ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Apr 16, 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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Hello all!

See, I'm on time today! I hope you're well. Let's roll!

Hey AP - It made me sad to see so many super-cynical, mean-spirited comments after your FB huddle blog post. I am not much of a FB user - probably the lamest page on the whole site - but I can TOTALLYsee the value in these horrid situations of disaster, about letting people know you're okay. How sad that people still see fit to demean and snark in the face of such events.

I don't know. In the aftermath of something awful like this, or even something smaller but sad like someone's death, the question of what you say afterwards (anything? nothing?) and whether it was the right thing to say becomes a lot more difficult. Usually it's never wrong to say nothing. But then saying nothing and then going on to the next subject feels like ignoring what has just happened, that feels more wrong. So I tried to only talk about the part that I could see. I'm sympathetic to anyone who says you shouldn't write at all after things like this because it's not about you, and anything you write comes off as sounding more about you, or less about the horror, than you mean it to. Maybe it would have been better to say "Love, and be silent," as Cordelia does in King Lear. But that doesn't go particularly well for her either.

Or more of a Cure/Smiths fan? She seemed pretty positive so she might have been a Monster.

I think she's hard to predict. I remember when I got to see the Annex there was a picture of the head of a statue of the Greek god Hermes nestled among the movie stars and I had to wonder -- did she just think he had a good profile? Or was there a mythology nerd thing going on?

[sorry ....]


I was going to post a whiny FB status about how I reversed my contact lenses and it's giving me a headache and I can't fix it for a couple more hours and there are so many idiots on the road today driving and texting....but even I have enough self-awareness of how petty and self-centered that would be, after the Boston news. So how long do I have to wait until I can whine publicly? Until I no longer feel like whining?

That's a safe bet. But there's more than enough to whine about; I'm sure something will come down the pike when the time is right.

Indeed. Almost as soon as I saw the news on line, I checked FB and my niece in Boston had thoughtfully posted that she & her partner were OK. Indescribable relief.

Well done, your niece! Glad she's all right.

I keep coming back to "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt." That's a pretty good guiding strategy for many things in life.

But you have to say something sometimes, right?

Well, do you? There's a lady in a fairy tale who has to be silent for seven years while she makes thistle shirts for her brothers (who have all been transformed into ducks) and she somehow manages to fall in love, get married to a king, and have one or two kids without saying a SINGLE word the whole time. Then, of course, they decide to burn her at the stake... But it can be done, for a while anyway!

Hey! If true, this is exciting!

There go my Google rankings forever!


If only your fairy-tale heroine had followed the advice of Princeton Mom. Then she wouldn't have been burned at the stake (though she might well have been expected to stay silent).

And I don't think the Princeton Mom scenario precludes her from spending 7 years of knitting thistle shirts.

I hate to break it to you but the Queen's great-grandmother was Queen Alexandra, a former Princess of Denmark. Also Queen Victoria was actually Alexandrina Victoria, named after a Tsar Alexander.

And, of course, Nicholas and Alexandra.

And there was that DA on Law & Order...

Can I just ask that we all retire the overused "First World Problems" meme as a put down of anything you persoanlly don't feel is important enough? It is the internet equivalent of the dumb letters in the Post's always entertaining "Free For All" section that say "how could you cover X when HORRIBLE thing Y is happening?" The false zero sum game mistake. When you live in the First World all of your problems are by definition First World Problems. There is room for both dealing with heavy things like the Boston bombing and with small issues that affect only you. Just my two cents worth.

I think it's a silly meme for the added reason that it creates the idea that people outside the First World don't have to deal with minor inconveniences. Some problems, yes ("barista, my frappuccino is sub-par") but other little awkwardnesses of daily life are universal.

Just a young editrix with a dream. A very damp dream.

Oh, I remember her. Whether or not I want to.

On my screen, almost all of the "April 16"s on the comment timestamps have changed to "Nisan 16"s. Have we all been switched over to the Hebrew calendar? If so, I have a lot of inaccuracies on my just-filed tax return.

What? Are you the person who always has strange things happening to your chat? Might I suggest an exorcism?

"Rich bachelors should be heavily taxed. It is not fair that some men should be happier than others"

Ha! I like the quote, but I can't remember where its native habitat was. It's one of those epigrams that shows up in the zoos of Quote Sites and the circus carts of anthologies first. To me it sounds more Shavian than Wildean, but the anthologies differ.

Don't forget Mike Doonesbury's daughter. Alexes have been around for some time.

Oh yeah, Alex Doonesbury!

But just try finding a song addressed to one. The closest I've come is "Alejandro."

Actually, Alexandra of Nicholas and Alexandra was actually Alix, the German for Alice. She had to change her name because Alix/Alice is not an acceptable name in Russia. Bit of history for you.

Thank you for that! Why isn't it acceptable? Was the Tsar once frightened by an Alix in his formative years?

Alix of Hesse ("Alicky") was renamed Alexandra when she converted to Russian Orthodoxy and married Czar Nicky. The next owl you get should be named Glaucus, after Athena's.

I am never confident enough that I have the correct lifespan for an owl to purchase one. I don't want the nightmare parrot scenario (not a bad band name) where you have to include the danged thing in your will.

Just the Post advertising dept trying to finally monetize these chats. Have you driven the All New Nissan 16? See it today at your Washington Area Nissan Dealer!

Have you driven the new Nisan? It's like April, but with a smoother aftertaste and longer history.

Or wait for Iyyar to come out. It has a luxury interior and moves forward without making that funny noise you've come to associate with May.

If there were such a thing as a month dealer, I'm sure Thermidor would be the Edsel of months.

on my screen, the date stamp says Abril 16, isn't that spanish for April?

What is going ON with this chat?

Buon giorno? Bonjour? Buenos dias? Auf wiedersehn? Hello?

Alexandra, you might in the future do a Reverse Macedonian and name your daughter Phillippa. Famous Phillippas include Phillippa Boyens, LOTR screenwriter; and Phillippa Forrester, the extremely appealing interviewer for the long-gone British show "Robot Wars." Also, I think there is a drink called a "Brandy Alexandra." Two shots of brandy, Creme de Cacao, hazelnut Coffee-Mate, and bacon.

That sounds about right.

I like the phrase "do a Reverse Macedonian."

There's one in the Russian movie "Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears."

Let me amend that to, "Just try finding a popular, English song addressed to one."

It was a rescue bird. Dali had a pet ocelot. What kind of pets do you have?

That's the first recorded instance of a nightingale owning an owl.

I grew up with a cat and a bulldog in succession, but right now all I have is a mouse, not really as a choice but because he likes the food in my apartment, similar to Kramer.

It's not a Russian name and, therefore, it couldn't be officially used. You had to take the nearest acceptable name. Thus Alexandra was known was Alexandra Feordorova (Alexandra, daughter of Feodor/Theodore instead of Alix Ludwigovna (Alix, daughter of Ludwig). Her sister, Elisabeth, became Elisaveta Feodorovna when she married Grand Duke Sergei. Feodor is the Russian default for "father's name isn't Russian".


Thank you for that! I learned something today, and it's not even noon!

Or Olympias (Alex the G's mom). But then she might start playing around with snakes.

She seemed to have some -- peculiarities. But these are just First World Conqueror problems.

But do you want the poor kid to be subject to all those philippics?

I think being the subject of a philippic is almost a badge of honor!

Then again, as someone who thinks Waldo wouldn't be a bad name, I may be the wrong person to ask.

Can you imagine the pressure on the royal couple to pick names, especially for a baby destined to inherit the throne? All the historical precedents involved? If they name a son Henry, will his baby toys be a plastic chicken leg and a spin-the-wheel wife selector?

They could just do what the Pope did and pick a name without precedent but with strong associations.

Like, say, Waldo.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a pet wombat. His sister Christina wrote a poem about the wombat chasing Swinburne through the house.

This is incredible.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti also penned the following wombat lines:


Oh! How the family affections combat
Within this heart; and each hour flings a bomb at
My burning soul; neither from owl nor from bat
Can peace be gained, until I clasp my wombat!

(this is when he was waiting for it to arrive by mail)

You have opened a brave new world of wombat poetry, and I am eternally in your debt.

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring! Even yet thou art to me No bird, but an invisible thing, A voice, a mystery Next thing you know it'll be that golden time again and gold is dropping and people are getting more expensive. Buy the best.

I never reared a young wombat
To glad me with his pin-hole eye,
But when he most was sweet and fat
And tailless, he was sure to die!

(also Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

He will be overthrown by his cousin Henry. Again.

Pretty much guaranteed.

Or his brother John will take over...

The wombats always croaked. Actually, for many years I wrote and sent out a "Wombat Day" poem to my friends. Nov. 6. It was a day invented to mourn dead pets, especially maladjusted feral ones.

This is great.

Also, "The wombats always croaked" seems like a good Hemingwayesque opening line for a book called Farewell To Wombats or For Wombat The Bell Tolls or To Have And Have Not (Wombat).

D.G. Rossetti placed the only manuscript of his poems in the coffin of his wife, Lizzie. Then he dug her up to get the manuscript.

I knew I loved you chatters, and the fact that two people just volunteered the information that D. G. Rossetti dug up his wife just proves it. Well done, all.

because he spends all, literally all, of his time pursuing foreign wars.

Literally ALL.

And Marcel Proust had a haddock! And if you're calling the author of A la recersche du temps perdu a loony I'm going to have to ask you to step outside!

I think I knew about the haddock. I know he (according to Edmund White, anyway) liked to go to brothels and watch rats fight, apparently. 

Maybe I should get a haddock.

But today, nothing. I think it's because I'm being forced to use Internet Explorer.

Nothing says "I have nothing to contribute today" like "I am using Internet Explorer."

And on that note, I'm going to skedaddle. Have a great Tuesday, keep reading the Compost, and feel wombat 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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