ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 07, 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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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes


Apologies for the delay! We'll do an extra 7 minutes at the end to compensate! What's shaking? How 'bout them pics of Mars?

How about some epizeuxis?

Epizeuxis, epizeuxis, epizeuxis!

This reminds me of a rather excellent passage in P. G. Wodehouse. 

“What ho!" I said.

"What ho!" said Motty.

"What ho! What ho!"

"What ho! What ho! What ho!"

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.”

Alexandra, while we're psyched over Curiosity's successful landing, I wonder how the Martians (especially Marvin the Martian) feel about ANOTHER piece of hardware dropping in on them. Are they having fun playing hide-and-seek from our rovers or might they be getting annoyed?

I'd be a little ticked myself. 

I, though, wonder how they feel about the things we're doing to the planet. To us, they're logical home improvement, lawn-decorating-type moves, no worse than buying a series of flamingos. To them, it's ruining the view. "I didn't buy this expensive earth-view house to look out over a sandy wasteland," they grumble. 

Who would be the bottom of the endorsement barrel? Hitler? Prince Phillip?

Ixnay on the itler-mentioning-Hay. 


You are late again. You do realize that a billionaire will now punish you by reading what you are reading over your shoulder on the Metro.

Well, it'll punish him more than it will punish me. I've been slogging through Edmund Blunden's Undertones of War. I try always to read a book about World War I on the commute. It's not that it isn't lovely and he doesn't have a jovial poetic touch, but he's one of those unfortunate memoirists who give you the sense that you really had to be there. "Then Johnny and I went out for a smoke," he's always saying. "You remember Johnny, and that strange incident with the vicar." "No," the reader demurs, "I don't actually." But by then it is too late.

I doubt it's quite what anyone has in mind when shoulder-reading. 

I work across the street from the Washingotn Post on 15th street. You guys activated the Times Square-like news crawl sign today on the front of your building. It is hideous. Unless it plans on publishing your tweets and chats, please tell Management to turn it off. What rational person is going to stand in front of your building to see the latest news?

Hey, I stood there for half an hour yesterday feeling perfectly rational...

It does seem a little out of place in Somewhat Downtown DC, but I think it gives the building a certain offbeat charm. And I concur about publishing the tweets! Hey, building! Let's do this thing!

Alexandra, what is your favorite Martian / Mars society portrayal? Burrough's Barsoom / John Carter? The Martian Chronicles? The superpowered beings in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land? Marvin the Martian? I give my nod to Marvin thanks to his "Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator."

My favorite Martian at the moment, with the caveat that I'm probably forgetting someone I like better, is that shape-shifting Martian in the Ray Bradbury short story who shows up in your town and immediately turns into all your lost loved ones, but then the strain kills him. I would link to it, but now I think I've ruined the story...

We're going up to the cemetery to look things over after traffic dies down.


I hear Bernie Madoff says he is voting for Romney.

That's definitely within hailing distance of the bottom of the barrel.

One of the Olympic tropes chewed on every four years is that gymnastics isn't a real a sport because its outcome is judged. This got me to considering football, which is judged by referees. What if football were more like gymnastics? "The Hail Mary pass is up ... It's a spectacular one hand grab .. Touchdown! Wait ... the back judge is deducting two points for not planting the landing."

"Should have stuck it!"

Or, if it's anything like the announcers who did McKayla Maroney's vault, it's thirty minutes of unabated praise and adulation that makes you almost relieved that something eventually goes wrong.

I have not read the 50 Shades books but I have been making fun of them every chance I get because, even though I don't know what I am talking about, people seem to laugh. I have an observation and I was wondering if you think I am on to something. When I was young, girls dreamed of being rescued by a prince. Now it seems they dream of being rescued by a billionaire. Does this mean anything?

I'd hardly say that's exclusive to girls. I think everyone these days dreams of being rescued by a billionaire, from SuperPACs to campaigns to the people who hang around Warren Buffett to timid horses with nothing but dreams and the ability to hop strangely, and even they will occasionally settle for a multimillionaire. 

I have it on good authority that billionaires love Edmund Blunden. Sadly for you, the billionaires that ride the Metro tend to be shy.

Speaking of 50 Shades, a part of me wants to write a book called 50 Shades of Greg about a shlubby guy named Greg who has a lot of boring, awkward unsuccess in the bedroom. But is there a market?

Or 50 Shades of Grace, which is like 50 Shades of Gray but with no sex and a strong religious message. Or 50 Shades of Grain, which is just a lot of naked grains. Or 50 Shades of Greg, about 50 ghosts named Greg. Or 50 Shades of Grieg, which is I think overdoing it now.

I'd recommend you read "50 Shades of Grey" during your commute. Not for its quality literature but for the reactions of people reading over your shoulder. Or maybe it'll get them to stop doing that?

WAIT, continuing to speak of this, has someone written a cheap knockoff called 50 Shades of Gray? Because that would definitely sell. I always confuse Grey/Gray. I think I heard once that Grey was for hair and Gray was for everything else, but I've never been able to confirm that.

"I would love to see this happen but I don't think we will be that lucky." There a banana bread headed your way, with WALNUTS! Keep your chin up!

Does anyone understand this? 

What kind of billionaire would voluntarily ride Metro?

Ah, there's the rub.

All he wanted was to see GG this summer. That's not going to happen! I had to break the news to the Family.

No Gatsby until 2013! But all the hip modern music they've selected to accompany the story will be dated by then!

Does anyone remember when someone found (I believe it turned out to be the way some shadows appeared) the face of Ted Kennedy on Mars? Wouldn't it really be cool if the Mars expedition actually found Ted Kennedy living on Mars?

It'd be a little awkward for Scott Brown.

And why aim so low? What if they found all the Kennedys up there? That would explain both the moon landing conspiracy theory and the assassination conspiracy theory!

A few weeks ago, on the Red Line, I saw a young woman reading 50 Shades as she hung onto a pole (!). No lie. Was I right to be as skeeved out by this as the time I saw a guy reading Playboy a few years ago on the subway in New York?

Was he also hanging onto a pole?

If you have a great dismantle on a catch or perform a triple lutz before sliding into home, the judges put you on the ESPN highlights reel.


Ray Walston, who by definition was My Favorite Martian.

Yes! And props on the H. H. Munro quote!

Brilliant idea. I'd be curious how many people would accidentally buy it, only to discover that it is in fact an in-depth discussion of the color.

"This Gray is a subtle variant of butternut, similar to the Confederate uniform."

"This Gray is Uncle Hair."

"This Gray is pigeon."

"This Gray is pigeon dung, of a pigeon who evidently has not been eating right."

Relatedly, a pigeon once did its business on me as I was being interviewed for a piece. Sadly the pigeon did not make it into the piece. But I respected its contribution a great deal.

I was in a pub on Saturday night. Had a few.... I noticed two large women by the bar. They both had strong accents so I asked, "Hey, are you two ladies from Scotland ?" One of them chirped: "It's WALES you friggin' idiot!" So, I immediately apologized and said..., "Sorry, are you two whales from Scotland ?" That's when the lights went out....


(Hey, I chuckled.)

"Gray" is for Americans. "Grey" is for Brits and pretentious Americans.

Is that all it is?

Is there a link to whatever you and your friends are talking about? Billionaires commuting? Over the shoulder reading? Or do we just have to be tight with you?

I don't think there's much mystery attached, but the basic jist of 50 Shades of Gray (I haven't read it either) is that a Virginal Maiden With Bella Swan Tendencies somehow winds up in the clutches of an eccentric billionaire named Edward Grey, and it's, er, sexy, or something. But people often read it on the subway, and it gets very uncomfortable very fast, as the Post discovered. 

I'm waiting to discover someone on Metro using a copy a Fast Company or Forbes to hide the fact that they're reading not Hustler but something considered really lowbrow, like a pro wrestling mag.

I once tried to hide a Playgirl in a copy of Highlights, but I've been told that actually makes it more creepy, rather than less. 

You got it: the Mars mission discover the moon landing stage and we realize that the moon landing was indeed faked by filming it on Mars.

It all ties together so neatly!

Another mystery that would be solved if we discover all those missing socks made their way to Mars.

Missing socks, a few dogs, and billions of umbrellas.

I would not be freaked out seeing anyone anywhere reading 50 Shades. The books are everywhere. I even saw them on front displays in airport bookstores yesterday. I also saw a woman on a pole reading one of the 50 Shades books, which was really distracting as she was supposed to be working on the pole and not reading and....I think I'll stop there.


I think anyone attempting a competent portrayal of the archetypal sexy librarian (the more syllables I use, the more work-appropriate this speculation becomes, right indubitably?) would be excoriating the library for stocking the book, not reading it herself.

Is beekeeping a demonstration sport yet? And how has Johnny Weissmuller been doing in swimming?

I remember that I became terrified of Martians watching Mars Attacks as a little kid. Good thing that we already know the song that would destroy their civilization. On a side note, I just realized that Sarah Jessica Parker was the girl whose head was switched with a chihuahua....

I also feel comforted to know that our microbes will take care of things for us, in the event of any War of the Worlds scenarios. Alternatively we could just have Gilbert Gottfried read them 50 Shades of Gray, which is a thing that exists. 

They'd be reading Playgirl to hide a copy of the Economist.


As I was driving to work today, I noticed that the pickup truck in front of me was carting a stove to the scrap heap. This was my grandmother's 42 year old stove so twenty miles away from her home. It was picked up within hours of being deposited on her front yard. Pretty amazing to see it cruising down the expressway....A little more unexpected than having somebody reading over your shoulder.

That is definitely unexpected! That's a real thing to see, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-legged dogs and goblets, as David Sedaris would put it. It's certainly more adventure than the stove has seen in decades! Godspeed, stove! 

So I'm watching the U.S. women's water polo match at work, and it occurs to me that if anything is a sport, it's water polo. The entirety of the proceedings appear to be swimming (or treading water), throwing a ball and hitting (or grabbing) people. I think there are rules, but I have no idea what they are. It's sure a sport, though.

Absolutely. And those people are seriously fit, in both the British and the American sense, unless "fit" means something else to the Brits than I think it does. 

What is the root of the sexy librarian anyway? How come there are no stereotypes for sexy lunch ladies?

I would blame the Music Man, but I don't think that's early enough to be the start of the stereotype... Any ideas?

It is a trilogy about the life of Mayor Vincent Gray.


You have a great point that wishing for billionaires is not limited to females. There should be a story about billionaires who whisk political candidates to secret meetings and then force them to do things against their will such as deregulate their industries and lower their taxes and...oh, wait, it's already been done. It's called the Washington Post.

If you don't get it, you don't get it!

Romney should pick Barack Obama as his Veep. It's a win for both men. Romney gets the man most qualified for the job, and Obama has a chance to make history as the first black vice-president.

That's certainly one theory.

Right, they made 1000000 of them and you spotted it as hers and the fools bought it.

Well, that's also possible, but the first theory was infinitely more delightful. 

I wasn't freaked out that Sarah Jessica Parker's head was switched with a chihuahua. I am freaked out that she never switched it back...

Hey, she always spoke highly of you...

Also, I promised to a reader on my Facebook page that I'd bring up the Chick-Fil-A discussion in the chat today. I don't have much more to say on the subject than what's already been printed, and I think people are ossifying into their camps now, but before it drops entirely out of view here's a letter to the editor with an intriguing approach of its own.

That movie came out when I was 30, and I'm having a senior moment as I struggle with the reality that someone who was a little kid then is well into adulthood...

Time is a terrifying thing. 

Also, hat-tip to the Highlights joker.

She was a sexy bookstore clerk in The Big Sleep. But it probably goes back to when she kept copies of The Pearl for the special patrons of the library.

Ah, Raymond Chandler. I don't remember there being very many notably unattractive ladies in Philip Marlowe's vision of the world, though.

Since your discussion happens before the Travel section discussion, you win my latest rage. I was flying on the last leg of my journey and my flight from Philadelphia to Harrisburg was canceled. They booked me on a 6:15 am fight from Philadelphia to Boston and from Boston to Harrisburg. I at first figured out they did what they had to do. Yet as I was riding the shuttle with the other passengers on the cancelled flight, they stated they were all were booked on to a 7 am fight (meaning they got to get a good night's sleep at the hotel the airline was putting us in) and they arrived in Harrisburg a half hour before I did. My bag got there faster than I did. I think someone in the Philadelphia airline office hates me.

Oh no! That sounds awful. I'm really sorry!

Look on the bright side: maybe it's not that someone in the Philadelphia airline office hates you. Maybe it's that someone in that office likes your bag!

Hell, I could probably write it; or at least have you write my autobiography, and then just change my name to Greg.

I'm not sure that's how autobiographies work for us non-celebs, but it's worth a shot!

And what were you doing reading Playgirl? I am sure you were reading it for the articles, right?

I was reading it... for material!


The robber barons used to have their own train cars. I see no reason why a billionaire couldn't have his own Metro car, connected upon request. When I win the current $212 million lottery I plan to be toted via rickshaw.

Really? Rickshaw? Seems jostly. I would just get a carriage at that point.

For those of you wondering what you are missing by being here instead of being on Weingarten's page: He is seeking someone to adopt a puppy before it is stuffed by a taxidermist. That is all.

Great heavens! 

Get over there, quickly!

And on that note, I should skedaddle! Please 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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