Chatological Humor: In Which Gene Downed Two Bottles of Wine and Still Chatted With Nary a Typo (UPDATED 7.18.08)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 15, 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 Poll (Please enter via the appropriate door):
Women, 36 and Younger
Women, 37 and Older
Men, 36 and Younger
Men, 37 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.

Three weeks ago, in the Gene Pool, I offered this challenge to readers.

The nature of the stunt became apparent in my column on Sunday. I used a driving simulator to test my judgment and reflexes behind the wheel of a car, as I got progressively drunker.

The readers' guesses, to be blunt about it, were rather lame, and none merited a t-shirt. However, inasmuch as a t-shirt was promised, it goes to the funniest and most prescient entry, by jhbyer, who proposed that a booby prize be awarded, and that she gets it because she has boobies. A second t-shirt goes to Horace LaBadie, who came up with the idea and passed it on to me. Will both those people please email their addresses to weingarten(at)washpost.com?

There is a story behind this column. It's about the process of big time journalism. When I first proposed the idea to Tom the Butcher, he was very concerned about one possible result: What if I continued to ace the test, well into staggering drunkitude?

"Well," I said, "I can make that funny."

"I'm sure you can," he said, "but I will not publish it."

A spirited and enlightening conversation ensued, the details of which I cannot go into here for reasons of propriety. In essence I was arguing for the transcendence of truth, and the Butcher was arguing for the transcendence of moral and civic responsibility. Both arguments had merit, but he had rank. No conclusion was reached - I was not about to throw this test, nor was he asking me to -¿ but we agreed we would revisit the conversation after the deed was done.

I do believe there is a God of journalism; He has intruded in my life several times, and in this case his methods were stealthy and subtle. He caused The Rib to sustain a bad head cold the night before this event, and her coughing and misery kept me up almost all night. This would help push the results in one direction. In addition, I decided not to eat anything all day prior to the test. (This was not manipulation; I seldom if ever eat anything during the day. It would have been manipulation if I HAD eaten.)

The results were as you saw. To elaborate on my eventual condition after a bottle and a half of wine: While walking down a hall, I needed the wall to remain on my feet.

Second best expense account item of my life.

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Quick. Take today's Instapoll!

I shall give the correct answers are during the chat. Yes, there are correct answers, whatever you might have read elsewhere.

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Today is Murphy's second birthday. Here is the birthday girl, in photos taken this morning: Pic 1 | Pic 2.

Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that only a complete douchenozzle would abuse his exalted position to post photos of his dog. And you would be right, if it were not for the fact that this is, primarily, a public service announcement. The dog pictured above NEVER has diarrhea or constipation, and the reason is this.

I was alerted to this food by Molly exactly a year ago; the vet students had heard a presentation from representatives of this company, and Molly had been so impressed by the content of this food that she called me and suggested we try it. Great food. Expensive but not inordinately so. Murphy loves it, and she has thanked us with delightful turds ever since. So now you know.

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Entirely on my own, while researching something unrelated, I discovered a highly unusual name. It is not exactly an aptonym, but it is evident that this man's parents were the most literal humans on the face of the earth. And their son may have reacted badly to his name by becoming an expert in cloning, which is reproduction without the benefit of sexual congress. His name is "Peter N. Poon."

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In a related matter, we have this from Bruce Alter.

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And this important photo from my friend Bill Dedman, the investigative reporter for MSNBC. Bill grew up in Chattanooga, where this sign still stands:

And yes, one day, Bill's name will become an aptonym.

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The Clip of the Day is this, an absolutely brilliant bit of theatrics that can be equally enjoyed by people young and old.

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Please take today's poll. We will discuss it throughout the chat. The poll has established a new milestone, though. I have resolved how we will, now and in the future, create age splits. From now on, the split will occur in such a matter that Chatwoman always remains in the young group. So today, it is "36 and under." In two weeks, it is going to become "37 and under.") If we are still together doing this chat in 20 years, "young" will be defined as "57 and under."

A very good comics week. CPOW is Saturday's Candorville. First Runner Up is Sunday's Doonesbury. Honorables: Sunday's Get Fuzzy. Saturday's Rhymes With Orange, Friday's Nonseq, Saturday's Pearls Before Swine. Today's Frank and Ernest, Monday's Rhymes With Orange and Monday's Sally Forth.

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Uh, OK: While I personally support your article from Sunday and the admissions you made therein as interesting journalism, I have to think that you and your paper will be facing a lot of criticism. Do you think it's worth it? I think you could have done the article without mentioning that you used to drive drunk. Why include that information? I couldn't believe I was actually seeing somebody admit that. Sure hope the statute of limitations has run out on that particular type of crime.

Gene Weingarten: I needed to say that in order to set up the dynamic of the challenge: Why was I doing this? What was I trying to prove and to whom? What were the stakes, for my ego?

We have not heard much or any criticism yet, probaly because the column made it quite clear that drunk driving is asinine; the results confirm that handsomely I would say.

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DWI (Driving While an Idiot): In past chats you have made the case that drunk driving is not that big a deal, and that the blood-alcohol levels that establish drunkenness are not fair because people are impaired at different levels, blah blah blah. Did your column research change your mind at all?

Gene Weingarten: It did, mostly because it underscored something: Whatever happens or does not happen to your reflexes and driving ability, your judgment is definitely impaired. I genuinely thought I was okay toward the end. I was definitely not okay.

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The outfit: Gene,

I am Chandra Levy's age (if she were alive today). I'm shocked that her jeans didn't registered with more people. In 1987 yes, that picture would have been normal, but not in 2000. And who the heck tucks in shirts on jeans that hit at the rib cage?

The pose is odd/unnatural, but not for glam shots.

There is a great SNL commercial about Mom Jeans. Chandra would have been their spokesmodel.

Gene Weingarten: This is exactly right, and was an amazing poll result.

The oddity of Chandra's jeans was pointed out to me by Rachel Manteuffel, who is a twentysomething woman. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she advised me to check with other young women. So I asked Caitlin Gibson, also a twentysomething, and Liz, who is now by definition ALWAYS a young woman. They all found the pants immediately and were having the greatest time talking amongst themselves, through me, about this OUTRAGEOUS, SCREAMINGLY OBVIOUS and TOTALLY INEXPLICABLE BREACH OF FASHION.

The poll confirms this. ONLY the younger women saw this in the plurality, and by a large margin. Older women did barely better than older men, who were, typically, completely clueless.

Liz, can you link to the SNL Mom jean ads?

washingtonpost.com: Mom Jeans

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Washington, D.C.: All hail Chatwoman for making me young again. I shall now always remain in the cool hip youngster Chatwoman gage roup in polls rather than stodgy geezer Gene age group.

Gene Weingarten: Chatwoman is the leading edge of young, and will forever be.

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Boston: Isn't this the best response so far to the Obama New Yorker cover?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Eugene, Ore.: Hypothetically, if you were diagnosed with cancer would you accept chemotherapy? It seems like one of those things that historians are going to look back and say, "I can't believe they actually did that to people."

By the way, I almost wrote "God forbid" to start this question but realized that wouldn't do you much good...

Gene Weingarten: I would accept whatever the most advanced medicine at the time suggested. Because it's a crapshoot anyway, and that gives you the best chance.

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DeLand, Fla.: My parents turned me (and my mutt) onto Bill Jacks years ago. My dog had constant stomach problems until the switch. Not one barf-fest since. Thanks for spreading the word.

Gene Weingarten: It's amazing stuff!

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Greenbelt, Md.: I've thought about the Chandra Levy article and I've decided I don't like the format - it's too short and the cut off points annoy me.

On a separate rant, I'm 29 and I'm sick of hearing about how people are so busy they can't take five minutes to read a 4 page news article (the horror!). I would be curious as to their definition of busy. I personally don't consider texting all day to be busy. I honestly feel it's a matter of priorities - if you really want to do something, you'll make time for it. If you don't want to read the newspaper, cutting an article down to a page isn't going to change that.

Gene Weingarten: I am really on the fence on the issue of length. I do feel they are too short, maddeningly short, but I do like the serial feel a lot.

By the way, those of you who think it is "to sell more papers" are showing a fundamental misunderstanding of the business of newspapers. Impulse sales account for a very small portion of sales. I doubt if circulation fluctuates much at all on days with a big story on page one.

I have not asked for an official reason why The Post is trying this, but I think those of you who guessed they are simply trying to create an interesting package are closest to the truth. I think this is an experiment, and a fascinating one.

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Colorado: Gene,

In the process of moving yesterday, I noticed an interesting architectural detail on the outside of the older home (built in 1905) I am now renting: a swastika. The symbol is not merely painted on; it's built into the brick pattern itself. I had not noticed it before signing the lease, or I would likely not have decided on the place. I, like 99.9 percent of Americans today (I'm just guessing), associate the swastika with Nazism, and view it as a symbol of hate -- not exactly my cup of tea (or preferred decorating motif, for that matter).

That being said, I understand that the swastika has been used by many cultures over thousands of years as a symbol representing everything from religious ideation to the Finnish Air Force. It is quite likely that this swastika (my swastika, if you will), which clearly predates Nazism, was intended to bestow good luck, as was a common use for the symbol by Southwestern American Indians in particular before the Nazis appropriated it.

So what do I do? If I go to my landlord, that leaves the possibility of him opting to do nothing about it, thereby rendering me stuck with it until my lease expires. Do I surreptitiously paint over it (defacing my landlord's property), or do I seek comfort in the fact that its origin was innocent? And if I cover it up, will that mean the Nazis have won?

Gene Weingarten: I think you need to demolish the building. Get a bullhorn and give people a good 10 minutes to evacuate with their pets. Then swing the wrecking ball.

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How many errors does that article contain?: I notice the caption on one of the Chandra Levy photos says "A 1995 high school photo taken of Chandra in Davis, Calif."

Chandra Levy went to Grace M. Davis High School. Davis High School is in Modesto.

Davis, California, is not Modesto. It's a completely different city, in Yolo County, around a hundred miles from Modesto (in Stanislaus County). All of that is pretty easy to find out, even without, you know, actually talking to anyone from Modesto.

Maybe the high school she went to isn't a big part of the story, but if that was included without checking, what else in that article is wrong?

Gene Weingarten: Uh, I think what you might have here is part of a bigger story. The Post is cutting back on copy editors, as I wrote in a column some weeks ago. Reporters do not write photo captions, copy editors do.

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No more Chandra Levy, please: Let me begin by saying that I love The Washington Post. I am a native Washingtonian, and have read it voraciously for decades, and do so online now.

I am appalled, however, that The Post has seen fit to make this overdone rehashing of the Chandra Levy story front page news when there is so much more which is important to discuss.... McCain and Obama, deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, gas prices, the Olympics, bank collapses. The list is nearly endless of more fitting stories.

Moreover, the overt disdain for women of color who die or disappear, and are relegated to a few sentences in the back of the Metro section is absolutely heartbreaking. Why is this woman, who is not even a Washingtonian, so much more important than our own citizens? The salaciousness of the affair with the Congressman notwithstanding (and I understand that sex scandal adds a little extra life to any story), this is a seven-year-old story. Can you honestly say that there are no other women whose lives were found interesting enough, or whose deaths were poignant enough to warrant this kind of coverage? Just who wants to read this series?

I would not be able to live with myself had I not shared how deeply mistaken I think WaPo is on this issue. I read every one of your columns and chats, and appreciate your letting me get this off my chest.

Gene Weingarten: Do you think The Post has been UNDERcovering McCain and Obama, deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, gas prices, the Olympics, bank collapses?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think it is possible to overstate the importance -- in the sense of newsworthiness -- of the Gary Condit connection here. There was a real possibility of An American Tragedy sort of event here, and it made the story extremely compelling from the start. I do believe that if Chandra Levy had been black and from Southeast, and the facts of the story were otherwise similar it would have been covered just as emphatically.

I do not doubt that in general the deaths of poor and unknown and unconnected people are undercovered.

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Washington, D.C.: How many Pulitzer Prize winners do you know personally? Well enough to say hello to on the street. Can you name them all? I'm guessing 12.

Gene Weingarten: Twelve! Hahaha.

From papers other than The Post, or currently book writing/academia: Dave Barry, Garry Trudeau, Berkeley Breathed, Sydney Freedburg, Dale Maharidge, Madeleine Blais, Maureen Dowd, Michael Ramirez, Bill Dietrich, Leonard Pitts, Tim Page, Eileen McNamara, Barry Bearak.

From The Post: Bob Woodward, Michael Williamson, David Finkel, Robin Givhan, David Maraniss, Jeff Leen, Kevin Sullivan, Mary Jordan, Colby King, Tom Shales, Stephen Hunter, Dana Priest, Anne Hull, Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham, Carol Guzy, Michel DuCille, Steven Pearlstein, Bart Gellman, Steve Fainaru, Henry Allen.

Deceased: Gene Miller, Jeff MacNelly.

So, that's 36. It's not counting people who won as part of a large team. That would bring it over 45, I think. And I know I have forgotten some people.

Gene Weingarten: Also Jim Morin, Lucian Perkins, Liz Balmaseda, Michael Dirda, Jonathan Yardley and Alan Kriegsman.

I think I might hit sixty if I remembered everyone.

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Are you a good speller? (From the Manchester Guardian): Are you a good speller? Following the success of Lynne Truss's grammar bible Eats Shoots and Leaves, and the American spelling bee documentary Spellbound, Bloomsbury have published the first dictionary of misspelt words. It lists 1,000 words where people often incorrectly expect to find them. Do you need it? Try our quiz, set by Vivian Cook, author of spelling compendium Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary, and find out.

The correct spelling is:

desiccate desicate dessicate

The correct spelling is:

ecstacy ecstasy exstacy

The correct spelling is:

millennium milenium millenium

The correct spelling is:

dumbel dumbbell dumbell

The correct spelling is:

seperete seperate separate

The correct spelling is:

necessary necesary neccesary

The correct spelling is:

minuscule minniscule miniscule

The correct spelling is:

adress adres address

The correct spelling is:

accomodate accommodate acommodate

The correct spelling is:

irresistible iresistible irresistable

The correct spelling is:

liaison liason liaision

The correct spelling is:

harrass harass harras

The correct spelling is:

definately difinately definitely

The correct spelling is:

occurence ocurence occurrence

The correct spelling is:

embarass embaras embarrass

The correct spelling is:

pronunciation pronounciation pronounceation

The correct spelling is:

independent indipendent independant

The correct spelling is:

questionnaire questionaire questionairre

The correct spelling is:

wiered weird wierd

The correct spelling is:

brocolli broccoli broccolli

The correct spelling is:

reffering referring refering

The correct spelling is:

recomend reccommend recommend

The correct spelling is:

cemetary semetary cemetery

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Gene Weingarten: This covers most of the most frequently misspelled words; I see the correct answers instantly -- the misspellings leap out. Tom the Butcher would score less than 50 percent on that, and he'd only do that well because I have taught him some tricks.

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From the Insi, DE: I come at the poll from an interesting perspective. My SO won a significant national award this year for a multi-day newspaper story. The editors worked the original concept over the coals, cutting the content into smaller and smaller bits. This killed the original narrative and much of what my SO thought was good about the work. By the time the story published, my SO was contemplating either suicide or spousicide.

BUT--all that chopping may have made for better newspaper reading. Each day's set of stories were compelling, and the overall impact of the story was significant. Almost every day I see another story that touches on my SO's reporting.

I don't think that shortening stories or spreading them out over more time is necessarily bad. It takes good editors and good reporters to make that work, but the same goes for a more long-format piece compressed into fewer days. I just wish the process were easier, so that I didn't have to sleep in a bullet-proof vest.

Gene Weingarten: This is ridiculous. You do not need a bullet-proof vest. The vest is pointless. If he is serious about it, he will put two in the head.

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Mens Wear Dept, Tysons Corner: Taking a moment to perform the math, it seems that Liz's Mom was Liz's Dad's Trick or Treat for Halloween 1970.

Gene Weingarten: Okay!

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Just Curious: Hey Gene, how do you know if you drink too much?

Gene Weingarten: I think if it's affecting your life in a bad way, you are drinking too much. You may also be drinking too much if you are wondering if you are drinking too much.

Hey Liz about a year ago, in an update, I published my test for whether one is an alcoholic. Can you find it? You can search for "egg sac."

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Lightweights-ville: So, a bottle and a half causes you to stagger such that you need the wall to stand up straight? Did you chug it or what?

Gene Weingarten: I chugged it, yes. Drank very quickly on no sleep and no food.

Listen, dude. A bottle and a half is a lot of wine.

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Washington, D.C.: Her jeans only strike people as unusual because they are dated. But the fact that this picture was used the most is what is striking - because it's a highly sexualized picture. She had an affair! With a married man! An older married man! An older married Congressman! Let's show her crotch!

It reminds me of a rape case a few years ago where the defense attorney unsuccessfully argued that the sex had been consensual. After all, she hadn't worn panties that night. And only girls who like to have wanton, consensual sex with men who've just broken their nose don't wear panties.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Good kicker, there.

I don't see this photo of Chandra as particularly sexualized. If that were the intend, I am not sure why she'd be wearing Mom Jeans.

Gene Weingarten: Intent.

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Fairfax, Va.: As a portrait photographer, I am glad you have raised the issue of the "Glam Photograph." I do not know where it was taken, but in my opinion there is far too much airspace between the knees. It looks awkward and too frankly suggestive. As a rule of thumb, I feel that the legs should always be in a parallel configuration in such shots. The exposed crotch simply invites unseemly visualizations that I find inconsistent with any sense of true glamor.

Gene Weingarten: Well, okay. Maybe I'm wrong!

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: The Alcoholic Test

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Chandra: The Chandra Levy story wasn't overexposed and endlessly covered because she was white. It was overexposed and endlessly covered because she was absolutely smoking hot. If she had been gorgeous and black, the story would have been just as endless. If she was unattractive and white, it wouldn't have made past page 3 of the Metro section.

washingtonpost.com: Smoking hot? I beg to differ.

Gene Weingarten: Me, too. I think she was kind of plain. Sweet looking but kind of plain.

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New Yorker: Isn't it disingenuous (at best) for the editor to say his mag is NOT written for the upper-west side? I love the mag and still feel at least that that socio-economic group is its target. Sure, WE don't need an explanation; plenty of others might.

Thoughts, o' arbiter o' humor?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I don't want to speak at enormous length about this, because you've already heard from Kurtz and Achenbach and today, a very thoughtful piece from Kennicott.

To be brief: Of course it was a mistake. A minor mistake, but a mistake nontheless. The New Yorker has no words on its cover, meaning the cover art alone must carry its message. Obviously, the devoted reader of this particular magazine is going to understand this is satire; but this is a magazine sold on newsstands, and a lot of eyes might look at it without the benefit of background.

I disagree with Achenbach on one point: I think the image is pretty funny, particularly the depiction of Michelle Obama as though she were Angela Davis. It actually took me a second to get that joke, and then I laughed.

Those who are trying to make this out as a big deal, a gigantic blunder, are political zealots trying to make a point. Once explained, The New Yorker's intent was clear, and benign.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Hasn't anyone mentioned that all dogs have birthdays and Murphy's b-day is nothing special?

washingtonpost.com: Oooh, ZING!

Gene Weingarten: Heh. But, see, this was not ABOUT her birthday. It was about her anus.

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You seem to have strong opinions: I also have strong opinions. Am currently dating a man who does too. Unfortunately, his beliefs and opinions are diametrically opposed to mine on a lot of issues we both believe strongly in. That being said, I think we both like to argue about things. What are the chances our differing opinions will kill the relationship?

Gene Weingarten: Liz and I are still in love.

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Drivers, Ed: Your drunken experiment in the simulator reminded me of when I was a sophomore in high school. We had to do some sort of "research" project for driver's ed, and my best friend and I decided to do ours together. We used his Super-8 camera to film ourselves playing a crude video-game driving course (this was 1978): first sober, then after 1 beer, then 2, and so on. At the more drunken levels, we intercut little stop-motion scenes of toy cars running into train-set trees and bursting into flame. The instructor was not amused by our project, but lucky for us this was 1978, the authorities were not called in, the course was pass/fail, and we passed. By the way, I've never once driven drunk.

Gene Weingarten: I think this was very creative.

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Pleated pants: Just wanted to mention that I (a man) bought a pair of flat front pants yesterday. My wife took one look at me wearing them and stated that I look better in pleated pants. Given that I'm having sexual relations with that woman and not Chatwoman, she is correct about pleated pants and Liz is wrong.

washingtonpost.com: Your wife must love you very much.

Gene Weingarten: I agree.

This is one issue on which Liz and I are not an inch apart.

_______________________

And another thing about Chandra Levy story: Gene, readers of this chat... I must humbly submit to all of you: the first couple of installments of this story may be exhaustively researche, accurate, and all that... but the writing is bad. Like, just almmost unreadably bad. Uncharacteristically bad, as far as Post quality goes.

Am I such a curmudgeon at this point that I am completely alone in this?

Thank you for the chance to rant.

Gene Weingarten: I think you are TOTALLY wrong. I'm liking the writing, and I know writing.

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Bethesda, Md.: To follow up on Greenbelt's post about the Chandra Levy stories. I am 30 and I enjoy this format. I am busy in the morning because I have an 11-month old and my time is limited in getting her ready for the day. My standard so far has been to read Sports (the MLB pages/box scores) and Style (comics first, then as much as the rest I have time for).

The Chandra Levy stories have led me to crack the front page at home, in the morning, for the first time in ages.

Gene Weingarten: Good to know. I think that's why they did it.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene--I really doubt that you will post my comment, and if you do post it, I doubt you will give an honest answer, but here goes. Do you think you are sexist?

Gene Weingarten: Liz, I dare you to post this response. I dare you!

washingtonpost.com: Just try and stop me, big boy.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Gene, Do you know if this Bil-Jac food would reduce the chance that our 10-year-old shepherd mix will be incontinent? It happens about once or twice a week. We feed her Iams currently; vet has not found anything abnormal. Thanks

washingtonpost.com: Has the vet checked for crystals in her urine?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure this would affect incontinence, sorry. Unless it is incontinence linked to diarrhea.

Sorry, eaters.

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That Chandra Levy article: Gene,

I haven't thought about Chandra Levy in some years but this week's series has reminded me of something that on some level makes me feel guilty, and that is: I am seriously bugged by the fact that neither Chandra nor, near as I can tell, anyone in her family saw anything the least bit wrong (in the sense of immoral, as opposed to "bad for her" because he was using her) with her sleeping with a married man. Don't get me wrong -- obviously Condit is a sleaze and a worse offender than her, and obviously she didn't deserve to die for this or any other sin -- but I have a hard time looking at her picture and seeing anything other than a self-centered twit who could describe a married father as "my guy" without any twinge of conscience. No one she confided in seems to have seen anything wrong with it either.

I expect that had she lived long enough to see through Condit, meet some nice young man, settle down and have kids of her own, she would some day have come to view her actions in the light that I saw them at the time. On the other hand, she was 27, not 17. Doesn't anyone get held accountable for homewrecking any more? Or am I just a prude who needs to get with the times?

Gene Weingarten: I think she was 24.

Gary Condit allegedly told her that he was going to leave his wife and marry her. I understand the "my guy."

As to the morality of being a "homewrecker," I think there is a complicated set of facts in every case. I'm not sure why the woman, and not the man, is always considered the "homewrecker." It's in his power, not hers, to wreck or not to wreck.

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Doppelganger, Calif.: I recently started a new job and there is another person in the office who looks EXACTLY like me. I mean EXACTLY. Same height. Same hair. Same weight.

We look like identical twins, except that we are not related at all.

I do not know who he is. I don't work with him, but I see him in the hall every so often.

My wife finds this incredibly funny and wants to take a picture of us together.

I'm just a little skeeved out by this whole thing and would prefer to stay in my office the whole day so I don't have to see him at all.

I leave it up to you to decide.

Is this funny enough that I will want a picture of us together? When I'm 80, will I wish I took this picture?

Thanks

Gene Weingarten: You definitely want the picture, and you want to send it into the chat next week. I will post it. We will all laugh, but it will be with you, not at you.

Gene Weingarten: My guess is that no one will think that the two of you look as much alike as you think you do. This is a gauntlet.

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Washington, D.C.: My friend's condo building has "swastika" tiles scattered throughout-- it's an egypto-deco motif. Some residents tried to have them removed, but the building is on the historic register, so they were told to blow it out their... ears. As it should be.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. I mean, please.

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Rallye, N.C.: I enjoyed the NYT Magazine article on Rush, it made many of the points you do. He's an entertainer first, and an ideologue is his role. I do find something a little creepy about a guy that has his lifestyle, big houses, tons of cars, but lives alone. I wonder if he is buddies with Governor Charlie Crist? I loved the part of the story where he is avoiding commenting on Bill O'Reilly, then finally comes out with "Well someone has to say it, he is Ted Baxter." I bet O'Reilly's head exploded when he read that.

Gene Weingarten: It was the best line in the piece. He IS Ted Baxter, but much more angry. He is like Ted Baxter with a really painful hemorrhoid.

washingtonpost.com: Late Period Limbaugh, (NYT Magazine, July 8)

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Washington, D.C.: So, I have a good friend who is a newspaper reporter. Like you, I think she would have no issues with dogs peeing on graves. However, when I informed her that cats, after having surgery, use shredded newspaper instead of kitty litter, and that there was, in fact, a brand of kitty litter made from old newspapers, she was quite disturbed. I think she thought it was a metaphor for the print news industry...

Gene Weingarten: Oh, man. She doesn't get it. I LOVE that newspaper has many uses, including drying shoes, being pooped on by birds, etc. Anything that makes the product more versatile and popular.

The Rib is reading a book about how certain tribes leave their dead bodies out for the wolves. I like that, too.

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It's not just the jeans: I couldn't pick what was wrong with that picture of Chandra Levy, because the whole thing screams 1984. It's not just the jeans. It's the big hair parted rising in a cloud off her head; it's the tank top TUCKED IN; it's the pose; and it's even something in her facial expression. I simply cannot, cannot believe that this picture was taken in the 21st century.

Gene Weingarten: That seems to be the consensus of young women, and no one else. And the young women appear to be right.

One other observation is that Chandra might have liked those jeans because:

1. They accentuated her wasp waist, or

2. Gary might have liked old fashioned jeans.

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Silver Spring, Md.: You're probably right that The Post is not stretching out the Chandra Levy story to sell more papers. At the same time, I think that motivation completely explains the New Yorker cover for me.

Gene Weingarten: They'll never admit it, but I think the New Yorker editors regret it now. Even the lefty media is opining that they erred in judgment.

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Arlington, Va.: re: the Chandra photo. Besides the pants (which I got right in the old man poll, maybe it's because I'm gay...) the thing that strikes me about that photo is how terrible composed it is. She's cut off on the right side with too much blank space on the left. I found that to be very distracting. Whoever this "glam" photographer was, he was clearly not very good.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Washington, D.C.: I know that the New Yorker cover is satire.

But I also know that swing voters are the stupidest, most gullible slackjaws ever to have stained U.S. soil. This is a group that bases its decisions on swift boating and illegitimate black babies and ambiguous bar-hopping-compatibility metrics. This election is too important and too close for the New Yorker to decide, against all evidence, that swing voters will spontaneously sprout the ability to grasp nuance and irony.

I'm sure this brands me as an elitist "just like" Obama. But the fact that swing voters view unusual skill and talent as a LIABILITY for presidential candidates just proves my point.

Gene Weingarten: Also, noted.

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Ambivalent, Calif.: I'm the ME of a community weekly and here's my take on the Levy series: Solid reporting, fine writing and of very dubious merit. I mean, what, exactly, is its point? You guys burying the lede at the end of its 43 chapters?

Yeah, what happened to that smart, foolish young woman is a tragedy, but come on -- it was seven years ago. Has the Post not noticed the country is disintegrating?

I kinda feel bad Downie's gonna go out with this one.

Gene Weingarten: I think The Post has noticed the country is disintegrating.

I don't really understand this sort of complaint. It's one story of maybe a thousand every week.

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Seriously?: Chandra Levy? Seriously? When I saw this yesterday, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I wasn't sure they'd straighten out again. I'm still tired of that story from 2001. Yes, it's terribly unfortunate that a young woman disappeared and was murdered. Maybe Condit did it, maybe not. I doubt we'll ever know for sure. But really, what's next week, Natalee Holloway? There's a war going on, an economic recession, a historic presidential campaign, and THIS is the best the WaPo can do? I'm actually really, really disappointed. I expect better news judgment from this paper. I can't even believe YOU devoted a whole quiz to it. For shame.

Gene Weingarten: I think you are going to find some surprises in this story. I think by the end of it, we are going to feel certain we know who killed Chandra Levy, and why, and why that person is never likely to be charged. That's my guess.

Now don't you think that might be worth the space?

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Obama Cover: I don't think the cover is particularly funny, but I'm OK with it as a cover. I do think it is irresponsible imagery. I know that we'll see right wing reprints of this cover for the next few months, and Michael Savage fans will frame it and hang it in their offices if(when?) he wins. It will be an enduring and disrespectful image that will live on through an Obama presidency.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Interesting.

It reminds me of someething. I was recently sent, by a friend, a hilarious anagram of the name of someone famous. My friend had created it himself. It's spectacular, really. Very naughty. I wanted to share it with people in this chat; in this forum, people would know it was not delivered in a mean spirited way.

I decided I could not let it out, because it would be appropriated by mean-spirited people and used in a bad way.

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I look like Chandra Levy: Well, not really but I do have curly dark hair and I suppose that is enough. As a result, I was stopped with some frequency on my way to work, which was on the Hill. When people asked where I was going, I would always say, truthfully, "to see my powerful boyfriend."

Gene Weingarten: You know who has the same hair? Pat the Perfect.

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37-ville: So I turned 37 a couple days ago. I never cared too much about my age and I was already clicking "35 and older" but somehow having the split now follow me to be 36/37 really makes it personal. What gives? Will it move up to 37/38 next year?

Gene Weingarten: As I said, in two weeks when Liz hits 37.

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Greenbelt, Md.: Aaaaaaaannnnnnnd? What was the best expense account item of your life?

Gene Weingarten: Whorehouse.

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Too much Chandra?: Chandra: I'd rather have fewer, longer pieces than drag out the story over 12 episodes. Feels like a soap opera and not a serious investigative series deserving of front-page coverage.

I would have skipped it altogether if it hadn't been the subject of the poll. Now I will probably read it through to the end to see if my opinion changes.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. I think this is a reasonable point.

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Washington, D.C.: About a certain Nazi symbol: I noticed a swastika motif this weekend on one of the objects in the wonderful National Gallery show of treasures from Afghanistan's National Museum. The design apparently dates from Neolithic times. A pretty cool bit of graphic design until a certain A. Hitler appropriated it.

Until the late '70s or so it could be seen on a flag flying from the Arlington headquarters of the American Nazi Party, in a building now home to such hip Clarendon area establishments as the dog-friendly Java Shack.

washingtonpost.com: Indeed.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed, indeed.

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Interesting Poll Demographi,CS: Have you looked at the poll numbers?

As of 11 a.m., the women 36 and under are approx twice as large as women over 36 OR men 36 and under... BUT NOT men over 36! You seem to attract opposite demographics -- young hot women (throwing "virtual" panties) and "old coots"... how do you explain that?

Gene Weingarten: Don't EVER say "twice as large" when referring to women. In any context, even an innocent one.

I have known about this demographic anomaly for some time. I, um, like it.

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Liar, liar, pants on Fi,RE: Gene Weingarten: I think you are going to find some surprises in this story. I think by the end of it, we are going to feel certain we know who killed Chandra Levy, and why, and why that person is never likely to be charged. That's my guess.

If this were true, and we knew, then The Post wouldn't drag this out over a series of diary-like entries about someones life. If there were evidence pointing to what happened here, you would have put a big front story headline out there saying "So and So did it, So and So, Jr. covered it up, and Mr. Big jerkface is to blame"

But that isn't happening. So this is probably just to sell papers. Fill space. Or as an excuse to show how badly girls dressed in the 90s.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I think you're wrong. We will see, won't we?

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Matrimoni, AL: Have you seen the Hax-Philes discussion on "wifely duties"? What is your take on this? Do husbands have a reasonable expectation to get some on a regular basis? And how often is regular?

washingtonpost.com: Hax-Philes: Wifely Duties

Gene Weingarten: I think sex and intimacy is very important. I also think it's a complicated dynamic between every couple, and I wouldn't want to generalize. Gina Barreca says this, ominously: "If there is no sex within a marriage, there will be sex outside the marriage."

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New York, N.Y.: Please tell me Tom the Butcher is to blame for the unfortunate use of "zitfaced" to mean "roaring drunk," rather than the obvious rhyming word. On second thought, don't. What kind of editor would use "zitfaced," which isn't a word, over "zit-faced" or simply "zit faced?"

Both semantically and syntactically incorrect usage in one word? Good lord.

Gene Weingarten: I wrote it that way for a reason. I didn't mean zit faced, which is a skin condition. I meant (rhymes with) zitfaced. The word I was suggesting is also one world.

Gene Weingarten: Word.

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Wine whine: I am a 27-year-old female weighing 150 lbs at 5'5". On Saturday I drank almost three bottles of wine over the course of about 4-5 hours, while eating a lot of food. I pretty much blacked out by the end of the night. I don't recommend doing this.

Gene Weingarten: That's pretty much the rate I was going, only I hadn't eaten.

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Bowie, Md.: Re: Chandra's 80s look

Maybe I'm missing the point...

I always assumed young women who are after older men adopt the look of when the man was the age she is now.

Gene Weingarten: As I said, this is one extant theory!

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Don't EVER say "twice as large" when referring to women: thank you! I was reading that wondering if he'd realize...

Gene Weingarten: Guy's a rookie, I assure you.

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New York, N.Y.: I graduated from GW in 2000 and all I remember as a 22 year old Jewish woman about the Chandra Levy case was between her and Monica they were giving the rest of us working in D.C. a bad rap.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I understand. Chandra for the goyim.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

hahahahah.

Okay, Jew humor.

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Swas Tikka Masala: All (almost all?) Hindu temples have swastikas on/in them and many Hindu households have them as well. It's a symbol of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god who removes obstacles from Hindus' paths.

How many wrecking balls will we need?

Gene Weingarten: As many as necessary. There is work to be done!

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Allentown, Pa.: Could you tell us the name of the famous person, and let us figure out the naughty anagram?

Or tell us another anagram with the name so we'd have to figure out the name as well?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. This is dynamite. And I won't send it privately to anyone, either.

_______________________

Doppleganger, redux: On the plane home from our honeymoon, there was a man who looked so much like me, my wife thought it was me, even though I was sitting right next to her.

We spoke at the baggage carousel. It was creepy at first, but then it was fun. We never got a picture of us together. I really regret that. So, take the picture. You will appreciate it in the future, and might even make a new friend.

But, we did get to freak out his wife, thought, when she came to pick him up. We stood shoulder to shoulder, and it stopped her in her tracks.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, this sure suggests a Playboy letter scenario, doesn't it?

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Gene - What's the best ice cream in town? I want to take my boyfriend out for dinner and ice cream, but don't want to end up at Coldstone or Baskin Robbins.

Gene Weingarten: I am not sure.

Nominations?

_______________________

Gene Weingarten: Aaargh.

I just got an email from a young friend wanting to know who Ted Baxter is.

A stupid, clueless newscaster from the old Mary Tyler Moore show. Circa 1975.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Gene, glad to see you're going to weigh in on the Chandra Levy pieces. I'm horribly conflicted about it. On the one hand, as the father of a daughter, I have thought about this case and similar ones a lot over the years, and the Post seems to be focusing on the relevant elements--the reliability of public servants and officials to attend to our children like they'd want their own taken care of. On the other hand, the details ARE lurid and mostly irrelevant to what I turn to the Post for. If anyone can execute this in a meaningful way, the Post can do it, but I'm a little worried. What's next? An expose on strippers' behavior on Spring Break, with all the relevant sociological insight we need to make future decisions about public policy?

Gene Weingarten: You know, almost any subject can be made compelling and universal, in the hands of the right writer.

One of my favorite stunts was an assignment I handed out when I was the editor of the Sunday Style section. I assigned five really good writers to take a hammer and a nail and whang that nail into the phone book. Whatever name they came up with, they had to profile that person and turn it into a compelling story.

All succeeded. One of my favorites was by Peter Carlson; Peter's guy was simply (on the face of it) uninteresting. An ordinary family man, with an ordinary family, living an ordinary life. Peter produced something extraordinary, and I am hereby challenging Lizzie to find this piece. Would have been mid-nineties.

Gene Weingarten: She won't find it. I didn't give her enough information.

Gene Weingarten: Only a GENIUS link monkey could find this.

washingtonpost.com: Funny, you are.

Tom Doherty: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, (Post, March 16, 1997)

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The Empress of The Style Invitational, Forbidden Palace, Md.: Youze opinion, please:

I had some good entries recently from a brand-new Style Invitational entrant from California. Nurturing Earth Empress that I am, I enclosed a note with his Honorable Mention magnet encouraging him to send more stuff for future contests.

He then sent me an e-mail saying he wouldn't enter the Invitational again because he did not want to give out the information necessary to register on washingtonpost.com (someone had e-mailed him the initial contest).

Should I e-mail him a copy of the contest, or should I wish him good riddance? Does anyone know of people who refuse to register on post.com?

Gene Weingarten: In my opinion, you need to wish him good riddance. No one deserves special treatment, other than someone with, say, a disability. If he chooses to be a paranoid, he must take the consequences.

I do throw that last question out for general consumption.

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Polls: Gene or Liz, I have been curious about some posts about your polls. Some people seem to know what other demographics answered. Are they going in as, for example, a 36-year-old-plus man after they answered as a 36-year-old-plus woman and redoing the poll to see the results? The results I see don't break down what cross section of people answered what, just the total numbers. Am I missing something?

Gene Weingarten: You can go into any door of the poll and, without voting, see how the other people are voting. Just don't answer the poll and click on "see results." Nothing wrong with that. I do it constantly.

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Springfield, Va.: Have you "had your way" with the Comics Riff blog meister yet?

washingtonpost.com: Comic Riffs

Gene Weingarten: I am watching with interest. He has my support. I thought his first post, expressing exhaustion with meta-gats in strips, was a smart idea.

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washingtonpost.com: A clip featuring a bit of classic Ted Baxter.

washingtonpost.com: A clip featuring a bit of classic Ted Baxter.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent. Thank you.

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Best ice cream: Lazy Sundae in Falls Church. The gelato place in Clarendon is mediocre and overpriced, which breaks my heart.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. Any more?

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Ice Cream: Skip the ice cream and get frozen custard at the Dairy Godmother in Del Ray (Alexandria).

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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McLean, Va.: Gene, Did you have any role in the creation of the Comic Riffs blog?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. Not even a heads up. So I can't answer for it, but I'm happy it's there. Can't overcover the comics.

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Best Ice Cream: What is this, Ask Tom?

Thomas Sweets in DC Lazy Sundae in Falls Church The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Vaudeville, Md.: Sex is an important part of marriage. My wife and I have sex every other day. I have sex on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and she has it on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

_______________________

Best ice cream: Moorenko's in downtown Silver Spring, a five minute walk from the Metro. Or Giffords downtown, on E street near the cinema.

Gene Weingarten: I've had that Giffords. Quite good.

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New Yorker: I think it would have made a big difference if the New Yorker printed the title of the cartoon on the cover: "The Politics of Fear." Too bad they seem to have a tradition of no text on the cover.

Personally, I found it shocking for one to two seconds, and then hilarious as I found the flag in the fireplace, OBL's portrait on the wall, Michelle's afro... I think it fits right in with Blitt's other cartoons and the New Yorker's tone.

Gene Weingarten: You are right about the caption, but they NEVER have captions. That would have changed everything.

_______________________

Colorado: Hi -- I need relationship advice and you are the only person to do it.

I just started dating someone. He's in his mid-50's (I'm mid-40's), he's Jewish, grew up in Brooklyn. I'm a WASP. He's recently widowed after a long happy marriage, has two adolescent kids, a huge ego, and seems to believe that his opinions are facts. He has a great sense of humor, and is a big flirt.

I've never been a panty-flinger, but it seems to me that short of doing several illegal and immoral things, this is as close as I can come to dating YOU.

Assuming we keep his kids out of this as long as possible, and do whatever we can to protect them from instability and so on, what other advice would you offer?

Gene Weingarten: It would take an illegal act to date me? What, you would have to abduct me?

I think you're doing swell. Can you cook well? If so, he is not only me, but you are the Rib.

_______________________

A 1940s Electro Freeze machine: still in use at Carl's Frozen Custard in Fredericksburg.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh.

The purist in me loves this. But how is the ice cream?

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Levy the Seri, AL: This is a TERRIBLE format for an "in depth" story. Just as you get drawn in, the story breaks off. It's like watching some TV serialization or bad soap opera. What next? Sesame Street articles, where no subject occupies more than 50 seconds? Does the Post think its readers are preschoolers?

Gene Weingarten: I think this is the most valid criticism of the form. I am still on the fense though, because, so far, the writers have managed to end with something intriguing and suspenseful each time. Serializations have a degree of power, if they are done well.

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Hail, Empress: Although I don't know of people who won't register for Post.com, I do know of plenty who suppress their cookies so their browsing on post.com can't be tied to their registration.

"Suppress their cookies" sounds like a euphemism.

Gene Weingarten: It's holding down vomit till you can get to the bathroom.

Sorry, eaters.

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Monkey County: re: Best ice cream

Jimmie Cone in Damascus. But, if you are limited to D.C., I'd go for the gelato place at Union Station. Tiramisu gelato!

Gene Weingarten: I've had that tiramisu gelato. I'm afraid to go there too often.

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Age Divi, DE: Spiffy.

My wife's 36 and I'm 39. Now and forevermore I'll be "old" and she'll be "young."

Thanks, Gene. Thanks a lot.

Gene Weingarten: I'd like to hear from her.

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Cantgetenough, Va.: Gene, Where can we find more information about the Chandra Levy case? A 12-part article simply can't quench our thirst for information on this story that is so important to America's future.

Gene Weingarten: You will need to personally interview all the participants. Road trip.

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Kensington, Md: re: Saturday's Frazz. My husband and I were glad we didn't have to explain a masturbation joke to our kids, they're with Grandpa for two weeks.

washingtonpost.com: Frazz, (July 12)

Gene Weingarten: I don't think this is remotely a masturbation joke.

Gene Weingarten: Well, okay, by extreme extension it is a masturbation joke. But a single man living alone doesn't need swimsuit magazines.

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Anonymous: Thank you for telling us who Ted Baxter is.

So, who's Mary Tyler Moore?

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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To the Empress: Some people insist on using bugmenot.com instead of registering with anyone.

Gene Weingarten: I will trust that this is not a link to porn.

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Oenophile, Pa.: "Listen, dude. A bottle and a half is a lot of wine."

I like drinking wine in the evening and regularly have a bottle, it doesn't seem like a huge amount of alcohol but it is a lot of calories. I can't imagine drinking a bottle of grape juice every evening.

As I live in a city with good public transportation drinking and driving really isn't a problem.

Gene Weingarten: Would you have a bottle and a half over an hour and a quarter? That's what I did.

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washingtonpost.com: Re: Ice cream -- Make Your Own

washingtonpost.com: Re: Ice cream -- Make Your Own

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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WKRAP: I am sure you saw the WKRP episode where Johnny does the same test - and his reflexes DO get better the more he drinks. It is hilarious.

Gene Weingarten: You just reminded me of it, yes.

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I am still on the fense though,: Teacher: Use the following words in a sentence: defeat, deduct, defense, detail.

Johnny: Defeat of deduct went over defense before detail.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Alexandria, Va.: I am a woman over age 36. Well over, actually. There was no appropriate answer, for me, to the question about whether it is appropriate to give the Chandra Levy so much space. For me, the true answer would be "I like it, even though I know it's lurid and trivial." That doesn't mean I think newspapers should do more of it. My prurient interest trumps my good judgment every so often; doesn't mean newspapers have to pander to it.

Gene Weingarten: Boy. I see no pandering here.

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Betrayal Creaming (celebrity anagram): Caramel Betraying also works. Anyhow, is it Dr. Sunken Tits for Kirsten Dunst? Because that one's already out there.

Gene Weingarten: Mine is not out there. It is a googlenope, and will remain so. My friend is not putting out there either.

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Lawton, Okla.: I am sitting in a darkened motel room, drinking straight bourbon and eating chips and salsa. Is three weeks on the road too long (I've got a week to go).

Gene Weingarten: Apparently, yes.

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Medina, OH: Yay Bil-Jac! From the home of the Battling Bees!

Gene Weingarten: Is that the major industry there? Dog food?

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byool, IN: "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."

Maybe so, but you still have the opportunity to improve, whereas Nabokov hasn't written a thing in -years.- Quitter.

Gene Weingarten: It's the ONLY GOOD THING about Nabokov.

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Ice Cream: The Dairy Godmother, in Del Ray. Best frozen custard and sorbets I've ever had.

Gene Weingarten: This is the second such nomination.

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Anagram: If your anagram involves a hyphen and a Mc-name, then I've already come up with it also and will not reveal it as it IS damaging.

Gene Weingarten: No one has come up with this. No one will. And it is GREAT.

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Falls Church, Va.: Can the ice cream maker be used to make other frozen concoctions, such as frozen margaritas or frozen mojitos?

washingtonpost.com: The Cuisinart model can, yes.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Young, MAN: I saw the mom jeans. I noticed that they were high. But I never thought that they were the odd thing you were looking for.

Women think about things that I cannot even begin to imagine thinking about.

Gene Weingarten: And don;t you even TRY to figure out what, either.

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Chandra for the goyim?: Omigawd, that was really awful. Even for you. I love it.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. And I love you.

We're done for the day. Thank you all. See youse in the updates.

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UPDATED 7.16.08

Gene Weingarten: Wow, this is fabulous, and looks real.

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Copy Edit, OR: Gene, I am no where near being the grammar police, but you can DEFINITELY tell The Post got rid of some mighty fine staff that impacted the polish of the newspaper. Here is an example from the second article related to the Nationals' bus accident:

"Meanwhile, police said they are investigating whether the vehicle had enough clearance to drive under the 11th Street overpass on its way to Friday night's Washington Nationals baseball game, officials said yesterday. "

Gene Weingarten: Okay, that's bad, but so is "impacted the polish."

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Alexandria, Va.: Can you ask Molly if Bil-Jac has a similar cat food that will provide antiemetic benefits? I think I may be single-handedly making of the manufacturers of SpotShot carpet cleaner rich.

Gene Weingarten: Many people asked about cat food. Yes, Bil-Jac also makes cat food, though I don't know if it will stop Fluffykins from puking. Google Bil-Jac cat food for details.

To answer another question many people asked: No, neither Molly nor I has any connection to this company, and yes, I will donate to a shelter any free thank-you food they might send me.

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Aldie, Va.: Let me be the 50th person to ask if you drove home after your "event"?

Gene Weingarten: I did not. I had a lift to and from.

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Pleated Pants: For proof that pleated pants are ridiculous, watch this (hilarious) video and see how WRONG it is to see supposedly hot men dancing around in pleated pants. They just look all bulbous and wrong.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the pants are bad, but this video is astonishingly weird in a mega-nerdly way. It cost some company a LOT of money. It is a sexy and suggestive and utterly serious song and dance about a new automated pipette system for medical lab technicians. On this site you can also download the tune into your phone as a ringtone.

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WpgManCDA: Dear Mr. Weingarten,

You're a hard-bitten old cynic like me, so perhaps you can use your verbal skills to explain to me why, despite my cynicism, I really enjoyed the weekly column by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Shouldn't I have been feeling that it was way too touchy-feely?

Gene Weingarten: I can explain.

Jeanne Marie is a very skillful essayist. Her columns frequently were about topics that seemed extremely parochial and self-interested -- her family, her circle of friends, etc. -- but she managed, week after week, to universalize these columns. In small, measured doses, they were all about the meaning of life, which is quite an achievement. She is good. I, too, am an unreconstructed cynic, and I, too, will miss her column.

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Annandale, Va.: Gene, You need to know about this.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed. I DID need to know about this.

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UPDATED 7.17.08

Gene Weingarten: For those of you who missed it, because it wasn't posted until 11:30 a.m. yesterday, check out the kid in the claw machine.

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Gene Weingarten: Several readers who enjoyed Peter Carlson's nail-in-the-phonebook story from the 1990s asked about the others that ran with it. Today's update consists of the rest of them. Re-reading them was a delight for me, and a reminder of the validity of a journalistic truism: There is a story everywhere, if you know how to look.

Tom Doherty: Oh Dad, Poor Dad (Peter Carlson)

John Liu: A New Start (Peter Finn)

Tom Johnson: Solitary Soldier (Laura Blumenfeld)

Richard Brady: A Teacher's Lesson (Elizabeth Kastor)

Brett Kilbourne: Good Neighbor (Karl Vick)

_______________________

Gene Weingarten: You know I was just discussing the Chandra Levy case with Tom the Butcher. We were talking about the observation from yesterday that the one-two punch of Monica and Chandra created an embarrassment for Jewish women -- i.e., a "Chandra for the goyim."

And I then observed that in one interesting way, Monica Lewinsky was a BOON to Jewish women, in that she helped dispel a disturbing and untrue stereotype about Jewish women -- mainly that they would not perform a certain intimate act.

Whereupon Tom made a great comeback observation. This same fact could be twisted 180 degrees, to make the point that, sure, Jewish women might SOMETIMES do this thing, but only if you are, like, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

_______________________

UPDATED 7.18.08

Phrase Orig, IN: Gene, I was hoping to take advantage of your language expertise. To put this as delicately as possible, I was wondering whether the term "brown noser" relates at all to the expression "kiss[butt]"?

Gene Weingarten: It relates directly to same. Imagine my surprise, however, to discover (via the Urban Dic) that the term also applies to a certain prank (redacted from the original to remove profanity and correct grammar):

The brown-nose or act of brown-nosing is also when a person removes his pants and underwear and climbs over a sleeping person so that his his butt is approximately 3 inches away from the sleeping person's face. The person performing the act punches the sleeping person in the stomach to wake him up. In theory, the sudden shock of being woken by the punch will cause the sleeper's head to come up and forward, thrusting their nose into the other's butt.

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Do you want to: cut off Jesse Jackson's n-ts?

Gene Weingarten: Are you kidding? This may have been the single most important campaign gift Obama's received.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene,

What is your reaction to this cartoon? Do you find its conclusion disturbing? Or do see it as little different than your own expected life experience?

Gene Weingarten: I really like this. It's disturbing on so many levels.

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Aptonym: I guess he was destined for this career.

Gene Weingarten: You need to click on "The Story" to get the aptonym.

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Tickle Me El,Mo: I got the the other day and thought it was your kind of joke...

There is a factory in Northern Minnesota which makes the Tickle Me Elmo toys. The toy laughs when you tickle it under the arms.

Well, Lena is hired at The Tickle Me Elmo factory and she reports for her first day promptly at 8 a.m.

The next day at 8:45 am there is a knock at the Personnel Manager's door. The Foreman throws open the door and begins to rant about the new employee.

He complains that she is incredibly slow and the whole line is backing up, putting the entire production line behind schedule.

The Personnel Manager decides he should see this for himself, so the two men march down to the factory floor. When they get there the line is so backed up that there are Tickle Me Elmo's all over the factory floor and they're really beginning to pile up.

AT the end of the line stands Lena surrounded by mountains of Tickle Me Elmo's. She has a roll of plush Red fabric and a huge bag of small marbles.

The two men watch in amazement as she cuts a little piece of fabric, wraps it around two marbles and begins to carefully sew the little package between Elmo's legs.

The Personnel Manager bursts into laughter. After several minutes of hysterics he pulls himself together and approaches Lena...

'I'm sorry' he says to her, barely able to keep a straight face, 'but I think you misunderstood the instructions I gave you yesterday...'

'Your job is to give Elmo two test tickles'

Gene Weingarten: Okay. That's really bad. Thank you.

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Mt. Rainier, Md.: 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.

I was thinking of a circumstance in which perhaps most people would either lie or refuse to answer: a parent forced to testify against his or her child in a criminal case -- asked, for instance, "Did you see your child commit the criminal act in question?" While lying may help exonerate your child, I still think it's morally wrong. (I know you are a fan of Kant and I think he would agree). I believe that the only acceptable response would be "I respectfully refuse to answer" (and risk almost certain jail time). Would you lie in such a case? Possible poll question?

Gene Weingarten: You're not getting me here. The whole act, as you describe it, is pointless. If it is your goal to protect a loved whom who you knew was guilty, "I would respectfully decline to answer that question" fails your primary purpose since it is tantamount to "I know he is guilty," before any sentient jury.

There is also something fundamentally sleazy and dishonest in that answer. You are not "respectfully" doing anything. You are disrespectfully delivering a single finger salute to the court.

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Washington, D.C.: I've seen this many times, variously spelled, and would like a solid explanation. What is "burying the lede (lead?)"?

Gene Weingarten: The "lede" of a story is a deliberate misspelling of "lead," so it is distinguishable from "lead," the element. It means the very beginning of the story, and in traditional journalism, this would be the single most important point, the one you would lead the story with.

To "bury the lede" is to deliberately or mistakenly hide the important stuff lower down in the story.

In this case, someone was suggesting that if the authors of the story really knew who killed Chandra Levy, and did not say at the top of the first installment, that they were burying the lede.

This is a constant debate among hard news people and feature people. When, back in 1993 I wrote a 200-inch story profiling Clinton's dead father, I withheld till near the end the fact that Clinton had a half brother he didn't know about. I was accused of burying the lede.

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Next Week's Chat.

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