Chatological Humor: In the Year 2525, Gene Will Still Be Neurotic (UPDATED 6.20.08)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 17, 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, 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 Survey:

Door A: 29 and Younger
Door B: 30 - 40
Door C: 41 and Older

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

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Okay, this is going to be very difficult to own up to, but honest journalism requires it.

Several weeks ago, in a column, I made fun of Teddy Kennedy, jokingly implying that he might be a panty-snatcher. The following day, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Very recently, in the Gene Pool, I started a national debate about whether Tim Russert had farted on the air.

Sigh.

These are good people, and I seem to have some sort of really bad mojo working, vis a vis the tragic results of gratuitous and unfair pelvic humor. Not surprisingly, these two events have caused me to think deeply about what I do and how I do it. Which leads pretty directly to:

TODAY's INSTA-POLL!

Okay.

Today's CLOD, or clip of the day, was suggested by a poster to the chat. It is simply the greatest optical illusion I have ever seen: It works on the brain the same way that the Spinning Dancer did from several months ago, but unlike that one, this is nearly impossible to untwist your brain around. I have figured out how, and will disclose it if no one else does.

---

Regarding my column on Sunday, I'm not sure how many of you took me up on my suggestion to post absurd items about yourself, but at least a half dozen people added to MY already dubious profile. Here's my favorite so far, by someone who calls himself fishman227. It's titled "Titan of Goat Porn":

I was watching this hard core goat porn video (just for fun, not because I'm into it or anything) and just when it was getting really good, I saw a young Gene step into the screen and get involved in the most awful things. After a great deal more video watching on my part (just for research, not because goat porn entrances me with it's sensuality), I found that Gene was the greatest name in goat pornography in the 70's and 80's. Apparently, he stopped this career because of a tragic love triangle involving his favorite goat and Burl Ives.

---

From Will Gorham, we get this odd aptonym. It's not great, but has the remarkable quality in that you only have to read three words into the story to get it.

----

Please take todays generational poll. The geezer part was written by me; the yoot part was written by Rachel Manteuffel. We knew it was at least pretty good because she knew the answers to none of mine, and I knew the answers to none of hers. The answers so far show a rather beautiful learning curve as you move one way or the other in the age groups. But, as we'll get into later, I'm pleasantly surprised that we seem to know more about each other's worlds than I'd guessed.

Many superior comic strips this week, but nothing stands out. All honorable mentions: Today's Mother Goose, today's Speed Bump, today's Agnes, today's Close to Home, Friday's Candorville, Wednesday's Frank and Ernest.

_______________________

Highpriceof, GAS: This morning, I awoke to find my girlfriend sleeping on our couch. We had gone to sleep together, in our bed. When I asked her why she had moved to the couch, she said that she had a bad cold and didn't want to wake me. Later, she admitted that wasn't the real reason. She reminded me that I had had some beers the night before at a friend's party, and told me that my "farts smelled worse than usual." I was taken aback by the last part--"than usual." I had no idea that I usually farted while sleeping. Dr. Gene--is that normal? (My girlfriend does not fart while sleeping, at least insofar as I can detect.) Why on earth would any woman put up with this?

Gene Weingarten: THAT's your question? Why they put up with FARTS?
It never occurred to you to wonder why they put up with all the other jackassy elements that constitute the basic human male?

You know, it is often said that Ringo Starr is the luckiest guy on Earth, in terms of stumbling into something great he really didn't deserve.

Nuh-uh. GUYS are the luckiest guys on Earth.

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In case you missed it: This just in from Newsweek: "Fox News mouthpiece Bill O'Reilly has a new memoir in the works, and the title is 'A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity.' Yes, the title refers to him. And yes, he appears to be serious."

Really, I have nothing more to say.

Gene Weingarten: I wish I could claim this as mine, but it's not: In scouring the Web for evidence of this book (it exists, and that is the title) one finds that someone has already figured out that "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity" is a perfect anagram for "Shameful, Bona-Fide Hypocrite."

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Not a boomer: I'm sure you're going to get a bunch of cranky emails about this aspect of your poll. I'm 42. I was born in 1966. I was a toddler during the Summer of Love. I'M NOT A BABY BOOMER and I don't want to be grouped with you long-haired, pot-smoking freaks.

That said, I do know the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, thanks to my pot-smoking boomer older brother.

Gene Weingarten: You're right. I think the top age in the poll should have started at 50.

One of my prize possessions is an autographed copy of a Furry Freak Bros. book. Gilbert Shelton signed it to me from where he lives, in self-imposed exile, in France. The French still love him. The book is in French.

The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers were a great 1960s era comic for stoners. The brothers were Fat Freddie Freak, Freewheelin' Frank Freak, and Phineas Freak. Probably their best known line was: "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope." They also had a version of that quote where "sex" was substituted for "money." They both rang true back in 1969 or so.

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Sculpture Garden, DC: I look forward to hearing your explanation of perspective and the Chaplin mask, since my favorite piece at the sculpture garden, a house by Lichtenstein, does the same thing. The only time I ever got my mother excited about contemporary art was there: She said, "How is a house supposed to be art?" I said, "Look at it and keep walking." She was amazed.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, the voiceover gives a perfect explanation.

What I will explain is how to untrick your mind. There is only one way, I think. Cover the top and watch only the neck. Then, slowly uncover the rest, over a period of several minutes.

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Posting now so I don't forget: Hi Gene,

I'm 28 (and hot). And I have a pretty great memory. I can remember stuff from about 4 years old on. Except lately, I can barely remember yesterday. I've been missing appointments and deadlines a lot in the last 6 months. I forgot I was making hard boil eggs this weekend (it was boiling for an hour). Forgot where the car was too.

It's really concerning me, but nobody (dr. included) will take me seriously. I've never been like this - I've been close to the opposite of this my whole life. Not only do I remember stuff like what my husband wore on our first date, I remember what the people next to us were talking about.

I feel like I'm going crazy, and not having people take me seriously is making it worse. I don't think I'm being a hypochondriac. What should I do next?

Gene Weingarten: I gave your question to my friend Kari Tervo, who is a neuropsychology therapist. Here's her answer:

First, DON'T FREAK OUT. One, we are all intimately aware of our own cognition, so sometimes mild weaknesses and blips seem like a big thing--you don't know how your memory is actually stacking up against other people your age. Two, recent-onset memory lapses in young people are often due to relatively benign (like, non-neurological) reasons. For instance, the kind of memory lapses you are talking about are really common in depression. Depression kills concentration, so if you can't concentrate, where you parked your car doesn't even make it into your memory. In that case, you are technically having a concentration problem, not a memory problem.

Whatever the cause, it is something for your doctor to take seriously because YOU are taking it seriously. Either bring this up with your doctor again or find another doctor who will listen. It would be helpful if s/he screened you for stress/depression as an initial issue to rule out. If, after talking to your doctor and any initial issues are resolved/ruled out and your memory problem is still bothering you, you can see a neuropsychologist, who is a person who evaluates different areas of cognition (attention, memory, etc.) and sees how your performance compares to other people your age. That way you can know for sure if you have an actual impairment or a weakness.

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Liar's Poker Table: Does anyone else think that Bill O'Reilly got the commodity wrong in the title of the new book? He's a piece of ... work, that's for sure.

Gene Weingarten: To be fair and balanced to Bill, the quote was allegedly something a nun once told him when he was an obstreperous kid. She wasn't being kind.

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Stanton Park, DC: My wife and I (I am 34 and she is 36) just scored a perfect 20 out of 20 on the quiz. We did this on the first try, without using Google, Wikipedia, or any other information source.

How should we interpret this "accomplishment"?

Gene Weingarten: Well. My first guess was going to be that it's not you, so much as your ages: that you are the perfect ages to see a little in front and a little in back. But it is not that simple, because I know someone in her mid-thirties, an intelligent and connected person, who took this test and knew only four or five answers.

So. I would say you're both pretty inquisitive and aware. Congrats.

Gene Weingarten: I have been authorized to reveal that the mid-thirties numbnuts is our own Chatwoman.

washingtonpost.com: Whatever -- is it my fault you intentionally left Gen X out of this little exercise? Where are the Nirvana references? The "Melrose Place" quotes? The Sun Country Wine Cooler mentions? And, I'm sorry -- but "Miss Suzy" is ours, too.

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Follow-up on pets: Gene, I wrote in last week about having to put a pet to sleep. You being a pet owner yourself, I knew you'd understand how difficult a decision that was and how sad my family would be to lose not just some animal, but a true member of our family. Well we finally reached the point where it was something we had to do, and although we are still very sad and really miss his presence, we are really trying to remember all of the joy he brought us. That said, sometime this summer we are looking to adopt another pet (a kitten this time) and I was thinking that this chat is in need of an "official" kitten. We have an official child (Hope), and your dog is kind of the official dog, so I'm offering the new kitten we adopt from the pound as the official kitten of this chat. We're not sure if it'll come with a name, but if not we'll even let the gallery offer suggestions. If this is OK, I'll follow-up with photos when I have some.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, we will post the picture and ask for names. I will choose the best five, and it will be the next week's poll. In return (here's the tough part) you have to agree to name the kitten what we vote.

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Boomerville, USA: Miss LUCY had a baby and/or a steamboat. Not Miss Suzy.

At least that's how we said it in Brooklyn.

washingtonpost.com: No, no, no -- it was Suzy.

Behin the 'frigerator \ there was a piece of glass \ Miss Suzy sat upon it \ and broke her little asssss \ sssk.... me no more questions...

Gene Weingarten: Exactly.

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Mac or PC: Bloggers are pouncing on the apparent admission that McCain doesn't know how to use a computer. I ask the arbiter of all things, does this matter? Presumably, he has people to do his typing. On the other hand, it shows a pretty serious disconnect with the state of modern technology. What say you?

Gene Weingarten: I haven't yet seen this. If true, it's probably more politically damaging (this is some major late-night comic fodder) than worrisome. But, still. Someone living in the modern world, especially someone who must make decisions for the people, really ought to kind of get involved in the people's world, no?

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Sleep farting: I'm plagued by this. I'm a 30 year old hot woman. I was teased mercilessly after sleep overs in middle school. I was mortified to have boyfriends spend the night. My husband occasionally teases me if it's really bad.

I know what this happens. I have no urge to fart during the day. I think I'm saving them up for when I'm relaxed and asleep. I wish I could change it.

Gene Weingarten: I believe that is exactly what is happening. I bet more women fart at night than men.

_______________________

Gene Weingarten: I have been authorized to share with you the following message I just got from Chatwoman in a secret Chatwoman-to-me communications channel:

So, I just took my 'puter in the bathroom with me. I love working from home.

_______________________

Insta Poll: Wow. I had no question in my mind who to pick -- Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. I gleefully hit "submit".

Then I realized how odd my response is given the fact I am one of your 12 dedicated conservatives.

Gene Weingarten: I did O'Reilly and Hasselbeck.

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Mod the Rod: I didn't know what chat it was

When I clicked into the room

I typed a comment, sagacious

You replied 'indeed' too soon

Skimming through the questions posed

Your obtuse references were so critical

I really must protest right here

The attitude was merely cynical

I read all those quirks of yours

So preposterous and hard to imagine

Your parking style, bumpers be damned

I laughed off as exaggeration

The vegan lady with the rapier wit

Who tried to reign in your diatribe

Her snarky pfffft was unrehearsed

But we knew you needed the jibe

Chorus:

You're an asshat, you're an A-Hole

Not too funny now that you're so old

You're a curmudgeon, your own best friend

You're an A-Hole

Your comedic sense is immeasurable

Your pomposity immense

You're shlumpy, guileless, kitsch and mindless

You're conceited and too intense

You're a predictable romantic comedy

You're an off off-Broadway play

If a critic stumbled upon you

You'd open and close on the same day

(chorus)

You're a consultant in humor

But I've heard a rumor

That you're not really part of the team

No Pastis, or Trudeau, or even a new Breathed

Your strip's the worst thing they've ever seen

After all the crappy columns

I continue your hokum to read

So I gouge my eye and click the link

'cause it provides an excuse to drink

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Mt. Rainier, Md.: I like McCain, or used to at least. He just called the Guantanamo habeas case "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." I'm Mr. "reasonable people can disagree about political issues," but on this issue reasonable people cannot agree -- and this matter shows most clearly the philosophical divide among the parties. I don't think McCain realizes how much he hurts his standing with thinking people by opposing this decision.

Gene Weingarten: He's not going for the thinking-person vote.

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Boob job: I certainly hope you are going to take the time to address the very serious issue raised by Texas GOP state delegate Robert Hurt in Monday's Reliable Source column. Apparently there are lots of statues of naked people in Washington. Even in the National Gallery. Did you know about this?? How can we be worried about things like the Iraq war and inflation when there are all these naked breasts and other naughty body parts cavorting in plain view? More importantly, how have I managed to live in this area for years without really noticing that I was surrounded by vulgarity?

Gene Weingarten: That was a great item. My favorite part was tactfully underplayed: Mr. Robert Hurt, who just thinks there is too much sex going on all over the place, has 14 children.

The only way the story could have been better would be if his name were Richard Hurt.

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Aptony, MN: Homer Bailey, mediocre pitcher for the Reds, prone to giving up, er, dingers. Almost too easy to be funny, isn't it?

Bob Walk, on the other hand, who had a good career with the Pirates a while ago, actually had pretty decent control.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to the awkwardly named pitcher mentioned last week: Grant Balfour.

Let us not forget pitchers Rollie Fingers and Rich Hand.

Or Peter LaCock, Rusty Kuntz, Dick Pole, and Johnny Dickshot. All real.

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What's Your Point, Vanessa?: There is no need for this poll. Everyone already knows that baby boomers, being confident that their generation is the only one of any value, has zero interest in anyone else's, except maybe that of their coddled and entitled spawn.

Ahem. Sorry. Gen-X professor here; just finished the school year. La la la la la la la la. Nanny nanny boo boo! I'm out of range, grade grubbers and "concerned" parents!

Gene Weingarten: Ah, but the results do not show this. It's probably a little skewed by the low upper-age here, but the oldsters are showing a pretty good knowledge of the youngies' lives, and vice versa. The generations appear to be talking to each other and listening.

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Smiting with Humor: OK Gene, since you seem to have a new superpower of smiting people by making fun of them, or else of directing a higher smiting to your targets, I took your poll in hopes of cleaning our society up a little. What I don't understand is that other people are not choosing Paris Hilton. As far as I can tell, she has turned herself into the international symbol for the Great Satan, in that she represents the worst aspects of capitalism, inherited wealth, individual liberty and democracy. Anywhere in the world, someone who wants to highlight a weakness of our political, economic or social system only need point to Paris Hilton. "You want Democracy? Look at the US, where an undereducated, over-wealthy buffoon like Paris Hilton has a vote! Do you want someone like that to have a voice in government?" "Equal rights for women? Do you want your daughters running around making sex tapes of themselves and then building personal celebrity based on them?" Etc. In the past 8 years, I'd guess only GWB has had a worse effect on our international image.

Gene Weingarten: Did you ever see the original video that launched her "career"? There is something really funny about it, especially in retrospect. She is in a hotel room, being serviced by a gentleman in a very loving and intimate and eager yet respectful way, AND SHE STILL HAS THAT VAPID BLASE NON-EXPRESSION ON HER FACE.

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MiddleSchool, Va.: Maybe I'm up too early, but I got a snicker out of this caption on the Post.com home page:

"Northern Virginia congressman says he believes his seat can stay red."

Gene Weingarten: You know what would have been great? If his name were Bob Boone.

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Dog Etiquette: Hi Gene and Liz,

I realize this doesn't exactly align with your typical chat fodder, but it's on my mind.

Last night, I saw a german shepherd in the street. He was clearly lost. There was no owner and he was ambling in the middle of a very busy intersection. I stopped my car, called the cops, and tried to call him over. He looked up when I whistled, but stopped about 10 feet away from me, and turned back into the street and ran off. Cars were braking and honking and then I lost sight of him.

This was eerily similar to an event that happened about six weeks ago, in which a dog ran in front of my car on the exact same street. That time, I stopped and got out, just in time to see him get slammed by a car on the opposite side of the street and it was awful.

So my question is: Last night, should I have stayed? I couldn't see the dog anymore, and couldn't tell the police anything new. The dog was clearly skittish around me. But the real reason I left was that my brain kept replaying the sound the first dog made when the car hit it, and I just couldn't bear the thought of hearing it again, so it was cowardice really, and the other arguments are simply justification.

What was the right thing to do?

Gene Weingarten: I don't have to tell you the answer. You know it. Your guilt is punishment enough. Next time, do what you can. A lost and scared dog in traffic is a dog that is going to die.

_______________________

Cambridge, England: Gene, I'm a 20 year-old living in England for 5 weeks. Here I can legally drink! But I don't have any friends in this foreign country. Is it okay for me to drink alone?

Gene Weingarten: I authorize you. Drink responsibly.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Gene:

Why do you self-worshiping Boomers have to proclaim that everything from the 60s was the greatest ever?

Cartoons about hippie brothers? They smoke a lot of dope? Their name is "Freak"? That sounds hil-frickin-larious!

Gene Weingarten: It was, especially stoned. He was a terrific cartoonist.

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Boomerville, AZ: It wasn't Lucy or Suzy, it was Helen!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Kensington, Md.: In reference to the kitten-naming: Years ago my husband suggested friends name their female puppy Goat, because, well, she looks like a goat. She proceeded to eat everything in sight. Not chew, eat. Houseplants, aluminum foil, underpants, books, everything. So when we mentioned we'd be going to the pound for a kitten the wife looked at us with a steely gaze and told us we were naming the cat Lester. So we had to find a cat that fit the name. Thus, we have a female cat named Lester.

Gene Weingarten: Good.

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Old Fart: Hey there, fellow Old Fart and GenX Tattoo Lady! Back in the 50s when we sang about the steamboat, it was owned by Johnny, aka, the infamous Little Johnny:

Johnny had a steamboat.

Steamboat had a bell.

Steamboat went to heaven.

Johnny went to

Hello operator

Give me number 9.

If they do not answer, I'll kick their big

Behind the refrigerator

There was a piece of glass.

Johnny sat upon it

And cut his little

Ask me no more questions

Tell me no more lies.

This is what Johnny said

Just before he died.

Next up: the various versions of Popeye the Sailor Man. Let's see if Liz knows this nugget.

washingtonpost.com: As in I likes to go swimmin' with bald-headed women, I'm Popeye the Sailor man?

Gene Weingarten: Wow. I know this steamboat one.

_______________________

Florida: From Sunday's News:

"HAVANA (CBS4) Å\ Eight years after a headline making international custody fight which ended with his return to his father in Cuba, Elian Gonzalez has joined Cuba's Young Communist Union.

"In an article in Cuba's communist youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, the 14-year old Gonzalez said he would never let ex-President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro down. He joined more than 18-thousand others who joined the group on Saturday."

At first I thought this might bother you as much as it bothers the rest of us, but then I realized that you probably see this as a good thing.

Gene Weingarten: I do see it as a good thing. He's a happy 14 year old, doing what he thinks he is supposed to do. At 14 I was a social conservative, because my parents were.

At seventeen, when my eyes were opened, it was a whole new ballgame.

Listen, there was no perfect answer to the Elian Gonzalez situation, but there was an undeniably right thing to do. Elian had to be returned to the father who undeniably loved him, and to his grandmothers, who doted on him. In Miami's Cuban community, he was treated like a little Messiah, a political symbol to achieve others' partisan goals. Much more of that would have destroyed him. He was a little boy, scared witless.

I think that in the next five years, by the time Elian turns 20, Cuba will be a very different place. When I wrote the story about him, someone jokingly suggested that he might become mayor of Havana and then president of the republic, and be the person to bring Cuba back to democracy.

We all laughed at that. You know what? Watch. This could be very cool in a decade.

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The Name that Dare Not Speak Its Name: Hi Gene,

Some weeks back some chatters called you on the claim that you never mention The Rib's name because you have in fact mentioned it at least once, I think about four years ago. The last mention was in the context of why you call her by one or another variation on her last name due to a mutual consensus that her given name is too awful to be spoken aloud.

This caught my attention because her given name happens to be my middle name. I have this middle name because it is my mother's middle name, and she gave it to me, although she hates it, because it was her mother's middle name. The reason she hates it is that her father (my grandfather) repeated used it to make an unkind joke about her weight as she was growing up.

I too hate it, to the point where I don't refer it unless I have to even though I am in a profession in which people routinely use their middle names or initials; fortunately I have a relatively uncommon last name so I can get away with it.

Having said all that, I have to concede that there's nothing really wrong with it, it's a perfectly normal French-derived name and all, so my question is: if you can answer without revealing the Name, why do you and The Rib dislike it?

If this gives me any cred, btw, I didn't pass it on to either of my daughters even though I love my mother very much. Despite her having saddled me with that name.

Gene Weingarten: It's a really bad name. Hard to explain why, but there is a terrific play named, I think, "Getting Out" from the 1960s or early 70s in which the character is named that, and the very sound of it explains the problem.

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Memory Lapse woman: please post this, Gene. I had the same problem with memory (except mine came with several other wymptoms). It turned out to be poisoning from mold. Not a mold allergy, but poisoning (I am not actually allergic to mold spores). Some molds produce neurotoxins that get into your system and do not come out without taking powerful meds. My husband and I were on them for 6 months and, luckily, everything eventually cleared up. The poster should check around her house for damp areas and see if there is mold. It is terrible stuff and can damage you permanently.

Gene Weingarten: I've heard of this!

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Popeye: I likes to go swimmin' with BOW-LEGGED women!

That's the only way it makes sense - what the hell would bald-headed women do for you in the water??

washingtonpost.com: So now Popeye jingles have to make sense?

Gene Weingarten: Bow legged is funnier.

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Bethesda, Md.: Wait a minute. How did Stanton Park know they got all 20 questions right? (Unless they looked them up later) I thought the bold answers were just the most popular ones. Don't you usually reveal the answers during the chat?

Gene Weingarten: I'm going to reveal the right answers in the first update, but you can figure them out real easy: The oldies got the first ten right, and the youngsters got the last ten right, I think in both cases with no exceptions.

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A tactful rejoinder: Gene,

I have a coworker I've been friendly with for many years. The problem is this coworker seems to be getting a little too close. I have begun to be tactfully unavailable but now I suffer a few asides ribbing me for not being a good friend. I don't need flack for not wanting another relationship in addition to my marriage. Any tactful but direct way I can make this clear without forcing an ugly "break-up?"

Gene Weingarten: No. Be direct.

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Defending Rod; Question about Big Brass Bed: Flashing back to last week's poll, I rated Rod Stewart's lyrics "good," but I can explain.

I didn't listen to music much in 1978, when "You're in My Heart" came out and I was nine. My parents, like those of half the kids I knew, were recently divorced; Mom got the kids and dad got the stereo. But my friend Stacy's scary stepdad had a stereo, and we listened to this Rod Stewart album and another one from the Captain and Tenille, the one with "Muskrat Love." Some of the bigger kids brought radios to the pool and played disco music. So in that context, "You're in My Heart" sounded pretty profound.

I couldn't understand most of the lyrics, but I got the part about staying together until old age and, most important to me, I got that both of the characters had had affairs but had stayed together. Even at 9 I knew that affairs were why most married people split up, and the idea that they would stay together despite affairs seemed unspeakably devoted.

That's all.

Oh, one more thing: If Bob Dylan's character was so poor and dirty, where did he get a Big Brass Bed? As a kid, that song sounded like it was the creepy seduction technique of a predatory rich guy. I love Bob, don't get me wrong, especially when he's bitter or angry or clever. But seductive? He sounds absurd, like when Michael Jackson takes on the persona of a gang member.

Gene Weingarten: I really love this post.

That's all.

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Elizabeth and Anthony: Re today's FBOFW: Is Lizzie (dare I suggest) knocked up? Is she fishing for a babysitter for Anthony's daughter, or her own bun in the oven?

washingtonpost.com: For Better or For Worse, (June 17)

Gene Weingarten: It's hard to be sure; we'll know tomorrow, won't we? My guess is that this is not a Major Announcement, for three reasons. First, I don't think Johnston would go there. Second,they've been talking a while about moving up the date of the wedding so Gramps can be there before he corks. If there were another pressing reason, I think this would indicate a degree of disingenuity about Elizabeth that Johnston wouldn't do. Elizabeth is perfect; the Madonna.

On the other side, look at how shocked Dee is in that final frame. Also, why would they suddenly be borrowing the babysitter? They've had Anthony's girl all along.

I vote no, tho.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I meant two reasons, not three.

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BBFL: Business idea: Gene's Humor and Pay-Per-Smite Shop

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Re: Follow-up on pets: Of course we'll agree to abide by the poll's choice. Although I've started looking at e pound's web site, we're probably not going to acutally take one home until later in the summer (we're going to be away on vacation for a few weeks and wouldn't want to leave a new kitten with just a pet-sitter for that long when they are that young.) So look for the photos sometime later this summer and we'll go from there.

Gene Weingarten: Good. You're on. I sense you are making a commitment for an absent spouse, which is never wise, but you're on.

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I have this middle name because it is my mother's middle name, and she gave it to me, although she hates it, because it was her mother's middle name. : What kind of person gives their child a name they hate and suffered through themselves? If it were my name, I'd reject it now, simply based on that illogical decision.

Gene Weingarten: I believe that my wife's first name was her mother's middle name, too.

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RE: Dog Etiquette: That reminds me to put a dog treat in the glove compartment of my new car. I kept one in the old car after a time that I just happened to have some in the car and came across a stray on a busy street. He was turning away from everyone else trying to help, but came to me when I offered the treat.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, good idea.

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Instant Poll: Gene, I like your instant poll, and the results. But you've ALREADY made fun of O'Reilly & Coulter, and yet they are still with us. So I fear they may have immunity....you may need to do your poll again and revise the choices to take that factor into account.

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe I have specifically made fun of their underpants. That might be the key.

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Granville, Ohio: Ok, now maybe this is because I'm on an age cusp at 29, but which questions were supposed to apply to me? There were several I think I should have gotten, like the Slim Shady and the T9Text one, but had no clue on and there were others that I have no reason to know, like the Accutron, but did.

What gives? Have I been hanging out at this chat too long? Did growing up in a relative rural area (at least at the time) screw me up? Btw, one thing I can tell you is that Laugh-In was on Nick-At-Night for years so you can bet your sweet bippy that I knew that one.

P.S. All of you 20-somethings who looked up the answer before replying... you know what you did was wrong and your karma will get you in the end.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I was going to specify No Googling, but decided to put it on the honor system.

That may have been a mistake.

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Allow, ME: ...to be the 10,000th person to remind you that by publishing a column about a deplorable site that isn't even getting much traffic, you are effectively driving traffic to it, helping to both spread the rumors and MAKE MONEY FOR THE OWNERS. Say what you want, but the only reason you did it is to be able to share the "hilarious" rumors that you and your buddies posted. Defend yourself.

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Post Magazine, June 15)

Gene Weingarten: I won't try. My editors and I knew that we would be driving some traffic to this site, and, yes, the prime intent here was to publish some "hilarious" items. It's a humor column.

But the fact is, there are lots of items on this site permanently, really hurtful things, and we liked the suggestion we had of how to sabotage it.

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from the late 80's/early 90's...: Miss Suzy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell

Miss Suzy went to heaven

the steamboat went to

hello operator, please give me number 9

and if you disconnect me i'll cut off your

behind the 'frigerator, there was piece of glass

miss Suzy sat upon and broke her big fat

Ask me no more questions

I'll tell you no more lies

the boys are in the bathroom

zipping up their

flies are in the meadow

bees are in the park

miss suzy and her boyfriend are kissing in the d-a-r-k, d-a-r-k, dark

is like a movie

a movie's like a show

a show is like a tv show and that i all i know i know my ma, i know i know my pa, i know i know my sister with the 80 meter bra

Why do I remember this and not trigonometry...

Gene Weingarten: This is in fact the operative version behind the poll.

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Arlington, Va.: This chat is the only place I can turn for an answer to my question.

When a man is in a public restroom with other men present, using a urinal, is it acceptable for him to let loose with a loud, audible fart? In other words, not play the "ooh, our bodies NEVER make any noises" farce, but let nature work without any attempt at concealment?

I think you should be able to let go. Given the location and the purpose of the location, and the fact that often you need to release gas in order to increase flow. It is the bathroom after all. But it is a public place.

What say you?

Gene Weingarten: I think it's rude to the guys next to you, though I've heard it plenty. Go into a stall.

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Hague, Netherlands: I Haight how I got that one wrong.

Gene Weingarten: It was a trick!

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Naples, FL:

RE: Yellow Poop That reminded me of when we would eat and drink at the then Bardo's Rodeo.

They served blue corn nachos and carrots. Blue corn is really blue and carrots have alot of yellow. The next day in the toilet bowl was a scary sight and a lesson in the primary color wheel. Reflecting on the snack I don't think many bars served carrots. Perhaps they did serve them knowing the end result.

I've gotten much enjoyment retelling the Rib's comment that Gene would have to marry immediately after her death so someone would plan her funeral.

Thanks for all the fun. J F Martin

Gene Weingarten: Beets are best of all because they deliver a moment of pure terror.

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Rockville (Don't have to Boil Water!): Gene:

I know you're a street-parker, but I need some condo-parking advice. My darling spouse and I have a ridiculously expensive condo parking space-- assigned to us-- and a parking neighbor who apparently can't park straight, and invariably is crooked with a rear-wheel into our space.

What's the best way to deal with this? I'm in favor of a note on the windshield (though at this point, I'm having trouble thinking of wording that doesn't include "Hey, jerk!"), and my husband wavers between contacting management, or parking so close to the other car (but still in our space) that the person can't leave without hitting us. Not my favorite option. No matter what, the other car person will know it's us complaining. What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: Polite note. Why start an urban war, unless you have to? OVERLY polite note.

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Gambrills, Md.: If schadenfreude explains the emotion for such people as Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton, and Elliot Spitzer, what word would describe the emotion I'm feeling about Tim Russert? Never met the man, never spoke to the man, don't know anything about him other than what I see on TV, but, when NBC ran that homage to him on Sunday, which concluded with a video of him wishing Happy Father's Day to his dad and saying he loved his son, I wept.

I realize this was probably explained by innate concerns about mortality - for me and my family, but there has to be a word to explain this? Grief seems too strong a word when it's someone you really don't know.

Gene Weingarten: I didn't know him, but merely by watching him on the air, you saw someone in love with life and passionate about what he did.

When someone like that dies, we all feel vulnerable.

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Wymptoms: I know the mold poison person made a mistake and typed "wymptoms" instead of "symptoms," but I think wymptoms is a great word for ills suffered by people who are always complaining about their personal medical issues or who are genreally wimps about pain, etc.

Gene Weingarten: Yes!!!

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Jacksonville, Fla.: THANK YOU LIZ!

I was losing my mind while taking this thing. I am smart, well-read and love usless trivia and I didn't have a clue about most of these questions. I asked my friends as we are all late 20's and they didn't have a clue on the ones we thought we should know either. Slim Shady... Ha! What about Garbage Pail Kids or Snorks?

May Gen X rule forever!

washingtonpost.com: You are only one of my fellow Gen Xers to write in expressing this sentiment. Gene is supressing most of them.

Gene Weingarten: I am not!

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Baltimore, Md.: Monday's washingtonpost.com had this article about so-called "Pro-life" drugstores that refuse to sell condoms or birth control. Look at the picture of this guy. That is the creepiest, scariest guy I've seen in a long time. And I find his attitude repugnant.

Gene Weingarten: He looks really suspiciously like a cross between Ken Starr and Karl Rove. Ooh, this is a good observation. Lizbeth, can you link to all three?

washingtonpost.com: The guy mentioned above.


Ken Starr


Karl Rove

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Kensington, Md: I am slower than molasses in January. It just hit me that Doonesbury is back. Is there anyone else cartooning right now who could take 12 weeks off and expect to get his/her spot back in seemingly every newspaper in the country?

Gene Weingarten: Unfortunately, yes. Garfield, Beetle Bailey, etc.

Though, hm. Maybe not. Maybe sanity would prevail. Maybe that's why those strips never take a vacation.

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BBFL: I got my cat from Animal Control in Hernando County, Florida, which is on Oliver Street. So I named my cat Oliver. It really is a perfect name for him. I do wonder if there is a disproportionate number of pets adopted from that place that end up with the name Oliver, though.

Gene Weingarten: I'll bet there are.

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Richmond, Va.: One day Pinocchio came to Gepetto with a problem.

"Every time I have sex with my girlfriend, she gets splinters. What can I do about this?"

"Have you tried sandpaper?" Pinocchio hadn't, so he went to try it.

"Pinnochio," said Gepetto a few weeks later. "How is the problem work out with your girlfriend?"

"Girlfriend?" said Pinnochio. "Who needs a girlfriend when you have sandpaper?"

-----

What does D.A.M. stand for?

Mothers Against Dysleksia

That's all...try the veal.

Gene Weingarten: Nice, thank you.

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Alexandria, Va.: I went back and reread your piece on The Great Zucchini. Your thesis is that laughter is a tool to triumph over fear. Along these lines, it seems to me the success of TGZ is that of a therapist - kids are afraid of adults, he is a strange adult, and he draws the toddlers out by doing idiotic things, which show him as harmless. The art is getting the audience on your side. I guess the great comics work the same magic on us? Different tricks than the toddlers, I hope.

washingtonpost.com: The Peekaboo Paradox, (Post Magazine, Jan 22, 2006)

Gene Weingarten: Yes. It's the identical trick, and the principles drive the jokes: surprise, conflicting frames of reference, irony.

I like this story better than any other I have written.

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Sandy Aygo: Gene! What have you done to me! I cannot get that blasted Rod Stewart song out of my mind. It keeps creeping in, and instead of being a mindless, somewhat pleasant backdrop to my thoughts, I am forced to reflect upon how inane the lyrics are! I am probably not the only one. You must take seriously your powers, and replace it with something poetic and meaningful.

washingtonpost.com: Try Queen's "Radio Ga-Ga."

Gene Weingarten: We should note that that great footage at the start is from Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

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Washington DC: I am small and look a lot younger than I really am. I am also fairly soft spoken.

I was recently on a 'retreat' with several co-workers. For some reason, the older male co-workers found it interesting to discuss my 'innocence'. They all contended that I am probably a lot less innocent than I look. I'm probably being over-sensitive, but I found the whole thing to be really creepy.

How should I have replied to these guys?

Thank you!

Gene Weingarten: You are not oversensitive at all. That's hostile, creepy behavior; they were inviting you to discuss your sex life, and they were ganging up on you to do it.

The answer you want is one that makes them ashamed of themselves. I'll throw this out for general response and discussion.

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Sports and Hum, OR: Okay, so I'm switching back and forth between your chat and ESPN.com, and I come across what I think is this absolutely beautiful paragraph by the utterly unpronounceable Gene Wojciechowski:

"(Tiger) Woods won the 108th U.S. Open on Monday and once again was caught cheating on his wife Elin. Cameras captured him kissing the USGA's silver trophy. At least it played hard to get: 72 holes of regulation, 18 playoff holes and one sudden-death hole before falling hard for Woods."

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

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Wow!: Did you see this in your paper over the weekend:

Saturday, June 14, 2008; Page A13

I take issue with the quotation in The Post's June 9 front-page story "Shelters Keep Tight Leash on Adoptions." Mary Ling's quotation, "I had heard a lot of horror stories that it would be easier to adopt a child than a dog here," was terribly offensive to those who have formed families through adoption. Please don't publish comments that reinforce the false belief that adopting a child is even remotely similar to adopting a pet.

-- Kristina Rose

Reston

Wow. Chip on shoulder much? I would never denigrate my pet by comparing them to Ms Rose or anyone in her family. Wow.

Gene Weingarten: This must have been in Free For All.

I love Free For All.

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FBOFW: Oh, Liz is clearly pregnant. "I already feel like a parent" is clue #1, Dee's face is #2, and the fact that Lynn Johnston ain't subtle is #3.

washingtonpost.com: Don't scare me like that.

Gene Weingarten: We'll see tomorrow. It's possible. So we have out of wedlock sex! But we also have that weird thing about advancing the wedding so grandpa can go...

I still think no.

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Baltimor, ON: NOBODY is "going for the thinking-person's vote." "Thinking" people end up at the close of every election holding their noses until they bleed, or seriously weighing emigration.

Gene Weingarten: You know what? Obama is.

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Creepy old guys talking about your sex-life: "Wow, it's good thing your daughters don't work here."

Gene Weingarten: Very good.

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Washington, D.C.: A serious question for you Gene: why do my boyfriend's towels always smell WAY worse than mine? We pull from the same small stock of towels and I wash them together every weekend. But no matter which towel he uses, his always reeks of mildew after 3 or 4 days, whereas mine still smell relatively fresh at the end of the week. He hangs them up promptly too, so that's not the problem. Is there a scientific explanation for this beyond just Boys Are Gross?

Gene Weingarten: No.

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31 year old here: Liz, I agree!!! Where were GI Joes, Thundercats, Walkmans, Pop rocks, etc.

Gen X rules!!!!!

Gene Weingarten: WE HAVE ESTABLISHED THERE WAS A GENERATION GAP IN THE POLL, OKAY?

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Silver Spring, Md: We had Johnny and the refrigerator too.

60's, Georgia.

Hey, remember the Shaving Cream song?

Gene Weingarten: Yep. Stay nice and clean.

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Less Innocent than I Look: I killed a man once.

Gene Weingarten: ... for being a sexist pig.

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Re: innocence: I get this a lot too, but in a slightly different form. I am a young-looking 29, and relatively fresh faced and soft spoken. Men (friends, people at bars, etc.) like to try to "shock" me for whatever reason. When I respond in a way that indicates that I, for example, know that pornography exists on the Internet and that there are sites devoted to such, I get told that I am "dirty" and there is lots of manly laughing and elbows in each other's ribs. It is amazingly insulting and strange.

Gene Weingarten: These guys are cowards. Seriously.

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: Lots of flop-houses and down-at-the-mouth apartments featured brass beds. There was a time they were not fashionable, and not expensive.

Gene Weingarten: There ya go.

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Californ, IA: Re: farting in men's room. True story: The gay brother of a friend of mine was doing his business and making eyes in the mirror at the cute guy behind him waiting to do his business, when he suddenly let loose with an unexpected noisy and stinky fart. Cute guy loses interest, leaves men's room. Fast forward a year, gay brother is in a Circuit City with a friend, where all the TVs are tuned to the reporting on the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer, and he realizes it's the cute guy! So the fart may have saved his life....

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe this, but it's funny enough to print.

_______________________

New York, N.Y.: To the "innocent" woman: Maybe something along the lines of, "I'm not so innocent as you think. For instance, I know how to get in touch with men's wives to disclose sexually confrontational behavior."

Gene Weingarten: Uh, no.

_______________________

Seattle, Wash.: Where is the line where it's okay to lie about death to spare people? For example, my MIL committed suicide last fall. We told her mom (Grandma, who is really ill) that it was a bad drug interaction. Which is technically and what was put on the death certificate. Another example is an acquaintance recently lost his cat after the vet gave the cat the wrong meds. The emergency vet told the owner that the cat would be alive if it weren't for the wrong drugs. I think that the emergency vet shouldn't have told the owner that there wasn't anything that could have been done and left it at that since my friend is now beating himself up over it. What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think there is a rule here. I think it depends on the people. When my father was my age, he had intestinal cancer, and the chances of five-year survival were 25 percent. My mother and my brother and I didn't tell him; we said it had been "polyps." That was my mother's decision, which we respected.

He told me years later, in his 80s, that he was glad it was handled that way.

I would want to know.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm with Gene. Elizabeth is not pregnant. She feels like a parent b/c of Anthony's already existing child. They will be stealing the babysitter b/c they have been taking it slow, etc., not dating a lot. The wedding was pushed up in direct response to April's comment to move it up so Gramps could go. If she were going to be pregnant out of wedlock, they'd of kept her with the pilot dude

Gene Weingarten: Well, I just think she was ever going to be preggers out of wedlock.

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Arlington, Va.: Despite your cogent, detailed analysis of today's For Bettor or for Worse, you are a moron. The sudden ending makes little or no sense unless there's a pending/immediate NEED for a babysitter.

Lynn Johnston has used setups like this for other developments in the strip. Watch that space. And we'll see you in a few weeks at the baby shower.

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting.

I like that we'll know tomorrow. A real-time debate.

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Sesame Street Po, RN: Just so all of your readers know, the funny video uses a hit song from the Broadway show Avenue Q. The show is a hoot - not for kids. Go see it.

Gene Weingarten: I have been told this by several people. (This was from the update: Liz, can you re-link?)

washingtonpost.com: Here you are.

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Bethesda, Md.: I liked your poll. I'm a little disappointed that my 29 and under cohort didn't know who Mr Natural was, but I guess the only reason I know is because I discovered my mother's R. Crumb books when I was waay too young for them. Not everything with pictures is for children.

However, in defense of us (since we seem to be performing worse than anyone else) the older age groups were alive to experience our pop culture in real time. we weren't alive for theirs. For example, they weren't getting up on Saturday mornings to watch Captain Planet on TV, but I bet a lot of them had children or younger siblings who did. It's a built-in advantage.

Gene Weingarten: I think you are right. It is an advantage for us coots and geezers.

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Mens Wear Dept, Tysons Corner: The reason that there were no Gen X questions in the poll is that nothing of cultural significance or insignificance happened during the formative years of GenX-ers, which is why they're now trying to make up for lost time by denigrating pleated pants.

washingtonpost.com: Whatever.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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I hope some steals your c, AR: Weather stinks, everything at work that can go wrong has, contractor didn't show up at my house, and someone with enough food for the month dropped their bag on top of mine in the fridge.

OK I will take the poll and have a little bit of fun. At 42 I am in with senior citizens, I know the answer to exactly two of the questions, (Arthur and Gonzo), and I have a vague idea of maybe what you are talking about in three other questions. Now I am old, stupid and having a rotten day.

May your next hot dog be topped with catsup and cilantro.

Gene Weingarten: You and numbn... I mean Chatwoman should get together.

washingtopost.com: Yes, we should. And we could talk about idiots who can't get over their first musical crush -- on Bob Dylan -- and spend the rest of their lives holding him up as some kind of deity who never made a misstep. Then we could imagine Iggy Pop busting in to Dylan's Kumbayah circle and kicking Dylan's bony butt...

Gene Weingarten: Chatwoman have gas?

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Clip of the Day: I can't access Youtube from work (stupid video filter), but have you seen Weezer's video for their new song, "Pork and Beans"? They genius-ly collected a bunch of Youtube -ahem- stars and worked them in, from Miss South Carolina to Tay Zonday to Mentos and Coke to Chris "Leave Britney alone!" Crocker. Awesome. I highly recommend.

washingtonpost.com: Weezer: Pork and Beans

Gene Weingarten: This is absolutely great. How did they do some of this? Did they get Tay Zonday to record their song? How about Miss South Carolina? Is this all digital manipulation? I guess so, eh?

_______________________

Age breakdown: I went in the third door of the poll, since I'm 47, and I found the references I was able to peg as old as mostly before my time. For instance, I know I've seen the cartoon guy in the robe, but I have no idea of his name. I recognized the lyric as being from The Year 2525, but the farthest into that song I can get is "if mankind is still alive." I know Burroughs and Brautigan, but never heard of the other two. I'd have forgotten Laugh-In if not for reruns. So I don't really think there's much there that really represents "my generation." (The sad exceptions being the WIN button and the ring around the collar commercial.)

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I found the only kinda depressing result the youngsters' inability to recognize the "cartoon guy in the robe." That is R. Crumb's Mr. Natural, the highly cynical hedonistic guru. One of the greatest characters of all comicdom. It's sad that he's gone. Flakey Foont, by the way, was his main disciple. Liz, can we link to Flakey?

washingtonpost.com: Flakey Foont

_______________________

Flophouse, brass beds, hookers: Ooh, this reminds me a VERY awkward moment in my life.

I was in ninth grade history and we were studying some crap about Europe. Our teacher got a far away look in his eyes and told of time he was visiting Amsterdam. He said he went to see a prostitute and the experience was so rambunctious that the bed fell through the floor. He then fell silent for about half a minute. Needless to say, we students were silent for far longer.

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

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Free for All: What is the purpose of this section? Every week I read it, despite trying not to. I always want to compose several replies to the more idiotic letters, and at least one to the editor asking that letters from morons not be published. Then I toss the paper aside and go do something else. Does someone spend a lot of time picking the most inflammatory letters by the most ignorant writers? Are there extra points for obvious shoulder chips? Is it pity for these poor doofuses who would never otherwise get a hearing?

Gene Weingarten: Well, I really think it makes for great reading. I like it. And occasionally a reader will make a very good -- if unbelievably picky -- point.

It helps keep us honest.

_______________________

Not So Innocent: I'm a petite and young-looking 31. Aside from the creep factor, it's a way for these old dudes to keep from having to take you seriously. Clearly, they're easily threatened.

Thing is, they want a witty response so they can get some banter going. I usually say, "Let's leave that up to the judge," and change the subject.

I really, really can't wait for the creepy old dudes to retire and/or die off - hopefully subsequent generations of men will be less creepy.

Gene Weingarten: I do think that's true. Younger guys know better.

And it used to be worse. I know I have mentioned this before, but when The Rib was a twentysomething reporter, and miniskirts were in style, a city editor came up to her and a coworker babe -- the two women were sitting on the edge of a desk, talking about a story -- and said to them, smiling: "I don't know what you girls are doing working here. You're sitting on a goldmine."

_______________________

Dirty Baseball Nam, ES: You forgot Randy Johnson!

Gene Weingarten: Of course!

_______________________

re: Pork and Beans: No - if you look at the other videos Weezer has put up on Youtube, its clear that most if not all of the characters are really there, not just digitally inserted. Tay Zonday does the whole song with acoustic accompaniment in another video.

Gene Weingarten: Very cool.

_______________________

FOOB: Isn't it obvious? Dee's just horrified that she won't be able to escape from her twee little brats as often as she'd like.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think you're right.

_______________________

For Chatwoman: Lissen - I'm a 59 year old white female boomer, and I think Dylan and his compatriots (Peter Paul & Mary, for example) are pompous windbags. My equally ancient husband loves them.

washingtonpost.com: Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I liked your column and think it's sweet you want to save some high schoolers from pain.

But I think you could help them out a lot more if you taught them not to be bothered by the opinions of fools.

Maybe you blunt this crisis, but it's just a matter of time before these ill-equipped kids are once again hiding under their beds because of something that should be trivial.

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Post Magazine, June 15)

Gene Weingarten: I don't think a child can learn not to be sensitive to the opinions of others until he or she matures enough to have a strong sense of self; to know exactly who that are and be comfortable with themselves. That comes with love and encouragement, but mostly it comes with age. I don't think you can teach it.

_______________________

"one to the editor asking that letters from morons not be published": This would make a great Free for All.

Gene Weingarten: It would!

_______________________

Don't reuse bath towels!: Continued from last week's chat... After seeing scaly red blotches spread across my skin for a day or two, I went to a dermatologist who prescribed an anti-fungal cream and told me to never re-use bath towels. Even if you hang them up to dry immediately, they stay in a warm, damp bathroom, especially when multiple people shower daily. This encourages the growth of all kinds of germs and fungus that you then spread across your skin after the next shower. Use once, then wash.

Gene Weingarten: This is the third such post I have seen. Apparently, the Rib is right, which does not surprise me.

_______________________

Adamsville: I took the poll and hoped to get most of them correct. Would you believe...I missed it by that much?

Gene Weingarten: Tragically, a new Get Smart movies is coming out, and will reintroduce these two Adamsisms to a new, hipper, jaded, unappreciative audience.

_______________________

Seattle: In Re: FBOFW's Elizabeth The Pure -- Remember, she lived with her boyfriend when she was in college; she dumped him after he cheated on her.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but getting knocked up is different.

_______________________

harassment at "company retreat": This is why "company retreats" are so loathsome. They personalize what should be a business relationship. The poster should go to whoever set up the damn thing and complain that she was harassed, subjected to a hostile environment, whatever the wording is. And she should point out that the "retreat" obviously did not accomplish what it was supposed to ... unless the object really was to let creepy old guys harass a younger colleague.

Gene Weingarten: I have not published a bunch of posts urging this woman to immediately file a harassment suit. Too much, I thought. This seems right.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Gene, nobody in my apartment building talks or socializes with anyone else -- we all go into our apartments and shut off the lights at night like cars in garages. Is it like this everywhere?

Gene Weingarten: I thought so. But my neighborhood, deep in DC, is really friendly. People watch out for each other.

_______________________

Gene Weingarten: Hey. We're done. Thank you. This was fun. I will be updating through the week, and will see you on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, for a column, I am going to be doing something really unusual. It'll give me my third favorite expense account item.

_______________________

UPDATED 6.18.08

Gene Weingarten: As promised, an item-by-item annotation of the answers to the poll questions:

1. The Haight, as in Haight-Ashbury, was an area of San Francisco in which the hippie movement flourished.

2. Joseph Hergesheimer was also a flash in the pan, except he did it three decades earlier.

3. These are lyrics from a dreadful, naive one-hit wonder by Sager and Evans: "In the Year 2525." It was all in a pill.

4. The Accutron, by Bulova, was the first electric watch. It hummed. It was also as thick as a brick.

5. Yeah, "boo" was a term for grass. "Flair" I made up.

6. That's Mr. Natural, man.

7. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, by the great Gilbert Shelton.

8. "Whip Inflation Now" was one of the lamest PR attempts of Jerry Ford's PR-deaf presidency.

9. "Ring around the collar," sung like a schoolyard taunt, was the centerpiece of an ad for Wisk. Here is a link to a dreadful 1980 commercial.

10. "You can bet your sweet bippy" was a mirthless, pointless, but popular punchline in the 1970s show "Laugh-In."

11. "Bop It" is a '90s kids' quick-reflex game with audio. It's a strange-looking object that commands you to bop it, twist it or pull it, and you have about a second to respond correctly.

12. Doug is a cartoon from the early 90s on Nickelodeon. An opening sequence is here.

13. The Slim Shady lyrics are in a song by Eminem, released in 2000.

14. T9Word is a texting option that guesses which word you want based on the first few letters you have typed.

15. Doyyyy= Like, duh

16. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! You're in trouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuble!

17. Arthur and DW are aardvarks in a series of books and a show on PBS.

18. Miss Suzy is to be sung while children play pattycake. These are two different songs with the same tune and hero. (And yes, Lucy seems to be an equally popular version.)

Miss Suzy had a baby.

She named him Tiny Tim.

She put him in the bathtub

To see if he could swim.

As it continues, Tiny Tim does poorly and the doctor, the nurse, and the lady with the alligator purse are all called in to cure him.

Miss Suzy had a steamboat,

The steamboat had a bell (toot, toot).

Miss Suzy went to heaven

and the steamboat went to

Hello, operator, please give me number nine,

and if you disconnect me I'll chop of your

Behind the 'frigerator, there was a piece of glass

Miss Suzy sat upon it, and broke her little

Ask me no more questions...

I could go on.

19. Gonzo the Great is from the Muppets; never moved to Sesame Street.

20. Captain Planet fought pollution. Somehow.

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Post Mag Cover: Gene, I'm interested in your thoughts on this week's Post Mag cover story on Jody Arlington. It just so happens that I know people who lived in Medford, Ore. when this happened and I checked with them -- it seems that a lot of people thought she knew and/or was involved in planning the murders. Her life is an amazing story and despite what I want to feel, I'm some how put-off by the successes Ms. Arlington has had. I don't know, something about the article just rankles and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Gene Weingarten: This is what I thought, as I read it: She deserves every possible benefit of the doubt. It is a clear and uncontested fact that her brother bludgeoned to death not only his parents but his baby sister, simply because she inconveniently became a witness to his crime. In any internal debate over who did what, this fact obliterates all others in significance. He was a coldblooded monster. In any dispute between their versions of the facts, I buy hers.

Having said that, I think it is possible that her memory of events -- what she knew of his plans and when she knew it, whether she might have had reason to suspect what he was up to, etc. -- has shifted a bit, in an effort to harness guilt and retain sanity.

Here is an interesting thought: Had the murderer not killed his little sister, he probably would have walked. A good lawyer might well have pursued and succeeded with a self-defense argument; the evidence of parental abuse was there.

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Springfield, Va.: I'm still trying to piece together what exactly this says about men. But I'm pretty sure he is a true pioneer.

Gene Weingarten: He is the distillate, the purest form, of whatever quality constitutes maleness.

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Aptonym alert: Note the last name of the author of this article on the prevalence of older women going to rehab for "hard drug" addiction.

Gene Weingarten: Several people referenced this. Like, wow, man.

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Pull it, sir: Sorry, I don't think a better version is out there.

Gene Weingarten: Boy, this photo looks phony. But it isn't: Confirmed and triangulated.

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Gravesto, NE: My parents' next-door neighbor bought plots in a cemetery attached to a church that has a huge Labor Day picnic in it's churchyard.

He was excited at the prospect that someone would set a plate of hot dogs and potato salad on his gravestone. When he passed away, his wife also put a bench near the grave.

Gene Weingarten: He'd be welcome in Congressional Cemetery.

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UPDATED 6.19.08

Fairfax, Va.: Since we're talking about age and generational gaps, thought I'd pose my situation. Also, you're the only person in the world who will answer me honestly.

So -- prom night, I got drunk and had sex with a young gentleman (who, like me, is 18, ignore the illegal alcohol abuse, it happens) who I have had feelings for for the past year or so. We discussed it, having lost our virginity to each other, and agreed that while we didn't want a relationship (we're both leaving for college in a few months), that doesn't mean we don't have feelings for each other and that it wasn't a mistake. A few nights ago, we had a mutually-suggested booty call, in which we had sex again.

We're being safe and all that, but here's the question... how do I go about suggesting something more than just a booty call without it being a relationship? Is it possible for an 18-year-old guy to resist a booty call (as in, how can I know that he's doing this because he has feelings for me or cares about me, not because he just wants some action)? And since we're going to keep doing this... is it a bad idea? Does being friends with benefits take the intimacy out of sex? Especially since we're each other's first?

Answer me this, Gene. Help! I don't want to spend a summer making a mistake unless you're endorsing my mistake-making...

Gene Weingarten: I am an old guy. I don't think sex has any meaning unless there is love behind it. I don't understand the concept of "friends with benefits." I think the very fact that you are asking about this suggests that you have an underlying hollow feeling about it.

I think if you do not know whether the guy you are having sex with has any real feeling for you, it's likely he doesn't. And I don't think that's a relationship worth pursuing.

Sorry, I know that's old fashioned. But it's coming from a guy who is making no moral judgments about you; I'm just saying that I think sex should mean more to both of you than it apparently does.

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Washington, D.C.: Wonder if his parents realized what they were doing. Dick.

Gene Weingarten: I am SO ahead of the game on this one.

Liz, can you link to a column I did years ago? Search for my name and "Richard Head."

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Jan. 28, 2001)

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Windsor, ON: What, exactly, does this site say about us?

Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: You know what would also be just a hoot? A strap-on dildo for a baby!

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, this is one of the more disgusting ideas I've ever seen.

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Philosopher's Sto, NE: What did you think about Griffy's dark view of the meaning of life in today's Zippy?

Gene Weingarten: He got it wrong. Life, as we all know, is the distended belly of a cirrhotic wino in a Sutton Place gutter.

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Comi, CS: Pastis is stretching again, Sunday was notable. I'm reminded of something an old friend of mine would say in response. Pun spelled backwards is nup, and a nup is a nup already!

washingtonpost.com: Pearls Before Swine, (June 15)

Gene Weingarten: Pastis is usually spot-on with these painful pun strips. This one didn't make it. It's too easy, too cheap, and just lame.

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UPDATED 6.20.08

Illusion: Tower Illusion.

Gene Weingarten: This is amazing for its power and its simplicity.

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Chicago, Ill.: I'll overlook your trashing of the names Estelle (my late aunt) and Ceil/Cecilia (my late mother) -- if you'll at least stop peeing on their graves.

Were you just trying to be obnoxious for a joke, or did you really let your dog urinate on gravestones?

"It's just a stone." Well, let's see: Your couch is just cloth. Mind if I bring a dog over to pee on it? Your desk is just wood or metal -- so it's OK if I dump a pitcher of warm urine all over it, right? If the front stoop of your home is just concrete or stone, no problem with me dumping a barrowful of horse manure on it, is there?

Here's what's wrong with this:

1. No, they're not just stones. They're monuments. For a lot of not-so-rich folks, the only monuments they'll ever have. My dad didn't have much, but there's a small slab of stone that has his name carved into it. Peeing on it? It's just not nice.

2. Even if you don't accept the idea of honoring the dead, what about respecting the living who mourn them? I assume that you don't let your dog walk up to someone's front door and take a dump, or kill off a corner of someone's lawn with their urine. Why is someone else's property in a graveyard different? I should have to see my father's gravesite surrounded by withered splashes of dead grass because you couldn't be bothered to lead your dog over to someplace else to do its business?

3. Even if you reject those arguments, how about simple human decency? Families return to gravesites. Should I have to kneel in your dog's urine or feces to place a flower on my grandmother's stone?

Way off base on this one, Gene. Just because you don't consider graves anything more than stones and grass doesn't make it right to offend those who do.

Gene Weingarten: There is something you need to know. Murphy and about 500 other dogs run free in Congressional Cemetery. It is a wonderful place. Dogs are invited. It is a place united in a certain spirit. It's a spirit you don't share.

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Gen Xer: OK, Gene, if that furry hippie comic character is so great, could you please explain to me what "Keep on Truckin'" means.

I saw black light posters of this on the walls of my friends' older siblings. Didn't get it then; still don't get it today.

Gene Weingarten: "Keep on truckin'" was an iconic image by R. Crumb. Liz, please link to it.

It's hard to explain why one image is transformative, and one isn't, but I'll try.

People just liked the look of this. It's simple message said the world is complex, just move forward, things will be okay. There is something subliminal, though, in the size of the feet. Anyone who has ever been really drunk or really stoned probably can identify with that feeling that your feet are too big and heavy. It delivers that.

There is also an interesting quarrel (this is true in much of Crumb) between the ordinary, corporate-man look of the characters and the un-corporate message delivered, as though we all have a stoner inside of us, whatever face we happen to show to the world.

Also, it's just a funny drawing.

washingtonpost.com: Keep on Truckin'

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Age discrimination (you know, A is diff't than B, etc.): Gene still thinks he's in his 40's.

Gene Weingarten: This is so wrong, and it belittles me.

I still think I am 14.

People who know me well know that I being serious here.

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A sure loser: No one ever lost an election ignoring the thinking person vote.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. Adlai Stevenson can attest to this.

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X Marks the Sp, OT: Just let Gene know that its the Gen Xers who will be in charge when his generation starts bankrupting Social Security. We will remember the Boomers then. Oh, indeed we will.

Gene Weingarten: We will be your moms and dads and older brothers and sisters. You will love us and provide for us because you are wonderful humans. That is what we are counting on.

Molly keeps talking about when it is time to put The Rib and me in "The Home." She is discussing this as though it might happen, like, in five years. I think she wants our house.

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Next Week's Joint.

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