Chatological Humor: The Big Announcement (UPDATED 6.26.09)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 23, 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, 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.

I want to begin by reminding everyone that a struggle for human freedom rages in Iran, where the forces of repression, ignorance and intolerance have run up against the indomitable will for human dignity and self-determination. Brave lives are being lost. Plus, here at home, a sudden, bewildering accident on our rail lines has reminded us all that the gift of life is terribly impermanent.

In short, these are times that call for rejecting pettiness and small-minded concerns, and, above all, for keeping a sense of proportion about things over which we have no control; for staying charitable and even-spirited in the face of momentary disappointment; for remaining kindly disposed toward those who may have left you feeling aggrieved or abandoned. Okay? Splendid.

I have taken the Washington Post buyout.


Okay, now I imagine you all might have a few questions, which I promise to answer honestly in a series of highly annoying Instapolls.

Quick! Take Instapoll 2!

Yes, I took it because I wanted to. Generously, The Post offered to hire me back, on contract, to do the same job I am doing now, whatever that is. But I'm 57, and want to start on some book and movie projects before I get even older and feebler and the DNA in my brain further deteriorates to the point that I can''t even finish my own senten

Quick! Take Instapoll 3!

Haha! I tricked you there! No real poll contains only one choice. Now don't you feel stupid for voting?

I'm not really going anywhere. I accepted a partial contract, and will still be writing my weekly column, which Tom The Butcher, also on contract, will still be editing. Tom and I will still be working on The Post Hunt. Mostly what's different is that after July 1, I'm no longer doing big magazine stories or The Gene Pool, which is the discussion group you all tend to deride because you don't understand that the golden future of journalism is unedited ranting and gnashing by citizen journalists.

So, that's it! Glad we got this straight. On to the Clip of the Day, which is--

Quick! Take Instapoll 4!

The correct answer is no, I didn't forget. I procrastinated. Here's the deal: Starting in July, I'll be doing one chat a month, the schedule yet to be determined. I intend to make the chats bigger and flashier, with so many new appurtenances and whatnot that no one will ever catch up to the questions in real time.

Quick! Take Instapoll 5!

Sorry, but we are in Maximum Optimism Mode here, because we must be. Failure is not an option. I've had more fun doing these chats than most people have during sex, except right at the beginning of a relationship, when, you know, even egg whisks and WD-40 are not entirely out of the question. I don't want this to end. If it's going to be less frequent, I want to make it better.

So, NOW we're done. The Clip of the Day is

Quick! Take Instapoll 6!


Melinda Krummerich points us to this rather... odd name for a CPA firm.

The following link is one that has the capacity to appall. I showed it to one person who physically blanched and another who could look at it only through steepled fingers. So be forewarned. It is Rob Corddry's photo on Twitter.


The Clip of the Day is this, courtesy Tom Scocca. It's one of slickest bits of satire I've seen in a long time.


Please take Today's Poll. I'm surprised, frankly, by how open everyone is to the possibility of eating blobs o' meat product, not to mention blobs o' human. But I'm happy. I'm copacetic with both of them.

Before we leave this intro, let's pause to remember Mr. Ed McMahon, who surely was one of the luckiest men on Earth, in the Ringo Starr sense. Can we think of other similarly lucky persons? I'm taking nominees here. (And, Liz, can you link to your excellent memory of Ed here?) (Yep. -- Liz)


New York, NY: For those who answered that PETA is composed of "...nuts and zealots without a sense of proportion," I should point out that the rebuke was much more mild than it was portrayed in the press. They noted that Obama's reaction was instinctive, not callous cruelty, and they noted that there are non-lethal ways to deal with flies. Consistent with their stated position, while still being reasonable.

Now, if you're calling them crazies due to other actions (e.g. buying lobsters from restaurants to release in Maine), or the hypocrisy seen in their animal shelters, then go ahead, but they were quite reasonable on the fly swatting incident.

Gene Weingarten: This is exactly right. PETA took a cheap hit on this: They didn't volunteer their opinion, they were asked for it, and it was qualified in all sorts of ways related to Obama's strong positions on animal welfare. They did say it meant he "isn't Buddha," and that he should have given more thought to the casual killing of an animal.


Williamsburg, Va.: Dogs and farting and funny faces -- does it get more perfect for Gene Weingarten's chat?

Gene Weingarten: This is completely moronic. I'm still laughing.

It reminds me of an old (I think) New Yorker cartoon, in which two dogs are talking. One says to the other: "Isn't it ironic that we have the most sensitive noses in the world AND dog breath?"


Chicago, Flat: My method for teaching stick shift is highly successful and takes about as long as your 39 minutes.

1. Find a slope that is away from traffic, preferable a parking lot 2. Start at the top of the slope. Push in the clutch, put the car in 2nd gear. While the car is rolling, release the clutch to get the feel for the friction point. Repeat as necessary, returning to the top of the slope. 3. Once friction point is understood, start the car on the slope in first gear. Change gears to 2nd.

This method should not be attempted with significant others.

Gene Weingarten: It is a lazy system, and it just postpones the inevitable. There are only two things of importance to learn at the beginning in order to be able to drive a stickshift:

1. How to start in first gear.

2. When you break, use both feet, one on the clutch, one on the gas.

That's it. Number one is the challenge, and the trick is one that takes about 20 minutes to learn: As you are easing up on the clutch, and you feel the gear beginning to engage, freeze that foot. Then, millimeter by millimeter, let up on it until you're moving.

I just gave away my method. It has successfully taught two wives, two children, and six other people, including Strz. My car is the perfect vehicle for this because it's set on a fairly high idle and requires no gas to ease into first.

There. I just gave it all away for free. Below the Beltway, (June 21)


Seattle: Hey Gene,

How does it feel knowing that the powers that be at The Post consider people who are darn near always wrong (Krauthammer, Gerson, Ponnuru, etc) or always wrong (Kristol) more valuable than a real journalist like Dan Froomkin?

I've written near everyone who would have had any say in the matter and a few more besides and I guess I'm still angry and a bit confused by how The Post is doubling down on the promotion of neoconservatism while firing someone like Froomkin for the most specious of reasons. Heck, The Post even gave a known loon like Glenn Beck a chat last week.

Any thoughts that you feel comfortable sharing?

Gene Weingarten: I feel comfortable, but not qualified. I don't know why Froomkin's column was dropped, but I can tell you that the diabolical conspiracy talk is nuts.

Froomkin wasn't dropped because he is too liberal; things just don't work that way at The Post. I can tell you that there has been some disagreement about Froomkin's column over the years between the paper-paper and dotcom; the issue, I think, was whether he was as informed and qualified to opine as people who had been actively covering the White House for years.

I respect Froomkin; I agree with him, most of the time. I'm sorry to see his column go.


Tweeted out: I cannot see the Rob Corddry photo because I would be required to "sign up" for Twitter. I am Twitter-free. Am I missing anything important? Try this one.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, sorry.


NO articles?: A) You suck. B) Are you doing articles somewhere else now, or are you just gonna waste the Pulitzer-talent on pictures of dogs? C) Since you won the award, is this kinda your way of going out on top-- "Thank you and good night!"?

Gene Weingarten: Nah. The single truest statement I've seen on winning a Pulitzer was in an email Trudeau sent me right after mine was announced: "Congratulations. The euphoria will last until the next deadline."

I'm going to try to be writing books and movies. Have a few things in the works.


See ya in the funny pages: We'll still have Liz, right? Yep, daily in the blog, weekly in my chat and monthly here with Mr. Fussy.

Gene Weingarten: So there's that.


About the poll...: Interesting, I would have answered "nuts ands zealots" to the PETA question except for the characterization as "mildly rebuked" in the question. I answered "publicity stunt" instead. That's all I got out of the rebuke; I only read headlines.

Very thought-provoking on the meat vs headless people. Why would one totally weird me out and the other be bizarre but acceptable? Headless people weirded me out, but I think that if we could engineer organs for transplant without the rest of the body, that would be a fantastic use of scientific advancement.

Gene Weingarten: It wasn't a publicity stunt. They didn't generate the issue, they were responding to a question, and their response was sane and muted. Bad rap.


Indianapolis: Two things:

I don't know how lucky Ringo was. John Lennon himself said that Ringo would have been a star with or without the Beatles.

And, a couple of weeks ago, you said you left college with one semester left to join a Puerto Rican street gang. I hate to ask whether that was a joke, but ... was it a joke? If not, please explain.

Gene Weingarten: I didn't really JOIN the gang, I hung with them for a few months.

Yeah, I had an idea to try to freelance a story to New York Magazine, on the Bronx street gangs. It worked.

On its 40th (I think) anniversary last year, NYM listed this as one of their best 100 cover stories, which shocked me because, um, it wasn't very good. I just re-read it. Cringeworthy.


Barracks Row: My husband noticed you and your wife while we were at Matchbox the other night. He was the one accompanying the very curious three-year-old who wanted to stand at the railing and watch the guys make pizzas down below. I'm always uneasy about letting my son wander in restaurants, and try to limit it, but it's better than his screeching while waiting for food. Anyway, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to ask a stranger who can be completely honest with me, do you find this behavior annoying?

- signed, the ridiculous looking pregnant woman

Gene Weingarten: He was very cute, but I kept worrying he'd fall down the stairs. Your husband seemed to have the situation well in hand, though.


Midwest: I only see The Post online so perhaps this was published and I missed it. But is there any way to find out who has taken the buyout and is leaving, as well as what (if any) chats have been cancelled? Thank you. Not that I know of -- I don't think all of the announcements have yet been made. Gene?

Gene Weingarten: Nope, dunno. Today is the day all the buyouts become final, so you might start seeing em today. Check Politico.


I guess it was inevitable: I'm sad. 8.5 years = approx. 442 chats.

Gene Weingarten: We'll make it work.

Earlier, Chatwoman sent me this sobering thought: You're telling them "it's not you, it's me."


Full Spectr,UM: In the first 10 minutes of this chat, I have teared up (no more weekly chats?) and very nearly thrown up (that picture is revolting). What other emotions can you throw at me in the next 45 minutes?

Gene Weingarten: Workin' on it.


Arlington, O'fun: Offering to give us a chat once a month feels very much like the "We can still be friends" chat at the end of a relationship. Do you really mean it? You aren't leading us on? We can still make this work.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, that's even better than "it's not you, it's me."

I'm not leading you on. I don't want to give this up.


Accelerati, ON: You brake with your feet on the clutch and the gas? Do you just roll into random objects to actually stop the car, then?

Gene Weingarten: AAAggh. Sorry. Clutch and brake, obviously.

Clearly, it's time for me to go.


Charlottesville, Va.: So NOW will you consider doing an actual blog? Dave will give you some tips.

And congratulations. Being able to essentially retire at 57 and pursue other interests is a wonderful position to be in. Both of my parents did it many years ago (Dad is now 71) and they have thoroughly enjoyed the last decade-plus of cross-country RV trips, fishing whenever you want (Dad), social volunteerism, spoiling grandchildren and generally living a good life. My Dad even became a Shriner clown!

Since, given the current economy, it looks like I will be working well into my 70s, I'm a little jealous, but happy for someone who feels like an old friend, even though we've never actually met.

Gene Weingarten: Please understand: I'll be working into my 70s, or death, whichever comes first.

I'm not retiring. I'm doing other stuff.


Froomkin Debate: I'm not generally a conspiracy nut, but I really am wondering what The Post is doing here. Every columnist that has been added in recent years has come from the neo-conservative end of the spectrum. More "guest" columnists are from that same ideology. Who is really left (no pun intended) on the liberal/progressive end? E.J. Dionne? Cohen has turned into a hack, Ruth Marcus is closer to a centrist. So, I don't really see how you can blame me or other readers thinking that something is afoot.

Gene Weingarten: Harold Meyerson is as liberal as they come. And really good.

Er, we still have him, right?


Arlington, Va.: The best reporters are ones who can make a story out of nothing. I think the Post used to have a contest about this for its reporters, right? Well, in the context of a major event like last night's train crash, what does a good reporter do? The story is right there in front of everyone. What separates the best from the mediocre?

Gene Weingarten: Well, the best stories are not "made out of nothing."

There are many different aspects of reporting. Getting the facts right, fast, is important, and I think the Post did well. Delivering a feel for what it was like to be on that train is also important, and I think The Post did that well, too. Another level is Accountability reporting: Exactly how could this have happened: What, and who, is to blame? That's still in the works.

A question lingering over the whole thing, that I haven't seen answered yet, is why the trailing train did not apply its brakes. From the picture, I think there is a clue: The trailing train was coming around a curve. It looks as though, if the operator's attention was distracted for two seconds, she might not have seen the stopped train at all.


Herndon, Va.: I'm sorry your are partially leaving. You're the 2nd funniest person featured in The Post, but George Will's humor is unintentional.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Alleged satisfaction: I read Eugene Robinson's musing on the Holocaust Museum shooting and found the following line particularly jarring:

"His writings show that he also hates black people with great passion, however, so perhaps he took some measure of sick satisfaction in allegedly gunning down the 39-year-old Johns, an African American."

Is it just me, or does the use of the word "allegedly" just seem plain wrong in that sentence? I'm sure Post usage rules require him to use it to avoid libel suits, and I get the point of presumptions of innocence, but this seems both grammatically questionable (took satisfaction in allegedly doing something?) and substantively silly when discussing a killing committed by a self-avowed hatemonger and witnessed by dozens of other people. As a language maven, what do you think?

After the assasination of Itzhak Rabin, I spent a few weeks reading the Israeli papers. One ran a picture of the shooter the next morning captioned (in Hebrew) "This is the murderer." I remember thinking that in a peculiar way it was refreshing not to encounter the description "alleged" that accompanied every use of the same picture in the American papers.

Gene Weingarten: The Israeli example is problematic. "Murder" is a legal term for one convicted of the crime of murder. One can be a killer but not a murderer -- what if Rabin's killer had later been judged insane, for example? Calling an accused person a murderer is something most legit American media would never do. It's ingrained in reporters, just as we don't write that someone was "indicted for arson." Indicted on charges of arson. There's a big difference.

The line in Gene's column looks to me like it was inserted by a well-intentioned editor. It's an error in judgment, for precisely the reason you say.

The Post and other newspapers were filled with awkward "allegeds' in the days following the shooting. Yes, it was following a rule, and yes, it was silly.


Goodbye Ve, AL?: "Bruce Friedrich of PETA predicts that people will someday be able to buy meat that has been grown in vitro: bioengineered cows, pigs, lambs or chicken that were grown in a lab, with bodies but without heads. Scientists are already working on this technology.

Assuming this meat were found to pose no health risk, and was not prohibitively expensive, would you eat it?"

I would eat it, for sure, and would use it to almost completely replace the meat in my current diet. But I wouldn't completely stop eating real meat, if there were any difference in taste/texture/etc.

Explanation: I like eating meat. However, all things being equal, I'd prefer not to be responsible for an animal's uncomfortable or painful life/death. This sounds like a good way to continue my chicken pot pie-eating ways while avoiding a lot of needless suffering (or mere inconvenience) for the chicken.

That being said, I'm not completely opposed to raising (or hunting) animals to be eaten--else, I'd already be a vegan. So if the lab-grown foie gras, or ribeye steak, or pork belly tasted different from the real thing, I think I'd still be comfortable with eating authentic dead animal.

Basically, I'd happily replace 90% of my meat with bio-engineered stuff, even if there were a bit of a drop in quality (or an increase in price!). And if it were a perfect facsimile for the remaining 10%, I'd use it for that, too.

Gene Weingarten: Uh. Your preference for not being responsible for the suffering of an animal doesn't go very deep, does it? This is about as deep, and as thoughtful, as a preference for one brand of cigarettes over another.


Broomes Island: TOMATO TALK!: Gene:

After your tomato discussion two weeks ago, I was reminded of of my father. I grew up in Philadelphia: born in 1957. As an elementary school student, I remember my father sitting in our back screened porch on warm summer evenings listening to the Phillies games on the AM radio, and EATING WHOLE, as if it were an apple, a TOMATO. Sometimes he'd put salt on the tomato; sometimes not, but I remember the tomato regularly being his fruit snack of choice on summer evenings.

So, they MUST have tasted differently from today's tomatoes, because I couldn't imagine doing that with today's supermarket fare.

Gene Weingarten: This is exactly right. A whole tomato, eaten like an apple, with salt, used to be a damn delight. Thin skin that snapped under the tooth, very wet, not at all pulpy. They don't exist anymore. Approximations exist; there are better tomatoes and worse tomatoes. But there is nothing like there used to be.

You know, most of the people who have written in to say I'm wrong are people under 40 years old. Tomatoes still taste great, they say!


I'm not retiring. I'm doing other stuff. : "Doing other stuff" because you no longer need the financial security offered by the periodic paycheck is the operational definition of retirement.

Gene Weingarten: Well, uh.

Let me put it this way: If I do not get publishers and production companies to pay me to do things, this will have been a mistake.


Negotia, TN: Which version of this joke is funnier?

Version 1: George Bernard Shaw turns to a woman at a dinner party. "Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?" he asks.

"Yes, I would!" she laughs.

"Would you sleep with me for twenty pounds?" he returns.

"Of course not!" she huffs. "What do you think I am?"

"We have already established what you are, madame. Now we are merely negotiating a price."

Version 2: GBS turns to a woman at a dinner party. "Would you sleep with me for a hundred pounds?" he asks.

"Of course not!" she huffs.

"Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?"

"Well, yes, I would."

"Would you sleep with me for twenty pounds?"

"No, what do you think I am?"

"We have already established what you are, madame. Now we are merely negotiating a price."

My commentary: I think version 2 makes no sense at all, yet that is the version I keep hearing. If she says no and then yes, that makes it clear that it is in fact a negotiation, so why is it funny for him to say it's a negotiation? Also, if she has already said yes when it's clearly a negotiation, how can she claim outraged virtue just because the price goes down again?

I think the joke is quite sexist and offensive no matter how it's told; but if people are going to tell it, they should at least tell it so it makes sense! What do you say, Gene?

Gene Weingarten: I've never heard the second formulation. It is moronic. The key to humor is conciseness. Moreover, the back and forth in price is pointless and confusing. (This, by the way, is almost certainly a joke and not actual GBS anecdotage, though it is usually reported that way.)

I am more interested, however, in your last assertion: Why do you find this joke sexist or offensive? I don't, at all. It's just a joke.


Alexandria, Va.: I am nearly deaf. Without the wondrous technology of modern hearing aids, I could not function in the world. My audiologist, and my own reading, tells me that scientists are working on the possibility of being able to grow new nerve cells to replace one's own dead inner-ear workings. If that happy day ever arrives, I will sign up for the treatment/surgery as soon as possible. In that sense, I am all in favor of growing new body parts.

Whole new bodies, though, seem like something else again. Individual parts seem just fine. Artist implants "third ear" on own arm

Gene Weingarten: Thanks, Liz.

You know, growing bodies for parts is a no-brainer for me.

Haha. Hahahahaha.

Actually, it is.


Nominations: Liz, obviously. She is your Ed McMahon, only she's smarter than you. Or at the very least, better looking. Excuse me? I have my own thing going, too, ya know. My entire week isn't VPL and landscaping.

Gene Weingarten: It's CERTAINLY not landscaping.

I am Liz's Ed Mcmahon.


Palin Joke: Did you see what the NYT's ethicist, Randy Cohen, had to say about Letterman's Bristol Palin joke? What do you think of his take on it?

Gene Weingarten: Well, that's a pretty long exegesis. I can't defend the joke for two reasons:

1. Most important -- it was really lame. If you are going to be edgy, you need to begin with the defense that it was funny. That defense goes a long way; in my mind, it goes almost all the way to defend any joke. Letterman didn't have that crucial element.

2. His staff screwed up. It was Willow, 14, not Bristol, who was at that game. I accept Letterman's explanation that the joke was about Bristol; it makes no sense the other way. But this is sloppy, and opens him up to exactly what he got.

Having said that, the Palins' response was disingenuous. This was not a "rape' joke about a 14 year old girl. This was a trash joke about Bristol Palin, who is, in the sleazy terms of standup, fair game for that. Had it actually been funny, and had he specified Bristol, all would have been copacetic.


Pentagon City: Another baby died after being left in a hot car over the weekend.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. One of the awful corollaries of having done that story is that I now get notified, immediately, when these cases happen.

Of the 13 kid-in-hot-car deaths in cars so far this year, this is the fifth, I believe, fitting the pattern in my story: An otherwise good parent just ... forgets.


Alexandria, Va.: The original human meat question was good because people meat is probably nutritionally complete for people. All the vitamins and minerals we need should be in people meat and in the right balances. We might miss out on a few things that are only in the kidneys or liver, but for the most part you shouldn't ever need to eat anything else.

Gene Weingarten: This is an interesting point: Do cannibals have the most nutritionally balanced diet?

Your question shows a lamentable disrespect for organ meat, however. Meat is not just muscle. If we'll eat human glutes, why not liver, with onions? Or sweetbreads?


Stick Shift: Gene, don't worry, you didn't give it ALL away. You have not given away the most important piece of instruction of all, which is the stellar, two-word advice you gave me that cannot be repeated here about driving in traffic. It was by far the most valuable advice you could have given me about driving a stick shift. Definitely quelled the yarfing feelings.


Gene Weingarten: Precisely. It was the attitude the new stick-driver needs to deal with impatient drivers.


Washington, D.C.: Going to Montmartre for the first time soon -- what's your favorite thing on the menu there?

Gene Weingarten: Rabbit.


Luckiest: George W. Bush. He screwed up the world incalculably for decades to come, and likely will live to see his image and/or legacy improve significantly. Or at least to the point where there are differences of opinion among mainstream pundits and opinionmakers.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I think he's in a free fall from which he will not recover. I don't think Bush's legacy gets rehabbed at all.


one of the luckiest men on Earth, in the Ringo Starr sense: An alternative interpretation is that Ringo was that essential catalyst which John, Paul and George needed, without which they couldn't have been so successful. Whether it had to do more with Ringo's drumming, or with his even-keeled disposition which made it easier for the three other more mercurial personalities to collaborate, who knows?

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting. Didn't George fill that role, too, though? And George was a terrific musician. Ringo played the drums.


Control your damn k, ID: I loathe people who let their children wander around restaurants unattended. I once saw a couple chatting away unconcerned on the patio at El Pinto in Albuquerque as, 20 feet away, their two preschool-aged children were drinking out of the fountain with straws. While in that particular case, I figure the several days' worth of Exorcist-style vomiting and explosive diarrhea that undoubtedly followed were punishment enough for all concerned, it speaks of cluelessness and entitlement on the part of the parents.

Gene Weingarten: This was not an unattended child. This child was well attended. It was a kid being a kid, squealing in delight over everything, including discovery of a screw on a wall. It was fine.


Balto MD: The majority think Bruce Friedrich, PETA's national spokesperson for veganism would eat meat from one of these headless animals "in a heatbeat." Wow!

There's more to veganism than ending the suffering of animals. There are environmental, nutritional and religious motivations for giving up meat. Raising a cow (with or without a head) is still going to negatively impact the environment. Eating too much red meat (whether or not it comes from a headless source) leads to greater incidence of heart disease and cancer.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, but no. No on the resources. The estimates are that it will take vastly fewer natural resources to raise that in vitro cow.

Bruce DID say "in a heartbeat."


Virginia: Gene! I read with interest your opinion on gun control in the most recent chat. As a reference point, I was wondering if there were any other parts of the Bill of Rights that you think could or should be excised?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. I don't think we need the restriction on quartering troops anymore. Do you?


Stick shi, FT: Rats. I've been planning to teach my wife (a lifetime slushbox driver) to drive a stick using my old truck, just before I either junk it or trade it in under the Cash-for-Clunkers program. Most of what I read in your column is consistent with how I planned to go about it, but I'd sure love to hear those "two words of wisdom" to pass along....

Gene Weingarten: F.U.


New York, N.Y.: I asked the woman in the next cubicle if this joke was funny. I asked if she would sleep with me for a million dollars. She said she would. I then asked if she would slepp with me for twenty dollars. She said she would.

What was that punchline again?

Gene Weingarten: I hope this is true.


Palin joke again: Sorry, Bristol was not fair game. She didn't choose to become a public figure. She's no more fair game than The Clinton daughter or the Bush girls.

Gene Weingarten: Her mama made that choice for her.


Hot c,AR: GW: Of the 13 kid-in-hot-car deaths in cars so far this year, this is the fifth, I believe, fitting the pattern in my story: An otherwise good parent just ... forgets.

Um. Dare I ask about the other eight deaths? Parents deciding it'd be a good idea to lock junior in a hot car for not eating his strained peas?

Gene Weingarten: Various ways. Some involve caregivers at a daycare accidentally leaving a kid in a van; sometimes kids crawl into a car themselves.


Alexandria, Va.: One request for the "new" chats - please don't try too hard to make them special. It's sure to backfire, like when a divorced dad tries to pack a week's worth of interaction into one weekend.

Gene Weingarten: Good advice. Thank you.

How do we feel about two hours?


Washington, DC: This is a "WWGD" (What Would Gene Do) question. This past week, my cat had a medical emergency and I took her into a large, shall remain nameless animal hospital in Friendship Heights (see what I did there?). Anyway, although the vet was a little judge-y about the fact that I hadn't kept my completely indoor cat who never sees other animals up on her shots, it was a perfectly fine experience. The cat got her diagnosis (kidney stones, poor thing), treatment plan, etc. It was all a little pricey, but it was also 10pm on a weeknight, and the situation was fairly serious.

Anyway, I mentioned to someone at my work where I had taken my cat, and they said this hospital is known for being really, really bad. I then read some reviews online indicating that this place has had some serious issues in the past (unlicensed vets), as well as a number of complaints about poor treatment. My cat is going to need follow up visits and ongoing treatment. I'm not sure whether to stay with this hospital or, based on the reviews, find somewhere else. On the side of staying: my cat is difficult, they are aware of it and seemed to deal well with it; they seemed to do a pretty good job with her; and they have hours that work with my schedule. On the other hand, the reviews are freaking me out.


Gene Weingarten: Message me privately. weingarten(at)


Bethesda, MD: re. eating human meat

The book Alive (about the rugby team from Uruguay who's plan crashed in the Andes, survivors ate the bodies of the dead) goes in to quite a bit of detail about the effects of subsisting on human flesh. The gist is that they survived suprisingly well but endured hellacious constipation and rock hard poops. So while you might get most of what you need nutritionally, it's not really an all in one balanced diet.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks!


Re: stick shifting: "As you are easing up on the clutch, and you feel the gear beginning to engage, freeze that foot. Then, millimeter by millimeter, let up on it until you're moving."

Is this not what is known as "riding the clutch", a technique that wears out the clutch in an untimely manner?

Gene Weingarten: No, it is a stopgap maneuver, for a few days, until you get it down pat. And it only lasts a couple of seconds: Once you are engaged, the foot's off the clutch.

This works beautifully.


Give the drummer some: John famously once said "Ringo was not the best drummer in the world. Ringo wasn't even the best drummer in the Beatles." (Which is true: as he proved on several of his solo albums, Paul is a really good drummer.) But his personality by all accounts was that of the mediator and the easygoing wit, as opposed to his famously moody and difficult predecessor Pete Best. And that's as important as his technical ability.

Although actually, reports of Ringo's lameness as a drummer are greatly exaggerated. He was certainly not a flashy drummer, but flashy drummers can be intrusive. (Blondie's 1979 single "Dreaming" is a perfect example.) But he could certainly play: there's an outtake of "Strawberry Fields Forever" on ANTHOLOGY 2 that ends with Ringo going into this kind of tribal polyrhythm that's amazing, not least because I never expected he had it in him to play something so flash.

Gene Weingarten: I know not much about drumming. Consensus seems to be that Ringo was quite good but easily replaceable by someone else quite good.


Gaithersburg, MD: In your opinion, which member of THE BAND was the "lucky one?"

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely none of them. Garth Hudson, who never opened his mouth, was the best musician, and he could play 17 instruments. Robertson and Manuel were terrific, and Levon Helm, the best vocalist and a great drummer. Okay, Danko. Loseable.


How do we feel about two hours? : I love it. Can you start at 11? Please don't do Fridays. They are too packed with Hax, Milbank and Kelly, John already.

Gene Weingarten: We shall consider this. Also a personal video element. I am really gonna try, folks.


True fact!: The Third Amendment (about quartering troops) is the only Constitutional Amendment never to be the subject of a Supreme Court case. It was, in a sense, the most successful amendment, in that the federal government has never come close to breaching it.

And, yes, I would say we still need it. It would be a bad idea to legalize allowing soldiers to show up at a house and demand room and board instead of paying for it out of everybody's taxes. Or lesser degrees of it, like allowing troops in peacetime to just set up a base on someone's farm for a few months because they don't want to pay for it.

Gene Weingarten: I would argue (without any legal standing) that it would be illegal even without that amendment. Wouldn't it involve unjust taking of property, etc.?


Falls Church, Va: re: Ringo played the drums.

Exactly. Q: How do you get a drummer off of your porch? A: Pay him for the pizza! Q: How does a drummer end up with a million bucks? A: He starts with two million!

Gene Weingarten: What do you call a really weird person who hangs around musicians? A drummer.


Arlington, Va.: As a humor expert, it would be interesting to know your opinion about how long it will be before it is no longer "too soon" to make jokes about yesterday's crash. I believe that after 9/11 it was estimated to be several months, per the Gilbert Gottfried attempt at the Friar's Club roast of Hugh Hefner. Two weeks for this one?

Gene Weingarten: At the moment, I'm not thinking of anything even future-funny about this one. But essentially there are two rules: Time and geography. The local geography would extend the time on this one almost indefinitely.

I remember once having made a joke in a column somewhat related to the Kennedy assassination. An editor killed it, for what I concluded was a good reason: This is Washington. There are still people alive and around who KNEW Jack Kennedy.


Washington, D.C.: The ladies (and I use the term loosely! heh!) over at Jezebel had a live chat today where they discussed the brilliant idea of nominating you to run The Post's new weddings section. One of the bloggers even suggested it to Marcus Brauchli. So, if offered, would you accept? I heart Jezebel.

Gene Weingarten: I would last through exactly one deadline. The Post would lose all its wedding advertising overnight.


Santa Fe, N.M.: Your Hypochondriac book mentioned a medical "test" that involved bouncing heavily on the soles of the feet to elicit pain in the area of the main complaint. My cousin's husband was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer unusually early because he experienced localized pain when bouncing over the rutted dirt road to her house. He had no other symptoms. He is now in the low percentage of pancreatic cancer patients who may, in fact, survive because of the early diagnosis.

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

There is another very cool test called the Valsalva Maneuver. You strain hard, not exhaling, like you are straining on the pot. Sometimes this provokes pain in an organ that's got a problem.


Chicago: I'm 27, and I can remember a handful of times in the past 5 years or so where I've gotten a tomato noticeably, remarkably better than what I'm used to. And I totally ate them, entirely, right then and there. So some of us can tell, anyway.

Gene Weingarten: What I am saying though is that the few you've gotten don't compare to the tomatoes around when I was your age.

I know, this is a "when I was your age" line, but it's true. Dagnabbit.


Washington, D.C. : Most of the vegans I know eat wildly processed foods and are well, not really healthy looking people. They spend most of their grocery budget on products that are meant to mimic butter, milk or meat. It's almost as if they put the animal's needs ahead of their own. I allow that my vegans are by no means all vegans, but I've known quite a few, and it just seems odd. As you said, that's just not reflective of the vegan population as a whole.

Gene Weingarten: I have been to PETA headquarters in Norfolk. (Roanoke?) It is staffed by VERY healthy looking young American people with clear skin.


Boodlevan, IA: As lucky as Ed McMahon:

Alberto Gonzalez, Harriet Miers, Regis Philbin, Pat Butram, The Captain (of Captain and teneille), Shemp, Clarence Thomas, Horshack, William Hung AND Ricky Martin, Baghdad Bob (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf )

Gene Weingarten: You forgot Ike Turner!


Jeff City, Mo. (again): Clearly you've never been in a band or produced music.

The group dynamic is key. Get a single a-hole in a band and things quickly, and I mean quickly, fall apart.

Egos, "artistic integrity", all that stuff makes getting the right group dynamic -the- most important of any group. I don't care how talented any specific musician might be, if they can't get along in a band environment, then they need to be solo and hire session players.

Been there, done that, got the tshirt.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, you win. Ringo was not lucky.


Pat the Perfect, ME: By the way, those who don't want to wait for a month to ask a niggling grammar question may continue to ask Pat the Perfect on the "Watch Your Pthep" thread at the discussion group The Style Conversational, at

Gene Weingarten: You are shameless.


DC: Please tell me that Achenbach is staying. Right?

Gene Weingarten: Achenbach is not yet 50. He was not eligible for the buyout.


Gaithersburg, MD : Re: THE BAND. Almost the answer I was looking for -- so lets just say Danko got by on his looks . . .

Gene Weingarten: This is a true fact: When I was about 22 years old, I looked EXACTLY like Danko did then. There is one photo of him on the brown album that is indistinguishable from me.

He aged better, until he died.


Anonymous: I ran this same question by Fisher in his last chat, promising to also seek your advice. Since it looks like this will be the last "classic Gene" chat, I'd better try to slip it in, so here goes. My wife grew up with dogs and likes them; I didn't and don't. Before we were married, we discussed the possibility of having a dog someday. Through several years of kids and cats, we still haven't gotten one, but my wife still refers to the eventuality of dog ownership from time to time. My problem is that my opinion of dogs has significantly diminished over the years, to the point that I can't stand the thought of having one. My wife, on the other hand, considers our long ago conversations to have been a virtual pre-nup, which she expects me to live up to someday.

There isn't any subtext here about control in my marriage--we get along great, and are pretty good about compromising on things in general. It's just that there isn't really a meet-in-the-middle solution here--you either have a dog or you don't-- so I'm looking for your take on my situation as a committed canine lover. Your thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: You must not get a dog that you will resent. She has to suffer without one.


When I was your age...: My husband and I walked by a couple yesterday who looked about 12, but were probably 21 or so. The guy said "back in the day, you could get a Blackberry on the Internet....etc etc something or other.."

My husband noted that was a completely unironic use of "back in the day" and "Internet" in the same sentence. We felt old.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Washington, D.C.: If we can grow headless humans for organs, can we also use them for meat? Is my Soylent Green dream future approaching? Yes.

Gene Weingarten: Ok.


Leesburg, Va.: About the poll... the headless, grown-in-vitro meat is an interesting idea, but what about beef tongue, head cheese, etc? (I don't care, personally, but since you can buy it in the supermarket, somebody must eat that stuff.)

Gene Weingarten: For what it's worth, Friedrich says the most likely first meat so available will be indefinably shaped: chopmeat, chicken nuggets, etc.

And by the way, yes, Bruce would be all for this and would eat it in a heartbeat.

That's the thing about PETA: They're consistent. It's all about animal suffering, not about abstract notions. It's why Bruce will eat (we've dined together) something like mock duck, which is a soy product made to taste like duck. It's not the THOUGHT of eating meat that distresses him, it's the inevitable suffering of the animal to put that meat on our plates.

A brainless cow, in terms of suffering, is no different from a turnip.


Falls Church, VA: Danko LOSEABLE? Please. It was Danko who rented "Big Pink"; he also provided lead vocal on "Stage Fright", "It Makes No Difference", "Unfaithful Servant", "Long Black Veil", and was a fabulous high harmony singer as well.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. I wasn't really enthusiastic about declaring him lucky, anyway.


Third Amendment: Quartering of troops is not necessarily taking property. Just as the military draft is legal and constitutional despite the ban on slavery. Government can legally mess with you and your property in many ways without compensation -- it can require you to keep you grass mowed, feed your animals, and let the police run through to catch a thief. Legal "taking" (though a complex and disputed ares of the law) usually means a permanent deprivation of property, not a temporary one.

Quartering was especially easy for governments to do because the guys asking for the food and bed are carrying guns at the time they make the request/demand.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Gigante, PR: Gene, According to news reports, Ed McMahon's agent is named Howard Bragman.

Gene Weingarten: It's a very nice aptonym.


Fibromyalgia: Hi, Gene,

I figure you're the only one that can give me an honest answer. Has fibromyalgia become the new rage as a disease? In the last 2 weeks alone I have encountered 7 people who claim to have been diagnosed with it. Has medical science determined that fibromialgia is a "real" treatable condition? Or are physicians just broad brushing a whole bunch of people with a "diagnosis" because the patient is tired and has aches and pains or is depressed? Or is it a conspiracy of Big Pharma to get more people on new, expensive medications that may or may not help their problem? Or none of the above?

Gene Weingarten: All of the above. I have come to believe there is a fibromyalgia, though we don't know what it is. But I also KNOW it is being wildly overdiagnosed, for all the above reasons.


In defense of Darrell Dragon: It could be reasonably argued that Tony Tenille was the lucky one, and that her husband "Captain" Darrell Dragon (son of longtime Hollywood Bowl symphony conductor Carmen Dragon) was the musical talent behind the duo, a Svengali to her Trilby.

Ditto, in the operatic world, for soprano Joan Sutherland and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge; he made her the great artist she became.

Gene Weingarten: I think they were both lucky.


Ringo and "Group Dynamics": This reminds me of the bit in "Spinal Tap" where Derek (the bass player) explains that his role in the band is to balance the creative energies of the other two -- "they're like fire and ice, and I'm like lukewarm water."

Gene Weingarten: That's such a good line.


Washington, D.C.: PETA HQ is in Norfolk. Jerry Falwell was in Roanoke (MHRIP). PETA moved its HQ though; now we're in D.C.

Gene Weingarten: Right. Thanks.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, we're done!

I will be updating this week, and WILL be chatting, the last weekly one, next week.

I swear, this will work out. Thank you all. And thank you for all the nice comments I didn't publish because, you know.


UPDATED 6.24.09

Another upside to a 5-speed: A friend actually got his car "un-carjacked" when the kids who accosted him the alley behind his D.C. rowhouse realized it was a stick. Of the four of them (oldest probably about 15), none knew how to drive a manual. Fortunately, the frustration of realizing they picked the wrong car only caused them to run away.

So, thanks for publishing your "trick" -- although I assume the percentage of chatters who might be classified as street criminals is fairly low.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this is actually a seldom-mentioned advantage of stick shifts. They are seldom stolen.

I was in a hardware store a couple of years ago where they were selling hammers that had a pink floral design. I asked the manager why they were designed that way. He said, quite seriously, "So no one will steal your hammer."


You'll like this...: Under Misspelled Banner, Buchanan And White Nationalist Brimelow Argue For English-Only Initiatives

Gene Weingarten: Isn't it wonderful when a joke is made for you?


Arlington, Va.: After I was done gagging---can't help but admire the effect. That's really good.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to the Cordrry photo from Twitter, which we will link to again. I initially thought this was some kind of mask, but it's pretty clearly photoshopped. Very very well photoshopped.


Story idea: Ringo Starr was a drummer for Rory Storm when he switched to the Beatles. Very little has ever been written about Rory Storm. According to one source, he and his mother committed suicide together. I also wondered who Rory Storm was and why no one ever researched his life.

Gene Weingarten: Apparently, he died of an asthma attack, and his ma killed herself after discovering the body.


Tisapityshesawho, Ore: Thank you for vindicating me on the George Bernard Shaw joke! (And, yes, I doubt it's real, but I was just telling it the way I've heard it.)

I think it's sexist and offensive because it's saying that if a woman would ever, even as a joke, contemplate taking money for sex, she is a whore and is no different from a whore on the street corner who gets 20 bucks a pop.

The joke could never be told with the genders reversed because it's not funny to call a man a whore.

You disagree?

Gene Weingarten: So, by your definition, a woman turning tricks on the street for $20 is a prostitute, but a really high-priced hooker is not?

I think this is a joke about hypocrisy, and it's funny.

Your second point -- that it could not be told about a man -- is more valid. But there are plenty of jokes that could only victimize men, and not women.


Eatz: So if it doesn't have a brain, it has no soul?

Gene Weingarten: Correct. 'Course, I would argue that if it has a brain it also has no soul, but we don't need to go there. Your question, though, underscores why this technology is probably, politically, a LONG way away.

What if, instead of an entire headless body, we produced only the organs. A human liver. Would it have a soul?


"riding the clutch", a technique that wears out the clutch in an untimely manner?: Riding the clutch consists of keeping the clutch all the say down when you don't need to (presumably in fear and anticipation that you will need to put it in any nanosecond). That's what wears it out.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. This is a common misconception.

Riding the clutch is when you ride with the clutch partially depressed. It wears out the clutch plate, big time.

If your foot is fully down on the clutch, the transmission is not in gear. You can keep your foot on the clutch at a light, for example, with the car in gear, without doing any damage.


UPDATED 6.25.09

Gene Weingarten:

Higgledy piggledy

Governor Sanford, you

Scored by opposing the

Stimulus plan.

Maybe you should have had

Greater resistance to


Stimulus, man.


Piling on Pal, IN: Disingenuous... what about her "acceptance" of Letterman's apology....?

"Of course it's accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who 'joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve. Letterman certainly has the right to 'joke' about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction. And this is all thanks to our U.S. military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America's right to free speech -- in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect."

Her mention of the troops? WHAT?!?!

Gene Weingarten: I continue to contend that she is stupid. This is SO heavy-handed no smart person would try it. This declares: I am a shameless opportunist, and I think you are all gullible idiots who won't understand what I am doing here.


Tomatoes!!: Gene,

Did you read the review of Food, Inc. this weekend??? They talked specifically about how tomatoes have lost their taste!!!

Gene Weingarten: Yes, "Food Inc." makes my case perfectly. Tomatoes still LOOK like tomatoes, but have lost their taste and nutritional values.

I am so sorry for you young 'uns. You've never tasted a tomato.


Palin again: I hate to beat a dead horse, but the people who say Bristol is NOT fair game are WRONG. She is 18, marketing herself as a commodity to both People magazine, the Today show, and countless other news organizations. Since she has put herself in the spotlight, she is fair game, just as if the Bush girls or Chelsea Clinton decided to do so, but they wisely, do not.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, several people have made this point.

I would still argue -- call me a rat bastard -- that the fact that Sarah chose to make her daughter part of the campaign, raising her pregnancy to deflect rumors about SARAH's pregnancy, made Bristol fair game. Rat bastard.


3rd Amendment: Ah, but the ban against quartering soldiers was one of the keys that the Supremes used to form the basis of the right to privacy, a right that is not spelled out in the Constitution, but which they (I believe rightly) inferred from several provisions which, taken together, give citizens a right to freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into the private sphere. This is why it is unconstitutional to outlaw the viewing of pornography in the privacy of your home. And the basis for Roe v. Wade.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. This is an important point, and why I was wrong to suggest that this Amendment was outdated. Unlike Number Two, which is, um, number two.


Carlisle, Pa.: You said "chopmeat." My mother, born and raised in Brooklyn, 20 years older than you are, also says "chopmeat." New York-ism?

Gene Weingarten: You're right. It never occurred to me that this is not a universal term, but the Urban Dic confirms it: It's entirely New York City.

As is "sliding pond," which means nothing to 95 percent of you.


Washington, D.C.: I think this is the perfect product for the man who has everything.

Gene Weingarten: Hundreds of people sent me this.

Gene Weingarten: I love the woman's prissy voice. At the end, she becomes Fran Drescher. It's very odd.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I have a question: Where do you store this thing? Next to the pot?


UPDATED 6.26.09

Gene Weingarten: We have this important breaking news, thanks to Henry Chen.


Springfield, Va.: If there were a single object that existed in the world, that could sum up everything that Gene hates and is against, I'm thinking it might look a little something like this...

Gene Weingarten: You're right!


Neurocentrist: You know the old joke about the drunk looking for his lost keys under the streetlight, even though he dropped them elsewhere, because he can see better under the light.

How do we know headless animals don't suffer? We define suffering as something that happens in the brain.

Gene Weingarten: We do. That is because suffering is something that happens in the brain.


Hartford, Conn.: Nice column. I anxiously await your paean of praise for the hand-operated choke valve.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, yes. The old argument, best framed by Horace LaBadie in his online Comment:

Everyone ought to learn "gee" and "haw." Draft animals are the real muscle vehicles. Then proceed to learn Morse code.


Anyone who CAN drive a stick knows that the automatic transmission is a perfect example of an improved technology that was not an improvement: It makes a car heavier, less fuel efficient, and much less fun to drive.


Juvenilehum, OR: I ran across this in a reference list:

Doody, D. P. (2006). Anorectal anomalies: A review of surgeries past. Seminars in Colon & Rectal Surgery, 17, 3-9.

OK to laugh?

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely!


Bat Trick Video -- CLOW?:

Wicked video: Minor leaguer performs major league bat trick

It's not flipping someone through a hoop, but it's a pretty cool trick.

Gene Weingarten: Wow!


Journalism ethics: What do you think about this situation?

Basically, the Austin American-Statesman published a human-interest story on an 81 year old local pilot. They did a background check on her before running the article (they say this is standard practice). After the article ran, they found out some information that the background check had not revealed: she was convicted in 1973 for murdering her 6 year old stepson. The Statesman then ran a follow-up article about her murder conviction, a fact that she says no one in her life today knew about. The paper says that had they known about the murder conviction, they may not have done the story in the first place, but since they did and it omitted a major detail of her life, they felt it was necessary to run the second story. Obviously, the woman made a bad decision to allow herself to be profiled but withhold information. Still, I wonder if it was really necessary for the newspaper to run a whole story describing more about the decades-old murder than they ever would have if they'd known ahead of time. What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: Complex situation, but I think they had to run the story. They had run a profile that had been the equivalent of a lie: a profile missing a fact that was absolutely essential to adequately understanding who this woman was.

Gene Weingarten: You know what's interesting? The public debate seemed to be not over whether they should have run the second story, but why they do background checks on story subjects.

After reading both stories, I'm more convinced they had to run the second one. She was convicted of having beaten a child to death.


Street gang story: Can we link to it somewhere? Pretty please?

Gene Weingarten: Sigh. You'll notice I left this for the very last post in the last day of the update. It's painful.


Submit to next week's final weekly chat.


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