ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Apr 29, 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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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

What's hanging?

I can't even get Internet Explorer on my old Windows for Workgroups machine. It's hard enough finding a keyboard to fit that big connectors on the back of the box. Does anyone know where I can find a 5-1/4" floppy?

Oh, one of them vintage floppies! I've got some of the small-format floppies sitting around with my eighth-grade homework assignments on them, but the last 5-1/4" I saw included the program Sim Ant. Maybe the hipsters can get on this for us?

Did you get out your old pinhole camera for World Wide Pinhole Photography Day? I couldn't find mine, so I just caught up on reading "Zippy the Pinhole" (sic)

Next to Judge Parker, that was the comic strip that most startled and alarmed the People Who Get Letters At The Paper with its fervent fanbase. How?

Also, recently, doing some work on a book chapter, I fell down a hole in the Internet and came across some old radio serials -- first, something called "The Whistler," which, literally, I kid you not, is a precursor of The Shadow where a noir-esque fellow called The Whistler wanders around whistling and learning the secrets hidden in people's dark hearts -- but then Lights Out! a horror serial which includes some serious gems. 

For instance, there is an episode, featuring Boris Karloff, called Cat Wife, where an actress spends an entire episode MEOWING at Boris Karloff. It's terrific. Here's a link.

I guess what I'm asking is: is everyone aware of this? There's also a great one where a tourist girl gets trapped in a parisian sewer by what appears to be a very aggressive French accent.

I hope you're not using IE at work or at home no thanks to that bug. (I use Chrome.) Maybe you can use that underground browser Tor. I'm guessing many who embrace the Dark Side use Tor. Then again, years ago Microsoft used to be called the Evil Empire, so maybe there are still Dark Side ties to IE too.

Everything is somehow linked to the Dark Side.

"Don't be evil," Google? That seems like exactly the motto you would have if you WERE evil, to draw our attention away.

So, IE is like the no-name jeans that do the job covering your a., while the other browsers are like the Jordache, Calvin and Guess? designer jean brands, tricked out with all the bells and whistles?

Nope. IE is like the no-name jeans that DON'T do the job covering your -- vowel.

Alexandra, if you can write code, or know someone who does, maybe to solve IE woes and make extra money, YOU can create a new bug-free browser. Since we already have Opera, you can call yours Shakespeare or Wodehouse, with extra features unique to those authors.

Ah, but remember what happened to

I'm still using my 8" floppy disks. BTW, if Googling for a picture, please make sure you don't misspell "disk" when searching for "8 inch floppy disks." Somethings cannot be unseen.

First the vowels turn on us, now the consonants!

It has been grey and gloomy here for so long, I feel depressed and tired. Surely, it can't be only Tuesday! I eagerly clicked on this discussion for amusement and some sunshine-y conversation. None to be had! Do I need to come up with something clever to share? I did read a passage in a Patrick Conroy book that makes me smile everytime I think of it. Pat is a new student who spends lunch in the library since he has no friends to eat with. The librarian is suspicious he is reading Victor Hugo for the 'dirty bits'. When he innocently states that he didn't know there were any dirty bits in Les Miserables, she snatches it away and asks him if he likes football. It turns out that Hugo wrote a book about football he may like - The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I was wondering where this was going!

I don't remember any dirty bits, unless you count the long section Jean Valjean spends in the sewer.

I wonder if the ol' Commodore 64's still work and are resistant to the IE bug. Maybe we can go back to those giant room sized computers that used reel-to-reel tapes.

Especially if these computers had names like "Commodore." That sounds like a computer worthy of respect.

About fifteen years ago (that's four millennia in computer time) I brought an 8" floppy disk to work (a software company). An intern asked if it was real.

People frequently point out that nowadays the "Save" icon is a weird meaningless relic thing. It's like making people click on a leech when they want to go to a doctor.

The headline on the online WaPo says "Outlook bleak"


I thought it was weird they were giving a section of the paper such a negative review.

Seriously? What got people upset about that one?

People kept trying to remove it from the paper!

And out of the woodwork hundreds of people came writing in, to announce that if Judge Parker went, it would be over their cold, dead subscriptions.

Today is National Shrimp Scampi Day! Enjoy that for lunch or dinner, Alexandra. You've earned it.

Sadly, because this is the run-up to the pun-off, the first thought that I was was "Hey, that would be a good "I like my ____ like I like my ____" opener!

"I like my shrimp like I like my men: scampi."

A lot of them are very weird and atmospheric. I heard one last week where Edward G. Robinson played a gangster who actually said "Mmm-yeah, see, I'm takin' over, see?" It was as if he was doing an impression of himself. (I do wonder if you actually know who Edward G. Robinson was, but that's besides the point.)

Was he the Little Caesar guy? Not the pizza pizza one, the other one?

I'm a huge Old Time Radio fan. Sunday night, there's four hours worth on WAMU here in DC (and online). I listen every week, even though I probably own 10,000+ hours. Best show: Johnny Dollar. But you can catch Nightbeat or Dragnet or Burns and Allen or Lux Radio Theatre or dozens of other great shows (and not-so-great shows like Father Knows Best).

I heard their Columbus Day broadcast, but I didn't know it was a regular thing! I'll have to tune in!


"years ago"? Uh, did that ever stop?

It's like the Mitch Hedberg quote: "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too."

Coded by Microsoft, full of sound and fury, 404 File Not Found

I also like how its acronym is the sound you make if someone tells you you have to use it.

You need to watch more TCM (who doesn't?) There's a whole series of Whistler movies from the '40s starring Richard Dix. Best of all -- none of 'em run much longer than 70 minutes, I don't think. Good stuff.

I also like that Richard Dix was a person who existed.

Why wasn't there the same outcry when they went away?

You'd think the Wurthers would have made an outcry, or at least dropped by your apartment and meddled unhelpfully. But: not enough. 

ELFLOCK Hortense was too sleepy to reply, and in the morning no one questioned her, for Uncle Jonah had a sorry tale to tell of the horses, who lay in their stalls too tired to move, their manes and tails in elflocks, and their flanks mud stained. Carl Henry Grabo, The Cat in Grandfather's House Tell it to the horses!

Those durn elves, always sneaking into the stables and braiding the horses' tails!

De-veined, on ice, headless.

I like my shrimp like I like my prison dramas: gritty.

There are no dirty bits. The essence of that school librarian is that she likes books only because they can be categorized and kept tidy. She doesn't actually read, and she is suspicious of anyone who does. Conroy's subtlety exposing her makes me giggle.

Thank you for clarifying! I was worrying I'd missed some, that I'd go back and try to find them, and then get stuck in the Battle of Waterloo again.

This is the foul Flibbertigibbet; he begins at curfew, and walks till the first cock; he gives the web, and the pin; knits the elflock; squints the eye, and makes the hair-lip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creatures of the earth. Shakespeare, King Lear Helping takes more effort. Run mildew, buy copper and do more fishing. Put out help wanted signs.

Oh, Edgar's "I want to sound crazy but I'm not crazy actually!" speech!

I like that there are enough speeches of this kind in Shakespeare that you could probably write a pretty solid thesis on People Who Want To Sound Crazy, But Aren't, and People Who Are Actually Crazy For Real, Usually In The Same Play, and How They Are Different. My loose understanding of it is that the people who are faking it tend to be a little punnier.

They're female gremlins. They probably burn off horse tails, too.

Fifinella sounds like a great gelato flavor, also.

Yes, and in Little Caesar had one of the greatest last lines in all film--"Mudder a' moicy, is dis de end a' Rico?" He was also in the 10 Commandments, and uttered the sneering line "Wheere's ya messiah nooooow?"

Oh, aha!

Do you mean The Noid, whom we were encouraged to avoid by ordering from Dominos? (Wasn't it Dominos?)

I have no idea who the Noid is (sounds like a Star Trek species that juuuuust didn't make the cut) but now I'm paranoid.

No book that goes for 700 pages should be called a beach read. Seriously. Well, maybe if it was a Harry Potter, but that is about it. When my college glee club went on tour to Florida over spring break (about a billion years ago), I did bring a copy of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Perfect beach book. Good adventure story. Buddies. Sex. Moral at the end, but not an overly saccharine one. Not that long. And no one is really going to steal it if you leave it on your towel.

Gilgamesh would indeed be a quality beach book! Fits all the criteria!

And hey, 700 page books can make great beach reads if you need something to weigh down the towel.

The Sorrows of Young Wurthers.

Ha ha ha!

Four points, and a crowd of adoring 18th century fangirls to you.

Alex--heard about something that sounds right up your alley, a group of teenagers are going to live in a house with only 70's era technology, no cell phones, computers etc. How do you think you'd fare?

Call me when they do the one with only 1870s technology.

Rex Morgan joined an HMO. What happened to Mary Worth?

Death Panel?

By prying open the ornate coffin of Swedish king Erik IX, scientists hope to learn how he truly died in 1160, the Daily Mail reports. While some legends claim he was killed by a sword-wielding assassin, other accounts say he was held captive and eventually beheaded by enemies who desired the throne. Why couldn't they just go with the legend?

Also, does anyone else get the vibe from certain English newspapers that all they do over there is come across Old Coffins and conduct autopsies centuries later? Wasn't Richard III just a few weeks ago? I'd hate to see their backlog.

It seems to me more like whistling in the dark. How could we do anything evil, since our motto EXPLICITLY SAYS WE WON'T? It's as though Vladimir Putin adopted a motto that said "Protecting The Autonomy of Ethnic Russians Only, And Not of Anyone Else Who Didn't Want to Be Protected, Especially Against Their Will."


Sorry. I wanted to join the conversation and I had nothing to say. Still don't, I guess.

This did make me aware that I don't know what the proper response to "Hail (Little) Caesar" is. "Hail, yourself" feels wrong somehow.

or speaking in Shakespeare, I had to disagree with the letter in today's Post telling us that the Bard wrote POETRY so we should read it all like da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA. Ugh. Only actors who don't know how to do Shakespeare do this.

Iambic pentameter is the natural scan of lots of phrases, and I think the poetry sounds best when you bring it as close as you can to human speech. For instance -- "I'd like to introduce a friend of mine" -- perfect iambic pentameter. Also: "I didn't mean to spook you with the shrimp." "I have a running joke about a show/That gritty drama Oz on HBO" scan passably.

It was a commercial character created for an ad campaign. Nothing to be nostalgic over. No talking Tonys then, eh? Straight ladieeees. *sigh*

No, let's please talk Tonys! My college roommate just got her second producer nod in as many years, this time for Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder! So there is a lot of Yay Hooraying going on over here.


...and oxymoronic!

I haven't used IE in years. I love my Google Chrome! It works, it's fast, and I can count on it.

And it's named for Mitt Romney's favorite place for hollandaise!

Au contraire (as Thomas Piketty would say). The ideal beach read should be 700 pages so that you only need one book all week, and it should be so insubstantial that you can read only a paragraph during the day but compelling enough that you won't mind perusing 100 pages if you are stuck inside during a rainy day, or while waiting for your housemates to stop throwing up.

Which is a high bar.

Also something you don't mind getting sand in.

They did: everyone lived like olden times and had to do everything themselves

And better yet: no video cameras!

Speaking of aging entertainment, this morning's Fact Checker (about Rick Santorum) describes a movie that came out 22 years ago as "recent". What do you think are the limits of recency that can be enforced on a fact checker?

We're finally hitting the point where 2000 isn't "recent," and '1999" doesn't feel like "just a year ago," which is a little alarming, as realizations go, especially if you have vivid memories that predate the late 90s. I think recent has to be within the last two presidential terms, preferably the closer of the two. Anything after the Amazing Spiderman movie is recent. Tobey Maguire or earlier isn't.  It also depends what else came out and how hard something is to make -- a 2006 study could be recent, but a 2006 movie is less so.

But I'll listen to reason if you have a case!

I can't help but take that personally.

Me too!

A gracious nod, with a "thanks, I guess I won't kill you today" expression.

Or maybe a thumbs-up?

I agree. And it's not just so you'll post my comment.

That doesn't scan!

To be or not to be? That IS the question!

Funny(?) story: I once went to a lecture where the guy lecturing made a big deal about how the pentameter phrase was "that is the QUEST" and "Hamlet is a guy who can't say QUEST without saying QUESTION, scan be darned."

I'm not sure how much stock I put in his theory, but there's always room for analysis, I guess.

"There's always money in the 'nana stand" scans okay, but you really need the "ba."

Iambs do reflect English speech. (Other languages are different; Italian, for instance, is trochaic.) But Shakespeare deliberately writes against the iambic rhythm to achieve dramatic effects -- e.g. "DisGUISE FAIR NAture with HARD-FAvoured RAGE," a line with ten syllables but six irregular stresses, reflects both the King's shortness of breath and the urgency of his speech. Actors and readers ignore this at their peril.

Yeah! You can't just Di-DA di-DA di-DA your way through these things.

All of this of course brings me to Bertie Wooster's immortal retelling of the (not iambic, I know) Charge of the Light Brigade: "Tum tiddle umpty-pum Tum tiddle umpty-pum Tum tiddle umpty-pum and this brought you to the snapperoo or pay-off, which was Someone had blundered."

I hate the "poetry voice" so many poems are read with the same tone and rhythm, one that to me is monotonous and unemotional, often killing the poem in the process. Maya Angelou is a good example of a poet who really makes her poems live, -no poetry voice for her.

Yes. You don't want to notice the ba-DUm ba-DUM ba-DUM part of it, unless the poem has nothing else to offer. They're words. They can handle themselves.

It has just occurred to me that contrary to popular notion, bananas don't grow upside down. We eat them upside down.


Very upset that W. Shakespeare was not nominated for Best Book for Twelfth Night.

I'm sure he'll get another shot. He always does. Also I don't think he could get a Best Book nod unless they were billing it as a musical!

Here and I just interpreted that as IE covering my tracks...


That's were one buys grandmas, right?

I think you can also just rent one for half an hour if you want to get ice cream.

8 to 12 served up at a time?

A little shelfish?

He was murdered. We need to get the body and examine it for evidence.

Get those British people on it!

Speak for yourself. Hold the handle, and peel from the black dot down...

No, man! Open with the pull-tab, eat like a civilized human. There's a reason that monkeys aren't running things.

I was especially disappointed to hear the great Jack Lemmon say his few lines in Kenneth Branagh's curate's egg of a "Hamlet" this way.

Thank you for teaching me the term "curate's egg" today!

For anyone else who just heard this for the first time, a curate's egg, saith Wikipedia, is something "at least partly bad, but has some arguably redeeming features.

In its original context, the term refers to something that is obviously and essentially bad, but is willfully described euphemistically as only partly bad—its supposed good features credited with undue redeeming power.[1]

Its modern usage varies. Some authorities define it as something that is an indeterminate mix of good and bad[2] and others say it implies a preponderance of bad qualities.[3]"

Phoooey. I still use Netscape and I ain't changing for nothin'!

"It's just as good as when it came out!"

Because no one has shown me that other products are superior. Is it ... speed? Better searches? More security? Or... as I asked honestly earlier, is it just a fancier brand, like Jordache jeans compared to other cuts of cloth that do the same work, but with a lot less hype and status symbol attachment. What is so bad about IE that no one seems to be able to verbalize, except that hipsters look down on it as uncool? Is it really all that much slower or does the broadband available in your area make yours seem speedier?

It is actively worse.

Also, it has a serious security flaw! It's like a buggy: slow and buggy.

Just try another browser and I am confident that you will be able to tell the difference. There is a difference.

Great game!

It's like an ant farm, but more ominous!

Open with the pull-tab, eat like a civilized human. There's a reason that monkeys aren't running things.

No it doesn't! It declines! All civilizations ever do is slouch slowly toward the dissipated grave! At least if you believe any of your mythology/large sections of talk radio.

(I've tried it -- it just didn't sail for me. I should note that my bias is heavily in favor of not getting banana on my hands, and I always seem to touch the fruit part in the course of opening it from the other end.)

What has replaced Chicken Noodle Soup in our young people's diet? Energy drinks??? Oh, what an advance in quality.

I think people still enjoy Chicken Noodle Soup, but it's entered the category of Foods Specifically For When You're Sick, along with Toast and Electrolytes.

Do a lot of your readers PEEL bananas? I just wash 'em and eat 'em.

Maybe this is the compromise position we've been looking for!

I'll play: The world is billions and billions years old, Alexandra. 22 years is relatively recent. (You didn't go and get yourself edumacated in one of those dinosaur schools, didja?)


I want to learn how to be a pterodactyl!

And on that note, I should skedaddle! Have a grand rest of your Tuesday, I'll try to see if I can get back on the tab some of you were worrying about, keep reading the Compost, and feel free to join me on the Twitter!

OK. But maybe your preference is not mine, and that is ok too, it doesn't mean what you like is better. But keep joking if that pays the bills.

If you prefer slow browsers that have lots of bugs!

I'm sorry. If you genuinely prefer it, I won't stand in your way, but at least download the patch so your data is safe.

That is absolutely true. Hand a monkey a banana; he'll peel it from the "bottom" and the strings will come off with the peel. Humans never learn this, and have to deal with the annoying strings after they've dealt with the peel.

Let's argue more about this one 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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