Why Gene Weingarten is an A–hat

Yellojkt got something of a shout out in Gene Weingarten’s column this week in which he discusses his interactions with the commenterati. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

“The comparatively erudite Yellojkt, a frequent disparager of mine, periodically writes lengthy, joyful disquisitions on my abject failings as a professional, such as the blog item I am looking at from 2008, which goes on for pages and includes multiple links and is titled “Why Gene Weingarten Is an A–hat.” (Abstract: Because I suck.)”

The full column can be found here.

BB

19 Responses

  1. yello has written an open letter to Weingarten addressing Gene’s column.

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  2. link doesn’t appear to work for the open letter.

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  3. OMG–we’ve got a celebrity in our midst! Yello, can I have your autograph?? 🙂

    I think Weingarten may be stalking you. . . whatever you do, don’t go topless at a private French villa while on vacation!

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  4. Yelojkt’s response is a little overwrought. Gene characterized yelojkt as a “frequent disparager” rather than claiming obsession. I enjoy Gene’s column, though skip the potty humor aspects. Yelo’s wrong that he’s been reduced to writing doggerel, but I’ll take that as returning fire.

    Gene’s greatest contribution by far is not the piece putting a classical musician on the Metro, his profile of the Great Zucchini (who my twins have seen perform at Jammin’ Java), or the profile of an Alaskan fishing village.

    Rather, his article on parents who have left children to die in hot cars is heart breaking. I went through a bad patch myself in that regard. My wife was on an out of town assignment and I was solo with my twins. I think they were two years old at the time, so had started walking. I’d often let them climb in the car while I loaded groceries in the trunk. Not once, not twice, but three times I forgot to buckle them in. I fortunately looked in the rear view mirror each time, pulled over, and buckled them in. The change in routine from putting them in the seats myself to letting them clamber in was sufficient to screw me up. I had to add a step to my routine. Before the key went into the ignition, I checked on their status.

    BB

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  5. Thanks for fixing my link, FB. In return, I’ve edited your link to Weingarten’s article — a missing space made the rest of your text appear in hyperlink as well.

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  6. I’m still getting used to using href. I don’t use HTML all that often and had to go through several iterations, including accidentally creating an iterative post, before getting it right.

    BB

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  7. I agree with Fairlington on his second piece. I believe that was his second Pulitzer prize.

    Yellow can always point Gene to his Maureen Dowd tracking site to show him that he’s in good company.

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  8. Paul–

    You’re right, that piece on parents forgetting their kids are in the car was utterly heartbreaking. I’ve never read any of Weingarten’s work before but I think I’ll start looking for the longer ones like this. It reminds me of the very first Dave Barry column I ever read, before I knew he was supposed to be funny:

    Sunday, November 29, 1987
    LOST IN AMERICA
    DAVE BARRY

    My mother and I are driving through Hartford, Conn., on the way to a town called Essex. Neither of us has ever been to Essex, but we’re both desperately hoping that my mother will want to live there.

    She has been rootless for several months now, moving from son to son around the country, ever since she sold the house she had lived in for 40 years, the house she raised us in, the house my father built. The house where he died, April 4, 1984. She would note the date each year on the calender in the kitchen.

    “Dave died, 1984,” the note would say. “Come back, Dave.”

    The note for July 5, their anniversary, said: “Married Dave, 1942. Best thing that ever happened to me.”

    The house was too big for my mother to handle alone, and we all advised her to sell it.
    Finally she did, and she shipped all her furniture to Sunnyvale, Calif., where my brother Phil lived. Her plan was to stay with him until she found a place of her own out there.

    Only she hated Sunnyvale. At first this seemed almost funny, even to her. “All my worldly goods,” she would say, marveling at it, “are in a warehouse in Sunnyvale, Calif., which I hate.” She always had a wonderful sense of absurdity.

    After a while it didn’t seem so funny. My mother left Sunnyvale to live for a while with my brother Sam, in San Francisco, and then with me, in Florida; but she didn’t want to stay with us. What she wanted was a home.

    What she really wanted was her old house back.

    With my father in it.

    Of course she knew she couldn’t have that, but when she tried to think of what else she wanted, her mind would just lock up. She started to spend a lot of time watching soap operas.

    “You have to get on with your life,” I would tell her, in this new, parental voice I was developing when I talked to her. Dutifully, she would turn off the TV and get out a map of the United States, which I bought her to help her think.

    “Maybe Boulder would be nice,” she would say, looking at Colorado. “I was born near Boulder.”

    “Mom,” I would say in my new voice. “We’ve talked about Boulder 50 times, and you always end up saying you don’t really want to live there.”

    Chastened, she would look back at her map, but I could tell she wasn’t really seeing it.
    “You have to be realistic,” I would say. The voice of wisdom.

    When she and I had driven each other just about crazy, she went back out to California, and repeated the process with both of my brothers. Then one night she called to ask, very apologetically, if I would go with her to look at Essex, Conn., which she had heard was nice. It was a bad time for me, but of course I said yes, because your mom is your mom. I met her in Hartford and rented a car.

    I’m driving; my mother is looking out the window.

    “I came through Hartford last year with Frank and Mil, on the way to Maine,” she says. Frank was my father’s brother; he has just died. My mother loved to see him. He reminded her of my father.

    “We were singing,” my mother says. She starts to sing.
    I’m forever blowing bubbles
    Pretty bubbles in the air.

    I can tell she wants me to sing, too. I know the words; we sang this song when I was little.

    First they fly so high, nearly reach the sky
    Then like my dreams, they fade and die.

    But I don’t sing. I am all business.
    “I miss Frank,” says my mother.

    Essex turns out to be a beautiful little town, and we look at two nice, affordable apartments. But I can tell right away that my mother doesn’t want to be there. She doesn’t want to say so, after asking me to fly up from Miami, but we both know.

    The next morning, in the motel coffee shop, we have a very tense breakfast.

    “Look, Mom,” I say, “you have to make some kind of decision.” Sounding very reasonable.
    She looks down at her map. She starts talking about Boulder again. This sets me off. I lecture her, tell her she’s being childish. She’s looking down at her map, gripping it. I drive her back to Hartford, neither of us saying much. I put her on a plane; she’s going to Milwaukee, to visit my dad’s sister, then back to my brother in Sunnyvale, Calif. Which she hates.

    The truth is, I’m relieved that she’s leaving.

    “You can’t help her,” I tell myself, “until she decides what she wants.” It is a sound position.

    About a week later, my wife and I get a card from my mother.
    “This is to say happy birthday this very special year,” it says. “And to thank you for everything.”

    Our birthdays are weeks away.

    About two days later, my brother Phil calls, crying, from a hospital. My mother has taken a massive overdose of Valium and alcohol. The doctors want permission to turn off the machines. They say there’s no hope.

    We talk about it, but there really isn’t much to say. We give the permission.
    It’s the only logical choice.

    The last thing I saw my mother do, just before she went down the tunnel to her plane, was turn and give me a big smile. It wasn’t a smile of happiness; it was the same smile I give my son when he gets upset listening to the news, and I tell him don’t worry, we’re never going to have a nuclear war.

    I can still see that smile any time I want. Close my eyes, and there it is. A mom, trying to reassure her boy that everything’s going to be OK.

    Until I started looking for that piece on the internet I never knew that Gene Weingarten had helped Dave Barry get his start.

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  9. Michi, that made me cry. My mother didn’t last long after my dad died. I found a note she’d left for me in her paperwork which she’d written a few months after he passed away. She told me not to worry that she knew something had changed with her heart (she had congestive heart failure) and she didn’t think she’d make it much longer, but she wanted to be with my Dad anyway. This from someone who claimed she didn’t believe in heaven or God. I spent the last two days at her bedside and she was only barely conscious, just enough to call out his name over and over.

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  10. lms, it still makes me cry and I’ve read it probably a dozen times over the years.

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  11. Michigoose,
    I’ve read a lot of Dave Barry and even have a book signed by him but I don’t think I’ve ever read that piece. That is gorgeous and touching. Thanks for passing it along.

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  12. Yelojkt’s response is a little overwrought. Gene characterized yelojkt as a “frequent disparager” rather than claiming obsession.

    And ‘comparatively eloquent’ is such a deliciously vicious backhanded compliment.

    I’m not sure who is obsessed with whom. For one thing, “Why Gene Weingarten Is An Asshat” is only the subtitle of that column.

    One time some technical issue had Weingarten locked out of his Facebook account and he direct messaged me to check if I had reported him or something. The thought had never crossed my mind and something as a First Amendment absolutist I would never do.

    His twitter avatar is a picture of a rather realistic rubber pile of feces. He’s very proud of that. One thing I left out of my blog item (and thanks for linking to it), is that his Facebook avatar used to be Khalid Sheik Mohammed, to whom he shares a mild resemblance. When he changed the image because it came out that the guy had killed Daniel Pearl, I sent him an e-mail congratulating him on finding one of he boundaries of bad taste.

    I will agree that the crusade against not demonizing parents for leaving babies in cars while trying to find a way to end those tragedies should be one of his legacies. Weingarten’s an amazingly talented writer who loved pushing both buttons and envelopes. I’ve retracted the Asshat designation but he is still a Thin-Skinned Bloviator.

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  13. Thanks to whoever fixed my HTML. I ran out to dinner before proofing my comment. My wife and I are up in Newport, RI celebrating the long Rosh Hoshannah weekend. Neither of us are Jewish but since the schools have tomorrow off it seemed like too good of an opportunity to waste.

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  14. I loved my one visit to Newport. I attended a Gordon Conference at Salva Regina University. It was my first (and only) Gordon Conference and I had a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed Flo’s Clam Shack (even though the clam cake is massive).

    Not surprised that Gene is thin skinned. Fun to read regardless.

    BB

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  15. Yello:
    You’re welcome. I didn’t know you and Weingarten had a thing going on.

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  16. Totally and completely OT, but since I stole it from yello over on the PL it somehow seems appropriate to post it in this thread. Mitt’s version of his favorite things.

    Enjoy!

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  17. My association with Gene Weingarten is kind of long and convoluted. I have a longtime interest in newspaper comics and I became a regular reader of The Comics Curmudgeon, the pre-eminent comics blog. In addition to reading that blog, back in the day I would follow Weingarten’s weekly online chat because Gene used to give out a Comic of the Week prize which was often mildly amusing. In this chat he would also mention Joel Achenbach who is a both a WaPo writer and, like Gene and Dave Barry, an alumnus of the Miami Tropic magazine where Gene was the editor, Barry the humor columnist, and Achenbach the science columnist.

    That got me reading Joel Achenbach’s blog, cleverly named Achenblog. At the time, about six years ago, Joel and Gene were two of the three humor columnists for the WaPo Sunday Magazine and part of Joel’s duties was also writing the blog which garnered a light-hearted cult following. As the newspaper industry collapsed, Achenbach lost his weekly column and has been recast as more of a utility infielder reporter covering politics and science. His forte is explaining complicated topics to a general audience. For example, he parlayed his reporting on the Deepwater Horizon disaster into a very clear and concise, if poorly selling, book on the event.

    Meanwhile Gene gave up his snarking on comics as a potential conflict of interest when he and his son started their own comic strip. As I said on my blog, the strip is mildly amusing but so much of it is Weingarten’s personality just streaming through each of the characters. If anything, I think the experience has humbled him somewhat. Or at least as made him as humble as double Pulitzer winner and Wikipedia-declared expert on double dactyls can be.

    I’ve never met Weingarten in person but I have met Joel Achenbach several times. The two are close friends from their Miami days to the point of having Thanksgiving together. I am a person of odd and obscure trivial interests and the careers of former Miami Tropic writers seems to be one of them.

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  18. Barney & Clyde is in my B list of comic strips.

    A – Must reads. Lio, Zits, Brewster Rockit, Cul de sac.

    B – Usually read, but don’t miss them too much. B&C has its moments. Dilbert probably gets a B+ from me.

    X – Spiderman gets its own category.It’s not a good strip in any sense of the word. Yet, I occasionally look at it and get suckered in. Spidey’s currently battling a hack actor who goes around as Clown 9. Perhaps we’ll call this a slow down and look at the wreck beside the road.

    Z – Skip at all cost. Curtis is the worst offender here. It’s sandwiched between two strips that I like (Brewster Rockit and Sherman’s Lagoon), but I’ve trained my eyes to skip past it and rarely get trapped.

    BB

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