ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jan 31, 2012

The Compost, Alexandra Petri, offers a lighter take on the news and political in(s)anity of the day. If you believe life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it, this is the chat for you. Join us every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. ET to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

Past ComPost Live Chats

Hello! Happy Florida Primary day, for those of you who celebrate! For everyone else, happy early Groundhog Day! Let's get to the questions!

Perhaps the online Post editors were pointing to a capitalist metaphor with the snake story next to the Florida primary story. Does a democratic society with a market economy allow a foreign, invasive entity (snakes not native to the Everglades, Goldman Sachs, Bain Cap?) to take over an economy (or ecosystem) eating everything at will or does the society enact and enforces rules to limit this invasive entity to bring the system back to a more natural and balanced state? Animal and economic darwinism indeed...

Wow, that's more symbolism than I'm accustomed to tackling before lunch!

The juxtaposition did make me think of the political ads that always pop up with Google's targeted marketing. Google, for some reason, has pegged me as a 65-year-old man with a hearty interest in politics and entertainment, which is, well, mostly accurate. It must also know my hobbies. Last night I went home from work and ate cheese and read the Aeneid, and what was worse, I was really excited about it!

But I digress. My point is that Google very nearly forced me to watch a 13-minute video about Ron Paul, disguising it as the music I was interested in seeing. It should give you an idea of my musical tastes as well that I was four minutes in before I began to sense that something was amiss.

But now whenever I visit any web site, Mitt Romney shows up on a side bar encouraging me to Take America Back. I've also seen Santorum ads. None for Newt as yet.

Does this happen to anyone else? Or just to us 65-year-old arts and politics fans?

You are running up against a chat about the "5 Myths about China" which begs the question: what are the 5 myths about Petri?

Myth 1: I am a sixty-five year-old man with an interest in politics and entertainment.

Myth 2: I own more than two pairs of pants.

Myth 3: I emerged fully formed from the head of Zeus after this whole thing with Metis that we probably shouldn't get into now.

Myth 4: I don't know how to play the accordion.

Myth 5: Gilgamesh.

Myth 6: There are only five myths.

Speaking of myths, I got a message on Twitter recently from someone doing a project on me (They need better standards for projects these days!) and I told him that it had all started in 1924 when I wrote the Great Gatsby. He responded "Thanks!" I made the mistake of adding that I was eight feet tall and breathed fire, at which point he began to sense that the information was less than credible, despite its source.

What are the candidates' positions of the tens of thousands of Burmese pythons living in the Florida swamps?

Mitt wants to fire them.

Newt wants to send them to the moon. In case that joke is deceased, what with all the being beaten over the head, Newt wants to make certain that the Massachusetts budget includes meals for them that conform to their religious beliefs, although possibly not necessarily to the religious beliefs of mice.

Ron Paul has no problem with the snakes as long as they don't try to expand the role of government.

Rick Santorum is too busy with his family's health to worry about the -- he's back on the trail now? Uh. Gee. Okay.

Milbank gets to travel to sunny Florida and hang out drinking (sorry, "reporting") in the bar with the other reporters and Newt yet you are stuck in DC. What's up with that?

Well, I did get to go to Iowa! And South Carolina, in both of which places I saved the Post a lot of money by forgetting to hang on to my cheese ball and barbeque receipts, respectively. But hey, we still have a lot of race to go and places to "report"! Milbank's welcome to the sun and the quality time with Newt, although I wouldn't say no to whatever he's having right now.

Newt does have the look of a python right after the python has swallowed a coyote whole. He should focus on getting healthier rather than running for president.

But that's a healthy weight for a full-grown Hutt male.

Didn't he check Wikipedia first?

Do I have a Wikipedia? I once added myself as an Eminent Victorian, but it was gone in fewer than 24 hours.

selling donuts in an airport. He almost sold me some, but then he let someone else cut in front of me in line and started blaming me for not being quick enough (the other clerk was apologetic). What does this dream mean?

FIRST: Anyone else have dreams for me to interpret? I can put on my Joseph hat!

Okay, it's fairly clear what your dream means. According to Yahoo! Answers, " Seeing a doughnut in your dream, represents the Self. It suggests that you may be feeling lost and still trying to find yourself and your purpose in life. Alternatively, it refers to growth, development and nurturance. You are not completely whole."

So Gromit's efforts to sell you donuts indicate a willingness to trade away bits of self for coinage. He was angry that you weren't leaping to embrace this transaction. ("HOW MANY MORE MONTHS O LORD")

The other clerk is probably your desire to sleep with your mother and kill your father. Something in dreams always is.

What do you think about Facebook's IPO? Are you running out to buy some $100-a-share stock?

I'd love to! I think it would be delightful to have a stake in myself, although since the next question is about vampires I fear this might be taken the wrong way.

They say that whenever something's free, it means you're not the consumer, you're the product. And given my inflated notion of self-worth, I think I'm a great product and would glad invest! Thanks, Childhood in the 90s! Unfortunately human beings tend to depreciate over time, and I'm already noticing that depressing trend where no one takes pictures of you in your 20s, but I'm sure Zuckerberg and I can work through it.

Alternatively, Mitt would just let them self-deport.


I watched the National Geographic special on the inner workings of the NSA and was surprised to see the main national security operations center had one of its tv screens tuned to the ever present "Taxmasters" TV ads with the bearded guy "don't fight the IRS on your own, call Taxmasters." I guess its better than them watching ESPN Sportscenter and I'm sure Taxmasters appreciates the support but really guys, couldn't you have tuned to Al Jazeera or something else unclassified that at least made it look like you were on task?

Ha! Maybe that WAS Al Jazeera. Taxmasters are pretty ubiquitous!

Oh My God! None of those things are true about me either! I might be Alexandra Petri. This might also explain the blackouts.

Maybe we're both Tyler Durden.

When are going to start seeing the "Vote Newt. He's good in bed." And which candidate will run them?


Remember that Fox News commentator who said that three wives would make him a stronger president? He doesn't even need to write his own copy!

You wrote a piece a while back about sci-fi and dating conventions. If you were planning 5 awesome and never-before-held conventions, what would they be?

Well, every time I think I've come up with one that doesn't exist and ought to, I discover it's been happening in Austin for decades.

Here are some real ones I'd like to hit:

The Austin O. Henry Pun Contest

The Garfield Collectors Convention (yes, fans of the cat comic strip)

Elvis Week. Because of course.

I'd like to hit a furry convention as well, just because I think that's just one step over my line of discomfort, and I'm curious whether I'd be right in that or whether they'd turn out to be lovely folks with intensely normal home lives.

Also, I recently started a club for people who enjoy hanging out in airports, just because. We had one meeting at the TGI Friday's at National. Four people showed! It was the sort of first date get-together that was perfectly pleasant but doesn't lead to a second date, although they suggested we try it again in the train station.

I'm self-censoring all snake related questions. It's like I'm only having 1/2 the fun that I usually have on these chats.

Are those Burmese pythons in your Everglades or are you just happy to see me?

Any advice for helping my 8th grade son understand and get excited about tackling Hamlet? Any good analogies to modern day politics? Didn't Hamlet have daddy issues like Mitt seems to be trying to exorcise by doing and saying anything at any particular moment to achieve something to make his father proud of him?

Oooh, I envy your son for getting to read Hamlet for the first time!

This is when my inner English major comes out and runs rampant over the chat and bellows loudly. Hmm. I don't suppose the Harold Bloom argument that Hamlet was the first character too large for Shakespeare's page to contain him is the sort of thing that would appeal to your eighth-grader?

With the caveat that my life has consisted of a long string of failures to appear cool to eighth-grade boys, one of the neat things about Hamlet is that you realize on the way through it that you've heard a lot of the language before and just never knew that was where it came from. To be or not to be, and the gang.

Hamlet -- OH! It's the Lion King, but with people. Just keep that in mind and you're fine. Remember how great the Lion King was? Now imagine that it's in Denmark and some of it rhymes! Even better, right? No? 

Uh. To me Hamlet's also a play about procrastination. The things Hamlet does to get out of a fairly simple assignment! He pretends to be nuts. He breaks up with his girlfriend, who actually goes nuts. I think at one point he turns two of his friends over to pirates.

Yeah, Hamlet contains pirates! Tell him that.

You forgot the first two rules of Fight Club!

I read on Twitter recently someone who joked that the third rule of fight club was to remember to do your best and have fun!

I was discussing with the fairies in the forest what color the Wizard Newt was. We decided he was a blue wizard, which was bad.

What the fairies in your dream say, according to "Fairy stories are full of rich psychological symbolism and the telling of them can help children and adults express their innermost fears and hopes. For a man a fairy may symbolise the female aspect of his personality that can be integrated for better psychic balance. Similarly, for a woman a fairy may represent either her femininity or her motherly side"

So Newt apparently was getting in touch with your femininity, which surprises no one.

Not sure about all this blue wizardry though.

Hey Petri, speaking of the all-knowing Google, did you hear about the new privacy policy? Basically it'll start keeping you signed in across every Google service, so for instance it will connect maps to YouTube to email. Terrifying or what? Or more terrifying to realize Google already has all that info, it just hasn't connected all the dots yet? How long before the whole thing just becomes self-aware? Or is the fact that it thinks you're a 65 year old guy reassuring that they've still got a few bugs to work out?

Well, funny that you should ask that...

I wrote about this here. I've been trying to decide what my response is, and I think I'm going to get rid of my Google+ profile and YouTube account and just stick to Gmail. I think I read

The thing is, it's not illegal. It is in some ways more efficient. But I think the reason I've got such a strong Ew No response is that while on Facebook the whole underlying assumption is that you want to share things, which means people get a little fired up when they change the privacy policy but then stay put -- the classic I'll Move To Canada problem -- on Google it's not and never has been. Gmail you send specific things to specific people. YouTube you watch by yourself. And Google Maps? What do I want to share that for? And search history -- AIEEEE.

Of course, we could just log out every time. But as someone who has secretly been logged into Facebook somewhere on every computer for the past six years, this doesn't reassure me.

You missed 2 1/2 Men to read the Aeneid? Question: Will Mitt become more electable when people discover his name is Willard?

Not nearly so electable as he'll become when they discover his name isn't Gromit.

If a groundhog can determine weather patterns for six weeks, then what I learned in Meterology class is really, really wrong.

Meterology class was where you studied the metric system. Meteorology was down the hall.

Furry Convention, out. Have you considered attending a Shadowlane Convention. That people are really, really slap happy.

I have no idea what that is but it sounds like it would be held in a dimly lit bowling alley.

Back in the 1970s, veteran WMAL-AM morning drive-time co-host Frank Hardin, of "Hardin & Weaver" fame, was so squeamish about snakes that he begged his on-air partner Jackson Weaver not even to mention the word "snake." As you can imagine, Weaver took that as his cue to go "snake, snake, snake..." Good times, back before AM radio became the realm of (well, you know).

Don't ask why, but that reminds me of this.

I had a dream about a snake smoking a cigar on a train going through a tunnel? Do you think that means anything?

As long as your mother wasn't on the train, you're fine.

not a good sign?

Uh oh.

Uh. Gee, newspaper industry, you said you were fine the last time I called.

I dreamt I was playing chess with a friend who's a stauch conservative (I am the opposite). I had to deal out cards to determine which piece went where. I was 100% dressed in drag.

This is where I make a bad joke about how that wasn't a dream, it was just the most recent X-men movie, and where everyone else groans and says, "Petri, that was seven months ago."

Google isn't helpful about the subject of wearing drag in dreams, although it recommended some fun after-work activities. 

I'm not Carl Jung, but it sounds like your dream self doesn't have a clear grasp on how to play chess. Maybe buy an instructional book?

Especially since it's real.

Oh, this is amazing!

If all those Florida snakes get onto an airplane, we are doomed to have a repeat of one of the worst movies of all time.

The Snakes are getting on an airplane to remake The Room?

If people are going to call Romney "Mittens," do I get to call Obama "Hussein"?

Would "Barry" work?

That is all.

Hey thanks!

I bought a book on this subject at Barnes & Noble (who knew?). If you wanted to date one, would you choose (a) vampire, (b) werewolf, (c) zombie, (d) angel, (e) demon, or (f) dragon? Incidentally the dragons, like the werewolves are shapeshifters who can & do take human form. I'll go with angel for myself, as I am not a big risk taker. . .



c) Zombie. I've always wanted a guy who'd like me for my mind.

The true American solution to an excess of reptiles: Declare 365-days-a-year season on pythons in Florida. That should cull the herd (of snakes and people both) quite nicely. As a bonus, I wouldn't feel so bad about my snakeskin underwear fetish.

Couldn't we just get St. Patrick in here? Or Newt, who seems to be working his way up to believing that he's the Pope?


What is this about Tiger Moms? Isn't it dangerous to be raised by tigers?

Yes, but only because they are so insistent that you excel at the piano.

I couldn't believe that Politico tracked down President John Tyler's grandsons. Tyler was born in 1790, had kids when he was seventy, they had kids when they were seventy, and now the grandsons are 90. Three generations spanning the nation's existence. My mind was blown.

That's probably one of the few times in history "My mind was blown" and "John Tyler" showed up in such close proximity. I haven't read it yet but will have to!

Actually, we are getting together and doing a revival of Tree of LIfe. (I bet that gets a reaction.)

(overturns small table)

Look, young lady, I'm sure you love your Hamlet but the pirate stuff is all off stage for him. Hamplet jumps on the pirate ship. He leaves R&G behind on the old ship after changing their note to the King of England to kill them, not to kill Hamlet (who isn't on their ship now anyway). It is much clearer when you combine Shakespeare with a good dose of Stoppard.

Most of the good stuff happens off-stage, as Maggie Smith recently informed us on Downton Abbey.

I knew he alluded to it in the letter but it's true, you never see it on stage.

But I think you, Stoppard, and I agree on the main point, which is: at some point, Hamlet interacted with PIRATES!

Oh, and I think it has the highest body count of any tragedy, if that appeals, but Titus Andronicus or King Lear (if you include eyes) might give it a run for its money.

I goggled Shadowlane Convention. You should go. Really. Tell us all about it. I hear it may be standing room only.

I just googled it myself.

Worst bowling afternoon ever!

Have you ever heard of a "soulbonder"? I discovered this term yesterday and can't stop thinking about it.


All that time I just thought I had an active imagination, but it turns out I actually WAS Walter Mitty!

Hey, speaking of Mitts!

Do you blush when your work is compared favorably to humorists such as Dave Barry? Do you get hazed by Gene Weingarten?

I don't really blush, but I do the Petri equivalent, which is I forward the email in question to my mother and go eat a cheese sandwich to calm myself.

Speaking of which, this chat has been delightful and I'm one dream from closing up shop! Speak now or forever hold your questions until next week!

I had a dream involving Rick Santorum slowly melting into a puddle of viscous goo, but no one noticed and Helen Thomas (okay it may not have been her, but I don't know who it was) kept saying "Mr. President, what are you going to do about the Cubans?"

Are you Rick Santorum? Being mistaken for a viscous goo is a persistent nightmare of his.

I keep having nightmares where Helen Thomas asks me innocuous questions. I Googled this, and it told me to take Lunesta, which I'm eager to do, since I've never sleep-driven-a-tractor before, and I hear Lunesta gives you the urge to do that.

In conclusion, avoid anchovies.

Well, thank you for a delightful chat, everyone! Have a spectacular week, a reverent primary, and continue to dream, although not about Helen Thomas if possible.

Do keep reading the Compost! And feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter, where my 2000th follower has decided to do a great impression of that tree that hung over Tantalus.

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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