ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jul 31, 2012

Join us next Tuesday 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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And look, it's 11:00! 

What's odd is this chat happened several hours ago in Britain.

I would judge the Olympic BBQ competition for free.

I would pay to judge the Olympic BBQ competition, come to think of it. I think the American entry (entree?) would be the strongest, if only because you don't hear "France" and think "Barbeque," but this is one of the rare events where it would be fun to be proven wrong.

Also, how do we feel about the Hobbit trilogy? I loved the Hobbit, but it was a much smaller book than the Lord of the Rings, even if it is Tolkien and thus contains multitudes. As an added bonus, even at 3 films there's little risk of an appearance by Tom Bombadil.

Well, the only benefit I can see about NBC's tape delay, is that when they decided to schedule men's gymnastics at 10pm last night, I could google the results and then go to bed at 11.


So, gymnastics has always bewildered and alarmed me. It's fun to watch, but ever since they introduced the two-part scoring system, I have no idea how excited to be when anyone finishes, even though the Post made a handy infographic about it.  Joel Achenbach alluded to this difficulty as well. Swimming, you know instantly who has won. But in gymnastics, someone falling disastrously off the vault and spinning around in the air by mistake can look like a planned element of extreme difficulty. 

Australia would have a strong national team. Doing things on the Barbe (barbi?/ barby?) is a national sport there.

There's a second event where you provide your most compelling argument for how "barb-e/i/y" is spelled. Knowing their British heritage, there is probably a U in it for no reason. 

I worry that filming the trilogy is going to keep Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman away from making Sherlock for far too long.

I also worry about this. It's a nice problem to have, in the scheme of things, but still...

I love the Hobbit. I love the LOTR movies. But really, a trilogy? From my memory and I read the book recently, there isn't enough to make even two movies from the Hobbit. I know he said he was gonna go into the background that Tolkien doesn't go into in the book. Here's what I say: Money, money, money. There was a VAST more stuff in the LOTR books (it was 3 books!) and that barely fit into 3 movies. Meh, I don't have high hopes. Peter Jackson hasn't done much since LOTR. All of this reminds me is James Cameron - whose talents seem to have wasted away (No I did not like Avatar).

You didn't like Avatar? 

But -- 

You know, in retrospect, I'm not sure I liked Avatar either. But it was the only film I've ever seen that justified the 3D.

Has Bryce Harper's modern masterpiece already given way to "Kiss my ass, this is a holy place, show some respect?" Or is that too long? How do you shorten it?

I think the update still lacks a certain -- something. 

I'm trying to figure out what, exactly. I like the incongruous juxtaposition between "Kiss my ass" and "This is a holy place." But it's a few syllables too long to catch on in the same way, I think. Too many ideas. As kiss-offs go, it's sort of a themeless pudding. 

Canne de combat was a demonstration sport in the1924 Paris Olympics. The athletes attacked each other with canes. How about a ladies version where you attack each other with parasols? Or you could use kung fu fans.

Why can't we use canes? I want to use a cane! 

Which I'm sure will come true in the fullness of time, unless they come up with Batman/Guy-Pearce-in-Prometheus Magic Leg-Repairing Braces in that time and the death panel hasn't gotten to me yet.

I want to bring back the pankration, frankly.

As a competitive eater I disagree. BBQ is a sport. Trying to get wing eating into Olympic games.

What do you competitively eat? Have you ever met Joey?

President Hoover worked in banking following his highly successful presidency. Lenders loved the guy. Borrowers were peeved. Brace for the Depression Trilogy.

I'm slightly confused by this, but now I want to see Herbert Hoover direct a movie.

I don't imagine that Elementary, the new CBS series, will be any better, but it could hardly be worse. Sherlock is less a pastiche than a parody. Sherlock looks like an idiot most of the time, missing things that would never have escaped the "real" Holmes (or Dr. Bell, for that matter). How can anyone like that dreadful Sherlock?

Ooh, how dare you! 

I think he's great, if only because we both are prone to expansive hand gestures.  

Especially with Elementary, I do sometimes wonder: the neurotic super-sleuth is such an established trope at this point, how can you tell if you're remaking Sherlock Holmes or just telling another story strongly based on him, which people have been doing for, oh, decades now?

If so, then we really do need to consider changing the motto on our currency.

I would support a Kickstarter for this project...

Didn't you watch Square One on PBS when you were just a single digit? MathNet was awesome, if only for creating names such as D. John Mutard. (A shoutout to Beverly Leach and Joe Howard. We don't talk about Pat Tuesday.)

I missed out on most TV, even the educational stuff! I watched "It's Academic" fairly regularly, however. Not to keep running back to Fran Lebowitz every chance I get, but she joked that the trouble with educational children's television was that suddenly you expected the letters in your books to get up off the page and cavort around with royal-blue chickens. But I'm sure MathNet was the exception! That's a great name.

As a filmmaker, I agree wasted talent, but deepest ever solo sub dive? Way cool! So rare to see a celebrity that succeeds at something outside Hollywood.

(mutters darkly about James Franco)

Yeah! James Cameron loves the oceans!

Can't the British just schedule the Olympics to start at midnight their time so we can watch it live at 7? Didn't we win two wars with them?

Seriously! What happened to our special relationship! Is this about the bust? Because we can put it back!

Pankration? You'd have more luck in chess boxing. Float like a butterfly, knight to queen 3.

Not for myself, personally. I would be a terrible pankratist (pankrater? pankrake?). But it might be fun spectating!

Just a second, rumors of Robert Redford in the newsroom. Dashing off for a second to confirm. Grab a coffee!

I like how that full figured woman won a gold in skeet shooting. Most athletes sweat and sacrifice for years and never win a medal. This woman sits on her couch eating twinkies and playing Nintendo Duck Hunt, and won 5 Olympic medals.


Confirmed Redford! Like most celebrities, he is shorter than anticipated and looks like a normal person.

Carrying on!


On a more serious note, I have always wondered if there's a sport with so few participants that you and a group of friends could practice for a year and walk on successfully. I wouldn't even need a medal, I just think it would be fun to hang out in the Olympic Village!

Send more money to James Cameron, maybe he'll pour it into asteroid mining.

I'm not interested in any mining that doesn't produce unobtainium.

I heard that Annie Liebowitz was ther taking protraits. That make sense that she'd be phographing Redford in the Post Building. Is Dustin Hoffman there too?

If he is, he's even shorter and more normal-looking than Redford. But I don't think so. Instead, we have Bernstein, Woodward, and Bradlee, so -- you know, much cooler people. Watergate documentary of some kind, it appears.

Which are entirely the invention of Jeremy Brett, who was so much better as Holmes, second only to Basil Rathbone. And Adrian Monk stole the gestures from Brett, too.

I love Jeremy Brett as well. I think he defined the role. But I remember less gesticulating and more wandering around looking pensive at people overacting in Victorian garb.

... "Kiss my holy ass" ?

Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski said it well: ""Kiss my ass this is a holy site" sounds like something somebody would say while playing beer pong."

I loved Square One! MathNet was the best. That and MathMan. I think Mr. Glitch is the reason I did so well in math as a kid; not for love of the subject, but because I believed a sentient tornado would eat me if I were wrong.

That is a powerful motivation! Even more powerful than a sentient derecho!

Fishing? Nothing, don't even show. Got a gun? You are competitive. I want a Bass Boat!

Heck, between competitive barbeque, shooting, and fishing, this sounds like a pleasant afternoon. Now all we need is a beer drinking event, and we've got ourselves a party!

Proof that you don't have to just polish a turd, you can also Fabergé-enamel them!


I am an attorney. When I was working in NY, I once reviewed a debenture for corporate bonds with an adjustment clause in case the dividends received deduction was changed (as was contemplated by Comgress at the time). The formula looked wrong. I put $100 into the formula. It was wrong. The I had to use algebra to come up with a new formula. I'm pretty sure that is the only time I have used algebra in my work, and I am a tax lawyer. That being said, there are a lot of skills you pick up in algebra (like just getting an instinct for how the math of a situation will work out) that I can't see getting in other ways. Is a math teacher really going to take kids to the grocery store and teach them how to estimate what a cart of groceries will add up to including sale items and triple coupons? Oh, then there is the whole not having the option to become an engineer later in life....


I like this image of math teachers taking their students to the grocery store. Then afterwards they could go to the movies and confuse everyone about what a reasonable price for popcorn was, as the theaters lamely tried to explain that they made their money largely from concessions.

Poster above says the movie trilogy will go into background which Tolkien didn't include in the book. What does that mean? The director will just make background stuff up which Tolkien might have included but didn't?

Yeah, I knew they were close, but I didn't realize they had a psychic link. Maybe there's something in Tolkien's papers? 

You are reading my mind. I'm also a competitive drinker!

Also, unrelated to anything so far, these pictures are great.

Hooray for the Square One reference! I miss that show. For solving one of their puzzles I got a badge and a picture of the Math Net team.

Nicely done!
I used to do something online called the Problem of the Week! I think it was run by Swarthmore. They would give you a problem, and whoever wrote the most cogent or amusing explanation of how to solve it correctly would be featured on the website! I was featured once. I think my explanation was less "cogent" than "oddly detailed and long-winded," but you have to start somewhere!

Alexandra, whatever you do, DON'T GIVE HER MONEY- and for God's sakes don't co-sign on a loan with her. Don't fall for the "I'll do a portrait of you" come-on.

Haven't spotted Liebowitz. But after what happened to Miley Cyrus...

English are into a big racket. It won't play.

Speaking of big rackets, I rewatched the Godfather lately, and Tom Hagen's voice and demeanor really remind me of Mitt Romney. Is the election rubbing off on me, or did anyone else notice this?

This is a sport? It's cool that riders wear Fred Astaire top hats, but seriously...

Hey, I couldn't stay on the horse for five minutes, let alone in a top hat.

Wha? You're actually IN the WashPo newsroom Petri? Who knew. Thought it was all, ya know, hi tech and remote.

Yeah, I'm there! It says hello!

IIRC there was a fair amount of background on Smaug, the Ring (of course), the dwarves' quest, and some other stuff that was not included in the Hobbit largely because Tolkien hadn't worked it out yet. It later showed up in the Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales.

See, there we go!

Trader hit the B instead of the M on a trade and sent the whole system into a panic...A problem remained that had to be dealt with-now it was a multiple problem so B's are being lost instead of M's. Client was relieved. Of his money, he always realized it was in his own hands.

Wasn't this a scene in The Dark Knight Rises?

I, too, was highly critical of dressage, but apparently it's quite hard. Probably because they dock you points for even the tiniest misstep. Half of the trouble seems to be figuring out which horse can be trained to move that precisely. It's a lot like politics, now that I think about it.

And on that note, it might be skedaddling time! Catch you next 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.)
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