ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jan 14, 2014

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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Howdy, all! Happy Tuesday! Lovely weather we're having!


but I'm not wearing any.

Fun fact, chatters!!

This question was submitted on Sunday at 11:32 in the morning!

I think I salute you, friend, in terms of the fact that usually the only people who take time to submit questions way in advance have typed up elaborate paragraphs of jests and quips, and you just wanted to share as early as possible the fact that you were not wearing panties, and therefore Chris Christie left you cold. At least, this is what I take your meaning to be.

This is a family newspaper, so for any children reading along, panties are a sort of hat.

Let's pretend to be adults and discuss Serious and Weighty Matters of State! I was okay with Christie before, even not entirely and totally un-okay after his gross mis-use of power, but now that he has thrown his peeps under the bus, I am done with him.


oh, sorry, serious and weighty.


I know what I wanted to talk about.

Can we talk about that Florida Man Is Shot In Dispute About Texting In Movie Theater story?

A journalist Twitter friend of mine was commenting on how the fact that local news stories go viral is a kind of "moral haiku." This story is shorthand for some larger judgment. "I hope they don't press charges!" people are tweeting, now. "I'd have done the same." The addition of Florida to the mix only enhances this weird feeling, because usually in Viral Local News Stories the fact that an event happens in Florida is a way of saying it happens in a magical location where everything is crazy.

Except -- a guy died.

So this is a long-winded way of asking -- have folks shared this with you today? What was the take in your social zone?

Ew, did I just ask "what was the take in your social zone" in a serious way? Sorry. But I'm curious!

and "Christie throwing his peeps under a bus" might be a WaPo winner!

I'd vote for it!

I was more of a Rand Paul fan. However, after seeing how the media, particularly the nightly news, has made such a huge issue over closing two lanes in a multilane highway, i am now far more likely to support Christie.

That's a sentiment I haven't heard before! Are you an Iowan, by any chance? It is not 2016 yet, so as a member of the news media I am only allowed to listen to and value opinions if they come from Iowans.

that anyone, much less a supposedly intelligent journalist like Bill Keller, could think it was ever OK to publish a piece on how badly someone else is dealing with cancer. It's like something out of The Onion.

I strongly concur. His take could have been more valid in another universe where the person he was talking about actually was a Big Cancer Warrior who was all about military language and costly and excessive last-ditch measures, but the piece was not only tonally awful, it just seemed to have so little relation to the facts.

Your column about the concern trolls and the woman who is blogging her personal experience with cancer treatment is why my FB posts are never about serious issues. First - I don't want an audience if I'm really sick or something (it won't help me work through it); Second - I don't want to give people the chance to comment on how I "should" be doing something. Sorry folks, if I get cancer or heart disease, or anything else, however I deal with it is the best way for me to deal with it. I won't be posting for your comments.

And that's kind of the trouble with Facebook, at least for the people who take a wide-net approach to online friending. You are bound to get your news to the one person who won't like it.

Seriously? People don't think the retired cop who shot a man for texting should be charged? Texting in a movie theater may be punishable by being kicked out of the theater but not by death. I'm stunned.

I think these people are joking, or trying to, in a sort of rar-de-rar-we-all-feel-the-same-about-those-durn-texters-rar-de-rar-type way.

I saw it on Twitter, paused, and decided against retweeting because someone actually died and that really reduces the humor factor.

Yeah! I think that's a good rule.

but to be fair, my friend is an attorney who lives in Texas, so he has no scruples whatsoevs.

I like "whatsoevs" as an abbrev. May start using that.

Has anyone interviewed Republican voters who were inconvenienced by the closure of two lanes of bridge access in Ft. Lee to see how they feel about it? Do they support what Bridget Ann Kelly and David Wildstein did? Or would they have voted against Christie had they known?

You mean IOWA Republican voters, right?

Because he was such a great news story. He's entertainment, in a different category than Blagoyevich but of the same type. I was never okay with the possibility of his running for president. His Joisey-bully style won't play outside a certain limited area.

He is captivating viewing, though. Not unlike a multi-car pileup.

OK, I generally really like SWA and they are the airline I most often fly as BWI is close to us. But how on earth did they land a jet at the - wrong - airport??? I know the airports are only a few miles apart, but really? Wow. Just wow.

Hey, it's not the destination; it's the journey.

In my social sphere, the reaction was: why is everyone writing about the ethics/social implications of cell phone use during movie trailers, and not about the social implications/ethics of gun control?

Whoa, your social sphere is way ahead!

I AM wearing panties, and I am a man.


I will admit only that I had a strange Dave Barry moment when I saw this story, and then learned about thirty seconds into it that it had happened in Florida.

There's a Barry quip floating just far enough out of reach that I can't Google it about why these things always happen in Florida. Can anyone assist?

I am of so many minds on this, I can hardly sort them out. On the one hand, I certainly understand the impulse. Other people in movie theaters make me feel near-homicidal sometimes, which is why I so, so strongly prefer my couch and Netflix. On the other, I read that he was texting during the previews. Now, I love the previews, but I just can't get as upset about that as texting during the actual movie. On a more serious one, this really is tragic for the man's family -- his 3-year-old daughter who will barely remember him, and his wife who will miss him AND will live with the traumatic memory of the shooting itself. On another hand, I think this is exactly what's wrong with just letting any idiot walk around with a gun all the time. This is just going to happen more often. On yet another, though FLORIDA. Well, of course it was.

I think you sorted through them in a reasonable way! Thank you for sharing!

My social circle has not tweeted or posted about this news story. Thus, one of two things is true: my social circle has a delightful sense of restraint and wisdom, or my social circle is sleeping in.

Well, it's Tuesday, after all!

So, when did it become socially wrong to ask, "Why doesn't she just shut up and die, already?"

Was it ever NOT, outside of operas?

take on the "you don't have the right attitude about your cancer" trolls pretty difinitively in "Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America"? I think there is even some medical research that shows that attitude doesn't have any medical impact on success of treatment as long as you control for doing what the doctor tells you to do. Now, if you are happy and upbeat about it, you may get more help and find it easier to do what the docs tell you to do, but the attitude alone doesn't impact your health outcome.

I haven't read it, alas, but I will take your word for it! It's fair to say that hope can be generally helpful for getting through your day, unless you're carrying around a box full of mysterious evils, but anything beyond that gets very screechy very quickly.

I think it's more of a theme of his rather than a particular quip. In his "DB Hits Below the Beltway" he explores the subject at length. He does focus on South Florida, though, saying it really should be a separate country (not just a separate state).

Aha, that may be why it hovers out of reach! Thanks!

I need to announce loudly that I am joking when I say that, since managers don't manage and ushers don't fulfill their previous function ("to ush"?) in movie theaters any more, desperate measures are called for when someone in a movie theater behaves in an antisocial fashion.


I don't think I've ever been removed from a movie theater, although I was once reprimanded by an usher for making noisy comments during a Miley Cyrus vehicle, and they did follow our group to make sure that we left.

The trouble is in a lot of theaters, you have to leave the movie, climb over the offender, and go retrieve an usher, and so the cost of doing that is pretty steep compared to just gritting your teeth, if the noise or disruption isn't physically unbearable.

I think in the old days, the nexus of weirdness ran through Southern California, and to a degree New York City. I think it's changed so that every bizarre story in the country now has a Florida connection. I don't know why, except it must be some inversion of magnetic poles or something. ~Carl Hiaasen


I like the phrase "how 'bout a hiaasen." I don't know what a "hiaasen" would be, other than a tool for smuggling vowels. Living Under the Influence of the Weirdness Magnet. " We need to find it, dig it up, and get rid of it. I'm talking about the South Florida Giant Underground Weirdness Magnet. It's buried around here somewhere. It has to be. How else can you explain why so many major freak-show news stories either happen, or end up, in South Florida?"

There we go!

The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It's hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life. Carl Hiaasen Read more at


It is amazing that a couple that involved in the media could be so tone deaf about what they were saying. Kind of scary. But I know my reaction to all the macho cancer stuff, like the Lance Armstrong Courage stuff, was anger so I do understand where it comes from. My Dad died of cancer, not because he didn't FIGHT and have COURAGE, but because when cancer enters your lymph nodes you are basically done. No phrases or slogans can help. But there is a time, place, and method to say that. It can never be a direct broadside against someone dealing with cancer. Good grief.

Especially not someone who has inveighed against that kind of language HERSELF!

Argh, thought I'd run through my indignation supply yesterday, but I guess I got a fresh batch in.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad gives high marks to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his handling of the political scandal over lane closures to an approach to the George Washington Bridge. Branstad, who like Christie is a Republican, said Monday he was impressed by Christie’s news conference last week, calling it “direct.” I would venture that not all Iowans, much less all Iowa Republicans, were equally enthralled by the press marathon. (if they cared when temps were at -35 degrees and the whole state was iced over)

Okay, see, NOW we can listen to your political opinion!

(I mostly say this because the first thing I read on waking up this morning was a deep dive into Iowans' Thoughts On Hillary 2016, which could either be read as Iowans Want To See The Rest Of The Field Before They Make Up Their Minds Because Iowans Feel Deeply Ambivalent About Hillary or Iowans Want To See The Rest Of The Field Before They Make Up Their Minds Because It Is Just Barely 2014, Dangitalltoheck.

I have come to accept that the world is changing. I do not text although I admit I do tweet and sometimes look at I noticed while on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland that one teenager was texting the entire time. She only looked up when some water got on her and she looked annoyed. I felt like screaming at her "look, a Johnny Depp animation", but I suspect she might not even know who Johnny Depp is. I don't know why she went on the ride. I guess boat rides are fun for tweeting.

Maybe she was socially sharing her experience with her friends and telling them what a good time she was having!

that will reveal my age, but why is texting in the theater so annoying, isn't texting relatively silent? I can see why talking on the phone is way annoying (in any public place), but texting leaves me puzzled. Does their phone ding every time they type in a letter?

I think it's the light pollution. The screens shine and it does disrupt if they're in your line of sight. You don't go to the movie theater to see a thousand points of light.

I stopped watching movies in the evening at theaters. If I really want to see a movie, i will use my leave or comp time to go see the movie in the morning when there are few people in the theater. It is nice to have a whole row for my wife and I.

Ooh, smart!

I've been meaning to do that one of these days, if I have a productive morning, since I am embarrassingly behind on my Good Prestigious Movie Viewing and I've already read one Deep Lengthy Thematic Exposition of Her. Nothing like a Theater of One's Own, as Woolf liked to say.

The light from his phone/And the wide bright screen up front./Ah! Where sits justice?

*golf claps*

Your thoughts on the virtual booing of Woody Allen by Mia and Ronan Farrow during the Golden Globes (decidedly odd) tribute to Allen?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Twitter loves the Farrows.

I think this is as good an occasion as any to talk about the fun gap that you can see during awards shows between the Conventional Wisdom on the First Screen and the Conventional Wisdom on the Second Screen. (This comes back around to Woody, I assure you!)

I first noticed this when I was watching the Oscars with Seth MacFarlane. The room ( slight but non-negligible caveat: they were mainly nerdy guys who had grown up watching Family Guy) was focused on the First Screen, and they were laughing. They didn't think it was in particularly poor taste. They were eating it up.

I was focused on the Second Screen (inviting me to watch an Awards Show with you is a great way of getting someone to sit in a corner of your room staring intently into a screen, saying nothing, typing frantically, and occasionally knocking a drink over) and everyone on it was really, really not enjoying what was going on on the First Screen. Tacky, tasteless, unfunny, misogynist, the second screen blared.

It is in the second screen's interest, not to hate, but definitely to see something different in what is going on on the first screen than you'd see if you only had one screen in hand. Part of it is just getting to critical mass of noticing obvious problems. But another part is about reinforcing the community of commenters, making it important for you to have both screens open, making it so you will miss something if you turn the second off and are left with just the topos. (WOW, THIS ESCALATED QUICKLY) 

Which brings me back to Woody.

It was only natural that the Twitter community take would be the Farrow take. For a number of reasons -- Twitter loves the Farrows, Twitter likes to reward its own if they have something snarky to say against those who "came up" to prominence outside the Twitter fold, Twitter tends to be fiercely loyal to the stars it has created, Twitter has a lot of vocal advocates for women, and for a lot of people searching for something to say in the moment, 140 characters is not enough space to make the distinction between the work of someone with a disgusting, odd, or downright creepy personal life and that life itself, so you wind up conflating the two.

Hence the virtual boos.

Wow, that got out of hand. Sorry for the excess reply!

What baffles me is that this doesn't matter, on three levels. First of all, it doesn't matter to me that a woman is tweeting about her illness. Second, it doesn't matter to me that a couple of journalists are criticizing her for the way she tweets about her illness. Third, it REALLY doesn't matter that the Internet Is Officially Outraged about the journalists criticizing the way the woman tweets about her illness. The only good thing to come out of this is your concern-troll post. So I guess it's okay.

Ah yes, the "Who's Forcing You To Read This" take. It's the little black dress of inoculations against Mass Internet Indignation.

And I really hate it when people say that someone "lost their battle" with cancer. It makes it sound like they failed as a person, when they really had not control over the outcome.

Strong concur to this.

I am George H.W. Bush, and I do want to see a thousand points of light.

Aw, wrong George! I was going to ask what you thought about your initial-eponymous bridge!

Humans are hard-wired to pay attention to distractions like this, too. It's a remnant of being on the lookout for the saber-tooth tiger. So just don't do it.

Alternatively, bring a saber-tooth tiger to the movie theater with you as a deterrent.

We go to Sunday noonish showings. At a multiplex that's in the middle of an industrial park, so is basically deserted on Sunday mornings and early afternoons. It's great.

That sounds AMAZING!

I love this analogy so much, and it's so applicable! I am going to start using "fact-camel" in my daily life now, if you don't mind.

Aw, thanks! People have been giving fact-camel a lot of love, which I really appreciate! Now I just need to figure out how to transition this into a joke about how a fact-camel is a fact-horse designed by committee.

The problem is not texting at a movie theater but that people still go to movie theaters. You watch movies on your electronic devices. You watch TV shows on your electronic devices. She read newspapers on your electronic devices. You never leave home and spend you entire life on electronic devices. That is the emerging future.

I would say that this is what HER is about, but I haven't been able to watch it at home on my electronic device yet.

The first movie I ever saw was a Gobot movie. My mom, brother, sister and i were the only ones in the entire theater. We spilled our popcorn multiple times, but the employees were nice and kept giving us free refills.

It took me three reads to see that you had written "Gobot" and not "Godot." I got all excited that there had been a movie!

I think possibly I should break for coffee soon.

I wish to announce my latest academic research. If you block four lanes of traffic with traffic cones for four days, I have concluded you may cause traffic jams. I am glad I did this study.

Thank HEAVENS you've come! Quick, tell the governor!

(I thought it was two lanes...)

I had this idea about fifteen years ago for a program called "Silent Hats." Moviegoers who affirmed that they would not talk or otherwise disrupt the movie would wear white ballcaps with the initials "SH" on the crown. They could then sit together in a clump. If anyone wearing a hat violated the pledge, this offenders hat would be stripped off and ripped to shreds. Okay, maybe not that last part.

But then you'd just have a section of quiet people in hats who were trying not to talk, and the rest of the theater would have hatless noisy people whom you could not penalize in any way, right?

Oh, no., it has been an 11 minute gap since we've heard from you. Should we send medical help?

I was typing!

Is this beast related to the Fact-Trojan Horse?

What is a Fact-Trojan Horse? Is it a seemingly erroneous statement that turns out to be disguising a surprise truth.

"Well, would you love me if I were the last man on earth?"

"I mean, I guess, but obviously that's a pointless--"


Appreciate your ex of the twitter reaction. I was just watching the 1st screen, thought Diane Keaton's speech was lovely, am old enough to have seen Annie Hall when it came out, and long ago separated Woody the filmaker from Woody the man.

The singing didn't spook you a little? The singing spooked me.

Leader-1: Let's go! Crasher: Yes, let's go! (They do not move.)


(confession: I have not seen the Gobots, but I did see what you did there)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, movies mean no one will go the theater any more, radio means no one will read any more, TV means no one will go to the movies any more... It is not the emerging future. Things change, but not the way pessimists think they will.

The Internet means no more vinyl...

You are right. The initial study was blocking two lanes. The current blocking of four lanes of traffic is on 18th Street Northwest Washington, D.C.


reminds me of a brilliant sketch on Prairie Home Companion many years ago. Broadway performances for the whole family: King Lear and I. Cats on a Hot Tin Roof. Etc.

Cats on a Hot Tin Roof!

Now that, I would see.

Diane Keaton's singing would've spooked me out more if she'd instructed the audience to sing the round, with each section of the room doing a different part. In fact, I was terrified she'd try that, so was relieved when she didn't.

I don't know, I think the footage of Hollywood a-listers struggling drunkenly through this scout camp standard could have served us well for years, if not decades to come.

"I Remember Mamma Mia"? (Or are you too young to recall "I Remember Mama"?).

I don't Remember Mama.

Oooh, A Long Day's Journey Into The Woods

although that might still be rather dark, come to think of it

yeah it did spook me, seemed an odd choice of songs, I was like make new friends but keep the old -what is the connection to the award??



I'm your ooooonly friiiiiend



Ack, I should probably skedaddle!

I advise folks with questions about how the theater texting incident went down to check out the actual article, since I'm not sure we told the whole story.

Have a great week, thank you for joining in, don your panties, keep reading the Compost, and feel 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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