ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jul 02, 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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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Salutations from the second day of Gettysburg, everyone! There's a packed schedule going on here so I'm going to try to wrap up closer to noon than usual. Let's make this time we have together count!

I went there last summer because I was worried that it would be overrun with awfulness on the actual anniversary. It sounds as though you are embracing the awfulness. I had one tour guide on Culp's Hill who was very cranky about the malign influence of "The Killer Angels" on tourism ("The only thing people want to know is where Kilrain died. Kilrain was a fictional character!!"). Try to find him, or someone like him. Very worthwhile.

Awful touristy-ness, you say? I am pleased to report that at the Blue & Gray Bar & Grill there is something called the Pickett's Charge Challenge Sandwich. ("Will this be YOUR high water mark?" the menu asks. "Ask your server for details.") It's $25 -- free if you eat it all in the time allotted. I think it might be an appropriate commemoration tomorrow. I really think it will go well, although Longstreet is expressing some reservations.

Yes, the MPDG is a terrible storytelling cliche, and Penny is right that the character is only ever seen from without. But there are other similar tropes for men, like the Poet Who Doesn't Know It (the hunky jock who dimly perceives that it's wrong to beat up the loserish and who awaits the perfect woman to bring him Cosmic Awareness) and the Peculiarly Competent Frat Boy (who is able to hold down a job or get through law school or own a business despite appearing to lack the skills or ambition to master anything beyond watching TV, and who is usually played by Vince Vaughn). Sadly, cliches like these run rampant in movies these days, and we line up to watch them. Well, our 15-year-old siblings do. And while the MPDG has the distinction of being a cliche and sexist to boot, all of them create a world where people don't have to deal with other people, only with general stereotypes, and where people become less important than the quirky situations in which they find themselves.

I think the answer to all these questions is "Better Movies"! Seriously, tv doesn't have to run away with all the nuanced characters like this! Movies used to have people in them, too.

I'm going to change my birthday to the 2nd Monday in July. I like to take off work for my birthday and this way I always get a three-day weekend.

Happy Birthday to You, Mr. or Mrs. President For Life!

I will regret this.

I always feel sorry for the re-enactors at Gettysburg, wearing all that heavy wool in some of the most intolerable weather around.

At least wool breathes?

Or is it cotton that breathes?

In Virginia, once you get your vehicle inspected, you may wind up for searching that little pink receipt when you get home. Don't bother looking, they don't use them anymore. They have replaced it with an 8 ½ x 12 computer print out.

Chatters, you are now informed!

How did J.Lo handle the tricky question of fitting the president's name into the song? By my count, the third line of the song is designed to accommodate seven syllables, not the 23 of "Happy birthday, dear President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov." Talk about "Brave"!

And it's not like she's Christina Aguilera, who seems to be able to pull syllables out of thin air.

I know you are in Gettysburg with plans to slip into Harrisburg for that all you cat bacon place on Tuesday and then go to the place that serves meatball encased in bacon. It is my sad duty to report that the later place is out of business. I believe Confederates got to them. The first place no longer makes that offer. I guess they knew you were close by.

I guess it's just me and the high-water-mark sandwich.

But it makes that horrid Baaaaaahhhh sound when it exhales.

Ha, I chortled.

Are you entering the Lincoln contest? They always said he had a high pitched voice. You'd make a cute Lincoln. One key question: Can you kill vampires?

Lincoln is not an impersonation that's in my vocabulary. I was planning to go offering my services as a Mary Todd, and then midway through whatever Lincoln was doing, run up and start hysterically screaming at him and have to be subdued.

But I'd need a better outfit.

You've been quite prolific these last few days, AP, and your fans are enjoying it! Really liked the items on the Humanities, Gettysburg, and Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Why thank you kind sir or madam! I always feel the urge to do more whenever I'm out in the field (wheat or otherwise)!

as do most if not all plant and animal fibers. But to make those uniforms authentic you have to wear layers of thick cotton under layers of thick wool. I'm passing out just thinking about it.

You also can't carry ice packs because the soldiers would not have had them, is my understanding anyway.

Would you wear a coat made of human chest hair?

Now that you mention it...


I see the Post is selling date of birth editions of the Post. (You must have a huge attic with lots of left over paper going way back.) Shouldn't one really buy the paper for the day after one was born? True, if you buy a paper from when you were born, you get to read what people were reading while waiting for you to be born. Yet if you read the next day's paper, you find out what else happened the day you were born.

That's a good point. I think it's more "Oh Look, This Paper Emerged The Same Day I Did" rather than "This is a record of the Doings In The World" -- which unless you were born on a particularly memorable date, have a good bit of overlap from one day to the next.

One of my high school teachers told a story about wearing a wool suit in summertime as a child. He sweated a whole lot and the suit got wet and kept him cool as it evaporated. Haven't ever wanted to test that theory though.

No, not really, no. I'll take his word for it.

Have you ever seen sheep being shorn? Do you know where the wool goes once it comes off the sheep? It is packed into 8 foot tall wool bags. Do you know how it is packed tightly? The wool bags are placed on a wooden frame and a person drops down inside of the bag. The fleece is then dropped on top of that person who then packs the wool down into the bag with her or her feet and hands. That is the worst "job" I have ever had to do.

You're kidding me.

There's got to be a better way!

(Not the OP but) you can address me as sir and madam. I crossdress.

Thank you, kind sir and madam!

Argh, the Internet here just decided it wanted to ride around the Union army and leave me helpless and stranded. It's back, but if I disappear again, that's why!

We went through this once before, yet I'd like to do this again. When I see your discussion, I see an ad for "Chinawatch" on the right side of this chat. What other ads do others see? I am wondering what my options are and how I may change things so I see the other ads, should I prefer to see them. (Maybe if I send in more questions about Jimmy Choo shoes my ads will change.)

Do you have the epic man with the red beard who is trying to save you money on something? He's my favorite.

What was your most fun journalism assignment? What would you love for the WaPo to sponsor you to go write about?

I loved every bit of being on the 2012 trail. That was a real highlight. I just wish I'd been there when the penguin bit Newt Gingrich.

I'd love to go to Miss America or Miss USA or Miss Something. I think that would be a fascinating scene.

Down here in America's Wang we wear a lot of linen. It breathes better than anything else, and you're going to be wrinkled anyway.

"You're Going To Be Wrinkled Anyway" is going to be the new maxim that I hang as a seal upon my closet. This is great.

As Paul Lynde pointed out, the soldiers did not wear chiffon. It wrinkles too much.

You're Going To Be Wrinkled Anyway.

CNN could go into that line of business, at least for people born in 1980 or after, selling videos from the hour in which customers were born.

I think the real money's in Betamax.

to see if there's any mention of it. I've noticed that, for even most famous people, there's a big spread the day after they die but nothing for the day after they're born.

This is what the Time Travelers Convention was supposed to sort out!

Although I'm a huge history buff, the Civil War has long been an uncomfortable subject for me. I like reading about Lincoln's life and presidency, and about the hunt for Booth and his fellow conspirators. But I've had too many encounters with Southern apologists with misplaced loyalties. Plus, when Jim Crow arose it amounted to the Union winning the war but losing the peace. When I hear about Paula Deen using weddings to create fantasies about antebellum South, I grow frustrated that it's been 150 years and millions like her simply don't get it.

To me that kind of fantasy misappropriation is exactly why people should learn more about it. The real history is there if you dig, and it's a very compelling story of how we got to be who we are as a country. A question that I've been trying to answer while up here is -- who is most invested in retelling the story? Whose narrative is sticking?

To me, the Lost Cause mystique seems to be fading a little, along with the whole reenactor movement, since the 90's peak, but at big events it's hard to tell.

Can't repeat the past, as Gatsby would say, why, Nick, have you ever BEEN to a reenactment?

All I got today is . And now that I mentioned it, I'll get EVEN MORE.


I get an ad for a "gracious senior living rental community". I just turned 60. I thikn I'm going to cry.

Don't worry, I think I've gotten that one too.

Mercedes Benz is trying to sell me a car. I am sooo not their primary market. Is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl any worse than some other stereotypes like the Harlot With a Heart of Gold, or the Earth Grandmother? I put them in the same class as the Endangered Child and the Official in Denial in disaster movies.

I think the reason we're talking about this one is that Writer Types more often get mistaken for MPDGs than for, you know, Hw/H/Gs.

Also works when hung over the bathroom mirror, or when you are in the skin care aisle.

That's why I like it! Versatile!

Is your laptop one of those hardtack-powered ones?

This entire chat is being conducted via whatever type of pigeon wasn't extinct at the time.

How about this headline for a St. Louis newspaper on October 19, 1926? "Chuck Berry Born - Future of Rock 'n' Roll Is Assured"


"I'd love to go to Miss America or Miss USA or Miss Something. I think that would be a fascinating scene." The Miss United States pageant is being held in Crystal City this weekend. Sadly, William Shatner is not the actual host.

Well, without Shatner, where are you?

They need to read Mark Twain's blaming Sir Walter Scott for the Civil War.

I'm also a fan of Twain's accounts of his own participation, which got more and more elaborate and pointed as time went on. As far as we can tell, he joined up with a friend on the Confederate side, marched around for a bit, and got tired of it and headed west. Possibly he was in as much as one skirmish, but whether any actual enemy troops were present was doubtful. But of course this turned into the incredible story of his military campaign, where the narrator shoots someone and decides to give up soldiering.  It got better the more he told it at after-dinner events.

"without Shatner, where are you?" Crystal City. Even the red shirts won't come here for a convention.

Ha! Ouch.

Check out last week's "Family Tree" on HBO. It's Christopher Guest and his cast of cronies just destroying a reenactment.

I heard that was worth looking into but haven't seen it yet!

You should go see the Miss Nude contest, or whatever it is. There recently was a Broadway play with Henry Winkler where a New York Post reporter goes to cover the adults awards show. How come the Post didn't send a reporter and let the Post scoop them?

Well, that's certainly a thought.

But actually, I think the Adult Entertainment Expo is on the horizon...

Your line: "Fantasies are all very well but they won’t pick you up at the airport." I think every man needs to read that. And some women too.

Then again, often realities won't pick you up at the airport either because they were at a happy hour and forgot.

is that real men expect us to be like that in real life and pass good ladies over for crazy self absorbed golddiggers.

I wouldn't generally associate "golddigger" with the manic pixie character, though. She generally is indifferent to material goods -- or at least seems to be.

It's past noon. Go historically re-enact something.

Thank you for this!

expounded in Sunday's Baltimore Sun. I quarrel with Goodheart's assertion that "Union victory was not inevitable." As Ken Burns' documentary pointed out, the Union fought the war with one hand tied behind its back. It was inventing things and exploring and building the transcontinental railway during the war. The South just fought and starved.

If you look at the sheer numbers, it does seem inevitable. But the duration and turning points could have varied. And if you look at the 13 colonies and the ragtag band of just-mustered, refractory troops from different states, from a certain perspective that looks impossible. (Then you remember that Britain had to ship in troops from across the sea, and that they wanted to keep their empire profitable, and...) But how it happened is the interesting part.

Both Honolulu papers listed Barack Obama's birth a few days after he was born, but there's a faction of Americans who still don't believe it.

Well, who trusts the things the newspapers print anyway?

Er, on that note, I'm off to repeat the past! Keep reading the Compost and feel free but hardtack 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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