Chatological Humor: Denim Friendly Since 2001; Talking Susan Boyle (UPDATED 4.24.09)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: WED | THURS | FRI

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

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

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

This Week's Poll:

Door 1: 40 and Younger

Door 2: 41 - 62

Door 3: 63 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 and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs" with photographer Michael Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

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


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Today, with your help, Chatological Humor sails into uncharted waters, dangerous waters, exciting, frothy waters filled with a hint of sex and the promise of better times ahead. We are going to launch the first ever media-generated Holy War against The Horoscope, a relentless campaign to embarrass newspapers into discontinuing this fatuous feature that insults the intelligence of readers while stealing valuable creative space from the comics.

We begin with The Most Important Insta-poll In the History of this Chat.

First, check out your horoscope from yesterday, as published in The Washington Post, a highly reputable newspaper with enormous public integrity. Remember, this all refers to Yesterday:

IF YOUR BIRTHDAY IS TODAY: A fantasy of yours comes to life this year. Your powerful imagination delights in one particular vision and repeats it hundreds of times. Reality aligns to make it happen. You do humanitarian work in May. Financial improvements come in June. July brings a long lost person back to you. September offers exciting travel. Pisces and Virgo adore you.

AIRES - Marc 21-April 19 - No matter how much you resist a task you know that it's something you just have to do. Hunker down and do it, no complaints. It will go quickly once you quiet your mind and go to work.

TAURUS - (April 20- May 20) - It's all about not settling for second rate today. There is hardly an agreement that can't be bettered with a little creative thinking on your part. When you dream big, small practical ideas pop into your head.

GEMINI - (May 21 - June 21) __ Don't blame yourself for being afraid. You have developed this fear for a good reason. There may be better reasons to face and defuse it, too, and those will be revealed to you in time.

CANCER - (June 22 - July 22) In some way you are making up for lost time. The exercise teaches you how quickly you can actually get to the heart of things when that is your intention. You are effective in all you endeavor.

LEO (July 23 - Aug. 22) Your creative muse is tapping you on the shoulder with relentless persistence. Shut the world out while you imagine new options. If you don't have the time for this, make time. An entirely new plan could spring from this exploration.

VIRGO (Aug. 23 - Sept. 22) You will be trusted with a seemingly small but absolutely crucial task. When you put in the extra effort to do a particularly impressive job of it, you will be splendidly rewarded.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23) Your metaphorical purse strings have gotten a little too loose. You start to notice that a few purchases aren't working out as you thought they would. But it's not too late to tighten things up and move on.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21) Somebody wants something from you that you are not willing to give. However there may be another way you could strike a deal. Be willing to negotiate objectively and with an open mind.

SAGGITARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21) You are in a position to help someone save face. You would definitely want this person to help you out, were the roles reversed. You earn karma poitns for taking the dignified route.

CAPRICORN - (Dec. 22 - Jan 19) You are disarming. You take pride in being able to get others to drop their defenses. There will be an opportunity to ease a troublesome situation by bringing everyone down to earth.

AQUARIUS - (Jan. 20- Feb. 18) There are feuds around you, though you may be distant from the main thrust of the conflict. You have the option of continuing to stay out of it. If you must get involved, stay as neutral as possible.

PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20) The tone of your voice will make all the difference between being heard or not today. You don't have to raise your voice at all.

Insta-Poll: MEN | WOMEN


From my daughter, we have these photos of what might best explain how an animal can be hideously ugly and heart-stoppingly adorable at the same time. There is one photo in there that looks suspect to me, but since the rest seem real I am giving it all the benefit of the doubt. The comments chat below it is also pretty funny.


Kevin Dopart sends in an obituary he calls a Dimnym, in the sense of "What were the parents thinking?" The deceased gentleman is Mr. Loyal Beagle.


This seemed too good to be true, but it's true.

And it reminds me that I definitely once saw, on the streets of my neighborhood, a police cruiser labeled "POICE."


Here is one of the best examples I have seen from the annals of movie re-dubbing; this one (unlike George Will's column, I fear) is so filled with self-mockery that its funny. The dubbers are thumbing their noses at the TV censors, I do believe.

By the way, does anyone out there know how these re-dubs are done? Do they actually get people like Saml L. Jackson to re-say the lines? Do they use voice-alikes? When the movie is shot, is it possible they record safe-for-douchey-TV versions?


Today's clip of the day came to me via Google Alert, in which I am notified of any new mentions of my name in a blog or website. I cannot explain this; I do not believe I know the creator; and I confess I am not entirely getting the point. I also confess it creeps me to out a significant degree, which has to be good. Here it is.


And last, the poll (

Door 1:

40 and Younger


Door 2:

41 - 62


Door 3:

63 and Older

). We will discuss both issues at length during the chat.

Okay, let's go.


Richmond: Gene:

We've seen pictures of that POS you drive, but only side & inside views. Any bumper sticks on that thing? If not, why not?

Gene Weingarten: It has an old Carter-Mondale sticker. Seriously.


What were they thinking?: So the comics editors brought back "Judge Parker." Okay, fine, I'm cool with that. I was wondering if Sophie was going to make the cheerleading squad. But to make room, they chose a strip to move to the KidsPost page, and the strip they chose was... "Agnes"? Um, has anyone involved with this decision actually read "Agnes"? It's often incomprehensibly edgy, certainly for the KidsPost demographic.

I have a ten-year-old daughter who likes to read some of the comics, and I can tell you without a doubt which strip most appeals to her: "Baby Blues." It manages to be truly funny but also understandable to kids. If the point of this exercise is to get more kids to look at KidsPost, they should really rethink the choice of strip.

Could you go slap the comics editors around for me, Gene?

Gene Weingarten: I am not allow to slap comics editors.


Washington, D.C.: Gene -- Glad you included a question about the Dowdy Diva in your poll. I'm eager to hear your reaction.

First of all, what struck me right away, is that her singing is really NOT all that great -- at least, not with this song.

Yes, she hits and holds all the notes. But look at the song she chose. A real tear-jerking crowd-pleaser from one of the most widely-seen musicals of recent years (I've seen it three times myself, and purchased both the London and Broadway soundtracks). It's also a song that encompasses a wide range of emotions. This woman Fantine, who has faced one injustice after another, is singing about the dreams she once had, and how they've been ripped to shreds. She sings about the lover who spent a summer by her side, and then deserted her. She says she once dreamed her life would be 'so different from this hell I'm living.' Listen to the Patti LuPone version, and you both share this woman's dreams and feel her despair.

Susan Boyle? She could have been singing about what she had for lunch. Every word sounds like every other.

But the crowd was on its feet before she finished the first line of the song. And she's an Internet sensation. And I think it's because of what could be called Ugly Betty Syndrome.

You just know that the producers of this show knew what they had as soon as they heard her sing. And they knew that the homelier and dowdier she seemed, the better the reception would be. Susan Boyle probably knew it too. I guarantee you that the producers were telling her, ''Don't wear that dress, it's too stylish. Wear this less flattering one. Don't fix your hair. And whatever you do, DON'T wax those eyebrows."

And it sure seemed like she was in on it. She did the setup beautifully, complete with the whole 'never been kissed' routine.

The producers knew what would happen. "This is great," they thought. "The crowd will love her. She'll be their very own real-life Ugly friggin Betty. Even the ones who laugh at her at first will jump at the chance to show how they really value inner beauty, not outward appearance, and how they would never judge someone by his or her beauty or lack of it."

And they knew that the crowd, and everyone at home, would then do exactly that -- by setting a much lower standard for the singing of an unattractive woman than they would for an attractive one.

Gene, if this woman had been beautiful, or even average looking, nobody would have thought that her singing was anything special. She would have gone unnoticed.

Gene Weingarten: Well, thank you. You just said what I absolutely believe, and what I said in yesterday's Gene Pool (only not as well as you) and why I am currently hated.

It's why you will be hated now, too.

Gene Weingarten: Let's Exploit Susan Boyle Even More, (The Gene Pool)


GeorgeW, ILL: How about this and possibly this as well.


Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahahaha.

This is Grace Kelly, George.

Plus, Liz has found


. Looks to be denim, George.


Arlington, Va.: The Susan Boyle video makes me feel manipulated the same way appeals for the SPCA or other animal rescue groups make me feel manipulated - which is not necessarily bad. I appreciate the message in spite of the heavy-handed awww-inducing method of delivery.

Gene Weingarten: I think I agree with this, though the manipulation can get very heavy. The heaviest is the please to feed starving children by the woman who used to play Jackie on "Roseanne." Where she is essentially crying.

I don't like myself for how I react to that ad.

Gene Weingarten: ER, make that "pleas" to feed starving children, though "please" seems an oddly apt spelling.


I am not one of your sycophant groupies...: I want you to know how utterly reprehensible it is that your weekly harangue against Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Family Circus et al should result in your comic strip being picked up by a syndicate. Many of us cut our teeth and learned how to read from those very strips and what you don't seem to understand is that not every comic has to appeal to the tastes of a 60 year old, old fart like yourself.

So go enjoy your ill gotten fruit but know that some of us recognize the dublicity of it all especially picking on poor little PJ -- I mean heck, he's just a little kid !

Gene Weingarten: I think P.J. is something like 48 years old.


Metro Rider, Washington, D.C.: Gene, I'd like to hear your opinion on this. This morning while I was riding the metro to work a random passenger took it upon himself to try to shame me for sitting in the handicap seats. I'm a 26 year old female who was minding her own business, reading a book during my commute. He seemed to think it was unacceptable that I was taking up this seat when there were so many other people standing that could've used it. Gene, I admit I wasn't paying any attention to anyone standing around me but I'm pretty certain there wasn't anyway hanging onto any crutches or anyone in obvious distress. If someone had come up and requested my seat I would've gladly given it up. No request came but this guy would not let it go. As we were leaving the train he turned to me, stuck his finger in my face and told me I was a good example of a bad person.

I have no idea who peed in his cereal this morning but apparently he was highly offended and decided he would take it out on me. A random person minding her own business. Of course, I thought of a thousand good comebacks later on, after I finished being upset over being called a bad person but some stranger. I mean, what if I was pregnant? Would that have changed his mind? Or what if I was going to work where I helped orphans or wounded soldiers? I mean, I'm none of those things but really was that necessary? I had to pass the story on to you though.

Gene Weingarten: This once happened to me; I actually wrote about it. I apologized, and got up, then walked away with an elaborate, painful-looking, totally invented limp.


Bumper sticker: I seem to remember that the Carter-Mondale sticker is sorta half peeled off, which makes the whole effect even better.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. I believe it was actually peeled off in anger and retribution by a neighbor in anger because I wrote a column making fun of how he threw loud parties next door.


Polla, ND: How do we know Mr. Will is kidding? We only have to read when he writes of "democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly."

"Society's most slovenly" dress in stained and saggy sweat pants, not jeans. Mr. Will would know this, unless he has never in his life set foot inside a Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon.

Gene Weingarten: If I were sentencing George for penance over this column, I would make him spend a month of Sundays working as a Wal_Mart greeter.


Lizlinknowor, KY: You've blown away that poor person's Tripod account bandwidth limit...

Gene Weingarten: I was afraid of that.


Gene Weingarten: Before I forget, here is one more shocking example of President Obama dishonoring America by showing subservience to a foreign leader -- both bowing AND shaking hands.


Not apocryph, AL: The Richie Ashburn story regarding the fly ball is true. The correct spelling is "Yo La Tengo!". This incident is the basis for the name of the band Yo La Tengo, an excellent, inde rock band from Hoboken that has been performing for about 25 years.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but I find this hard to believe. I love the story, but I find it hard to believe.

Here it is, reprinted from the update from last week:

Richie used to tell a story about his days with the Mets. Elio Chacon was the most dangerous infielder on the team. Richie was a wide-ranging outfielder, and Chacon liked to go out after shallow fly balls. So he and Richie were frequently trying to make the same catch, with Chacon refusing to back off when Richie yelled, "I got it." Ashburn discovered that Chacon didn't speak any English, and that was why he never yielded. So Richie asked another Spanish-speaking player how to say, "I got it," in Spanish. The next time they were both going after a fly, Richie yells, "Yo lo tengo!" Sure enough, Chacon peels away, and Richie slams straight into Marv Throneberry, who spoke no Spanish.


Here is my problem with it: It's very hard for me to believe that Mr. Chacon, however limited his English, never bothered to learn or figure out, after countless collisions and near collisions in the pros and in the minor leagues, that "I got it" meant "You la tengo."


Not sure about Will: In the poll I answered that George Will's column was a deliberate overstatement, but I was more confident of my judgment before reading the last line. His making it personal -- he actually lives according to this philosophy! -- drastically increased the fuddy-duddy factor. But even so, surely his tongue must be somewhere near his cheek, no?

Gene Weingarten: It's hard to know!

I read this piece three times, and here's my best take on it:

George was aware that he would be sounding like a fud. He doesn't mind sounding like a fud. He is a fud. He basically believes all this, he really DOESN'T like jeans, he really DOES think they are declasse, a word he would probably use if it weren't French. But he's trying to be amusing here as well.

Still, there's only one right answer to this poll, and it's the last one, and the clincher is this paragraph, which is the most pretentious of all of them:

"Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves."

There is nothing tongue in cheek about that paragraph. That is pure bloat, from a true believer.


Silver Spring, Md.: Would Fred Astaire wear this?

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Ugly Animals: There was a Nat Geo show about warthogs I watched one, and the babies were absolutely hideous/adorable like the anteater. Sadly, they got eaten by a leopard, but in a very cute way. Baby Warthog

Gene Weingarten: Ew.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, that's not a warthog. That's a puffin.


St Petersburg, FL: I'm part of the (rather large) team that won the Pulitaer yesterday for national reportiong. I'm at work now. I'm wearing jeans. Take that, Georgie. I take it you're not on the copy-editing staff.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahahahaha.

Liz is so hot today that if you spit on her, she'd sizzle.


Kensington, Md.: The Denim thread reminded me of what we used to call jeans and a denim jacket growing up in Maine: Canadian Tuxedo.

Gene Weingarten: The Denim thread!


Krypt, ON: I find it interesting that Superman would not be considered a hero here for doing good since he risks nothing and expends, for him, little effort, but would be because he does it on his own time. Sometimes. When he isn't defrauding a newspaper. Which may be the real reason newspapers are going under.

Gene Weingarten: Whoa, whoa. He is a hero. It's not a question necessarily of what you risk, it's what you sacrifice. He sacrifices privacy. He sacrifices the ability to be a fully realized person. He is definitely a hero.


Horror-Scopes: Gene,

You miss the point entirely. Horoscopes are fun in the same way fortune cookies are. They are light, fluffy and have little nutritional value. At best, they make you laugh or think; at worst....? Indifference? Why the crusade against this amusing little bit of creative writing? It is because they are often funnier than your columns?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, either this is one person who keeps making this, or there are three or four of you out there who actually finds horoscopes "funny."

Please explain. I have never seen even a phrase within these to suggest they are written with any attempt at humor at all.

_______________________ Try this link to Fred in jeans:


Arlington, VA: I have procured one of those hang-on-the-rear-view-mirror handicapped signs, which I wear around my neck whenver I ride the Metro. Gets me a seat every time, without any comment from the peanut gallery.

And no, I'm not handicapped. I'm just a jerk who'd rather sit than stand, and I hate be lectured.

Gene Weingarten: This is one of the jerkiest moves I've ever heard tell about.


Horoscope - stunningly accurate!: Virgo here. My horoscope was: "You will be trusted with a seemingly small but absolutely crucial task. When you put in the extra effort to do a particularly impressive job of it, you will be splendidly rewarded."

Yesterday I cared for my infant daughter. I had the seemingly small but crucial task of fastening her diaper properly. I did a particularly impressive job of it.

So when she let loose with an explosive, expansive, neon orange poop, the mess was contained only to her diaper/clothes/crib/surrounding carpet and furniture. I was splendidly rewarded by only having to scrub down the one room instead of, say, having to burn down the entire house.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Ed Freeman: "Now, here is an example of a beautifully written, well presented, and true piece of writing that desperately needed an editor to cut off that gratuitous, irrelevant, poisonous last line."

Would you have published the comment without that last line? No, without that comment, there was nothing for you to sound self-righteous about. He was smart to put it there, it made you pay attention and react.

Gene Weingarten: This is from last week's update.

As it turns out, it was also a year old, had been kicking around the Web for a while, and originally had a different, also extraneous last line.

The story of Ed Freeman was true, but essentially I got scammed with that post.


Dueling Ge, NE: You.



15th and L.

Pulitzers at 20 paces.

You know it's gotta happen.

Gene Weingarten: There's an odd postscript to Gene's well-deserved Pulitzer.

In 1988, Gene and I were part of a class of 12 American journalists (and 8 foreign journalists) who became Nieman fellows at Harvard. We were all chosen by nieman curator Howard Simons, the brilliant former Washington Post managing editor, one of the main architects of the Watergate coverage.

Howard died of cancer one year later. His 12 picks have done pretty well. Yesterday, Gene Robinson became the fifth to win a Pulitzer (Dale Maharidge, Eileen McNamara, William Dietrich, me) and one of the foreign writers, Juan Manuel Santos, is now (I kid you not) currenly the defense minister of Colombia.


Horoscopes: I accept that the daily horoscopes on websites and in papers are a load of invented fiction.

However, what are your thoughts on the personality and traits of a Leo/Taurean/Aquarian? I have found that these can be pretty true to form. As a Taurean, I know my traits best (stubborn, loyal, generous, homebody) and I have been pretty successful in picking other Taureans when I get to know them, purely based on these traits.

Gene Weingarten: I think it's unadulterated hooey.

Let me ask a simple question: Why would anyone's personality have anything to do with the position of the planets at the moment of his birth, as opposed to say, three weeks after his birth? Or whatever.


Horoscopes: Horoscopes are like the lottery - amusing diversion for those who realize how silly, unlikely, and frivolous they are; dangerous for dolts.

Gene Weingarten: The lottery is not fiction pretending to be true.


Gaming: What perhaps bothered me most about Will's column was the unnecessary slight to "gamers", as if they are some slackened bunch who "nevertheless have the right to vote." Why such stereotypes, do you think?

Gene Weingarten: That was actually the single line that persuaded me he was trying, albeit lamely, for a joke.


Post Hunt!: Details? Hints? Predictions? Throw us a bone! I can't find any info online...

Gene Weingarten: It's May 17. You won't win.


Rockville, Md.: Gene,

Is there something wrong with me because I was incredibly turned on by seeing Janis topless in yesterday's Arlo and Janis? I'm a happily married 39 year old guy if it makes a difference. Arlo and Janis, (April 20)

Gene Weingarten: I've said it before. Arlo and Janis is the hottest comic strip maybe ever.


Atlanta, GA: Timeline of the NY Times winning a Pulitzer for the Eliot Spitzer article:

1. Spitzer has sex with a call girl 2. Justice Department finds out 3. Justice Department decides he won't be charged with anything 4. Somebody at the Justice Department decides to leak this 5. NY Times prints a leak that was phoned in to them 6. Spitzer resigns 7. Pulitzer!

Is this the first-ever Pulitzer for stenography?

Gene Weingarten: This is not fair. The Times did a very good job running this story down afterwards. But your premise is faulty: Sometimes, yes, a great story is obtained by being in the right place in the right time -- the enormousness of the story, and the exclusivity of the story, make it prizeworthy.

Probably the best example of that was in 1972 when two reporters for an upstate New York newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize for being the first people to get to the coroner after the Attica prison uprising. Contrary to what had been reported elsewhere, on information from the police, the coroner told the reporters that none of the hostages' throats had been cut. The assault SWAT team had fired indiscriminately and killed most of the hostages themselves.

As I recall, that was the extent of their reporting. Huge story. Prize deserved.


Laurel: "Gene Weingarten: The lottery is not fiction pretending to be true. "

Dunno. I think they're selling you a fantasy life a week at a time.

Gene Weingarten: oh, right.


Horriblescopes: Why not have a weekly column on alchemy? Why not employ an official soothsayer as well? A real one that picks through lamb's entrails, because we all know that's the most accurate way to predict the future.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, now that I might read. That gives me a good idea.


New York, N.Y.: If the person who wears a handicapped placard around his neck is telling the truth then he is such a piece of garbage that he transcends hate and becomes sorta badass. I have a level of respect for such a bold move. He's still human trash but wow, good work.

I don't believe it though.

Gene Weingarten: It's pretty ballsy!


In Defense of Horoscopes....: "... not fiction pretending to be true."

Pretending to be true? Really? You think anyone thinks they are real?

Also, I know a number of Libras who are particularly bookish and intellectual. I chalk this statistical abnormality to the fact that children born in September/November tend to be the youngest people in their elementary school classes. Because of the age difference, they tend to associate with books more than classmates.

My children will be born around this time.

Gene Weingarten: I cannot fathom why anyone would read his horoscope if, on some level, he was not entertaining the notion that there MIGHT be something in it.

They are done without cleverness. They are not social commentary. They are not interesting to read. Unless you think, at some level, that they are about you.


Funny Pa, PR: Since you're not allowed to bring this up: the April 17 Lio was genuinely unreadable at the size the Post printed it. The only way to make sense of it was to work backwards: there was a staggering drunk spider, so the spiderweb must have had something intoxicating in it.

At first there didn't seem to be anything in the middle of the web at all. Prolonged close study revealed what I guess was a beer can. Figuring this out was not worth the eyestrain.

Gene Weingarten: This was absolutely true. It's how I had to read it to get the joke. Liz, can you link to this? Online, it will be bigger; but imagine trying to figure it out at an inch high.


Pulitz, ER: Just so you know -- Slate has an article up on its website titled "So you won a Pulitzer -- who cares?

Best line, from Andrew Cockburn: "If bankers gave themselves prizes (`the most reckless Third-World loan of the year") with the same abandon as journalists, you may be sure that the public ridicule would soon force them to conduct the proceedings in secret."

Gene Weingarten: I basically agree with this.

_______________________ Lio, (April 17)


Handi Man: I've seen that guy. I've STOOD for that guy. If I see that guy again, he'll need that sign for a long time.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

I want this guy to be real. Has anyone else seen him?


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Hi, Gene! I used to work at a closed-captioning company. I wasn't a "live" captioner, I captioned pre-recorded programs ahead of their airtime. I once did the captioning for a censored-for-TV version of "Jackie Brown," also starring the esteemed Samuel L. Jackson. Every time he said "motherf---er" in the movie, "Maryland Farmer" was dubbed over. I had to listen to it multiple times to figure out that that's what he was saying, and yes, it really was. I grew up in Maryland, so I was particularly tickled by it. And it did sound like it was actually Samuel L. saying the words, not an obvious overdub.

Some quick googling revealed to me that "Maryland Farmer" actually used to be something that people would say instead of motherf---er. I had never heard of it before, but it cracked me the Farmer up!

Gene Weingarten: So the actor actually DOES this? Is it in a typical contract?


Horoscopes: I used to keep a copy of the horoscopes in my pocket.

I once worked as a bouncer and if I expected someone had a fake ID, I'd ask him his sign. "Um, um, SAGITTARIUS, no wait, AQUARIUS, um wait."

Worked every time.

Gene Weingarten: Very nice!


Washington, D.C.: After your post a while back about the POICE car, I used to look for that mislabeled car. I started wondering if maybe this was a case in which a door from one police car was put onto another car that had been damaged, and the placement of the lettering on one car was different from the lettering on the other, so that instead of saying LICE the replacement door just said ICE. Is that possible?

Gene Weingarten: Yep. I am guessing so.


Higgledy Piggledy: I think George Will needs a double dactyl to put him in his place.

Gene Weingarten: Good idea. I shall write one for the updates.


Everywhere you are: The fact that you have a Google Alert for yourself creeps me out.

Gene Weingarten: If you have a column or other public presence, you sort of have to do this, to keep track of why people dislike you, and decide if they have a point. Seriously.


Tank McNamara: Gene, was that you in last week's "tour of Yankee Stadium"? Tank McNamara, (April 15)

Gene Weingarten: The Yankees have made a serious mistake by selling field-level, home-plate seats to fatcats. The seats are empty, the stadium is quiet.


Horrorscopes: My sister-in-law-the-lunatic believes in them.

She also believes in the healing power of wood (different kinds of wood have different powers), in the healing power of crystals (she has made her own crystal "wand" and protects her car by glueing rocks onto the glove compartment, right at the passenger's knee height), and in the ability to treat all physical ailments by having her feet rubbed.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Arlington, Va.: Gene,

I need help! I am a woman in my 30s, who just got promoted at work. Now, the people I deal with are all mostly men, in their 40's to 60's, who are mostly vice presidents (I am not one). The work is great, but there is a terrible side-effect of the promotion. Either because of my age or my gender, I keep getting treated like a little girl. They talk right over m in meetings, ignore my points, and generally try to put me down without being too obvious.

My husband believes that this is all just part of playing "with the big kids" and that they have to assert themselves this way (and lower my status while they're at it) in order to keep the pecking order in place. In short, he thinks they feel threatened by me.

I think that's hooey. I think they're messing with my head, and that I need to find a way to make them stop.

I need a short, direct way to show 'em all that I'm not a wuss, without losing my job or their professional respect. Got any ideas?

Gene Weingarten: Isn't this simply an issue of making yourself be heard, over time, with strong ideas prosecuted forcefully?

Any more specific suggestions out there?


Anonymous: I'll bet dollars to doughnuts Will wrote this column a long time ago and was saving it for a a day he didn't feel like working. Not only is the subject matter pointless, but it's pretty dated.

First of all, when was the last time you saw someone clad in denim. I don't mean just jeans, but the shirt and the jacket and the hat, etc. And acid wash jeans? Can you even get those anymore outside a vintage clothes store?

What's his next column going to be on? Zuba pants?

Gene Weingarten: I read a column in the 1990s in which the writer was talking in the present tense about pop-tops from cans -- the kind that you poppoed off and had to throw away.


Ashburn, VA: I have a handicapped placard, which I retrieved from the automobile of my late mother. It doesn't expire for another 14 months. I love parking close to the door. I find it liberating. When people question me about my alleged handicap; I just tell them that I have a colostomy bag, and offer them the opportunity to see it. Thankfully no one takes me up on the offer, or I'd be busted.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am not sure this is real, but I'm laughing.


Best Dubs: Aside from "Chill out, dorkwad" from Terminator 2, I think the funniest badly-done TV dub is in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Judge Reinhold is being hassled by the customer at his fast food job and says "Mister, if you don't shut up I'm gonna kick 100% of your FACE!"

Gene Weingarten: Hahahha.


Tampa, FL: Speaking of horoscopes, this insta-poll is on the CNN website:

Do you believe that extraterrestrial life has visited Earth?

Yes 61% 96,863 No 39% 61,748

Gene Weingarten: Many, many years ago, Achenbach did a brilliant book on the subject of the belief in extraterrestrials. His point, for those who got his point, was that the search for ETs parallels, and is identical to, everyone's search for God and meaning, and is, uh, equally valid.

The book was magnificent. It did not sell fabulously well, ebecause it was not what people wanted to hear.


Got any ideas?: Consult a professional women's support group. They have strategies for exactly this scenario. When & how to interrupt ("I believe I just made that same point"), etc. No matter what their motives are, they're wrong and you need to show them that you can't be pushed around.

Gene Weingarten: Makes sense.


Best movie dub: Die Hard Two: "Yippy-Ki-yay, Mister Falcon!"

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

I believe this was also the movie that had the super egregious reshoot where Bruce was naked in Harlem behind a sign that had been re-written to say "I Have Everybody." Instead of the N-Word.

It sure looked nuts when people got real angry.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: While I wholeheartedly support your cynicism that the Susan Boyle phenomenon was entirely fabricated-and I WANT TO BELIEVE IT's FAKE - the evidence just doesn't cut it.

The problem is you give the people who make this show way too much credit. To me, this is akin to the supposed government conspiracy to cover up aliens. While I don't put it past the government to cover up anything, I just don't believe a government made of humans are capable of controlling aliens of a superior technology. I'm simply not convinced the moron producers of this show had the foresight and prescience to predict the scope of this Susan Boyle phenomenon.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I don't think they predicted the scope. They just did everything they could to make it happen, from opening with a shot of her stuffing her face, to focusing on audience members making fun of her.


Uh, OH: Ok, I really don't like (the idea of) those people who use handicap parking spaces who don't need them, but have tag. Drives me nuts. But I readily will use a handicap bathroom stall, figuring what are the odds someone will actually need this stall. Am I just as bad?

Gene Weingarten: Theoretically, yes, I think. I do it to.

I once read something that answered the question: Why are there so many handicapped spots in a mall -- I've never ever seen them all filled?

The answer was that there were so many spots specifically so that a handicapped person will never find them all filled. A reasonable point.

Same with the terlits, I fear.


Silver Spring, Md.: I believe the Harlem Die Hard was Number three.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, thank you


Colostomy bag: It is real alright. This past winter, I kept a scarf balled-up inside my coat pocket to make it appear that I had colostomy bag "bulge." I'm going to cry real tears when this placard expires in May 2010.

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe you, but it's still a good story.


Somewhere in the stars!: FYI, I write horoscopes for a living (a part of it, anyway), and can confirm without hesitation that they are TOTAL 100 percent HOOEY.

Gene Weingarten: MAYBE I believe you.


Arlington, Va.: Gene: I'd love to hear your opinion on Courtland Milloy's recent column about black families congregating at the zoo. My co-worker and I have a lunch bet on your response. A Fine Day at the Zoo, (Post, April 17)

Gene Weingarten: I haven't read it yet, but will, and will respond first thing tomorrow.

See y;all in the updates.


UPDATED 4.22.09

Gene Weingarten: As promised, a double dactyl about George Will.

Higgledy Piggledy

George F. Will, Columnist

Feels that in clothing taste,

Denim's a farce.

Seems that this arrogant


Fashion of choice is a

Pole up his arse.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, I read Courtland Milloy's column. It shocked me. I began by thinking he was being awfully sensitive to what was, at worst, an unintended slight. I wound up thinking he was dead right. Courtland is fearless.


Sometimes I hate George Will: There is a type of person who really, genuinely, can't imagine any other set of circumstances or any other way to look at life than the one he lives. George Will has become one of those people. One of his recurring subjects that bugs the hell out of me is his anti-abortion columns centered around his son who has Downs syndrome.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm glad for his son's sake that he exists and has what appears to be a happy life; I personally have never faced the decision of whether to abort or keep a Downs baby; I'm sure that all the parents who write about how loving these kids are and how they are a joy to raise etc. etc., including George, are perfectly sincere.

But it drives me nuts that he uses his son -- a high-functioning person with Downs whose life has been eased by every intervention money can buy while he was being raised by George's first wife while he, George, lived elsewhere in a second marriage with only occasional physical custody of this boy -- as a basis to thunder against other parents who make different choices under different circumstances.

And this is just one example of his inability to imagine any other valid way to approach life's choices than the ones he's made. He's worse than a fuddy-duddy, in my opinion.

Gene Weingarten: This brings me pretty directly to Sarah Palin, and her recent confession that she briefly considered aborting Trig after discovering she was pregnant with a Down Syndrome child.

Much has been written about this, both commending her honesty and pointing out that, when all is said and done, Palin was acknowledging that this is, ultimately, a choice. And that her policies would have eliminated that choice for everyone.

There's another issue: Her honesty. She was out of town, she said, when she considered abortion. "Nobody would have known," she said.

Pants on fire. The avidly, vocally pro-life governor of Alaska is not going to be able to keep secret an abortion, not in these politicized times. I don't know why Palin chose to have the child -- it may well, ultimately, have been a simple decision of conscience -- but I think it strains credulity to believe that fear of discovery did not factor in, at least a little. The perception of political hypocrisy would have destroyed her.


You're wrong about bathrooms: For people with disabilities! They are there so that people with disabilities can go to the bathroom, not so that they never have to wait. OF COURSE everyone can use them.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, you're right. I answered too hastily.

Gene Weingarten: It does occur to me, however, that it is less likely a handicapped person will be forced to wait in a ladies room, than in a men's room.


Baltimore: I turned 40 last month, so I just barely make the first demographic cut-off in this week's poll.

I thought he was completely serious and making and interesting point. I couldn't even answer the second question, as I thought none of them were "pretentious."

I was maybe 10 or 11 when the "designer jeans" fad hit and can remember well my grandparents scoffing for paying upwards of $50 (a nice chunk of change in those days) for "dungarees." My grandfather would've no more worn jeans to go shopping or get on a plane than he would've gone naked. If there was yardwork to do, fine, but that was the extent of it.

Now, I understand all too well that things have changed dramatically over the past 30 years and the sense of dignity my grandparents' generation had is long gone. As with most things, I blame the boomers. In their (your) quest for eternal youth, you've sought to befriend your children rather than parent them, adopting their linguistic, sartorial and cultural habits.

It's not good. It's not appealing. Seeing 50-year-old men dressing (and often, acting) indistinguishably from their teenage sons is revolting. Grey ponytails (often, on balding heads) are not cool. No grown man should ever be seen in public in tie-die and jeans. Just this weekend, I was stopped at a red light next to a guy - 50 if he was a day - in a red convertable with the top down blasting The Eagles for the world to hear. Ye Gods.

So, I guess I'm a 40-year-old fuddy-duddy. But I like to think that I'm impressing on my daughters some sense of appropriateness that the rest of the world has forgotten.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Well, for the record, here's what I think:

Blue jeans look great. When they get older, they still look great. They can be washed a thousand times. They don't cost much. They go with any color.

Just as it was presumptuous of me to criticize Susan Boyle's hair, since my hair is rodential -- I think it was wildly presumptuous of George Will to criticize people's sense of style. Mr. Will dresses adenoidally.


Puckerb, UT: George Will eats pizza with a fork and knife.

Gene Weingarten: Cufflinks, too, I'll bet.

Also, I bet he wears pyjamas to bed, and spells it that way. And they're flannel.


UPDATED 4.23.09

LoCo, Va.: Gene,

On Earth Day I turn 37.

Day to day, I have a great life: I am happily married, gainfully employed, and (by your own in-person description) "hott."

But as far as making my mark on the world goes: bubkes. No published works, no viral YouTube exploits, not even a genius offspring to warp with my projected neuroses. At this point, I fear my greatest accomplishment in life will have been mastering the single-eyebrow lift. I am despondent.

So to avoid dwelling on all that, I've come to ask you whether you think the anti-cholesterol meds my husband's started taking could be what's turning his poop "greasy." Our theory is that the meds block absorption of lipids into the bloodstream, thus, er, greasing his skids.

Also: Is it "greaze-y," or "grease-y"? I think it's the latter, but the former just seems more . . . onomatopoeic, somehow.

Gene Weingarten: I am extremely envious of your eyebrow abilities.

It's grease-y. My father pronounced "gas" as "gaz."

I don't know about your husband's poo, but if that's the only side effect, be glad. Those meds sometimes cause impotence.


Columbia, Md.: Superman uses his x-ray vision to check out women's undies. He's a sexual predator, not a hero.

Gene Weingarten: IF his x-ray vision permitted him to see through clothing; and,

IF he stopped at the undies,

he would be a genuine hero.


Washington Natinals: Clearly they need all the "O"s for their side of the scoreboard.

Gene Weingarten: Very nice.


The Dude Abi, DE: My favorite piece of network TV censorship is "The Big Lebowski". I can't share the video because of copyright blahblahblah, but I assure you the script is as follows:

The little PENCIL'S stonewalling me. (Picks up crowbar and starts smashing the Corvette.) You see what happens, Larry? You see what happens? This is what happens, Larry. This is what happens when you FIGHT A STRANGER IN THE ALPS.

This is what happens. You see what happens, Larry? This is what happens when you FEED A STONER SCRAMBLED EGGS. This is what happens, Larry.

Best of all, when neighbor runs out to destry the dude's car, he drops an F-bomb unexpurgated. (And yes, my friends and I have subjected this clip to a Zapruder film level of scrutiny).

Gene Weingarten: Here it is.

And you're right. Except I think it is "FIND a stranger in the Alps."

The film people must love doing this. It's a wonderful mockery of censorship and prudishness.


Philadelphia, Pa.: NEW YORK (AP) - Advocates of the female condom are promoting a less costly, more user-friendly version that they hope will vastly expand its role in the global fight against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Though it looks similar to its predecessor-a soft, transparent sheath with flexible inner and outer rings-the FC2 is made from synthetic rubber rather than polyurethane, making it cheaper to produce. Mary Ann Leeper, former president of Female Health Co. and now its strategic adviser, said the FC2 also is less noisy during use. Complaints about squeaky noises were among the factors that slowed acceptance of the original version.

Last sentence made me realize, most people have no sense of humor.

I'm visualizing a Youtube video just begging to be posted....and it's cracking me up.

Gene Weingarten: Also wonderful. And it reminds me of a story I think I have told before, about how prudishness can have unintended consequences.

Back in the 1990s, Laura Blumenfeld wrote one of the earliest stories about the female condom. It was just terrific. Here is how it began:

It looks like a plastic sock, like a vacuum cleaner bag, a parched jellyfish. It looks like a Trojan on steroids. It drops onto a table at the American University cafeteria, startling a gaggle of students.

"Designed by an optimist!"

"Is there a model with headphones?"

"A female pouch. ... What are we, kangaroos?"

Trumpet flourish for the female condom, the first contraceptive for women that also protects against sexually transmitted diseases.

Later in the story, of course, Laura described how the device was used. A top editor at The Post read the story before publication (anything about sex back then got special scrutiny) and told us that the story was just terrific, except it could not contain the word "vagina," so had to have that line rewritten.

Laura and I argued, quite reasonably, that it was impossible to describe how this item was inserted without using the word vagina. The editor, who was a guy (ONLY a guy would have had a problem with this) decided to rewrite the line himself. And he did. And so this line is in the story, still searchable in the Washington Post database:

"The pre-lubricated sheath inserts like a diaphragm or sponge. It lines the inside of a woman so that no skin touches skin during intercourse."

"Lines the inside of a woman." Thus, in an earnest effort to be sensitive, an editor rewrote this story so that the word "vagina" was synonymous with the word "woman."


UPDATED 4.24.09

Jeans are not the worst...: Jeans are downright classy compared to shorts! I do not need to see people's thighs! unless you are working out - keep those things covered up. (for the record I am a hot chick who won't even wear shorts while working out.)

Gene Weingarten: I contend that all men, even hotties, look worse in shorts than they do in pants.


Gene Weingarten: Will Gorham found this:

I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity -- all I hope for in my clothes.

- Yves Saint Laurent


Gaithersburg, Md.: Good article on the fallacy that are horoscopes...

Gene Weingarten: It is!

My only problem with this is that, y'know, it's picking fruit that isn't even low-hanging; it's already on the ground.

I forgot to use this example in my chat intro, but the horoscope for celebrity model Amber Smith began "You are wise beyond your years."

Here is a video of Ms. Smith, in all her wisdom.


Washington, D.C.: Gene:

Your emphatic rejection of the possibility that other intelligent life in the universe (a) exists and (b) has visited Earth is surprising for someone who espouses unsentimental rational thought over blind faith. Given the infinite number of planets and other bodies in the universe, and the fact that it now appears likely that life in some form exists (or existed) elsewhere within our own solar system (Mars), it would seem that the probability of there being other intelligent life in the universe exceeds the probability that Earth is the only place in the universe where it exists. And if there is intelligent life out there, why wouldn't some forms of that life have figured out a way to explore Earth?

(This is not to suggest that weird-looking creatures have flown in on UFOs. Any ET that "visited" Earth would probably be so much more sophisticated than us that we wouldn't be aware of it -- just as an ant cannot comprehend humans.)

Despite how this sounds, I'm not a nut about this topic. I've just always thought that those who reject the concept are thinking more emotionally than rationally. Care to comment?

Gene Weingarten: I am not suggesting there is no sentient life elsewhere. In fact, I am virtually certain there is.

But what Joel's book -- and the original Tropic magazine article that birthed it -- was about can probably be summarized this way:

You can't get there from here.

The distances are insuperable, and the limit of light speed is probably unbreachable. There's likely no such thing as warp speed. The immutable laws of physics suggest that we'll never see each other.

Please direct all your outraged sputtering to Joel. Thanks.


New York, N.Y.: Your editorial board disagrees with your stance on the in school strip search case.

They claim the case should be thrown out because the school officials should be protected, which seems backwards. I think if anyone should be protected, it's the school. The school as a whole did not do this, only the school nurse and one teacher. Why basically screw over the budget of the school, when simply firing those who blatantly violate a student's rights would send the right message? Added bonus, the monetary payout possible from the teachers would be much less, so the motivation to sue would be small unless there was a clear violation, as in this case.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I totally disagree with them on this, and I'll use their own words to explain why:

"School officials must have the flexibility to act quickly and decisively to avert all manner of danger."

I agree. If they'd heard a kid had heroin or a hand grenade, I'd condone a strip search as a last resort.

The suspected "danger" -- and the ONLY suspected danger -- was ibuprofen.



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