ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Sep 11, 2012

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Lots of questions this week! I'll start answering!

But first, contemplate this poll.

Ship captain? Really?

These questions are getting into the realm of parody. "And whom would you prefer to be at your daughter's christening? Which candidate would you prefer to take on safari?" Neither, frankly, weirder.

It has taken lots of in-depth probing, but I believe I have found the deep dark secret to Mitt Romney's tax returns: Mitt Romney is not Mitt Romney. His real name is Willard Romney. We all know that no one named after a horror movie from the past will ever be elected President.

But "Ben" was such a great sequel, and produced that Michael Jackson song, and Harrison was pretty okay as presidents with cold handshakes go --

Yeah, you win this one.

Virginia Militia Major St. George Tucker witnessed a reunion between Washington and Lafayette and wrote to his wife: "The marquis caught the General round his body, hugged him as close as it was possible, and absolutely kissed him from ear to ear once or twice . . . with as much ardor as ever an absent lover kissed his mistress on his return.”

I quail to think of the fanfiction that has sprung up from this quote alone.

When you reached "no cigar" on coming up with a caption to the Joe Biden biker photo, did you literally have a cigar that you then put away when you couldn't come up with a caption?

I'd gladly take a better caption!

I should get a cigar to put away each time I fail to come up with a caption that adequately describes such a picture. Or, alternately, to walk around chewing on without lighting, like that one man in the DNC audience.

Ronald Reagan hugging his Oscar.


You're late. This week, your punishment is a billionaire will fly you to a remote island where you were be treated like a queen, until Carrie Fisher shows up holding a spatula, who will then quiz you on the entire dialogue to "Star Wars".

This doesn't sound like punishment so much as a vacation I've been planning for a while.

He not only killed Osama, but Mitt also won the Battle of Yorktown, persuaded Chamberlain to hold Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, and told the Germans "Nuts" at Bastogne. He''s quite a guy's guy.

But why don't we want him to come to dinner? Or think he'll be a loyal friend? Jeez, America, how many videos of tearful people describing in detail what a great friend Mitt Romney is does it take to convince you? Or, for that matter, why don't we want him to captain our ships?

I read your poll, and it got me to thinking. So, are there people who decide who they are going to vote for before they go to vote? I thought most people are like me and we just step into the voting booth and decide then and there who to vote for. Is this deciding who to vote for beforehand a real thing?

Seems like a bizarre innovation for people with too much time on their hands. And certainly the idea that anyone would know what more than, say, two of the ballot propositions pertained to -- intensely fishy, say I.

Often when I look up the weekly Q&A schedule, part of the page appears in another language. Today it's Danish, or TIRSDAG for Tuesday. Take a look: . My question -- Is this on purpose?

Oh, I hope so. Mine's not showing up in Danish, though, which saddens me. Could it possibly be your settings somehow?

You should look into covering the Hollywood Show sometime. It is held four times (I hear they are going back to three) in Los Angeles and once a year in Chicago and Las Vegas. Carrie Fisher has been a frequent attender. It brings back actors from all genres and fans have a chance to get to meet them. You may have to bring your own spatula.

I have just the spatula!

Unlike Comic Com, people do not get dressed up in costume for the Hollywood Show (with a few rare exceptions). What is amazing if seeing how loyal some fans are. Celebrities are indeed amazed that fans will remember dialogue from cult films and even the celebrities someone won't remember they were in some films fans remember. There are regular customers with fantastic collections. Seriously, you might like seeing this show, and us geeks who attend it.

I'll add it to my list...

I'd really need more information before answering that question. If we're talking sailing ship, then I'd go with Romney every time, as I suspect he has more experience with sailboats. For a ship with a motor I'd probably rate the two evenly. If the storm was a tropical cyclone, I'd want Obama at the helm, but for an icy, wintery storm, I'd want Romney with his Michigan background steering the ship. I can't believe that the polls leave these things so vague.

Yeah! Even when wondering about something so improbable as which president would win in a knife-fight to the death, Reddit leaves none of the parameters to chance. We could learn a thing or two.

(Also, this rates JQA's survival far too highly, I think.)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring ...

Now Lincoln I would definitely pick to captain a ship, outboard motor or not.

I love that the people taking the poll could choose "neither" when asked about the ships, dinner, and who they would like to take care of them when they are sick... and yet most still chose one of the candidates. Really? You want Romney or Obama at your bed side while you are sick? I prefer that neither of them show up.

Yeah, that's a great observation? How did "neither" not win with the bedside care? Possibly this is some sort of referendum on Obamacare? I guess this just goes to show the sort of people who take these polls.

Honestly, one of the things both campaigns keep reminding us is that they know their opponent is A Really Good Guy. I'd be more startled by how stoic everyone seems about their economic well-being.

You have to change your settings. In your browser go to Tools > Internet Options > Advanced and uncheck the box next to "randomly translate pages into other languages."


Which reminds of me of the last time I was in LA. I was in front of the Chinese Theater on a warm summer day, and there were all these costumed characters working the crowd--a Johnny Depp guy doing Jack Sparrow, Bogart in Casablanca, Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot...and one woman in a red polka dot dress and a parasol. We couldn't figure out who she was supposed to be, and from what movie. Then we realized--she was a random nutcase.

Something similar once happened to me right before Capital Fringe two years ago. I saw what I was pretty sure was a woman in an authentic 18th-century clown costume.

"AH!" I said, drawing up behind her, "a fellow Fringer, eh?"

Nope, random nutcase.

I doubt it. I often get the dates showing up in oriental letters, but with no rhyme or reason why or when. I don't change my settings. I just chock it up to the Internet God having a slow day and wanting to play games with my head.

Oh Venganza of the tubes, great and mighty, succor your people! 

Have you tried sacrificing a mouse?

It depends what kind of saying mission we are on as whether I would prefer Obama or Romney. If it is a commercial venture taking goods to an offshore account, then I definitely would prefer that Romney be the skipper. Yet, if it were a ship that could be attacked militarily, I would prefer Obama, because he could always quickly take down the American flag and raise up a Kenyan flag.

Okay, alternate question:

Pirate ship.

Mitt's real first name is Willard, named after J. Willard Marriott, so shouldn't his nickname be "Hot Shoppe"?

This does remind me of my favorite poll from campaign season, from Vanity Fair, which found that 2 percent of Americans think his first name is really Mittens and another 2 percent think it's Gromit.

Captain Jack Sparrow for President!

Who would you rather shoot pool with? Who would you rather have next to you in a bar fight? Who would you rather have in your church choir? Who would you rather cook you spaghetti with clam sauce? (Red or white?) Who would you rather watch "Star Wars" with? Who would you rather watch "Star Wars" with IF you were attending a revival at Comic Con?

All equally valid questions, if not more so!

Are the Redskins going to the Super Bowl or what?

320 yards! 19 for 26! Numbers!

I was excited enough by the Nats that having another sports team that might theoretically be somewhat good is really throwing me for a loop. Dang it DC, just when I thought I had you pegged, you start giving me sports-related hope!

Every. Single. Day. the Q&A sections on both the front page and on the Q&A page have some error in them -- either they show a chat that isn't going to take place, or they don't show one that is scheduled (I hate you for making me miss Gene Robinson,!), or they show the wrong day's Q&A schedule. Just how freakin hard is it to keep a web page up to date? (That was a rhetorical question; I work in IT and I know how few seconds it takes.)

I'm sorry.

Here's an ASCII pirate ship that I hope will make you feel better.

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^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
^^^^      ^^^^     ^^^    ^^

Joe Biden


This is just correct.

I would have to go with preferring Obama to skipper a pirate ship. Romney does not drink alcohol or caffeine. If I were to be at sea for a long period, I would want a skipper who would at least throw down a few beers with us.

See, maybe the bizarre questions were just our way of trying to dodge the beer question, since that's clearly stacked in President Obama's favor.

But it always comes back to beer.


VERY tough question. Romney clearly has the better strategic vision for piracy -- take over ships, sell off the good parts, eliminate the jobs of the other sailors -- but you know it's not going to be a good thing to be anything other than the captain of that ship. Obama has the better ship-captain skills, but he's not going to want to commit piracy, so his ship turns into the Pirates of Penzance. I guess I choose Obama; the songs make the difference. (Come to think of it, didn't the Pirates of Penzance have an issue with birth certificates?)

They were just noblemen's sons who had gone wrong!

I think they did have certain challenges locating Frederic's birthday...

I'd vote for Gromit. The man walked on the moon! And ate it!

Hard to argue with that.

Dave Barry and vermin Supreme.

This is correct.

I want my pony!

This is also correct to the question; "Whose lap would you most like to sit in when dressed up as a biker?"

No, the correct answer to that one is "Onion Joe Biden."

So I love the web site Wolfram Alpha, it has tons of great info. One of my favorite things to do there is to look at the popularity of given names to see the weird spikes that occur for trivial reasons, think "Madison" as a first name (UGH) after the movie SPLASH came out. I realized there are a ton of "Alexandras" in your age range and sure enough there is a HUGE spike starting out in 1982 or so and peaking in around 1992. It then entered a free fall stage and is now back to 1987 range. What happened in the early 80s? Do you know?

How bizarre! I wonder what accounted for the Alexandra vogue. Was it Nicholas and Alexandra? That was 1971, and seems improbable. Does anyone know?

Obama has promised us a unicorn. Hold out ...

If I vacillate long enough maybe I can get a chimera out of this! (Romney tells me that what Obama is promising is a chimera.)

I think it's a fruit based beverage, so Mitt would be OK.

And we'd have so little scurvy!

Joe was canoodling "Want to take a ride on my helicopter, literally?"

"What? I have a helicopter!"

OK, so Harvard students cheated in their "Introduction to Congress" class. How do we know they weren't really cheating but only demonstration that they could apply what they learned?

"That wasn't cheating! That was influence-peddling!"

Alexandra Haig was in charge, and that's what parents wanted for their daughters, who were going to be named Alexander, but turned out to be girls.

That's always how it happens!

Grog is out for Romney. According to Wikipedia, "The word grog refers to a variety of alcoholic beverages. The word originally referred to a drink made with water or "small beer" (a weak beer) and rum, which British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon introduced into the Royal Navy on 21 August 1740. Vernon wore a coat of grogram cloth and was nicknamed Old Grogram or Old Grog. Modern versions of the drink are often made with hot or boiling water, and sometimes include lemon juice, lime juice, cinnamon or sugar to improve the taste. Rum with water, sugar and nutmeg was known as bumbo and was more popular with pirates and merchantmen."

Weirdly, 1 percent of Americans think Mitt's actual name is Old Grogram.

It's the androgynous name fad. "I want my daughter to have a better chance at law school, so I'm naming her Sam(antha) or Alex(andra)." Just look at the youngest generation in Doonesbury, B.D.'s and Mike's two daughters.

Hey, that's an interesting thought.

Sidenote, baby names never fail to generate discussion, if you ever find yourself on a pirate ship with a presidential contender and have run out of topics.

At least 3% think that's his name

+10, for going with the better one I almost went with

Flashdance came out in 1983, and the main character was Alexandra.

One theory

Syrinx released their hugely (well, not really) successful song "Alexandra" in 1982. Five years later, it's airplay was reduced. Well, it fell from maybe one playing a year to none. But, that could explain a lot.

Another theory

The Alexandra, Virginia renovations were hugely popular from 1982 on. Many an urban adventurer would venture into downtown Alexandra and declare: "it is time I settle down and raise a family."

Ah, but what happened to the I?

In case you want to see it, here is the page about Alexandra as a name. You can see the graph and see it spike.

And a graph!

Just wanted to tell you that I am here, on time, for the first time since moving to the west coast. It's crazy how everything revolves around Eastern Standard Time.

And now it's over!

Kidding. Er. Last few questions, though!

ask this more in sorrow and in anger. I read you every day because you're an oasis from the hate and anger that fills so much of the media these days. Whether it's Republican presidential candidates physically threatening Ben Bernanke or anonymous Daily Kos commenters comparing Bush to Hitler, it's bad on both sides. As a principled Burkean moderate centrist independent, this hurts me. I wanted to ask: where did all the good people go? And if David Broder is looking down on us from heaven, what does he think about the state of the nation? Keep up the good work. Peace.

Possibly I am multiple-times burned and twice shy, but I sense a false equivalence embedded in your question, and the mention of David Broder (where's "post-punk" this week? I hope it's feeling all right!) sends it over the edge.

Look, I certainly am not trying to buy into the idea that anything bizarre said on one side has to be "balanced" by something equally bizarre from the other, regardless of source. That's not real balance.

But this idea that unless you were darting around finding obscure scurrilous remarks in message boards on one side, you would only ever be writing about the inane statements from the other -- that's false, too. There's no monopoly on idiocy.

Regardless, I hope you have a pleasant day and "post-punk" makes a speedy recovery!

...when a teacher calls a boy by his entire name it means trouble. - Mark Twain in Eruption Teachers are calling kids out for hogging up all the money. If we had a war and nobody showed, what would we call it? A bar.

Mark Twain is right. The introduction of middle names never indicate that you've done anything good. Although sometimes when you run into a friend you have not seen in far too long, you yelp out his or her entire name. This fact used to make things fun for Annie Dillard's mother, who used to go up to strangers on the beach and insinuate that Annie was their child, leading no doubt to many painful rifts. If I'm remembering that part of A Writer's Life correctly.

Mitt Romney used his time machine to create Alexandras. It's a part of his plan to restore the American economy, and he'll give us specifics... um, any day now.

Hey, sounds as reasonable as anything else I've heard.

Maybe, but it only happens with the Post, and only at that one site! And sometimes it's other languages, not necessarily European ones. I'll consider it a special educational bonus for me alone. Das is gut, or que bueno, or something.


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I apologize, clearly tech support is not a viable second career option for me.

Das is gut?

at graduation - then it makes you feel very adult and adds a certain gravitas to the affair

Yes, and what feels like several hours.

Yes. The person saying the entire name is stretching it out in an effort to calm themselves a bit.

As Twain said, when angry, count to four. When very angry, swear. When extremely angry, whip out the middle name.

Was that Titanic or what?

Well, it was pretty large, but...

That joke sank like something or other.

I suddenly am thinking of Hilary Clinton stating "Barack Hussein Obama, I am very disappointed in you."

Of course the trouble is that when you're really disappointed in Mitt Romney, he gains a first name...

Used only when you have assasinated somebody for some reason.

Also that. This has been thought-provoking on the subject of middle names!

I never should have told you! Now the site is all in English -- bah!

And on that note, I should skedaddle!

Thank you for an illuminating chat! Have a great 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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