ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Dec 10, 2013

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Howdy all!

I think I promised/threatened, depending on your point of view, that this would be a Choose Your Own Adventure chat. Are you all game, as the Predator asked? Let me know as I answer the preliminary Q's!

I am surprised as how critical and cynical we have become. Instead of appreciating things, we tweet and message critical comments about everything we see before us. We have become collective "mean girls" and "bullying guys and "bitchy swing both ways.". Frankly, I believe it is time we stop instantly making fun and dissing things and other people. I believe we should learn to appreciate the good things there are in the world and to appreciate the attempts of others to being something into our lives, I am tired of all the negativity. If you snot nosed critics don't stop being the brainless dunderhead fools that you all are, this world will never get better.

It sounds like you read that Tom Scocca essay on smarm! Or, if you didn't, it sounds like you should.

With rants they have writ for a thousand years

Maria presents the same problem every time.

I was looking over the "Anti-Slavery Alphabet" (, an abolitionist children's book of the "A is for... B is for..." variety that was published in 1846, and while I found it a moving artifact of the fight against slavery, I also noticed that the author had to stretch a bit to justify "X is for Xerxes" because presumably no one could think of a better X word. Nowadays the default X word if you can't think of another one is "xylophone", but I checked the dictionary and found that the word "xylophone" is not attested in English until 20 years after the book was published! Do you think everyone just used "Xerxes" as the X word until someone got around to inventing the word "xylophone" in the 1860s? And isn't it sad that Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, quite likely went to his grave without ever being able to discuss xylophones?

And don't forget the X-ray, the other go-to X-word!

Actually, this gives us a good goal for 2014: come up with an X-word of the year to add some spice and variety to these alphabet books. And not xanthic.

The Russian Poet Lomonosov was accustomed to read his plays to a young peasant, whom he had taken into his service for that purpose, to judge (in imitation of Moliere) the more certainly of their theatrical effect, by their impression on an uninformed and unprejudiced mind. One evening the little Huron, while holding the light as usual, suddenly began to weep and sob, in a most piteous way, to the delight of the poet, who cried out in a transport, ˜Waste not your tears before the time, my child; the scenes, in which you will most need them, come not till the fifth act.

˜Oh, no," replied the boy, "it is not for that, but I need to [poop]"

Ha! This is great! It is somewhat deprived of its punchline by my dim sense that it needed bowdlerizing to fit into a family newspaper chat.

How adventurous could it get on a family blog, eh?

See previous answer!

It's right in the periodic table: xenon. Which an idiot seventh-grade science teacher I had back in 1968 insisted was pronounced "eggs-on."

But when do you really talk about xenon?

...that stuff your big brother won't let you see on his laptop.

His Coldplay album?

I didn't realize we were starting off with poop jokes. Never a good sign to start an adventure...

That was my feeling as well.

Also, last night I had a dream that I showed up at an Abraham Lincoln impersonator contest ready to compete and not enough people were there so they canceled it, never a good omen for anything. The best part of the dream was when a guy who had put a lot of effort into looking like Lincoln climbed sadly onto his bicycle and rode off without removing his stovepipe hat. 

Whenever I talk about lasers. No, actually, it's whenever I do a New York Times crossword puzzle.

Do you get to talk about lasers often? Your life sounds like fun!

Classing up old low jokes with big vocabulary words?

Is this the Adventure chat?

No, the entrails weren't favorable.

Go into another chat and see if you can get the inhabitants to sacrifice you something, maybe?

When do you really talk about xylophones?


unless you're Abraham Lincoln

as we established earlier

So baby, here's your ticket, Put the suitcase in your hand. Here's a little money now, Do it just the way we planned. You be cool for twenty hours And I'll pay you twenty grand. I'm sorry it went down like this, And someone had to lose, It's the nature of the business, It's the snuggler's blues. Snuggler's Blues The sailors and pilots, The soldiers and the law, The pay offs and the rip offs, And the things nobody saw. The idea seemed be sound. They put the sin in Wisconsin though.

Sad disclosure, I had never heard the original song until just now, so the remix baffled me. Here's the video for anyone else with this problem!

Xenophobe seems to be a rather appropriate one for the public mood.

Heh, but how do you illustrate that in a children's book?

In those days they called it a glockenspiel. He used to play it while visiting General McClellan. Drove the man crazy. The Gettysburg Address is actually an old English xylophone drinking song.

That's why it's only 260 words long, because otherwise the Glockenspiel overheats!

Well, we can all sleep more safely now.

I have one sitting in my car now. Bought for grandchild and discovered that one is already possessed by both grandchildren. Where to go with this item? Still, smaller than an accordion to dispose of. Glad I didn't purchase an XBox that wasn't wanted.

Ah, but if you had, you'd have an x-box now...

cheated, surprisingly, in his "The Chinese Obelisks" ( by using "X was the Exequies sparsely attended." A rare lapse from the man who wrote limericks in French.

Aw, but when else are we going to run into exequies? I always see obsequies hanging around, but exequies usually stays at home and catches up on its reading.

Going back a few columns, I see where yelling is bad for children. I agree. From now on, I will calmly tell them to stop being brainless, dunderhead fools.

People are still struggling with this question over at HaxPhiles.

Basically, everything you say to a child, especially the tiny remarks you allow to drop in moments of carelessness, will probably dent the kid emotionally somehow, seems to be the only real consensus.

No proper names!...oh wait. That's Scrabble. Never mind.

I always think that rule applies to everything, too!

Xanthus the horse is back in that case.

The bartender says "We don't serve inert gasses in here." Xenon doesn't react.


Ooh, hmm, why did the matador buy argon for his flatulent opponent?


They are so excited about the high ratings for the Sound of Music that they are planning to stage other live musical productions. I vote for Brigadoon.

I vote for Cabaret, with Lady Gaga stuntcast as Sally Bowles. Someone I was standing with suggested it and it is exactly the sort of thing that might work!

I went to see the National Theater 50th Anniversary thing at a movie theater in Bethesda on Sunday. I was sitting next to a woman who seemed pretty cool. We chatted a bit before and after the "movie." I felt like I should have said "You seem cool. We should be friends," or something like that, but it felt really awkward and I didn't. What should I have done?

Because he thought something called NOBLE GAS might help. Get it, NO BULL GAS? HAHA HEM HEM HEM HER

oh yes, your question.

I think the "you seem cool, we should be friends" statement is never a bad idea if the conversation's been fairly mutual and flowing throughout. Worst-case scenario, you ask each other to "get lunch later," polite person-I-know-in-the-city code for "Let's Never Speak Again." Best-case scenario, you have a friend!


Here is my dream adventure: I have always wanted to have the courage to go on the merry go round. Not on one of those horses that moves up and down, of course, but maybe sitting in the carriage.

Whoa, that's pretty far out. Who are you, Holden Caulfield?

I just have one question: What does the spleen do?

Maybe it filters the blood?

Nah, man, that's crazy.

Doesn't that sound like a veggie dip for a holiday party?

That literally sounds like a frosted trail mix to me.

Huh? What planet are you from?

1988 :(

Like your wit.


Put a mirror on the page. They'll be scared of anyone who doesn't look like them.

Maybe I'm not visualizing this clearly enough but this sounds like it is implying all the readers of the book are xenophobes. ("What does a xenophobe look like?" "Just like you, Billy. Just like you.")

Every time I hear a glockenspiel, I find myself thinking "needs more accordion." I have a fever.

Shhh don't make any jokes that could be construed as an invitation for Will Ferrell to show up on set, or he totally will, like some kind of publicity tour Bloody Mary.* It's really spiraled out of control.

*Who else comes when you say their name three times? I feel like there's an obvious example I'm overlooking.

I've always wondered, since "Xenia" is a Russian girl's name that is actually spelled "Kseniya" in Russian, but is usually rendered with an X in English.

My guess is, "Wrong," like most towns based on European names for things.

Any Xenians out there to set me straight?

The Google Ngram viewer reports that xenophobe was not present in published works until the early 20th century. Xenia, however, the Greek term meaning "hospitality," was more commonly used than Xerxes in the late 1840s. Using that in a alphabet of slavery would be difficult, though, except to note its absence.

Yeah, truly.

"Xanthophyll" was the word that tripped up Laura Ingalls in that town spelling bee. Pa got it right. Which really makes me wonder about the vocabulary of 19th-century schoolchildren.

Well, all the boys had Latin, which probably helped with word origins. They had time to study all this Latin because modern science really did not exist and its study was (at least according to Auden, writing of his experience at school in the Edwardian era, but probably only more true earlier) snobbishly frowned on. Also there was no TV?

The troll is eating a xiphias.

Sounds nutritious! Wasn't the Old Man and the Sea guy harrassed by some xiphias, or am I making that part up?

I just started reading the chat - missed the start, but clearly the person who posted earlier never read the Richard Scarry best word book ever. X is for Xiphias (and you can see one playing the xylophone):

Oh, fabulous!

(Anat.) The posterior, or fourth, lateral plate in the plastron of turtles; - called also xiphisternum.

How did we miss this one?

Maybe after the TMNT movie comes out we'll see a resurgence?

I second that motion and also vote it be commercial free.

What, you objected to the Walmart commercials?

is one of those words that gets me all squiggy. gross.

I have less of a problem with it than with its adjective form, which I am carefully avoiding typing.

Somewhere in LA, there is a person sitting at a desk thinking "I gave the green light to a TV show based on those cavemen commercials, then I decided to have a live broadcast of "The Sound of Music" with Carrie Underwood, now what shall I approve next?"

I thought those with green lanterns were supposed to be guardians of galactic justice!


Hey, count your blessings. It could have been Taylor Swift. And "xenophobia" is in the Reform Jewish High Holiday service. So there's that.

Taylor Swift might have been even better because she would have concentrated a vortex of strong opinions on the screen and maybe resulted in an explosion. Carrie only did that when speaking.

I am trying to figure out what makes these drug ads so creepy and fascinating to me. It's like they are set in some highly sanitized alternate universe where attractive, medication-taking seniors still have enough vim and vigor to take dance classes. I find myself thinking, hey, dealing with osteoarthritis looks pretty enjoyable! Everyone is so clean and nicely tailored and peaceful. This goes against every depiction of old age I've read in Philip Roth books, and I'm very confused. I want to believe TV but suspect Phil's closer to the truth.

Yeah, I think the message is that if all these almost pathologically healthy people running from yoga class to Fishing Inspiringly With My Grandson need it, there's no shame in asking for it for yourself? And who knows, you might be on your way to yoga in your heart...

What do you have against xylophones? I love my xylophone. Oh, wait, xenophobes. That's different. Never mind.

"I got a xenophobe for my grandchildren by mistake, and, wow, it's been awful. He's still in the back seat and I'm trying to figure out what to do with him. Periodically he murmurs something about 'Those People.'"

If we are not allowed to have Will Ferrell, how about Ron Burgundy, Ron Burgundy, Ron Burgundy?

60 percent of the time that works every time.

and not a scientist?

I couldn't figure out how to regulate the Four Humors, which is as far as my understanding of science goes, so I decided this was my best bet.*

*Eugh after that joke I am going to go see what science has to offer.

What do you think of that great new song "Never Gonna Give You Up?", or how about "Got My Mind Set on You"?

Those I've heard of!

The original production opened on Broadway in 1947 and ran for 581 performances. It starred David Brooks, George Keane, and Marion Bell. Brigadoon then received a West End production opening in 1949 that ran for 685 performances, and many revivals followed. A 1954 film version starred Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. A 1966 television version starred Robert Goulet and Peter Falk. Would you choose empty city life or the warmth of the country? I'm for warmth of the country.

Fine, fine, Brigadoon is clearly winning the chat right now. Just as long as we dont get trapped in the warmth of the country for 100 years.

I grew up 20 miles from Xenia, pronounced "ZEEN-ya." A better rendering than nearby towns Versailles (ver-SAILZ), Russia (ROO-shee), and Milan (MYE-lan).

Huzzah, an authoritative source!

Xerxes the great did die, And so must you and I.

Xerxes throughout this chat has really been taking one for the team.

X is for X files, and that's the truth that's out there.

I want to believe!

So a xenophobe is afraid of hospitality? Sounds about right.

Well, a Xenos was a foreigner or guest-friend, if I'm remembering correctly.

There needs to be a live broadcast of the play Xanadu


With skates!

Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times praised the musical's integration, saying "For once, the modest label "musical play" has a precise meaning. For it is impossible to say where the music and dancing leave off and the story begins. Under Bob Lewis's direction all the arts of the theatre have been woven into a singing pattern of enchantment" "A bonny thing for Broadway, a scintillating song and dance fantasy that has given theatregoers reason to toss tamoshanters in air" What's a tamoshanter?

Well, if you find one on your person, be sure to fling it skyward! It is probably on the top of your head, if it is anywhere!

If I ever have a daughter, I am naming her Xalexendra.

Well, there we go! Everyone's problems solved, except the problems of your child trying to explain her name's spelling to strangers and on standardized test forms!

Meh. You have to have something from the converstaion to hang your hat on. Whatevery you discussed is the reason you think she's cool and your common interest. "I'm curious about that gallery you mentioned, maybe we could meet for coffee and you can show it to me."

Only if she actually mentioned a gallery, though. Otherwise you just sound creepy.

Our family detests the Elf movie, and when we tell this to other people, they react as though we're from Mars. Will's idiotic man-child routine is embarrassing to watch. Are we just out of touch?

I don't think you're alone in that. I think if you go film by film as opposed to emitting an "ugh" in the general direction of his whole oeuvre, it's easier to find where you get off the bus. Which may be before the bus starts, in your case.

I am coming out here, in this chat, as someone who cannot stand Will Ferrell, does not find him the least bit funny and could only stomach 15 minutes of Anchorman.

Wow, first Brigadoon, now this! How many of you are there? Are you forming a critical mass?

Don't pass up the opportunity to see "Xanadu" in the big auditorium at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring. They show it every now and then and it is always worth it.

I'll have to mark my calendar!

Not a musical, but I can imagine HBO or Showtime staging Caligula.

Why not a musical?

"If a little dreaming is dangerous, then the cure is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time!"

Ya know what's worse than Versailles (ver-SAILZ)? Our nearby suburb of NORTH Versailles (north ver-SAILZ). Or the NW town of Dubois (du-BOYCE). That's how we tell the newcomers from the natives.

"Du-BOYCE. You know, like Blanche!"


There we go!

Francis Xavier, e.g., the actor Francis X. Bushman.

I suppose these days we could skip the Francis and go straight to Professor Xavier.

See that is it. There wasn't a specific thing she mentioned. I mentioned another super geeky movie thing I had done and explained why it didn't really work, and she said something really smart about the flaw. You are smart is a nice thing to say to someone you already know, but it isn't really something you say to someone you don't know yet.

"You seem smart, stranger! Let's fraternize!" has always worked for me, which is why I'm not Hax.

This post makes me feel way, way better about my inability to get on anything resembling a roller coaster....even the little undulating ones for kids that just go around on a knee-high track.

Moment of truth and confession: I've never ridden a roller coaster. I've been on a big slide and a scrambler and a waterpark ride, but never a coaster.

The DC comic Mikey Larrick has a great joke that sums up my basic terror of roller coasters which I'm quoting badly but is basically "You want me to get on that thing you assembled, guy who runs all the carnival rides? You couldnt even handle HAVING TEETH." That's it in a nutshell for me.

Beatles pose with mutilated dolls & butchered meat for the cover of the "Yesterday & Today" album, It is later pulled What were they thinking? Was it a commercial? Buy this album or this doll dies!

Great Scott!

That is really creepy-looking!

According to PBS, there are a couple of theories -- Paul at one point said it was a commentary on the Vietnam war, the photographer said it was a commentary on the absurd adulation of four people, and John said they were just bored. But, I mean, why do you ever pose with mutilated dolls and butcher meat? It's always a commentary on something, right?

No flips, a wonderful drop, scary climb (it's wooden and click clacks all the way up...) Built by professional engineers. No deaths since... 1981. (when it was built. OK, no deaths evah.) Because: All the cool kids do...

Ah, but now isn't it getting OLD and RICKETY?

I don't know. Never trust a roller coaster over 30, right?

Still, the no-flips intrigues me. Will bookmark this for later consideration.

this makes me think how much harder it is to ask a stranger to be your platonic friend than to be your date....

This is really true! Friend courtship is hard! This is why Group Activities Like Classes After Which You Can All Get Drinks And Suggest Movies To See can be such a goshsend, but even then if there's a bunch of people who all already know each other you're kind of hoist.

If I ever have a daughter, I am naming her Xalexendra. ;-)

Please, it's not flattery until someone brings you cookies. 

My gut reaction is go along with what John Lennon stated. The early Beatles were mostly out for laughs and I suspect this was a silly way to change the Beatles myth that Lennon admitted was tiring him. It was either that or pose nude on a wrecking ball.

My favorite Lennon item is a book called Skywriting By Word of Mouth that is literally a collection of things he wrote on napkins to amuse Yoko that she then published as a Compilation of Deep Lennon Thoughts but -- no disrespect intended to things written on napkins -- you can really tell that it was originally written on a napkin. I can't tell if he'd think it was a great joke that it was published or be baffled that it's still in print.

It's a snow/cold day here, and if not, we could spend all day refreshing the browser.


No, don't do that! I'm headed off now! Stay warm! Drink something toasty! Keep reading the Compost, feel free to join me on Twitter, and see you next week!

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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