ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jul 17, 2012

Join us next 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

Live chat is live! And I'm moderating myself, which sounds questionable but in practice only means that we are going to get some tasteless HBO bird-watching documentary jokes! 

Let's roll, retroactively, six minutes ago!

In claiming the front seat, who gets priority, "dibs" or "shotgun"?

Shotgun, always.

I have been told repeatedly, by my friends. I am now in the habit whenever we approach cars of shouting "Back seat," if only because I never get the "shotgun!" out in time and want to appear to be doing this by design. 

This "50 Shades" craze has helped people realize that there are times when women want to submit their lives to a domineering male. Men also have similar times in their lives when the submit to women. It's called "marriage".

I seem to recall reading a variation on this several decades ago in an anthology, but that's fine, because now it combines all the pleasure of hearing a joke with all the excitement of running into an old friend. How you been, joke? How's the wife?


Marriage is an institution, Mae West used to say, and I'm not ready for an institution yet. Or maybe it was Marilyn Monroe. Or maybe it was TCLWMLK.

This is a tough one, but I finally decided I would want to have a bear with Romney. Obama seems quick on the basketball court, and even though Obama smokes, Romney does not strike me as a runner. After all, if I were to have a bear with one of the candidates, I need to choose the candidate who I can outrun when chased by the bear.

Then again, Romney's been running most of his life. 

So for anyone who has felt unobligated to follow me on Twitter, this started when I had a typo yesterday and replaced "beer" with "bear" in the time-honored question of which candidate you wanted to have a beer with. 

I like your logic here, but does anyone have further thoughts?

Bear for beer has now replaced Not for Now as my favorite typo of all time. Nothing spices up a cookout like announcing "I will bring the bear."

I read online that Thin Mints and Trefoils are registered trademarks of Girl Scouts USA, so maybe Obama wanted to avoid saying "Thin Mints brand peppermint flavored chocolate coated wafers"?

But why would anyone ever want to avoid saying "Thin Mints brand peppermint flavored chocolate coated wafers"?

John Quincy Adams did keep an alligator in the White House, I bet Andy Jackson was wondering where it got to.

That's the sort of thing you really hope gets addressed during the presidential transition. 

Then again, knowing the tensions between those two, I wonder. Possibly JQA hopped into his carriage, doffed his hat, and said, "Best of luck, Mr. President. Also there's an alligator somewhere on the premises" and drove off. I would have done that after the election too. 

Shell has an online contest allowing people to create ads promoting arctic drilling Hilarity ensues. I also love the page for kids that says it's ok to melt the ice caps because we are using the oil to make new toys!

In my initial excitement to share this, I didn't adequately peruse all the pages, and now I'm pretty convinced it was a fake. Still funny, though. 

I had a dream which I immediately recognized as emerging from last week's conversation. I dreamed I was at a Lynrd Skynrd concern, in the front row, and they started to play "Free Bird". Yet, instead of the lead guitar, you came on stage and played that part on the accordion. A star was born.


I would eat fewer anchovies before bed. Or, possibly, more. 

So, what is so wrong with hanging out in Scranton?

Nothing! Nothing! I put a footnote there! I'd happily come hang out in Scranton, which I remember fondly from a movie about an out-of-control train that either derailed there or was about to derail there or was on some entirely different area of the coastline and now you have two reasons to be upset with me instead of one. 

Hey Petri - how come you aren't a judge for any of the WashPo Sunday mag humor contests? You'd be an AWESOME judge, no? i presume you are not allowed to actually enter the contest; otherwise you'd almost certainly seriously skew the results. Plus you're a, ya know, Post employee and all.

I'm excited for the contest, though! Everyone enter!

Although there was that initial moment when I thought, "Hey, I wonder if I could enter this..." and was going to be mildly disappointed that I couldn't, until the moment I realized that the reason I was ineligible was that somehow I am paid to do this year-round. 

So I was late paying my credit card bill last month. Can I just tell Visa that my payment is retroactive to the right date and make everything better? Can I tell my wife when I am late for dinner that I am retroactively sitting down 15 minutes ago? At 1 PM can I tell my boss that I've been retroactively working after I read your chat and take lunch?

I hope so! This will make everything so much easier! I've been wishing people a happy retroactive birthday for years now, and I am excited that this is a real thing and not just a sign of foolish oversight on my part. 

I see what you are doing, you are retroactively starting this discussion at 11 when it started over five minutes late and retiring retroactively, because that is the new thing to do.

Well, no, it's not the new thing, everyone's been retroactively doing it for a while now...

Man, I love this. Mitt Romney really, really needs to get rid of the people who are coming up with these ways of phrasing things, from a Foot-in-Mouth standpoint, but he needs to cleave them to his heart with bands of steel from a comedy writer perspective.

Really? I thought he quit.

I think these days he just smoulders? 

I was disappointed that there was no paraphrase from Reginald on Besetting Sins in the Obama Thin Mints blog posting, breaking your streak.. Is something wrong? Allow me to correct the error: The Thin Mints were good, and as Thin Mints go they went.

Thank you! Fixed!

I am reading a history of beer, which was first brewed when humans domesticated grain. If they had a ComPost at the time, I bet the hunter-gathers would be complaining that the new farmers were now too lazy to hunt or gather, and their kids are getting fat, too.

I know, I always wonder what I would have complained about in the past. Instead of wandering around shouting, "Hey! There are still books everywhere!" I probably would have objected to the fact that fewer and fewer people were throwing clogs into machinery.

Then again, I'm running out of things to be mistakenly nostalgic for. You can't be too nostalgic for obvious inefficiency. I've never met anyone who truly regretted the passing of dial-up, although if I run out of ideas one of these doldrum weeks, you never know. Right now I'm startled by the fact that everyone always everywhere seems to know exactly what time it is. 

I would also rather have a beer with Obama. We know Obama has invited people over to the White House for beer, so he must a beer drinking cool guy. I don't think Romney drinks alcohol. That is fine with me, in fact that is probably a plus for a President.. Yet I believe he also does not drink caffeine. That is a minus. When he gets the crank call from a Senator at 3 am, he should be allowed to have a coffee so he may wake up and better deal with the situation,

Man, life without alcohol or caffeine. If I'm able to get through a morning without the latter, I feel like I deserve a small planet. I can't even begin to think what a lifetime of that would feel like. Then again, if I'd never had either, I wouldn't know what I was missing, and I might feel more righteous and chipper before 9. But as Oscar says, only dull people are brilliant at breakfast. I always insist loudly on this point as I droop, soporific, into my eggs. Of course it does not mean that the inverse is true, but that is hard to come to terms with before coffee.

On a more technical level, I think the VP slide show would work better as a video.

How so?

I love your blog, but I think I love your commenters more. I really want to meet the people who keep commenting "why is this news?", because I think they need a hug or booze or both.

And caffeine!

What has Hillary given up lately?

Not being pelted with tomatoes? 

Eugh, though, seriously.

Am I in the vast minority to state I like trefoils? Oh, well, time to take down my Huntsman for President sign.

Ha! Well-played.

Harry Chapin did a song named "10,000 Pounds of Bananas." It is the comic, but ultimately tragic, tale of a truck driver, a steep slope, and 10,000 pounds of bananas. With apologies to anyone from Scranton, every time I hear the name, I think of Chapin's phrasing: Scran-ton Penn-syl-vania.

Here's the song! They claim it's based on a true story!

Anyone remember that weird paper clip that was on your computer screen? I loved how it would wake up suddenly and jump up and down when it thought you might ask it to do something, and then it would sadly go back to sleep when it realized you were only teasing it. I miss that guy.

You MISS Clippy?


Didn't Mitt get the Girl Scouts to outsource their cookie production to hollow-tree elves in China? I see a new line of attack.

American Hollow-Tree Elves For Obama '12!

Anthony Weiner channelled his inner Bryce Harper and issued this reply to reports he is returning tp politics, "it's a clown story, bro".

That's incredible! And happened! 

Well, now we definitely know he's coming back. 

Is there an origin story for this, or is it a general amusement with this typo?

It's pretty much the worst typo in the calendar, when you start seeing it in context. Although my favorite correction, which I'm having difficulty generating by Googling, is the one where they say "The man accused of killing his wife by throwing her down the stairs and tossing a lit kerosene lamp after her in fact died eight years ago, unmarried." 

Romney's Press Secretary just announced that Romney retroactively won the 2008 Presidential election and that he will be moving into the White House this weekend.

Er, retroactive congratulations!

I have an old laptop that I bought from a surplus sale. I *still* have Clippy! :) Sorry, Weird Thing I Miss...

Maybe you can trade!

Well, for one thing, the picture, caption, and the previous/next buttons can't be seen on a computer screen simultaneously. It makes viewing the slide show a bit clunky. Secondly, I think the captions would be more impactful as voiceovers. And at the end, a nifty GOTV message encouraging us to help WMR choose.

Now you're talking...

So are you starting again in 6 minutes?


All this retroactivity is getting out of hand!

Did you hear about SpiderMitt Romney? He was bitten by a retroactive spider...

Maybe if he's elected president, WMR will let us all pay our federal taxes after we die, but credit them to the years in which they were due. That way, no one being vetted for a high level position would have to reveal her/his tax returns until after death.


Although for a few minutes I was wondering who WMR was. It sounded like something dangerous that folks thought they might find in Iraq in 2003. 

Where along the coastline do you imagine Scranton to be?

The middle one? No. Wait. The left one. 



Google for this one, but it involved the NY Times, which should have referred to someone as "veteran, not Bedouin, of Israeli politics." Ah, the days of phoning-in copy!


Gene Weingarten got a Pulitzer for railing against philistines who rushed through a Metro station rather than stop to listen to classical violinist Joshua Bell play. Perhaps you can take on the London toffs who had enough pull to get the bobbies to pull the plug on Springsteen and McCartney in Hyde Park this past Saturday night?

For the terrifying few moments before I read the final six words of your question, I thought, "No!" and then "I didn't realize they were THAT old!" and then "Hey, on the bright side, we are going to be hearing some great music on the radio for the foreseeable future!"

I recall Winston Churchill telling of the time Oscar Wilde mentioned a Mark Twain quote about a statement made by Abraham Lincoln and...drat, now I forgot what it was.


How do you contain yourself over the excitement of whether Romney will pick Portman or Pawlenty or someone else?

You know, I...  (yawn)... NO KENNETH GET OUT OF THE UNICORN TRAP -- huh, wha, where am I?*

*this was an effort to render in print the idea that I had somehow fallen asleep during the question and had an exciting dream, but I think it lacks something. Maybe it needs to be a video as well!

I work at a Government agency and during the day I keep my badge securely tucked in my pocket. Other (libertine) employees let their badges hang out and swing freely. Can you give me an argument why my way is better?

I am a big fan of badge-tucking, if only because my badge has the unique distinction of still saying INTERN on it and the picture includes the disembodied hand of Renee Zellweger (it's a long story). I think it adds an air of mystery, or something. 

The swinging badge indicates that you want to look like you belong wherever it is that you are -- always suspicious!

It was indeed a fake, put up by a group called the Yes Men (who are known, I think, for pranks with an activist tinge -- but someone else can correct me if I'm wrong). Still hilarious. My favorite was the picture of the Arctic wolf, with the caption "Because your SUV can't run on cute."

Yes, that topped the list for me as well!

So all the on the 'caveman' diet can't drink beer! lol!


Then again, my version of the caveman diet is just to sit in the dark not eating anything for several days, because I have a realistic appraisal of my abilities as a hunter and capacity for generating fire.

See now, I'm annoyed that there are no clocks in public any more.

And the ones there are are generally wrong. 

I love wrong clocks, though! My watch is wrong. My watch thinks it's 5:47. But I can't tell people that I'm six hours late to work because I came unstuck in time since they know I have a cell phone. 

Although maybe this would work retroactively...

When you were writing birthday greetins to Proust, what were your thoughts as you typed in expressions of appreciation to a dead man. Dead you believe you were honoring a person and his works, or were you hopeful that others would better appreciate your accomplishment of having read Proust? Was there a teacher from the past you hoped would, through the consciousness of the universe through which information trickles, would be proud? Was there any desire for parental approval? Did you know that this might better explain your mannerisms to friends who you fear may not understood you? Did reading Proust and announcing to others you had accomplished a reading of his works improve your life? Also, did reading it make you more apt to be on time for your conversations from now on?

Yes! Somewhat. Yes. No. Yes. Not visibly. Apparently not. 

I've compared writing on the Internet to dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo enough times that whenever that analogy sees me getting into a car it starts to grab its coat. It turns out to be a little more subtle than that; sometimes, you feel fairly confident that you have a cannonball in hand that will resound more than usual; other times, you think, well, this is probably a rose petal, but wouldn't it be exciting if there were an echo all the same. That was one of the latter.  "Here's a thing that mattered to me, see if it matters to you!" For me, finishing was a big thing; I probably won't ever run a marathon, until I become lonely and middle-aged and get very toned upper arms, as I hear happens, but it was like that. You want a bumper sticker afterwards. And one consequence of writing about it is I haven't inflicted it on my friends nearly as much. I imagine pretending to be enthused that your friend has just finished Proust is several levels more difficult than feigning delight at an ugly baby.

Clearly written by a man! to whom I DO NOT submit!

It did sound like that...

Is this the opposite of having a cow?

I think it's the opposite of having a bull...

And the bottled water industry doesn't seem to like public places to offer free water fountains that operate properly, and with well-chilled water, either. (Usually the best they can manage any more is a trickle of bathtub-warm liquid).

The water fountain near the Lincoln monument recently started working again, though! And it is really top-notch, chilled, delightful DC fountain wa--

You know what, bottled is fine.

I will bring the bear to the party is a legitimate comment. And also, ooh... look over there... Russia!

That's near Scranton, right?

I like to secure my badge as well, back when I had one. Yet for some reason, there was a security person who always demanded to see mine and insisted that I am supposed to display it at all times. Maybe those wearing those badges have run into this person.

There we go!

Do you realize that when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister (again)? Wouldn't you love to read her memoir if it started out with, "I recall Winston Churchill telling of the time..."?

I would read the heck out of that memoir. 

My favorite from many years ago: We intended to report that Judge Smith enjoined the showing of Debbie Does Dallas. We do not know whether he enjoyed it.


I just saw someone with a t-shirt reading NIFL. OK, I know what MIFL is, but what is NIFL? (For the kids reading, I just need the N part.)

National Indoor Football League, I think. 

Alternatively, "nerd."

Now I picture you as a combination of Word Girl and Stephanie Courtney.

Oddly enough that was the visual I had in mind. Guess we've both seen those ads!

I hate those unicorn traps. You do need to make them more visible.

And on that note, I should probably go off and reset the unicorn traps. You are delightful, as ever! 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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