washingtonpost.com
Chatological Humor (UPDATED 8.17.07)
aka Tuesdays With Moron

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: 8.15.07 l 8.16.07 | 8.17.07

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

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Gene Weingarten: Good Monday morning. This is our Early Intro, one of several new features of Chatological Humor. Guess what? THE POLL is back.

We would like to report that it is back because the sachems of The Washington Post Online leapt to our aid. Alas, we've been unable to persuade anyone in charge -- busy people, with much on their plates -- that they must address the embarrassment of lousy Post polling software that keeps crashing. Perhaps that will someday happen. In the meantime, memos have gone unanswered. Pleas have gone unheeded. Wounded entreaties have been met with implacable silence. Whining has been countered by indifference and somnolence. Bizarre threats to sever body parts and mail them to post dotcom execs have been left hanging, as it were.

So Chatwoman and I have decided to take matters into our own hands. We have rented new software ourselves, she and I, paying for it out of pocket. Possibly The Post will reimburse us, possibly not. We ... just ... did ... it.

Please do not thank us. Your silent adulation is reward enough.

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

I need to report about a seismic event that has occurred within my psyche. It may affect everything -- the contours of my consciousness, the nature of this chat, the remaining oeuvre of my written works. It may stifle some of my arrogance, lessen my certitude, soften my heart.

One week ago, I drove my daughter Molly to the airport. On Sunday, I picked her up. In the interim she had worked for a week at a free, impromptu veterinary clinic in a poor, rural Chippewa reservation at Red Lake, Minnesota. She was one of dozens of second-third year vet students from around the country who volunteered their time to treat dogs and cats. Many were strays brought in by rescue workers. Many belonged to local people who could not afford vet care.

The whole event raises intriguing moral and ethical issues, not unlike those in TODAY'S POLL. Molly and her student colleagues are brilliant, dedicated half-vets. They have a lot of knowledge, but lack hands-on experience, which this exercise gave them. Molly actually spayed and neutered several animals, her first surgeries. This was a wartime field-op sort of situation, with makeshift examining rooms and operating tables; there were supervising veterinarians, but the bulk of the work was done by second-and-a-half-year vet students like Mol, who worked 12 hours a day, and slept in sleeping bags on the floor.

None of these animals would have had any care at all without this program. But the care was, by everyone's admission, at least somewhat substandard. Interesting ethically, no?

But that's not what I am writing about. What I am writing about is the fact that when I picked Molly up at the airport, she had a kitten with her. He was an eight-week-old stray, and she could not bear to let him go. He looks like a two-pound Holstein cow. His tentative name is Elmer. Here he is.

The dedicated reader of Chatological Humor knows that I am a dog person. I have written extensively about my dogs. I have a book about dogs coming out next year. I have not denigrated cats exactly, but I have not celebrated their lives in song and verse, either. I've never really known a cat before, and many of my suppositions are not that charitable. But the fact is, um, I've kind of like fallen in love with Elmer. That's the seismic change.

Molly has taken Elmer off to Cornell with her, but the rib and I, we're sort of thinking that Murphy might need a pet kitten. It won't be for us, it will be for Murph. See, so we're still just dog people, thinking about our dog.

WHAT IF I BECOME A CAT PERSON? Can a man change to this degree at my age? Will I start thinking like a cat person?

More as this develops.

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Here is a link. It is to what I believe is a spoof ad. It should be a real ad. Maybe it is a real ad. I want it to be a real ad. Thank you.

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And here is another superior bit of humor (Note: May not be safe for work. -- Liz).

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Sadly, I have a couple of spankings to administer this morning. This will hurt me more than it will hurt them.

The Ernie Bushmiller Extreme Lameness award goes to Jef Mallett, for a weenie-like copout end to his rather good series about Frazz's battle between self-interest and responsibility to kids. You will remember that Frazz was managing the kids' baseball team in a lax fashion to assure that they didn't make the playoffs, which would have coincided with a marathon bike race he wanted to compete in. But the kids, freed from tension, were winning and got into the playoffs. How was this resolved? By the goofiest Deus Ex Machina since some children's book author had a magic frog save Christmas.

What happened? It rained. So they canceled the playoffs. I shall repeat that. They canceled the Kiddie League playoffs because it RAINED. So Frazz competed in his race.

Second, the M.C. Escher What-Is-Wrong-With-This-Picture award goes to yesterday's Brevity. We seem to be looking at an actual war scene, with persons being bayoneted to death in the background. (Speaking of on-panel deaths). So why are the guys in the foreground doing a basic-training barbed-wire-crawl exercise? Either that's some basic training, where they actually bayonet guys in the background for verisimilitude, or these are the dumbest soldiers on Earth. They could stand up and RUN over that barbed wire.

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Please take, yes, today's POLL. Exciting, no?? I have no right answers here: In fact, I have more questions than most of you seem to. I'll be sharing my insecurities, as always, midway through the chat.

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The Comic Pick of the Week is a paired entry, yesterday and today's Brewster Rockit, which is beginning to appeal to me. First Runner Up is Sunday's Lio because it is so mean-spirited. Honorables: Monday's Speed Bump, Friday's Brevity, Friday's Zits, and Sunday's Agnes. Good week.

Okay, let's go.

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Self Decepti, ON: When my wife was dying of cancer at age 38 four years ago she asked me if she was going to survive and recover. The one thing I couldn't bring myself to do for her then, which she admitted she wanted me to do, was lie to her. Honesty was too important in our relationship for me to abandon it in the last few days, even though it might have eased her suffering a little. I'm still not sure if it was selfish of me to stand on principle when it might have been more compassionate to say what she wanted to hear. Why did I care more about my relationship with the truth than with the woman I loved?

A couple of years later, although not directly because of what happened to my wife, I once again put the truth ahead of the most important relationship in my life. I finally admitted to myself that the god I'd believed in all my life was a fictional mythological character. Part of me wanted to continue lying to myself and pretending there's a god who intervenes in the world, but for some reason intellectual honesty was more important to me than even the ideas of eternal life and one day being reunited with my late wife.

Ironically, it reminds me of what Martin Luther said: "Here I stand. I can do no other."

Do you think we have free will to abandon honesty when it really matters? Your "confession" about the man from Sierra Leone at your gate leads me to believe you understand how I felt.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you for this post. I am using it first because it really moved me.

I'm with Keats. There is beauty in truth; they may well be the same thing. It may be why I am less certain about most of the poll answers than many of you seem to be.

Keats died at 26.

I think you honored your wife by speaking the truth to her. I don't think it was about you; I think it was about her.

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Arlington, Va.: You and Chatwoman ... just ... did ... it? Wow. I guess this a consequence of doing the chat without pants.

Gene Weingarten: We are giants. Monsters. A fierce army of two. We [defecate] bullets.

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Last poll question: I work as a psychologist in a community mental health clinic, and I see quite a few adults that are seriously considering taking their own life as the only option out of the pain and deep suffering that they are experiencing. Different clinicians have different approaches as to how to work with a patient such as this, but the common ethical principle that we adhere to is, essentially, that we value even a despondent life over, well, not living. Personally, I have run into some conflict between my professional duty and my general belief that people should be free to do whatever they may choose, so long as it does not do unnecessary harm to another. Suicide often does immeasurable harm to the friends and family involved. So, your last poll question raised my own ongoing debate about how to approach my work, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you deem the correct answer.

Gene Weingarten: It's one of the reasons I am so paralyzingly unsure about so many of those answers.

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Gene Weingarten: This is a major reversal. I am going to ask a medical question.

You are indoors on a very cold day. You run outside without outerwear for a short errand, but it takes longer than you thought, and it's colder than you thought. When you get back inside, your body is racked by a paroxysm of shivers and shudders that are overwhelming. You cannot talk without a shudder. You could not, for example, drive a car in this state. It lasts about two to three minutes.

This familiar to anyone? It has happened to me since early adulthood. I've never been able to figure it out. It also sometimes happens if you wake up and the room is much colder than it should be, and you are shivering. It explodes into that.

Anyone?

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Elkridge, Md.: Hi Gene, being Indian, I take great offense at your outright dislike of all foods Indian. First of all, what types of Indian food have you tried? Most Indian restaurants serve Punjabi food, from the Northern part of India. But there are so many more varieties of Indian food. Have you tried South Indian cuisine? Gujurati food? Indo-chinese? Cuisines from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle-East, and Africa use similar spices, do you not like those either?

Is there a particular spice you dislike? I am just trying to understand. I have never met a person that didn't like Indian food. I mean, 1 billion people can't be wrong. If you lived in India, and there was nothing but Indian food to eat, would you starve yourself?

washingtonpost.com: Please understand that Gene must have sanded off his tastebuds as a child.

Gene Weingarten: I cannot elaborate, because I simply do not frequent Indian restaurants; therefore, I have no expertise in types of Indian foods. I make no distinction between them.

I am pretty adventurous in eating, and categorically avoid very few foods. Among them are a few specific spices which seem to accumulate in all Indian curries. To the amusement of my family, I call them, imprecisely, the "yellow spices." These are turmeric, cilantro (coriander), saffron, cumin and caraway seed.

No cultural condemnation intended. I just despise these spices. In combination, they potentiate my revulsion.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Yesterday was my birthday and a whole mess of family members forgot to send me good wishes -- curse them! But I'll feel all better if you give me a little shout out, Gene. Pretty please?

Gene Weingarten: I've never understood people's need for validation on their birthdays. Hitler had a birthday every April 20th.

So, no.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Why did you end the last poll question with "Did you have the right to do this?" and not a variation of "Was this the right thing to do?" as the earlier questions had asked? Having the right to do something and doing the right thing are not the same.

Gene Weingarten: You're right. Several people made this same choice. I did it that way because almost no one would have said it was the "right thing" to do. This was a different question. I am surprised at how many people feel he DIDN'T have that right.

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Venus: Hi Gene, as I read your intro today about the seismic, I thought for a horrible moment that perhaps you had Found God. But no -- it's far, far better than that -- you are now in love with a cat. Hurray!

Elmer is adorable.

Gene Weingarten: It's more dramatic than finding God, too.

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Darwinian quee, RY: Is it possible that awareness of population density triggers the creation of homosexual children? That it's a biological mechanism for the prevention of overpopulation? That would dovetail neatly into the greater prevalence of homosexuality in urban centers, as well as the research suggesting that the younger members of large families have a higher probability of homosexuality. The person in question still contributes to the health and welfare of the group, but the exponential growth of the population is curtailed somewhat. This is not an idea likely to catch on with the Catholics.

Gene Weingarten: The best answer to this was supplied by a geneticist, who said that the best scientific evidence so far is that there is no "gay gene." Gays may be produced by an in utero hormonal thing. Natural selection is about genetics. Ergo, the gay population may exist entirely outside the sphere of natural selection.

(You can argue that the propensity for hormonal changes in utero might be genetically influenced, but it still would be a whole layer removed from classical natural selection.)

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It's REAL: I saw the All-Bran ad last night on WUSA, TV9. I said to wife, as it ended, "Did you see that ad? The whole thing was about the guy being able to take a dump." She didn't believe me...but it is REAL!

Gene Weingarten: I am so glad. There is another one in the series where a mason asks someone else to "pass a brick."

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F.domestic, US: Gene --

There is nothing wrong with becoming a cat-positive person unless -- and this is a complete bar -- you utter, even once, the word "widdle."

Gene Weingarten: Please.

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Elmer: You know what Molly has there? A kitler!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaha.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I made that observation to Molly! She was not amused!

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Genius: Is it possible to be called a genius if you lack foresight and/or have no regard for the long term consequences of your actions?

The current barrage of paeans to Karl Rove's "genius" at winning two elections while engendering long term bitterness and distrust comes to mind, as does the maneuverings of Ken Lay et.al. at Enron during their glory years.

Gene Weingarten: Read Grover Norquist's op ed piece today. It was shockingly bloodless. Makes your point. All about winning. Liz, can we link to this.

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I'm not as funny as you b,UT:...pointless sociability and friendliness, or slavering devotion and obedience... Dog-lovers base their whole case on these commonplace, servile, and plebeian qualities, and amusingly judge the intelligence of a pet by its degree of conformity to their own wishes.

-H.P. Lovecraft

(Because I'm not as eloquent as HPL either.)

washingtonpost.com: And then he went and wrote about rugose cones who rule the universe from the surface of malevolent planets.

Gene Weingarten: Nicely put, but wrong. We don't love them for their obedience, we love them for their love. No animal can love like a dog, including humans.

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washingtonpost.com: Norquist: The Architect's Great Project, ( Post, Aug. 14)

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It is really not that impressive:"We [defecate] bullets." They just sit in the bottom of the toilet and don't flush. I know this because an ex got shot, and they opened him up and couldn't find the bullet, and later when I was nursing him at home, he pooped it out. This is true.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Takoma Park, Md.: The strongest part of the pregnancy video was that they actually ended the sketch after the punchline. Length and rhythm wise it's almost like a comic strip--it reminded me a little bit of the Mr. Boffo shorts, just a little more drawn out.

Gene Weingarten: Well, there were two punchlines. Very hard to achieve. They were of equal value.

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Yankee fan: The Scooter's dead. Thoughts on Rizzuto?

Gene Weingarten: Aw.

He was the corniest guy who ever lived. Just a total corny douchebag. I liked him.

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Gene Weingarten: A friend just sent me an emergency email that Elmer is cuter than Baby Jesus.

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Cats: You are so sunk.

Gene Weingarten: I know. You think I don't know?

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Silver Spring, Md.: You wrote: I think you honored your wife by speaking the truth to her. I don't think it was about you; I think it was about her.

No, no, no. It was completely about him and what he needed and how he felt. SHE ASKED HIM FOR SOMETHING ON HER DEATHBED. Did he consider that faced with death, she might have different priorities, a different perspective? She came to need a comforting lie instead of a harsh truth. Not respecting her request, not respecting her change of heart at her death, is incredibly, incredibly selfish. I guess he feels better, though, so that's the important thing.

Gene Weingarten: I totally disagree.

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Potty Hum, OR: At work, the men's and women's bathrooms share a wall - the wall with the toilets. Frequently as I am sitting on the toilet, a gentleman will sit on the toilet directly on the other side of this wall. We must share piping - as he sits, I can feel my toilet lift ever so slightly. Cracks me up every time.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Wow. Now that has to be an unnerving intimacy.

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What?!: You wrote: I would not tell a child that there is heaven, if I did not believe there was a heaven, because I would have a hard time living with myself after that.

Why on earth would you have a hard time living with yourself? Putting your own need for I don't know what over a dying child's need for comfort comes across as incredibly selfish. I can't imagine anything you would say of some possible fabulous adventure would comfort a child more than the concept of heaven. Children dont' have the same abstract and reasoning skills adults have, and reason is often hard to come by in the face of death.

Gene Weingarten: Because this doesn't sit well with me: That the last thing I told a dying child was a lie.

I think this was a very difficult question to answer. I am not as certain as you are.

Why not just tell the child she isn't going to die? That she is going to get real sick and maybe go to sleep for a while, but that she's going to come out of it good as new?

How does that sit with you?

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Minnie the Mouse, MN: I've been catching up on old chat transcripts. I noticed this from you:

"My wife will always use the men's room if the women's is occupied, and they are each one-seat rooms with locks. Always. It is an act of feminism. She contemns women who stand in line, cow-like, rather than dare to enter the forbidden room."

Um, I'm surprised that your wife, being a lawyer, thinks this is an act of feminism.

My dad summed it up well when watching a news clip on women invading men's rooms in protest of lack of plumbing: "If I were to go into a woman's room, I'd probably be treated like, and possibly arrested as, a pervert."

While many facilities need to provide more than 1:1 women-men restroom facilities, or at least provide more family and unisex bathrooms, it's not appropriate to take outrage at poor design out on the patrons caught with their flies down.

Just my 25 cents here. A more appropriate feministic statement would be to tape a "women's" logo over a man's bathroom and take that over entirely That way, men would have fair warning to stay out.

Gene Weingarten: Dismount that high horse, Minnie.

I SAID that she only does it when the men's room is a one-seater, with a lock. No one is caught with his fly down. She is completely correct about this.

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San Ramon, Calif.: Gene,

A few weeks ago a major debate broke out on one of the WP Baby Blogs. The essential point made was that a Father should never drive a female (read teenage) babysitter home alone. The reason is that the man inevitably will either sleep with the baby sitter or be accused of doing so. I think you have dealt with the idea that even if a man were to fantasize about sleeping with the babysitter a majority wouldnt act on such a fantasy. However it never crossed my mind that a babysitter would seek to "frame" a father. I want to say this is ridiculous but should I have my wife drive the babysitter home?

Gene Weingarten: That's completely ridiculous. Good God.

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Lansing, Mich.: Jef Mallett here, writing from a bunker I'm sharing with David Chase on the Evidently Unsatisfying Endings side of town.

In my defense, I thought this was a pretty good ending. Frazz learns a lesson, gets the chance to apply it to himself and goes home happy. No one knows exactly how the race turns out, except that Frazz is happy because he raced like his players played. The actual placing isn't really necessary information, though the readers are welcome to supply that as they see fit.

As far as the lame cop-out rain-out, here is where I gratuitously lash out at Gene like a cornered badger (though less mean but still enjoying the image):

I'm not the one whose favorite game has its players afraid of rain. And maybe the weather is different in Washington DC and Miami and New York, but here in the Midwest we have these weather things called "fronts" that stick around for days. Certainly weekends. Mostly weekends, come to think of it. It's within the literary realm, I think, to cancel a Summer Squirts game on that count.

Gene Weingarten: Lame, lame, lame, lame.

At worst, they'd postpone it a weekend. But did they postpone it? Noooooo. THEY CANCELLED THE PLAYOFFS.

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Elmer!: I'm so glad Elmer has finally helped you come over to the enlightened side (that side being that cats are cool, even if dogs are too). Loving cats isn't about you - it's about them. And as a lifelong cat person, I can tell you it's OK to be a cat person. You can love cats without having to be (too much of) a freak. Just accept it and enjoy.

How did Murphy like him?

Gene Weingarten: Licked him silly.

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Great poll!: That is a great thing you and poll-mistress did. If The Post doesn't reimburse you, I hope you can at least take it off your taxes.

I want to explain my answer to your last question. I answered it No, he doesn't have the right to take his life. I believe anyone has the "right" to take his/her own life, but in these circumstances, I think it is not justified, as the man is thinking only of his own pain, not of the impact of his action on others, who love him, and, who might be harmed greatly, emotionally and financially, by losing him in this way.

Gene Weingarten: So he is required to live in intolerable pain? What if he were in intolerable physical pain? Same answer?

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Shiveri, NG: Gene, I'm in my mid-20s and this has happened to me since at least high school. My dad would drop me off to school in the mornings on his way to work and I would start shivering (even with a coat on) by the time I got to the car. My dad and I started calling it the "d-d-d-d" dance because that's the sound I would make. I've tried to fight it, but that usually just made me shiver more. I just let it run its course and then go on my merry way.

Gene Weingarten: I wonder what it is.

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Child & heaven: Gene, you didn't lie. You told the child something that a lot of people believe in, but that you personally don't.

Can you prove there is no heaven? Of course not.

So you didn't lie.

Gene Weingarten: If I told the child flat out that that is what would happen, yes, I lied. I know that is bunkum.

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Ifand. OR: You have graced us with your insightful analysis of many troubling pop songs, but to my knowledge you haven't yet explained what the heck "Mrs. Robinson" is about. I thought seeing "The Graduate" would help, but no, I'm as lost as before. So what did they mean and why does specifically Joe DiMaggio make an appearance?

Gene Weingarten: Mrs. Robinson, to my memory, was written by Paul Simon specifically for the movie "The Graduate." It takes place in a future time, when Mrs. Robinson is being admitted to a mental institution ("take a stroll around the grounds until you feel at home," or something). The line about Joe DiMaggio means there are no genuine heroes anymore, I guess, though I never entirely got why he ended the song there.

Anyone want to debate/ elaborate?

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What about Sylvia?: This was a really tough question for me, Gene. I felt it was right to tell the wife about the goat (I seem to be in the minority) but felt less sure about if would be right to tell if the husband were having an affair with a human. What makes one worse than the other? There's the plain old ick factor (a goat?!), but that didn't seem to be what freaked me out about the scenario. After much thought, I determined that the abuse of an innocent animal is what was most disturbing, and I feel a wife has a right to know about such a horrible flaw in her husband's character. To me, his actions fell closer to those of a child molester than those of an adulterer having an affair with a consenting adult. Am I wrong on this?

Gene Weingarten: Several people have made this point. It is one I hadn't considered,because I know the derivation of this question. It is the precise storyline of Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?" And Sylvia is not being raped. She loves the man, and the sex is, um, consensual.

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Tucson, Ariz.: Thank you Gene and Chatwoman for bringing back the poll! To spend your own money on it even well it just shows your love for this chat.

On to my question, Sgt. Tom Lovejoy left his police dog in a car for 13 hours and the dog died. This took place in Chandler, Arizona, where the high temperature that day was 109 degrees. However, the police department is not conducting a criminal investigation.

To be charged with animal cruelty under state law, someone must intentionally or recklessly leave an animal in a vehicle when injury or death would likely occur. Sgt. Lovejoy has been the supervisor of the K-9 Unit for 4 1/2 years. This dog lived with him. He should have known better. While leaving the dog in the car may have been an accident, it was certainly reckless behavior. I don't see why he isn't being charged with animal cruelty. Is there something I'm missing here?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, there is something you're missing.

(This is going to be a morals chat, isn't it? I like how each chat develops its own personality.)

What you're missing is that this was entirely an accident; the officer, who loved his dog, got distracted by news his son had been in a serious car accident.

This is a terrible thing to have happened, and no one should be punished. The man's own guilt will punish him as much as is appropriate.

I have seen similar cases where children were involved. I always wonder why the courts bother to punish the parent, where it was simple a horrifying mistake. That parent has died inside. There is no more punishment that you can exact.

washingtonpost.com: K-9 Dog Dies After Being Left in Hot Car, ( Arizona Republic, Aug. 14)

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Kitler: My parents took in a stray, pregnant cat, which begat a kitten that looks WAY more like Hitler than Elmer does. When my boyfriend and I watched the kitties (then very young) while my parents were on vacation, we tried to get him to answer to Adolf. Turns out my dad had been doing the same thing. My mom - not ammused. She calls him "Mustache." Blah.

Gene Weingarten: In the comic strip my son and I are writing, there is a rabbit named Adolf.

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Alexandria, Va.: Gene, cilantro isn't a yellow spice. Look for it near the parsley in the produce section. It's dark green. Very tasty addition to Mexican food, as in chicken fajitas.

Gene Weingarten: Duh. That's why I said my family makes fun of me. I lump em together because most are yellow.

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need to know: I have a question that I've wanted to ask you for a while now, but I keep missing the chats in real time, and I'm afraid of it getting buried in one of your updates. But, here goes, since I can't change my schedule.

It has to do with your story of the weeping young woman in the airport, and whether or not you should have gone over to comfort her. There was a lot of discussion back and forth about this, with comments on both sides, and I'm surprised that nobody else asked this, unless, of course, the question was rejected:

if the weeping woman was middle-aged, would you have had the same impulse, and the same resulting dilemma? I'm scared of your answer.

While you've made some great posts lately criticizing the man who lamented growing old and never being with a young beautiful woman again, and you've been a champion and defender of the older woman, somehow I suspect that maybe, there's just a little bit of that same streak in you. You do seem to take a lot of enjoyment and even pride in the fact that young women, professing to be sexy and beautiful, are all clamoring to be your friend on Facebook, and throwing virtual panties at you in the chat. That alone does not bother me - being female, I absolutely "get" why young women are attracted to you, at the very least on an intellectual level. I know, as a person in the same generation as you, that attention from younger, opposite sex people is not merely flattering but gratifying on a level. But for some reason the airport story bothered me, when the nagging suspicion in the back of my mind said that there was a healthy mix of lust in there with your caring impulse. I almost wrote lecherous, but that's way too strong, I don't think you're like that.

Please don't say that you feel that a mature person can better handle their grief than a young - and attractive? - person. Having been in both life stages, I can tell you that is simply not true. I've been the weeping woman in her late forties in the airport. Of course, nobody approached me. I imagine, for most people, it would never even occur to them to do so. If you're the person I'd like to think you are, I'd like to think it would've caused you some mental wrestling. If not, I wonder if you'd admit that youth and beauty had a role in your desire to comfort. I'd really appreciate the honest answer.

Gene Weingarten: Hmmmmmmm.

No one asked this.

I would have definitely approached the middle aged woman. The reason I dithered and ultimately didn't act in this case was that I was concerned about how it would look to her (lechery). There was another reason I didn't do it -- a secondary reason -- that I don't want to discuss. It's not pertinent to the issue, anyway.

For what it is worth, this was an attractive young woman, but not one to whom I was attracted.

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Chicago, Ill.: Nice reference to "The Goat." Albee rocks. Saw it at Arena Stage a few years ago; terrific shoe...

If you like relations with goats and all.

Gene Weingarten: Wasn't the woman who played Stevie a brilliant actress?

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Whiteli, AR: You have a family member who, from an objective aesthetic perspective, is not physically attractive. They are having an unhappy romantic life because of this. They ask you "Am I ugly?" You reply?

Gene Weingarten: You reply that the family member is not beautiful, but has some very attractive features that are really important. Then you enumerate.

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Not thanking you for the poll: Ugh. I was so relieved when the poll was gone. I was hoping, in fact, that it never came back. It's the low point of every chat, most often just an opportunity for you to ride even higher on your high horse. It's funny when you get indignant and condescending to individual chatters but when you do it in broad swaths regarding the opinions of the audience at large it's just plainly distasteful. I hate the polls. I think they bring out the worst in you. Just my two cents.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Gene Weingarten: Alert: I think I am going to save my comments on the poll for the top of tomorrow's updates.

My feelings have been evolving.

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Centreville:"Gene Weingarten: If I told the child flat out that that is what would happen, yes, I lied. I know that is bunkum."

Please, you know no such thing. You believe it.

Gene Weingarten: I also don't know for sure that we weren't created by an emormous hamster named Philip Clendonnon.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene, when you proposed to the Rib, did you actually say, "Please help me succumb to my programmed Darwinian impulses to bond and possibly continue the species?"

And if not, why not?

Gene Weingarten: I believe I said, "Do you think we should have a baby? I do."

That was the proposal. We both understood it.

Now, 27 years later, we are dealing with what that baby has wrought. A kitler!

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The whitest kid you know: Is a Charlottesville kid named Trevor Moore, who has always been funny. He did a public access show at 15 that was very funny

Gene Weingarten: Once I saw that, I googled several more of their skits. They're developing. There is one brilliant one, about guys doing a rude hand gesture. The rest are pretty weak.

They will get better. They have excellent edge.

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Gene Weingarten: I believe I will not be allowed to link to the hand gesture one, but if Chatwoman permits it, I will do it in the update.

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Cats and Morals: If you do get Murphy a pet, please, please, please get a pound kitten. There's no reason on Earth to get a pure bred cat. It's not like dogs where different breeds can be good for one's lifestyle. Cats, in the end, are cats.

Gene Weingarten: I like the look of mongrel cats. Like it better than pure breds. Plus, the whole rescue thing.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: A friend in California and I have been arguing over whether Hillary Clinton can be elected president.

He says yes, she's coming across as a strong leader.

I say no, that her negatives are ridiculously high and can't be turned around. I think Romney, Giuliani and Thompson would beat her easily.

What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: I am coming around on Hillary. She has been looking presidential. She really seemed far sharper than Obama on that meeting with world leaders thing.

Jury's still out.

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Philip Clendonn, ON: How dare you doubt me, puny human? Don't make me get off this wheel and smite you!

Gene Weingarten: Ha.

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Pearls before swine: Gene, you promised to post an update last week that was supposed to humiliate Stephen Pastis. I amy have missed it, but I don't think so because I checked everyday. So what is this humiliating information?

Gene Weingarten: It's in last week's update.

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Chase's bunker: Mallett again.

Seems baseball canceled a pretty big championships in 1994. And nobody had fun or learned a lesson. If we're going to talk about lame.

Gene Weingarten: NOT BECAUSE OF RAIN.

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Mrs. Robinson: I once read an interview with Paul Simon where he said that Mickey Mantle once asked him why Simon had used DiMaggio's name instead of, say, his. He said his answer was "Syllables, Mick. Your name wouldn't scan properly."

So you always have to take that aspect of songwriting into account.

Gene Weingarten: That is the same reason Dave Barry wrote "I'm In Love With a Proofreadin' Woman," instead of "Copyeditin' Woman," which is what he meant.

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Lynchburg, Va.: For the person who was terrified that no man would ever think her beautiful over the age of 30, I need to introduce you to my husband. On many occasions, he is just as likely to point out someone who is over 50 and tell me she's hot, than he is to point out someone who is in her 20s.

My husband is 28.

Gene Weingarten: Bless him.

I say this on behalf of all women.

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Re: The babysitter: I've been the babysitter getting rides home many many times.

That is patently ridiculous. If you can trust this girl with your kids you can trust her in the car with you/your husband. Let's not get crazy here, people.

Gene Weingarten: It's crazy. It's lunacy. And it's ridiculous anti-male hysteria. It's also suggesting a 17 year old girlwoman is incapable of putting a guy in his place, should it be necessry, which it wouldn't.

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Springfield, VA: Gene, I really hope that you got a great posting from the young conservative woman. I've had the same question about idealism/youth and conservatism for years.

Secondly, have you seen this book?

A college professor of mine wrote it, and it's brilliant. Note the homeless person in the background of the sample pages.

Gene Weingarten: Why is this brilliant? Are we to believe only Democrats want us to be safe, or for our children to go to school? This seems like naked propaganda, but hardly fair or ingenious, from the sample pages.

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Quandary: While researching bigotry, I came upon the fact that Ann Coulter says she loves anything Dave Barry writes. Does this make any sense to you?

Gene Weingarten: Ann also likes my column. She said I'm the only funny lib'l she knows.

Ann likes to laugh. My theory is that she is mostly guerrilla theater. Performance art. I don't think she believes half of what she says.

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Joe DiMaggio/Mrs. Robinson: I don't claim to know much about "Mrs. Robinson" or what Paul Simon was thinking when he wrote it, but when the Yankees had Joe DiMaggio day at Yankee Stadium sometime in the late 90s, Paul Simon came out into center field and played Mrs. Robinson. DiMaggio looked annoyed and confused. It was a strange choice, and made me wonder whose idea it was, given DiMaggio's well-known shyness.

My mother-in-law was Paul Simon's high school biology teacher.

Gene Weingarten: Did you ever read DiMaggio, by Richard Ben Cramer? A completely ingenious biography of one seriously weird man.

"Shy" doesn't even come close. It's not even, as it were, in the ballpark.

DiMaggio was one of the more amazing misers who ever lived, for a start. And an egomaniac of epic proportions. This book is a wonderful read.

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Pantsonfi, RE: You suggest that "You reply that the family member is not beautiful, but has some very attractive features that are really important. Then you enumerate."

"You're a terrific dancer with a truly superb stamp collection." Yeah, THAT'll help the kid feel better about the dating scene.

Gene Weingarten: I meant physical features.

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Suicide: As a teenager I tried suicide, I have thought about it since. I have children now and would never...even though the thought has crossed my mind. I think once you have kids, you lose your right. Adults should have the right to do what they want as long as they don't hurt others-drugs, gambling, prostitution...suicide. But once you have kids, you lose your right to off yourself. I defend those in pain who make that choice, but once you have kids, you lose that right.

Gene Weingarten: Maybe. I regard it more the way I regard divorce. You are obliged to try very, very hard to avoid it. More than just a good faith effort.

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Ann Coulter: if she doesn't believe half of what she says, has she no shame? she's as bad as Karl Rove, holding up red meat to the rabid right wing.

Gene Weingarten: What if it's art?

Seriously, what if this is elaborate street theater?

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Hilary Boooo: Speaking as a woman I believe Hilary can't get elected because deep down in places they might not even have analyzed yet, woman don't like her because she should have left her husband cheating lying arse. For me, it makes me question what other obvious wrong she would be willing to turn a blind eye too. And in today's world that could be everything from starving children to government eavesdropping on it's citizens.

If she had told her husband to shove it, I'd be leading the parade to elect her.

Gene Weingarten: And me, I'm tired of people voting on the basis of entirely personal things that have nothing to do with how good a president someone would be. George Bush is a fine family man, by gum.

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Free Will: GW: "C'mon. We are machines." OK, Gene, as a thinking atheist, do you believe "machines" have free will? If we are machines, machines are governed by the laws of physics. The laws of physics have no place for individual decisions. Therefore, every decisions you make, from which pair of socks you put on this morning to who you marry, is decided by the laws of physics, the same way everytime a pencil rolls off a desk, it falls down. With a complete knowledge of physics and brain chemistry, we could determine how someone would react to certain stimuli, despite any delusions they have about being free to choose. Its hard to see how people would be responsible for their own actions--they had to act that way, just as a pencil had to fall off the table. I tried to think about my life like that for a while, and I just couldn't figure it out.

Gene Weingarten: I think we are machines with free will. Why is that illogical?

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Re the poll: Regarding the first question, forgiveness wasn't the med student's to give. This really hit home for me. My mother has been physically and emotionally abusive to me my entire life. She knew her husband was sexually abusing me, yet did nothing to prevent it. After each episode she knew about, she would accuse me of competing with her for him. To this date, she's never accepted any responsibility for any of her actions and continues to bring misery to anyone close to her. I no longer speak to her, and would be outraged at any stranger who had the audacity to pretend to be me to forgive her. The med student was 100 percent wrong.

Gene Weingarten: I would say this is a very valid position, and precisely why that first question is not as easy as people think it is.

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ID 2013846: Ok the poll is back! YES!!!

However I just wanted to let you know I tried "low sugar" Catsup. Its the best! I am still looking for 0g's of sugar, but till then I'll settle for 1gm per 16oz., vs. 4grams! per 16oz!!!

Tummy/Taste buds love Gene!!

washingtonpost.com: Hey there, Westbrae Natural makes a no-sugar version available at My Organic Market. It's the bomb.

Gene Weingarten: Yawn.

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Nancy & Sluggo: Don't you go dissin' my boy Ernie Bushmiller. He's done more for clusters of rocks and hobos than all of today's cartoon artists combined.

Gene Weingarten: His rock clusters are one of the great things in all of comic history. Anyone know about this? Can someone supply a link to the rock clusters?

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Joe DiMaggio: A friend of mine, who knew Joe, says that he was always puzzled by the song-- "What's that about... I'm right here", he said.

Gene Weingarten: Makes sense he would say that.

Joe was also fairly dumb.

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Souless: Dear Gene,

Hello from a neighbor. I'm a 30-year-old woman, and I'm a good person. (As proof of the later, I always pat Murphy when I see her.) I have a dilemma.

I have been dating a man who is wonderful. He is so kind; and, as one of the most prominent lawyers in the country, he is whip-smart. He is not attractive, but I enjoy sending time with him because we always have a good conversation and because he is good to me.

I have met another man who is attractive to me. He is smart, although not as smart as my date. I do not know if he is as kind. But he is falling in love with me, he has told me as much, and he is wooing me. I like feeling attracted to someone.

I have tried to be honest, and I have told each about the other. Because I have a greater duty to the first, I have refused to be physical with the second. At the same time, I have limited my physical activity with the first.

Please help: what else should I do to resolve this situation.

Gene Weingarten: You need to be a big girl and make a choice.

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Metro etiquette: The people who arrive on the Metro platform first -- are they considered first in line when the Metro doors open? Or is it dog eat dog? Where is the beginning of the line? On the nubby floor part nearest the track?

Gene Weingarten: It's dog eat dog, obviously. Who knows who got there first? Plus there is the added uncertainty of where the doors happen to fall.

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Googlenope, Va.: I'm excited to report that I coined a Googlenope in real-life conversation. I recently received a nice monetary graduation gift from my parents, around the same time that I scheduled oral surgery. I joked that I was going to run out and blow the money on some frivolous gum surgery. Yep, "frivolous gum surgery" is a Googlenope! Knowing that helps kill the pain a little.

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

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Anonymous: I don't think Ann Coulter means half the things she says, either. It's an act to create controversy and attention.

But the reason it's wrong and dangerous is that there are so many bigoted and unintellectual people who will believe anything a conservative says and is hypnotized by flag-waving and God-Bless-America'ing.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, but follow me here. What if that's her point? What if in 10 years she writes a book saying her point -- remember this is art -- was to show how some idiots will follow anything inflammatory?

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Thank you for the update on Ann Coulter. I used to listen to her and be amazed that anyone could really believe all that she is saying. I am not saying everything she says is wrong, but the extreme and often ridiculous nature of it should have been evident even to herself.

You know, the two of you should write a book.

Gene Weingarten: Ooooh.

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Plea bargain: Should Michael Vick be allowed to plea bargain the charges of dog-fighting? What would be an appropriate punishment for his part in this heinous practice?

Gene Weingarten: The criminal sanctions mean nothing. The NFL should suspend him for two years.

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Joltin Joe: DiMaggio is indeed an ego of epic proportions. The funniest story I heard is that one of his demands at any event he appeared at was to be introduced last. One event he was not, and he got all pissy.

It was Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium. Mickey was introduced after him.

Of course, Mickey had his own ego. The Paul Simon quote was in response to Mickey thinking he should have been in the song. Kudos to Paul for making up a lie on the spot.

Gene Weingarten: DiMaggio had something like two million dollars in cash in garbage bags in his garage. He made the money by selling his autograph for $20 apiece.

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Reminds me of self-centered, airplane seat-reclining man : Gene Weingarten: My wife will always use the men's room if the women's is occupied, and they are each one-seat rooms with locks. Always. It is an act of feminism. She contemns women who stand in line, cow-like, rather than dare to enter the forbidden room.

He claimed he was nice guy, but when on an airplane he lives by one set of rules because it is a dog-eat-dog world when flying. Obviously your wife has the same attitude under certain circumstances. Be damned with anyone else. I HAVE TO PEE NOW!

Sorry.

You describe her as a very nice person and I believe you. I am just saying maybe you should believe the seat-reclining man. Flying maybe his greatest fault in an otherwise faultless existence.

BTW, it is a little offensive to be considered "cow-like" for standing in line. We all have to stand in line at some point in our lives.

Gene Weingarten: I don't understand this. Honestly.

There are two bathrooms. They are identical. Each has a seat and a sink. One may or may not have a urinal. Both are for one person. Each bathroom has a lock on the door.

There is a woman in the ladies room. The men's room is unoccupied. A woman desires to relieve herself.

Why should she wait for the ladies room? She will not be inconveniencing a man, since the men's room is unoccupied.

Why is the decision not obvious? I am 100 percent with the rib here. Am I not understanding something?

(Worst case scenario: A man has to wait, like, one minute, for my wife to leave. As a reward for his inconvenience, he gets a saucy smile from her.)

C'mon. There is an issue here?

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Walden Puddle: The Doonesbury series about Berzerkistan makes me wonder if Trudeau has ever written about an imaginary place before. Towns, yes, but a whole country? It feels a little...off. Like a tiny baby shark has been jumped.

Gene Weingarten: Well, towns, certainly. He had Duke be the consul of Al-Amok. So, what's the difference?

Trudeau will never jump no shark.

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Buffalo, N.Y.: Just yesterday, a local prosecutor decided not to press charges against a mother who forgot to drop her child, sleeping in the back seat, off at day care. The child died in the heat.

Tragic, heartbreaking, accident.

Gene Weingarten: I wrote a (still unpublished) play that was inspired by exactly that story. Happened 20 years ago. Child baked to death.

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You need to be a big girl and make a choice. : or keep looking. If neither one is a strong enought connection to make you know who to choose, keep looking for someone who does do it for you.

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

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Oxford, Miss: I just wanted to say with regard to what you said about the mis/overuse of "random" and "awesome" last week in the updates: totally.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

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Richmond, Va.:"You know, the two of you should write a book."

Call it, "I'm With Psycho."

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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Kittens: Okay, but isn't it possible to adore kittens but hate cats?

Gene Weingarten: I am thinking, though I do not know, that if you have loved a kitten and watched it turn into a cat, you are done for. No?

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Personal Politics: OK Gene, I sort of understand your complaint about voting for or against people for their personal lives, but aren't there situations when the personal offers a clue to how a person might perform in office?

I am very opposed to Giuliani because of his personal life. Not that he had an affair and is on his 3rd marriage (or so), but that he terminated his 2nd marriage in a public and humiliating fashion, without regard to the dignity of his 2nd wife or their children. Then had the infernal chutzpah to try to move the mistress into the house where his wife was residing. Low class, vulgar, demeaning to all concerned, and completely unnecessary. In making political decisions, will he make the best choices for our country, or will he take opportunities to score points off of rivals, perhaps plunging us into unforeseen consequences?

As for Hillary, I don't support her, but I am still confused about all the conservatives who with one side of their mouths condemned her for staying with her cheating husband, and with the other side, supported things such as covenant marriage.

Gene Weingarten: I think Giuliani is not a nice man.

You know who also was not a particularly nice man? FDR. A cheater, too. Also, Adrew Jackson. Very mean sumbitch. Washington was personally a ball of ice; friend to know one.

Know who was really nice? Warren Harding. Hoover, too.

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Alexandria, Va.: I KNEW it. You're tracking me. My poll response was recorded with an ID number!

washingtonpost.com: Calm down. In capable hands, that ID number might make for some interesting tracking. Remember, though, that you are dealing with Gene and me. Your anonymity is intact.

Gene Weingarten: In all fairness, in previous polls, we said that your identities could not even be determined if they were subpoenaed by a police authority. I suspect, in this case, they could be. Act accordingly, I guess.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, we're done today. As I said, I shall lead tomorrow's update with my thoughts, such as they are, on that poll.

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UPDATED 8.15.07

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

I have only one certainty, and it is one you shared.

A promise of confidence between friends is not meaningless. It is highly meaningful, and it should not be breached unless the reasons for betrayal are overwhelming. Linda Tripp was an awful person for what she did. If a friend confides in me that he has a terrible substance abuse problem, and I can see that he is headed for ruin, and I cannot persuade him to change, I would have to consider betraying that confidence. But it's a very high threshhold. "I'm having sex with a goat" doesn't leap it, as it were. Moreover, whenever someone decides to leak a juicy fact, I am always highly suspicious that this betrayal is done with a bit of unseemly glee.

So, I'm pretty sure of this answer; I would be troubled for my friend, I would urge him to deal with this issue more aggressively than he had, but I would not "butt" in. Ha. Haha. Hahahaha.

(Actually, I found that a weakness in the Albee play. I never felt it was entirely credible that the goat-porker's friend would rat on him to his wife.)

As to every else, my thoughts gradually skewed against the proactive approach to all of these hypotheticals, and toward the notion that truth is important. It was a long journey, and I'm still not sure I am right. Here's the problem: We're looking at a long, slippery slope.

Initially, like most of you, I sided with the medical student, who acted out of compassion, to ease the mind of a dying woman. I had very few doubts.

But what of the doctor who tells the dying man his wife survived? You guys were much less certain about that one, and yet, when you think about it, the principle is identical. If you are going to give a pass to the med student, you have to give a pass to the doctor, too. And yet, a doctor who lies like that seems just a bit ... off, no? The semanticists and nitpickers among you (I was one at first) probably decided that though the doctor KNEW that the wife had died, the med student didn't know whether the dying woman's daughter would have forgiven her or not. True, but a quibble. Both people lied.

In the first instance, I found it pretty persuasive when a chatter wrote in to say, "forgiveness was not hers to give." It was not. I blame this med student not at all -- she was acting in an instant's impulse, out of compassion -- but on further reflection I think she was wrong. A less definitive. "It's okay, you don't have to be sorry," or something would have been better. Maybe it would have worked.

The doctor erred. I bet most physicians would agree, without doubt. I'd like to hear from some. And the reason I think they would agree without doubt is that they are specifically schooled in the ethics and morals of such a sitution.

I've already said what I believe about the dying little girl, and been taken to task for it. I hold my ground. Truth matters. Very simply, I am thinking of my own daughter at eight. I could have handled that moment with honesty and left her less fearful, I know it. I should admit that whatever I told her would be a BIT of a lie -- the NAKED truth of what I really believe is too much for a child to handle, and pointless to burden her with -- so I would couch my answer in "what most people believe," and allow that there are other possibilities, but that all of them pretty much amounted to a grand adventure mommy and I wouldn't get to have for a while yet. I would also spend a lot of time talking about how, in the meatime, she will stay alive in all of our memories, and our hearts, and, darned if, as I am typing this, I am not shedding a tear.

Now, the suicide.

I believe we all have that fundamental right. I believe this as strongly as I believe in the right to choose early abortion, which I fervently support. I believe the issue is identical.

I also understand the effects of suicide on a family; I came to learn them viscerally when I edited THIS magnificent story by Roxanne Roberts some years ago, about her father's suicide. I think, if it were me, understanding this, I would suffer extraordinarily before I did that to my family. And, unlike Rox's father, if I did it, I would do it as best as possible, to minimize the horror.

But the question asked whether he had that right. He had that right.

How sure am I of all of this? Less sure than usual. My arrogance is dented here.

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"I could not live with myself": So, instead of providing comfort to the dying, you choose a course of action so you can live with yourself?

Exactly. Its all about you. Anything else you offer in defense is nothing but crass rationalization so you can sleep at night.

You're no different than those who believe in God because, as you say, they want to feel good that they have an afterlife. We all tell ourselves what we have to tell ourselves in order to make it through the night.

Hypocrite.

Gene Weingarten: Poltroon.

Pederast.

Sockdologizer.

(I mean, as long as we are calling people names....)

This is in reference to the guy who could not lie to his wife on her deathbed, and you are wrong.

"I could not live with myself afterward" is not about him. It is about his conscience. And his conscience is about the feeling he had done something wrong. Who had he done something wrong to? To himself? No.

The reason I am not going to lie to an 8-year-old Molly on her deathbed is because I don't want to lie to someone I love, who trusts me to tell her the truth. It is not about me. It is about her, and my relationship to her, and my responsibility to her.

You know, the more I think about it, "you are going to heaven with dancing fairies and grandpa and your first dog, Muffin," is a copout. Very easy response. Hardly took you a second to discharge your duty to lie to your dying child, did it?

I'd rather spend tell the truth in a way that will comfort her.

Oooh, I may be getting back on that high horse, again! Back in the saddle!

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: Today is my wedding anniversary. My husband and I aren't so happy together and have been in therapy for six months.

How should we mark this occasion?

Gene Weingarten: You should go out to dinner at a nice place you both used to love and haven't been for a while. You should talk about the past. You may be surprised.

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Nancy & Sluggo: Here is a sample of the rock clusters. My kids even point them out on the road.

Bushmiller was around for a long time and not just in the newspapers. He illustrated a book written in 1931 by "Dean Stiff" called "Milk and Honey Route: a Handbook for Hobos."

Gene Weingarten: Actually, that's not a bad little strip. And yes, those three rocks were a trademark. Always three. They are worshipped by comics historians.

When I was a kid, my father came home one day with a bootleg, vulgar Bushmiller. I don't know if Ernie actually drew it, or if it was a copycat artist in the generation before PhotoShop. In the first panel a dog is peeing on the sofa, to the horror of the owner. Second panel he whaps the dog. Third panel he has taken the dog outside, and his, literally, demonstrating to him how to pee on a tree.

Last panel, the dog is back in the house. He is peeing on the sofa, but doing it standing on two legs, like the man had.

Yes, in 1961, this passed for vulgar.

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Three Rocks, D.C.: Here is a brief explanation of three rocks.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, here we go. The great comics historial Scott McCloud explaining the three rocks.

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FDR etc: Honestly, Gene, I can't believe it. Not that FDR was a nasty sumbitch, but that being a bad private person doesn't leak into public behavior. It's not just good/bad family man, or whatever -- that's often inaccurate, since no one has the same family. Some people are harder to live with than others. But things that show cruelty and lack of respect? Yes. I think that's a legit character issue.

I will give Clinton a pass on her private life vis-a-vis kicking the husband to the curb, but not Giuliani. As the other poster said, Giuliani showed a public viciousness that seemed to override good sense and human decency.

That's a bad thing. Much worse than being unfaithful or a bit of a stick.

Gene Weingarten: A president is like the CEO of a giant company. He is essentially a caretaker for an enormous machine that runs independently of any one person. Approximately six times over four years, the president needs to make the right call on something important. You need to choose the person most likely to make those right six calls.

It's alchemy, finding that person. Sometimes, the right decision involves the ability to be cruel and calculating and coldblooded. You realize that, right? FDR had good reason to know what was happening to the Jews of Europe. He also had good reason to delay our entrance into the war. You know what I mean? Harry the haberdasher had to make two decisions to incinerate 200,000 people in five seconds, for something that seemed like a greater good.

I am not a particular fan of Giuliani, but being a total penis to his second wife may not be a decisive clue to how good a president he would be.

_______________________

Baltimore, Md.: I took a pregnancy test this morning. It was positive.

I am thrilled. And out-of-my-mind scared. I keep looking at the second line thinking it will disappear.

It will be our (long-awaited, planned) first. But in the past year or so, we've had several friends have miscarriages. Any anxiety coping strategies come to mind as I wait until my first appointment?

(I haven't even told my husband yet. He's on business and I think this is the sort of news that deserves in-person delivery.)

Gene Weingarten: So, you told me first. And all the readers.

I really love this. Can any one of the tens of thousands of people who now know of this woman's wonderful news give advice to her about how to cope with the anxiety, by tomorrow, so we can put it in tomorrow's update, so she can have the information before her husband comes home and learns what we all know?

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UPDATED 8.16.07

To the new mom: Shortly after my first child was born, I heard this quote:

"Making the decision to have a child -- it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." -- Elizabeth Stone

A perfect description! Starting now, you never get to be sure that you child is 100 percent safe, and all you can do is learn trust (and pray). But for now, maybe you could take comfort that your child not out walking around (or worse, driving around) with your heart just yet.

Congratulations.

Gene Weingarten: This is the first cool response to the secret mom-to-be from yesterday's update.

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Dear pregnant and anxious: I was in exactly your shoes four years ago. When you have reason to doubt the viability of a desperately wanted pregnancy, the anxiety can be obsessive and indescribably painful.

If the bland reassurances of your family, friends, and medical support don't mean squat to you, and your anxiety is getting in the way of taking good care of both yourself and the baby, then please do what I did and let technology be your friend. Who says only your OB gets to know whether your baby is okay? Hie thee over to eBay and buy your own fetal doppler.

(Yeah, there are places that rent them, but for what they charge you might as well buy one and either use it for subsequent pregnancies or resell after the birth.)

A fetal doppler is very easy to use, and a used professional-quality one (please don't buy anything with a cutesy name!) shouldn't set you back more than $200. Expensive? Yes, but to put it in perspective, it's about the same price as an hour with a decent therapist who, frankly, won't reassure you the way this thing will, and you can use the doppler throughout your pregnancy. Because if you think you're anxious now, just wait until you're 30 weeks along and you realize that the baby hasn't been moving around much for the past few hours.

Gene Weingarten: And this is the second, practical one.

Next week, tell us how it went when you told her husband, sweetie.

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Portland, Ore.: Oh, my.

You said

Gene Weingarten: That is the same reason Dave Barry wrote "I'm In Love With a Proofreadin' Woman," instead of "Copyeditin' Woman," which is what he meant.

You KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!

I'm a professional editor, and it really grinds me when people don't know the difference.

I once edited a fiercely difficult series of books for my organization and had to listen to the executive director tell a group of people that I was the "proofreader."

(Well, actually, I did that, too, but I also did everything else.)

Still makes me wince, even though he didn't mean to put me down, I'm sure.

No wonder we love you!

Gene Weingarten: Calling a copy editor a "proofreader" is like callinga novelist a "typist."

I love reading local papers when I travel. There are many, many things that make them entertainingly terrible, but if I had to pick the single factor that is most damaging to their quality, it is that they have terrible copy editors. Good copy editors can make even a very mediocre newspaper seem a lot better. Fine-tuning is important.

I am a pretty literate person, even as journalists go. My copy is considered pretty "clean," when it comes out of my computer, prior to copy editing. And yet, every book I have written, I first submitted to Pat the Perfect. So, we're talking three books. In those three books, she caught -- this is an estimate, but I'm pretty confident it is close -- seventeen million errors.

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Lansdale, Pa.: Two things:

DYING CHILD - The thing that a child wants above all else is to know that he is loved. Therefore, wouldn't the best and most honest response to a dying child be "I really don't know, but whereever you go, whatever happens, I will always think of you and love you no matter what." And just HOLD THE CHILD and LOVE THE CHILD until he-she passes away?

RIZZUTO - My favorite Rizzuto story: A few seasons ago, when Rizzuto and Bill White were doing play-by-play together, White's scorecard blew out the radio booth window, so he asked to use Rizzuto's. He looked at the card and saw, in one inning, some notations he'd never seen before. "Scooter," he said, "I know what BB and SAC are, but what's WW?"

Rizzuto said "WW. 'Wasn't watching.'"

It is now my favorite scoring notation, one that I've used at least TWICE at every ballgame I've attended since.

Gene Weingarten: DYING CHILD -- Yes, but you can do better than that. I would say all that, but I would also emphasize the potentially exciting mystery that awaits. It's a thing we all get to do one day, and she is getting there earlier, etc. I think I could do this well.

SCOOTER -- Hahaha.

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Carto,ON?: Oh no, Gene, say it ain't so. The cartoon strip you're doing with Dan has a character that's a rabbit? Why does every strip out these days have to feature animals or children? Are there no other viable subjects?

Sounds like same-old, same-old.

Gene Weingarten: I see.And the fact that the rabbit is named Adolf gives you no clue that this might be a weeeeeensy bit different?

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Free Will Machin, ES: Gene Weingarten: "I think we are machines with free will. Why is that illogical?"

1. All parts of a machine are physical (they don't have a non-physical 'soul' or 'spirit').

2. Physical objects are governed by the laws of physics.

3. The laws of physics are immutable, determined, and predictable. Given identical conditions, physical objects will behave in the same way each time. (We don't expect a brick to float in water one time and sink the next.)

4. Human beings are machines -- totally physical objects. Human thought and will is the product of physical actions: brain synapses firing.

5. Human thought is governed by the laws of physics and therefore determined.

If this is your view of humans, I don't see how you can escape that we have no free will. If we are only physical objects, how is the firing of our brain synapses different than a ball rolling downhill, beyond degree of complexity? Maybe the machine that is you is programed to behave in such a way to act as if it has free will.

Sorry, this is real "Inside Baseball" philosophy stuff (full disclosure: I was a philosophy major in college), but I just thought you might be interested.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, Aristotle. Let's examine his inductively, instead of deductively.

Obviously, we have free will. That's a given -- it is demonstrated every day. Therefore, the question is, does this mean we have some sort of "soul" independent of our body.

But any organism with consciousness also has free will. We can see free will in the actions of a goldfish. Does a goldfish have a "soul"?

If you are willing to accept that a goldfish has a soul, then I am willing to entertain the possibility that we, do, too. I am also willing to believe that our "soul," or consciousness, can be scientifically explained at some sub-cellular, bioelectric level.

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Anon: Here is a question for you, oh lovely Gene. I recently ventured into the world of online dating, which it turns out, only people with a sense of humor need apply. Because some of the stuff is hysterical. Now I've had a few nice dates and meet some interesting people. Not for me, or I am not for them, but no biggie.

On one site, they provide a path of sorts for communication. Something I thought was hysterical and kind of mocked until it turned out to be brilliant as it allows me to quickly back away from guys who just are not for me by any stretch of the imagination. I've mentioned this to people and while my female friends all agree with my reactions, my male friends say I'm been a bit harsh. So here it is: Am I being too harsh for immediately shutting down any guy who says he wants only "traditional views on sexual relationships" and/or "cannot stand overweight people." My reasons for doing are this: traditional views on sex just screams boring, missionary, and only when the man wants it. I like sex. Sex is fun, and while I may not be out swinging every night, this just cracks me up. And the overweight is just wrong. I myself am not overweight but my parents are and others I know and love, and god forbid -I- gain a pound or two. Plus, I see it as an expectation for perfection when these guys (according to their pics) are no Adonises themselves. So -- Gene, am I being too harsh or is this a normal reaction?

Gene Weingarten: I think you want a guy whose ad reads in its entirety "Man ISO woman."

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The show must go, ON: The last poll question is me. I have kids, old enough to get along without me, or at least they think so. I have a wife who loves me who has never felt passion for me. She mentioned a while ago that she has never had an orgasm in 24 years of marriage. She is not interested in doing anything about it and would NEVER talk to anyone else about it. I have done therapy and have been on various medications for many years. I do not have the right to check out, or I would have.

It isn't that I am absolutely miserable ALL the time. I have a laugh now and then. I sometimes spend a lot of time on the Internet looking for amusement and distraction. I wouldn't say that you are the reason for me to go on living, Gene, because that would be ridiculous.

On an unrelated topic, have you considered expanding your updates to include Saturday and Sunday? I would understand if you didn't want to. I'm sure you need a break and have lots of other things to do.

Gene Weingarten: Uh.

Listen.

I am no expert, but I would say that if you still have the capacity to laugh, and to find enjoyment in things, you have the capacity to improve your life so that you will enjoy living it again. You may need to will yourself to take a step that seems scary to you. But you do not seem to me to be a man for whom suicide is a reasonable or even logical option.

You sound like a man who is tired, disillusioned, and bored. That can be addressed. It takes some nerve.

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Beltsville, Md.: I'm writing in response to Darwinian Queery.

I take offense to his comment about Catholics and homosexuals. Catholics do not believe that there is anything wrong with homosexuality. The distinction that Catholics make in regards to homosexuality is that they do not approve of the act of homosexual sex. Therefore, in the church's eyes it is completely appropriate to be a homosexual Catholic as long as you are abstinent.

Not my beliefs, but knowlege gained from many many years of Catholic school.

Gene Weingarten: I mean no offense, but do you have any idea of how ridiculous and bigoted this sounds?

Welcome, homos. The Church embraces you as equals. Just don't do that dirty, filthy thing you perverts do when you are alone.

Jesus.

As it were.

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UPDATED 8.1.7.07

More Potty Hum, OR: Is this a pun?

>I can feel my toilet lift ever so slightly. Cracks me up

Gene Weingarten: Haha.

(How did I miss that?)

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Cat name?: Just curious, why Elmer? (from the human totally owned by a cat named Spoof)

Gene Weingarten: Because he looks like a Holstein bull, and the only famous cartoon bull I could think of is Elmer. This may change. I'm not sure Mol loves the name.

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Another D.C.-ver (DC-dent?): Paying for the poll? I looked at the polling We bsite. The cheap kind, which I assume you sprung for, not needing elaborate cross-tabbed data mining, is $20/month-- $5 a week. Ooooh, big man with the funds. If it hurts so bad I'll pay for next week with the money I would have given the violin guy had I been there and eh agrred to play "pinball wizard" on the violin for me.

Gene Weingarten: We are paying a lot more than that. A lot more.

Gene Weingarten: If The Post doesn't reimburse us, we may not be able to keep doing it for long.

A LOT more.

washingtonpost.com: And let me explain why we are paying A LOT MORE. The basic rate, which you quote above, doesn't allow for survey takers (meaning YOU) to view the results. In order for us to provide the realtime results page to you we had to go for the corporate level account.

I'm investigating other options. There's a great free polling site we can use, but it may be difficult to craft some of Gene's more involved polls. The one we used this week is a snap. Unfortunately, it's expensive. So, still wanna make with the money?

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Centreville Again: Centreville: "Gene Weingarten: If I told the child flat out that that is what would happen, yes, I lied. I know that is bunkum."

Please, you know no such thing. You believe it.

Gene Weingarten: I also don't know for sure that we weren't created by an emormous hamster named Philip Clendonnon.

You are correct, you don't know that. You see both as equally implausable. But I see there being an afterlife (heaven) much more likely.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah?

Why?

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Alexandria, Va.: Friend of mine believes that any parent who leaves a child in the back seat of the car to perish in the heat is guilty of murder, period. She says she doesn't even forget groceries in the car; how could an ostensibly loving parent forget a child? She thinks some parents do not want to admit to themselves they've had a child or two too many, or don't really like babies, or something, and thus (subconsciously, perhaps) use the left-in-car-to-die method to murder them. Your thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: Get a new friend.

Gene Weingarten: I have known people like your friend; they are damaged. They lack empathy. They do not understand that we are all far closer to a state of personal disaster than we like to think. One car accident, one hurtful mistake, one untimely death of someone you love, and any one of us can fall apart. We are susceptible to different things, perhaps, but we are all susceptible to disaster, and not because we are bad people. The reason that the case of the baked-to-death child affected me so strongly that I wrote a play about it is that I recognized myself. It could have been me. Absentminded, busy, baby Molly in the back seat, I forget she's there. Could have been me, and from that point onward, I am a dead man walking.

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Boston, Mass.: Days before her death, I visited my paternal grandmother. Before leaving, I bent down to kiss her goodbye. She gripped my hand tightly and said "I love you." She had never said that to me before. I knew that she knew she was dying and I knew she wanted me to tell her I loved her. My grandmother was a cold woman, a mean drunk (even towards grandchildren), and (along with an eqully screwed up husband) did real lasting damage to her six children because of her mean, violent, cold treatment of them. I did not and do not love her. I replied to her "Take care." Still gripping my hand with all of her limited strength, she repeated that she loved me. I replied "I hope you feel better soon." I think telling her I loved her would have meant a small measure of absolution to her for her treatment of people here on earth, before she left for the afterlife (which she believed in). At the time, I just could not bring myself to lie. And, if I am honest with myself, I deliberately denied her the absolution she wanted so desperately because I did not think she deserved it. This was more than a decade ago, but I still feel guilty that I did not give her what she most deperately needed. She was dying. They were just words. I did not have to mean them. I don't like to think of myself as someone who will not comfort the dying, especially when there was no cost to me.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Thanks.

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San Antonio, Tex.: Why is Lio mean-spirited? I don't get it.

Gene Weingarten: Because he has gone to the site of the Alamo, and watched horrendous death and decapitation and slaughter and whatnot, and returns happy, because he has stolen Davey Crockett's hat.

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Direct all retorts to next week's chat.

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