ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jun 17, 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.

Past ComPost Live Chats

Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

Howdy all! Excited that the chat seems to be working this week! *touches wood* *wood collapses maiming several passersby* Let's roll!

If not, don't answer.


It would speed up scoring.

Would it, though? It might just speed up the rate at which players ran from the lion.

And based on what I've seen so far, the lion would run out onto the field, tangle slightly with a member of the opposing team, slightly nick one paw on the way to the ball, and collapse to the ground in a sudden fit of histrionics.

Don't listen to the haters (do they really think you're an actual sports writer?); your World Cup article is amongst the funniest. I've already added "something you can teach three-year-olds to do badly" and "sometimes you just fell over spontaneously" to my personal repertoire. But it does remind me of that old baseball joke: A man brings his girlfriend to her first ball game. Unfortunately they hit traffic along the way; they don't arrive until the seventh inning, and they learn the score is 0 to 0. "Oh good," she says, "we haven't missed a thing!"


Well I'm glad you liked it!

Oh man, the amount of vitriol I've received for it has been considerable! I've been repeatedly informed that I am what's wrong with America, which is good to know, and also somebody called me a "blonde bimbo" which was exciting. I didn't think any of the pictures of me on the site were that good!

That was proposed four years ago. PETA objected.

Durn PETA, ruining everyone's fun! Also the worst part of the Hunger Games.

That many of the SAT words (tenebrous, lucubrate, crepuscular, limn, obfuscate, adumbrate) deal with the interplay between light and dark.

"Back in my day, before we all had those little squiggly bulbs everywhere you turned, people needed lots of qualifiers for degrees of shadow."

I know Americans love to complain about the slowness of soccer, but at least it moves faster than basketball. I caught the end of the NBA final game the other night. The last 3 mins of game time took about 20 mins of real time. Player inbounds. Whistle blows. Players mill about. Someone takes a free throw. Takes ages to gear up for the second free throw. Loose ball. Player bumps into another player. Whistle blows. More milling about. Coach waves his arms. Clock stops again for some reason. Milling about ensues. Player inbounds. Repeat...

Aw, but the milling about is the best part! Football consists entirely of milling about while minuscule increments of time pass! Americans have come to expect a high ratio of milling about to actual play. This is, we feel, where the excitement lies.

North of the border: soccer on ice. South of the border: hockey in a pasture.

It's all in the eye of the beholder, really. And if that beholder is standing exactly on the border he's very confused.

Is reading angry comments the writerly equivalent of eating your kale, or something? Or is it more like something a parade of Dark Ages monks would do- like, the guy in front of you has all the mean things people say about you flayed into his back? Also, congratulations on being what's wrong with America, I guess? When your grandkids ask you if you knew what went wrong, leading to our inevitable decline, you can just cackle madly, which is a great way to spend your dotage.

I'm not particularly good at cackling, right now, which is terrible because it leads people to suspect that I am up to good.

No, these aren't even your run-of-the-angry-mill comments! These were the people who specifically made a point of seeking me out to tell me this -- via email, or tagging me on Twitter! And these were just the ones I could print in a family-oriented chat! Let's just say if I responded, "Thank you, and the same to you!" it would have been extremely rude.

I'm already starting rumors that "Tragedy Averted" was written by Lena Dunham and "The Campsite Rule" was written by Osama bin Laden.

Ooh, good, posthumous authorship rumors are the most convincing kind!


For example, in "The Voyage of the HMS Beagle Round the World" by Darwin, Mark Twain wondered, "Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?" (

I don't know, I think printing (not big block letters, but the other kind) also works and is in some cases more legible.

I had the unfortunate habit of keeping some of my marginalia in a cipher comprehensible only to my twelve year-old self. I think it was the first letters of the words in my actual comment, but I can't piece it together now. Based on where it appeared in A Separate Peace, my best guess was that I had to come up with some shorthand for saying Gene Forrester was an unbearable human, but if that's true I don't know why there were so many exclamation points. 

of the bee holder.

Oh boooooo.

Also, the spelling is in the eye of the Bee holder.


Why do people presume to know what a genius is or is not capable of? Do they doubt Archimedes, Newton, Beethoven or Einstein?

Archimedes was also Bacon.

Beethoven was Mendelssohn.

And Einstein, as we all know, was Thomas Kincade.

Truth be told, I've always thought the milling-about moments are helpful to casual fans watching with friends, since they give the commentators time to explain the background of what's going on and why the next play is important. Although sometimes it can be a bit much, like when the color guy in a baseball game starts telling you how the new relief pitcher is 0 for 4 for strikeouts this season against left-handed hitters with type B blood on a Tuesday afternoon when it's sunny in Barcelona, and now that we're in this situation again we'll see if he breaks that streak.

Ah yes, those tricky streaks! It's like how the tallest presidential candidate born on a Thursday always wins. When you have a small enough sample size it is incredible how detailed a pattern you can discern.

I miss the vuvuzelas. It just seems too quiet during the matches now. Another point in hockey's favor (I agree it is much like soccer, constant movement with little scoreing ) is that they have 2 intermissions, gives us all a chance to regroup. Personally I think the best way to watch the world cup is via replays and highlights shows, see the action and onward we go to the next thing.

I was hoping that vuvuzelas were going to be a standard feature of World Cup matches from now on.

"In U.S. win against Ghana, ahead early, a head late." I don't understand this headline. Am I excused from watching the World Cup?

I'm assuming it has something to do with nautical toilets? Or Ned Stark?

I read that as "Dork Ages monks..."

Dork Ages Monks -- now that's an immersive first-person video game experience I'd be willing to invest some time in!

Samuel Butler concluded that Nausicaa was the tru author of the Odyssey, since the laundry scene is more realistic than many other scenes. I have often hoped to find my Nausicaa in a laundry room.

I like that logic.

Then again, Samuel Butler never went down to Hades and milled around with the shades. Maybe that section was actually just as accurate. Should have asked Dante, I guess.

Or maybe he did.

"My crewmen were once turned into dogs by a lady-witch and it was NOTHING like what Homer described!"

I think it was supposed to be a pun since Brooks' header was the game winner.

No, shhhh, your explanation makes sense! Let's keep that vague feeling of wonder, shall we?

Also, when I read "Brooks' header" I instantly assumed it had something to do with a New York Times columnist so that shows you where my mind is.

It's satire. I get that. But really, watching a sport--any sport--only as an interested bystander is boring. But if you follow a team you get an emotional involvement. It takes work and an investment of time. But if you just look at it as 22 well-paid men kicking a ball and throwing themselves down while writhing in pain, well sure...

You make a good point. Reducing any sport to its most absurd level ("Strange men run around grass waving sticks. Strange men run around clay or grass waving different sticks with string on them. Strange men run around wood area with big inflatable balls that bounce.  Strange men run around grass with oblong spheroids in their hands that do not bounce. Everyone makes money, but mostly old men who get seats close to the part of the field or area where you want to be!") and not acknowledging that half the fun is having paid enough attention to know what part of the stick-holding and ball bouncing you are supposed to cheer for. The whole fun is the cheering.

that Shakespeare is Shakespeare? I get why people from countries that have a long established class system (UK, India, etc.) would refuse to believe a middle class kid could be the best writer his language has ever produced, but the the idea is practically the embodiment of our culture. OK, we do it with money, not timeless literature, but refusing to believe it can happen seems very unamerican to me.

I concur! Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them, but in America we're all about number two!

My niece and nephrew lived through this time, got trophies for everything they particiapted in. At some point they realized winning is better than getting a trophy for losing, and all those trophies have been boxed and are likely in a landfill by now. Hope the participatory trophy is a short-lived fad. Is is still common to give prizes to everyone?

Not having been a child for a while, I cannot speak to this from personal experience, but my guess from the behavior of other people's children on Facebook is that they have reined it in a little. If these kids had gotten a trophy of any kind, there would definitely have been numerous posts about it, but so far, nothing. There may be hope!

Anyone currently parenting or child-ing who can speak to this?

Soccer wins! Goallllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


*vzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz* (that was supposed to be a vuvuzela buzzing despondently)

Because the Brits started it, and Americans are such Anglophiles that they refuse to think for themselves in such matters.

"It just sounded so authoritative when he said it in that accent!"

for me anyway. The new Post article page has broken comments on Firefox. I click on comments and the page just jumps to the bottom. Now no-one can enjoy my wit and/or wisdom, either questionable at best.

Oh no! You're missed!

You could try Internet Explorer, but that would require you to use Internet Explorer, and I'm not sure I can in good conscience ask that sacrifice of someone.

I think you and Weingarten should write each other's columns one week and see if you can do it well enough that no one notices.

I'd be game! If I steep myself sufficiently in somebody's writing I can generally throw together a pretty solid pastiche. Sometimes inadvertently! (Apologies for those months where I sounded like a bad translation of Victor Hugo, everyone!) I'm trying to do an Ayn Rand bit right now (she's got a new book coming out!) and reading Weingarten would be infinitely pleasanter. Weingarten's only challenge will be that he is much cooler than I am and he'll have to keep himself in check.

Which has also been banned:

Whoa! Mind blown! Which is, I guess, the only peculiar instrument you can legally blow at the World Cup these days.

When my kids were small, each of them got a big trophy for winning ONCE (secretly paid for by Mom and Dad). After that, all trophies must be earned. They love their trophy. Life is too short not to get a trophy.

"Life is too short not to get a trophy" is a great statement. That belongs on a trophy somewhere.

Just the one, though.

Huh. I knew we obsess about potty humor, but 'we're all about number two is saying a lot! Heh.

Heh! Yea. "Phrasing!" as Archer says.

did a bit where he was "channeling" Ayn Rand. It was funny, but went on too long.

Ah yes, but of what comedy bit can that not be said?

(This is not a rhetorical question! Lay 'em on me!)

I can't get comments at all anymore on Chrome or Explorer. (This has increased my work productivity immensely.)

Wait, seriously? That's a bummer, but also a bit of a relief, to me anyway! I saw how few comments were appearing and for a few days there I was worried everyone had stopped caring!

I don't have kids, but I have noticed that there now seem to be kind-of-a-big-deal ceremonies for all kinds of "graduations" (from preschool, from elementary school, from high school). We (Gen X) didn't have any of those. But maybe those are more for the parents?

Also, if there weren't Big Milestone-Looking Events to show up to at the last minute, many parents on TV would have nothing to do at all.

I heard somebody brapping on a vuvuzela around Connecticut Avenue and M Street yesterday after the USA-Ghana match. That's far enough away not to be heard from Brazil, but it might have been audible from the Brazilian embassy on L Street.

*vzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz* (that one was supposed to be less wistful, but it's hard to define with onomatovuvuzela)

mocking them is irresistible. FIFA for its obvious corruption, Qatar as a World Cup host, really? And soccer fans for their seriousness and general lack of a sense of humor about their sport.

A quality that sets them apart from fans of other sports like golf which ISN'T SILLY AT ALL STOP SAYING IT'S SILLY IT'S THE GREAT GAME *sighs loudly*.

Me again -- I meant middle school, not high school (of course we had that one!).

No, I assumed you meant the intermediate graduations, like the big ceremony where every kindergartner stands up and walks around to Pomp and Circumstance for no discernible reason. I knew some kids who had to get robes to get out of, I think, sixth grade. Which seems wrong somehow.

George Carlin did long bits, but I never caught him in a "too long" one. Same with Bill Cosby.

In contrast to, say, any bit that has ever happened on SNL ever. Not that I don't love them. Just that I think they could almost always stand to lose a week or two.

I had an eighth grade graduation. I remember because four of the eighth graders played the Pachelbel Canon. I'm on the younger end of Gen X, but...I'm pretty sure we were the kids that at least gave everyone the idea.

Oh no, the Pachelbel Canon! You can get trapped in that canon for months! Speaking of bits that go on too long.

Good to hear trophies for everyone is dying out, lets get rid of presents for everyone next. My friends with little kids say all kids get a gift when they go to a birthday party, meaning if you have a party have to buy X number of gifts so everyone has something to open.

*flips over a small table*

Back in my day the whole point of birthday parties was watching someone who wasn't you open presents, but you knew that in a few months, you'd Get Yours.

There were always goody bags, but that was different.

A co-worker posted pics over the weekend of tearing up at her daughters pre-kindergarten graduation. Really?

Oh lordy, 

"They grow up so fast."

"No, Carol, no they don't, they actually don't, this isn't a real graduation, Dave over there is eating paste."

That was happening to me on just about every article, too. Cache clearing, that sort of thing, didn't help. It spontaneously fixed itself sometime last week. I've had less success with the Silk browser on my Kindle, though - that's stayed pretty spotty.

*mumbles something inaudible about how spotty silk is the worst kind*

I mean, "it's your fault for using a browser named after an almond milk."

Nobody questioned the authorship of Shakespeare until some nut in the 19th century who was even more class-conscious than your average Brit decided that only an aristocrat could have written the plays.

I'm sorry, you said class-conscious 19th century nut and all I could think of was "you have just perfectly described Mr. Peanut."

But surely no sport nickname is as readily mockable as "the Sweet Science".

That is pretty bad. It sounds like a YouTube channel.

And here i thought The Great Game was still going on in Afghanistan.

This is probably a bad time to admit that I always get the Great Game and the Most Dangerous Game confused, a fact that led to some awkwardness at a diplomatic reception one time.

There was actually a whole discussion on PoPville yesterday about how apparently the done thing among the sort of DC yuppies who hang out on that site is for none of the presents to be opened at the party itself, only later after everybody went home, so the kids who can't afford as nice a present as the others don't get shamed or something. The thread featured an angry side argument about whether thank-you notes are necessary if you thanked the gift-giver in person. That site is a hoot.

Ohhhhh lordy.

Thank-you notes are always necessary. I know this because it is what my mother always told me after months had passed and I had still somehow managed not to write any. (Thank you for the stuffed cat, Mr. and Mrs. Henderson! I really appreciate it and have given it an appropriate name!)

Sort of like on "The Big Bang Theory" when Sheldon presented Amy Farrah Fowler with a tiara as a gift, which made her deliriously happy.

Oddly, I've seen that episode! She was indeed deliriously happy!

I coach 2 recreational soccer teams. From 1st grade to 4th grade, every kid gets either a trophy or medal. In 5th grade, only the team that wins the conference gets one. In our elementary school, the kids have a promotion ceremony after finishing 5th grade. Ask me, this is all bad. It's the "feel good for breathing" that's good for a kid's self-esteem. I think it does more harm than good as one day the kid stops getting trophies and feels even worse. STOP IT!! No more trophies for participating.


Do the kids who actually win in 1st through 4th grade get bigger, more impressive trophies? One way of getting around the participation ribbon epidemic is if it's very clear that the participation ribbons are themselves lousy and wimpy-looking when compared to the actual winners' loot. Maybe the only way out of all these ribbons and trophies is through bigger more imposing ribbons. That way everyone gets a trophy but still feels no measurable increase in self-esteem! Everybody wins AND loses!

Well, that would be part of the joke, wouldn't it?

It's hard to replicate the experience of 1000s of pages of strangely sexual depictions of trains in a single evening though.

Bob Newhart did so brilliantly, too, especially his one-sided telephone conversations.

Oh yes! There was one summer when I attempted to bridge the gap between eighth graders and comedy, and his were some of the bits I showed!

There has to be a better was of phrasing that.

In other news today, in America, we're all obsessed with number two and I used to show Bob Newhart's bits to eighth-graders.

It isn't so much about not shaming kids who didn't bring nice ones as it is about not boring the kids to death. Though, I do admit, the kid whose mother works for google brought the nicest gift a year or two ago. I was tasked with getting my nephew his own Star Wars characters this year so my brother could bring his original 70s ones out of the rotation.

Aw, yeah, gotta keep the original 70s set out of harm's way!

Which reminds me, is Harrison Ford okay? I read online that Callista had to fly to him to offer him support in his recovery, which made me worry. A friend's response that "well, if he dies, it'll definitely be a blockbuster! They should just CGI around his bed" was not quite what I had in mind.

Why not? We already have "the Sweet Science," the Sport of Kings," even "the Breakfast of Champions."

And that's not even getting into the nicknames of individual players.

I only have 1, although I DID earn it (but it was perhaps still only like a 3rd place finish). I am middle aged, have earned many degrees and have enjoyed career and personal success. Strangely, I am still damn effing proud of that trophy!

Life is too short not to get a trophy, as someone wise remarked.

But seriously. I never got any participatory trophies (I did mostly ballet, and as the person who stood in the back looking generally baffled, I suspect that I would not have gotten one even if ballet studios did hand them out) -- at chess camp, I didn't even get a trophy for improvement, because I hadn't improved -- so when I did finally start to win them for things, excitement didn't begin to describe it. I spent a whole lifetime making puns just so I could get a trophy with a horse's rear on it.

Also: North of the border: shuffleboard on ice. South of the border: curling in a pasture.

Nope. It those grades, they don't keep records. They only keep score stating in 2nd grade - however the kids all know the score of the game. I try and encourage participation and having fun but the trophies are overkill.


I hope the urge to give a trophy will atrophy!

*someone yanks me off stage with a large hook*

Among current standup comics, John Mulaney is particularly good at making a long, long bit work and build over time. Check out his recent "New In Town" special on Netflix for a few examples.

"New In Town" is indeed excellent!

And, on that note, I should scoot!

Thank you, all! Have a grand week! Avoid trophies, keep reading the Compost and feel free to join me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Recent Chats
  • Next: