ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jul 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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What ho what ho everyone! Happy Tuesday! Let's get to questions!

I say a tub of ice cream, but my co-worker says ice cream might indicate a tragic breakup, while a box of doughnuts is just piggy.

I think there's a certain poignancy in allowing a container of ice cream to melt as you sleep around it, so my vote's with you.

I have an idea. How about we don't take advice from people dumber than we are?

There are definitely exceptions, but this strikes me as a good rule. It's of a piece with my belief that you should never wear a t-shirt that has someone more attractive than you are on it.

Hi Alexandra! Thanks so much for your post on Jenny McCarthy and the dangers of Anti-Vaxxers. As the mom of a 9 month old, I have to justify my choice to FOLLOW the recommended schedule for vaccines to friends, family members and even complete strangers. My question is this-Why do intelligent, knowledgeable folks listen to someone like her? What can I do about it? They don't want to be bothered by FACTS :( Thanks for trying though!

I'm so sorry you have to justify it -- that's both annoying and awful!

I often wonder what to do about getting people who are making objectively wrongbad decisions to listen. The difficulty with a lot of this is that while the Internet contains large swaths of people who will agree with you, and share whatever you have said about it with their friends, who also agree with you, until Angry Dave Who Is Always Just About To Unfriend You After He Types This All-Caps Screed catches sight of it on Facebook, you haven't actually done anything to change anybody's mind. And what's even worse is that even though your bubble can be objectively right, it is often hard to convince someone from another bubble that this is the case. (Generally the worse the fonts and the fewer the pictures in your bubble, the harder to convince you are.)

This can also be a problem with the, say, anti-pick-up-artist movement -- people who don't think that pick-up artistry is at all a sound or wise approach will nod back and forth and share articles with each other, when the people you actually need to get the information to are all off lining up outside CVS for the next edition of AXE Bodyspray, or something.

TL;DR -- I wish I knew!

Besides P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett, is there another novelist that's such a joy to read?

Well, Thurber's more of an essayist than a novelist (except his wonderful children's works) but I always put in a plug for him.

Waugh can be enjoyable but I wouldn't go so far as to describe him as a joy.

Oh -- Stella Gibbons! Cold Comfort Farm. Seriously, it's up there. Audible plane chuckles.

Oh, and Douglas Adams, too.

I am so tempted by the opening pages of 'William Shakespeare's Star Wars" -- but the blurb for "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" turned out to be the one brilliant paragraph in a meh kind of book.

Winston Churchill said that there was a rule that whenever a new book comes out, you should buy an old one. He added, "As an author myself I would not recommend too strict an adherence to this rule."

I think that sounds like bacon and chocolate -- both excellent together or separate, but not really enhanced when combined.

As one playwright to another, your opening reminded me of Mel Brooks's 2000 year old man, who said he had attended the opening of Shakespeare's 38th play--"Queen Cleopatra and Murray." "What ho, Murray?" "What are you shouting about--you'll wake up the whole neighborhood!" It was so bad, he said, it closed in Cairo.

Thank you for coming!

I wish I'd seen Cleopatra and Murray those thousand-odd years ago; it sounds up my alley.

Oh. My Gawd. Is that Axe stuff horrid or what? Why oh why do people wear these dopey - and WAY too strong - colognes/scents/whatever? So offiensive in a public space.

Really is. Then again, I have the keen sense of smell of a dead bloodhound, so it never really bothers me.


Is a good choice. Keeps you cool In other keeping cool news, should I buy a Chillow?

Can we talk, also, about the weather right now?

For anyone not in DC, it is somehow managing to be feels-like-100-but-it's-also-somehow-humid? this week. Planet, please, if this is because of something I did, can we talk about it? I'll go plant an ozone tree.

A follow-on is don't take legal advice from stupid people. With the riots and protests and marches, don't people realize that our legal system "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" was created such that it's better than 10 guilty men go free rather than 1 innocent man goes to jail. I wasn't on the jury and therefore I don't know all the facts so I can't opine on Zimmerman's guilt or innocence but in a civilized society we don't destroy buildings when we don't agree with the outcome. That's life and you move on or follow proper channels to change the laws.

Ruth Marcus wrote an excellent piece saying just that. Sometimes the system works and you get an outcome that makes you unhappy. That doesn't mean the system didn't work. I think a large number of people realize that, though.

Although, it seemed to me that most of the protests and marches I read about were disappointed but peaceable, not riotous and building-destroying -- where were you hearing this?

This morning, while reading the news, I saw an article about a website called save money by sharing your hotel room with a stranger. I just don't know.


I loved the Young Republicans show last year. What should I see this year?

Well, if you liked it because it was a show by me, you should totally come see Tragedy Averted, which is also a show by me (although parts of it are by a guy named William Shakespeare who is pretty okay.)

Try Hugh Laurie's "The Gunseller." As Bertie Wooster for a long time, he also has a warped sense of humor.

Ooh, I'll have to look that up!

is for young men who are sure women will never notice them unless they are reeking the place up. REALLY unconfident.

It's such a specific type, too.

My favorite was the other spray called "BOD" -- is that still around? It was like an AXE knock-off, and that, to me, was the saddest phrase of tongue and pen, bar none, beating even "It might have been."

I'm in Ottawa, Canada. It is 92 degrees ioutside. It is 90 degrees in my apartment. This is about the fourth day of this and I am melting. Fast. Tomorrow is supposed to be slightly better. I wait with bated breath.

I'm going to set a Google calendar alert for myself for the winter so we can look back on this with perspective and feel -- something.

Is anyone besides me dying to have this Over With? Bacon in sweets, salt in caramel & chocolate desserts, etc. I even encountered "pear and blue cheese ice cream" in an otherwise terrific ice cream place in Portland, Oregon.

Okay, I have a weird analogy for this.

So Salted Caramel was great, right? Depending on how you feel about it, Bacon Chocolate is the "No Strings Attached" (Natalie and Ashton! Sounds good, right?) to the "Friends With Benefits" (Mila and Justin, actually quality!) of salted caramel. Or bacon chocolate is The Illusionist to Salted Caramel's The Prestige.

Or something?

It doesn't help my reaction to hear the "diligent" juror blathering her way through the media. And I hear she has a book deal in the works, too? Lovely.

She might still, but her agent has been Discouraged By The Internet from doing it.

Diligent jurors (see 12 Angry Men) can be serious thorns. But I don't understand why we are trying to discourage her from the book. I'd be interested to see what she had to say, even if I disagreed.

As a former teenage boy, myself, I should point out that they, as a race, are not known for subtlety fragrance-wise, noise-wise, any-wise.

Surely you jest!

Better still, read Stephen Fry's novels.

"Moab is My Washpot" wins title-wise.

Zimmerman verdict protest turns violent -,0,412940.story Zimmerman protests in Oakland turn violent -,0,296050.story?sdfsdggffggfsdf

Thank you for the links. I saw that bubbling up on Twitter last night but wasn't sure of the extent. Ugh.


A few people got arrested in Oakland last night, but nothing that rises to "rioting." (There was, however, a right-wing website that falsely reported on riots in Miami, except that its "footage" was of hockey fans rioting in Vancouver. Which is pretty funny, if you think about it.)

For post-Zimmerman trial anger, there seemed to be a lot of shouting about "CANUCKS" and "PLAYOFFS."

No. It's not great. It's as bad as bacon & chocolate.

Okay, see, we differ.

That's a Fry memoir, though, not a Fry novel. Just sayin.

Right-oh, good catch.

Oh, my gosh, I remember BOD. It had these terrible commercials, too: "I want your BOD. I need your BOD. Gotta get that BOD." *gag* Had a 12-y-o cousin who got into it for a time. Let's just say you could smell him before you saw him.

And the shirtless men with bad hair jogging up and down bleachers...

Actually, I prefer Winter over Summer. At least then you can put more clothes on and turn up the heat and snuggle in front of the TV. In summer, there is a limit to what you can take off and it still isn't good enough.

But there are pools.

about "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf." So. I'm not a literary person at all. I like to read and picked up this play recently. But I go to the end and I had no idea what happened. So, uh, what happened?

Virginia Woolf blew down the straw house!

Spoiler ahead:

Basically, George and Martha are having some marital problems, and they coped with them ("coped" might be the wrong word) by making up a fake son, whom they in the course of the play fight over and George kills off? Also, Honey and Nick are there. Never go to a party hosted by a couple with made-up children, is I guess the lesson there.

In happier news, I think pear+bleu ice cream sounds delish. In Oxford the marvelous G&D's has a port+stilton ice cream that has to be tasted to be believed.

Ooh, stilton! That is happier news!

I still remember fondly the Mad magazine parody of that movie, in which the shocker at the end was their son actually showing up and being a clean-cut college boy saying things like, 'Gosh, it's jolly to see you. Can I have some milk and cookies?"


This sounds amazing.

Two things: Note George and Martha are the names of our first president and his wife; and no matter what Albee says, they're all gay men.

You can't spend all your time in pools. And getting there and back again, plus washing the chlorine out of your hair, obviates the benefits. It's like saying, 'but you can put on your warm clothes for half an hour and turn the heat on for half an hour, and then go back outside into the snow for the rest of the day."

That's what I say about winter!

What I found most amusing about last week's chat was the number of people who felt compelled to inform me that my night vision and supersonic hearing weren't REALLY superpowers. Gee, ya think?

Thank God the French invented that sarcasm detector! (That was going to be my superpower, but I can barely detect it 50 percent of the time.)

For your post about Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccine crowd. I have a sister on immunosuppressant drugs, which makes her more vulnerable to some of these diseases that she legitimately CAN'T be vaccinated against. If she ever gets something because of one of these parents that chooses not to vaccinate their child... I'd better not find out who that person is. I'm all for doing your own research and not 100% relying on doctors for your own health, but even doing your own research on this topic brings up nothing but a bunch of bunk, most of which has been publicly refuted. Grr.... I get fired up, obviously :) Anyway, thanks for bringing attention to it!

Happy to! There are some science "questions" that just aren't questions -- no matter what the Flat Earth Society says -- and it really gets my goat when people treat them as though suggesting there was controversy about them were anything other than actively hurtful. And I only have one goat and I'm very attached to him.

And people assume you're wearing a bathing suit. In winter, not so much.

Meh, depends on the underwear. I assume there's some giant puffy Michelin-Man-style gear out there that looks like it was purchased at Victoria's Total Enigma.

Summer is loud, obnoxious, and way over rated. Winter is so superior in its quiet calm. I never have gotten the "wheee its summer" sentiment in adults, I assume a lot of it is the built in clock of childhood telling us the Summer is better. Sorry, give me Fall and Winter any day!

Ah, but as Nick Carraway says, something something summer something about life starting over again. 

(Look, it's too hot to Google.)


People seem to forget that the basis for the alleged vaccine-autism connection was faked research by a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield, who perpetrated the hoax because he was planning to found a business that would profit from new medical tests, based on the fear of vaccine that he himself had fomented, and a bunch of gullible people believed his claims. Wakefield's fraud has been utterly discredited, but the Jenny McCarthys of the world won't let go, and now she's going to have a larger audience to whom she can spew her nonsense.

Yup, pretty much, which is why my goat is so upset.

I am essentially dressed for winter today in a sweater and leather jacket (i'm wearing pants too). I am originally from the Philadelphia area, however, so I have a hazy (no pun intended) memory of the awful humidity. Not sure what my point is except: good luck with that.

Well, er, thank you.

*shakes fist at SF and its hip weather and plentiful hills and all my cool Google employee friends whom I never get to see because why would you ever leave SF for the aforementioned 100-degrees-yet-humid District, lovely as its personality kind of is sometimes*

she also just signed on as a celeb endorser of Carls Jr. So, yeah, plenty of reasons to question her ideas about health choices.


It's like on "The Big Bang Theory" when Sheldon states a scientific fact to his super-religious mother, and she replies that that's just his opinion.

Exactly. No, no it's not.

I have never smelled Justin Bieber, but I assume he smells like Axe.

That's just his natural aroma, in fact.

According to Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan is releasing a new version of Self Portrait, very possibly the worst use of vinyl since that Barcalounger I bought in 1982.

Yeeergh! That does sound like an awful use of vinyl, although among us friends I have to admit that I have never seen a Barcalounger. I assume it is an eyesore made of vinyl from the context clues, possibly a chair of some kind? (It is this kind of raw context skill that got me through the SAT!)

Smelling Justin Bieber

Thank you for that indelible image. I'm going to wrap up now...

smallpox being eliminated by vaccination.

Don't have a cow about it!

Yes. It makes me foam at the mouth when forecasters blithely announce that "it's going to be a beautiful day, sunny and 85." "Sunny and 85" to me means I have to spend the day in the air-conditioned house.

I tried to convince myself mind-over-matter-style that it was actually cool and pleasant at 85, because 85 was the "low" temperature, but it worked about as well as mind-over-matter ever works in my case.

I don't think she should be lining her pockets with a dead kid's tragedy. And I don't need a book providing insight into the OJ jury either.

If she gave the money away, would that change your mind? I think these Big TV Trials are becoming a fact of life, for better or probably for worse, and there is some inherent interest in hearing about them from the inside, although it did feel icky coming so soon on the heels of the verdict.

Carl Hiaasen. Pick two word titles. The one word ones are for kids; the two word, well, I wouldn't read to my kids.

Good to know!

It is a close relative of the Nauga. (I just learned that the Linell Smith of the Baltimore Sun is Ogden Nash's daughter, btw.)


Garfield's Jon was always making jokes about many naugas dying to produce jackets.

It is like 45% right now. Not bad.

Okay, well, I am going to arm myself with that information and head outdoors. Farewell, all. Have a great week! Keep reading the Compost and feel free but nauga 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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