ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jan 29, 2013

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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After "Star Trek" directed J.J. Abrams directs "Star Wars", I believe he should direct "Star Search".

Hey all!

We're doing it live!

Let's roll!

My grammar peeve is "seriously" applied to food. I am looking at a package of "seriously sweet" cherry tomatoes. Does this imply that my other tomatoes are comically sweet?

Perhaps they're "wryly sweet" or "LUDICROUSLY sweet."

To me, this is not even a grammar problem so much as it is a gateway to extraneous adverbs that spread like kudzu to cover everything.

Well, just the prose: Obvious but true - you should take as a compliment that your work is of such quality that it is deemed worthy of being read and followed by such literati (the poet class), and that they take the time to craft such lovely flames to fling in your direction. [Pardon the random punctuation scattered herein.]

; . , -- ' '"((

[I was hoping for more random scattered punctuation.]

Ask "Is poetry dead?" a single time, get a lot of beautifully crafted flames! (And some that are just regular flames.)

This is an old trick that's been revived during the Recent Unpleasantness(C): threaten to close profitable locations until the landlords agree to rent concessions. If necessary, they file bankruptcy not to liquidate, but to be released from lease contracts. They can then go back and renegotiate a better lease. Plus, you deadbeats who sit for hours nursing a coffee aren't pulling your weight. Not you, since you say you buy several volumes every week, but the rest of you know who you are.

I do nurse coffees, though. But I even went to the CD section and purchased a CD, which in some ways feels more weird and vintage than buying vinyl. With vinyl, you might be a hipster who wants warm, rich, full quality of sound. With CD's, you just look like one of those Rip Van Winkle parents who has missed all the technology of the past decade. It didn't help that I was trying to find 90's music.

You promised to buy the 50 Shades books if Barnes and Noble will keep their stores. Just one question: Didn't you already buy them, or at least one of them?

For research! The research stalled. It turns out that trying to read it in tandem with Atlas Shrugged was like trying to reward yourself for exercising by waking up earlier and eating worse foods.

I gifted a couple of friends the board game, but without the adult expansion pack. In a way, I think the concept of a non-adult board game based on 50 Shades of Gray is much funnier than buying the full game with expansion pack would have been. I have no idea what the game consists of. I imagine you just sit around writing badly

Did you buy all 3 volumes? Also, the pictures of the Great Authors fraternizing on the walls is in the coffee shop, not the bookstore.

But the coffee shop is within the bookstore...

Also they have etching-style Woolfs and Whitmans leering at you near the escalators usually.

Poetry is not dead. However, it spends less time creating enduring and formally distinctive works of Truth and Beauty, and more time writing defenses of itself. In prose.

I didn't say it!

(For any latecomers to the debate, I recommend Thomas Love Peacock's attack on poetry, which is much more sweeping than mine and uses the term "rhymesters." Also, his name is a full imperative sentence!)

It is not the seriously sweet tomatoes that bother me. It is the studious celery, the scholarly carrots, and the endowed professor lettuce that bothers me.

For me it's the derisive, wan radishes.

What's your take on the Jonathan Coulton/Glee kerfluffle? I never watched Glee, and guess now I'm glad I didn't.

My initial sympathies, not having read much on the subject, are with the Internet. But I think there's a larger, somewhat-tangential-but-not-entirely-tangential question to be explored (hey, speaking of 50 Shades of Gray) about rights within remix culture. So much of creativity on the Internet is remixing and covering things in innovative ways, and if someone comes along and nabs your work but you don't have any recourse because your, er, Battlestar Galactica fanpoetry, say, is in a weird legal area, what do we do about it?

My problem is, it's changing the meaning of seriously. I mean, the same usage could apply to "ComPost is seriously funny."


Unless you mean "wanly"...

Half Priced Books has free coffee. Go figure.

This is a slippery slope. A SLIPPERY SLOPE, I tell you!

I did all my big box bookstore grieving when the local Borders (which was making money!) closed . Now we have something called B-A-M with lots fewer books and more collateral merchandise (i.e., Items You've seen on TV! Angry Birds paraphernalia).

Oh, ugh.

Althuogh, I just admitted to buying the tie-in boardgame to 50 Shades of Gray, so, maybe my image of myself as the Lofty Isolated Bookbuyer Who Wants To Know Why Norman Denny's Translation of Les Miserables Dares To Omit Passages He Finds Repetitive, Eh, Bewildered Salesclerk From The Music Section? is unfounded.

In DC ~ Stephan Pastis gave a talk and signed books ~ each scribble was accompanied by a drawing of the character of your choice.

Was this at Politics and Prose?

I love Stephan Pastis and his comic strip, so much.

What is a non-adult 50 Shades board game? You slap and tickle each other when you pass "Go"?

You just pass Go.

Why are you spending your time at Barnes and Noble when you have perfectly good Second Story and Politics and Prose in town?

I think I've alluded to this before, but I am a hardcore devotee of the megabookstore. I like the Teen Paranormal Romance section and the big bargain bins of True Crime Narratives and the calendars and all the attention-getting tie-ins and the coffee-getting area. It's like a bibliophile toystore. And as places to sit and write, it definitely beats the laundry room in the basement of your apartment building where there is wifi, or the coffee shops where Everyone Is Writing A Novel. (Of my writer friends in DC, something like 8/3 seem to do their writing at Tryst...) Independent bookstores are great because they have the books you Actually Want To Buy, but it's harder to settle in one and write for several hours.

I went into the nice small-chain bookstore in the college town where I was living and asked if they had the new Tom Wolfe. Three clerks in a row gave me the dog stare and asked if they could look it up and maybe order it for me. I went home, and never looked back.

I'm sorry!

When you know what you want, the Internet can be far easier.

in the literal sense.

What's a fulminatory food, as long as we're on that dictionary page? Arugula? I feel like a sentence containing "fulminatory arugula" could squeak past the opening round of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest...

As much as they try to slay the, poetry, thou shalt not die.

Poetry be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Get a lot of strongly-worded emails but are otherwise fine.

Is that the stuff the New Yorker publishes? Or more like the Obama Inaugural poem, which I kinda enjoyed because of the imagery?

+16 points for "plum blush"


But ah,my foes, And oh, my friends They will not last the night.

O for a tribble of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of --

actually, I'm sorry, scratch that request.

Research show that free coffee promotes higher sales. The paint store has free coffee. Home Depot has free coffee.

Barnes & Noble, fill yourself with free coffee! you have stats on this?

After the campaign, he dropped out of sight.,d.dmQ He's into augmented reality now. This sounds interesting.

I worry that this is the Big Bird equivalent of growing a beard and starting Current TV, but I've only read the headline...

His "BGB" is fun, but a couple of his originals are hilarious: "IKEA" and "Soft Rocked by Me" are worth a buck on the iTunes. Don't know if you can get them on CD or not, Grandma.

I'll have to look out for him!

It was just the highest level of sharpness. Wasn't really all that somber.

It's only the word that has lost its sharpness...

When CDs first appeared, I went to look for the Woodstock album to give my husband for Christmas. Rock. Classic rock. Couldn't find it anywhere. The teenager who asked whether she could help me, when I said I was trying to find the soundtrack to the Woodstock movie, gasped, "they made a movie about Snoopy's little bird friend?" When I clarified, she went straight to Show Tunes. Yes. There it was. My Fair Lady, Oklahoma! and Woodstock.


I would say that I looked with trepidation to the day the equivalent happened to my generation, but then I started to realize that we had no equivalent concert and I would probably be asking for a recording of the Jonas Brothers Live, or something, and then I had to go jump quietly into the Seine.

This is the problem with "remix culture." If you have the right to take Ronald Moore's Galactica characters and write poetry about them, then why don't I have the right to take your fanpoetry and turn it into an hilarious YouTube video? If you don't care about Ronald Moore's rights, you can't be aggrieved when I don't care about yours. Ultimately, I think, wide-open is better than closed; IP law should give creators some control over creations for a specified period, but after 75 years or so, Hemingway should belong to the ages and not just to The Kilimanjaro Corporation and its heirs and assigns.

Agree? Disagree? I think you make a pretty clear statement of the remix problem...

Complain! Johnstown flood. Lawyers claimed an act of God caused it. People didn't question God, they did complain about his aim. Writers defended God, writing if God wanted a dam there, He would of built it there.

I think I see the parallel here, although I'm not sure who God is in this equation.

There have been no updates for 12 minutes. Did you forget to hit whatever it is you hit so we may see your replies, or did you get a phone call, or should we send an ambulance to wherever you are?

It's okay, I have Life Alert!

The other day at the market, I saw a stack of cases of "Artisan Water." That seemed highly improbably. Even more disturbing was the big SALE sign attached to the stack of cases. It was touting ARTESIAN WATER!

Recently I've found myself paying more attention than usual to water bottles, and it turns out I'm drinking a lot of "reverse osmosis" water from the Muhlenberg township. Among the distinctive characteristics of this water is that, unlike some waters, it expires by 2014.

Also, "ridiculously" has come to mean "outstandingly." Makes little sense.

Yes, but I'm more sympathetic. I can see how this started with hyperbole sprawl. People like me who toss "absurdly" and "convulsively" around as modifiers in the place of "very" probably don't help the situation much.

Would these be cotangential questions? Secantial questions? Or do other trig functions not have adjective forms?



What's the adjective for "cosine"? I know it's not "cosanguineous", but I want it to be.

Have you seen this one? I ran into it at B&N a few weeks ago. It's a cookbook - describing the process from the perspective of the chicken.

They also have 50 Shades of Dorian Gray, which I am afraid to pick up for numerous reasons.

Roses are red / Bacon is red / Poems are hard / Bacon.

Or, my favorite, the classic:

Haikus are easy

But sometimes they don't make sense


It just isn't used enough in conversation.

Strong concur. Neither is "bailiff," for that matter.

No, they are noisome. In the literal sense.


You chat folks are the best. Where else would we be having this exchange?

Politics and Prose, yes. I couldn't remember the name (I don't go into DC much) but THEY DESERVE A PLUG. Excellent few hours spent with my college son (who brought three books with him ~ good thing. They ran out).

Wait, I'm confused... they ran out of books?

I had a momentary vision of your son arriving with three books in his hands as a mob was about to descend and start rending the shelves looking for P & P's hidden books, but on rereading I assume you actually mean that he only brought three and this was the perfect place to replenish them.

It is a great store!

I misread this as "Pottery is alive, it's alive!" Long live kilns.

You're fired.

I went into one of the megabookstores about four years ago and asked for a copy of "Inferno." The clerk led me to a just-out copy of a book called "Inferno" by Larry Niven. I'm a big Niven fan, but I was looking for something a teeeeeeeny bit older.


This can be a problem. And then you think you've already read Vanity Fair multiple times.

Really WaPo? Not even going to try and hide spoiler alerts??

I KNOW! I knew what had happened, but I was still a bit startled that it was on the homepage...

I guess we could argue that Britain has known for months...

My concept store. Books & Batteries

As long as you have free coffee.

powell's in portland, oregon I think. I believe it is bigger than the university library I had way back when. It is truly amazing. You really can get lost in there. AND they have branches that focus on certain things (cookbooks, sci and tech, mystery, etc etc etc)

That sounds wonderful.

I am forgetting the name of a great Columbus, OH, bookstore that also deserves a shout-out. I quite literally got lost in it.

Seriously. Er.

The Book Loft of German Village!

That's the one!

I got a volume of James Merrill there, for anyone who was accusing me of not supporting non-living poets. (No one.)

I stopped going to a young hair dresser cuz he didn't know what a shag was.

"It's when you collect volleyballs, yes?"

It's really a lot different with music vs. prose. If you record someone else's song and sell your version, you pay royalties (as Coulton did to Sir Mix-a-Lot). If you write fan fiction using someone else's characters, you're just a copyright violator.

This is why it is so critical to make certain that your deftly crafted fan fiction is published  and acclaimed as The Song of Achilles, not carelessly strewn for free on the Internet where Homer can sue you.

Haven't you ever heard of "making water"?

I thought this too! I am glad you said it!

Seems like I hear that word every weekend.

You might need new friends.

"...He would have given a dam." What an opportunity lost.

God dam it.

Angioplasty Angioplasty, oh my! Angioplasty Once you've memorized that one, you can never forget the form.

I am audibly laughing.

You win the chat.

My son brought three Pearls Before Swine books with him. The store ran out of anything Pastis before we got there.

Oh, Pastis books! You made sense all along!

I am on board now!

They also know about Matthew. That's no reason for the Post to spoil.

*overturns table*

The Times ruined that one for me.



Some ten years after Cyra McFadden's "The Serial" was published, I asked for it in a San Rafael CA bookstore. The smiling clerk abruptly stopped smiling, snapped, "NO." and turned away.


Not a fan of McFadden, huh?

Bookstore in Manhattan. Acres of technical books, when I was a Bronx Science High nerd in NY. I could go broke there.

Oh, that sounds delightful, if you're into that, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln.

First she smacked me, then my wife smacked me. Groovy, baby.

Well, on that 50 Shades of Grey note...

I'm off! Have a splendid week! Buy at least 3 books, a number I have arbitrarily just determined, and make sure that at least 38% of them are poetry! Keep reading the Compost and feel seriously 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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