Chatological Humor* (Updated 11.17.06)
Tuesday, November 14, 2006; 12:00 PM
* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask."
Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.
He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.
He'll chat about anything...
Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group.
New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.
Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.
This will be a short intro, but a very long chat. Many intriguing questions await.
You know that scene in "Poltergeist" when that creepy-looking miniature woman announces, somewhat prematurely, that "This House Is Clean"? Well...
This house is clean. Murphy is housebroken. Four weeks, six days. This is considered excellent for an urban 16-week old puppy; it was achieved through a system I like to call Barely Controlled Neurosis. Murphy was simply dumped outside every 45 minutes, and kept outside until Something Happened. Then she was lavishly praised, as though she had advanced LeMaitre's hypothesis and achieved the first Unified Theory of Matter and Energy.
Remember our poll of several weeks ago, about how to pronounce words? Well, many readers directed me to this site.
... which analyzes, from your accent, where in the United States you grew up. It's quick, efficient and possibly accurate. Nailed me as a Nyorker. I took the test a second time, answering everything the opposite of the way I really speak, and it said I was from the mid-northwest, possibly Fargo, North Dakota. Which also sounds right, as my doppelganger opposite.
On the aptonym front, a big thank-you to some guy named Turner for pointing me to a Web site with a bio of a lobbyist who is an avid equestrian and member of the Board of Governors of the Fairfax Hunt Club. Her name is Heidi Stirrup.
And thank you to Eric Fulton, who pointed out an odd geo-aptonym: MasterCard is headquartered in Purchase, New York.
Please take today's poll. And if you voted before 6 p.m. yesterday, take it again. There was a glitch and early votes were not counted. We'll discuss this whole thing midway through.
I hereby issue this challenge: Can anyone propose a Unified Theory to explain this comic? I could not. Von Drehle could not. A comics specialist of my acquaintance could not.
The Comics Pick of the Week is a tandem entry of yesterday and today's Pearls Before Swine. The first Runner up is Saturday's Pearls. The Honorable Mention is Sunday's Pearls. This has never happened before. Good week, Pastis.
Okay, let's go.
Flushing, KZ: A question about poop humor. Is it funny, or is it just cheap?
Chris Hitchens, in Monday's Slate, writes about the Borat movie, "I may as well add that any act that depends too much on the scatological is in some kind of trouble. Borat [the movie] - and Borat [the character] - rely on excremental humor from the very first frames. This isn't unfunny just because it's infantile and repetitive and doesn't know when to stop; it's unfunny because the revulsion produced by feces is universal and automatic and thus much too easy to exploit. This is especially true when, in a cheap knockoff of Luis Bu¿uel, our hero decides to introduce the unmentionable topic at the dinner table."
Your comments, please?
Gene Weingarten: I actually just last week had this very discussion with Garry Trudeau, who pretty much agrees with Hitchens. (Not on Borat, on the lack of comedic integrity of poo.)
They are both wrong, but I have visited this subject ad nauseam (ha) and won't go back to it here.
The larger issue: Borat.
The rib and I saw it Saturday night. She found it largely boring. I found it pretty good -- laughed my way through it -- but ultimately quite disappointing. The hype was too great. There were too many video clips we'd already seen, so it felt as though a quarter of the movie was old. And, most important, the thing kind of dragged. Scenes went on too long. The sweet heartthrobby thing was so telegraphed it failed.
One of the joys of the movie is to try to figure out afterwards which parts were scripted and which parts were true ambushes of real people. I'm still not sure in one or two cases.
I give it a B-minus. No, actually, the audacity raises it to a B-plus.
Prenup Toliets: Gene, as expert in all things relationship- and toliet-related, I have to find your opinion on fuzzy covers on toliet lids. I am getting married in the spring (in a wedding that I am sure you would disapprove of) and my fiancee and I are arguing over those fuzzy covers you put on the toliet seat lid. She insists on having them for all the toliets and thinks that this cover should be closed at all times the toliet is not in use. I don't like the covers, I worry that they might cause the toliet lid to fall down when I am standing up using the toliet, and they are one more thing that gets dirty and requires washing. She thinks that the toliet is ugly and is trying to make it 'prettier'. I know I am going to lose this argument and have these covers on my toliet lids for the rest of my life, but I am still interested in your opinion.
Gene Weingarten: I am trying but failing to get past all those "toliets." I simply cannot abide the fact that any denizen of this chat cannot spell toilet. Please re-submit your question with the word spelled correctly, and I will answer.
Washington, D.C.: Gene, this is really a question for your wife, but because you are the one chatting, perhaps you might be able to help me. I just started working at a large government agency (which, if I remember right, your wife also does). This means, technically, that I work for President Bush. Who, like you (and I assume your wife), I cannot stand. Sometimes my work is even directly furthering his misguided policies. I do it because I am a new employee and really, I kind of like my job. Does this make me a horrible person? Have I sacrificed my political beliefs for the sake of "interesting" and "important" work? How do I rectify this?
Gene Weingarten: I'd really like to answer this question with a personal example, but I cannot. I cannot speak for my wife on this one.
Serious answer: if you feel that by doing your job you are materially furthering policies that you find completely repugnant, you have to leave your job. Ethically. But there is a lot of wiggle room in there.
Pottstown, Pa.: Hi Gene. I took the poll and I followed directions, but your list of available Dem candidates does not include the person I would most like to vote for -- Howard Dean. (Well, actually, it would be Paul Wellstone, but he's deceased, which sort of precludes him from holding the office.) Did you pick likely candidates for your list? Or what?
Gene Weingarten: I picked the people who are currently 1-5 in voter preference surveys.
Madison, Wisc.: So I think I have the idea of "there is no such thing as a tasteless Halloween costume" figured out after reading the end of last week's chat.
A costume can be cruel, hateful, racist, or mean, and you can criticize (or, if it's bad enough, beat up) a person for wearing such a costume on any of those grounds. Someone who shows up dressed as a suicide bomber to a Halloween party thrown by a Jewish charity deserves to get pounded.
But you can't sensibly criticize a person wearing a costume strictly because it is tasteless, because taste is not relevant to Halloween costumes. You can show up to any adult party as a bloody, post-roadkill Snoopy and--gross as it is--you are OK. You need more than "that's just bad taste."
Do I have it right?
Gene Weingarten: Correct.
Montreal, Quebec: Gene, this (long) comment relates to something you and another chatter mentioned a few months ago. The said chatter wrote that her dog became aggressive in the presence of a black men. You responded that you had similar experiences with your own dog and that you had been embarassed by it.
As a young black woman (under 25), I was very disturbed to read that -- then one day recently here in Montreal it happened to me. I was walking to work minding my business and as I passed a white woman with her dog, the dog began to growl at me and tried to jump on me and nip at my heels. The woman made no attempt to control her dog. It did not have manifest this behaviour towards anyone else and I was the only black person in the area.
While not relevant, I want to note that I am well-dressed, tall, thin, and not in the least bit threatening. I often get mistaken for a model. The only thing I can think of that would make me look "radical" is my small afro. I mention my appearance to dispel any notion that I look like I'm from the "ghetto" or like a criminal or like a "militant." I don't.
The experience left me feeling very hurt and angry. My theory is that perhaps dogs are just reacting to what they sense to be anxiety or fear on the part of the owner. After all, dogs are very attuned to the emotions of their owners and I've had to deal with white people (particularly women) giving me scared looks when I pass them on the sidewalk in my predominantly white neighborhood as if I am going to harm them in some way. This has happened more since I started sporting an afro this year.
(on a side note, the amount of times this has happened to me has made me wonder if some of the odious behaviour of black men/women who are unjustifiably loud and uncouth in public is a form of retaliation against people they know will be afraid of them no matter what? Sometimes I think I should wear a tshirt that says "be afraid" just to get a reaction. I feel like there is nothing I can EVER do to overcome this. And the helplessness just feeds the anger. I can't be aggressive because I am not an agressive person and that would just justify the scared people. All I can do is continue being a civil human being who has to swallow hurt and humiliation from time to time and choose to forego bitterness.)
What are your thoughts on this? Is it possible that you and the chatter who wrote in have subconscious or conscious fears of black men (and black women) that your dogs can sense?
Thank you for your time if you get around to answering this. I would appreciate it. And by the way, I always look forward to your weekly chats.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, the reason I was embarrassed by my dog's behavior was that I suspected I might be responsible. I worried that Harry was picking up on some subtle tension in me and/or my wife when a black man passed. The fact that he did not react at all badly to black women reinforced this suspicion.
This forced me to go inside myself a bit for a look-see. I grew up, to some degree, wary of black males on the street. I grew up in the South Bronx in the 1960s, a very tough time. The black kids were new to the area, and we Jewish kids were their prey. They were bigger and tougher and even when we weren't being beaten up or shaken down, we were scared of that happening. We made assumptions and generalizations.
That was a loooooong time ago. I don't feel as though I am scarred by it. I believe I feel no added tension when a black male passes me in the street. But I'm wondering if something of it remains. Dogs DO pick up on our emotions.
So, maybe. Except we have a new puppy now; we've had her for five weeks. She loves everyone. Lotsa black people walk my neighborhood. She is their best friend.
So, I dunno.
Diale, CT: I was born in Michigan, moved to South Carolina as a baby, lived in Wisconsin from second to fourth grade, then moved to Virginia. The test says I have an "inland north" accent, so does that mean accents develop in the second to fourth grade range?
Gene Weingarten: It might. That sounds about right.
San Diego, Calif.: Oh! Misspel toilet! Watch out, or you will DEFINITELY end up in Iraq!
Gene Weingarten: Haha.
Washington, D.C.: I thought I remembered this right, so I checked. And yes, I remembered it right. A few months ago in the chat you referred to your "friend," Rachel Manteuffel. I am assuming this is the same Rachel M who wrote a certain article in Sundays Magazine. It was quite an interesting article.
So what I want to say is, in all seriousness, YOU ... OLD ... DAWG.
washingtonpost.com: Getting an 'F' in Biology, ( Post Magazine, Nov. 12)
Gene Weingarten: Yes, that's my Rachel.
Rachel is 22 and funnier than I am. It's kind of painful, actually.
If you missed this piece, you should read it.
And to the two people who asked if that is a picture of Rachel: Yes, it is, and no, you may not.
Prenup Joliets: Gene, as expert in all things relationship-and Joliet-related, I have to find your opinion on fuzzy covers on Joliet lids. I am getting married in the spring (in a wedding that I am sure you would disapprove of) and my fiancee and I are arguing over those fuzzy covers you put on the Joliet seat lid. She insists on having them for all the Joliets and thinks that this cover should be closed at all times the Joliet is not in use. I don't like the covers, I worry that they might cause the Joliet lid to fall down when I am standing up using the Joliet, and they are one more thing that gets dirty and requires washing. She thinks that the Joliet is ugly and is trying to make it 'prettier'. I know I am going to lose this argument and have these covers on my Joliet lids for the rest of my life, but I am still interested in your opinion.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, I will accept this.
Those fuzzy covers are as bad as framed family pictures on the living room wall. They are "cute." They are like hanging kitchen witches. Or those apple-faced dolls.
However, you have no say in this matter. Just give it up.
Indianapolis, Ind.: For three consecutive weeks I have heard three different quarterbacks say, "We haven't played our best game yet".
Since everybody reads this chat, could you tell them to stop saying it?
Gene Weingarten: You know what sports cliche I really hate?
"Now we control our own destiny."
If you have a destiny, it is beyond your control.
Boston, Mass.: Gene,
I was the first (and only) person to say that the reason Obama won't get elected is because of his flimsy resume. This obviously means you don't agree with me, because you're the first person to take the poll. Frankly, I'm surprised by your opinion -- it was the one answer I was absolutely sure about! Think about the last few presidents and their ridiculous list of credentials; America clearly prefers a man with age and experience over someone "green," despite his potential to lead. Obama doesn't have the experience, credentials, or the self-assurance (bordering on arrogance) that seems to win elections. I guess I'm looking for an explanation from you, if you don't mind.
Oh, and this weekend, my dog got his head stuck in a Frosted Flakes cereal box. He came looking for me, howling and jumping hilariously through each room, crashing into things and knocking things over (he's a big dog). I wasn't laughing TOO hard to help him, but it was close. Hopefully Murphy doesn't get into a similar snafu anytime soon!
Gene Weingarten: No, that was my answer. There was a snafu with the early poll, and some of the early answers were dropped.
Cincinnati, Ohio: Hi Gene -- I wrote in last week about children of gay parents being bullied in school and got shot down by you, Liz, and a couple of posters. (By the way, to the guy who said I was "ranting", I specifically said that gay parents themselves aren't the problem; try reading the whole post before leaping to conclusions.) I want to clarify and support my position.
After three days of being too angry at you and Liz to sleep or eat properly, I realized that I wasn't really angry about your assumption that I was a closet bigot. After all, you don't know me. What made me so disproportionately upset was how quickly both of you dismissed bullying as a potential problem, especially when you've apparently experienced it yourself. You wrote a column a few years ago, I think the one about relocating your second-grade crush, in which you described repressing your need to cry in front of your classmates so strongly that you still can't cry to this day.
I read an account in the book "The Respectful School" (Wessler and Preble, 2002, p. 63-65) of a gay boy whose schoolmates tried to run over him with a car, offered to slit his throat, and threatened to beat him if he ever entered the boys' bathroom. "It turned out that beginning in October David had stopped going to the bathroom in school because he believed the bathroom was not a safe place for him The combination of not going to the bathroom... and the anxiety and fear that David experienced created serious intestinal problems that ultimately required surgery. David continues to suffer the effects of those intestinal problems and likely will do so for the rest of his life."
I was sick with anger for three days at the mere suggestion that bullying isn't a major problem, because my own pain from being picked on is still fresh in my mind twenty years later. You have been emotionally blocked for almost 50 years. David may be physically blocked forever. So much for the heartstring-tugging anecdotes; now the statistics:
Children with gay/lesbian parents are bullied at about the same rate as children who are actually gay themselves. And gay children are bullied at a horrifying rate; in the studies I looked at, anywhere from 75% to 90% of surveyed students observed gay kids being harassed verbally or physically in their schools. Actual or perceived sexual orientation is the second most common reason for bullying, right after physical appearance. Sometimes this bullying is severe enough to result in PTSD, suicide attempts and the like. From one study (PDF) of gay adults in the U.K.: "For those who had experienced high levels of bullying, support from family members did not militate -sic] against the onset of mental health problems or, indeed, thoughts of suicide."
For more information on harassment of gay students see the Human Rights Watch's report on Hatred in the Hallways.
You said two weeks ago that the story of a lesbian couple who have been together 11 years and can't legally adopt a child is heartbreaking to you. I find it heartbreaking that just in California 200,000 children are harassed every year on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. They are three times more likely than other students to miss school because they're afraid for their own safety. And this is in California, a fairly blue state which at the time of the above article had had a non-discrimination law in place for four years. Imagine how the kids feel in, say, Mississippi, which passed its anti-marriage amendment by 86 percent two years ago.
Incidentally, over half the states now have anti-marriage amendments and Arizona is the only state ever to have defeated such a measure on the ballot, by 51 percent to 49 percent. We don't have "pockets of bigotry"; we have a wide swath of bigotry with pockets of tolerance.
I hope all this has helped to point out the fact that a child with gay parents, through no fault of his family, has a real chance of being seriously harmed at school. If your attitude about this is that you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, I suppose there's nothing I can say that will change your mind, but do at least acknowledge that eggs are breaking. Anti-gay bullying is a widespread, serious problem and doesn't deserve to be laughed off as a joke or a thin excuse.
Gene Weingarten: Excellent post. Thank you. You have established that your initial thoughts were not bigoted.
But I do think they were misplaced: You cannot quail at instituting a civil right because of a fear of intolerance. You have to bull your way through it, and deal with the intolerance forcefully. Orville Faubus and George Wallace and Lester Maddox with his axe handle were not permitted to prevent desegregation of the schools.
I think our schools are not dealing effectively with bullying in general, and that needs to be addressed.
See the next post.
Maryland: I have to respond to the poster who wants to ban gay marriage or gay adoption because "it would scar the children".
My parents were straight, and I was bullied as a kid. Really, you don't have to have gay parents to have been pushed around! I was bullied because I was too skinny and short, I was bullied because I had a "weird" name, I was bullied because I liked Star Trek, I was bullied because I read a lot, I was bullied because I did well in school, I was bullied because I was an atheist, I was bullied because I was a klutz, and I was bullied because I hung out with other unpopular people.
If that is the worst thing that happens to me, then I will be a very lucky person. Sure, it sucked back then. I got beat up, ostracized, and cried a lot. But now I realize that being bullied actually reinforced the strength of my convictions. I do not fear being different or standing out. I think I would rather it never happened, but seriously, there are worse things in life.
If the kid of the gay parents is in the "cool" group, then having gay parents won't be a problem. If he isn't, then it'll be one more thing to tease him about. If he isn't "cool" and he had straight parents, they'd find something else with which to bully him. It's just the way kid stuff works.
"Those kids'll get bullied" is about the lamest excuse I have ever heard to be against legalizing gay marriage or gay adoption.
Gene Weingarten: This one.
Re-Sunday's column: I've always belived if "A watched pot never boils" it's because you've turned on the wrong burner again.
Gene Weingarten: I actually once did a whole story on the watched pot. It was bizarre, for Sunday Style, in which we were trying to prove maxims. Liz, can you find this? It was Sunday style, by me, around 1998-2001. Watched pot.
Alexandria, Va.: I took the language quiz, it says I'm from the mid-lands, (Chicago, etc.) -- which is what I've been told.
Funny thing is - I was born in Albany, NY and grew up in South Florida. Both parents were immigrants from Argentina with terrible accents to this day (and I think we learned to speak english at the same time). So - I've probably picked up my accent from television - do most of those people talk with a mid-land accent?
Gene Weingarten: Yes they do! Except on Seinfeld.
Bowie, Md.: Gene, the ? about toilet covers got me thinking.
As a lifelong single man, I've had several opportunities to visit the homes of single women. One decorating feature that I'm sure in gender-driven is that many of them have mirrors on the bathroom wall behind the tank. No man (and no couple of my acquaintance) would stand (no pun intended) for such a thing.
Do women householders do this deliberately to make men uncomfortable watching themselves stand before the commode? Or are they unaware of the effect of it?
Gene Weingarten: Women are aware of everything. EVERYTHING. But they are not cruel. They are not trying to make you uncomfortable, but they don't care that you are.
Here: Let's say you were running for president. Is there some secret about your past or present (a la Foley) that might come out that would embarass or shame you and that would kill your chances? Do you have a Foley?
Also, have you ever written anything in an IM or email that could really hurt your career?
Gene Weingarten: Well, there are several questions in here.
Leaving aside the issue of total lack of qualifications, I could never run for president simply on the basis of what is publicly known about me. "So, Mr. Weingarten, I note that you have written that marriage is a silly conceit completely unecessary in an enlightened society ...."
So the remainder of the question becomes an excercise in moot speculation. I think that since, like any columnist, I routinely whore every detail of my life for public consumption, there probably isn't much left secret that could shame me. Some small embarrassments, maybe.
But those emails? Yeah. I would say that Pat Myers, David Von Drehle, Joel Achenbach, Tom The Butcher, and a few non-Post friends all have received email correspondences from me that, should they see fit to forward them to a regulatory agency or my employer, could cause some problems. This is why I am very good to my friends.
If you define "fame" as being known by more people than you know, I have a small degree of it. And the biggest concern is not that something bad from my past will emerge to embarrass me, but that anything bad I do in the present will become known to a lot of people. It's a little terrifying. If you get a DUI, you and your family knows about it. If I got a DUI, there'd probably be a little blurb on it in Washingtonian, and maybe even The Reliable Source.
It's just a small sour taste. And I'm nobody. Imagine being, say, Letterman. I'm not sure I could handle that.
Challenge for U...: My husband, daughter and I were in Puerto Rico last week for a getaway. while we were there, dirving along, I noticed a horse and an egret just standing by the side of the road on an interstate entrance ramp. I pointed this out to my husband saying: A horse and an egret were stading by the side of the road!
As soon as I said it we both thought it sounded like the set-up for a joke. So, the challenge is to come up with the rest of the joke. If it's good I'll put it in my trip journal and the photo album, and share it with all my friends (giving you credit of course!)
Gene Weingarten: The horse angrily says, "I can't believe the bus is so late. It's been about 45 minutes!"
The egret says, "Oh I don't mind standing here at all. I'm used to wading."
Control Fre, AK: You said your wife keeps track of the finances (you carry a single check), but if you wanted to know about the finances or see the checkbook/statements, would you have to explain why or simply ask to see them? Do you think there's a difference in someone saying "sure" or "why?" Would you "have" to ask permission to use something of hers, or would you feel you should ask permission? Same question, do you think there's a difference between "have" and "should" even though the net effect is the same? What's the difference between a control freak and a philanderer hiding his tracks?
Gene Weingarten: If I asked to see the finances or checkbook statement, my wife would tell me sure, put them on the table, and then, as I was reading them, she would hit me over the head with a meat tenderizing mallet several times, until she was sure I was deceased. Because she'd know that my body had been taken over by the Pod People.
I am AFRAID to know my finances. It would fill me with angst. When I am taking money out of an ATM, and it is one of those ATMs that tells you your balance even when you haven't asked to see it -- I put my hand over that line so it is not visible.
I am insane. It is a craziness, a dysfunction.
The larger point is that I trust my wife totally and completely. There is no purchase I make that I am unwilling for her to know about, and if there was, there wouldn't be much I could do about it, anyway. She is very thorough. And I KNOW she is very thorough.
Wife: So, I was going through your MasterCard statement for August and September and ...
Me: Yes! Yes! I cheated on you six times with four different women! I confess! They didn't mean anything to me! It's the chats! All the women are so hott! They're after me! I'll get neutered, I swear it!
Wife: ... and I was just going to say that you didn't spend as much for gasoline as usual.
Wife: Also that there are seven hours every night when you are asleep and I do have access to knives.
Hollywood, Pa.: There is no Unified Theory, man. There is like only chaos, and it is the contradictions that emerge from the chaos of enjoying the ability to not enjoy the opinions of another that makes it all happily crazy, man. And that's the truth.
Gene Weingarten: Wow, man. What is that wall made of?
Accent Quiz: It nailed me:
"The West: Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta."
I'm a former military brat and grew up all over the country - North, South, East, West. My accent's a hodgepodge.
Gene Weingarten: It's really pretty good!
Washington, D.C.: Frankly, I'm shocked that both liberals and conservatives aren't willing to admit that large portions of this country would not vote for a woman or minority for president on principle alone, nevermind experience or personality. People, we have had only ONE non-WASP male as president, and he had to answer questions about taking orders from the Pope to even be considered (which, incidentally, were once again raised two years ago). Do not deceive yourself into thinking that we have progressed that far. Hell, we only just elected the second black governor since Reconstruction! I was disappointed in Sunday's article on this topic because it didn't address the blatant sexism and racism that remains in our country (and this is across the country, I'm not lazily just pinning it on the traditional South).
That being said, I am a conservative white male, and I would vote for Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton long before I voted to elect Newt Gingrich or some other right-wing hack. What the hell happened to my GOP that everyone went crazy? Can we dig up Rockefeller and nominate him?
Gene Weingarten: Rocky was basically a Liberal Democrat. I covered him as a rookie reporter in New York state back in the early 70s. With the exception of Jacob Javits and Fiorello La Guardia, he was probably the most liberal Republican in American history.
Here's another fact about Rocky you'd probably never know unless you saw him in person: He was a shrimp. Maybe five foot five.
Also, that thing with Megan Marshak. Remember her? Whatever happened to Megan Marshak?
Jews v. Gentiles: So, your wife (a gentile, no?) thought Borat boring and you liked it. Can we overgeneralize here to say that there is possibly a humor divide that cuts along Jew/Gentile lines? But perhaps this is old news. Anyway, from what I've seen of Borat and the actor Cohen in other places, I am thinking he's a Jewish comic whose main schtick is making fun of Arabs. Where are the Arabs who go out and make fun of Jews? Unless there are and I don't know of them.
Gene Weingarten: As my son noted (he saw it separately on Saturday) Borat begins by making fun of Kazakhstan, and winds up making fun of the United States.
I don't think this is a Jew-goy thing.
Manassas, Va.: Dogs reacting to blacks.
My sister once had a dog she adopted after it was left in the yard of one of her coworkers father. The dog would growl and bark at any black man or any man in a suit. Every now and then I would show up at her house after work wearing a suit. The dog would go nuts until I said something to it to let him know it was me. Then he was his usual loving self.
Who knows what goes on inside dogs' heads.
Gene Weingarten: We are using a trainer, Victoria Schade, who seems to know EXACTLY what is going on in a dog's head. It's uncanny.
the horse says: egrets, I've had a few
Gene Weingarten: Well, you'd need to set it up, but not bad.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: RE Fuzzy toilet seat covers:
Do people really still use these things? I am a female and I think these things are way beyond tacky. To the man who is planning to marry the lady who wants to puts these things on their toilets -- your opinion will mean nothing to her -- you are a man and therefore your input, even if correct, will be dismissed. You need to find several women, who also know her, who will be willing to tell her that this idea stinks. Once she hears it from them - no more fuzzy toilet covers.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you. This is very good advice. I should have thought of it.
Observation: I am not gay, but I understand the bias and ill treatment towards gays. I was ridiculed and brutalized through high school by guys who called me fag and every gay term throughout high school. Decades later, I just find it interesting that these guys who used to call me gay are themselves now proudly gay and out of the closet. Just an observation.
Gene Weingarten: It is not coincidence.
Montreal, Quebec: Regarding the question on the comic-
I think the joke is simply that the guru is disagreeing with what the women just asked, when he replies, "not a thing." Going on to say "Disagreeing with someone on everything is half the fun." I think the guru just revealed why he likes his job, but I don't think he revealed a very funny joke or revelation...
Gene Weingarten: There has GOT to be more of a joke in there. There just has to be. Johnny is nuts but smart.
Ashburn, Va.: Can you please explain to me why the expression is, "All politics is local?" I mean, I get the meaning, but why is the verb not plural? I know that 'politics' is singular, but can it not be pluralized? Would you ever say, "All dogs is wonderful?" This drives me crazy, especially in November! Help! I'll get over it if you tell me it's correct.
Gene Weingarten: There is a word "politic" but it is an adjective. "Politic" is not a noun. So your asking why "politics" isn't plural because it ends in an s is like asking why .... uh, uh....
Okay, so I am trying to think of another singular noun that ends in s. Seeking help, I have just turned to the other two people in the room, my wife and son. They answered at the same moment:
"The blues," said my wife.
"The sh--s," said my son.
So there you have it. The blues and the sh--s.
Though the dics tell me that these words can be singular or plural. So....
An ass! There we go. Ass. Singular.
Okay, so all these things are like "politics," which is singular. Ain't I the sh--s?
I lean liberal...: I don't think the war was the top issue, I think it was a statistical thing. I don't think Hillary can win cause the same people who voted for Bush in 2004 and who voted for George Allen last week won't vote for Hillary. I don't think Obama can win because he doesn't have enough experience. And I also think the people who voted for George Allen won't vote for him. And this time last year I would have voted for McCain before Hillary or anyone else the Dems put forward but his march toward the right over the past year ruined that. So, I said Condi cause she's black, too, and that's the best reason I could come up with for voting for anyone on that list.
Gene Weingarten: B...but Condi was a prime architect and defender of the single worst foreign policy blunder in recent American history. It is interesting, Condi's skin seems to be Teflon, eh?
Unified Theory, BC: It's all about the make-up sex.
Gene Weingarten: Ha. Also, why "girlfriend"? Is the cute chick a lesbian?
Alexandria, Va.: As I write this, over 90 people have voted on the poll. Rs blame the election results on Bush. Ds blame it on Iraq. I'm a D, I vote D, and I think the Rs are right on this one. Comments?
Gene Weingarten: You could argue that they are one and the same, but I think there is a distinction.
My personal answer would be Bush -- I think he has been wrong on everything. Even if suddenly the war turned around and began to look somehow like a success, I wouldn't trust him with the NEXT major decision. I think he was laughably unprepared for this office, tragically unequal to the job, and still is.
But that wasn't my answer in the poll. I think the public was reacting almost exclusively to the dreadful mistake that the war has been. I think in general the red staters still sorta LIKE Bush, but they are beginning to accept that he screwed up bigtime in Iraq.
San Diego by way of Minnah-soh-tah: That web site on regional accents totally had me pegged. I have eliminated most of the remnants of my (Twin Cities, not the Iron Range) Minnesota accent, and have pretty much replaced it with the general west coast non-accent. The "bag" rhymes with "vague" thing, however, will get me every time. You betcha.
Gene Weingarten: I didn't even understand that question! So does your "vague" sound like "vagg" or does your "bag" sound like "bayg?"
Knox, Tenn: In the Nov. 13 issue of Time, Michael P. Delaney of Pasadena, Texas, wrote the following letter to the editor:
Hell will freeze over and the devil will be on ice skates before the South will ever support a mixed-race liberal Democrat for President. There are still a lot of people down here who believe that miscegenation (which, like abortion, used to be a crime) remains immoral and sinful. Add to that Obama's al-Qaeda-sounding name, and it's plain that he has no chance of being elected President.
Do I agree that what he is saying is true? Yes, I'm sure there are people who feel like that. Do I agree with the content of his comments? No. My question is does he agree with what he's saying. I think so, because of the overall tone of the letter and his use of "mixed-race" to describe Obama, although Mr. Delaney doesn't describe himself as one of those people. I just wondered what you thought. (And for the record, I'm ashamed that my state voted overwhelmingly last week to amend our state constitution to ban gay marriage.)
Gene Weingarten: I don't think we know enough to decide whether he believes this or not. It's written carefully. But words provide clues, and if I'd have to guess, I'd say he's one of them. Specifically, his use of the word "miscegenation" without quotes around it to denote skepticism. Miscegenation is a loaded word, a fairly awful word, and he does not seem to be acknowledging that.
But this is subtle. Just a guess.
Native of New York, N.Y.: It's Monday night and I just checked the poll results. Who are these liberal-leaners who would vote for Giuliani? Okay, he is a New York Republican, which might make him seem to be the least-conservative option, but he is also a deranged megalomaniac. Not for nothing was he called "Benito" before 9/11. Diallo, anyone? Giuliani was more concerned about people riding bikes on sidewalks or taking up two seats on the subway than about police brutality. Not to mention the genius idea to build an emergency command center in the World Trade Center complex.
Of course, all these alleged liberals who would vote for McCain have also drunk some peculiar Kool-Aid. He's entertaining, but he's an actual conservative. Don't be duped by the fact that he may nevertheless have a sense of humor!
Gene Weingarten: Well, we were asking people to make what they probably see as a least-of-evils choice.
I agree with you totally about McCain, but I have a major soft spot for him, based upon something he did for me in 2000. Liz, can you link to the story I did in January 2000, where I asked all the presidential candidates to tell me what is the funniest thing about running for president?
You just have to read about five inches into the story. Though the Bradley anecdote that follows it is pretty good, too.
washingtonpost.com: How Is the Presidential Campaign Like This Picture?, ( Post, Jan. 23, 2000)
Chicago, Ill.: In response to you never looking at the line on the ATM receipts, that is why only my wife has an ATM card and I get all of my cash from her. You know what the saddest thing about my own lack of involvement in my family's finances, I'm a banker and personal financial advisor.
Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. Wow
Racist dogs: It can also be due to unfamiliarity. If a puppy isn't exposed to people of all races when young, the dog may react with anxiety/ aggression toward those who look different from the dog's owners. When my dog was young, he saw very few black people and tended to bark at them. Now that we live in a much more racially diverse neighborhood and have more friends of different ethnicities visit, that behavior has stopped. Could be that he's just mellowed some, but I think it's more about familiarity with different types of people. But man, it was embarrassing.
Gene Weingarten: Others have said that. Very possible. Harry grew up in Bethesda! But it doesn't explain why he had no problem with black women, does it?
Regarding B.C.: I don't know if this is "universal" but I wonder if the guru is attempting sabotage. The seeker appears to be female and mentions her "girlfriend." Could the guru be suggesting that she change nothing and continue disagreeing about everything so this lesbian relationship will come to an end?
Gene Weingarten: That's more confusing than the cartoon. Also, is the guru naked?
Also Sporting Chicken Wire and Upholstery: Rachel M. is brilliant. Throw cash and prizes at her...
Gene Weingarten: Are you an ... F?
Calgary, A.B., Canada:"The wages of sin is death."
Gene Weingarten: No, death is the subject, not wages.
Arlington, Va.: Since the young lady who wrote the article in the magazine is a friend of yours, could you tell her that Nordstrom is not her only option for bras? There's a shop in Vienna, Trousseau, that has pretty, supportive bras up to, I believe, a J cup. I'm a 36 G, and I cried the first time I went there and found lots of lovely things that fit.
Gene Weingarten: WOW. WOW. I love this.
Rache? You listening?
Silver Spring, MD: What other jobs have you held, besides being a columnist?
~Allen Zhang & Julie Zhu
Gene Weingarten: These are kids at Montgomery Blair high school. Julie's the cartoonist for Silver Chips, the paper, and Allen wrote me a letter I answered in a column a couple of weeks ago.
I was a postman. I scooped ice cream. Ive been all sorts of reporters and editors.
Kudos: Kudos is singular and correctly pronounced "ku-do" but most people say "ku-dos"
Gene Weingarten: Right.
Poop shame, but with cats: The poop shame phenomena is not limited to humans.
Three of my cats have no poop shame. This morning, my big boy actually used the litterbox to poop while I was scooping it out! I was a whole foot away looking at him the whole time. I was also holding my breath. Maybe I should cut back on the tuna treats. Don't you want privacy, you silly kitty? The boy kitten and girl kitten don't seem to care either, but they are small enough that it might just be a matter of needing to go NOW.
The big girl does have poop shame. She won't poop if I'm in the same room. She'll just pace in front of the litterboxes meowing at me pitiously until I leave. The moment I leave, I can hear her hop into the box and scratch around. It's been like that since we got her four years ago.
Poop shame or not, the funniest part of the litterbox ritual is seeing them "bury" their poop. They are so serious about making sure it is completely covered! The big girl will take serveral minutes to make sure the task is done right. The big boy and the kittens (all born feral) will also try to "bury" their food dishes after they have eaten. So far, none of them have figured out that you can't bury a food dish in lineoleum. But they still try.
I've never had dogs. Do they have poop shame?
Gene Weingarten: One could write an entire monograph on dogs and poop. If they HAD poop shame, it was basically beaten out of them very early, by virtue of having to poop within leash-length of a human.
But dogs take pooping very, very seriously. They will circle until they find just the right spot. And you do not want to walk up to a dog when he or she is pooping. They (rightly) feel vulnerable and even the sweetest of them will growl you away.
Harry used to favor a certain patch of high ivy, where his poop would simply disappear. At night, it was hard to find it. Many times I made an elaborate pretense of picking it up, in case anyone was watching. But there was only dirt in the bag. Couldn't find the poo.
Unlike cats, who do it with some grace, dogs look hilarious pooping. It's a position that affords no dignity whatsoever. They often get a comical look on their faces. They are unsteady and teetering a bit. I have a photo of Harry poopin' next to a grave in Congressional Cemetery. Can't look at this and not laugh.
Chapel Hill, N.C.: Wow. I have to say that I knew Rachel way back when (I was in middle school and did theater with her AND her older brother), and it seems like she's really turned into a cool person.
Of course, we were all middle schoolers back then and no one was really cool at all, so anything interesting is a step in the right direction. The next time you see Rachel, could you tell her that Maggie from Longfellow with the red hair says hi?
Gene Weingarten: You've just told her yourself.
no-liet lids, CA: Those things are evil. They're all too thick and don't allow the seat to stay up on its own, so if you're a guy trying to take care of business, you have to hold the seat while aiming. Most awkward. If you don't hold the seat it'll fall while you're mid-stream, creating a stinking, embarrassing mess.
They should be a deal-breaker, relationship-wise.
Gene Weingarten: Oooh, hey original poster: Show this to your lady! Pee stink! That might do it!
Racist dogs: Humans have huge, huge amounts of information and preconceived notions in our subconscious. We live in a society where there are negative stereotypes about black people. Race almost certainly matters subconsciously even to those of us who know better consciously. It does seem quite reasonably that dogs might pick up on that.
We also are very good at finding patterns even when none exist (bunnies and elephants in cloud formations, for example). It's also entirely possible that a time or two purely by chance your dog growled at a black man, you noticed it and perceived a pattern where none existed, were embarrassed, became stressed whenever your dog was around a black man because you were afraid it might happen again, which your dog picked up on, which made him growl, which made you even more embarrassed, which made next time more likely to happen, etc. Or even weren't embarrassed, but tensed up in anticipation of controlling your dog's expected aggressive behavior.
I have a friend who swears her dog is prejudiced -- against other dogs. She swears he hates black and white dogs, and is friendly only with other brown dogs. True? Or her false perception of noticing only when he growls at a non-brown dog? Or self-fulfilling prophecy? ((she sees a black or white dog, tenses in anticipation of controlling her (rather large and scary-looking) dog, which tells dog there's something to protect her from, which makes him growl at wrong-colored dog.))
Lots of rambling there. I think I had a point. Self-reflection on the subject of race, prejudice, and any other possible subconscious preconceptions is good and worthwhile. Assuming that everything that looks like prejudice must be prejudice probably is less worthwhile, and not correct a lot of the time.
Gene Weingarten: All interesting, but dogs are literally colorblind. No rods and cones. So that black-brown thing is probably nonsense.
Arlington, Va.: Gene,
For over six years, I worked at your wife's agency as a civil servant under two presidents. I worked directly for political appointees. I chose do work there initially because of the challenge, the ability to "make a difference" and the relevance of my work, which involved policy development. I found it even more valuable when Bush took over, because my very presence made it more difficult for the political appointees to things that were "wrong". By "wrong" I do not mean things that were bad for the Country, but things that were illegal or immoral, as they were often tempted to do. Some of the political appointees were good people who tried hard not to do wrong, but it was easier for them to keep on the straight and narrow, knowing I was watching. I was never insubordinate, but on one occasion, I requested re-assignment of one duty because I found the ultimate policy repugnant, though legitimate for the administration to use their elected power for. That one time, the duty was re-assigned to someone else without comment or complaint. I was also able to train the junior civil servants about their duties in all these regards. I would recommend to the poster to hang in there, because the Country needs you!
Gene Weingarten: Terrific answer.
Feminine Hygie, NE: Alright, I understand and accept -- reluctantly -- that it is not OK to criticize the Redskins by saying that they should look for endorsement deals for feminine hygiene products.
Is it OK to suggest that they should look for an endorsement deal for Meow Mix?
Gene Weingarten: As a Giants fan who watched his team collapse like a souffle in an earthquake Sunday night, I am not going to pile on the Redskins. I would CERTAINLY not say they should endorse feminine hygiene products, since that would implicitly equate femaleness with weakness, which is unfair and inaccurate and heinous.
I would also not say that they should endorse Depends, since fecal incontinence and other senior-related health problems are not a laughing matter.
I would also not say they should endorse Quaker Oats, on the theory that they seem to espouse a philosophy of non-violence. One simply does not use religion in that tawdry way.
Really, no endorsement occurs to me.
"Hi, this is Mark Brunell and I'd like to say a few words about the Washington Post's Style Invitational. As a long-time Loser .... "
New York, N.Y.: Escalators: walk up or ride up?
Gene Weingarten: I usually ride. Bad knees. I used to walk, always.
Gene Weingarten: The rib is a walker. Best sign she loves me: When we're together, she rides. I can see that it pains her, but she does it. She's practically bouncing in place.
Washington, D.C.: So I was at the Arlington County courthouse yesterday, trying to get a speeding ticket reduced. I went to the Traffic Division shortly before 9 a.m., where there was a row of county employees at windows similar to bank tellers. Only there was glass all the way up to the ceiling, and it was quite thick (bullet-proof, I assume), and the cut-out holes were not well-placed, so the masses had to shout their questions to the employees to be heard. This resulted in highly non-anonymous exchanges such as "HELLO, I'M JOHN SMITH AND I'M HERE FOR A DUI CHARGE!!!" over and over. I was torn between laughter and being appalled (appallment?).
Anyway my speeding ticket was reduced in no way. The judge allowed me the honor of the full fine and probably the points, too. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, but somehow I thought you would be amused.
Gene Weingarten: I'm glad you did because it gives me the opportunity to share my own story.
In my neighborhood of urban Washington, two blocks from a Metro station, most people who have cars drive them only on weekends. So it is typical to park your car somewhere on the street on Sunday, and not revisit your car until the following Saturday.
Periodically, city work crews will fix sidewalks, light fixtures and what have you. This requires them to clear the cars off a given street on a given day. They do this by taping signs to the trees on that street a day or two before they arrive to do the work: Clear the street of cars by Thursday.
You see where I am going here? So, on Sunday you will park your car on 8th street, which is two blocks from your house, and around a corner. On Tuesday the sign goes up telling you to move your car by Thursday. You go nowhere near your car in the subsequent two days, so do not see the sign. When the workmen arrive, they tow your car.
Now, interestingly, they do not tow your car to a tow lot. They find other, vacant spots on the street. Which is sort of nice, except for the moment of panic when you arrive on Saturday and think your car was stolen, and the subsequent trudge around the neighborhood to find it.
A few weeks ago, this happened to my car. I got a ticket for parking in an emergency-no parking zone and a SECOND parking ticket because the cops had towed my car to an illegal spot.
I plan to resolve this injustice in the way that has proven successful in the past: I will cogitate on the situation, trying to decide whether to contest the tickets, until too much time has passed and the fine doubles, and then I will pay it because my wife makes me.
Laurel, Md.: Thinking back to last week's (boring) thread about pluralizing "none," it occurred to me that zero can be either singular or plural...
There was no car in the garage.
There were no cars in the garage.
It all has to do with expectation of whether the number of cars that would have been in the garage if there had been more than zero was one or more than one.
Gene Weingarten: Uh uh. You've got different subjects there: cars and car. No is not the subject of either sentence, controlling the verb.
Pat the Perfect, ME: Re the accent quiz:
I moved from the Philadelphia area when I was 7 years old, and ...
"What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia
"Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington."
Gene Weingarten: It is a very cool test.
And yes, Pat, the regular reader of this chat and my column KNOWS you are from Fluffia.
Arlington, Va.: Sunday's Beetle Bailey: Funny, or too contrived?
Gene Weingarten: It's awful and pointless and illogical. Miss Buxley had no gender-neutral clothing? No bathrobe?
Gene Weingarten: Plus, he could NOT fit her dress.
Gene Weingarten: Plus, Miss Buxley is buxom, and the dress shows no droopy material. Where are the darts?
Somewhere over the Rainb, OW: Gene,
Is there a reason one can't find your Sunday column online on Sunday? I've tried the point and click menu approach as well as a search.
washingtonpost.com: Should always be here: Below the Beltway.
Gene Weingarten: It is a flaw in the chat software that I cannot just publish a question and Liz's answer. I have to post something myself, even if there is nothing intelligent to add.
Yesterday, I was IM-ing with a friend who is much younger than I am and consequently more web-savvy, and she was showing me some aspects of IM communication I was unfamiliar with. And so I observed: "Hey, this whole thing is like writing letters, but The Flash is your mailman."
Rudy: Just this morning I was at a seminar at which Stu Rothenberg explained why Rudy will not be the Republican choice for President. Rothenberg basically said "He's pro-gun control in a pro-gun party, pro-choice in a pro-life party, pro-gay rights in an pro-hetero party, and, apparently, pro-adultery in a party that at least officially decries that sort of thing."
Gene Weingarten: You mean anti-gun control. Right.
DC expat: Can you say something about Ed Bradley? The personification of classy journalism--what a great role model! He will be sorely missed.
Gene Weingarten: He would never have used a flaccid, emotionless cliche like "He will be sorely missed."
My family was watching 60 Minutes Sunday, and Dan made an interesting observation. He said that Bradley sort of WAS 60 Minutes. It's true. His personality defined the show. It won't be the same. I don't think you can say that about any of the others, including Mike Wallace. Though they will, when the time comes.
Federli, NE: Hello Gene,
Doesn't Kevin Federline's threats to release his "XXX" home movie of him with Britney Spears -- unless she gives him millions of dollars -- amount to extortion? Wouldn't it be great if he was prosecuted under the RICO act?
Gene Weingarten: He has said that?
If he said it that clearly, then, yes, that sure seems like textbook extortion to me. Any criminal lawyer want to weigh in?
Okay, I just have a few observations about today's poll results.
1. Yes, it is weird that liberals like McCain, who is quite conservative, and in ways that ought to be quite disturbing to liberals. Me, I'm going with Romney, whom I know so little about that I can naively invest him with my own politics. Also, his name is "Mitt." I know and like a guy named Mit, and he's also a Republican. Good enough! Close enough!
2. Liberals seem to have no problem with the breadth of Hillary's resume. That's kinda weird. That's like saying that my wife has the experience to write my column or host this chat. Well, okay, maybe she does, but you see my point.
3. Liberals' own fears about Hillary's electability may well be what dooms her. Sort of like what happened to Howard Dean. A stunningly small percentage of libs think Hillary can win.
Toswon, Md.: From a post of yours: "Many times I made an elaborate pretense of picking it up, in case anyone was watching. But there was only dirt in the bag. Couldn't find the poo."
I just did that last night. Lost it with my flashlight. Looked around for a bit then acted like I saw it, but I was really just picking up a leaf. I feel badly doing that, but I'm not going to look forever.
Gene Weingarten: There's a point where you just have to give up.
Silver Spring, Md.: My boyfriend has recently developed an obsession with straight razors and actually just ordered one from some guy he found on the Internet. I'm a little afraid he will cut his face off. Is this a possibility?
Gene Weingarten: Ask him to email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com. I will help. There are things he really needs to know.
Takoma Park, Md.: I have a problem: A couple of weeks ago, during a routine safety inspection a Montogomery County Housing Inspector visited my apartment. The next day they issued me a warning saying the place wasn't being maintained properly. Obviously concerned, I called the inspector, who tut-tutted about cleaning the sstove and the tub, but said the real issue, the root of the problem, had been... dirty laundry. I had too much dirty laundry on the floor of my bedroom. (No, it was not piled high enough to collapse and smother me. It was not blocking access to a door or fire exit. It was just a big slobby Guy pile of dirty laundry.)
In other words, Montgomery County is telling me to pick my socks up off the floor, having apparently inherited the job from my late mother in a little-noticed codicil to her will.
What do I do? Filing a complaint would seem to invite nothing but massive retaliation from the obviously humorless bureaucrats involved. I could wait for the re-inspection and announce that I had changed my ways, joined a 12-step program, accepted Martha Stewart as my personal savior, and was ready for my Khmer-Rouge style self-criticism session, but see above re: humorless and retaliation. Meekly submitting will be easy enough (I already bought a hamper), but seems puerile.
I am, after all, a guy. A single guy. If being a single guy does not include certain benefits such as being able to throw laundry on the floor, what is the point of being one?The belching and the scratching are fun, but not enough by themselves. How can I fight for the rights of Guys everywhere?
Gene Weingarten: You need to hire a lawyer, who needs to turn it into a freedom-of-religion issue.
But I am a little confused. Why was a housing inspector visiting your house? This is "routine"? This never happened to me.
Gene Weingarten: Are you sure this was not an elaborate practical joke by a friend of yours?
Gene Weingarten:'Cause that would be a pretty good joke.
Headac, HE: Good morning Liz and Gene:
Serious question. Three weeks ago I fell and hit my head right above my temple on the corner of a counter. I went to the emergency room and was released but recently I have random stabbing pain shooting through the lump that is remaining. Should I be concerned and go to another doctor or is this part of the healing process? It makes me nervous as it happened so long ago (seemingly) and these effects are happening now.
Gene Weingarten: See a doctor. You were hit in a very vulnerable place.
Washington, D.C.: Don't you think there's something wrong with someone who doesn't find Borat funny -at all-? I mean, not even a single scene? All I know is I gave myself a headache laughing during the wrestling scene, and all I could think afterwards was "Man, that is dedication to the role. This guy is committed." Great article in the NYTimes about the scale of laughter, and he gave Borat high marks for inducing the vaunted "boffo" laugh.
Gene Weingarten: The wrestling scene was really good, and I do not agree with others that it went on too long. The point of the joke is that it went on too long.
Arlington, Va.: I think there is some voter fraud in your poll, maybe some dems stuffing the conservative ballot box...
The war is bad, but I think most republicans recognize that it is the scandals, the lack of any coherent republican platform, and displeasure at George Bush that cost us(them? I don't even know where i stand anymore to be honest) My entire family voted straight democrat for the first time "since Kennedy" according to my grandmother, and it had a lot more to do with guys named Abramoff, Cunningham, Ney and Foley than it did with guys like Zarqawi and Sadr.
Not a sermon, just a thought (man I hate that guy)
Gene Weingarten: Well said, but I think you are in a minority.
Dog Raci, ST: About the racist dogs out there - I have a solution for the owners. The problem lies in the dog's basic lack of proper socialization as a puppy. When the dog is at least seven weeks of age, it is so important to slowly introduce the dog to new and strange people and situations. It is important to not force the issues but allow the puppy to proceed at its own pace. This helps the puppy become brave and, in the future, not be afraid or bark in these situations. During this time, you must let the puppy meet people of all shapes and sizes, skin colors, hat- and glasses-wearers, etc. The puppy learns these things are not of concern to him. This is also true for other dogs, and strange places -anywhere you want the dog to behave properly as an adult. Optimally, proper socialization takes place prior to 5 months of age, after that the process will go slower. Certain breeds are pre-disposed to suspicious behavior (the working group, bred for protection among other things) and may socialize slower. In any case, the "racist" dog was probably never introduced to anyone but the owner's white friends. The first time it sees a black person, it is curious and possibly afraid. Blame the owners. Gene, take your dog to work someday. Give people treats to feed her and make friends (at her own pace, do not force her). I'm currently training to be a certified dog trainer, so this is free not-quite-yet-professional advice.
Gene Weingarten: Makes sense. But again, in my case, it doesn't explain that Harry liked black WOMEN just fine.
Bandon-by-the-Sea, OR: A horse and an egret are standing by the road, holding up signs demanding independence for Puerto Rico. An family of visitors in an El Dorado is so shocked by the sight that they drive off the road, running over the horse. In his dying breath, the horse says "My egret, I have one life to give for my country."
Gene Weingarten: Bit of a stretch.
Kev, IN: If K-Fed was smart, he'd say to his soon-to-be Ex, "Brit, we are co-owners of this sex tape. It's worth a lot of money, but I'm willing to sell you my half-interest for $50,000,000, give or take $10,000,000 or so." K-Fed, of course, is not smart.
Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. The Mafia ploy. Nice little store you got here. It would be a pity if something happened to it.
From your wife's agency: Looks like extortion to me. Not a RICO case, though -- Federline doesn't qualify as an "enterprise," which is an element of the RICO offense.
Gene Weingarten: Ah.
Bag equals Beg: I lived in Wisconsin during college and quickly fell in love with the accent. It took me a while to understand that the cashier was asking if I wanted a bag "beg" for my groceries, but I love the way they say their state name: Wes-gan-sin! How great is that?
Gene Weingarten: Know how people in Newfoundland pronounce Newfoundland? I found out when I was out there.
Dell's Bra Boutique: In Fairfax. You'll find sizes you could only imagine.
Gene Weingarten: Still listening, Rachel?
Falls Church, Va.: Give me a break! If everyone who worked for the Federal Government quit every time a president from the other party came in, it would be chaos. Stay in the job you love, and realize that you are working for your country, not your president.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but you have to parse her question. You can't ethically do that if it becomes your job to do something that you find completely unethical.
Silver Spring, Md.: You know, each time you mention another excentric or neurotic feature of your personality, I think of Tony Kornheiser. You guys must get along like brothers or at least pals. I know this is the wrong chat, but don't you think Tony would fare better on Monday Night Football if he acted a bit more like himself (and quit editing his comments)? He could nail that dope Theisman every five minutes for completely contradicting himself.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, I totally agree with you on that.
Herndon, Va.: Gene,
If you want to know why the Republicans no longer hold power in Congress, you have to ask the people who normally vote Republican but chose to vote Democrat in this election cycle why they did so. What anyone else thinks is simply a guess.
Well, I am one of those who normally vote Republican and chose to vote Democrat this election cycle. I voted for President Bush twice. I never once voted for President Clinton. I collected signatures to put Senator Allen on the ballot six years ago and voted to oust him from the Senate last Tuesday.
While I cannot speak for anyone else, Republicans lost my vote because they placed getting elected ahead of the values they purport to espouse. Republicans purport to be fiscally conservative, yet increased federal spending and expanded welfare to levels not seen since LBJ. The Republican Congress increased the size of an agriculture omnibus bill that most Republicans expected Congress to roll back, subsidized the energy industry without correcting any deficiencies in the marketplace or helping to ensure our energy security, and increased earmarks 700 percent.
Republicans also lost control of Congress because they seem hypocritical. Although they insist that no Federal Court should decide when life begins, they compelled a Federal Court to decide if Terry Schiavo's life should end. Congressional Republicans espouse moral and ethical behavior, but tolerate Mark Foley and Tom Delay. They purport faith in the voters, but gerrymander districts, rendering their votes moot.
This win at any cost mentality, more than the war in Iraq, more than George Bush's incompetence, cost them the election. You might argue that this mentality has been present for years. However, it took the Mark Foley case for many Republicans to realize how willing Congress was to sell its soul for the sake of an election. For me, the Foley case was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Finally and ironically, George Bush's Supreme Court appointments helped to ensure that the Court would remain conservative and paved the way for conservatives like myself to vote Republicans out of office. Most Republicans might not admit it, or even realize it, but the cost to conservatives of voting out Republican congressmen is not as great now as it was four years ago.
Thanks for bringing this up.
Gene Weingarten: Superior points, all of them. That last one is chilling to me, as a liberal, but it is very interesting. And yes, there are some cases coming up before the court that may well prove you right. As it were.
Doin the kangaroo: It's how I've always referred to dogs in the act of pooping.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah. Or the squirrel.
Arlington, Va.: Every now and then someone suggests that journos lean liberal because they tend to be better educated, aware of the complexity of issues in the public debate, compassionate, etc. This was the topic of the ombudsmans column on Sunday. This is also used, on occasion, to explain why urban areas' lean blue. The counter to this is usually along the lines of "You can't understand what the heartland is like" vitriol about how the opinions of folks in red America are every bit as valid as those that belong to educated, engaged, concerned citizens that read, think critically, and question the government. Remember the Clinton year's "Black Helicopters"? Folks that were worried about them seem to think it's just fine that the government listen to phone calls, because we need to catch the terrorists. I just once would like to hear an argument for the red-staters that relies on a better understanding of the issues at hand.
Gene Weingarten: I think there's plenty of intelligent critical thinking in the red states. What I think is missing in a lot of red state areas is diversity of experience.
You are likely to feel negatively about gay people if you know none (or know none who are out), and so your knowledge of them comes from stereotypes and exaggerations. Same with black people. Same with Jews. They become The Other, and are easy to marginalize or patronize.
Arlington, Va.: Is anything besides a plea or a cry ever impassioned? I think it sounds stronger to merely plead for peace impassionlessly. Overuse has added the connotation of futility to impassion.
"Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected last year, has made several impassioned pleas to all sides in the conflict to put down their arms."
Gene Weingarten: Some please are "fervent."
Gene Weingarten: Pleas.
Apt, if not an aptonym: From Saturday's Post, we have this gem:
"This shameless proposal makes a mockery of the Zoning Ordinance (not to mention religion) and could have potentially devastating effect on the quality of life in our neighborhood," Georgetown architect Outerbridge Horsey wrote in an e-mail to the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
I don't know if it's an aptonym, exactly, but if you wanted to come up with a name that evoked WASPiness, snobbery, and a touch of old-money-eccentricity, you really couldn't do better than "Outerbridge Horsey."
Gene Weingarten: When I was growing up, my brother had some contact with someone named "Bodsworth Wigglesworth."
Falls Church, Va.: Press-bias guy again, back to twist your tail one last time, if you'll let me. All of my bomb-throwing aside, tell me honestly: do you really think Jim Webb would have gotten the same free pass from the press over the famous scenes in his books if he were still a Republican?
I can't help but think that the Style section would have mocked him mercilessly over them throughout the campaign. These weren't ordinary bodice-ripping scenes, remember; in one, a man greets his little son with an act that I can't describe here, and in another, a woman slices a banana with a part of her body that I also can't describe here. I'm not saying Webb himself is a sicko of any kind, but these passages are outre, even wacky. If Newt Gingrich or Lynne Cheney had written them, any number of writers for Style would have mined them heavily for their humor value, I think.
I'm not suggesting that there's any kind of pro-Webb conspiracy at the Post. I'm just thinking that there's a natural tendency among like-minded people (i.e., a group of reporters) to see things the same way. When a guy on "the other side" writes something weird, it's easy for everyone to see it as goofy and to get on board with making fun, but if the guy writing the weird parts is "on your side," the natural tendency is to give him the benefit of the doubt, to the point where it may be honestly impossible to see the same humor.
By the way, none of this is meant to take away from the fact that Allen was a boor and an idiot who threw the election away. I certainly won't miss him. And for what it's worth, I voted NO on Amendment 1. I'm as opposed to bias in love and marriage as I am in press coverage.
Gene Weingarten: Interesting.
There may have been a bias being shown, but not political bias. Literary bias.
Seriously. Journalists are writers. Those who haven't written fiction probably want to. And we know that fiction is ... fiction. Especially in the realm of pulp fuction, it most cases, there is no reasonable parallel between what you write and who you are. Stephen King is a nice, funny, non-hostile, emotionally sound man who gives hugely to charity.
So we KNOW that. We're not going to pile on over something that obviously is unfair. To me, Webb's 25-year-old pronouncements about women in the military were much more troublesome.
"Macaca" was not unfair. We were seeing something quite ugly emerging. Just watch the video.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Disclaimer: I would NEVER name a child Madison or anything like it. However, an acquaintance of mine recently named her baby Virginia Madison, and I found myself thinking... well, okay. The name has a nice Old Dominion feel. James Madison WAS a prominent Virginian, and he has a university named after him and all that. Could this name combination possibly be acceptable? Or am I just nostalgic for the days when I lived in Northern Virginia?
Gene Weingarten: I assume you mean Madison is her middle name. It is okay on the principle that middle names are completely ignorable and irrelevant. Valentino Assateagueponyfootfalls Wiebel is a fine name.
My middle name is Norman. It has not scarred me.
I took no chances with my children, however. They are Amanda and David.
Tissues please: Recently, I became closer, physically, with a very nice man. It was everything it should be and more. Except...after, he started to cry. Not a thank you snivel or a stray tear but crying for real, accompanied by snot. He said he wasn't upset and that this always happens but I am FREAKED OUT!
I don't have a statistically valid sample, I realize, but have you heard of this before? What do I do, aside from stocking up on tissues if he gets another chance in the spotlight?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, I have heard of this. I cannot recall what it is called. It may be a vaso-vagal reflex, and I think he can't help it. I don't think you have cause for worry, unless the physical act itself repulses you.
Yes, it IS funny.
Any dox out there who can confirm my vague recollection?
Dogs and Poop Shame: My dog growing up had poop shame. We got him when I was young enough that I'm not sure if I noticed it or not, but definitely when he got older. We couldn't walk him on a leash, or if we did, he wouldn't poop. It always had to be behind a bush, or if it was out in my mom's yard, he would go down to the woods where you coudln't see him. He was by far the best dog I've ever met. We had to put him down in July of 05 at the age of 18 because he had lung cancer. I still miss him every day.
Gene Weingarten: Couple of people have said this.
Victoria Scha, DE: so you have the dvd?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, it comes with the lessons.
Agnostic or Athie, ST: I beleive you call yourself and athiest (forgive me if i am in error) and I was just curious how you differentiate between an agnostic and an atheist.
I just can't figure out how to ask that question without making it look like I am trying to lay a trap or that I have an agenda. Honestly I just want your opinion, I am a devout Roman Catholic and am curious about how others think.
Gene Weingarten: An agnostic is an atheist who thinks "atheist" sounds bad. Or, conceivably, one who is, deep down, hedging his bets.
Washington, D.C.: I would like to submit one of the greatest potential band names I have ever heard. This name was created by a group of my friends many years ago. I would like to stipulate that no one is allowed to use it, because it is ours, but I thought I'd share it, because it is awesome: Johnny Narcolepsy and the Quadriplegic Trampoliners.
It just has a ring to it.
Gene Weingarten: It is numbingly good.
Los Angeles, Calif.: I apologize in advance - this isn't terribly funny.
We had to put our dog to sleep on Wednesday. He was a cocker spaniel, full of life, and we're better for him having been in our lives. HE was funny (I think he knew it, too) but those are other stories.
He'd been sick. He had an autoimmune blood disorder that attacked his platelets. He could have bled to death at any time. But he fought that successfully. Two weeks ago, his disease came back. This time it attacked his red blood cells, breaking them down faster than he could make them. He didn't have a chance against the disease this time. He couldn't be off pure oxygen for 5 minutes without his breathing becoming labored. He had his oxygen line stapled to his forehead and a huge e-collar around his neck so that he wouldn't tear out the oxygen. He was miserable. So we had to make the decision to let him go.
He was only 10. It's not really fair, you know, that an animal that full of life had to die so young. We're very happy that we was part of our lives, though, even for such a short time. It will, I think, be a long time before we have another pet. We'll miss the little guy, and the funny way he licked his nose and seemd to smile at us.
Gene Weingarten:"He was miserable. So we had to make the decision to let him go.
This is the key. You had that ability. It's a terrific thing you did, and you should feel good about it.
Re: racist dogs: rods and codes: If a dog does not have rods and cones and therefore cannot tell the difference between black/white and brown dogs, how can a dog tell the difference between skin color in humans?
P.S. I love saying rods and cones
Gene Weingarten:1. A dog distinguishes a lot by smell.
2. Couldn't you tell who is black and who is white by looking at a black and white pic?
Barack and John: Wow. So far in the survey, both liberals and conservatives are voting in Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008. If one of those people is nominated by their party and the other isn't, I think we'll know who our winner is! You can say you made the first prediction here in your chat!
Gene Weingarten: Obama would be a very risky, but very exciting candidate. I don't think he'd be risky for reasons of race. I think he'd be risky because three years ago he was a state senator.
Floor, ED: AL Gore??? Al Gore???!
What is wrong with the liberal quiz takers that they would vote for Al Gore? Have we not yet learned that this man can has no charisma? After 8 lonnnnnnggggg years, I want a president who the international community will actually respect and think, "hmm, that American public picked a good one."
Gene Weingarten: Al Gore was my choice, from that group.
I think Al has learned many things about humility in the last six years. And he's qualified, unlike Hillary and Barack.
Annapolis, Md.: What should a love advice blog run by female divorce attorneys be called?
Gene Weingarten: Very good!
Dear Clock Guy: Can you help me sort out what makes one watch that tells the time with accuracy better than another? The Timex I've had for a number of years died. (Or maybe it just needs a new battery; I'm having a hard time caring enough about it to find out. Timexes don't inspire much passion.) I saw some startingly beautiful watches in a jewelry store window, and it occurred to me that maybe it's time for a real grown-up watch. So I checked out those startingly beautiful watches, and found they started at about $650 for the ones without the tacky diamonds and went up from there to the five-figure range. Obviously, we're not talking Timex price territory here. But what about the innards makes them worth that much money? Aside from the aesthetics of the watch face and band, what I want out of a watch is for it to reliably tell me what time it is and to stay in one piece. Nowadays, just about everything above the level of those sold by street peddlers will do that. Help me justify spending the big bucks.
Gene Weingarten: There is no reason to.
The actual timekeeping mechanism in most quartz watches are nearly indistinguishable, and very cheap and replaceable. If you are buying a $1,200 Mathey-Tissot, it has pretty much the same crap movement in it that a $20 Timex has.
What you are paying for is name and styling and the physical durability of the watch itself.
I will pay good money for mechanical movements, because I love the technology. But that's me.
Burke, Va.: Have faith, my fellow gays and lesbians! The Supreme Court threw out laws against interracial marriage in 1967 (Loving vs. Virginia). At that point there were 16 states that still had such laws. Look where we are today, 40 years later. Heck, look how far our culture had advanced by 1987.
I think you are too pessimistic Gene. It will be more like 25 to 30 years before the current anti-gay forces are regarded as Neanderthals by civilized people. I'm not sure how long it will be before the next state has full marriage rights, like MA does. But in ten years I'll bet 5 to 10 states have civil unions that are identical to marriage in all ways, except for federal tax law. Vermont was first, and NJ will be second. The more states that recognize our relationships, the harder it will be for conservatives to argue it will destroy society.
There was some good news this year. Democrats in several state houses kept marriage amendments from even getting on the ballot, and in Arizona, we defeated an amendment for the first time ever.
Thanks for your support, Gene. The funniest thing to me about conservatives is that they won't acknowledge that liberals are always right on cultural issues: slavery, voting rights for women, African American civil rights, you name it. We're right this time, too.
Gene Weingarten: Interesting point. On social issues, "conservative" and "reactionary" are often synonymous.
FARK: Gene, you got a link to your column on fark.com.
Most of these people seem not to understand sarcasm, and they also think this was an "article" of some kind.
Gene Weingarten: The comment string is really terrific. I particularly like the person who concludes I want to kill kittens.
Gaithersburg, Md.: Oh boy, are we to believe that Rudi Guiliani is actually considering a run for the presidency? The greaseball is a skeezer and we don't need a thug government. He had his moment in history, but he is not presidential material. Thank you for letting me vent.
P.S.: How's the puppy doing?
Gene Weingarten: I woke up this morning with a wet nose in my face. Murph was sleeping next to me, crooked in my arm. A warm puppy.
You nonpuppypeople, you just have no idea of the beauty of it all.
McCain: Yes, he really, truly is a conservative. But there are these occasional flashes that make liberals think he can be redeemed. Sort of like the bad boy you think you can change simply by the power of your love. Not.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah. And he can be funny, and libs like that.
Frederick, Md.: Haven't heard from Wshingtonpost.com all chat. What's her probelm?
Gene Weingarten: Shut up.
Absolutely a true story: Years ago, I had a DUI charge in Fairfax County. When the judge called my name, I walked up to the podium, and another man did the same. Turns out we have the same name. When the judge asked "which one is charged with DUI," the other guy stammered something and walked back to his seat. I told the judge "I'm pretty sure it's him." The courtroom laughed, the bailiff laughed, the judge did not.
I asked for a continuance.
Gene Weingarten: I like that.
The Old Ranger, Death Valley, Calif.: So, what's the verdict on Borax? Is the candid camera approach fair? And just how do you embarrass a frat boy?
Gene Weingarten: Borax!
Yes, the candid camera approach is fair. I assure you waivers were handed out. Even though one of the frat boys is suing.
New Hampshire: I think there should be a word added to the dictionary whose meaning is "a word that should be added to the dictionary." Can you help with this?
Gene Weingarten: Well, there sort of is such a word: Neologism. But I love your idea.
Tipping - I do it but I don't know why: Can you explain to me why certain professions get tips and others don't? For instance travel. I pay to take a plane, a train, metro, a bus, and a cab. I pay the fee for each, but the cabbie expects a tip, while none of the drivers/pilots of the other vehicles asks for one. I pay a fee to get a haircut and then am expected to pay a tip to get that haircut -- for the service provided by the hairdresser? I get service from a retail clothing person to help me find an outfit or from a person selling me electronics (can take just as long), but I don't tip them. Or in a hotel, I pay for a clean room and then tip housekeeping to clean it -- isn't that what my hotel room charge is paying for, a clean room? I can understand if people do something above and beyond, but for basic services that are paid for already, why the tip? Don't even get me started on the restaurant industry who simply refuses to pay their staff so that in turn they beg for tips. I would love to have one restaurant just try out the practice of paying their staff a salary, adding that cost into the food, and saying on the menu that tipping is not needed. I guess my question is who gets to decide what professions get tips and how can I add mine to the list?
Gene Weingarten: I share your frustration. Many people do not realize that it is customary to tip chat hosts.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, we'll end on that one. Regrettably, there will be no chat next week, Tgiving Week. We will resume the following week, regular time, and you will receive a significant disclosure.
I'll be updating through the week, as usual.
washingtonpost.com: I've put off posting a link to Gene's wonderful " Watched Pot" story till the end of the chat, so as not to get in the way of his dazzling answers.
4'11" tall, DD cup: Which is the equivilent of tall and F or G.
She really, really nailed it!
Gene Weingarten: A few people have said this. I obviously didn't know, I just knew it was funny as hell.
Washington, D.C.: Please tell Rachael I would give a year's salary to date her.
Gene Weingarten: Sorry, it wouldn't work out. Rachel wouldn't really care about your $250.
Reston, Va.: If The Washington Post has an article about a piece of art they have a picture of the art. If they have an article about a politician, they include a picture of the politician. So, why did The Washington Post have an article about a woman's massive breasts and not include a frontal picture of the woman? I've been cheated. This is the second time The Post has done this by the way...
Gene Weingarten: It was my idea not to show her chest, and I think your question explains why I was right.
See next post.
State of FFantasy: Gene - the article in this weekend's Post mag by the young woman with the FF breasts was actually a very good piece of writing. And she appears to be a fairly successful actress as well, judging from the articles on the Web about her ...
... which I found while trying to Google a picture. And I confess I went straight to that article in this week's mag (even before BTB) solely out of prurient interest and the hope that there would be a photo.
I know you are a smaller-is-better man, but my guess is that the majority of male readers had the same instinct as I. All of which supports (ahem) the writer's contention that she had to work hard to be sure that there was something more interesting about her than her breasts, because that is what men will notice. Despite her talents as a writer, my overwhelming thought after reading the article was "Holy %$%&! FF!! Wow! etc."
I want to respect women for their minds and all that, but like many men, when it comes to big boobs I am trapped in the psyche of a 14-year-old and unable to break out. When talking to a large-breasted female I barely hear anything she says. Any advice? Any suggestions from the female readers who find themselves on the other end of this scenario? Help!
Gene Weingarten: Any further questions about the decision?
Pittsburgh, Pa.: For Barack Obama, I picked the option that the country is not ready to elect a black president. I am black, which may be why I feel this way. What people say out loud and what they will do once they enter the voting booth can be the opposite. I believe that some whites may say, publically, that they would vote for him because it is the politically correct thing to do, but this would not be how they would ACTUALLY vote. Racism is still alive and well, it has just gone underground and some people have just learned how to be more subtle about it.
My husband, who is white, has been in a store with me shopping. After a few minutes, I noticed that the salesperson was following us around the store. I pointed this out to my husband, who told me that I was being hypersensistive. However, when the salesperson realized that we were together, she walked away and began helping a customer on the other side of the store. My husband was floored. Sad, but true.
Gene Weingarten: This whole thing about being followed around in stores came as a shock to me. I first heard about it several years ago from Deborah Heard, who is now the editor of the Style section at the Post. Deb told me it had happened to her.
Deborah Heard is a beautiful, elegant, sophisticated black woman. If you saw her and were trying to guess her occupation, these things would occur to you: CEO, physician, United States Senator, etc. When you were told she was merely the editor of the most prestigious newspaper feature section in the country, you would think that job beneath her.
When Deb told me that she had been trailed in stores, I realized the incredible, ubiquitous, pernicious nature of this thing.
Rods and Cones: You boob. Rods don't assist in color vision. Also dogs do have cones just not all the necessary spectrum. I thought you were too insecure to just spew out something that wrong.
Gene Weingarten: I'm not insecure at all. I'm just stupid and ill-informed.
Joliet, Ill.: Years ago I bought a nice print from the National Gallery, framed it and placed it above the tank of my Joliet. Keeps me humble and always gets a chuckle from my guests.
Gene Weingarten: That's fabulous! Even better than those modern ladies-looking urinals. Liz can you link to those?
washingtonpost.com: Of course.
Silver Spring, Md.: My dearly-departed lab mix was homeless for some time before we adopted her from the Humane Society. She also reacted negatively to black men when we lived on the Hill. My wife mentioned this to a reputedly respected dog trainer based in Arlington. The trainer said "what a great trait for a dog on Capitol Hill!" We did not engage her services, and the dog got much better.
Gene Weingarten: Wow.
You know, Molly -- who is living with two other women in Ithaca -- has informed us that she is disappointed that her dog, Mattingly, is a little suspicious of men whom she doesn't know well. A little protective.
The rib and I agreed with her it was a darned shame. Then when we got off the phone we decided this was a doggie character flaw we could definitely live with.
Gene Weingarten: This just in, from Rachel Manteuffel --
Thank you all for posting such nice things about my story. And thanks to all the guys who understood I wrote it because I can't find a boyfriend any other way. You understand me better than anyone ever has. I think we have a real connection! And thanks to all the similarly chested women (there are DOZENS of us! DOZENS!) who recommended Dell's Bra Boutique in Fairfax. They rescue abused dogs (really -- the animal kind) and stock bras up to at least an L. I left wearing my new purchase and standing straighter; Mom ended up putting on hers on the way home, somewhere on I-495. There are things that are more important than propriety.
Hope I'm not too late - dogs and blacks: I'm black and my dog growls at other black people until he gets to know them! It's so weird -- and I have to believe there's a different reason for it than something it's learning from the owner.
Gene Weingarten: I'm going to ask Murphy's trainer, Victoria Schade. She knows everything about dogs. It's like she IS a dog.
Wait. I don't mean she's ugly. She's actually quite fetching.
Wait, I don't mean like a dog.
Not that it matters. I mean, a woman's physical appearance is immaterial to this enlightened chat.
Though in this case, lest there be any confusion, she is not ugly. She's a hottie. Not that it matters.
I'm done now.
Tip for the Chat Host: Fark for "killing kittens" means to self pleasure.
It is from a inside joke.
"Every time you masturbate God kills a kitten"
Gene Weingarten: Ah, right. Thanks.
Lowell, Mass.: I, a gay man, heart you Gene, though in a completely platonic way designed not to make a straight guy uncomfortable. I love what you have to say about marriage equality, that it's just simple fairness, and that opposition to it can only come from a feeling, expressed or unexpressed, that there's something wrong with being gay. But I'm wondering how you came to this. You're old enough to have grown up when gay was the worst thing a person could be, and when there were no examples of successful gay people in the public eye. So how'd you turn out to see gay people as your equal?
Gene Weingarten: It was a gradual process. When I was a teen, and even in college, I made fun of gays. But over the years, I came to realize that some of the people I most enjoyed talking to were gay, of both sexes. We shared more things than we differed on -- in particular, a certain type of humor. The crap that gays have had to put up with makes many of them deliciously cynical and robustly anti-establishment, two things I identify with.
That's the short answer. The longer one could fill a book.
Annapolis, Md.: C'mon, no comment on the Get Fuzzy from Sunday? Nothing at all? Do you not wnat to get Darby in trouble? I would think that you would pounce on that one right away! (Look at the to do list)
Gene Weingarten: Two people have mentioned this. I can read nothing on that to do list. How can you?
Massachussetts: Not Mitt Romney! He HATES the gays, Gene. Says "gay marriage has been bad for the children of Massachusetts."
Not a classy guy. Retract your vote!
Gene Weingarten: Done.
Red Staters: From last week's Studio 60: Chandler is talking to the blond religious (Republican) chick about politics, and says "You hate us because you think we think you're stupid. And we hate you because we think you're stupid." Sums it up well.
Gene Weingarten: Excellent!
Gene Weingarten: Actually, David Brooks has something interesting to say about this phenomenon in today's New York Times, and he links it to Borat.
washingtonpost.com: The Heyday of snobbery (Reg. Req.)
Gene Weingarten: Sadly, this is a "Times Select" article, meaning you probably can't access this link. It might be worth the price of the Times on the street.
A Dem behind enemy lines: On the survey: Agreed, McCain's pretty conservative, but I'd support him for one reason: He has demonstrated both a sense of personal honor in his dealings and an ability to see the other side (and, where appropriate, forgive). Remember, he could have been sprung from Hanoi any time he wanted to, because of his father's position. He chose not to.
I do believe that the personal ethics and character of the candidate is a huge factor in a politician, and much more so in a President. It's why Clinton didn't accomplish as much as he should, and why the catastrophe that is W was so apallingly predictable. McCain passes that test; Hilary -- not so much.
Gene Weingarten: Um, seeking conservative credentials, Mister McCain has twisted himself into a pretzel to suck up to the religious right. He has not shown real character at all in the last two years.
Re: Liberals always right: Wasn't Lincoln a Republican?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, and he was really, really good on the major social issue of the day. But I wouldn't really call him a liberal. This is the guy who suspended habeas corpus and jailed his critics.
I'm a Lincoln guy, but...
Gene Weingarten: And this just in from Michael Campbell --
Since you'll not be hosting the chat next week, would you be so kind as to post this in the update:
On Nov. 22nd, 2005 at approximately 1:53 p.m., the Weingarten Chatters yahoogroup was born (or at least the first message was posted). Members and nonmembers alike are invited to join us in celebration by visiting and using the facilities next Wednesday shortly before 2 EST. No preference as to whether one should do a #1 or #2, but those opting for the former should eat asparagus beforehand.
This past year has not produced any coitus, but some of us have managed to meet up for drinks and a Nats game. Maybe we'll get to coitus by the next year.
Anyone who is not a member and wishes to join can visit the following URL:
Accent Quiz says The Midland: I'm a D.C. area native in my early 50s with parents from the deep South (who sounded like it). I went to college with lots of people from all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and some Connecticut. When the language mockery ensued in the dorm (soda vs. pop, sub vs. hoagie and grinder, youse vs. yoo-uns etc.), it was noted that I had no discernable accent to make fun of. This is somewhat confirmed (I think) by the accent quiz.
I'm wondering if you think that the following have regional pronounciation giveaways. While I use the first in each pairing below, I've never been able to nail down peoples' origins based on them.
aunt - ant or awnt
caramel - CARE-a-mel or CAR-mel (yes, two syllables)
Caribbean - Care-a-BEE-an or Cah-RIB-ee-an
Gene Weingarten: I used to think "awnt" was incredibly pretentious. I just had huge contempt for anyone who said "awnt." Then I met a woman who said "awnt" and I changed my mind. I changed my mind around the time I married her. It's a regionalization, not a choice.
Potty Mouth, Md.: So, I do have a tendency, mostly controlled since I had a child, to use the f-word pretty liberally. When I read the post about the crying man, my first thought was, "That's f--ing funny." Now I'm choking myself laughing even more.
Gene Weingarten: It is! You're right!
Road ra, GE: Hi Gene -- I heart you!
I have a question. Last week I was cut off while merging. The driver cutting me off was so determined not to let me in that he almost caused an accident. I found myself next to him at a light further down the road and said "you are the jerk that cut me off!" (Because I was upset, I'm a very polite driver and hate it when people are rude to me for no reason). He rolled down his window and said "F--- you, you fat, disgusting, ugly pig!" Now, I'll admit that I'm a pleasantly plump woman, but I'm young and cute and definetely not a pig. He was an older, wrinkly man. What do you think my response should have been, or how would you have responded to it if you had been me? (Extra facts, I drive a manual sports car and he was in an "economy" sedan -- I'm being nice.)
Extra question: What is it with guys pointing out someone's weight for no reason? This seems to be a re-occurring theme on your polls -- "how would you react if your sig-o gained large amounts of weight." What's up with that?
Gene Weingarten: I've said this before: What you should have done is hold your thumb and index finger about an inch apart, and driven off. That's it. Point made.
Washington, D.C.: Gene: You wrote: "One of the joys of the movie is to try to figure out afterwards which parts were scripted and which parts were true ambushes of real people. I'm still not sure in one or two cases."
Isn't that also one of the flaws in the movie -- that you don't know what's real and what isn't?
If the scene is scripted, the joke is: "Wouldn't it be funny if a guy did this and people reacted like this?"
If the scene isn't scripted, the joke is: "Isn't it funny that people reacted this way to this guy and said this outrageous stuff?"
Two completely different jokes. And how do you know how to evaluate what you're seeing, and to know which joke it is, if you don't know whether these people are really who they're supposed to be, and whether the situations are really what they're portrayed as, and whether the events really happened in the sequence in which they're presented? (We see a bear leaning out the window and snarling. We then see a shot of kids running away. We're supposed to think the kids saw the bear and then ran, right? But it's really more likely that the bear and the kids never even saw each other. And an edit like that doesn't really matter much, since it's just a minor joke. But what if the same edit is done at the rodeo? You see Borat say, "I want President Bush to drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq." And then you see a shot of the crowd roaring its approval. If this is edited the same way as the bear scene, you really don't know what the crowd is cheering for - maybe some guy riding a bull? -- and suddenly it doesn't really tell you much about the people you're seeing.)
And isn't it supposed to? Isn't a point of this movie that this fictional reporter from this racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic country decides to try to learn something about the U.S. and finds that it's just as racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic as the place he came from? And isn't that point lost if we have to wonder what's real and what isn't?
Also, would you agree that Cohen doesn't always choose his targets fairly? If you have people who genuinely want to show hospitality and friendship to a visiting foreigner, is this something we want to discourage by ridiculing it and by putting these people in embarrassing and humiliating situations?
Gene Weingarten: I think you're making very good points, and, yes, there was some really mean-spirited stuff in that movie.
Gene Weingarten: On the issue of Borat, and trust, John Dorsey sends in this link from Andrew Tobias. It's disturbin.
Sunday's Frazz: Didn't even get an honorable mention? I loved the analogy.
Gene Weingarten: Agreed. Very good. I forgot about it.
washingtonpost.com: Frazz, (Nov. 12)
Re: Borat: From what I've read, apparently the car salesman was in on the gag ... the driving instructor was half-in on it ... and the frat boys claim they were plied with alcohol and duped and that it wasn't even their RV, the producers drove it. Oh, and Pam Anderson knew SOMEthing odd would happen, but didn't know what he had in mind.
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this all makes sense. And the rodeo people were probably not in on it, or the Christian revival people, which was not a very good scene because of it.
Virginia is for Lovers: As long as the lovers in question represent a union between one man and one woman, as recognized by the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. Hey, Virginia Tourism Corporation: I think it's time to reconsider your slogan (that's a lot to fit on a bumper sticker, after all).
It is sadly unsurprising that the amendment passed, yet I still have a hard time comprehending the fact that it did. I never thought I'd say, "I wish my state was more like New Jersey." These are often strange, sometimes sad times. My frustrations are expressed below:
Passed an amendment to
Think they're God's mouthpiece on
Marriage these days.
At least Rick Santorum got clobbered.
Gene Weingarten: Very nice. Well done.
Washington, D.C.: As someone who loves you and also loved Borat, my entire life balance has been thrown off by your very critical approach to it, and I'd love to hear more. You've so far only posted anti-Borat messages. If you'll humor me, I'd like to defend Borat.
This is not about differences of culture, it's not about making fun of "backwards" countries (certainly that seems fairly obvious) and even less about satirizing Americana. This movie is about humor. Borat succeeds by making us realize our inability to laugh at ourselves; we take our culture, rituals and ideals entirely too seriously. As we are introduced to Borat's world, we laugh at his crazy antics, activities and beliefs, his style of dancing and his attitude towards his sister. But these things are very ingrained in his head as "normal" and acceptable.
When he comes to America, he is taught what is "normal" and acceptable in our own culture. As an audience familiar with these cultural protocols, we find that they turn out to be just as ridiculous as the ones he has at home, yet we expected Borat to be the buffoon in all of this. This isn't so much to point out that we are just as "elementary" as Borat, but that almost everything ingrained in our minds that helps us to provide order and understanding of our world, our lives, and our places in society, are in fact arbitrary and random.
Furthermore, I believe I learned from you that Dave Barry writes "A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which you realize you are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how you release your anxiety about this." I suppose I don't feel sorry for anyone in this movie because of my own personal mantra: it's always funny when people take themselves entirely too seriously. In this movie and most especially in the reaction from "the cast" , we find that we lack the ability to find humor in just about every part of life. Which seems almost necessary to get through it.
I think you yourself Gene prove that best when you do your pieces calling various company PR reps and subject experts. People generally give you a hard time about these pieces, saying that these people are just trying to do your job. Obviously you aren't bringing in bags of feces to the dinner (Although, if you really believe that was a bag of poop, well MAN if if I produced that much in one sitting...DAMN.) but you are catching them off-guard, using almost the same technique as Borat, questioning the messages a company tries to tell us/sell us in their advertising and products.
People have found his approach to be mean spirited, but I think realistic is a far more appropriate term. I suppose this is where we talk about political correctness and self-censorship. For example, the college frat boys are now suing the producers. One could argue that they were blind-sided, never expecting their thoughts and antics to be shown to basically the entire world. However, this is where problems of one's private feelings coming into the public. I mean, the point is: they are suing because...they are embarrassed for the things they said? I mean, they don't want to come off as racist. But obviously they are? Perhaps Borat is showing us that being selective about who you reveal racist your racism to doesn't make it any better than those who join public societies that denounce outsiders.
Why is the frat boy scene especially unsettling? Maybe because we all feel this way. Like the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," we find the very very explicit racism to be a painful reminder of the darkness, however small, inside of each and every one of us. The ones who find the movie to be cruel may perhaps be people who could easily see themselves in this position, and embarrassed as a result.
Borat is a cartoon. A hodge-podge and collection of biases and stereotypes. We live in a world where the lines between reality and fiction are increasingly blurring. See: reality television, political spin, gonzo journalism, and the internet. Cohen takes advantage of that. How do we know what's real or not? Is this journalism? Satire? Pure fiction? Sure the movie isn't perfect and there are a few things put in there for the obvious easy laugh (the bear, the chicken). But there are not a lot of easy answers about this movie and I think you were fairly dismissive of it.
P.S. I thought the Christian revival scene was funny, but only because of the strong endorsement of a U.S. Congressman and Supreme Court justice. I think it's funny that somehow we are responsible for putting these people in charge of our government and our constitution. I think it's funny that we are deluded into believe there is a separation of church and state. I think it's funny that society makes fun Scientologists, who at least speak English during their...get togethers.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, so listen. I gave this movie a B plus. That's not bad. I laughed all the way through it. My problems with it are less about the unfairness of it, or mean-spiritedness, than about failures in humor. And marketing. And packaging.
Didn't you feel you'd seen too much of it in trailers? I mean, basically the first ten minutes of the movie were all old.
Didn't you feel that there were parts that really didn't work very well? I did. I thought the Christian revival was too weak because he actually, uncharacteristically, held back.
I thought there were some old jokes. The woman who was "47." A very old joke.
I thought the scene with the feminists could have been a lot funnier. He didn't really go far enough.
So I am not being a prude about this. It was an ambush movie, and I am okay with that, in general.
I found myself feeling sorry for some of the ambushees, though, and that is not good, from a moviemaking standpoint. When he insults the appearance of the third woman at the dinner table? I really did not like that. That was unnecessary. And really cruel.
Some cruelty showed through, in places, and I didn't think it worked well. You didn't wind up LIKING Cohen all that much.
Now, I felt no sympathy at all for the frat boys, but I did think the segment didn't work that great. It dragged.
I felt the prostitute ending was telegraphed. I KNEW they were coming back to her.
It was manipulative.
Do you hear what I am saying? These are humor criticisms, not fairness criticisms.
Now, as to fairness:
I don't like that he lied directly to people to get them to participate, and then made fools of them. I sort of lie to the customer service reps, but I NEVER make fools of them. It's a joke on me. I have been doing that three times a year for four years, and I have never had a single call of complaint from one of the service reps or their companies. They clearly do not feel abused, you know?
You can argue that he never would have gotten the same results if he had warned people exactly what was going to happen, and I agree. What I think he should have done was lie to them, get the scene, and THEN get them to sign the releases, paying them handsomely if necessary. That would have been honest.
Still, a b-plus. Given all these things, that's a pretty good grade.
Romney?: Look, I know you are from New York and a Yankees fan. Are you choosing Romney to simply continue to anger us poor Bostonians?
And as long as I am here:
I come from an extremely liberal New England family. My grandfather worked for Ted Kennedy and still talks to him monthly, if not weekly. He is close friends with a Supreme Court Justice. One of the Watergate robbers gave my grandfather's name as his own when caught. At nearly 90 years old, he is my hero. He was a newspaper reporter after WWII. He worked for NASA and HUD and for Ted Kennedy. He was Boston's Irishman of the year a few years ago. He is the only remaining sibling of his generation. He has had cancer, three times, and a stroke. He has outlived one of his children.
He's really sick now. Most people don't know his name, despite his contribution to the Democratic party and political life in Boston. I just wanted to honor him in a spot where maybe people could sympathize. I know people occasionally send these sorts of things to you, and I won't be insulted if you don't post it, but Edward Martin, he's my hero.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, I'm a softie. We'll end for the week with this one.
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