Social Studies 101

Humor / Below the Beltway /

Adapted from a 2010 online discussion.

WASHINGTON -- I do not consider myself an elitist -- elitists tend to belong to that large subclass of people who are of lesser quality than I. But when it comes to social media, I have distinct preferences based on my assessments of humanity. I am an enthusiastic participant in Twitter, yet I find ...Read more


Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Have you heard about the movement in several red states to limit what sorts of items people can buy with their tax-funded welfare and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) "food-stamp" cards? Here are some of the things that state legislatures are considering putting off-limits, or already have done so: strip clubs, ...Read more

The Mad @er: Gene Proposes Redefining the Keyboard

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Here's a simple quiz to determine your age:

Before the Internet, in the era of the typewriter, was there an @ key, and, if so, how was it used?

Wrong, you smug millennials. There was an @ key. It meant "at the per-piece price of," as in "24 thimbles @ $l.49."

Yes, typewriter manufacturers -- who were parsimonious in distributing...Read more

Coverage of the Beleaguered Customer Service Rep

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Today, another installment in my continuing Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the plight of the beleaguered customer service representative.

Stella Artois

Me: I've spent a lot of time on this, and I have determined that your product is an anagram for "stale rat's oil."

Tom: All right. And ... ?

Me: It sure would be a ...Read more

The Wizard of Ozy

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- My friend Joe Martin, who draws the comic strip "Mr. Boffo," uses a recurring theme about people who are "Unclear on the Concept." In one strip, for example, a woman is looking at a police lineup, and one of the guys in the lineup is pointing at her excitedly, saying, "That's her! That's her! I'd recognize that purse anywhere!"

...Read more

The Panic Button: Gene and Gmail's "Undo" Function.

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- As a user of Gmail, and a person who has been known to sometimes "shoot from the hip" or "go off half-cocked," I was delighted to learn that the popular email service has instituted an "undo" feature, a tool that permits you to recall a message within 30 seconds of hitting "Send."

To: Tom the Butcher Subj: Apology

I...Read more

Some Genital Persuasion

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Did you read about how European countries are trying to create a post-gender society by eliminating traditional male-female distinctions?

Some countries are substituting gender-neutral pronouns for "his" and "her." Others have outlawed public events with stereotypical heterosexual roles -- for example, a campy, age-old Bavaria ...Read more

Playing the Tuber

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- When the news media mentions a congressperson, we generally do so with a parenthetical that includes his or her state.

You are probably thinking: "But, wait! That's really misleading because unlike a U.S. senator, a congressperson represents only a portion of his or her state! Something must be done about this immediately!"...Read more

Art Failure: Gene Paints Himself Into a Corner

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I love art, but I don't always "get" it. I'm a bit of a linear thinker. I'm the kind of guy who spends an hour at the National Gallery and comes away wondering whether fig leaves have some sort of Velcro-like property.

So, I was a little wary when my neighbor Cissy asked me to judge a local art contest. I warned her that I don't ...Read more

The 'Why?' Chromosome

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Dear Caitlyn Jenner:

Congratulations on having transitioned from man to woman. Like most bleeding-heart liberals in the fawning mainstream media, I'm solidly in your corner. Finding and facing up to one's true self is admirable, and doing it as publicly as you did might well give solace and strength to others in similar straits. ...Read more

Read This You Stupid Idoits!

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I think I am a pretty witty guy. So it rankles me just a little that on Twitter -- which I see as the international competitive marketplace for wit -- I have only a modest following compared with, say, British biologist Richard Dawkins, who, like me, is also a liberal-leaning writer known for unapologetic atheism. Really, what does...Read more

Foul Language

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Every time I write a column kvetching about illiterate assaults on our language by the unwashed masses, as I did several weeks ago, I get disgruntled emails from many of you who feel I am elitist and nitpicking. English, you argue, is fluid and evolving, and we must make room for more liberal word usage ... except for this one ...Read more

The Booby Prize

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I am on the phone with Bob Mankoff, the renowned cartoon editor of The New Yorker. Bob is the man in charge not just of the magazine's famously effete single-panel cartoons, but also of its weekly caption contest, where it publishes a cartoon without a caption and readers submit their own.

Me: I enter your contest every once in a ...Read more

Grammarly School

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Dear Grammarly:

I recently bought a subscription to your extensively advertised online writing-enhancement tool, which promises both plagiarism detection and state-of-the-art proofreading for grammar, word usage and syntax. For several days now, your program has been reading my submissions and issuing instant reports on their ...Read more

Hep, Hep, Hooray!

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- This just in:

As a person living with hepatitis C you probably know all too well the stigma surrounding this disease. We at applaud your efforts to be open about your status. Because May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, we would like to invite you to share your voice by contributing a blog post on the topic...Read more

The Trite Stuff

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- In addition to nitpicking my column to death every week, Tom the Butcher also does freelance editing, so he sees a lot of manuscripts. Some of them are from elegant writers; some are, to put it mildly, not. Without naming names, Tom occasionally shares with me a particularly egregious paragraph or two from his inbox. A recent one, ...Read more

The Geezist: I Am a Cantankerous, Pedantic, Hidebound Old Geezer.

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Many years ago I somehow managed to get accepted by Harvard University into a prestigious fellowship for journalists at midcareer. Twice a week, all 20 of us snots would gather for a question-and-answer session with someone famous. One week, we had a special auxiliary guest, an elderly newspaperman we'd never heard of, who turned ...Read more


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