ComPost Live

Mar 13, 2012

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.

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See, all it took was getting attacked on a nationwide radio program that's listened to by tens of millions of people.

Ha, yes, I did it all for you, folks! I wonder what will have to happen next week! Maybe I can get attacked by a shark.

Happy Tuesday and welcome to the chat! Have you picked your bracket yet? If not, you should! But after the chat, of course.

Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong I descended to their level when I used those two letters, and a word that means you have an urge to scratch, to describe Alexandra Petri's opinions. That was my error. I've always tried to maintain a very high degree of integrity and independence on my program. Nevertheless, those two letters and that word were inappropriate. They were uncalled for. They distracted from the point that I was actually trying to make, and I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Petri for using those two letters and that word to describe her opinions. I do not think she or her opinions are either of those letters, or that word that means you have an urge to scratch, at least not when combined together in the order that I used them.

Rush, I had no idea you were a frequenter of the chat. Why haven't you responded to my sandwich offer? If you gave them up for Lent, or something, we can work around it!

I have no desire to cheat on my wife, but if I did I'd choose an Ashley over a Madison. No wait, I'll take a Madison instead. Uh, can I have one of each?

Really? The name Madison (sorry, any Maddies in the chat) was one of those girls' names that leapt into vogue when I was old enough to notice whether a name was in vogue or not, and I always thought it was a more pretentious way of just naming someone Madeleine. I just can't get behind it conceptually. Then again, men named Ashley are invariably milquetostes who lose the girl to Rhett in the eighth act.

I've started lowering my expectations. If Romney doesn't drop a roll of cash on the ground, and Obama doesn't eat the teleprompter, they're both winners.

I'd be less worried that he'd eat the teleprompter than that he'd send it in his place, or that it would get stuck mid-sentence and leave him trapped in a feedback loop.

Ha to the roll of cash. I'll consider it a success if the ghost of Seamus doesn't show up in the spot where President Obama is supposed to be sitting and leave Romney in an awkwardly Macbeth-like position, yelling "Never shake your gory locks at me!" or whatever the Romney equivalent of that is.

But back to the subject of the teleprompter. How do we feel about them? On the one hand, if unhinged yelling were a commodity, it would be at an all-time high, but on the other, make one gaffe too many and you wish you'd been repeating carefully vetted words in a somewhat varied monotone.

I picked up a book I bought many years ago and reflected on how the written word has been devalued in my lifetime. When I bought it, books were special, you had to hunt them out, so the individual words had a value. Now everyone writes about everything online, and the words aren't worth anything.

To be honest, this is always something that gives me pause when it comes to writing in other media. I still have the somewhat antiquated idea that words in books are supposed to have a certain permanence to them. Writing online every day reminds me of Robbie Ross's epitaph, where he quipped "Here lies one whose name was writ in hot water." It tends to evaporate quickly, or, alternatively, to evaporate never, leading people decades later to send you emails about What You Meant By That Strange Poem. But a book should be a set of words that are willing to stick together and be seen in public together along with your name for decades to come. It's different.

But that also brings in the point that we're doing vast, vast amounts of reading every day and the follow-up question of how much it's actually worth -- and the other question of how on earth you're going to get through Anna Karenina on your Kindle Fire when TVTropes remains a possibility.

It's probably bad for the sisterhood, but I enjoy pretending to pick teams for the most vapid of reasons. It makes some of my guy friends nutty, especially when your bracket does better than theirs. On a side note, one year I did actual research (Dick Vitale's USA Today column) and won.

Last year, I picked Butler, because I had family there and I believed in them, and I very nearly won the pool! But then UConn had to come along...

This year, no such luck.

What bothered you most, the comments that called you "sweetie" and "honey", or the 4-letter voicemails?

Honestly, I reached the point where I was skimming/making my friends read me the comments, because my old adage is "If there's more than 40 of them, they aren't saying anything good." That being said, I think the crude monosyllables have a certain up-frontness and charm to them, because you can instantly write someone off as a troglodyte if he wheels one out while criticizing you. Pumpkin, and most gourd-based endearments, are the ones that really get my goat, if only because they're condescending rather than outright insulting, like the four-lettered-friends on my voicemail. I know what to do when I'm insulted. But when I'm condescended to, every fiber in my being begs me to respond and indicate to the person through conversation that he erred in calling me a yam derivative. Which, of course, you can't really.

Given that you're a comedienne and given the Ala. and Miss. primaries are today, what do you make of Jeff Foxworthy's endorsement of Romney and Romney's proud proclamation that one of his southern bodymen has been teaching him all about grits and the proper way to say "y'all?"

Someone described Romney's Grit Adventure as like being "on safari in his own country." Then again, it's the same sort of thing you often see from Media Types marveling "What's a cheese curd?" on visits to Real Electoral Destinations. Not exactly a great way of establishing common touch bonafides, but I think he may have passed that point and his aides may simply be urging him to "take the lovable automaton thing and run with it."

I asked my wife if I should check out Ashley Madison, and she replied "Haven't you disappointed enough women already?"

Ah, open marriages.

How is it different from having the text of a prepared speech with you?

Well, it's -- slim and electronic and people mistrust it, and it can't blow away, generally. 

This is probably not the answer you wanted.

SPLASH (Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah) was the source of all girls named Madison. Girls named Daryl I cannot explain.

Oh aha! I thought it was a strange way of reverencing the Founders.

I couldn't believe my eyes yesterday. I saw a car with a ROMNEY BUMPER STICKER. Someone on this earth likes Mittens enough to advertise it! For the record: older white guy, shiny new PT Cruiser convertible.

I love it!

Romney enthusiasts remind me of people who show up with bare, painted chests and kegs at croquet matches. Or Episcopalian Zealots. Or people who are adamant about liking things tepid. It seems almost like a contradiction in terms. And even when you find a real Romney enthusiast, try asking him if he'd prefer Mitch Daniels. In my experience, this approach has never failed to produce a heavy sigh and a, "But you can't really expect a brokered convention this time around."

Yeah,yeah, movies will make people stop going to plays, TV will make people stop going to movies, movies will kill radio...heard it all before. Just for the record, books were always special but you didn't have to hunt them out when I was growing up. There were libraries and bookstores everywhere and people lent each other books. Web-writing and hard-copy each have a place in the world.

I hope so.

But unlike books/movies, movies/radio, YouTube/movies, which are really apples and oranges, the change in the technology of reading itself has me putting an asterisk on your optimism. I know New York Times trend pieces are generally to be cited repeatedly in cocktail conversation and then ignored altogether, but the experience with some of the fancier eReaders is like trying to read a book in a movie theater -- a set of circumstances that would not have kept the book alive. Maybe I'm misunderestimating our capacity for focus. But as bookstores close and libraries become places you go for wifi and instant gratification -- MUST HAVE BOOK NOW! CANNOT WAIT FOR ARRIVAL OF PHYSICAL BOOK IN MAIL! -- continues to be the order of the day, I'm just a little chary to see how we make the jump. I think ultimately you may be right. But I worry anyway.

Various criteria you can use: Size of mascot's paws, Hair gel quotient on head coach, How many starters have dreadlocks, whether uniform colors would be good theme colors for your wedding.

All classics.

Which do you prefer, the cartoon depiction of you for your column or the picture the Post ran during the most recent dust-up with Rush? And why did they run a picture of you at the moment you had a bunch of crazies leaving four letter messages on your voice mail? My two cents is it's a nice picture.

I put the picture in, using the logic that seems to animate every woman in every movie ever made, that If It's Going To Be The Alamo, I Might As Well Wear Mascara. I figure, people are shouting strange obscenities into the Internet at me, I might as well have a flattering picture with stormtroopers.

Although I do like the caricature!

Which is the way to go for presidential candidates? And why is a teleprompter a national issue with all the other problems we have right now?

I think if we've learned anything about Major National Issues in the last few weeks, it's that literally nobody wants to discuss them. Instead, we've opted to refight many women's rights battles, yelp about teleprompters, and go through every word Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh utter with a fine-toothed comb. So, teleprompters? Why not!

I saw your column that you wrote about getting hate messages, but I missed what outraged the rude people in the first place. Could you get me caught up?

Ah! Well, basically, Rush Limbaugh denounced me on the air for a piece I wrote in which I said that his only enthusiastic advertisers were famed Life Is Short Have An Affair site AshleyMadison and Seeking Arrangement, a site for folks looking for sugar daddies. It turned out that they only wanted to advertise with him, so I apologized for the overstatement and we updated the piece. However, in the process of denouncing me, Rush managed to call my writing "b-i-itchy" and "snarky" and "full-of-holes" and execute some variant of Order 66 that resulted in dozens of enraged calls -- which I think is where you came in. I find it fascinating that some people can't simply criticize something you've written without first establishing as a vital point of their argument that you are a hideous blimp whom they would never bang, an airheaded fool, or some variant of the b-i-you-get-the-idea. I would say it's obnoxious to resort to ad hominem arguments, but these never seem to be directed against the male of the species, somehow.

If your name begins with a drink, you must be having fun. Every hour is happy hour someplace. Ale is proof that God loves us...Wait that's beer. What's Ale proof of?

About 8?

It started with the movie "Splash." Daryl Hannah (the mermaid) became a human and was walking down the street in NYC and needed a name. She saw Madison Avenue and picked Madison. And that's how it started.

No kidding! Learn something new every day.

I saw several 1950s-era comic-book pages this morning with hints on how to catch a husband, etc. One such hint was to join clubs, sports or otherwise, that the boy you're interested in likes so you can talk knowledgeably about them, but not to get too well-versed in the subject because, "That scares boys off." My jaw dropped. Women were supposed to pretend interest in something just to catch a husband. I nearly threw my monitor out the window. I've got some scathing thoughts on the matter, but what about you?

Interest, mind you, but not expertise.

I also am curious about this fairly virulent meme (if that's the word I want) going around that All Liberal Girls Are Ugly. As a moderate, I'm not sure where that puts me ("All Moderate Girls Are 5s" doesn't really have the same ring to it) but it seems an odd line of argument, to say the least.

Doesn't grab me in the first 10 pages? Let's see what's new on Facebook. God knows how anybody got through Great Expectations.

Very, very slowly, by candle-light, with father reading aloud and doing hand motions.

And Dickens' women, as Kate Beaton points out, are uniformly annoying. Except Biddy, that is. I liked Biddy.

This is a serious question: what is the argument against teleprompters? I've never heard it articulated.

That's a good question. I think the underlying idea against it is that 1) it stands between you and the people, but also between you and the thoughts you're expressing 2) somehow, if it were removed, you'd be incapable of going on with the speech and would wander around gaping-mouthed and senseless, gaffeing everywhere 3) you're being fed words, which seems dubious somehow. 4) no Real American has a teleprompter 5) Abe Lincoln didn't use one 6) without them, speeches would be much shorter and the intonation you used when delivering them wouldn't imply that you couldn't see to the end of the sentence but were trying to sound excited about it anyway.

Anyone have better thoughts? This can't be it!

lackwits learned how to use a teleprompter they'd stop saying such moronic statements. I think that's why they're upset about Obama using a teleprompter. There's never anything colossally stupid or embarrassing on those TelePrompTers

I feel compelled to point out that you actually went through and carefully capitalized TelePrompTers. Am I disrespecting them if I don't? Their defenders in the chat all seem to be doing the correct capitalization, so I worry I've just offended the next generation of robotic aids. 

I thought it was a picture of you as a stormtrooper! Hello, Stolen Valor committee!

Oops! Er. Yeah, better get rid of that Yavin medal.

You may jest about the importance of this issue, but I promise that as soon as the teleprompter issue is resolved, all other problems will disappear. Unemployment will drop to zero, gas will be free and the terrorists will give up their fight and become NASCAR devotees.

Sidenote, I think there's someone who believes this about absolutely every issue that other people consider "a pointless distraction."

Anyway, it's worth a try!

Isn't it time that the ban on whaling is lifted, so that the price of whale oil goes down?

Yes! But I only say that because a giant white whale once personally insulted me, biting off my leg and leaving me here in New Bedford cradling a harpoon and muttering about revenge.

Wouldn't it be great if there were a single-elimination tournament for all of the characters in Downtown Abbey? You could line them all up in brackets, and see who would triumph in head-to-head competitions of stiff-upper-lippitude and probity. There have to be at least 64 characters--if you include the dog and various pieces of furniture.


Actually, every week the PBS website has a feature where you can rate them by likeability, which always struck me as an odd metric for the folks at Downton. Anna invariably prevails.

As a southerner and a Democrat, I thought it was hilarious. And for once, I think he was trying to be hilarious, as opposed to whatever he was doing when he started on about tree heights (although he had a funny line about how lake swimming is better than ocean swimming because "you don't have to worry about things trying to eat you"). I think you're right about him going for the adorkable vote now.

I used to want the campaign to continue until June for the high drama. Now I want it to continue so that I can hear the one, slightly off, canned remark that Romney has prepared for each state in the union. They are uniformly delightful! Someone should make a quilt.

If you have putative twins, you must name them Alex and Ra.

Someone's a chat regular!


I live in Madison, WI, dubbed thus in 1836, way before everyone thought that name was cool. I guess that explains the preponderance of hipsters here.

Aw yeah.

You have great ice cream, though. And the Onion.

Although I'm not sure either of those are hipster magnets, specifically.

Hi, I'm from Belgium, a country in which few people are familiar with baseball. I want to learn what the sport is all about! But I can't do this without picking a team to support. It's actually the irrationality of: "we are thegood guys they are the bad guys" that atracts me to all kind of sports! Since I wasn' related to any of the basebalteams I decided to pick the team wich' stadium lies in the most democratic-voting congressional district (to Belgian standards even the democrats are considerd a rightwing party). this way I came out with the NY Yankees. Did I pick right?


I like the amount of logic that went into this. Sounds right to me, although I haven't had time to check any statistics.

I always pick teams based upon the principle of existential disappointment. A religion teacher I had in high school explained that if you root for a terrible team and eventually they win, there will be a massive, massive payoff compared to rooting for a good team. And then it will all be over and you will have to confront existential disappointment and gaze into the abyss and so forth. But the first clause really stuck with me. Still, I'm a Nats fan, if only because DC is full of transients and they deserve one person who is not there to represent Philadelphia whenever they play.

So seriously. Who listens to Rush Limbaugh for anything other than humor? That bloviating gasbag is an insult to the human race. I weep for humanity right now...

One stray observation on this point is that, while everyone seemed extremely enthused to leap in on Rush while admitting that they hadn't listened to him for years/ever, then large swaths of people demanded that Bill Maher be given the same degree of looking-at, then my brief effort to contemplate Bill Maher instantly met with "HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT YOU'VE NEVER LISTENED TO HIM."

But that's fodder for another week.

When Romney comes to campaign for the Pennsylvania primary, I wonder if he'll switch from that southern "y'all" to a Pittsburgh "yinz" (= you-uns).

I don't know, but I can't wait to find out!

Ashley, Lauren, Morgan, Bobby, Danny, Alex...what other names have women stolen from men?

Dean? I hope not Dean.

I thought we gave Bobby back after the 1950s.

He who hath never used a Powerpoint presentation may cast the first stone.

Nuts, I used a Powerpoint Saturday night!

That sounds like a euphemism, but isn't.

I feel like I have a void in my heart that used to be filled with the ridiculous nonsense spewing from Rick Santorum's mouth...where oh where has he gone? All I've seen in the news is Romney's friends own NASCAR teams this, and they own NFL teams that. I'm hankering for some classic "Satan is attacking America" or "JfK makes me puke." What is going on?

Could it be that we've reached the end of his gaffe reel? I think the War on Teleprompters is the only thing he's had to offer lately. Which is fine, but would be stronger coming from someone like Rick Perry with real Clearly Not Prompted Speaking cred.

When you collect your Pulitzer for criticism (or editorials, or whatever). You just got made!

I'm just happy he got the chat onto the front page!

And with that, I bid you adieu for the week! Feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter, and keep reading the Compost! Rush might.

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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