Chatological Humor (UPDATED 10.19)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 12:00 PM

UPDATES: 10.5 | 10.12 | 10.19

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 one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. This month, that day is Tuesday, Sept. 28 at Noon ET .He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, 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.

Please take this week's polls:

Rape poll: Men | Women

Simple 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.

My last two columns were more widely circulated, blogged about, tweeted, re-tweeted and emailed than any previous ones. They went global. This was gratifying, but it is a bittersweet accomplishment: Because these columns were, respectively, a grumpy obituary for the English language and a grumpy evisceration of Facebook I fear that I am developing an international national reputation as an old fart. A churl. A curmudgeon.

As you all know, nothing could be further from the truth; I shall have to spend some time repairing this regrettable misunderstanding.

But first, a brief word to Antony, Vidramdeep, Justin, Katie, Rasool, Margot, Curtis, Victoria, Ryan, Samara, Xavier, Jasmin, Mary, Cora, You-Jin, Kira, William, Carolin, Rachael, Allison, Sofia, Aman, Page, Kelly, David and Kai.

I noticed from yesterday's KidsPost section of the newspaper that all of you are between 6 and 13 years old, and are celebrating your birthdays this week! I'm sure you're all proud now that you're famous, and I wanted to add my voice to the clamor to say: BIG HONKING DEAL. I'm celebrating MY birthday this coming week, too, and you don't see MY stupid, grinning gap-toothed picture in the paper, like a birthday was some gigantic achievement, do you? It's not the MacArthur Genius Grant, okay? By my calculation, you share your "special day" with a mere 18,745,908 other completely ordinary people on Earth.

I mean, Hitler had a birthday, too.

Grow up, kids. It's time you shed that air of entitlement, as though your birth was some great achievement, some grand miracle of nature. Well, it's not. Your birth was a simple, homely biological event, an inevitable result of impulses so primitive they exist in insects; to paraphrase Bill Hicks, your births were no more of a miracle than is the fact that some time after eating a hamburger, one must go to the bathroom.

In short, kids, we must end this self-celebratory obsession with birthdays, begun in infancy and carried forward so that even today, simpering adults expect to be fussed over on "their" day, where Facebook pages are filled with "congratulations" from alleged friends over this staggering, monumental achievement. Birthdays are eating away at the vitals of America. The madness must end.


Speaking of MacArthur Genius Grants, I note this morning with pride and pleasure that my good friend and screenplay collaborator David Simon has won one. And after this chat is done, it will be with pride and pleasure that I commit suicide by sticking a fork in a toaster. Do you have any idea what it does to the fragile balance of egos within an ongoing creative partnership when, suddenly, startlingly one half of that partnership has been officially anointed as a "genius?" Do you have any sense of how smug and insufferable Mr. Simon is about to become? Like he needed any help in that area!

But at least David has done something to deserve the accolade, unlike those completely unqualified nonentities Antony, Vidramdeep, Justin, Katie, Rasool, Margot, Curtis, Victoria, Ryan, Samara, Xavier, Jasmin, Mary, Cora, You-Jin, Kira, William, Carolin, Rachael, Allison, Sofia, Aman, Page, Kelly, David and Kai.


Okay. On Twitter yesterday, I asked if anyone could think of any dweebier way to die than accidentally driving a Segway off a cliff. I got two excellent responses:

From futuraprime: "Doing so in the middle of a game of Segway polo."

From garythorn: "Autoerotic asphyxiation in front of a photo of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia."

Are there any better nominees out there?


It is without any sort of smugness that I link to this story in the New York Times that reports that atheists know more about religion than religious people do.

(Notably, 53 percent of Protestants did not know who Martin Luther was.)


If you haven't yet taken today's polls , please do so now. I want to discuss them sooner rather than later, particularly how wrong you all are about the one-liners and how right so many of you are about the Louis CK rape routines. I'm curious how many of you know exactly WHY you are right. More to come.

The Clip of the Day is this completely brilliantly altered Judge Judy episode.


And finally, returning to the subject of the death of English, two items:

Justin Stone directed us tothis terrific comic, which features naughty language.

And Dan Ziegler sent this photo he took some years ago in a part of London called Cranham. The graffiti artist was attempting to express his irritation with immigrants.

gene: Ok, let's go.


Portland, Ore. (woman): You're missing kind of an obvious option for the student-newspaper question on the poll, aren't you? Namely: They shouldn't have run it because it isn't funny.

Louis CK's second routine is fine -- I really like it, in fact -- precisely because it is funny. (The first one is CLEARLY anti-rape...come on, fellow feminists, listen to the man.)

But you take the actually-funny part away (as with the student cartoon), and then you're left with "ha ha, rape is funny!" know. It isn't, so much.

It is possible to be funny -about- rape, but "hee hee, then you rape her!," in the absence of a context for which that is a genuinely good punchline, is not funny. It is horrifying.

The cartoon should never have been run. Not funny enough.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well, now we'll get down to it. You're wrong about everything, basically.

The cartoon WAS funny in a highly sophomoric collegiate way. It made me laugh. And I agree with the majority of the men, and the minority of the women answering the poll: I think the situation was so absurd that it isn't about rape at all; it's just silly. This "trick" could not actually be played. I think the editor overracted in a PC spasm.

Obviously, many of you disagree with me on this, so please explain.

I'm glad so many of you had no problem with the first Louis CK routine, and surprised so many of you did have a problem with the second routine. You're right, but I'm still surprised.

Can someone explain why the second was bad? I'll weigh in later.

Gene Weingarten: It is true that the cartoon is, perforce, objectifying women; she is a "thing" to be tricked. I get that. But it's really a ludicrous situation, too ludicrous to take seriously.

Again, feel free to whale away at me.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, disagreements are flooding in. I will post them soon.


Silver Spring, MD: Have you heard of last week's episode of Private Practice?

One of the plot lines (according to my wife) involved a couple who lost a child when the father forgot his 5 month old child in the backseat of the car. They decide they want to have another but because of the wife having lupus, decide to go with a surrogate. Turns out the surrogate volunteered to carry the child because she too had lost her child the same way.

The writers HAD to have cribbed this from your article, no? Because I love you guys I actually watched the show. Confirmed.

Gene Weingarten: Whoa.


Yes, I would say the odds that they did NOT steal this idea from my story pretty much approach zero.


State College, PA: Hoo boy. Rather than take on the whole poll on rape, I'll just talk about question number 3. The cartoon is totally awful and anyone who thinks that it is so absurd that this would actually happen is fooling themselves. With the majority of college age men generally getting most of their sex ed from porn, movies and their friends (thanks abstinence only!) it is not unlikely that "the prestige" would happen.

I thought the Louis CK bits were funny, because he's actually being satirical. Purdue fail. (But I'm a humorless feminist, so there you go.) Hm. I'm more than likely an uptight prude, but...really? that could happen? You'd need a heckuva misdirection.

Gene Weingarten: I relied on you, Rachel!!!

Are there people out there who seriously think this could happen? That would change everything.


Aptly named lawyer: BJ Bernstein: Forgive my immaturity, but this is funny:

Robinson, who claimed Long engaged in oral sex with him, said the pastor would cite Scripture to justify their relationship. ...-Robinson's and the other plaintiff's] lawyer, Brenda Joy (B.J.) Bernstein, would not make them available for comment.

Accused pastor crusaded against homosexuals -

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


Annapolis, MD: You left out one possibility in the poll's final question: That it IS rape, pure and simple.

Gene Weingarten: I left that out because I didn't think anyone would think that. DEFINITELY? Really? Let's discuss.

My answer to this one was that it's not rape but that he's a horrible creep. I cannot imagine charging rape when it is indisputed that the woman expressed her willingness, and never said no or stop, and there was no allegation of coercion.

Rape is a huge charge; this is too complicated a scenario, in my mind, to apply it. A nice guy is not going to take advantage of this situation. But not-niceness is not grounds for a rape charge.

The jerk is thinking: Hey, she's always wanted me, she just needed a little alcohol lubrication to realize it! It's a jerky, self-serving thought, but that's all it is.

Explain why you disagree.


We're anonymous here, right?: As someone who once got very drunk in college and came out of my blackout (not passed out, just don't remember anything, and didn't at the time remember the previous hours) to find a guy having sex with me: I don't think I was raped. Rape is I say no, you do it anyway (or I say no, or I make it clear I don't want it, and you pressure and harass and threaten until I do it).

As far as I can tell, I didn't say no. When I came to, I didn't want it to be happening, but I don't think I told the guy no. I have no idea what happened. I don't consider myself a rape vicitm. But I do consider myself to have been sexually assaulted. And I can tell you this, too: it doesn't matter what you call it. It's horrific.

And to anyone who thinks that the cartoon "is so silly and absurd that it cannot be taken seriously" - you've apparently never been to a frat party. I've met a lot of guys who would think that attempting to pull exactly what was depicted in that cartoon - particularly if the girl was drunk so they thought it would really work - would be hilarious.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I disagree with you on both counts.

I would argue that if you didn't say yes, you WERE raped. If you were essentially unconscious, you were raped. Not saying "no" should not be the criterion.

I'm sorry this happened to you. It's awful. I think someone got away with rape.

Gene Weingarten: I'M now becoming agnostic on the cartoon though. I am reeling.


not quite gone missing: I'm confused about why people are irritated by the phrase "went missing." I first heard and used it in 1989. I was a park ranger, and a young man went missing from his camp in the backcountry. We conducted a three-day search, and found him alive on the fourth day.

I told my dad about the incident, and he noted the phrase, saying he had never heard it before, but that it seemed useful. I considered whether I should use some other term, but I couldn't think of anything else that fit the situation quite so well.

I could say the young man disappeared, but that smacks of him becoming invisible, and also seems to imply that he had some control over what happened. I could say he got lost, but until we found him, we didn't know what precipitated the incident. (There was some indication that he might have deliberately dropped from view, but it wasn't true.) I could say he was discovered to be missing, but that seems a little convoluted.

So, this is a genuine and earnest question: what word or phrase conveys as simply the elements of loss and mystery in the term "went missing"?

Gene Weingarten: I got a similar sentiment from an editor at a major literary magazine. I agree. Nothing wrong with it.

Alas, the editor also had no problem with "bicep," "didn't use to," "snuck," and "get ahold of."

I call shenanigans.


Marriage and stuff: My husband cheated. With -some- strippers.

But still...I thought we needed help, counseling etc. Maybe it was the hormones. I dunno.

Fast forward five months. Days before our anniversary I had a family crisis. I asked him to stop, drop and roll. He didn't because -- well who the hell cares why. He didn't.

When he finally got himself together (he talked to a friend who was like, dude, REALLY? this is your WIFE) and showed up, I was over him. Completely.

Now he's moving hill and mountain to get my attention. But it's too late. I AM OVER IT. I have no intention of spending my life playing some cat and mouse game.

Now what do I do? I married a douche. And everyone thinks he's such a great guy! So sweet and loving and attentive and all I want to say is, HE CHEATED WITH STRIPPERS WHILE I WAS LOSING OUR BABY! Is he still on fire?

Gene Weingarten: Not sure what you are asking. Are you asking if it is okay to spread nasty truths about him, so everyone will know what he is?

Here's my answer: If there are any children, no. Don't do it. If there aren't, and you feel you have to, what the hell.


Sept 13 Barney & Clyde: What, no VPLs? Barney & Clyde

Gene Weingarten: VPL is there; it's just hard to see online.

The syndicate was uncomfortable with this one! They worried we made Lucretia a little TOO callipygean.


We, Stern MA.: After everything you've said about the beauty of smaller tracts of land, I'm disappointed that Lucretia in Barney and Clyde does nothing to advance the slighter beauty standard. Shirley you had some influence over her depiction. Rhymes with Orange would sue. September 21, 2010 | Rhymes With Orange

Gene Weingarten: This is an EXCELLENT strip! If I were still awarding Comic Picks of the Week, this would be it.

We knew we couldn't compete with Hilary Price in the category of Excellence in Small-Breasted Women Characters, so we took what was left.


Reston, Va.: My 87-year-old mother believes that Lio is the best comic currently in print. Should I be worried?

Gene Weingarten: I am not allowed to comment anymore on competing strips. But this does give me a great opportunity to point something out.

Here is Barney & Clyde from July 18.

Barney & Clyde

This was "Mutts" on Sunday:

by Patrick McDonnell


Houston, TX: Rape Poll: I am a 25-year old female and I was shocked at the poll results. I marked both Louis CK routines as fine. I actually quite liked the first one, partly because it was funny, and partly because the underlying point is true. Many people (not just women) find talking about sex awkward, and they expect their partners to read their minds. No, it doesn't work like that. You have to tell them what you want. He chose to use an extreme example, the rape fantasy, to illustrate this point, and did it very well. Also, independent of this point, the rape fantasy does exist and does cause a lot of confusion for both men and women--why is it off-limits for commentary? Regarding the newspaper comic, I voted that it inexcusably made light of rape. But I wish you had this option: "It was thoughtless and insensitive but college students can be boneheaded. Sure, he should apologize, but for printing an unfunny strip that didn't make sense and had no point."

One-Liner Poll: Why do people like the chess joke? I'm almost convinced that I didn't get it. The idea is that he plays human chess with bald men as the pieces? First of all, each side only has 16 pieces, so he would only be controlling 16 people, and secondly, one of the pieces is most certainly female (the queen), so the joke doesn't even make sense. Personally, I liked the drowning, eyepatch kid, and hitchhiker jokes. Maybe my sense of humor doesn't match yours, but if I'm wrong, please explain why the chess joke is funny! Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Okay, we deal with the one-liners here. I have consulted with Dave Barry, so my answers here are definitive and cannot be challenged.

The two funniest jokes are the life preserver (my #1 choice and Dave's #2) and the bald men in the park. (my #2, Dave's #1.) Just because they are. "What he would have wanted" is a very funny play on a trite funeral saying, and the bald men is just a great visual.

You guys are screwing two things up: "Juan" is quite funny, because it is absurd; it is making fun of how bad it is. And the chicken suicide is good, too. It's my #3. (Dave disagrees with this last thing, but he is wrong.)

Here's the most shocking thing: In the poll, they are arranged in order they were chosen. That stupid one at the top, about the vacation was chosen as best. It is the worst.


Not a genius, ME: (1) I see we are back to the old software for the chat. Genius!

(2) Most of the MacArthur "Genii" range between "younger than me" and "lots younger than me."


(3) At least this year, nobody I know is on the list. Unlike you.

Gene Weingarten: 1) Yes, for the moment. I am happy with this.

3) Sigh. Sob.


This god thing. . . : Like you I don't believe in god but how do you deal with the fact that many people who you respect and know are a lot smarter than you do believe?

Gene Weingarten: I know two people who are clearly smarter than I who do believe. I have talked to them both, at length, and I have concluded that their belief and my non-belief are similar.

That is, they believe in a sane and rational way, which is how I non-believe. We're not far apart!


Birthday... mi, NE: Dear Gene, Today is my birthday. I'm taking some friends out for sushi tonight. I'd invite you, but you seem a bit curmudgeonly for the occasion. I do appreciate the birthday chat, though- in my honor, I assume.

Gene Weingarten: You are SO wonderful because it is your birthday! You must be so proud.


Very important dog question: So, I want to get a dog. I've wanted to get a dog for a long time, but have not, until recently, had the time/space/money to devote to one. The important part is this: I recently experienced a terrifying armed home invasion, and it was following that experience that I evaluated my circumstances and realized, hey, I actually have the room and time to take care of a dog. But I don't want to be one of those jerks who gets a dog for the wrong reasons and then doesn't take proper care of/abandons said dog. So, should I wait? I need an objective opinion here.

Gene Weingarten: It is always the right time to get a dog.


Boston, MA: I just watched the first Louie CK bit and laughed out loud. I am a 35-year-old married mother of one. I couldn't help myself. I think the guy is hysterical.

Gene Weingarten: I think he is the funniest comic working today.

You need to get on youtube and watch his "Saddest h--- j-- in the world" routine.


Great Tomatoes Weingarten: Your tomato hatred reared it's ugly head again in B&C last Monday. And frankly, I'm kinda getting tired of it. So tomatoes aren't as good as they used to be? So what? I made a pot of marinara with my homegrown big boys this weekend, and it was fantastic. I'm not living in the 1960's. I try to enjoy what I have today, and the best thing I have in my garden today is tomatoes. Barney & Clyde how dare you bring your it's into this forum.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed!

You know, your churlish post reminds me of some of the reaction I got to the English Obituary column. Callow youths arguing that grammatical precision is dead, and good riddance! Many of these sentiments were obviously defensive, inasmuch as they were expressed in appalling English. My favorite exchange came on Twitter, started by someone named jny2. He wrote: "i cannot abide language snobs! if the utterance is understood, it passes."

When I disagreed, he wrote:

"You confuse the detioration of culture with booboos of a few boneheads."

When I chided him for "detioration," he wrote back:

"No, I mean the deteriorization of culture."

That's when I wrote: "Er, son. You need to quit now, okay? Just... shhh.'


Silver Spring, MD: I've become improbably irate over a parking etiquette issue raised in today's (9/20) Post, and I'm wondering if you, as a recognized expert on such matters, agree. The article in question was headlined, "Her Lexus, lost in the nexus of DC security."

The article implies that a victim of official car-misplacement parked her car legally in a handicapped spot in front of the Convention Center, but later notes that she "has the handicapped tag because her husband suffered a stroke."

I call shenanigans. I don't know the DC law on this point, but even if not illegal it is CLEARLY unethical to use a handicapped tag to park in a handicapped spot when neither the driver nor any of the passengers in the car (she was alone) are themselves handicapped.

My own car has a handicapped tag, because my wife is handicapped. I am not handicapped. I would never even consider parking in a handicapped spot when I'm alone. This is not because I'm a hero, but because I'm a slightly decent human being.

I'm not saying the subject of the article deserved to have her car misplaced overnight by the police. But I'm not saying she didn't, either. Her Lexus, lost in the nexus of D.C. security

Gene Weingarten: I had the same problem with this story, as did a lot of readers, judging from the comments.

I think the issue of police towing legally parked cars ... well, that's a real issue. I think this was not the best case study of it, for a page-one story. It undercut the strength of the outrage.

There's a reason that the lawyers chose Rosa Parks for their challenge to the law, rather than one of several previous cases of black people being told to give up their seats. Rosa was unimpeachably dignified and middle-class and right.


noway: Jeff Davis highway: It's not all that inappropriate; the highway was intended as a transcontinental route and as Secretary of War in the Pierce administration Davis had forwarded to Congress several route surveys for the transcontinental railroad. And ironically in Alabama the highway was the route followed by the Selma to Memphis march. It also hits Benedict Arnold Bridge.

Gene Weingarten: I just realized: We are back to the old chat software here, so Ms. Manteuffel is identity-less. It's Ms. Manteuffel.


Roch, NY: Gene, I saw these "Knee Defenders" on Lifehacker - an actual product that can keep the person in front of you an airplane from reclining into your bubble: Knee Defender Stops Airline Seats From Crushing Your Legs

The comments in response to that and a previous Lifehacker about how a well-wedged water bottle Reclaim Your Airline Seat Space with a Water Bottle can do the same are astounding in their vitriol!

I'm flying to China in a month. NOT looking forward to 18 hours trapped in coach, all by my lonesome. And then another 18 hours on the way back.

Gene Weingarten: The vitriol is fabulous.

The real culprit here are the airlines, who cram people in unconscionably. But as I've said before: It is up to us to be human in an inhumane situation. The only decent thing to do is to not recline if someone is behind you.

I am not a proponent of these devices for just this reason. This should not be war. This should be mutually agreed-upon civility.

I can see the use of this device leading to violence.


You made my day: I picked the same three as you! In a slightly different order, but the very same three.

Gene Weingarten: You are a comedic genius.


Raleigh, NC: Well Gene, it has taken a couple of months but Barney and clyde is finally starting to get funny. Hope it stays that way. Barney & Clyde

Gene Weingarten: Thank you, I think.

On Thursday, we arrive at the long-promised, scandalous joke.


Was it me?: Can we at least know the name of the "Giants Panty Pleader" whose entry was funny, but unprintable? I submitted an entry, I hope it was mine! Chatological Humor - The Washington Post

Gene Weingarten: It was a posting by a Giants-hater, about how she planned to soil the panties.


CKitis: My problem with the second Louis CK clip is that it's not as funny. Raping Adolf Hitler it too easy of a joke.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree. I think it's funny enough: The audience seemed to like it. There's a different problem with it, a huge one, that I'll explain shortly.


Dupont Circle, D.C.: Wow I'm surprised how many women hated those two jokes. I'm a woman and happened to see both of those jokes before today and I thought they were hilarious at the time. I don't see how anyone can jump from that joke to Louis C.K. somehow making rape acceptable. In the first one he's telling a TRUE STORY about a girl who ACTUALLY feels that way and recognizes the humor of the potential trouble that imposes on the involved parties. The second one does require someone to have a sarcasm filter, one which many people seem to conveniently forget to strap on in their hurry to manufacture outrage.

Heh, strap-on.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, no one is explaining why the second is problematic, though y'alls mostly seem to KNOW it is.

Here is why: The engine of the second joke -- the only reason it "works" -- is that rape is terribly psychologically hurtful. There's nothing funny about that truth.

To me, that second routine is poisoned by that fact. He's going for yucks over something horrifying.


Chatwoman?: Liz Kelly has returned to the halls of Celebritology. Will she be reprising her role as the awesome Chatwoman, or have you both moved on? She might be way too awesome now.

Gene Weingarten: I dunno how she can get any more awesome.


Louis: The second was bad, because he is making light of the suffering of people who have been raped (the "I just need a shower" moment, which he delivers far too realistically for my taste). Portraying the devastating effects of rape on life and self esteem for the butt of a joke, even if its Hitler's self esteem, is icky. That said, I admire Louis CK, because he mines his comedy in territory where people fear to tread. When you do, you're going to take some missteps.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, this and mine collided. Yes, exactly. He misfired there, and he knew it; at the end he acknowledges it.


Dog: I adopted a dog because I couldn't have one naturally.

Gene Weingarten: If that's yours: Very nice.


the prestige: You know, I'm a woman, what I would call a reasonable feminist, and I initially voted that it was a ridiculous scenario and there was no need to apologize. But now I'm thinking back to my own time in college, which was a decade ago, and how easy it appeared to be to get some girls drunk enough not to be fully cognizant of what was going on, and how that kind of behavior seems even more rampant on campuses now. So now I'm thinking maybe it was a kind of irresponsible thing to print. Even if it couldn't -actually- happen, I could still see two dudes -trying- it once the idea was planted ...

Gene Weingarten: Whoa. So this would be like ... Inception.

By the way "The Prestige" is a reference to a rather good movie in which identical twins switch wives sexually, without the wives knowing.


Genius Grants: Look at it this way. They have to pay your friend to be a genius. You do it for free.

Gene Weingarten: Believe me, I will NEVER hear the end of this from Simon. It's disaster.


Rape, State: I couldn't bear the thought of "Rape, ME." Anyway, I used to lead sexual assault awareness workshops in college, and we told/were taught that it's rape if it's not consensual. Easy, right? Well, if you're drunk, that legally, literally means that you cannot give consent. You just can't consent to something if you're not in control of your faculties. (Raising the question about whether severely retarded people can have consensual sex, but hey.)

In Connecticut, it is (was) a crime to have sex with someone who was drunk - man or woman - and if s/he wanted to press charges, there was legal precedence for it.

Also, the first comedy routine is hilarious. The second isn't THAT great, because it shows that you can punish/torture a person by raping them. (Hello, Congo, rape as war tactic.) If that's what he was going for, that's awfully meta -- and the jokes didn't hit hard enough.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, but: How drunk is too drunk? Is the guy supposed to be an expert in gauging someone else's consciousness? In this case, the woman not only didn't say no, but encouraged him enthusiastically.

I'm not saying the guy is decent -- he's crap. But rape puts people in prison for many years, and as a prosecutor I would not apply that charge to a situation this unclear.


Faith: Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that faith - belief in what cannot be proven, be it God or ghosts - is an emotional thing. It cannot be reasoned away and you don't get faith from reasoning. You can justify your beliefs or lack of them with reasoning, but ultimately it is emotional. Either you have faith, or you don't. This is not necessarily a bad or a good thing. Emotion is equally important as reason. It just is what it is.

Coming to this conclusion, as an atheist, has helped me understand those I know who are amazingly smart and believers. It's not intelligence or logic or critical thinking. It's just faith. Atheism is faith, too. You can't prove there isn't a God.

Gene Weingarten: You're both right.


Boston, Again: OK, I did what you said and went on youtube and watched the Saddest H..J.. video. The man is a genius comedian and gifted storyteller. I was laughing the whole time but also thinking, "And then what happened?" You know what though ... his TV show "Louie" is not very funny at all. He is better when he's the only one talking.

Gene Weingarten: I like "Louis."

You know what's sad? He recent got a divorce.

It's sad because I assumed he could not do a routine like that -- he also playfully savages his little girl -- without a totally strong marriage.


Ballston: Its technically not a misusage, but when did "she passed" become the accepted way to say "she died." It really annoys me and makes me think of the "rapture." When will this go away?

Gene Weingarten: I accept "passed" because people are trying to be gentle.

You know what sucks? When they say a dog was "put to sleep." Even newspapers have writ this.


Your tweet about the use of LOL: I will write it sometimes if someone sends an email, for example, that makes me laugh to tell them it made me laugh. I don't see what's wrong with that. Now, if you say LOL to someone you're with, well, that's stupid because people can see you're laughing. But do you have a problem with writing it? To me, it's just shorthand for that made me laugh. geneweingarten (geneweingarten) on Twitter

Gene Weingarten: No, it is shorthand for "laugh out loud." It is almost always a lie.


Northampton, MA: I noticed that the Post ran two stories earlier than planned last week. First, they ran stories about Bob Woodward's new book revealing the decision-making process behind Obama's war strategy when they learned that the New York Times had gotten a copy. Second, they ran your column on the website on Thursday. Were you afraid that the Times was going to scoop you on the revelation that Facebook sucks? 'No Option' I hate Facebook sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. . .

Gene Weingarten: I think they're going to be releasing me on Thursday all the time. Not sure why.


Hey, speaking of rape...: (...and speaking of the ways I've never started a sentence before), there is a vigorous debate in the comments at the Onion's AV Club page on "30 Rock": whether the joke about a character having vigorous sex with his sleeping wife was a rape joke.

It hadn't occurred to me that it would be -- the characters have children together and have been married for decades, and I just mentally filled in the context that this was fine with them both. That there was some kind of "Do what you want, but I'm tired, so try not to wake me" agreement in place.

But then, I'm coming to this as a woman who likes being awakened in such a way, and has enjoyed waking a willing partner in such a way, in more than one relationship, and it's never been a controversial thing. I've brought it up first, you understand, but the response tends to run along the lines of "-Very bad word] yeah, go for it!" So I am perhaps biased.

As a rape joke, I wouldn't have found it funny. But I didn't receive it as such, and so I liked it fine.

Your thoughts? Rape joke or no? "The Fabian Strategy" Alert: Grown-up language!

Gene Weingarten: I haven't seen this, but it sounds like it is a joke about implied consensual sex with a sleeping person -- not rape. Right?


Houston, TX: The folks at the National Review's The Corner blog have gotten on a limerick kick. One was so proud of a limerick he wrote in college (apparently in the 70s)he resurrected it.

A prophet came out of Riyadh

And angrily shouted, "Jihad!"

Meanwhile, in the West

Carter wished him the best

And nobody thought it was odd

Could that last line be any clunkier? The Corner

Gene Weingarten: I see nothing wrong with the last line. It's not a brilliant conclusion, but it was probably making a point that made more sense back then.


Aptonym All Star: Judge sends â¿¿Diaper Boyâ¿? to prison | The Salt Lake Tribune

His defense attorney is mentioned in the 6th paragraph.

Gene Weingarten: WOW!


NoLo, DC: Please tell me you saw this aptonym:

Top UK spies revealed as wankers

Gene Weingarten: Yes, a heroic aptonym.

Ms. Manteuffel suggested that the whole issue -- haha, "issue" -- with disappearing ink was completely made up -- that what this really was about was that someone walked in on Mr. Cumming at a bad time, and he had to come up with SOMETHING.


Dogs and Ticks: As you are an apparent expert in matters canine and chronographic, two questions:

1) What's the best medium to large sized dog for a household with one person who's quite allergic?

2) Where can one find decent mechanical, i.e., must be wound, watches these days?

Many thanks.

Gene Weingarten: 1) Standard poodle, I think, is the most nonallergenic dog. Also the Portuguese water dog, which the Obamas got because of Sasha's allergies. Note I wrote Obamas, not Obama's.


Retro chic: Did we break the new/old chat format? Or, did we vote it out. Whatever Lola wants, Gene gets.

Gene Weingarten: There is an ongoing dialogue between the Post and me. There are no winners, and no losers. Just participants and honest brokers.


Innovati, VE: Was the panel cross-over art for B&C on the 14th a new (or rare) technique? Anyway, I thought it was hot.

Gene Weingarten: It was a product of the brilliant David Clark. I'm not enough of a historian / expert but I can't recall seeing it before.


Death of English: I just don't get the premise of your column, assuming you were serious. When should we freeze the language in place? 1980? 1880? 1780? Should I go back to writing words like "divers," "chewse" and "hath"? Will we be repealing Franklin's American English spelling modifications -- "colour" and "centre" again? Do I have to brush up on my Chaucer, the better to appeal to the goode kynges of language?

Gene Weingarten: The premise is that I am a humor writer, attempting to be funny.


The Prestige: In The Prestige, I don't think you're supposed to get that the twins are switching. One twin is married to Rebecca Hall, one is having an affair with ScarJo - it's just that the two wives don't realize there are twins. They think there's only one guy.

Gene Weingarten: My memory is that it was clearly suggested there were such moments.


Washington, DC: Shooting and killing someone with a gun is a pretty bad thing to do, so why are we allowed to joke about that but not about rape? I think both things are in bounds because it is a Hitler joke. Louis CK often takes common jokes or memes to the next level. In the clip he is upping the ante on our feelings about Hitler. It's not about raping a PERSON and the crushing psychological damage that causes. It is about raping HITLER.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. The key part of this joke -- go back and watch it again -- is when Louis, as Hitler, is acting all comically depressed. Think about that.


LOL: What about someone who is careful to only use LOL literally? If I type "LOL" in an instant message, it means that I laughed audibly. Is literal use acceptable?

Gene Weingarten: If you use it more than about once a week, you are lying. Or you are a hyena.


Washington, DC: Re: Put to sleep.

Last year, when we lost our wonderful cat, I struggled with this as well. (Side note: she was treated at the hospital your daughter is working at. Wonderful facility, amazing vets. They tried like hell.)

What do you say?

I hate "put to sleep" because... no, I am sorry. They are not asleep. They are dead. It just sounds ridiculous to say "sleep."

"Put down" made it seem like she was a raving, rabid animal that was a menace to society.

"Euthanized" is just too clinical for something so emotional.

Any better ideas?

Gene Weingarten: I say euthanized.

You know, I think that is a lovely word and a noble concept.


Brooklyn, NY: You are underrating "two birds, one stone" because either (a) it is a pair of Britishisms that didn't immediately resonate or (b) because you are showing the same sensitivity to topics that you think should be out-of-bounds that is making you cringe at a joke about raping Hitler.

Two birds is the second best joke, right behind life preserver. The bald men joke, like chicken suicide, is well-crafted but very funny. Both of them get nothing more from me than "I see what you did there."

Gene Weingarten: I liked two birds. It was my fourth choice.


re: implied consensual sex : (The joke didn't offend me) But, are you implying that agreeing to marry someone is permanent 24/7 concensus to sex? That a waking spouse would never say "no."

Gene Weingarten: Not at all. I think there can certainly be spousal rape. I am saying that the way the situation was described, it doesn't sound like anyone was complaining about it.

If I do this to my wife, and she has told me she has no problem with it, then when I do it again, consent is implied. No?

Er, by the way: Why would anyone want to do this? How exciting would that be for a guy?


Reporters with Aptony, MS: I want to know the original name of Dan Eggen's parents, before they changed their name to Eggen so that he would be perfectly positioned to write the story about the size of chicken's cages in the egg industry: Egg industry alarmed about efforts to limit cage sizes

Coincidence? I doubt it.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


The Fiddler in the Subway: Ordered your book from Amazon. Will you autograph it?

Gene Weingarten: Happy to.

Anyone else wanting this: Email me at weingarten(at) I'll tell you how.


Washington, DC: I thought people would find the second part of the second Louis CK clip more offensive than the Hitler part. The part where he says there's no excuse for rape...unless you want to have sex with someone and they won't let you because then what other choice do you have?

I think that's hilariously offensive. It's funny because it's so outrageous. He's obviously "just kidding" but I could definitely see how someone would be offended.

The one part of both videos that makes me most uncomfortable is the guy in the audience who goes "woooo!" after that joke mentioned above.

Gene Weingarten: Now, see, I don't see that as offensive at all. He is obviously lampooning that attitude.


washington dc: Speaking of Facebook . . . I'm not yet on it for a variety of pretty good reasons. However, I have been informed (by the Web Hostess on, among other people) that at this point, it's simply dumb and rude to not be on FB at this point. It's like not using email or being a business and not having a webpage. Are you officially off FB now and are just doing Twitter? Thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I use Facebook. I send out notices about the chat, for example. It's useful. Like toilet paper.


Diaper attorney: I don't get it. "Kimberly Clark"? So what? they make Huggies. I don't see how it's illegal to show a kid your diaper.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I know, that bothered me, too.


"it sounds like it is a joke about implied consensual sex with a sleeping person": I saw this episode of 30 Rock, too, and I can only say: how can a sleeping person POSSIBLY give consent? Just because I've slept with you a hundred different times doesn't mean you have my permission to have sex with me any time you feel like it. And if I'm not in a position to give consent, it's RAPE.

Gene Weingarten: You guys are really throwing around that term!

If my wife has said she thinks it's funny and has no problem when I do that, that is giving future consent.

Again, I find this issue ridiculous; I can't see the excitement of sex with someone who is not only not enjoying it, but isn't actually, you know, conscious.


Morristown, NJ: Currently on the front page of WaPost:

(Image:, Mercedes Benz pitchman? In commercial, Germany's luxury automaker evokes civil rights icon on behalf of it's most advanced, and most expensive, new model.

Gene Weingarten: Sigh.


Was the panel cross-over art for B&C on the 14th a new (or rare) technique? : Someone who's never seen Brooke McEldowney. Pibgorn and 9 Chickweed Lane.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I hain't seen that in a while. My memory is that he doesn't use it as a segue from one panel to another... he just draws an image across panels. But maybe I am quibbling.


Albuquerque, NM: I game online with kids, so I'm an expert on this: "LOL" means, "I recognize your attempt at humor". Other terms such as "ROFL" and "LMFAO" mean the same thing. It's a pity, because on the rare occasions when something really does make you laugh, you just have to type that fact out longhand.

Gene Weingarten: That's the other point: It's used so indiscriminately, it's completely devalued.


Wake me when it's over: I have an old 1950s book for new wifes that instructs women to tell their husbands to wait til the wife falls asleep if she's too tired at night. You can do your wifely dute AND get your beauty sleep! (yes, why would the husband want to do that, but also: how can any wife sleep through that?) As I recall the 30 rock line was that she was asleep, so he didn't have to be gentle. They are established as an adventurous couple, though, when they pretended to have an affair with each other.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


moving to Washington, DC: I live in Chicago and had a chance to interview in DC. But the organization wouldn't pay any expenses. Not a fun thing, but this happens sometimes.

Admittedly, I don't know much about DC other than what I read online from, including you. But one generally gets a negative impression of living in the nation's capital.

So I'm curious to hear from you why DC is a great place to live.

I'm not in love with Chicago and am willing to start over somewhere else. But as a early 40s single non Type A male, I'm not sure DC is what I would want.

Gene Weingarten: I love D.C., and I love Chicago, for some of the same reasons, so I'm surprised at the question a little.

Part of why I love it here is where I live: A great downtown neighborhood, safe yet funky, very old (I live in an 1885 row house) and very cosmopolitan. The metro area is diverse -- D.C. has, I think, the largest black middle class in the country -- and pretty sophisticated. Museums and cultural opportunities out the wazoo. The daily circus of federal government and all the absurd pomposities thereof. Good public transportation. Great dog city. An economy that thrives regardless of conditions elsewhere. Real estate holds steady.

Negatives: Oddly mediocre restaurants for a city of this size. Too many tourists. People walk too slowly.

By and large, I give it an 8.5. I give Chicago a 9.


Owego, NY: I have a minor disagreement with you regarding one phrase you cited as an example in your column of a couple of weeks ago on the demise of the English language. Although I do not use this specific construct myself, I have never had a serious problem with the phrase "I could care less" as being synonymous with "I COULDN'T care less." It has always been my contention that it is simply a shortened form of "I could care less, but I don't." Any comments? Am I alone on this or do others feel the same way?

Gene Weingarten: You are completely alone.


Alexandria, VA: Can you give us a limerick or double dactyl about bedbugs?

Gene Weingarten: You're asking too late, but I shall do one in the update, and allow myself only seven minutes.


drinking wrt rape: In college, we all go through the sexual abuse, harassment, rape, etc workshops within the first few weeks of class during our freshman year. They emphasize that girls should watch what they drink, stay with friends, always be safe, etc. Fine.

What they don't emphasize is to not be a rapist. Judging by the statistic than 1 in 4 women are the victim of attempted rape or rape itself at some point in college, this is apparently very hard to do. No one sees themselves as a rapist. But having sex without clear consent, and consent during the entire time, is rape. Sorry if you don't like it. Some people do. One in Four came to my campus a few times. Their whole project is to stop rape via dudes.

Gene Weingarten: I never said otherwise. Clear consent and consent through the whole thing. Absent that, rape. I agree. I think having sex with a sleeping woman, absent prior consent, is rape. Even with one's wife.


Diaper-Flasher: It's Utah.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Right.


Military Awards/Honors: Gene -- I actually once asked my dad about how he "won" one of his medals during his military career. He immediately got upset and told me that he didn't "win" the medal. The conversation then changed to a discussion of win vs. earn.

His explanation was that when you want to win something -- a race, a game, a lottery, etc. -- you set forth with a plan to WIN. You want to beat out the competitors and show that you are better than they are.

When the military awards a medal, it isn't based upon a competition. It is based upon bravery or courage or smarts. His example was a fellow Marine officer who during VietNam dove on a grenade and saved others while causing his own death. He didn't set out to show he was more brave than the others. He did want he needed to do to protect his fellow Marines. He was the closest, my dad said. Any of the others would have done it if they had been the closest. So, his Purple Heart was earned and definitely not "won."

It made sense to me and I do cringe now when I see an article about a medal being "won." My dad was a courageous, smart man and he earned many medals. But not once was he rewarded with the medal because he tried to get it.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is in response to this question from me: 'Why does this matter to much to so many people? The complainers here tend not to be grammarians -- they tend to be military types. Can someone explain to me who or what is being dissed when one writes that someone "won" a military award?'


Several people tried to make this point, but you made it best. Okay, I get it. I prefer "was awarded" to "earned," which suggests a measurable criterion, but I get it. Thank you, and thanks to your dad.


Silver Springs, MD: I noticed that Dave Barry mentions your wife Eileen in his new book. He also mentions that Joel Achenbach will join in a game of touch football with you two. Are your teams Pulitzer Winners vs. Non-Pulitzer Winners?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this is our annual Thanksgiving bash. That would put Dave and me against Joel and a whole bunch of people, including the Three Achenbach Girls -- Paris, Isabella and Shane -- who can definitely play the game. So, no.

My wife is not "Eileen," though that captures the ethnicity. But her name has never been mentioned in this chat, and shan't be now.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, it was mentioned once! A long time ago. No, I won't link to it.


Brooklyn, NY: The "take a shower" punchline on the Hitler joke resonates both because there is nothing that can happen to Hitler that is so bad that he doesn't deserve AND because it is a deliberate crossing of a line that is assumed sacred. The assumption is wrong but in the hands of 99.999999999999999% of the population it will go horribly awry. Louis CK is the exception.

As an aside, the reason some people don't find the show Louie that funny is that much of it isn't meant to be funny. The jokes in the show are great but the intent is much more rounded and melancholy than just jokes. That is why it is such a great show despite not being credits-to-credits punchlines.

Gene Weingarten: Rachel, can you find and link to the discussion about gays and the word "faggot? How fast are you, kid? And warning: NSFW.


Leave, ME: I think you might disagree with this parenting fail. Parenting FAIL - Epic Fail Funny Videos and Funny Pictures/

Gene Weingarten: Wow, that is so not a parenting fail.


Nouveau Alba, Maryland: Late getting to this chat, but I have to say the one-liners have a particularly Scottish twist to them. Imagine David Letterman or Jay Leno reciting them.

Now imagine Billy Connolly or Craig Ferguson.

The Scots have this particularly cynical, dark sense of humour, in my experience. A combination of delivery and grouchiness, combined in some cases with a deer-in-the-headlights bewilderment at what life is dishing or doling out.

You have to be there, in a sense.

Gene Weingarten: No one can tell me the first joke, about vacations, is even remotely funny.


Brooklyn, NY: The 30 Rock joke, like most jokes requires consent. It is semi-implied that his wife prefers the sex this way so that she doesn't have to be involved. It is also pretty clear that Liz Lemon is grossed out by the arrangement.

Couldn't care less / could care less. The latter is an implied "As if I, ..." The same ironic usage where fat chance = slim chance.

Gene Weingarten: Why do people insist on trying to justify "I could care less"? It's just wrong.


Woodley Park, USA: The reason I didn't like the cartoon was I recall being told about a situation at a fraternity where it was a "game" for a brother to lure a woman up to a darkened room and assume that same doggy position and then he would wrap his arms around the woman's waist and yell "rodeo!". The lights would come on and she would see she was in a crowded room and they would time how long it took her to break free. They would compete to see how long it took her to get away.

He was telling me this and laughing. I told him it sounded like rape to me. Ever since then, I can't let "jokes" like that in a college environment get a pass. I'm a guy, for what it's worth.

Gene Weingarten: The punchline I heard was "Your sister is better in bed."


OhGe, NE: callipygean? NO! callipygian. You, of all people, should know how to spell this word.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I should. You sure? Spellcheck called them both wrong.


Stop picking on kids: Birthday celebrations are mainly parents' fault because we are too eager to out-do our children's friends' birthdays. However, the last birthday that should be celebrated is the 21st. After that, people need to grow up and stop taking the day off work because "it's my birthday."

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Well, why stop at 21? I might go as far as 25, which is the last meaningful date; at 25, you can rent a car.

Or 35!!! You can finally be president.

End the madness.


Joe. My. God.: Louis CK Gets Schooled On "Faggot"

Gene Weingarten: .


Clear consent and consent through the whole thing: Drunk does not equal clear consent. The poll question was, I think, that she was drunk and consented, though legally inebriated. This could all be solved with a breathalyzer and saying the alphabet backwards.

Gene Weingarten: Someone asked: Was that scenario real? I think so. This is a case I remember from several years, but I couldn't find it online. My memory is that it went to trial and he won.

The only fact that I changed from my memory is that she had previously rebuffed him. Not sure if that was the case, but in my hypothetical, it seemed to help crystallize it.


Iro, NY: Like you, I am feeling disappointed about not winning a MacArthur grant, again. Unlike you, I cannot console myself with the knowledge that I've WON TWO PULITZER PRIZES.

Rise above, my friend. Rise above.

Gene Weingarten: It takes 17 Pulitzers to equal one MacArthur. I'm doomed.

Okay thank you all, folks. We're done. I will be updating as usual, including a bedbug dactyl.


UPDATED: 10/05


Houston, TX: "Gene Weingarten: Okay, but: How drunk is too drunk? Is the guy supposed to be an expert in gauging someone else's consciousness? In this case, the woman not only didn't say no, but encouraged him enthusiastically."

No, he's not supposed to be an expert. He's supposed to be a non-idiot and realize that this is not normal behavior for this woman. In the original story, she was always cold to him so he never had any hope that she was into him. Suddenly she's throwing herself at him and HMMM she also happens to be drunk?

DUH, not a coincidence. That's the alcohol talking. Leave her alone. Talk to her tomorrow when she's sober and if she's still into you, great, you can set up a date. If she's not into you, then good thing you didn't have sex with her.

If you're afraid that she's not going to be into you tomorrow and that's why you HAVE to have sex with her RIGHT NOW, then basically you're saying that you know the answer is no but you'll take advantage of her when her brain isn't working right. That's rape.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I don't want to come off as a defender of rapists. Rape is bad. Rapists are monsters.

Things get difficult because of a collision of two factors:

1. When you are convicted of rape, you are jailed for a long time and then spend the remainder of your life on a sex offender list. It is a gigantic thing.

2. Romance is complicated and subtle, sometimes involving elaborate psychological dance routines, strategic fibbing, etc.; sometimes people use alcohol deliberately to numb their own inhibitions.

What happened here was clearly a matter of degree, and that's where it gets particularly tricky. Had the woman been unconscious, no one (I hope) would argue it isn't rape.

Had the woman been just kinda happy-tipsy, no one (I hope) would argue it IS rape. Because we are somewhere in between, in a fuzzy area, one fact seems to outweigh all others: She gave her consent unambiguously.

As a juror, I doubt if I am destroying man's life for what seems at worst to be an un-criminal act of dastardly opportunism.


Silver Spring, MD: A follow-up to a question and answer in the 9/28 chat, concerning Dan Eggen, a Post reporter for more than 10 years, and his byline on an egg-related story a few weeks ago: His last name is pronounced "Egan" with a long E.

I know this because he was editor-in-chief at the Minnesota Daily some 20 years ago when I was on staff. Of course this doesn't answer the question of why he was assigned an egg-related story, but readers ought to know he is "Eggen" only in print, not aloud.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But immmaterial. We also know that Boehner is pronounced BAY-ner. But do we care? Not a whit.


Could Care Less: This is one of those (extremely) rare moments when you are undeniably, unequivocally wrong.

The phrase, "I could care less" is useful as a statement of sarcasm -- a shorthand way of saying, "If I tried, I suppose I might be able to care less than I do. But it wouldn't be easy."

Yes, it means more or less the same thing as "I couldn't care less," but it's the difference between literal and metaphorical. And sometimes, being metaphorical is just more satisfying than being literal, especially if you can manage the proper dismissive facial expression.

Gene Weingarten: Several people make this defensive, bankrupt argument. The best refutation is to simply let it marinate in silence. But I'll go one further. If you accept it as sarcastic and ironic, then there is only one way to inflect that sentence. You would have to stress the "could" and end with an implied ellipsis. But no one ever does that BECAUSE IT IS NOT BEING USED THAT WAY. It is being used ignorantly.


Probably not the first to post this: But I'm sorry - this isn't an accident. It's criminal negligence.

Gene Weingarten: I see. And you declare it a crime... why? There is no information at all about whether the father knew the child was in the car, and every reason to suspect he didn't. Read the comments. The ignorant, sanctimonious vitriol never ceases to amaze me. We are terrified by the knowledge that this could happen to us, so we must turn these people into monsters.


I couldn't care less?: DILLIGAFF?

Gene Weingarten: I had to Google this. I like it.


been there: If you think that a man who takes advantage of a very drunk woman is not a rapist, you are wrong. You are confused because you are thinking of it as sex, not violence. How about this scenario: A guy is walking home from a bar very drunk, staggering, slurring, etc. He passes by another guy and in this drunken state he calls they guy names and really eggs him on to start a fight. The sober guy gives the drunk guy a beat down. Is the guy that gave the beating guilty of assault? If so, what about the argument that the drunk guy encouraged him?

Gene Weingarten: Wow. This is a bad analogy. This is SO bad an analogy, it is incumbent upon me to pick it to pieces. First off, beating someone up, except in self defense, is perforce a crime. Penetration of a woman by a man -- which is the only uncontested fact here -- is Generally not a crime. So you are guilty of classic circular reasoning. I agree that rape is violence, not sex. But to follow your logic here, you must assume the point you are trying to prove: that this hypothetical case is rape. Otherwise, the argument falls apart.


RE: David Simon: The Sun had a good story about the Simon genius grant. At the end, he demonstrates how it can be used against him, as he quotes his wife saying: "Hey, genius, you forgot to take out the trash again."

Gene Weingarten: On his Facebook page a few days before the grant was announced, Simon noted that he'd lost his only car key under the bed. "This will sound a lot funnier on Tuesday," he wrote. ____________________

Washington, D.C.: The only proper way to tell someone online that you think what they said was funny is the ha system. The more ha's the funnier you think it was. The only flaw in the system is when people employ the courtesy ha or, inexcusably, the courtesy haha. This devalues ha's in an unforgivable way. Sometimes people just can't be trusted to act responsibly. PS-is "ha's" acceptable as a plural in this case, just in terms of being more readable?

Gene Weingarten: I agree with this. And yes, regrettably, you must write "ha's" as a plural, for the same reason you must write "a's" and "b's." ____________________

Real Estate Expert: So Gene, where else in the US (other than Chicago, which we now know you like a lot) would you live? Small, medium sized, and large cities please. Would Savannah GA make your cut?

Gene Weingarten: I would never choose to live in any place smaller than Washington D.C. The only cities I have been in that I think I could happily live for a long time are Washington, New York, Chicago, London and Madrid. Not Paris, though I can't really say why. Definitely not L.A. There are many reasons I favor big cities, but chief among them is the privacy of relative anonymity. I really value that.

Gene Weingarten: As far as Savannah: No, because of its size, and no, because of its latitude. Nothing in the old south would make my cut, just because.


Falls Church, VA: Did you set out to "win" your Pulitzers when you wrote your articles?

Gene Weingarten: In a sense, yes!

Every time a journalist embarks on a big story, in the back of his mind is the possibility of the big P. And that's not inconsistent with being good, ethical, and public-spirited. The better the story is, at least theoretically, the better shot it has at a prize. I may be unusual, though, in that I once set out NOT to win the Pulitzer.

Midway through reporting about The Great Zucchini, I realized it was going to be just a fabulous story. I also decided that the best and most honest way to tell it was to break a cardinal rule of journalism and make myself a central character in it. By doing that, Tom the Butcher and I decided, it would essentially kill it as a Pulitzer candidate.

Gene Weingarten: And it did!


UPDATE 10.12


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon. Today's chat update is ingenious. All three items are breathtakingly brilliant. The first is political genius; the second, creative genius; the third, analytical genius. There is even punctuational genius in the previous sentence. This is the Greatest Chat Update in history, and you are here to bear witness to its grandeur.


First Brilliant Item

I have developed the perfect, simple test to distinguish conservatives from liberals. It has worked so far almost without flaw. It's a one-question test. The question is: "Are you proud to be an American?"

Conservatives always answer immediately, and the answer is always "Yes," qualified only by an occasional intensifier, as in "Yes, absolutely." The key is that there is no hesitation. Less than two seconds elapse between question and answer. There is almost a pugnacity about the delivery of the answer.

What do liberals do? Anything and everything but the above. There is always a pause. Sometimes a wince. Sometimes a "hmmmm." Usually the eventual answer is a yes, or a qualified yes, but it never comes instantly and never without some acknowledgement -- through words, sounds, or body language -- that the issue has complexity.

I tried this out this weekend at a wake attended by persons of both political persuasions, and then on a bunch of friends and colleagues. There was near perfect correlation to people's politics, the only exception involving an 87-year-old lifelong New Deal Democrat who fought the Nazis and took the question militarily.

The liberals' style of hesitation and equivocation ranged from Rachel Manteuffel's succinct "Ooof ... yes," to Tom The Butcher, whose answer to the seven-word question is reproduced here verbatim:

"Proud? I guess I don't really think of it that way. I feel our Bill of Rights is the best governing document in the world, is what I would say. I think the American constitution is best in the world, but it would be hard for me to say I was proud of it because I was born into it. It's like being proud of being good-looking. And certainly, the way the country has acted is not always something to be proud of. I'm not proud that we seem to have an electorate that demands instant gratification and can't get a majority to make any hard but necessary choice. We're going to hand control of the government back to the morons that got us in this mess, just because it wasn't solved in 18 months!"

So. The perfect test. Try it with your friends and family.


In the last chat two weeks ago, I promised to begin the very next update with an ode to the bedbug in double dactylic form. But I didn't do it. The reason was that when update time came around I was swimming in self-loathing, drowning in feelings of inadequacy. That is because right after the chat, I got an email from the great Brendan Beary of Style Invitational fame, who had written this:

Higgledy piggledy,
C. lectularius
Parasite outbreaks should
Fill me with dread.

Sadly, it's only this
Type of a nymph that'll
Come to my bed.

I started to write a rebuttal, but gave up. In a tap-dancing one-upsmanship contest, there is a point at which on man bows his head and slinks off stage. In a nuclear standoff, there is a point, always, where the other guy blinks first. And so there was here.


And third: Perhaps you saw the recent mini-contretemps over this Non Sequitur Sunday strip, which many newspapers (including the Wapo) chose not to run.

In his column, The Post ombudsman said it had been a mistake to kill it. Mr. Alexander was, of course, right, not just because lifting the strip was an obvious miscue -- it said nothing negative about Islam -- but because a subsequent development proved him right. The Counsel on Islamic American Relations, an organization that is very, very good at taking offense on a hair-trigger, examined the cartoon and took no offense. The cartoonist, Wiley Miller, is correct in pointing out that the newspapers' overreaction and oversensitivity to this strip ironically validates the strip's central point: Publishers are silly-ass skittish on this subject.

Andy Alexander called the decision "timid," but I think everyone is missing the main point. The main point is actually a little darker.

In a well-intentioned effort to be sensitive, all of the editors who yanked this strip from their papers were actually insulting Muslims. There's a fine line between sensitivity and condescension, and we all crossed it.

The best way to explain this is to go back to a memorable scene in one of the early "Die Hard" movies. An extortionist threatens to blow up a bomb unless cop Bruce Willis accedes to a series of bizarre requests. For one of these, he must strip naked, go to Harlem, and wear a sandwich board sign that says "I Hate Niggers." An angry crowd gathers, ready to kill him.

When I first saw this scene, I thought it was funny and dramatically effective. After talking to a black friend, I didn't think so anymore. She found it deeply offensive, and when she explained why, I understood. The scene was treating black people as animals to be taunted -- people who are prone to violence, incapable of reacting measuredly and with restraint to someone who gave every indication of being mentally ill. If you doubt that, think of it this way: Would that scene have made any sense at all had Bruce been ordered to Chinatown with a sign that said "I Hate Chinks?"

That's the same mistake that was made by the editors who pulled that tame, whimsical Non Sequitur. Yes, it is true that Muslims are sensitive about depictions of their prophet, and that over the years various deliberately provocative efforts to tweeze this sensitivity has resulted what seems to us Westerners to be, er, comical overreaction. This situation is funny. But it was the situation -- not Muslims -- that Wiley was lampooning. By reacting as we did, editors were simply feeding the caricature of Muslims as loony nutcakes, easily provoked into God-knows-what. Beheadings of editors, maybe?

Not a good decision. Also, not the first time. In 2006, when the first cartoons-of-Mohammed brouhaha erupted, I wrote a column about it. I proposed that accompanying cartoon be a drawing of a turbaned, bearded man walking toward a mountain. The man would be labeled "not Mohammed" and the mountain would be labeled "Not a mountain." The cartoonist, Eric Shansby, loved this idea and added a fillip of his own: To ostensibly protect himself from retribution, he would sign it "Charles Schulz." The Washington Post -- different time, different editing regime -- said no. I think they were wrong then, too.

Anyhow, while all this silliness was happening, the odious "Mallard Fillmore" was running a truly offensive series on Muslims, one that got not as much attention: Oct. 6 ; Oct. 7 ; Oct. 8 ; Oct. 9


And lastly, on the central issue of whether Muslims seem silly over their touchiness about cartoons? Yep, sure. It's hilarious. But let us not forget that The Other Guy always seems silly. Do you have any idea how silly and sanctimonious we looked to the French when this country nearly came to a total standstill because the president had a brief, inconsequential, unconsummated extramarital semi-dalliance? People are funny. We do ludicrous things. Okay?


UPDATE 10.19


Gene Weingarten: There are times in one's life when one receives an honor so great from one's peers that that one is so humbled and at a loss for words that one keeps referring to oneself as a reflexive pronoun.

This happened to me just yesterday when I learned that I am a finalist in the third annual "Mustached American of the Year" award, which was named after Robert Goulet, a Canadian.

Let me tell you how big a deal this thing is. Last year, hero airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger III was nominated BUT DID NOT WIN. He didn't get enough votes! The prize, for some reason, went to Clay Zavada, a mediocre relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks with a lifetime record of 3-3. He is currently on injured reserve. The most interesting fact about Zavada, near as I can tell, is that his middle name is Pflibson.

I have some tough competition. Among the 19 finalists this year is Jim Joyce, the baseball umpire who made what may be the single worst call in the history of organized sports.

One is too humbled to ask for the support of one's friends, but here is the official ballot. Apparently, it is possible for a person to vote 60,000 times, which may be how Zavada beat out Sullenberger.

By the way, just to show how big and classy this whole thing is, here is the moment that the 2009 winner was crowned, and a subsequent interview.


Gene Weingarten: I discovered something last night so profound it scared me. I repeat it here with some trepidation. I apologize if some of you find it disturbing, and urge all of you to stay calm.

A longtime trope of science fiction is that God -- or possibly aliens -- have implanted encoded proof of His / their existence in some mathematical constant, waiting to be discovered by us. One theory is that it is in the endless sequence of numbers created by pi. Another -- espoused by Carl Sagan in a crappy novel he once wrote -- is that it's something involved with prime numbers.

Well, I have discovered something. A Google search suggests no one else has ever visited this place before. I do not presume to say what it means, but I'm pretty sure it's from God Almighty.

Here it is. An anagram.



re: put to sleep: Another expression is to put the animal "down." That's why I never said (as many mothers do) that I put my daughter down (for a nap) or "I have to put my daughter down." I always thought of what it means when talking of animals.

Gene Weingarten: There are worse euphemisms. "Put the dog to sleep" is so dreadful. I just did a database search: Newspapers use this term at a rate of three times a week, usually, but not always, in quotes. Sometimes, the writer says this stupid treacly thing on his own.


Germantown, MD: Tell Molly congratulations on the internship at the big vet clinic in Gaithersburg. If it's the one I'm familiar with, the (newish) facility is great and the staff is wonderful. I've been to the clinic half a dozen times. Fortunately, only one visit was an emergency, the others involved seeing specialists.

Hopefully, if I run into Molly there, it's for a regularly scheduled appointment with a specialist for something minor, maybe chronic and treatable. Emergency clinics are not for the squeamish. Every time I've been there with my pets, I've heard or seen something unpleasant that will forever be lodged in my memory. Not the fault of the place, but simply a consequence of having companion animals that don't outlive us and sometimes make very bad decisions.

Gene Weingarten: Here is a true story that just happened to Molly. A guy came in with his dog. The dog was in awful shape: dilated pupils, couldn't stand up, leaking urine, and, for some reason, wanting to eat ravenously.

Molly looked at the owner. The owner looked at the floor. He was a college student.

Molly: Okay, we have one of two things happening here. Either your dog has a serious neurological condition, or your dog is stoned.

Owner: Uh.....

Molly: Now, I'm not asking you anything, okay?

Owner: Uh.

Molly: Let me put it this way. Is it within the realm of possibility that your dog might have encountered and ingested some marijuana somewhere?

Owner: Uh, yeah.

Molly: Good. Go home. Keep him really hydrated. He should be fine.


Silver Spring: David Mitchell's Soap Box: Dear America

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is FABULOUS. I trust it answers any and all idiot arguments about caring less. As well as other things.

What does he mean about "research"? Do we Americans mispronounce it?


Reclining airline seats in DC: I'm going on a trip soon, trapped in coach class, and I do recline. However, I do so very carefully and slowly, in case the person behind me has their tray table out. If someone behind me kindly asks me to put my seat up because it is bothering her/him, then I will. I recline because I can. To do so only when there is an empty seat behind me is practially impossible, because there almost never is an empty seat behind me. And you're right: the airlines put us in close together, but also, they could take out the reclining seats.

Gene Weingarten: You are a monster.

You KNOW that your reclining is likely to cause discomfort to another, so you recline slowly, giving them a chance to object.

What if they are meek? Afraid of confrontation? Most people are. Most people will not make a fuss, they will just suffer.

Moreover, you want to shift the blame: Because airlines make the seats reclinable, that gives you the right to recline? The airlines also give you a headset. Does that give you the right to strangle the person next to you with it?

We are in a war. The enemy is the airline, not your fellow soldier.

Do. Not. Recline.


Gene Weingarten: And this is my candidate for governor of New York, the head of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Make sure to watch all three clips.


Birmingham, AL: Gene, you always looked like a rapist. I can see why you're questioning the subject.

Gene Weingarten: Please note the magnificence of the mustache, and Do the Right Thing.


NEXT CHAT: Oct. 26. Send in your questions now.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company