, I can only take a few strips... people are LOOKING... I'd better stop there at just three strips."

Second trip, following weekend, as I was waiting in line, the man in front of me, who was wearing a TRUCKERS FOR JESUS jacket, clamped into the stack of pork with the tongs and removed a portion of bacon that was probably more than you'd get from a whole pig... stacked it on his plate... marched right up to the cashier, who didn't blink. So I took five strips that time.

Third trip, the following weekend, I was pondering the bacon, feeling that restraint kick in, and as I reached for five strips of bacon, the man next to me (who had his daughter with him) said "Cooked bacon by the ounce... gotta love it, huh?" and he dug in for a copier-paper-ream-sized stack. "My wife and I come here whenever we have a quiche or something we need bacon for," he said. "It's cheaper than buying it and cooking it."

A quiche or something you need bacon for! OK.

Since then, I have abandoned bacon shame. I have snared up to 10 slices at a sitting and not felt any guilt, and I'm sure that my avarice has been inspirational to someone who, like me, was wondering if 18 strips of bacon for $1.95 plus tax was indeed too good to be true.

This has also had an amazing effect on my bacon consumption. I don't go near the stuff during the week, and then load up on the weekends, and don't want to see it again till the next week.

Life is good when you think like Homer Simpson.

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Height, Weight, a, ND: Length. Men lie about length. Liz will tell you.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, Liz says that Hispanic men lie about length, but Jewish and Asian men tend to lie about girth. She says that black men will lie about duration. She says heavy men will claim less prior sexual experience, whereas thin men, Norwegian men and dwarfs tend to claim more prior experience. Liz adds that Irish men, Polynesian men, and most women will lie about whether they are married, and that very short men tend to lie about all these things, unless they are also South American, in which case they're pretty straightforward.

washingtonpost.com: Whatever, nerdo.

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Colora, DO: Yes, Gene, it's fear. It's fear that if gay marriage is legal, parents with biblical values will have a harder time teaching their children that it is not an equal lifestyle choice for those who care about biblical moral standards. Sorry this is not funny.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, it is kind of funny.

So what do people with certain biblical values tell their kids about how all Jews will go to hell? Or what about the biblical value of all them patriarchs having multiple wives and concubines? You gonna pass those values on, too?

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Seattle, Wash.: Although I support gay marriage (and the concept of non-traditional marriages in general), there's another, similar issue I hesitate to support: the idea of marriage between close family members (siblings, parent-child, etc.). For the sake of argument, let us assume that all participants are of legal age and consenting. Perhaps it is simply the "yuck" factor at work, but I have reservations with lending support to such an arrangement, although the "any two people who wish to marry should be allowed to do so" argument clearly allows incestuous marriages.

I suppose an argument could be made that any offspring from such a union would be at a greater risk of genetic deformities. Society does, however, allow "traditional" marriages between genetically at-risk couples.

Gene, we need your enlightenment. What are your thoughts on this subject?

Gene Weingarten: Not permitting first cousins or sibs to get married protects society from an overabundance of genetic deformities. It's for our own good, whether we like it or not. It's like the helmet laws for motorcycles.

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Chicago, Ill.: Okay, Prick city:

I feel about it the same way you do... it's a terrible strip, on its own merits (only two characters, who don't exist anyway except as political caricatures; no situations or stories; and rightist invective so unfunny and unoriginal it makes Mallard Fillmore look good.)

So: why in the world are serious newspapers running it? The WashPost? The ChiTribune? Why? Have you ever asked?

Gene Weingarten: We carry it because we have been extorted into carrying it. It was marketed as the first funny conservative strip, and newspapers have a sense of guilt about their liberalism. It seemed like an easy way to deflect criticism.

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Facial recognition: Gene, there is a great Web site called Myheritage.com where you can upload a picture and it will compare the face to their "celebrity database," using facial-recognition software to determine who you most look like. Using the photo from your Wikipedia page, the site has determined that you most resemble Frank Zappa, followed by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Gene Weingarten: I put this out here to encourage people to play with this site and see what they come up with, for next chat.

Liz, can we link to Zappa and Tennyson's pix please?

washingtonpostcom: Frank Zappa | Alfred Tennyson

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Gene Weingarten: Hahaha! This just in from Peter Sandberg --

Picasso-like illustration ?!?

That is not Picasso "like" -- that is Picasso; one of his most famous paintings, 'La Reve'. It is a portrait of his at-that-time mistress, and the penis comprising half of her face was very much intentional.

The painting was recently inadvertently punctured by the elbow of its millionaire owner, some Las Vegas casino guy.

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UPDATED 11.3.06

"My Religion made Me Do It", Va.: OK, so yor religion says gay people are sinners. How about religions that said, not so long ago, that micegination was a sin?

Further, "your religion" is in fact a pastor or priest or rabbi or imam putting his own interpretation on a written text that has been modified and adapted over the years to reach a conclusion as to what is a sin. Unless god comes down and preaches to you next Sunday (or Friday or Saturday) I think you need to admit that this is plain and simply one group's bigotry against another.

Finally, as a happily married woman, I must say that I am deeply concerned for my marriage because by dear friend and her 11-year partner just adopted a child and are lavishing him with love. I am afraid my marriage license is going to burst into flames because these two woman had a commitment ceremony and bought a house together (for those at home, this is known as sarcasm). The sick thing is that these loving, wonderful women cannot BOTH adopt their son in this wonderful Commonwealth of Virginia. They have to pick who gets to be the mom and the other has zero legal status. That is vile.

Gene Weingarten: The list of heartbreaking stories is endless, and yours is typical.

We are so far from perfect, as a society. Anyone know a lot about the Netherlands? Are they as cool as I've heard? Should I move there? How hard is it to learn Dutch?

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Women & Weighty Issues: Gene,

Just for the record, I think many women don't want to reveal their true weight, especially to a man (husband, etc.) because a lot of men have a really skewered idea of how much women actually weigh.

For example -- my brother-in-law was talking about a woman he works with who was just diagnosed with diabetes. And he said something about how she was really large, probably 150. My sister looked at me and we both at the same time said, "I weigh 150."

He was floored. In his view (bless him) since we're not fat (just averagely plump middle-aged women,) in his mind, he figured we weigh more like 120. According to my sister, this woman he works with is probabaly closer to 200.

A lot of men think that a woman who is over 125 is huge. But really, fellas, we weigh more than you think.

Gene Weingarten: Just yesterday a tall, stacked, completely gorgeous woman of my acquaintance informed me that she weighs almost as much as I do. Floored me.

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How somebody could be anti-gay marriage: As a single, straight man, I like gay men. I wish more guys were gay. Many of them are well-dressed, handsome, athletic, well-paid, good listeners who can cook. I say "get them out of the dating pool as soon as possible." I move up a notch. Legalize gay marriage and I move up two. Get some gay Mormons, and the sky's the limit!

However, I am rather cynical towards insurance companies. I would think that as these corporations become liable for spousal benefits for married gay folks, they'd jack the rates up on straight folks in retaliation. We've already seen such ridiculous fees like the September 11th fee on airline tickets (you'd think the airlines would have a vested interest in keeping planes aloft without this ridiculous fee) and the Katrina-related surcharges...as though nobody predicted the below-sea-level city might flood.

I simply don't trust the insurance companies to keep their hands out of our collective wallet. Legalize gay marriage nationally, and they'd add something like the "Melissa Etheridge & Elton John Memorial Marriage Fee" or the "We're Not Buying the Whole Katie Holmes Thing Either" surcharge.

Gene Weingarten: I'd like to agree, but I can't. It is the JOB of insurance companies to insure people, and the more clients they have, the better. They have actuaries, they know the risks, and account for them case by case. No?

Here's an interesting thought: If there is gay marriage, then it will suddenly become obvious to insurance companies who is gay and who is not -- based on name of spouse. They can't ask now, but they won't have to. So will they charge more for gays, in an era of AIDS? Will that be legal? Moral?

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada: There are good reasons to buy a purebred dog from a responsible breeder or adopt from a purebred rescue organization.

If predictability of temperament, much more than of conformation, is critical. Lots of individuals with special needs, or families with special needs members, know that having a dog is not only fun and interesting, but important for the well-being of the family member. They also need to be able to predict (all other factors like socialization and obedience training, sufficient exercise, etc. being correctly managed) that the dog will be of a temperament suited to whatever the special need might be.

Purebred animals come with a pre-existing community able to support the owner and dog in challenges. In the breed I keep, the international Clubs and local fancier groups really help each member out with information and support. One of the major reasons any dog ends up in a shelter is that the owner didn't research breed characteristics and what responsible dog ownership entails. We can prevent many surrenders just through education. The stupidest, most avoidable problems can lead to a dog being given up. People don't know, until they've purchased one and it's too late, for instance, that my breed sheds pounds and pounds and pounds of hair a year; many dogs are surrendered simply because live with this breed nature and housepride (?) don't mix. It is that sort of surrender that the community can help to prevent.

If you are a responsible breeder yourself (or wish to become one) you need purebred dogs to show and breed; if you are particularly lucky the breeder you buy from will also become a mentor and help you learn about pedigrees and type to select pairings to improve the breed (health, temperament, longevity), the important screenings and evaluations to do before breeding an individual animal, and to mentor the owners you choose for your pups. The more well-bred (rather than puppy-mill produced, pet shop purveyed) dogs and educated owners there are in the world, the fewer dogs will be surrendered to shelters or contributing to the overpopulation of unwanted animals.

I get frustrated by the assumption (displayed in your chat as well as in the wider world) that the breeder-purebred vs. pound mutt rescue question is either/or. I have one purebred from a wonderful breeder, one purebred adopted from rescue (who was in a shelter) and one absolutely amazing shelter mutt (and all of them are neutered). I think I'm doing my bit for the unwanted wonderful dogs -and- ensuring predictability where it matters.

Gene Weingarten: This is a well argued case. I do not say you are wrong. I am not a pound proselytizer. But, man, we are happy with our little poundie.

Gene Weingarten: And Molly, with hers. That woman is seriously in love with her pup.

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Driver's license: When I filled out my driver's license application, I stated that I was three pounds heavier than I really am. That way I have a little wiggle room.

Gene Weingarten: You said "wiggle room."

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