Chatological Humor: The Beard; Love from Liz; Stereotypes

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009; 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.

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," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

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.

Today's Chatological Humor originates on a laptop on a bed at Washington's National Rehabilitation Hospital, where I am beginning my thirteenth day of recovery after double knee replacement surgery. I am currently under the influence of both extreme pain and of multiple narcotics designed to blunt extreme pain, meaning that my brain is a battleground, and as such is subject to the blinding "fog of war." Therefore, neither I nor The Washington Post is legally responsible for anything unfair or libelous I might say about anyone, such as Bernard Madoff, whom I have concluded actually suckled as a baby on the teat of Ajatar, the ancient Finnish she-devil who is mother to serpents and spreads pestilence through the foul issue of her orifices. (Also, has anyone noticed that Madoff is a dead ringer for The Penguin?)

I am not going to talk much about the nature of pain, hospitals, and rehab today because I'm thinking of putting it into an upcoming story for the Post Magazine.

There is this, though: Like many men who undergo weeks-long ordeals during which they are not expected to look their best, I have used the time to grow a beard. This leads pretty directly to today's Instapoll: Men | Women!


I didn't know for sure until a couple of days ago whether I'd be physically up for this chat, which led to some scrambling at The Post and dotcom about how to handle my continued absence and what just-in-case replacements to seek. Sometimes, scrambling produces a great Frittata. What follows here was written by Ms. Elizabeth Kelly, a.k.a. Chatwoman:


A confession: I have an oddly intimate relationship with the individual whose work normally appears here.

I've known Gene Weingarten for nigh on a decade now as producer of these chats, yet he's uttered (or typed) my actual name maybe twice. The rest of the time he addresses me variously as "Stinky," "Snots," "Toots," "Dollface" "Cowpie," and, once, for some reason, "Mouse Gland." In the interest of full disclosure I should add that I seldom use his name, either. More often than not he is just "you," as in, "YOU are so annoying".

We've met in person fewer times than I can count of both hands -- and we're both a little shy when not hiding behind our keyboards -- but according to my gmail account we have exchanged 1,509 e-mails/instant messages in the past three years alone. This may not be that unusual in the world of high-speed lives and careers largely conducted via a computer, but it does give me pause when I tally up the e-mails from my closest (female) friend for the same period: 964.

I'm not complaining. Whatever these communications might technically constitute in some corporate HR handbook, in my case they are neither unwanted nor unpleasant. They are marvelous excuses for a work stoppage and have -- many times -- lowered my stress level (Note: At other times, they have raised my stress level). Here's a verbatim sampling of Gene correspondences plucked from my recent archive.

1. Ta-tas. Ask me about this.

2. I have an idea: You and I could start a company that specializes in anti-fart shields and web design. Farts have poison in them. If we could harness the poisons, this could be a bug extermination thing, too. I'm not sure where the web design comes in.

3. Hey, did you hear about the man with five penises?

4. (Follow up to previous): His pants fit like a glove.

5. (Follow up to previous): HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

From what I can observe, Gene never sleeps and spends 23 hours and 30 minutes a day in front of his computer. I am allowing 30 minutes for bathroom breaks. I know he takes them, because he tells me.

Especially when he's on deadline, such as writing a cover story for the magazine about some unimaginably depressing topic, he will pepper me with random instant messages, apparently transmitted straight from his id to the keyboard:

Gene: it is getting around that you dislike Jews.

me: Excuse me!?!?!

Gene: you may need to host an I Like Jews party.

me: Go away.


Gene: I only shower before intercourse. So I once went 213 days.


Gene: You know what is a funny concept?

Gene: Forever holding one's piece.


If I am doing something of lesser importance -- like my taxes or getting intimate with my husband -- when Gene needs me (or thinks he needs me), I will hear a series of frantic tommy-gun beeps from my computer, signaling a rapid volley of instant messages. When I finally look at them, the messages usually read something like this: "Hey, Dollface." "Boop." "Beep." "BOOP BOOP." "URGENT." "Why aren't you here?" "Boop." "Boop." "I hate that you have a personal life."

If the e-mail strafing doesn't work, Gene will eventually abandon the computer and call my cell phone -- usually leaving a voicemail:

"Stinky, call me as soon as you get this. This is a matter of life or death."

(That last was on the occasion of my not responding immediately to the "ta-tas" e-mail excerpted above, which turned out to be a request for permission to query his online readers for alternative nicknames for human breasts. Due to some terrible chain-of-command error at, I am Gene's editor; and Gene knows that no one above me is anywhere near as inclined to let him push envelopes or test boundaries. Ergo, his entreaties to me have the desperate stench of the last-ditch, all-out, petulant , I'll-hold-my breath tantrum. )


In this chat, he matches wits with his freakishly devoted readers for an hour each week. What started out as a nice little adjunct to his column has turned into a bit of a crusade and I am inundated weekly with requests from Himself to publish something X-rated or otherwise graphically explicit. Here is one exchange, verbatim:

Gene: i sent you a pic wondering if i can link to it.

Me: I'll check.

(I turns out to be a full-frontal-nude photo of Madonna at 20. Gene contends that publishing it would make an important sociological point about the lamentable evanescence of pubic hair in modern society. )

me: are you kidding? absolutely not.

Gene: it's so we can discuss, finally, this issue from a philosophical standpoint.

Gene: we can reach an awesome understanding about the human condition!!!!

Gene: you .. ms. kelly -- willl be lionized when the history of the interactive media is writ.

me: I'm just fine toiling in obscurity, thank you.


I'm not sure what the word for our relationship is. I once told Gene I thought of him like a dad and he replied that my attempt at a compliment was only a little bit better than if I had said he reminded me of an affable eunuch.

Is it odd that one of my closest (online) friendships would be with a card-carrying member of AARP? I am, after all, an immature 37. I have tattoos and enjoy popular music made after the end of the Vietnam conflict by people not named Dylan. I guess "friendship" will have to suffice.

Every now and then -- usually after a particularly intense exchange about the terrible injustice of my censorship, how I am stifling his creative genius and treating our readers as children, and how I will have to someday answer for my outrageous prudishness in the Hereafter -- there will be some many minutes of sullen silence. Then an exchange occurs, of the sort I value the most. It goes like this:

Gene: Okay, I just want you to know that I have dealt with less appealing people than you.

Me: Aww.

Gene: Yeah. Now, beat it.



Okay, so just this morning Liz and I had another one of our high-wire negotiations, over this very chat. I said I wanted to link to something, she said no, and then we compromised. I am going to link to it, but only after SOLEMNLY WARNING YOU NOT TO LOOK AT IT.

Last night around midnight I peeled back the dressing over my right knee and took a photo of the incision. It still has the staples in. This was major surgery, and WARNING this is not for the faint of heart. Suffice it to say that a woman who has seen it in person describes it thus: "An 8-inch centipede." Therefore, before clicking on the above link, to prepare yourself, you might want to check THIS out. Okay, you may proceed as you want, but Liz and I strongly advise you not to look at my knee. The other looks exactly the same.


Okay, the Clip of The Day, from the guys at, is the long-awaited Prank 7 in the continuing magnificent series of Prank Wars. The last, if you will recall, was the bogus proposal on the Yankee Stadium Jumbotron. This is almost as good.


Please take Today's Poll. We'll be discussing it midway through.


There will be no comics discussion, since I have been newspaperless here.


I'm happy to take queries on anything, include my cover story from last weekend about parents who accidentally leave babies to die in cars. Let's go.


Mens Wear Dept, Tysons Corner: Gene, I hope that you are doing better and do not harbor any residual hatred for your physical therapist.

Can you provide any details about the decision to drop 5 comics from the fish wrap edition? And why were those 5 chosen? A number of people have noted that they are all on the first page of the comics. I find it difficult to believe that dead-artist comics such as Classic Peanuts and Blondie are being retained. I also find it difficult to believe that losers such as Prick City and Red & Rover are being saved.

Anyway, I made it clear to the comics editor: You drop Zippy and I drop my Daily + Sunday subscription. I now join the army of freeloaders -- Chatwoman included -- who get their content gratis at I can use the $17.50 in saved subscription fees each month to buy artwork from Griffy.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I've been away. I can' explain the deed,I can only lament the deed.

The Post is dropping (from the print edition) Pooch Cafe, Judge Parker, Zippy the Pinhead, Little Dog Lost and Piranha Club. Because it is killing Business as a stand-alone section (it's being moved into the A section) Dilbert is moving back to the comics pages, a place it should never have left.

I don't know what the thinking was here. I don't much like it. Zippy has a fanatic following, and whether you like it or not, it's one of the few really cerebral things on the comics pages. Pooch Cafe is a good strip -- its characters have texture and its gags tend to be crisp and good. It's way better than many, many, many tired old strips The Post is keeping. The Piranha Club may be one joke told too many times, but I would have chosen a half dozen others to get the axe before it.

Want to know the strips that should be first to go? I'm glad you asked. How about the ones that just aren't very good, by any reasonable standards? The ones that haven't had an original idea in years. Beetle Bailey. Baldo. Dennis the Menace. And the king of all the deadheads, Classic Peanuts, which LITERALLY hasn't had a new thought in a decade.

I'd add Prickly City, the laziest strip extant, and Close to Home, which is simply the worst art on the comics pages.


Beard: Did you really take that picture sitting on the John? I am a female that voted FOR the beard (I think it makes you look younger) but did you HAVE to be sitting on the toilet?

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. I am not on the toilet. That is some sort of unused potty-annex thing.


Beard Picture: Are you sitting on a commode?

Gene Weingarten: I AM NOT. I SWEAR.

It was the only seat available in the room with the best light. Er, it is clear my pants are not down, right?


Falls Church, Va.: It's good you took a week off, because last Tuesday I was still so incensed at you over the cover piece I might have tried to locate your hospital room and hit you with a frying pan. I'm back today and slightly less angry, but still unsure whether or not this will be the last time I ever attend a chat of yours after only missing two in the last three years. You've always been a great feature writer, a genius chatgod, an awful genepool moderator, and a middling humor columnist, but you may just have lost me forever over this.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, what?

You hated the cover piece? Not sure anyone else has expressed this thought. Why?


Knee pic: All that big setup, for THAT? What's the big deal? I was expecting something totally gross, and got what looked very ordinary. Honestly, I found the centipede pic more disturbing. Liz, if you really objected vehemently to that, then maybe you should let Gene do the 'carpeting' poll after all. It may not be as bad as you think. Nice try.

Gene Weingarten: Haha.


Omaha, Neb.: "I've interviewed Nobel prize winners without a sense of awe. But I am deeply envious of anyone who will ride a roller coaster."

I ride roller coasters. Reading this made me feel important. Thank you. Below the Beltway, (March 8)

Gene Weingarten: You are welcome. I meant it.


Alexandria, Va.: As an Episcopalian, what stereotypical behavior might I be doing? I didn't know I/we had a list of stereotypical behaviors.

I'm not offended; I just need to be aware.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well, here is where I reveal my answer. I answered that 11 of the 12 groups had real stereotypes; the only one I could not get my mind around was "people with cats." There are so many people with cats -- it is such a huge proportion of the population -- I doubt if any real stereotype obtains.

As for the others -- I have made this point before, gonna make it again: Of course many stereotypes are true. These are groups of people united in some way,so they are bound to exhibit similar behavior that might set them apart. No shame in this, no shame in recognizing it.

As for Episcopalians, I didn't really KNOW there were stereotypes between various Protestant denominations until I started looking it up for some reason. There are many perceived distinctions, some very funny. Apparently Garrison Keillor has done some bits on this, and I believe this is his: How can you know when you are in an Episcopalian church? When the priest says something funny, people smile as loudly as they can.


Correct Answer and Why: Madoff and Lansky. You gave a hint in question #3. A true SftG reinforces a stereotype. Madoff and Lansky (and Judas is a close third) hit the Anything For Money stereotype.

Lewinski is in the running, but we don't know if she stopped her, um, behaviour after getting married. :)

Gene Weingarten: Only Madoff is right. Neither Lansky nor Lewinsky fit stereotype at all. More on this later


Yes on the beard: There are very few men on whom a beard is an improvement, but you may well be one of them.

It's a good jowl camouflage. Keep it.

-- a hott female chatter

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I confess this is the only realize I like a beard on me. I had one some 25 years ago, and when I cut it off, most people said I looked fatter. It's a jowl disguiser.


Julius and/or Ethel Rosenberg are the second worst?: As of 5:43 p.m. that's what the poll shows and I am puzzled as to how they would rate more than a serial killer.

Gene Weingarten: They do, by a lot, and I will explain shortly.


Nudge Nud, GE: As a man, of course I'm a great admirer of your reported (no video?) prowess at parallel parking, though I confess I don't get to practice much in the benighted suburbs. But a question has been puzzling me: hasn't the advent of car alarms put the kibosh on the "push comes to shove" method of parking? (And for those readers who have never seen Gene's car, I of course am NOT speaking of Gene's car alarm!). Below the Beltway, (Post Magazine, March 15)

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I've tapped many a late-model car. I have never set off an alarm. Can anyone elucidate?


A dyslexic driver: I am so dyslexic that I can not drive an automobile. Yet, when I was younger and had a license, I found parallel parking the easiest thing to do, and this is from someone challenged to remember which side of the road to drive on. It really is a few easy steps and as you learn to keep your eye on the car next to you, you learn when to move your steering wheel when you're about equal to the back of the car and moving the steering wheel the othey way once you've cleared the back of the car. If a car is too close, it is fine to tap the bumper. That is what bumpers are for. Still, by knowing exactly when to turn, you only touch bumpers if the car in back of you parked too close. Otherwise, no problem. What is it about parallel parking that freaks so many people out?

Gene Weingarten: I don't know. I think because it's done backwards so the steering wheel seems to send you in the wrong direction.

I no longer do anything consciously, when parallel parking. Don't align myself a certain way or measure distances, don't mark off benchmarks on the car beside me. I just do it, adjusting automatically as I go. It's almost entirely accomplished through the side-view mirror.


Wounded Knee: Gene --

I know people with new knees often get some serious pain meds. Did your previous experiences with recreational pharma complicate that or the anesthesia any?

Also, are the new knees bionic?

Gene Weingarten: They are bionic. Plastic and titanium, I believe. I will forever be wanded in airports.

The anesthesia went without incident. Pain management has been difficult, but I don't link it to the past, in particular. I have always been pretty resistent to narcotics. I'm not asking for megadoses; I'm just accepting what's given and suffering a bit.

I just re-read my chat from last week, about the cover story. A week ago I was really heavily narcoticked, and in greater pain as well. So I was surprised to see that my answers were pretty complete and coherent, though I don't remember writing a few of them! The best clue something was wrong was that there were a LOT of typos.


Takoma Park, Md.: I noticed that the Style Invitational this week used "awhile" as one word. I have always thought it was supposed to be two words. Does Pat the Perfect have a ruling? Did this slip through because PtheP is no longer working at the Post? Style Invitational, (March 7)

Gene Weingarten: Hm. It seems wrong to me. Patricia? You out there?


Arlington, Virginia: I have a respectful though serious question.

During your discussion of accidental child hyperthermia, a reader asked you what you were trying to accomplish with your article. You dodged what I thought was an insightful comment, and worthy of an answer.

Given some time for reflection, can you articulate your motivation? Was it to raise awareness? Exorcise demons? Or was it simply something you thought people would be interested in reading about?

Gene Weingarten: My answer was direct and complete. I was not trying to dodge anything. The questioner wondered why I would write an article so depressing and (as he or she seemed to see it) lurid. What I answered, as I recall, was:

1. So this will happen less often in the future.

2. So that when it does happen, the parents, who are almost always good and caring people, arent't demonized by an ignorant population.

That's my honest answer. It's why I did it.


Anonymous: Welcome back, Gene. We missed you.

1. Keep the beard. Looks good on you, as long as you promise to trim it. Though given your history with personal grooming habits, I am not optimistic. I am 28 and hot.

2. Liz's intro was fantastic, even if I felt like it was a surreal future eulogy.

3. Your knee is not very gross.

4. I'm going to NYC this weekend. Where's the best pizza?

Gene Weingarten: The Bronx!!!

Really. Always has been. Any Bronx joint, cause they're all in competition.


Tampa, Fla.: "How can you know when you are in an Episcopalian church? When the priest says something funny, people smile as loudly as they can. "

Another Episcopalian here - actually we do laugh, but very quietly and for no more than 2 seconds.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


We've met in person fewer times than I can count of both hands: That is so weird.

Gene Weingarten: And yet Liz was one of the four women I counted as my best friends in the column last week.


A Shanda for the Goyim: So I am one of your Jewish readers who already knew what this was, and I, like many others when I took the poll, chose Madoff as the worst. It seems odd to me that he is worse to me than say, a serial killer, but I didn't feel that Berkowitz typified what anti-semites think of when they are hating the Jews. Madoff, on the other hand, is pretty much Shylock for the 21st century. How nice that we have come so far. I am guessing that when I think of ole' Bernie I have the same feelings that your average Arab-Amercian (or Muslim-American) feels when people think of Osama Bin Laden as a typical Muslim.

Now Monica may be a bit embarassing, but she also showed that some Jewish women do actually do some things that as princesses we are often thought not to do. That may not even sound so clear, but his is a family chat ...

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is exactly right.

To be a shanda for the goyim is to confirm the most hurtful stereotypes,thereby doing damage twice: a Jew who dishonors Jews by not only doing something bad, but doing something that confirms the worst fears of others about Jews in general. Therefore, some of these people do not fit at all: No one read of the crimes of Son of Sam and thought: "My God, another Jewish serial killer! When will these people learn to control their homicidal rages?" Likewise, Mr. Eliot Spitzer. Nice Jewish boys don't frequent hookers, at least not in common imagination. They might finance the bordello, but that's a different matter altogether.

As you say, same for Monica. In face, for some Jewish women tired of hearing the "selfish princess in bed" stereotype, she almost amounted to an exoneration. She also seemed like a naive ditz, not a commonly held perception of Jewish women.

No, the three good candidates here are Iscariot, Madoff and the Rosenbergs (Julius, actually; Ethel was probably innocent.) They are all very good candidates indeed.

The sheer bigness of the betrayal of God Himself for filthy lucre makes Judas a tempting candidate. And his quick repentance and suicide do not blunt the enormity of his deed, shanda-wise. What saves Judas from this ultimate ignominy is simply that he is not remembered, particularly, as a Jew. He was, of course, though he was also, by definition, a Christian. But shandahood is mostly a matter of bitter perception, and nobody really goes around thinking, "Grrr, boy that Iscariot guy was a dirty Jew."

No, for that kind of thinking we must settle on Julius Rosenberg, who has stood for 50 years as the epitome of the shanda: The Scheming, Disloyal Jew. If it's true that his motive was not money, it is also undeniable that his crime was heinous, and, boy, he had the looks.

But we have a new champion, ladies and gentlemen.

Gene Weingarten: Bernard Madoff, through volume of money alone, may be the biggest crook in history. So you have that. Plus it is a swindly-type of crookedness. Plus, (this is big) he went out of his way to target Jews. He is a betrayer, a swindler, a con man, utterly amoral. He sucked his family into it. He ruined not only himself but his friends and relatives. He knew all along what he was doing.

Oh, and he ALSO has the looks.

The new champ.


Notfunn, NY: My 73-year-old mother is contemplating the surgical replacement of one knee. Any words of advice, warning, alarm, etc?

Gene Weingarten: It hurts more than they tell you. And she should only do one at a time.

Doing both is grueling. I think five years from now, I'm not sure I coutld have handled it.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Re "awhile" vs. "a while": "Awhile" is indeed a word -- it's an adjective meaning "for a while" (e.g., "Why don't you stay awhile?"). But the first line of the Invitational's print version on Saturday did incorrectly say "awhile back," even though the Empress swears to me that she wrote "a while back."

The Empress says it turns out to be a case not of misguided copy editing, but of a Friday night coding glitch that dropped out the space between "a" and "while" -- and also resulted in two separate versions of this week's column showing up online, one with "a while" and one with "awhile."

The E says she realizes that such a mistake isn't exactly the end of the world, but it did irk ME.

Gene Weingarten: If it irked you, it irked me, too.


20008: My coworker, who is deaf, farts really loudly. Should I let her know?

Gene Weingarten: She knows.

Besides, what good would it do? Can you imagine trying to control the sound of a fart if you are deaf?


Another Episcopalian: In the spirit of St. Patricks day,

The stereotype goes:

Where ever there are four Episcopalians, there is always a fifth.

Gene Weingarten: Is that a liquor joke?

Episcopos DRINK?


New definition: When our family was traveling last week during spring break, we drove through some rural areas where we lost contact with cell phone towers and were unable to make calls on our mobile phones. When we finally reached an area where my college-age daughter had enough bars to resume text-messaging, she announced that she was grateful to be back in "signalization."

I thought her combination of signal + civilization was quite clever, so I was disappointed when I googled it today and found that it is already a word, but with other meanings.

So I submit to you this new definition for signalization: any area civilized enough that a cell phone signal is available.

Virtual panties and thanks.

Gene Weingarten: It's a super and creative word, used as your daughter used it.


New York, N.Y.: They actually say you should both knees at one time, because if you do it once you will not want to go through the surgery and rehab again.

I am the chatter that told you before your surgery about the machine that moves your legs for you that all the male vistors to the rehab were fascinated by. I was curious you had the same thing at your hospital/rehab.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. It's a good thang. It moves your knees at the point when you REALLY don't want to do it yourself.


Miss Spell: So, do admire me or loathe me if it tell you that I spell poorly, but ride roller coasters?

Gene Weingarten: Oooooh.

Okay, I admire you but do not respect you. This is a very small segment on the Venn Diagram chart, but you fit there.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Re: " 'We've met in person fewer times than I can count on both hands': That is so weird."

I am presumably another of the Gene's Four Best Women Friends Club. Gene and I live about 10 miles apart. A few weeks ago I saw him in person for the first time in seven months. We had lunch.

He's really just an electronic person. Thank you, Pat!

Gene Weingarten: Both of these women are VERY hot, though.


Downtown, DC: Speaking of stereotypes, what was your take on Freeman blaming his failed nomination for the National Intelligence Council on "the Israel lobby"?

Gene Weingarten: I have no inside info, but I sorta suspect he was right. I mean, there IS an Israel lobby, and they are very strong.


Washington, DC: We seem to like it fine, but does The Rib like The Beard?

Gene Weingarten: This question has yet to be resolved.


Red Dragon: In your column on Sunday, you used the word "hooptie." Do you know where that word comes from? I have my own theory, but I'd like to hear yours. Below the Beltway, (Post Magazine, March 15)

Gene Weingarten: I learned that word from Chatwoman some many months ago. I do not know the derivation. Anyone?


Your magazine article: Could you post a link to the article and chat from last week? I can't find one anywhere. Thanks! You can find all here (By the way, that was the first link that came up when I did a search on "Gene Weingarten fatal distraction.")

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Washington, D.C.: Of course Episcopalians drink. They are Catholics with less guilt and better alcohol. I know you are on pain meds, but try to keep your boozy Christian sects straight!

Gene Weingarten: Sorry. Like all Jews, I grew up having no idea that there are different kinds of Christians. I doubt if I really unerstood that Catholics were any different from Prots.


Since you're never shy with an opinion: What do you think of people with no Irish heritage wearing green on St. Patrick's Day?

For that matter, what do you think of Irish people doing it?

Gene Weingarten: First, we note that Elizabeth Kelly is wearing no green today. (No, of course I cannot see her. She told me.)

Second, just moments ago a woman walked into my hospital room. She was dressed head to toe in green, and she dropped off a green St. Patty's Day helium balloon.

The woman is African-American.

We both laughed. In short, I think it's great.


Facebo, OK: Gene,

I am a Facebook newbie and I have a friend from college who is an editor at The Post. After friending him, I found it surreal to look through his friends list and see so many other people that I feel like I know, but of course I do not. You. Liz. Jen Chaney (yeah, Liz, I'm a Lostophile). Eli Saslow. And a few others.

What does it say about us that we develop these senses of familiarity with authors that we read regularly?

Gene Weingarten: I'd be surprised if you didn't have that sense. You are getting a pretty intimate look at who we are.


Average birth year 1975: So, you clearly married a much younger woman....

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely. And she has been getting younger than I am year by year.

But I was not including wife in the 8 friends.


Keep It: Gene, you are one ugly dude. However, the beard makes you 10X more attractive. Please keep it.

The picture of the centipede was far grosser than the knee.

Gene Weingarten: But is the centipede grosser than me?


Washington, D.C.: This may be too soon to wonder, but do you really think Madoff set out to do evil? Or, do you think there's a chance that he wanted to please people so badly, got wrapped up with paying out early investors with new money to fulfill expected returns, and then never was able make up lost ground, and gave into the demons to keep up the facade as long as he could. He had already reached a peak, and had gobs of money, so what was the incentive to create a ponzi?

Gene Weingarten: I think it is likely your second scenario, but it excuses or mitigages nothing. The fact is, he was aware for more than a decade that he was destroying his friends. Destroying them.

He destroyed ELIE WIESEL.

The evil here is unfathomable.


Arlington, Va.: Episcopalian joke (as told to me by my grandfather).

A man rushes into a train compartment - he looks around and says, rather rushed, "is there an Episcopal minister on the train?"

A preacher in the corner gets up and says, "I'm a Methodist, my son - may I help?"

"No, thanks," says the man. "We have a bottle to open and we're looking for a corkscrew."

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I have no idea whether this stereotype is remotely true, but I want to say: I never ever heard of such a thing.


Lordhelp, US: Per Wikipedia (under "Buick Electra") Seattle-based rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot rapped about the love-hate relationship he had with his green 1969 Electra in "My Hooptie", which became a hit single in 1990 (the music video featured his Electra as a loaner car when his Mercedes-Benz was being serviced). "Hooptie" subsequently became popularized slang for an old car, usually (though not always) in rough condition. (The term had long been in use with this meaning, especially by schoolchildren, in many inner-city neighborhoods.) Sadly, I learned the term in reference to the car the DC snipers were using for their murderous spree (it's not a white van, it's a hoopty!)

Gene Weingarten: One reference I read said the true hoopty needs to be entered from the passenger side door.


Green on St. Patrick's Day: Wearing green on St. Patrick's Day is like eating jelly beans on Easter. You don't have to be Irish, or a Catholic, or even a Christian.

But, how do you know the African-American with the green balloon isn't partly Irish?

Gene Weingarten: I don't. I am making assumptions. Do you want to lay a bet? I can find out. I'll give you 2-1.


Four and a fifth: We say that about Southern Baptists down here in the former Confederacy. Also, it's said that Southern Baptists always recognize one another ... except in the liquor store. I 'spect these are variations on a theme common to many faiths.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. I like the liquor store thing.


Pengu, IN: I disagree with your assessment of Madoff looking like the Batman badguy. For some reason, I think he looks a bit like George Washington. Maybe it's the hair.

Gene Weingarten: I see that, too.

Hm. I think he may look a little like Jay Mathews, the Post education writer. I haven't seen Jay in a while, but I am thinking maybe.


Washington, D.C.: I have a question for you regarding people who are not religious at all, but are almost militantly culturally Jewish. I have a friend who does not go to temple but for the holy days, eats shellfish and cheeseburgers all the time, but chafed at the idea of dating a non-Jewish girl and who is pretty nasty about other religions. It just doesn't make sense to me. I guess there are "culturally Catholic" people who don't go to Mass, but they don't spew the same vitriol. Is the identity so distinct from the religious aspects of it? this is an honest question that I don't really understand as a churchgoing Catholic.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I am sort of an example. I am proud of being "Jewish" though I define it very specifically as having a certain sort of world view, attitude, neurosis, sense of humor, etc. I wouldn't be able to identify a word from the Torah, and I probably know a great more about Christian history and tradition than Judaic history and tradition.


Washington, D.C.: Gene Weingarten: But is the centipede grosser than me?

Dude, is the centipede grosser than I. I'm sure it's the meds.

Gene Weingarten: I ask for a ruling from Pthep. I strugged with this and concluded either is defensible. PThep?


Your stapled knee: needs pus and ooze to gross me out. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, because you'd be in big trouble.

Gene Weingarten: No, it's been behaving pretty well.

Pat the Perfect says that this Halloween, I can go as myself.


About Your Magazine piece: On a serious note, what are your thoughts on a situation where a father who owns guns forgets about an unlocked loaded weapon and a young son picks it up and accidentally shoots himself in the head? Is this a crime?

Gene Weingarten: No. Not absent more incriminating information, such as evidence he KNEW it was open and took the chance. Or that he left it open when drunk. Or something. No. It's an accident.


Tampa, FL: Several years ago, the Discovery Channel (I believe) used to have a show where they showed surgeries from first incision to close. One of the surgeries they showed was a knee replacement. No wonder your knees hurt. In addition to the initial incision, add the yanking, sawing, hammering, and other things they do to replace a knee, it's no wonder you are in pain.

It was facinating to watch, though.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting fact: Even though I knew I would likely write about this, I didn't see a surgery (or a video of one) in advance. I didn't want to know. I will see one now.

I just thought it would make a psychological recovery too hard.


Knee replacement: Did you take the opportunity to have the doctor replace your knees with something that would make you taller?

If I remember correctly, you're about 5'8". Will you now be 5'10"?

Gene Weingarten: I was five-ten. Still am. Rats.


May 17th: Are we still on for the Hunt? How is the prep coming?

Gene Weingarten: Still on. We are a little behind, mostly because of me, but 'twill be fine.


New England: I am due to have my first baby in August. I could not read your article about leaving babies in cars, because it is something I fear doing. Actually, I fear my husband doing it. I also fear losing control over the stroller while I walk down the hill we live on.

Anyway, despite not reading the article, it did prompt a discussion with my husband about those fears, so thank you for that!

Gene Weingarten: You know what? Having the fear is a very big part of it never happening.


Baltimore, Md.: Now wait a minute: I was laid up in the hospital in Baltimore for two weeks with pancreatitis, and my wife took the effort to get me a Washington Post every day I was there. Do you not have anybody who loves you enough to do that for you, in an area where we can presume it's easier to get a Post than here in Sun-town? Or are you recuperating in some bunker out in Colorado or something?

Gene Weingarten: It was really my choice.

This is a very difficult thing I am doing here. I am trying to get back home by tomorrow. The newspaper is a distraction, an excuse, an obligation. I've chosen not to see it.


Hmmm: shandahood is mostly a matter of bitter perception, and nobody really goes around thinking, "Grrr, boy that Iscariot guy was a dirty Jew."

Isnt this the reason that Mel Gibson and the various wacko branches of extreme Catholicism have been persecuting the Jews for millenia? Or would you argue that it was less about Judas the person and more about the culpability of the entire race who condemnded Jesus to death?

Gene Weingarten: Right. I don't think it singles Judas out. It's seen as a conspiracy.


Cri, ME: I contend that leaving an unlocked, loaded weapon unattended is a crime regardless if anyone finds or uses it.

Gene Weingarten: Well, what if it is a total slip-mind accident? Gun out, phone call with dire news, etc.

To me, intent is a huge, huge element.


Can you articulate your motivation? : I don't understand why people want to know this. This was one of your best and most thoughtful pieces ever.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Yes, I was puzzled. I can honestly say, of all the stories I've ever done, this one actually was aimed at ACCOMPLISHING something, not justwriting something interesting.


Pat the Perfect, ME: Re: "I guess there are "culturally Catholic" people who don't go to Mass, but they don't spew the same vitriol -as non-observant Jews do]."

You are basing your opinion of non-observant Jews -- and your conclusion of how Jews regard other religions -- on this one intolerant friend? What would you call this? I call it prejudice.

This is why minorities have terms like "shandeh for the Goyim," "disgrace to the race," etc. With everything bad that they do, they risk being held up as a typical example of their minority group.

Gene Weingarten: I guess I missed that vitriol-spewing. Pat's right.


Washington, D.C.: As someone who was so moved by your cover last week, I was wondering if you and Fisher have exchanged any communication? I thought some of his comments lask week were pretty harsh.

Gene Weingarten: We have! We agreed that we are in such powerful disagreement on this, we probably should take it on the road, as a show.

Marc and I are very old friends. We also both have really think hides. It's not personal.


Pat the Perfect, ME: "Is the centipede grosser than me/I"?

I'd write around it and say "Is the centipede grosser than I am?"

"than I" is starting to sound archaic in some informal constructions -- including this instance, I'd say. ("Than i am" still sounds fine, which is why it's an easy fix.)

Even Pthep wouldn't call someone on the phone and announce, "It's I."

Gene Weingarten: Well, we have to end here, but you haven't answered the question, Pat. Is me clearly wrong?

Thank you all.

So, there won't be an update this week, on account of I move out of here in the next 24 hours and am kind of exhausted. I hope to be back at normal strength next week. I'm grateful for all your good wishes and good questions.

Next week, right here.


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