ComPost Live: A lighter take on the news

May 08, 2012

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Happy Tuesday, everyone!

RIP Maurice Sendak and your splendid nightmares! Here is a quote from him to start us off.

"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children's letters - sometimes very hastily - but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, "Dear Jim: I loved your card." Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, "Jim loved your card so much he ate it." That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received. He didn't care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it." - Maurice Sendak

(If anyone remembers Jodi, who used to moderate the chat, she gets credit for alerting me to its existence.)

Alexandra, when you mentioned Facebook likes and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets, I have to agree the dish is awesome. I save even more money by buying Velveeta Shells and Cheese and add my own meats and veggies. There are so many pasta shapes with own names: spaghetti vs. angel hair vs. linguine, shells vs. penne vs. macaroni. What are are your favorite shapes? Everyone should have the right to enjoy the pasta shape of their choice and no one should have to lose their jobs or Facebook Likes over pasta shapes, let alone pasta sauce choice (marinara vs. alfredo vs. cheese).

I really hope that you are someone who works for Velveeta Cheesy Skillets and that you were sent into this chat by corporate, because whenever anyone mentions "Velveeta Cheesy Skillets" an alert goes off in Velveeta Cheesy Skillets headquarters and someone like you has to show up in a chat and post questions like this.

Let's take a moment to analyze your comment, shall we? It is great. First off, "Alexandra, when you mentioned Facebook likes and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets, I have to agree the dish is awesome," is a sentence I don't think has ever been uttered by a human being not under duress. But I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt until the next sentence ("I save even more money by buying Velveeta Shells and Cheese"). But it is your question "What are your favorite pasta shapes?" that really pushes me over the edge in doubting that you are a non-corporate entity. This is exactly the sort of thing that the long-suffering servant who runs the Miracle Whip Twitter is always posting. ("What sandwich types are your favorite sandwich types?" and "Do you believe in the right to different forms of dip?")

I also like how you managed to sneak in the information that there are multiple choices of pasta sauce.

In conclusion, if you are from Velveeta Cheesy Skillets corporate, I admire your dedication to making this sound almost, but not quite, like something an actual person might say in the course of conversation! Well done!

And if you are an actual person, I'm really sorry! Trust me, in my book "A Velveeta Cheesy Skillets corporate representative with almost realistic dialogue" is a high compliment! Don't send me more than 7 angry emails!

Alexanra, Mark Zuckerberg kicked off his Facebook IPO roadshow in NYC yesterday. He wore his trademark hoodie whereas everyone else wore suits, etc. I've noticed at many companies you can tell who's the Boss by what THEY wear vs. everyone else. Is that true also in your office? Personally, I prefer job performance over clothing choice (but do prefer clothing in the office) so I'd support Zuckerberg on his hoodie. But when he leads his IPO team to DC for their IPO conference, I hope YOU attend and ask the blinding obvious question no one will ask: how do they make money? Let alone enough money to justify their huge market cap.

Well I hate to be the emperor's boy, but I do sort of wonder about that. It's the underpants gnomes profit South Park conundrum, or, if you prefer, like the old comic that says "Be a little more explicit here in step 2."

Alexandra, thanks for earlier presidential love letters post. I hope you'll follow up with more that you "found" in the archives. I'm guessing there are staffers or reporters who specialize in certain historical areas (for example, Karen Tumulty is excellent in quoting US political history in her stories). So I hope that YOU get promoted to Official WaPo Historian for Presidential Affairs (with pay raise, of course). Thus, when a teammate emails you, you can verify that yes, Warren Harding really did come out of the closet ...after an encounter with Nan Britton, literally.

Ah, Warren Harding, that presidential-looking cad who slightly undermined everyone's confidence in women's suffrage.

And I ate my computer monitor to show my appreciation. It was delicious with mayo.

Not with Miracle Whip?

(The unofficial theme of this chat is trying to get as many bots to join us as possible.)

What is the Velveeta Cheesy Skillet question about?

So yesterday I wrote a post about Facebook likes being protected speech (or not, according to a Virginia judge!) and in the course of it, gently nestled in one of the later paragraphs, I referenced the fact that I am a proud liker of Velveeta Cheesy Skillets (LIQUID GOOOOOOOOOOOOLD). So naturally the first question I get in the chat is someone wanting to know what my favorite types of pasta are and thanking me for mentioning Velveeta Cheesy Skillets.

I hope this starts sowing distrust among chat regulars (even Squirrel Bopper) so eventually we're all just running around shouting, "Cylon! Cylon!" whenever anyone mentions a brand name.

Maybe the post wasn't from an actual person. There are tons of "news" sites out there with article written by bots. The next logical step is chat posts submitted by bots.

We can only hope!

Mm, Special K with freeze-dried red berries is sure delightful! Melts in your mouth, not in your hand!

I read your advice to recent grads which I thought was awesome. I am definitely one of those "I have too many sweaters to have real problems" people. Any advice on how to tell the difference between a first world problem that should be shrugged off and a real one that requires resolution?

Carolyn Hax is generally better at this sort of thing than I am. Most of my advice consists of telling people to "bury your feelings deep down, Luke. They do you credit, but they could be made to serve the Emperor," which I hear is more situation-specific advice than not.

In general, there are problems and there are annoyances. Annoyances are "my neighbor seems to realize I've been purloining her WiFi and is angrily renaming it to tell me to stop ("IKNOWWHATYOUREUPTOAPT57")"; they tend to fall more in the obstacle category that you can hike around or climb over. Also, just because they're not problems like "my leg just fell off!" doesn't mean they aren't problems. It's sometimes hard to know until you can get far enough away to tell if it was a mountain or a molehill.

(Unhelpful rambling answer is unhelpful and rambling, as they say on the Internet.)

...but alas, I'm NOT a really well-paid corporate spokesperson. I wish. They tend to get paid well and I could use the money. I'd love to get paid to eat pasta. But food tends to get my attention. The need to give every pasta shape its own name would cover an entire blog site.

So sorry! You should forward this to Velveeta and tell them the Compost Live Chatters want you to be paid what you deserve!

Let's talk pasta!

Are angel hair and vermicelli the same? Because if so, that is definitely a case of Really Ugly Fish -- Bottomfeeding Mucksucker, or something -- getting renamed something palatable sounding like Inspiring Bluefin and suddenly becoming coveted and overfished.

Really, I could eat both of them to the point of being sick. Which do you prefer?

I'm not really a chocolate person, weirdly. I haven't eaten an M&M for years! I'd probably go for the Hershey Kisses, given those options.

But this one is mighty fine ... Verse On Lee’s Invasion Of The North In eighteen sixty three, with pomp, and mighty swell, Me and Jeff’s Confederacy, went forth to sack Phil-del, The Yankees the got arter us, and giv us particular hell, And we skedaddled back again, And didn’t sack Phil-del.

I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary
It is neither a Joke nor a Story
For Rubin and Charles has married two girls
But Billy has married a boy
The girlies he had tried on every Side
But none could he get to agree
All was in vain he went home again
And since that is married to Natty
So Billy and Natty agreed very well
And mama’s well pleased at the match
The egg it is laid but Natty’s afraid
The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch
But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head
My Suitor you never Can be
Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch
And that never Can serve for me

-another poem attributed to a very young Lincoln

Er, happy election day, North Carolina?

This is not related to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I am adopting an all white female kitten. Any name suggestions?

I'm opening this to the chat at large!

I say call it Ben, then change it to Ben Hur when it has kittens. But that's not original...

I hope next week the Discussions editors or whomever runs the jont makes sure NOT to schedule you and Ezra at same time. Make him move, love ya both but he needs to take another time slot so you can have maximum audience attention, even if only from Velveeta fans.

Good call! I'm always down to move. Few people claim to be Better Than Ezra, and most of them are band members. #groan #thefewremainingpeopleinthechatfleeforthehills

Did you go to the staging of your play at Arts Fest? Was it well received / attended? Alas, I missed it, so will have to pay more attention to when a show is going up...

I did! I think it went well! My cast was amazing, the director was awesome, and the whole crop of plays was great, so it was a delight to be included! I'll try to be better about telling people when I have a show; next up is a children's musical about woodland creatures somewhere in Maryland, and then I have a play in Capital Fringe in July! And another play at the awesome Active Cultures Theater in October, inspired by the local horror story of Black Aggie! I think that's everything I have going on locally; for now, at any rate!

I love chocolate. I vote for Hershey Kisses. They have just the right amount of sweetness and bitterness rolled into one delicious treat. On the other hand, the new dark chocolate M&Ms are quite tasty.

Oh, true! And they are sometimes Star Wars-affiliated!

I enjoyed your Star Wars post. I'm always surprised the whole thing is still so popular. I'm old enough to remember (just barely) when the first movie was in the theaters, and it seems strange that some people grew up with the original 3 movies on video and are just as obsessed with them if not more. Do you think there's any difference between fans old enough to remember the beginning and the younger fans?

I often wonder that!

I'm a child of the Special Edition; I first saw the films when they were re-released in 1997, and that has to be a different relationship than the one of people who had to wait three years to see the Star Destroyer Executor go careening across the screen.

I have a white female cat and her name is Squid. Don't ask why, I don't have an explanation. I promise my children will have normal and boring names


Oh, speaking of sensational animals, RIP the sadly obese Meow!

I think they are all supposed to be named Snowflake. But if you care to go against the accepted norm, what about Coco. Short for Coconut.

Or Snowball! The advantage to naming your cat Snowball is you can get another cat named Napoleon and have them fight it out.

If you can't tell the difference, then you should probably not be giving advice.

You're right, it was hubris.

Mlli Vanilli. Cool Whip (wait for the bots to write in.)

I sort of like Cool Whip.

But this is coming from someone who tried to name the family dog Tape Recorder.

I just liked the image of, a few years down the road, someone standing by the side of the street yelling, "Tape Recorder! Come back here! Tape Recorder!"

I nominate Mimsie. Mimsie was the mewing kitten used at end of show credits for Mary Tyler Moore's MTM production company (for her own show, Bob Newhart, etc.) that parodied Leo the MGM lion. At a cat shelter I volunteer at, someone really did name their female cat Mimsie in honor of Mary Tyler Moore (THE Mimsie for MTM was male but the name clearly be used for both genders).


I'm on a roll: Clorox. Tide. More corporate bots.


They're not chocolate. They are oversweetened brown candle wax. Sorry.

We have dissent!

I love this quote from him: "I refuse to lie to children," he said in an interview with the Guardian last year. "I refuse to cater to the bull[crap] of innocence." Of course he didn't say crap. I love that he understood that being a kid is scary, but also fun-scary. And I hate the aura of innocence about them. Kids are the cruelest group on the planet, they are just hideous much of the time. And with the CULT OF THE CHILD we currently live in, the Lake Wobegone joke is less and less funny. Ask parents, EVERY CHILD is clearly above average. ALL OF THEM. Sigh. R.I.P. Maurice...

That is great.

And, sadly, true.

Kids generally can see through the whole nonsense that so much "kid-friendly" stuff is, whether it's writing or TV shows or that lady in baggy clothing who comes to your elementary school to sing drum songs. I think what sets the great children's writers apart is that they don't see what they're doing as slumming it or writing down. They simply want to tell a good story in a large palate. Kids can tell when you're talking down to them and it puts their backs up.

Marine Le Pen?


How about Octopussy.

Oho, I see what you did there!

Doesn't the gene that makes a cat 100% white also make it deaf?

Asker, is this so?

I am told the best sequence to watch the Star Wars episodes is 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6. Agree?

I've actually heard a compelling case made for Machete Order: 4 5 2 3 6. You lose Jar Jar that way, and not much else! you can always go back later and watch the Pod Race. Admittedly, I enjoyed 1 more than 2, but the arguer made the case that 2 and 3 tell a similar story to 4 and 5 and make the question of what Luke is going to do in 6 a lot more dramatic and exciting. In spite of the dialogue.

My preferred order is 4 5 6 and then sort of a confused muttering when anyone asks about the other ones.

Sand, it gets everywhere, I here.

You can't find the expensive wine your wife likes to drink, which means you won't be able to get her drunk enough to have sex with you.

That sounds like the subset of First World Problems generally referred to as Sondheim Character Problems.

Alex: I read that post with great interest. One of my reactions is that new grads have it much tougher than I did graduating college in 1970. Back then in any large city, including DC, you could find a cheap, ratty apartment and get an interesting low wage job that paid enough for said digs--I worked at a bookstore in Georgetown for $2.50 an hour to start and that was more than enough to cover the $125 monthly nut on my apartment. I had friends who did similar things in NY and San Francisco. It's impossible now. On the other hand, my commencement speaker was then Washington Post columnist Nicholas von Hoffman, who surprised the parents present by denouncing them for their complicity in the Vietnam War, although he could barely be heard above the ominous buzz of the 17 year locusts at the outdoor ceremony.

Ah, the cicadas!

I read an article in the New York times recently about the approximately six remaining library jobs and the unbearably hip people who filled them and thought, gee, that seems different. And just try getting a job in a bookstore!

I had to dump my Washington Capitals theme for Firefox when its accursed sponsor, Brand Thunder, hijacked Firefox to make Bing the default browser. Can you have Brand Thunder killed, please? Not its employees, just the corporation.Oh wait, the corporation is a person ... Just make it stop.

Brand Thunder would be a great name for a sci fi villain, or maybe the antagonist in a Washington Irving story.

Possibly not a good kitten name, though.

Casper. Princess Frostine.

Would you sing "Velveeta!" like you were in the musical about Evita Peron?

Another skillet in another hall...

Name your dog "Stay". That way, you can say "Come here Stay" and watch your dog's head explode.

Look, if you start down the "I have too many sweaters..." hole, there is no end. If you create a hierarchy of "worthiness," then you can always say there is someone worse off than the one you are looking at. Always. Until you get to the one person in the worst position in the HISTORY of mankind. Seriously, just stop with this crap. It's usually some do gooder who wants to feel better than others by talking about "first world" problems. Just deal with a problem as a problem. Yes, not getting free wi-fi pales compared to world hunger. But world hunger is nothing compared to genocide. Etc. Just live your life and solve your problems without guilt.

This is solid advice, although a bad thing to name your cat.

My best friend's little sister just posted on facebook that her dog died. I really want to post a story about how when she was a puppy the dog cuddled up to us while we were watching a movie and then released the foulest dog fart known in the history of the universe and we all ran from the room screaming. Not sure if it will help her with her grief though...

Well, on that note, I think we have to wrap up! Good luck with the cat naming! Let us know what you pick!

Keep reading the Compost and feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

One of the coolest cats I know is named Steve. Not for a girl cat, though.

Just call it Steve Hur after it has kittens!

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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