ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Sep 17, 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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Sorry I'm late! My laptop is about to go kaput! I am typing with one hand as I complete the circuit of the charger with the other! What's on your mind?

If my jet was like my apartment, the seats would be covered with last night's takeout containers and dirty laundry.

I think when you reach a certain level of affluence (call it jet level) you hire other people to keep you just that little smidgeon above Hoarders:Saks Fifth Avenue Edition and just below Tony Stark Workshop that makes all the diference.

Or maybe an after-school special.

What happened to after-school specials? Are those still going on? I guess in a sense all specials I encounter in life from now are after-school specials, but somehow Family Feud doesn't feel like quite the same thing. (Although the social and cultural norms it seeks to enforce are fascinating!)

"Grateful Dead drummer displays brain activity." I have no comment.


Very reminiscent of the Five Stages of Grief. When the NRA's Wayne LaPierre finally spoke after the Newtown shooting, I was repulsed by his philosophical stance. He seemed to be arguing that gun violence was inevitable, almost peddling a pseudo-secular version of the fallen-world mythology. Do you expect to see similar reactions to the Navy Yard? Some of the bingo squares suggest that mentality.

First off, I hate the fact that there is a formula for tragedy (oh look! I've hit a square already), because this should not keep happening often enough that we can feel anything akin to "here we go again." And of course in DC there's the added level of the fact that deaths as a result of gun violence aren't limited to this type of startling incident, and you have to grapple with the problem of -- well, are we making it clear enough that every time somebody who expected to make it home from work or school or just the weekend doesn't, because of violence, we should find that equally shocking -- yes, this one's terrifying on another level, but it also raises the weird question of how much we're inured to, how can you ever think of being inured to something like this, much less to have your set of assembled talking points for your press conference that you have every time this kind of thing happens.

From people who weren't there and people who have to respond and people who have to unearth the story, there is now a set of emotions and responses you go through when you hear what happened, and depending on where you are in the national mood and the news cycle, it's either "another shooting" or "a shooting," and that's strange too.

I think there are certain people whose job, for lack of a better word, it is to respond to events like this in a certain way. The NRA has its line, and other people have their counter-lines, and in the effort that always ensues to say, "This was awful. How do we prevent this?" you wind up with the same argument, including moments like the one you cited.

I actually heard a radio station and read an article here (the post) that declined to give more details yesterday -as things were unfolding at the Navy Yard - because they were unconfirmed and the sources only wanted to release confirmed information. I was so proud of someone taking some caution. Of course, there is always the possibility that even the confirmed information is wrong (like, for example, my co-worker being listed as one of the deceased, when he isn't and wasn't working there yesterday).

I think -- unfortunately through experience -- we're getting a little better at being fast and accurate and cutting through the fog of initial information. There are still mistakes, obviously. Glad your co-worker is okay!

where does the name 'Petri' come from? It sounds (very) vaguely German. I personally am half Scotch, half soda. I know, doesn't even deserve a rim shot. But I am wondering....

I come from a long line of glassware.

I think it's vaguely German, but am not sure.

Very disturbing. Apparently, nobody there has ever read Washington Irving, and pumpkins have never been discovered.

Oh, how is it? I was intrigued, yet terrified!

I recently wanted to look up how to address an empress. When I typed "Address for empress" in the google box, the first option was "Address for empress state building." The world continues to deteriorate.

Speaking of addresses for empress state buildings, I recently googled "carrier pigeon" to see if you could still send messages that way. The answer is: yes! (Well, there's a company that will certify that it has flown your message around on a pigeon, then mail it, but hey -- isn't that delightful?)

I went to the MD Renaissance Festival last weekend (first time in costume!). I saw, in addition to Renaissance-ish costumes, a Stargate woman, two Dr Who's, a ninja, a wood nymph, and Indiana Jones.

History's the best!

Obviously Dr. Who was there. Not sure about Indy.

My mother, 70ish, has just returned to the DC area after being away for a few years. Where should she visit to reconnect with the joy that is every Merto-area resident's birthright?

I'm going to open this question to the chat at large!

Where should she visit to reconnect with that birthright joy?

As Lord Peter might say, you can tell when a corporation how big a corporation has become by how much of its sense of humor it has remaining. Apple and Google come to mind. The Whimsey Test.

But how many of its Marples does it still have?

(That test works less well.)

Well, of course he was. He's the spokesman for an organization that, contrary to popular belief, is composed mainly of gun manufacturers rather than gun owners. He's defending his product.

It's his job. If he got up and said, "You know what, there's been a misunderstanding. Guns actually do kill people, not internet video games from decades ago, as we previously claimed," the Internet might go wild, but I doubt he'd keep the position long.

just wanted to say I loved your post on the Pumpkin Spice Latte. How often do you have them? Did you know Chris Cilliza of the Fix is also a PSL fan?

Not often enough!

(Once a week or so, as a treat!)

(Starbucks retweeted it and I almost perished of excitement.)

Adam @ Home is currently celebrating "Pumpkin season." No mention of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Yet.

Although, I should add, the pumpkin spice latte devotees (at least the ones who retweeted) were exactly what the Internet suspected: all ladies who said things like "this speaks to me on the deepest level" and "preach" and "Jess I thought you'd appreciate this." 


Well, Dr Who goes anywhere, anytime, and Stargate almost always ended up on planets that seemed stuck in the 17th century, but, yeah, I had some problems with Indy. he had a whip and everything. The ninja had a "sword" on his back. We later found out it was an umbrella. You can buy them at the faires.

Speaking of cool umbrellas, this exists!

This doesn't do much for Indy, but take any segue you can, as Dean Kamen always says.

While I think your bingo card was funny and sad and accurate, I think that formulae exist precisely because they give us guideposts for processing unpredictable events. If tomorrow's terrible event is, let's say, a landing by alien spacecraft or the disappearance of the color orange, Our Beloved Fourth Estate would still know what to start to do... and so would Our Lunatic Interweb. Personally, my reaction was "Aaaah, here we go again, another tragedy that will lead to much hand-wringing and no action." And that bothers me.

I think you isolate it well: the "and no action" assumption is the biggest problem. The other parts can make sense as a formula for keeping our sanity as a species. But the whole "repeat same process, hope for different result" doesn't speak to sanity exactly.

"Petri" brings to mind a combination of Greek and Latin. Not Latin as in Latin America, but as Comicus and Swiftus would have spoken to each other.

I like to joke that I'm the dative of rock!

This gets me exactly as much credit in hip circles as you would expect.

B: (shouting over music) YOU ENJOYING THIS CONCERT?






And they are even calling it the Pumpkin Spice Latte, not the Spiced Pumpkin Latte or the Latte w/ Spicy Pumpkin.

I smell a lawsuit!

-this would make a good tagline for the worst Sergeant MacGruff spinoff lawyer dog ever

was neither Sleepy nor Hollow. Entertaining. Hokey. Relatively Creepy. Generally good mainstream TV. I will watch until it stretches itself too thin, which looks like somewhere between episodes 8 and 9 based on my estimations...

Great to know!

I have locked myself into arrangements to watch Good Prestige TV with numerous of my friends, but I need one Criminal-Minds-Or-Slightly-Higher-level show to unwind with on my own. This sounds like a fair bet.

Part of me thinks that feminism is vulnerable to these sorts of idiotic Hanna Rosin-type rants because it has won the clearest battles (hey! women can be Supreme Court justices now!) and doesn't have a new theme that everyone can agree upon. That is, once you have secured the right to choose, nobody is going to agree on the specific choices made by women. (Which they shouldn't, of course, but it has repercussions.) Then again, some of these rants exist precisely because of popular resistance to feminist ideas. After all, nobody ever writes the analogous thumbsucker complaining that we've reached "an acceptable level of racism" and we can give up on civil rights.

Ha, can we start a clock now until the "We've reached an acceptable level of racism" contrary-to-accepted-wisdom piece? I think someone will write it, because I have zero confidence in people's ability to not write things like that.

I think you're right. It used to be that pretty much everything you might want to do was restricted, and so you had to band together. But as more and more things become possible, you lose people who have gained all the rights that matter to them and would rather go out and take advantage of them than keep working for the next layer. For instance, the right to choose. There's a decent percentage of women who believe this is not a necessary right. Every time you gain, you lose people. At some point, as fewer people feel like they're affected by the issues you champion, you cease to be a broad movement. Which of course you can argue is another problem because actually inequality anywhere affects people everywhere and sometimes the people who really need someone to march on their behalf have no time to march because they're holding down six jobs and then they get left behind, and that's another kettle of worms, but... what I meant to say is, "Yes."

"Your Serene Highness"

I prefer "Your Worshipfulness."

It's a world in which Rip van Winkle and Ichabod Crane seemingly shared a cave. And that's the part that makes sense.

That makes TOTAL sense.

Over lunch, my cow-orkers were discussing what would we do on Groundhog Day, where your life is an infinite loop. One suggested to head to the casino, where you could maximize your cash quickly and attract people to help you spend it. At 11 I would access the ComPost, polishing my posts until every one was a LOL.

But do you get to save cash? You'd have to go to the casino every day and start over, right?

Hmm. I'd hop into a bank vault and catch up on my reading, I think. My idea of heaven is that one Twilight Zone episode, (if he didn't step on his glasses, that is.)

Chinatown Metro during rush hour, or pretty much any Metro station on the weekend.

I was going to say "The Georgetown Waterfront is very nice now" but yours has a ring of truth to it.

Every time you order a pumpkin spice latte, a white girl gets her yoga pants.

I initially wanted to push back against this characterization, but I think it's brutally correct. Points, you.

Heard someone on WTOP this morning making a big deal that Aaron Alexis didn't have much of a social media profile even though he was an IT technical type. Aren't IT technical types exactly the people who are afraid of keeping social media profiles because they know how easy it is to dig up stuff to use against people on it?

That seems like a good explanation to me. The hard-core geeks I know are mostly very minimally present online for exactly that reason.

Actually, that would be petrae. The name Petrus (Peter) gives the pun on which the Roman Catholic Church was founded. Founding a church on a pun is one of the best ideas ever.

I meant in Greek, not Latin, sorry! You are correct for Latin! And it's a transliteration anyway.

But I was sitting next to a lady pushing 80 or so at Measure for Measure at the Shakespeare Theater. She was clearly enjoying herself quite a bit and actively chuckling at the risque dancing during the pre-show cabaret. I want to be her when I grow up - laughing my behind off at half naked young things in public places.

That was me, I hope, in a few decades!

Among the boons of being a lady is that if you live long enough to be old and inappropriate, people find it endearing instead of vaguely creepy (as it would be if a man were doing the same, I think, after a few moments trying to picture a male Betty White.)

You know your true love is named Bunsen? Just saving you some time.

So I was actually writing a script recently where I needed a last name for a me-based character, and I immediately went with the last name Bunsen, so clearly we're on the same wavelength! Laboratory instruments for life! Petri and Bunsen -- we have great chemistry!

People who make a big deal out of isolated facts like this are precisely the ones we should not be listening to. Unfortunately they are precisely the types who appear in the media.

It's been repeatedly noted that the less you actually have to say about a given subject, the more fluently you are often able to speak about it, because facts do not in any way impede the free flow of your discourse. This accounts for most of cable.

That's particularly nice to hear because when I was at Midsummer Night's Dream at the Shakespeare Theater a couple of seasons ago a couple of 70-somethings rose indignantly from their seats and audibly fussed their way out the door at the risque goings-on on stage.

Oh, I saw that! I remember the Post review headline was "Nude Fairy Takes Shower Onstage" so our middle-school trip to see it was canceled and I had to make my way there on my own.

The headline was correct.

But the relationship will burn out after a brief, but firery affair.

Leaving only some baffled agar in its wake.

The fact that McD's has so-called "lattes" at all demonstrates that they have lost sight of their core mission.

Then again, I think clowns used to be a lot more central to their core mission, so I can't say I regret this.

considering how much Renaissance poetry harked back to classical days as imagined by Renaissance authors. A Midsummer Night's Dream alone would account for any wood nymphs.

And any donkeyheads.

was named after German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri

Yes! This came up on Google recently, when it was his birthday.

How long after you burn your bra should you go bra-less?

Oh, forever! Also, don't forget to pelt all men with rocks and knit yourself new garments from your underarm hair.

They offer lattes and wifi. Don't be fooled!

But where's the Fiona Apple music?

It has been said (by the whacko fringe) that an American born and bread Indian-American is not American enough to be Miss America. How do you respond to them?

You respond by not making their comments the story. You respond by celebrating Nina's accomplishment. You feel that cool thrill of patriotic excitement at the fact that you come from a country where there isn't one way of looking "American" because almost nobody's "from" here, and what binds us is an idea, and anyone who thinks otherwise has another think coming.

First, she should take the Metro to the Hill, and attend a Congressional hearing on something, to observe the important people striding around in suits. Then she should make an appearance on cable news as an expert on the subject discussed in the hearing. When she is contradicted by a well-informed journalist, she should sneer that print is dead. Then she should put in a bid on a house, go to lunch at Eastern Market, and go back to the house to be told that the asking price on the house has increased 11% while she was at lunch. Then she should go to the Mall and give fake directions to tourists. Then make an appearance on a cable news program as an expert on whether print is dead. Then hop back on the Metro for a snack at Ben's Chili Bowl. Then go to the Nats game. Then get stuck in Metro construction on the way home. That should do it.

Throw in a visit to the pandas, and I think you're set.

can be shown by the recent articles on how badly the bra-making industry is failing women. Most women wear bras that don't fit properly, thanks to the industry's designing underwear for women who don't really exist.

Seriously! I wish, if they insist on making clothes for non-existent women, that they at least aimed higher and made clothes for women with three arms, wings, and the ability to breathe fire, instead of just non-existent women with unrealistic hip-to-non-hip* ratios.

*clearly I know fashion

So now McDonald's wants its customers to hang around all day taking up tables and not buying anything?

And writing screenplays. The money is in the screenplays.

I think you misspoke when you characterized feminism as a "broad movement."


Bzzzzt. We need to name this something like a corollary to Godwin's Law. Once we start quoting the wacko fringe, no useful information will emerge. Just stop right there.

True dat.

I'd be happy if she'd won the Science Fair. Winning a shallow contest based on unnatural thinness and extreme cheekbones is not admirable.

But... uh... it's... a scholarship?

The merits of pageants are a different question, you're right.

Rob Petrie?

Only fictionally!

Can I knit a new bra from my underarm hair?

No, that's setting back the movement. Please!

OMG! do you think she knew what they meant!?

No, no, of course not.

And on that note, have a great week! Keep reading the Compost and feel free but unobligated to join me on the 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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