ComPost Live: Your weekly digest with Alexandra Petri

Mar 04, 2011

The Compost, written by Dana Milbank and 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 Friday at 11:30 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.

Hello and welcome to this week's chat!

Lots of excitement this week -- winner of the photo caption contest to be unveiled, and all kinds of news and controvery! Facebook's letting us overshare! Huckabee thought our president was reared in Kenya! And Bristol Palin's memoir is confirmed...

It's enough to make you take several hits of Charlie Sheen! Let's begin!

Also, opinions on the Brandon Davies/BYU kerfuffle? Or, alternatively, scoring-based jokes? I'm curious!

OK, I'm not making this up, I swear, and feel free to edit. Last night on Jeopardy, one of the categories was Body Parts--the response had to have a body part in it. For example, if the clue was "A truce," the response was ARM-istace. They showed a photo of a small rodent, and the clue was "This rodent has hair 30 times softer than a human's." The correct response was CHIN-chilla. A contestant answered TIT-mouse.

That's on par with the classic Ken Jennings response: "What is a ho(e)?" (loose liver that's also a garden implement) something Jennings told he me's worried will be his only actual legacy, at least based on the number of people who congratulate him about it in the grocery.

He sure did a nice pivot off the Obama was born in Kenya thing. Wonder what his opinion of Bristol Palin was on DWTS?

You mean "Team Ballin"? He probably made some sort of  remark like "Just look at her attitude! Bristol Palin clearly was raised somewhere where dancing was not a priority, like Alaska, where many people apparently  club salmon to death for a living." He would also probably have made a Dances With Wolves reference, but I'm having difficulty working it in so it sounds folksy enough.

I was disappointed that Christine O'Donnell decided not to do the show this year. Honestly, she's at the level where she might actually gain credibility by being on DWTS.

After saying he wouldn't become a lobbyist he, wait for it, becomes a lobbyist. What a scumbag. Am i missing something?

Doesn't seem like it! He specifically said "No lobbying, no lobbying!"

Maybe he got dazed after being whacked one too many times by the revolving door between Capitol Hill and its lobbyists...

Why is this the slowest chat? Each week I complain. Each week this chat is slow. Coincidence? I think not.

I don't know, but I think more people complain about Carolyn Hax being slow than this one.

At least this chat has some kind of superlative attached to it!

Based on my ability to respond to people yelling at me to go faster, I doubt I would have done very well as a Roman galley slave.

What's your take on Charlie Sheen? Should the media even be reporting on him when it's so obvious he's not doing well?

Other people have done better jobs of wrestling with this one, but I think it's probably equivalent to a news crew showing up to cover that guy who looks like he's about to jump off the Empire State Building any second now. You hope somebody has a net, but you want to get the footage.

I would urge all ComPost fans to read Tim Egan's column on the NYTimes web site. It's a brilliant takedown of Huckabee as a serial liar, focusing on his continuing claim that a prisoner to whom Huckabee granted clemency was given 108 years for a one burglary. The details are chilling and guy--who got out by professing his great love of Jesus to Huck--went on to murder four policemen in Washington state. As Egan says, if one convict can fool Huckabee so spectacularly, how will he do against N. Korea if elected. And pass on to your colleague Mr. Milbank my admiration for his blistering column about the idiotic questions raised by Congressmen during defense appropriations hearings.

Will do! Here's a link to the column!

The one restaurant within a block on where I live is a fairly dingy Chinese take-out place. Lately, I've noticed that my fortune cookies have taken on a fairly passive-aggressive strain of advice-giving. My most recent was "Look up and stop mumbling." I am beginning to wonder if I haven't just hallucinated moving out of my parents' basement and that this fortune cookie is really my mother. Thoughts?

Ha! I always get ones like that! Once I had one that said, "With effort, you could achieve things." 

One of my life goals is to someday infiltrate a fortune cookie factory and fill all the cookies with oddly specific fortunes like, "Don't look now, but the guy to your left has a gun," or "You and Sheila should probably reconsider the engagement." Usually, it would just be confusing, but the one or two times it worked would be WORTH IT.

Time to announce the second runner-up for the caption contest this week.

It is:

"President belatedly awards medal to Ezra Pound"


There is legislation in ten states demanding that Obama's birth certificate be given to them. Should all ten states pass this law, would the birth certificate then be divided into ten pieces with a piece sent to each state?

Not if the states really love the birth certificate! But that'll be hard to determine...

"Beware of the duck" "Don't do what you did yesterday" "They are against you"

"Beware of the duck!" I like that one.

Or strange instructions: "Make more of an effort to greet the people around you on the Metro." "Use less hair gel."

Actually, I think there's never a scenario where the advice "Use less hair gel" wouldn't apply, so that might be a good all-around fortune.

My friend and I were out to dinner with his parents and he got the fortune "you should be able to make and keep money." We gave him a lot of grief and he didn't like the fortune so he stole his mom's unopened cookie and got the same fortune. Fate!


Speaking of fate, how about "The son about to be born may kill you and marry your wife."

I think most fortune cookies just contain information these days. they aren't really fortunes.

Once I got a stock quote! At least, it sounded an awful lot like a stock quote.

My nine year old daughter got one recently that said, "The best cure for misery is hard work." We can utilize this one for her under so many circumstances--homework, room cleaning, etc. The fortune cookie gods truly smiled down upon my husband and me that day..

You're sure you didn't plant that one?

about 10-20 years ago was on Jeopardy and wrote a hilarious apology in the WaPo about answering "what is Herpes?" (rather than "who was Hermes?") He was mortified.

That's pretty good. I know someone who used to think the guy who pushed rocks uphill in Greek mythology was named Syphilis...

And they didn't him credit for that?

I was sort of wondering the same thing... But I think the long silky hair is probably chinchilla specific...

Speaking of which, does anyone own a chinchilla? I met one once; it was like petting a dazed angora scarf. Are they good pets? What about titsmice? (Actually I think the plural isn't titsmice but titmice, but what if it were!)

I was in Wilmington DE on business last week and coming into the city saw this sign:" Welcome to Wilmington. A place to be somebody." As I said to my companion, they weren't trying very hard for a tagline. I got a laugh by suggesting: "Welcome to Wilmington. We have buildings and people."

HA! Wilmington: Do you want to live in a place? Then Wilmington might be for you!

there's an indy movie in this

Yeah! A horror film called "The Cookie," where a man becomes convinced that his deceased relatives are sending him messages through fortune cookies. Eventually, after several hours of plot and cookie run-ins, it turns out that they were just trying to warn him about the MSG.

You could have some disappointing ones, like "Why don't you take a nap?" or "Your life is a dream" or "Ask Mom for a hug and a kiss"

"Brevity is the soul of wit"?

I'm still waiting to get the one that says, "Help! I'm a prisoner in a Chinese bakery!" That's one of my dreams. BTW Alexandra, have you thought of calling this chat the Petri Dish?

That can be our unofficial name! Now we just need a tagline like Delaware's...

Arlo and Janis (the excellent comic strip) had them opening fortune cookies. Janis (reading): The future will bring great happiness Arlo (reading): You will die tomorrow Janis: I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

Yeah! I'm actually a fan of that comic strip. I wish the Post carried it! I was initially predisposed against it since it seemed sort of a like a reverse-perspective Zits without the kids... but Zits is increasingly a reverse-perspective Zit without the kids, so that became a non-issue.

Also, when did people start saying "non-issue." It's horrible. I feel like my vocabulary needs to take a cold shower!

in bed

And you're only the second person to go there!

First runner-up in the caption contest:

Can I take it home?


Both tied for Missed The Premise of Caption Contests But Made Valid Points:

Shame on you Washington Post. This is a sick game at others expense! Write about news!


Nothing more droll than making fun of the way someone looks. Now go out and try to write a book equal to any of his.



I'm still waiting for this bit of honesty: "If I could predict the future, do you really think I'd be working in a fortune cookie bakery?"

Maybe the benefits are good!

Besides, the economy might be saturated with people trying to predict things...

Years ago I was out with my boyfriend and his fortune said "happiness is sitting right next to you." We were all smiles for awhile after that. Until a few months later when I realized that MY happiness hadn't even been sitting in the same room with us. So we broke up.

Good thing you noticed! "Happiness is behind you and to the left."

A cruel but expensive joke would just be to stick a bunch of diamond rings in the fortune cookies, leading to a lot of awkward non-proposals...

The creature shown was small enough to be invited to join the IBTC!


When I was 9 I told my Mom I was a White Ango Saxon Prostitute

I'm glad you told your mom and not the excessively friendly gentleman in the white van!

I don't think that's as bad as Trenton, N.J.'s slogan (as seen on a bridge that is visible to Amtrak passengers passing through): "Trenton makes, the world takes." I understand this was intended as industrial pride back in the day, but it sounds kind of passive-aggressive, don't you think?

Yes! I've seen them mentioned in a lot of Halls of Fame For Passive Aggressive Statements Made In City Mottoes. Well, maybe less in "a lot" of those than in one online photo gallery, if we're being honest here.

Anyone have other bad city slogans?

The Petri Dish: All the bacteria worth growing is here.

One option...

......We got culture here.

I like this one! "And sometimes a strange moldy growth in one corner."

We put the fun in fungus.

Ha! My congenital weakness for puns that revolve around the formula "we put the xx in xxxx"!

"We put the 'apt and pithy' in bacteria! We may be dyslexic and also do not understand how words work!"

Don't touch that: you don't know where it's been!

"Don't touch that, it might be penicillin!"

The Petri Dish: Talk about Cultures

Another culture-based tagline! Maybe this will have to be the subject of next week's photo captioning... It can just be a giant picture of me looking like I'm chatting online and having a great time! I'd draw one in Paint but then we'd all have to sit here for twenty minutes observing how slow the chat was...

Well, right now-- you're here.

Rather be somewhere else? Too bad! You aren't!

that goes with the caption

Both are here!

No fur or nibbly rodent teeth - nice feathers though.

Well, I stand corrected.

This reminds me of a Christmas  in my childhood when I found my parents and grandparents laughing uproariously about a man who went out to relieve himself in the snow and spotted something they quickly referred to as a "dicsissel, a north American bird!"  But I'm pretty convinced this wasn't what they were originally talking about...

Have you heard about his story? Fort Wayne's new government center is looking for a new name and the public want it named after former mayor Harry Baals (pronounced balls). There's a youtube video of a news broadcast that's pretty funny. Someone from the Baals family is interviewed and says they now pronouce their name Bales, because his grandmother thougth the family would be teased too much is they continued to pronounce it like balls. Where was that concern when she gave her kid the name Harry?

That's amazing! I have been following that!

I know a guy named Richard Stains. But he went by the shortened version of his name. Yup.

There are also rumors that out there somewhere is a guy named Stephen Will Burst.

Hope this makes it. Husband and I put offer on house that already had an offer. We went for a drink and Chinese apps & my fortune cookie read "Your dearest dream is coming true." We got the house. First buyer backed out for some reason. Our offer was accepted and another put on the table shortly thereafter.

There you go! Sometimes it does work out! When I was writing my thesis, I kept getting horoscope messages that said "Long-term project requires work today," which actually were very helpful!

Don't have corners! They are always circular.

For a second I thought this was a slogan, but I now realize what you're talking about. What do you call the non-corners of a circle? "Edge points?" Any geometry experts in the house?

Which reminds me, someday I want to go to a theater show or be on an airplane and have someone come on the loud speaker and frantically ask if there's a Medieval Linguist in the house...

I understand the full motto is "Trenton makes, the world takes. And they never call! Not even on my birthday!"

"And they unfollowed me on Twitter!"

Now that I think about it: "I really can predict the future, and this bakery is as good a place as any to await the end..."

Speaking of the end, it's about time to wrap things up here with the winner of the caption contest, to be crowned in glory and enshrined in the annals of the Internet. So if you have any closing remarks, speak now!

The Petri Dish: Alexandra is a real dish

I think that's a compliment! Usually people tell me I'm cutlery...

Does this look infected to you?

I think we actually threw that around as a slogan for the whole blog...

What? You mean Weingarten will join us sometimes?

You hear that, Weingarten? If you ever want to leave your wildly overpopular chat with your Thought-Provoking Quizzes About Life and come over here to the Petri Dish, we are here and there is also culture!

Conglomerate slogan probably needs work.

Will continually asking "What sign am I", disturb fellow subway passengers? I used to be a Capricorn, I think. Is there a new Fed agency working on this?

There is a whole range of possible interpretations on this one, but I think the word is that if you were born before 2009, you're in the same sign as before!  So unless you're an unbelievable prodigy, (in which case, what are you doing here?), then you should still be a Capricorn...

We Richmonders had to laugh when the new Motto "Easy to Love" came out right after we were name #1 in STDs!

"Trying To Be Slightly More Difficult To Love" doesn't have the same ring to it, though...

"No matter where you go, there you are."

And on that note, this week's winner:

You want to see MY birth certificate?


Congrats, Neumanco!And everyone else!

Please keep reading the Compost, follow us on Twitter, and come back next week to the Chat Unofficially Known As The Petri Dish!


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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