Chatological Humor (UPDATED 9.28.07)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2007; 12:00 PM

DAILY UPDATES: 9.26.07 | 9.27.07 | 9.28.07

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.

This Week's Polls: First, everyone please take this first Very Serious Poll. Then, women please enter here and men here for the second, humorous poll.

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.

P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz

____________________

Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

On Sunday morning, there came a yelping and howling and mewling and keening from our front yard. We investigated. Murphy the Plott Hound was beside herself, pawing at the ground, yipping and whining, trying to get through the fence to something on the other side. We looked.

This is what it was.

Had you ever seen a baby squirrel? We hadn't. This one had apparently fallen 20 feet to the pavement from a nest in one of several trees, and then crawled, blind, about 20 feet onto my neighbor's walkway.

His name is Cholmondeley, pronounced "Chumley."

The real story here, though, is Murphy. She watched intently as we picked up the squirrel, put him in a box, brought him into the house. She tried to lick him. She was deeply agitated, wanted to mother him, and when we gave him up to Animal Rescue, she whined and mourned for hours, searching every nook and cranny of the house.

QUICK! TAKE THIS EMERGENCY POLL!

I think you know where this is going. The Rib and I looked at shelter kittens yesterday, and have put in a request for one. She looks exactly like Murphy. If we get her, perhaps we shall name her "Little Murphy."

I am awaiting a call from the shelter to tell me if Cholmondeley survived. I am afraid of this call.

---

Okay, so. Remember the debate in the last two weeks over whether the Prank Wars were real or faked? If you recall, this was the increasingly vicious series of pranks played on each other by Streeter and Amir, two staffers of collegehumor.com, culminating in Amir arranging for Streeter to propose to his girlfriend on the Jumbotron at Yankee Stadium, a surprise to both of them. Much hilarity, and a slap in the face, ensued.

(Prank Wars 4 -- Comedy Club| 5 -- Human Giants| 6 -- Proposal)

I said that I thought the odds of Prank Wars being real, and not a prank, were about 50-50. I now put the odds at 80-20 that it is real. Last week I phoned both Streeter, whom I talked to for five minutes, and Amir, whom I talked to for a half hour. Streeter sounded deeply weary and upset by the whole thing, swore it was true, and, simply by virtue of being a man, vowed that he will exact revenge that will be "quick and mean."

It was the conversation with Amir Blumenfeld that has mostly nailed this for me, in part because, uncharacteristically for someone seeking publicity, he refused to go on the record, despite my taunting him with serious verbal attacks on his manhood. I am not allowed to reveal the contents of the conversation at all, but I will say that he performed well on one important test: I asked him my key question--- How had he prepared for the eventuality (women's bladders being what they are) that girlfriend Sharon might be in the ladies room when the prank happened, and miss the whole thing? His answer was so thunderously stupid that it could not have been scripted. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure this thing is real, and that Streeter's revenge will be either literally or figuratively deadly.

----

The company that is printing the Old Dogs book is located in Hong Kong. Its address is "1 Fuk Wang St."

----

You may recall that last week, I said that if a disease is ever named for me, I wanted it to involve calcification and keratinization of the male sexual organ. Within just a few hours, this link arrived. ( NOTE: This link is in NO WAY safe for work. Nor is it endorsed by myself, washingtonpost.com or the dead tree operation. -- Liz)

------

Have you read about the obnoxious kid who was obnoxiously tasered by obnoxious security guards at a Kerry speech? This kid should never have been tasered, and heads should roll for it, but he was being a disruptive jerk and mostly got what he wanted -- publicity.

In response, in support of free speech, the student newspaper at Colorado State University published a four word editorial: "Taser This: (f-word) Bush." The paper's editor is in trouble; the school is considering firing him. If they do, it's a disgrace. Unlike the tasered kid, this editorial had a succinct and effective point. They had every right to say it, and they had an obligation, as callow college newspaper editors, to be a little irresponsible and over the top. Leave the kid alone, I say.

-----

Nothing, alas, in this chat is going to be as funny as Ahmadinejad's straight-faced declaration yesterday that there are no homosexuals in Iran. I'm not even going to try to top that.

Besides, we have the first poll to neatly suppress much of the jocularity this week. I am sorry to inflict this on you. Your answers are illuminating, and I thank you for them. It is important that I keep a completely open mind, and so, for reasons I know you will understand, I'm going to be uncharacteristically reticent and taciturn on this one. I will publish your thinking about it, but not mine. A whole bunch of your posts are going to be answered by: "Thanks."

Now, the Second Poll ( women please enter here and men here) is also interesting. It has a guest judge, Dave Barry, who chose his top three and bottom three jokes. Like the letters of transit in Casablanca, his decision cannot be superseded or even questioned. In each category, I have added a fourth, to give you a little room for error. Here's the thing: Something is happening in the results of this poll that I do not believe has ever happened before. It's exciting. I can't wait to tell you.

A weak comic week, except for the CPOW, Sunday's Doonesbury, which is great for many reasons, including that Bush's slowly eroding Roman soldier had has now completely lost its top. First runner up is Sunday's Agnes. Honorable: Saturday's Pearls and Sunday's Lio.

Okay, let's go.

_______________________

Perverse Metair, IE: Gene,

I grew up in Metairie, La., and my family still lives there. I visit often, particularly since Katrina. Your perverse verse in The Post Magazine almost caused me to spit my coffee. THANKS!

Metairie is a pretty bland place, full of retail chains, ranch houses and strip malls. Pointing out that there well may be strong current of horniness coursing through those manicured Metairie lawns jazzes up our perceptions of ourselves as Metairians.

washingtonpost.com: A Garden of Perverses ( Post Magazine, Sept. 25)

Gene Weingarten: I had a really bad problem with that poem. I wrote it and sent it to Pat the Perfect, who liked it, but dryly informed me (she knows everything) that the town is pronounced MET-er-ee, not Met-AIR-ee. This screwed up all of the meter and some of the rhymes, including my last two lines, which originally were:

But if you plan to enter politics, you might be somewhat wary

Of starting your career out in that Babylon, Matairie.

So I had to change that.

An additional problem was that even though it is pronounced MET -er-ee, almost everyone will assume that it is pronounced the other way. So I had to rewrite the poem entirely, making the meter work out whichever way you pronounced it.

One more little fact: The editors made me change a line in that poem. Originally, the linens were not "after they've been mussed." It originally read "(with just a little crust.)"

Heh. Heh heh.

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Chicago, Ill.: Gene, I need some humor help. In my in-law's village, there's a fair-sized cemetery, maybe a few blocks long. They sold off the corner of the cemetery, at a busy intersection, and put in a Starbucks. I'm sure there's a joke in here about waking up the dead, but I can't find it. Can you?

Gene Weingarten: I'm sure their drinks will be coffinated.

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Indianapolis: Was the Tasered kid being especially obnoxious? From what I saw, he was trying to ask three questions -- legitimate questions, I'd say -- when he was only supposed to ask one.

Kerry, of course, could have stopped the whole thing if he'd spoken up. But he acted just like the John Kerry we've come to know and expect nothing from.

Gene Weingarten: He was being pretty disruptive, and deliberately so. He told the woman next to him to video the whole thing, because he knew he was gonna be expelled. He was being rude.

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Movie Fan: Dave Barry, quoted in Entertainment Weekly, says that he and Gene have co-written a movie script that has been optioned for production. Does it feature VPL, the Flash, hypochondria, or straight razors? Does this mean that at some future date, Liz (in her Celebritology guise) will report on Gene's appearance at a movie premiere, walking the red carpet ("Gene, who are you wearing tonight?")?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, to Lorne Michaels' production company. It has become one of 634 million scripts currently "in development."

Liz would never confuse script writers with celebrities. She knows the old Polish joke -

Did you hear about the Polish ingenue? She went to Hollywood, and to get ahead, she slept with the writers.

(No offense, Poles. An old, invalid stereotype.)

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Montgomeryville, Pa.: Gene;

I think you left out a very important question in your serious poll, namely: Are you a father of children? (or words to that effect).

I pretty much threw the book at the guy and I honestly believe my response is colored by the fact that I have two boys that fall into the age range of the the children that are being violated.

If you asked me before I had kids, I probably would have answered more along the lines of what the chatters are currently voting.

Was this a conscious decision on your part?

Gene Weingarten: No. Not deliberate.

But I doubt that the parent/non-parent divide is explaining anything about the results. A large percentage of the readers taking this poll are parents.

We all were children, you know?

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Oh, Gene, I am heartbroken that you didn't include my absolute favorite guy-goes-into-a-bar joke:

A mushroom walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "You'll have to leave; we don't serve your kind here." The mushroom says, "Why not? I'm a fun guy?"

I had a hard time with this poll, though. There's a fine line between a terrible pun and a terrific one, and many are both simultaneously.

Gene Weingarten: I didn't include it because it contains an illiteracy, and "I'm a fun Gus" isn't nearly as good.

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Siame, SE: Gene,

Before you go and get a cat, how about you and the Rib consider watching my three-year-old Siamese cat for two weeks while we're in China? Seriously, I can't put her in boarding because that seems terrible, my brother has two little kids running around his house, my neighbor is unreliable, and my girlfriend's co-worker seems to be offering just to be looked upon favorably. I trust you with animals more than anybody else. She is nice and cute. Pretty please?

Gene Weingarten: Write to me after the chat.

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Anonymous: Who would you choose for a night passion, including dinner and conversation and all the passion implies, between Dick Cheney and the President of Iran?

Gene Weingarten: Actually, this is a good question to throw out there to women and gay men:

It seems to me that Ahmadinejad is an extremely hot guy. Am I right? And if so, does his hotness diminish or disappear on account of who he is and what he says?

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Silver Spring, Md.: I agree with the sentiment of "what happens in a person's head isn't an extra reason to punish them." I disagree with prosecuting "hate crimes" for that very reason.

But in terms of child pornography -- clearly a child HAD TO BE ABUSED for the picture to be generated. There is no greater crime than child abuse and if I wasn't pretty sure I'm against the death penalty, I would have voted for that.

Seriously, people? Probation?

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Very Serious Poll: To me, the crime that was committed was the vile abuse of children in the creation of the porn. The otherwise-fabulous guy paid money for this porn, playing an integral role in its creation. The porn was created because people like this man had their credit cards at the ready. It's not really different from him calling up some pornographer and custom ordering something ("Make me a video of a 5-year-old being raped and tortured"), is it?

So he didn't actually abuse a child himself -- great. But if someone pays to watch someone else abuse a child, the one with the money has made the abuse happen.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, I work for a marine conservation organization, but I'm hiding in my office with the curtains shut. See, I'm undergoing fertility treatment and my food cravings are undeniable. I'm having a completely non-sustainable lunch. My question is, Tennessee at New Orleans, spread is NO by 4. What's the pick here?

Gene Weingarten: Tennessee.

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Bethesda, Md.: Although I'm not a therapist, I've worked with hundreds of pedophiles and the therapists that work with them. The odds that your 50-year-old lawyer actually abused children is very high. Sorry.

Gene Weingarten: I know those numbers. But there are pretty compelling reasons to think he didn't. I can't go into them. The evidence was so great that during the sentencing, in a highly unusual move, the judge stated that there was no evidence he had molested children.

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Tasered kid: He was trying to ask Sen. Kerry about Skull and Bones which is the most inane, wacked-out conspiracy theorist question out there.

Gene Weingarten: Right.

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Arlington, Va.:"An additional problem was that even though it is pronounced MET -er-ee, almost everyone will assume that it is pronounced the other way."

Why? Because everyone else is as ignorant as you?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

A quick show of hands. Who knew the correct pronunciation who has never lived in Louisiana?

I see no hands.

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Spook, ED: Some guy called me with a sexual phone prank last night. No idea who, so I'm filing a police report, but wondered if you knew what you can say to such a man to freak him out? Give him the opposite affect of what he was calling for? He knew my name, and had my number. I'm a little spooked now, especially since I live alone, and I'm in the phone book. Knowing what words could make him think twice about calling someone else is my one comfort right now, and, after the gross-out discussions on tampons, thought this would be a short leap. Thanks, Gene!

Gene Weingarten: Prank? Sounds more like an assault.

Engaging this person in any way is risky. The best strategy, which may be unavailable to you, is to hand the phone to a man.

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Examples: So it'll/coital.

You're proud of that, aren't you?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

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Livermore, Calif.: While the laughter of the crowd was the best response to Ahmadinejad's assertion that there are no Iranian gays, in a sense it's true. Same-sex acts are thought of as youthful indiscretions, and many men, especially the "tops," do not believe they are gay at all.

See this fascinating article on why it's easier for a gay couple to date in Saudi Arabia than a heterosexual one.

Gene Weingarten: I'll trust this link.

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Meat eater: I am a meat eater. And not too apologetic about it.

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that stated, "Cow's deserve to be eaten".

Doesn't look good for my side, does it?

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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Orlando, Fla.: This chat seems to cross this discussion often... Are thoughts punishable?

I'm a female, elementary school teacher and a cheer coach. My fantasies are illegal, usually involving pre-teen females and deviant sexual behavior, usually of the BDSM variety. Now, if that's all you knew about me, I should be at punished, but there is more to it...

I read, rather than watch and view, my fantasies, so it isn't illegal, but I know I would be quickly discredited if it were to ever be found out. What is important to note is that they are all safely locked inside of my head. The actual thought of acting out one of my fantasies is abhorrent to me. It physically sickens me to even contemplate it happening to one of my students... but who would believe that?

Pornography is fantasy, not reality. It only creates a problem when someone wants to transfer fantasy to reality. How many divorces have resulted because of the proliferation of porn? How many jobs lost due to porn addiction? Assuming everything else to be true, his only real crime was supporting an organization that will continue to exist because as long as there is a market, children will continue to be harmed to supply that market.

If I were guessing I would have to say the thought of one of his little league team members in that situation would sicken him as well. But as long as it was online with children he didn't know, he could perpetuate it in his mind as a victimless crime. He should receive counseling to help him learn it isn't a victimless crime and he should be monitored to be sure that he isn't viewing it any longer, but beyond that, why should he be punished for merely thinking?

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

If you would be comfortable talking to me about this, in complete confidence, no names ever disclosed to anyone, please email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com.

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Joke...: So, a seal walks into a club....

Gene Weingarten: I like it. And it reminds me of the joke about the penguin eating ice cream.

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Nope Not, ME: No good 'nopes this week?

Gene Weingarten: No. I didn't like the crop I saw.

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North McLean: The notion of somebody getting his jollies off on tortured children creates a visceral reaction of disgust, but I realize that this cannot be the sole criterion for punishment. Nor can the fact that this response is uncommon be used to assign blame. One cannot reasonably control which stimuli induces a sexual response.

The only reasonable basis for punishment is the extent to which this crime promotes the exploitation of children. And in this case it is a matter of distributed responsibility. The man in question is only one of many people supporting this exploitation. And given the revulsion that the knowledge of this proclivity produces in the vast majority of people, it would seem that being exposed, briefly incarcerated, and then officially stigmatized would be punishment enough.

The more profound criminal responsibilities rest with those who create and run this hypothetical web site. For them I would have less mercy.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Accessory to Crime: How can 41 percent (as of Monday afternoon) say the lawyer contributed to the crimes by creating the market demand, but very few believe a prison sentence is in order? I don't get it. What's your take?

Gene Weingarten: I don't have a take, yet. Honestly. I think this is a complicated morass of conflicting moral issues. One person I know, who was sexually abused as a child, feels that in this case, the excruciating public humiliation this man has suffered (combined with counseling and sex-offender registry) is sufficient punishment. Another person I know, with no such baggage and no children, opted for 25 years to life.

I don't have a take, yet.

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Ahmadinej, AD: Female talking here to answer your question:

I think Ahmadinejad is only considered "hot" when compared to other world leaders. But if he was a regular guy just walking down the street, I doubt I would take notice.

washingtonpost.com: No, he's hot.

Gene Weingarten: More, more.

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College Park, Md.: OMG! I might be a little late, but I'm just discovering that you LIVED WITH Liz and that you hooked up with PtheP?!

washingtonpost.com: Ahhh. Gotta love Facebook. To clear things up, it was while Gene and I were living together that he and Dave Barry stole my film script. The rest is history.

Gene Weingarten: It was after Liz kicked me out that I sought emotional solace by nailing Pthep.

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Nowhere, VA: I'm having a hard time with the first poll. While I agree that you shouldn't punish people for things that go on entirely inside their heads, the money-changing-hands thing makes it different: he is actively supporting the awful crime. However, we do this indirectly all the time: we buy meat, contributing to the torture of animals, we buy oil, diamonds, and all kinds of products that support drug and human trafficking if you look into it closely (most of us just try very hard not to think about it).

Granted, this is more direct support, but...I don't know. Part of me thinks we have to go easy and find the actual producers of the material, and part of me wants to track down and human who is supporting the business. BUT, you can't possibly track down everyone - it's like the War on Drugs, or the War on Poverty, or the War on Terror (ahem) - so. I don't know.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Very Serious Poll: I feel as though you set the bottom bar too high, as far as the punishment goes. On the initial scenario, I would have liked to see some minimal jail time -- say, 30 days -- in recognition of his shared culpability in creating a demand for child pornography, but I don't get the lifetime registration as a sex offender. The original scenario doesn't suggest there's any evidence he's ever touched a child inappropriately (which is why I chose "it doesn't matter" when you added that the thorough investigation not turning up any evidence of actual abusive contact with children - was everybody else factoring in some assumption that if he looked at the pictures he must have been abusing children?) I think it does make a difference how vile the things are that are being done to the children, since the shared culpability for creating a market for this kind of material seems to me the legitimate justification for punishing someone for looking at pictures. (At some level, as a society, I think what we're doing is punishing him for WANTING to look at those pictures, which is not a legitimate justification for punishment.)

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Boynton Beach, Fla.: The men are liking the amnesiac joke! That's a stupid joke. The woman isn't going to know he's amnesiac. It's just going to be some jerk sitting next to her asking an idiotic question. There's no remotely plausible setup to that joke. Maybe men relate to it the most?

Gene Weingarten: The women are liking it, too, sweetie. Know why? Because it is really good. Whether the woman understands that he is an amnesiac is irrelevant.

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Doghou, SE: Okay, so I got busted. This really hot little chickie moved in right next door to me and runs around in tight shorts and little midriff tops all the time and my girlfriend caught me drooling over the little honey. I tried to laugh it off but she got this really glazed look on her face and she won't talk to me about it. She just keeps saying that it's okay and then practically runs out of the room. She's started cancelling dates - suddenly she has to work late or she has a headache or something. I keep trying to tell her I think she's really attractive and sexy but she won't hear it. We're both divorced and I know she had a tough time with her ex, but what can I do? I can't make my neighbor move. Maybe this is a Hax question but you're a guy, you know where I'm coming from. What do I do?

Gene Weingarten: Boy, this whole chat is turning out to be about the crime of thinking something, isn't it? Thinking versus doing.

Is paying for child porn "doing?"

Is visibly scoping out a babe "doing?"

We've established what you are, son. Now we're just haggling over price.

You need to talk to your girlfriend. Talk it over. Explain that no guy is immune to recognizing and appreciating female hotness, but you will, in the future, not drool. That you recognize that it is disrespectful to her, and you apologize. And that you have no designs on this woman.

Postscript: I would not think well of a woman who got so terribly upset and offended over this. That is a degree of controlling behavior I find ditasteful.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Very disturbing poll to say the least, but it, combined with Joel A's recent article on the complexity of the brain, did make me wonder how much of the passive viewing of such pictures is a mental issue that should be addressed as such rather than a criminal act. I am not placing violent video games or movies on the same level at all, but many people enjoy watching all sorts of sadistic horrible activity that, in theory, they do not act upon or believe to be "right." Obviously the difference is real people are not being killed, tortured etc . . in a movie or game, but what would be people's response if the images being looked at were computer generated?

washingtonpost.com: What Makes Up My Mind, ( Post, Sept. 23)

Gene Weingarten: I think they would dislike the person, but not feel he has done anything illegal.

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Seattle: As a former small-town newspaper reporter, I find that this "The Onion" headline kinda sums up why I'm not too sympathetic to Tasered Guy:

"Town Hall Meeting Gives Townspeople Chance To Say Stupid Things In Public"

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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Pet Sitt, IN: No offense, Gene, but the person with the Siamese should hire a pet sitter. Mine is marvelous: Beverly Swanson at Companion Care Pet Sitters. She can be reached at companioncare@rcn.com. She'll come to your house, feed and play with your cat, and leave you a daily diary of his/her behavior.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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You pulled it out at the end: For a second there, I thought you were going to rely on the "it's only in his head" dodge as a way of giving this scumbag a walk. Then I saw the answer that matters in this case: by buying kiddie porn, he enables the market for that particular kind of evil.

A year in prison is enough, as long as he loses his livelihood and is required to register. Odds are, with those penalties and the generally unforgiving nature of felons vis-a-vis child molesters, he'll be dead in a year anyway, either by his own hand or his cellmate's.

I'm not anti-porn, as long as it's consenting adults. But hands off, and eyes off, the kids.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Serious Poll: This poll was hard to take, but I was encouraged, I guess, by the answers. My father was (is still I guess) a pedophile. Caught numerous times with graphic and disturbing child pornography. He was also a doctor, a decent member of the community, and a fairly OK dad. He was ill and never admitted it to himself or anyone else. He also never touched a child as far as anyone (FBI) could figure out, just had the stuff on his computer. I've struggled for years trying to figure out what this means about him, or says about him as a person. But he was always mentally a little off. Did it affect how good a doctor he was? I don't think so. Only his close family ever knew about this. I hated finding this out about him (I knew from a young-ish age) and I split hairs with myself by saying that because he never ACTED on anything, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. He was never a predator. But he was also my dad and still a good person in many ways. I chose the probation and suspension for the poll.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

Same offer. If you are willing to discuss this, contact me at weingarten(at)washpost.com.

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Ahmadinej, AD: I always thought he was hot until I noticed how bizarre his eyes are -- not only are they tiny, it is almost like he has them closed all the time.

Gene Weingarten: True. He has shifty little beady eyes. Kinda like Bush's! They BOTH look like they are always looking into the sun.

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Re: Metarie: Am waving my hand here.

Anglicized pronunciation of French word -- why wouldn't the emphasis be on the first syllable?

Gene Weingarten: Because it looks like prairie at the end. Surely, you are not arguing that it LOOKS like it should be MET-er-ee.

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Late: Probably too late to get this in.

I am one of the three who voted for death, both before and after.

Look. The "kept it in his own head" arguement only goes as far as we're talking about cartoons or written fiction or whatever doesn't involve real children. Further, that he had this problem and coached little league suggests a very great deal, regardless that the law enforcement folks are convinced he didn't actually DO anything.

I can't watch Law & Order: SVU when it involves kids. I just ... I have kids. I can't watch those episodes. I want to hurt people. This is what I keep in my head, and I try to stay away from things that get me het up. Same thing with this guy.

If I can convince the law enforcement community to do what I'm thinking, I'm happier all day long.

If he was willing to assist law enforcement with a sting operation of some kind that put his own life in jeopardy to catch the sickos who run the website from Eastern Europe or China or wherever they are, I'd be willing to take death off the table.

I'm really the guy in the glass house throwing stones here. I play violent video games. I find it cathartic. Of course, it doesn't involve real people, which is the thing that got me going about this guy - the real kids, but still, it is a gray area. My problem would, if let out of the box, involve adults, not kids, and that is a huge difference in my head.

This guy is an adult. There has to be a time when you say "enough". That's why I don't watch bum fights, boxing, professional wrestling, or MMA.

Though I wonder, I think boxing may be less real than the games I play ...

washingtonpost.com: Late? It's 12:19.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Death!

Same offer to others: If you'll talk to me, please email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com. Any others who chose "death," also.

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Washington DC:"Postscript: I would not think well of a woman who got so terribly upset and offended over this. That is a degree of controlling behavior I find distasteful."

On the flip side, I would say that use of the terms "little chickie" and "little honey" to describe the neighbors are grounds for dumping.

Gag.

Gene Weingarten: Good point.

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Silver Spring, MD:"Postscript: I would not think well of a woman who got so terribly upset and offended over this. That is a degree of controlling behavior I find ditasteful."

This is what Hax would say, I betcha.

Gene Weingarten: Hax would say what? That it's distasteful? Or that it's fine for women to chastise guys for peeking?

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Eewww: Liz, you think he's hot? He's gross. He'd be gross even if he was just some guy on the street.

washingtonpost.com: He also knows better than to wear pleated pants.

Gene Weingarten: I don't understand Liz's comment, but I bet it's really snarky.

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What I thought was far enough away: Gene,

You are inescapable. I'm minding my own business sitting in High Holiday services, looking forward to what I'm sure will be another eye-opening and life-changing sermon from my parents Rabbi. He starts out by saying his inspiration is from an article from the Washington Post. As a loyal Post Reader I wonder, who could he be talking about? One of the fantastic Political Reporters? Tom Boswell of the sports page (my Rabbi likes sports metaphors)? I know- it must be Dana Priest and Anne Hull for their fantastic reporting on Walter Reed- after all, the Rabbi's son is in Iraq right now!

Nope- it's you. It's you and Josh Bell. Great work, but can't you leave my holidays alone! How does it feel to be sermon material?

Gene Weingarten: That story has been hijacked by various religions, and used as proof of the existence of God!

I'm fine with it.

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Venus: Ahmadinejad is hot. His twistedness contributes to his hotness.

Hey, can't punish me for what I think, ok?

Gene Weingarten: Haha.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

You are going to love this.

Collectively, you are humor geniuses. Men and women, both.

Your choices and Dave Barry's choices track almost 100 percent, and when I add my fourth, your scores are perfect.

Dave picked as best 2, 6, and 15, which are the amnesiac, the Chihuahua and the big pause. As worst, he picked 3, 4, and 14, which are jumper cables, brain, and giraffe. )

(He and I were in almost complete agreement. I liked jumper cables more than he did.)

To his choices, I add, as best, 5, which is, Descartes, and as worst, cowboy, which is 12.

I'm happy to discuss WHY some of these are funnier than others, and was prepared to do this, but you seem to already know, so it would be patronizing.

Gene Weingarten: Congratulations.

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Providence, R.I.: After my first year of law school, me and most of my fellow students endure journal competition where everyone has to write a lawyerly paper on a specific topic using only a set of materials provided. Our topic was the legal implications of "virtual" child pornography, i.e. porn that is really someone of legal aged but, through the miracles of modern technology is photo shopped or something to look like it is a minor.

It raises all sort of interesting questions... should this be illegal? Does it matter if the person knows or doesn't know it is not "real" porn, etc.

But I bring this up mainly because one of the competitions-within-the-competition amongst our friends was for the most creative title of the paper. The hands down winner was "Children of the Porn."

Gene Weingarten: Har.

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Serious poll: Well, I am off to take your non-serious poll, but I am surprised with the overwhelmingly similar responses to, particularly, the time in jail question. I am a conservative mom of 3 young girls, and I voted for 1 year in prison with the extra fun options, especially the sex offender bit. It's illegal for a reason.

But I do think watching it doesn't fall into the same category as the person making the video. It's like a drug user versus a drug dealer (um, except doing child porn is way, way worse than being a drug dealer). But it seems that most people agree with me.

Oh, and the bit about representing the disadvantaged, etc. makes no difference. Many, many child predators do very nice things, perhaps to be put into situation that allows them access to kids. Goody for him for doing nice things to allay his guilt.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Phenom, ENAL:"We do not have this phenomenon [of homosexuality] in our country"

Has a world leader ever made himself look more ridiculous on the world stage? This is why I think people miss the point when they say Columbia was wrong to let him speak. You give a nut like Ahmadenijad a forum, he will make himself look like a crazy person.

Gene Weingarten: Columbia was right to let him speak, for exactly the reason you said. I think all the pols who santimoniously criticized Colombia were shameless.

Did you read the university president's "introduction." It was fabulous. He called Ahmadinejad a buffoon.

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Old Dogs, Yay!: Gene, when is Old Dogs coming out? And will you be promoting it around our Nation's Capital?

Gene Weingarten: Old Dogs doesn't appear until next May.

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Flip Si, DE: For the guy caught oogling his neighbor -- how would you feel if you caught your girlfriend oogling some buff bare-chested dude as he ran by in tiny shorts? My boyfriend and I have an equal-opportunity oogle policy; I don't get mad at him when he checks other women out, and he doesn't get mad at me when I note that football's only watchable as a sport because of the men's heinies in those tight pants.

Gene Weingarten: Oogle?

This should be a verb. It would mean googling for porn.

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Big Fat Hairy Deal: Gene,

This morning, local public radio personalities were discussing an uproar over a headline in an area paper which reads POW POW POW! It is a story about a young man who evaded police for awhile, then turned around and assaulted one officer and was eventually shot to death by authorities.

Is this headline really so offensive, in your opinion? I fail to see the big problem here.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. The tone is wrong. That's not a good headline, even if it is a riveting headline.

Believe it or not, the column I finished yesterday is on this very topic.

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Not only have I never seen a baby squirrel....: I have never seen squirrel poop. Think about it. Squirrels are ubiquitous in our area. Like pigeons. Pigeon poop I've seen. Squirrel poop never. Big mystery. Where is the squirrel scat?

Gene Weingarten: I don't know!

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Charlottesville, Va.:"I'm happy to discuss WHY some of these are funnier than others, and was prepared to do this, but you seem to already know, so it would be patronizing."

And you wouldn't want to do that...

I generally don't like the jokes that couldn't possibly happen (like the cowboy), but I do love the skeleton one. I don't know why. Maybe it's the mental image of a skeleton drinking a beer...and it going straight through.

Gene Weingarten: The skeleton would be my fifth best choice.

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Hot, hot, hot!: Yes, that man... Ahamd-...-halalal, or whatever his name is, happens to be very hot. From his eyes, to his jawline, to the grey speckling his hair, he's got it. I'd like to take a turn at being one of his wives.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Washington, D.C.: I am a 35-year-old sane professional single woman. I have no history of any kind of abuse (either to me or from me). Almost all of my sexual fantasies involve dominance and submission, and I enjoy reading erotica online with those themes. In particular, I enjoy fantasies of a powerful man acting like a twisted father figure to a younger woman (including spankings, etc.). It's truly just fantasy to me, but very exciting.

Does reading about these things -- fiction about consenting adults PRETENDING to be father/daughter make me prosecutable in chatters' eyes? Again, no real-life children of any kind were involved in the creation of this "porn." Is it possible that reading ANY fiction - even if it involved actual child abuse - makes me someone who should be a public outcast?

This is a fascinating topic.

Gene Weingarten: It's why I'm writing a cover story on it.

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Washington, D.C.: Why do overzealous guards at a Kerry speech lead to the Colorado State paper attacking Bush? If there's an effective point there, I missed it.

Gene Weingarten: They saw it as an issue of free speech. So they said, we'll fight for free speech right here by saying something we're not supposed to say, and daring someone to do something about it. Taser us, if you dare.

It was not unclever.

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Buck Nekk, ID: The poll brings up something that concerns me. My daughter recently e-mailed us (and several others) a picture of her three year old son, stark naked, standing on the hood of a car with a Rocky-like victory pose. My wife and I laughed, and then I told her to delete it, because it could be construed as child pornography. She thought I was being ridiculous. Your opinion?

Gene Weingarten: You are right. She should not send that to anyone else. Because the wrong person sends it to a child porn site.

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Columbia's President's intro.: Now, I know that Ahmadinejad is a bit of a wacko to say the least. And I agree the best thing for someone like him is to let him speak, since he just will end up looking even more bizarre. However, I felt that the university's president was off base in his intro. In my mind, this guy is a guest to the university (a choice that many protested), and as the president of the university, he should not have been that over the top.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree. I think he had to make the point, forcefully, that by inviting him, the university was in no way endorsing him.

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When google is bad: Gene,

My two year old needs surgery on his "pee-pee" (not sure of the censors on the other word) because his circumsicsion grew back. I want to learn more but I am petrified of what the google search will return. I do not need Dateline and/or the FBI at my door.

It also petrifies me that I need to be scared of googling toddle private parts will bring back porn stuff. Why is this out there? It makes me physicallly ill to think of people harming toddlers in this way.

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

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Mens Wear Dept, Tysons Corner: I went shopping last night at Macy's for a pair of dress pants for work. I found NO plain front pants in my size, and had to make do with pleated ones. As I drove to work today, I looked at my new pants, I thought of of the derision I would get from Liz. Then I realized this: In 25 years, when tattoos are out of fashion and people with tattoos (ahem, Liz) are routinely derided as fashion pariahs, I can simply walk into the Mens Wear Department and buy a fashionable pair of pants.

washingtonpost.com: And I suppose I'll be cowering at home for fear that you -- or anyone else -- lay eyes on my desecrated skin?

And, sorry. If you couldn't find a pair of flatfronts in 2007, I don't think you'll have much luck getting "fashionable" in 2032. Hiss.

Gene Weingarten: I love it when Liz gets pissed.

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Either, OR: The guy checking out the next door neighbor is a chucklehead.

If I check out another girl while I am with my significant other, she understands I am not trying to demean her in anyway. I am not going out of my way to check this out, I am not going to say anything about her one way or another.

She does the same, she is a nurse and works with all these attractive doctors, and I understand it works both ways. She is also madly in love you with you, Gene.

Gene Weingarten: I love nurses. It's true but I also have to say this from time to time, ever since the nurse's association got mad at me when I said that if I were ever in a vegetative state, I wanted to be strangled to death by a honey blond buxom nurse with one of those cute hats.

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Dallas, Tex.: Get two kittens! Two kittens/cats is not much more work than one and they will be so much happier if they have each other to terrorize. Yes, the kitten will have Murphy to play with as well, but kittens want to play all. the. time. Especially when you (and Murphy) are trying to sleep. Having two of them will slightly increase the odds that they will just harass each other instead of you.

Plus, if there is anything that could bring more joy and laughter into your house than one kitten, it is two kittens!

Gene Weingarten: Is this true? One kitten is not good?

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Annapolis, Md.: This whole chat is very interesting. Without giving myself away, I'm closely involved in the legislative process in the Maryland General Assembly. The hearings on child porn last year were very interesting. Our current laws have yet to catch up to the technology involved in child porn like internet porn. The law is trying to figure out how to prosecute the real offenders with out accidentally bringing in people who accidentally came across a picture online by going to the wrong website, and to make sure that child porn doesn't include the picture you have of you son in the bath tub. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw legislation next year to expand the definition of types of child porn and a debate over these clarifications of what is porn.

That aside, I'd be curious what position people would take if this was the guy's 2nd or 3rd offense?

Gene Weingarten: I think it would matter to people. Judging from the responses.

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when google is bad: so don't google it. start your search at www.webmd.com

Gene Weingarten: Good point.

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Alexandria, Va.: Gene, I put this question to you, an experienced dog person, in hope of some good analysis.

My husband and I have had dogs all our lives, but usually only one at a time. I once had a large neutered male and a smaller female, and that worked out fine. What are the chances that two neutered males, one older and one a puppy, would get along all right? Both would be mini-poodles. The situation is only hypothetical, but could become reality depending on how things go at the animal shelters. Advice?

Gene Weingarten: Neutered should be just fine.

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Washington, D.C.: I have prosecuted several persons who produced kiddie porn on their own for their personal use, and so I have necessarily seen those sorts of pictures. Suffice it to say that these are not -- NOT -- mere "nudie" shots. I can never remove those horrible, sickening images from my head.

BTW, in my cases, these defendants tended to get about five years per victim -- sometimes concurrent, sometimes consecutive, depending on the facts. At that's the guideline I used to answer the poll.

Gene Weingarten: But, wait: They abused the children, right? I mean, this is not parallel, is it?

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: I recall reading that nowadays some producers of child pornography are getting around one facet of the laws by using computer-generated images rather than real humans. I realize that means that no child was harmed in the actual creation of their product. But I still can't decide whether that lessens their crime; what do you think?

Gene Weingarten: It probably ELIMINATES their crime.

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Tatt, OO: Aw, come on, a tattoo on a woman is like graffiti on a Rembrandt. Quite simply, it is defilement!

washingtonpost.com: Pfft. Whatever, cro-mag.

Gene Weingarten: I like the argument!

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Serious Survey: Why should he be suspended from practicing law? If there is no issue of legal malpractice, why take away his way to make a living? He may be a great lawyer with a twisted part of his personality.

We all know that all lawyers are not pure and upstanding. Some are, some aren't. Poor judgment in one confined area should not mean all his judgment is suspect. Probation, community service, monitoring are all appropriate. Maybe a ruling to donate 50% of future income to an organization that works to stop sexual exploitation.

On the other hand, the judge who sued for $67M for his pants should be disbarred for abusing the limited resources of our legal systems.

Gene Weingarten: A few people made this point, about law practice.

I think, typically, convicted felon lawyers lose their right to practice. F. Lee Bailey lost his. The poll stipulates "indefinitely," suggesting he might get it back eventually.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Jesus Christ, Gene. By which I mean, Holy Crap. That poll. Ruined. My. Day.

Gene Weingarten: Tell me about it. I had to write it. And I'm looking at two months of living it.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Some time ago you commented that those who choose In God We Trust license plates likely feel that there is not enough religion in public life. What do you think about this?

License plate holder on a giant black Escalade reads: In the event of Rapture, vehicle will be unmanned.

Was I wrong to detour out of my way to avoid this car and driver?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, you were wrong. Driver was guilty only of having a sense of humor.

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Tilting the Seat Back: Well, I'm sure you don't need her to have your back (heh heh), but it seems the number one authority, the indubitable Miss Manners, is in agreement with you.

From Monday's chat:

Airplane Etiquette: Oh, please take this question! In your travels, do you tilt your seat back on the airplane? Is it rude to do so?

Judith Martin: It's rude of airlines to enable you physically to tilt your seat back when it is going to produce discomfort for the person behind you. No, I don't tilt my seat back but I resent the situation that makes it impossible for everybody to be even mildly comfortable.

Gene Weingarten: In the interests of provocation, I often take strong stances on subjects about which I am privately less than certain. This is not one of them. It is rude to recline in an airplane when there is someone behind you. Period. The only exception I can countenance is if it is 2 a.m. and EVERYONE is, or reasonably should be, asleep.

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Clock Help: Please help! My husband says that he has always wanted to own a cuckoo clock since he visited Germany with his dad as a teenager. So I gamely looked at some online, hoping to find something sort-of contemporary and not too ugly. Unfortunately they all look like Oktoberfest on a Wall and have stunning price tags to boot.

He will be traveling to Germany on business soon. Do you have any suggestions for talking him out of this, or should I just suck it up and play along? The good angel over my shoulder says to just let him buy one, but the bad angel says that I would want to punch the damn cuckoo every hour on the hour (plus I stay at home with the kids, so I'm home a lot). He normally has good taste -- I don't know what happened here.

washingtonpost.com: Neon Cuckoo Clock. A bargain at $10.

Gene Weingarten: Wow, that is VILE.

I bought my parents a cuckoo clock for their 25th anniversary (I was 15) and cleaned and repaired it for them every five or six years. Since my father died, it has been in a box in my basement, on account of I want my marriage to survive.

I like it. It's funny. But a cuckoo clock is unignorable, and if it is annoying to you, nothing will ever make the hurt go away.

So, it sort of has to be a joint decision. I'd reach the following agreement: He can buy one, but if you hate it, he has to turn around and sell it on ebay.

And of COURSE they all look like Oktoberfest. They're supposed to look silly. They're cuckoo clocks.

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The Serious Po, LL: Rather than the arbitrary punishments you presented, I would have felt more comfortable if you presented them in the context of the actual law.

Maximum punishment is XXXX

Reccomended guidleline (or what ever it is called) is XXXXX

Typical first time offenders is XXXXX

etc etc

Gene Weingarten: The punishment guidelines vary state to state. There are also specific guidelines if the perp is prosecuted federally, as this man was. Federal sentencing guidelines tend to be more severe.

This man got ... seven years.

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Hot dictators: I once drunkenly confessed to a table of liberal women that Ahmadinejad was terribly hot. They all immediately agreed. I always feel guilty that my first reaction to him is always Yum!, not, Ruthless Pscyhopath.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Rockville, Md.:"It's why I'm writing a cover story on it."

Then you ought to get very clear on what to do with computer generated porn as opposed to "real porn."

I don't know yet if you see a difference.

Gene Weingarten: I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Supreme Court has already ruled on this. Computer generated child porn is not child porn. It is adult porn, and, hence, not illegal.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: I work in a pet shop on the Hill. Last week an attractive woman came in to buy dog food. She was talking about her daughter the vet student who brought home a kitten on break from school. I said to her, that's interesting, there's a columnist for The Post whose daughter did the same thing! It was your wife. She is hot. Good work, dude!

The man I work with in the pet store thinks I'm a total dork now. After she left, I was as giddy as if I had met a celebrity that I really admired. So the question is: am I a total dork because I'm obsessed with these chats? At least once a week I reference something discussed here. Does this put a notch in my coolness?

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

She told me about that, in fact.

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Washington, D.C.: I was abused by a babysitter's boyfriend. It lasted from when I was about four years old until I was 10. He took pictures that he shared with others (some pictures later turned up in a sting). The constant, lifelong struggle to move beyond what happened to me, although pretty successful, has been made all the more difficult by the knowledge that these pictures are probably still out there. It hurts to know that, even today, someone could be looking at them and enjoying what he did to me. So, please, spare me the "it's just thinking" crap.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

Same offer: Email me if you'll talk about this.

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Abbad, ON: A couple weeks ago, a hypothetical about taking over Dick Cheney's body was put forward on this chat. Along the way, it was extended to what would happen if Dick Cheney got to take over your body, and you said you'd find out about it when your wife asked why you screamed out something like "Beelzebub, Harvester of Souls!" in an intimate moment.

Switch to my life: This past week, my wife passed her 6-week postpartum checkup, which means that intimate moments are medically allowable again. We took advantage of this fact, and at one point I called out her name (as I am wont to do)--but then, immediately, the words "Beelzebub, Harvester of Souls!" flashed through my mind.

It took a supreme act of will to keep from exploding into a fit of giggles.

And no, I haven't told her this story. Might, but maybe not until a few years down the road.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: I was the first answer on the men's poll! I probably got them all wrong, but at least I had the fleeting pleasure of knowing that I got there first.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, actually, this gives me an opportunity to ask a question I've been wanting to ask for some time.

I usually write the poll on Sunday or Monday morning, and C'woman usually posts it within an hour or two of my writing it. The time it gets posted, therefore, is completely unpredictable and varies within a 12-24 hour window.

And yet, without fail, the first entry arrives within three to five minutes of our putting it up. Many more follow within the next few minutes.

Do you guys have some sort of automatic computer alert set up, or do you guys really need a life? (Choose the best answer.)

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Gene,

I need some unbiased advice here. I met a woman this summer, and we had a great, albeit brief time together. The problem is that she lives in Texas. In a dull town with not much to do. With her two kids. And her ex has shared custody. I'm between jobs, so it would be relatively easy to pack up and move to Texas. We both agree that a long-distance relationship doesn't make much sense, because I'll get a job here and moving will then be harder, and she can't leave her little town. She very much wants me to come to Texas, but realizes the hardship that would be. I very much want to continue seeing her, but find the idea of living there very difficult to swallow. But the other part of me wants to embark on a wild adventure and let things play out without taking the safe, predictable route here in DC. I have the feeling that we could be very happy together, but I don't know how happy I could be with life outside her down there. I am very torn at the moment, and I'd be grateful for some thoughts. Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Compromise.

Is there no pretty big and cosmopolitan city within 100 miles of her?

Then, wait and see what happens.

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DC: Re the serious poll: He's not being punished 'just' for his thoughts. He can have whatever twisted, perverted fantasies he wants, AS LONG AS they originate in, and stay within, his own mind. By downloading the images, whether or not he paid for them (though IMO that is worse than finding the same filth for free), he has contributed to those acts against children. Don't argue 'the harm had already been done, he was just watching what was already a fait accompli' - if there was no market (either by paid subscription or advertising based on page 'hits') then at least some children would be spared these horrors. (Some of these guys are in it just for the kicks, but some are in it for $$$, and the latter would drop out if no viable marketplace.)

Now tell me that no children were actually involved, photoshopped etc images, and I think no jail or even probation - no children were actually harmed. Even though he seems to have potential to molest, 'potential' isn't criminal.

Otherwise, jail for even 'routine' pedophilic images, lots of jail time for viewing actual torture/rape. He's criminally complicit in the original crime.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

Why would he be complicit if he had looked at it for free?

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Nitpick City: Why would the fact that the peanuts have a taste and texture that complements beer ("they're complementary") be funny? If they had been complimentary, that would be a funny play on the distinction between "free" and "tending to give compliments." I guess I just don't understand modern humor.

Gene Weingarten: You're right! That was a mistake. Should have said "complimentary."

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Not funny: I am a victim of sexual abuse at a young age, and I know several other people who were abused. We talk, cry, and try to understand, but there is no understanding of this crime. It is the vilest expression of hate, whether it be against a child or adult. It robs you of a part of your life. For some it robs you of trust, others joy, and still others a feeling that you "belong" in any setting.

The perpetrators know how the crime makes the victims feel - they must because there is pleasure drawn from the domination. I would argue that being inclined to draw pleasure from destroying the sense of self in another person is a perversion that is extremely detrimental to the health of a society...and to the health of a particular minority, the abused. I do not think that one can rehabilitated from that pleasure. I have seen my abuser go on to a "normal" life, but what others call "peculiar" or "strict" in them, I recognize as being yet another expression of the desire to harm. Yes, I see that being a good citizen may be a reason to temper one's opinion of an abuser or potential abuser, but I dare say that most successful abusers (those who function in society while being able to sate their desires) are successful because they are not solely pathic. They assimilate. If you consider it, you could draw a parallel between them and a spy - assimilate, gather, act.

I don't believe for one second that anyone attracted to depictions of abuse can limit their activities to viewing. I believe it is akin to any threshold people set for themselves; once it is crossed, the next step is that much easier and justifyable.

While I don't advocate for the death penalty, I do firmly believe that if we are willing to put to death those who kill, we should give a serious look at condemning those who rob others of the rest of their lives. Murder and abuse do have similar results.

Now I have to work, play with my children, and otherwise pretend that I don't have an enormous hole in my life that nothing on this green earth has been able to fill.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

If you feel comfortable in talking to me in confidence about this, please email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com.

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Leicester, UK: In 1971 the British TV series " Nanny and the Professor" aired an episode titled "Cholmondeley Featherstonehaugh" about a character by that name. The name is pronounced, as you mentioned in last week's updates, "Chumley Fanshaw."

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

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Kitte, NS: Yes!! (I am a vet and know, trust me) You really, really should get two. Get two neutered males for the best combo (brothers are good). They will amuse each other, get each other exercise, etc. Some cats get incredibly bored unless you play with them ALL THE TIME, so this is for your sanity and the cats' health.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Columbia, MD: Here is a joke my dad used to tell me when I was little, I usally don't remember jokes, but I have remembered this one for 50 years.

Two construction workers were sitting on the top ledge of the Empire State Buildings eating lunch, one dropped his sandwich and said to the other one "I'm glad it wasn't in me."

I can remember my dad telling me this job during a car trip when I was about 5. It reminds me of him so I'm glad I remember it.

Gene Weingarten: I like it. Very odd.

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What DC are they talking abo, UT?: There is an article in Monday's Style section talking about luring more conventions to DC. In it, an urban planner from The Brookings Institute says, "The key issue is having a lively, 24-hour downtown, which obviously downtown D.C. has, but now the convention center is a few blocks from that liveliness."

What 24-hour downtown is he talking about? I have been in this city for 10 years and haven't found anything of the sort. Would have loved to have something even close during grad school (at GW). Just two years ago, they were still kicking us out of bars downtown at 1:30. And aside from a half-dozen diners open 24 hours on the weekends, there's no love there, either. Am I missing something?

Gene Weingarten: I have no idea. Washington will never have a lively 24-hour downtown so long as it insists on closing the Metro at midnight to two a.m.

I hate that. Makes us seem small-townish.

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Re: Squirrel Poop: In the fall of 2002 at W&M walking across campus to get to class I had squirrel poop land on the sleave of my jacket. It was smallish, round and just SEEMED like poop from a squirrel. To make it more obvious though, the squirrel was directly above me "laughing". So they poop all right and have no problem aiming.

Gene Weingarten: Maybe we just ASSUME it's all bird poop.

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Poll Land: No. 9 is only funny if Inspector Clouseau happens to be the man whose hand is bitten. The accent is crucial. And the dog really has to maul his hand. And after being bitten, Sellers has to do the classic Clouseau eyes. Only then is this scenario funny.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

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Serious Poll: This is rough. I've got to stick the guy in prison for a year if I want him to be subject to lifelong monitoring?

Truth is, I don't think he's done anything worthy of societal retribution (as he would have if he'd, say, beaten someone up or stolen a car). He's made a financial contribution to a market that may or may not encourage other people to do vile things. Come on. That's politicospeak for "The things you like really gross me out."

One could just as easily argue that a wider, more open market in child pornography would lead to better fakes and fewer actual children in the trade. And pornography may be providing these guys an outlet that helps them resist their urges, too.

But, that said, I want this guy monitored, for life. Not because he's a criminal, but because he's sick. Pedophiles don't recover, and I think it's reasonable for the rest of us to keep a particularly close eye on them. If the pedophile in question is also a decent human being (and I sense that he is), I think he'll be comfortable with this.

It's a quarantine, not a punishment.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Are we kidding here, people? I answered "2-3 years" for the poll initially, thinking to myself that the children involved in this Web site would undoubtedly grow up to be potential abusers or molesters themselves due to their traumatic upbringing. Statistics prove that child molesters, rapists, and other sex offenders are almost always victims themselves as children. So, he was paying to ruin an innocent child's life. And then, to find out that torture and rape were involved! And as young as four! I don't care if he held the camera himself, he might as well have. Whether this man acted on his impulses is irrelevant, we know he contributed to ruining countless children's lives, probably permanently, through this website. He must serve jail time for these crimes.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Deadly Serious: The poll on the lawyer who secretly watched porn is well put. The porn in question was truly evil; the lawyer was widely respected and had done great service to his community. There is no indication he did more than watch it, but there is weight to the argument that he contributed to a market for such offal. In the final analysis though, prison will not affect his behavior or that of anyone similarly afflicted. It will not undo the horror done to the victims. Counseling may not work, either, but there is a chance. The whole business of the list seems to me to be a political trick. It inhibits any hope of ultimate reformation for these people, and it doesn't really deter future misconduct. It does allow legislators to say they acted.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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The Empress of The Style Invitational: From a Style Invitational contest last year to write valentines to particular people:

Mr. Ahmadinejad, is that a nuclear rod

Or are you just happy to see me?

Please don't be so coy, my Persian pinup boy,

I'll show you a time nice and steamy.

I'm your new biggest fan, O leader of Iran,

You fantasy life is so crude.

So don't be a snob. Let me doff this hijab

And I'll put you in the Mahmoud.

(Deborah Guy, Columbus, Ohio)

Gene Weingarten: I had forgotten that!

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Washington, D.C.: From a gay man -- Ahmadinejad is in no way hot. I'm saving myself for Putin.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

Actually, they have a similar ... intensity, don't they?

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We need a life: But you knew that. At least we are all young and hot. With attractive VPLs. And the occasional tattoo. But no pleated pants.

Well, except for that one guy.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Rockville, Md.:"I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Supreme Court has already ruled on this."

You are correct, but out of date. Since then legislation has been introduced - several times - to make it illegal. The excuse is "If we can not tell the difference, they can use real children and we can not put them in jail if they say the children are computer generated."

The worst case I know of was a person going to jail for what they wrote in a diary.

Do some research. It is astounding to me what they will do to put someone in jail.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Will do, thanks.

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Leave his pee-pee alone: For gosh sakes! Don't re-circumcise that poor little kid! Was it not bad enough to mutilate his genitals once? While there are rare medical reasons for circumcision (my family has had some of these conditions), I can think of no valid medical or religious reason to do it twice, even if it did grow back. Sheesh!

Gene Weingarten: A circumcision zealot! We have one!

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Got a Life!: RE: the first poll answer.

Consider the number of people who read this chat and take the polls. Consider that we all know the poll goes up sometime Sunday night or Monday. Consider that in these days of 24/7 information, we are all probably on our computers once a day even if it is to only check the email or read the headlines. It is easy to pop by the Washington Post site after checking the email. Even if each one of us only checks for it once on Sunday/Monday, someone is bound to hit the page shortly after Liz posts the poll.

Take it as a compliment that your chat is so popular and the polls so highly anticipated.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I do. No disrespect intended.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, we're done for the day.

Listen, you have no idea how hard it was for me to stay silent on the key issue; I kept wanted to insert an opinion, or ask a question, or raise a parallel.

Thanks so much; you made today's chat terrific. See you in the updates.

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UPDATED 9.26.07

Gene Weingarten: I urge you to watch this (versions: short | long), at your leisure. It is a dying professor's final lecture to his class. I give him an A minus. He cuts a corner or two, but essentially it is stunning and memorable.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene,

I just read this article and it scared the heck out of me.

So am I being paranoid or do you think we should all be marching in the streets?

Gene Weingarten: This is fascinating, but she goes overboard. The section on repression of the press, in particular, betrays some hysteria. Also, we have a quadrennial election; it will never be suspended, for any reason. We survived World War II -- when the fate of the world really WAS at stake -- with our democracy intact.

Gene Weingarten: But her points, in general, are not without merit. We are living through the most arrogant of presidencies.

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However, I felt that the university's president was off base in his intro. [of Ahmadinejad]: I agree. Boorish. I wonder what Miss Manners would say?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I'm re-thinkig my position. I heard some of it; it was, in a way, cowardly. He should have ratcheted it down a notch or two.

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War Crimin, AL: What's the most incriminating aspect of this guy, who may be charged with crimes against humanity.

Hint - look at his left wrist

Gene Weingarten: My God. The man is an animal.

Liz, can you link to a piece I wrote about this phenomenon?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Oct. 21, 2001). I wasn't able to find the original photo that accompanied the column, but I think we all get the idea.

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Better late than never: I couldn't get to your chat until today, but I need to know -- is the real issue here that you would feel deeply uncomfortable having sex with someone who had been a man?

You argue that someone has an obligation to disclose their sex change because it might make someone else uncomfortable. Should I let someone know I'm Jewish before we have sex because he might be an anti-semite? What about if I'm a nose-picker? This is why whether or not it's a one-night stand makes a difference.

Also, you keep returning to the biology of gender ¿ that a person's chromosomes cannot be changed. While of course, biology is the start of it all, society and culture play a larger role. If you think of gender as largely a social construction then changing gender is just like getting breast implants.

I think it's easier to understand if you don't feel purely male or purely female yourself. Gender's not a binary; it's a spectrum.

Gene Weingarten: By your reasoning, it would be completely ridiculous or prejudiced for a man to be uncomfortable having sex with a woman who used to be a man and is surgically reconstructed.

Really? Sorry, but I don't buy it. I think the guy has a right to know. Maybe he won't care, or be intrigued. But he might turn pale, turn on his heel, and leave. And I contend (so long as we are in agreement that a man doesn't have to be a real jerk to feel this way) that that man would have been tricked and betrayed, and entitled to feel badly misused.

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Cheverly, Md.: Hey Gene -- I'm sure I'm not the only one to send you this jaw-dropping quotation from the washpost.com story "Leave Britney Alone Guy Is New Web Star," written by AP's Samira Jafari. For context, I'm also sending the preceding paragraph:

"It's tough to be openly gay in a conservative Southern town, [Chris Crocker] says. There have always been death threats, bullying and glares at his clothes and makeup. Oh, and he's always pushing someone's buttons.

'My grandparents can't go to their church any more,' said Crocker, his spunk clouded momentarily with genuine concern."

My reaction (aside from shrieking with glee): Holy crap. What was Jafari thinking? Didn't any editors read this story?

What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: Can't think clearly while laughing my arse off.

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UPDATED 9.27.07

Irration, AL: Have you seen this?

That little "we are non-partisan" statement on there scares me a little. Says that everyone must submit to governing authorites because, well, God says so. I don't take great enjoyment in mocking others' delusions but, come on.

Maybe I need to finally launch that prayformoreskirtsandboots.com site I've been toying with.

Gene Weingarten: You know, this is just so painfully earnest it doesn't even bother me.

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Jewish Hum, OR: Gene,

Last chat you mentioned the "he had a hat" joke (yes, it's funny but it's funnier with a grandmother) and the one where "Finkelstein changes his name." Jewish humor is unique -- most ethnic humor is based on stereotypes. Jewish humor goes much deeper, once you drop the JAP and cheap (stereotype) jokes. I can't think of any other group that has humor as ingrained as the Jewish people.

Can this work with another group:

The only cow in a small town in Poland stopped giving milk. The people did some research and found that they could buy a cow from Moscow for 2,000 rubles, or one from Minsk for 1,000 rubles. Being frugal, they bought the cow from Minsk. The cow was wonderful. It produced lots of milk all the time, and the people were amazed and very happy.

They decided to acquire a bull to mate with the cow and produce more cows like it. Then they would never have to worry about the milk supply again. They bought a bull and put it in the pasture with their beloved cow. However, whenever the bull came close to the cow, the cow would move away. No matter what approach the bull tried, the cow would move away from the bull and he could not succeed in his quest. The people were very upset and decided to ask the rabbi, who was very wise, what to do.

They told the rabbi what was happening. "Whenever the bull approaches our cow, she moves away. If he approaches from the back, she moves forward. When he approaches her from the front, she backs off. An approach from the side and she just walks away to the other side."

The rabbi thought about this for a minute and asked, "Did you buy this cow from Minsk?" The people were dumbfounded, since they had never mentioned where they had gotten the cow. "You are truly a wise rabbi," they said. "How did you know we got the cow from Minsk?" The rabbi answered sadly, "My wife is from Minsk."

-----

And if you mention "the cow from Minsk" or "Moishe and the Pope" (Google it), people know what joke you mean.

Gene Weingarten: I love this joke. And that reminds me: I got two requests to tell the penguin joke, and C'woman said okay!

So this penguin is driving cross country during a hot summer, when his car breaks down. Fortunately, he rolls to a stop right next to a gas station. The attendant says he'll check it out, and suggests that the penguin waddle across the street to a convenience store, where it's cool.

So he does. Inside he gets a bowl of vanilla ice cream, eating it rather clumsily, seeing as how he doesn't have hands. When he is done, he waddles over to the service station. The mechanic looks up from his car and says, "It looks like you've blown a seal."

The penguin says, "Nah, it's just vanilla ice cream."

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Cincinnati, Ohio: Hi Gene,

I admit it's been a long time since I've had formal grammar lessons and I can be rusty from time to time. So, can you tell me if there is some new rule about contractions that I've missed? This is why I'm cringing:

washingtonpost.com, front page, top right (at the Jobs/Cars/Real Estate/Rentals/Classified box) -- if I hover over Jobs I am asked "What's Your Boss Make?"

Is "what's" used as a contraction for "what does"?

What gives?

Gene Weingarten: I've got no problem with that. An apostrophe in a contraction simply means some letters are omitted. It's true.

My favorite contraction is "It'd've." As in, "If someone ate that whole ice cream sundae, it'd've had to have been a fat man."

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Phoenix, Ariz.: Maybe this is just my kneejerk atheism clouding my judgment, but how on earth is the Joshua Bell story, fabulous as it was, proof of the existence of God?

Gene Weingarten: Here's how most have construed it:

The best proof of God's existence is the natural beauty of all that surrounds us. The reason many people doubt the existence of God is that they do not look around them and see all these bounties; that we are blind to them.

Ergo, Josh Bell. A case in point. We must open our eyes to beauty.

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Leesburg, Va.: Posting early so you have time to check out this animated video on mens' bathroom etiquette.

I think we can both agree that this video should be mandatory viewing for all men.

Gene Weingarten: I have linked to this before. Still like it.

Gene Weingarten: This builds to a nice crescendo.

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Little Chickie???: seriously Gene. I can't believe you let him off the hook. That guy is very controlling and his little chickie probably just got sick of it.

Is it actually controlling if you leave and never come back? In my book it is only controlling if you expect that your behavior will effectuate a change and you are only bluffing about leaving.

Gene Weingarten: Not what I said, or meant. I felt she was controlling in the sense that she was trying to regulate not how her guy acted so much as what he thought. She was offended that he might lust over another woman. Controlling behavior.

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UDPATED 9.28.07

Up all night: "Washington will never have a lively 24-hour downtown so long as it insists on closing the Metro at midnight to two a.m.

I hate that. Makes us seem small-townish."

Name five cites where the subway runs 24 hours.

I'll spot you the first two - NYC and Chicago (sort of).

To save you time here are a few that don't: London, Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Tokyo, Seoul, Mexico City.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Interesting.

Maybe I only truly consider New York a city. All the rest are large towns.

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washingtonpost.com: Because of an error on my part, and mine alone, we are faced with a paucity of material for today's daily update. It's possible that Gene will make with more update material later this morning. Or not. In the meantime, I suggest instead that you read this other exciting post.com Web only content, that is concerned with subject matter equally absurd.

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Submit all questions, comments and odes to next week's chat, please.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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