Chatological Humor: Gene vs. Liz Over Sid vs. Nanette (UPDATED 7.11.08)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: WED | THU | FRI

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Weingarten is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

This Week's Polls: Two polls today. The first is for reasonable human beings:

Door 1: 34 and Younger | Door 2: 35 and Older

The second is for reasonable human beings as well as weenie whining babies who won't take a video poll because they might have to spend five minutes on it at home instead of their other important home activities, such as watching TV in their underwear.

Door 3: Reasonable People and Whiny Babies

Not chat day? Visit the Gene Pool.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

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


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Yesterday the doorbell rang. The man at the door said he was homeless, and had just done some yard work for my next-door neighbor. My next door neighbor wasn't home, the man said, but had asked him to knock on MY door and ask ME for $20, which my neighbor would repay the next day.

There was about a five second total silence, until I laughed.

"That was just the worst, man," I said.

He started to say something, but I held up a hand.

"No, I mean it. The worst. The worst attempt I have ever encountered."

So he just shambled away with a hint of a smile.

I love living in the city.


You may have noted the passing of the great editor Clay Felker last week. (Clay Felker, New York's Editor of Cool, Post, July 2) Clay was the founding editor of New York magazine, and it just so happens I knew him, sort of. I hate to name drop, but I'd like to explain the magical way our two lives entwined. My first break in journalism came when, at 20, I got a cover story printed in Felker's magazine. But I never actually met Felker: I had only dealt with his managing editor.

Flash forward 30 years or so. I am doing a story on Garry Trudeau, the story is done, and it occurs to me that I would love to get Garry to sign one of my prized possessions: a first-edition copy of the very first Doonesbury collection. I've had it forever.

So I rummage for it and find it, and open it up, and see something I hadn't noticed before. On the inside cover it says "FELKER." This is when I remembered how I must have gotten this book. Some time around 1973, Felker had a party for some writers at New York, and I was invited. It was a very cool home; I never got to speak to the great Felker except for a handshake and a nod, but I did get to look through his books, and I did see he had extensive comic collections.

I must have wound up taking this home. It cannot have been deliberate thievery; I just didn't do that. But I have no better explanation than accident.

I told Garry about this when I sent him the book to sign; he signed it over to Clay. Now Clay is dead and I CAN'T give it back. Darn.


As you may have seen in today's paper,The Washington Post has a new executive editor, Marcus Brauchli. Readers have raised two essential questions: 1) How is his name pronounced, and 2) Is he any good? I will answer this question now.

1. No one knows for sure how his name is pronounced. He himself has never uttered it in public, so there is no "official" version. Any pronunciation, ergo, is correct.

2. No one knows for sure how good he is, but I have a suspicion, which I will share, that he is one of those rare geniuses who flower once each Renaissance: A Da Vinci type, possibly a direct descendant of Jesus.


The Clip of the Day, as promised, is this from Barats and Bereta.

But we also have an auxiliary short CLOD.


Please take today's polls. Elaborate discussions will ensue throughtout the chat.


The CPOW is Monday's Doonesbury. First Runner Up is Sunday's Doonesbury. Honorables: Sunday's Zits, Sunday's Fuzzy.

And lastly, HERE is Sunday's Opus. No, that's not the one you saw in The Post, which ran a sub. I believe the editors perceived a racial-ethnic insensitivity.

Bad decision. Nothing wrong with that comic. I really liked the real-world "available now" labeling.

Okay, let's go.


American Cultur, AL: Perhaps the main, most enduring, purely American cultural highlight of the 70's was officially instituting the name "Super Bowl" for the NFL-AFL Championship Game beginning in January 1970. The Super Bowl has become a de facto national holiday and a world-wide phenomenon...and the name Super Bowl started in the 70's.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, a lot of people questioned my answer to question two. It is true, I was using hyperbole. I'm thinking there were three pretty darn major cultural births of the 70s: "Roots," "Saturday Night Live," and "Monty Python." That '70s Column, (Post, July 6). Also, I was born in 1971.


Fairfax, Va.: Gene, There was a posting in the GenePool about political rumors, and I quote: "Senator John McCain used to be an insurance salesman in Raleigh, N.C. He won the New York lottery in 1982 and lost the money in a land swindle. He was once charged with vehicular homicide but was acquitted because his mother said she drove the car. He once stated that the funniest thing he ever saw was Flipper spouting water on coach George Wilson. Posted by TheNathan"

That you responded to by saying "I wonder if anyone gets this. . ." or words to that effect. Gets what? I couldn't figure out the reference. Thanks

Gene Weingarten: This is a reference to the most famous correction in Miami Herald history. I have referred to it before, and will elaborate in the updates. It takes time.


Grim Reaper: Gene, On the topic of death, I find myself in a dilemma when contemplating the topic. I am an atheist (not one of the Pew Poll "I believe in a higher power" atheists, but an atheist true to the definition). I want to be cremated, I never want to be kept alive via artificial means unless there is a very good chance that I could make a full recovery, and I don't care at all about having a funeral.

My rational side says that death is nothing to fear--yet, I actually have a lot of trouble coming to terms with the truth that I will eventually cease to exist. Aging also scares me. In case it adds anything, I am in my late twenties, married, no kids, both parents still alive, raised in a protestant church.

I would like to be more settled about mortality--as I don't want to spend time/energy worrying about the inevitable.

How would you suggest overcoming this problem?

Gene Weingarten: Do what I did. Get a fatal disease and recover from it. Everything changes. You don't worry as much because you feel you're living gift time, anyway.

If THAT'S out of the question, remember what my father told me when I was about ten or so and asked what it was like to be dead.

He said, "Well, what was it like for you in 1918?"


"Well, that's what it's like to be dead."

Not so scary, right?


Knoxville, Tenn.: The reason I said that I'd care a great deal about recovering the bodies from the plane crash is that pretty much all of my loved ones (and myself, for that matter) plan to donate our bodies to the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee -- aka the Body Farm. It's one of the few places where you can donate your body in any condition (even post-plane crash), and it's something my family has grown fairly passionate about.

Gene Weingarten: So it would be worth financing a $20 million recovery operation in the open sea, which entails some risk to living beings diving on the wreck?

I get your point -- it is not the common reason. I've never understood the common reason. Every time there is such a crash, there is a clamoring of distraught victim's families to excavate the mangle, crab-eaten bodies, damn the expense. I understand the bitterness and the desperation, but not the need for a feeling of "closure." I'd feel that terrible closure the second I knew for sure the plane was down and wife was on it.


Yawning with Liz: After one minute of the Caesar/Fabray skit, I realized there were still over four minutes to go, and I got really tired. It's like one of those Saturday Night Live skits that takes a clever idea and stretches it out way too long. I'm a Gen-Xer like Liz, if that makes a difference, and I AM capable of watching something interesting for extended periods of time. This video just doesn't qualify.

Gene Weingarten: Please see next post.


Midwest, US: I'm 31, female, and hot, and I thought the video was phenomenal. I've never seen anything like it, thought the length was fine, and that Sid and Nanette were both excellent. I don't know what Liz is talking about.

On another note, I'm going to see Joshua Bell in concert on Friday, and I shall try to refrain from throwing panties, virtual or otherwise, and from yelling Weingarten or Pulitzer at the end.

Gene Weingarten: Josh wouldn't mind thrown panties so long as you wait until he is between movements.

Here's one interesting and telling result of the poll: You are all pretty wrong in your assessment of the performances. Both are good by I believe a panel of choreographers would vote unanimously that Sid is better. His face is more expressive. His body lanuage is more varied. Sid seldom repeats himself; Nanette does it a lot.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene. Would you please predict, right now, who will win the 2008 presidential election, and how many electorial votes he will get?

Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. Obama will win, with more than 330 electoral votes.


RL, NL: Gene, in your '70s Column, you say that the "romantic kiss on the tush" was mentioned in Footnote 220 of the Starr Report, whereas from what I remember at the time, it was Footnote 210, though the Library of Congress and the Washington Post both have it as Footnote 209. Since it was in print edition, can we expect an official correction, and if so, what would it say? That '70s Column, (Post Magazine, July 6)

Gene Weingarten: I think I was right. 220. That's what the Urban Dictionaries say. Can we have an official report here?


Farragut North, Washington, D.C.: Gene: Sorry I won't be able to participate live during the chat, but I wanted to add this observation about the first poll.

I think it's less a matter of age than of ethnic background that determines whether the video is seen as brilliant or tedious. If one did not grow up with outsized relatives who talked with their hands and made grand gestures, then the entire skit seems overdone. If, on the other hand, like me (and, I'm guessing, you and many other Jews of our vintage), you grew up with these types of arguments at family gatherings--although in my case it was over Troksyites vs. Stalinists, not infidelity -- the argument set to music seems brilliant.

One way in which age factors in is the incredible shrinking of the national attention span. With everyone--regardless of age--used to 15 second commercials, cross-cutting, and rapid editing, the idea of an almost six minute take, without much camera change, seems unbearably slow, regardless of the brilliance of the acting.

Gene Weingarten: I think all of this is right.

And I acknowledge that six minutes is long. But here is my view: They HAD NO CHOICE but to do the entire first movement of Beethoven's Fifth; otherwise it would have been not a "feat" but a "stunt." They proved it could be done magnificently, staying true to the music.

I acknowlede some tedium. But I forgive it and accept it for the bigness of the thing. This, then, is the official Chatological Humor position.


No more videos (except this one): I'm the one who complained Tuesday about video polls, but now I have to give you this.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Arlington, Va.: What is up with people? Looking at the early poll results (I had to do door three since I work for the guvment, no YouTube) it appears that some stone is more important than the ACTUAL COMMUNICATED WISHES of a loved one. I guess they must be the same people who want to ban flag burning because they love America and it's freedom of expression and right to criticize the government so much.

The well communicated wishes of a deceased loved one, done in a time of sanity not dementia, are sacrosanct. It is not YOUR money, it was his. How can you steal it from him because you don't want to do what he wanted with it?

Wow. All I can say is wow. Pee on my headstone anyday, but if I leave instructions on my funeral and I have the money left to carry them out, DO IT. It so happens I'll want cremation and no funeral (just have a damn party!) but that is not the point.

Gene Weingarten: The results of that last question were startling and I'd like to hear people explain their answers. I disagree with you -- I agree with the majority -- but I expected to be in a small minority. I'll share my view after some of you have weighed in.


Actually, the hell with it. I'll go first. The entire second poll had a certain subtle quasi-spiritual theme: What is a dead body? Is it anything? What happens to you after you die?

In my view, after you die, you do not exist. Your body means nothing. You will never know what happens after you die. Informed by this philosophy, I would not care about the peeing dog, of course, but I also would not care about recovering a loved one's body from a plane crash. But this extends to the matter of the funeral as well...

I deliberately framed that last question so that Dad didn't put the funeral request in his will, which would have made it (probably) legally binding, or ask me directly, which would have required me to say yes, which would have added a strong degree of ethical truthtelling obligation. No, he left a note. A request. Do me a favor.... he said, and then died, and then his money is mine. It WAS his money, until he died, and now it's mine.

Do I grant that favor? In most cases of a dying man's request, sure. In most cases I would feel obligated, but not if it is something of which I strongly disapprove. He wants the money to go to the National Man-Boy Love Association? Uh, no, Pop, not goin' there. Sorry. He wants the money to be flushed down the toilet in a funeral at the National Cathedral with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Little Richard performing? Sorry, dad. Maybe under other circumstances, but not not when your granddaughter eeds college tuition that I don't have. If there's an afterlife, and you see her graduate, you'll forgive me.

But of course, my answer really hangs on the fact that I don't think there's an afterlife. He died thinking maybe (remember this was a REQUEST) I'd do that ghastly ostentatious funeral. Fine. I didn't, he's dead, he'll never know, and I feel no guilt at all.


Makeitre,AL: For however long you've been okay with peeing on gravestones, I've been okay with it, but taking the death poll this time really made me step back. Imagining the situation in real life, not in theory, changes my answers to something irrational. If I think about a dog peeing on my cremated remains, I'm okay. I'll probably die old and wrinkly like the rest of my family. But if I try to imagine the dog peeing on, say, my child's grave, it's no longer okay. Not for a long long time. It's like whatever your formula was for being able to tell 9/11 jokes. The worse the loss, the longer it takes before you are allowed to do anything funny.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but I see a dog peeing on a grave as just about the same insult as a cloud raining on a grave.


Washington, D.C.: About the poll -- I loved the video and I'm 34, so just barely in the younger group. But I don't understand all the people who say it would be better if it were shorter.

How on earth would that work?

The first movement of the Fifth Symphony starts at the beginning and ends at the end... and so does the argument. How could you make it any shorter??

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. Shortening it would have killed it.
The most self-evident answer there. People just didn't get this.


Dads, Funeral: as of Monday afternoon, I am answering in the minority of have the big funeral as Dad wanted. my reasoning: it was his money, his wishes. yes, my family could have used the money - but if I'm waiting around for Dad to kick the bucket to get me out of financial trouble, this doesn't say much for me. presumably, Dad might have known about the situation and helped if he had wanted. It's one of those "time to put on the big girl pants" and deal with my own problems.

In real life, I'm doing better than my siblings, and have told my father to spend like a crazy man through his own estate (including giving it to said siblings and offspring if he wishes), and if the last check he writes bounces, I'll cover it. we are each reponsible for our own financial circumstances and I just dont want the fighting with my siblings.

Gene Weingarten: I agree, totally. My father did not die easily or quickly; I was his guardian during the last two years, and spent virtually all of a sizeable inheritance seeing he was as comfortable and as well cared for as possible, including round the clock private duty nurses. I had no second thoughts about this at all.

Then again, I was not desperately wondering how I would pay for my children's education.

The scenario in the poll was very different; the money was not to be used on the father, it was to be used on the father's dead body. And there was real need in the family.


Baltimore, Md.: Gene: I second your father. I remember having my outlook on life and death changed a couple of years ago when I read (can't remember where) that people spend inordinate amounts of time worrying what will happen after they die, but spend no time worrying about where they were before they were born. Same state of non-existence, right?

Gene Weingarten: Exactly!


Joe, Pa.: Gene, although in 95 percent of cases you are right, in the poll you are egregiously wrong. And the voters back it up, subconsciously. It's funny for a minute, at most. After that it's repetitive. Although Chatwoman doesn't understand how the human body painted up UNDER THE SKIN looks retarded (and extra sexy when you are old), on this she can claim victory. Gee, thanks -- I think.

Gene Weingarten: Wow! I was starting to write "Noted," but had my right hand out of position, and it came out "Bite."

This is one of the most significant things that ever happened on this chat.


Brauch, LI: In Howard Kurtz's story, in the ninth graf, the pronunciation is given as "BROW-klee."

Gene Weingarten: Howie got it wrong. There IS no official pronunciation.


Rockville, Md.: Good advice:

"Get a fatal disease and recover from it. Everything changes. You don't worry as much because you feel you're living gift time, anyway."

Or spend a year in Vietnam with the infantry. I expect it is very much the same.

Gene Weingarten: I'll bet it is. Same feeling of living gift time, right?


Whiny Baby, D.C.: I don't have any video blocked at work, and I still refuse to look at videos online. There are two good reasons. First, because it looks unprofessional at the office (while reading your chat looks like I'm working.)

Second, and more importantly, because video is ruining the Internet. There's something important about having to communicate ideas with words -- and all this trending towards video is reducing the amount of readable content out there. It pains me to see my favorite writers (Ana Marie Cox, Andrew Sullivan, YOU) turn to an intellectually inferior medium because everyone else is doing it these days. I can't even read some stories on my favorite news sites anymore because they exist only as video.

Please don't encourage this trend. Your chats are more stimulating than any video you could be posting.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks for posting, Gramps.


Nanette: To know that Nanette was repeating herself one had to be able to stay awake for more than a minute. BTW, I'm 47.

It was ok, but only for a minute or so...

Gene Weingarten: I love this fight.


Bethesda, Md.: additional poll question:

How familiar would you consider yourself to be with classical music?

I am just barely 35 but a classically trained musician and this bit is BRILLIANT. The are doing exactly what Beethoven wrote. It could not be shorter because then the music would not work. It has already been shortened as much as it can be!

I would then be interested in the matrix of how the like/dislikes line up with the understanding of classical music. But then I am also a total computer dorko, so go figure!

Gene Weingarten: See? I love it.


No, No, Nanette: I'm surprised so many people taking the poll thought Nanette was better than Sid. At first I just thought that was a quirk of my younger generation, since we weren't that interested in the video anyway (personally, I thought there was some cool stuff there, but it wasn't so cool I wanted to watch it being drawn out so long).

But, at least in the early results, the older folks also thought Nanette was better. I don't get it.

My first impression was just that they were really balanced--her with her sharp, staccato movements, and him with his fluid, flexible ones, and there's an element of truth to that. But as I kept watching, it just seemed like he was much more natural at it. ...Wasn't he? Or am I wrong and the majority right?

Gene Weingarten: You are very right.

I think Nanette is a little off, very slightly, on the timing. One reason may be that she was functionally deaf. She accomplished a lot in showbiz with a serious impairment.

Trivia question: Who is her niece and how did she rise to fame?

Here is the answer:

Her niece was Shelley Fabares, who played the dippy daughter in the Donna Reed Show and recorded he dippy 1950s number one chart topper, "Johnny Angel."

And by the way, was "Angel" Johnny's last name? Because if it was, this song is even dippier than it seems. And if it wasn't, this song is even dippier than it seems.


She's Lost, IT: Tatwoman is nuts! The tattoos have affected her brain...she should no longer be called Chatwoman.

That routine is brilliant... almost in the same league as "How's on First." The timing and choreography in the routine is superb. If she can not appreciate it, she needs to go back to Comedy 101 and retake the class... or put her in the chatroom corner and have her wear a dunce cap! Listen, I don't want to court any more ill will here than I already have -- what with being Gene's coarse, uninformed celeb-loving sidekick -- but the preponderance of you out there in chat-land not only worship Gene but are here because you share his taste -- in humor and pop-culture in general. So, being so far up -- errr, I mean "close to" Gene and his sensibilities -- it may come as some surprise to learn that the man you worship is a nerd and a snob. A deadly combination. A double threat. I'm not sure what that makes you, but in my book it makes you the sort of people who get giddy watching six minutes of Sid Caesar over-emoting, or orgasm over a double-dactyl or spend hours of a chilly and wet May day swarming around Penn Quarter trying to figure out the hidden meaning behind a few big heads running around a park.

And I love Gene and every one of you. You know this and that is why I can respectfully disagree.

I love dark chocolate and Indian food and raw rock and roll. So sue me. While you were busy at drama club I was using a fake ID -- not to drink, but to sneak in to punk rock shows. And while you were busy at math club I was teaching myself to play the drums. So my taste is different -- not lesser, just not yours. Gene can't seem to stomach this. I hope the rest of you aren't as intolerant.

And I'd like to point out that I fall into the older category for the poll split. I am not an "under 34" immature sapling incapable of getting the genius of something made 50 years ago. It just so happens that this is a bit more my style. Or, if you're looking for something more directly comparable, I'm far more impressed by this level of choreography and timing.

That is all. Now, back off before I poke you in the eye with a drum stick.

Gene Weingarten: Uh. Er. Okay!


Pikesville, Md.: The reason I voted for Nanette over Sid is simple: although his face and most of his choreography was great, there are several moments where he appears to simply be imitating a symphony conductor, rather than making anything like a believable argumentative gesture. Nanette may repeat herself, but there were few times she looked quite so artificial. Which is worse? Stepping in dog doo-doo or vomit?

Gene Weingarten: It is indeed rare in a chat when C'woman demonstrates more fervency and opinion than I do. I consider us bless'd.


Doornai, IL: David Cross did a stand-up bit where he stated that he'd want his dead corpse given to a necrophilia group, and they could have their way with him.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, this whole second poll was provoked by a sarcastic poster who asked, given my opinions of death and dogs and graves, if I would care if a necrophiliac mortician did things to my daughter's body!

I almost put that question in the poll, but thought the better of it.

Answer: I would be less angry and horrified than 97 percent of you.


byool, IN: "Well, what was it like for you in 1918?"

Just don't ask a 100-year-old Frenchman that.

Gene Weingarten: Ha.


Purge,RY: Would you lie under oath to save your children from serving time (assuming it's a crime of the white-collar variety)?

Would you do it to save your best friend from serving time?

Would you do it for a teammate or a childhood sweetheart?

Would you do it for your child's significant other?

Would you NOT do it just so you could see an office nemesis or ex-sweetheart get the punishment they deserve?

And ASSUMING you COULD testify, would you lie to save your spouse from serving time for a capital crime?

Gene Weingarten: Too many variables here. I consider perjury a very serious crime. There are very few circumstances under which I can imagine doing it. There are not zero circumstances under which I can imagine doing it. But your questions are too broad to answer.


video pole: I liked the video very much (though I admit I didn't watch it all the way through).

Here's my thinking about the concept: nowadays it is very popular for people to make amateur music videos by taking a popular song and setting bits of video clips to them. Some of them put a lot of work into finding clips that fit the music just right and are often brilliantly done.

If you compare those, the 1954 video probably is rather tedious. But this was way ahead of it's time. Plus, they were doing it live, which always adds a level of difficulty, because the timing really had to be perfect.

Gene Weingarten: Also, a good point.


Waldorf, Md: Gene, a year or so ago, you did a whole poll about Billy Joel's song, The Piano Man...well, in your esteemed opinion, were the "real estate novelist who 'never had time for a wife' and Davey who was still in the Navy" gay? My husband instists they were not. I believe they were, but that was as close as Joel could imply back in the 70's. What do you think? We agrue about this every time we hear the song.

Gene Weingarten: They are definitely gay. Gays picked up on this immediately.


Temporarily in VA: Who ARE these sick 108 (as of 6:19pm EDT) people who want an open casket? I simply don't understand the need to look at dead people. If it were me as the guest of honour, I wouldn't want relatives and friends looking at my corpse. Ugh. I suspect these are the same type of people who say "passed away" instead of "died" and build little memorials by the side of the road where there was a fatal car crash.

Gene Weingarten: I'd like to hear from some of the open casketers.

I have never been to an open-casket funeral where I felt anything other than majorly creeped out. No dead body looks like the person when alive. I didn't make the choice with my mother; it was an open casket. The mortuary did as good a job as they could, but ...

Actually, I don't want to continue.

For my father's funeral, I was in charge and the casket was closed.


Montypyth, ON: First aired on October 5, 1969.

Of course, that was in the United Kingdom, and maybe you think that doesn't count nearly as much as airing here in Amurrica.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. We began seeing here in 1971, I believe.


Mens Wear Dept, Tysons Corner: Gene, differences in what people find interesting must be considered. Chatwoman finds the peccadillos of celebrities to be fascinating. You find mechanical timepieces fascinating. Each of you likely finds it difficult to comprehend, much less appreciate, the other's fascination. At least you are both animal lovers. Perhaps you two can come to a consensus on whether dogs or cats are better pets.

Yeah. Right.

For the record, I thought the video piece was brilliant.

Gene Weingarten: Remember, we fight each other for a living.


Paging the Profess, OR: I realize that (this being Monday night) all the poll results are not in, but I am still astonished that at this point, people are picking "They are both equally good" or even that Nanette is the better of the two!

From where I'm sitting, she gets points off of both technicality (see the "oh yes"/"oh no" section where she is waaaay off of her cues) and artistry (she is generally acting well, but she's not really making it FUNNY).

To be fair, I don't know that I would have noticed her comedic deficiency... except that she is next to Sid who is blowing her out of the water, comedy-wise. His gestures are crisper and more strictly related to the music while at the same time being only exaggerated versions of the very very familiar. Her gestures are familiar, certainly (good acting), but lack that deep connection to the music that is after all the whole point of the skit. Just look at Sid when that big horn solo sounds (either time) and you'll know what I mean.

Seriously, folks, this is a no-brainer. Nanette's performance, like the premise as a whole, is interesting enough. But Sid made me LAUGH.

--32 and female

Gene Weingarten: You are so, so, on target.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I was shocked that in this particular audience of highly opinionated people, such a huge percentage declared Sid and Nanette "equally" good. Nothing is "equally" good to something else. One thing is ALWAYS at least a teensy bit better.


Fight! Fight!: I agree with the poster talking about family disagreements, big gestures, etc...that's exactly how my family fights. And I loved the clip.

Sure, I agree with Gene on many things, especially dogs and comics.

However, I'm with Liz on dark chocolate, most food choices and that Gene really just seems like my dad who is amusing and fun to talk to, but I don't really want running my life day-to-day.

Not that it matters, but I'm in the late twenties female crowd.

Gene Weingarten: I have been wavering for nearly a year on dark chocolate. I still despise it, personally, but am ready to conceded that it is possible to like dark chocolate and still have an educated palate.


Dead as a Doorna,IL: Comparing what it was like before you were born with what it's like after you're dead is comparing apples and oranges. I worry about what will happen to my children and husband after I die. That obviously was not a concern before I was born!

Gene Weingarten: They will be fine. You've done very well by them.


Downtown, DC: On Sid vs. Nanette: Nanette, by a mile. I don't think many voters of any age, background, or orientation enjoyed the thought of Sid Caesar naked.

Gene Weingarten: I see.


Pickypic, KY: Gene, Yesterday Kids Post ran a story about the horrors of nosepicking. As an inveterate picker, I am sick and tired of the media distorting the facts about the time-honored tradition of digirhinolaving. Let's hope the the new editor, Mr. Brauchli, will keep the Post out of my nose which is already quite occupied thank you very much.

Gene Weingarten: I would like to remind everyone of the groundbreaking work this chat did on this very subject. Liz, can we link to the phenomenal results of the poll of April 22, 2008, which proved conclusively, and I believe for the first time, that we are a nation of clandestine but unrepentant nosepickers?

I'm really surprised I have not been contacted by the MacArthur Grant people over this seminal work. April 22 poll: Women | Men


Advice, Please: I bartend at a local bar/restaurant, and this weekend I won a regional "Fourth of July Cocktail Recipe" contest. Without boring you with the details, my concoction involved Grenadine, Curacao, lemon vodka, and a couple of very clever inventions to make fireworks appear.

The prize, along with some cash, is that I received offers from several better establishments to come work for them. Either of these better offers would allow me plenty of time to work on my music as well.

Here's the problem: despite inventing the "Miss Freedom" cocktail simply by looking around the bar and seeking inspiration from the bottles on the wall, I have (since winning) learned that the exact same ingredients were used to create a cocktail in 1962.

Should I return the prize and advise the judges that even though I worked without outside influence, my recipe isn't original? Or should I shamelessly capitalize on the prestige and financial benefit while keeping my mouth shut?

Gene Weingarten: Keep the prize. You did it FAR better than the original.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, is it possible to take a basic clock mechanism and tweak it to run at half speed? I want to make a 24 hour clock. If it's possible, does it require a particularly high-quality clock, or would any old $8.99 thingie work? And could any horlogist do it? Would you do it? It's a neat application idea I have... you'd like it.

Gene Weingarten: If it is a mechanical clock, you would need to insert two extra gears, and it would take extraordinary clockmaking knowledge to know how to do that. It will cost you a lot.

I have no knowledge of electrical clocks, though my guess is it would require the same two gears. Possibly, though, there is a way of cutting the electric input in half, which I think might do the trick. Electric clocks run on a motor whose speed is regulated by the constant feed of a certain strength current.


Gene Gene Peeing Machi, NE: Can you at least appreciate that other people would be upset that a dog was peeing on their child's grave?

Gene Weingarten: Not reasonable people, no. Maybe, like ON THE DAY of the funeral.


Tenleytown, D.C.: Sorry, but I don't think the funeral poll question hinges on belief in an afterlife. I think it hinges on one's sense of self-absorbtion and entitlement. For whatever reason, the big funeral was important to dad. Maybe he sacrificed other things he wanted in life to save that money for his big funeral. Maybe that was silly, but it was his life, his money and his dream.

So he didn't put it in his will. He told the person he loved and trusted the most in life -- his child. But the child betrays that trust because he thinks his values are better and that his needs are more important than his father's needs. Sorry, that's not based on a view of an afterlife. It's based on a selfish view that your values, wishes and needs are more important and better than the father.

Gene Weingarten: I understand this view, and, as I said, I am surprised a greater percentage of you didn't feel this way, too. This is very well put.


Dating Conundrum: What's your view on dating more than one person at one time, provided that no bodily fluids are exchanged? Do you disclose the fact that the other is not the only one, or keep it to yourself until it's truly necessary - Say when you have The Talk? I find myself in this situation and I could see myself liking both guys but I feel slightly guilty dating both of them at the same time. Your take?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think you are really "dating" either unless you are exchanging fluids or doing other really intimate things. So you are fine. Your private life is yours, and no exclusivity is presumed.


Drop It...really!: Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but I see a dog peeing on a grave as just about the same insult as a cloud raining on a grave.

We GET it! You don't believe in the afterlife. Death doesn't scare you. Who knows if you even weep or mourn. But can you just drop it and stop trying to convince those of us who do that we're wrong!

Gene Weingarten: People keep asking!


Open Casket: I was raised Catholic and every funeral I've ever been to (and there have been a lot, again, raised Catholic) has had an open casket. It doesn't creep me out just because I'm used to it. I think it's a waste of time and energy, but it doesn't creep me out. I'm wondering why, if a dead body is a dead body, do you find it disturbing?

Gene Weingarten: Because I want to remember the person, not a bad wax dummy of the person, in a skin color the person never had, with the dentures not quite fitting right.


They are definitely gay. Gays picked up on this immediately.: But gay people think everyone is gay! It's undestandable -- nearly all of my friends are straight, so I probably think there are fewer gay people than there really are. So it stands to reason that gay people (with a large portion of gay friends) will see the world as more gay than it is.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think this is true. But I think what gay people were picking up were lame lines they'd heard uttered: "Don't have time for a wife."


Anonymous: Hi Gene. Today is my birthday. I'm sad. I am pretty sure none of my friends remember. Other than my parents, the only call I have gotten was from my ex-boyfriend. Needless to say, that did not help. Can you cheer me up?

Gene Weingarten: Liz and I are fighting over how I should answer this. She is saying I should cheer you up, but I keep coming back to the thought that every damn person has a birthday, so why are we so egomaniacally focused on people remembering ours? It's not like you did anything, sweetie. It's a birthday.

But I'll let Liz call the shots here. You are a special person on your special day. Cheer up!


I come to the chats for Chatwoman: And am totally giving her a slow-clap from the back of the gymnasium.

Gene Weingarten: Bite... er, noted.


Washington, DC: Gene how do you pick the age points for your polls? I ask because I'll be 35 on Friday so for one last time I was able to answer the 34 and below category (not that I really care - I actually clicked on the 35+ category first anyway). But for this particular poll I though the age cut off should have been higher. If this was done in 1954 I would have been -19 when it came out - perhaps 45 would have been a better cutoff.

Gene Weingarten: We use 34 as the cutoff because in our experiece that bisects the audience perfectly.


Kitakami, Japan: Can you explain this? I've always had borderline prosopagnosia, and thanks to you, I now have a name for it. It was probably in high school that I noticed I was different from most people, and that I was the only one who had to mentally catalog all my friends' outfits before going out so that I'd recognize them. In a context where I'm not expecting to see her, there's a fair chance I wouldn't recognize my wife (it's happened). With both the on-line tests you linked to, I scored in the borderline range.

Now, the twist: a little over a year ago, my wife and I moved to Japan. It turns out, I do not have this problem with Japanese faces. When I see someone (Japanese) I know on the street or in a store, I usually recognize them. In a complete turnaround from our US lives, I usually have to tell my wife who that was we were just talking to.

There are only a handful of westerners here, but I mostly can't tell them apart.

So I seem to have prosopagnosia for western faces, but not for Asians. Have you ever heard of such a thing? By the way, I'm not the least bit Asian myself.

Gene Weingarten: I haven't a clue, but it's very interesting.


Open Casket : Gene,

I know you rejected Judaism a long time ago but wasn't your mother buried according to Jewish law? I'm Jewish and all the Jewish funerals are always closed casket. I was under the impression that "Jews don't do the open casket thing."

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, I don't know. There was a rabbi, but also an open casket. Come to think of it, same for my grandparents, so I suspect you are wrong.


Defecati, ON: Enough with the pee, Gene. What about number 2 on your child's grave?

I think this whole debate comes down to who likes dogs and who prefers people. Sorry, Gene, I have less use for canines than you do for dark-chocolate samosas.

37, female, mom

Gene Weingarten: That number two is gone in about two weeks. Nicely biodegradable.


Philadelphia, Pa.: "They did a great job on him. He looks so much better in the casket than he did alive."

Ahh, memories of family funerals and how the insults continue past the end.

Gene Weingarten: Right.


Favorite Epitaph: I think this epitaph sums up your attitude, it's one of my favorites:

First I wasn't Then I was Now I ain't again!

Gene Weingarten: Oooh. I like that.


You took the book home "by accident"???: That is the worst attempt I have ever encountered.

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, I have no memory of what happened, which means I didn't steal it. But facts is facts. I have Felker's book! And I definitely went to his house. I don't remember seeing it there, specifically.

Obviously I did not tell this story as self-aggrandizement. Something bad happened!


Nanette was funnier. . . : . . . because she looked more real. Sid pulled a couple of raise-one-arm-over-the-head-and-leave-it-suspended-for-a-beat moves that seemed staged to me. I've never seen anyone argue like that, so it rang false, which jarred me away from the suspension of disbelief -- instead of getting caught up in the music and emotion, I started thinking about the performance as performance ("he's gotta hit that beat").

And I'm 42 and thought it was just ok. I know classical music, but it didn't help -- I was mentally substituting the instruments for their voices, so I kept expecting him to be the deep notes and her to be the high ones. When he hopped in on the fast, high bits, it was jarring. I also think it would have been better shorter -- yes, I realize that practically, you couldn't do that, but it nevertheless felt like a one-note joke that played out waaaaay too long.

Gene Weingarten: You know what? There may be an interesting truth here: I recognize that gesture. I think it's Jewish. I think it's old country Jew. I've seen it.

Whereas Nanette is a Christian.


Pontius Plate, SC: Gene, Are you going to move to South Carolina so you can get these for your clunker?

Gene Weingarten: Wow. That's tasteless.

I have a last supper clock in my home


Sid Caesar: Can you explain why he has not received a Kennedy Center Honor? I think I read this on a list in the Post a few years ago--famous folks who have not gotten one yet. I know you have to come to the ceremony, so maybe he's not well--but he should have gotten one years ago.

Gene Weingarten: Man, Sid has to be really old. He looked about 35 in that clip, and that was 1954


Chat woman brings up a good point: And actually I just read a column about this today from a paper based on the left coast (ok, it was the San Franscisco Chronicle). Why are progressive liberals so quick to turn on things they don't like or understand? For a group that seems like they should be open minded to most everything, they can be close minded about several things.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, you don't think the closedmindedness cuts both ways?


Peeing on graves: Gene, I'm finding myself unable to answer the first question of the second poll. For me, it would really depend on the breed of the dog.

If a nice large, friendly, intelligent Lab or Saint Bernard wanted to piss on Dad's grave, I wouldn't mind. I'd probably even laugh. But if a sniveling, good-for-nothing, peanut-brained Pomeranian or Maltese did it, I'd probably punt it, and its owner too.

Okay, I wouldn't punt a dog, but I'd be plenty PO'd.

I can't say with conviction that there is any logic to this; of course there isn't. It's just what it is, for me anyway.

Gene Weingarten: Intelligent Lab?


They are definitely gay. Gays picked up on this immediately.: I'm tired of gays ruining all my favorite things, rewriting history with a gay bias.

I loved playing that song on the piano when I was growing up why does there have to be some secret gay message involved (only detectable to gays with a personal agenda)?

Has Billy Joel given us any reason to believe this interpretation is true?

Gene Weingarten: It's obviously true! Just from the lyrics.


New York, N.Y.: I don't think my values, wishes and needs are more important than my father's. I think they're more important than my DEAD father's.

Gene Weingarten: Well, yep. That's MY view.


Saving face: The western (I'm guessing white?) prosopagnosia sufferer who does not have recognition problems in Japan is fascinating. Westerners often have trouble differentiating Asians (insert stupid "they all look alike" comment here), I think because Westerners tend to use things like hair color and texture to recognize people. This guy must somehow be wired to use the same clues as Asians, maybe things like subtle face shape differences, etc. There must be a scientist out there who would want to figure this out.

Gene Weingarten: It IS fascinating.


Speaking of Death . . . : I enjoyed your Clay Felker story but, if it is indeed true, I'm sure you know that you should not keep the first-edition Doonesbury collection but rather should return the collection (with the inscription to C. Felker) to Felker's heirs.

Gene Weingarten: I'm gonna check if it is indeed a first edition and has any value. It's not clear.

I do think you are right. Especially, with the inscription to Clay.


Felker's Bo,OK: Could you have bought it used, and this is all an incredible coincidence? Did you borrow it and never return it from someone who borrowed it from and never returned it to Felker? I have gained and lost many books on my shelf this way.

Gene Weingarten: I would say it's possible, and in fact, I would say that it was probable, and that the "Felker" was not even Clay, but ... I was at the man's house. And I remember he had comics books. You know? I am not giving myself the benefit of any doubt there.

Also... I've had that book a long time.


Sid: He's 85. Not that old. Or at least not as old as I thought. Wait. Did you just jinx him?

Gene Weingarten: No, I'd have to make a joke about his underpants to jinx him.


Relax, Liz: What's got into you? Nobody's saying you're lesser than anybody here. So you like punk and can play the drums. Good for you! I hate punk and play the clarinet. Good for me! But ya know what? That's not who we are. Preferences and proclivities, that's all. Just be a decent human being and nobody'll give a rat's behind about the rest. Bite--- Noted.

Gene Weingarten: Heheheh.


Washington, DC: As both a journalist and a humorist I'd like your opinion on the dust-up over the Fox and Friends show's "photoshopping" of two New York Times reporters.

Is this a case of a bad joke gone awry, or is it more sinister than that? Should Fox and Friends be held to the same journalistic standards as a network news show, or do they get a pass because they are infotainment?

Gene Weingarten: This was a complete outrage. I am surprised they didn't get even more publicly pilloried.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Did anyone notice there was a point last week that I find interesting. If one looked at the list of the most popular discussions, this discussion was, of course, the most viewed discussion. Second was the female hot dog competitive eater. Yet, what I found fascinating was: her discussion was the second most viewed discussion before her discussion had even been held. Which shows was interests us: Gene Weingarten and female hot dog eaters.

Gene Weingarten: This makes perfect sense.


Alex., VA: As a dog owner, I believe that my dog, your dog, and everyone's dog should be on a leash in public. It's a dog - it may be unpredictable. My dog would go tearing off after a squirrel a block away if I wasn't on the other end of the leash. I have a great dog and enjoy her company - wife and kids like her too - but outside of my enclosed back yard she's on a 6' leash.

Gene Weingarten: It's just not true of everyone's dog. Some dogs are trained so they don't have to be leashed. Alas, neither your dog nor mine is such a dog.

But there are vast, fenced-in properties used to let dogs run, and one of them happens to be Congressional Cemetery. It's a wonderful place. Dogs need to run.


Gene you Ignorant Sl, UT: The Godfather. London Calling. Watership Down. Blood on the Tracks. All in the Family. MASH. Redheaded Stranger. Layla. Sophie's Choice. What's Goin' On...

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


New York, NY: I get the DEAD FATHER's wishes thing, but again, if it was a donation to a charity you hated, would you contest the will because he is dead and you feel you are living and it should be yours?

Gene Weingarten: Only if the charity were appalling and I could not stomach giving the money there. In that case, I'd probably give it to another charity.

If he gave his money to charity in a will, he is specifically saying, I don't want you to have it.


Recovery efforts: I used to feel the same way about recovering bodies after an airplane crash, but then I read stories of the families whose loved ones perished, and many experienced "magical thinking," that their loved one must have missed the plane, or somehow was rescued by a fisherman, etc. and they really could not believe that their loved one was dead until the body was recovered. Until that point, many always had that nagging irrational doubt in the back of their minds, and were not able to truly let reality sink in until the body was recovered.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. This I get. But it's magical thinking.


New York, NY: From "My Apology" by Woody Allen, where he imagines himself as Socrates being sentenced to death:

Allen: Then let it be! Let them take my life. Let it be recorded that I died rather than abandon the principles of truth and free inquirty. Weep not, Agathon. Agathon: I'm not weeping. This is an alergy. Allen: For to the man of the mind, death is not an end but a beginning. Simmias: How so? Allen: Well, now give me a minute. Simmias: Take your time. Allen: It is true, Simmias, that man does not exist before he is born, is it not? Simmias: Very true. Allen: Nor does he exist after his death. Simmias: Yes, I agree. Allen: Hmmm. Simmias: So? Allen: Now, wait a minute, I'm a little confused. You know they only feed me lamb and it's never well-cooked.

Agathon: But it was you who proved that death doesn't exist. Allen: Hey, listen - I've proved a lot of things. That's how I pay my rent. Theories and little observations. A puckish remark now and then. Occasional maxims. It beats picking olves, but let's not get carried away. Agathon: But you have proved many times that the sould immortal. Allen: And it is! On paper. See, that's the thing about philosophy - it's not all that functional once you get out of class.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


You go, Liz!: Gene (who has such bad taste that he doesn't eat dark chocolate) is constantly saying you're wrong and I'm sick of it, too. I am saving your rant on my hard drive. I'm ridiculously honored. Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: Awww.


Salt Lake City, Utah: The peeing on the grave thing is the wrong question: why are we still using up huge tracts of land to inter people (creating headstones that can be peed on)? Someday the US will come to its senses and ban this wasteful way of memorializing the dead and sanction cremation as the only legal way to dispose of human remains. This has nothing to do with an afterlife, and everything to do with wasting perfectly good land. I tried not to waste resources while I was alive, why should I do so after I'm gone?

Gene Weingarten: I agree with this in principle, but man... old bonyards are beautiful, filled with stories. We'd be denying this beauty to future generations.


Funerals & Dogs: People, the casket is stored in a sealed vault. Even if the thing wasn't under ground a team of huskies could unload on the grave and nothing would touch the remains of your loved one.

Gene Weingarten: This is not about logic, clearly.


Great Googly Moogly!: I thought Monica Hesse's article on "the Google defense" in an obscenity case had one of the best final grafs I've seen in years. For the benefit of those who haven't read it: After noting earlier that there were more Google searches for "orgies" than "apple pies" in Pensacola, and she concluded the article with, "Using Google Trends to ascertain community standards? Well, that's just comparing apples and orgies."

That's brilliant, and to my mind's ear bears a touch of Weingarten-ness. Is Ms. Hesse one of your proteges at The Post? Or do you even know her? The Google Ogle Defense, (Post, July 3)

Gene Weingarten: I know her, but not a protege. And that was a great line.


needed a laugh break until: Gene: I needed a laugh, just had a serious doctor patient talk about her impending death so I decide to cheer up by reading your chat which I usually only get to read while on vacation (don't ask about the laptop in Hawaii, hubby doesn't like it either) but i digress. just had the open or closed casket talk with my patient. then i get to your polls...not what i needed today. please insert nose-picking, look-up-the-skirt, or fart joke anytime.

Gene Weingarten: Your butt looks great in those jeans.


That's Ni, CE: Two Southern ladies are riding horseback through the countryside. First lady says to second lady, "See this horse I'm riding? My husband bought it for me after the birth of our first child. Second lady says, "That's nice."

They ride on. First lady says, "See this huge diamond ring? My husband bought it for me after the birth of our second child." Second lady says, "That's nice."

First lady says, "See that little mansion we're riding by? My husband gave it to me after the birth of our third child." Second lady says, "That's so nice."

First lady says, "Why, darlin', you have a child, didn't your husband buy you anything?"

Second lady says, "Yes. My husband sent me to finishing school. I used to say, "F--- you," but now I say, "That's nice."

Gene Weingarten: That's nice.


Arlington, Va.: I don't know if you'll be disappointed by this post, but here goes. Unlike you, I believe in an afterlife. I believe that we all have a soul, that we will all be resurrected someday, and will be judged for the life we lived on this earth. I also agree completely with you on the answers to the second poll questions. While I believe that we should show respect to the memories of those who have passed on, I really don't get the hangup that many people have about death. Our bodies are a vessel, enabling us to have experiences that we could not have otherwise, but no more than that. When we die, our spirits continue; what happens to our bodies or our gravesites after that point is immaterial (uh, no pun intended). The way some people want to treat dead bodies smacks of a kind of pagan fetishism, in some ways. So, atheism isn't a prereq for feeling the way you do.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.


Jewish law and open caskets: I looked it up. Open caskets are contrary to Jewish law. I have no idea what your family was doing.

Gene Weingarten: Not being very Jewish, I guess.


Bite, ME: Earlier post: I'm tired of gays ruining all my favorite things, rewriting history with a gay bias.

Awwww. Poor babee. Um...correcting the whitewashing of a LOONG period of heterosexism is CORRECTING history, not "rewriting it with gay bias." This person sounds scared. Who the hell cares if your favorite song has a line with a gay subtext...unless you're now afraid that, because you loved the song, maybe - gasp! - you might be a little big gay yourself! (Horrors!) Dude (or dudette), if you're that insecure, you got bigger problems than whether the history book is accurate...

Gene Weingarten: Totally agreed.


Times Magazine: I'd be very interested to see your thoughts about the Times Magazine piece this week (here) about suicide. Does the question about the ethics of suicide you have often raised enter into this discussion at all, or is it a completely separate one?

Gene Weingarten: This is written in a dauntingly professorial fashion, but it is interesting. It's making the argument that suicide is less of an inevitability among the suicidally-inclined than we think; that is is a more impulsive act than we think; that the availability of convenient means of suicide is a very important factor in causing suicides. And that a startling percentage of people who try and fail, do not try again. The act of trying and failing seems to change people into a completely different person for the better.

There. Now you all don't have to read it. Believe me, I did you a favor.


Thanks a bunch!: I just started working in a vet clinic as a receptionist/vet tech and now i am terrified of getting head-butted by a damn boxer!

Gene Weingarten: It took Molly a full two weeks to recover.


Dis,CO: To help us understand you and the 1970s, I think we all need a picture. If you don't have one handy, perhaps one of your children is lurking and might upload it and Liz might post it. I'm guessing you looked like Cat Stevens with a silly grin and a very wide belt.

Gene Weingarten: I'll try for next week. There is a picture in my college yearbook of me as the heroin-shootin editor of the NYU daily newspaper, after a long night at the printers. I'm sure Dan can figure out how to upload it.

Gene Weingarten: And we're out of here. Thank you all, I'll be updating as usual.


UDPATED 7.9.08

Gene Weingarten: Here is a weird and absolutely fabulous game. Once I figured out the rules, which are a little confusing and are best learned through brief trial and error, it took me 16 minutes to solve it. I think you all can do better.


Gene Weingarten: For the final word on the intrinsic genius of the Sid-and-Nannette clip, I have heard from my friend Tom Scocca. Tom reports that his son, Mack Scocca-Ho, is riveted by it. Mack is one year old. Hasn't had the attention span beaten out of him yet. Tom adds, though, that Mack is also fascinated by a blank blue screen.


Facial recognition: Oh dear friends, have you forgotten your favorite group of people who all look alike? We're still here among you! We are the reason that Hollywood only needs Denzel Washington and Halle Berry when scripts call for a black actor. (OK, obviously there are at least three men: Denzel, Will Smith, and the doofus in those Rush Hour type movies.) You don't have to go all the way to Asia to find people who all look alike! Have a StayCay right here at home, and try to differentiate us. Hint: I'm not the one who stands at your bus stop, nor the one who works in the Post Office.

Gene Weingarten: Oh! So you must be the one who delivers the mail!

I hear ya.


Herald Correction: Don't forget to tell us about the famous Herald correction!

Gene Weingarten: Ah, yes.

I am quoting myself here, from a very old chat:

One morning in 1986, I was working at the city desk of the Miami Herald when I saw a sports editor walk in, open his newspaper, stare at it goggle-eyed, go completely pale, slam it shut, and look around furtively, as if for an escape route. What he had seen was a passage that he knew he was responsible for, resulting in the following feces-consuming correction, which I print here verbatim:

"Last Sunday, The Herald erroneously reported that original Dolphin Johnny Holmes had been an insurance salesman in Raleigh, N.C., that he had won the New York lottery in 1982 and lost the money in a land swindle, that he had been charged with vehicular homicide but acquitted because his mother said she drove the car, and that he stated that the funniest thing he ever saw was Flipper spouting water on [coach] George Wilson.

Each of these items was erroneous material published inadvertently. He was not an insurance salesman in Raleigh, did not win the lottery, neither he nor his mother wa charged or involved in any way with a vehicular homicide, and he made no comment about Flipper or George Wilson. The Herald regrets the errors.'

The explanation? For a ''whatever happened to'' 20-year-after story about the 1966 Dolphins, the editor had made up some fanciful dummy type, to estimate length and show reporters how to craft their little mini-bios. It somehow got in the paper. Oddly enough, Mr. Holmes was never heard from.


It's OK because dad is dead: If I understood one of your comments correctly, you think it's ok to betray dad's funeral wishes because he's not your dad anymore, but is only your dead dad.

What if you were investigating a story and a source gave you information on the condition of anonymity -- Deep Throatish. But, asked you to never reveal his identity. Would you violate that trust after he died because he wasn't your source anymore, he was your dead source?

Gene Weingarten: Well... yes.

I'm sure there are exceptions, negotiated in advance, but most off-the-record agreements are understood to be in force through the life of the source. Woodward had always said he would not reveal the identity of Deep Throat until Deep Throat had died. This was obviated, obviously, when DT outed himself.


Buffalo, N.Y.: Gene: I keep coming back to the thought that every damn person has a birthday, so why are we so egomaniacally focused on people remembering ours?

Hallelujah!!! Finally, someone in this world who feels as I do about birthdays. I am happy to acknowledge, even celebrate, the birthdays of those who want their birthday to be remembered. Regarding my own birthday, I feel that since I am here I obviously was born, but the date of that occurrence was a mere accident of the calendar. If I were forced to celebrate a day of my early life, I would rather celebrate the day I learned to walk or talk (if I only knew it).

Gene Weingarten: I think I would want to celebrate the day I realized that the toe I was munching was mine. The first awareness of self. I would want to celebrate the day I was "awakened" to true genius by Gene Weingarten. Yesterday.


UPDATED 7.10.08

Oba, MA: Gene, I know you're an Obama supporter, and I'm a liberal Dem, who by all rights should be supporting him, but I have a little hang-up and I'd really like your take on it. In an article in The Post a week or so ago, appropos of California's Court decision legalizing gay marriage, mention was made that Obama had said he did not support gay marriage. That gob-smacked me because to me that means one of two things: either he really does but is pandering to voter prejudices by saying he doesn't, or else he's a hypocrite who only believes in equality under the law for some minority groups. Or else he's a product of the narrow-minded black church, which has quite the problem with homosexuality. So that's three possibilities, none of which show him in a good light. I mean, McCain opposing it, that's understandable given his conservatism, his age, etc. . . . Help me out here.

Gene Weingarten: I am happy to.

Senator Obama says he is against gay marriage because he wants to be president of the United States and he knows that telling the truth about this issue would doom him because of all the uninformed, ignorant pointyheads out there.

But listen to how he says it. He makes it completely clear how he really feels. And is startlingly honest about why he is saying, publicly, otherwise. I find this deeply inspiring.


Grave Peeing OK: Part 2 - Here's a story I think you'll like.

My gram was a feisty quirky woman. During my brother's last visit with her, they went to the cemetery where my gramps and mother are buried. Gram made my brother take a pic of her lying atop her own grave, in which she has her hands crossed, Lily Munster style and a clearly discernable smirk.

The next year she died and my brother brought the photo to the funeral. The family immediately split into 2 camps - the ones who laughed hysterically and the ones who thought we were going straight to hell.

I'll bet a year's salary 100 percent of the laughers wouldn't be upset if a dog peed on gram.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I think that the one of the finest celebrations of a person's life at a funeral is a celebration of his or her sese of humor. This could not have been more apt.


Dancing: This is quite odd, but strangely uplifting.

No, I don't troll youtube for these things - I got it from a NYTimes article.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, it's gorgeous. There is another video of his outtakes that is also quite impressive.


Mt. Rainier, Md.: Gene Weingarten: Too many variables here. I consider perjury a very serious crime. There are very few circumstances under which I can imagine doing it. There are not zero circumstances under which I can imagine doing it. But your questions are too broad to answer.

I would never commit perjury. I would, however, gladly refuse to answer a question when commanded to in a wide variety of circumstances (even those in which a privilege did not protect me). In what circumstance could you imagine affirmatively lying under oath rather than just responding, "I respectfully refuse to answer the question?"

Gene Weingarten: Ah, but this is a naive strategy. If your goal were to protect another person -- as the original question implied -- this answer would be damning the other person before any jury, and certainly before a judge.

Also, as you probably know, a judge can order you to answer a question, and probably would, and if you continued to decline would find you in contempt of court. That can carry jail time.


New York, N.Y.: Gene Weingarten: Nothing is "equally" good to something else. One thing is ALWAYS at least a teensy bit better.

So do you love Molly or Dan more?

Gene Weingarten: If forced to parse this, confront the center of my being, and render a judgment, I would probably conclude that, yes, I love one of them a little more than the other. I'm not forcing myself to do that because it's pointless. I wouldn't tell YOU the answer anyway.



Bowie, Md.: I don't know why, but I saw this and thought of you!

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Great ad. And yeah, that guy does look like me.


Ballston you're my thing, Va.: A group of us from work go to a bar to read your chat on Tuesdays. We have developed a drinking game to go along with it. It is not very flattering to you. It started with a group of nine, but now we have the whole place into it, and even get free drinks for especially good ones! I am not allowed to tell you the rules, so that people inside the chat can't affect our game. I can't tell you the bar either, cause we don't want any of your faithful to show up. Peace out.

Gene Weingarten: This is exciting. Even at the risk of being humiliated, I shall bravely put this before the chat: What do you all think are the drink-triggering phrases or conceits?


Wash, ME: From the 6/24 chat: "You know, at Congressional Cemetery, the grave of J. Edgar Hoover has a little gate around it so animals can't approach. I have seen people open the gate to let their dogs in."

If letting your dog pee on someone's grave isn't a statement of anything at all, then what is the point of opening the gate on J. Edgar Hoover's grave so that the dogs can get in? Why would you even mention this?

I think you recognize that having a dog pee on someone's grave is, indeed, intended to convey disrespect, but you just don't want to admit it - - maybe not even to yourself.

Gene Weingarten: No one is talking about "having" your dog pee on someone's grave. It is about a dog who is running free doing it on his own.

I am going to give up on this one. I am making enemies for no reason; people are finding my stance arrogant for some reason. Plus, almost no one agrees with me, even though I am manifestly correct.


UPDATED 7.11.08

St. Louis, Mo.: In your discussion about life (or not) after death, you forgot one vital element. Reflecting on nonexistence before being born is irrelevant, useless. There was no physial you or me or the rest of us before we were CONCEIVED. Only at that point in time -- conception -- is a biological human created. (Skipping over the philosophical debate of when an embryo becomes human, for brevity's sake.)

The arguments for or against the afterlife must rely on the presence or absence of faith. They cannot even be grounded on physical or philosophical evidence, and never will be. That you do not believe in the afterlife is your point of view based on a lack of faith. That I do, reflects my faith.

Ergo, your position on this issue is not based on some superior knowledge as you would have us readers believe; but on the sum total of your life experiences on this earth just like the rest of us schmuks.

No virtual panties thrown here. Sometimes you can be so silly and biased, that, if we met in a bar and you spoke like you write, I'd be dumping a glass of ice water on you.

Gene Weingarten: And I would accept that ice water with good humor.

I have said this before, and mean it: If I die, and find myself in some sort of afterlife, I will be the guy laughing my butt off right up until the moment I am cast into the fiery sulfurous pit.

Whereas if YOU are wrong, you will never know.

You have the far better deal. I envy you.


Buffalo, N.Y.: Have you seen the commercial for Frito Lay's new product line, True North? It's a variety of mixes of sugar coated almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and stuff, and it calls itself "an extraordinary nutsnack." Is it possible that no one on the marketing team thought that might not be the best turn of phrase?

Gene Weingarten: That cannot be an accident. It might be a miscalculation, though.


Last Wishes: I had to catch up on the chat after you were done, so I was surprised at your answer to the funeral question. I remember asking you years ago about my husband's wishes - he doesn't want to donate his organs and I strongly feel that one should. I asked if I have to follow his wishes, and you said "yes." How does this jibe with your "what does he care, he's dead" theory?

Gene Weingarten: Very good point. The difference is that there is he looked you in the eye and made that request; presumably, you agreed, or you would not have asked the question. That's a deal.

There was no deal in my imagined case.


BBFL: I didn't respond to your poll yesterday because I truly thought someone else would mention my point. But I haven't seen my point yet, so here goes: I'm virtually deaf -- not totally, but enough so that I've learned to read lips over the years. I liked the argument sketch because they were truly arguing. In the context of what they were arguing about, the hand gestures seemed completely legitimate

That being said, I liked Sid better for the reason you stated: He didn't repeat any of his moves while Nanette was repetitive many times and looked more like she was acting than natural.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Thanks.


Open Casket: I was 16 when my dad died, and my mom insisted we go see his body before the cremation. I thought this was a creepy, ghoulish idea, but I kept my mouth shut and went.

It was incredibly helpful.

When I saw his body, it was clear that he was Not There. It was a piece of meat, not my dad. It didn't matter if they cremated it, or dumped it in the ground, or had dogs pee on it. HE was gone, and the only issue was clearly one of disposal.

I found it oddly comforting. I've had friends and family describe similar experiences.

So, yeah, I think a viewing is a good idea. Not a big public thing where everyone goes parading by the plastered, pickled and petrified person. But a private visit with immediate family, particularly those who haven't experienced a death before? You bet.

Gene Weingarten: Also, interesting. Also, thanks.


George Carl, IN: For your reading enjoyment: 10 Questions With George Carlin

Gene Weingarten: This is very interesting. An excellent interview. I particularly like his first answer to what Ben and J Lo were like working with.


Washington, D.C.: In Sunday's column, you referred to the Nixon tapes, which revealed a darkly paranoid and venal personality. If such tapes existed of the current president, what do you think they would contain or reveal?

Gene Weingarten: I think you know the answer as well as I do. I think after he leaves office and some more insider books get written we will all be shocked to learn that he is even dumber and more out of it than we thought.


Vladim, IR: The first paragraph of Nabokov's memoir, "Speak, Memory," is one of my favorite pieces of writing. It addresses the contemplation of the time before your birth being as scary as the time after your death. A little long, but I love its morbid humor:

THE cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobic who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged-the same house, the same people-and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.

Gene Weingarten: This is brilliant. The thing about Nabokov that really steams me is that he is a vastly better writer than I will ever be AND ENGLISH IS NOT HIS NATIVE LANGUAGE.


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