ComPost Live: A lighter take on the news

May 01, 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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First off, has everyone seen the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises? Good stuff.

Second off, Happy May Day! Is Happy the right word? Back in the days when I worked in a library, I wished my supervisor a Happy May Day and he got a far-off look in his eyes. "In Germany," he said, "there will be many burning cars."

So now I never quite know what to wish.

To pass the time, I often imagine that my Metro car is a spaceship selected by aliens for breeding purposes. It won't be pretty.

Oh deaaaaaar.

That wouldn't be pretty at all, but at least you wouldn't be alone while your prospective mate lay in the sun wondering what all the scientists were bleating and chirping about. Actually, the scientists wouldn't bleat and chirp, that's more  of a panda thing.

Since the White House Correspondents' Dinner is called NerdProm and news organizations vie to get the most famous pop culture guests, who would you invite if you had a ticket to use?

George Lucas! If only because I am excruciatingly predictable.

For a long time I wasn't proud of the fact that the only Shakespeare play I've ever read was Macbeth. I told this to an educator I know, and I was told that it was ridiculous to expect people to read works that were intended to be experienced in the theater. Apparently the alternative would be only reading the original Welles/Mankiewicz script for Citizen Kane instead of seeing the actual film. Good stage performers do bring out nuances in the characterizations and lines that aren't obvious in the scripts. Maybe Shakespeare would hold up better in our era if high schools and colleges focused on seeing his works on stage and in film, like the DiCaprio/Danes version with the original dialogue.

That's the trouble with plays. Even ones that read well enough on the page so you feel you aren't missing anything, you're missing something. In fact ones that read too well on the page (Neil Simon is one example) often fall flat when you have actual people trying to fire the lines at each other. In my experience writing plays (here we go from the sublime to the ridiculous) it's always the lines that you put on the page thinking, "This might be funny if that character said it" that get the biggest laughs, rather than the things that you sort of chortle at on the page. And Shakespeare actually knew what he was doing when writing plays so that's doubly true for him.

Sara Just saw Justice Scalia and Pamela Anderson in an intense conversation at a previous WHC Dinner. Pamela may have an interest in a public policy issue. Do you know what it might be?


Repealing gravity, maybe?

Having been to a few big work-related dinner events at the Wash HIlton, I can't imagine that a black tie mass dinner in that room would be any fun at all. Ok, maybe you see a few celebs, but it's probably daunting to actually try to have a conversation with any one of them. What is the attraction for both the celebs and the media types to attend?

In my experience it's the events that are the least fun in practice that are the hardest tickets to obtain. But that doesn't stop me from desperately craving a ticket.

And celebrities can be hard to converse with, if only because on the one hand you have this secret vision that the evening will conclude with you and the celebrities walking out arm in arm, fast friends, as Charlize Theron agrees to produce all your ill-advised movie scripts and Kevin Spacey tells you over and over again that he has never met anyone like you in all his years of people-meeting. But in practice it actually concludes with you standing on the edge of a small circle of people that has formed around the celebrity of the hour straining to hear what he or she is saying about the carpet and laughing too loudly whenever there is silence, so instead of coming off as the Wildly Original Celebrity Magnet you had hoped when the night began, you are exactly the sycophantic babbler you hoped to avoid.

I have no idea why the celebrities show up.

Last weeks chat on Shakespeare reminded me of what I think would make a super name for a dry cleaning place. "Shakespeare Cleaners" They could explain that they even invoked Lady Macbeth: "Out, damn'd spot! out, I say! " to get that stubborn stain out. Or, shout it right in front of you when you point out a missed spot to prove that they'll use anything imaginable to root out the spot, however futile. And then, they could explain it's maybe all just in your head.

I like that.

It would be great if you came back and all the spots were still there and Shakespeare cleaners would respond, "Refund? Nonsense. That's your GUILT."

Seen the latest trailer? I'm really looking forward to this one. It will be awesome. Also looking forward to Iron Sky (Space Nazis from the Moon!) which looks so cheesy as to be either awesome, or awful.

Yes, likewise on both counts!

I'm glad someone finally literalized the Space Nazis concept. Worth a try, definitely!

And I will watch anything with Michael Fassbender in it...

This reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on an FTD delivery truck: "CAUTION: Fragrant stops!"

"Odious savours sweet!"


... say "out, out, spam dot?"

If I'm the only sample, I think that's just you, but does anyone else?

Alex, YOU should've been one of the contestants on the recently-taped "Jeopardy!" DC Power Players Tournament. You'd have wiped out those others with your superior knowledge and wit.

Well, I don't know about that. Besides, that would require me to become a DC power player, which is a polite way of saying that No One Elsewhere In The Country Has Any Idea What You Do.

For some reason the phrase "miscarriage of justice" always makes me think of someone dropping Justice Scalia on the way to the courtroom. I blame my rigorous training for the O. Henry Pun-Off that causes everything to turn into a hideous pun.

Did you ever go listen to the This American Life podcast of "Squirrel Cop?" It is truly hilarious and worth the time. My husband posits that people with jobs that require a lot of sitting around with co-workers waiting (baseball players, cops), are really good storytellers, because they have time on their hands, and some inherent competition to keep each other entertained.

I still haven't! (whacks self with whatever the Petri version of a wet noodle is) But that theory about what makes a great storyteller makes a great deal of sense. I always thought the secret of being good at telling stories was to try to go out and have the most bizarre experiences possible, but as Proust says, the real way to travel is not to see new places but to see the same place with new eyes. So now I just visit a lot of black market oculists.

When asking them if they want to take a nightly tub bath or a shower: "Tubby? Or not tubby? That is the question."

Hahaha! Better to bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of.

What do they pick?

Maybe the problem isn't nature but nurture. For pandas, zoo life might be the equivalent of an awkward prom date with the son or daughter of a family friend. Or else like newlyweds facing pressure to conceive from both sets of wannabe grandparents. How about all the zoos collaborate on some panda speed-dating instead?

Ah, the classic awkward date.

Then again, the one time I went speed dating with "Young Hip 20-Somethings" I wound up being introduced to someone who began the Three Minutes in Purgatory by saying, "I'm a consultant... but really, I'm a leader." Which put sort of a damper on the evening. I can't imagine the pandas would fare much better.

It wasn't until I was in college that I appreciated Shakespeare because we were required to watch the plays in addition to reading them. They taught us that these were meant to be seen. You can't hear tone of voice when reading. It's amazing how many lines I realized were meant to be sarcastic or in jest. Totally changes everything.

True! All those rich non-verbal cues! Difference between texting and talking...

Do they actually think its at the White House, and then at some point, they realize, whoa, it's at a Hilton? By then, its too late to gracefully bow out, and they're stuck in a ballroom with thousands of people trying to impress the with witty repartee. I get that, but why would some actually return?

"Maybe this year it'll be the White House!"

Even though I live in the middle of fly-over country, I read the Wash Post ALOT. The past few weeks I have been amazed by the amount of Obama ads directed at me. Right now, as I type this, Michelle, Barack, and the girls are beaming at me out of a banner ad asking me to join their campaign. Yesterday it was BO! However, I live in a Red State (MO) so while sure, I'll vote for him, it doesn't seem to matter much. My question for you, from the interface YOU see of the website as a content provider, do you see tons of Obama ads? Any ads at all? Think Romney will ever do a WashPost buy? LOVED your Ted Nugent piece, btw :)

Thank you!

I keep seeing ads for reducing my midsection, but only if I am a cartoon figure to begin with. At least, that is what I'm getting from the ads. I feel like they couldn't produce a human being to lose that many pounds so they thought, "Let's just draw a stick figure and people will be convinced!" I don't think I see as many Obama ads as you do, but I have friends who forward his fundraising emails to me every time they get one that is especially creepy, so I think I'm getting my quotient.

But the stain could never come out in MacBeth, that was the problem. Who would want to bring their clothes there? What, you're going to wash it with nothing but water and hope that yelling at the spot will clean my suit? No thank you.

They might get a few of the perfumes of Arabia in to help, but you're right. Best case scenario your laundry just incarnadines the multitudinous seas, and you're still stuck with a bloodstained tux.

So Joss isn't your new boss?

Oh, I love Joss! But I don't have the same urge to give him a piece of my mind, preferably over the salmon course.

Back in 1971 I was living in Milan in a quixotic effort to teach English to the Milanese. One of my fellow teachers was an older African American woman who had managed a restaurant in Sweden. On May 1, she declaimed what she said was a traditional Swedish name: "Hooray, hooray, it's the first of May "Outdoor (fornicating) begins today." Not exactly "Workers of the world" unite, but a worthwhile sentiment.


Do they ever have food fights at these things? Too bad John Belusihi isn't around anymore. He'd be the best guest.

He'd still be a better guest than some of the guests, if the Reliable Source is to be believed.

You should try out. The team will face the All-England Summarize Proust Team in the Summer 2012 Olympics.

We'd need to find a judge who thought our accents sounded just as impressive and knowledgeable as theirs do, or it wouldn't be a fair fight. They could just show up and say, "Well, as Stoppard would no doubt tell you, it's about memory" and waltz off with it, otherwise.

But does such a person exist?

Ohmigod, when I lived in DC I used to do the same thing. Only it wasn't alien breeding, it was worldwide catastrophe and we're the only surivors.

I actually bought a book based on that premise! It was from a man at that billiards place in Rosslyn. It was called "Sinners In The Hands Of An Agnostic God." I figured that if he were having his book-launch party in a largely deserted billiards place, he needed all the help he could get.

My high school English teacher told us "Shakespeare is like sex. If you're not enjoying it, you're not doing it right." I don't remember much of what I learned in high school, but I'll always remember that nugget.

+10 to your English teacher!

Just sayin' hi.


Huzzah, I thought all the panda fuss might have sent you back up your tree or into your, er, squirrel burrow.

Or ... they take Arms against a Sea of bath toys ...

Ha! +17!


AI? It works for livestock, and humans, to why not other mammals?

That's what they try every year. But often it doesn't take. This is Mei Xiang's 8th time around, bless her lumbering heart. The ladies are only mating-reading for one 24-72 hour window each year, so you can't let I Dare Not wait upon I Would like a cat in an adage when it comes to AIing the folks.

I was surprised that no one invited Tareq Salahi, now that he's running for Governor of Virginia. Or did he get in the old-fashioned (gate-crashing) way?

I had hoped--

But alas, he was conspicuous only by his absence.

Actually, the workers WOULD be uniting, so to speak.

Enjoying, er, Shakespeare.

Perhaps you could take over the News Corp in his stead, since your command of Shakespeare undoubtedly surpasses his. ("full of sound and fury, signifying nothing")

That could be fun!

To be Rupert Murdoch for a day...

Of course there would always be the creeping terror that once you'd started being Rupert Murdoch, you'd wake up one morning and find you couldn't stop. One imagines that something similar happened to him at some point.

You're just a kid, but I am SO looking forward to the new Dark Shadows movie.

The trailer looked good! Refreshingly Burton-esque. Which I guess is both the best and worst that can be said of any Tim Burton movie.

Actually, i've always enjoyed reading Shakespeare as much as attending the performances. When i read it myself, I can add inflections and nuances that some actors might not. Sorta like how the book is ALWAYS better than the movie that gets released leter.

We have a dissent!

Depends upon the actors. I think the texts are crammed with delightful stuff that flits past when you're just watching it, so that it bears reading again. But the ideal performance to me is still better than the ideal read-by-yourself.

When I read about the proposed height of One World Trade Center, my first thought was, "What's the point if it's not going to be taller than the Burj Khalifa?" Then I realized the ridiculousness of claiming to have the tallest. It would just be a billion-dollar game of "Mine's bigger than yours." Do foreign visitors to DC laugh at the symbolism of the Washington Monument, which seems to suggest that the "father of our country" was more than, um, well-equipped for the job?

If it weren't for phallic symbols, we wouldn't have any public buildings at all!

Except possible the Gherkin. Still trying to wrap my head around that one.

Here's to fornicating outdoors.

And on that note, it's time to bid you adieu this week!

Have a great May Day! Keep reading the Compost! And feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

"Outdoor (fornicating) begins today." Not exactly "Workers of the world" unite. / Actually, the workers WOULD be uniting, so to speak. / Enjoying, er, Shakespeare.

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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