Chatological Humor: Hosted by Yeen Vinegarten

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 14, 2008; 12:00 PM

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: Door 1: 36 and Younger | Door 2: 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


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

A friend came to me yesterday after hearing a radio correspondent deliver a report. The Hispanic-surnamed reporter spoke in completely unaccented English until she signed off, when she pronounced her own name with a very heavy Spanish inflection.

My friend said she found this sort of thing to be a pretentious affectation, and my first impulse was to agree. My second impulse was to be ashamed of myself for agreeing. My third impulse was to think more deeply about this and decide I don't know how I feel. Is it a perfectly reasonable expression of ethnic pride, or is it the equivalent of, say, Bill O'Reilly pronouncing his name, and only his name, with a thick Irish brogue? Anyway, I decided this would be an interesting and provocative question to throw out in an Instapoll right here.

The subject seems to involve cultural chauvinism, in one direction or another, which brings to mind Christopher Columbus and a massive stupidity inflicted on American school kids, one I wish to redress now. We were ALL taught a very simple fact: That Columbus sailed to America in three ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. This is simply untrue. It was the NEEN-ya, with a tilde over the N. They lied to us.

Elsewhere on the cultural chauvinism front, did anyone notice something rather odd that was lost in the hoo-hah over the race-baiting and anger at McCain-Palin rallies? Watch this here clip in which McCain now famously defuses an ugly moment where a woman in the audience says Obama is an Arab.

McCain grabs back the mic and says, "No, he's not. He's a decent family man citizen." Everyone applauded him for his graciousness, but shouldn't he have said something else? Is it now a given that being an Arab is bad? What if the woman had said, "I hear he's a Jew?" Would McCain have said, "No, he's not. He's a decent family man citizen?"

And lastly, did you notice this photograph in the New York Times?

It was shown all over the world, and stood as a sign of global resolution and calm in the face of an economic crisis, but did no one notice the clear and obvious fact that the president of the United States appears to have worn and slept in the same pair of pants for at least six days?


Okay. The Clip of the Day, thanks to Greg Matthews, is just one big pile of awwwww.


About half of these are just terrific. I'm in love with "Chick Accuses Some of Her Male Colleagues of Sexism."


Christine Lavin has just recorded "Mencken's Pen," which was the basis of last week's poll. Chris has uploaded it to her site here just in time for the chat, which shall officially be the world debut of the work that makes H.L. Mencken a songwriter 52 years after his death.


Please take today's poll (Door 1: 36 and Younger | Door 2: 37 and Older). The most interesting -- and I think positive -- fact so far is that so few of us have moved to protect our assets. Also, underscoring the volatility of the economic markets, many more people are declaring themselves optimistic than were early Monday, when the poll was launched.


The CPOW is today's Speed Bump. First Runner Up is today's Brewster Rockit. Honorables: Today's Pearls, Saturday's Non Sequitur, Sunday's Pickles, Sunday's Little Dog Lost.

Special Mention: Saturday's Sherman's Lagoon, for its shock value.

And last: Any guesses on solving Opus's last challenge?


Happy birthday!: Did you see Google has released a version of its 2001 search index to celebrate its 10th birthday?

You are 146 times more popular than you were seven years ago!

Gene Weingarten: Wow -- Barack Obama has only 600 hits!

Liz, can we link to this? Yep: Google Search 2001

Gene Weingarten: This is fun to play with. I'm going to lose a lot of people for posting this first.


Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww: I don't like big, hyper dogs. I detest the war. But that CLOD made me cry.

Gene Weingarten: Liz, too.


Accents: I am in complete agreement. A few friends and I were discussing this exact thing - radio reporters who say their name - only - accented. It's bizarre and we thought that it also came across arrogant. I don't feel bad thinking that way. (I'm a 20-something white girl)

Gene Weingarten: Well, check out the next post.


Spanish accent: I'd only call it pretentious if the speaker had said lots of Spanish words and names throughout the report with with a flat American accent and then only pronounced her name with the Spanish accent. If her name was the first Spanish word she said and she pronounced it with an accent, I wouldn't call it an accent so much as correct pronunciation.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is a reasonable point.


Pretentious spanish accent: Was it Mandelit del Barco??? She drives me NUTS!

Gene Weingarten: I think it was Pah-TREE-cee-uh Hwa-de-LOOP-ay


Silver Spring, Md.: Gene, Obama might only have 600 hits, but Sarah Palin has none! I'm sure that means something, but I'm not entirely sure what.

Gene Weingarten: Try Sarah Heath.


Raleigh, N.C.: Gene - Are you feeling up to a discussion about bad books? Or perhaps bad lines from books?

I'm a fairly avid reader but only recently tried my first horror novel. It wasn't great, but better than I'd expected, so I tried a second one. This is god-awful. Easily the worst book I've ever read, but it's so bad that I can't stop because I need to savor the experience.

The plotting and what passes for character development are among the most immature I've seen. But the occasional metaphors are what have me howling longest and loudest. For instance, I came across a description of a character whose moods change "faster than an obsessive-compulsive changes underwear." Who the heck writes, talks, or thinks like that?!? I notice that one reviewer on Amazon also made special note of that line. If only I'd bothered seeking out those online reviews before plunking down my $15.

The book is "Plague of the Dead" by Z. A. Recht. I would urge anyone with a truly morbid curiosity about poor writing to look for it in the library or search for used copies: as wonderfully bad as it is, the author should not be rewarded with even a small bump in new sales. Heck, I'd gladly send my copy to anybody who wants it if it'll prevent that person from encouraging Mr. Recht with so much as a single new sale.

So I thought that it might be fun if other folks could throw out examples of bad writing in general or just clunky lines from other otherwise good books.

Gene Weingarten: Boy, that line sounds intentionally bad, but I scanned the contents of the book online and it doesn't seem to traffic in humor at all. So it's just bad.

This of course is the milieu of the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest. This is one of my favorite of their grand prize winners. It is from 2007:

Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee.

-- Jim Gleeson, Madison, WI

Which also reminds me of something I've always meant to mention. Maybe I have. Edward Bulwer-Lytton became forever infamous as a bad writer largely on the basis of the first few words of his 1830 novel "Paul Clifford." Only beginning of the sentence is remembered, but here it is in its entirety:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

I used this as a general model for my overwritten sentence in Sunday's column (Liz, please link) but the fact is, on the whole, Bulwer-Lytton's entire sentence is fine. Not bad writing, except for the parenthetical. He has been defamed. Below the Beltway: How to Get Rich Writing, (Post Magazine, Oct. 12)


Stick a fork in him, he's do, NE: Barring some major, unforeseeable upset, John McCain's presidential prospects are toast. Do you think he has enough honesty and decency left that he will decide to lose honorably, and call of the character attacks and dark hints about Obama not being one of "us"? I mean not just repudiate the ugliness himself, but also pull the ads and call off Palin and other surrogates from comments about "palling around with terrorists" and "not believing in the America you and I believe in" and all the people who refer to Obama as Hussein. I worry that we're going to go through a pretty tough economic time for a while, and stirring up the uglier aspects of populism will only hurt the country, and I'm hoping McCain is serious enough about putting "country first," that he'll do what he can to put a stop to it, rather than looking at it as a long-shot chance to win the race.

Gene Weingarten: No. For very practical reasons. I think McCain's best hope is that the polls are all wrong, and if they are, it is precisely BECAUSE of racism.


Gimmeabre, AK: I agree that Sarah Palin is singularly unqualified to be Vice President, let alone President. And I also grit my teeth whenever some yahoo starts spouting off about the sanctity of "family values." But I think Gary Trudeau went waaaay over the line in Sunday's "Doonesbury." Now, I know you are a regular worshiper at the Church of St. Gary, but since when is "stay-at-work mom" (which I think most people call, "working mother") pejorative? And who told Trudeau that Palin's last pregnancy was unplanned? And was the shot at Palin's pregnant daughter really warranted? Come on, Gene; man up, and admit that your hero blew it this time. Doonesbury, (Oct. 12)

Gene Weingarten: I had no problem with the shot at Bristol; Palin made Bristol a subject of public discussion, and the "family values' Republican mantra makes it germane. I wondered about the other things, too, though. And after I saw your posting, I emailed Garry about it. Here is his answer:

I believe that Palin has said herself that Trig was a surprise. Certainly her choosing to hide her pregnancy for many months suggests she didn't find it convenient. But planned or not, I regret including that detail for another reason; since Palin is married, it has no bearing on "family values". It's value-neutral, and I should have left it out.

"Stay-at-work Mom" is just a play on the "Stay-at-home Mom", once viewed as morally superior in family values universe. The general point, of course, is that conservatives have used family values as a bludgeon against liberals for many years, and that the general messiness of Palin's family life has complicated that line of attack. What Mark is saying is that despite our best intentions, life DOES happen, and as he makes clear in the last panel, he doesn't exempt himself. To him, the death of sanctimony is something to be celebrated.


Durham, N.C.: I don't understand how you can feel so strongly about women not changing their names after marriage, and still demand the reporter change her name to fit her adopted country's accent. Either way, it's her name!

Gene Weingarten: I'm NOT demanding it. I'm unsure.

Liz remembered that SNL did a skit on precisely this subject some many years ago.


NPR Reporter Lady: Gene! It is SO funny you mention this. I know exactly who you are talking about and I had the same thought last week -- why does her accent change to say her own name? As if to prove a point that American English misses the nuances of Spanish, etc. She ALWAYS does this, and it always catches my attention. I don't like to admit that it annoys me, but it does.

Gene Weingarten: It's a really uncomfortable topic, isn't it?

Can we hear from some Latinos? I love the question.


Affectati, ON: When I was in college, I studied abroad. After a couple of months, I had a nearly flawless native accent. But when asked my name, I invariably gave it in "American." Why? Because my name was not one that was used at all in the host country, and sounded absolutely ridiculous trying to bend to standard pronunciation rules (and my last name was worse). So I would say my name American-style, and when greeted with a blank stare would reference an actor by the same name.

This may not be applicable in the Insta-Poll situation, as I think most people in the US are comfortable with seeing/hearing Latino names. But ultimately it's HER name; she can pronounce it any way she wants to.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Thanks.


Hi Gene,: My favorite columns of yours are -the one where you call Ann Coulter a bitch -the one after the 2004 election where you examine the red/blue map -the one where you get a massage -the one where you make fun of the name "Madison" -the one where you go golfing with the priest, the rabbi and the minister -the one in the subway where you see a colleague and she smiles at you but you don't recognize her until way too late -the hypothetical situation one where you wonder what if... wishes were horses -the one where you take golf lessons -the one with Dave Barry where you took your kids to the beach in their street clothes

And my favorite chat of yours is the one where you wonder why lactation consultants exist and boast about how far you can hawk a loogie. Runners up are the one where you complain about only being a bi-weekly feature (ha, look at you now!) and the one where the Flash plays baseball. And the sosumi one. A sosumi was the opposite of a guilty pleasure: you're supposed to like something, but you don't. Sosumi.

Actually, these are maybe not your best, but they're the ones that I remember.

That is all. I've been reading you for years, as you may have guessed. Just wanted to say hi.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. The one with Dave Barry at the beach was written by Dave Barry.

I think the red/blue column was my favorite ever, simply beause I got to coin the word "hicktory," or a victory by the hicks.

My biggest sosumi is Jimi Hendrix. I will never, ever get him.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Gene!

I love your chat and usually the polls -- but this one was a little off. I'm a Democrat, but reading some of the poll choices seems to betray a lot of biases and maybe not a great understanding of the situation. E.g. I would have liked to be able to choose politicians generally, but neither party individually, and your suggested remedies seem to ignore a lot of options (I haven't seen taxes one way or the other as a primary suggestion, and the choice of the bailout as is wasn't even an option). How did you get to these choices?

Gene Weingarten: Very arbitrarily, informed by a shocking ignorance of financial matters.


Spitting in the Urin, AL: I'm a bit surprised that no one has offered the real reason why guys spit in the urinal. Perhaps people don't think about it. But the real reason is this: Public bathrooms are perceived (probably correctly) to be dirty places, with disgusting smells and all manner of stink molecules wafting through the air. It's bad enough that aerosolized funkifications can make their way into our noses, but I will be DAMNED if I'm going to swallow them also. Thus, we spit. This is a fact.

Gene Weingarten: I see.

Then why don't women, who are more fastidious as a rule, spit?


Norway, NOR: Remember this?

She just tried to come over to cover the election for a Norwegian TV network, but Homeland Security denied her a journalist visa, stating her a risk for national security.

She has an international press card.

Land of the free and freedom of press and all that, eh?

Gene Weingarten: This woman is quite funny playing an amazingly dumb blonde newswoman. I bet the NY pol who got punked and exploded with the f-bomb had something to do with her being denied access.

My favorite moment was when she asked a history professor how the war in Vietnam was going. He said there was no war in Vietnam, that it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she says, "It has spread to Iraq and Afghanistan?"

_______________________ Below the Beltway, (Post Magazine, Jan. 21, 2001)


Secondha, ND: Gene --

I have taken to wearing a real wind-up watch (early '60s IWC.) But not on weekends. Come Monday morning, the watch has invariably stopped, so I reset it and wind. Is this bad for the watch? Should I try to wind it every day even when not in use? It's my grandfather's retirement watch, so I want to treat it right.

Gene Weingarten: That's not hurting the watch. Prolonged periods of non-use, like months, aren't great for it.


Opus: The little dog will go with the ladies, and Opus will stay on as a shelter mascot.

Gene Weingarten: Not bad. As I recall, Opus was found at a shelter. Back in the 1980s.


Way back machine: Aw, if you seach 'Paris Hilton' in the 2001 google archive, you get the Hilton hotel in Paris, France.

Gene Weingarten: Wow!

Hey, keep these coming.


Washington, D.C.: You pointed out the other day that Murphy is a purebred Plott hound, and that you were able to find her at a shelter. But isn't it likely that she was originally the result of a planned breeding? Especially with such an uncommon breed -- it's not likely that two Plott hounds simply found each other and decided to start a family.

My two wonderful mixed-breed dogs both came from shelters or rescues. I doubt that I'll ever get a dog anywhere else. And it's the first place I tell people to look if they're thinking about getting a dog.

But I love purebred dogs, and the specific traits and personalities that you know you'll find in a particular breed. My favorite story in your new book is the one about the corgi who, in lieu of herding sheep or cattle, herds his toys up and down the stairs every day. Because he's bred for it.

So, I try not to criticize people who get dogs from breeders. I'd hate to think that someday all we'll have are generic, randomly-bred dogs. It seems to me that if we still want to have purebreds, we need at least some breeders and breeders need at least some customers, right?

Gene Weingarten: Murphy's litter was found wandering in the rain in rural Page County, Va, where Plotts (huntin' dogs) abound and often simply find each other and mate.

Chester was one of my favorite bios in the book, too. Here it is in its entirety:

Chester is a Pembroke Welsh corgi. He wants to herd sheep and cattle. His ancestry demands it. His genes compel it. Municipal statutes, alas, discourage the husbandry of livestock within city limits.

And so every morning when he awakens, Chuster husbands his flock downstairs, eight of them, one at a time. There is Smiley Man, Santa, Big Gingerbread Man, Little Gingerbread Man, Purple Teddy Bear, Mr. Dachshund, the Little Bull, and Mousie. Chester deposits them under the coffee table and then ignores them for the remainder of the day.

At night when Chester goes to bed, he herds his flock back upstairs one at a time. There is Smiley Man, Santa, Big Gingerbread Man, Little Gingerbread Man, Purple Teddy Bear, Mr. Dachshund, the Little Bull, and Mousie. Chester.


The Empress of The Style Invitational: Re Bulwer-Lytton: Within a couple of weeks, the Invitational will be offering a variation. Aspiring bad writers should be honing their tin ears.

Gene Weingarten: Noted!


Minneapolis, Minn.: Would you call yourself "Gene Vinegarten" if you moved to Germany?

Gene Weingarten: No. But I was not born in Germany.

I am guessing (could be wrong) that many or most of the reporters who do this were born here. Their English has no trace of an accent.


New York, NY: Gene Weingarten: Then why don't women, who are more fastidious as a rule, spit?

Obvious answer: Because they don't have urinals to spit in.

Gene Weingarten: Women don't spit, period. It is an established fact.


Vienna, VA: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli. Perfectly unaccented English until her Italian-inflected signoff. It's funny every time I hear it.

Gene Weingarten: Couple of people have mentioned this.


Washington, D.C.: I figure that no one knows better how to pronounce your name than you do. But I do wonder why reporters are based in Man-AG-wa, but never in Moskva or Par-ee.

Gene Weingarten: Well, we have not anglicized Managua. There is not another way to say it, right?

I hate how Brits say Jag-you-are, and Nic-a-RAG-you-a.


Financial Planner: Hi, Gene,

I'm a Financial Planner, and I blame the current crisis, at least in part, on the fact that too many people have too much information, too fast.

I tell people, regularly, that when they are investing, then in the long run the profit they make will be based on the profitability of the companies they invest in, but in the short term it is all emotional.

When stock prices move durastically over an hour, and they are checked every 5 minutes, then the involved emotions are much more extreme. People sell out of panic, which drives the prices down, which results in other people panicing, etc.

What is forgotten is that everytime a stock is sold, it is bought by another person. There is an equal number of buyers and sellers. Who do you think you are selling your shares to?

While this is a rare event, the adivce is the same: stay diversified, dollar cost average money into the markets slowly over time, don't check your balance every day, or even every week. Stay the course.

Above All: DON'T PANIC.

This, too, shall pass.

Gene Weingarten: I think they give the same advice to people who are dieting: Don't keep looking at the scale.


McCain/Arab: I agree with your point that McCain might also have said that being Arab isn't bad, but clearly this lady meant Arab in a derogatory sense, as a smear on Obama, so I understand why he responded the way he did -- I think it was a good effort and he wasn't intending to dismiss all Arabs in his reply.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think he was MEANING to, but I think there was an assumption in the air.


Theodore, AL: Gene,

I got all excited in last week's chat when you were talking about Mencken, until I realized you weren't talking about this guy



Gene Weingarten: Okay, I just got completely lost in this site. It's both hilarious and disturbing, but requires some navigation to get the full picture.

I particularly like the serious advice that a good way to foil alien abductions is to wrap yourself in string, like a mummy, because aliens have only four fingers and thus lack the dexterity to untie you.

Gene Weingarten: Ooh, also: "One woman who now wears a thought screen helmet along with her husband reports that she killed four alien-hybrid fetuses in a row by taking a gram of vitamin C every hour for weeks."


Somewhere in Georgia: Your only noticing the whole "Muslim as a pejorative" know? I've noticed this for months. So many people down here use it as an insult. Also when you ask them why they think it is okay they can't give you an answer that isn't totally bigoted. "Oh well they're over there killing our troops." "Well, I think they are scary." It's exhausting.

Gene Weingarten: You get the same sort of responses when you ask someone why they oppose gay marriage.


Accented name: Are you kidding? You're "unsure?" The question makes you "uncomfortable?" Seriously? As the child of an immigrant I will say this: it is not pretentious to pronounce your name correctly. It's your name. Just because you deliver the rest of the news report in English, you're now required to sanitize the pronunciation of your name? I think not. I certainly don't do it.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Pallin Pal, IN: Best Sarah Heath result: "Welcome To The Homepage of The Official Sarah Heath Appreciation Group ... Just WHO IS Sarah Heath? What is she like? What's all this biz about her behind? ..."

Sadly, the S.H.A.G. appears to have disbanded

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Washington, D.C.: "Old Dogs" has fluctuated on between best-selling numbers 400 and 1,000 for most of the week. Do you have any idea what that means in terms of sales? Not much, right?

Gene Weingarten: Probably not much. There have been various efforts to translate the arcane Amazon "Sales Rank" figures into approximate sales, none of which sees authoritative or definitive. I wrote a column about this many years ago, where I tried to influence the number by having 10 friends buy my book in the same hour. It got the number down from very high to about 1,000, as I recall. Liz, can you find?

Speaking of numbers, there was a clue in the Sunday Times crossword that read: "Numbers, sometimes." The answer was "dentists." Diabolical. Below the Beltway, (June 17, 2001)


Philadelphia: Hey, Gene, aren't you one of those enlighted types who likes to call conservates "stupid" and "uneducated?"

Maddow Can't Find Indiana on Map

Gene Weingarten: Unfair. That map was a visual prepared by others. She might not even have seen it until it flashed on the screen. In fact, she may not even have seen it then.


Arlington, Va.: You have previously said that you don't "get" jazz, so it's hardly surprising that you don't "get" Jimi Hendrix either. Any/all of the great guitarists of his era (and since) are on record flatly stating that Hendrix played guitar with a freedom previously unwitnessed in music, much like a jazz musician (think John Coltrane on a Stratocaster -- not that you can, of course). He redefined his instrument and influence millions. Does that not register with you when you hear his recordings?

Gene Weingarten: No. I am fully aware that I am wrong by all agreed upon standards. Also, I hate how he mangles Dylan songs.



Palin Derangement Syndro. ME: I love that y'all are spending so much time obsessing about Palin and I loved the comment last week that you "wouldn't have voted for McCain-Gandhi."

Look, I know a lot of people who voted for Perot in 1992 because they feared Quayle and (rightfully) abhorred the Clintons. Fifteen years later, the "feeble" GHWB was jumping out of airplanes and the country was worse off for his having been denied a second term.

And if Liz puts this through and you answer it reasonably, I'll make a contribution to Obama in the name of the already-registered-to-vote-by-ACORN Mickey Mouse.

Gene Weingarten: I am not an apologist for, or a particular supporter of, Bill Clinton, but I think history will see him as having been a good to very good president.


In The Tank for Obama: So have you seen that the Christophers (Hitchens and Buckley, respectively) are going to vote for Obama? William F. must be spinning in his grave.

Gene Weingarten: You know what? I bet William F. would have approved.

William F. would have been appalled at the ignorance of Sarah Palin.


Patricia Guadalupe: Was born and raised in the United States. This is not her "adopted country" as some poster said. Her accent is a total affectation. It's annoying and jarring. It'd be as bad as if I said my name in a rich Irish brogue. Embarrassingly phony.

Gene Weingarten: I think there is something disturbing about how strongly some people feel about this. But I do think that being born and raised in the U.S. changes the calculus here a little.


State, your name: My family name was Americanized when my ancestors moved to the US. I am proud that it has been changed and that we have not changed it back. When I hear a person speak in non accented Engglish everything but their name, it sounds to me like the person is non verablly saying "I may live in the US, but I will never be an American."

Gene Weingarten: And yes, I think you have just explained WHY some people feel so strongly about this.


Springfield, VA: I have two Pembroke Welsh Corgi's...two years old each...the male herds the female all over the house, while the female herds her toys. It is by far the funniest thing to watch, but since we have no cattle or sheep, I guess they have to do something. And it certainly comes in handy when the female meanders a little too long in the backyard when I need to leave for work. I just say "go get her" and he does.

Gene Weingarten: Aww.


Embarrassed: Gene

I had a wonderful lunch with friends recently. Really sumptuous food. However, something must have disagreed with me. Four hours later I found myself in a restaurant (that I did not patronize, I just needed a bathroom) hurling it all up into a garbage can. I would have used the toilet but it was, er, otherwise occupied if you get my drift. I don't remember the last time I felt that ill. Once the poison was out I felt better.

Should I have apologized to the restaurant? It was a metal can with no liner (it was however filled with paper towels).

I can't think of any other place to ask this question.

Gene Weingarten: You came to the right place.

By otherwise occupied, I assume you mean that you were engaged in a double elimination tournament?

The Ethicist of the Times would probably say you were obliged to not only apologize but offer to clean out the can yourself.

But we are all humans here. I would have just split, too.

No, wait. I might have found the person in the restaurant who cleans the johns, and given him a big tip. Without necessarily acknowledging why.


Independent Voter: I'm one of those independents that would have voted for McCain in 2000 and keep wondering where that man went.

When I saw the McCain clip with the woman thinking Obama was an Arab, he looked so uncomforable I thought this would be a turning point for him. I immediately told my husband that the only chance McCain has would be to have a press conference or go on the Sunday talk shows, apologize for the negative personal attacks, call off the pitbull with lipstick, take off all the negative personal (not policy) ads, fire all the Rove Clones and talk issues for the next 3 weeks.

Apparently, even Bill Kristol agrees with me (not me with him, I said it first). Do you agree that this is McCain's only chance (barring unforseen events)?

Gene Weingarten: No, I don't, but I think it would be another bombshell. He is good at those.


Grass is Greener: In the tradition of leading Hollywood liberals, like Alec Baldwin and George Clooney, who unfortuneately never seem to follow through on thier declared intention to move to Canada any time a Republican wins an election, I have been trying to decide where I will say I am going to move after November fourth. But the truth is, there is no other country where I would really want to live, even with the specter of Obama and Pelosi leading us rapidly down the road to socialism. But just in case I can't handle it, and for the sake of humour, where do you think I and other dissapointed conservatives should plan to move? Alec Baldwin, it should be noted, denies that statement.

Gene Weingarten: In order to persuade the rest of us that your fear is a fear of socialism and not a distaste for black people, you must all move to Zimbabwe.


Jacksonville, Fla.: How's this for a video of the week?

Gene Weingarten: I liked the dogs better.

This is a bit tedious and obvious, but the very end is great.


Alexandria, Va.: Guys. You can be born in the U.S. and still grow up speaking two languages.

If you grow up pronouncing your name one way; why would you change it all of a sudden just because it annoyed or disturbed some rounded on the edges, be-spectacled, can't comb his own hair humor writer?

Gene Weingarten: It DOESN'T BOTHER ME.


All Along The Watchtower: Dillon liked the Hendrix arrangement so much he stopped using his own version of the song. Is he wrong? Dillon?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, he is. I hated it, and I am right.


Annandale, Va.: Gene,

This video gets funnier each time you watch it. It also has something for everyone (toilet humor = men, cute baby = women).

Gene Weingarten: Men also get a cute mom.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Posters here seem OFFENDED that these news reporters don't Americanize the pronunciation of their names even though they speak for American radio in American English. It's like, "What, how dare you not pronounce your name in a badly accented version of your native language!" Mandelit del Barco, you may have been born in Peru, but you lived in New York and so you should call yourself Myen-duh-leet Del Bawwwko!

Gene Weingarten: Yep.


Patricia Guadalupe...: It's murkier than the poster reports. While Patricia Guadalupe reports on WTOP with the accent dichotomy, she also reports for Spanish-language broadcasts. To change the pronunciation of her name from station to station would be as silly as you going on Radio Marti as "Heen Weinharten."

Gene Weingarten: Interesting point.


Main Street: Who the hell cares whether Biden has had Botox treatments? With all the real issues The Post could be tackling, why on earth are columnists at The Post conjecturing on such a triviality? It speaks more to the Cult of Youth to which this country has fallen prey as it does of Biden.

As Melissa over at Shakespeare's Sister asks Seriously, aren't you the paper that brought down Nixon?

Gene Weingarten: You know, it's a GOSSIP column. In a very big paper filled with a lot of other stuff. Complaining that The Post is lowering itself to write stuff like this is like complaining that The Post isn't a serious publication because it carries comics.


Washington, D.C.: The sad thing is that McCain got booed when he said Obama was a decent family guy. Imagine how loud the outcry from his supporters would have been if he said Arabs are good, regular, boring ol' people!!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahah. True.


Soft White Underbelly: Gene: "I approach fiction with a sense of anxiety; will this so blow me away that it can't even serve as example or inspiration, and simply mocks me?"

Reminds me of what Ridley Scott ("Bladerunner," "Alien," "Thelma & Louise," among other things) supposedly said after seeing the first Star Wars movie: "Wow, I'm not even in the same line of work as that guy!"

Gene Weingarten: I once read a biography of Phil Ochs that claimed that hearing Dylan's album "Bringing It All Back Home" in 1965 help pushed Ochs into a lifelong depression from which he would never recover. "It's Alright Ma" in particular persuaded Ochs he had no talent and never would have any.


Re- President Obama: You know that After he is sworn-in he is going to sign an executive order requiring to gather up white people, tightly chain them together in a large ship and send them off to Africa to work for no pay on plantations in Kenya.

It must be true I read it in an e-mail.

Gene Weingarten: The swearing-in will be on a Koran.


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm a woman, hot, 30-something, throwing panties, yadda, yadda. I have a question for you, though.

How did you handle it in 2000 and 2004?

I'm a conservative. McCain isn't my ideal choice, but I've yet to find that person. I fear for our country after Obama's win next month. I could get into the reasons, but they aren't important to my question.

In January, I will be living under an Obama Presidency, a Pelosi/Reid Congress, an O'Malley Governership, and a Leggett County. Congratulations to my fellow Gene fans. I know it will be a triumphant moment for all of you.

How did you handle the fear, anger, disappointment, etc. when 50% of your fellow citizens chose the person you absolutely felt was the wrong guy for the job? This isn't the guy who's going to chair the school fundraiser. This is the real deal.

Obviously it's been a while for my side to face this. I just don't know what I'm going to do.

Gene Weingarten: Well, if you are a writer, you can write a lot of nasty stuff.

But as a citizen? There is no way to handle it, not if you are as sure Bush was the wrong guy as I was. You cave in to lousy impulses: I have said this before, but the 2004 election left me seriously disliking 80 million people I had never met.

Sorry, but it doesn't really get any better.


Arbit, ER: Gene,

The Bush pants are very easy to explain. He is preparing for a career after being POTUS. He is planning to become an umpire (baseball) and is trying out a pair of plate pants. These provide room to bend down, wear a cup, and wear a pair of shinguards. I have a number of these and, when not wearing the requisite items, they look just about like his trousers do in that picture.

Gene Weingarten: Can anyone seriously explain that picture? Also why is he standing with his feet planted toes together, like a four-year old?


Names in English: I once had a friend from a Middle Eastern country whose first name was "Faten", not an uncommon name for Arabic women. She had lived in this country for several years and spoke flawless English. Are all of these posters who are getting so offended suggesting that she should pronounce her name as "fatten", rather than "fah-ten"?

The pretentiousness here is on the part of those who think that your name needs to change to fit your audience's pronunciation habits. You all are inventing this sense of offensiveness so you can feel aggrieved and tribally unified. It's rather sad.

Gene Weingarten: I think I have come around to this position, yeah. Y'all helped, on both sides of the issue.


Liz: A request -- is there a way to automate so that links in chats always pull up new windows? Can't tell you the number of times I close a window from one of Gene's links only to discover that I closed the chat window (just happened with the 2008 election coverage link), and have to go back and open a new window at the WaPo home page, scroll down to the chats, click the chat, scroll down and find my place... Another thing you can do is hold down control or the Apple key (on a Mac) when clicking on the link. It will open in a new window.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Chantilly, Va.: I wish people would quit using the phrase "trailer trash"; it really bothers me: maybe it's because I live in a trailer park, although I'd like to think that I'd be equally unhappy about it if I didn't. Is there some reason why a "trailer park" or a "trailer" is a less quality abode than something else? Is there some reason I'm regarded as trash because I opted for this form of housing simply because I couldn't afford "proper" housing? (I tried saving for a house or a condo, but each time I had to use the savings to meet an emergency, and finally gave up.) I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

Gene Weingarten: I think it's a bad, elitist expression.


Richmond, Va.: The conservative looking for a new conservative home can move to Singapore where litterers are caned.

Gene Weingarten: Good, thanks.


Franglish: The name discussion reminds me of my personal struggle every time I order a certain pastry. I took French and I know it is a kwa-son, but I'm an American and we say cro-sant. I think the first way is pretentious, but I think the second sounds awful. But I always give in to my internal American and order cro-sant. Or if I'm lucky I can just point and say "I'd like that one, please."

Gene Weingarten: I couldn't bring myself to say crossant. Or HOM-age. And I KNOW French is pretentious.


New York, NY: I would have poured the puke into the toilet after emptying my other end. I also would have possibly but not definitely rinsed out the trash can at the sink.

Gene Weingarten: You'd have to rinse the thing out, too, though.


Gainesville, FL: Hey Gene,

You gotta love this clip. This can't be real...

Gene Weingarten: No way this is real.


A McCain Theory for Consideration...: You know, McCain seems to be pulling back a little (perhaps it just seems that way, because there is virtually no advertising in my state -- since the expectation is that it will vote McCain). BUT. It does seem that McCain isn't trying as hard. So here's my theory...

He's tired. And the prospect of leading the country through this economic crisis is overwhelming. I don't think he wants the presidency anymore. I think he'll pretend to want it, and pretend to try to win it...but I think in his secret heart of hearts he's hoping he loses to Obama. Just a thought.

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure it's "tired." I think he's dispirited. And I think it is really showing.


Minneapolis, Minn.: I'm wondering about how people fall asleep. For example, I always read in bed before I go to sleep, then just turn the light off and go to sleep. My boyfriend doesn't read and needs a fan to fall asleep - this has been the same for any guy I've dated who does not read to fall asleep. So, my question is: Do readers fall asleep without the aid of a fan and non-readers need a fan? Or am I the odd one for not using a fan?

Gene Weingarten: I need a pillow on my eyes, propped up against the headboard of the bed.

When the Rib was in college, she had a roommate who could only go to sleep under a hair dryer. Rib had to turn it off.


UA: Is Gina a fan of Florence King? Because this passage made me think of her:

"Knowing nothing about women, he has developed an insatiable need to know everything about them. He wants to be a man who understands women, yet at the same time he fears that such an understanding, were he to achieve it, would be evidence of a dangerously large, even homosexually large, feminine component in his own make-up. The fun would be over then; he could no longer go out with the boys and talk about how hard it is to understand women. Worse, the boys might start having trouble understanding him. Unwilling to risk this, he puts the lid on his deeper speculations and concentrates on 'I wonder what she's like in the sack?'"

Gene Weingarten: I suspect Gina is a fan, yeah. How could she not be?


McCain blew it totally: McCain SHOULD have said, "Obama is not an Arab. He also happens to be a fine family man etc." By not denying that Obama was an Arab, he left the impression that either he thinks Obama is one, or that it's OK for people to think he is one.

Gene Weingarten: He did deny it. He said, "He isn't."


Atlanta, Ga.: I am fiscally conservative, yet pro choice, I believe we need to do something in our society to protect gay people who cannot marry, I believe, basically, in the govt leaving me alone with social issues as well (i am not pro-gun, but think that the govt has done a lousy job enforcing what laws we DO have, so why are we people lobbying for more laws? I believe in allowing people to bear arms). Get out of my life, basically.

I know this makes me a libertarian (not the loony libertarians the media typically shows, but the ideals of libertarianism) -- but Bob Barr (thank goodness, actually) isn't going to win.

So what to do? I don't know, but your idea that Obama is so wonderful is ridiculous. His TV ads are basically saying: here, I'll give you money

Gene Weingarten: Both candidates, by the way, are lying through their teeth about tax cuts. We all know that, right?


Keynes Is Dead-Long Live John Maynard Keynes!: In your question as to what would best help us out of this crisis, you left out what needs to be a major component (but certainly not the only thing): More publicly funded investments in infrastructure and technology. The government is the only entity that has the ability to put large numbers of people to work in a variety of fields and lay the foundation for the necessary transformation of our economy. Other things are of course going to have to happen, including greater regulation and a rethinking of our tax code. But really when the economy goes south: We are all Keynesians.

Gene Weingarten: Good point.


Aptonym, N.Y.: From an article about ipods causing hearing loss:

Some have their music cranked so loud that you can hear it from a few feet away.

"Everybody is trying to drown out what's around them until they get to where they need to be," said Mikal Din, a 30-year-old Harlem resident. "I don't want to hear anything other than the music."

Din may soon be unable to hear anything at all.

Gene Weingarten: Whew. I was afraid we'd get throught the chat without a single aptonym.


Pikesville, Md.: I think we need to talk about "Burn After Reading." I think I liked it, but I want to hear what you loved about it. The sudden and horrifying violence?

Gene Weingarten: I liked that it was a big movie that didn't take itself seriously. I liked that it was a giant intricate thriller-intrigue movie in which, ultimately, everything was much simpler than it seemed to be. A parody of thrillers. I liked how cool it was. I loved the Clooney character, a lovable horndog, and I loved the denouement scene, where it all neatly wraps up with the conscienceless pragmatism of the director of the CIA.


Washington, D.C.: Gene Weingarten: You get the same sort of responses when you ask someone why they oppose gay marriage

Yeah, kinda like Joe Biden

Gene Weingarten: Joe Biden doesn't oppose gay marriage. He says he opposes gay marriage, just like Obama does, because they have to.

Liz, can you find a clip on youtube of Obama talking about gay marriage to a three-person panel of gay people? His answer is completely illuminating.

He basically says, not in so many words, wait. Wait for the right time.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Re: is there a way to automate so that links in chats always pull up new windows?

If you have a modern-day mouse and a modern-day computer, push down the scroll wheel on the mouse when you click, and the link will open in a new tab.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

_______________________ Video: Obama on gay marriage.


New York, N.Y.: Evidently the young are doing it wrong. For any chatter more than a couple years out of college who only managed to lose less than $5,000, you are either incredibly prescient, or you're not investing enough, aggressively enough. You're young. Fill up those 401Ks now, in incredibly aggressive investments, because you won't need it for decades. I'm 26 and lost ~$25,000, but since 90 percent of it was in a 401K, it doesn't matter. I'm confident it will come back eventually. Seriously, we all know social security will be woefully underfunded when we retire, yet we act as if "savings" is a dirty word.

Gene Weingarten: I think I agree with this.


Arlington, Va.: Re: Opus' Last Resting Place

Since it turns out that the $10,000 prize money in this contest goes to the winner's favorite animal shelter or rescue group, I'll go ahead and make a guess.

According to several visual and written clues ("Every child knows this place") in the last few weeks of Opus strips, I think that he'll end up in the bedroom scene of the children's book "Good Night, Moon."

Gene Weingarten:
Will he supplant the mouse, and jump from place to place, panel to panel?


Re: Florence King: Florence King was an interesting, impossible-to-define writer. A Southern lesbian with very conservative views on many things. And really, really funny. "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" is great.

Gene Weingarten: I've never read her books, but have seen maybe 100 quotes from them, and most are really good.


Providence, RI: You are absolutely right: BURN AFTER READING is a brilliant film; it is a worthy successor to "No Country for Old Men." (Oh, and I'm a Ph.D. student in film and a native Washingtonian, so am particularly legit in saying that disagreers and panning critics are morons.) It's hilarious, the acting is marvelous, and it's as dry a romp as possible. But the really brilliant thing here -- and maybe it doesn't play as well outside of D.C. -- is that the very form of the film is structured like a bureaucracy. This is a film about the inanity and incestuousness of D.C. politics, where everywhere you turn you are in the midst of the absurd operations of governance. And the form -- meandering, pointless, empty, and yet unbelievably complex -- is the very form of our city. It's a genius film.

Gene Weingarten: And everyone's motive for everything is idiotic.

I have no idea why this film was so universally panned.


Herndon, V.: Seems to me that a perfect place for a conservative to move when Obama wins is China. There, they will have unfettered, unregulated capitalism with thousands getting richer while millions are scraping by, no environmental regulations, and the government tightly controlling what goes on in your bedroom.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. Good. We have a winner.


Washington Lesbo Land: For the record, I'm with Obama and Biden on this one. We have to wait. I'm furious I can't civilly marry my wife. We had a religious ceremony, which was quite civil, but that doesn't count when you file taxes. I'm pissed beyond belief what we have to go through to get her covered on my health insurance. It infuriates me that I can't put her on my house deed without invoking a whopping gift tax. But I'll live with all that in exchange for a government that doesn't torture.

Gene Weingarten: That is basically exactly what Obama says in that clip. He points out that when his parents married, the marriage itself was illegal in some states. But he said that if he were a civil rights leader at the time, he would not have tried to press that issue, yet. Voting rights was more important.


Socialis, ME: The conservatives are the ones who are nationalizing the banks, not Pelosi and Obama.

Gene Weingarten: About 200 people are making this point, correctly.


"It's Alright Ma" in particular persuaded Ochs he had no talent and never would have any. : So the shoe fit.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, no.

Absolutely no.

Ochs was an obnoxious, nerdy, annoying man, but a really talented songwriter with a really different voice.


Re: Burn after Reading: I agree with all the reasons you liked it, plus that while I laughed a lot all the way through it, it was only when it finished and I understood the brilliance of the overall concept that I really laughed.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. It's a movie that gets better the day after.


Trash Can: The can was as tall as the sink. It was also one of those kind you have to step on a lever to keep open. This was truly an all-body experience.

Gene, good point about tipping, I didn't think of that as I slunk quickly out the door.

Gene Weingarten: You know, not to be cruel, but this anecdote creates a pretty hilarious visual image.


To Tell the Truth?: Gene Weingarten: Joe Biden doesn't oppose gay marriage. He says he opposes gay marriage, just like Obama does, because they have to.

So we should elect Obama-Biden because they are good liars?

Gene Weingarten: Oh, please.


Boston, Mass.: Gene,

Something has been bothering me about that woman with the arab comment clip. I just have to assume she was a plant so that McCain can show the public that he is not supporting the racist elements that are being attributed to his supporters. Does this mean I've become too cynical in my early 30's? What are the odds this was not a set up?

Gene Weingarten: It was not a set up. McCain was too uncomfortable with the whole thing. And it was too inarticulately stammered out.


Let them fry: Am I the only person who wants a depression? The people who brought this on are mostly lazy slugs and suffering a little will teach them responsibility.

Gene Weingarten: Uh.

Yeah, I am guessing you are the only one who wants a depression.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, thank you all. Illuminating chat.

Tragically, there will be no updates this week. I am out on a story. See you next week.


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