Chatological Humor: Feel the Lightbulb. (UPDATED 5.9.08)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008; 12:00 PM

Special! Submit your questions now for the May 13 Post Hunt chat!


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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: I Lean Democratic | I Lean Republican

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


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

This will be a short, staccato intro, mercifully free of my observations, but filled with a series of excellent links that have been building in my in-basket for weeks.

But first, a dramatic announcement. For the first time in the illustrious history of Chatological Humor, next week's chat will be themed. It will be entirely devoted to The Post Hunt, an event that will be taking place on the streets of Washington the following Sunday -- May 18. In an experiment that may or may not work, the chat will be hosted, simultaneously from three different locations, by the three creators of the Hunt ¿- Dave Barry, Tom Shroder, and me.

To know what The Hunt is, and to decide whether you might want to participate, visit and click on the Hunt icon. (Unless you are early to this page, you might want to do this after the chat. It's a complex site. I'll say more about this during the updates this week.)


My experiment with Joshua Bell drew many imitators. One of the more interesting ones took place recently in Antwerp, where a Web site persuaded the acclaimed painter Luc Tuymans to draw a mural on a public street, and then record who noticed it over a 24-hour period. Here it is.

(My advice is to scroll past the first half of the film, which is an endless, stultifying effort to establish that Tuymans is well respected. It starts getting good when he begins to paint. You should only need to watch about three minutes of this.)


Danny Jacobs provides a link to this story, which contains one of the best aptonyms received here in years. Check out the name of the chief arborist for the city of Boston. (It's not far from the top of the story.)


Molly Weingarten of Ithaca, N.Y. sent in this unusual story, which is interesting on its own, but becomes downright surreal with the rather oddly gratuitous final line.


Meanwhile, Amy Hahn discovered an obit in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting on the sudden death by heart attack of an area man. With a pretty unfortunate choice of words, the obit noted that Mr. Robert Mientus was "a diehard runner." The story tactfully did not say whether he was jogging at the time he collapsed.


A few weeks ago, I began what I hoped would be a regular or semi-regular Chatological Humor riddle/puzzle/challenge. I sort of forgot about it, but Jennifer Hart reminded me, and supplied one she found. It's really good. Please don't hazard a guess if you know the answer, or if you search and find it on the Web:

You are in an old house. On the wall on the bottom of the stairs are three light switches, all set to "off." You know that two of these switches are dummies, controlling nothing. The other one is real, and it controls a desk lamp in a room up the stairs and around the corner. The room cannot be seen from below, nor can any light coming from it.

Your challenge is to find out which switch controls the desk lamp. The catch is you may only ascend the stairs once. You have no confederates. How do you do this?


The clip of the day is this one. I found it by accident. It is why I love dogs. You may have to watch it twice to realize exactly what happened.


Please take today's poll (I Lean Democratic | I Lean Republican). We're going to discuss it during the chat. One observation: We love our Levis, don't we?


A great comics week. The Comic Pick of the Week is a combo entry: Wednesday and Thursday's Candorville. First Runner up is Wednesday's Nonseq. Honorables: Wednesday's Sally Forth, Friday's Speed Bump, Friday's Brevity, Saturday's Brewster Rockit, Saturday's Single and Looking, and Saturday's Sherman's Lagoon.

Okay, let's go.


Orthography pl, U.S.: PurveyOr, purveyOr, purveyOr!

I didn't have to go back and reread, that egregious misspelling exuded wrongness like a bleeding sore. You might as well have put it in italics, or bold, or bold italics.

I love Ms. Ovil-Brenner, and I can tell you did, too. And she's right. Spellcheck and calculators are turning our youth into a bunch of helpless electrophiles. Woe the day when electricity is no longer available!

I can speak with authority, you see, as I have no children. Would you like my opinion on child-rearing techniques? Below the Beltway, (Post Magazine, May 4)

Gene Weingarten: Ms. Ovil-Brenner was brilliant.

I received about 250 emails from readers proud to have discovered "purveyer." But many sheepishly pointed out that to do so, they had to cut and paste the column into Word, and then use spellcheck.


I got a little confused on #3: Well, the first two were easy: the fundamentalist Christian, and the Muslim war hero. Neither could possibly survive two years of ridicule from anti-religious zealots like you and your buddies in the mainstream media (which, of course, may not exist by 2012).

Number 4 was easy. Who cares what you're wearing when you can start the meal with a cold Shiner Bock and end it with a Jameson's and coffee?

But the third one was tricky. Hell, we may not have to wait for 2012--there may be a "hideously ugly closeted lesbian" elected -this- year.

Gene Weingarten: I see.

Boy, do you sound like someone I wouldn't like. I don't mean someone whose views I would disagree with, I mean someone I wouldn't like. FWIW.


Silver Spring, Md.: The last question was very easy for me - I've never worn denim jeans and don't plan to. I don't know why, but I have never had the desire to own a pair. I have a denim jacket and skirts, but not jeans.

Gene Weingarten: The answer was very easy for me, too. The carbonated beverages. I think this was a pretty successful poll. Judging from the posts I am reading, people were very sure of themselves about their answers, but people were sure of very different things.

I'd also give up coffee and tea -- a significant give-up -- before I'd surrender my jeans. They're my life uniform.


McLean, Va.: If two of the light switches are dummies, it does not matter which position they are in. Flip all switches into the on position, and you can be assured that the desk light will be on.

If you want to know which switches are dummies, get out your trusty screwdriver, take off the switchplates, and see which switches are connected. If all switches are connected, use a test light.

Of course if you have an assistant, aka, a go-fer, aka, a wife, have her go upstairs, in sight of the desk lamp, and flip each switch in turn. Have her call down when the desk lamp goes on. This is the time-honored way of determining whether a circuit is "on."

Gene Weingarten: This is the funniest of the wrong answers I have received. This is clearly written by an American Guy.


Your Quiz Questi, ON: "...find out which switch controls the desk lamp. The catch is you may only ascend the stairs once... How do you do this? "

Five possibilities:

You could ascend the stairs once with an extension cord and use it to bring the lamp back down the stairs with you.

You could ascend the stairs once with a radio and plug it in in place of the lamp.

You could unscrew the wall plate(s) covering the switches and touch the contacts with the screwdriver (this was my dad's favourite way of ensuring the circuit would still be 'hot' when he finished his repairs).

You could unscrew the wall plate(s) covering the switches and touch the contacts with the leads of an ammeter to see which one is live.

Listen, all that's in that room upstairs anyway is that portrait of you that seems to get more and more hideous every year. I don't know why you even want to look at it. It's best to keep the room locked and leave it alone. No good could possibly come from answering your riddle.

Gene Weingarten: This is the second funniest. Good Lord, people.


Alexandria, VA: My solution on finding the right switch:

Go up the stairs, and short circuit the lamp (or it's outlet) by jamming a paper clip/coin/wire in the appropriate place.

Go back down stairs and flip the switches one at a time.

If you're allowed to go down into the basement to check on the fuse box, do so after flipping each switch to see when/if a fuse gets blown. If not, then listen for the fuse blowing... that kind of thing is usually audible.

Alternatively, you can short circuit the lamp/outlet with a piece of solder, which will vaporize and make a loud bang when you flip the right switch.

And the possibility of burning down your old house adds an element of, um,... fun to this solution.

Gene Weingarten: Only guys submit answers like this. Okay, I am about to submit the correct answer by the first person who got it.


Vienna, Va: That's a good riddle. Never heard it before, hazarding a guess:

You turn on two of the switches. Wait a while. Then turn one off. Go upstairs. If the light is on, you know which switch is connected to it. If the light is off, touch the lightbulb. If it's hot, it's the switch that was on for a while but is now off. If the light's off and the bulb is hot, you know it's the third switch.

Gene Weingarten: This is right.


Alexandria, Va.: I stopped wearing jeans about 10 years ago (I'm 50 now). Khakis are more comfortable, as are corduroys when it's colder. I suppose you go for pleats, too?

Gene Weingarten: And spats, for those formal occasions?


Post Hunt, Access Denied!: Gene--you may be interested to know that Fed. Gov't computers block the Post Hunt web page as "advertising." I believe this deserves a particularly outraged "Noted" from you.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Richmond, Va.: I cannot possibly be the first person to send this to you.

I love that this story is totally real, scientifically relevant and has solemn black and white pictures.

The Onion couldn't have done better.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.


Being poll-emic: Just a clarification: My answers (as a Republican-leaner) were not how I would vote, but how I believe the entire U.S. electorate would vote. I would have voted for a fat bi-sexual ugly transvestite if s/he were the best candidate most likely to keep the central government role smaller and let the states go about their business.

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. That is how I wanted you to vote: The way you believed the majority would vote, or not vote.


Washington, D.C.: Observation: I have a six-month-old son. Approximately 85 percent of his clothes have pockets.

Gene Weingarten: I am a 56-year-old man. Approximately 100 percent of my clothes have pockets. What is your point?

Gene Weingarten: Ah, after writing the previous, I have been informed by Liz, an actual woman, that the poster's point, which would be clear to any actual woman, is that no six month old needs pockets. Good observation.


Convicted Fel, ON: "At the age of 19, I robbed a liquor store at gunpoint. It was the biggest mistake I ever made and I have spent the rest of my life atoning for this terrible thing."

If he'd been convicted, wouldn't armed robbery be a felony offense, and therefore disqualify the contender from consideration?

And if he hadn't, wouldn't such a confession be grounds to open an investigation and charge Sen. Burgle?

Gene Weingarten: He hadn't been convicted, he was admitting it for the first time cause he knew it would come out. And the statute of limitations for armed robbery had LONG expired.


Comi, KS: The current Doonsbury replacement strip, despite the fact that I can't remember its name, has been pretty good. I thought this week's strip was hillarious -- but I'm 39 and I'm barely barely old enough to remember the "Hey, Kool-aid!" ad campaign. Was there a later resurgeance that I missed out on? Or does nobody under 35 stand a prayer of understanding that joke? Seems like the punch line--so to speak--would have worked a lot better in 1978 than 2008.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I barely remembered it. I like this strip, though it is one of the more blatant Far Side ripoffs around.


Falls Church, Va.: Gene ¿

I need some parenting advice. What would you do if your 10-year-old son discovered porn on the Internet? And I'm not talking about topless shots or still photos. My son has been looking at a site that is similar to youtube where anyone can post anything they like. Some of the stuff is low quality, home made and blurry while other offerings are very graphic, well lit and professionally shot. I'm not sure what he's seen or how long this has been going on, but I think it's fairly recent.

I'm not hung up on nudity or anything like that, but some (most) of this stuff way too intense for most adults I know, let alone a kid. How should I broach this subject without stigmatizing or embarrassing him but while letting him know what is appropriate and normal for kids/teens/adults, etc?


Gene Weingarten: Ten is too young to see sex presented in this crude way. You're right to be troubled. I think you need to gently talk to him, not all freaked, kinda funny, and say you realized he "stumbled" on this stuff by accident (whether he did or not; I'm guessing not), tell him that it's really crude and stupid and ask him if he was bothered by it at all. He may or may not talk want to talk about it, but if he does, you're there.

Most important, get some parental controls on your browser. They're easy to obtain. So it doesn't happen again.

Having said all that, I think most of the readers know that I've never done much filtering of what my kids saw or heard. (The difference is that my kids grew up in the 80s and 90s and the Web was not yet a potential monster. It was movies that were concern to most parents.)

I do have an anecdote that I may not have told before about all this, one that persuaded me that people may be overprotective of their less-naive-than-they-thought kids.

Shortly after "Pulp Fiction" came out in VCR the rib and I rented it. (So this would have been 1995 or 96. Molly would have late 14 or early 15.) One Sunday morning I realized that Molly must have watched the movie the night before after we were in bed. This was not prohibited; she had free access to movies, and had violated no house rules. But I also realized that this was really not a movie appropriate for a kid her age. So, somewhat guilty, I sat her down and asked if she'd liked it. She had. Then I asked her if there was anything about it that she'd found troubling.

She said: "You mean the buttf--- scene?"

So I figured things were fine.


Montgomery County, Md.: This is a little long, but I need to write you because you are both a baseball fan, and a non-jingoistic patriot.

I attended the Nationals-Cubs baseball game on April 27. When the bottom of the 7th inning arrived, and people stood for the 7th inning stretch, I remained seated, because I'm a Cubs fan. That's how I thought 7th inning stretches worked -- you stood for the 1/2 inning of the team you support. This can be fun, and lead to friendly trash-talking. And everyone knows how fun the 7th inning stretch is at Wrigley Field.

But at the Nationals game, the same quartet that sang the National Anthem came back onto the field to sing God Bless America. God Bless America as the 7th inning stretch song? So everyone is kinda sorta compelled to stand? What the hell?

Then it got worse. After the song ended, the stadium announcer said: "the 7th inning stretch was brought to you by ExxonMobil." And "ExxonMobil" appeared on all the scoreboards. I kid you not.

So the Nationals apparently think it's okay to merge baseball, patriotism, and the world's larest oil company (i.e. largest company, period). As a 7th inning stretch event.

The poll question for you:

What does this demonstrate the MOST:

1. The Nationals are doomed to fail, because they cannot even make the 7th inning stretch fun.

2. The 7th inning is one apple pie short of George Will's vision of heaven.

3. Eventually, ExxonMobile will be the only official sponsor of every neighborhood Juky 4th barbeque.

4. The Iraq war was waged to preserve baseball.

Gene Weingarten: First, I've never heard anyone give your interpretation of the seventh-inning stretch before. I don't believe it's partisan.

The "God Bless America" thing started after 9/11, to the best of my recollection. I think if I were attending a baseball game in, say, Japan and there were, essentially, not one but two national anthems, I would find it a little disturbingly nationalistic, so I guess I don't like it much. But I really never thought about it until you brought it up.

As to the corporate sponsorship of the seventh inning stretch or the "Sprint call to the bullpen" I find these things appalling. Years ago I used to make fun of Nascar, where ever free inch of a car's surface was plastered with corporate logos. Now it's everywhere. (Hey, there will be corporate sponsors of The Post Hunt, and their logos will be visible.)

I hate the trend. My biggest fear in these regards is that the new Yankee Stadium will be the ExxonMobil Yankee Stadium. I don't think the team will sell out like that, but they might, and that will be the end of all pretense. If the Yankees cannot hold on to their brand out of sheer pride, no one can.


A Loving Appreciation: Can we please have a moment of silence for perhaps one of the most politically and socially relevant aptonyms ever: Mildred Loving, whose case with her husband went to the supreme court to overturn interraccial marriage bans.

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely. A terrific aptonym.

How amazing is it that in Virginia in 1967, it was still illegal for a white person to marry a black person?


Abducted by Aliens?: Gene. You, too, can prevent alien abduction.

Just trying to help. I'm very thoughtful that way.

Gene Weingarten: Oddly enough, next week's column is on this very topic. Not the helmets, but the topic.


Washington, D.C.: Great video! But as a dog lover, it's kind of hard to find humor in greyhound racing, isn't it?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I know. Molly saw it and her reaction was the dog was probably beaten to death after the race.

It's a little blurry, but I'm not sure those are greyhounds. The builds on these dogs seem wrong.

I just love that the cheater is so happy at the end. "I won! I won!" And he did that after almost dying in a collision.


Molly's link: Molly's nail gun story is good, but did you see what topped the "most popular" story list on the same page?

Gene Weingarten: Wow!


Hopes,MA: Gene, I have a very important question for you, after a recent article in the Post I'm a little concerned--what do you think about people who have three children?

I ask because I also need to ask for advice again on baby names. That's right, Baby Hope is going to have a baby brother or sister, and now we're REALLY out of ideas for girls names! (still have the boy name all picked out though).

For additional humor value, the baby is due the day after Thanksgiving.

Oh, one last thing, we are about to be completely outnumbered....AAAIGH!

Gene Weingarten: Molly if it is a girl, Daniel if it is a boy. These are great names.


Post Haunt: I just hope the chat is better than the video you did with Dave Barry and T the B. That was the worst video on ever. It was awkward, stiff and dull. You guys looked like you were being interviewed by a naked Ben Bradlee.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


10 year old and porn: There was a recent column and related chat about talking to your kids and sex. Maybe Liz can find it and link for the previous poster? I liked it, and think it would be helpful. It also talked about good books about sex for younger kids. Maybe you can find it, bossy.

Gene Weingarten: Liz asserts herself.


Ugh, Md.: I can't believe people are choosing religion and sexuality as eliminating factors in a presidential race over someone who has committed a felony. Sex and religion are not crimes, people. Armed robbery is. How could anyone trust someone who had such poor judgment in such a position of authority as president, regardless of the circumstances of the crime? It's sort of like the snake parable: You knew what I was when you picked me up.

Gene Weingarten: I agree with the majority who feel this would be the least serious hurdle. Here's why:

Viable candidates for president don't just spring up out of nowhere. This person would have risen to high public office, meaning that he would have long since inoculated himself against this part of his history. Maybe he came from a lousy neighborhood, hung with a scary crowd, and later became a community activist to help troubled youths like he had been?

You know? Spent the next 30 years in dignified public service. That youthful mistake not only wouldn't hurt him at 50, it might well help him.

You're wrong about this, and the majority is right.


Baltimore, Md.: Ok, I hate to tell you, Gene, but the radio answer is absolutely right, too (the others will work but are very tech-y, but the radio is one anyone can do). Go upstairs, plug in a radio, make sure the radio and upstairs switch are on. Go downstairs, flip the switches one at a time. When you hear the radio, you've ID'd the switch -- and you only had to make one trip upstairs to do so.

So, Gene, tell me why this is wrong? It's not as cutesy as your preferred "right" answer, but it's unequivocally, 100% right -- it's actually the way my husband checks to ensure the power is truly out before he starts messing around with any switch plate.

This is just like my daughter's English teacher. She marked several of my daughter's answers wrong because my girl didn't pick the precise pronouns the teacher wanted to see -- even though those she picked were absolutely grammatically correct. Grrr.

Gene Weingarten: Well, there is nothing wrong with it, except you have introduced a Deus Ex Machina element into a simple logic test. You are not GIVEN a radio, and the presumption is you don't have one.

That answer is just as silly as the one where you unscrew the switchplate and look at the wiring!


Rockville, Md.: Virginia?

Even now, if I were to live in Virginia and kiss my wife in the "wrong place" I could go to jail.

I will never live there again.

Gene Weingarten: Really???? You're kidding. Is this person kidding?


Celebr it all -- Oh, Gee!: Scarlett Johansson is engaged. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT! Her boyfriend must have realized what a hot property he had and acted to seal the deal.

Think they'll make it to the clerk's office at lunch this week?

Gene Weingarten: It's possible he saw this picture, which I am linking to because the news compels me to.


Third k, ID: "what do you think about people who have three children?... Oh, one last thing, we are about to be completely outnumbered...."

I've heard it said that the third child is a challenge because you have to switch from a man-to-man into a zone defense.

Gene Weingarten: I like that observation!


New York, N.Y.: You've been talking about women's clothing and the nice terms they use for larger sizes. You say men would never do that. That used to be true, but is not anymore.

I remember Portly suits. My dad is quite portly. I went with him to help him pick out suits last week -- there is no more Portly at Men's Warehouse (a pretty large chain) they now call them EXECUTIVE. You need to get to the bottom of this change!

Gene Weingarten: Ooooh. I will! "Executive" is disgusting!


Palo Alto, Calif.: Were you a part of the magic that was the Tupperware song? I saw Dave Barry speak last night. Dave, his brother, and one other family member whose name I didn't catch led a thousand Stanford students in an a capella rendition after the talk.

I thought you might want to know.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I played harmonica on the VERY FIRST performance of the Tupperware Song before a live audience. It was an audience of Tupperware salesmen and executives in Orlando, Fla.

We were such a smash hit that they flew us out to Honolulu for their national convention.

Dave has told me that one of his favorite columns of all time was the one he wrote about the original Tupperware performance in Orlando. Chatwoman, can you find it? But of course: Bang the Tupperware Slowly, (Feb. 15, 1987)

Gene Weingarten: And the "Tom" in there is Tom the Butcher. This is a world-class column.


Armed Robbery (poll): I kinda view it as that no one really seems to have had a beef with Obama doing coke, or whatever. Armed robbery isn't that far off from coke, at least in my book.

Gene Weingarten: I just can't let this one stand.


How can anyone equate these two things? One is morally bankrupt, and one is not.


Speaking of talking to kids about sex...: Did you read the magazine cover story about moms trying to figure out how much of their wild youth to share with the kiddies?

How much did you and the Rib tell Molly and Dan, and at what ages?

Gene Weingarten: Molly and Dan know pretty much everything, and have known pretty much everything since their teens. In our case, this was mostly about very heavy prior drug use by me. Neither Rib nor I had wild sexual histories to report.


Pocketa-pocketa-pocketa...: What you fail to appreciate is that pockets on baby clothes are there strictly for the cuteness factor. You can add all sorts of detail (embroidery etc.) to those cute little patch things. They are not intended for utility. That said, that was a very funny post.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


History Boys: Hi Gene, Just a request to be careful when throwing around terms like "homosexual pedophilia" and "ephebophile." Homosexuality and pedophilia, as I know you know, are two completely different things and have no connection to one another, except in the minds of anti-gay nuts. But the lie is out there, and has done gay people a lot of harm, from the Anita Bryant "Save Our Children" campaign to the Boy Scout's ban on gay members to coded language about "indoctrinating" children from so-called "pro-family" groups. So it's worth being careful not to accidentally perpetuate it with sloppy use of language.

I'm not certain of exactly how the British system works, but my impression was that the post "high school" (or whatever the equivalent is) students in The History Boys were at least 17 or 18. I'm not sure you'd refer to a 50-ish straight man leering at high school cheerleaders an ephebophile. "Dirty old man," probably, but that suggests someone slightly creepy, not someone with a clinical psychological problem. All those Miss America contestants and Playboy bunnies are hovering around the end of their adolescence, not to mention most porn models, which pretty much makes all straight men who are turned on by them "ephebophiles." Also, the age of consent in Britain, as in a majority of US states, is 16, so if a teacher were to have sex with one of his students, it would be unethical, but probably not illegal. I'm not saying an old guy groping a teenager isn't creepy. I'm just saying it's no more creepy coming from a gay man than from a straight man (or woman).

Gene Weingarten: I don't disagree with any of this, except I believe that "ephebophilia" fits the description of what the prof in The History Boys was doing. Ephebophilia is defined as sexual attraction to "adolescents." Adolescents are defined as persons who have passed puberty but not yet reached adulthood. A synonym is: teenagers.

The students in The History Boys were high school seniors and so ranged from 16 to early 18. The teacher who groped them, by definition, was an ephebophile, though, interestingly, he would not grope the 16 year old. He had a sense of honor, within his dishonor! His actions were a betrayal of his responsibilities as a teacher and mentor. He was creepy; whether he was a "pervert" is a matter of debate.


Virgin, IA: Nope, don't think he's kidding. Oral stimulation is considered sodomy in the Old Dominion.

Interested perspective on Loving: When Obama's parents were married, their relationship was illegal in 17 states.

Gene Weingarten: Can we have a second confirmation of this? That in Virginia, oral sex is illegal?


Takoma, Washington, D.C.: You know the main thing I think when reading that Dave Barry column about Tupperware? Other than "Wow, Dave Barry is funny?" Dave Barry is so much funnier than you. I enjoy your columns and all, but they rarely if ever make me snort.

Gene Weingarten: Noted. For the record, I have never claimed otherwise.


Pockets and Interracial marriage: Two subjects very close to my heart. In addition to the entirely unnecessary pockets on clothing for infant boys, you can also observe that baby girls are not offered nearly as many pockets. This is merely the beginning of the lifelong denial of pockets to women. Extremely irritating, and perhaps even oppressive, forcing even the least fussy of us to carry a purse or have long, frustrating searches for suits with real pockets.

Secondly, the marriage thing. I'm sure all the gay people reading this chat can easily believe that racial bigotry was still legally attached to marriage in 1967. I'd like to note though that interracial marriage is becoming comfortably common. This past weekend, I saw four black woman-white man couples in one place, which I never thought I'd see. We seem to be the least common (most exclusive!) pairing around, and it's exciting to be so normal that no one stares! (Although I guess the real rarity is black woman- non-black man. I still don't see many black women with Asians.) The patron saint of our love, Bob Dylan, must be pleased.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Va. sodomy law: Was overturned in 2005. We're free and clear!

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


New York, N.Y.: Gene-

Is there any rational argument for NOT abolishing horse racing?

I love watching racing and betting on horses. I always bet on the triple crown and the Breeders' Cup. That said, if it were put to a vote, I'd vote to ban it ten times out of ten. It's brutal and if NBC had any integrity they would have broadcast that horse being killed on the track on Saturday.

What does your PETA friend say about it?

Gene Weingarten: Oh, Bruce Friedrich despises horse racing.

So does my good friend Caitlin Gibson. Read today's Achenblog. Achenblog: Horses, Races and Horseraces


A man who had an affair with a younger woman and left his wife and teenage children five years prior to the election.: that's Rudy G.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, and I think it was a heavy contributor to his defeat. He was perceived as a cold-hearted bastard. I think people who felt it would be the least of the burdens were wrong.


Obama v. Clinton: Gene,

As a McCainiac, I have no dog in the race, but if the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton ahead of Barack Obama, they will regret it the rest of their lives.

Gene Weingarten: Well, they'll certainly regret it on election day. Some people have compared Obama to McGovern, but that's not apt. Clinton is the McGovern candidate, IMHO. Democrats are fine with her, at least in the majority. Republicans and independents and even Democrats with a core distaste for her will KILL her in the general. I am convinced of this.


Old Virginny: From the Code of Virginia:

§ 18.2-361. Crimes against nature; penalty.

A. If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony, except as provided in subsection B.

B. Any person who performs or causes to be performed cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus or anal intercourse upon or by his daughter or granddaughter, son or grandson, brother or sister, or father or mother is guilty of a Class 5 felony. However, if a parent or grandparent commits any such act with his child or grandchild and such child or grandchild is at least 13 but less than 18 years of age at the time of the offense, such parent or grandparent is guilty of a Class 3 felony.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Okay, but apparently this was all obviated by a recent Supreme Court decision. I need to hear from a constitutional scholar.

Virginia sucks. As it were.


Nats Park, DC: A couple of baseball things:

You don't sit for the 7th inning stretch if you're not a home team fan. It's take me out to the ballgame. Yell Cubbies if it makes you feel better.

God Bless America - totally over the top, yes, but only on Sundays and in every major league ballpark. The Nats added it for military appreciation night, which I found fitting.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, thanks.


I Blame Nancy Reagan: Just say no! Drugs are evil! Sigh. A whole generation was peppered with ads equating drugs as really bad, so armed robbery=drug use.

Gene Weingarten: It's pretty amazing, isn't it?


Fairfax, Va.: I came home yesterday to find that my kids had already cut out the Hints from Heloise I was going to point out to them...

"Dear Heloise:

"My daughter's two cats somehow manage to get fur on my lampshades. I had the brainstorm yesterday to use a lint brush to remove the fur. It worked wonderfully!

"Meredith, Springfield"

Another favorite in my family is the one that shared, "I like to keep a Rolodex next to my computer to keep my email addresses handy." (Although Heloise likely edited Rolodex to something generic like' a circular address-card holder.')

In your opinion, what is the stupidest realHint from Heloise you've ever come across?

Gene Weingarten: That lint brush is pretty good!


Alexandria: You may have seen that the D.C. Madam, Deborah Palfrey, said to a writer, at least three times, that she would commit suicide before going to jail again. Sadly, she did so. Should that writer have told someone of Ms. Palfrey's statements? Should the writer have encouraged Ms. Palfrey not to do so? This chat was discussing the question hypothetically recently; now life is imitating chats, once again.

Gene Weingarten: This is a tough one. I can't call it from a distance, because I don't know exactly what she told the writer, under what circumstances, and under what preconditions.

I think if she had confided that in me, I would have made every effort possible to get her to let me write that she said that. Because then it would give notice to everyone around her who needed toknow.


Beauty: Weingarten:"I suspect that in previous era, beauty was linked to prosperity."

Still is. Overweight is significantly tied to income in the U.S. Access to (healthy) food, healthcare, and exercise (parks, gyms, etc) all play a big role in this. This is so much more complex than thin=healthy=beauty.

Gene Weingarten: Right. Scarlett O'Hara feared working outside because it might give her a tan, and a tan indicated a poorer-class person who had to work in the fields.

March forward 50 years. Women in early 20th century NY wanted tans because it would be proof that they did not spend their days consigned to work in factories.

(Gina made this point in "I'm With Stupid."


Ugly Results: The poll results so far are completely wrong on the ugly woman scenario. An ugly woman is MORE likely to get elected than an attractive woman.

The ugly woman is non-threatening to other woman, and her lack of sex appeal would lead men to believe that she is competent.

Personally, I think atheism is more politically damning than bisexuality, but it'd be close!

Gene Weingarten: This is absolutely correct and the single most puzzling result so far, to me. I put that the ugly woman had the best chance of all of those.

She didn't just arrive on the scene, ugly woman wanting to be president. She was a governor, or a senator. She has had years to learn how to make her (lack of) looks an asset. She is pure competence. She probably jokes, occasionally, about her looks. She would do fine. You're all wrong, except this poster.


One of 919, and No I Am Not A Borg: I thought you had some doppelgangers out there.

According to this, you're your own Googlenope.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is an interesting site, but it is wrong.

I did a column a few years ago about another Gene Weingarten. Liz, can you find it? He was a mayor. That's the best I can give you. Oh, wait. No, also "Garfield" was in the column. and I think "Arbuckle." Below the Beltway, (March 16, 2003)


Philadelphia, Pa.: Seriously, I have the opposite problem. How will I explain to my children that I was a studious nerd who never had sex and drugs in college?

Gene Weingarten: You need to make up a cool history. It should involve knife-fights in bars.


Portland, OR: Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas sodomy law, only applied to laws that discriminated between homosexual and heterosexual sodomy. Since the VA law is facially neutral, it is still constitutional.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, man. You know, I may have to write a column about this. This is pretty great.


Seattle: Hey, Gene... I thought heroin was supposed to make you skinny. What went wrong?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

It did.

I still carry around my draft card from 1969. This was prime heroin year. It lists my height as 5 foot ten, my eyes as brown, my hair as brown, and my weight as ... 145.


Greyhound racing: for anyone who believes dogs or horses run because the "love to run" I offer this anecdote. A friend had several rescued greyhounds and I asked him if they needed a lot of exercise. His response; "the last thing these dogs want to do is run."

Gene Weingarten: Yep. They are couch tubers. But in the Old Dogs book, there is one profile of a retired greyhound who never runs except when it is time to go to bed. He and his owner race up the stairs and the first to touch the bed is the winner. When Indy wins, he struts. It's adorable.


Jeans: Speaking of jeans, I would just like to say, as the shallowest of men, that some women are under the impression that "skinny jeans" make you skinny. Could you pass the word along that skinny jeans are, in fact, intended for thin/skinny women. With all the discussions on weight we've had on this chat, we've never talked about how weight-challenged people often practice the self-defeating act of wearing clothes that are WAY too small. And it seems to be getting more common these days.

Gene Weingarten: Well, my bugaboo is midriff-exposing shirts. No one looks good in them. Flat bellied women don't look good in them, and anyone else looks truly bad in them. Why do women WEAR them?


Virginia sodomy law: That was an incest law. Read it again.

Lawrence v. Texas is the Supreme Court decision, which anyone who was prosecuted under any Virginia sodomy law (between consenting adults) could probably cite to get the Virginia law overturned. But no one gets prosecuted, so there's no test case.

Gene Weingarten: But wait. The first part of that wasn't incest, was it?


Ashburn, Va.: Gene, you've mentioned "racist" dogs before -- the condition seems to be a side effect of racist owners. Is there any way to "cure" this? (This may be more of a question for Molly.) My dogs previous owners were very racist (I know, they were my parents). Luckily, I am not (I know, I took the Post bias-test years ago). However, my dogs still are. I am frightfully embarrassed every time we walk by a black person, a Hispanic person, or some similar skin tone. Can this be fixed?

Gene Weingarten: It's self-fulfilling, unfortunately. Every time you walk past a person of color, you are going to tense a little, for fear of what the dog will do, and that will reinforce the dog's feeling that one is to get tense and protective around people of color.

I am pretty sure I know what my erstwhile Murphydogtrainer, Victoria Schade, would say: Take along treats and when black people pass distract the dog with kind words and a little treat. In time, he will associate those moments with happy things, not tension.


Denim Jeans?: Why are people so reluctant to give up denim jeans??

Gene Weingarten: Because they're great. Because they are always in style, and always look good, and look good even when they are old. Because they are cheap but sturdy. Because they are RIVETED. How cool is that? Because they are the best article of clothing ever invented.


Electability: Gene: Republicans and independents and even Democrats with a core distaste for her will KILL her in the general. I am convinced of this.

Really? You don't think Democrats and independents aren't going to pay more attention to the pandering that McCain has been doing? Not to mention all of the verbal mis-steps that the Democratic primary has kept out of the full media glare.

His comment about needing more Supreme Court justices like Alito and Roberts is more than enough to send this independent running straight to the Democratic ticket, regardless of who is on it. Couple his advanced age with a likely young, spry conservative as a Veep and that says 8-12 more years for a current liberal justice to die.

Gene Weingarten: No. Nothing will overcome the fact that Lots of People Just Don't Like Hillary. And those people cross party lines. I don't know any liberals who detest Obama, even among Hillary supporters. I know lots of liberals who detest Clinton.

(I don't, by the way. I am not expressing personal preference. I am talking pragmatism.)


Washington, DC: Other Va crimes include these (I especially like the second one's title):

§ 18.2-344. Fornication.

Any person, not being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any other person, shall be guilty of fornication, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

(Code 1950, §§ 18.1-188, 18.1-190; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)

§ 18.2-345. Lewd and lascivious cohabitation.

If any persons, not married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or, whether married or not, be guilty of open and gross lewdness and lasciviousness, each of them shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor; and upon a repetition of the offense, and conviction thereof, each of them shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(Code 1950, § 18.1-193; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Arlington, Va. : My younger brother is about Molly's age and he saw Pulp Fiction in the theater with our uncle and cousin. He was intrigued by the concept of pawn shops and asked my mom to take him to the local pawn shops, which she did. A month or so later the rest of the family saw Pulp Fiction and it was a few days later when we realized how insane it was that this particular movie made my brother want to go to pawn shops.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha. I love that.


The Four To, PS: OK, how about the Mount Rushmore of cartoonists?

I think Walt Kelly and Charles Schultz have to be there, but then it gets harder. I have to go with Watterson next, but then that last spot is very, very tough -- my list of possibles includes Feiffer, Trudeau, Breathed, Larson, Hollander, Adams, and MacGruder, all of whom were groundbreaking in different ways.

Who goes on your mountain?

Gene Weingarten: I take Schulz off the list and put Larson and Trudeau up there, but you won't get that many to agree. I don't think you can take Kelly off the list, but both Larson and Trudeau belong there. I am in the minority in my views on Schulz.


History Boys: My impression as to why the teacher would not grope the 16 year old is that the youth was the only obviously gay one in the bunch and seemed least likely to object. In an early scene (I'm talking about the movie -- seeing the play in a couple weeks), when they're debating who has to take one for the team and accept the offer of a ride home, the gay boy volunteers, and the teacher's response is basically, "oh, well, nevermind." Perhaps he used this as a deliberate check on himself; He'd never really go too far with the boys because the boys, who basically tolerated his attentions, wouldn't let him.

Nicknamed Hector, the teacher was in some ways modeling the ancient Greek tradition of pederasty, in which a man takes a youth as his lover and student. He says at one point, "The transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act." The essential tension in the story is between his view of learning as an organic, sensual, deeply human experience versus the young (gay but celibate) teacher's treatment of it as something superficial and facile.

In the movie, the most moving scene is a moment when the gay kid and Hector are dissecting a poem, and Hector uses it to talk about a feeling of loneliness and isolation. The gay kid, subtly, reaches out his hand, as if to take Hector's and say "I feel that too." Hector doesn't reciprocate.

Gene Weingarten: Boy, if this is original criticism, this is spot on. I mean, it's spot on even if it isn't original.


Virginia Legal: As a member of the Virginia State Bar, I would just like to point out that oral sex is illegal while marrying one's first cousin is perfectly legal. Go Virginia!

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. This is so great.


McCain: What do you make of the "McCain can't be President since he was born in the Panama Canal" argument? Sorry, not IN the canal, but on non-U.S. soil.

Gene Weingarten: It's nonsense. It WAS U.S. soil, same as if he had been born in U.S. Embassy in another country. That's not how I want to beat McCain.


Demin jeans: You left out the (guy's) most important answer to the question of why no one wants to give up jeans: Because even when you've worn them for days on end, and they are so gross they can stand up on their own, they still don't really look dirty.

They are the ultimate in Guy Wear. Clothes that can be picked up off the floor and still look okay.

Gene Weingarten: Very very true.


Savannah, Ga.: Why are Republicans so convinced (46 percent, at the moment) that a statement conveying Fundamentalist Christian theory is a presidential deal-breaker? Bush has expressed some of the ideas in it, and that's practically a quote from Huckabee, who made a pretty decent showing in the primary.

Is this geographical? 'Cause Savannah is pretty liberal (for GA), but that would still be the least problematic of the four (followed closely by the store-robbery).

Is it that different in the DC area?

Gene Weingarten: Here's why: Because each side feels ganged up upon by the idiots from the other side.

Conservatives, I am sure, don't AGREE with that fundamentalist claptrap, but they do feel beset by a feeling there is kneejerk prejudice against the religious.

We are having the opposite result happening with the Democrats.

I think I've got this called right here.


Serious medical question: So my brother partially amputated his big toe a week ago with a lawnmower. He cut through the outside of the toe, through the bone, and almost to the second toe. They were able to reattach it and put in a temporary pin that sticks out of the end of his toe about an inch. It looks like he's going to keep the toe and recover, which brings me to my question. What's the best nickname for him, given the circumstances? We're currently calling him Gimpy McCrutcherson, although Frankentoe is starting to make an appearance. We seem to have used up all of our creativity when my other brother had surgery to repair a rectal abscess recently, so I thought I'd turn to the chat for solutions. Also, what's the best gift to celebrate his re-memberment? Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: You want to give him a football, with a tee.

Frankentoe is pretty good. Though I would point out that now he has a REAL "toe nail."


Washington, D.C.: Gene, I need your help. I seem to have forgotten what Scarlett Johansson looks like. Is there anything you can show me to refresh my memory?

Gene Weingarten: I think so. Liz, can you find a shot? There must be one out there, somewhere. Here you go. You're welcome.


Co, LA: Giving up all carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages but keeping alcohol means you've severely reduced your choice of mixers. With no tonic water, soda, cola, ginger ale, 7-Up, etc., you're pretty much left drinking martinis and screwdrivers.

Gene Weingarten: Or beer or wine, dude. Or liquor on the rocks, as it was intended.


Washington, D.C.: Hahahahahaha - those might be the best responses ever!! The Democrats think the "worst thing" that is closest to their thinking (maybe not believing in God) would prevent the candidate from getting elected, while the Republicans think that the "worst thing" that is closest to THEIR thinking (being a hyper Christian fundamentalist) would prevent the candidate from getting elected. But committing a dangerous felony as an adult? No way! Hahahahahaha. I love it. We each assume everyone else hates our way of thinking I guess.

Gene Weingarten: That's exactly what is happening in the poll!


Fairfax: Gene, Scarlett Johansson just got engaged. Who's the new sexiest single lady in Hollywood?

Gene Weingarten: Here ya go.


Re: Mount Rushmore of Cartoonists: Which weighs more heavily in your decision on this: artistic or writing talent?

Gene Weingarten: Writing. Though Kelly may have been the best cartoon artist ever.

Larson couldn't draw. He still needs to be there.


Atheist politicians: In the mid-1960s, my father, a cultural Jew, was active in the Democratic party in a particularly progressive part of Southern California. His Democratic colleagues repeatedly asked him to run for Congress, and he would have had an easy time of it, given his politics. He didn't want to run, and didn't want to expose the family to that kind of life, so he said something to the effect of: "if anyone asks, and they will, I will not hide my feelings about religion. I am an atheist, and I will not lie or hypocritically attend services at a synagogue in order to placate people's fears about atheism." They never asked him to run again. I suspect most political organizations would do exactly the same thing now.

Gene Weingarten: Yep.


Tapio, CA: Thank you for pointing out how foul those tapioca drink things are. All of my friends like to order them so they can show how very legitimate they are.

Frankly, if for some reason I have to prove Chinese food cred, then I'm going straight for the chicken feet.

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. Duck feet are better.


Baltimore, Md.: Gene,

Is this letter to Carolyn Hax from your wife?

I mean, except for maybe the body-building, it sounds a lot like you, what with the panty-flinging and all.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, that was my wife. She forgot to mention the very common phenomenon of other women disappearing under the table during dinner parties we attend, and then re-appearing a few minutes later.


City Life: Gene, you've lived here, there and everywhere...what do you think of the respective cities where you've lived? Outside of those, do you have any other favorites you like to go?

Gene Weingarten: You can't just list a city. You have to list a neighborhood. I've never lived anywhere better than where I live now, which is Eastern Market, D.C.

I'd put Fort Greene, Brooklyn, second, and Cambridge, Mass. third.

The Rib might put Miami Beach first. I didn't like the lack of weather or the smallness of the city.


Palookaville: Hey, Gene, can we have a moment of silence for Ted Key, who died recently at 95? Key created Hazel (the Saturday Evening Post cartoons from which the TV show was spun), Diz and Liz and -- which I hadn't realized -- Sherman and Mr. Peabody. An American giant.

Gene Weingarten: I didn't know he did Sherm and Peabody! And Hazel was good, too. Very dry humor. Hazel, as I recall, was a maid with a dry, cynical sense of humor, who basically controlled the household.


Arlington, Va.: So, Roger Clemens is comedy gold, yes? Forget about the underage girl -- he partied with John Daly's wife and an eight-foot boa constrictor! As just one other example, I saw this line in the NY Daily News:

"He had chicks stashed in every city - like every athlete, you play golf, you go get drunk and [have sex]," says one source close to Clemens. "In some ways, it's a lonely life."

And in some ways, it's really not.

Gene Weingarten: I seriously doubt this is "every athlete."


Excuse Me!: Hey, I submitted Leif Fixen way back in the June 20, 2006 chat. Credit where due, please.

Gene Weingarten: Really? Did I publish it?


The seal and the penguin: I remember reading about how gangs of adolescent male bottlenose dolphins surround and rape male dolphins of another, slightly smaller species.

Dolphins are jerks; those cute smiles they have are a skeletal accident.

Gene Weingarten: Also, polar bears. Major jerks of the animal kingdom. Very fierce and nasty but boy are they cute.


Panama Jack: That's a dumb argument. McCain was born a citizen. That's all he really needs. His parents were citizens, therefore he is a citizen.

"No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

Gene Weingarten: Whoa, wait a minute. The constitution says you have to be born here. It sho does.


Moshe Lopez: "There are 14 people in the U.S. named Moshe Lopez," quoth I don't think so.

Gene Weingarten: Hm.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm the guy you accused of not taking my medication right after the Bell chat. I don't get the Tuymans' "we need to wake up" thesis.

The mural was not particularly distinctive and was not colored to catch people's eye. And most of the people that DID stop were on the other side of the street, where they got a better view.

I continue to dislike these "experiments". When I am in the right frame of mind, I love going to concerts and art museums. I'm not in that mood when I'm six minutes late and when most of the "art" on my way to work is pedestrian items that I've seen repeatedly.

Gene Weingarten: You need to take your medicine.


THIS time.

Hey, thank you all. I liked this chat. See you in the updates, and remember: Next week, a themed chat. Post Hunt. Three Hosts. You can tell Dave DIRECTLY how much funnier he is than I am.


More trouble: Gene Weingarten: Yes, that was my wife. She forgot to mention the very common phenomenon of other women disappearing under the table during dinner parties we attend, and then re-appearing a few minutes later.

I hope you don't attend too many dinner parties in Virginia.

Gene Weingarten: Haha.


UPDATED 5.7.08

Gene Weingarten: For those of you who have never heard The Tupperware Song, I just received this from Dave Barry. This is The Rock Bottom Remainders performing it. That's definitely not me on the harmonica.

Dave also asked me to mention the extremely true fact that I was taught the harmonica riff for this song over the phone, from his brother Sam. In essence, Sam taught me to play the harmonica, over the phone.


Typos in Comics: OK... forget in panel 1 the Thorps appear to be cooking enough food to open a soup kitchen... ignore in panel 2 that Marty Moon is conducting a radio interview with what appears to be an electric razor...

Gil Thorp

What one word in panel 3 would you expect NOT to be mispelled in a comic strip about a high school coach?

Gene Weingarten: Wow. This is really bad! Also, I have no idea what's going on in this strip and that's a pretty week "zinger" at the end.


Arlington, Va.: I live in a high-rise apartment building. Today, this morning, right around 6:45 am, I heard someone in the hallway knocking (pounding, really) on someone's door--then engage in a loud shouting match about noise disruption.

Is this not the very definition of irony?

Gene Weingarten: It is. It is the fire station burning down. It is the fire-and-brimstone preacher getting hit by lightning.


Anywhere: Regarding your forgiving view of kissing people other than your spouse: is this because it is could defuse a potentially worse situation (i.e., an affair)? I'm finding myself in a very awkward situation where my work takes me on not just business trips -- but camping out in research stations and tents. A coworker on whom I have a giant crush (and who I suspect reciprocates) is supposed to be joining me on my rounds this summer (we're conservation biologists) and I'm terrified I'll do something stupid. I'm married and he has a longterm long-distance girlfriend. Not going is not an option. We're both mid-Ph.D and can't abandon the research. So I'm wondering if I'm better off making out with him and being able to say after, "Oh good, now I don't like you any more" or hoping it will go away naturally.

Gene Weingarten: You want me to say yes. I say no.

You are waay too emotionally involved in this, and too filled with sexual tension, for a sweet romantic kiss to remain just a sweet romantic kiss. If you don't want an affair, don't start an affair.


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm a speller - I have bees in my past and I've been correcting my dad's writing since middle school - but I have one problem: double consonants. Words like accommodate kill me. Is there a way to remember when consonants double and when they don't? The worst is names like Eliot/Elliot/Eliott/Elliott. Why would someone even name their kid that?

Gene Weingarten: You are Tom the Butcher! A good speller unless it is an issue of double consonants, at which point he becomes The Geneamazing Dufus-Man. Or Duffus Man.

I have been working with Tom, with mnemonics, and so far we have fixed two words for him, forever. "Inoculate" has only one n; it's skinny, see, just like a hypodermic needle.

Whereas "accommodate" is all commodious, able to accommodate a great deal, including the extra m.

Next up: It's embarrassing when you spell the word with only one r, so it's like "bare-assed." If you put in the extra r, no embare-ass ment.

One by one, idiot mnemonic by idiot mnemonic, I will restore the Butcher's spelling competence.


UPDATED 5.8.08

Gene Weingarten: Several readers sent this in, vis a vis my column on spell check.

Eye halve a spelling chequer

It came with my pea sea

It plainly marques four my revue

Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word

And weight four it two say

Weather eye am wrong oar write

It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid

It nose bee fore two long

And eye can put the error rite

Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it

I am shore your pleased two no

It's letter perfect awl the weigh

My chequer tolled me sew.


Gene Weingarten: This is an amazing story. AND it's about Stradivari-i. Stradivariuses. Stradivariusi. Make sure you read the very last line.


Gene Weingarten: I meant to link to this in the chat earlier. This is one of my favorite recent posts from the Gene Pool. This is from Judy From Monrovia, discussing observable behavioral differences between men and women ...

Observations: Male vs Female, Feeding Ducks At A Pond

Female: attempts to distribute bread evenly among ducks. Tries to make sure smallest duck gets some extra pieces. Gets annoyed at duck bullies. Gives some bread to stranger's child.

Male: attempts to land bread pieces on duck's back. Throws entire slice of bread to see if ducks fight over it. Throws bread to one side, then the other, to make ducks swim back and forth. Tries to see if ducks will also eat tacos.


Antwerp Video: Gene - I find the Antwerp video a false comparison to your story. Not only is it less compelling, but I thought it was NOT compelling at all.

We walk by great works of art worked into advertisements all the time, so seeing people walk by a mural didn't surprise me at all. The only comparison in that to Joshua Bell would be to say that you played a Joshua Bell piece on the radio in the Metro stations to see who cocked their ear towards the speakers to get a better listen.

The only thing that would make the Antwerp piece more interesting would be if people could have watched him painting the mural. That would have been a closer parallel.

Gene Weingarten: There was no real way of replicating it with art, I agree with that. But having him there painting it would have created a greater impetus to look. A street musician is an ordinary city event, easily ignored if you are of a mind to ignore it. A man painting a mural is quite uncommon; people would have watched just for the uniqueness of it, whether or not they were appreciating the product.


Gene Weingarten: What we have here is a video the value of which is in dispute, between Chatwoman and me. I contend it is fascinating; it illustrates, rather elegantly, Newton's third law of physics (the action-reaction thing) as explained quite well in the comments by the person named Human.

Liz, a product of a different era of thought and attention span, things it is borrrrrr-ing. She kept waiting for something marginally exciting to happen, such as the metronomes falling off the board, or (and I am quoting verbatim) "for the guy to expose himself." I like turtles.


UPDATED 5.9.08

Gene Weingarten: Today we revisit the "Tupperware Song," with some additional information supplied by Dave Barry. That's the late, great Warren Zevon on guitar. I'm thinking you might want to listen again.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, what we have here is, uh, something you are not likely to ever see again. (Alert: It's safe for work, but the commentary below it contains some creative f-wording.)


Gene Weingarten: On the subject of helpful if doofy mnemonic devices to assist the double-consonant impaired, Jennifer Hart supplies these --

Parallel -- The two Ls in the middle are parallel.

Harass -- One R in the middle, as in: "her ass."

Ooh, and Jim Watkinson, a prof at VCU, informs us that he tells his students that "you have to be a double ass to commit an assassination."


So you can hate me even more: Doing coke isn't "victimless," unless you believe that the coke was provided to you thanks to the altruistic efforts of a chain of people, all working together to make your heart explode.

Or, you could stop being a rationalistic ex-hippie for once, and consider the people who have likely been hurt or killed as the drugs made their way from the oppressed worker in the field to the intestines of a desperate illegal immigrant to the pusher's house on that block you choose not to visit. And the money goes back to the thugs who run the countries where the coca business thrives under the protective eye of the dictator and his family.

That's not even beginning to consider the people whose stuff is stolen (which apparently IS a real crime) to pay for more coke.

You're right: you wouldn't like me.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, and the clothing on your body was obtained through the toiling of abused children in factories in Indonesia and China, and that extra Twinkie you shove down your gullet could go to the starving masses.

This sort of calculus gets you nowhere, and if you truly believe that armed robbery and individual drug use are crimes with similar degrees of moral culpability, you are a hypocrite and a jerk.


Heloise: You will never top the "Hint" to do crossword puzzles in pencil, so if you make a mistake, you can, you know, erase it and put something different in.

Gene Weingarten: This is just so wonderful.

It does allow me to point out an enormous fallacy: The really good crossword puzzler works in ink. Erasures on newsprint leave muddy cruddy unreadable smudges. You work in ink, you put down only faintly the words you are unsure of, you press hard when correcting mistakes, etc.


Dallas, Tex.: So, I broke my engagement three months before we were supposed to get married. I gave back the ring and everything. The question now, should I ask my ex for half the amount that I have to pay for the deposits I can't get out of? In our tradition, the girls' family pays for everything. His family never even offered to pay for anything and we never asked them to pay for anything. So now, I wonder, do I have the right to ask him for half of the amount? Or should I just leave it, b/c I know that in his mind it will be "all about the money," and he will probably hate me even more.

Gene Weingarten: You should not ask for a contribution, but not because, in his mind, it will be "all about the money." You should not ask for a contribution because it would be incredibly cheeky to ask for one. It WILL be "all about the money."

YOU broke it off. YOU are responsible for all expenses.

This is not obvious to you?

(Also, this is item number 3,789,021 in the list of Reasons Why Big Weddings Suck.)


Chicago, Ill.: Gene,

Maybe this is more for Hax, but I value your opinion so much more. I am dating this wonderful man who right away instilled thoughts of a lifelong commitment to. I have dated many people before but I have never felt this and am very scared. He is the first person I have said I love you to so he is a big deal. We have our differences and I have been able to respect them thus far. However, this past weekend I found out that he is a creationist. I actually cried when I found this out. I was a biochemisty major and am studying to be a doctor now so science is a big part of my life. I have a higher belief so this is not the issue. The problem is that I have never met anyone who is intelligent and after thinking about it has come to creationism as a logical conclusion. He believes that the earth is 6000 years old. Yes, that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and that carbon dating or any other radioisotope dating is bunk. I understand the ability to mesh a belief in a God and the big bang but the idea to through away all science is ridiculous to me. He is an intelligent man , that is why I am dating him. I am in love with him. However, I am seriously disturbed by this. What do I do? He says he is open to evidence against his beliefs but what if I try and still believes in strict creationism. ahhh!

Gene Weingarten: Lessee, a medical doctor married to a creationist. There may be such a couple in the United States, but I doubt it. And there is a reason for that: People with completely incompatible world views tend not to find each other attractive.

You do. Surprises me, but you apparently do. How does HE feel about your stubborn, mulish insistence on not being an idiot? It doesn't bother him?

Seems to me it's not about creationism so much as it is about a sort of worldview that permits a person to willfully ignore truth because of adherence to an extreme religious faith. Will you and he agree on abortion in the face of an extreme fetal abnormality? How about politics in general?

My advice is not profound: You need to talk this out with him in the greatest depth possible. If you love him, I am sure there is a reason you love him and I suspect it can survive this, so long as it is ONLY this. I'm guessing it's not.


Washington, D.C.: Good aptonym.

Gene Weingarten: This is not an aptonym. A pseudonym cannot be an aptonym.


Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Oh Grammar Guru Gene,

Please help. In the past week, I have seen two different newspapers print the phrase "hare's breath" (neither was The Post).

I have always believed the phrase was "hair's breadth". Please confirm which is correct; "hare's breath" seems nonsensical.

P.S. Best wishes for an incredible first Post Hunt!

Gene Weingarten: The problem with cliches is that they are cliches, so people don't think about them before blurting them. Of course it is hair's breadth.

Thank you, on the Hunt. Dave, Tom and I will see you all on Tuesday, and then again, hopefully, on Sunday. Read, and click on the Hunt tab. Everything you need to know is there.


Submit to next week's special pre-Post Hunt chat.


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