ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Dec 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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The NSA should rename itself Santa. That way we would be more apt to accept their constant monitoring as to whether we are naughty or nice.

Just replace Rudolph with a delivery drone, and you're all set!

Happy Tuesday, all! Getting your last-minute shopping in?

Brian has returned to life. Is Brian the Messiah?

Took him two whole weeks and a Christmas episode, though. They don't make 'em like they used to.

So what's better, risking causing bad feelings by finding a way to skip out or at least minimize exposure to the in-laws so as to avoid shocking, offending or merely annoying them, or risking causing bad feelings by interacting with the in-laws and shocking, offending or annoying them. Please note that not shocking, offending or annoying them would require saint-like self-restraint and acting skills that I do not possess.

I'd recommend hiring a body double to pose as you, preferably the strong, silent sort of body double.

Then again, that leaves you alone on the holiday or family activity in question, and that can get pretty sad pretty quickly and you might wind up drinking in an airport.

I love the recent archaeology stories out of China proving that cats became domesticated by eating mice that were eating our storage grains, thus moving THEM to the top of the evolution ahead of us. I hope the cats in charge figure out what to do with Google's robots and Amazon's drones. Maybe they'll develop into robotic toy mice and birds and thus avoid becoming Terminators, saving everyone. Cats should be in charge anyway.

What a neat story!

What I've been wondering about lately, speaking of the evolution of the housecat, is when cats crept up the pet scale from Something You Keep In The Barn to Something You Pamper To Excess. In his Devil's Dictionary, Bierce defines cat as (this is not a precise quote) "a furry automaton provided to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle" and dog as, among other things, "if small and silky, the occupant of a position in female affections to which there is no male aspirant" which suggests a different stereotype than we currently have going vis a vis pets and singletons. When did cats make the big push?

Look closely at the creepy Elf on the Shelf.

Oh lord, I have intense mistrust for the elf on the shelf. Santa is creepy enough unaided.

ever try laughing at them? To their faces, I mean. They say something shocking or annoying to you, you look at them blankly, laugh, and turn away to talk to someone else. And isn't this a better question for Hax?

"Isn't this a better question for Hax?" is one of those almost universally applicable responses.

You could always skype in? See, yes, Ask Hax.

I have found problems hiring a body double to pose as me. It seems the people who give the college board toasts don't like that.

I am leaving "toasts" instead of "tests" because college board toasts sound incredible and I would like us to elaborate further on this concept.

So if it's unconstitutional for NSA to track our phone use, what about Google? Google - and Amazon and EBay and oh-so-many vendors - have been tracking what things we buy, what sites we visit, who we talk to, etc., so that they can more effectively target-market. Is that less nefarious than the NSA's activities? I imagine Google is FAR more efficient at it.

Well, it's still creepy whenever they REMIND us how much data we have (remember when Target kept mailing things to families congratulating them on their incoming babies?) but in theory we checked some box somewhere after line 392 of the user agreement, so "nefarious" is the price of admission.

New opinions on multivitamins say we should not take them. Earlier ones said we should. I wish doctors could make up their minds. Should my gummy bears now contain vitamins or just go back to zero-nutrition-value gelatin, sugar, and artificial flavor?

When in doubt, leave it out. ("It" in this case being "nutritional value.")

Maybe I watch too much "Inspector Morse" but "college board toasts" conjures up an image of dons at their Oxford high table having elaborate dinners every day. "Gentlemen, I give you The Queen." "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Inspector."

All in sherry, no doubt. Inspector Morse is great!

Or people could try testing you with toasts, although the test would grow progressively more difficult as the evening went on. "Your health, sir : Cheers! as Huzzah :" "Hooray!"

Well, they don't do analogies any more, and that would be somewhat hard to come up with out of the blue, but maybe something could be worked out.

Yes, it is me, the dyslexic guy with poor eyesight who probably types something that autocorrects to "toasts" instead of "tests". Back when I matriculated into college and masticated toast, I used to put my wick on top of the table and wonder who that doppleganger was. Did I make it through that without too many typos?

It makes perfect sense to me!

These are the same people who say echinacea does not prevent or cure colds. Phooey on them. Without my multivitamins, I get ailments.

I think much of it is psychosomatic anyway. It's like the people who insist on taking cold showers and brisk jogs early in the morning, chased with entire lemons, then attribute their health to this practice in later years. These people would probably be healthy anyway. The only reason those regimens of brisk cold jogs followed by lemon are never recommended by others is that they kill everyone else who tries them.

Dear NSA: I am looking at the shirtless Putin only because I am interested in foreign policy. Honest. Now, are there any photos of Obama shirtless?

There's that famous one of him emerging from the waves -- or am I thinking of James Bond again?

But seriously, Putin? He looks like a a bowling pin.

I believe that is also included in the new birth certificates required by Read ID.

Yes, right after you select your child's domain and Twitter handle.

See the comments:


See, this is why everything should contain sugar.



Vitamins are not absorbed properly like food. You should get your protein from bacon. You should get your vitamins from bacon.

Bacon, bacon, now and forever!

Oooooh! MUCH better option than hanging with my in-laws! And for the record, I do the annoying and offending. They are boring, nice and boring, boringly nice, and after awhile I just can't take it anymore. I am a bad person. Or just an easily bored person.

Hmmm well now all we need to do is find you a body double. Or you could I suppose fake a flight cancellation, assuming you were on a different flight than your spouse.

Then again, I could go all Hax on you and say, "Maybe they're only boring because you haven't LISTENED closely enough" or all Eleanor Roosevelt and say "No one can bore you without your consent" or the modification "Maybe they're only boring because you haven't urged them to drink enough novelty alcohols."

Of course there are college toasts. You are aware that at Penn football games there is a tradition where people throw toast onto the field. "Here's a toast to dear old Penn."

Those are Penn games? I thought those were Rocky Horror showings!

And no, I would not ask Hax. She'd tell me to grow up, realize that these people had raised my lovely husband, blah blah blah. I do not wish to be mature about this.

You could also do one of those holiday drinking games with yourself where whenever Dull Earl says "If you will" you have to take another sip, and whenever Aunt Martha says "Isn't it great that we're all here together?" you finish the whole thing, but this isn't a great path to not sowing discord and chaos and rudeness in your wake.

Not me. I'm one of those sickly types who always died young in 19th-c. novels. Without those lemons and herbs and supplements (no cold showers or jogs, no way nohow) I would have constant colds and coughs. I'm 60 so I have a lot of experience to cite.

Huzzah to you, my friend! So glad you made it! Even a hardened Hoya like the Fix could be happy about this.

Aw, that's sweet! Syracuse had better win now, I guess.

Seriously? Google etal tracks you but you voluntarily go to those sites. Don't like the tracking, go elsewhere. With the NSA, they are going to your phone and snooping. That's the difference.

Yeah, that's the main difference.

Then again, you could argue that given the sheer prevalence and pervasiveness and non-redundancy of these sites in daily life for so many people, and given that agreeing to a decent amount of tracking is the price of admission, you have less choice in the matter than might appear in your framing.

Re: "These are the same people who say echinacea does not prevent or cure colds." There is a name for these people...scientists! Sorry to burst your miracle cure bubble. Nothing prevents or cures the common cold. Treat the symptoms and get through it. Or you can try crystals!!

What about flu shots? Is everything a lie?

"Colleagues, I give you the SAT Computer Adaptive Test!" "Let us raise our glasses to the CSS Financial Aid Profile!" "I say ye, celebrate the AP Subject Test in Spanish, With Listening!"

Oh lord, I'd forgotten all about the subject tests with Listening. Those people always sounded as though they were speaking French in a horrible high wind.

I'm guessing cats succeeded in their quest for world domination when they realized it's much more comfy to live in those human's warm and cozy homes, be fed treats, and get spa pampering all day, as opposed to working hard in the barns and storage facilities catching and eating mice. Besides, I'm sure a cat thinks a grilled chicken cutlet or a tilapia filet is much taster than a disgusting, filthy mouse. Or at I think so.

Mouse is an acquired taste.


This may just be a coinkydink, but the letters in "@NSA" can be arranged to spell "Santa."

If there's one thing I've learned as an anagrammer, it's that almost anything can be rearranged to spell almost ANYTHING.

Er, wait.

This talk made me think of this song - It's stuck in my head and now in yours too.

Oh no, I wish I hadn't clicked on this.

Here, in retaliation, is this.

Also this!

I want to see college boards give parties and toasts to newly accepted applicants ...AFTER they turn 18, of course, since if one is going to spend the next four / plus years drinking and partying (aka networking for graduate jobs), why not start out under college supervision? Learning how to party at full tilt without destroying one's body and brain is a highly useful skill to learn early. Don't wait until the 40's and it's too late.

Ah but the trouble with Drinking Parties being hosted by The Man is that either everyone is terrified to drink because Professors And So On will be present and The Man has vastly overspent on alcohol, or everyone is absolutely delighted that the alcohol is free, and then The Man has to rush out in the middle of the evening to buy up another barfull.

No she wouldn't. You're thinking of Ask Amy or Dear Prudence. Hax would give you a list of possibilities including strategies for limiting your interaction with them. HAX RULES.

This is true. Prudie or Amy might tell you to just grow up, but Hax generally offers some consolation for you while you have a lousy time, and a convincing carrot.

Even without a doctor to prescribe a month at the seashore for me. Which my insurance wouldn't cover anyway.

No 'taking the waters' for you?

Have you heard Nick Lowe's new holiday song, "Christmas at the Airport"?

Yes! I got it on a friend's mix! It was incredible!

I am also oddly enamored of that Kelly Clarkson song, if only because it is literally a concatenation of random Christmas cliches, both lyrical and musical, yet somehow the whole thing's very catchy.

Herei is your guide to what you throw and the event: Rice: Weddings and to kill birds. Rice and confetti: Rocky Horror showings Confetti: When someone lands on Mars and returns Toast: Penn football games Yale students: Harvard football games


I doubt we'd be able to lift a Yale student, but, sure, I'll take it.

I'll let Google build my body double for me, and have Amazon deliver it by drone. The process might be like in Star Trek's "What are Little Girls Made of?" episode, on a spinning table and done by older robots and mad scientists.

This sounds like a perfect resolution to all holiday problems.

And I really like it that the dog came along. Pope Francis marked his 77th birthday on Tuesday by hosting four homeless men to a Mass and a meal at the Vatican, according to Catholic officials. The pope wanted a "family" environment, with just a few top aides, the staff of Casa Santa Marta -- the Vatican guesthouse -- and the homeless men, one of whom brought his dog, the Vatican said. Afterward, the group sang "Happy Birthday" to Francis, and he invited everyone to eat breakfast with him at the hotel's dining room, according to the Vatican.

He's not a regular pope! He's a cool pope!
I mean, after the last pope (even leaving his past history aside) whose fun, relatable passion was Using More Latin, Guys, Latin's Really Cool, almost anyone would have seemed like an improvement, but Pope Francis really is. And the dog's a sweet touch!

Bacon Body Wash - Archie McPhee & Co.‎ Smell like bacon in every nook and cranny. Body wash that smells like bacon; 5 oz. bottle of liquid soap; Like washing with breakfast; Drives dogs crazy; Read ...

This has been your weekly pro-bacon-body-wash announcement. You're welcome, shoppers!

But it IS a great path to nausea, headache, and maybe even vomiting. Not to mention self-loathing, as Tony Bourdain puts it. Your in-laws would love that!

Exactly. Brush with bacon toothpaste too. That's the best idea I have never thought of!


Flu shots reduce the risk of each person who gets a shot. But even more important than this is herd immunity. Flu kills tens of thousands of people in the US each year, primarily the immunocroromised, elderly and very young. If more people would get the flu shot., general transmission ofthe flu would be reduced and fewer people from these vulnerable populations woud be killed.

Herd immunity is the key to vaccinations in general. Antivaxxers don't seem to notice this part. It's not the people with vigorous immune systems anyway that you need to worry about. There's a great animation that illustrates this that I haven't been able to Google successfully.

While on vacation in Atlanta for Thanksgiving (bypassing family drama, ha ha), I had three gourmet forms of bacon in one day: Bacon Jam, Bacon shortbread, candied bacon. All amazing. I'm disowning my family and marrying bacon.

Oh wow.

Folks, how does it always happen that no matter what we're talking about, it turns into bacon? I'm not complaining, I just want to see how I can bring this about in the rest of my life. Sounds like heaven. Love bacon and love popcorn? My mouth is watering!

Best gifts ever!

Or will you be positioning stockings on the mantle for Christmas Eve?

I'm taking next week off, but I'll be back on New Year's Eve and we might have a playlist or something!

Have you purchased any truly excellent gifts for this year's holiday fest?

I have bought someone a copy of Allie Brosh's new book, which is amazing, and I have some ideas for everyone else, but none that I've physically actually purchased yet. Gulp. Guess I'd better get on that. Robert Frost used to give his family poems he'd written, which sounds cool, but I don't know how much my family wants to read 80 odes to bacon.

Archaeology proves that they are really just cats. It's Adolf who looks like them. Also, that's the plot of the next Indiana Jones movie. Shhhh.

After "Crystal Skull," I'd believe it.

*sighs heavily, wanders off for a yule beverage* With bacon who needs sugar? Better than anything bacon and sugar in one snack!

We should rename this the "Bacon-Themed Holiday Products Chat."

I can't help thinking that this recent panic about rice killing birds is bogus. I mean, surely someone would have noticed over the last hundred years or so if wedding venues were surrounded by dead birds.

You'd think. But then again, people thought for centuries that Scrofula could be cured by the touch of a king.

Peter O'Toole, a great actor who lived an interesting life but never won an Oscar, died and received a front-page Style story. Joan Fontaine, a great actress who lived an interesting life and DID win an Oscar, died and received an inside obituary. Any insight into how the decision is made to cover two legends in different ways?

I don't know what the specific process was. Whenever two people die, someone has to get the front-page story. I think O'Toole demonstrated that winning an Oscar and making films that linger indelibly in the audience's memory are two very different things. I know Joan Fontaine was acclaimed and I'm sure if I'd seen more of her movies I would feel differently, but I didn't. On the other hand, I both saw and loved Lawrence of Arabia, Lion in Winter, Becket, and the list goes on. Of course one could also note that the range of interesting roles available and the ability to have a career of decades' duration varied and still vary for men and women of similar talent. But you have to take these things as they happened, not as they would have happened if the world were fairer. In a strange way, I think the fact that O'Toole never won an Oscar helped cement him in the popular mind as an example of immense talent who'd been passed over unjustly and enhanced his legend.


And rice, don't forget!

A friend of ours stayed with us and left behind her favorite product, a cinnamon bun body wash. So we used it, and we all were so hungry that we each gained 11 pounds. Just... proceed with caution.

Duly noted.

Mm, cinnamon buns. Reminds me, I haven't watched "Star Wars" in a while.

The new "Wodehouse" and a match.

When it comes to that book, that's the only match I approve of. Get that breakfast cooking smell going all day. Goes with coffee.

Why do you torment me so during the lunch hour?

I've got to skedaddle soon and gain 11 pounds.

Be careful what you wish for. Imagine how world history might have changed if people had the power to convert everything in life to the subject of bacon. "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to eating bacon." "That's one small step for a man, one giant rasher of bacon."

I realize this is supposed to be cautionary but my mouth is watering. Something about the word "rasher."

In a couple of weeks, the second movie based on a six-page Thurber story will hit the screen.

I think Mitty expands well, though. I'm intrigued to see it.

Rice does not kill birds. I have two freinds who feed it to their pet birds. Venues started forbiding rice because of the liability of someone slipping on it.


If the person who is afraid of offending the in-laws goes the other way & really causes a blow-out, the in-laws can tell us all about it in next year's hootenanny.

Yes, seconded!

The "as seen on tv store" in the Ballston Mall. It is literally the only reason I go in that mall. I may have gotten a bacon wave and a thing that lets you make waffles in the microwave for the family white elephant gift exchange this year.

I went there when there was one in the Georgetown Mall and bought several shakeweights as gag gifts! Best 39.99 without shipping I ever spent!

I vote you do something so outrageously annoying your in-laws submit you as a story for the next Hax Holiday Hootenanny.

But you can't make it too clear that you're trying to be story fodder, or you might just wind up bonding with them by mistake.

Bad for your garbage disposal, too, as it expands in the pipes causing unhappy blockages on Thanksgiving weekend. (says the voice of sad experience)

Your own fault for using a bird as a garbage disposal.

Are called Kitlers. Gene Weingarten's veterinarian daughter had one named Elmer.

Elmer is a great name for a Kitler.

Likewise, from time to time the firemen have to be too busy to rescue cats, but it's not like the trees are full of cat skeletons.

Well, that's not an image that will haunt me for years to come, or anything.

And, of course, King Ralph.

And that entry to the Letterman Show. I can eat the whole jar! Not the glass!

Merry Christmas to you, too!

Sorry, but whenever I think of bacon I also think of "Babe," and then I can't bring myself to eat pork any more.

Womp womp

and on that note, I may have to skedaddle. Have a very joyous and festive holiday season surrounded by those you love and lots of bacon. Keep reading the Compost and feel free but unobligated to join me on Twitter! And to all a good night!

It's not like the cats are tied (or nailed) to the tree and need rescuing. When they die, they fall down (thank you Sir Issac Newton) so no skeletons in trees.

Not sure the image of deceased cats plummeting from trees is much of an improvement, though.

when the single women moved into their own apartments or houses and got jobs. It isn't that hard to take care of a small silky dog when you are still living at home waiting for daddy to arrange a marriage for you and the servants can exercise the dog. It is harder once you have to be out of the house for 10 hours a day and no one else is around. But, exactly how did cats convince people to let them urinate and defacate inside the house?

That is the secret of the cat. If a cat ever reveals this to a dog, though, cats will be right back where they started.

We need to start BASA. To boldly cook where no one has cooked before.


('Bye now.)

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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