ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 05, 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

Happy Tuesday, all!

A couple of topics:

1) This weekend, Rand Paul read a poem that should settle once and for all the question of What Rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes (A: too many things!) Is this worse than that poem Woodrow Wilson wrote?

2) Does this change how we feel about men with cats?

3) Happy Anniversary of the first allied shots fired in World War I and the beginning of the battle of Mobile Bay!

For when a knife, fork, or spoon won't do. I call it the claw.

Are we talking wolverine-style (good for shish kebabs) or something more cat-like?

The most fun I had at a TSA checkpoint was pre-see-you-naked machines. I had on a waist cinch that apparently set off the metal detector. When I was wanded, I explained what it was and the agent said "I don't know what that is." He called over a woman to do the pat-down routine. She said "we can go to a private room if you wish." I said, "no this is fine." Afterwards, a random traveler came over and said "how can I get her to do that to me?" I didn't say "dress like a girl when you travel," which is what I was doing. I'm a male crossdresser.

I'm surprised you didn't tell him, "It's a cinch!"

There is a Political Action Committee named Americans for Intercourse? Who is their opposition?

Lysistrata, I would guess.

Did you hear about the teacher who was fired for writing about homophones? I had never hear of homophonic tendencies until I was in grade school and homophones were indeed forced upon us. I still wake up screaming in bed about there (or is it "their") being "to' and "two".

This is the sinister homophone agenda and it has crept into our elementary schools. Yet homophonophobia like yours is frowned on.

I need ideas. I have about 5 months free starting next week. I'm retired from work and I'll be starting university classes in Jan. Until then I need something to do. Should I volunteer, get a temp job, take a long walk? I'm desperate to get away, but I don't have a lot of extra money right now. Do you or your readers have any ideas? What would you do?

Ooh, this is a fun question!

I would probably start answering all the Craigslist ads for one-time gigs, but this, again, is why I should not be a professional advice-giver. If you like theater, volunteering as an usher could be fun! If you hate theater, standing outside with a tray of unripe vegetables could be fun.

Long walks are always advisable, especially when taken by people you dislike, as someone wise once said.

What else do we have?

Friends could call you Xandra.

Why not "Ale"? I knew a girl named Heartie -- we could have been Ale and Heartie!

Fortunately this possibility did not occur to us at the time.

bookmark that tweets when you stop reading the book. Isn't the job of the publisher over once you buy the book? Why do they need you finish it? (This is a publisher thing, right?) I feel guilty enough when the library sends me e-mails that my current books are going to be due in 3 days.

Exactly! I thought that was the one advantage of being an inveterate book-buyer rather than a book-borrower -- nobody bugging you to see how far you'd gotten and when you'd be finished! That, and always having the Portable Dorothy on hand.

I'm getting confused with so many war anniversaries going on. I was busy enough with the Civil War sesquicentennial when the War of 1812 came along (this September will be really big in Maryland, what with Ft. McHenry & all), and now it's all Guns of August. What's a history buff to do?

It's always either feast or famine!

I frankly think the war of 1812 is overstepping its boundaries a little. It should have stopped in 1812 if it wanted to be called that. Then again, the War of 1812 Including But Not Limited To 1812 is an obviously poor name for a war.

It's a bad idea to anthropomorphize cats. It makes them mad.

I see what "yoooooouuuu" did there.

"For when a knife, fork, or spoon won't do. I call it the claw." ------- They've already invented this. It's called the Spork. Mine came in bright orange, the night last winter I spent in jail. (Don't u judge me ;-)

Hey, happens to the most Thoreau of us!

I assumed the spork was already silently included in the set of fork, knife, and spoon.

Now all we need is a spork with a very sharp handle that combines the functionality of all three -- the shork, maybe?

Take the sentences "I went to two stores too. There are three t___s in that sentence." What do you put in the blank?


Which you can't really eat with a knife or fork, and is awkward with a spoon.

Is the claw a knife smeared with honey? That works just fine!

That should kill a month.

That should kill an hour or two.

My brother and sister-in-law flew with my niece just after the rule switch that allowed young children to keep their shoes on in line. My nephew niece really wanted to know why mommy and daddy had to take off their shoes and she didn't. Well, you don't explain explosives and terrorists to a pre-schooler, so my brother, in an attempt to avoid a "because those are the rules" response, told her it was to check to see if there were any snakes in their shoes (which would be bad for the airplane) and her shoes were too small to have any snakes so she didn't have to take hers off. Which, of course, meant that she spent the rest of the time before their flight was called walking up to strangers and telling them in an extremely loud voice that her shoes were too small to have any snakes hidden in them. They got on the plane all right. Delighted to discover that at least a few TSA agents probably do have a sense of humor.

This made me audibly giggle!

She's going to watch "Snakes on a Plane" with more than usual interest someday.

"Total Respones: 6 Currently Online: 0" How does THAT work?

I guess there's nobody here but us unsubstantial spirits and anthropomorphic cats.



If you're willing to be adventurous, it doesn't have to be hugely expensive! I think John Waters just hitchhiked across the country, although I'm not sure I would recommend this.

I am surprised these ignoramuses aren't rallying to prevent the homogenization of milk. After all, that's forced down our throats every day.

This is the tyranny of the 2 percent!

I would be the blithe one.

I once briefly met a couple named Mark and Mindy, which I think is great.

I baked a cobbler and I left it out to cool. This morning there were shoes EVERYWHERE.

Now there's a twist on the old fairy tale!

This was one joke Sweeney Todd missed! He did get the shepherd's pie in, though.

Poor Hundred Years War. It already sounds miserable, and then it was really the 116 Years, Give Or Take, War.

Once a war hits 100, it's considered rude to be too specific about its age.

Do anthropomorphic cats have ailuromorphic humans?

I would watch a video based on this concept for up to two minutes!

There is that one woman who is undergoing plastic surgery to better resemble a large cat, but we shouldn't count her.

My computer is telling me there are zero online. So where am I and where are you and what are we doing?

I was hoping to be able to break the news that we are all ghosts (inside or outside of the machine) more gently, but -- well, there we are, I guess.

I knew a couple named Patricia and Patrick -- known to one and all as Pat 'n' Pat.

They could have gotten a TSA job!


*audible groans*

"It was better than the 'It's Pat' joke I was trying to work in, okay?"

He tricked the American general, William Hull, into surrendering Fort Detroit. The wiki says: At this point, even with his Native American allies, Brock was outnumbered approximately two to one. Brock thus decided to use a series of tricks to intimidate Hull. He dressed his militia contingent in worn-out uniforms discarded by his regulars, making it appear (at a distance) as if his force consisted entirely of British regular infantry. Brock then laid siege to Fort Detroit, from established artillery positions across the river in Sandwich, and through a carefully crafted series of marches, made it appear he had far more natives with him than he actually did. He had Tecumseh's forces cross in front of the fort several times (doubling back under cover), intimidating Hull with the show of a large, raucous, barely controlled group of natives. Finally, he sent Hull a letter demanding his surrender, in which he stated, in part, "It is far from my inclination to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops will be beyond my control the moment the contest commences." Brock then hammered the fort with cannon fire. On 16 August, the day after receiving Brock's letter, Hull surrendered. Hull, elderly and without recent military experience, was terrified that the civilian population of the fort, including his own daughter and grandson, would face torture at the hands of the natives.

Wow, that's quite the strategy! And here I thought George Washington was a military fox for keeping the campfires burning while he crossed the Delaware!

"It is far from my inclination to join in a war of extermination" is a great bluff, if it works, of course.

What do the Canadians call it? After all, it's much more important to them than it is to us, since they stopped us from invading them.

That's such an American way of putting it.

Calling the War of 1812 the war where "the Canadians stopped us from invading them" is like calling the Battle of Hastings "a moment when William did a great job of keeping the Anglo-Saxons out of France."

Hey AP - please give us your insight on this really important little scuffle.

I mean, far be it from me to applaud violence of any kind, except when directed at Justin Bieber. I mean, "even." "Even when directed at Justin Bieber."

The worst part was all the cruel juveniles on Twitter who insisted that they had never heard of Orlando Bloom. Lord of the Rings was barely -- ten years ago. Gulp.

Daniel and Danielle?

I don't think so, unless there were some compelling reason for it, like if Orlando Bloom threatened to hit Justin Bieber again if I did.

I had a spork but got rid of it because I realized you need separate knifes and forks. You need the fork to hold the meat, etc. you're cutting. You can't do that with just a sport.

Gatsby can!

I'm sorry, I know that was a typo.

Opera companies do the same thing with the Triumphal Procession in Verdi's "Aida." I know this because my husband was a supernumerary in a production of the opera, and I could recognize him several times.

Hey, speaking of fun ways to travel while you have a few months off! Anyone know the hookup for supernumeraries? That would be a blast -- music, costumes, time travel.

Or were you just joshing?

Up here in the Great White North, we call it "The War of 1812". We celebrated our part in it a couple of months ago.

Good to know! Tell the Great White North hi!

I went to rent a no-pets apartment, and I asked the grandma who showed it to me, if cats counted as pets? She said "Why no dear, I know how we both love cats." Then I noticed that her apartment had dozen of cats. A chill went up my spine, I stepped back from the abyss, and ended up renting another apartment.

You would have been her next cat!

It was Circe, wasn't it?

(My mental image of cat ladies is always that they are secretly Circe, and that each cat is a man who wronged them once and was transformed. Speaking of ailuromorphs!)

The War of 1812 indeed needs a new one. Since it lasted two years, I believe it should be renamed the War of Circa 1813.

Circa 1813 would be a good name for a restaurant.

I have a friend who told me that they basically consider it a war of independence, though that name isn't used. It was an existential moment. If we had taken over, at least the south east of Canada would be part of the US. They ceased to be a colony and became part of the Commonwealth without a war, so 1812 is the only canidate they have for that position in their history. Not sure what actual name they use for it.

"The War of 1812," says our friend from up in the Great White North!

I suppose we could always go for the War on (Great North) Whites, after what that congressman said.

why has Peter traditionally been played by a woman? I know back in the day men often played women's roles, but don't get why a woman plays the part of a boy. Do they think its too difficult a part for a pre adolescent male? Or is it just a weird quirk of history?

Well, first off, I think it's clear now that NBC is just messing with us, if the first time left us with any doubt whatsoever. And second off, I don't know! Don't take our last great pants (er, green tights) role!

I remember growing up and watching the Mary Martin version and not being bothered by it at all, but then again, that song with Tiger Lily also went right over my head and didn't bother me at all, so -- probably a rewatch is in order.

Then again, it's better than having the part be played by an adult male.

Then again, few things creepier than a grown woman leaping through your bedroom window late at night and announcing, "COME FLY WITH ME, I AM THE BOY WHO WON'T GROW UP."

I think if you're going to stab the meat hard enough with the jagged teeth to cut and tear a bite-sized portion off, it's ok to simply use a finger from the other hand to hold the big chunk on the plate steady. (I am experienced, and Thoreau and Martin back me here.) "I had a spork but got rid of it because I realized you need separate knifes and forks. You need the fork to hold the meat, etc. you're cutting. "

Also, why would you ever get rid of a spork?

(This is how, years from now, I wind up alone surrounded by cats and sporks.)

Yeah, but the Brits won long-term -- they gave Detroit back and we kept it.


I've spoiled the sequel for you.


That's not true!

That's impossible!

My sister's friends, Harry and Carrie. I also know of a Harry and Mary.

They got closed down for serving up cat.

While it lasted, it impressed.

Actually, there was another US invasion, in 1837. The Hunter Patriots, a bunch of (loony) patriots in norther New York State, stage an invasion from the east end of Lake Ontario. They ran io a series of very very funny set-backs while sailing down the St. Lawrence River and were eventually captured at the Battle of The Windmill, near Prescott, Ontario, after about 6 people died.. The story is written up in "Guns Across the River".

I'm going to have to look this up! This sounds amazing!

Ah but you're quickly forgotten when the final curtain falls... For the record, I'VE never owned a cat. How many have you, or was it just the humanly dog you got as the SAT present that you've cared for? Don't worry -- there's always Daniel and Danielle to fall back on. ;-)

There was a cat before the dog! The cat kept us all under an iron paw. She liked to attack houseguests and repairmen. To hear us talk about her, you wanted to take us aside and make sure we were all right. "She's really very sweet when she gets to know you," we would say. "She just likes to have things her way." "She's never scratched me! Well, she didn't mean to." Great cat, though, if you were on her good side.

I know a married pair of doctors, Paul and Paula. Maybe they're descended from that old singing duo. And I know a Tom Sawyer who actually married a Becky.

I love it when you see characters getting together!

Once, right after reading "The Invention of Love," I was at the airport and they started paging passengers Housman and Jackson, and I got excited that maybe in some section of the universe the two had gotten things worked out and were traveling together.

who wasn't very polite. He told me he once told a customer, "I'm a hairdresser, not a magician!" one day when she was getting to him. You're "no comment" reminded me of that one. Funny. "Is this really one of the highlights of your week? Or were you just joshing?"

Are you sure he wasn't Bones from Star Trek?

I guess if he'd said he was a doctor, not a magician, that would follow more logically.

just make sure it's titanium

"Threatens job security of your other utensils."

I know a Gene and Jean. That has to be really confusing when someone leaves a voice mail on the house phone.

They should go by Mendel and Pants.

No, I take that back, that's a terrible idea.

I threw this very Q out around the dinner table just this last weekend (we talk about weird stuff - just for fun)... best explanation we came up with is that they need someone who looks adult-ish but still has a high-pitched voice to pull off 'pre-adolescent boyish'

But, as someone else said, why not... a pre-adolescent boy? They do it for Billy Elliot.

There indeed was a restaurant in Philadelphia that loved cats, In fact, Health Department inspectors found several in the freezer. Therefore, every time I eat chicken in Philadelphia, I remark "good, tastes like cat."

I'm not sure "loving" is the same as "having in your freezer," but if Criminal Minds has taught me anything, it is that not everyone feels as I do on this.

One of my sets of grandparents was named Joseph and Mary.

I was going to hail you as the messiah, but then I realized you said "grandparents," not parents.

isn't that the new quirky bluegrass duo?

That, or something you don't want to hear on the phone late at night.

Have union issues. I mean, child labor issues. Don't know how they get away with having a real boy in Billy Elliot.

They have a team of three, I think, to get around the union. Same with Annie! It can be done!

Nobody wants to see boys in tights. Speaking of that, Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies.

Tights are for MEN! Manly men!

were for those times when a public school serves incredibly balanced meals like mac&cheese with french fries. When did meat get involved with sporks?

I don't know, but meat needs to go back where it came from and not make trouble.


For a stage run, they need a boy who's old enough to perform the role well -- but then there's the risk that his voice will change before the stage run is over, so he'll need to be replaced. A woman playing the role doesn't face that problem.

All this is true!

But what might not work for a long run could go just fine on NBC for a single evening, although we'd run the risk of the star turning into Justin Bieber afterwards.

Same thing with Matilda. I think they cast 4 or more kids for those parts so they don't have to do more than a few shows a week. I don't think anyone was willing to spend the money in the 50s to accomodate actual young kids playing a part that essential. Plus, using a woman allowed them to put a bankable star in the part. And you don't have to worry about her voice changing if the run goes on for a while. And she won't grow out of her costumes.

Yes, all of this!

Isn't the whole point of the story the refusal to grow up? Wouldn't a pre-adolescent boy just be a pre-grown up? In time, adulthood would get him too. (Btw, isn't Peter Pan just a girls-civilized English version, reworking Kipling's much better Jungle Book?)

Oooh, hadn't thought of it this way.

The trouble is Mowgli does grow up. You're right that Peter Pan is more "civilized" -- those aren't pirates, they're pasteboard pirates, and the whole place seems safer for children raised indoors playing house and sewing buttons on. There's no BUTTONS in the JUNGLE!

But elaborate!

Also, speaking of boys who won't grow up, I just realized I missed a Catsmeat? You mean Potter-Pirbright? joke opportunity.

A father I knew named his first offspring Pete. When a second one came along, he named him Repeat.

hur hur hur hur

If you can't digest it, don't eat it. It's not a bad thing, it's just not for everyone is all. No need to insult the diners, ok?

I love meat! Have you meat me?
I just meant I didn't see the need to put meat on a spork!

I wonder if Cathy Rigby could play Billy Elliott?

Only one way to find out!

They wouldn't use a pre-adolescent boy because Peter Pan 'NEVER grew up', not 'hasn't grown up yet' ... they have to convey 'aged' but 'never matured' ... an 11 y.o. boy would be too youthful

This is why Bieber would be so perfect!

Only in the Disney version. The actual play is much darker and Freudian, as is the book. And don't go for the sanitized movie with Johnny Depp, either; the real Barrie was an emotional predator.

I don't remember the book being that dark and Freudian, but then again, it was read to me as a child, and you have a lot of dark, Freudian stuff read to you as a child and just sort of assume it's normal.

I googled this last week. One of the reasons Peter was traditionally played by an adult woman was so that he would be bigger than the Lost Boys. If Peter was played by a teenage boy, the Lost Boys would have had to be even younger. Back when the stage play first started back in England, labor laws prevented kids under 14 from working past a certain time, so they used a adult woman and older teens...

That also makes sense! I wondered why the Lost Boys were so old-ish!

Because you'll never never land.

If I remember the story correctly, when told by the wolves and cat that he too was Man and must return to them, the boy shed tears. or maybe he shed the tears first, which proved he was human and had to one day return to Man. Either way, he did not exactly embrace his inheritance. Kipling over Barrie, any day. Ask your son, one day, which he'd rather you read him to sleep... I know boys and I know reader: he'll take Mowgli over Peter Pan. Hth!

Of course he didn't initially embrace his inheritance! The story is about how he comes to do that! I think the difference between Mowgli and Peter is that Mowgli is someone the reader might conceivably want to be, whereas Peter, appealing as he might be in some ways, is also obviously incomplete in others. The only person who grows up in Peter Pan is Wendy. Peter's a cautionary tale, even when he's having fun. "This is as much fun as you can have without growing up," Peter Pan says. And it's fun for -- a fixed amount of time. Maybe a whole childhood long. Anything longer than that and you wind up stunted and strange.

I think my daughter might also prefer Mowgli. It's been a long time since I read either. It depends if the child in question is in the mood for talking snakes, wolf-packs, and panther parenting. Hth!

The summer is more than half past. Has Alexandra stepped on a real roller coaster yet? (no, your life traumas and ups and downs do not count.)

No, I haven't! It's on the Summer Bucket list!

Also, to signify they had REALLY been lost to time. If they were really young boys, they might just have been dropped on the island. This way, you think of them more like Odysseus' soldiers, really really LOST.

They were also large cats.

a grown woman just isn't a "boy who never grew up" so I reject that women are used to portray -aged but not grown.

Yeah, it would be an understatement to say that we seem to be navigating some interesting gender-assumption shoals right now.

Men in Tights is one of my favorite movies.

You are correct!

Isn't the REAL problem with "Peter Pan" nowadays that children don't know what an alarm clock is?

Just put a cell phone in the croc! It can go off at inconvenient times.

things that seem like they are a real thing, but aren't. Like Peter Pan women. Sporks. And the amount of people currently online.

And on that note, since we stopped believing in ourselves, I'm going to pull a tinker bell and vanish! Have a great week, all! Keep reading the Compost, feel free to join me on Twitter, and check out the Campsite Rule!

If you're talking about the musical "Cats" now, they were big in costume like that so you could see them on stage. You probably sat up close. If you sat in the very back, you wouldn't see them if they were played by trained animals and not human characters. Hope this helps!

I would very very much attend a Cats with live cats.

Also, drat, I misspelled Tinkerbell!

There's an awful lot in there about character development, and not just talking animals, you know! Try Felix Salten's Bambi too. You'd like it a lot, I bet! I sure did. " It's been a long time since I read either. It depends if the child in question is in the mood for talking snakes, wolf-packs, and panther parenting. Hth!"

I liked it too! I like both! Anyone who thinks "panther parenting" is something I wouldn't be eager to read about has not seen my bookshelf lately!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Recent Chats
  • Next: