ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 12, 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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Happy Tuesday, all!

How's everyone?

Would you rather be a bobble-head or a garden gnome?

My initial knee-jerk response was bobble-head, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of garden gnome. There's potential there.

Re-watched A Bridge Too Far, which actually has a fair number of women, though only Liv Ullmann says much. Started to think, maybe she'll ask the housekeeper for extra towels, would that pass the Bechdel Test? No such luck, though she did tell her (fairly young) daughter to sleep tight, and the daughter told her to sleep tight, but the daughter is not a woman, so I'm guessing it doesn't count.

I think she counts. I don't know what the age bar is for being a woman (ask Britney Spears, I guess) but I think you can pass the Bechdel with a family relationship.

I don't think any of these is exactly my box. I feel like a round peg. I'm probably closest to the avoider in terms of I'll often take a very long time on a project that I want to go well, and if it doesn't seem to be, I'll sometimes start the whole thing over from scratch instead of editing what I have so far, which admittedly sometimes works, but sometimes just slows you down. But where are the procrastinators based on hope?

Grant vs. Eisenhower. I'd like to see a debate on a just war.

Hm, well if we aren't limited to presidents who actually campaigned against one another (I'd also watch a military match-up of Grant and Ike, from a safe distance), that's much tougher.

I think I'd otherwise go for the 1896 William Jennings Bryan campaign, although now that I actually put that down, that seems like a horrible idea and I don't know why I went with it. Let me ponder.

I could use some of that.

I read your article about Robin Williams death this morning. For me, his death is strange. Even when well-known and well-liked celebrities die unexpectedly in the past, I may have been sad to see them go, but I wasn't truly sad about the death itself. With Robin Williams, I actually feel sadness in the same way as when a friend died.

I feel that too. 

I know some people who actually had the chance to meet or get to know him and all their reports of what a tremendous and kind human being he was are both incredible to read and make this even more of a gutpunch.

Bobble-head. You'd be inside and warm(ish). Garden Gnomes get the heat and snow and rain. And dogs pee on you. Plus indoors, people will talk to you sometimes.

It really depends whose desk you're on. My bobbleheads (and I've had some in my time) have not gotten the level of social interaction I think they would wish.

They are far more durable. They can scare little kids when hiding in the garden. And 100 years from now your great-grandkid can ask your grandkid who the scary looking dwarf is.


See, this!

Lawn ornament life! You get stuck with the flamingos and the inflatable Halloween doodads and Christmas lights! That's a purgatory that would be fun to hang out in!

I am glad I pulled a tab up for your chat now. None of the other WaPo website pages are working for me today. What is up with your IT people?

Is this happening for other people? I don't know what the problem is (I believe they're working on it as fast as they can! These websites are like big icebergs in the sense that there's so much going on under the surface and I couldn't produce the proper code to generate one) but we can gather marshmallows and commiserate.

Garden gnomes Gnomeo (voice of McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. But with plastic pink flamingos and lawnmower races in the mix, can this young couple find lasting happiness? Life's an obstacle course.

See, the perks are just multiplying now!

I like that Scrabble allows new words, but I'm not sure that new words that all the kids know but the adults might not are the real point of Scrabble. The last time I played Scrabble was when I was volunteering with the Homework Help program of the Children's Aid Society in NYC. The kids (11 and 12 year old boys) came in to do their homework. If they finished there were educational games and at a set time, they went to play basketball. You couldn't be on the team if you didn't come in for the homework/game time. Once we were playing Scrabble and one of the shy kids put down a Y and an E next to an N to spell "yen." Then he looked at me and asked if it was OK entirely with his shoulders and eyebrows - didn't say a word. So I said, "Yes, yen is a word. It is a very good word and it means a few different things. But I don't think you know what it means yet, so go get the dictionary and we'll look it up. You can't play a word until you know what it means." That is how I like to think of Scrabble. As a vocabulary builder, because you know that something you can spell should be a word. It sounds like a word. So you look it up and you can confirm it is word. Then you get to play it.

That's interesting!

I find that's more often true with the shorter words than the longer "good" words. My mother would always play long good-looking words in family games, but her placement and letter selection never lived up to her vocabulary. She'd have something like "escargot" and it would be a measly 12ish points and no doubles.

The worst innovation for me is that since Words With Friends came in, people are accustomed to being able to use the dictionary BEFORE putting a word down. You're supposed to not have it until afterwards! You thought gameplay was slow before?

Barbara could be the debate moderator.

I don't know, having seen her criticism of the Bush II painting of Bush I, I'm not sure it would be fair to Bush II.

I object to the classification of garden gnomes being neglected, unspoken to and left out in bad weather. Surely anyone who loves a gnome enough to put him in the garden would take him in the winter and keep him company out in the garden in the spring and summer!

Do people take gnomes in in winter?

Pratchett wrote a series of three kid-sorta books on "Nomes," basically garden gnomes that lived in a department store. No-one's written a book on Bobbleheads.

That sounds fun!

Hmm, well, if I embedded among the bobbleheads, I could be the first. (That sounds like something that happened to Gulliver.)

I built a small greenhouse for outdoor life.

On behalf of your flamingos, if you have any, and what gnomes are in your arsenal, I thank you.

I never said most of them to begin with! And please, late twenties don't start for another year!

Oh no, I've started saying THAT.

Yeah, well, we weren't really playing for points. It certainly wasn't competitive Scrabble where you memorized all the valid words with only 2 or three letters but including an X. We didn't play Scrabble in my family. I think my dad was traumatized from playing Scrabble in the military. He was an Amercan officer assigned to a British air base in Germany in the 60s and spent a lot of time losing at Scrabble. British spelling did him in.

There just aren't enough U's in American Scrabble to go around!

Well, I live in Minnesota. People take in everything before winter.

"Too cold for gnomes out there."

Amazon lists many books aburt bobbleheads. including "Betty Tales: The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat by Ruth Hartman Berge and Ray Russotto". Plus, if you keep your bobblehead in your car, they get to travel and see new places and people, rather that being stuck with flamingos and flowers that die every year.

Oh, it's a true story! Well, in THAT case.

I've been back on a fairy tale kick (I missed reading so much during my months of book-writing seclusion! Not to be confused with misreading so much, which still happens) and was just reading the Steadfast Tin Soldier, which is, like all Hans Christian Andersen tales, so much more subtly unsettling than you remember. So the travails of inanimate household objects have been on my mind a bit lately. I'd definitely rather be a bobblehead than a paper ballerina with a large tinsel rose.

Alex - loved your piece about the Comments section. What a bunch of toadies some people can be! I give you great credit for not taking it personally, because you really can't - those crummy comments are generally all about the commenter, not about the original author. Jes sayin.

And I have a bunch of nice commenters (and the Boodle, over in the Achenblog, are a swell bunch) -- it's just, there's always someone who wants to use the pool for the wrong reasons.

Thank goodness! I was getting anxious not reading about what Sarah did now!

You can breathe easy, friend, vegans, purgatory.

How about a lawn goose? Then you could dress in outfits appropriate for the weather.

That long silence was me trying to find a tasteful way to incorporate some kind of joke about "taking a gander."

I did not succeed.

[to David] Very few humans have seen what you've seen today. And we're determined to keep it that way. So, if you ever reveal our existence, we'll erase your brain. The intervention team will be sent, your emotions, your memories, your entire personality, will be expunged. Your friends and family will think you've gone crazy. You, well, you won't think anything. Yes sir, expunged. Claim you are a gnome as long as they think you've gone crazy.


Some people will steal anything. We... are the people that make sure things happen according to plan. The future is the plan.

So, for anyone tuning in just now, this is happening.

(Was that movie good? I missed it!)

I think you have passed on your very important message in the wrong secret internet chat. Also, my dad's name isn't David. Though he was baby sitting nuclear weapons in case WWIII broke out, so maybe the message is meant for my dad?

I mean, the plan is the future.

Have you ever read "Word Freak", about high-level Scrabble competition? It was surprisingly entertaining.

It's on the list!

Winter is over with with global warming. They can be garden outdoors all year.

Ah, but will they melt?

You certainly do not live in Minnesota!

You still have winter?

Oh, man. Wow. No, for everyone else, it's just as balmy as the day is long. We've been reusing stock footage of snow for the past six years.

I feel very sad about this, and I think it's because if someone like him can't be happy what hope is there?

There's plenty of hope.

I don't know what went through his mind -- I never know for sure what goes through anyone's mind but my own, and I barely know that at times -- but I think we've been hearing from a lot of comics and others who knew him that a gift for making other people happy and a gift for being happy yourself don't go hand in hand as often as they would if the world were truly fair. I think it was Guy Branum who was tweeting that it's incredibly frustrating how many jerks are out there wandering around with smiles on their faces while Robin Williams gets stuck with depression. Somebody has a lot to be happy about -- great skills, a sharp wit, lots of friends? Depression could care less. It's a mean disease.

"Someone like him" -- I'm guessing what you mean by that is someone with his gifts, talent and fame and wit, and his accomplishments -- but it's not like You Do X, You Win Z, You Possess Skill A, Congratulations! You Have Unlocked Achievement: Happiness. This is not proof that there's no there there. There was never a there there. There are great, kind, talented people who are happy. There are great, kind, talented people who are miserable.

Happiness isn't handed out proportionally to how skilled you are or how smart you are or how happy you make others. I think it's clear from all the testimony that if you got to be happy in proportion to how much happiness you gave others, he'd be with us today and we'd have him for centuries.

Lots of people are happy. Some of them are happier because of things he made. There's lots of hope.

That being said, please, take care of yourself, all.

Did you watch Sunday 8 - 9 p.m on WETA? First episode had Empress off her feed when pig man was imprisoned by owner of her rival. Second had Freddy selling dog food. No imposters at Blandings yet. I am not liking the adaptation so far.

Please keep reporting in! You are stoking the fires of my doubt!

My thought about Robin Williams' death is that his depression was a disease of the brain, perhaps bipolar disorder in view of his much-commented-upon frenetic energy at times. It doesn't matter how much a clinically depressed person is loved, even lionized. The illness is sometimes terminal, and in Robin's case (as in many others) the death comes apparently at one's own hand. So much more needs to be done in the field of brain disease research (I dislike calling it "mental illness") in order to find cures, or at least better ways to manage such diseases. Full disclosure: A bipolar relative committed suicide a few years ago, so I've given the illness a lot of thought lately.

This. These cupcakes are inspired by a scene from "Tourist Trapped" (s.1, ep.1), in which a gnome throws-up a rainbow after getting punched or kicked by Mabel, one of the main characters. Well, it's barf that resembles a rainbow (see video clip below). The gnome puking scene is so popular it's been made into T-shirts and other items and even won a spot on the Food Fiction Wikia's "Gravity Falls" Menu! Eat Puke Love!

That looks delicious!

RAINBOWS ALL OVER YOUR BLUES John Sebastian - 1970 I been waiting my time just to talk to you You´ve been lookin´all down in the mouth and down at your shoes Well, baby, I came to give you the news I´ll paint rainbows all over your blues I heard you been spending a lot of your time up in your room And at night you been watchin´ the dark side of the moon You don´t talk to nonody if they don´t talk to you So Buddy and me came here to sing you a tune "I give up" is all you´ve really got to say It´s time to find a new life style

Rainbow gnome cupcakes for everyone! They stay outside.

That is a hardy gnome.

"Data protection for 3D printable files is about to become more important than data protection for your personal information, your corporate communications and, possibly even your Nation-State’s military databases. If one cannot make, one cannot wage war with anything more than sticks and stones. How ironic perhaps that Einstein suggested, allegorically, that a Fourth World War would be fought with such tools?" future-war-3d-file-data-security Einstein was right. Make Einstein gnomes. He was no bobblehead.

You know, after seeing that snow, I might reconsider.

I put them in the comments section of your blog.


Should I go to my uncle's birthday party on Sunday?

Yes if your uncle's a bobblehead, no if he's a gnome. 1972 - ‎Geology O, compositions studied; A, intersection of the Gnome composition with this plane. ... CRYSTALLIZATION-DIFFERENTIATION IN THE GNOME MELT From the ...

Mmm, gnome melt.

I'm hungry.

Well, before this party turns Donner, I should skedaddle! Have a great week, all! Keep reading the Compost and feel free but unobligated to join me on Twitter!

Didn't we used to call those books, newspapers and magazines?

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Alexandra Petri
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