Chatological Humor: Longest. Intro. Ever. (UPDATED 4.25.08)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: WED | THURS | FRI

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, Weingarten 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.

Submit your questions, comments and other detritus before or during the discussion.

This Week's Polls: Poll 1: I Lean Conservative | I Lean Liberal

Poll 2: Women | Men

Not chat day? Visit the Gene Pool.

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


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

We begin today with something special, courtesy of a Chatological Humor habitué named John. John will be identified here only as John, because he works for a government agency with no institutional sense of humor. As I have twice in the past, John decided to engage a Nigerian scammer, and see how much of her time he could waste. John was very creative. The correspondence follows, edited only for length.

Subject : Very successful, contact my secretary.

Dear Friend

I'm happy to inform you about my success in getting the fund transferred to a Swiss Account with the co-operation of a new partner from Paraguay who is an international business man. Presently I'm in Paraguay for investment projects with my own share of the total sum. Meanwhile, I did not forget your past efforts and attempts to assist me in transferring those funds despite the fact that failed us some how. Now contact my secretary, her contact is Name: MRS.FELICIA LAMBERT Email: xxxxxk Ask her to send you the total $450.000.00 (FourHundred and Fifty Thousand US Dollars) with the gift items inside it which I kept for your compensation for all the past efforts and attempts to assist me in this matter.

Best Regards.

Dr.Thomson Donalds


Thank you so much Dr. Donalds. I'd like to make a change in our arrangement though, could you please instruct Felicia to send the $450,000 to my spiritual adviser, Mr. Gene Weingarten. He is not an attorney, but I have him handle all of my financial transactions.

Yours in Christ



Attn John,

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your mail. My Boss Dr. Thomson Donalds left a Bank Check of $450,000.00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) and a Package and asked me to give it to you when you come to my office here in Nigeria. Well, there is no problem if you want your spiritual adviser(Mr. Gene Weingarten) to handle your money and Package.

However, I will like you to let me know if you or your Spiritual Adviser(Mr. Gene Weingarten) will be travelling to meet with me here in my office to pickup your Bank Check and Package or would you prefer I send your Bank Check of $450,000.00 and Package to you through a Courier. Do let me know which will be convinient for you. I await your response to this mail. Regards

Mrs Felicia Lambert


Thanks for responding so quickly, Mrs. Lambert. Yes, since I'm not at all well enough to travel, I'd prefer if Mr. Weingarten could be sent to Nigeria to handle matters. He has very specific dietary requirements, and under no circumstances should either Indian cuisine or dark chocolate be near his presence, due to dietary and religious matters. Would it be to forward to ask for you to enclose a photograph of yourself in your next response? I would assume that Mr. Weingarten would meet you at the airport and would like to familiarize himself with your image.

Yours in Christ



It will not be a bad idea for you to send your Spiritual Adviser to Nigeria, But I want advise that your Bank Check and Package can be sent to you through a Courier that will cost you less compared to what you will pay for flight ticket for your Spiritual Adviser to travel to Nigeria. What do you think about a Courier delivery to you.

Well, it may intrest you to know that I had today sent my office assistant to a Courier company that will deliver to you your Bank Check and Package and the Courier manager told my office assistant that it will cost you $250 to get your Bank Check and Package delivered to you in your country.

Do send me the Money Transfer Control Number(MTCN) as soon as you send the money and also you are to send me your home address where you would want the Courier to deliver to you your Bank Check and Package. But if you still insist that your Spiritual Adviser should travel to Nigeria there is no problem with that, I will pick him from the Airport on arrival. I am only trying to safe cost for you.

I have scanned and attached a copy of my International Passport for you to know me better.

View attached my passport.

Regards Mrs Felicia Lambert


Hello Felicia! Thank you so much for your photograph, I'm hoping that Mr. Weingarten will be able to meet you at the gate. I have never traveled to Africa, and only wish my health would allow me the pleasure of your company as well.

I'm loath to send a courier, because frankly I value the human touch. much of our world has become cold and heartless. Why, here in America, some men are beginning to lose their love for VPL's. What kind of a world would we live in without that? And thank you for your concern, but cost isn't my first priority. If you would like, I've enclosed a photo of my home, and of myself. My picture is somewhat dated, but my grandchild Liz Kelly just purchased a scanner for me this past Christmas, and I had some old photos of me scanned.

Mr. Weingarten informs me that he is extremely busy on Tuesday thru Friday but would be free to travel on the weekends. Would Lagos be the best airport to fly to? I've seen that round trip tickets are only a little more than $2000, which is certainly reasonable for such a long flight. I've found that Northwest, United and Delta all fly there, which would you recommend?

I'm sorry to be asking so many questions Mrs. Lambert, but your e-mail has rallied me. I've been quite sad and lonely recently with my ill health, and to have something to look forward to have raised my spirits tremendously.

Yours in Christ


(That's Roberto Clemente, of course. The home belongs to Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, member of the Saudi royal family and former Saudi Ambassador to the United States.)


Attn John,

How are you feeling today? I hope you are feeling much better now. I pray God ill and make you healthy. Amen.

Well, Mr. Weingarten would need a Visa from the Nigerian Embassy in your country before he can travel to Nigeria and would suggest that he applies for a Visa at the Nigerian Embassy in your country.

Please let me know what is flight is booked so that I can come and meet him at the Airport. Also I will advise that you scan and send to me his Flight ticket when booked and also his picture for me to be able to Identify him on arrival at my countries Airport.

I await your urgent responseto this mail.

Regards, Felicia


Good morning Felicia! I'm sorry I had not responded to you earlier, but under the advice of my spiritual advisor, Mr. Weingarten, I had refrained from using the computer during both Saturday and Sunday, just to be safe.

I feel much better today Felicia, hopeful and looking forward to the future. I am amazed at the random chance that has brought us into each other's lives, the most wonderful things can happen when God gets involved! I had just last week fallen into such a depressed state of mind that I had asked God to take me from this earth, the burden of living just seemed to be too much. I don't know if I had told you, but my wife died several years ago, and although I certainly have enough for a comfortable life, living without a woman by my side just isn't living. She died at an annual event here in the Washington DC area, the Easter Egg roll, just last year. She had a previously undisclosed allergy to twaddle, and unfortunately the grounds there were full of it. You can imagine my distress since then.

As you requested, I have enclosed a recent photo of my spiritual advisor, Mr. Gene Weingarten. I must tell you, although he looks quite fierce in this picture, he is a gentle soul, and the most pleasant and thoughtful of individuals. One thing I should warn you of though, attempt no incorrectly rhymed poetry while in his presence. Poorly constructed double dactyls make him particularly unreasonable.

I've contacted the Nigerian Embassy, and they've informed me that a visa will cost $100 (plus $20 processing fee). The only problem is, they said it would take from 1 to 2 weeks to have the visa issued. I hope this is OK with you, it seems quite a long time to wait. I have just a few question for you from the visa form. Would it be OK for Gene to stay with you while in Nigeria? Question 20 asks for an intended address. Also, on question 29, it asks about contagious diseases. Mr. Weingarten contracted hepatitis as a youth on his spiritual quest. Would that be a problem?

Thank you so much Felicia for your e-mail. I can't begin to express to you how deeply moved I have felt. You are a light to me, a shining hope of happy times to come.

Yours in Christ



Well, I have read and understand that you have contacted the Nigerian Embassy for a Visa for your Spiritual Adviser. I want you to know that one(1) to two(2) weeks when the Visa might be Issued is a very long time and I will be travelling to Uganda by then to attend an Exhibition/ Seminar and so I will not be in the Country incase your Spirtual Adviser comes to Nigeria then. Also you said your Spiritual Adviser Mr. Gene Weingarten contracted Hepatitis and this might make the Nigerian Embassy refuse him a Visa and then it will all be a whole waste of time trying to get a Visa and not getting it.

I will advise here as a friend that your Bank Check of $450,000.00 and Package should be sent to you through a Courier to your country and after which you receive it and cash your Bank Check you can Invite me and I will come over to your Country if you wish to meet with me.

I advise that having contracted Hepatitis will not be good to fly about 6 to 8 hours to Nigeria and so why don't you allow the Courier to carry all the stress and your Bank Check and Package will be delivered to you in your country.



Good morning again Felicia! I've read your e-mail and have some more information as well. The Nigerian Embassy will expedite matters if you go there in person, and should be able to get a visa processed by the end of this week. Especially if you pay an expedited fee of an additional $65.

Mr. Weingarten has already cleared some of his schedule, so I feel it would be a disservice to him to ask him now to cancel his plans. He told me in confidence that he was looking forward to an intercontinental air flight to help spread his message. Mr. Weingarten believes in the triumph of love in regards to airline seat reclining. I don't know if you have ever wondered what motivates someone to recline their seat into you as if you don't even exist, but Mr. Weingarten believes that he will change this behavior with his proselytizing. Although he has taken me into his confidence on many matters, he hasn't spoken on his opinion of speaking during movies, and surely a long intercontinental flight will have the opportunity of several movies.

Perhaps it is better to meet then in Uganda? The fee is much less, and they are far more efficient, their claim is a visa in 2 working days. Also Mr. Weingarten enjoys traveling with his canine companion, a certified Plott Hound, and Uganda is very understanding in the importation of canines with the only requirement being an up to date vaccination record.

Quite frankly Felicia, I am mortally afraid of wire transactions. It stems from my baseball career, as I'm sure you know the waiver wire is where we all end up at some point. Having gone thru that in my youth, I must say I'm not anxious to be unconditionally released at my advanced age.

Yours in Christ John


That's as far as the correspondence has gone, so far, but John is determined to see it through until I am obliged to travel to Lagos with Murphy.


Okay, won't take much more intro time. The CLOD, or clip of the day, is this excellent re-translation of Carmina Burana, courtesy my friend Caitlin Gibson. Caitlin and I agree thast this borders on genius, largely because the lyrics are wonderful, but because they appear to be delivered in an Eastern European accent. You'll need the sound up pretty high.


Here's my favorite letter of the week, from Peter Ansoff:

I enjoyed your April 20th magazine column. However, as a longtime member of the Lighter-than-Air Society (yes, really), I must object to your demeaning characterization of the Graf Zeppelin. The Graf was not just a "gasbag," she actually had *sixteen* internal gasbags, with a total volume of more than 3.7 *million* cubic feet. That is a *lot* of gas! To mix a metaphor, Sean Hannity is a lightweight by comparison.


Please take today's polls, the second of which reveals, perhaps for the first time anywhere, that we are a nation of furtive nosepickers. This may be the most shocking poll result ever. I fully expect to see the results become a Web phenomenon. I may get book offers.


The CPOW is the fabulously meta Sally Forth from Monday. First Runner Up, promisingly, is Sunday's The Argyle Sweater. Honorables: Today's Pickles, today's Piranha Club.

Okay, let's roll.


Drowning in the Gene Pool?: Are things like the "Obama Gives Clinton the Finger" thread going to lead to the death of the Gene Pool? It seems like there were entirely too many people who found that link and took it entirely too seriously for their own good. Either people who post to that discussion board should be required to sign an agreement that they have a sense of humor or only loyal readers should receive secret links to the day's topics. There were a lot of people who posted thinking you were a serious news journalist expressing serious opinions of The Post.

Gene Weingarten: I know! It was disturbing, wasn't it?

For those who didn't see this in The Gene Pool:

On Friday, this video burst on the Web, and was all over the country within minutes. It didn't last a full news cycle, but for about five hours, it was the most talked-about thing on the web. FoxNews started it, but the LA Times put it up on their site, as well as a bunch of big blogs, and so did I. I opined that if he was in fact giving the finger to Clinton, he had just won the vote of every "guy" in the country.

The discussion thread started fine, with people about evenly divided as to whether Obama had actually done this thing. But it quickly devolved into partisan vitriol with people SHOCKED that a paper as distinguished as the Washington Post would stoop to such calumny.

It's actually a really interesting little moment. I am 95 percent convinced Obama intended nothing of the kind, if for no other reason than that it would have been insanely self-destructive. But what's clear is that the CROWD saw it as deliberate, and started hooting and cheering; this confused Obama, and egged him on, so THEN he started joking about Hillary, which, ironically, gave credence to the notion that he had bird-flipped.


Lexington, Ky.: Wow, Gene. I was really disappointed in your column this week, in seeing you stoop as low as you did in your comments about the conservative figures. Your original article was funny (I lean conservative, and wasn't offended by your portrayal of conservatives there); but this time you went too far. Why did you feel the need to defend yourself against the likes of O'Reilly and Limbaugh? You should have just let it go. You made yourself look shallow and vindictive.

Gene Weingarten: So.... you thought that my over-the-top criticism of these people was serious? That I am seriously comparing Coulter to a serial killer, and alleging that Rush picks his nose and smears it on the bottom of chairs?

Whether the column was successful or not, there was a secondary engine at work: I was savaging these people, ostensibly, so they would lash back at me and give me even more publicity.

This was why I wrote the first poll. My mail on this column was odd: About three quarters of the emails were applauding wildly, and one quarter was booing. There was nothing in between. My assumption was that people were reacting not to whether the humor worked, but by what their ideologies were.

I have to say, the poll suggests this was not the case. With Most Regretful Apologies, (Post Magazine, April 20)


Not Pollish, But: Great polls today. Too bad there wasn't an option to say the poll was funnier than the column.

Gene Weingarten: See next post.


Please tell, ME: how many papers didn't run your Sunday article? it was brilliant - 'Ann Coulter is taller' made me spit out my coffee.

Gene Weingarten: Seriously, these two posts summarized all my mail on the column.


Soon to be back in the area, Fla.: I would like your opinion regarding the song "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." I had heard this song all through my childhood and always pictured a bikini of another color with yellow polka dots. A commercial for some tawdry leg shaving crap or weight loss snake oil disturbed me deeply when it played this song and showed a woman wearing a yellow bikini with red polka dots. So which is it -- a bikini of another color with yellow polka dots, or a yellow bikini with polka dots of another color? I MUST have closure on this, Gene, and you're just the man to help me.

Gene Weingarten: I've gone back and forth on this in my own mind twice now.

The bikini is yellow. The polka dots are red.


Today's Poll: Reminds me of one of the better poll questions I've ever seen.

Gene Weingarten: These results are not valid. They forgot cuticles.


Gene Weingarten: (Psst... Liz just got a 52-inch TV. She says "I can't wait to NOT watch baseball on it.")


Lake Forest, Ill.: Who would be on your Mt. Rushmore of stand-up comedians? I put Kinison, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Steve Martin on. Mitch Hedberg, Jim Gaffigan, Katt Williams, Dave Chappelle.

Oh, you're asking him.

Gene Weingarten: In this order: Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Bill Hicks, Jonathan Winters, George Carlin, Sam Kinison, Lily Tomlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Eddie Murphy, Carol Burnett.


Anonymous: Gene, why would you ask a girl who sang the blues for some happy news?

Gene Weingarten: Very simple. Because you WANT her to turn away. You want that ultimate shrug, the slouch toward Bethlehem. You ask the girl who sang the blues for some happy news precisely because you know she has none to deliver, and it permits you to move to a final, hopeless refrain.


Positively negative: My first thought when I heard of the criticism you got from Bill and Rush was "Congratulations on the publicity!" I started to think that they erred by giving it to you (so to speak). Then I realized that they don't really care how it affects you. Their primary concern is to boost their own ratings by providing entertainment to their audience.

So my question is this: What is a good question to ask about this? I mean, doesn't this speak to something or other? I'm outraged or sad or concerned or whatever, I guess. Very much so!

Gene Weingarten: What it speaks to is that in this overheated cauldron of political debate, everyone uses everyone; Rush was manufacturing ire at me to generate heat. I was using Rush's manufactured ire to generate humor. I am now using you to let me pontificate in a mock heroic cynical fasion, bolstering my "brand." You are using me for the meager but tangible satisfaction of being recognized in this shabby forum.


Bikini: NO! It's got a white background and yellow dots. It has yellow polka dots.

Gene Weingarten: Defend this position.


Nose Picking: As a public service, can we post a reminder for those who answer "Only if I'm alone" to the nose picking question?

When you are in your car waiting for a traffic light to turn green you are not really alone.

Gene Weingarten: Most men know that, when stopped at a light, a Cone of Invisibility descends upon them, rendering all their actions unseeable. Women have less of a faith in The Cone, and thus it does not work for them.


14th and Q: Gene, I think I saw you on Saturday night, walking down Q street towards 14th. We weren't sure, and I heard Liz's voice in my head, "If you're not sure, ask." We asked if you were you, and your response: I might be -- sounded like Gene to me. So, if that was you, you gave two lesbians quite a thrill, and, I have to say, you are MUCH better looking in person. (The Rib isn't so bad, either.)

Gene Weingarten: I have just read your post to The Rib, and we shared a hysterical laugh.

Here's why:

Saturday evening, 7:20 p.m. Rib and I are walking toward the Studio theater, where we are going to see The History Boys. Car stops. Window rolls down.

Attractive young woman: Are you Gene Weingarten?

Me: I might be.

Attractive young woman: (applauding wildly) I LOVE YOU!

Me: Thank you!

Car drives off.

Me, to Rib: See? I can get laid any time I want.


Apparently not!

The History Boys was excellent. Floyd King's performance alone is worth the price of admission.


Rears, who apparently has to explain jokes to you now: Gene -- joke #1, about the drunk driver, is both funny and off-color. Of COURSE nobody cares about hearing a crash. That doesn't matter. The more important thing is that you're likely getting yourself killed or injured, or killing or injuring somebody else onaconna yer irresponsible drinking/driving behavior, but Youngman chooses to completely ignore that and focus on something completely irrelevant. It seems to me that's where a lot of the humor of his jokes comes from, focusing on unexpected, trivial details. However, I am no Youngman scholar, and he is way before my time.

The seeing eye dog joke is hilarious, btw. And speaking of dogs: Car vs. Greyhound (a race from the British car show Top Gear)

Gene Weingarten: Hm. This is worth watching. A hot sports car against a champion greyhound, around a dog track, one lap.

Meanwhile, Rears: What do you think off-color means? You seem to misinformed, so we shall have a brief tutorial.

Off-color means dirty, suggestive, sexual. It does not mean rude or brutal.

"Why don't women skydive naked? is an off-color joke.

"What's the difference between a truckload of dead babies and a truckload of bowling balls?" is not an off color joke.


Washington, D.C.: Sat behind you at the Studio Theatre on Saturday night. What did you think of "History Boys?" I liked the first Act, but I thought it dragged (and got repetitive) after the intermission.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree. I think the whole thing worked well so long as you were willing to accept a slightly cheap plot contrivance.


Fairfax: Okay, are we doing song interpretations now? I have a question regarding a country music song by Randy Travis. Basically there are four people on a bus -- a farmer, a teacher, a hooker, and a preacher. The bus runs a stop sign and crashed, and the farmer, teacher, and preacher die -- and the preacher gives his Bible to the hooker, who gives birth to ... A PREACHER, who is the narrator of the song. The lyrics:

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there aren't four of them, heaven only knows

I guess it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you

But what you leave behind you when you go.

My question: WHAT ABOUT THE BUS DRIVER?? He doesn't get a cross?

Gene Weingarten: The farmer was driving the bus.


Panties in a Knot: What a bunch of sissies, my female brethren! I've never understood the "delicacy" of farting in front of an SO, or even family members. What's to be embarassed about in family company? I didn't even know women "weren't supposed to burp" until my adulthood. Granted, I don't do it if I can help it when I'm in public, but sometimes burps happen, and I couldn't believe the reaction I got once from a female friend, that "ladies aren't supposed to do that". Again, sometimes they happen before you can suppress them! Why the delicacy over this? And don't get me started on underwear with PJs. Okay, get me started. I learned at a sleepover party in grade school that I was the "weirdo" for not wearing underwear with my PJs. I'd never worn underwear with PJs and thought the others were weird for wearing them. I still do. What's the point of underwear with PJs? Gynos says that "it" needs a breather down there and women shouldn't wear underwear to bed anyway (I was way ahead of the curve!). Rant over. I feel better. Now I can go pick my nose without a tissue.

Gene Weingarten: A very large minority of proud women farters have submitted posts like this one. My house is a mostly loud-fart-free zone, and I feel the need to explain.

I was discussing this with a woman friend of mine the other day; her stance was that casual farting in front of a significant other was no biggie. The only time she would not do it, she said, was during intercourse.

This produced an interesting moment. I asked her WHY she wouldn't fart during intercourse. There was a long pause, and then she said, simply, "I see your point."

Here, then, for those less intuitive than my friend, is the point: In a loving relationship, why not endeavor to remain always romantic, to the degree you can?


Colorado Springs, Colo.: Gene, from the "sleeping in panties" topic in last week's update, I perceive that you've descended from the pedestal and returned to your roots. Great. Gotta poop question for you. As a doc, I often ask people questions about their bowels and, um.... product. There's a small but distinct minority that is taken aback that I would even ask, because they "would never think" of looking at their....product....for blood, or for any other reason. Interestingly, these responders are fairly gender-mixed. I thought this might move (heh) your chatters to spirited and amusing debate, along the lines of the shower-tinklers versus the shocked "NEVER!" crowd. I'm pretty sure I could predict how you, as an reformed hypochondriac, would respond.

Love the chats, but in the spirit of decorum, and given the topic, I am virtually flinging nothing at you at this time. And by the way, as of this writing, "Are you a poop-looker?" is a Googlenope.

Gene Weingarten: I am not obsessive about looking, but a glance to check that things are normal looking is, as you say, wise procedure.

This reminds me of a fabulous practical joke to play on a hypochnodriac. I had it in my book.

Put a big ol earthworm in the toilet tank before a hypo goes in there to poop. The last thing he will see after flushing is a worm going down the drain.


Takoma, Washington, D.C.: Gene, that's exactly the way Carmina Burana is supposed to be pronounced. That's just a regular old choir performing the regular wacky latin words to the first movement. Which are really funny if you try to hear them as English.

Gene Weingarten: Right, that's what I assumed.


Arlington: "Bikini: NO! It's got a white background and yellow dots. It has yellow polka dots.

Gene Weingarten: Defend this position."

Is there a comma between yellow and polka?

Gene Weingarten: Hm. This might be persuasive.


Chantilly: How's this for a buzzkill regarding the Yellow Polka Dot Bikini: "Vance was inspired after watching his 2-year-old daughter Paula at the beach in her new bikini."

Gene Weingarten: Ew ew ew. That's worse than Neil Diamond writing Sweet Caroline for a very young Caroline Kennedy.


Savannah, Ga.: So what's your take on this Christmas Ape thing? Do you think the Post had a right to fire him for his extra-curricular commentary/activity, though it was unrelated to his work? I have a hard time believing that this is the only time a Post reporter had a photo taken while drunk and posted it on the Web. Maybe the only time with the Pittsburgh Parrot. (Is the issue that it wasn't the home team?)

The actual reasoning may or may not be sound, but the given reason strikes me as BS. 'Washington Post' Staffer Fired for Profane Sports Blogging, (Editor and Publisher, April 17)

Gene Weingarten: Here's my take:

I like the blog. It's juvenile, profane, chauvinistic, misogynistic, funny, and works quite well for a sportsblog. I don't think Mr. Tunison has done anything immoral or shameful. I also think The Post had the right to fire him.

There are two issues in play. The first is that he violated Post rules; he accepted outside employment without first clearing it. And there is an uneasy feeling that one reason he was operating for so long under a pseudonym is that he knew quite well The Post would disapprove. That reeks of deception, which doesn't sit well with The Post or any employer.

The more important issue, though, is that The Post has the right to insist that those employees who have a public profile representing the Post (basically, any bylined writer) behave publicly in a way that The Post feels does not bring discredit to the newspaper.

To exaggerate the situation, let's say that I, in my own time, started writing foul, racist skinhead novels, under my own name. I don't think anyone would question that the Post has the right to decide they don't want me publicly representing them anymore.

It's the same calculus here. The Post found what this guy did distasteful, and after he publicly outed himself as a Post writer, they decided to sever that connection. Their right to do so. It's no more an issue of free speech than it would have been in my skinhead hypothetical. (It's the equivalent of editing, not censorship.)

I'm not sure I would have made the same decision. I'm not as repulsed as the paper apparently was by the content of the blog, and I would give some leeway to the callowness of youth. I might have asked him to choose between the two jobs.

But that's just me. I don't question their right to have fired him.


Suicide: This topic was mentioned briefly last week, and I know you've discussed it before. At my company's annual meeting, we give out awards to honor employees who go above and beyond. Long story short: One of our parking attendants suspected a customer was about to jump off a bridge. She called the cops, and they were able to intervene in time, saving the guy's life.

While everyone was clapping and crying, my first thought was that she should have minded her own business. What's your reaction?

Gene Weingarten: Ooooooh. This is a good question.

I am really conflicted about my answer. There is a collision between the theoretical and the practical.

I think people have the right to kill themselves, and that this is an unalienable right. If you have the right to life and liberty, that means you have the liberty to end your life.

On the other hand, suicide is a terrible, hostile thing to do to people who love you. Aaaand, many people who have been prevented from committing suicide will later say they were glad, and do not try it again.

In the balance, I think the parking attendant did the right thing. Tough call.


More rumormongering: Since last week's chat tipped me off I was on the alert, and the supermarket tabloid I saw yesterday confirms it - the Bush marriage problems are apparently due to a bastard child of George's.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaaha!


Bedfordshire: Gene, 28-year-old single woman here. I think the poll missed one major distinction with regard to the bed clothes. If I am going to bed alone, as single women are often wont to do, I'll wear jammies/singlet and knickers. If, however, I am accompanied (whether by long-term boyfriend or assignation), I will always sleep in the buff. So I answered pajamas, but if I had a boyfriend at the moment, I would have polled "nothing."

I suspect other women out there may be the same so maybe the poll results will be skewed on relationship lines.

Gene Weingarten: A good point. I should have specified "alone."


Umm, UH: You know, I don't think that the girl who was reading Ann Landers quite got the whole story. What ole Ann meant was, if you wear nylon panties all the time, all sorts of evil things will begin to happen because there's no proper air flow. (Ahem. Yeast infections and so on. Nylon panties + pantyhose are a Nasty Combination.) But if you wear cotton panties -- and I mean all-cotton, not those stupid spandex items with a cotton-lined crotch -- you'll be fine. Jockey does a very nice high-cut bikini, but stay away from that Victoria's Secret crap; it falls apart in no time.

I don't see nylon panties giving you cystitis, though. If you really want to develop a bang-up bladder infection, drink lots of heavily sugared coffee and don't use the bathroom when you need to go. Drunken sex is good for causing cystitis, too. I don't recommend either method, myself, but then, I didn't like the recurrent cystitis I developed when young and stupid, either.

Don't you just love this chat?

Gene Weingarten: I DO love this chat.

You know what I think? I think that if people were required to give their names, this chat would suddenly suck.


New England: That e-mail exchange is hilarious. Imagine my surprise when recently, the mother of a boy with whom I went to high school was arrested for being part of a Nigerian money scam. She was also a lunch lady at my elementary school.

Gene Weingarten: Wow!


Proof positi, VE: Insofar as the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater eats purple people, not flying purple people, the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, naturally, by Fry's Law Of Ridiculous Song Titles, refers to a yellow bikini, with polka dots of an indeterminate color.

It's science, people. Anyone who denies the yellowness of the bikini proper can be reliably tarred as an adherent of Intelligent Design.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


The History Boys: But don't you think the whole homosexual pedophilia thing is getting a little cliched in theatre?

Gene Weingarten: It actually is the second homosexual pedophilia play I have seen in two months.


Comedians: Where does Eddie Izzard fall on your list? To me, he's genius.

Gene Weingarten: I like him a lot.


Lipstick vision: Gene, I think you have lipstick vision. You can't see the differences between Marilyn Monroe's body and those of all the women you linked to any better than you can see the makeup on your wife's face. Look at Marilyn in a swim suit. Look at her arms. Those modern women are significantly thinner than Marilyn.

Gene Weingarten: I never compared Marilyn to Scarlett Johansson. I merely said Marilyn was not fat, was not a size 16, or 14, as common lore would have it.

I think it's time to put this to rest:

This woman is not fat.

Marilyn looks like this in almost all cheesecake photos of her. I found on the Web one photo where she looks chunkier, probably the porkiest she ever got. Here it is.

Curvy, a little fleshy, not fat. Nowhere near the body of our British beauty queen, who claimed to be a US size 14.


attractivene,ss: Gene

I am submitting this very early and with the full recognition it may get lost in a storm of sleeping with your underwear on or off emails.

Nevertheless, here is my query to you: Is it incumbent upon the male in a relationship to tell his female partner that he thinks she is attractive?

And here's the background. I am staring down the barrel of 30 and frequently get asked if I'm in college, so I'm fresh faced, take good care of myself, and I'd objectively put myself in the slightly above average to more than slightly above average category. Others (even those I'm not related to and who are not trying to get me into bed) have said i am "pretty" to "beautiful." My boyfriend says none of these things. I can be in a sweatshirt and jeans or have spent a lengthy amount of time getting ready to go to a club or dinner. And I get the same response: an appraising look, and no comment. I know he thinks I"m attractive. It is silly to date someone if you don't think so, and, when presed, he will say he thinks I look nice. But I just don't get it. Does the urge to tell me I look pretty, that my hair looks nice today, that I have a nice smile, anything, never cross his mind? I know men. I have lots of guy friends, and I've dated my share of men. I know all you do in general when you see women is appraise them. Is it too much to ask that a flattering comment pass through my boyfriend's lips without browbeating him into it? He meets my complaints on this subject with either saying he feels attacked or that he's just not used to complimenting people.

I know this has gotten lengthy, and I'm sorry. I trust you on a "typical" male reaction, though I know you are more enlightened than most. I just don't understand his behavior, and I think my resentment comes more from a being underappreciated standpoint than an egotistical standpoint. I don't need him to say he thinks I'm attractive to feel valid as a person, but I think I need it to feel valid as a romantic partner. Does that make sense?

Gene Weingarten: It does make sense. Your boyfriend sounds cold and callous and weird. I can buy that he not accustomed, somehow, to delivering compliments, a deficiency in his upbringing. But once you've told him that you'd appreciate an occasional wolf whistle, and he still stays silent ... he's a jerk. Sorry.


Bikini, Atoll: Yellow bikini and black, silver dollar sized polka dots.

Brian Hyland

Gene Weingarten: Can someone image google this thing and report back? There has to be a consensus out there.


Kissing up?: It seems that you (nearly ?) always defend the Post's controversial decisions except where comics are concerned. How should we interpret this trend?

Gene Weingarten: The Post is a very well run, reasonable enterprise, with suspect judgment of comics.

I'm pretty sure I have criticized things other than comics judgment, though.


Takoma, Washington, D.C.: "many people who have been prevented from committing suicide will later say they were glad, and do not try it again." I think this is actually most people who have been prevented from committing suicide.

There was a really interesting article somewhere recently about how the authorities have been extremely resistant to putting up suicide barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge, and it surveyed the research on people who've been prevented from jumping or survived jumps - and unlike what you'd think, they didn't all run off and find some other way to kill themselves. They went on living and were glad to be alive.

So I say, sure, prevent the guy from killing himself, and if he's really committed he can try it again, but maybe that attempt got him some serious attention and help.

Gene Weingarten: Right, that's the article I was remembering. It surprised me.


"One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater eats purple people, not flying purple people": Holy crap. How could you let this go by, Gene? The people aren't purple, the Eater is purple. "Flying" and "purple" are both modifying the People Eater.

Gene Weingarten: He was kidding, dude.


Austin, Tex.: You already know, of course, that "yellow polka dot bikini" is ambiguous, with both interpretations equally possible. But choosing one and insisting on it is kinda funny, so go ahead. In case you want the technical term, it's "adjectival scope," i.e., the adjective "yellow" can have scope over "polka dot," together making an adjective phrase that modifies bikini (that's the one with the yellow dots), or it can have scope over "polka dot bikini"(the suit is yellow, with any color dots. maybe even a different shade of yellow dots!). I can draw two different syntactic trees for you, if you want. Thus endeth the linguistics lesson. You can make fun of my pomposity now.

Gene Weingarten: No, this is interesting and educational.


Annapolis: Please take the buy-out

Gene Weingarten: No.


Alexandria, Va.: Please take the buy-out.

Gene Weingarten: Maybe.


Annandale: Please take the buy-out.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. You talked me into it.


Undies: I used to not wear underwear when I was single. Now that I'm married, I wear them. Mainly so I don't directly fart on my husband when we're in bed. I'm a keeper.

Gene Weingarten: You think panties are, like, a cigarette filter?


Rickles Is God: Don Rickles is the funniest person living, and possibly the funniest man ever to walk the face of this world.

But he is unlike anyone else in your list -hey- your Rushmore has too many heads!], and I urge you to distinguish him from "stand-up." He's not a stand-up comic, and he acknowledges it.

He's a song-and-dance man who shuts off his mental editor when he's around people . . .

Gene Weingarten: Sure, he is standup. I watched him in Vegas for an hour. Standup. He merely uses other people as props.


HB9 copilot la, ND: Hi Liz, Gene -

I was in last weekend's Date Lab (and the On Being on working as a tissue recovery technician.)

I'm also girlfriends with Kate Rears Burgman (confirmed HB9), who I let perfect her stick shift driving on my Volvo. Her husband sat in the back while us girls discussed the benefits of a short throw and high clutch.

I think he liked it. Date Lab, (Post Magazine, April 20)

Gene Weingarten: I love your "mainlining heroin" answer.

Hey, this was one of the more civil Date Labs, between two reasonably diplomatic people, and STILL you each wind up saying pretty withering things about the other.

I'm always amazed at this. If I datelabbed, however it came out, unless the woman was a total jerk, I think I'd say only kind things. I'd be a terrible datelabber, actually.

I'm for short throw but medium-high clutch.


Springfield, Va.: "Your boyfriend sounds cold and callous and weird."

I don't buy this for a second. I groan and roll my eyes every time my girlfriend asks me more than once if I think she looks okay/pretty. I think she's the most gorgeous person in the world, but I don't feel like I have to tell her so every single time she puts on eyeliner or puts on a top. That would be obnoxious and weird and would make "you look pretty" a less and less sincere compliment and more of a knee jerk reaction.

This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

Wife: You never say you love me!

Husband: I told you once. I'll let you know if I change my mind.

Gene Weingarten: Good joke.

But this woman doesn't sound like she is constantly trolling for compliments. She says he NEVER compliments her. That's just wrong.


Buyo, UT: Annapolis: Please take the buy-out

Alexandria, Va.: Please take the buy-out.

Annandale: Please take the buy-out.

You shouldn't listen to those A-holes.

Gene Weingarten: Er, one a-hole, three times.


Woody?: Vintage Woody Allen, right? Not current? Also, I love Bill Hicks' work, and it's a shame that more people don't know who he was.

Gene Weingarten: He died REAL young. It's mind boggling to think where he might have gone.


City: Fairfax, State: FL (Fat lady): Gene,

Being a Fat Lady (FL), I have had occasion to shop in all sorts of cleverly named stores and departments selling "plus size" clothing.

It's too hard to locate these stores and department by name, because none indicate that they specialize in fat stuff.

So, I call them Fat Lady Stores. easy-peasy. By the way, I'm not attractive by your definition, Gene, but most men find me sexy (I have a great sense of humor). Better duck because here comes a pair of huge panties.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

I do find you attractive.


Chicago, Ill.: I don't want to get into an argument, because obviously your mind, palate and stomach have been warped by decades of inferior gastronomy. But people whose bodies are unsullied by New York food would agree that there is no American city -- nay, no city in the world -- that can boast more superior eating than Chicago. To wit:

-- The true Chicago-style pizza. A manlier pie than its weak, floppy East Coast rival.

-- The Chicago dog, with celery salt and all the fixings. Anything less is just a sausage.

-- The Italian beef sandwich (served wet): A cow can have no finer fate.

-- The breaded steak sandwich, the South Side's gift to America.

-- Frango mints.

-- Jay's potato chips.

I could go on, but -- oddly, I'm getting very hungry. Aside from cheesecake, what has New York ever given the world of eating?

Gene Weingarten: Surely you jest.

The Lower East Side alone delivered all kinds of deli: knishes, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, etc. And matzoh brei.

Gene Weingarten: Tomorrow I am going to lead the updates with my wife's recipe for matzoh brei, one of the finest dishes ever served to man.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene,

I've been a volunteer with kids' grief groups for the last ten years and now I'm interning on the Psych Unit of a major DC hospital (part of the training for my next career in social work). The best thing you can say to a person contemplating suicide is to tell them how YOU feel about it rather than telling them how THEY should feel. A friend who used to train volunteers to answer the phones at a crisis hotline would tell them to say something along the lines of, "I don't want you to kill yourself." The fact that these people are reaching out to you gives your opinion some gravitas with them; they wouldn't write you otherwise. And encourage them to call the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-799-4TTY.

Gene Weingarten: Intuitively, this sounds like great advice.

And vis a vis the previous suicide question, my philosophical aversion to preventing a sucide toesn't extend to a suicide hotline. These people are ASKING for help.


Washington, D.C.: Wanna hear the sad thing? I rather think my body looks like the one you posted of Marilyn (the "cheesecake" one) and I feel like I can't find a single guy out there who will accept me for it. Or maybe I can't accept myself, but all the men I meet seem to agree with me. I also sleep in the nude, whether alone or not.

Gene Weingarten: Wait. What? You look like Marilyn and people think you are fat?

That's ridiculous.


What about Chris Rock?: I hate his acting, but his stand up is hilarious to me.

As for the underwear/no underwear thing. I wear panties to bed. That's all. Whether or not my husband is with me. I don't wear pajamas. Ever. I don't even get why I would want to wear pants in the bed. Isn't the sheet and comforter sufficient for covering? Why must I wear the equivalent of a burkha in the BED when I'm SLEEPING? 'Splain this people.

Gene Weingarten: I'm not a fan, but I recognize he has a legion of admirers.


Fart, IN: please tell me that you also refrain from farting in front of the rib.

I see your point on keeping it romantic but give me a break. I got to get up and run to the other room if I got to let one fly? If I can't fart in my own home, where can I?!

Gene Weingarten: No, we are talking about loud farting. Farting where you don't care if the other person knows you are farting.


Gene's readership by sex: Hmm. It's almost 11 a.m. on chat day, and about 965 women have responded to the polls, but about 660 men. You seem to have half again as many women reading the chat as men. Liz, I attribute that to your sarcastic input and attempts to control Gene's ego.

Gene Weingarten: This has been a consistent ratio for years. It is because I am so hot.


Laurel: "Gene Weingarten: He died REAL young. It's mind boggling to think where he might have gone."

I disagree. I think all comedians run out of material after a couple of decades.

Which is, BTW, my theory about why Rodney Dangerfield was the funniest stand-up ever: he didn't start until he was middle-aged and had more life experience to draw on during his good years.

Gene Weingarten: Hicks would not have run out because he was VERY topical.


College Park, Md.: When is dishonesty acceptable?

Gene Weingarten: Never.

A lie is sometimes acceptable. Dishonesty, never.


Sugar Land, Tex.: Why don't you ever include any F-Minus strips in your comic picks of the week? To me, it's one of the most consistently funny strips out there, and I don't think you've ever pointed one out.

Gene Weingarten: Because my comics critiques are specifically limited to the comics in the print edition of the paper.


Indianapolis: You eat the matzoh brei with salt, right? Because I've known people who put sugar on it.

Gene Weingarten: I have had it both ways.

Just a couple of days ago I had it with salt, pepper, cottage cheese and powdered sugar. Incredibly good.


Alexandria, Va.: Gene,

A friend of mine and I have placed a bet and a dinner at Fogo de Chao is on the line so I need your help. And maybe PtheP if it comes to that.

Concerning the word "alas", my friend says, "unless you put the dots representing something that follows, you should have a conclusory statement following alas."

I disagree. I think that you can use alas as a statement in and of its self like, "Alas!" or simply, "Alas."

Please tell me that I am right, as I am poor and dinner at Fogo -- although delicious -- is not cheap.

Gene Weingarten: You are correct.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, a friend of mine has just emailed to say that she wears panties to bed because she is afraid a spider will crawl up her hoo-ha. Is there anyone else who feels this way and is willing to admit it?


Matzoh brei : isn't your wife a goy?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but great cooks are multi-ethnic.


Gene Weingarten: Pan-ethnic, actually.


Chicago gastromony?: Gene, I'm with you. Can't find a bialy in Chicago, and no one has a slogan like Katz's Deli on Houston Street: "Send a salami to your boy in the army."

Been going there off and on for many years.

Gene Weingarten: Right! Bagels! I forgot bagels!


Timid much?: "Hoo-ha"? Are you kidding me? Is that what you tough New Yahkers call it? Hopefully you don't get any boo-boos on your thingy.

Gene Weingarten: It is the official term of Chatological Humor.


Virginia: Does your friend also wear panties over her mouth?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


Spiders!: That thought had never occured to me but now that you've broached it I can't stop thinking about it!!!! Is this possible???

Gene Weingarten: I don't know!


Spiders and orifaces: I'm not concerned about one crawling up my nether regions--at least I wasn't--but at camp I learned that over the course of his or her life, the average person swallows 8 spiders while sleeping.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but these are nearly microscopic lal thangs. I think.


Still Reeli, NG: GW: "On the other hand, suicide is a terrible, hostile thing to do to people who love you..."

No kidding. Yesterday, my dear father-in-law got drunk and put a bullet in his head. I turned to the chat today in the hopes of forgetting about this event, if only for a short time. I shouldn't have.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, Lord. I'm sorry.


History Boys, cont.: Gene Weingarten: It actually is the second homosexual pedophilia play I have seen in two months.

"Doubt" in Olney? Or something else?

Gene Weingarten: Yep, Doubt.

Pretty well done, I thought. Great stage design. The head nun was a terrific actor.


Seder: Gene, does Dan still have to ask the Four Questions every year? I'm 28 and I -still- have to do it. And they expect me to sing it properly, like I learned in Hebrew school. Do you subject Dan to that as well?

Gene Weingarten: We don't do no seder.


Spiders!: I wasn't afraid of a spider up the hoo-ha until now. I'll be wearing two pairs of panties to bed now, thanks.

Gene Weingarten: And one on your head. Don't forget the ears.


No compliments: I went through the same thing and I agree with Gene. It's not about "I don't give compliments", it's about stubbornly adhering to a philosophy when a slight compromise could make his girlfriend happy. It has a slight air of passive aggression (maybe not, but that's what it ended up being in my relationship). We're no longer together. But anyway, she in no way sounds excessively needy; I agree with you on that as well, Gene.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. A very creepy feeling about that guy, unless she was misrepresenting him.


Silver Spring, Md.: RE: Wearing Panties to bed. Mostly I wear panties to bed. Why? If I have to get up in the middle of the night to beat a burgler to death with baseball bat, I won't have the disadvantage of being pantyless. Although if I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I often remove my panties before I get back into bed.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Katz's Deli slogan: Now we're back to Tom Lehrer again. It reminds me of his song for World War III.

So long, mommy

I'm off to fight a commie

So send me a salami

And try to smile somehow

I'll look for you when the war is over

An hour and a half from now

Gene Weingarten: A great song. It starts, I believe... So long, mom, I'm off the drop the bomb, so don't wait up for me...


Re: Bagels: No bagels in Chicago? What, they don't have any Dunkin' Donuts there? Can't you get bagels at the grocery store?

Just kidding. I'm imagining Gene's head exploding right about now.

Gene Weingarten: Not like New York bagels. This is established fact.


IVF lady here from several weeks back...: I did talk to hubby and there wasn't any cheating, but there were some real issues of fear and anxiety related to the situation we were in as well as to becoming a parent, so IVF was cancelled (luckily we had great insurance so we hadn't spent any money on this out of pocket). We will revisit it later this year and have been working with a counselor and enjoying/renewing our marriage. It's actually been nice to just be married again and not being married and infertile every minute of every day.

So to sum up, thanks for the advice.

Gene Weingarten: Good for you guys. I'm really happy it is working out.


Pat the Perfect, ME: to the Alasker:

Your friend must really have wanted to take you to dinner if he/she could have looked up the answer in any dictionary (alas: Interjection -- an exclamation of sorrow, pity, regret, or worry).

Then again, people seem not to think about dictionaries anymore. The Empress tells me that she'll be rectifying this situation shortly.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Drea, MS: I had an odd thing happen the other night and for some reason you seem to be the right person to talk to about it.

I had a rather disturbing dream in which I stalked and then killed a taxi driver for no apparent reason. The second part of the dream consisted of me waiting for the cops to come get me while a tried to figure out why I did it. The whole thing was so vivid that it took me a few seconds when I woke up to realize it had been just a dream.

So what say you? Is this just the sub-conscious having a little fun with a darker story line? Or do I have some sick psychotic side buried deep down in the brain?

I have to admit, I found the whole thing very disconcerting and (for obvious reasons) haven't wanted to talk about this with anyone. FWIW, I'm 28, have a good job, a great girlfriend, am well-adjusted, and (previously) no violent tendencies.

Gene Weingarten: This is a Camus dream! It's extremely existential. You should be proud.


Chi, Pi: Deep dish pie? Make mine apple. I want to taste my hot dog, make it Sabrett w/mustard.

What do you expect from a town where Pie is pronounced pee-yay.

Gene Weingarten: New York also birthed the best hot dogs on the planet: Nathan's, in Coney Island.


Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking my question about my non-compliment-giving boyfriend. I think it's pretty jerky too. And I think it bodes poorly for him and us. I keep thinking one day he's going to snap out of it though. thanks, though.

Gene Weingarten: That bad thing here is that you have talked it out, and he STILL can't pry a compliment loose.


Baltimore, Md.: Okay, let me be the 20th person who's asked this since Peter Sagal weighed in on the pizza debate, when are you going to appear on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me?"

Gene Weingarten: I'm not. I'm not quick enough. I would not be a good contestant.


Myth busting: We don't actually swallow spiders in our sleep.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Thank you.


Weighing, IN: Gene - Women ought to sleep naked. This is an absolute fact. Lolling about al fresco is an important step for the ladies in becoming comfortable with their bodies, and without it they spiral into addiction to make-up, girdles, empire waists, and eventually a hopeless and pathetic serfdom to the predatory and unscrupulous female insecurity-reinforcement (aka "fashion") industry.

I did all I could to spread this Good News when I was single, but I'm getting married next year, so my pull in the female population is greatly diminished, and I must needs pass the torch, that this vital knowledge shall not perish from the earth.

Gene Weingarten: Very well stated.


Arlington, Va.: According to a news report, Mo Williams of the Milwaukee Bucks has been sidelined by "pubic symphysitis." Can you enlighten us on the nature of this disease and just how prevalent it is?

Gene Weingarten: It's not prevalent. The pubic symphysus is a joint inside the body, above the penis. (I had to look this up.)

The most interesting fact about the pubic symphysis is that it deteriorates at a constant rate through someone's life, and jusding its condition it is a reliable way of placing an age of death on a skeleton.


Too Midweste, RN: Gene,

What is matzoh brei? I am Catholic and from the Midwest. We have the most un-Jewish food ever. If it doesn't involve pork and dairy, we don't make it...

Gene Weingarten: It's Jewish ambrosia, as you will find out tomorrow morning, in the updates.

See you all there, and thanks for a robust chat.


UPDATED 4.23.08

Gene Weingarten: My mother was not a good cook, but she had two dishes she made well: borscht and matzoh brei. We will save borscht for another day, but we are in the Passover season, meaning there is plenty of matzoh to be had, meaning we have to do this.

The thing is, my shiksa wife wound up perfecting matzoh brei so it far surpassed my mom's, which is an unusual feat in most households. When the children were small, they called it "monster pie," which of course is what we foreverafter called it.

Here is The Rib's recipe for Monster Pie, which she adapted from my mother's and Mimi Sheraton's:

8 matzohs

Boiling water

4 extra-large eggs lightly beaten

1 teaspoon of salt or to taste

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup unsalted butter

Cottage cheese and/or powered sugar as an accompaniment

Break matzohs into 1 to 2-inch squares. Place in a sieve or colander in the sink. Quickly pour boiling water over matzohs to wet them but but not make soggy. Drain and put in a bowl with eggs, salt, pepper. Toss lightly with a fork till well coated with egg. Do not stir vigorously. Heat the butter until hot but not brown in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron. Add matzoh mixture and fry over moderate heat. I constantly separate the pieces with a fork in each hand so the pieces do not stick together and each one gets nicely browned on each side. Your aim is a uniform light golden brown. Frying time is about 10 minutes. Serve with cottage cheese on the side and provide some powered sugar for those who may want to sprinkle some on.

Recipe says serves 4 but probably serves more like 2 hungry people.


That's it. I want reports back.

Actually, I should mention one other thing. This is generally served as a breakfast, though it is pretty damn heavy.


Gene Weingarten: Meanwhile, one chatter mentioned Tom Lehrer's song about World War III. Here he is, performing it.


Gene Weingarten: Regarding last week's CLOD in which John Oliver read a list of invented dirty names, several readers pointed out this was a ripoff of an SNL sketch DeNiro did a few years back. It was, and his was even better. A unifying factor in their excellence was how both DeNiro and Oliver remained completely deadpan.

Here it is.


NYT: Hi Gene. I suppose I could ask an expert of political history or of grammar, but I would rather talk to you. I read this sentence in the New York Times Thursday:

This causes Democrats to go into strange contortions. Witness Obama and Clinton at the debate, racing away from gun control as if they were a pair of greyhounds, forswearing middle-class tax cuts as if they were George H.W. Bush.

(article here)

And I was forgiving until I saw that it is still online as of noon on Friday. "Forswear" means give up, right? And Bushes are all about tax cuts, right? How can this not be a typo of some kind?

Gene Weingarten: Not a typo, an illiteracy, from an ordinarily elegant writer! She either meant forswear tax increases, or she thought "forswear" meant "advocate" instead of "renounce."


Burbank, Calif.: I have begun dating a wonderful woman. Yet, as I notice something disturbing. She always speak down to wait servers, complains about what seems to me to be little things, and is always sending food back and demanding changes. Do you think I am correct in deducing this might in fact reflect her real personality and that her dating facade personality only hides what might be the real her?

Gene Weingarten: Oooh. I don't like this. I think it is a bad sign when people treat underlings / servants poorly. I think it is a significant character flaw. Sorry.


Rockville, Md.: What the dog did not bark at?

I thought the best part of your first article was a fair swipe at Keith Olbermann - who deserved it. But he got no mention in the follow up. I don't know what to make of his absence. Or was he just a bit player?

Gene Weingarten: He didn't get a mention for the simple reason that he didn't attack me afterwards.


Catholic Church Scand, AL: Don't know if you regularly tune into "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" but Roy Blount Jr. had about the wittiest prediction this week regarding what President Bush may have given the Pope as a 81st birthday present (it's just after 1:10 in the clip).

I loved the audience's somewhat shocked response. Given the placement of this show on NPR, oh wise one, did Blount go too far? Love to get your reaction.

Gene Weingarten: Wow! See, this is EXACTLY why I could not be a guest on that show. No way do I get anywhere near that level of innuendo, as it were, with 30 seconds to prepare.


UPDATED 4.24.08

Washington, D.C.: Hey Gene - what do you think of this list?

Clearly it was written by a man. Is there anything you'd add?

Gene Weingarten: There's a lot of bilge in here, but much of it is terrific. I'm going to send this to The Gene Pool to troll for reader nominations.

My first thought: Matzoh brei, every morning, the powdered sugar variety. Also, vodka injected directly into the stomach through the abdominal wall, for a better rush.


G'burg, Md.: I have a wind-up watch that's around 25 years old. I don't wear it all the time and I've always thought it would last longer if I didn't wind up it when I'm not wearing it. I read somewhere though that wind-up watches last longer if you keep them wound up and running. As a clock/watch expert, what do you say?

Gene Weingarten: It's true. When a watch stays immobile for long periods of time, the oil dries up and friction increases. Best thing for a watch is frequent use.


Let's be careful out there!: Just a note for anyone dumb enough to actually GO to Nigeria to confront a scammer (from "Wired" Magazine).

"In another iteration, victims are invited to Nigeria to explore business opportunities, then separated -- often violently -- from their money. At least 15 foreigners have been killed in Nigeria after being lured there by con men."


Gene Weingarten: Have you ever wondered precisely what manner of idiot could be enticed by such a scam?

In 1994, I edited an excellent story by Tom Dunkel about a man who was caught in the early, early stages of the Afriscam, before it hit the Web. Back then it was done by snail mail.

Liz, can you find this? February 1994, I believe, headline "Charlie's Hustle." Charlie's Hustle (Feb. 27, 1999)


C'ville: Hi Gene. I wanted to update you on the UPS harassment situation:

I did call UPS to report him and then told my boss. When questioned, the driver confessed freely to harassing me as well as (you called it!) several other women on his route as well. Unfortunately, he is still working my route, but I understand he is going to face some sort of disciplinary action for his behavior. He does have quite a bit of seniority, so I doubt he'll lose his job over this, but I am glad that he's had to own up to his behavior to me and to his superiors.

Thanks for helping me make the call.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent.


Arlington, Va.: I made this joke up this weekend, it has most likely been made before, but here it is:

Did you hear about the man with the small genitals who had a reading problem?

He had lesdyxia.

Gene Weingarten: Not a bad twist on an old joke. Thank you. Classy. Someone alert the Pulitzer committee.


Y, UK: So, you don't approve of Kaki Softo?

How about tomato beer?

Gene Weingarten: Both interesting. I would be way more likely to enjoy Kaki Softo.

Speaking of which, have any of you had those tapioca drinks in Chinatown? One of the more appalling taste sensations EVER.


UPDATED 4.25.08

Gutzon Borglum, S.D.: I prefer your Rushmore to that of the questioner (and, um, Liz -- sorry, Liz!), but really: Steve Martin is NOWHERE on this list? Surely he belongs somewhere around the middle-to-lower-middle part of this list: original, trailblazing, the first comedian-rock star. Please either admit an embarrassing oversight or explain.

Gene Weingarten: I missed Steve, yep. He might be number three!


Re: Date Lab: Gene, if you ran the Date Lab experiment, how would you change things? It feels too objective trying to match up people with similar interests since things always seem to end up in a FUBAR anyway.

Gene Weingarten: I would change nothing about it.


Washington, D.C.: On your argument that the plump British beauty contestant would send the message that it's okay to let yourself go -- how do you reconcile that with the fact that larger women were seen as beautiful at many points before the modern advertising era? (Look at Titian nudes, for instance)

Was that sense of female beauty injurous to our health? (I am 5 5 and a half and 127 lbs, so this is not personal for me.)

Gene Weingarten: This is a really good question for which I do not have a really good answer.

I suspect that in previous era, beauty was linked to prosperity.

I once met a former editor of mine, Steve Landers, several years after we had last seen each other. I had put on some weight. This is how he greeted me: "Hi. You look prosperous."

I thought that was a magnificent euphemism.


Pedophile plays: I saw both Doubt and History Boys in NYC. Both great shows, but only Doubt is about pedophilia. The boys of History Boys are too old, post-pubescant. So while the teacher is still a sicko, he's technically not a pedophile.

Gene Weingarten: True dat. The term for sexual desire of teenagers by an adult is Ephebophilia.


West Coast of Florida: The bikini is obviously yellow with dots of some other color.

If you say someone is wearing a "dark blue pinstripe suit," it certainly doesn't mean the pinstripes are dark blue.

Gene Weingarten: Exactly!


In my mi, nd: I see an album cover of a yellow bikini with black dots (but it might have been the Ventures). The Brian Hyland Web site shows this.

Gene Weingarten: I consider this definitive.


Au contraire: The purple people eater eats purple people -- he says so!

"I said mr Purple People Eater what's your line

He said eating purple people and it sure is fine"

Gene Weingarten: Now, this SOUNDS definitive, but it still raises profound questions, such as:

There are no purple people. What -- has he not starved to death? The only answer seems to be explained by the fact that he is from Outer Space. Meaning that he eats purple people from elsewhere in the galaxy.

But they are not, by definition, humans. Therefore his definition of "people" could apply to anything. They might be alien life forms he calls people... meaning they might be, say, grubs.


Direct all communications to next week's chat.


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