ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jul 30, 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

This chat is coming to you from the FUTURE! In theory. Once I get the FUTURE up and running.

So I had the idea that I should try to demonstrate the travails of Googleglass by using it to transcribe my answers, but so far I have failed to convince it that this network exists, so that might have to wait until next week. Ho hum! Mark your calendars, I guess. 

How's everyone doing? 

While we all knew you were stating rhetorically for the Memorial vandal to "throw that green paint somewhere else," who would have guessed that he/she would be reading ComPost? Furthermore, it really raises questions about the "homeless person" suspect they have in custody.

I feel like those people who get wishes from dragons on bridges, and don't tailor the wishes as narrowly as they should. "I'd like my family never to be hungry," you say, and then you come home and the dragon has eaten your whole family. Which, yes, that's one way of playing it, but really really not what you meant. 

I hope they got the real green bandit, or some more asinine name so as not to inspire copycats. Uh, the real "Carlos Danger."

I am working on a script for a new humor horror film called ComicNado. A group of comics in a retirement home in the Catskills eat way too many beans and a huge twirling blast sucks then in and then throws them out onto an unsuspecting public who are tortured by their old jokes. I hope to retire with this script.

Incorporate a few more massages for the leads and that sounds like Grown Ups 3.

Also, before we get in too deep, heartfelt thanks to everyone who came to my fringe play! The cast conveys their appreciation too! 

I have become suspicious of natural food once I realized that so many people then die from natural causes.

Deep waters. Deep waters. 

If I remember today's chat or if it's an implanted false memory.

There's really no way to be sure. 

Too soon?

Okay, so I've been a little fed up with all the pre-2016 coverage going on. It's 2013, for pete's sake! Don't tell me we don't have anything better to talk about! It's, uh, the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg! We could just talk about that for months!

When do you think in an ideal world we'd start our 2016 speculation? I'm leaning towards late 2014, but I'm always willing to listen to arguments. 

Today's article about daughters of politicians seeking office on their own doesn't talk about the Dark Side of this practice. I mean, the attack ads on Princess Leia practically write themselves...

That comment brings me to this. 

The MIT studies remind me too much of a Monica Hesse novel. Fiction is becoming reality.

It did have a distinctly Hessian ring to it, unless a distinctly Hessian ring is "help we're being attacked by George Washington's troops on Christmas Eve!" 

*curls up into a nerd corner and dies*

Well, a certain paper managed to tie Huma Weiner into a Hillary story today, so you get the best of both worlds.



that was supposed to be an angry shark, but it didn't really come out

Now that (I hope) dubbing scandals "-gate" has finally died down, are we going to have equally stupid "-nado" names? Feh.

I think it'll pass. It reminds me of the time everyone tried to make "nuking the fridge" the new "jumping the shark." Sometimes the old ways are best. 

You can't buy this kind of publicity.

I'm going to keep this in mind, but spending twenty years to get four degrees isn't really an option at this point, although maybe if I really buckled down...

Wolverine, but that's not important. There was a trailer: there's a new Secret Life of Walter Mitty coming out. I'm not sure how they're gonna turn a 5 page story into a feature length movie AGain. But the last one seemed like North By Northwest, turned into a comedy. Or NbyNW was Mitty, turned into a suspense film.

Who's Mitty?

Here's how we do it in The True North Strong and Free (that's Canada, by the way). At various points in time, the various Political Parties have national conventions at which they elect a National Leader. At least once every five years (and possibly more frequently), the Governor General dissolves Parliament and calls a General Election to be held in (I think) 120 days. All the Members of Parliament go home. A National Election is held and all the National Leaders of the Political Parties run in the Election. The Party that gets the most votes is the Party in Power, It's National Leader (presuming he/she was elected) gets to be the Prime Minister. The PM selects the Ministers of the Departments from Elected Members from his Party. All Election talk ceases until the next time. This saves money and the acute boredom of the electorate.

This sounds Canadian -- that's to say, there's no good reason we shouldn't do it, but we won't, because we US Americans are a fractious people. 

I think a good compromise position might be the elephant gestation period. It takes up to 680 days to produce an actual elephant. Why should we have longer to speculate about the primaries? Start the clock on election day and subtract an elephant, and you get to December 29th, 2014. That seems better to me. 

It would be way funnier!

That's true, implanted false memory chats are the edited essence of regular chats. 

I'm assuming you mean who's playing him in the new movie. Ben Stiller. if you're saying you don't know Mitty, I shall cry.

That's what I meant!
I always thought Steve Carell would make a good Mitty...

I think most advice columns (agony aunts?) would starve if they weren't allowed to answer questions that could be rephrased as "[someone I know] does [something I disapprove of]. Isn't she/he a horrible person?"

Questions to advice columnists fall into seven major categories:

-I have a problem (I want to cheat on my husband with my best friend's husband, say) that I can't ask anyone I know about because they're all part of the problem. 

-My husband/wife/father/mother and I disagree about something, and I am right. Yes?

Yours: -[Someone I know] does [something I disapprove of]. Isn't she/he a horrible person?

-This question is made-up to see if I can get printed in an advice column.

-My parents don't understand me.

-There's a big event coming up, and some people who don't like each other/are allergic to seafood/hate cruises/do weird childrearing techniques/recently remarried people whose personalities I find offputting are all going to have to be around each other, and what do I DO?

-I'd really like to do something I know is wrong. Is that cool? 

What about a story about a wearable tech device that can read your thoughts and broadcast them to the manufacturer?

That's the dream! 

I was listening to a copy of "Foundation," spoken by Isaac Asimov. I didn't know it was him; I told my kid "it sounds like it's being read by an old Jewish guy." But that's beside the point. It's supposed to be at least 50,000 years in the future and someone was reading a newspaper!

Thank God! I'm forwarding you to our marketing department!

You forgot the number one category: "How do I make someone do what I want them to do, even though they will never ever do it?" I think this is Carolyn Hax's Rule #1 (You can't/don't), yet people who claim to read her columns and chats constantly post this question.

That's true! The Taylor Swifty. 

So do advice columnists have seven answers that they adjust to each situation? I wonder if I can categorise horoscopes as neatly as you did.

Horoscopes are something like:

-You are wonderful!

-You are wonderful, but quiet, and sometimes people don't appreciate you. 

-You are really creative! 

-You are magnetic!

-You are incandescent!

-You are halogen!

-You are one of those people that people don't realize they want to be around at first, but then they want to be around you all the time!

-You are a great friend and family member. 

-You have made immeasurable contributions. 

Next time you're visiting Montpelier, check out the nearby Wreck at the Fat Nancy. Longstreet was returning from the 25th reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg, when a train trestle collapsed under the train. Fat Nancy was the woman who was the trestle watcher, and her warnings were ignored.



Hax gets 3000+ people on her chat.

I'm one of them! I love her!

Did Shakespeare have any advice for that?

If he did, Virgilia didn't get it in time. 

like a Tom Swifty? "I know the answer to that," said Tom, smartly. "I won the race," said Tom, rapidly. "I love metal containers," said Tom, cannily.

"I come from a long line of lions!" said Tom, pridefully. 

"Oh God, I'm a monster, but at least I'm keeping rainfall from damaging the stonework!" said Tom, gargoylishly. 

I'd like to see some realistic horoscopes among the seven categories you laid out. If we're going to have a really rotten day, let us be warned: "Today is going to be a miserable one if you step outside. If you have a job, call in sick. Don't get out of bed. Don't go online. Don't turn on any appliances." Or similar.

There's always one that is less than glowing, I find, just to spice things up -- "Keep your head up today!" or "Don't be discouraged by the effort needed to do a job right."

The Onion has always done an excellent job with its horoscopes, speaking of warnings of doom. 

That's also my birthday. I will be 32 when the elephant is impregnated! Woot!



I love my boyfriend of 5 years. We are getting married. I love everything about him except for X. It really doesn't bother me. But, it bothers me that he hasn't stopped doing X when I have hinted at the possibility he would rather not do it. What should I do? BTW, his mother encourages him to do X. (Just realized that using "X" makes this sound more sinister/fun than intended. Decided to leave it in anyway.)

This is UNCANNILY accurate! 

X is the only variable. The rest of it doesn't vary. 

On the Seven Categories of Advice and Their Application to the Four Humours.

Summon the leeches!

I am reading what is purported to be the first biography of General George Meade in nearly four decades. It seems that the press hated Meade because he hated the press and even tied one journalist backwards on a horse and had the journalist banned from his camp forever. The press tends to not like this. Yet supposedly Meade's leadership in Gettysburg was crucial yet the press held up others in better light as the press liked them better, even though one General disobeyed orders and his men were slaughtered and the General who got a lot of the credit wasn't even there as Meade had replaced him just a few days prior. So even in Gettysburg we can blame the press.

I think I recognize one of your references -- Sickles definitely moved his men out way farther than they needed to be because he claimed his correct line position impaired his visibility, and that led to the Peach Orchard slaughter. Not sure who the guy was who got credit and was missing. 

My favorite part of the Peach Orchard (stop me if I've told you this; it's one of those facts I'm so excited by that I forget whom I've told it to) is the fact that this orchard was famous for canning hundreds of peaches every year. 

After the battle, the guide dolefully informed us, they only managed to can 12 jars of peaches.

Which, to me, begs the question: Who was this intrepid canner climbing over the bodies to grab the twenty-odd remaining peaches? Who was sitting there reaching over the dead and murmuring, "NO THE CANNING MUST CONTINUE AT ALL COSTS?" 

Now that I am a MIL I find that I am much more sensitive to the slurs and stereotypes attached to this status. I cower before my DILs, wash all the dishes when the dishwasher is broken for a week, and bite my tongue when I see how my grandchildren are being raised.

It's such a fraught stereotype! 

Although I have to say that I initially misread this with an F on the end and I thought "Eh?" 

"How do I reject someone without making him/her feel rejected?"

Yes, this!

A self-canning orchard should be much bigger news than it apparently is.


She seems to go out of her way to pick letters where the writer frets only about someone else's issues, blind to his or her own issues. I love this - it's like taking a car to an expert mechanic.

They're around. The Post used to run one. I was always being told to wear my power colors to work, which were apparently yellow, green, and silver.

OK, so the presumption of horoscopes are that everyone in the world will have one of 12 different types of day that day. Is that how this works?

When you put it that way, it doesn't sound that unreasonable, especially when you consider that its pool of people is narrowed to the Newspaper-Buying-or-Subscribing public, who usually don't have the type of day that revolves around, say, building a big bonfire and hoping the planes come. 

Hax is the same sort of analyst that the great Miss Manners is. I read their columns for the inevitable incisive "OK, so what you're really saying is this" followed by something devastating, unpalatable, and inescapably true.


I love Miss Manners! 

This is quickly turning into a chat about the Back Pages of the Style Section, but... I'm totally okay with that. 

His mother encourages him to do X? I hope the reader realizes that many of us have presumed that X is send pictures of Weiner through the Internet. Why anyone wants to see photographs of a political candidate campaigning is beyond me.

Well, a boy's best campaign manager is his mother. 

1. Get over it/yourself/him. 2. Go to a counselor. 3. Dump the MF already. 4. Use your silverware from the outside in.

That sums it up! 

I love the contrast between your upbeat live chat and the wonderfully depressing USA Network's Law & Order: SVU Tuesday marathon every week. If the SVU detectives read Hax's columns and your advice column categories, they'd have far fewer hassles figuring out cases. Of course, in the real world Stabler would be in Riker's doing twenty years for beating up all the perps. And in the real world, no judge would issue the twisty rulings or allow illegal evidence or wacky defenses.

The thing I find most depressing about Law & Order: SVU  (and CSI) is that a, well, more sizeable portion than you'd like of actual juries seems to think this is ACTUALLY the level of effectiveness we have in our real justice system, so they ask questions like, "Why didn't you CENTRIFUGE that?" and "What did Benson say about this glove?" 

Perhaps it was Scarlett O Hara, she did after all make a dress out of drapes when the going got tough.

She'll never be hungry again.

On the plus side, the next season the peaches were really, really large and juicy, what with all the fertilizer.

Mrs. Lovett, how did you get into this chat?

"After the battle, the guide dolefully informed us, they only managed to can 12 jars of peaches." I love to savor Dole peaches while reading ComPost Live!

"My brother would never kill me!"  Tom said ably. 

To quote Sondheim, don't bother, they're here. (I'm not sure what that means exactly, but it sounds right.)

Has anyone researched what Abraham Lincoln's horoscope was on the day he was shot?

"You will reach untapped levels of creativity today! Support the arts."

Actually, that would be interesting. Did they even have daily horoscopes at the time? I don't know! the tale of SL-1, the only fatal nuclear reactor incident in the US ( SL-1 was a research reactor in a remote facility in Idaho. Three operators (two techs and a trainee) were in the room when the reactor's control rod was manually removed and the reactor immediately went critical, boiled over, and was flung into the air by the water hammer. The control rod itself shot out of the vessel and pinned one guy to the ceiling. The best part? The control rod had to be removed MANUALLY, as in, someone must have intentionally, physically withdrawn it from the reactor. Nobody knows why, because nobody knows what happened. Nor will ever know, because all three guys were killed more or less instantly. One popular theory is that one of the reactor techs was sleeping with the other's wide and it was actually an elaborate murder-suicide.

Well, on that note that totally won't keep me awake at night staring at the ceiling screaming silently, I should probably skedaddle! Next week in the future!

Are you going?

I'll try to, yeah!

I joined a group of gamers (meetup) a few months ago and have been playing all sorts of (board/card/whatever) games that I've never even heard of before. What's your favourite game?

Any fat woman will tell you that no one ever listens to fat women. They are all Cassandra.

Always a Cassandra, never a Helen! 


Do you wear them constantly, or only intermittently, and how long before they need to be recharged?

It's about the same as a phone!

Virgilia would have written "My mother-in-law is an overbearing manipulative b**** who can make her son do stupid suicidal things and now she's coming to stay with us. Is there anything I can do besides look for a second husband?"


And on that note, have a great week! Keep reading the Compost and feel free but Taylor Swifty 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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