ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Dec 18, 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

This chat isn't showing up in any of the listings, so if no one is here, I don't blame you! But at least I'm early! I'm like that tree who arrives early in the middle of the forest with no one there to witness it.

You're one of the funniest political writers around- are you working on a book /compilation?

My gosh, thank you! Is this my agent? If so, I will get you the draft by New Year, I promise...

Yes, I am working on a book. More updates in the new year! If you want to help, tell the Internet to be less interesting.

You're showing up four times in the weekly listing. It's amazing.


I kept clicking the "clone" button.

This is exactly how all those science fiction movies start.

Your columns this week have been great Alex. Inquiring yet sensitive on all fronts, it seems to me. Nice job! And yeah, I was pretty bummed that your chat wasn't appearing. Then suddenly Presto! Here it is. Yay! Tough week for humor, though...

Yeah, it is. Tough week in general. 

I'm glad you approve, so far.

Do we get to enjoy your company today or not?

Four times, apparently?

This is like Twelfth Night.

Are you going to get merged with a fly next or be chased by dinosaurs? And next year, Jurassic Park 3D will be out.

I assume they had to rush Jurassic Park 3D if they didn't want to have to retcon a lot of feathers onto all the dinosaurs.

But what did you think of The Hobbit (part 1 of 17)?

Haven't seen it yet!

I liked "Lincoln," though! I thought James Spader was great as Bilbo.

But what do folks think about Les Mis? I am tentatively optimistic, with the caveat that I think Anne Hathaway's entire life has been designed as revenge against the middle school drama teacher who did not cast her as Eponine.

Also, Instagram is selling our pictures now?

There are four links up to the chat right now, but the first three are empty. So it looks like you aren't online.

Hmmm. Let me see if I can fix that!

I saw the play on Broadway but I've always been bothered by "let's take the story of a starving man whose life is ruined by onerous laws and an overzealous gendarme and put it on stage. Oh, and we'll make it a musical."

I think it works well! I do like the panache of the writers, though. "Giant Victor Hugo Novel No One Has Actually Read? Let's make a musical out of it!" I'm surprised they haven't taken on Ulysses yet.

... the demolition derby on the moon?

Most American Event EVER!!

WaPo is playing a cruel game of three card monte with your chat. Only one of the links is to the real chat. It's like playing the Lady or The Tiger in a lifeboat with a philosophically inclined shipwreck victim.

That is indeed nerve-wracking.

I thought the tiger was an allegory.

I would have picked the Tiger door, if only because the Life of Pi and years of Calvin and Hobbes predisposed me to thinking that tigers are either friendly or allegories. Or, you know, pals with William Blake.

Count me among those who have never cared for Les Mis, or Les Miz as it is also known (who knew there was a variorum text?). The songs are weightless, and the story loses way too much in the adaptation; better to have cut out some of the Marius-Eponine stuff, and even the Fantine stuff, to focus more on the Valjean-Javert-Cosette story. But I am curious, since one of the weakest parts of the show was the clumsy staging; maybe the movie will do it better.

I've always been strangely fond of it, since unlike most shows that your high school puts on, it actually had enough parts for EVERYONE. Yes, that meant that it went on for approximately eighteen years, and I always found adult Cosette to be insanely lame, but -- hey, everyone's cast at least.

Can you get a more prominent link to your columns? You seem to write a LOT and often I have to hunt for you. I mean, you're worth looking for but time is limited.

... Mom?

I would love a more prominent link, but I don't think anyone's deliberately trying to hide me, or anything; there's so many people writing lots of great stuff and limited web space. You can always get me by hovering your mouse over "opinions"!

I'd like to see the study reproduced with the new-fangled Dyson hand dryers. I've talked to a handful (har!) of people who use these and absolutely love them because they are (or seem) so much more effective: stronger air blasts, no need to touch a button (ew!) to start them, shorter drying times. I agree that the previous generation of dryers were lame but I am being converted.

No, I struggled with this, because I, too, love Dyson hand dryers. I hope I ever am as happy to see another human being as my family's dog is to see me or I am to see a Dyson hand dryer. They're like tiny helpful tornados!

I hope it was a clean handful.

Including those who can't sing, can't act, can't walk a straight line, etc.

That's half the charm of any high school production.

As you say, the great bit about Les Miz is that Rachel Berry, Quinn, and Santana all get a part. The problem is when you need a really good Jean Valjean and the only guys you have auditioning are Finn and Kurt. And most theater classes have way more Kurts than even Finns.

This is true.

And Marius, and Enjolras, and M. Thenardier...

Yeah, the other perennial high school theater problem: barely enough girl parts, but almost always too many male parts.

If you could have a rubber molded mask of any 19th century writer, who would it be? Options: Victor Hugo Edgar Allen Poe Jane Austen Charles Dickens Other Other

Hmm, what a curious question.

Having seen a Poe mask, I'd have to go with any of the others.

James Spader played Sen. Theodore Bilbo? I didn't know FDR appeared in "Lincoln." Maybe that's why I keep hearing about Bill Murray as FDR.

No, he played someone named W. N. Bilbo, who led a ring of lobbyists -- a far more dangerous and powerful ring than in that other Bilbo movie.

Avoiding the easy double entendre there, the year my kid's high school did Seven Brides For Seven Brothers was just painful. But then, Little Women is too painful to inflict on an audience for any reason.

That hasn't stopped some. It didn't stop my middle school from inflicting a multi-hour extravaganza of political incorrectness called "Land of the Dragon" on everyone. Seriously. "Land of the Dragon." One character was named Precious Jade.

I played the rear end of the dragon, in case you were wondering.

I'd love to see Gormanghast come to the big screen. Of course, I'm probably the only one. Unless they make it a musical.

It did come to the small screen with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but I'm not sure what people thought of it.

Now that's a musical I'd be interested to see...

I just noticed that the tell that 32 people are currently reading this chat. It's giving me bad AOL community room flashbacks.

Where's the tell? I have a different view than you do.

I spent most of my AOL time in the AOL Reference chats, because I had convinced my parents that they were educational. The Civil War Reference chat was educational, too, but not in the way I was expecting. I thought you were supposed to go in and impersonate historical figures, and they thought you were supposed to debate whether Britney or Xtina would win a mud wrestling match. It was eye-opening, on the whole.

I worry about all these people. "We're here tonight/And that's enough"? So how is this different from the other 364 days? "The choir of children sing this song/ They've practiced all year long/Ding Dong Ding Dong" etc. They practiced all year to learn two words? Has everyone in this song been lobotomized?

You'd be surprised how long it takes a children's choir to learn two words.

But yes, I think the lobotomy is a safe assumption. Also for listeners who enjoy the song after hearing it more than 5 times.

Now your chat is on the schedule thrice, although not at all in the listing to the right.

We're winnowing it down...

It could have been the equine character in Shrek.

You know he's married to a dragon, right?

Okay, the three-card monte game has apparently reduced the hordes of ComPost fans to a small intimate group today. Are there any questions YOU'd like to ask US, for a change?

SO many questions!

What is a weird niche subject you have a strong opinion on?

My canonical example is -- I feel that the absence of wallet-sized pockets in women's clothing is the mother of much great injustice, and I can bend your ear on this for some time.


The chat software updates "Total Responses" each time you add a response, but not the "Currently Online" figure. You have to reload to get that updated.

Hey, 44!

Weren't all AOL chat rooms just sad pick-up zones? Chris Hardwick tells the story of the rude awakening he got as a kid when he learned the 'TV' in TV Talk didn't stand for television.


This reminds me of a friend whose screenname was, I kid you not, Doglove444 or some number. (I remember the number, but, you know, anonymity.) She loved dogs.


What are your plans for the end of the world?

Well, once I finish this list...

I actually am mildly disappointed by all this, if only because we don't have any more good apocalypses scheduled for a while, and anticipating/debunking them has become such an integral part of my writing.


I was always like, "No, I'm not fluent, but I thought we were typing."

I would like to think it is not a weird niche subject, but I fear that it is. Word usage. I am so sick of bad word usage. People are people. They are not "persons." Impact is not a verb. Capitol and capital are not interchangeable. I could go on.

Our capital contains the Capitol. That one especially cankers.

I have not seen part 1 of THE HOBBIT yet, but I just thought I'd point out that while Mr. Jackson is making essentially the same hours worth of movies out of it as he did for LORD OF THE RINGS, each volume of LORD OF THE RINGS was over 100,000 words, and in total it was over 450,000 words. THE HOBBIT is around 95,000 total and is much lighter in tone. Gee, I wonder why critics are saying it feels bloated and padded? How do things like this happen!

I concur heartily. Lord of the Rings, long as it was, was CONDENSED. This is not condensed. Descriptions that take a page, when you translate them to film, are generally a few frames, tops.

But I will see it, and I will like it, I predict, based on my sad track record with these things.

The article that I read about Instagram being able to use and sell photos said "public" photos. Are my pictures public if my settings allow only approved friends to view them? Should I just pull the plug to be safe? If so, how will I retain the hipster vibe of my Facebook wall? ;)

The article I read said "public" too. I'm not sure. Chatters?

Also, "physical" and "fiscal" are not the same word. And no, they are NOT homophones.


I am looking forward to waking up on the 22nd to the realisation that THE DOCTOR SAVED THE WORLD AGAIN!

He always seems to make it in time.

... on how many times we will hear REM's "It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" on Friday? And are you taking the over or the under? I'm taking the over, whatever it is. Because there's at least a 50/50 chance I won't have to pay off.

Are you sure about that? Ask Nate Silver.

I'd bet at least 30.

NOT a niche subject. At. All. Couldn't agree more than it's gotten quite out of hand. And not just here - Britain too! Don't get me started on apostrophes...

No one seems to know quite where to put them, so they wind up just holding on to them and then dunk'ing them between consonants at random, like people who show up at your house holding unwieldy gifts.

Is it part of the joke that you appear 4 times (3 of them link to empty chats?)

This is the Post-Apocalyptic world we live in.

Maybe we're just on the wrong brane to appreciate those other three chats.

Seriously, at the gym the other day I listened to a group of otherwise-intelligent sounding people discuss the physical cliff. I had no idea how to respond, and had to concentrate to keep from making goldfish faces.


Mispronounciations from intelligent people you are nervous to correct are like watching someone speak with a booger.

Bring back hobble skirts! Women are walking too dang fast.

Maybe this is the solution to the pant-pocket problem.

but for a different reason. YOU probably wear women's slacks (eg) with small pockets and carry a purse. I wear women's slacks because I like them (I'm a crossdresser and wear as much womenswear as I can get away with) and a purse is out of the question.

Dang! Without a purse, it's impossible! Unless you just keep your credit card and phone and ID floating freely in a back pocket, and that always makes me nervous.

I am so confused.

Lincoln is actually The Hobbit: 4: Step Up 4 The 13th Amendment.

Look, there are obviously so many language pedants on this chat that word usage, grammar, punctuation, and related subjects really aren't niche concerns. On the other hand, chat software..

I think I, not the software, am to blame in this.

I mean, GRRR, that terrible software!

Oh, apostrophes are just out of hand. Same with quotation marks. For that matter, commas also seem to have become seasoning. Just sprinkle the prose lightly with commas until it looks right.

As Wilde said, "I worked all day on a poem. In the morning, I put in a comma, and in the afternoon, I took it out again."


Would you rather be a Gorgon or a Sibyl?

Oh, Sibyl all the way! Are you kidding? I enjoy people way too much and stone statues way too little to go Gorgon.

Two guys with beards and funny hats fighting the forces of evil. Has anyone seen the both of them in the same room?

thank you!

Yes, +10! Heck, +30, for finding the chat in the first place!

Goldfish Faces for the win!

and I love pockets. Not just to hold stuff, but more importantly, to have a place to put my hands. My other option is crossing my hands and people say that looks confrontational.

That's true!

I just wave mine frenetically like I'm trying to signal down a pigeon, and I hear that's a problem as well.

All right, now that our response reach has exceeded our people-in-the-chat grasp, I think I might toddle off.

Thank you for finding this place! 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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