Gene Puts a Spell on You

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- I write "catsup."

I write "pyjamas."

I write "yoghurt."

I suppose I am contrarian by nature, or possibly just argumentative. I prefer these spellings not because they are charmingly archaic or because I think they are somehow more correct, but because of how you all react to them. You lecture me about how I am wrong.

I like ...Read more

The Centerfold Cannot Hold

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- As an ardent feminist, I cannot tell you how happy I was to learn that Playboy magazine will no longer be publishing photographs of unclothed women. I cannot tell you because it would be a lie.

No, I seldom read Playboy, and yes, it has always been nakedly (haha) sexist, and sure, this news is an important anti-misogyny milestone....Read more

Have You Lost Your Marples, Hollywood?

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Have you heard that CBS is moving forward with a new series about Jane Marple, Agatha Christie's busybody old-lady detective? Jane is a meaty role for an experienced actress: Over the years, she has been portrayed by such formidable talents as Helen Hayes, Geraldine McEwan, Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson and Angela Lansbury. ...Read more

And Now For a Little Pontiffication

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Today I write about two people who are widely presumed to be infallible: Pope Francis I, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic.

Francis' mantle of perfection was conferred, presumably, by God Himself, so who am I to complain? Mr. Coates' ...Read more

Gene Confronts a Publisher Who Cashed In

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- As a member of the so-called "legacy media," I'm required to whine ineffectually from time to time about the lamentable business model for American journalism, which is collapsing like a Jenga stack in a moon bounce. That is why I recently found myself on the phone with Rob Clarke, publisher of Roland Park Living, a monthly ...Read more

Eye-Eye, Ma'am

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Dave Barry has a longtime assistant named Judi. In less culturally sensitive times, Judi would have been described as Dave's "Gal Friday," but today she's probably on the books as a "multiplatform content-generation facilitator," because that's what all newspaper jobs sound like. The work, though, is pretty much unchanged: Dave ...Read more

A Man of Distinctions

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- If you are like me, you are haunted by uncertainty over whether there is a difference in meaning between "aargh!" and "aaugh!"

OK, you are not like me. Fine. But the fact is there are many things in life that are almost alike, but not quite, and we need someone to bravely parse the distinctions.

Aargh vs. Aaugh

"Aargh" is...Read more

Do You Want Flies With That?

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- Do you know the maxim "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"? It is a lie.

I know that because distributed around my home right now are 14 receptacles: soup bowls, jelly jars, drinking glasses, and a urine-specimen collecting cup I once borrowed from a doctor's office to hold soy sauce for a planned sushi picnic ...Read more

Rhymes Against Humanity

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- It's jokes-retold-as-poems time again

For some this causes pleasure; others, pain.

Today, an added challenge for the skittish:

Pronunciation here is sometimes British.

--0-- --0-- --0--

The Neighbor's Confession

In the style of a Shakespearean sonnet

"I've done a dreadful thing and must admit it,"

The email ...Read more

Could a Common Fallacy Have More, um, Phallic Roots?

Humor / Below the Beltway /

WASHINGTON -- This was not the column I was planning, but at the last minute, I received an urgent communique from a respected biblical historian asking me to help correct a religious misconception while simultaneously restoring the honor of the American media vis-a-vis their Russian counterparts. Thus, scholarship, patriotism and professional ...Read more

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

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