Chatological Humor: The Final Weekly Show (We're Going Monthly) -- UPDATED 7.2.09

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2009; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: WED | THURS | Bonus THURS

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: MEN | WOMEN

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.

Many poetic events have transpired since last week, the funniest of which being the rather charmingly inept romantic implosion of Gov. Mark Sanford, leading pretty directly to this poem, which I wrote for an update last week:

Higgledy Piggledy
Governor Sanford, you
Scored by resisting the
Stimulus plan.

Maybe you should have shown
Greater resistance to
Stimulus, man.

Then, on Saturday, I saw that The Style Invitational was running a haiku contest, which caused me to comment to my friend Tom Scocca that haiku, as an art form, is pretentious, pseudo-intellectual crap. This impelled Tom to send me something he had written, which is definitely not pretentious pseudo-intellectual crap. Here it is:

Grounded to Bill,
He flips to Cal for one
-- To first, two!

Who will be the first poster who can explain why this is subtly brilliant?


Elsewhere in the field of breaking poetry, my column on Sunday encompassed a stinging repudiation of the most celebrated work of of Joyce Kilmer, which resulted in two letters in support of Kilmer, one of which came from Noelie Kilmer Angevine, who turns out to be the poet's granddaughter. Noelie agrees that grandpappy's "Trees" is an abomination, but says his other works are much better. Hence, today's poll (MEN | WOMEN). (Noelie also correctly points out that Joyce was a brave man who died on a volunteer mission to find a German machine-gun nest.)

If you wish to take this poll before hearing my pronouncement on the poetry, please do so now. My views, which hereafter will stand as the official literary judgment on the poetry of Joyce Kilmer, are to follow shortly, in verse.

Meanwhile, take this INSTAPOLL, which deconstructs one of these poems.

Okay, this has been quite a few days for celebrity deaths. First Ed, then Farrah, then Michael. Just when we thought we were done with the mourning ... Billy! Still, that last one felt so ... right, like when they added "Bobby" to "Abraham, Martin and John."

I guess I am the only one who thinks Michael Jackson was essentially a shallow disco phenomenon, generously talented but mostly a product of cynically manipulated personal style and shrewd marketing, personally abhorrent in a number of significant ways related to racial identity and sexual proclivities, and not worthy of all this adulation, particularly by the media, whose hemorrhage of unquestioning accolades is suspiciously self-serving. Okay, just checking.


I am indebted to Dave Barry for supplying the following, which Liz has agreed to allow me to publish only because this is something of a special day, it being the last of the weekly chats we go monthly. Warning: There are words on this page that might not be safe for work.

We're going to start now. I'm hoping to hear some ideas from you for how to make a monthly chat work. What would you like to keep seeing, what wouldn't you mind losing, and what new stuff would you like? What's most important to me is that you keep firing off questions, through the month -- I will be looking at them from time to time, with even more time to frame obnoxious and dismissive answers.

Okay, let's go.


Gene Weingarten:
Here, then, is the final word on Joyce Kilmer:

Kilmer wrote with perfumed pen
Of orchard, glade, and flowered fen,
While questioning the masculinity
Of others with the same affinity.

His meter did the ear abuse
Because he'd chosen as his muse
A ticking clock or metronome,
By which he hacked out every poem.

He wrote at length of what he felt,
But in the obvious he dwelt:
Beauty's good! Evil, bad!
When God sees cruelty, he's sad.

The insights that Joyce Kilmer sees,
(Like the one about the trees)
Are bland and wan and paper thin:
An apartment house has life within!

And (just like clockwork!) you will find
As you consume him, line by line,
A foul turd you're forced to eat:
"Beneath the magic of Love's golden feet!"

I'm really sorry, Noelie,
Though I suspect you might agree
Deep down, that grampa's poesy,
Was WAY THE HECK less lovely than a tree.


Specifically, for the Instapoll, that love's feet thing was the worst line. The best line is the vagrant breezes: It's actually good.

The worst poem, by far, is that dreadfully off-tune and oddly almost ... prurient Valentine paean to the Virgin Mary. The others are not much better. In the hands of a more skilled poet, the subject of a wuthless fisherman could have been fine, but in Kilmer's hammy little fists, it becomes a trite and stupid ghost story. His lecturing of similarly effete poets to leave the craft of poetry to real men is beneath contempt, and one may fairly argue that he protesteth too much. His comparing the plight of the soldier to Jesus is interesting, and the last line is pretty good. But the whole thing is delivered in the most cloying way possible.

I suppose I like the apartment the best. It's the germ of a good idea, though being gobsmacked by the realization that people actually LIVE in tenements is disingenuous, and that last line is just a stake through the heart of the poem.


Tuesdays with no o, NE: Higgledy piggledy Weingarten, Gene, has Taken his Pulitzer Statue and run. Unsentimentally Leaving his chatters here "Tuesdays With No One" is Not as much fun

Gene Weingarten: Very, very good.


Corn on the Gr, Ill.: A couple of weeks ago, you suggested that the best way to cook corn on the cob was on the grill. I agree - but I think there's a better way to do that than the method you suggested.

Your recipe calls for removing the silks and retaining the husk, and placing the ears, still wrapped in their husk, onto the grill.

I submit that it is better to remove the husk before placing the corn on the grill, thereby allowing the corn to truly be grilled instead of merely steamed. Direct grilling imparts the flavor of the smoke and allows for the caramelization of the sugars in the corn, where steaming in the husk does not.

I wouldn't steam a steak (or portobello mushroom) on the grill, either.

Perhaps grilling experiments await you in all the free time you're about to have.

Gene Weingarten: Cooked for the right amount of time -- about 20 minutes, total, flipped twice -- the corn does caramelize a little. The advantage is that all the flavor is trapped in there, including sweetness delivered by the husk. This is Nero Wolfe's recipe.

The Nero Wolfe Cookbook is a great cookbook.


Eating health food at home: I guess Kilmer loved trees more than his own family. Who goes off to war at age 30 with a bunch of little ones at home? From his Wikipedia entry, it sounds like he committed suicide by Hun.

Gene Weingarten: No, he loved life. He was immensely proud of being a Poet. He wrote about this subject ALL the time. He was really into being a poet.


Burtonsville, MD: The verse structure is 4-6-3, which is the same numbering scheme one would use to describe position numbers of the Baltimore Orioles double play that the poem describes, i.e. Billy Ripken, 2nd base (4) to Cal Ripken, shortshop (6) to first base (3). Rather brilliant indeed!


Gene Weingarten: Yep.


Capitol Hill, DC: Yes, I think you are in the minority when it comes to Michael Jackson. No, he was not Bob Dylan. However, he defined so many trends of the 80s, in particular the style of music that came out and the types of videos made for the then-new MTV. Suddenly, singers had to have videos with intricate choreography and troops of dancers whether they wanted to or not. He was undeniably a huge influence on music, dance, and video of the era.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, I think he is responsible for music videos of the era. That's part of my point.


Anonymous: " I guess I am the only one who thinks Michael Jackson was essentially a shallow disco phenomenon, generously talented but mostly a product of cynically manipulated personal style and shrewd marketing, personally abhorrent in a number of significant ways related to racial identity and sexual proclivities, and not worthy of all this adulation, particularly by the media, whose hemorrhage of unquestioning accolades is suspiciously self-serving."

No you're not. It's good to know I am not alone.

Gene Weingarten: It's just the two of us, though.


Cooking corn: According to America's Test Kitchen (which has a delightfully-high cooking nerd factor) the best way to grill corn is to remove all of the husk except for the innermost layer. Best of both worlds. You won't scorch the corn and the smokey flavor comes through.

Incidentally, are you a gas or charcoal guy?

Gene Weingarten: Gas, though I recognize it to be inferior. I might try that partial husk thing.


Tough place: Gene, Really, would YOU raise a family on Grope C--t Lane? I looked it it up on Google Earth, it appears fairly pleasant, but still, I have two young daughters.

Gene Weingarten: It's not still called that, I gather. Boy, this made me laugh outloud, that item.


Washington, D.C.: What is with all the people making fun of the Comfort Wipe? This is the third place I've seen it presented as a joke. This is a necessary product that improves the lives of people with disabilities. I'm not really clear on what's funny about people with disabilities.

Or maybe people are giggling at it because they're thinking about fatties who can't clean themselves? Hur hur fat people smell hur hur?

Either way, it's not funny.

Gene Weingarten: The comfort wipe is not being marketed primarily as a tool for the handicapped. The ads promote it primarily as a tool for persons who do not like to have their hands in proximity to their icky private parts. The handicapped element comes at the end of the ad, as an afterthought.


Cashing, IN: Gene,

Many will criticize you for taking the buyout, but I support you 1000 percent.

It is time to stop wasting your talent on crap like The Great Zucchini, that cheap violin stunt, looong boring stories about some loser in Michigan, or a bunch of dead babies.

It is time to go where you can really do meaningful work -- Hollywood!

I look forward to seeing your name in lights, or at least showing up on some movies under names like Jim Carrey or Jack Black -- now there are some guys who will know how to deliver your fart jokes. You will join a long line of great writers who got their start in print, but then went on to the Big Time.

Way to go!

p.s. Will you get to date starlets?

Gene Weingarten: Clearly you misunderstand the business.

Hollywood joke: Did you hear about the (ethnic group known for being stupid) ingenue? To advance her career, she slept with the writers.


Thank you: I am so sick of the tongue bath Michael Jackson has been getting in the media, the same media that all but proclaimed him a child molester several years ago. The man had some good songs long long ago but he frittered away what little talent he had instead devoted his energy into turning himself into a freak. I know he was the victim of abuse as a child but so are many people, and most them don't grow up to mutilate their faces and have inappropriate relationships with little boys. I feel sorry for his family and those that actually cared about him, but as for him? No.

Gene Weingarten: I feel sorry for him because he had the money to do whatever he wanted, to succumb to whatever he desired.

I think a lot of us would ruin ourselves if given the chance.


Nero Wolfe & Corn: The actual recipe is this: Using fresh corn (picked that day - it's a main component of the mystery, "Murder Is Corny"), place the corn with husks still on in the hottest possible oven for 40 minutes. Served with salt and butter and nothing else, it is ambrosia.

Boiling corn produces "mere provender".

I love Nero Wolfe.

Check out his method of scrambling eggs, which takes at least 40 minutes.

Gene Weingarten: In this same section, he chastises the American Housewife for her stubborn insistence on boiling corn.


From my repaired Van: One last time I would like to remind you of my services. It seems that I will need to go elsewhere to remind people that I am fully licensed and bonded and can repair any copier, fax or pager.

Sincerely, Copy Repair Man

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Your recipe calls for removing the silks and retaining the husk, and placing the ears, still wrapped in their husk, onto the grill.: You soak them in water prior to that so they steam on the grill.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. The soakage is important.


Mens Wear Dept, Tysons Corner: What's Liz' reaction to the double play haiku? I contend that Twitter is a medium that is made to order for haiku, because the medium is as pretentious as the message. Marshall McLuhan would love Twitter.

The real genius of the early 80s Michael Jackson recordings is not Jackson, but Quincy Jones. The songs are so slickly produced that anyone with a half-decent singing voice could have had mega hits with those tunes.

Jackson tunes like "Bad" and "We Are the World" have not aged well at all. It's as if Jackson's tunes played the portrait to Jackson's Dorian Gray.

Gene Weingarten: I'm glad you asked.

Liz didn't understand the double-play haiku. Then I explained it. We were talking in IM. Here is a transcript:

Liz: Aaaaaaa!

Liz: Sorry, I was having an orgasm.


Foot Phobic: How much influence do cuticles have on toenails? I really hate to mess with my toenails much (other than trimming them), but have noticed that when I manage to push back the cuticles the nails grow straighter. If I leave the cuticles on there, the nails grow in weird directions. Can a little bit of skin have that much influence?

Gene Weingarten: I have no idea what this question even means. I am not sure I even know what a cuticle is.


Clinton, NY: Re: Michael Jackson--I join you and anonymous in thinking him to be a shallow disco phenomenon. But there is strong evidence that he also was a pedophile, which makes the current adulation more than a little hard to take. Overall, though, I find him to be an essentially pathetic figure.

At the same time, I'm somewhat amused at everyone rushing out to buy his CDs. They were available before he died, they'll be available for years to come. Don't people know this?

Gene Weingarten: I've never actually understood this phenomenon.

I have a bunch of musical guilty pleasures, among them the entire oeuvre of The Monkees. I really like "Dust in The Wind" and "Don't Fear the Reaper." I also like "Billie Jean."


Alexandria Va.: I rather love Ogden Nash's take on Joyce Kilmer's masterpiece:

I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
Ogden Nash
US humorist & poet (1902 - 1971)

Gene Weingarten: I love Ogden Nash. I don't love this one. It is oddly moralistic, for him.


Lynchburg, Va.: This isn't funny, sorry. My wife had been long time readers of your chat and column. Up until Wednesday, we had a two-year-old Great Dane. We were hoping he might be around for your Old Dogs vol II book in a few years. We knew this would be a stretch for a Great Dane, but something to short for? Wednesday was a normal morning, except when he came in, he cried (not a whine, a cry). Went to him and as I got there he collapsed. I held his head as his whole body went limp. It was all over in a minute. After talking with the vet, it was likely some type of arrhythmia. He wasn't perfect. Some people aren't "people persons"? Homer wasn't a dogs dog. His couch was his kingdom and we were just around to bring in the food. He was a huge part of our life and we're not doing very well right now. I know there really wasn't anything I could do, but I keep blaming myself for not getting him to the vet real fast. He was my wife's buddy and I couldn't help him for her either. It seems ridiculous to feel this way for a dog but the last two years have been pretty rough on my wife and I and he was always there to lean on us. If you ever meet a great dane, you'd understand that you get leaned on, you don't lean on them. We knew he wasn't going to live forever, but we weren't ready for it to be so sudden at 2. I hope everyone gives there dog a little tighter squeeze today and hope they stay for a very long time in your life.

Gene Weingarten: I have something very important to tell you. It's the post that follows.


Lynchburg, Va.: Gene,

My husband and I sadly and tragically lost our two-year-old Great Dane yesterday to what was probably dilated cardiomyopathy. We are both heartbroken, but my husband was home with him and he essentially died in his arms. He is being too hard on himself and blaming himself for not doing more, when we both know (confirmed by vet) there was nothing we could have done. It was very sudden and unexpected. I'm not sure why I'm writing this, but I'm hoping that he's reading it.

Gene Weingarten: Reading these two posts, sent separately several minutes apart and apparently each without the knowledge of the other, brought a tear to my eye.


British Cookbook: 1. Insert food into pot of water. 2. Boil. 3. Serve.

Gene Weingarten: Bill Hicks used to come out on stage in London, and just shout at the audience: "YOU DON'T BOIL PIZZA!'


Really?: That Virgin Mary poem was interesting. Odd. There were resonant images. It required thought. There were few (not none, but few) lines that stunk. It was a tribute to the medieval tradition of clothing religious feeling in the phraseology of romantic love. It seemed to me to capture that weird interplay of devotion, aesthetic satisfaction, and fan obsession that characterizes the devout convert in the first flush of religious enthusiasm.

If you assume it was meant as an uncomplicated paeon to the Virgin Mary, yeah, it didn't work. But I don't think it was. Kilmer seems to have had the most success when engaging his sincere religious feeling rather than a general "poetic" sensibility.

Besides, he avoided that sing-song tendency, for which we should award him a gold star.

Gene Weingarten: I'll go along with the singsong. And addressing it to the dead Monsignore was interesting.


Washington, D.C.: Did you hear the story about the Washington Biological Survey? They would tag birds with tags saying in small print if found to send to Wash. Biol. Surv.

One day they received a letter: "I found one of your birds. I did as instructed. I washed the bird, I boiled it, I served it. It was terrible."

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Arlington, Va.: Wait, what? What's a sliding pond? I'm from Long Island, born of Brooklyn-raised parents. Many a day I helped my mother make hamburgers or meatload out of chopmeat. But I've never heard of a sliding pond.

Gene Weingarten: It is the playground device elsewhere known as a "slide." My Aunt Ethel once figured out what the derivation of "sliding pond" must be. There must have been a company, years and years and years ago in the NYC area that made these things, and the company must have called this product a "Slide Upon". What's "meatload"?

Gene Weingarten: I think you know, Liz. I think you know quite well.


Beyond the Pal, IN: You have been too kind in calling Sarah Palin stupid. Did you see what she did now? A blogger made fun of how close she is to some guy (politically, that is) by taking a picture of Palin holding her baby and pasting the guy's face over the baby's. Y'know, 'cause he's like her baby, get it. Palin's response?

"Recently we learned of a malicious desecration of a photo of the Governor and baby Trig that has become an iconic representation of a mother's love for a special needs child.

"The mere idea of someone doctoring the photo of a special needs baby is appalling. ... Babies and children are off limits. It is past time to restore decency in politics."

Desecrated? Has become an iconic representation (and they said Obama had a Messiah complex)? Restore decency in politics?

She's approaching Alan Keyes territory, isn't she?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure what Alan Keyes territory is, but I bet she's beyond it already.


Baltimore, MD: If you surrender the weekly chats, those of us who parallel park without bumper-tapping win.

Gene Weingarten: I can't recall if I made this point before, but: Pthep once observed to me that the people who 1) understand me on the bumper tap, and the people who 2) deride me on the bumper tap, are probably exactly divided into 1) people who live in a city and 2) people who live in a suburb. In a suburb, no one is going to drive into your driveway to tap your bumper.


Lynchburg, Va. - The husband: God, I love my wife. This would be awful without her.

Gene Weingarten: You are a lucky man.


Forestville, Md.: Sorry this isn't a funny comment, but as a shelter dog lover, could you do a PSA?

The PG Animal shelter is relocating tomorrow, and a whole lot of nice dogs and cats won't be coming along. They're open 'til 4 today, so if anyone is considering a pet, please go now to the PG shelter!


Gene Weingarten: Yes, I can. Read between the lines here. Go.


Manchester, United Kingdom: I'm not sure if you're not supposed to boil pizza, yet I learned the hard way: you don't boil it in the same pot your boil your football shirt.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Drummers: How can you tell if the bandstand is level?

The drool rolls out both sides of the drummer's mouth.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Washington, DC: What? No more witty banter between you and Gina Barreca? Now what will we do for entertainment? And who will Gina find to use as a neanderthal foil?

Okay, that was more than one question. Sorry. Its just that I'm not ready to see you go!

Gene Weingarten: The column remains. Gina remains. The Chat is once a month.

Yes, I know, many of you in this forum think we made the wrong choice.


Bethesda, Md.: Last weekly chat ever, and you start us off with a poem poll. Thank god you took the buyout.

Yeah, I said it.

Gene Weingarten: Liz and I discussed this. We decided it was the perfect poll; right in character.


Your Replaceme, NT: Liz - when do you want to start the auditions for replacing Gene? It's not like it's a hard job - all you need is someone who knows a lot about things nobody cares about, is usually grumpy, often self-righteous and always a little smug. Pat can handle the grammar questions and we can ditch the poetry entirely. I was thinking Achenbach but he's too funny....

See ya Fish Face - Tuesday won't be the same without you. There's no such thing as replacing Gene. Besides, he isn't really going away.

Gene Weingarten: I'm thinking of keeping it on Tuesdays. How do we feel about two hours?


Front Page Ne, WS: Now that you are abandoning us in our hour of need, as it were, care to comment on the Michael Jackson "front page" that The Post is selling?

Gene Weingarten: I've gotten a couple of questions about whether this is unethical and / or unseemly, inasmuch as this is (of course) not the real front page of the paper on the day after Jackson died.

I did some checking. It identifies itself as the front page of a special commemorative edition, which is true; this would have been an ethical problem if there WERE no special commemorative edition, but there is one, and it's for sale. So this is okay. Not misleading.

Is it unseemly? Nah. A little cheesy maybe, but only in the sense of kowtowing to cheesy public tastes.

You know what's interesting? There is no longer a robust and growing market for newspapers, but there is a robust and growing market for newspaper memorabilia. A printout of a Web page just doesn't do it - does it?


Washington, DC: Gene, is there going to be a set schedule for your monthly chats, or will we just have to keep our eyes peeled? Can you get really fancy, and send us e-mail notification? Oooh, what about flash chats (kind of like flash mobs, but of the e-variety and less dancing/protesting)? Also, if we have wonderful video clips, news items, or aptonyms to share, should we e-mail them to you or save them up for the chat?

Parameters, please! July 28

Gene Weingarten: Yep, I am going to try to keep doing them every fourth Tuesday. The website will let you know.


Baltimore, Md.: Gene, I'm worried. Without out you skulking around the newsroom, who will be there to explain to industrious young writers... such as Joe Heim... that team-queen, seen-dream, and time-mine don't rhyme. They are, in fact, examples of crappy song writing.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree!

I think song rhymes allow for a lot more imprecision. Not the same at all. I bet these sound fine, sung.


Washington, D.C.: This was in today's Ask Amy:

DEAR AMY: As it is virtually impossible to find American manicurists in the city where I live, all my friends and I are exasperated by manicurists who mostly tend to speak loudly or shout across to one another in a foreign language. I find their voices very reedy and irritating.

Can you please suggest a polite, inoffensive way to inform these otherwise nice folks that it is considered rude to speak in a language that clients cannot understand and/or to request that they lower their voices? -- J in Los Angeles

DEAR J: Many salon regulars identified with the character Elaine in the "Seinfeld" episode in which she became convinced that the technicians in the nail salon were talking about and laughing at her because they were all conversing in their native language.

You could try saying, "Would you mind speaking in English while I'm here?" and notify the salon's manager of your preference. If you can't manage that, it is perfectly reasonable to ask people if they could speak more quietly.

Are you kidding me?? Amy should have punched this woman in the head.

Gene Weingarten: Amy blew this! She's usually right. I shall have to have a word with her.


Silver Spring, MD: "There must have been a company, years and years and years ago in the NYC area that made these things, and the company must have called this product a 'Slide Upon'."

I have seen this stated as fact, but without confirmation. Wouldn't there be at least one left, somewhere?

Another explanation is that is comes from the Dutch word "baen" for "track." (Similar to Ger. autobahn.)

Gene Weingarten: Nothing makes as much sense as a Slide Upon. I admit it is on that nothing remains.


York, Pa.: Before you go and we never hear from you again (I know, you promise to keep in touch once a month, sure), can you tell us what will be the name of your comic strip and when it will start?

Gene Weingarten: The comic strip is Barney & Clyde. We hope it will debut before the first of the year.


Drumroll, Va.: Drummers: How can you tell if the bandstand is level?

The drool rolls out both sides of the drummer's mouth.

=================================== ==

In the same vein, Q: What did the drummer get on his SATs?

A: Drool.

Gene Weingarten: Eh.


Tasteless: Everyone's probably heard this, but in case not:

They say celebrities die in threes. Leave it to Billy Mays to throw in an extra COMPLETELY FREE.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.


BelowTheBeltw, AY: Gene, please tell me you're involved in the comedy filming now in DC with Noah Wyle. Is this a hint about your first foray into film?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. I don't know what this film is. But it's "Below The Beltway," damn him.


Rochester, NY: Is Dana Milbank funny? I used to think so but his recent battle with Nico Pitney has changed my mind.

Your thoughts? Dana Milbank vs. Nico Pitney, (

Gene Weingarten: Dana is hilariously funny. He made the same rookie mistake here I have made at times in the past: Taking yourself too seriously when you are angry.

I once got into a similar public tiff with a blogger in Peoria; felt like a jerk afterward. It's out there forever in the blogosphere. The blogger and I correspond from time to time, and laugh about it.


Anonymous: FYI I did this when I had a lot more free time ...

So far 28 occasions since 2000 (as of 11/28/06) of trifectas.


Gerald Ford Dec. 26 James Brown Dec. 25 Saddam Hussein Dec. 30

Red Buttons, comedian, died July 13 at the age of 87. June Allyson, actress July 8 at the age of 88. Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd, died July 7 at the age of 60.

Oleg Cassini, designer, died March 17 at the age of 92. Slobodan Milosevic, dictator, died March 11 at the age of 64. Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, hockey hall of famer, died March11 at the age of 75.

Kirby Puckett, hall of fame baseball player, died February 26 at the age of 45. Darren McGavin, , died February 25 at the age of 83. Dennis Weaver, actor best known for McCloud, died February 24 at the age of 81. Don Knotts, February 24 at the age of 81. Curt Gowdy, broadcaster, died February 20 at the age of 86.


Saul Bellow, Nobel prize winning author, died April 4 at the age of 89. Pope John Paul II, Karol Joseph Wojtyla, died April 2 at the age of 84. Johnnie Cochran, March 29 at the age of 67.

Simone Simon, actress best known for Cat People, died February 22 at the age of 93. Sandra Dee, actress best known as Gidget, died February 20 at the age of 63. Hunter S. Thompson, journalist, died February 20 at the age of 67.

Ossie Davis, actor, died February 4 at the age of 87. Max Schmeling, boxer, died February 2 at the age of 99. John Vernon, actor February 2 at the age of 72.


Artie Shaw (December 30, 2004) Jerry Orbach (December 28, 2004) Susan Sontag, (December 28, 2004)

Ken Caminiti, all star baseball player, died October 10 at the age of 41. Christopher Reeve, actor October 10 at the age of 52. Jacques Derrida, founder of deconstructionism, died October 9 at the age of 74. Rodney Dangerfield, comedian, died October 5 at the age of 82.

Janet Leigh, actress best known for Psycho, died October 3 at the age of 77. Richard Avedon, photographer, died October 1 at the age of 81. Geoffrey Beene, fashion designer, died September 28 at the age of 77.

Ray Charles, musician, died June 10 at the age of 73. Ronald Reagan, one time president of the United States, died June 5 at the age of 93. Brian Linehan, celebrity interviewer, died June 4 at the age of 58.

Robert Pastorelli, died March 8 at the age of 49. Spalding Gray, March 7 at the age of 62. Marge Schott, one time owner of the Cincinnati Reds, died March 2 at the age of 75.

Carrie Snodgress, actress - Diary of a Mad Housewife, April 1 at the age of 57. Alistair Cooke, March 30 at the age of 95. Peter Ustinov, actor, died March 28 at the age of 82.

Julia Child, chef, died August 13 at the age of 91. Fay Wray, actress best known for King Kong, died August 8 at the age of 96. Rick James, musician best known for Super Freak, died August 6 at the age of 56.


Elia Kazan, director September 28 at the age of 94. Robert Palmer, September 26 at the age of 54. George Plimpton, author, died September 25 at the age of 76.

Johnny Cash, musician, died September 12 at the age of 71. John Ritter, actor September 11 at the age of 54. Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb, died September 9 at the age of 95.

Buddy Ebsen, actor July 6 at the age of 95. Barry White, singer known for his sexy songs, died July 4 at the age of 58. Buddy Hackett, comedian, died June 30 at the age of 79.

Buddy Hackett, comedian, died June 30 at the age of 79. Katharine Hepburn, actress, died June 29 at the age of 96. Strom Thurmond, ultra conservative US politician, died June 26 at the age of 100.

Hume Cronyn, actor most recently known for Cocoon, died June 15 at the age of 91. Gregory Peck, movie star June 12 at the age of 87. David Brinkley, news anchorman, died June 11 at the age of 82.


Dudley Moore - (March 27th, 2002) Milton Berle - (March 27th, 2002) Billy Wilder - (March 27th, 2002)

James Gregory, inspector Lugar on Barney Miller, died September 16 at the age of 90. LaWanda Page, aunt Esther on Sanford & Son, died September 14 at the age of 81. Johnny Unitas, football superstar, died September 11 at the age of 69.

Rod Steiger, actor best known for In the Heat of the Night, died July 9 at the age of 77. John Frankenheimer, director July 6 at the age of 72. Ted Williams, baseball's last .400 hitter, died July 5 at the age of 83.

Rosemary Clooney, singer, died June 29 at the age of 74. John Entwhistle, member of The Who, died June 27 at the age of 57. Ann Landers, advice columnist, died June 22 at the age of 83.


Hank Ketcham - (May 31st, 2001) Imogene Coca - (June 2nd, 2001) Anthony Quinn - (June 3rd, 2001)

Jack Lemmon - (June 27th, 2001) John Lee Hooker - (June 21st, 2001) Carroll O'Connor - (June 21st, 2001)

Robert Ludlum - (March 12th, 2001) Morton Downey Jr. - (March 13th, 2001) Ann Sothern - (March 15th, 2001)

Douglas Adams - (May 11th, 2001) Perry Como - (May 12th, 2001) Jason Miller - (May 13th, 2001)


Jason Robards, Oscar winning actor, died December 26 at the age of 78. Billy Barty, diminutive actor, died December 23 at the age of 76. Victor Borge, comic pianist, died December 23 at at the age of 91.

Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, died February 12 at the age of 77. Tom Landry, long time Dallas Cowboys coach, died February 12 at the age of 75. Jim Varney, comic actor, died February 10 at the age of 50.


Madeline Kahn, actress, died December 3 at the age of 57. Joey Adams, comic, died December 2 at the age of 88. Charlie Byrd, guitarist, died December 2 at the age of 74

Yehudi Menuhin, world famous violinist, died March 12 at the age of 82. Joe DiMaggio, baseball superstar, died March 8 at the age of 84. Stanley Kubrick, director March 7 at the age of 70.

Gene Weingarten: Hmm.

Aren't you defining the occurrence of threes, by whom you choose to include? Weren't there OTHER celebs who died in those periods?


Monthly Chats, MO: You could make the monthly chats better by doing them every week.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Washington, D.C.: I grew up in Queens, and we called it a "Sliding 'Pon" (at least that's how I always imagined it was spelled w grammatically correct punctuation) so I think your theory is probably correct.

Gene Weingarten: I think you were just mishearing sliding pond.


Help me understa, ND: I don't get it. What costs the Post so much that they can't afford to keep you on an extra hour each week? Other than Liz and you, what costs are associated with this chatting business?

Gene Weingarten: This was not about money. I was complicit. The Post wanted me to keep doing everything; I asked them to choose between the column and the chats, and they did.


dying in threes: Walter Cronkite is about to die, so we are on the second cycle, I think.

Gene Weingarten: Really?

He is the last living National Treasure, I believe.


Greater Green Bay, Wis.: We've got to think of something to replace "Tuesdays with Moron." How about "The Monthly Curse?"

Gene Weingarten: I think Liz will not approve this. I like it. Actually, I like it. It's funny cuz it's true, ya know?

Gene Weingarten: Now we just need to convince the web satraps.


USA: But England seems so much more interesting:

Slut's Hole Lane Besthorpe, Attleborough, Norfolk NR17, UK

Butt Hole Lane Shepshed, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12, UK

Butts Wynd St Andrews, Fife KY16 9, UK

Butt Hill Rd Prestwich, Manchester, Lancashire M25, UK

Cumwell Lane Hellaby, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S66, UK

Fingringhoe Colchester, Essex, UK

Gene Weingarten: Wow, that last one is fabulous.


McLean: Gene, can you at long last reveal the identity of the Czar of the Style Invitational?

Gene Weingarten: I could, but I forgot.


Disbelief Village: You chose the columns over the chats?

You chose...poorly.

Gene Weingarten: No, the POST chose the columns over the chats, but I forced the choice.


McLean, VA: Since you didn't give us a CLOD, here is the link (sorry, Liz, I don't know how to do these "short-hand") to one I e-mailed to you about a year or so ago. It's "Weird" Al Yankovic's version of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" consisting entirely of palindromes.

(from Weird Al's official YouTube channel)

Gene Weingarten: I am sure I have used this. It's completely brilliant, but I linked to it before.


Annapolis, Md.: Does your car get bad gas mileage, since you say it runs at a fairly high idle?

Gene Weingarten: About 35 m.p.h. combined highway and city. It is a very small car, without A/C.


Blue Oyster Cult:: Gene: I really like ... "Don't Fear the Reaper."

How appropriate, since you apparently were the group's lead singer at one time.

Nice gold lame' outfit, might I add. Ahhh, a much better BOC song.

Gene Weingarten: Not BETTER, but good.


re: Monthly Curse: If it's called "The Monthly Curse," I wonder how long before all the women who read it will sync up.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


For Lynchburg: Please stop beating yourself up. There is absolutely nothing you could have done. He went out happy.

How do I know this? Because my Miniature Schnauzer went out the exact same way, though my vet suggested it might have been an aneurysm instead of a cardiac event. I was away at the time. Called home. While I was on the phone, heard the dogs in the background barking at the mailman, this particular dog's favorite activity in the entire world except possibly for walking (sometimes on treadmills, natch.) Said bye, hung up, went off to a meeting.

Found out later that night that he keeled over in front of the door.

Like yours, it was over in a minute. He didn't suffer.

I loved that dog to pieces, and he was older than two, and I'd had him since a puppy. I beat myself up for not being there--even though there was absolutely nothing I could have done--for longer than I care to say.

Please don't do the same thing.

Gene Weingarten: There is nothing to beat oneself up over. These are instantaneous events.


Oh god: Those Lynchburg posts just killed me. Very modern day gift of the magi. I hope someday to find someone who loves me as much as those people love each other. wow.

Gene Weingarten: See next post.


Great Dane Husband and Wife: I'm sure you wanted to get those posts out for husband and wife both to see as soon as possible, but wow . . . that would have been a great way to end the weekly chats. Really, a highlight from years of chats.

Gene Weingarten: Basically, I was saving these two for the end.

So. We're not going anywhere. We're regrouping. It will all be swell. I'll be updating through this week, because, well, why not? Then we meet again in four Tuesdays.

Thank you all. I'm not sad, I'm hopeful. Liz, too.


Two hours: Yes, please -- if you're only going to come once a month, please stay for two hours. It works fine for Hax and she does it every week.

Will you update at all? Once a week, maybe? A month is a looooooong time.


Gene Weingarten: We'll see how it goes.


UPDATED 7.1.09

Gene Weingarten: Joyce Kilmer's granddaughter wrote back to say I had misunderstood her: She doesn't think "Trees" is a lousy poem -- she thinks it's been mistaught in the schools in a stupid, singsong fashion. I'll meet her halfway: I think we all underestimated "Blue Valentine": It's unusual, unexpected, and an admirably passionate expression of religious devotion. Not the worst of these.


Gene Weingarten: Do we think this is real? We don't, here in the Chatological Humor treehouse, but we're not sure.


post, AL: I would just like to say that there are many funny things about people with disabilities. Several disabled people I know are hilarious. I am offended at the previous poster's bias.

Gene Weingarten: Heh.

Okay, imagine a continuum in which people are rated by their degree of disability and their sense of humor. The highest combined score on earth would probably belong to John Callahan, the quadriplegic cartoonist.

Callahan cartoon:

A blind man is plummeting off a cliff. At the end of a leash, he has a very small companion animal. He is thinking: "I never should have gotten a seeing-eye lemming."


Alexandria, Va.: Only one question which I'd love to see you answer: did you and your second-grade-love about whom you wrote so movingly stay in touch? Are you still friends today?

I loved that article, and hoped it would be the start of a long adult friendship, but as you've never mentioned her again, it sounds like perhaps it was the one-time lunch, and then disappearing into the mists of time, yet again, for you both. It was a lovely piece of writing.

Gene Weingarten: Shari and I e-mail often. I also keep getting e-mails ABOUT that story, from odd places. This is one I got last week, from a doctor in New York:

"I just googled "PS 26 Bronx" and found the article you had written about Shari Basner back in 2001. The article was accompanied by the class picture, and I saw myself seated in the front row, on the left, right in front of Shari. I looked even dorkier than you, with my suspenders, clip-on tie and chapped lips. I found your article fascinating, because my feelings about Shari were the same as yours. However, I dared not speak to her...."

Shari is going to e-mail him. If You Go Chasing Rabbits... (Post, Feb. 11, 2001)


Bumper-tappi,NG: Nope, I live in Baltimore. But I have a two-door Yaris, so I'm so tiny I never have to tap anything.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. This raises an important question.

What the hell kind of a name is "Yaris"? Have they simply run out of plausible names for cars (Mustang) and even stupid but pleasant names for cars (Elantra) and are now simply making unpleasant sounds? This is actually Toyota's official explanation, from a Web site:

According to Toyota, Yaris is a combination of the name of a goddess in Greek mythology, Charis, and the German expression of agreement, "ya," because "we think this new name best symbolizes the car's broad appeal in styling and is representative of Toyota's next generation of global cars."

Further research shows that in some countries, the Yaris has different names. Well, I should hope so.

The other names are, I swear, the "Vitz" and the "Belta."


Alexandria, Va.: Billie Jean, a different take.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is really good. Ick.


My favorite comment on "Trees": In 1983, an appellate court in Michigan ruled on a lawsuit brought by a property owner against the driver of a Chevy who'd crashed into his beloved oak tree. The plaintiff had lost at the trial court level. The appellate court ruled as follows:

J.H. GILLIS, Judge.

We thought that we would never see A suit to compensate a tree. A suit whose claim in tort is prest Upon a mangled tree's behest; A tree whose battered trunk was prest Against a Chevy's crumpled crest; A tree that faces each new day With bark and limb in disarray; A tree that may forever bear A lasting need for tender care. Flora lovers though we three, We must uphold the court's decree.


(Fisher v. Lowe)

Gene Weingarten: This is great. Judges with a sense of humor AND a sense of meter.


UPDATED 7.2.09

Poetry lover: I love poetry. In college, I took poetry workshops with some of the country's best poets. I've spent a lot of time wondering why more people don't love poetry. I've come to the conclusion that a lot of it has to do with the type of poetry we're taught in school. Sure, some of it is not only iconic but genuinely good, but a lot of it is unrelateable.

And a lot of modern poetry just seems to try too hard. It seems to be saying, "I think I'm smarter than you, so let's see if I can make this poem as untouchable as possible so that you feel stupid."

When trying to convince people that there is a lot of good poetry out there, I usually use a poem or two from Dorianne Laux. Here's one of my favorites:

THE SHIPFITTER'S WIFE I loved him most when he came home from work, his fingers still curled from fitting pipe, his denim shirt ringed with sweat and smelling of salt, the drying weeds of the ocean. I would go to him where he sat on the edge of the bed, his forehead anointed with grease, his cracked hands jammed between his thighs, and unlace the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles, his calves, the pads and bones of his feet. Then I'd open his clothes and take the whole day inside me-- the ship's gray sides, the miles of copper pipe, the voice of the foreman clanging off the hull's silver ribs, spark of lead kissing metal, the clamp, the winch, the white fire of the torch, the whistle and the long drive home.

Gene Weingarten: This is really good. It arrived as one solid block, a paragraph, which happens to underscore a problem here. It loses none of its beauty by being so rendered. Ergo, this is not poetry. It is beautiful prose. Why do we insist on labeling as poetry beautiful prose?


"Don't fear the reaper": Do you see "Don't Fear the Reaper" as a song about suicide or about vampirism?

Gene Weingarten: Uh, I never really thought about the lyrics, because they're basically dumb. Just another dumb song that sounds great.

The author says it's about the eternal nature of love -- which doesn't separate lovers, even in death. He never meant it to mean anything about suicide; vampirism is an idiot modern construct laid on it.

I just re-read the lyrics. No reason NOT to interpret it as a call to romantic suicide, as in Romeo and Juliet. Perfectly logical interpretation of perfectly forgettable and ignorable lyrics. More cow bell.


Only in ameriCA: For sheer hackery and gall, how about Barbara Walters flying to L.A. last week to do a death watch interview with Farrah's ex-beau, doctor, etc. and THEN after scheduling it for airing Friday night, moving it to Thursday when they got word Farrah was within hours of dying. Barbara Walters, media whore.

And I'm not even a Farrah fan; just disgusted by this obscenity.

Gene Weingarten: This is an actual Twitter tweet from Barbara:

If u see ads for products with Resveratrol showing my photo and name they are false. Also isn't it great twitter helped uprising in Iran9:48 AM Jun 16th


Out of date and a canard: A/C does not affect a car's gas mileage. Driving with the windows down LOWERS the gas mileage b/c of drag. And in fact, automatics with a/c often get the best gas mileage.

Gene Weingarten: Well, now, it just so happens that Mythbusters did two experiments to test this theory. The first concluded that AC did not hurt gas mileage, for just the reason you say. But after an outcry from people who said that was just nuts, they redid the test under more "real" conditions: Filling two gas tanks on idential SUVS with five gallons of gas and running the cars around a track until they pooped out.

The one with the windows down and no AC went 15 percent farther. They declared that definitive.


Bowie, Md.: On the date of your last regular weekly chat, I thought I would ask a question that combines two of your favorite topics: poop humor and hypochondria.

I work in a large office building, and when I need to use the men's room, my routine is as follows:

1) Use elbow to push down handle on men's room door

2) Use shoulder to push open door

3) Use knee to push open the stall door

4) Use a square or two of toilet paper in my hand to lock stall door

5) Use a square or two of toilet paper to wipe down toilet seat

6) Do my business

7) Use a square or two of toilet paper in my hand to open stall door

8) Flush

9) Wash & dry hands

10) Use extra paper towel in my hand to open men's room door

11) Upon return to my office, use hand sanitizer

Do I need to see a professional? :)

Gene Weingarten: When you wash and dry your hands DO YOU USE A SCRAP OF TOILET PAPER TO TURN THE FAUCET? If not, you are going to die of poop germs, probably today.


Minneapolis: Gene, I will sorely miss you. Can you pass judgment on a baby name for me? I don't know who else to ask. My husband is dead set on naming our currently-in-utero daughter Olivia. I think the name is nice enough, but there are four Olivias under the age of 2 on our street already, and I imagine they are out there in the big bad kindergarten world. I really don't want her to go through life as "Olivia S." (like I went through life as Jenny S.). So I proposed a compromise name of Olive -- a little Britishy, but I think it's okay, and it's less popular. He's refused, and that's because the baby's middle name will be either Martine or Martina (after a relative), and he thinks the name "Olive Martine" sounds like a drink (and Olivia Martine is so different??). Anyway, we've agreed that you can choose the baby's name, if you would do us the honor. Thanks. I'd fling virtual panties, but I am currently the size and shape of a beached whale, and one could use my panties as a parachute.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I always suggest the name Molly, because it is the best girl's name out there.

It is very true that Olive Martine is something of a disaster or a comical joy, depending on your viewpoint. Olivia Martine doesn't take it very far away from that, does it? And Olivia is the trendy name du jour. All good reasons to avoid it.

But trying not to be trendy is also a gamble: "Molly" was not a popular name the year before we picked it, but she went to school with two others. "Ava" has suddenly shown up, out of nowhere, as a trendy name, as has "Addison," which I can only concluded has coattailed on the egregous "Madison." "Isabella," which I don't think was even technically a name when Joel Achenbach gave it to his middle daughter some 15 years ago, is now the second most popular. Playing the popularity game is a crapshoot.

Here are names you should consider: Molly, Maggie, Rachel, and Emily. That last one is currently popular, but should be plummeting about now, because it has been popular too long.

Gene Weingarten: The worst girl name I have ever heard is "Scholastica."


Update to Update, 11:41 a.m. ET:

Gene Weingarten: Important update!

Readers can have access to me for $79.95. Dana Milbank's price is $135, so I am the better deal.


Submit to the July 28 chat.


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