Chatological Humor (UPDATED 10.19.07)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 12:00 PM

DAILY UPDATES: 10.17.07 | 10.18.07 | 10.19.07

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 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. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

You know what sickens me? Inaccuracy in the comics. Have you seen the grotesque and obviously erroneous assertion in today's Frazz? Jef Mallett is a man of letters; he should know better. I immediately sat down and wrote a poem in protest.

My little Liz was quite a whiz at readin' and at ritin',

But 'rithmetic my little girl just didn't find excitin'.

"I'd rather play with puppy dogs than numbers," she would say.

It was "doggie this" and "doggie that" every single day.

Her grades in school were plummeting; I had to act with speed--

And so I bought her sixty dogs of varied size and breed.

To track them all, she has to count up tails and ears and buttocks.

And now her grades are very good, thanks to mathemuttics.

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I want to thank Michael Rose for this intriguing link.

It is one of the more remarkable illusions I've ever, and it resulted in a spirited discussion in my house about whether it is a fake. It purports to tell you if you are right-brained or left-brained, depending on which direction you see the dancer move. I and my family see the dancer irregularly shift from clockwise to counterclockwise and back again, and I simply do not know if this is an odd felicity of our brains or chicanery of the illusionist. Please observe and report back.

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On the issue of the annoyance of slow walkers, Muireann Greely sent in this link from England. The question becomes: Is shooting these people excessive punishment? I'm thinking about it.

(A "zebra crossing" appears to be a charming Britishism for a striped pedestrian-right-of-way crosswalk.)

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My friend Caitlin Gibson submitted this remarkable link. Caitlin's comment was: "Who says white boys can't dance?"

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Today we celebrate the second birthday of Ms. Hope Riester, the official baby of Chatological Humor. I think we can see from this progression that Baby Hope is growing up splendidly under the guidance of mom Holly. Holly, you need to understand that you are not Hope's mother so much as her designated caregiver. Her true parents are the men and women who participate in this chat and whose Hopes for a better Tomorrow rest on the comically carrot-topped head of this felicitously named child. If she winds up a Nobel prize-winner, so shall we all be. If she winds up on 14th Street, well... There's a lot riding on this, Holly. It's a profound responsibility.

Hey, wait, I just realized something! Hope is even more representative than I knew of the ethos of this chat. Riester rhymes with kiester.

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Please take today's poll. As promised, The Empress will explain the correct choices midway through the chat.

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The CPOW is yesterday and today's Pearls Before Swine, which are just, as a package, wonderfully mean-spirited. First Runner Up is Sunday's Pickles, which is, conversely, completely charming. Runner-Ups are Saturday's Nonseq and Sunday's Big Nate.

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Gene Weingarten: I almost forgot: I saw something remarkable on TV last night, during MNF. An iconic shift. A moment of semiotic drama in popular culture.

It happened in one of those annying ads for some Texas Instruments high-tech product, the ads featuring that repulsively pretty little girl, who says, "It's the MEEERS."

She doesn't say that anymore. She says "MIH-rers." This never would have happened before the Web, where those ads were constantly being ridiculed for her annoying syllabic parsimony.

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Arlington, Va.: The spinning dancer goes clockwise for a while and then she switches and then switches back again. The whole thing looks like a fraud of some sort to me.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, now read the next post.

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Providence, R.I.: I saw that link to the dancer yesterday and I can tell you that, when my secretary and I looked at it on the same computer screen, she initially saw it going clockwise and I saw it going counterclockwise.

Gene Weingarten: What do we make of this?

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Optical Illusi, ON: Like your family, I saw the dancer change directions. Rather than decide that this is a hoax, I think we should take it to mean that we are all incredibly skilled at using both sides of our brain.

Gene Weingarten: I am beginning to think that it's real, and that is what is happening.

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Used to be D.C.: Gene, what'd you think of the essay by Stephen Hunter this morning, mourning the passing of "flesh season"?

Yeah yeah yeah, I know your feelings on skirt-and-boot season, and as a woman, of COURSE I know that men do this, and I think it's harmless. Fine. But REALLY? THAT'S what the Style section is devoting precious column inches to? REALLY? You'd never know that the section was run by a woman and not some ginormous sexist geezer.

I'm not humorless; I promise. I am not easily offended. I can talk like a sailor with the best of them and I have incredibly high threshhold for jackholery. But time after time Hunter writes stuff like this, or peppers his movie reviews with gratuitous "appreciations" of women ("Jodie porn"? Anyone? REALLY?), and not only is it enough to put me off my lunch, it's getting to be enough to put me off the Style section altogether.

I get that you accommodate a Pulitzer Prize winner. And I'd never suggest someone's speech be censored -- that's an anathema to everything I believe in. But I can't help but feel I now know a LOT more about Style's priorities based on the fact that this stuff is published. And as such, I'm doing the only thing I can do: pull my subscription and avoid reading him.

Now. YOU go ahead and talk about skirt-and-boot season until the cows come home.

Gene Weingarten: Now, now, now. You misunderstand the Style section. Part of its mission is to be nakedly provocative. If Hunter writes a fifty inch story about how he is a fat, horny old geezer, it does not mean that management approves. It means that management found it intriguing and likely to cause a lively stir.

Like everything Hunter writes, this was beautifully crafted and interesting. I found it funny, if somewhat desperate; really ladies, do you realize what magnificent violence you could do to this guy's pressure-cooker psyche merely by walking past him on a windy day?

I am not sure Hunter quite nailed (as it were) the generational thing here. He is merely five years older than I, and most of my formative sexual years were spent during the sixties, when women were not corseted and cosseted and particularly reluctant to bare flesh. I feel as though I lived through a cornucopia of available voyeurism. Mr. Hunter seems to have been more repressed, and this has created certain volcanic urges in him. These mirror mine and other men's in general form but not, I think, in intensity.

I would also argue, as an enthusiastic appreciator of women, that less clothing does not necessarily mean less sexuality. A woman on a ski slope, cherry-cheeked, excited, when viewed correctly, can be among the most alluring creatures on Earth.

I'm not sure why you are so offended, really. This essay was essentially a joke. Yes, he is quite startlingly objectifying women, but he is being hilariously honest about it. The butt of the joke seems to be his sorry-ass, fat-bottomed, drooling, panting, bulge-trousered, comically lascivious self.

Gene Weingarten: Also, I don't know what he was talking about with the "pool of limpid viscosity."

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Washington, D.C.: The link of the dancer turning has me puzzled. The description of left-brained fits me to a T, but for the life of me I can only see the dancer turning clockwise. What's wrong with me?

Gene Weingarten: And it doesn't switch, right?

Wow. This is really interesting.

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WTF?: The dancer is spinning only one way! Clockwise.

Then my colleague comes in sand says "no anti-clockwise, no wait she just changed, look. Now she changed back look, look, she changed again..." My brain hurts, I'm sorry I can not read any more of your chat. Possibly for a long long time.

Gene Weingarten: Zackly.

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Greenbelt, Md.: About the dancer - when I first looked at it and wasn't focused completely on it, it seems to switch directions. But once I actually stared at it, it began spinning clockwise and I couldn't get it to change directions. I'm definitely a feelings/big picture person through and through. So I believe that its accurate.

Gene Weingarten: We will now leave this subject. I believe the thesis has been proved.

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Wuntuma, N.Y.: Etiquette question: A couple (the husband is a co-worker, known for three years) is invited over to watch a football game. He brings a six-pack of lower-tier canned beer. Said friend puts his six-pack in the fridge, and then says, "Ooh, you have Guinness, mind if I have one to start?" His wife then says, "That sounds good, could you grab me one too?" There are four Guinness in total. The husband , in response to his wife, says, "Honey, ask (host) if it's alright with him."

Relevant data: 1. Guinness was purchased by host for the host, and was sort of "hidden" in the fridge behind a gallon of milk. 2. The beer that was brought was, in the host's mind, undrinkable. 3. A twelve-pack of decent bottles was purchased by the host and in the fridge as "guest beer." 4. This was maybe the sixth or seventh time convening with these friends outside of work.

What is the acceptable course of action at this point?

Gene Weingarten: It depends. How much did the Guinness cost, and did you have the receipt? How much did your guests spend in gas or whatever to arrive at your house, and did they dress up especially for this occasion, incurring dry cleaning costs?

Dude -- get a life. This was the pettiest question ever received on this chat.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi Gene. I just read the chat about The Washington Post intern program and it dashed my hopes and dreams. Mr. Downie said that The Post "generally" doesn't hire anyone who has worked in partisan or ideological positions. Do you know how strong that generally is? Is that a pretty strict rule in journalism as a whole?

I love The Post and aspire to contribute to it someday, but I'm still figuring out my career path and have worked on political campaigns and supported ideological organizations. Should I give up on my journalistic aspirations now? I thought reporters would be trusted to be professionals. I can understand wanting to be diligent and make sure that the writer's are "beyond reproach" as a friend put it, but this policy also seems very limiting (though, of course, The Post can be extremely discerning). It is just disappointing to hear I may have already ruined a possible career path.

Thanks for your perspective. Oh, and if I shouldn't give up, and you have any beginning writer tips, please share them.

Gene Weingarten: You have to remember that Len Downie does not vote, because he considers that (at least for him) a sign of bias. He is a major purist on this subject.

My sense of this question is that each case would be judged on its merits. If you worked for ten years for the Democratic National Committee, you might be hired as a repoter who covers the schools or fashion, or pop music, but you'd never ever be allowed anywhere near politics. It's not so much that you wouldn't be trusted to be unbiased -- it's more that it would forever open you up to charges that you were biased. Anytime you pissed off a Republican in your coverage, he or she would have a pretty convincing sounding complaint that your views are slanted.

Opinion writers are different, obviously. The Post op ed page regularly carries the work of Michael Gerson, a former speech writer.

Gene Weingarten: Er, a former Bush speechwriter.

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Tatto, OS: Gene (and Liz),

I seem to have missed the bus. During the last week or so's chats, I've learned that Liz has tattoos!!! And I've also missed how all of the chatters except me seem to have seen them somehow.

Please, please, please, tell me where these pictures are. I was also thinking, maybe a poll about tattoos is in order.

I heart you, Gene. And you too, Lizzie.

washingtonpost.com: You can see the tats in This here video.

Gene Weingarten: To see the tats, you can fast forward to the middle. Hey, Liz, do you also have one of those base of the spine tats popular in the 80s? Can you link to the great SNL video on this?

washingtonpost.com: Video: Turlington's Tattoo Remover ( SNL)

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New York, N.Y.: If these poll results hold, you people are idiots.

Endacious, maybe not the best, is CERTAINLY in the top three. First of all, it's probably the only word that I might actually draft for use in real life. Second of all, it brings to mind a picture of that which it defines, and that's great.

Gene Weingarten: You are the idiot.

I am confident that The Empress will not agree with you. It is among the least of these. Not particularly clever at all. Obvious, direct, unimaginative, and it relies on an unclear link to an existing word.

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Herald Sun: Perhaps even better than the dancer optical illusion is this headline on the same page: Urge to Vomit Ends in Death on West Gate.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

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Sp, IN: Gene, you ninny. Go look up sampling theory and Shannon's Laws. The reason the spin direction 'changes' is because it's being sampled at a rate that's close to a harmonic of the refresh rate of your screen. Same reason that car tires spin 'backwards' on TV and in the movies.

I'm an electrical engineer, I know of what I speak.

Gene Weingarten: Huh? So why isn't it doing this for everyone?

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BOOO Stephen Hunter: Gene, I hope you get a lot of comments on this one. We don't like Stephen Hunter because all his writing comes off like its written by, an admittedly smart, but still gross fat old horny man on the bus who is leering at you in a creepy way. Seriously dude, keep it to yourself.

Gene Weingarten: Laughing here.

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What's that sou, ND?: Gene, I need your help. I'm a longtime lurker but I never fail to participate in the polls. Hopefully that'll make you charitably inclined towards me enough to explain Sunday's Pearls before Swine.

I'm profoundly deaf, don't wear hearing aids, have a limited understanding of how some words may sound when they are spoken, and I'm sure that the punch line has something to do with the way it sounds - what is it supposed to sound like ?

I'll be crushed if you tell me it has nothing to do with the way it sounds and that I just don't understand Pastis's sophisticated humor.

Gene Weingarten: This a dreadful pun. You are confused because Pastis screwed up. "Ferret's elf" and "fear itself" are too distant in sound to make the pun work, whether you can hear or not. Also, "fair" is a stupid word to use in describing the hue of a paint.

washingtonpost.com: Pearls Before Swine, ( Oct. 14)

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Britishisms...: are lovely. "Whilst" dating a Brit years ago, who nicknamed me "petal" (I'm not at all that girly-feminine and soft), and bought me "track-suit bottoms" (sweatpants) for my birthday and, when driving, he said, "I don't like all of these sleeping policemen" in the road. (Speed bumps)

Gene Weingarten: My favorite Britishism, I think, is their word for a baby's pacifier. A dummy.

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LeftOrRight: What does it mean if the dancer doesn't move at all?

Gene Weingarten: It means you are blind.

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Dancer explanation: Here.

"It is unclear exactly how this illusion works, but it probably has something to do with the brain's representation of an ambiguous object. The silhouette is two-dimensional, but because almost all the objects we encounter are three-dimensional, the visual system reconstructs it as such. And the silhouette is not actually spinning - that is one of the assumptions made by the visual system. So, we perceive it as spinning in one direction one minute, and in the other the next."

For the record, I see it both ways.

Gene Weingarten: I don't understand this. And why do some people see it never changing?

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British Accent: I've been meaning to clear this up for you -- the words are "in this ever changing world in which we're livin." You're welcome.

Gene Weingarten: No they are not.

One day, many years ago, I played that line 20 times on a great sound system, with headphones. There is no hint, not even a breathy hint, of an "r" in the critical place. And Neil Armstrong screwed his line up, too.

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Washington, D.C.:"Dude -- get a life. This was the pettiest question ever received on this chat. "

So not petty. The answer is obvious. You let the guest and his wife drink the Guiness but then never invite them again.

They were obviously trading-up, have no morals, and are only slightly above left-lane slow drivers.

Gene Weingarten: Is anyone else, beside the poster and this person, who gives a rat's ass about who drinks the Guinness?

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Washington, D.C.: Re: guinness question. Wait. Was that a real question?! Hahaha. I hope that person was in college and not, say, 35. Or 25 for that matter. What an idiot.

Gene Weingarten: Boy, it didn't read like a joke, did it?

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Style Q.: "If Hunter writes a fifty inch story about how he is a fat, horny old geezer, it does not mean that management approves. It means that management found it intriguing and likely to cause a lively stir."

I'm sorry but this is the lamest excuse for an editorial decision there is. Why not just turn over your pages to Ann Coulter if controversy is what you want?

Gene Weingarten: Well, c'mon. It has to be within limits. I find this within limits. It ain't Hate Speech.

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Santa Rosa, Calif.: Gene,

I just want to say how much your chat means to me. Your comic acumen is extraordinary.

Stephan Pastis

Gene Weingarten: I bet you sent this in before I savaged your "pun."

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It's a fake: Clockwise, she's on her left foot, counterclockwise, she's on her right.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think this is true, is it?

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Hunter's article: I'm with the other commenter. The joke's on him, yes, but it's really ALL about him and his repressed issues and I'd really rather not know. It's icky. Though it does help explain why I think his movie reviews are terrible.

Gene Weingarten: His movie reviews are genius.

The thing is, his views are an exaggeration of what goes on in most guy's head. He is telling a truth through exaggeration. It's satire, though one suspects it is also his truth.

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Stout fellow: Yes, there is one other poster. I give a rat's ass -- to me the Guinness-drinkers are what we Noo Yawkuhs call shnorrers. They bring undrinkable crap and drink the host's good stuff. Feh.

Gene Weingarten: Jeez.

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Washington, D.C.: I am an extreme liberal, and have no good words or thoughts for Ann Coulter (sic.)

Would you considering interviewing her to determine what the hell her "good business model" is? thanks

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can you link to the column I did with Ann?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, ( Dec. 28, 2003)

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Kevorkian Kat Lady: Dear Gene, I've been going to the vet for the past couple of weeks. I've been preparing myself to euthanize my 18-year-old cat, but just got word that the cat seems pretty much physically okay, with only kidney function declining slightly.

However, I still am inclined to consider euthanasia because I am having a hard time taking her new behaviors which led to the vet trip. She's been going outside the litterbox (on occasion), so I've had to sleep in the wet spot a couple of times for her. She also cries a lot in the early mornings, which inteferes with my sleep. The crying may be from dementia, because she's apparently in no pain. I'm also reaching my limit on how much I can afford to pay for tests and care.

Basically, if I let the vet know my situation, would the vet understand? Maybe they could find someone to adopt her and care for her like she's at a vet hospice?

I would appreciate any thoughts, maybe from Molly.

Gene Weingarten: I just got off the phone with Molly, and took dictation. Here's what she said. Brace yourself:

"Realistically, no one will take in an 18-year-old cat. There are no cat hospices. This post sounds like the wishful thinking of someone trying to avoid a difficult decision and hoping someone else will make it for her. It doesn't work that way.

"However, these facts do not add up to a frivolous case for euthanasia. The cat's age matters; the cat's behavior matters; signs of kidney disease matter; financial realities matter. Euthanasia may not be the only decision, but it is a reasonable decision and any reasonable vet is going to respect it and withhold moral judgment.

"But it's a judgment that this lady has to make herself. No one else can absolve her if she doesn't absolve herself."

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Washington, D.C.: In today's essay Stephen Hunter reduces women down to their body parts, which is also what pornographic magazines and films do. It is demeaning to a human being (any human being). And the fact that Stephen Hunter is an ugly old troll is immaterial, really.

washingtonpost.com: Hey -- it's not as if he's done this before.

Gene Weingarten: I'm happy to hear more dissent.

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Dentistry is Ic, KY: Gene --

I had the unmitigated joy of novocaine yesterday, something I had avoided for more than a decade. I was reminded of something I have never understood: why is it, when you can't feel your lip and tongue, they suddenly feel like they have expanded to the size of water balloons? I would have bet you $20 I looked like super-collagen-shot chick (certain species of ape spring to mind). Yet when I caught my reflection in the mirror, I looked completely normal (if partially paralyzed). What gives?

Gene Weingarten: I have noticed this, too, and I can't explain it. Anyone?

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Hunter: If Robin Givhan had written this piece straight up (describing the male fantasy/leer part in the 3rd person), she could get a Pulitzer for describing a generational change in fashion and male psyches. Nothing wrong with Hunter's column.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Snar, KY: So, your son and you are developing a comic strip. He doesn't have any formal training in sequential art? Yet, he may soon become a published cartoonist?

Hmmm. Whom does he most resemble -- Jerry's son Gary Lewis, or Frank Sinatra, Jr.?

Gene Weingarten: I have said for about 12 years, since he was 11, that he is the funniest person I know. He is contributing at least as much to this strip as I am.

But neither of us is drawing it. The cartoonist is David Clark of Luray. This three-person collaboration assures none of us will ever make any real money.

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Tons, IL: Gene, I just wanted you to know that I hacked up my very first tonsilith this morning; rather than being simply disgusted, I was disgusted and thought of you.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. The very is "hawked." One "hawks" up a tonsillith. The vocabulary of bodily functions is quite demanding.

One "hawks" a loogie. One does not "hock" or "hack" a loogie.

I've always wanted to set people straight on this.

Gene Weingarten: I meant "verb" not "very."

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Hunter: Look Gene, I know he's your colleague and all, but his film reviews stink. The reasons they stink are (1) they're written in this faux hardboiled style that strains to be clever but fails miserably; and (2) Hunter always, always, gratuitously reveals some major plot twist or other aspect of the movie that one would be better off discovering for oneself while watching the movie itself.

Plus, his right-wing views always creep into his film reviews. Ugh ugh ugh.

Gene Weingarten: The Pulitzer Prize committee respectfully disagrees.

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Greater Pottsville-Kettletown:"One day, many years ago, I played that line 20 times on a great sound system, with headphones."

And you're saying the beer guy needs to get a life??

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Washington, D.C.:"So not petty. The answer is obvious. You let the guest and his wife drink the Guiness but then never invite them again.

They were obviously trading-up, have no morals, and are only slightly above left-lane slow drivers."

And you so didn't get the sarcasm in my post.

Gene Weingarten: It was poorly framed sarcasm. There was a sarchasm between your intent and the effect of your post.

Haha. Score.

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Richmond, Va.: I never read Stephen Hunter: I don't think he's a very good writer nor critic. I DO like Desson Thomas [Thompson. -- Liz], he's very insightful and open to learning new things.

Gene Weingarten: Thomson -- Gene.

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Newton Centre:"I don't understand this. And why do some people see it never changing?"

It's about perception, I'd guess that some people maintain a very fixed understanding of the dancer... while the two dimentional quality actually allows two three dimentional interpretations.

But if you concentrate on one of the arms and realize that it could be passing in front of OR behind the dancer you will find the that the direction of rotation changes (the legs are much more difficult for doing this).

Gene Weingarten: Thanks, I think this is right.

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Loserdom, Dublin, Ireland: Hi Gene,

A zebra crossing is a pedestrian crossing in Britain and Ireland. Also there is also such a thing as a "humped zebra crossing", a raised pedestrian crossing, which requires the driver to slow down, but only when he's nearly on top of you.

These humped zebras are sometimes called "dromedaries". Then there are "sleeping policemen", a.k.a. speed bumps. If the driver, as in Moscow, shoots at you as you cross the zebra or the dromedary, after passing over the somnolent cop, can it be termed "crossover fire"?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

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Hunter again: Gene, just because his columns magnify what is going on in men's heads doesn't mean anyone cares or wants the read it. Why doesn't the Post just publish porn then? It would be more interesting. It feels like Hunter spends his time getting off on his own description of women anyway. Ugh, I need a shower just writing this. He is so gross.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Miss Manners: You invite folks over for the game, you're hosting them. That means you provide beverages and food. Would you say to the same people, "Snack on the velveeta all you want, but I bought the good cheese for myself"?

Gene Weingarten: I know.

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Fairfax, Va.: What do you think if the cartoonist Lars Vilks and his cartoon depicting Mohammed? Why is it that people get so excited when the Muslims are offended but could care less if its Jews, Christians or the Pope in a cartoon? Why can't religious people have a sense of humor? I sometimes forget why I am an atheist. If only I had some artistic skills I would create my own cartoon, it would be Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, L. Ron Hubbard, and they would all be Jackasses. Or donkeys, if you prefer to call them that.

Gene Weingarten: I think I said this before, but "Cartoons of Mohammed" would be a great name for a rock band.

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Old Possum's Cat: The woman with the 18 year-old cat should consider her issues in light of the Golden Rule: If she was annoying someone with her incontinence and noisy moaning at night, but still semi-healthy, would she want her kids to have her euthanized to spare them the bother and expense? If she can answer "Yes," she should put her feelings in a Living Will, have it notarized, and give it to her kids or whoever is her designated old age caretaker. Then she can have her old cat euthanized with a clear conscience.

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, I think this is too harsh. I agree with Molly; euthanasia is a reasonable decision, but not the only decision.

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Gene Weingarten: The next post is from the Empress, explaining her answers. You guys did pretty well, collectively.

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The Empress of The Style Invitational: Wow. The poll results mirror my own picks, almost entirely. Although I didn't hate any of these 21 neologisms -- in fact, during the early judging I'd pulled them out for consideration against the rest of the week's maybe 4,000 entries -- my choices for both the three funniest and three least funniest among this little group were the three highest-tallying responses as I write this Monday night at 11:30.

For the funniest I chose Riminal, Iarrhea and Riskies; for the least funny, XY-moron, HRifty, Inneapolis.

Note: It's not as if y'all were of one mind on these entries. The highest-scoring for Funniest, Riskies, was chosen by fewer than 15 percent of you for ANY of the three top spots -- in other words, at least five out of six voters didn't choose it at all.

But it's true that hundreds more of you liked a certain few of the entries more than a certain few others. Why were they funnier? Let's look, for example, at "Riskies."

First, the idea of Riskies as a brand of Chinese-made dog food is a joke you can read and get immediately. You don't have to wade through a long description, look back at the word, and finally say "oh." It's elegant!

Second, the definition relates in a funny and clever way to the original word, the pet food brand Friskies. This isn't required in Style Invitational neologism contests, but it's a definite plus. (I think the funny word "ickpocket" would have been a bigger winner had the definition related somehow to "pickpocket.")

Third, Riskies is simply a funny idea as the name for dog food: You get a funny mental picture of the name on a bag or can. It'd be a cute cartoon.

Fourth, it's fresh and timely, playing off the news of tainted pet food; it's not something you'd come across in an old joke book. (Also, you readers couldn't have known this, but I haven't yet seen any other entries this week with the same idea -- a great achievement in a contest with thousands of submissions. There are zillions, on the other hand, playing off "pharmacy/harmacy.")

The other two top entries, "Riminal: A man who fails to clean up what he has dribbled onto the toilet" and "Iarrhea: Running on about oneself," are also easy to understand (though Iarrhea is a bit hard to read). Both also relate cleverly to and are easy to connect with the original words, "criminal" and "diarrhea," (That both are in the venerable Style Invitational tradition of toilet humor is a factor but not a huge one.)

And while neither is topical humor, both have a quality that Riskies doesn't have -- each could be used humorously in real life, in a situation you can relate to. You might call your husband a riminal. You can say your boss suffers from iarrhea. For Riskies to work this way, you'd have to use it in a generic sense as any Chinese-made pet food, and that's not what the entry said. Again, this quality isn't a requirement, but it's often a prime source of a neologism's humor.

In addition to gut-funniness, the Iarrhea entry also has the clever pun "running" in the definition. Its one weakness is that the word concept is dangerously close to an existing term that's funny in itself, "diarrhea of the mouth." The only problem I had with Riminal is that the wording could be a bit punchier: "A man who dribbles onto the toilet and doesn't clean it up," or even "A man who doesn't clean up his toilet dribble."

Okay, so what's wrong with the entries most often voted "least funny" (and, fortunately for the rigor of this poll, least often voted "funniest")? Let's take No. 21 on the Funniest list: "HR-ifty: When a company's human resources people nickel-and-dime you during salary negotiations.'My company is so HR-ifty that the toilet paper I use is monitored, and the cost deducted from my paycheck.' "

Obviously, there's a huge contrast between that long, involved entry and the three fairly terse winning ones. That's not to say long entries CAN'T be funny; it's just harder to write them. This entry's strength is that it describes (by humorous exaggeration) a situation that people can relate to, cheapskate management. But it clearly has several weaknesses in the funniosity department:

First, the word itself is awkward; you can't say it out loud easily. Second, the wording of the definition is slow and a bit tedious. Also, it defines an adjective with a noun phrase, beginning "-the situation] when." Nononono. Third, playing on "thrifty" to complain about someone doesn't really work because thrifty is a positive word; it's the flip side of miserly. Compare that with "Riminal/criminal." Finally, while using the word in a funny sentence can enhance a definition, this one isn't funny because of the turgid writing (this entrant, I know from experience, is capable of much better), even though it's citing a funny idea. Maybe if it had said, like, "My company is so HRifty they deducted the cost of 112 sheets of toilet paper from my last paycheck." Well, maybe not.

In the cleverness category, the only place you poll voters went wrong was to neglect "Nowplow: An entirely fictitious device for residents of the District of Columbia." While it's not gut-funny because it's a somewhat awkward word to say out loud, and it takes a moment to understand it, there's a very clever connection between the original word and the new one, with the twist of a change of pronunciation; and it uses timely humor about a pet peeve of many Washingtonians, the inability to get their streets cleared for days.

I wish the poll had included a couple of entries more characteristic of the 97 percent of the stuff I get that I toss at first glance. So just to share, here are a random unedited few featuring the Absolutely Lethal Almost Every Time flaw of echoing the word in the definition:

Hatter-proof -- a room or house which has been made safe from makers or sellers of hats.

Ratuitous --adj. of or related to the unnecessary addition of a side dish of ratatouille to a French entree.

Goraphobia. An irrational fear of Al Gore.

Tip-u-late: To run back in a restaurant to leave a tip.

So you see, the Empress does really engage in an actual thought process when choosing Style Invitational winners. She doesn't just pull out her Invite Dartboard with the names of her 20 favorite entrants on it.

Well, I guess it would be nice if I actually finished judging this contest, now that the deadline for the NEXT week's has already passed. You can see the neologism results Saturday, Nov. 3, on Page 2 of The Post's Style section, or at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. By the way, Riminal is by new-to-me Deanna Busick of Knoxville, Tenn.; Iarrhea and Riskies are by regular Losers Jack Held and Tom Witte, respectively.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you, ma'am.

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Liquid Visco, City: When Hunter says "liquid viscosity," he's talking about perspiration. Not, as Kornheiser would have it, schvitzing like an airedale, but the healthy perspiration that makes a healthy, active female all the more desirable.

That, or he's using water as an extended metaphor for bare flesh (to go along with the "tides" and the "shallows"), in which case he means... um, patches of skin.

Gene Weingarten: Sweat is not particularly viscous. Other things are viscous.

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Hunter's toes: The really repulsive part of Hunter's essay might not have been his fault -- it was illustrated with a photo of five female feet in flip-flops. Five GIRL's feet in flip-flops -- you can tell from the rows of lockers in the background that the photo was taken in a high school. That made a sort of pathetic piece really grotesque.

Gene Weingarten: I am a little surprised at the intensity of abreaction, here.

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Tysons: Stephen Hunter rocks. He's the only film critic who reviews movies from a guy's perspective. He doesn't get wishy-washy and frilly. That said, he is a little creepy sometimes. I just don't read those parts.

Gene Weingarten: He does fancy guns, doesn't he?

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Silvermine: I was disappointed to see so many Sarah Silverman haters on one of Chatwoman's blog entries last week. I admit to being male and therefore effectively rendered breathless by SS -- for me, she is beyond hot, but smart, funny, irreverent, just the kind of woman I like to feel inferior to. (While the rest of you are planning mind melds with Dick Cheney, I'm going to be plotting the takeover of Jimmy Kimmel's body.)

But, ya know, Sarah Silverman really is funny.

What's your take on her?

Gene Weingarten: She is really funny. She is also a terrific actor: This talent helps inform her humor.

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Falls Church, Va.: It's sad that a day after your column ran about dying newspapers, the larger paper to never win a Pulitzer has cut its foreign/national desk.

Gene Weingarten: Which paper is this? You lost me.

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Dancing Lady: Who cares which way she is going - she's naked!

Gene Weingarten: And the room seems to be chilly.

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Hunter challenge: Are there ANY women out there that like Stephen Hunter or think his article today was OK? He doesn't respect us and we know it.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, let's put this question out there. Good question.

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Fairfax, Va.: The bright idea you described in your column this Sunday suffers from one fatal flaw (well, several, actually, but this is the biggest) -- it doesn't work.

The new headlines you suggested are in the same style as those long used by the Weekly World News, which, as you must certainly know, is no longer a "print-on-paper" offering.

washingtonpost.com: Gene Voted Sexiest Man Alive, ( Post Magazine, Oct. 14)

Gene Weingarten: You're right! My God, what was I thinking? My whole thesis was conceptually flawed.

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Mike , London: A find the quaint Americanism/euphemism 'pacifier' more amusing than the matter-of-fact 'dummy tit' to give it its proper title.

Gene Weingarten: It's dummy tit? Ha.

Actually, I think just dummy works better.

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I dunno, Gene...: I can see the Post wanting to provoke a "lively" reaction to an article, but there wasn't anything particularly revelatory or even poetic about Stephen Hunter's bald (so to speak) desire for women showing more flesh. I just felt sort of embarrassed for him, reading it.

But more than that, I felt embarrassed for MYSELF, as a woman. I don't care how repressed a childhood you had, it's damn uncomfortable and sometimes even scary for women when you ogle them in public. Everyone has the impulse to stare at attractive members of the opposite sex, ok? But understand that women are treated as sex objects in society much more often than men, and show a little restraint. When Hunter said staring at girls on a street corner could cost you a job today, he almost said it like a lament.

Put yourself in the shoes (or ok, sundresses) of young women. We have enough to overcome without a major newspaper tacitly condoning strange men ogling us on the subway.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I do not ogle women, at all. I cannot be busted for that. I look at your eyes. I do not believe I make women uncomfortable. But I appreciate everything that Hunter spoke of; which means I look, I am just careful how I look.

Why can't we give him the same credit?

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NW Washington vet: Hi Gene,

Really liked Molly's response.

No, women don't like Hunter. At least obnoxious dogs can be muzzled.....

Gene Weingarten: You do that with Hunter you have serious First Amendment issues.

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Alexandria, Va.: I sent in a long post defending Hunter 10 minutes ago!! I am a 36-year-old female!

Gene Weingarten: Resend it.

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Unfun,NY: I had to pick some of the poll answers as unfunny because I quickly thought of better descriptions. If their entries make _me_ think of better ones, they couldn't have been all that funny to begin with.

Mnesia: Forgetting... something

Er-biage: The rambling debates of Willy Nelson and Snoop Dogg

XY-moron: Genetically redundant expression

-Kim Gandy, NOW President

Gene Weingarten: Only that last one is good. I'm not sure it is better than the original, but it's quite good.

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Alexandria, VA: I am a 36-year-old female. I found Hunter's essay simply lovely, poignant, and generally wonderful. I even noted that to my husband. I am also a very liberal, independent woman but one who can tell the difference between what Hunter wrote and leering and ogling (like the guy with the "cute chick" neighbor who wrote in before). I knew people would complain about Hunter's piece, just as they do to Givhan's. There are a lot of people who simply do not get that there are nuances in life, that human bodies are lovely in all their shapes, sizes, and colors, and that some men look at women out of love for women and not out of misogyny. (Roxanne Roberts did a piece a while ago on flirting and how there is a clear difference between true, meaningless flirting and piggish behavior. You should dig it up because it is very on point).

End of rant.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Remember a couple of weeks ago we were talking about Ahmedinejad being kinda hot? Well, does anyone think the same of Erik Prince (uber-creepy right-wingnut guy who owns Blackwater)?

Gene Weingarten: He was on 60 Minutes Sunday. Looked hot to me, but what do I know.

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Olney, Md.: I haven't yet read Hunter's piece on ogling, but even if I found it distasteful, in my mind he has no further need to justify himself since his review of T3, where he likened the fire truck chase scene with the out-of-control ladder to a "dreidel of destruction". That beautiful turn of phrase made up for anything horrid he could possibly write.

Gene Weingarten: See, that's my point. "A dreidl of destruction" is a gift to the reader. One writer in a million thinks of that.

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Pat the Perfect, ME: Hunter didn't say "liquid viscosity," as the poster misquoted him; he said "limpid viscosity." While something can't be both liquid and viscous, he didn't say that anyway.

The problem was that he probably meant "limpid" to be soft, a kind of positive word for "limp." It's not -- it means clear, like clear water. "Your eyes are limpid pools" does not mean that your eyes are soft pools; it means they're light and clear.

Gene Weingarten: I think he meant limpid. It's the viscosity I question.

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WAIT! WHAT?!?: Andy Roddick didn't win with a frying pan!?!? Based on the book title I've been telling people just how good Roddick must be. Seriously. I feel so ashamed....

Gene Weingarten: It's stunning, isn't it? I deliberately left this out of the poll a couple of weeks ago, so I could write a column about it.

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"restidigitation"?: Um, what the hell was the original word?

Gene Weingarten: Prestidigitation. Magic.

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Hollywood, CA.: I have finally figured out the war in Iraq is not going well. You know how I can tell? By the first war movie made of this war. Viet Nam had a war movie starring John Wayne. Desert Storm got a movie starring George Clooney. The Iraq War has now had itself ingrained in our cultural minds as the war of Larry the Cable Guy. That's how I can tell this war is not going well.

Gene Weingarten: Speaking of Clooney, "Michael Clayton" is a terrific movie. World class thriller, and very smart.

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This Weeks Poll:1. Yawn.

2. If I wanted to read entries from Egotists Invitational... oh sorry, "Style" Invitational..., I'd go to that link instead.

3. None of the Poll entries are remotely funny or clever. But then, very little in the "SI" has been, for years. (Of course, that's merely an assumption... I stopped actually reading it months ago)

Gene Weingarten: If you don't get it, you don't get it. And if you think there was nothing funny or clever in these entries ... you don't get it.

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1st and Constitution: No, women don't like Hunter. At least obnoxious dogs can be muzzled.....

Gene Weingarten: You do that with Hunter you have serious First Amendment issues.

==============================

With Hunter I'm afraid you'd have even more serious 2nd Amendment issues!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaha.

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Neil Armstrong: I don't think you should be dissin' Neil Armstrong. Go ahead and do it to a Beatle, but Neil? Very bad.

Gene Weingarten: Why? He screwed up the greatest moment of his life!

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Hunters article, again: Hunter's article didn't really bother me. It kinda reminded me of something Jean Shepard might write.

So guys notice women's bodies, it that some sort of surprise?

- oh and I'm 26 and heart you.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I see the complaints. I just think people aren't attributing enough humor to it.

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Are we the new oppressors?: I'm embarrassed that the president of NOW (and you) think it's funny to call all men morons (as if that were self-evident). She of all people ought to be sensitive to the fact that bashing men is a self-defeating way to promote women's causes.

I'm a woman, and yes, I have a sense of humor, but that one just made me embarrassed for my gender.

Gene Weingarten: LIGHTEN UP, PEOPLE.

The Style Invitational once ran an entry to a contest dividing the world into two types of people. One of the winners, purporting to be from NOW (like this was purported), said "women, and rapists."

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Elderly Cat: I am 53, and I've had cats and dogs all my life. I consider incontinence as a valid justification for euthanasia. You can't put diapers on a cat or dog, and their quality of life would be pretty poor if you locked them in a cage 23 hours a day.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. We just have to be reasonable about this.

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Guest Beer: This is not a petty question, you must drink cheap beer. If you are going to partake of the group beer, you need to bring a comerable beer to the party. The host (I knowledgable beer drinking, because he chooses to drink the Liquid Love that is god's gift to man, otherwise known as Guineus) should mildly chide the offender once about his low quality beer. Next time, should be a little blunter, thrid time tell him to drink his swill and be thankful that you are allowing it in the fridge.

Gene Weingarten: Good grief. We are talking about items costing $7 a sixpack.

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Rockville, Md.: All this fuss over Hunter only reinforces my notion that anything goes and we should be the ones to decide what we want to read. I don't recall any reports of people being forced at gunpoint to read Hunter this morning. I read it and thught "Now I know who they buy those shoes for." Do people expect to make points for not liking his writing? How could that happen?

It is a marketplace of ideas. Let them all have a hance. Even some of the other Style writers, who do seriously offend me. But they win prizes.

washingtonpost.com: By the way, Stephen Hunter will be online Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET. Mark your calendars.

Gene Weingarten: Ooooooh. Load those magnums.

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C'mon, it was poetry: For the record, I'm female and in my 40s and (of course) totally hot. I object to the objectification of women, true. BUT I have to agree with you, Gene -- I thought Hunter's writing did a marvelous job of ... what's the word I'm looking for -- exalting? beatifying? making almost holy, anyway -- the female form. Granted, there was a leer there, but leers can be complimentary, too.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Hey now!: I believe Hunter DOES respect women. You can see it in his novels. And he's not shy about expressing that respect in film reviews, although the number of respect-worthy female characters in movies is not that high (ask any serious actress). He likes women with integrity, loyalty, brains, and beauty. That may or may not be the list of traits for which women themselves seek respect, but you can't say the man doesn't respect women.

Okay, I'll shut up, and hope some woman comes along to agree with this interpretation.

Gene Weingarten: This has the makings of a late-chat backlash.

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Commenta, RI:10 bucks for three pounds of Chicken. I'm never letting my husband shop again.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Britishisms: I remember a touching story from the late chef Craig Claibourne. He was a GI in England and wanted to go a nice restaurant. But there was a sign on the door that said "No prams allowed" and he didn't know if he was a pram or not.

Gene Weingarten: I have, in my home office, a sign showing the silhouette of a woman about to sit on a stool, with a line-with-circle through it. It says "Women will not be seated or served here."

It is real, from Saudi Arabia.

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The Empress of The Style Invitational: Hunter's essay today is beautifully written humor. The humor in a nutshell is: I am sick. I am debilitated. My handicap results from a terrible situation that existed during my youth.

And here is what it's like for me to live with my terrible condition .... and then it's 50 inches of gorgeously crafted drooling abouv having to look at women everywhere! Come on, people!

Gene Weingarten: Thank you, ma'am. May your reign be long, and you have many healthy male babies.

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Alexandria, Va.: Beer snobs are morons. Fighting over which beer tastes better is like arguing which Jackson Pollock painting is most lifelike. They're only lifelike if you're already drunk.

Gene Weingarten: Well, this is totally backwards. It is only after the third beer that all beers taste alive.

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Stephen Hunter: If his article today is truly just an expounded version of what all men are thinking, then I just might cry. Please tell me you're not all this creepy.

Gene Weingarten: Honey, you really don't want to know.

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Washington, D.C.: I think it would have been funnier as XY-moron: A man. Though, that's more redundant than oxymoron.

Gene Weingarten: Possibly the best of these, yes. Conciseness.

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New York, N.Y.: Didn't they still need that sign in Saudi Arabia? If you stole it, won't they take your hand?

Gene Weingarten: It was stolen by a Post reporter who gave it to me, during the first Gulf War. It is contraband, I admit it.

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Animals are not people: Is there some expression like Godwin's Law for people who raise the stakes on questions like euthanasia for ancient pets? Once someone says, "would you do that to your child?" no more useful information will be exchanged, only name-calling.

Gene Weingarten: Good point!

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Neil Armstrong: He did NOT screw it up! Perhaps the many miles between here and the moon and 1969 video/audio was to blame. New audio agrees with him. Plus! He says he said it and that is good enough for me.

Gene Weingarten: New audio agrees with him? This I need to see. Send me proof.

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Washington, D.C.: What is Hunter took the opposite tact and wrote longingly for the days of the corset to hide the belly rolls and back fat that (mostly younger) some women proudly show off by wearing clothes that may be "fashionable" but certainly aren't flattering?

I mean no disrespect, or course.

Gene Weingarten: I'm not touching this post with a fork.

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Old cat: Hi Gene,

It'd be nice to get the opinion of Molly or another professional here, but I had a cat that, at age 20, exhibited similar symptoms (incontinence, howling) which turned out to be early symptoms of kidney failure. Once he was treated with subcutaneous fluids and other medications (fairly cheap), the symptoms went away and he lived another healthy happy 2 years! Perhaps cat lady can get a second opinion? I agree that euthaniasia isn't a bad option, but it isn't the only option...

Gene Weingarten: I think that's very true. Molly made an observation about cats and kidney failure, but asked me not to print it because she has no right to be practicing medicine yet.

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Invitation, AL: Am I crazy, or would fixing less-than-hilarious SI entries be a great idea for a contest?

In fact . . . this is TOO good an idea. It must've been done before. Nevermind.

Gene Weingarten: Empress? You listening? This is a great idea.

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Frustrat, ED: I know we've moved on, but dammit, I've been staring at that spinning girl for 45 minutes, and she is only turning counter-clockwise. I also cannot see those "hidden pictures." Could this be related to that? And not an indication that I only have half a brain?

Gene Weingarten: See? This is not a fraud, though I suspect the left-right brain interpretation is hooey.

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Neil Armstrong: Can you explain to me how he screwed up the words? I'm assuming it's the "One small step" sentence.

Gene Weingarten: He said (or the world believes he said) "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

That makes no sense. "Man" and "mankind" are synonymous.

He meant to say, obviously, "One small step for A man."

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North McLean, Va.: I just wanted to point out that I thought Liz looked really pretty in that video.

washingtonpost.com: Thank you, Stephen.

Gene Weingarten: Stephen wouldn't have used the word "pretty."

Okay, we're done. This was an excellent chat. See you in the updates, where there will be some intriguing videos.

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UPDATED 10.17.07

Gene Weingarten: If you haven't seen this yet, you have to. But be warned: The language is very salty and with the sound up this is not safe for work unless you work as a longshoreman.

What we have here are interviews conducted by Norwegian comedienne Pia Haraldson, who conducts ambush news interviews with real people, in the style of Sasha Baron Cohen as Ali G. Ms. Haraldson's shtick is being a phenomenally dumb blonde. You need to watch this through to its entirety to see what happens when she meets up with arch conservative New York City Councilman James Oddo, who also happens to be a jerk of the first water.

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Gene Weingarten: This is just in. It works for me, and is proof positive that the dancing woman is not a hoax and probably has nothing to do with right and left brainery:

---

Hi Gene: That darn optical illusion has been bugging me. I was convinced it was a hoax -- and by the way, she DOES change legs. However, within just five concentrated minutes of experimenting with it, I can make her change direction whenever I want.

I focus not on the arms (like one poster suggested), but on the feet. In fact, as I type this, the e-mail window blocks everything except below the knee and my method works like a charm (In fact, by blocking out the upper half, I find it even easier.)

Here's what I do: When I want her to change directions, I glance away JUST AT THE TINIEST FRACTION OF A MOMENT RIGHT BEFORE THE HEEL OF THE STATIONARY LEG TOUCHES THE GROUND, FOCUS on an object as part of your glance (a lamp, plant, etc.) and then just as quickly look back. This is important, because if you glance away at the moment she is too high in the air (or even on the way down), it doesn't work. Also, the focusing part during the glance is what has perfected my ability to change on each rotation. The glance (and the focus) should be quick enough that you see her heel touch the ground and start rotating the opposite way.

Regards,

JM

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Gene Weingarten: Kate Jones found this fabulous link. These guys are excellent musicians and excellent comics.

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Gene Weingarten: And lastly, for our all-link Wednesday, we revisit the issue of unhelpful movie trailers. Peter Own points us to this excellent Web site, which produces trailers that badly misrepresent the actual film. This is one of their best: Scary Mary.

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Gene Weingarten: That's it for today. We are cutting off early because Liz has to go get her triceps tatted in a quite unforgettable design. I have seen the sketch, and my jaw dropped. We will all see the results next week.

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UPDATED 10.18.07

Gene Weingarten: Chicanery! Deceit! Allegations of theft in the rarefied world of comic piano playing.

Responding to "Rachmaninoff had large hands" in yesterday's update, Andrew Hoenig submits this intriguing link.

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Gene Weingarten: As to whether Neil Armstrong flubbed his big line, we have this.

I know Peter Shann Ford, though when I knew him he was a TV talking head in Miami, and one of the best looking men on earth. I don't THINK he is related to Harrison Ford, but you be the judge.

Anyway, I am not convinced, yet, but I'll accept this as reasonable evidence.

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Buttocks: I'm sure that you must have been inundated with messages telling you that "buttocks' does not rhyme with "mathemuttics." Buttocks has a schwa in the last syllable.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed, there is a schwa, but the pronunciation is a precise rhyme with mathemuttics. As you can see here, if you add an s.

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Hand Sign, AL: Gene: You may have already heard about this, but in earlier chats you suggested a hand signal for women to use on obnoxious male drivers. This one is even better, and the Australian PSA is brilliant.

Gene Weingarten: It's gorgeous.

Gene Weingarten: I love that they use an older woman, too.

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Dumb America: I watched the YouTube of the Norwegian comedienne interviewing men in the U.S. about the elections, and found it sort of funny. But more than that, it was heartbreaking because she's clearly mocking the cluelessness of most U.S. Americans about the rest of the world (if not their own country.)

(And YouTube gives away the "twist" at the end by identifying the video as the one where James Oddo says "get ... out of my office ...")

Gene Weingarten: You know, I don't think that's her target. That would only work if she were an American. I believe her character is intended to lampoon dumb blondes, and clueless media.

She's pretty good, but not great. Her best tool is her dead eyes and deadpan expression. And, speaking for all men, I would like to say that we loved her little smile to the camera when the congressman went bats--t.

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James Oddo speaks out: Oddo Explains.

Apparently he was offended because they were "mocking America." WHAT? Also, since he "fancies himself a wordsmith" he was embarrassed by his use of monosyllabic words. I think he should be embarrassed by his lack of a sense of humor (and the fact he's a republican, but that goes without saying).

Gene Weingarten: This is truly pathetic. One of the more pathetic elements is his use of the full-of-oneself call-and-response syntax most recently popularized by Donald Rumsfeld. "Should I have used a different vocabulary?" "Yes." "Do I regret my choice of language?" "Yes." Etc.

But you are right. Nowhere in this un-sheepish apology is there evidence that what had happened was funny.

By the way, this is clearly not mocking America. There are other interviews by this woman on the Web where she is doing the same thing to the Germans, the French, etc.

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UPDATED 10.19.07

London, U.K.: Hey Gene! DC expat here (and longtime fan, naturally). I thought you might appreciate my own favourite Britishism:

God-botherers (referring to evangelical Christians)

I like it because it brings to mind this great image of a weary God, rolling his eyes and sighing, Oh no, not these people again...

Also good: hoovering (vacuuming), cashpoint (ATM), on the lash (drunk)

Now here's a question for you. One thing I find very disconcerting here is the rather frequent announcements on the Tube that there's a delay because of, quote, A person under a train. It's disturbing first because it seems to happen quite a lot (I seem to hear it once or twice a month), but it's never reported in the press. So there's no way of knowing if pushing people under trains is a favourite hooligan pasttime or if there's some cultural norm at work that favours suicide by Piccadilly Line...

But second, it's just really chilling to be standing on a platform and hear this official voice casually informing thousands of people that ... someone has just died. It seems terribly intrusive on what must be someone's private agony.

Then today, I was on a train when the conductor announced that we would not be stopping at a certain station because there was a person under a train on the adjacent platform. As we rolled through that station, everyone looked pretty sick about it. And I could see some parents looking at their kids and thinking: please don't let them ask me what that means...

I think the rationale is full disclosure -- they always tell you exactly why there's a delay, and after a while you learn what that means in reality (earlier signal failure = minor delay; sick passenger = could be a while). But still.

I guess my question is: if someone dies in a public place, do you think they lose their right to privacy? And: would you want to know what happened?

Gene Weingarten: In New York, it happens with some frequency, too. Sometimes, it is murder. I was there a few years ago when the page one headline in the NY Post was, simply, "PUSHED." All New Yorkers knew immediately what the story was about.

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Humoro, US: Just a comment...

I love humor.

Rape is horrible. When I read the word I get shivers down my spine. I was raped. But the Invitational about splitting the world into two groups -- Women/Rapists. That's great! I just lauged and laughed. (Still chuckling)

Oh and thanks for clearing up that Neil Armstrong quote, that has been bothering me for a really long time.

Gene Weingarten: I took a lot of grief for the women/rapists thing, at the time.

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LostAngels, Calif.: Someone sent me a link to the spinning dancer last week. It's total hooey. I was a figure skater in my youth and it was immediately obvious to me -- spinning clockwise she's on her left leg leading/getting centrifugal with her right arm and right leg; spinning counter-clockwise she's on her right leg leading with her left arm and leg. Watch it long enough and it changes back and forth. All right and left brain distinctions they mention are irrelevant, it's just that the shift in the visual is fairly subtle. I didn't actually time it, but give it forty plus seconds or so and she'll switch for you.

By the way, you were wrong last week about the Rapture licence plate holder -- you of all people should know that anyone who even references the Rapture has no sense of humor.

Fan.

Gene Weingarten: I hope we all realize by now that the spinning dancer is NOT a hoax, for the simple reason that for plenty of people it NEVER changes. One of these is Pat the Perfect.

PLUS at least three people have written to me that they have watched it simultaneously with another person, and they were seeing it go in opposite directions.

It is just a great illusion.

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Mark Trail: Please check out the last panel. I certainly didn't expect that.

Gene Weingarten: Me neither. What's pretty great about that last panel is that the man's mouth is closed, so the source of the quote is even MORE apparent.

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Direct all correspondence to next week's chat.

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