ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 21, 2012

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Sorry for the slight delay! Let's get rumbling!

I have a dilemma. Taylor Swift asked me out on a date, which at first sounds great, but now I fear she only wants me for inspiration for her next album so she may sing about what a lousy date I am. She will probably sing about how I don't know how to properly feed her asparagus (what is the proper way, anyway, maybe someone should tell me). Help!

Go forth and conquer, sir. Taylor Swift seems to share the opinion of many artists that true Art (or at least true decently catchy country-pop break-up-themed hits) can only be gleaned in the bleak field of suffering. So go sow away! Also, she has enough of the green at the ready to be able to buy a summer home near her latest fling, not that I would ever recommend a mercenary approach to dating.

What is the world coming to, when a member of Congress can't take off all his clothes and jump into a lake in Israel without having the FBI check it all out?

Well, it seems on further scrutiny that the FBI was actually checking into something else, and only incidentally felt the need to do due diligence on the skinny-dipping tale. Once the FBI is involved, you get pretty well investigated.

But seriously! I remember back in the day when John Quincy Adams and Ben Franklin were frolicking about in the waters in the altogether (not simultaneously, of course) to the delight of at least one lady journalist who wanted an interview and was able to locate Adams' clothes on the bank.

Would you please make up your minds? All we ever hear is that Republicans should be more like Democrats...then as soon as we start acting like Democrats, you put us on the front page.

I think skinnydipping is a bipartisan pursuit, actually...

Alexandra, I'm surprised Augusta National didn't invite IBM's CEO Virginia Rometty to join since IBM's a huge Masters sponsor. But I am disappointed they didn't invite YOU. I wish the men there would be man enough to invite comediennes like you, Stephanie Miller, and Tina Fey to join. Imagine poking fun at the guys golfing there in their mismatched "Caddyshack" outfits, tossing Baby Ruth candy bars in the swimming pool, etc. But how quickly can Augusta build some female locker rooms and bathrooms to meet building codes and satisfy shy guys' modesty requirements? I'll bet they'll be keeping contractors busy.

I hear from those who know that the secret to being invited to golf often is to be bad at golf, in which case I have no idea why they wouldn't invite me.

Good question on the bathrooms. I think women played at the course before, even if in off-green jackets (really, every non-green color is "off-green") so there were probably facilities, but I hope they construct something large and special to commemorate the occasion. There are few bathrooms on earth that can't be improved.

I find it interesting that in Gene Weingarten's chat, there was a discussion where several people argued that there is no rape joke that is funny. That align comes Todd Akin to disprove that theory.

Well, actually.

So it's been interesting to me as a (dons monocle, feels stupid about it, removes monocle) scholar of the rape joke, to see how this has played out on Twitter. The joking has been pretty exhaustive. There are some people who are making "legitimate" the punchline of everything. There are other people who are advocating humorous retaliation to Todd Akin. There are still others who are playing on his lack of scientific knowledge, or his paternalistic approach to the ladies. Most of this joking hasn't been about rape, though. It's been about the way we talk about it -- and in particular the extremely inept way he talked about it. And they've been quite funny. The exception are all the ones that run along the lines of BLAH BLAH BLAH TODD AKIN PRISON BLAH BLAH HE'LL LEARN which are just -- ugh. Both unoriginal and unpleasant. But there's been a lot of very funny comment on it. One of my favorites (I'm biased, though) was Megan Amram's "My illegitimate rape whistle is a kazoo."

Alexandra, if Kevin Yoder can swim naked in the Sea of Galilee, can we have WaPo sponsor a Labor Day DC Skinny Dip in the Potomac for all members of Congress + staff, reporters, lobbyists, powers-that-be, and public? Advantages: no more skinny dip scandals since everyone's now guilty, nothing to hide, GREAT photo ops, guaranteed media "coverage" w/ plenty of ads (great for biz). Disadvantages: none other than some mild blushing. Hope YOU would be assigned to "cover" this, but how would your WaPo teammates deal with this?

But this is the Potomac we're talking about.

The last thing we want is a mutant, radioactive congress comprised entirely of irate, half-drowned, disease-bearing slime-beings.

OK, I think I got the rules:A member of Congress may be naked in public, but a member of Congress may not tweet a photo of it. Did I get that right?

It helps if there's water involved.

I've come up with a litmus test for this in which you imagine a constituent and you tell him what just happened and then if his response is "HE DID WHAT?" you've got a scandal and if his response is to sort of squint at you and say, "AND?" you've got the Skinnydipping in Galilee event.

This chat always ends up being reformatted in all bold at some point after completion. This makes it *impossible* to read without straining my eyes. Please let the format stay unbolded. Thanks.

I don't know how to fix it but I'll email the people who do! Apologies to your poor eyes. :(

I really hope that Akin stays in the race so we can find out the answers to such important issues as to whether or not a woman can get prego if she has sex standing up or if witches actually can't drown.

I am especially concerned about the witches!

One of the things I see lost in the discussion of Todd Adkin's "legitimate rape" comment is the fact that, even as the GOP tries to frantically distance themselves from him, the question still remains: If the GOP does allow rape as one of the few exceptions to their proposed abortion ban, what will a woman and her doctor need to do to prove it was "legitimate" rape? Wasn't that part of the picture under Roe v. Wade - "Roe" initially tried to obtain a legal abortion by claiming rape, but was denied because there was no police report?

See, yes, this is the other trouble. It's an onion gaffe. You can apologetically peel off a few layers and still find a disturbing core. I think he's gone on the record to say that by "legitimate" he meant "forcible" which opens a whole different can/kettle of worms/fish.

How far along are you in reading "50 Shades" and/or Ayn Rand? Have either books stirred you into seeking something new and exciting in the world? What does reading both together at the same time do: make you wish to build a new libertarian society on an exotic island?

I'm about a fifth of the way through. My goal was to finish by the convention, but that seems increasingly unlikely, at least if I want to retain my sanity.

Then again, suffering a temporary psychotic break induced by bizarre reading combinations might be exactly the ticket to a really exciting week. The Hunter S. Thompson approach, but more legal.

But how will this play in Kansas? Oh, wait, he's from Kansas. Could this story get any stranger?

I think it's safe to say it could, but I have difficulty imagining how. Possibly Joe Biden could involve himself somehow.

On the tenth day after conception, pains are felt in the head, vertigo, and dimness of the sight; these signs, together with loathing of food and rising of the stomach, indicate the formation of the future human being. If it is a male that is conceived, the colour of the pregnant woman is more healthy, and the birth less painful: the child moves in the womb upon the fortieth day. In the conception of a child of the other sex, all the symptoms are totally different: the mother experiences an almost insupportable weight, there is a slight swelling of the legs and the groin, and the first movement of the child is not felt until the ninetieth day. But, whatever the sex of the child, the mother is sensible of the greatest languor at the time when the hair of the fœtus first begins to grow, and at the full moon; at which latter time it is that children newly born are exposed to the greatest danger. In addition to this, the mode of walking, and indeed everything that can be mentioned, is of consequence in the case of a woman who is pregnant. Thus, for instance, women who have used too much salted meat will bring forth children without nails: parturition, too, is more difficult, if they do not hold their breath. It is fatal, too, to yawn during labour; and abortion ensues, if the female should happen to sneeze just after the sexual congress.

Hey, Pliny counts as a doctor, right?

As a friend of mine quipped, when Akin heard from doctors, maybe he should have clarified "...doctors of theology."

I never asked, but there have to be women's bathrooms at Augusta National. My Grandmother actually broadcast from there in the 1950s. Women attend the events; they just could not join the club.

Yeah, that's what I assume! Good on your grandmother!

I finally heard a sensible explanation for Todd Akin's remarks about a woman's body's ability to "shut things down" to prevent pregnacy following "legitimate rape" Apparently he has confused woman with ducks, whose corkscrew shaped reproduction systen was created by a benevolent deity to stymie forced insemination. Of course, that raises the question as to why he confused women with ducks. . .

"I wouldn't have such strong words for women if they didn't keep taking dumps on my pier!"

Bill Gates <a href="">wants to try</a>. But I don't think that's what Augusta National would have in mind.

Hey, a fancy toilet is a fancy toilet!
One of my long-nursed desires is to host a toilet tour of Washington, because we have some gems.

The wiki tells me that Anne Royall, JQA's interrogator, was once convicted of being a "public nuisance, a common brawler and a common scold." She avoided the ducking stool. Thanks for the history!

A common brawler! I like that!

Please do go out with Taylor Swift. Do you think she writes her own songs?? Just don't date her song writer(s).

Well, she... helps, I think. She supplies critical details so we can tell whether this song is about John Mayer or Taylor Lautner or the songwriter's difficult boyfriend Randall who never let her finish sentences.

Of more importance was your scriptural reference to naked fishing. I can see the beach t-shirts now.

This scriptural passage and I have a decently long and storied history together, actually. My first encounter with the Reverend Peter Gomes consisted of asking him why Peter was putting on clothes and jumping into the sea. The reverend seemed to think this was not the critical question of the passage and explained that Peter was "girding his loins" for the task ahead.

Oh, we already did, back in the mid-1970s, when all-powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills and his "companion," exotic dancer Fanne Fox, took a dip in the Tidal Basin. Guess there's not much new under the sun, or moon, in DC after all.

Oh, the Tidal Basin! I thought they were the capital steps people. But that turns out to be John Jenrette.

Alexandra Petri : "The last thing we want is a mutant, radioactive congress comprised entirely of irate, half-drowned, disease-bearing slime-beings." I fail to see how adding" half-drowned" to the current state of congressional members would change anything. Maybe then they could figure out what waterboarding really is (hint, it is torture).

I knew I was teeing up a nice shot for someone with that comment. And here's the shot!

Thank goodness there was no Twitter back when Rep. John Jenrette and then-wife Rita were gettin' down on the Capitol steps.

Oh, ahoy!

George Carlin swam in the river and it was full of sewage. That increased immunity. Swim in sewage would be the solution.

Get Congress To Swim In Sewage seems like one of those ideas that would pay for itself on Kickstarter within a few minutes.

"The last thing we want is a mutant, radioactive congress comprised entirely of irate, half-drowned, disease-bearing slime-beings." I don't know, maybe that would be better than the one we've got...I'm just sayin'!

Another shot!

You mean it inspires stories like these from The Onion?,29258/,29259/,29256/

Also that! I meant layered, but those are better. And anything I can do to contribute to the increasing Onionification of the actual news, I will gladly do.

..isn't this already a description of COngress?

All right, all right, well-played, everyone!

in the 1970s she was willing to buy jokes from unknown comedy writers. I sent her about a dozen once, she bought two and sent me a check for about $4.00 which I don't think I cashed (but I don't have any more)

No way! Do you remember the jokes?

I went through this with Hunter, so let me help guide you through this process. You will begin to hallucinate. You will think members of Congress are skinny dipping naked, and that one says a member raped women can't get pregnant, and...what, maybe you should help me through this.

The news this week has been the kind of news that makes me worry I ate strange cheese before going to sleep, and then it turns out that I'm awake and have been for some time.

In reading "50 Shades" before the Republican Convention, your mind will start thinking about an attractive middle age man with nice hair and trained horses who has money on a remote island who wants you to do things for him so he may gain more power. Resist this, I tell you, resist this.

I'm combining it with Atlas Shrugged, though, so oddly enough the man I'm picturing is Ron Paul.

Yes please. Good bathrooms are gold, once you find them. I have a recurring dream (nightmare) where I am constantly searching for a clean toilet but they're all dirty.

Oh, that's the worst!

I am a fan of the one at Mie N Yu in Georgetown, if only because it proudly displays the citation for Best Bathroom or Most Innovative Bathroom or something that it received a few years back.

Just how benevolent is a deity that does this favor to ducks but leaves human women out of it?

The design is intelligent, but the distribution leaves a lot to be desired.

Sidenote, you so seldom see two-parent duck families. What's going on with that? Or is that just the duck neighborhoods I hang out in?

Does anybody else remember the ladies room at Garfinkels, with its caged talking parrots? The first time one of them said "hello pretty girl" to me, I just about jumped out of my skin...


So men's confusion of women and ducks goes way back.


When men talk about women's bodies using terms like "certain secretions" and "ways of shutting things down," it's obvious that they are clueless on the matter, they damn well know it, and they're trying to sound halfway knowledgeable. They wouldn't talk about 1969 Mustangs that way. I suspect the ones who fetishize motherhood really fear and resent the female ability to bear children like it was a mysterious deity. The female reproductive system is just that, a system, and perhaps these men react to this like creationists who mistake evolution for atheism. What do you think?

I love the line "they wouldn't talk about 1969 Mustangs that way." I don't know about the resentment and fear. But as a general rule if you are referring to the woman in the room with you as though she is some sort of mysterious goddess of fertility, this does not fill me with confidence in your ability to see her as an actual person.

Yes, really. She wrote all of Speak Now by herself, and since it largely sounds like the stuff on Fearless and her debut, one has to assume she was consistently a major contributor to the songwriting. She may be formulaic, but it's her formula. (I did hear she ponied up to the pop producer/co-writer table this go-around, but it seems like everyone else does eventually too. Sigh.)

Yeah! Taylor Swift! I apologize! This time around she has a number of co-writers on board, though. But thank you for speaking up.

George Carlin is dead (from old age, not pollution). The Potomac River was cleaned up decades ago.

It's cleaner, but not clean. But no actual sewage. Usually.

Back when Garfinkel's was still downtown, it had an absolutely gorgeous women's bathroom, with a black-and-white checkerboard tile floor.

And parrots?

Wow, I thought I was the only one who had that recurring dream, since I have never found it listed among the common dreams. Surely one of your chat participants knows a plausible interpretation.

Interpret, someone! I assume every dream is telling me I need to sacrifice my daughter or the ships won't leave.

Someone out that can do a great service to Gene Weingarten's readers by answering this one simple question: how much is 100 minus 10? It takes Alexandra Petri readers to explain the world to Weingarten readers.

Oh, the Jonah Lehrer question! I stand by the Fran Lebowitz assertion that in real life there is no such thing as algebra. Also, who has $.10 balls? Or $.05 balls? Maybe $.10 is right because I've never seen at $.05 ball and you have to round up to the nearest real ball number.

No, sadly, Garfinkels went out of business a couple of decades ago. But it was one of my favorite places to take out-of-towners just for the parrots.

I should say! Dang! Does that Pirate Restaurant in the 'burbs have parrots? I have a sudden craving for parrots in restaurants.

Did you know that a 1969 Mustang can't be pregnant unless it wants to?

Seems legitimate.

Wasn't that from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? A witches burns, so she's like wood. Wood floats, so its like a duck. Therefore if a woman weighs more than a duck, she's a witch.


She turned me into a Newt! Now I visit zoos constantly and keep having the overwhelming urge to start a moon colony.

When we first moved to DC in 1970, we went to see Great Falls one fine Saturday -- and were horrified to spot signs warning people of the need to wash off with soap and water should they get any river water (even spray) on them, because of it was polluted.

Oh, dang.

This is just another of those times when I sigh to myself and whisper, "I'm so glad I wasn't there for the 70s."

I don't remember Garfinkles, but I remember Simons. Simons had a bathroom with 50 parrots. Each parrot told you a different way to leave your lover.

Ha! +10

Don't know about anyone else, but in my case, it means it's time to get up in the middle of the night for a trip to my clean one.

This might or might not be the answer you were looking for.

I grew up on a creek. One year, two male mallards stole babies from other duck families so they could have their own. They used to swim up and down the creek as a family, one daddy in front, all the adopted babies, one daddy following.

Man, if this chat were a children's book, we would be so controversial right now!

There's a college library I occasionally visit whose ladies' room has a mirror above the wash basin that is tinted slightly pink -- makes a person's complexion look fantastic!

Hey! We'll have to add it to the tour!

NOOOO!!!!! If the woman weighs the SAME as a duck, then she's a witch.

Oh, good catch!

Or if she weighs the same as churches or very small rocks...

Thank you for the title of my new book. Of course, it is on econometric theory...

But it'll sell like hotcakes! In the sense that both hotcakes and econometric theory textbooks are not known lately for their mass saleability.

Oh no, I was hoping I could go through life without ever using the word "saleability." Sad day.

I learned in school that ducks mate for life. If you only see a mother duck with her babies, the, well, you may have eaten daddy.

Well, on that cheerful note, I think it's time to wrap up.

Thank you for a delightful chat! Keep reading the Compost! And feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

Maybe it just means we need to stay away from the liquids at least a few hours before going to bed.

Also that.

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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