Chatological Humor*

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 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...

This Week's Poll (choose the appropriate entrance): I Lean Conservative| I Lean Liberal

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.

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Chatological Humor, which has become a national model for the successful, sophisticated, wildly popular national online reader-interactive forum. Its readership is steadily and continually growing. Boldly exploring the limits of real-time technology while fearlessly challenging antiquated, patronizing notions of the proprieties of adult discourse, we have together established an archive of unforgettable discussions. We have made news. We have inspired imitators. Many years from now, when "the chat" has replaced newspapers, TV, radio, bloggers, podcasts and all other media as America's favorite information delivery system, Chatological Humor will be regarded as the Vladimir Zworykin of human communication. Or, Henry Ford, if you prefer. My point is, we have done well, and done good.

Time to kill the thing!

Yes, Chatological Humor ends today.

URGENT CLICK HERE DO NOT DELAY.

Okay, now please remember to breathe. Breathing is important.

You probably have some questions, so I have assembled this helpful FAQ:

Q: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR [expletive] MIND?

A: Yes. That is sort of the problem. I have arrayed before me five months of deadlines that are squeezing me like a F-cup breast in one of those mammogram machines. I'm writing a book. Writing a movie with Dave Barry. Writing a new, dreadful, immovable cover story on deadline. A comic strip, with my son. Something had to give. I've already given up vacations, weekends, sleep, and sex, but I draw the line at food, particularly sushi and Tiramisu.

Q: Can we blame Tom the Butcher? Why can't he cut you a break?

A: I blame him for most everything, but not this.

Q: Can't you just cut back on the time you spend on the chats?

A: I thought about that, but rejected it. There are two reasons that this chat is the best on the Web. The first is what all of you bring to it -- intelligence, gumption, attitude, penis jokes, etc. The second is that I obsess over it. I spend a full 10-hour day, over the course of the week, preparing for the thing, updating it, etc. I know it doesn't show, which is personally humiliating, but there it is. I didn't want to replace this with Chatological Humor Lite.

Q: Well, won't you come out from under your crushing burdens in five months?

A: Yes.

Q: Why don't you just resume the chats then?

A: I didn't say I wouldn't.

Q: Wait ... will you?

A: Yes. In April, Chatological Humor will return.

Q: WELL WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

A: I was being boyishly coy. It's clever psychology. Don't you feel a little better now?

Q: You're lying. You won't come back.

A: That is not a question.

Q: Are you lying?

A: No. I like doing the chat more than I like doing anything else I do, except for the sex and Tiramisu. I love you guys.

Q: Awwww.

A: That is not a question.

Okay, then. Sorry. Yes, I feel bad about it. There is no other way.

Thanks to Lori Lantzy, for finding this truly odd aptonym: The head of a pharmaceutical company is named Mihael Polymeropoulos.

Today's poll was occasioned by an unexpected reaction to my column on Sunday. To me, it was and is completely apparent not only that Kerry had not deliberately insulted the troops, but that no one really thought he had; I watched as Republicans gleefully piled on, and thought it both funny and understandable. Cynical, but understandable. I figured Dems would have done the same, if given the opportunity. But I got more than 200 e-mails from readers who contended that I'd been snookered -- that Kerry had OBVIOUSLY intended to say exactly what he said. I believe this interpretation of events was flogged happily by conservative radio hosts.

Hence, the poll. The only reaction I was really curious about was the reaction of conservatives, and it's pretty interesting so far. More on this later.

The Comic Pick of the Week is Sunday's Opus, for an excellent punchline. First runner up is Monday's Rhymes with Orange (scroll back to Monday). Honorable: Monday's Speed Bump. Special mention to Prick City. It's Monday and Tuesday's entries show that Stantis actually can draw. It's funny, too.

Actually, strike that. I forgot something. The Comic Pick of the Week is the Doonesbury of Nov. 20-24, inclusive. Just completely brilliant.

Okay, let's go.

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Reluctant "Hero": Gene, I don't know if you remember, but about a year or so ago I wrote to you in this chat about my strong discomfort whenever people, upon finding out I served in the Army, call me a "hero" for my military service. The responses from you and other chatters -- both serious and otherwise -- helped mitigate this problem, but I still have not been able to shake it, nor have I been able to get to the root of it. But I think I made a big step last week towards figuring out at least part of the problem, thanks to a most astonishingly perceptive individual -- Garry Trudeau.

Last week's "Doonesbury" sequence brilliantly illustrated a deep-rooted and long-standing frustration that I have always found difficult to articulate: the hypocrisy and patronizing attitudes of so many of those who proudly proclaim their support of "the troops" and of the war, yet have no real concept of what service or sacrifice truly are.

I understand on an intellectual level that many of these people are not really bad folks, and that they simply do not comprehend the inherent contradiction between what they say (and likely say with all good and honest intent) and they way they actually live. Many of these people have the same disconnect illustrated by the students B.D. spoke to in last week's series, as well as the same apparent inability to listen to and understand what they are actually saying. Whether conscious or unconscious, this "patronizing" view is a very widespread attitude in society, even among the military's strongest supporters, and is one reason why -- election politics aside -- John Kerry's botched joke touched such a raw nerve among those who are or have been in uniform.

As I said, I understand on an intellectual level that these are basically decent, honest yet unaware people, yet on a more visceral or emotional level, there are times when they fill me with rage. This strikes me particularly hard when such people begin to cast aspersions on anyone who either questions or opposes the war or the Administration.

Trudeau -- through B.D. -- brilliantly and succinctly said what I've been trying so hard to say myself for so long: "Those of us who choose to serve don't demand that you share in our sense of duty. However, we DO ask you to respect it -- and to respect the sacrifices we're willing to make for country." And, as Trudeau showed in the following panel, this does NOT mean simply slapping a sticker or magnet on your car. It also does not mean simply calling us "heroes" -- which, like the ubiquitous yellow-ribbon magnets, has devolved from overuse and misuse into something almost trite and meaningless. It's something deeper. I wish I could say what, but, again, I am not that articulate. I hope that Garry Trudeau can say it for me again someday.

I apologize for the length of this submission. Even if you don't post it, please do me the favor of forwarding it to Garry Trudeau, along with my heartfelt thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks, man. This is precisely why it is brilliant.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene-

Do you agree or disagree with the following paraphrase of last week's column:

"A careful examination of what he said and how he said it reveals that Michael Richards (a/k/a Kramer) was not being racist or malicious. It was far worse. He was doing lousy stand-up.

That's the lesson: Leave humor to the professionals."

Gene Weingarten: Ha.

Here's the thing about Michael Richards: He is dead to me.

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Madison, Wis.: I've been thinking about the question initially prompted by the NoVa/RoVa piece a few chats ago, about whether it's appropriate for an urban, coastal paper like The Post to make fun of Southerners and other people in the middle of the country.

I've often been bothered by this kind of humor, and I think the problem is that class so often gets into the picture. Lampooning the middle of the country tends to focus on poorer, less-educated people -- rednecks, yokels, trailer trash, etc. These people are often looked down upon by their richer peers -- the prosperous business owners in their towns and the educated professionals in nearby cities -- and the snobbery manifests in both soft (being ignored or patronized) and hard (being outright taunted) ways. It's hurtful, and it seems to many poor people like a barrier to upward mobility: how do you move up the ladder when nobody seems to want you on it?

When the urban, coastal media makes fun of trailers, guns, pickups, and married cousins, it isn't -- even if it is the intention--just one part of the country or polity innocuously making fun of the more embarrassing aspects of another. It's repeating and legitimizing the insults and stereotypes that many poor people in the middle of the country have to endure as a fact of everyday life. It stings anyone who is lower-income or has lower-income loved ones in that part of the country. (It doesn't, of course, sting wealthier people in the middle of the country, who will laugh and repeat.)

You are right that it is not nearly the same thing as making fun of black people -- the history is not the same. But it is still something that can become very mean and nasty if it is not done carefully.

Gene Weingarten:"Done carefully..." Interesting. So we must be bigoted in a subtle way?

I say, enough of this silliness. Humor is funny. Making fun of differences is funny. You think that there aren't great stereotypes of the elitist northeasterners? City slickers who can't tell a goat's tail from a mongoose's penis? Or whatever these silly old hicks say?

Haha. Why can't we just lighten up? Your question suggests elitism, frankly. Yep, we sophisticates find them funny. And they find us funny. You know why? Because we're both funny.

Here's a joke:

A farmer from Arkansas and a Princeton economist are discussing the economics of horticulture. And the farmer makes a complex point about crop yield. And the Princeton economist says: "Well, sure it works in practice, but will it work in theory?"

Haha. Hey, I want this answer to be archived all over the Web. I believe in it. Send it out there. Long live the humor of class distinction.

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Fred from New Orleans: Gene,

Whether Kerry meant it or not, (a Freudian slip?), it came out that way. No amount of parsing could have made it better. Waiting for 2 days or so to issue a straight up apology made it worse. My daughter who is currently in the Air Force was greatly offended. She was so offended that she voted the straight Republican ticket in Florida. As a veteran of Viet Nam, I was offended. But I think that I was more offended that he just did not say "Sorry, my tongue got the better of me!" Instead, he starts this whole denial and attack saying people misinterpreted what he said. Gee-whiz, just own up to it and move on! This is why I think he lost the presidential election, he just cannot be straight with people.

Did the Repubs use this for political advantage? Hell yes, given a gift on a sliver platter! Either party would use such a gaff.

Gene Weingarten: Well, this is interesting. I don't really disagree with you, though there is a hitch in your logic. If Kerry truly didn't mean to say any such thing, and we believe that (I do believe that) then it is pretty churlish to get all huffy and offended. It would be as though the Japanese had gotten all offended when Geo Bush I vomited on their prime minister. An accident, you know?

The matter of the non-apology is telling, though. Kerry was FURIOUS at the political opportunism they knew the other side was showing, and he couldn't control his instinctive response, which was to be a stuffed-shirt dillweed. He really should have reacted with humor, making fun of the Repubs for jumping on this. He played right into their hands.

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Washington, D.C.: You're killing me here. This is the highlight of my Tuesday. I'm such a dork because of that and I'm gonna need serious therapy here. Maybe the fabulous Liz can do a chat.

washingtonpost.com: There's no replacing Gene. I'm teary-eyed here. Jerk.

Gene Weingarten: Some replacement possibilities were raised and discarded. I'm teary, too.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a 20-year-old student at American University and I kind of think I know who I am and what I want from life. The problem is that older people laugh when I tell them this and say, "You'll grow out of it. You don't know what you want when you're 20."

Then I start to question myself and wonder what kind of change in the future would give me a new identity. Then I start to wonder if older people are responsible for giving younger people various identity crises.

Do you ever stop wondering who you are? Is it even remotely plausible that I could truly know what I want to do with my life and know what kind of person I want to be? If you always question your identity, then what is the concept of self? How can we identify with this self is we can't identify it?

Gene Weingarten: I stopped wondering who I was at the age of 18, about four hours after coming down off a particularly dreadful acid trip. I decided that I was a guy who was in a drab dorm room in college at 4 a.m. who would never drop acid again, because I didn't have to, because I had the ability to make that choice at whatever social cost, because I was in control.

This is not funny, but your whole question was so sweet and earnest, I thought I would answer you honestly. You'll have a moment, too, and at that moment, you'll realize that your question was all wrong. It's not about how others look at you; it's about how you look at yourself.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, this delivers the perfect opportunity to get something odd but revealing into print.

About a week ago, I awoke from sleep with a certain epic poem in my head, line for line, word for word. I hadn't thought of this in almost 40 years.

It's a ballad that my brother and I wrote in 1968, when he was 23 and I was 17. Don didn't even remember it, until I emailed it to him. Not surprisingly, the details of the composition of this poem are somewhat vague in both our minds, though I'm pretty sure he wrote the initial version, and I edited it, re-crafting some of the storyline, adding verse or three.

What's interesting about this ballad is ... well, you'll see. It's what was on our minds, such as they were, back in the summer of 1968. The Summer of Love. New York.

The Ballad of Red-Eye Rose

by Don Weingarten and Gene Weingarten

Buy me a drink and I'll tell of a time when men were really men,

And drugs could be had, but drugs were rare, and Harlem was their ken.

And I'll tell of the days of Big Jim Reed and the ramblin' life he chose,

And the new kind of drug he was pushin' around, the stuff called Red-Eye Rose.

Now Jim blew town one April day, without his wife and child,

And when he got back in early May his eyes were hot and wild.

"I been to New Orleans," he said, "to visit my old pal, Mose,

And he turned me on to the king of 'em all. They call it Red-Eye Rose."

Jim didn't know (or else wouldn't say) whether Rose was an up or a down --

But the word was out that it topped 'em all, and it spread through Harlem town.

Jim wouldn't sell any more than one dose (He swore two would put you on ice)

So nobody took more than one at a time -- and most never did it twice.

'Twas about this time in '49 Jim went in search of weed,

And his wife took a whole bunch of aspirin pills to ease a crash from speed.

But the aspirin bottle was all that was real (or so the story goes)

The pills that she popped were Big Jim's stash of dynamite Red-Eye Rose.

A knife greeted Jim when he got home -- It pinned a note to the floor:

"I've gone out back for some milk," it said, "Little Jim's with Jack at the store."

Now, there's no back door and no back stairs in Big Jim's house, you know --

Big Jim's wife had lost her life on the street, five stories below.

Jim stood still at the window wide, takin' one long, sad look around,

Saw the aspirin bottle with nothin' inside, and followed his love to the ground.

And Little Jim stayed with his Uncle Jack until some time in his teens

When he rolled a drunk and bought a bike, to head for New Orleans.

Now it's twenty-one years Big Jim's been gone, and drugs have been gettin' around

And I've heard no talk 'bout Red-Eye Rose since that day in Harlem town.

But a rumor's been spreadin' among the boys (I heard it today and I froze.)

They say Little Jim's called Big Jim now, and he's pushin' Red-Eye-Rose.

So one more drink and I'll sell you a chunk of the very best hash I've got.

Or a line of coke, or a trey of smack, or these bad-ass reds, or some pot.

But stay away from Big Jim Reed. He's his father's son and he knows

That there's only one high in this whole damn world, and they call it Red-Eye Rose.

_______________________

Gaithersburg, Md.: You like Tiramisu???

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but only when it is made with real mascarpone cheese.

Oh speaking of which, me and the Empress just came up with this:

NASCARpone -- n., Velveeta.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Could you just put your column on hold? Or the movie? I'll let you have your long magazine stories, since those are usually as good or better than the chats, but everyting else you do pales in comparison. Sorry. I probably won't even read your columns if you won't discuss them in the chat. You're funnier here and they're often best just to keep up with the chats.

Please reconsider. This may well severely hurt the popularity of all your other endeavors. This chat feeds the Weingarten Empire.

Gene Weingarten: I don't really disagree with you! But the columns are a contractual obligation.

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The Poll: The last question is weak, but it illustrates something that's been bugging me the last few weeks. People talk about it as if it's killed Kerry's political aspirations. Come on, people! His political aspirations were already dead. Kerry. Is. So. Thoroughly. Over.

And was before the gaffe.

Gene Weingarten: What I find interesting is how quickly the liberals were willing to say, it was a mistake, but it should kill him.

A mistake should not kill him.

No, we just want him gone.

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Saint Paul, Minn.: Regarding your comments of a few weeks ago, when you said that family photos as decor are tacky: Is it tacky if the family isn't yours? I like to collect late 19th/early 20th century portraits of goofy looking strangers and hang them in my home. (I also make up elaborate histories for each person.) Since I am not related to the subjects of these photos, is it still unacceptable for me to hang these portraits?

washingtonpost.com: Actually, it makes you irresistably sexy. I'm so drawn to you now I can't possibly concentrate on producing the rest of this chat. What an imagination. Who are you and where have you been all my life?

OK, just kidding.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, um, the rib and I do this. We have many nineteenth-century photos around of people we do not know. One appears to be the entire graduating class of a school for constipated castrati.

Liz, I'm yours anytime you ask.

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Angostic vs. Atheist: Gene, I heart you and your chats, but I want to comment on a posting you made in your Nov. 14 chat. You were asked how you differentiate between an agnostic and an atheist. Your response was: "An agnostic is an atheist who thinks "atheist" sounds bad. Or, conceivably, one who is, deep down, hedging his bets." I think your answer is consistent with your atheism, but the original poster was trying to get a better understanding than your answer provides.

I am agnostic, and I've heard similar statements before. (My favorites are "An agnostic is an atheist who hasn't come out of the closet", and "An agnostic is an atheist who lacks faith in his own convictions.") My brother is a born-again Christian, and he spent a number of years trying to "save" me - everything from giving me his witness testimony, to taking me to church services, to buying me Christian music and books as presents, to even sending me a long letter in which he pointed out all of the flaws in my life and telling me that I was going to hell if I didn't change my beliefs. He once asked me what it meant to be agnostic, and I'll share with you what I told him.

To be agnostic means to believe that whatever the ultimate "truth" is - be it a supreme being, little green men, the man behind the curtain - it is unknown, and ultimately unknowable.

I have trouble in accepting anything that is believed to be an absolute, incontrovertible truth. I take comfort in ideas, not beliefs. Ideas allow for discussion, debate, and modification as new information is acquired. Beliefs tend to be much more rigid, can be devastating when shattered, can cause the person that holds them to ignore or disregard cold hard facts that call them into legitimate question, and can be used to justify even the most despicable of acts. So, as an agnostic, I have ideas about the existence of a supreme being but not a belief.

I don't need an explanation for the unexplainable. I take comfort in knowing that we, humanity, don't have everything figured out yet. But, I do accept that much of the rest of the world does need that explanation, and for many that explanation and source of comfort is God (or Allah, or ). My very basic understanding of what an atheist believes is that an atheist does not allow for the possibility of a supreme being in explaining the unexplainable. And I guess that's the root of the issue for me - knowing what we do about science, evolution, and that we're learning more about the world and the universe every day, unraveling some of the mysteries of life, nothing humanity has discovered or learned so far can definitively prove or disprove the existence of a supreme being (or little green men, or the man behind the curtain ). So, I can't disregard that possibility.

I know, you're probably going to say that I've just proven your point about agnostics "hedging their bets." But it isn't a black or white issue for me. It really is shades of gray.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think you are "hedging your bets," because it doesn't sound to me as though you are leaving room for the spiritual or supernatural out of a fear of eternal punishment. That's the bet-hedging part.

In fact, I don't feel very differently from the way you do, with one exception. I will allow, theoretically, for the possibility of the supernatural, but it occupies so small a likelihood that it almost disappears. I mean, we all could be turtles on the planet Zook, dreaming we are humans on the planet Earth. There's a place for that possibility, too.

When every single bit of evidence points to a non-phantasmic explanation for everything, I'm going with that. Pretty much.

Will I be stunned if, after death, I find myself confronting a Heavenly Host, with angels and cherubs and whatnot? Yes. The joke will be on me. I will be the guy laughing uncontrollably as he plummets into the sulphurous abyss.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, when I was 9 or 10, I remember asking my father what it will be like after I die. He thought a while (I grew up in a long line of atheists) and said: "Well, what was it like before you were born? What was it like for you in 1911?"

That sort of answered it!

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Worried Parent: My son is college freshmen out of town and has gotten sick. You're as close as I can come for some medical information now.

He had cold/flu type symptoms about 1 1/2 weeks ago, but appeared to be getting better. This past Saturday he developed a bad, dry cough, started running a fever, became very tired, and lost his appetite. More of the same on Sunday, and started vomitting Sunday night. Went to the health unit on Monday morning and the ran bunches of tests. My son also started to get a rash on his hands. Test results this morning showed no mono, no stret, elevated white blood count, but nothing definitive as far as a diagnosis. Rash has spread to other areas of his body, so the school sent him to the hospital for tests.

Perhaps he has other symptoms that he has not been comfortable discussing with me. I don't know. He's about 6 hours away and part of me wants to jump in my car and go there, and another says to wait for more info. Who says its easier being a parent when your kids get older.

Gene Weingarten: The only thing I can tell you for sure is that it never gets easier. I was 2,000 miles away from Molly a couple of years ago when she had about as big a health scare as one can have (makes your son's problem seem like the mumps) and there is no way to describe the helplessness.

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Arlington, Va.: OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG!!! ARE YOU SERIOUSLY LEAVING US?!?!?! Do you not understand that I wait and wait all week for Tuesdays to roll around (TUESDAYS!!) JUST FOR YOU!?!? There is nothing else to look forward to on Tuesdays. Nothing. No good football, no weekend relaxation -- it isn't even humpday. Tuesday means I'm not even half done with my week! AND I have a crappy weekly meeting every Tuesday and NOTHING ELSE cheers me up from being stuck in it like getting out of it and soon thereafter getting my fix of Gene. I am so sad. Sigh. You have made us all very sad.

Gene Weingarten: I've made me sad, too.

Seriously, you have no idea. Liz has some idea.

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Yaniruma, Papua New Guinea: Dear Gene,

My family are cannibals. When can my toddler add human flesh to his diet?

Gene Weingarten: Ms. Victoria Schade, Murphy's trainer, informs me that one can wean a dog from puppy food, slowly, beginning at 5 months. I believe the same rules apply for cannibals.

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Richards: Do you think Richards would be served if he said, "Gee, maybe I am a racist and didn't know it before. Let me try to change"?

Gene Weingarten: I meant it: He's dead to me.

That doesn't just roll off the tongue. That's a bad guy.

I have more sympathy for Mel. Well, a little more. Mel is something of a nutcase. He was redeemed by the "sugar t--ts line. It somehow framed the whole thing as humor.

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Validate, ME: Gene -- In looking at Doonesbury, I think Trudeau has done something else subtle. BD used to be the boor, maybe the least sympathetic character this side of Duke. Do you consider it odd that he has not only rehabilitated BD but chosen him to carry forward the strip's message? Does he?

Gene Weingarten: It's a good point. We have BD issuing philosophical truths, which comes a long, long way from the Walden Pond days.

_______________________

Durham, N.C.: I'm due to give birth in April, just as your chat returns. I could be upset that you've robbed me of a source of entertainment during the second half of my pregnancy, but I prefer to be honored that my son's birth will coincide with the chat's rebirth.

So... how do you feel about the name Oscar? The grandparents-to-be are flipping out, but we rather like it. We're fans of Oscar Wilde (and, well, the Grouch), and I like the idea of passing off a wet baby to my husband and saying "Here, dear. You've earned an Oscar."

Gene Weingarten: Hmmmmmmmm. Be very careful with Oscar.

I am being tactful here.

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Raleigh, N.C.: I work at The News & Observer. We rejiggered our comics this week, and as expected, have been fielding incredible amounts of reader response. Most e-mailers seem to dislike our choices. At least one has called for the immediate termination of the choice-makers. (I'm included in that group). What do you think? Should we keep our jobs?

We axed Hagar the Horrible, Drabble, Boondocks, Cathy and Wizard of ID (which ran only on Sundays).

We added Watch Your Head, Edge City, Frazz and Pearls Before Swine. As an aside, here's a letter to the editor regarding a recent Marmaduke strip.

And the panels to which she's referring

Matt Ehlers, Features writer

Gene Weingarten: I think you know the answer. You did good.

The public will always rail at the loss of comics. Particularly bad comics.

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Britta, NY: Maybe this is a Liz question, but Mother of the Year Brittany (trying to retain custody of her kids) is gadding about town, half-clothed, partying with Best Friend Forever Paris Hilton, and now as a trio with Lindsay Lohan. Supposedly, she looks up to Paris. Is it possible to make this even funnier?

washingtonpost.com: Please see my blog today. There's a special picture there of the two partying over the weekend.

Gene Weingarten: Hey, this reminds me. Suddenly out of a regular chat gig, Liz goes on radio starting tomorrow. Washington Post Radio, 3-5, co-hosting the pm drive show with Bob Kur.

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Washington, D.C.: Having been a lifeguard during high school and college, I associate Snickers candy bars with only one thing: poop. It's the perfect way to get the pool to close for a few hours during a busy day.

That being said, what is Snickers thinking painting the sides of entire Metro buses brown? They're like poop-buses.

And shouldn't the "medical" sounding slogans they choose be better than ones associated with removing the uterus?

Gene Weingarten: Huh? You'd drop a snickers into the pool to simulate poop???????? Is this standard procedure among lifeguards?????

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Satire vs comedy: Satire vs comedy

Consider if some sleazy producer gets some sorority girls drunk, has them sign a deceptive if not fraudulent release form, puts them in an RV, has an actor manipulate or entrappingly instigate what happens, films the orgiastic result, and distributes the edited encounter nationally. Would you label these sorority girls "slutty"? No. "Sexually assaulted" would be more accurate. If the victim is intoxicated, they can't give consent.

So why label the fraternity boys in Borat "racist", based on what allegedly occurred during the film's production? I'm not really sure how you cannot feel "no sympathy at all for the frat boys" without relying on a "victim was asking for it" defense.

Generally, I think the problem with Borat is that, despite being outrageously hilarious most of the time, it is not a comedy at a fundamental level, but rather a satire. Yet the admitted comedic flaws do not make it any less brilliant as a satire. For example, the above devolves into the question, "are rape jokes funny?", which is a rather complicated question for a comedy to tackle, but irrelevant to a satire's success.

In any case, I think it a mistake to take it as genuine documentary.

Gene Weingarten: Who the hell claims it is a genuine documentary? Of course it isn't. It is what it is, which is a weird amalgam of comedic acting, comedic ambush, script, off-script, etc.

I also disagree totally with your premise. Obviously, it is a matter of degree, but I don't give people a free pass because they are drunk. The sorority girls WOULD be slutty. They might also be victims of really tawdry deception, but they would hardly be blameless. Absent evidence of physical coercion or induced ataxia, we are dealing with Girls Acting Badly.

I don't have much sympathy for the frat boys at all. I do for the desk clerk, and some others.

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Fairfax, Va.: As a cultural Jew, do you have trouble with us having a National Christmas tree? (I apologize if you have dealt with this issue before.)

Gene Weingarten: None.

Hey, we have a personal Christmas tree.

I see a Christmas tree as a completely pagan thing, fun and sweet and non religious. I think I'd have a problem with a National Crucifix.

_______________________

Your Frie, ND: Having read the transcript of the chat from a fortnight ago, I was struck by Rachel's amusing comments in both the chat and the article. Guys can stereotype endowed women as being dumb (a ditz with you-know-what), because they can see nothing else in a woman and/or are jealous of what they may not have in the woman they're dating. But dumb Rachel is not, and it's a damn shame that such a relatively unimportant (if attractive) physical characteristic prevents men from recognizing that.

Oh, wait, there is a simple solution: Guys can act like mature, rational adults. What a novel concept....

Gene Weingarten: That's expecting too much.

Liz, can we link to this piece, as it were, again?

washingtonpost.com: Getting an 'F' in Biology, ( Post Magazine, Nov. 12)

_______________________

Nuevo, Fla.: So. Cartoonist at the Nuevo Herald holds building hostage with fake gun. Funny?

What is the inside scoop on this? Does it touch on your sadness regarding what's happened to a once-great paper?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, when this happened, Trudeau emailed me to say it was inevitable that a cartoonist, someday, somewhere, would snap...

_______________________

Indianapolis, Ind.: Hello Gene,

I just sent this helpful hint to Amy Joyce's Life at Work chat about how to stay awake during a boring meeting, but for some reason she did not post it. Maybe you are interested. Yesterday's Chicago Tribune health column had an article about how you can clench your buttocks to prevent fainting. I decided to try in in a boring meeting to stay awake, and it works quite well. It's hard to fall asleep when you are trying not to let yourself laugh out loud.

Gene Weingarten: It's also apparently a very good way to beat a polygraph exam. Apparently, polygraphers are now making you sit on a butt-clench detector!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Regarding your comment on Thursday, even if the person who said "Awnt" wasn't someone you had particular reason to respect, wouldn't she be right?

You've argued that for Mary, merry, and marry, a better dialect is one that distinguishes between the words. It seems like a pretentious dialect is one that distinguishes between words that yours don't distinguish between. I personally don't pronounce it Awnt, but then I take enjoyment in pronouncing the r in Washington, D.C., so I don't claim my dialect is any good.

Gene Weingarten: I don't get your point.

This is in reference to something I said in the last update -- where I found the pronunciation "awnt," referring to one's parent's sister, to be pretentious. But that I changed my mind after encountering someone completely unpretentious who said it that way; this happened to be a person I married.

There is no parallel between marry, merry and Mary, which are three separate words that, logically, SHOULD be pronounced differently. Where different pronunciations make sense and congruent pronunciations simply add confusion.

There is no excuse for "awnt," which should be delivered with a raised pinkie finger. That was my position until, y'know. Cause I really, really like this person who says it that way. Changes everything.

Even if I really liked Jesse Jackson, though, I'd still hate the way he talks.

_______________________

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

Not much to observe except that fact that even the conservatives, by and large, accept this was an idiot error.

Here's the thing: Kerry is an elitist. Kerry is a dork. But there is simply no way a man who has run for president and wants to run again is going to make some sort of gratuitous statement insulting the intelligence of the troops. PLUS, he WAS a troop. I mean, C'mon.

The Republicans were beside themselves with glee. Not a one thought the guy had insulted the troops. But they had him by the short hairs, and knew it. It was pretty impressive to watch.

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Leading, ON: Gene: Liz, I'm yours any time you ask.

PSST! LIZ! Ask for Tuesdays at 12!

washingtonpost.com: I think he'll see through that one, but nice try.

Gene Weingarten: Ha.

_______________________

Your sabbatical: Why not get Dave Barry to do the chats while you're away? It's not as though he's doing anything these days.

Gene Weingarten: He's busier than I am.

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Web Librari, AN: Gene, during your five-month break, do you think that The Post could work on making a more complete and accessible archive of past Chatological Humor hours, as a kind of memorial? Chatwoman: we'll bake you vegan brownies...

washingtonpost.com: Deal.

Gene Weingarten: Deal.

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West Brookfield, Mass.: I admire that you and your brother wrote poetry together. My brother and I used to see who could give the other a bigger bruise by hitting him with a wiffle ball bat.

Gene Weingarten: We did other things together, alas. My brother turned me on to drugs when I was 12. No, not pot -- crystal meth!

Those were highly undisciplined years.

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Georgetown: Gene,

Your poem recollection made me remember that I woke up the other morning with an artistic vision of my own. It was the plot outline of a second rate comedy that starred Craig T. Nelson (this is true) and involved a lot of destruction of property. As a service to the chatters and humankind, I will not pursue this any further.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

_______________________

Michael Richards: I agree with you, both as to Richards and as to Mel - can't believe that people who have actually seen the video could ever attempt to pass it off as humor, or as somehow analagous to Kerry's misstep - please tell me that the writer of that comment didn't actually see the video of Richards. I mean, please. The depth of bile revealed in the "fork" remark was astounding and shocking and horrifying.

I mean, c'mon.

Gene Weingarten: There was one thing funny about the Richards video, but it was subtle. There was a point at which Richards seemed to understand that he might be in some trouble, and he made a totally pathetic attempt to turn it into some free speech thing. He said something like "Oh, those words SHOCK You...?" Like he's Lenny Bruce!

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: But Gene, if you don't have your chat, who will post my unscientific survey analyzing the relationship between asymetrical breast size and sleeping on one's side?

Gene Weingarten: I do believe there is a correlation. There is something called the inframammary ridge that gets extra compressed.

_______________________

Despair, Va.: I saw the Rock-Bottom Remainders last week in Miami.

Have you ever performed with them?

Gene Weingarten: Yep. I play the harmonica on the Tupperware Song. Badly.

_______________________

Dili, East Timor: Hi Gene,

Before starting work here I knew that East Timor had recent incidents of civil unrest. In fact, it seems like the country could tip into chaos at any moment. A few days ago, I was in a car when suddenly we came to a sudden stop. The road was blocked with hundreds of people and dozens of cars. I was nervous and asked the driver what was happening.

"What's going on? Is it a demonstration? A riot?" I asked worriedly.

"No, it's a manifestation of peace," he said-without a trace of sarcasm.

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

_______________________

Band Names: We were at church this weekend and saw a nun -- dressed in full traditional nun gear (though not as traditional as, say, the "Flying Nun") -- who was playing guitar. I proposed that she form a rock band and call it "Bad Habits." My wife says "Good Habits" would be funnier. We will accept your ruling as definitive.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, Bad Habits is much funnier. What's wrong with your wife.

Gene Weingarten: Questionmark.

_______________________

Fiance: I thought fiance was a silly concept. Then, in Sunday's Hax's column, I saw an even sillier one. "My soon-to-be fiance" which translates, roughly, to "someone who likes me enough to tell me that someday I might be the person he might want to marry".

Gene Weingarten: This is such a slippery slope. Once you accept "fiance," you are doomed. There is not reason NOT to designate a soon-to-be-fiance, or a "likely to be likely to become fiance." This could describe a first date.

_______________________

One of your many fans.: I feel like I am saying farewell to a long time friend. You have touched the lives of so many fans and we appreciate the time you have put up with us. I am the reader whose joke about becoming a Jewish Scientist led you to ask religious scholars about records on Jesus's existence during his life, and I am also the guy who asked you to explain the "no soap, radio" joke and, yes, you really did have me going. Farewell, and I look for your return. In closing, all I can say is: No Jesus, radio.

Gene Weingarten: You blew that punch line. It's "Jesus-no radio."

_______________________

Minneapolis, Minn.: Gee, lots of comments talking about how much you mean to them, and I bet you're getting A LOT we don't see.

Isn't this an amazing medium, and a wonderful little community we've built here? Five years ago, who could have imagined what this would turn into? The community's a big part of it, but I guess we're helpless for this little exchange without you. Must be pretty affirming....

Gene Weingarten: Actually, the community is substantially more important than I am. It's one reason this is not a blog. I don't have that much to say. You do.

_______________________

Washington D.C.: Hey Gene - When are you going to get rid of that 70's porn star moustache? You look like Harry Reems.

Gene Weingarten: See my column on Sunday.

_______________________

Gaithersburg, Md.: Stupid question: What is "blind arrogance"?

Recently, in another forum, I found myself using this phrase. Shortly after pushing the "send" button, I began to wonder if I had used it correctly, and if it was a botched cliche instead of the common idiom I thought it to be. So I did what any 21st Century writer would do: I asked Google.

Unfortunately, while this answered one of my questions -- as Google finds 19,100 instances of the phrase, I concluded that it is in fact a reasonably common idiom -- it provided very little help with the other. I could find no authoritative or even unauthoritative reference offering a definition. All I could find were instances of its use. Reading through several of these, I took some comfort in knowing that others were using the phrase in more or less the same way as I had. For example, many people seem to resort to this phrase when writing of our President and those in his employ. Others -- and this is more relevant to my use of the term -- applied it to various members of the clergy. But this is sort of like concluding that the odd things you've just been offered are edible because you see other people eating them -- you'd still kind of like to know what they are.

So I'm asking: What is "blind arrogance", and how is it different than ordinary arrogance?

Thanks for any help you can offer here.

Gene Weingarten: Blind arrogance means the sort of arrogance that leaves you blind to any view or attitude other than your own. A certain president of the United States is blindly arrogant.

_______________________

I can't wait until April ...: Liz and Gene, you've both been where I am now: looking down the barrel of divorcing your first spouse. (I'm going to the lawyer today to file.) This needs to be done, for me and my little daughter, but it still sucks.

Since humor comes from pain and all that, can you send me off into the legal marital mess with a rallying cry, something to hekp me smile in the coming months?

Thanks, oh thanks, and I'll miss you tons.

washingtonpost.com: Nothing funny about this, just know that a year from now you will be 100 percent happier.

Gene Weingarten: Especially because it is about the child.

_______________________

Asparag, US: I didn't get a chance to eat asparagus to conduct the experiment! I will have my report next time.

Gene Weingarten: Uh oh....

_______________________

Role Revers, AL: Did last week's TomKat discussion presage a "Chat Swap" for our esteemed hosts? As for me, I liked the switch: Liz gets to answer the questions, and Gene gets to make snide comments from the peanut galleries. Or was that "Weingarten" an imposter?

Gene Weingarten: I kept sending Lizzie questions she deemed too outrageous to answer! She was showing maturity! Though I did get in a double dactyl, which she instantly disowned.

washingtonpost.com: Gene's poem

_______________________

Replacement possibility: Bring on Von Drehle.

Gene Weingarten: VON DREHLE IS LEAVING.

He's got a job as a national correspondent for Time magazine. Talk about sad.

_______________________

Bushwood Country Club,: Candy bar in a pool...In Caddyshack it was a Baby Ruth - much more realistic in my book. Good to remember Bill Murray when he was funny, before he got all serious on us.

Gene Weingarten: Right, right.

_______________________

Nipple camouflage: Gene and Liz, I submitted a question weeks ago wanting to know if you or any of the chatters had any suggestions, other than the charmingly-described bras made of "chicken wire and upholstery," for helping me hide my annoyingly-alert nipples in professional settings. Yep, I was serious -- and given the subjects covered in recent discussions, can you think of a better place for me to raise the issue?

Even though my question never made the chat, I'm submitting now to let you know that I have discovered an actual product designed to camouflage those naughty nips. Its name: "Low Beams." (Tag line from package: "Headlights are for cars.") Here's a link.

I plan to purchase a set of Low Beams, and, if you like, will gladly provide you (and the chat) with a full report.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Well, you can tell us all about it in five months.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Not sure this is an aptonym or not, but I just ran across the name of a Robert Goo who works for the EPA.

Gene Weingarten: Very nice!

_______________________

You'll wind up in New Jersey: I wasn't happy with any of the options for the first question in the poll. I don't think Kerry intended to insult the troops, but I do think it betrayed a bias that a lot of liberals have about the military. They bear no animus towards the soldiers, but they pity them rather than admire them. They believe that the armed forces are composed of poor kids preyed upon by unscrupulous recruiters, who have no other option but to sign up as cannon fodder. This is why we have protests against recruiters visiting high schools and college campuses. It reminds me of some devout Catholics, who would be less than thrilled to have a son enter the priesthood. I served, and I would be proud to have my children serve.

As Sunday's editorial by Russell Beland shows, most recruits may not come from the top rungs on the socio-economic ladder, but they have more education, and come from wealthier areas than the nation as a whole. The poorest zip codes are actually under-represented. (Perhaps due to lower HS graduation rates.)

I don't think Kerry meant ill, but his Freudian slip is showing.

Gene Weingarten: Nah, if you are right, then he DID mean ill. He was not saying "if you are poor and ill-informed you will get stuck in Iraq," he said, "if you don't study hard, do your homework, get a good education...." If you believe he meant what he said, then he WAS dissing them.

_______________________

Monkey County: It is obvious that Sen. Kerry was attempting a joke because of the simple fact that he isn't an idiot. He's a lot of other negative things, but there is nothing wrong with his intelligence. He may feel elitist contempt for the troops, but he would never actually voice it so plainly because that would be beyond stupid and would wreck his political career. Of course, by botching the joke he accomplished the same thing.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.

_______________________

Yes, but is it natur, AL?: Just saw this: Gay Animals Out of the Closet?, ( MSNBC, Nov. 16)

I've been convinced that animals could be just as gay as people for years. In college I spent a ton of time with my dog in a park regularly frequented by lots of other dog owners. It was clear after seeing the same dogs day after day that some of them were attracted to members of same sex and had no interest at all in the opposite sex.

Get's to your point of how can we as a society deny basic rights to gay people that we freely give to heterosexual people based simply on an unchosen trait.

Gene Weingarten: As a young dog, I believe Harry was gay. He was neutered, but showed sexual interest only in male dogs.

Later in life, when his remaining hormones had quieted and he was an old man, he was flat-out in love with Honey, a nine-year-old female pit bull. They would placidly plod together, side by side, block upon block.

It was like the closeted gay guy, who left a wife to find himself, then returned in his 70s, spent, to grow old with her on a porch beneath a shawl.

_______________________

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada:"Curious in Canada" -- First, love the Post chatters (and producers!) - what a humane and humourous lot. Second, a couple of feeble aptonyms - an interet expert on NRP named Webb and a sign outside a church displaying the minister's name -- Rev. Bull. Third, something that's puzzled me since the third grade, over 60 years ago. Now there's something doctors do with men ("Now cough") that used to be a staple of comedians, presumably having to do with checking prostate. But in third grade all the girls had to line up, drop drawers, have a male doctor stick his fingers in our crotches and have us cough. What was THAT? Never happened to me before or since... And, I thought that you, humane, humourous and scatological, plus hypochrondriacal and thus medically knowledgable, would be a good person to ask.

Gene Weingarten: Really?????

Okay, well, first, the male thing is not prostate. Would that one could access the prostate as easily as a finger in the groin. No, they were checking for an inguinal hernia, which shows up when you cough, which puts downward pressure on the inguinal canal/visera down there, and forces a little intestine through.

Interestingly, they always told you to "turn your head and cough," which always seemed odd. According to the best pseudo-medical book ever written, the reason for the head turn was no more complex than that the doc didn't want you to cough on HIM.

Now, as far as the ladies -- I'm not sure. When you say "in our crotches," do you mean in the vagina, or just sort of tucked in there, pushing up at the top of the thigh?

I assume it is the latter. I see to my surprise that girls or women can, indeed, get inquinal hernias, though waaay less frequently than boys or men. However, girls and women are more susceptible to femoral hernias, which are similar, and involve much the same test. That's probably what it was. (I never heard of girls being subjected to this in the States. Any former girls out there who want to comment?)

If a doctor was actually digitally penetrating you and making you cough, um, I dunno. But I don't like it.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Sometimes we're not funny, and sometimes we are, and we have our characters, but the Weingarten Chatters Yahoo Group will live on.

So please, put a promo spot in for the WCers, one last time!

washingtonpost.com: Weingarten Chatters

Gene Weingarten: This could do for the Weingarten Chatters Yahoo group what the death of the Washington Star did for the Post.

_______________________

The Replacemen, TS:"Some replacement possibilities were raised and discarded."

Then obviously Hank Stuever wasn't raised, as he's the Jon Stewart to your Garry Shandling/Larry Sanders, the Gehrig to your Pipp.

Admit it, Gene - four months of Stuever and you were terrified we wouldn't miss you.

Gene Weingarten: I do not fear competition. I used to be a very good editor, and the key to being a good editor is not fearing competition.

Stuever, alas, is on book leave. I thought of him.

_______________________

One last question: Oh, oh, before you go, I know your kids mean everything to you, so I have to ask you -- will my life be an abyss of despair if I choose not to have a child? Only you will be honest.

I'll miss these chats.

Gene Weingarten: I can't say. I can say you should not have a child unless you are one hundred percent sure you want a child. Because a child is a very very very big deal, in terms of affecting your life.

For myself, I would not be a happy 55 year old man now if I did not have children. I would be rich, but not happy.

_______________________

Coming in from the right one last time: Pretty sure Ms. Liz won't let this through, but I feel like I'm seeing the sad farewell of a trivial, but entertaining nemesis. As one of the very small conservative minority (yes, we do have a sense of humor, even though you people think we're self-righteous idiots) on this chat, let me say that it's been a pleasure tweaking you. Happy Trails, Comrade.

Gene Weingarten: Why wouldn't Liz let this through??? You think there's a vast liberal conspiracy? Thanks, man.

_______________________

Final, Va.: So you got the phrase "digitally penetrating you" into the chat. Finally! Now you can quit.

Gene Weingarten: I know. It was kind of exciting!

_______________________

Agnostic: Thanks for summing up exactly how I feel- my question is, what do I tell my children about Christmas? What did you tell yours?

Gene Weingarten: Christmas is a terrific time and we get a tree and presents and mom makes soup and stuff! Yay, Christmas!

_______________________

Annandale, Va.: Promise you won't pull a "Boondocks" on us and forget to come back?

And on a totally different subject, the comments from "Reluctant Hero" were very moving. Only now I've got the lyrics to John Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven" running through my head.

Gene Weingarten: I'm definitely coming back.

_______________________

Bela, ND: Okay, I knew that Russell Beland worked at DoD because you said so, but holy @#&-, Assistant Secretary? Did they cover poop jokes during his confirmation hearing? And did you know that the only worthwhile anagram for Russell Beland is "seller, lad buns"?

washingtonpost.com: The Reality of Our All-Volunteer Military, ( Post, Nov. 25)

Gene Weingarten: That Russell! And this piece was such a HOOT!

Boy, your anagram skills need work.

"Ends lure balls."

_______________________

Kerry's joke: I would be interested in the answer to another question in the poll: What did you think when you first heard it?

I lean conservative and answered that it was obviously a botched joke that was exploited, but you don't make that kind of mistake. But honestly when I first heard it (before the explanation) I thought he was being elitist.

Gene Weingarten: Good point. When I first heard it, I took it at face value, and my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe he said it. Then I sat there, and realized something. I LITERALLY couldn't believe he said it. It made no sense for him to have voiced that thought, whether or not he believed it. So I waited for some explanation, and when the explanation came, it was so lame and stupid I realized that, his being Kerry, it had to be true.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Gene and alll the Genelings out there: I know, I know, this seems more like a Sietsema question, but he won't deign to comment on this one. I have thought in the past that I'm a pretty good tipper in restaurants. I tip on the total bill, tax included. I usually leave 15 percent for acceptable service, but I'll go to 20-25 percent if the server is a pro and goes beyond the call of duty.

But lately I've been reading comments that make it seem like the percentage for "acceptable" service is getting ratcheted up to 20 percent. The arguments go along the lines of, "Times have changed," "It's harder for servers to get by," "Don't be a cheapskate," etc. etc. But the general (and substantial) increase in the cost of eating out means that leaving 15 percent on the total bill delivers a substantially larger tip for the server than it did in the past. Part of me says stick to my 15-percent guns and only tip exceptionally (20-25 percent) for exceptional service. Part of me says, well, "Don't be a cheapskate." Did the tipping rule change when I wasn't looking? Am I just being a guilty-conscience liberal weenie? I want to do the right thing -- but what's the right thing? Class, discuss.

Gene Weingarten: Twenty percent is the default, for me. For one thing, it is easy to calculate. For another, well, I always believe the extra buck or two is more important to the server than it is to me.

_______________________

Boston, Mass.: Do you think Richards rant makes Seinfeld reruns funnier? Imagine Kramer on the verge of flipping every (rare) time some black person appears in an episode. Like when he threw the boiling water on that guy running the marathon. I'm black and I am in tears just thinking about it, hilarious.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting.

Well, ask yourself this: Is OJ funnier when you look at the old Police Squad movies?

_______________________

Respect: I am the only boy in a family of five kids (number 4). I was taught at a very early age to respect my sisters and all women. To judge them by who they are and not their endowments, etc.

I can't tell you how many opportunities I have squandered with women attracted to me by treating them thusly. Go figure.

Gene Weingarten: Huh?

You might be clueless, fella.

I am no expert, but I don't think treating a woman with respect is ever going to douse passion.

_______________________

Nowhere You Will Ever Find, ME: Fine. Be that way. You need to go find yourself and see other people. You say that we can get back together in April, but what if I'm not here? I'm already seeing Howie on the side and I used to have a thing with some political guys, but they all left. That spy-chick looks kind of interesting. Maybe she's free on Tuesdays.

Gene Weingarten: It's going to be interesting to see what happens in April. Just what the falloff will be. We are hitting more than 600 questions per hour, now. Will there be, like ... 23? Will I have to earn you all back?

_______________________

Concord, N.C.: Now that the chat is over, I might as well point out that you aren't as funny as you used to be.

Gene Weingarten: I know.

_______________________

Hotda, MN: I am getting so sick of this. Hasn't anyone read the actual John Kerry transcript - including the two other jokes leading up to the botched joke. He was ripping Bush, calling him stupid. He did two Bush jokes,and was clearly still talking about Bush when he spoke of getting stuck in Iraq. His remarks can only be interpreted as about the troops if purposefully taken out of context.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. Though he did present the "joke" as an aside. But there's just no other way to read it.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Why do I keep seeing that cheese variously but equally spelled mascarpone and marscapone? Are they both correct?

Gene Weingarten: It is mascarpone. The other is wrong.

_______________________

What up?: Von Drehle is leaving.

VandeHei is leaving.

The other political reporter whose name I don't remember is leaving.

And this is after the big buyout.

What's goin' on on 15th Street, man?

Gene Weingarten: John Harris.

There is a shakeout. It is disturbing. I think all will be well, though.

_______________________

Boondoc, KS: Wait, Boondocks isn't coming back?

Gene Weingarten: Nope.

_______________________

The Empress of The Style Invitational: DEPUTY assistant secretary. Not a political post. Still a big deal, of course. The Style Invitational is crawling with big deals. At least to their families.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Because the season will be over by the time you return in April, let's say it one last time. . .

HOORAY FOR BOOTS AND SKIRTS!!!

Gene Weingarten: In Miami, the boot and skirt season lasts (this is true) one week.

_______________________

Asparagus Pee: So, you eat it, you smell it later, right? Are there any other foods you can smell later? I used to work in a coffee store, and I'm CONVINCED that every time I drank some espresso, I'd smell it later. Anyone care to back me up on this?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this came up earlier. Apparently, there is a coffee pee smell. To me, this would simply smell like ordinary pee. I probably drink a gallon a day.

The asparagus post was from a woman who cannot smell asparagus pee. I ordered her to eat lots of asparagus, and then have her boyfriend accompany her to the bathroom, to prove that it was her olfactory inability, and not the fact that her body didn't create the asparagus smell.

_______________________

Los Angeles, Calif.: Thanks. Now I've got nothing to look forward to except the half-lifers in the Yahoo Group. Ugh. Seriously, you should check in there, because you think you brought discussion to a new low. We've got coordinated pooping and passive aggressive slighting. It's like a new home.

Gene Weingarten: Coordinated pooping? Coordinated pooping?

_______________________

Thinking of you: I will be thinking of you this weekend when I am in Iceland. Did you know that Reykjavik is the home of the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which appears basically to be a gallery filled with preserved phalluses from every native Icelandic land and marine mammal?

If you'd like, I can pick you up something from the gift shop to complement your walrus phallus.

Gene Weingarten: The most amazing thing about Iceland, among many amazing things, is that every woman's last name ends with "dottir," meaning daughter. I have a friend named Agnes Bradadottir. I thought this was an odd name, but her name rhymes with the name of every other Icelandic woman.

_______________________

Bereav,ED: I am moving next month, and I will trust you and not hang my family photos in the living room. But where should I put my diplomas and certificates? They currently hang in a little used bathroom.

Where will I go for decorating advice in the future?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, follow Trudeau's lead. In a closet.

_______________________

RE: Respect: You're missing the point. We guys who grew up in the 70's were indoctrinated not to objectify womyn, and "no means no," and all that other crap that helped us not get (can you say "laid"?) enough in our 20's. Not like you dirty hippies, with your free love and grooming issues.

Gene Weingarten: The great tragedy of my youth is that I was definitely a huge part of the drug, um, "movement," but was completely closed out of the free love part.

_______________________

We'll miss you...: and your flirting. I can't tell you how many times I read the chats, sigh, and wish for even one man of any age or marital status at my job who would flirt with me the way you flirt with Liz. Sexual harrassment sucks, but all the women who thrive on being offended have ruined it for the rest of us.

Anyway. Good luck on your hiatus. We'll be here when you get back.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I'm going to exit here, because, for some reason, this one makes me feel good.

I'm really sorry, and I really feel guilty, and we're really meeting again in a few months. Keep an eye on the post homepage as April comes around. And you can always find me at weingarten(at)washpost.com. I return emails.

Gbye. Good luck. I'll miss you all.

_______________________

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