ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Oct 08, 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

Happy Tuesday, all!

This is totally insufficient solace in a time of shutdown, and only deals with the least urgent problem -- the absence of panda -- but here it is, for what it's worth.

Regarding last week's discussion of newspaper comments, isn't it especially weird on this site where you people from around the country who only know this newspaper as a liberal bogeyman they hear about on TV or the radio and who are perplexed by things with local connections? I remember comments on an article about that red panda in Adams Morgan asking who the heck Adam Morgan is and why any reader would be expected to have heard of a neighborhood in DC, and comments on an article about an attack on a boy with a lemonade stand in Fairfax County where commenters demanded to know "why is this national news?" (even though it said "POST LOCAL" in giant letters at the top of the page). And they can get really snide when they see the newspaper's usual reporting about things of interest to locally stationed federal employees, because, you know, nobody back home wherever they live cares about DC federal bureaucrats' day-to-day items. It's like they've never heard of a local paper reporting on local topics of interest to local readers.

Well, many people haven't heard of creatures that, while widespread in previous decades, are now seldom to be seen in the wild. If we had a passenger pigeon camera on the website they probably would respond in a similar manner. A local paper reporting on local topics of interest to local readers? What's that? I thought that was something my great-uncle made up to explain how he knew about car chases.

Last Tuesday I had a meeting from 11 to 1 and had to miss your chat. Later that day, I found out that this is a standing meeting from then until project completion. So I quit. I mean, a gal has to have priorities!

Yours are clearly correct!

If only there were a way of sneaking the chat into the meeting and pretending that your lap was very interesting.

Couldn't they just re-run old panda footage? Who would really know, right?

Panda Reruns would be a decent name for a trivia team!

The House should vote for a 43rd time to repeal Obamacare. It's what they do.

It's like reading a bicycle -- the second you get out of practice, you forget how to do it and you have to take omnibuses the rest of your life.

Do they mean animal or egg?

They had better mean animal, because poached eggs and I have been having a rapprochement lately.

Then again, ever since watching "Runaway Bride" years ago on tv, I feel contractually obligated to have strong opinions about egg preparation in case an intrepid reporter ever asks me whether I have a personality or not. (I think she's wrong about benedict. Eggs benedict are a sometimes food. You can't live like that every day!)

CNN had a report this morning that said that looking at pictures of food (LOTS of pictures of food) before eating helped you feel full sooner and you ate less. And yes, they called it "food porn."

Whoa, that's interesting! Pinterest stock probably just spiked! Or rather, the stock of a totally unrelated company with a similar ticker symbol.

I remember the days before the food network when people trying to point out the evils of traditional pornography (is that an oxymoron? probably not) would say "we would think it odd if we had a whole channel dedicated to people preparing and taking pictures of food that you could look at but not touch or eat" and -- turns out, we don't really think it's all that odd.

I find myself wanting to strangle everyone wearing a medium blue necktie. Do I need help and, if so, what kind of help should I be seeking? Therapy, or kindred souls who would like to give me a hand?

Is this something people have strong feelings about?

Okay, so speaking of Things It Is Impossible To Do On The Internet, I have a challenge for us.

Since yesterday, I've had a song stuck in my head. It's, I think, an aria from something. It's not Nessun Dorma. I tried humming it into "Shazam" to absolutely zero avail.

So then I Googled it.

This led me to a strange corner of the Internet composed of idiots like me who try typing what they remember of the song into Google. Example:

Do you think we can figure this out? If not, how?

Great idea! They could show it in a split-screen with the C-SPAN feed from the House floor.

They wouldn't even need to split the screen.

I feel sorry for Millennials for ending up with the worst interpretation of the usual "what's up with these kids today?" tropes. Back in the '90s when I was a Gen X teenager, even the articles that were meant to be negative about us were delightfully portraying us as the sophisticated cynical artistic kids who were too cool to be earnest anymore. When you guys are young and having trouble finding work, it's reportedly because you're overly entitled losers who got too many trophies, whereas we got to be hip fashionable slackers who rejected our elders' materialism so we could play hacky sack. When you guys are not buying cars and houses and having kids it's reportedly because you're overgrown children who can't accept responsibility, whereas we, you know, got to be hip fashionable slackers who rejected our elders' materialism so we could play hacky sack. It was pretty great and you should consider going back in time to be born in the '70s instead.

All I heard was "hacky sack."

The Audra McDonald concert at the Library of Congress is cancelled or delayed (they haven't decided which yet). I am bereft. I am desolate. I am irked. I am......running out of descriptive words. Maybe I should be doing laundry instead of concentrating on my anger. Or planning my entry in next year's Peeps Diorama contest. My entry from a few years ago (The Defenestration of Peeps) completely failed to get the attention of the judges.


We could dedicate this time to coming up with new words for being desolated and frustrated and sorely tested and nearing the end of our ropes! Defrunestrated?

I think there are just as much randomness and misunderstandings in the comment sections of local papers. My husband is a local law enforcement official who is regularly quoted (and misquoted) in our local paper and so much of what is in the comments has nothing to do with anything in the article and is almost completely about the people's personal politics and their stunning lack of understanding about how the judicial system actually works. My husband has very firmly asked that I not comment on those articles and so my efforts to educate people about the basics of the law have been thwarted. We are generally amused by the comments (otherwise we might cry). The only good thing about about local commenters on local crime stories is that sometimes the people involved will post new information on the case in order to defend themselves that actually gives the police some leads.

It sounds as though you have a good approach to the first part!

That last part is hilarious! I would love a link to an example if you can think of one!

Try drawing us an MS Paint picture of what it sounds like.

It basically goes LA LAAA LA-LA-LA-LAAAAAAAA


DA DEE DEEE something or other

Medium-blue neckties are great for when you find yourself sloppily eating medium-blue food.

Or whatever it is the Lars family has for breakfast on Tatooine.

I think neckties are a bad idea. If you pull them tight, they clamp on the arteries on the side of your neck, cutting off oxygen to the brain. Then the only thing you're good for is management. It's a vicious cycle.

Hoo boy, management! I bet they type the songs they are looking for phonetically into Google ALL the TIME!

Yesterday I ran into a group of drunken federal workers from out of town who didn't realize that the shutdown (and their current lack of employment) meant that the sights were closed, so they spent the day getting hammered and harrassing people on the Metro. If Ted Cruz had to spend one minute with those idiots, he'd frog-march his buddies over in the House to pass a clean bill, pronto. On the other hand, I guess the tavern owners of our fair city are laying in extra employees during the daylight hours. So it's not all bad.

I think there is almost no disaster short of a zombie apocalypse (and, to be fair, probably even then) that wouldn't somehow redound to the benefit of tavern owners.

I was in the middle of nowhere Alabama days before the shutdown. I opened their local paper. It was 8 pages front to back. Page 8 was a full-page ad. Pages 5, 6, and 7 were headlined "religion" and that was it. The big stories mostly involved local sports. I think anything more than 40 miles from the printing press was considered "world news" and didn't get ink.

A full 8 pages, though!

Phone a music library and sing it to the reference librarian! They get questions like that all the time!

Update: I tried, at Mashable's recommendation, Midomi, which is expressly for you to hum this sort of problem into a machine. It proved successful.

It was less a "great aria" than it was "something that you can hear Boccelli singing over the speakers in Barnes & Noble" but, well, potato, potato.

That's "Brick House" by the Commodores.


Where did you hear that song? You have sparked my curiosity.

Barnes & Noble on the speaker system. Hey, they were playing Adele months before she broke big...

Just what we need, truckers blocking the beltway up to get members of Congress arrested for not following their oath of office? Its been a while since I took a civics class - but that's not how I remember that working.

The process is supposed to be reversed -- Congress is supposed to prevent ordinary citizens from going about their lives, not vice versa!

Today it was announced that Prof. Higgs would be sharing the Nobel Prize in Physics for postulating the boson that carries his name. He theorized it almost 50 years ago, but the prize came only after it was recently and fleetingly glimpsed. Do you have any subatomic particles or forces to hypothesize, in the chance that maybe by 2063 they'll be found?

My personal favorite next discovery in physics would be a particle that makes any reputable scientist who tried to explain it sound like a crazy stoner. We're pretty close to the point where if you get deep enough into the science and start trying to encompass all of it into a big theory* you start sounding like that guy who just sits there in the corner staring at his hand and saying "Wow. So many. So beautiful. Wow" and I want credit for whatever particle pushes us over the edge.

*granted I get most of this from books aimed at laymen trying to describe the latest findings, so maybe if you're an actual Groundbreaking Scientific Mind you don't sound that way, and this is just a characteristic of Scientific Minds Who Want To Impress Laypeople With The Latest Findings.

Curious minds want to know!

Supposing you are a tavern owner with a lot of zombies bellying up to the bar. What do you recommend that would go well with brains? I was thinking jello shots, but that might be mixing like with like.

I would say something with a pickle in it.

If you asked the person standing at the register, waiting for someone to buy something, she might have been able to tell you what was playing.

Much as I envy the employee discount, I don't envy having to hear the music day in and day out without the option of suddenly getting up, leaving the cafe, and crossing the street to clear your head.

If you could set one up, you'd have to broadcast from an undisclosed location. The reason they were (thought to be?) extinct is, THEY'RE DELICIOUS. Or so I hear.


How about something called the "Biggs Hoson" particle? It can rip through the fabric of time and also XXL sheer stockings.

Ha! I chortled!

You have clearly never seen "Step Brothers" or you would have googled "that opera song Will Ferrell sang" and found it right away!

I saw part of it, but not the whole thing, and I mean that literally, not in the just-made-a-new-acquaintance-and-don't-want-to-ruin-the-whole-thing-by-admitting-I've-never-seen-Logan's-Run-so-instead-I-squint-and-cock-my-head-to-one-side-and-murmur-that-I-saw-'part-of-it,-but-not-the-whole-thing' sense.

I didn't mean anything by the "they're delicious" comment. I was just making a... hold on. Someone's pounding at the door.


I once temped at a Kinko's in December. The place had Muzak's Neil Diamond Christmas channel going 24/7. Which isn't all bad (and amusing, as at the time Neil had recorded much more Christmas music than just about any Christian around), but by day three I was hoping for Enya or even Mannheim Steamroller. Which shows how far gone I was.

There's nothing like Obligation Music to really rejigger what you thought all your musical preferences were.

"The reason they were (thought to be?) extinct is, THEY'RE DELICIOUS. Or so I hear." Not quite the full story, Gentle Reader. A major contributing factor was a turn of the 20th century fad for their feathers, which were used to adorn ladies' hats. And one more bit of trivia: Next year marks the centennial of their extinction (Sept. 1, 1914). Pigeons on the grass, alas, as Gertrude Stein wrote in another context...

This is also how the nauga went extinct.

Logan's Run? I mean, Godfather, Star Wars, Casablanca, sure, but Logan's Run? If knowing Logan's Run is the key to social success and hipster cred, then please tell me where this group gets together for Budweiser Black Crowns.

Don't people just love Logan's Run, or something? Isn't it a big thing where every couple watches it on their third date? Isn't this a major element of culture?

I wouldn't admit to having seen any part of Will Ferrell. And it's not one of those things that you have to try before saying that you don't like it. Like, say, jumping off a bridge.

Javert, what are you doing in the chat?

heard the LA police are using predictive software to identify areas where a crime may be about to happen so they cops can catch them in the act so to speak. Its a little too Minority Reportish for me. We may someday soon think -remember when they were just listening to stuff?

Isn't this the premise of Person of Interest, too?


A hunter is before a judge, collared for eating a bald eagle. He pleads that he was lost, starving, and shot the bird as a last resort and pled for mercy. The judge took his story to heart and found him not guilty. Afterwards, the judge called the defendant to the bench and said "just between us, what does a bald eagle taste like?" The hunter says, "it's OK, but a bit gamier than whooping crane."


"But passenger pigeon, now -- passenger pigeon is DELICIOUS."


Nuts, I hear a knocking.

If only FZ had written a similar ode to the massive Nauga herds of the mid-19th Century...

Until you see the mighty herds of nauga roaming wild and free, you have no conception of what it is to be American.

My sister worked as a retail manager right out of college. We were both still living at home, and that Christmas she kept bugging us to turn off the holiday music at home as she listened to it 8--10 hours a day at work.

So the consensus I sense us coming to is that Christmas music is an especially heinous offender in this category...

Saturday night my family went to a restaurant where you order at the counter, give your name, and then call you by name when your food is ready. My daughter begged me to give the name "Prisoner 24601". When my food was ready, I was called as "Prisoner". She was sad

(I audibly laughed at this.)

This is the trouble with basing your life choices on obscure literary characters. (Actually, this is by far the least of your problems if you base your life choices on obscure literary characters, but you no doubt know this.) This is why you have to try intense name puns like Ellison Wonderland.

The only good thing about seeing Logan's Run together as a couple is later you can crack each other up by saying "Proteins from the sea!!" and look at the Lincoln Memorial and go "that must be the look of being eeeeeaaauuuulld" in Michael York's goofy Logan accent.

This sounds amazing.

I mean, uh, "I totally remember those parts and elements of the film from the time that I saw most of it."

"I am more than machine. More than man. More than a fusion of the two. Don't you agree? Wait for the winds. Then my birds sing. And the deep grottos whisper my name. Box... Box... Box... " Man, it's like something out of "The Tempest" isn't it?

I totally remember that part or element of the film!

PoI is based on the idea that The Machine KNOWS everything that everybody is saying and doing, and can connect the dots. Predictive software is based on statistics about where things are likely to happen.

Potato, non-potato-object that may look superficially similar but really is quite different.

One year I heard so many versions of "Walking In a Winter Wonderland" (each worse than the previous) I found myself wondering if climate change would be THAT bad.

But then you just know they'd adapt it for the new weather conditions and you'd be back to square one.

So today's chat has provided Hollywood with its next zombie blockbuster: Shutdown of the Dead. Cool.


I love reading the front pages of local papers at the Newseum - it's a nice way to see what matters to other people has nothing to do with Congress!

It's reassuring, even when you include AREA SPORTS TEAM DOES THING and LOCAL MAMMAL WINS PRIZE.

I used to work at a certain upscale Mexican restaurant on Wisconsin Ave. They played the same (obviously non-authentic) soundtrack over and over. I can still, 20 years later, do a pretty good rendition of "Guacamole...GuacaMOLE!" Damaged for life, maybe, though I still do love Mexican food.

I don't think I've ever heard this "GuacaMOLE" song, but it sounds incredible.

Funny - I heard this song in Italy years ago and had no idea what it was called or who it was, but I went into the record store (remember those?) and managed to ask in Italian, "Is this the song that sounds like an opera?" and it was. Success pre-Google days!

*sniffles* It's amazing, the things you had to overcome.

It's an offender because the amount is so limited. Even the variations get draining. I like Amy Grant's version of "Sleigh Ride," as well as the classic Leroy Anderson version, but it all adds to the repetition.

Well put!

I base my life choices on Arabella from "Jude the Obscure". It's got "obscure" right in the title and she's not even the title character!

If I had a prize for being an obnoxious literary hipster I would definitely give it to you but *mumbles* no one has ever given me such a prize.

I perfer Heywood Jakisme (or some other last name - but this is a family chat).

The trouble with Heywood and Ima, though, is there is no longer a critical mass of Actual People Named This to bolster you against suspicion. Speaking of endangered species...

Local Mammal Wins Prize--Starring Jennifer Anniston, with Jennifer Lawrence as her daughter. $200 mil first weekend guaranteed.

My mom would probably watch that on Netflix.

It isn't extinct, it's just hiding.

And on that note, I am off to hunt the mighty nauga.

Have a grand week, try to patronize the tavernkeepers, avoid holiday songs, and keep reading the Compost! Also feel free but free to join 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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