ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jun 05, 2012

Post humor columnist Alex Petri answered questions on important topics like artist Bart Jansen's dead cat helicopter, the impending Zombie Apocalypse, and President Obama's Choom Gang.

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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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Apparently, it is National Hug Your Cat Day, probably because of what hit the Internet yesterday, with the Dutch artist who made his dead cat into a helicopter, in what some have called the Most Internet Thing Ever To Happen Ever.

I like that in our coverage we used the verb "honor" to describe what this artist did to the cat. To me, this seems about right. The cat has a sort of hopeful, Aviation Pioneer expression, and this seems like what he would have wanted. Though I hope my family doesn't honor me when I pass if this is what it entails.

I see Holland has taken the lead in dead cat aviation. We Americans can not sit back and let Holland show that their system of government, whatever that system is, is better than our system by letting them beat us in dead car aviation technology. I believe we should firmly commit that, by the end of this decade, we will have landed a dead cat on the moon, What do you think?

Look, NASA has enough on its plate without our demanding that it launch dead cats into --

No. Newt Gingrich would want this. Let's make it happen.

You know what they say, shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll have launched a lot of dead cats into space.

I'm really not that squeamish, but for some reason those pictures made me kind of queasy. I think because the cat just stares at you. Why would someone do that? At least it's not a dog. Because that would be wrong.

I stand by my initial interpretation of the cat impression, but I can't imagine spending much time in a room with it. There's something about unblinking cats.

Important question - why aren't more people calling it the zom-pocalypse? We like abbrevs and word combos. It obv takes way too long to say the full words "zombie" and "apocalypse," so what's the deal?

No, we must save word hybridization for where it counts: celebrity pairings.

Although I do like the sound of zompocalypse. It sounds like a rejected Mel Gibson film. And it might be difficult to spell.

I wonder if the birds and dogs near this guy are having nervous breakdowns.

One can only assume.

If you're a bird, you're just like, "That's it, guys, game over. It's been an honor knowing you."

I would pay good money to see video of a dog reacting to this. It seems as though it demands exactly the level of comprehension where the average dog gets totally lost, and Rover would have to go home and rethink his life and all his preconceptions after the encounter. Or, you know, eat a lot of kibble and never think about it again. With dogs you never know.

Are so many of your chats ALL BOLD?


I live in New York. This week, my building's management office informed me that I may no longer sit with my elderly cat and read my paper in the hall and chat with my neighbors on weekend mornings, as I have done for 15 years, because my cat might attack someone and the building could have liability. In fact, I cannot talk to the neighbors at all unless I invite them in, which would involve serving them coffee in cups smaller than 16 oz. In light of Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement earlier this week, and the business with the Nook, not to mention all those face eaters and body parts people, I think it is clear evidence of a zombie apocalypse. Can we report our sightings to you, in lieu of the CDC or FBI?


I think this would be a good counterpoint to all those blogs and features from people who spot Strangers Doing a Kindness On The New York Subway or overheard Hill Staffers Making Whimsical Remarks.

I Don't Mean To Worry You But I Am Pretty Sure I Sighted A Zombie is just what we need right now, for perspective.

All I keep thinking is that if the batteries run out, we'll get a

I think Groupon's having one of those.

Folks, soon Groupon stock will be half off and we should all buy in bulk!

I also like the logic behind it that Even A Dead Cat Will Bounce If Dropped From A Great Height. Is that true? Can we try?

As long as the ban doesn't extend to my venti skim half-soy latte, I don't care.

I think we're fine! As long as it's unsweetened or fewer than 16 ounces.

That was my first thought too, because if I don't have at least a gallon of iced coffee I lose all vestiges of personality. But then I realized a) it's unsweetened and b) I don't live in New York.

Thanks for creeping me out. There's nothing like a dead cat and coffee in the morning! I love my kitties. I love my dead kitties, too. I prefer to remember my cats through the power of memory and, when that fails me, photographs. People are so odd.

I prefer to remember my cats through the power of "Memory."



I don't have any photographs of my deceased cat, but my folks do have somewhere the letter we got from a houseguest the cat terrorized, congratulating us on her demise. I think it actually used the phrase "Ding, dong, the cat is dead" but that might be the power of memory.

My much-loved cat died this winter, very suddenly. I don't find the cat helicopter amusing in any sense. There's no honor here, just exploitation of a domestic animal who certainly didn't ask for this tawdry display.

I'm so sorry about your cat! There's nothing like losing a pet.

But while I'd never taxidermy an animal I actually knew (just as I'd never Buffalo Bill a human I actually knew) because of the creepiness factor, I think it's within Orville's owner's rights. So I think the 'copter is cool because I never met the cat and don't have the awkward "Oh Lord wait I've met that taxidermied creature" moment.

Unofficial poll -- where do we stand on the Cool-Creepy 5-1 cat scale?

Alex: I believe the poster is referring to the chat transcripts. For at least the past several weeks, when I check the transcripts, all the Q&A appears in bold face. Yours is the only one it happens to. Coupled with the long time inability of the paper to list your chat on the home page, I suspect dark forces are at work. Or at least crummy site management.

I noticed that last week, actually! I hope it's dark forces.

Does anyone know if Mitt Romney was perhaps trying to turn his dog into helicopter on that now legendary road trip with the carrier on his station wagon?


Let's be real, it's only a matter of time.

Speaking of exciting objects in the sky, who's watching Venus transit? And does anyone know where I can get special protective foil?

More creative than strapping Oscar the Kitty to the roof (like Aunt Edna in the Vacation movie). Less yucky than peeling off his fur and using him in that creepy "Bodies:the exhibition" traveling museum display. More fun than mummifying your cat like the ancient Egyptian.

I think this sums up the appeal of the cat-copter nicely.

What do you do with your cat when he dies? is one of those questions that tells you a lot about personality. Viking funeral? Solemn yard interment? Happier Hunting Grounds?

I'm going to try using that at cocktail parties.

Why are there periodic lag times on your chat every week (and on all the other WaPo chats as well)? Can I get a high-paying job with your IT and Web Support Group since skills are apparently not needed.

What's weird is this question was submitted in 1930 sometime.

If today is National Hug Your Cat Day, then when is National Cat Scratch Fever Awareness Day?

For a while, you used to have to get approval from an official calendar of days, and one couple with a very '90s website came up with almost all of them. They had Get All The Yellies Out (I'm forgetting the actual name and Google is being recalcitrant) and Shout Hello On The End of Your Porch Day, or something about that level.

I think exposure to an hour or so of Streisand's version of "Memory" would inspire mass hysteria and the wanton destruction of the housecat population. Which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. Maybe the birds are already working on this.

Most of Cats, actually, would inspire mass hysteria and the wanton destruction of the housecat population. Seriously. Rewatch that with the benefit of time and tell me the 1980s weren't slightly weirder than anyone admits.

The author of the song "Dead Puppies Aren't Much Fun" is writing a new song entitled "But Dead Cats Can Be a Hoot".

I hope both of these things are real!

Because her cat was incontinent. Is it her or me?

It's the cat.

That is, by the by, one of the best Opposite of Coffee excuses I've ever heard.

I was debating last night with some people what the modern equivalent of asking someone to see your etchings is. So few people have etchings these days. "Hey, want to meet my incontinent cat?" or "I just made my deceased pet into a helicopter!" have limited rates of success. What's the correct phrase?

We're Irish Catholics, so we built our dead kitty a cairn. She's like a little (dead) furry druid now.

"She's like a little (dead) furry druid now" should win some sort of prize for "if we were having this chat out loud, the line most likely to cause passersby to do double-takes."

How does one go about building a cairn?

How soon do you believe it was be before we see photographs of dead cat helicopters where bacon is taped onto the dead cats?

Has that not happened already?

I started to write that it wasn't the boldface that got me, it was the fact that the Post constantly turns all my curly apostrophes into Euro signs. I started to wonder whether it was a hidden political message, like playing a John Lennon record backwards. But then I realized. It's ... (shudder) ... like the Nook!

Everything is a hidden political message if you are either insane or have spent the past sixteen hours watching basic cable. But I repeat myself.

"Dead cat helicopter" has 54,000 Google results. "Dead cat with bacon helicopter" is a Google-nope.


WAIT! Someone rectify this! There is a small pothole in the Internet!

I do believe you realize I was only joking about meeting you in a garage holding a cat (although now I think I should bring a dead cat helicopter) while reading you Obama fund raising emails. We both know that will not happen. Besides, the warden says it should be at least another year before they let me out... Just kidding. Again, just kidding.

You were JOKING? But it's in my Gcal now!

I think everyone who gripes on this chat about the lameness of the Wapo's IT staff should be put to work on solving problems like a sustainable energy source or peace in the Middle East, since they obviously know so much about everything.

Hear hear.

"Romney with a dead cat helicopter" is also a Google-nope.

There is this, though, and you can think about Mitt Romney as you look at it.

I am surprised that the new owners of Roy Rogers's horse Trigger have not turned it into a ride for tourists. Maybe this can be done with larger animals, such as Secretariat.

Now that would be creepy.

Instead of finding the head of a prize racehorse in bed with you, you'd awaken to the sound of propellers and then AUGH AUGH THERE'S A DEAD HORSECOPTER HOVERING OVER THE BED CALL DON CORLEONE AND TELL HIM I'M GIVING THE GUY EIGHT STARRING ROLES CALL HIM NOW.

See it tonight or wait until the next engagement in 2117. I guess Venus crawls across the sun, sort of. It sounds like the title of an obscure poem from Yeats.

Or the beginning of a Pynchon novel.

There is a new Internet rumor being e-mailed around about a way to keep flies out of your trailer, I mean, open window. I figured with your Harvard education (they do teach you things like this, don't they) ,or with some readers with practical experiences in this field, I might get an answer. It is claimed that if you fill a Ziplock bag half with water and you put four pennies in the bag and then hang the bag at the top of the trailer door, i mean, window, then flies will not fly in. I keep trying this but someone keeps stealing the pennies. So, does anyone know: is this a false Internet rumor, or for real?

I have NO idea! You'd think that if this were a false money-making scheme, they'd try a larger denomination of coin.

Does anyone else have information on this?

What would you look for with a surplus spy satellite?

They say you can use it to spot a dime on the Washington monument. Maybe I can find those pennies!

This past weekend I went to Comic Con and to an Arlen Specter book signing. I posted two photographs, one of me with a zombie, and one with me and Arlen Specter. I told a friend who is into zombies to go take a look at the zombie picture. She replied that she liked the photo of me and Specter. You don't think she thought I was calling Specter a zombie, do you?

I like the juxtaposition here! In general, I think if you show people sets of Pictures With Zombies and Pictures Without Zombies, the person in the non-zombie picture looks suddenly more attractive than usual.

Isn't a "Venti" 20 ounces, hence the name? So it would seem that, by definition, it is not fewer than 16 ounces.

Yes, but as long as it's unsweetened, it's okay.

How are you celebrating the Jubilee? Tea and crumpets? Marmite sandwiches in the lunch bag? Wondering where Helen Mirren is these days?

I always wonder where Helen Mirren is these days. It's something between an interest and a hobby.

Recently I had an English waitress who pointed out that we'd gotten the wrong end of the stick: we love the royals, we think the accents are impressive, and we're constantly mainlining BBC specials. Why'd we bother leaving the empire in the first place? And I was like, "Well, I don't think we're THAT attached to the Kansas City baseball team." BECAUSE I AM AMERICAN AND PROUD, DURN IT!

But seriously, she might have had a point. We even use their measurements, and nobody does that.

Dead Furry Druids


I once had poison ivy someplace unmentionable (but I'm mentioning it now). I was tempted to use the line "want to come up and see my itching?"


Or as collectors of the Chinese classics used to say, "Want to come up and see my I Chings?"

It's just one damn thing after another. Oh, I thought that read caring. But it's much the same, just one stone on top of another on top of another, much like life itself.

This suddenly got very meta!

Er. Let me try to elevate the rest of the discussion.

"Like a helicopter made from a dead cat, this discussion is hard to elevate and doesn't stay up there for long because people keep complaining about the cat staring at them." No.

Life on the Internet is like a helicopter made from a dead cat. First you're born. Then you live a decent, quiet, well-proportioned life. Then you die, someone freezes you in a ridiculous position, you go viral, and that's how everyone remembers you.

Or something!

Jewish tradition says the cat must be buried by sunrise the next day. Although, to be technical, no one said anything about digging the cat up and making it into a helicopter.

My understanding, which may well be wrong, is that the members of a Clan would meet to go into battle and each member would bring with him a rock, which were then placed in a pile. After the battle, the survivors would meet at the rock pile and each would take a rock home with him. Thus the bigger the pile of rocks or cairn, the greater the number of dead.

Oh, I'm glad I asked!

That sounds like a better plan than numbering off your tour group on visits to the National Mall. 

"Where's Jimmy?"

"This rock shall ever stand to commemorate when Jimmy vanished somewhere around the environs of the Lincoln memorial."

Would you like to dust my antimacassars?

I think the 1940s chat is down the hall.

So what did you come up with? Back in college we would offer to show our CD collections, but apparently that's pretty dated too...

And "Would you like to hear some of my vinyl?" is too hipster.

To be honest, I think we just muttered something about "Come upstairs! You may not be really gung-ho about it, but there's a Groupon!" Hey, it works for Groupon.

If they have good art teachers. Which means that if someone asks you to see his etchings, he's probably cheating on his wife.

Or maybe he's an art teacher!

All I know is that if my perforamcne at my work = the WaPo Web Site' perforamcne then I wouldn't be working very long ARe users and subscribers not allowed to complain about servicequality issues?

Also fair. But there's a subtle but meaningful distinction to be made between the Web Site and the People Behind The Web Site. The Web Site is rife with troubles. The People Behind The Web Site are uniformly swell individuals who are doing their best to make the Web Site less rife with troubles.

You need a welding hood not foil for tat.

Weirdly, I understood this sentence!

I thought a paper plate could work. No?

DC seems as though it will be covered in clouds anyway.

I told someone a Comic Con about joking about how I wrote in a previous conversation that my name is Fourth Droid on the Left. Big mistake. There really are people are pretend to be specific droids and background characters. Also, "Dead Puppies Aren't Much Fun" is a real song. The stuff afterwards was just a joke, although I am sure I will hear about that at a music convention or something,

Oh man! Yeah, no good joke goes unpunished. Even some bad jokes don't go unpunished! And no good pun goes unpunished for that matter. Okay, I'm going to stop before I drown in litotes.

We talked about this at a funeral I attended on May 26th. Every one thought it was a hoax.

What on earth would the point be of a hoax like that, besides, I guess, to identify People Susceptible To Internet Rumors by hanging little bags of water and pennies outside their doors, marking them as easy prey?

I think I may have answered my own question.

According to the Internet, and if it is on the Internet it has to true, the pennies in a water bag creates a prism affect such that the eyes of flies and wasps think the bag might be a nest of other bugs that might eat them. So them do not go near it.


Well, I guess it's worth a try!

In a pinch, you can use a silver CD as a filter to look at the sun with. Two is safer. (And no, you don't look through the hole in the middle - the CD itself passes enough light through to look at the Sun.) Of course, you need a CD without a colored label on it - the closer to just plain silver, the better.


I had a friend who visited a neighbor, and she left a condom out on the table. He only picked up on the hint the next day.

Hey, that's certainly direct!

Although "Want to come upstairs and see my prophylactic collection?" lacks a certain, well, subtlety.

There's a little black spot on the sun today. Name that tune. Please!

King of Pain!

I admit that I had to look it up. I've heard the song, but I had no idea it was called The King of Pain. Most Police songs, if you just look at the lyrics and title, seem like they will be radically different songs with much more shouting and gnashing of guitars.

why are dead cats funnier than dead dogs?


Great band name.

They could open for the Dead Furry Druids!

In my life, when people ask "want to come up and see my etchings?", they really have etchings.

Well, hey, better than a CD collection, I guess!

So in the "Age of the Internet" in which we live in (thanks Sir Paul), can you explain the conundrum that exists between the easy and cheap dissemination of stupid "rumors" (like the pennies in water one) and the ability to immediately debunk them through and similar sites? I think you learn a lot about people because of it. The people I can be around are those that take the 10 seconds to check out the validity of something like that before they send it out. Those that send without even bothering to check...I can't be bothered to be near them.


As you point out, there is a definite difference on the Internet between reliable sources and unreliable ones, so you can't just fob off bad information with the excuse that It's From The Internet. Seen one way, it's actually a boon to research. And, from your perspective, a boon in general, because it separates the sheep capable of sorting good and bad information from the goats who can't. Assuming that the sheep are the ones you want to associate with.

40 oz. soda. Buy Coca Cola stock.

There you have it, folks!

I fear I must have done something tragically wrong with my life, as I receive, daily, often several times a day, fund raising emails from both the Obama and Romney campaigns. I feel like it is high school all over again: do I prefer the vampire or the werewolf? I haven't given to either campaign, which only seems to infuriate them more. How do I get out of this world?

Take the catcopter?

Speaking of making your deceased, beloved pets into helicopters -- no, I'm sorry, totally unrelated to that, I have to skedaddle. But have a glorious remainder of the week! Enjoy the Jubilee! Keep reading the Compost! And feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

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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