ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jul 10, 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.

Past ComPost Live Chats

Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Apologies for the delay! This time it's not my fault! I've been sending increasingly irate questions to myself since 11!  But now we're on track and rolling! How was everyone's 4th?

I like how you compare TomCat to fish swimming in a waiting room bowl. Of course, there is a major difference. Fish will eat their young or make their young swim around in fear, while Tom Cruise...wait, maybe there is no difference.


Although I think if her burn book is any indication, Suri could take them.

I was reading in the Fix where 63% wrongly stated what the Supreme Court decision on health care is and the 62% do not know who Rob Portman is. Then I realized: that explains American politics. A solid 30% of the voters follow issues, know who the leaders are, and I bet most have firm positions on issues and who the support and it will take a lot to get them to change their views. Then there is a solid 60% of voters who barely pay attention and when they do they can't remember what they heard. These are the people who likely have no idea who they are going to vote for and probably couldn't tell you the day afterwards who they voted for. These are the people for whom all political advertising is meant. That is our democracy.

Well, not ALL advertising...

But I'm always slightly reassured that most people don't feel compelled to pay rapt attention to everything. That means that you feel that life will keep going if your guy loses. In spite of what all those ads keep saying.

I heard on the radio that over 60% of tweets are by women. I did not even think about that. I checked my followers and discovered that indeed two thirds are women, although a couple of them seem to want me to send them money for some photographs of themselves, so maybe those shouldn't count. I also found it interesting that about 5% of my followers are animals, including a snake and a bird. One of my male followers should be put in the questionable categories as it states it is his ashes that are following me. Is it me, or am I still not totally getting this Twitter fad?

I like Twitter because it allows you to compliment people who have done cool things on the Internet, in real time. You read an article or watch a movie and you can dash to your keyboard and say, "Sir, I really enjoyed that line of dialogue you had in The Amazing Spiderman!" and your tweet will instantly go to the actual person.... 's team of carefully assembled publicists, who will probably ignore it. But it's a good thought.

Also, lots of ink has been spilled on the subject of Twitter's liberating power for women in comedy. I've spilled some myself. But that's an interesting stat!

I meant to send you a question but I accidentally sent a jpeg of Nicolas Cage. My apologize.

HA! Hey, I'd hire you!

So the key to happiness is to annoy people, huh? Huh? Huh? Is that true? Huh? Huh? Huh? Did I ever show you the several hundreds of photographs I took of a dingo in Australia? huh? Huh? It is carrying something but I never could tell what it is. You know what I like about Australia? I get to be away from those fascist liberals and socialist conservatives and am able to spend time with my fellow extreme Whig Party members. We like to stand in front of where you live and sing drinking songs. Of course, we have to get drunk first. You don't mind, do you? Huh? Huh? Wow, am I ever happy.

I can't tell if my theory is working or backfiring horribly!

Yo AP - so glad you're back! We missed you last week. OK, I missed you last week. And I swear! I am not a stalker! I just love me a daily dose or two of sarcasm, humor, and a bit of snark for good measure. Jes sayin. So, um, did you have any cool experiences last week while you were away that you now want to rub our noses in? Oh, I mean, share with us?

Well, I visited the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. It was -- well, picture the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, and it was about exactly like that. They had a whole set of his books, his actual typewriter, his rooster lamp, as well as a replica of his rooster lamp and typewriter. They also had a family tree and some of his framed artwork. It was a pretty grand place.

I've always liked Vonnegut. He has the distinction that a large number of famous Indiana writers have, of having once met a distant relative of mine in some setting and my relative's having come home afterwards and pronounced him "a bit odd." This also happened to Willa Cather.

Do you really play the accordion? If so, how do you like it. I really love the accordion. In fact, I always hire an accordion player for every one of the local Democratic Party fund raisers. Maybe I could hire you sometime. By the way, I''m a Republican.


They say the definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the accordion and doesn't.

I do play, but I haven't practised in a while. I can produce a few polkas under duress! I find it soothing. I'm no great virtuoso, but I have improved since the days when I taught myself how to play and it turned out that I had learned upside down and ignoring half the buttons.

You know, man was made in God's image. I hear this was confirmed when they found the Higgs Boson. It seems Higgs Boson looks just like Gene Weingarten.

I think Mark Twain said that he felt that God, in making mankind, had somewhat overestimated his ability.

My favorite part about the Higgs Boson is that in every article I read about it and the molasses-like background field whose existence it proves, it sounds more and more like The Force is a real thing.

Authors tend to be especially responsive on Twitter, which is nice. Recently finished a particularly touching essay and tweeted my appreciation to its author, who responded promptly with a non-robot reply.

Yes! I love it when that happens!

I think that was the one aspect that was missing from your article on who the happiest people are. People who get married tend to be the ones who do not worry that "The One" might still be out there. People who are political extremists do not worry that their political positions could be wrong. People who are religious tend not to worry that another religion or no religion might be correct. My wife is a constant worrier. So for her to feel happy, something joyous must be occurring. I tend to not worry. To me, happiness is the lack of something bad happening at the moment.

I had a paragraph in there initially about how people who felt convinced that they were right tended to be much happier than folks who suspected they might be wrong. Just look at anyone doing a line dance. The apologetic fellow who keeps wiggling left when he's supposed to be jumping right always looks acutely miserable. The people confidently wiggling right when they're supposed to be always have a serene and beaming calm.

I think you are onto something here. Think about what happens to your blood pressure and stress level when you get stuck around someone who pops their gum, chews it with their mouth open, and wears way too much fragrance. You want to kill them, and it takes a lot of self control to keep from doing this. You have to remind yourself, yes, it would feel good to kill them, but then 25 to life as a guest of the state really isn't for me. On the other hand, that person is happy and content.

Exactly! There's a quote I think from Neil Simon where one character says, "You're a watcher, and I'm a do-er!" in an accusing tone, and his interlocutor replies, "Yes, but it was a lot harder to watch what you were doing than for you to do what I was watching." I think there's some truth in that. FOr isntance, the people who made John Carter seem to have had a good time. The people who watched it, on the other hand...

Unless it is pronounced Day-ta, and is an android in the 25th Century. That's annoying.

Yes, I'm fixing! Thank you!

Instead of a fancy car, I am building a robotic horse to pull my carriage down the avenue. What do you think?

Sign me up!

I am planning my zombie-proof house, and am trying to figure out what to do with the stinky dead zombie pile.

That's a good question. I assume they do what ordinary human bodies do, right? Just to be safe, cover them in a lot of mulch.

Ever notice how much more violent Mother Nature is when she speaks in a foreign language? Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane is a Carib word. Now think of tropical low pressure system Katrina. How soothing. No high pressure. Lots of tropical beaches and rum drinks. Derecho, tornado, tsunami, etc. We need to start an English-only movement for all natural disasters.

That's an interesting theory. I liked the "derecho" because it was difficult for my family to remember and led to several conversations in which my mother insisted that someone named Derek had attacked Washington and caused a lot of problems for Pepco, and by the time we got everything sorted out I had unfriended six people on Facebook.

Don't kid us, you weren't out of town, you were at the Accordion Festival in Baltimore.


Well, that's going on the Strange Events list!

I hate to have to embarrass you, but the quote you attributed to Twain is actually from your old friend OW.

I had a nagging fear that it might be! But I always assume Oscar said everything, so I overruled myself.

I think it would be possible to safely attribute every quotation ever made by saying, "In words that have been attributed to Twain, Lincoln, or Oscar Wilde..."

Heard from many Episcopalians? I know some who are actual Christians - I'll bet they didn't appreciate your generalizations, although it's fine for you to say that about yourself of course.

I know, I know! I know numerous devout Episcopalians, and it's not quite fair. Several people have suggested that if I really want to make that sort of allegation about my church I should switch to Unitarianism...

Why is boson not capitalized? I get that it's named after Higgs, but we write Halley's Comet, not Halley's comet, don't we? Or maybe we don't.

I try not to! Usually I just point at the sky and say, "That. That-- thing. There. The -- Halley's thing."

The New York Times nicely shadowed it today by just calling it the Higgs particle numerous times.

Here I am, submitting a comment to you. Despite all the media hype (especially from CNN and FOX), the Internet did NOT shut down after all! But, then again, what can I expect from the two networks that got the Supreme Court ruling wrong? Will there ever be another time in our lifetimes when the broadcast media just reports the news and adds no hype? far, I have seen that from the Washington Post--all news and no hype...

If it weren't for manufactured crises, we'd have no native industry whatsoever! Well, except for all the people who make airplanes and weld things and -- actually, I take that back. We'd have plenty of domestic industry, but we might sell fewer insulated shelters.

Did you happen to see the recent column on semi-colons?  Vonnegut was as bad as Strunk and White about some things.

Golly, I didn't! Thanks for the link!

Some of my best friends are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing other than the fact that I've been to college. And only two of them are semicolons!


That's the Freebird of accordion, I think.

Allegedly Oscar Wilde was a great borrower of other people's quotes. Once, when Wilde commented that he wished he'd said some clever thing, his great friend the painter James Whistler (of "Mother" fame) was prompted to reply, "Don't worry, Oscar, you will..."

Poor Whistler. Time has not been kind to him, and he was something of a wit back in the day. His last words at West Point, during an examination, were, "Silicon is a gas."

God overestimated. I usually underestimate. There's lots of uim-bog out there. I have no taste for humbog. We need a cheaper metal to trade with or at least to pay with. As Twain said, I think, let's have a royal scrap iron sale.

Er, yes?

Good plan - I don't think they would take as an insult what you said about Episcopalians. Believing in nothing while going to church once a week is kind of their thing.

Any objecting Unitarians out there?

The best thing about that semi-colon article was the author's bio at the end. "Ben Dolnick is the author of “Zoology,” “You Know Who You Are” and, most recently, “Shelf-Love,” an e-book about Alice Munro. He lives in Brooklyn." Quel cliche hipster!

The "He lives in Brooklyn" gets me every time.

Watch it, or we'll come over and burn a big question mark on your lawn.


robots do the welding. you just push a button.

Don't people weld any more? Is this the sort of thing that someone should write a lugubrious column about? Whither wends welding?

A Higgs Boson particle came to a church service. The priest wanted to kick him out but could have mass without it.

Oh, I love this! Are there any more Higgs boson jokes out there? I feel as though something can be done with the Higgs Bison but I'm not sure what.

The Higgs Bosox are why we have Mass.

Don't forget Winston Churchill.

You are anticipating my every thought! I went with Lincoln instead of Churchill because of my American bias, but I did ponder him for a moment. Man knew his rhetorical tropes.

you gotta believe in something, if it's only yourself. some times all you got is you and that's all you need.


(loud booing; vegetables being flung; semicolons being burned into lawns)

I read the lugubrious article in Solder of Fortune the other day....

Weld done.

Churchill was half American, remember.

Right! The better half!

of people to whom quotes are attributed, and you might be right for stuff in English.

All right, Churchill, Twain, Lincoln, and Wilde! I'm going to start attributing quotes to TWLC for brevity's sake!

I had a friend who characterized herself as "a lapsed Unitarian." Yikes!

I assume it's pretty easy to lapse!

Although, why bother? It's not even like being a Barnes & Noble member, which you have to pay for annually.

I think he said that if silicon had been a gas, he would have been a major general. He failed to graduate because he flunked chemistry.


There's also a funny story (which I am imperfectly reconstructing so as to sap all humor from it) about how he was assigned to draw a bridge, and they weren't specific enough, so he drew a bridge with three boys relaxing on it. Then they objected, so he drew the bridge with them standing at a respectful distance. Then they objected again, so he drew the bridge with three small gravestones next to it.

used to spend at least a year looking for a new pastor every five years or so. They didn't do it because they didn't like the old one. They just thought the process of searching was valuable.



Is it just me or did the LIBOR scandal arrive at an excellent time for Barclays. it's seems to have dipped below the radar what with everyone on vacation and all. Or perhaps it lacks an exciting name like the LONDON WHALE, which makes me imagine this creature invisibly disrupting electronic trading.

London Whale is indeed a far more excellent name for a scandal, especially compared to LIBOR which just makes you worry you might be misspelling something.

Alexandra, Can you change the background photo on your Twitter page, please? That cat is really revolting and your photo was much nicer. Thanks!

I'm putting this to a vote.

I personally love the cat. If one thing came out of Meow's life, it is this perfect image. Every time I see it, I chuckle. Whereas whenever I see a picture of myself, at best I sort of nod thoughtfully.

When its discovery was announced, I was hoping that the scientists would then find that warp drive was not only possible but practical. When I was a kid in the 1970s, the idea that everyone would have flying cars in the future was already a cliche, but I was hoping that weekend trips to the moon would be commonplace in this century.

Well, we've still got a large hunk of century to go! Stay put! Eat onion sandwiches!*

*this is supposed to be good for your longevity! At any rate it keeps people with and without infectious diseases from standing too close to you.

The famous quote about "Lies, damn lies, and statistics" is allegedly traced back to British Prime Minister, raconteur and prolific author Benjamin Disraeli. He really gears!

I don't know what the phrase "He really gears!" means, but I think I'm going to start using it. If questioned, I'll say, "You know. Like Disraeli."

I was out of town in Utah, on vacation, from the 29th through last Friday. Was Pepco a bit too aggressive in cutting back trees again? Also, why do people get upset when I tell them that it was 55 degrees when I got up Friday morning?

Ah, Pepco, light of my life, fire of my loins!

Or, if we're being more accurate, Ah, Pepco, sudden post-storm darkness of my life, outage of my loins.

Or rather, never mind, forget I said anything.

Who gets custody of Siri?

I don't know, you'll have to ask her.

Face it, language changes. We don't speak of stadia, do we? OTOH I hold fast to the singularity phenomenon and criterion.

True, also.

And I thought that was just a Monty Python reference, from the sketch where Wilde, Shaw and Whistler each try to insult Prince Edward and blame it on the others.

No, that sketch is more accurate than it appears! Which makes me think I should rewatch this one...

I believe it was Emerson who said that.

As Dr. King so rightly observed.

we have freedom from welding keep doing your freedoms of to avoid your freedoms from nobody wants to weld we had 2000 welders down to a few dozen

As TWLC so rightly noted.

Add Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa to your list and you have the complete list of people to whom quotes are often wrongly attributed.

And Martin Luther King!

And on that note, I will skedaddle! Have a glorious week, 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.)
Recent Chats
  • Next: