Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (Updated Nov. 23)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 12:00 PM

UPDATED: Nov. 2 | Nov. 9 | Nov. 16 | Nov. 23

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.

One Tuesday each month, Weingarten is online to take your questions and abuse: This month, that day is Oct. 26 at Noon ET. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated on non-chat days, 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

Poll 1

Poll 2

Poll 3: Lean Conservative | Lean Liberal

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.

Lately I've been thinking about the how absolutely anything can be found on the Web, which I tested by seeing if there was a record of how many dogs went down on the Titanic. It took six seconds to find this list, which names all the dogs onboard, and their fates.

But I've also been thinking about the degradation of American culture. It hasn't happened overnight. It's been happening over a long time. There have been significant milestones, unnoted publicly until now. Some day I shall refine and broaden my thinking and turn this brief thesis into the most important American sociological text since Talley's Corner. But for the moment, consider these three:

Milestones in the Degradation of American Culture.

1. July 21, 1969. The beginning of the end of authenticity.

On this day, Neil Armstrong steps off a spacecraft and into eternal history, in what is arguable the pinnacle of human achievement to date. Then, with the soul of a tube of toothpaste and all the unscripted, magical spontaneity of a real-estate closing, he delivers a stiff, wooden line that his earnest engineer-brain has worked on for weeks, a line that a clever if not very imaginative high schooler might have come up with to please her civics teacher. (Yes, Neil also blows the delivery, big time, but that's almost a saving grace: His horrendous gaffe was the only humanizing, spontaneous part of it.)

The press dutifully reports Armstrong's crappy line with reverence, as though it were Lincoln's second inaugural address, while engaging in a tacit conspiracy to ignore the man's grotesque mistake. Using the same utilitarian, soulless, truth-is-incidental model of moral mathematics that Armstrong had in writing the awful line, they felt they HAD to bury the blunder, lest they ruin the moment.

Do you remember what the SECOND man on the moon said? No, of course not. No one does. But Buzz Aldrin clearly had rehearsed nothing; this was not a scripted sort of guy. This is a man who, at 78, would hear a Moon-landing conspiracy nut call him a coward and a liar, and punch the guy in the mouth.

When on the moon, Aldrin took a look around and verblessly blurted, "Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation." Real words. Magical, moving words, lost forever to history under the roar of Armstrong's oratorical fart.

The point is, what Armstrong did was not real. He said what he felt he was SUPPOSED to say, something unrelated to any emotional truth that was in any way connected to the extraordinary experience he was in the process of having. He substituted a marketing ploy and dippy diplomacy for authenticity. In NASA terms, he screwed the pooch.

What followed: Almost everything bad, from the fact that gut-check, intuitive business entrepreneurship has been replaced by the cynical, clinical manipulations of the marketing industry, to the acceptance and institutionalization of the expected lie. Consider how we watch, uncritically, as movie stars accept their Oscars with tears and wild expressions of astonishment at this astounding surprise, as though they had won the lottery -- after having known for weeks that they were the acknowledged favorite in what, at worst, was a one-in-five shot.


2. July-September 1976. Edward Gelsthorpe markets a frozen-yogurt product, known as Frogurt, for the H.P. Hood Company. This is the beginning of the death of the American taste bud.

Yes, for centuries the French have claimed that Americans have no gustatory sophistication, and we have proved them right time and again, from the acceptance of diet sodas in the 1950s to the flowering of the fast-food industry a decade later. But in these cases, we at least KNEW this stuff was crap; we knew sodium cyclamates tasted bitter, but we wanted to lose weight. We knew McDonald's was not angus beef, but we loved how cheap it was.

Frozen yogurt is different. I realized this the other day when I actually found a Carvel stand and tasted, for the first time in a long time, the treat that has been virtually replaced in American culture by frozen yogurt. Frozen custard is emphatically better, on every level. It's smooth, not pebbly. It's sweet, not faintly chemically tart. It's creamy, not stiff; rich, not thin. We don't remember that. What happened was that our desire for a lower-calorie product finally collided with our culinary stupidity. We let ourselves get overwhelmed until we forgot what good tasted like.

What followed: Everything bad. Any chef will tell you that meat derives its taste not from muscle but from fat, but if you want to get a deliciously fatty slice of pastrami, or well-marbled beef, you have to travel to France or Argentina. The decision toward flat-tasting leanness has been made for us, until we no longer remember what great meat tastes like. Remember what fish used to taste like? Probably not. We now happily eat the tasteless protein that is sold to us as farm-raised trout. Even expensive restaurants will serve frozen French fries, which sort of resembles real French fries the way cardboard sort of resembles oak. We eat it with stupid grins on our faces. We don't know any better.

3. May 10-20th, 1952. The birth of the amiable dunce in politics.

Dwight Eisenhower was no dunce, but he was certainly amiable. The public liked this war hero, and he was surely a capable person. But his handlers saw a problem: Eisenhower was a man of action, not a master with words. He could come off at times as something of a simpleton, at least in comparison with his opponent, Adlai Stevenson, who was an elegant, urbane, articulate, complex intellectual. Ike's supporters had a remedy for this, and it was, unlike Ike, absolutely ingenious. They sent Richard Nixon out with a message to spread: Inverting an asset into a liability, Nixon charged that Adlai was an "egghead," a label that stuck, and touched a nerve. From then on, a new idea entered the American lexicon: That being smart was, somehow, not good. Not authentic. Not ... American. It was something to be apologized for.

What followed: George W. Bush. The Tea Party. And unknown horrors to come.


On the aptonym front, I have been apprised of the following astonishing real name. It takes about five seconds to realize its full impact.


And this wonderful thing, photographed by Caitlin Gibson, from the obituary page of the Chincoteague newspaper.


That pretty much does it, except for one piece of housekeeping: I owe some Giants panties to some ladies. They are, alas, backordered. Please be patient. We seem to be doing well without them; they'll be extra important late in the season.


Okay, let's go.


Gene Weingarten: Oops. I forgot the Big News.

It's Bad News, tempered with Good News.

Bad News: We have lost Chatwoman AND the auxiliary Chatvixen. Liz Kelly's new duties prohibit her from continuing to produce this chat, and Rachel Manteuffel, who filled in with all required snark during the last three months, goes back to her super-secret job in the Editorials bunker of The Post.

Rachel is irreplaceable. Liz is even more irreplaceable. The previous two sentences are in violation of all laws of language and syntax, but they happen to be true. I weep.

However: The new Chatwoman is Paul Williams, who is a fierce, smart, knowledgeable, and opinionated and funny guy. I realize there is a technical problem with calling him Chatwoman; its one I will resolve in the coming weeks, as his personality becomes apparent and a name suggests itself.


There you go again: Poll #2 "as long as you have a sophisticated sense of humor". But you will be sure to tell us that only you have such sophistication. I know you play up your arrogance for our fun, now wonder you like the skankees, especially a-fraud. Very nice that he got the last out against the Rangers by the way. Would you consider that karma?

Gene Weingarten: The Onion just had a wonderful piece quoting the Rangers manager thanking ARod for finally doing what he was hired to do: Bring a pennant to the Rangers.


Washington, D.C. : Isn't what Juan Williams said basically the same thing that Shirley Sherrod said? They both acknowledged a personal, bigoted thought in order to argue against that thought and make a broader point about tolerance.

Gene Weingarten: Shirley said it to make the point that it was bigoted, and to say that she learned from her bigotry.

Juan was making no such point.


Berlusco, NI: Your thoughts on Silvio Berlusoni's recent Holocaust joke?

I'm impressed with Berlusconi's delivery. Link to video, with subtitles, here.

Rough translation: A Jewish man is confessing to another's family that during the time of the Holocaust, he hid a member of that family in his basement but charged him money to do so.

"How much?"
"In current money, 3000 Euro."
"Per month?"
"Per day."
"Per day?!?!?!"
"Well you see, I rationalized it this way. First, we're Jews.
Second, he had a salary and could pay."
"Okay. You're forgiven."
"Thank you... Oh, and one more question. Do you think I should tell him that Hitler's dead and the war is over?"

Gene Weingarten: Wow! Well, okay, my first thought is that it's pretty ironic that he was chastised by The Vatican. The Vatican behaved pretty deplorably during the Holocaust.

I want to say it's okay, I really do. I don't like people who see antisemitism around every corner. However...

... this is a pretty sick joke. It's got too much against it: not only trivializing the Holocaust in general, but trivializing the whole Anne Frank in hiding aspect, presenting Jews as cheap, etc. It's bad. Bad Silvio.


Metro Center: AGH! Carvel is NOT frozen custard. NO.

It is soft serve ice cream, and that is not the same as frozen custard.

Gene Weingarten: But this is semantics. Carvel originally called itself frozen custard, no?


Brevity: I loved the Brevity panels until the last one. I guess that it was satirizing "The Giving Tree" and works like that, but it felt like a kick in the gut. How cruel. Plus it is not even funny. Wouldn't a bench enjoy being used for nice things?

Gene Weingarten: Wait. What??

How can you have loved it before the punchline? Before the punchline it was ... nothing.


Holy Turnover, Chatman!: That's all--just a suggestion. I was concerned the Gene's naming resolution would involve me having to undergo some type of surgery.

Gene Weingarten: Chatman is too easy.


Baltimore, Md: Can't say I finished the last survey. The Chronicle wanted me to jump through hoops to read Mallard Fillmore. Mallard Fillmore? Life's not long enough to read it as it is; putting an obstacle in my way ensures I'll never know what it was.

So, why am I wrong to keep up a long-standing policy of ignoring the strip? This should be fixed now, redirecting to another paper.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, for all of youse you balked at spam, it's spam free now.


#1 Stache: Gene- Are you willing to trade votes for autographs? I am willing to vote at least 200 times, possibly more, if you sign the copy of 'Fiddler in the Subway' that I received for my birthday.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. Email me at weingarten(at), and I will tell you how.

Gene Weingarten: AMI - Mustache American of the Year

Gene Weingarten: Here is the way I explained this in the update last week:

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.


Kentucky Stomping: Am I so jaded that I'm suspicious that the video of the woman being "stomped" outside the Rand Paul thing was staged? I mean, that crazy girl in Pennsylvania carved a backwards letter on her face and blamed Obama supporters... Is nothing real anymore? Activist stomped outside Rand Paul-Jack Conway debate

Gene Weingarten: There is a hole in this story somewhere. The stompage is unexplained.


Truxton Circle, DC: Hi Gene,

It cannot be denied that a large segment of the population feels as Williams did. Those feelings are also bigoted. I say this as someone who tenses up around someone in traditional Muslim garb on a plane and around groups of black men in street attire. What's worse, I lived in the Middle East and my house is in a largely black neighborhood. I should know better. I'm not proud of how I feel, and I work to overcome those feelings. I believe that we should discuss these feelings in public forums if only to better combat them.

I've not seen the entire O'Reilly discussion, but I take little issue with Williams' first quote. His second quote is more problematic. It would be like a Muslim arguing how dangerous Americans are because of Ann Coulter's quote about putting jihadists to the sword and converting them to Christianity. New Rule: people should not justify their prejudices by citing the musings of either a crazy extremist or someone who is just trying to market themselves (either could apply to Coulter or the Times Square bomber).

In my experience everyone has some racist feelings, but that does not make one a racist. A person with racist feelings becomes a racist when they refuse to recognize these feelings are racist and instead try to rationalize them.

Gene Weingarten: I think what Williams said fails several tests, not the least of which is one you repeat:

The LAST person to fear in a terrorist situation is the Muslim dressed in traditional Muslim garb. We've never been victimized by a Muslim in Muslim garb. Any serious terrorist is going to try to blend in. al-Shehhi and Atta sure did.

Someone freaked out by Muslims in Muslim garb is someone freaked out by Muslims, period.


Brevity Levity: The bench would not have lasted that long! makes no sense. Tree should have said it.

Gene Weingarten: Nonsense. There are benches in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, that are over 100 years old.

Sometimes they need the wood replaced. I can tell the wood was replaced three times in these benches.


Mr. Tony: Would you ever appear on the Tony Kornheiser radio show? I think you would be a great guest. You were his editor at Style, right? Did you two get along?

Gene Weingarten: We were constantly fighting, to the extent that people would sometimes sidle up to me afterwards to ask if "everything is okay."

Major creative tension. We were like a married couple who stays together for the sake of the kids. The kid was his column.

Nope, I wouldn't go on his show, but not because of any animosity. I like Tony. I'm just lousy on radio. I'm not quick enough. I have a nine-second synaptic delay.


Metro Center: Not semantics. There is a real difference between custard and soft serve. Levels of milk fat, presence of egg....

Ask anyone from the Great Lakes area. Exactly. It's not semantics if you've had the real thing.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, so let's extend this. Which is better, frozen custard or soft ice cream?


Racial humor: I want to punt on a second question but for similar reasons. I think the Mallard Fillmore comics are bigoted and they apply a generalization to a group of people that can be hurtful to members of the Muslim community. Yet, I also think the comic strip creator not only has a right to say it, but I also believe the standards of good taste apply less to comics than to editorial writers. Being a cartoon does allow us to realize it is satire, humor, and thus has much more leeway. I think "Family Guy" and "Mallard Fillmore" can be as obnoxious as they want. I just would wish to argue with people who do seriously believe racist and hateful thoughts. Similarly, I give a pass to Sarah Silverman who, in a way, belittles racism with her obviously racist humor.

Gene Weingarten: I think even art/satire has an obligation to be based on objective truth. That if you are exaggerating, it should be exaggerating from truth. And that art/satire should be shunned (not censored) if it fails to do so.

I keep remember that after 9/11, the poet laureate of N.J., Amiri Baraka wrote a poem that had these lines:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed?
Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day?
Why did Sharon stay away?

I don't think that's okay, just because it's a poem.


Re: stomping: Did you watch the video? The stomper looked like an authentic fired-up ignoramus to me.

The stompee was doing some sort of stunt to give Paul an "award" from Move On -- THAT part was stage craft.

Gene Weingarten: I assume it's REAL. I just don't understand why he's stomping.


Shakeyabeh, Ind: Dear Gene,

I am the proud owner of an email address based on my name. It goes something like this (my name has been changed for privacy reasons): As a result, I often get emails addressed to other Edith Whartons. Extremely often. My name isn't particularly common, so I'm always a little surprised that people still mix us up. These emails run the gamut from party invitations to student loan information to pictures of their friends' children. The emails come from all over the world and based on the subject matter, I can tell that there are multiple Edith Whartons not getting these emails. Sometimes I respond, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I'm snarky, sometimes I'm nice. My question for you is: I suspect there is potential for humor in this situation somewhere but I can't seem to find it (other than the occasional sarcastic response to senders). Am I missing an obvious humor opportunity here?

Thanks, "Edith"

P.S. I have googled these Ediths to some degree of success; at least one of them has a kind of funny (and very unique) job that I cannot divulge here without exposing my identity.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. What you have to do is what I sometimes do to wrong numbers.

Caller: Is Edith there?

Me: She is, but I'm afraid she's too drunk to come to the phone.

Caller: (gasp)

Me: Okay, kidding. You have a wrong number.

The last part is important. You should answer in any outrageous way you want. Proposition the emailer, etc. But you must follow it, immediately, with a disclaimer. You CAN send the disclaimer as a followup email, but do it instantly.


Austin, Texas: What do you think of police departments rehiring policemen/women who have been charged and convicted of DWI?

Gene Weingarten: I wasn't aware of this as an issue, and I am going to assume there are facts behind your question.

To me, it would depend on two facts: 1) are we talking recidivist DUI, or just a single conviction. And, 2) was this DUI while on duty?

With the right answer to both questions, I'd think rehiring them is probably okay, with monitoring, etc. DUI I think is something that can happen once, be learned from, and not happen again.

You guys gonna kill me on this, right?


San Jose, CA: Since you enjoy the occasional "did this really happen" type video, I thought you would like this one.

Gene Weingarten: He not only doesn't seem injured, he doesn't seem to be particularly ruffled.


Expressing bigotry: I hated the "never express these feelings publicly" part in your survey answers. Shaming people about their reactions doesn't diminish their prejudices: it simply makes them defensive and angry. The real offense is not in HAVING these feelings, but DEFENDING them as justified and acceptable: i.e. "I'm not a bigot, therefore I'm allowed to say this incredibly bigoted thing." If Williams had followed his statements with "...but these are irrational fears, they aren't based in reality, they are harmful to American society, and let's talk about why..." this could've been a really positive moment. As is, Williams's statements were bigoted, and I don't blame NPR for firing him, but I do regret that their actions reinforce the message that one should never, ever, ever talk about race.

Gene Weingarten: I also feel he was being disingenuous in suggesting that because he wrote books about the civil rights movement -- about discrimination against people like himself -- that that's evidence he is not bigoted about Muslims.


Frozen Custard: Frozen custard metaphorically stomps on the head of soft-serve ice cream. Try Dairy Godmother in Alexandria.

Gene Weingarten: Many people are contending this.

Is there ANYONE willing to defend frozen yogurt against these products?


EVOLUTION: So God speaks by rearranging an English word into a message in English? Does he only not love speakers of English? That's as dopey as the email that went around years ago instructing people that "handicapped" was an offensive word because in medieval France (France!) the handicapped were forced to be beggars and stand around "cap in hand" which naturally became "handicapped." Geez. Don't people THINK?

Gene Weingarten: And the F-word happened because people accused of a certain crime in the middle ages were held in cells so small that their crime could be written out only in acronym. The crime was Fornication (and) Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Actually, that one sounds plausible. It isn't true, but sounds plausible.


Frozen custard is MUCH better: Go to Dickey's. 1710 I St NW. No contest.

Gene Weingarten: Dickey's is great. So that is frozen custard? And Carvel's is not?


Gene Weingarten: Poll One:

I'm delighted you all liked it. I will tell the cartoonist, Guy Endore-Kaiser, who is a friend of mine.

I'm not sure you're right. My feeling is that the ultimate joke was terrific, but that the sequence was a mistake, for practical purposes. For six days, this strip was not entertaining people: Asking them, in effect, to trust the cartoonist. That's a major investment of trust. I'm not sure the payoff was warrented -- an off-the-wall joke -- but the big problem is that it appeared on Sunday.

Some papers run only dailies. Some papers run only Sundays. A lot of readers either never got the punchline, or ONLY got the punchline.

Still, daring, and I applaud it.

The school teacher? Sorry, but that prosecution was completely pathetic. It's not just that no children were hurt, which for me is dispositive. It's also that it's entirely possible to look at these images and see them not as porn but as an attempt at humor: subversion of the squeaky-clean nature of children's comics.

This is essentially like computer-generated child porn, but even one step more removed. I just have no problem with it.

I'd like to hear from those relatively few of you who disagree.


Alexandria, Va.: Dear Gene,
I have an issue that I feel only you can address. I am an early 30s, hott, obviously, reasonably fit woman. Two weeks ago, I quit smoking. Since then, I have not had any substantial poopage, and have been extremely gassy. I have always been more than a bit fart-y, but this has reached extreme proportions in frequency and force, and, is um, sulfurous in odor. My eating habits have not changed, other than eating more ice cream/frozen yogurt (but I don't think it's dairy related, only because I have always consumed milk/yogurt/cheese on an almost daily basis). So, am I doomed to go from smelly smoker to just smelly or will this go away eventually? Thanks for everything!

Gene Weingarten: I love this chat.

It's the increased dairy.


Arlington, VA: I'm instantly distrustful of people I see in public in "muslim garb". I also am suspicious if I see a dude wearing a priest collar, guys in yarmulkes, or women decked out in 1800s mormon gear.

I don't consider this to be bigotted at all. We judge people all the time on the clothes they wear, people who wear religiously oriented attire are making a clear statement that their belief in the supernatural is of paramount importance. Furthermore, religion is a choice people make. In the case of Muslims, a tenant of Islam is that infidels should be converted at the tip of a sword. It's probably not productive to make an assumption that any given woman wearing a Hijab is a potential terrorst, but I feel perfectly comfortable making the assumption that I would dislike such a person if I got to know them.

In any case, what Juan Williams said was not that unreasonable.

Gene Weingarten: Tenet, not tenant.

I think I don't like you.


Stafford, VA: How do you get snot out of corduroy?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think it's possible to get ANYTHING out of corduroy. Corduroy and suede: Just buy them and throw them out immediately. It's less painful.


Fairfax: So is the below pick-up line lame, or a meta pick-up line about no pick-up line?

"You know, it's times like this I really wish I had a killer pick-up line to use on women."

I heard some guy use this the other day and my group debated whether or not it was usually successful (it was in the case we saw). Your thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: I am not a pickup specialist, but I think I know women pretty well, and I think it's terrible. Here's why:

I think a woman would appreciate a man who doesn't even THINK about using a line. A guy who is genuine and who treats women as equals, and tells them the truth, not a "line."


Loon, AR: Um, the Apollo 11 landing and the first moonwalk occurred on July 20, 1969, you moron.

October 26, 2010: the end of accuracy in journalism.

Gene Weingarten: I thought the first moonwalk happened the day after the landing! I have several sources on that.

Gene Weingarten: I am wrong?


Riverdale, MD: Was hoping you would contrast what happened with Juan Williams to the lack of anything that happened to Bill Moyer who said, during a PBS editorial on the ongoing violence in the middle east, that "God-soaked violence became genetically encoded" in jewish people.

When my conservative friends shared the link with me, I thought they were taking a quote out of context, but after reading the transcript of the editorial, it really gave me pause.

Hypocrisy on the part of PBS?

Gene Weingarten: Never heard this!

It's startling. I'm trying to find a way to clear Moyers, but I can't.


It's the increased dairy. : It's also the quitting smoking. Tobacco is a laxative. Ask any scientist. The ex-smoker needs to watch the dairy, take metamucil or ground flax seed, and drink lots of water.

Gene Weingarten: Tobacco is a laxative?


Nashville, TN: Hey Gene, Eric here, down in Music City. I'm wondering why it is "stand-up comedy." Granted that when comedy is performed, for the most part, the comic or comics are standing and hardly ever seated (though, there ARE lots of stool-sitting comics... leading to "stool comedy"...???) We turn to you. It seems a silly distinction. Why not just "live comedy"...?

Gene Weingarten: This is Eric Brace, folks, the hugely talented frontman of the D.C.-begun band Last Train Home.

Eric is the only person I know who successfully jumped from journalism to music, and is making a good living at it.

"Standup comedy" is not exactly redundant, the way "tuna fish" is, or "sit down" is (did you ever think about that one) but it's probably equally stupid. For one think, it discriminates against the differently abled comic. If there is one? Is there one? If so, I bet he or she makes a lot of jokes about standup.

Yeah. "Live comedy" seems a lot better. Though, hm. Live comedy could include skit comedy, or musical comedy. Standup pretty well distinguishes itself as one thing only.

Okay, I've come full circle within the length of this response. I go with standup.

This is Eric and LTH doing My Sally.


Unpleasant lodged vet memories: Gene, I used to work at veterinary clinics, both specialty and general practice, and what Molly encountered with the pot eating dog is by no means uncommon. In fact, I'm surprised the college student gave up the information so easily, I've spent hours trying to get the truth out of owners so we can effectively treat the animals. Here are some of most memorable:

1. Two dogs obviously suffering from possible toxic ingestions, kept vomiting a foul smelling substance with chunks of what was clearly not dog food, also some neurological and motor changes. Took almost 2 hours to get the owners to admit the dogs may have eaten magic mushrooms (they had) and we wouldn't call the cops.

2. Vomiting dog who hadn't pooped in a few days, decreased appetite, couldn't keep food down. Dog had eaten a condom, used, owner was embarrassed to include this item in possible things the dog had eaten out of the trash earlier in the week.

3. Owner said dog had been attacked by another dog, wounds were inconsistent with dog bites, took hours for the owner to admit he had been bear hunting out of season and the dog had actually had a run in with a bear. This was in southwest Virginia, his kid was in overalls and barefoot, it wasn't a stretch to believe this.

People have also been embarrassed to admit their dog or cat could have eaten used sanitary napkins, tampons, underwear, bras, sex toys, lube, diaphragms, birth control pills, anti-depressants, and various other medications that could carry some kind of stigma.

People, please, PLEASE, if you have to take your animal to the vet, be honest about what your pet may have got into, it makes our jobs as diagnosticians much easier, and could be essential in saving your pet's life. And believe it or not, it's probably happened many times before, we've seen it all. Or at least heard about it from the other vets, we love trying to have the best "So this one client brought their dog in because. . ." story.

PSA: also watch out for rat and insect poisons, and anti- freeze, two of the most dangerous substances your pet can ingest, if you think they may have eaten these bring them to the vet IMMEDIATELY, these are extremely fatal but the animal can be saved if treatments are administered quickly after ingestion.

The more you know. . . (arcing star across screen)

Gene Weingarten: Good advice.

Some years ago, my friend Caitlin Gibson was chatting with neighbors while on a walk with her dog, Maggie. Things were going swimmingly, until she noticed the neighbors -- a fortyish couple -- had stopped talking and were looking over her shoulder, toward the ground. Cait turned to see Maggie pooping an intact tampon, string and all. Nobody said anything about it, but the neighbors backed away, toot sweet.


Another ice cream farter: Breyers and probably other brands make lactose free ice cream.

Gene Weingarten: The only times I wake up farting are after late-night ice cream binges.


Washington (which technically doesn't exist), District of Columbia: Will you be at this year's University Club Book Fair, if so, when is it, and will you actually have books to sell us?

Seriously, I will buy one, or maybe even more. I have hesitated entering all your free book giveaways because I want to buy one to help support the University Club for their...whatever it is they do.

Gene Weingarten: I will have to negotiate with them. Couple of years ago, terrible experience: I told people about it in the chat, hundreds came, and most were turned away. They'd only ordered 20 books. I just felt terrible.


Iowa: I plan to vote for you often and with great fervor in the Superb Stache contest to avoid the title going to Terry Branstad, who aims to be be Iowa governor-in-perpetuity.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think he's my main competitor. That guy under me has a pretty persuasive case.


in re: Mr. Williams (Paul, not Juan).: "I realize there is a technical problem with calling him Chatwoman; its one I will resolve in the coming weeks, as his personality becomes apparent and a name suggests itself."

Over at the Celebritology Chat, we call him Producer Paul. He's known and loved far and wide for his wit, discernment, discretion, and a fascinating array of links to photographs of Scarlett Johansson. You're going to love him.

Gene Weingarten: I think we're going to be bringing up the topiary issue again....


Frozen Custard: I am from the south and grew up with soft-serve ice cream. Frozen custard is infinitely better. Check out the Dairy Godmother in Del Ray, Alexandria to understand how wrong you are in equating Carvel with frozen custard. Although, I do love a Fudgy the Whale cake...

Gene Weingarten: I was not really trying to distinguish frozen custard from soft-serve ice cream. I was trying to distance both of those from the odious yogurt.


Beautiful Silver Spring, Md.: I am sure I am not the first to inform you of the GRAVE PUNCTUATION ERROR in your Greg Giraldo poll. "$1,000 bucks"? Come on, Mr. I'm Going to Have a Contest to See Who Can Find the Featherweight Typo in My Book.

That said, my life is richer for having read those jokes, and I thank you for introducing me to his work.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, I pulled it from the web, tragically unedited.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, the second poll.

Let's start first with the standup comedy. The choices here are pretty evident to those of us with functional senses of humor. You all did rather poorly, I am afraid. Collectively, you screwed the pooch.

The best was clearly the one about terrorism, and his son's question. Very unexpected, great inversion, and kind of rude. How you didn't see that, I don't know. Second best was the Hummers.

Then, a long dropoff to number three, which is your number one choice, about his sons. The most puzzling error you made was finding the Virgin Mary joke excellent. Quite weak. Streisand was better.

You're right about the Amanda Hess correction. And I was wrong, initially. I communicated to TBD editors that I thought she needed to dryly make it clear she knew it was hilarious; they disagreed. They were right. My reaction was one of self-protection. I would have wanted to let the READER know I got it. But in terms of having a correction for the ages, which this was, it was best to leave it bare.


Gene Weingarten: I almost forgot.

Have you ever wondered why I am a world-famous book author and you are not? I didn't think so. Nonetheless, there is an answer. It is because many years ago I met Dave Barry, and you did not.

Dave didn't teach me how to get books published. But meeting Dave meant that in time I got to meet his brother, Sam Barry. Sam plays harmonica for The Rock Bottom Remainders. Sam taught me to play the harmonica over the phone.

You still with me?

Well, time went by, as time often does. 9/11 happened. The Yankees won the World Series. Lindsay Lohan went to jail at least twice. And Sam Barry, with his wife, Kathi Goldmark, who is a book publicist, wrote a book. It's called "Write That Book Already: the Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now."

The point is, THESE PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO GET A BOOK PUBLISHED. They will tell you if you happen to be at Borders Bookstore in White Flint Mall in Rockville on Nov. 8th at 7 p.m.

I should note that Sam never actually taught me how to get a book published. I have been doing that on my own. Sam's contribution to this is to ask me occasionally how many copies of my book have been sold. Then I tell him and he gets this funereal look on his face. He doesn't say anything but the look is eloquent. It says, "Read my book, schmuck."

I plan to.


DUI: I agree with you, Gene.

There are people who are alcoholics and habitually convince themselves they can handle their addiction enough to drive. A single DUI arrest isn't going to do much to change this.

Then there are people who drink only occassionally and don't judge their intoxication levels well. One arrest often can be a big slap in the face, and it never happens again.

Of course either person is in danger of killing someone while behind the wheel that night. But the first example is going to keep testing their luck, saying,"I haven't hurt anyone, so it's okay." The second says, "Thank goodness I didn't hurt anyone and from now on I'm not taking any chances." That person does deserve to have be given a chance.

Gene Weingarten: Seems evident to me, yeah.


Ms. Lastname: The obituary caption is brilliant, but what I like best is the inclusion of the middle initial. What on earth does the "J" stand for, I wonder?

Gene Weingarten: It's like Jesus H. Christ.

I love that obituary caption.


Washington, DC: Everyone else at the Post seems to have weighed in on the Rally to Restore Sanity. Except you. Weigh in?

Also, the moonwalk happened in the evening on Houston time, July 20 1969. But it was July 21 UTC.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, good. Of course. Both dates could be correct.

I am worried about the rally -- that Stewart's going to seem ... earnest. I almost wrote that, but decided that he's been on target for so long, he'll probably pull it off.


Loon, AR: Note the time/date adjustment, per Wikipedia: "At 02:39 UTC on Monday July 21 (10:39pm EDT, Sunday July 20), 1969, Armstrong opened the hatch, and at 02:51 UTC began his descent to the Moon's surface."

"UTC" is Coordinated Universal Time, which you can also read about on Wikipedia.

Gene Weingarten: I remember that it was night, our time. I was 17, in my dorm room, very, very stoned.


Do city names count?: I don't THINK I've seen this aptonym listed here.

Also, for the 5 members of the chat who don't listen to NPR, Morning Edition has a lovely (if somewhat shallow) interview with Trudeau today.

Gene Weingarten: I love stories like this, which leave enormous, hilarious unanswered questions. In this case, they forgot to cover the last of the big W's.


Downtown, DC: Gene, in a recent chat update, you posited the question "Do you love your country?" as a foolproof test to identify conservatives/liberals (conservatives quickly say "yes"; liberals explain/qualify their answers.

I find a flaw in your question. I lean conservative. If you'd asked me that question a year ago, I would've said "yes." But after watching the political/economic events/stunts of the last year committed by both sides, I think I would now simply say "no." Does this upset your thinking/analysis? And am I using too many slashes and/or punctuation marks?

Gene Weingarten: Interesting! I suspect you are in a minority on this. My test is VERY accurate.


Belmont, MA: David Mitchell is clearly a wonderful fellow and I must watch more of his "Soap Box" videos. In answer to your "research" question: the British (and certain Americans) say "re-SEARCH" (and "BER-n'rd") rather than the (usual) American "REE-search" (and "ber-NARD").

Gene Weingarten: I get the re-SEARCH, since we are not searching again. But it seems to me that BERN-ard and ber-NARD are simply two valid ways of pronouncing the same name. No?

I can tell you for certain that J. Bernard Pillsbury is Bern-ARD. We will learn what the J. stands for in an upcoming strip.

This is a reference, by the way, to this excellent vidblog thing from last week's update.

I must report that I was subsequently apprised that this is something of a shameless ripoff of a similar riff by John Cleese.


Austin, TX: I couldn't answer the Juan Williams poll - I think that what he said demonstrates a degree of prejudice against Muslims, but I don't think that's why he should have been fired. He should have been fired because he violated the terms of his employment contract. Everything else is just manufactured controversy. I was at Indiana at the end of the Bob Knight era, and the Williams firing reminded me of that situation. Knight wasn't fired for grabbing a kid, but because grabbing a kid violated a zero-tolerance policy he had agreed to.

Gene Weingarten: Well, yeah. On the firing issue, I am agnostic. On whether he said anything wrong, I am not. I think my black man analogy was spot on. And he never would have said that.


Corrections: The HIV correction should not be changed at all; it is only comedic gold because it does not acknowledge the humor.

A close second? The Post ran this correction on 12/3/09: A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.

Personally, I love this one because, unlike the unfortunate typo in the HIV article, it takes a certain mix of cultural ignorance and outrage to get that mistake. Correction goes viral, blame is misplaced

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this was bad.

I do believe Amanda's correction was the greatest of all time, eclipsing the previous record holder, from the Miami Herald in 1986, which I have reported about before.


Gene Weingarten: Here is the original reference re the correction, from a pvs chat:
One morning in 1986, I was working at the city desk of the Miami Herald when I saw a sports editor walk in, open his newspaper, stare at it goggle-eyed, go completely pale, slam it shut, and look around furtively, as if for an escape route. What he had seen was a passage that he knew he was responsible for, resulting in the following feces-consuming correction, which I print here verbatim:

"Last Sunday, The Herald erroneously reported that original Dolphin Johnny Holmes had been an insurance salesman in Raleigh, N.C., that he had won the New York lottery in 1982 and lost the money in a land swindle, that he had been charged with vehicular homicide but acquitted because his mother said she drove the car, and that he stated that the funniest thing he ever saw was Flipper spouting water on [coach] George Wilson.

Each of these items was erroneous material published inadvertently. He was not an insurance salesman in Raleigh, did not win the lottery, neither he nor his mother wa charged or involved in any way with a vehicular homicide, and he made no comment about Flipper or George Wilson. The Herald regrets the errors.'

The explanation? For a ''whatever happened to'' 20-year-after story about the 1966 Dolphins, the editor had made up some fanciful dummy type, to estimate length and show reporters how to craft their little mini-bios. It somehow got in the paper. Oddly enough, Mr. Holmes was never heard from.


Moon landing line: My dad is a (retired) rocket scientist. He was an engineer on the Apollo program. He's not a native speaker of English, but he speaks it a lot better than Armstrong does. I have grown up hearing him say more or less what you just said. Where the heck are the poets when you need one?

Gene Weingarten: There was a poet on that flight. Michael Collins, the guy piloting the main craft, wrote a book called "Carrying The Fire." He Noticed Things. He had the soul of a poet.


More on the undesirability of "eggheads" in public office: With the precision of a synchronized swimming team, the Onion has just published a "commentary" that beautifully illustrates your opening point, called "My Opponent Knows Where Washington Is On A Map; I Don't, And I Never Will."

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Really was five seconds.: Paine, dentist, haha, but Gene said it took longer for full impact... hrm... WHOA, I GET IT!

Exactly five second by my watch. Good job!

Gene Weingarten: It's really quite remarkable!


Rockville, MD: Should there be copy-edited product placement in comix strips? Clickable links in speech balloons? For instance, should Peanuts plug peanuts or Popeye hawk, er, Popeye's chicken?

Gene Weingarten: Good point. Barney & Clyde, as you note, plugged Popeye's yesterday, and we didn't get a cent.

Paul, can you link?


Sexwith, ME: On the Amanda Hess correction. I'd think you're running a correction on an embarrassing item, you don't repeat your mistake in the correction, unless it's absolutely necessary.

If they felt they had to reprint the gaffe, since it was so appallingly amusing, it should have been accompanied by a quip.

Otherwise, the correction should have said, "the article should have said 'having sex with men ...'" and not called extra attention to itself.

Gene Weingarten: What I had envisioned was something along the lines of this addition:

"In fact, the percentage of black men who have had sex with me and are HIV positive is much lower."


Greg Giraldo: FYI, some of Greg Giraldo's friends started a college fund for his young sons, if anyone wants to make a donation/honor Greg

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


NewTo, ME: Gene: Even though certain moderators are not itching(!) to address this topic, I operate under the assumption that even said moderator can't object to something published in the Post, well, the Magazine anyway. This is from the young woman featured in this week's Date Lab upon meeting her date:

"He's got this tall, dark, handsome thing going on. I told my friend I'm a follower of the "no-shave-to-behave" policy (on first dates), and I wish I had brought a razor."

One so many levels: Wow.

Gene Weingarten: I'm not allowed to discuss this. The spirit of Liz lives on.


Barney and Clyde: I've tried to think about how to word this so it doesn't come across as snarky and I'm not sure if there is a sure-fire way to ensure that. So please accept my sincere promise that I do not mean this to be snarky; it's a sincere question.

What made you decide to pursue Barney and Clyde as a traditional (i.e. "syndicated in a newspaper") format over a web comic? I think most people would agree that newspapers, at least in their current form, are a dying animal. And web comics can be quite successful. Off the top of my head, xkcd, The Oatmeal and Hyperbole and a Half are all fully self-supporting through ads and merchandise sales. The oatmeal had a book deal in less than year of going live with his blog.

Did you guys consider this route? If so, why did you choose the more traditional route? If not, why not?

Just curious.

Gene Weingarten: Because I work for a newspaper, and have all my life, and think that way. I get a charge, still, in seeing something on paper. Because we wanted to be a little edgy in a forum for which "a little edgy" is pushing an envelope.

_______________________ Barney & Clyde (Oct. 25)


The greatest music video ever made:

(Just in case you haven't seen it yet.)

Gene Weingarten: Yes, we've visited this in an update, I believe, but it's worth re-watching.


Silver Spring, Md: The test was "are you proud to be an American?" Not "do you love your country?" There is a huge difference between those concepts.

Gene Weingarten: The test was "Are you proud to be an American?"

Of course, an enormous difference.


Ene, MA: They used to give people tobacco smoke enemas, it was a process called clystering, and only moderately effective. It was also the origin of the phrase "blow smoke up someone's ass."

Gene Weingarten: Good lord.

I am using this even though I have no idea if you are right. That is the level of care we show here at Chatological Humor.


It's Not Hypochondria!: I don't know WHY I've never asked you this. I have a history of sharp stomach pain on my left side, plus related maladies: digestive issues, centralized abdominal pain, swollen stomach, and occasional nausea/vomiting as soon as I eat. I'm 34 and female (and otherwise hot).

Doctors are stumped: endoscopy, colonoscopy, MRIs, CAT scans and bloodwork show nothing. No colitis, Crohn's, diverticulitis, colon cancer, liver disease, etc. Scans show an inflamed appendix, but I don't see that causing left-sided debilitating pain. So, what do you think? I'm thinking a "nervous stomach" or ovarian cancer.

Gene Weingarten: I was gonna say the appendix. But not if this has lasted a long time.

Pain in the appendix is sometimes referred elsewhere. You can feel it two feet away.


Fairfax, Va: The last time I flew, an Arab-looking man dressed like a typical American was outside my terminal quickly speaking Arabic, looking somewhat agitated, and I heard a time spoken. I was freaked out. If this guy was Hispanic and doing the same thing in Spanish, I wouldn't have thought twice. I don't look twice at Muslims dressed up for the reasons you gave. But I definitely look out for suspicious activity from American- dressing Arabs. Is this racist?

Gene Weingarten: Not in my opinion.

Paul, can you find a story I wrote several years ago under the headline "Fear Itself." If possible, flagged to the section about my seatmate, Hani Hanjour.


Arlington, VA: Re your egghead comment, have you read William Tenn's short story, "Null P"? It was written about 60 years ago and is a satire about what would happen if the statistically average person became President. When I first read it 40 years ago, I thought it was funny. Now it's just scary.

Gene Weingarten: I think we've had several statistically average presidents. Harding was one, I think, and Geo W. Zack Taylor was possible less than statistically normal; fortunately, he died quickly.


Kansas City: Gene, I attended a Trudeau event at the library yesterday. What a captivating speaker he is! Most authors on book tours just read from their book or speak for a minute and then take questions (both lazy). Trudeau was prepared with a multi-media presentation, tons of anecdotes, and a great presence. Do you think you can convince him to stop reading from his prepared speech, though? When he was off his notes, he was great. When he was just reading, though, his brilliance just didn't show through the same.

Gene Weingarten: You are the second person to write from KC about how great Trudeau was.

He's just so good, on so many levels.


WDC: I don't understand "no shave to behave" She could have just meant her legs!

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I guess she could have. I naturally assumed there was more to it.


Hypochondriac Again: Thanks! Now I'm curious -- were you going to say "the appendix" before I told you it was inflamed? That makes all the difference...

Gene Weingarten: Yes!

_______________________ Fear Itself


You are Wrong.: You seem to think that the first panels are not important to the joke. This is wrong. The first four panels are sweet and moving, and have an independent existence. Sappy, but still moving.

The joke only works with lurid contrast between the heartfelt scene and the crass repudiation of sentiment in the last panel.

Gene Weingarten: That's absolutely right about what makes the joke. And though I'll reluctantly accept sweet, I won't accept moving.


"Sit down": not redundant. Imagine a dog standing on all fours. You can order it to sit down, or sit up. Context matters.

Gene Weingarten: Well, sit up means sit up. Sit means sit down.


"No shave to behave": It's the same principle as wearing granny underwear on a date -- create roadblocks so you don't, after a few drinks, do something stupid. And yeah, it could just mean her legs.

Gene Weingarten: I'm thinking it PROBABLY meant her legs, and the poster and I are both leering little boys!


Re: Michael Collins: He had more time to write poetry, stuck up there in the orbiter.

Gene Weingarten: "Carrying the Fire" was a beautiful metaphor.

He got the bad duty, no question.


Loss of Liz (Chatwoman): Decided it was easier to take care of baby vs you?

Gene Weingarten: Essentially, yes.


Scans show an inflamed appendix,: Doctors now acknowledge that there is such a thing as chronic, as well as acute, appendicitis. My husband thought he had lactose intolerance until his appendicitis became acute. He had it removed and the symptoms he had attributed to dairy products disappeared completely.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am beginning to thing we may be approaching a diagnosis here.


Washington, DC: Is there anything more ridiculous than the segway tours around Washington? I find myself drawn suddenly to fits of hysteria when watching these endless streams of single file silliness pass by my window.

Gene Weingarten: Even funnier is the sight of a cop on a Segway. Lord, they looks stupid.

Thank you all; our work here is done. Chatpaul is reminding me that we are in major need of a FAQ upgrade. Look for it in the next update.




Gene Weingarten: When did Halloween morph from a joyfully mean-spirited event involving fear, extortion and vandalism into the modern feel-good, squeaky-clean, everyone's-a-winner variant, where children find it appropriate to dress not as rotting dead things but as, say, "fairy princesses," and no one says boo? I don't know when it happened, but I don't like it.

In my downtown, gentrified Washington neighborhood, there is at least a little tension. Many of the trick or treaters are driven in from less affluent areas, presumably because the pickings around here are better. Some are teens who don't bother to wear costumes. This all makes some of the locals feel a little put-upon, which puts their earnest, egalitarian white liberal souls at war with their senses of middle-class entitlement. It all tends to all work out fine, but not without some angst and grumbles. I rather enjoy the show.

At 10 p.m. on Halloween night, my son, Dan, and I were loading something into his car in front of our house when a caravan of boys rode by on bikes. They were about 15. One of them yelled, "'Happy Halloween, motherf-----s,'" and flung an egg at us. It splattered the car.

Dan and I agreed it was the most authentic Halloween moment of our lives.


Gene Weingarten: You have heard all the other deconstructions of the Stewart-Colbert rally, now you get mine. I was there, in a manner of speaking.

(The best sign, by the way, was "Words on a Sign," and the second best was "Is this the line for Justin Bieber tickets?" The best T-shirt had Bush's face on it above the quote: "I screwed you all, but thanks for blaming the black guy.")

The highpoint of the rally for me was when, against all odds, using only triangulation by cell phone communication, I actually found my friend Caitlin among 200,000 other people standing cheek-to-groin. It involved 35 minutes of sliding between people, and proceeded slowly, with a great deal of inadvertent frottage, for which I apologize to all justifiably aggrieved parties.

The sense of elation when Cait and I finally met was obliterated almost immediately when the show began and we realized that Jon and Stephen hadn't planned for a big enough crowd. We were six blocks from the stage, and two blocks from the last big speaker, and the only way to sort of hear what was being said was through a version of "telephone," where each tier of listeners relayed to the tier behind what they thought they heard. At one point we heard "I like Cuban food," which had apparently started out as "It doesn't matter what we do," which was our cue to disperse through the crowd toward the side streets, a process involving another 35 minutes of inadvertent frottage.

Eventually, we reached a bar, where I heard Stewart's final speech. It was a swell and eloquent speech, a perfect coda to the day, and, I think, a mistake. It was not a mistake, as others have alleged, because he chickened out and blamed the media. He's allowed to do that, and his clips were hilarious. And it was not a mistake because he sounded a teensy bit messianic, which he did, but heck, look what he had just pulled off. It was not a mistake because he was somehow obliged to remain in character throughout; it was his show, and he was navigating completely uncharted waters, and he could do what he wanted, and who are we to second guess it.

It was a mistake because, in the end, Jon broke a cardinal rule of humor:

"Horse goes into a bar. Bartender says, ' Why the long face?' Get it? In so doing, the bartender was not commenting on the horse's sadness, as we were led to believe, but on his physiognomy, since horses have elongated faces!"


Gene Weingarten: I voted this morning. Had a choice to use paper ballot or touch screen. Chose touch screen, for the novelty, and the green, of it. Was led to touch screen area, where it became apparent there was only one touch screen, and a grumbly line; paper-ballot people were sailing right through without a wait, and looking at touch-screen people with sympathy. Why aren't there more touch screens, I asked. "People don't seem to like 'em," I was told. "Well, duuh," I said.


Silver Spring, Md.: I think audio analysis has shown that Armstrong did not omit the crucial "a," although he did kind of swallow it, in his unassuming midwestern way.

But you are correct as to the lameness of the composed line.

Gene Weingarten: No, no no.

He did omit the "a." I consider this definitive. And listen to it for yourself.

Mr. Armstrong was caught in another bit of fancy. In his book he claimed to have ad-libbed that line, without any preparation, which was obvious nonsense. In a quote here, he admits he had "rehearsed" it.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, I have been re-reading the transcripts from the moon, and it turns out that when Armstrong WASN'T being wooden and scripted, he had a little bit of soul. A few minutes after his verbal fart, as Aldrin was preparing to step out of the craft, Armstrong said: " It has a stark beauty all its own. It's like much of the high desert of the United States. It's different, but it's very pretty out here."

Unscripted is SO much better.


Eastern Market: Gene, how should I act when I see you in the neighborhood? My boyfriend is getting sick of me clutching his arm and going, "ohmygod, it's Gene, ohmygod."

Gene Weingarten: I think you should kiss me.


Hero, IN: On the penultimate episode of Mad Men this season, Don caught up with an old lover who was now a heroin addict. When Don asked her what it was like, she said, "It's like drinking a hundred bottles of whiskey while someone licks your t**s." As a former user yourself, I was wondering what you thought of this description. I've never come close to hard drugs, and I've often wondered what the appeal of heroin specifically was.

Gene Weingarten: That's great TV dialogue, but it was either written to be taken sarcastically -- as in, "it's a stupid question so I'll give you a stupid answer" -- or it was written in earnest by someone who had no idea what a heroin high is like.

There are two parts to a heroin high: The rush, and what comes after. The rush, which lasts a couple of minutes, is a scrambling euphoria; your brain isn't scrambled, as in the frying-pan ads -- it is scrambling, excitedly moving in several directions at once, trying to find a purchase and failing, but giddy in the effort. It's both a physical and mental pleasure.

After the rush you are left with a pleasant, numbing, white-noise background to the next few hours. You can function quite well on it. But you can also sink down into it at will, and it puts your mind into a mini-scramble, a state of free-association of thoughts that seems oddly liberating; when you're doing this, your body is falling briefly asleep until your head lolls and you wake back up. This is "the nod," made famous, I think, in David Simon's first book "Homicide." Some dealers who don't use their product learn to FAKE the nod, to advertise supposed quality.

I found the whole thing, well, intoxicating. Waay too intoxicating. It's a dangerously pleasurable high. The best evidence of this is very post. Thirty-nine years after the last time I shot up, I remember it this vividly.

For any of you who might be reading this and thinking, "wow, hey, maybe...." Don't. It came thisclose to killing me at 19, and then almost succeeded a quarter century later through a lingering hepatitis. Don't.


Gene Weingarten: And finally, I'd like to congratulate Ms. Valerie Holt, daughter of Pat The Perfect, who today accomplishes something that very few people can accomplish, attributable both to an accident of birth and to a sense of civic responsibility. Today, Valerie becomes American's youngest Election Day voter. She turned 18, today, and voted.




Gene Weingarten: It's a small world. Would you like to know how small it is? I didn't think so, but I am going to tell you anyway. I just got an e-mail from a David Kessler of Washington D.C. who had read the recent column about my address to my college alumni association, done some math, and had a question for me.

It seems that in his family, a certain term has been used for decades to describe a situation or circumstance or thing that is less than ideal. These items are said to "suck a dead rat," or "suck the proverbial dead rat." He remembered that this term had been first used in his family by his sister, Jill, and that Jill had said she picked it up from something she had read in the college newspaper when she attended NYU in the early 1970s.

David's question: Was I the author, at the age of 20, of this dubious family expression that has endured for 40 years?

Yes. I was. See, I've ALWAYS been producing high-quality stuff. It just took a while for the Pulitzer people to catch up.


Spokane, Wash.: My friend came to me with an ethical dilemma the other day. Our state and local elections next week are vote-by-mail and she had received her ballot as well as those of her elderly (mid-80s) parents. Both parents are in a retirement home, reasonably healthy but suffering from advanced senile dementia.

My friend's concern is that her folks are being unduly influenced by some extremely misleading TV ads, both for candidates and issues, and if left to their own devices, will vote in a way uncharacteristic of their previous polling history.

Her question to me was whether: -a] she should vote their ballots for them, believing strongly that she knows how they would vote if they were still of sound mind; -b] give them their ballots and let them do whatever with them; -c] throw the ballots away and if they ask, tell them that they voted and must have forgotten.

We came up with another solution that I think she will use, but I'm curious as to your take on this situation.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Okay, this is now obviously moot, but I hope you did right. There is only one ethical and human thing to do.

Let them vote as they wish; however demented they might be, they retain a sense of self and a right to dignity. It's not as though their two votes will decide anything.

Your friend should save her acting in loco parentis for something that really matters.


Bethesda, Md.: Dear Gene,

To person with sharp pain on left side that cannot be explained (except for the inflamed appendix). Go to another doctor. Have appendix removed. Pain will go away.

Gene Weingarten: I got more than a dozen similar responses from former appendix sufferers. I think this is very good advice.


For the hypochondriac: I'm going through a similar thing with my husband, and he's getting tested for gastroparesis, or "delayed gastric emptying". It means your stomach isn't moving the food through the pipes fast enough. Google and ask your doc about it; it sounds like it might fit you too!

Gene Weingarten: I also got three of these.


Hypochondriac, Last Time: I still don't get how chronic appendicitis causes sharp pain limited to the left side (with no right side pain), though I'm laughing hard at my body's potential dyslexia. I wonder what else it does wrong -- maybe I'm left-handed and my right hand doesn't know it.

Gene Weingarten: That is EXACTLY what referred pain is. Doctors still don't entirely understand it, but a problem in one part of the body can cause a sensation elsewhere, sometimes quite a distance away. The most common of these is a heart attack being felt in the left arm; another one is gall bladder attacks: Often, you feel this about a foot and a half away, at the tip of your right shoulder.

An inflamed appendix often presents as a pain in the belly button, which is a few inches to the left of the appendix, but can present even further away.


DC: Just noticed the OK Go dog video was in your chat this week. I discovered over the weekend a "making-of-the-video' video," with a few minutes of outtakes, and ending with a complete version of the video, shown from several wide angles so that you can see the dog trainers at work. Even more fun to watch than the original, partly because you get even more of a sense of just how much fun these dogs were having, even after dozens of takes.

Gene Weingarten: My God. This is great. It must have taken weeks to get this to work.

I can imagine the band, at the end: "We're NEVER working with dogs again."

Gene Weingarten: I love how excited the dogs are are the end: "We did it! We did it! Feed me now!"


Jesus H. Christ: Jesus's middle name is Howard, after his dad. You know, "Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name."

Gene Weingarten: This is so wrong and disrespectful.

It's Harold.


aptoloco?: A Pennsylvania janitor is facing charges of invasion of privacy based on accusations he spied on women in a courthouse restroom in Beaver County.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. We'll end with this one.




Baraka: No one ever claimed it was OK just because it was in a poem. We (I like that poem) thought it was OK because it's one passage in quite a long poem, the rest of which gives it a context in which it makes sense. You are dead wrong here, Gene.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to my contention that the former Poet Laureate of New Jersey, Amiri Baraka, should be condemned for his hate-filled, slanderous, sophomoric poem "Somebody Blew Up America" after 9/11.

Let's take a look at the poem in its entirety and see if I am, indeed, dead wrong. This is the whole thing:

Somebody Blew Up America
by Amiri Baraka

They say its some terrorist,
some barbaric
A Rab,
in Afghanistan
It wasn't our American terrorists
It wasn't the Klan or the Skin heads
Or the them that blows up nigger
Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row
It wasn't Trent Lott
Or David Duke or Giuliani
Or Schundler, Helms retiring

It wasn't
The gonorrhea in costume
The white sheet diseases
That have murdered black people
Terrorized reason and sanity
Most of humanity, as they pleases

They say (who say?)
Who do the saying
Who is them paying
Who tell the lies
Who in disguise
Who had the slaves
Who got the bux out the Bucks

Who got fat from plantations
Who genocided Indians
Tried to waste the Black nation

Who live on Wall Street
The first plantation
Who cut your nuts off
Who rape your ma
Who lynched your pa

Who got the tar, who got the feathers
Who had the match, who set the fires
Who killed and hired
Who say they God & still be the Devil

Who the biggest only
Who the most goodest
Who do Jesus resemble

Who created everything
Who the smartest
Who the greatest
Who the richest
Who say you ugly and they the goodlookingest

Who define art
Who define science

Who made the bombs
Who made the guns

Who bought the slaves, who sold them

Who called you them names
Who say Dahmer wasn't insane

Who? Who? Who?

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship

Who run the army

Who the fake president
Who the ruler
Who the banker

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the mine
Who twist your mind
Who got bread
Who need peace
Who you think need war

Who own the oil
Who do no toil
Who own the soil
Who is not a nigger
Who is so great ain't nobody bigger

Who own this city

Who own the air
Who own the water

Who own your crib
Who rob and steal and cheat and murder
and make lies the truth
Who call you uncouth

Who live in the biggest house
Who do the biggest crime
Who go on vacation anytime

Who killed the most niggers
Who killed the most Jews
Who killed the most Italians
Who killed the most Irish
Who killed the most Africans
Who killed the most Japanese
Who killed the most Latinos

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the ocean
Who own the airplanes
Who own the malls
Who own television
Who own radio

Who own what ain't even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain't the real owners

Who own the suburbs
Who suck the cities
Who make the laws

Who made Bush president
Who believe the confederate flag need to be flying
Who talk about democracy and be lying

Who the Beast in Revelations
Who 666
Who know who decide
Jesus get crucified

Who the Devil on the real side
Who got rich from Armenian genocide

Who the biggest terrorist
Who change the bible
Who killed the most people
Who do the most evil
Who don't worry about survival

Who have the colonies
Who stole the most land
Who rule the world
Who say they good but only do evil
Who the biggest executioner

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the oil
Who want more oil
Who told you what you think that later you find out a lie

Who? Who? Who?

Who found Bin Laden, maybe they Satan
Who pay the CIA,
Who knew the bomb was gonna blow
Who know why the terrorists
Learned to fly in Florida, San Diego

Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion

Who need fossil fuel when the sun ain't goin' nowhere

Who make the credit cards
Who get the biggest tax cut
Who walked out of the Conference
Against Racism
Who killed Malcolm, Kennedy & his Brother
Who killed Dr King, Who would want such a thing?
Are they linked to the murder of Lincoln?

Who invaded Grenada
Who made money from apartheid
Who keep the Irish a colony
Who overthrow Chile and Nicaragua later

Who killed David Sibeko, Chris Hani,
the same ones who killed Biko, Cabral,
Neruda, Allende, Che Guevara, Sandino,

Who killed Kabila, the ones who wasted Lumumba, Mondlane,
Betty Shabazz, Die, Princess Di, Ralph Featherstone,
Little Bobby

Who locked up Mandela, Dhoruba, Geronimo,
Assata, Mumia, Garvey, Dashiell Hammett, Alphaeus Hutton

Who killed Huey Newton, Fred Hampton,
Medgar Evers, Mikey Smith, Walter Rodney,
Was it the ones who tried to poison Fidel
Who tried to keep the Vietnamese Oppressed

Who put a price on Lenin's head

Who put the Jews in ovens,
and who helped them do it
Who said "America First"
and ok'd the yellow stars

Who killed Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt
Who murdered the Rosenbergs
And all the good people iced,
tortured, assassinated, vanished

Who got rich from Algeria, Libya, Haiti,
Iran, Iraq, Saudi, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine,

Who cut off peoples hands in the Congo
Who invented Aids
Who put the germs
In the Indians' blankets
Who thought up "The Trail of Tears"

Who blew up the Maine
& started the Spanish American War
Who got Sharon back in Power
Who backed Batista, Hitler, Bilbo,
Chiang kai Chek

Who decided Affirmative Action had to go
Reconstruction, The New Deal,
The New Frontier, The Great Society,

Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for
Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth
Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza
Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro
Who give Genius Awards to Homo Locus

Who overthrew Nkrumah, Bishop,
Who poison Robeson,
who try to put DuBois in Jail
Who frame Rap Jamil al Amin, Who frame the Rosenbergs,
The Scottsboro Boys,
The Hollywood Ten

Who set the Reichstag Fire

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Who? Who? Who?

Explosion of Owl the newspaper say
The devil face cd be seen

Who make money from war
Who make dough from fear and lies
Who want the world like it is
Who want the world to be ruled by imperialism and national
oppression and terror violence, and hunger and poverty.

Who is the ruler of Hell?
Who is the most powerful

Who you know ever
Seen God?

But everybody seen
The Devil

Like an Owl exploding
In your life in your brain in your self
Like an Owl who know the devil
All night, all day if you listen, Like an Owl
Exploding in fire. We hear the questions rise
In terrible flame like the whistle of a crazy dog

Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell
Who and Who and WHO who who
Whoooo and Whooooooooooooooooooooo!

Copyright (c) 2001 Amiri Baraka. All Rights Reserved.


Alrighty. First, let's give props where they are due.

This is a fine couplet:
... Who own what ain't even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain't the real owners...

Also, "Skeeza" and "Condoleezza" made me laugh.

Also, the overall message of the piece -- that black people feel they have been terrorized by white people all their lives, and can't look at this 9/11 event quite the way white people might look at it -- I like that. Fair point.

That's it for the good stuff.

There is nothing in the delivery of this poem to suggest that Baraka is in any way genuinely asking questions or setting up straw men -- creating "what if" scenarios to make a larger point. His questions are simply rhetorical. He is not using his paranoia ironically in some way as an indictment of paranoia. This is a very straightforward poem.

It is a straightforward indictment of white racism and oppression spanning decades and continents. Ergo, there is no reason to wonder if Baraka is being any less straightforward when he begins laying blame, in the form of questions -- for 9/11.

Nope, he is clearly contending that our government, and the Israeli government, knew about the attacks in advance as part of some diabolical global conspiracy of some sort. And that thus forewarned, the Israelis got their own people out of there.

The allegation on its own is so hysterical -- not funny hysterical, hysteria hysterical -- so grotesquely over the top, that it establishes anti-semitism on its face. But it also falls apart factually.

Baraka has explained that those 4,000 Israelis he referenced represented the employees of Zim, an Israeli shipping company that moved out of the WTC a week or two before 9/11.

Okay, Zim had 200 employees, not 4,000, but let's not quibble. They DID move to Virginia the first week of Septmember! Whoa.

The fact is, however, that the company's move was announced two years in advance, coinciding on the day in September 2001 day that their WTC lease ran out. In other words, they were scheduled to move even before the 9/11 plot had been hatched.

Okay, but, but ... maybe knowledge of that date TRIGGERED the date for the nefarious plot!

Alas, Zim wasn't done with the move by 9/11. They had a lot of employees still in the building. These people barely escaped, and all their computers -- the whole computer infrastructure of Zim -- was destroyed in the attacks. Pretty stupid planning for Jews. Wouldn't you think Jews would be shrewder than that, if they were planning, you know, mass murder and global dominance?

Howzabout Ariel Sharon not coming to New York that day? Well, he did cancel a trip to New York in September 2001. But the trip was scheduled for Sept. 23, not Sept. 11.

Where did all this paranoid misinformation come from? Baraka apparently picked it up from some pro-Arab, antisemitic Web site he chose to implicitly believe. For some reason.

And the five Israelis shooting film and laughing? Clearly made up, possibly a conflation with the team of five FRENCH guys filming a documentary on firefighters. Hey -- Goldberg, Gauloises, what's the difference?


So, what about the quality of the poem itself? It's really lame. Baraka childishly throws together everything he can find to pin on the white power structure, in a scattershot indictment of the power elite that loses all authority because of its profligacy, because of its indiscriminate anger. Baraka includes the Armenian genocide and Dashiell Hammett's arrest by the House Unamerican Activities committee ... and, uhh, Chiang Kai Chek? And the Reichstag Fire!!!! He comes off seething and tooth-gnashing and just plain nuts.

Baraka defends charges of antisemitism by saying he was railing against Zionism, not Judaism.

The first time I heard this disreputable argument was in high school, when Bronx Science hosted a debate between a member of the PLO and a rabbi, and the PLO guy kept making this Zionism point so as to avoid the possibility of being impaled by Bics flung from an 80-percent Jewish-nerd audience. Since 1948, the "not Jews, Zionists" plea has been the agreed-upon phony stance of antisemites worldwide, laughed at by Jews for its patent dishonesty. It's the equivalent of "some of my best friends are black."

So, to the original poster: What we have here is an infantile, paranoid, antisemitic, inaccurate bit of inept poetry by a bigoted, crappy kindergarten-level writer who, for example, thinks it clever wordplay to write: "are they linked to the murder of Lincoln..."

This is the same Amiri Baraka who of course is not in any way a bigot, but who wrote, many years ago, when he was still LeRoi Brown:

"Most American white men are trained to be fags. For this reason it is no wonder their faces are weak and blank. ¿ The average ofay thinks of the black man as potentially raping every white lady in sight. Which is true, in the sense that the black man should want to rob the white man of everything he has. But for most whites the guilt of the robbery is the guilt of rape. That is, they know in their deepest hearts that they should be robbed, and the white woman understands that only in the rape sequence is she likely to get cleanly, viciously popped."


who cares: "toot sweet" really?

Gene Weingarten: I have been writing "toot sweet" for 30 years. Yes, it is deliberate.


Outfox, ME: Perhaps even sillier, a Segway tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield - I saw one on a visit last month.

Gene Weingarten: You know what would be great? Segway jousting. A Segway rodeo. Segway steeplechase. Segway roller derby. A Segway can turn anything into pee-your-pants camp.


New Haven, CT: Gene, do you still think Obama will win reelection by a landslide in 2012? I trust you in all things and you can either reassure me or scare me to death with your answer.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I do!

The last two years have gone by more or less as I expected, and I think as Obama expected. He had to do some things that pleased no one. He made a zitload of political mistakes, and doesn't seem to have learned all that much from them. He doesn't seem to understand how much power he has; he has acted with indecision and timidity.

Things will start getting better for him right about now. The Republicans will chew themselves apart jockeying for 2012. When 2012 rolls around, things will be looking much better, people will remember how far we have come and who caused the problem.

But mostly, Obama will remain the only superstar out there. He is the best known person on Earth.

Yeah, landslide.


Gene Weingarten: The next chat will be Nov. 30 -- please submit your questions now.

I am rewriting our chat FAQ which is obviously in need of snarky updating. Send any suggestions to me at I'll credit you for any I use.




Gene Weingarten: Today we inaugurate an exciting new chat feature. From now on and until further notice, the Chatological Humor Weekly Update that comes the week before the Next Chat will consist mostly of the best of our recent Twitter postings. We understand this might be controversial and leave some readers ¿ those who already follow us on Twitter -- feeling cheated. We will address this matter in a moment, after first addressing the question of why we are writing in the first-person plural, inasmuch as "we," in this case, are/am/is a guy sitting at his dining room table eating an egg salad sandwich. Plus, the conceit can get pretty unwieldy, like when we find ourselves writing in, say, the passive conditional voice of the past-pluperfect tense. Also, there are certain disturbing implications to a line such as: "Our wife had sex with us."

After careful consideration, we have decided that the reason we are offering this new Twitter-centered feature is the same reason why we have adopted the first-person plural conceit! It's because we are an egomaniacal jerk who don't (!) particularly care what you think. We believe that the tragedy of (most of) you missing out on the brilliance of our Twitter posts far outweighs the minor annoyance of (some of) you having to read them twice. Besides, when people go to see Springsteen in concert, they want to revisit the glory of the past. They WANT to hear "Dancing In The Dark."

So here we go.

• Note to D.C. Metro riders: If the metal staircases are moving, do not panic. This is a rare but normal event and no cause for alarm.

• Man Sues Restaurant for Not Instructing Him How to Eat Artichoke.

• Lame-ass coincidence: Tuesday, son and I wrote Barney & Clyde script about an evil turkey named Josef Gobbles. Colbert did it yesterday.

• Worst 1-letter typo risk in journalism: "Not" becoming "now." To wit: "Mr. Fox is not a suspect in the eye-slice rape spree."

• #FirstLineofBushBook: I am an invisionable man.

• #FirstLineofBushBook: Mother's fetus died today.

• A writer loses words to brain cancer. This is haunting, and oddly beautiful. Read to the end of his narrative.

• Should Be Convicted on Mug Shot Alone. Obviously.

• The gap in intelligence between my turtle, Pickles, & my dog, Murphy, is greater than the gap between Murphy & Leonardo Da Vinci

• Should Be Convicted on Mug Shot Alone, 2010 Grand Prize Winner and certain Hall of Fame Inductee.

• Now HERE's a mug shot that doesn't do justice to the crime, at all.

• When you feel put upon, just remember there were 165 people in Hiroshima who lived through the bomb, then fled to Nagasaki.

• Okay, chicken wings come in two forms: the flat part, and the drumstick-like part. Does anyone on Earth prefer the drumstick?

• My God. I am being told most people prefer the drumstick part. If this is true, there is no hope for America.

• I just realized for the first time what a great aptonym we'd have had if McGovern had won. We would have had a McGovernment.

• Just set new world record for number of times inputting a password, getting rejected, trying again, until noticing caps lock is on. Seven.

• #riskypickuplines: She: So, what do you do? He: I'm in labia relations.

• I think we should just officially change the Mahatma's name to "Ghandi" so all the morons aren't misspelling it anymore.

• Should Be Arrested on Mug Shot Alone, side-view only division.

• #SadChildren'sBooks: "Heather Has Two Mommies and Their Pimp"

• Serious Twitter design flaw: You can't complete a limerick. So we are consigned to stupid haikus. Ten more characters would have done it. Oh, wait:

• ABC-DEF-GHI / Ampersand, hyphen and pi. / And so we complete / A full limerick tweet. / But who'd want to read this, and why?

• Q: What's this: "What goes on 2 feet in the morning, 4 in the afternoon, and poops in his pants all nite?' A: The Riddle of the Sphincter.

• My bio: Gene Weingarten is 59. He has never used the term "life's journey" except in derision.

• Should Be Convicted on Mug Shot Alone, Hall of Fame Inductee.


Gene Weingarten: We hereby wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, a day that also happens to be the voting deadline for the Mustache American of the Year. We urge you to vote for us many more times before then. Here is your voting form.


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