Chatological Humor: Gene Weingarten

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: WED | THURS | FRI

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

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

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

This Week's Poll.

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.

My column on Sunday produced a whole bunch of hits on the site of, and several new enrollees, which surprised me considering the nature of its analysis of my piece of fiction. But that's the genius behind the Web site, which I wish well, and which I think may find financial success. The anxiety and neurosis and sheer desperation of aspiring fiction writers is simply boundless. If they think there is an online tool that can instantly improve their writing, they WILL go there.

Speaking of improving one's writing: On Saturday, I gave a speech to The National Writers Workshop in Fort Lauderdale. In it, I recounted one of my favorite personal writing anecdotes. Here it is:

In 1978 I was in Lansing, Mich., working for the Detroit Free Press. I was assigned to do a large feature story on the city of Detroit sewage plant, which was a totally mismanaged disaster. It had all these giant vats and tubes and percolators, but essentially it was doing nothing to the waste, just belching it out virtually untreated into Lake Erie. Federal regulators had been issuing failing grades for years. I spent a month at that place. It was run like a Keystone Kops movie. At one point, as I recall, a worker fell into a vat of sewage, and he had to frantically dogpaddle to safety while his coworkers cheered him on.

So I would come back every day, and excitedly tell my boss, the great Hugh McDiarmid, what I had seen. Then, finally, I had to write the story. When I did that, like many callow young journalists, I sat down and put on my writer's hat, which is this magical hat that makes you feel real important and turns everything you write into tedious, boring pap.

My first paragraph went something like this:

The city of Detroit wastewater treatment plant has for years been depositing nearly untreated sewage into Lake Erie, operating in flagrant defiance of federal clean-water mandates.

And I showed it to McDiarmid, who looked at it, plopped it back in my lap, and went back to his own work. I asked him what was wrong. He said, "Where's all the joy of discovery that I've been hearing from you? Where's the outrage? The humor? The juice?"

Hugh McDiarmid was a great editor.

I was indignant and hurt. But I knew what I had to do. I went home and got spectacularly drunk and fell asleep. Some time during the night -- probably around 3 a.m. -- I must have staggered from my bed to my typewriter and written a new first paragraph. I say "must have" because to this day I don't remember doing it. But the next morning the paragraph was in the typewriter, and there was no one else in the house.

I'm doing this from memory, but this is very close to what I wrote. The story would go on to win a major national award for environmental reporting:

Every day, liquid sewage -- 300 million gallons of it from sinks and toilets across Metro Detroit -- roars through subterranean viaducts toward a single collecting point on West Jefferson Ave. Then it hits the fan.


Kudos to Will Gorham for finding what has to be the lamest acronym in the history of bureaucracy. This is from an article in Time:

"The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S., and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest."


Also, thank you to Jim Logan for pointing out the fabulous ungoing controversy over whether an online Baltimore newspaper can use the word "douchebag." Here is the original article, which is quite nice. It resulted in many complaints from within and without the paper.

And here is the editor's rather elegant take-no-crap defense of it, which makes me like this editor very, very much. Her name is an aptonym. If I weren't already married...


Please take today's poll. It has produced interesting results, including a conversation I had with my friend Molly Strzelecki. Molly chastised me for my position on the inferiority of dark chocolate; liking dark chocolate, Molly said, is evidence of a sophisticated palate, which she has and I (by inference) do not. Then Molly informed me that she eats no fish and seafood, because it all tastes fishy to her. I answered that anyone who excludes about 30 percent of all potential foods -- and many of the best ones -- from her diet because she thinks it tastes icky, by definition does not have a sophisticated palate. It is like claiming to be a great driver, but never going on a highway because it is too scary. Molly has authorized me to put this in the chat, and see what others think.


There are two Clips of the Day. The first is funny and safe for work.

The Second CLOD, from, is hilarious and VERY BADLY UNSAFE FOR WORK. It pertains to a column I wrote last week about people who write in Comments to online newspaper stories. ONCE AGAIN, IT IS VERY UNSAFE FOR WORK. IT WILL GET YOU FIRED IF YOU WATCH IT AT WORK. DO NOT WATCH IT AT WORK UNLESS YOU HAVE HEADPHONES. (The images are fine; the language is not, and much of it is SHOUTED. )


Finally, thank you to Elizabeth Channon for pointing out this excellent punking of a TV station.

The CPOW is Monday's Brevity. First Runner Up Wednesday's Frazz. Honorables: Wednesday's Pickles, Monday's Nonseq, Sunday's Brewster Rockit, Friday's Agnes.

Now take a look at these two Sally Forths ( yesterday and today) and decide whether it is remotely possible that wussy-whipped ol' Ted is about to have an affair.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, I can reveal that two of you fell into our trap.

There are only 18 statements on the poll. Two of you disagreed with 19.

I will maintain steadfastly that this discrepncy was deliberate.


Icky?: Gene, please note to your chatters that "icky" is YOUR word, not mine. I would say that fish and seafood aren't icky, they just do not "appeal to my tastebuds." (I would have said senses, but I often enjoy the smell of them cooking, I just don't enjoy the taste. Much like I love the smell of coffee, but I don't actually drink it.)


Gene Weingarten: Noted, Strz.

But that doesn't change the calculus. Sorry.


McLean: For the record, I note that one of the douchebag identification bullets on the blog reads:

"You talk about "Lost" as if it were "The Grapes of Wrath."

Does this not imply that Chatwoman and many of her minions are douchebags? If analyzing "Lost" is douchy, just call me Eve. Summer's Eve.

Gene Weingarten: Also, noted.


Optical Illusi, ON: A rotating grid in a rectangular space appears as multiple rotating grids.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Interesting!


New York, N.Y.: Hi Gene,

What's your opinion on Charles Krauthammer's column from Friday?

Gene Weingarten: I'm glad you asked.

I read this piece with great interest, because I respect Krauthammer. I disagree with just about every single thing he has ever written, but I like to read it just the same because he is smart and thoughtful.

I think this particular column is way off base. Krauthammer is nobody's lap dog, but I got the impression that he was very grateful for being granted this exclusive interview. If you see what I mean.

What's wrong here? Some of the assumptions that are stated as fact. For one thing: "But the question remains as to whether the now-likely outcome -- transforming a virulently aggressive enemy state in the heart of the Middle East into a strategic ally in the war on terror -- was worth it."

Do we really think that the most likely outcome of this war is that Iraq is going to be a stable, pro-western democracy? I love that to be true, but I sure don't expect it. I'm not sure that many people do.

Here's another one: The notion, presented as fact, that George Bush has prevented another terrorist attack. I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that. I also fear for the near and distant future: I think that among people who understand this better than I, there is consensus that Bush's policies have deepened and intensified hatred for the United States in the Islamic world.

Gene Weingarten: But even more interesting than this is today's George Will column. Albeit backhandedly, the primly conservative and very influential Mr. Will seems to be tentatively endorsing ... Barack Obama.


Philadelphia, Pa.: How about that Doonesbury and its fictional Washington Post buyouts of writers? Isn't that a hoot?

Gene Weingarten: It is! Meant to mention it.


Arlington, Va.:"Her name is an aptonym. If I weren't already married... "

But your kids are grown. Isn't your marital status pointless? Shame on you for relying on this needless societal construct!

Gene Weingarten: It's not "pointless." It is much less important than it once was.


Sally Forth: No, no, no. Ted Forth is not going to have an affair. The story line will be: Sally encouraged her wussy husband to make friends at work, and he ends up befriending a woman (who, by the way, also sardonically smacks him around, just like his wife and daughter and mother-in-law), and Sally will have to struggle with the fact that she feels threatened by the female friend. No affair. No way.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed. But they will flirt with intimations of an affair.


Yes Men (and Women): I think something must be wrong with the way people are taking this poll. There is no chance that 90 percent (or 89 percent for Cilantro) or more of people agree with every one of your positions. I hope there is a preposterous item in there as a control, just to show people are not thinking independently.

Gene Weingarten: You are reading the numbers wrong. Those are percentages of total answers. You need to go to the second results, see how many total people took the poll, and divide the numbers. On the big ones, like chocolate, more than half the people disagree with me.


Sophisticated palate: A person can dislike a certain flavor but still have a sophisticated palate. However, a person with a sophisticated palate can discern between fish with good flavor and fish with poor flavor as well as discerning the difference in taste between various fishes and various seafood. A person who thinks that all fish and seafood tastes the same can not have a sophisticated palate.

Gene Weingarten: Nicely put.


Washington, D.C.: This is the first time in months - literally, months - where I've been able to sit down at my desk with my lunch and read this chat in real time. Those of you who can do this every week should never, ever take it for granted. You have no idea how little fun it is to be on a plane or in a meeting, look at your watch, and think, f---beans, I'm missing Gene's chat.

Gene Weingarten: Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.


Herndon, Va.: Every time my boyfriend uses the bathroom (#1), then flushes, there is a big clump of bubbles atop the toilet water. I always accuse him of spitting in the bowl as he leaves the bathroom, but he denies it, and it's happening so often that I now believe him. Why the bubbles at the surface? I know his pressure is different than mine, but after the flush, it doesn't matter right?

Gene Weingarten: I just performed an experiment. I peed in the toilet, and flushed before I had quite finished, meaning the last pee went in as the toilet was flushing.


Ask him if he does that. This is exciting.

Report back, please.

Having said that, I need to report that many times in public bathrooms I have noticed that some men seem to compulsively spit in the urinal after peeing. I have no idea why.


Facebo, OK: The best non-sexual feeling in the world is getting friended by Gene on Facebook, finding out he's also a Scramble addict, and learning that his longest word is "DERANGED."

Or actually, maybe that qualifies as sexual a little bit.

Gene Weingarten: Confession:

I consider myself very good with words, word permutations, anagrams. I am a very good Scrabble player.

This Scramble game defeats me.

Okay, it is not the game that defeats me: It's so many people whom I have played who defeat me. Pat the Perfect can routinely double my score.

I have no idea what this is about, but it is humiliating.


Harrisburg, Pa.: I am trying to understand Physics and something bothers me as I read about Physics. If nothing can move faster than the speed of light, and if light consists of both particles and waves, aren't the waves, which travel in different directions while maintaining the same forward momentum of traveling at the speed of light, in fact traveling at a speed greater than the speed of light while moving in their nonlinear trajectory?

You did say you chat about anything?

Gene Weingarten: You mean while moving FORWARD in their nonlinear direction, right? Hm. This is like the left side of the hurricane traveling faster.

Any physicists out there who can address this?


Creepy delicacies: I completely agree that it's wussy not to try strange foods, such as fish eye soup. And I am an unrepentant wuss.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you for your confession. This attitude mystifies me. In trying something new and unusual, what does one have to lose? Well, one's lunch, I suppose, but that reaction defines one as a food wuss.


Annapolis, Md.: I really enjoyed the question about humor, because my husband and I got in a discussion the other day about how humor is intrinsically about universality of experience. We were discussing Chaucer and Wodehouse, how their humor is funny in any medium, in any culture, in any time period. That's good humor, and anyone who argues that humor is taste is missing the point.

Gene Weingarten: Well, cultural references change. Something that was once funny because people "got" a cultural reference might not now seem funny.


Fishy Tastes: You left out two important pieces of information: (1) how old (more or less, i.e,, closer to 20 or 50?) is Molly? and (2) how often has she actually tasted seafood and under how many circumstances?

Fish is really easy to ruin. Prepared by the right chef, it can be sublime. There is also a wide variety of flavors among our friends the sea creatures. If Molly is 20 and has never ordered fish at a restaurant because she doesn't like how her mother cooked it, my reaction would be different than if she is 50, has gamely tried dozens of different seafood in different venues, and still doesn't like it.

Gene Weingarten: Molly is 29.


Arlington, VA: One glaring item is missing in the poll: During the course of participating in these chats, I have been able to cut you slack on most of your opinions. I think you are a little hard on religion from time to time but otherwise I generally agree with most your worldview - EXCEPT for your opinion of my favorite cuisine, Indian food, which you have described as tasting like dirty socks, I think.

Gene Weingarten: That's not true.

It is just Indian curry, and it was dirty socks on a corpse.


Harrisburg, Pa.: I am wondering why we, as a nation, seem to feel that the comments by a famiily's religious leaders, i.e. Rev. Wright, deserve scrutiny and the POLITICAL comments by a family's political leader, i.e. the Alaska Independence Party, are not. Even Howard Kurtz says it is not important as only Governor Palin's husband belonged to the party. Yet, Sarah Palin attended party meetings, spoke at party meetings, and I have yet to read that she was there condemning what they were discussing. What were they discussing? The right of Alaska to succeed from the Union. If the ghost of Lincoln were looking down at this election, he would glad to see the country considering an African American under consideration for President, and might be concerned there is a candidate who feels a state can succeed from the Union. I don't want to hear conservatives criticize Obama because he didn't wear a flag pin or didn't place his hand over his heart when the possible future Second Husband belonged to a party whose leader says to spit on the flag, doesn't want to be buried in Alaska until it is independent from America, and in general is not the most pro-American patriotic organization around.

Gene Weingarten: I think, so far, the media has been going too easy on Palin in general. I think it is an aversion to appearing to be culturally elitist. You seldom see the word "trailer" used, for example.

There's one other damning fact about the AIP: As I understa it, the main reason they want to secede is so that they can make their OWN durn environmental laws and despoil wilderness as THEY see fit, not as some wussy lower-48 liberals think they should.


Jiha-ha-had: I've been snickering about this for days, but I feel kind of bad about it. Please tell me what's funny about the following bit:

I was feeling depressed last night so I called one of those hotlines. They connected me to a call center in Pakistan. When I told them that I was suicidal they said, Great! Can you drive a truck?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well. You must begin with two important principles of humor. This is the first, by Dave Barry:

"A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which you realize you are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how you release the anxiety of this knowledge."

Now, you need a principle by me:

"Tastelessness in the honest pursuit of humor is no vice."

Combining these two, let us see how your joke works: Yes, it is tasteless, making fun of both suicide bombings and also of suicide. Thus, to be funny, it needs to pass the test of "honest." Does it exist just to hurt, or is it genuinely funny?

Now we apply Dave's principle. This joke uses world-gone-mad anxiety of the suicide bombing and combines it with the world-gone-mad anxiety of outsourced customer service, even for something like suicide hotlines.

The elements are there. It's good. Thanks for asking.


Bubbly Pee: When I urinate, I create lot of bubbles. I am not exactly sure what causes this, but this has happened for years for me. Even if I wait until I am completely finished and then flush, there will be bubbles left in the toilet.

This has nothing to do with spitting.

Gene Weingarten: I will accept this.


Confessions of an American Sink-Peer: In response to all the incredulity about "why would you ever need to pee in the sink": I confess that I have peed in the sink, and I will probably do so again. It's quieter, quicker, and uses less water than peeing in a toilet. You don't need to worry about aim or errant splatters. The sink is right up where the business happens, not down by your knees. One can quickly and silently pee into the sink, then run the faucet for a bit, and no one is the wiser. If you're concerned about hygiene or odor you can throw in some soap or mouthwash. When we had a six-month-old infant who slept lightly and whose nursery was on the other side of the wall from the toilet, I would often do the sink thing to avoid the noise perils of the clunking seat, gushing micturation, the roar of the flush, subsequent tank-refilling, and the thunk of the lid. (I should say that my wife, whose bathroom visits are like the invasion of Normandy compared to my ninja raid, has nixed the "let it mellow" option.)

Further, think of the planet: you don't need to use a whole tankful of water to deal with a slight stream of clean urine.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I have been waiting for many days for this confession. I know there are more of you unapologetic sink-pee-ers out there.

I contend this may be one of the most common husband-wife deceptions.


Warminster, PA: I concur with you that Charlie Gibson's Bush Doctrine question to Her Pitbullness was a trap, but the way I see it, it's like throwing a 95-mile-per-hour fastball to a batter new to the major leagues. He wanted to see if she could handle it, if she belonged. She didn't, and she doesn't. I hear Putin has a rather nasty slider....

Gene Weingarten: The problem with that question was that it was too nakedly a trap; so people were actually in sympathy with her. To me, it sounded not very different from if he had said, "Governor, please tell me, correct to within two years, when the Peloponnesian Wars began."

The question itself wasn't so much a trap as the nature of the followup. A reasonable answer to "In what sense, Charlie," for example, would have been "In the sense that he favors preemptive wars." A reasonable answer was not what he tendered, which was the equivalent of "I'm not gonna tell you, neener neener neener."


Washington, D.C.: Gene, as a gay man, I sadly have to strongly disagree with you statement that gays are "exactly" like straights, minus the gender of their sexual partners. Trust me -- gays aren't. I've lived in multiple cities and suburbs, and met any number of gays in different forums (bars, volunteer groups, through friends), of different ages, races, professions, etc. I don't mean to sound like a self-loathing gay (I'm not), and I don't want to sound "above" my fellow gays (I'm not), but GENERALLY speaking, gays are:

-- More promiscuous than straights (although I am sure if the average straight man had as much opportunity to get laid as the average gay man, they would be more promiscuous, too)

-- Less emotionally stable than straights. The trauma of being in the closet and sexually repressed for so long, combined with the rejection than most gays encounter at some point from family, friends, work, etc., tend to make gays less trusting, more emotional and insecure, etc.

Again, I don't say this to be self-loathing or provocative or whatever. I think recognizing this truth about how gays are currently different in society reinforces the importance of something like the need for gay marriage, role models, etc, so that gays don't continue to be on the fringe of society. I think it's important to recognize the challenges and (yes) differences that currently exist so that they can be addressed.

Whew, thanks for letting me vent.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. I'd like to hear from other gay men about this. This was one of my assertions in the poll that I was least secure about because of the broadness of the brush, but seems to be the one people most agreed with.


New York, N.Y.: I was surprised that you left off a question about drunk driving -- your take on that seemed to diverge with a lot of posters (or at least some posters were very vocal). I would have been interested to see how that chatters broke down on that question (FWIW, I think if you get behind the wheel of a car and you're intoxicated, you're a selfish jerk engaged in criminal behavior and if you injure someone else you should have the book thrown at you. But maybe that's just me). And you're so wrong on cilantro. Other than that and the bumpers (interesting phrasing of the question, there -- it doesn't seem to me to be the same way you've laid it out in the past), we pretty much agreed.

Gene Weingarten: I think you're misrepresenting me on DUI. I am in favor of DUI laws. I think someone driving while impaired is a jerk and needs to be punished. My only point was, and remains, that some people are NOT impaired with a little alcohol in them. Maybe even enough to qualify as DUI. The way I see it, that might be unfair, but it's just tough noogies for them. Because you need to establish legal limits.

I'm not some DUI-bashin' fool.


Arlington, Va.: The rotating grid is faked. It is in fact several grids.

Gene Weingarten: It is not!!


Washginton, D.C.: Where are the chats going? This morning, Adrian Higgins' announced his chat is ending soon. Are there other chats ending, too? What's going on with WPNI to cause such turmoil in my Tuesday mornings!??! Although I'm no longer in a position to know much here, I believe the chat array is downsizing, streamlining, getting lean and mean. Gene is not going anywhere, however. And I believe the site is finding other opportunities for many of the hosts, like Adrian, who will no longer be chatting regularly.


LHC geneva: particles and waves: you are mistaking the graphical representation of a wave for the physical reality. there isn't a photon particle traveling in sign wave, its just a wave. think of waves on the ocean. the water doesn't travel with them...

Gene Weingarten: This sounds right. But what do I know?


Arlington, Va.: Gene, can I take back my poll response from last week? I chose #2 over scratching an itch, but then... last night I woke up around 3am with an itch in my TOE! I scratched and scratched and it would not go away. I finally put some hydrocortisone on it, but could not get back to sleep until the itch went away. This is one of the only times something has woken me up in the night, and I never want that feeling again. You're so right on this one.

Gene Weingarten: Mosquito bite, right?


Pee Bubbles: This happens in our house too! My husband flushes as he's finishing peeing and we get the bubbles. By the way, why do men flush while they're still going? I never understood...

Gene Weingarten: We're trying to time it perfectly. It's a form of competition with ourselves. Very guy.


Second CLOD: Do you know if the headphone slips out of its plug that the whole office can hear it?

By the way, are there any job openings over where you work?

Gene Weingarten: Wasn't it great, though?


Pittsburgh, Va.: What can we commoners do to prevent already-wealthy executives from getting lavish golden parachutes during the big Federal buyout? Did someone say golden parachute?

Gene Weingarten: I'm trusting Cwoman that this is interesting.


Picky Pic, KY:"In trying something new and unusual, what does one have to lose? Well, one's lunch, I suppose, but that reaction defines one as a food wuss."

I'm a food wuss and proud of it. Why wouldn't I try fish-eyeball soup? Because I know my preferences. I like foods that are chewy, crunchy, crispy, or silky. I dislike foods that are gelatinous or squishy. It's not the fact that it's a fish's eyeball that turns me off; it's that logic suggests that a fish eyeball would be both slippery and squishy. For the record, I love dark chocolate and hate cilantro.

Gene Weingarten: I call your palate unsophisticated.


Wynnewood, Pa.: OK. Not a humor question. More of a popular culture question. But you being, like me, a guy in his 50s with a pretty good knowledge of popular culture, ought to be able to wiegh in on this. On Monday they announced the nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 2009. Again, the following worthies were ignored: (1) The Guess Who, (2) Bachman-Turner Overdrive, (3) Jethro Tull, (4) John Mayall. I was appalled last year when the Dave Clark Five, a truly marginal and unoriginal band were inducted. This year's nominees include "Chic." Who the #$-&-!? is "Chic?" Can you explain this? It is every bit as mistifying as the "Sarah Palin Phenomenon." Chic

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, they were groovy and phat.

This is an homage to the very worst music of the rock era. Not the worst BAND of the worst music of the rock era. But the worst music.


Norway: Great poll this week. I agree on milk chocolate, Palin, weddings, turkey meat and quite a few other views. Disagree on cilantro. But does it really matter whether the chatters agree with you on those issues? What matters more to me is the civility views: Seat reclining and bumper "tapping." You are wrong on these issues. If only EVERYBODY would recline, everybody would be a lot more comfortable. And a car loses resale value if you "tap" it. That's why you're wrong.

Gene Weingarten: Obviously, I hold my position more strongly or less strongly on various items of the poll. One of the ones about which I have absolutely no doubt is the bumper tapping. I have been thinking about it analytically ever since this issue first arose, and I think I can now summarize my reasons concisely:

1. It is to everyone's best interests, in an urban environment, that as many cars find parking spaces as possible. If people were reluctant to lightly tap a bumper while entering a space, many marginally size spaces would go unfilled, which is a very poor use of resources.

2. Grow up, wussies. There is a reason bumpers are not made of Limoges. Bumpers are made to be bumped. If you are the sort of person who looks at your nice new car and is horrified to find a tensy ding in your bumper, you need a real tragedy in your life so as to re-set your priorities.

3. Yes, I know the modern bumper is a painted, sculpted silliness made in such a way that it shows scratches and dents. This is an inexcusable design flaw, but we are sheep if we allow it to change our perfectly reasonable driving habits.

4. See (2) above.


Washington, D.C.: I pee in the shower every day. I also have showered with my husband every day for the last 10 years. If he knew I was peeing, he would be mortified (he is easily grossed out). This is, literally, the only secret I have ever kept from him. Strange?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

I'm not even sure how you do this undetected, though.

But I continue to love this chat.

Anyone want to confess something else od they do that their spouse doesn't know about? We're not talking infidelity, here.


Men vs. women: So my new-ish boyfriend and I were discussing our childhoods on a long car drive this weekend. I was remarking on how different his was from mine because he comes from a big family of boys and I come from a family of two girls. We were discussing some of the things he and his brothers did that my sister and I would just never have even thought of doing because it was just such a "boy" thing to do, and I asked about the 9 volt battery. He was shocked (no pun intended) that I had never done this. He couldn't figure out why I wouldn't have tried this.

I think I will just not disagree with you on anything anymore, even when I think you are wrong.

Gene Weingarten: Of course. Because it's THERE. All males understand this.


Silver Spring, Md.:"think of waves on the ocean. the water doesn't travel with them..."

Really, then what's that wet stuff that hits my feet when the wave gets to the beach?

Gene Weingarten: It's the water that was already closest to you.


Cafe du Monde, New Orleans: I got two words for your fawning Dylan admiration, Bumper Boy:

Randy Newman

BTW, Are you playing bump-bump parking with the new Civic? If so, have you inspected the bumpers recently?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, the bumper is pitted. I don't give a rat's patootie.

I think a better rebuttal to Dylan is Leonard Cohen, not Randy Newman.


Washington, D.C.: If you like milk chocolate better than dark chocolate, you don't actually like chocolate. Simple as that. Milk chocolate is a disgusting imitation with that sour acid thing going on. This is the same as people who like Coors instead of Microbrewery beer and the Olive Garden instead of actual Italian food. Watered-down American version. It sounds snobby because it is snobby. But it also happens to be true.

Also, I love the bell curve going on in the second part of the poll.

Gene Weingarten: I love the bell curve too. A statistician would have predicted it with 100 percent certainty, though.

I am ready to concede error on dark chocolate. I was ready to concede it even before the poll. I believe people who find dark chocolate distasteful -- like me -- are tasting a tree-bark bitterness that fans of the stuff don't taste. It's like the cilantro-and-soap phenomenon.


"...some men seem to compulsively spit in the urinal after peeing...": I choose to think that these are guys who would otherwise spit on the floor (if you weren't watching).

Gene Weingarten: Right. But I don't get that either.


Chicago, Ill.: Liz wrote: " Although I'm no longer in a position to know much here, I believe the chat array is downsizing, streamlining, getting lean and mean. Gene is not going anywhere, however. And I believe the site is finding other opportunities for many of the hosts, like Adrian, who will no longer be chatting regularly."

I spend a lot of time online, both at work and (occasionally) at home. In all sincerity, these Live discussions are my single favorite thing about the internet. They are a terrific mix of light and serious and always make my day. Thanks for doing them. They are also one of the best advantages you guys have over the NYTimes' website, and you'd be crazy to lose that.

Gene Weingarten: I agree. I think has the best live chats of any online newspaper. I'm hoping the cutbacks are small.


Arlington, Va.: Gay man here responding. I agree with the poster and I also agree with you. Gay people start out exactly the same as everyone else, but seem different because of what society does to them.

Contrast that to men and women, who are different when they're born. Men are more inclined to promiscuity than women. Ergo gay men are much more promiscuous than str8 people, and lesbians much less so.

Likewise, gay people are much more traumatized and stigmatized, especially as young people. And they have the emotional problems that anyone would have if treated that way.

So, you're both right.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, thanks.


Gay versus Straight: I'm a straight woman, but I disagree with the assertion that gay people are not identical to straight people. Characteristics like promiscuity and emotional stability would seem to be products of society and culture, not innate. If homosexuality is biologically based (which I believe), then we all started out with the same basic drives; to be accepted, cherished and loved. The constant societal denial of these needs would push anyone, gay or straight, to the fringes of society.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, exactly. I think that's what we're all saying.


Arlington Gay: I can see Washington's point, but he's a tad over broad. Closeted gay men or those freshly out do tend to be more insecure. But in my experience, we're more like everybody else once we're out and used to it. Sure, there are still some family problems after 10 years but it's their problem, not mine. And since I came out, so have 2 of my nieces so even the family stuff is getting easier.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, thanks.


Bumper tapping: So here's what I don't get about the bumper tapping - why it's even necessary. I parallel park in small spots all the time and love the challenge of it. I've never in all of those times tapped someone's bumper or really needed to. I come very close, but am very aware of where the front (or rear) of my car is and don't actually tap the bumper.

Gene Weingarten: Two answers:

One, we're talking about only an occasional thing. I seldom tap.

Two, there are parking spaces so tight you need every millimeter with each rock. No one knows his car length to the millimeter. I will creep backwards until the tap.


Albuquerque, N.M.: Fish-eyeball soup is a lot like, say, religion: Why SHOULD I try it? What will it add to my life that I've been missing? Bah.

Oh, sure, you never know until you try. But usually you can make a good guess.

Gene Weingarten: Because breadth of experience should be one of the great goals of life.


RE: toe itch: No, no mosquito. After getting up this morning (late, because I didn't fall back asleep until shortly before my alarm went off) I checked, and there is no bug/spider bite whatsoever. No dry skin, either. Strange. Maybe I'll enroll in the Morgellon's study, tee hee hee.

Gene Weingarten: You won't see a mosquito bite the next morning!


You Asked For It: Last week you asked people who are pro-life how they can justfify abortion when either the mom is in danger or in the case of rape. I totally understand why would you ask this and will try to answer it as I see it. For me, a pro-lifer, I would allow abortion only in the case of the mom being in mortal danger. If it's either the fetus lives or mom lives, definitely fetus should be aborted. One life is going to die regardless, so it should be the one who doesn't have connections, history, responsibilities, etc. But for the case of rape, I don't okay it. I just can't because I see it as murder.

And P.S. That poll from a few weeks ago about the scratching an itch, eating a great omitted this one: plucking that one errant eyebrow that has been laughing at you for days. I absolutely love love love that feeling.

Gene Weingarten: With me, it's an earlobe hair.


Polite Society:"Based on past experience, there is a reasonable chance that while Dr. Wong may be an excellent doctor, she will have an accent that will make it pretty hard for me to understand her, and this will cut down on the effectiveness of my consulting her. I am basing this not only on her last name but her first name, which is old-fashioned and more likely to have been adopted by an adult immigrant than bestowed on a child born in an English-speaking country. I'm in severe GI discomfort and I don't want to deal with language difficulties if I can avoid it.

So, does this make me a racist or otherwise unworty of polite society?"

Listen, lady: As an Asian-American of the second generation, I have two things to say. 1. You're right that "Lillian" is an old fashioned name, which a first generation immigrant might give herself. She might also give said name to her daughter, whose English is flawless and accent free. 2. My mother is a first generation American. She teaches English, and over the telephone, you would think she' know...a "real" American. 3. You should definitely see a doctor you're comfortable talking to. The way the world is moving, you should probably get comfortable talking to people with Chinese accents. And Gene, that includes people who, for YOUR benefit, have chosen to call themselves "David".


Gene Weingarten: Well, the Davids are not doing it for MY benefit. They are doing it for the benefit of their companies, who believe Americans are xenophobic and filled with nationalistic fury over outsourcing. I would rather talk to someone named Osama who is not beginning the whole conversation with a lie.


Scrabble: The reason why PtheP can beat you, is because Scrabble is not ultimately about how good your word is or its length. It's about taking advantage of the extra point spots with particular letters. This is why extremely short words can make the most points, even if they're not nearly as complex or thoughtful as long words. Next time you play, play less for the word (which I'm betting is what makes it enjoyable to you) and more for the points.

Gene Weingarten: Also, I think part of it is remembering which nonsensical three-letter combinations are actually words. I don't the memory or the patience.

I mostly play the 5x5 squares, though, with four-letter word minimum. And I still suck.


Arlington, Virginia: Here's how you can prove the grid illusion is faked: cover up all but a small portion of the viewing area -- say about the size of a hole-punch. Test different parts of the viewing area through this small hole. You will see places where the grids are whole, and others where it is clearly two grids crossing.

Gene Weingarten: I need this verified. I am finding it hard to believe this is a hoax.


One Bad Commute!: That was one hell of a commute you had in 1978 to cover that story -- from Lansing to Detroit and back....daily?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but I didn't go every day. Also, it's not that long.


Old H, AT: Recliner person: Sure it'd be great if everybody reclined but the last row of seats can't recline. I am sure that there are also folks out there who cannot recline for health reasons.

Stop being so selfish -- think of the poor shlubs in the last row for once in your darn life!

Gene Weingarten: Also, many people want to eat, use laptops, etc. The up position HAS to be the default, so it should be universal.


Shower: I peed in the shower for a time, until I ended up with a case (bad) of athlete's foot for the first time in my life. I've not done it since.

Gene Weingarten: It had nothing to do with peeing in the shower, I bet. Pee is kinda sterile.


The Battery is down: Gay man here. And of course I tried the 9-volt. We're the same as everyone else.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


New York: Speaking of gay, John McCain's Chief of Staff, Mark Buse, was outed yesterday. McCain lurched hard-right this campaign season, adopting all of the anti-gay positions (anti gay marriage, anti gay adoption, pro Don't Ask Don't Tell). Will it be "funny" for McCain to have to explain why he can hate on people in public while not hating on them in private (Buse is widely known as a dear friend of the McCains)? From

Gene Weingarten: Hm.


Falls Church, Va.: Dear Gene,

After lunch yesterday, I had to pee, so I popped into the restroom. My coworker was in the stall next to me, talking. It seems that she was on her cell phone negotiating something. The person on the other end must have suspected something, because my coworker replied that she was in her car on the freeway.

I chose this moment to loudly flush my own toilet.

Am I going to hell?

Gene Weingarten: You are my kind of gal.

Gene Weingarten: So, yes.


Arlington, Va.: Gay guy here. I have to totally disagree with the earlier gay poster. I believe that just as there are messed up gay guys there are plenty of messed up str8 people to balance that scale. The vast majority of gay people I know are well-adjusted, generous, wonderful people. In fact if I were to answer the poll honestly I wouldn't say we are "just like everyone else", I would say we are better than everyone else. The gay community in general does a good job of taking care of its own, which is a left-over from when gays were more likely to be cut off from their blood families. So they created their own families. I think these days the picture is much brighter for gay people in general, but there is a real sense of community. You just have to look for it in places other than bars.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


RE: Doonesbury buyout: My name is Rick. I have a beard. I am a newspaper reporter. I got the buyout/layoff speech three weeks ago.

Trudeau owes me royalties.

Gene Weingarten: I will let Trudeau know.


Boston, Mass.: Okay, I'll bite; Liz, why are you no longer in a position to know what's going on with the chats? Weren't you, like, in charge of the entire WP chat universe? Do you have some exciting new position that you'd like to tell us all about? (Or have I just not been paying attention?) You haven't been paying attention, I think. I stepped down from that role in spring 2006 to concentrate on Celebritology. And Gene's chat, of course.

Gene Weingarten: She means "Gene's chat and Celebritology."


I agree with you that...: people who are pro-life are hypocritical when they are also pro-death penalty.

I am pro-choice (whatever I might choose for myself, I should have no authority over someone else's body) and anti-death penalty (it's not a deterrent; too many people exonerated). Is that position hypocritical, too?

Gene Weingarten: I do NOT believe that people who oppose abortion are hypocritical if they favor the death penalty. Never said that. I think these are very different issues. The first is about a completely innocent life; the second is not.


Re: Reclining: How about overnight flights, such as a typical flight to Europe, when everyone is trying to squeeze in a couple of hours of sleep? Do you still think reclining is evil in this context?

Gene Weingarten: Well, there is a corollary: Consent or implied consent. If everyone is sleeping, or reasonably should be sleeping, it's fine.


Boyds, Md.: Gene, which comics couple are most likely to be swingers? I guess we can add sitcom couples to the mix.

Many thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Arlo and Janis.


Re: "David": I too called tech support and was connected to a man named "James". He was unable to help me, and so transferred me to someone who could. Before doing so, I asked his last name so I could reference him if needed, and he said, "Morrison".

That's right, I was helped by James Morrison.

"Like the singer?" I asked.


Whatever, "James". Thanks for the help.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


New York, N.Y.: The rotating grid is not faked. If you open it up in a decent photo editor, you can examine it frame-by-frame. It's legit.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Cary, N.C.: I just opened up the grid thing in a program that shows the frames in gif files, and it's definitely a single grid.

And, if you're interested, 18 frames per second is the minimum speed in which I see the multiple grids. Anything slower and I just see the one grid.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you, too.


Providence, R.I.: The best comic strip in the Boston Globe, which I read as a poor shadow of a substitute for my native Post, is Tony Carrillo's "F-Minus." Are you familiar? What do you think, and can you get this brilliant man in the pages of the WaPo?

Gene Weingarten: I like it a LOT. I will see what I can do, which isn't much. Examples: One| Two| Three| Four| Five


Minneapolis, Minn.:"Because breadth of experience should be one of the great goals of life."

Does that include sexual partners? I'm honestly not trying to be a smartie pants. I just want your opinion. And I'm hoping you say yes.

Gene Weingarten: Experience in love? Well, within reason, sure. I'm not talking infidelity, though.


Judging humor and music: So, if you think that humor can be objectively judged, do you feel the same way about music? I know several professional classical musicians (though they represent a minority of the musicians I know) who argue that they have the necessary expertise to say what music (across all western genres) is and is not, objectively, good. You also seem to have pretty definite views on this subject. So what do you think? Is this just conceit or, at least to a certain point, would you support this viewpoint?

Gene Weingarten: I consider myself fairly inept as a judge of music, so I can't pontificate on this one. I am too limited in my tastes. I don't get jazz, for example -- any jazz. I'm like Molly Strz is with food.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Three-letter words in Scramble each receive one point; it's not like in Scrabble, where less common letters get more points. (For the uninitiated: Scramble, a Facebook application, is a variant of the tile game Boggle.)

However, one can certainly run up a lot of points with those 1-point three-letter words. It can become tedious, though. There's a three-minute time limit, so if there are many potential points on the board (the total number is given), it pays to look for bigger words.

Gene Weingarten: So, in short, you are doubling my scores by beating up on me at BOTH ends, right?


Springfield, Va.: Compare and contrast: Jewish guilt and Catholic guilt

Gene Weingarten: I am not an expert on Catholic guilt, but have a sense of it. I believe the endpoints are similar, but that Catholic guilt is predicated mostly on fear of the wrath of God, and Jewish guilt fear of disappointing one's mother.

I'm happy to entertain other views.


Oh, for cryin' out loud!: Within reason? WITHIN REASON? Since when is fish eyeball soup within reason?

Gene Weingarten: It is well within reason.


Bethesda, Md.: My girlfriend won't sleep with me. I am getting other "offers" and it's increasingly harder to resist. How can I increase my resistance?

No one else knows this.

Gene Weingarten: Why do you see the need to increase your resistance?


Suburban Virginia: Okay, so, do you think the world would be a better place for everybody (not just for people who think like you think) if more people were to think like you think? I guess you do. Give some examples of what you think would be better. Like, would we have the big financial crisis? Would we have radio stations with hip hop? Etc.

Gene Weingarten: If everyone thought EXACTLY as I do, we would live in a hellish, lawless, ever-man-for-himself dystopia. That's because no one would even use a bank, have insurance, obtain credit, etc, since these things involve paperwork. We would keep our money in cash, which would be regularly stolen by marauding gangs of similar-minded, but stronger, people.


Arlington, Va.: While perusing the Post's Sunday advertising supplements, I was pleased to see that Dick's Sporting Goods is offering "Ball Crushing Savings" on their golf equipment. (Go to Dick's website and click on the weekly shopping circular to confirm.)

Gene Weingarten: Wow.


Waldorf, Md.: On the poll question about marriage, I had to disagree with you, but that's because my own marriage (second marriage/no kids) is very important to me. But, I don't much care what other people do. I do agree that having children makes being married more important, legally.

From a societal point of view, I agree with you. Your statement seemed a little too all or nothing: no marriage ever necessary unless children are contemplated.

Gene Weingarten: But wait: Is it your marriage that is important to you, or is it your relationship that is important to you? Do you think it is important that you ane your spouse have gone through the formality of marriage? Why?


Now, wait a minute....:"Listen, lady: As an Asian-American of the second generation, I have two things to say. 1. You're right that "Lillian" is an old fashioned name, which a first generation immigrant might give herself. She might also give said name to her daughter, whose English is flawless and accent free. 2. My mother is a first generation American. She teaches English, and over the telephone, you would think she' know...a "real" American. 3. You should definitely see a doctor you're comfortable talking to. The way the world is moving, you should probably get comfortable talking to people with Chinese accents. "

Listen back: (1) She might, but I've never met a native-born Lillian under 80 so I maintain that it's unlikely. The point of the question was to make a decision based solely on the name."

(2) I never never never said or even implied that first generation immigrants weren't "real Americans". You have a chip on your shoulder about that. I too am second generation and even have an accented parent. That doesn't change the fact that the ability to communicate clearly is a big part of a doctor's job, and it is one that even native speakers tend to view as less important than it is.

(3) Agreed! My kids' pediatrician, whom I absolutly love and trust, speaks with a strong southeast Asian accent. I hope, however, that you never find yourself in acute pain trying to communicate with someone whom you have to ask to repeat stuff. We were talking about meeting a new doctor under extreme circumstances. Get a grip.

Gene Weingarten: Okay!


Washington, D.C.: I, a recent college grad, and my boyfriend, a senior in college, have had some discussions recently about sexual partners and how many should be had before someone settles down. Do you think that there is a certain amount of experience that someone should have before they know that what they have in a committed relationship is what's right?

Gene Weingarten: Even I am not arrogant enough to presume to put a number out there.



Washington, D.C.: Cilantro is awful. But it's hard to describe the awfulness of it.

I think it tastes like a mixture of soap, Bitters (that crap old people drink), mulch, crab apple berries (don't ever try those either), and the smell of mildew. I suffered through several bites of a salad from Panera trying to figure out how to describe the flavor to a friend.

Other people who tried to explain its awfulness.

And apparently it's hereditary

Gene Weingarten: is a fabulous site, with more than 2,000 members, many of whom have contributed long and funny anecdotes chronicling their encounters with the Foul Weed.

The first time I wrote about cilantro, I said it tasted like 20 Mule Team Borax, a now outdated reference. I accidentally ingested some just last night at a Thai restaurant. My new description of the cilantro experience is this: It is like licking the bottom of the soap dish in the communal shower stall of a cheap Calcutta hotel.


Paul Levine: Hi, Gene,

Do you know this author? I have been reading his books and the main character reminds me of you, railing against things like digital watches, automatic transmissions, etc. Plus, the books are set in Miami and have a Dave Barry-Carl Hiassin feel to them. So, I was just wondering....

Gene Weingarten: I know him well. A friend. And I believe he is a reader of these chats. A good friend of Dave Barry's.

Paul, if you're out there, I am not going to embarrass you by recounting the time, at dinner, you handcuffed Michelle Kaufman to the table and then realized you didn't have the key and had to race home to get it.

Because that would be embarrassing.


Breadth of experience: So you urge that increasing one's breadth of experience should be goal in life -- even with respect to matters of sex that do not involve infidelity. Does that mean that you favor sampling sex with members of the same team? Or does it taste too much like fish.

Gene Weingarten: It might taste too much like fish to YOU.


Bumper Weenies: Ye who live in fear of bumper bumping, rejoice! I have seen the salve to all of your worries.

These will also help the rest of us figure out who we should deride with laughter.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you! In addition to being even more wussbaggy than a car cover or a pocket protector, this also appears to be hiding the license tag.


Catholic guilt: Yes, it's about the wrath of god, but more nuance, it's about fear of disappointment (of god, parents, teachers, priests/nuns).

I asked my college boyfriend to wear two condoms not because of the wrath of god for not abstaining, but I would be disappointing my parents if I got pregant.

That's an extreme example. That also dictates if I skip church (and wasn't seen there by so-and-so cousin who will tell everyone).

It's not god, but community expectations.

Gene Weingarten: Whoa. Whoa.

Two condoms: NOT a good idea. Do not do. They can rub against ech other and BOTH rupture.


Re Catholic Guilt: Gene, I can assure you that, I, as a Catholic am just as worried about disappointing my mother as I am of God. Of course that could be my Italian heritage, so maybe I should call it Italian Catholic Guilt.

Gene Weingarten: Italian changes everything.


Queens, N.Y.: Gene, you have said before that Queens is boring and will never be cool. It's also more affordable than Manhattan or Brooklyn, and I moved there last week. So... any suggestions on how to make the best of a bad situation? Can I singlehandedly make Queens the Next Hot Place?

Gene Weingarten: It is impossible for a neighborhood of garden apartments to be cool. Everyone who lives their either is, or wants to be, the sort of person who wears socks with sandals.


HOLD ON!: Dick's Sporting goods website is not dicks dot com. So no one else makes that mistake at work.


Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahahaha.


What Hath God Wrought ?: I just discovered that one can buy peanut butter SLICES. Really.

Gene Weingarten: End of Civilization, chapter XIV

Thanks, all. Catch you in the updates, and next week, same place, same time.


UPDATED 9.24.08

Gene Weingarten: This piece expresses the problems with Sarah Palin better than I have.


Okay, I am a mechanical clock fanatic. I still think this link, supplied by Heather Jedrus, is absolutely fascinating.


Pee is kind of sterile: Urine is actually one of the recommended ways to alleviate the pain of a jellyfish sting. There was an article within the last year or so about somebody famous (actor, politician, I can't recall) who got stung on his back and had his young son whip it out and pee on the stings. I believe it was Michael Douglas.

Gene Weingarten: Now THIS is good celeb gossip.


"Tastelessness in the honest pursuit of humor is no vice." : Really? Then why did you delete from the Gene Pool discussion on tips to survive the recession a tip about making delicious soup from a certain source of medical waste? It was totally tasteless. It was also funny.

Gene Weingarten: I did not delete it. I never saw it, so I cannot verify whether or not it was funny. I assume an online editor deleted it.


Divine Certainty: How do you know "There's no God?" What is your proof? You place a premium on fact and logic, but I don't understand the logic of your position. I don't understand how people "know" there is a God either. Faith is not fact.

One can feel the presence of God in his/her life. Or conversely, one can believe that God is a human creation. But neither position is knowable. Or is it? Tell me how you know.

Gene Weingarten: That's a fair question. I answered it, or tried to, in the entire intro to a chat not that long ago, with an accompanying chart. Liz, can you link to it? It's all in the intro here.


Omaha, Neb.: I agree that voting for a Palin is a bad idea, but why is it unpatriotic?

Gene Weingarten: It is unpatriotic because you are recklessly gambling with the future of the country, should McCain die.


Centreville, Va.: On another chat last week, someone (I believe it was Argetsinger) noted that Sarah Palin's kids' names all sounded like Secret Service code names. It occurred to me that it would be funny if the Service had run with this, and given them all code names like, say, David, Jennifer, Susan, Emily, and William.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.


Gene Weingarten: You won't see a mosquito bite the next morning! : Huh? 'Splain, please.

Gene Weingarten: Several people seem confused by this. Perhaps I am unusual: About four hours after a mosquito bite, particuarly if I have treated it with benadryl cream, it's no longer visible on my skin. This is not most people's experience?


UPDATED 9.25.08 Be warned that the link below, while not video or audio, is possessed of more expletives than would be acceptable to Post or editors. However, the editors of the New York Observer deemed it printable and so we link to it below with a CLEAR WARNING and leave it up to your best judgment whether or not to follow it.

If Only: Gene, have you seen this.


Gene Weingarten: This is really funny. But I do not believe you are going to be reading it in the updates, because before this gets posted, Chatwoman is going to have to approve it. If you're reading this, I am stunned. AND impressed.


Richmond, Va.: From today's local rag":


In the Audtions listing on Page J11 . . .

'nuff said.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Poll: Concerning the parallel parking bit. I disagreed with you because you make it sound like it is a standard practice. That is, because you believe this, you can take any spot that is technically larger than your car. I don't agree with that, but I agree that if you accidentally hit the bumper lightly in front of you while parking, no one should care.

P.S. When do we get the poll on pubic hair?

Gene Weingarten: Again, this depends on Chatwoman. I wouldn't advise holding your breath.


Falls Church, Va.: George Will has written columns attacking the Republican candidate (as well as the Democrat, of course), in every election I can remember.

Gene Weingarten: The difference here is that he appears to be ENDORSING the Democrat.


Bush Doctrine Question: Nope, she still failed. Let's say he had asked the question of Krauthammer -- the response would have been, "In what sense? There are at least three different versions of the Bush Doctrine" because he knew what it was, and that it had evolved. She clearly had no clue.

Gene Weingarten: I never said she passed. She failed spectacularly, except in the sense that some people felt she'd been bamboozled, shanghaied and sucker punched. All of which she had been.

But she failed, badly.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: THIS is a link to a story about a man who decorated his basement with a sharpie (and it looks awesome). And THIS is a link to a story about solving an optical illusion. I thought you'd dig these two links.

Gene Weingarten: That first one, in particular, is sensational. I wouldn't call it "decoration" though. It's art. And I love the camera work, too.


UPDATED 9.26.08

Hellish, lawless, every-man-for-himself dystopia: Do you not use banks?

Gene Weingarten: There's a woman who does it for me.


Urinal Watching, Calif.: I need to report that many times in public bathrooms I have noticed that some men seem to compulsively spit in the urinal after peeing. I have no idea why.

NO NO NO NO! Men always spit before peeing. The obvious reason: priming the pump.

Gene Weingarten: You know what? I think you're right. See next post.


Spit in the Urin, AL: "Having said that, I need to report that many times in public bathrooms I have noticed that some men seem to compulsively spit in the urinal after peeing. I have no idea why."

I do this...don't remember how it started. Now it's almost like Pavlov's dogs -- when I see a urinal my saliva glands start pumping!

Gene Weingarten: And thinking back, yeah. I believe when I see it, the guy spits first.


DUI: Gene's view of DUI laws is much like my view of speed limits. Some people driving some cars may be able to drive 80 or 90 on the highway and drive completely safely, while other people driving other cars may not drive safely doing 55 in Montana. So it would be nice if the law was "drive safely." But it's not, so too bad.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting analogy, but I don't buy it. Have you ever been on a highway when someone passes you going 90 miles an hour? If you are quick-checking your rear view mirror before easing into the left lane, you can easily misjudge how fast the car is approaching, and make what turns into a fatal move. It's not that he is driving unsafely apart from his speed -- his speed, per se, creates a hazard however good a driver he might be.


Quick!: I love your new cilantro taste description. Can we do this in future chats for other things? I have a great one for child birth...

Gene Weingarten: Me, too! In my hypochondria book, I tried to describe childbirth so a man could understand. I said it was like "pooping a rocking chair."


Washington, D.C.: Another gay man's opinion. Gay men probably do have more sex than straight men, but probably no more than straight men would have if straight men had as many opportunities for sex with women. Men are men.

Gene Weingarten: Several gay men made the same point. Sounds right.


Gene Weingarten: Hope you've heard this leaked tape of McCain's original offer to Palin.


Submit to Next Week's Chat.


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