ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Sep 09, 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



How's it going, all? Happy Tuesday! 

I understand, for the first time ever, someone asked St. Peter "who are you wearing?"

Yes, indeed. 

I am upset that Stephen Hawking discovered how to destroy the universe. Now we just know some high school kid in his mother's basement is going to go ahead and end the universe. I bet that ruins the next season of "House of Cards".

Aw, but he said the equipment needed to be about the size of a planet, if I'm remembering correctly. 


If you enter 'p twitter' in Google, you get in order: Pink, Perez Hilton, Psy, PewDiePie and Pele.

I am surprised by zero of these.

I think I am creeping up the Alexandra rankings, though! I'm currently number three after Daddario and Shipp, according to my autofill, which might just be humoring me. 

la-, ti-, and wa-.

Don't forget inte-!

Who stores their nude photographs in a cloud? Wouldn't they get wet from the moisture?

I keep waiting for someone to do a strange radical remount of "The Clouds" but using the iCloud somehow, but actually after that sentence I have no idea what direction the adaptation would take. Maybe Strepsiades would send Phidippides to school to learn how to get his documents out of the Cloud, or put them into the cloud, or hack his creditors, or something, and then -- 

hey wait where's everyone going

how do you respond?

I'm working on it, if it's the question I think it is! 

Hawking said the accelerator would be larger than Earth, but it might be included in the iPhone 8 anyway. And if it can't be shrunk, Larry Niven has his next book plot.

It's a pretty big family.

An-, dan-, dowa

Sure, the equipment may be the size of a planet, for now, but like calculators and telephones, they'll find a way to make them smaller….

Moore's Law! 

was in Rhymes With Orange a couple of weeks ago. The gist was, a man explaining that, like all Polish names, the accent is on the second syllable. The other person says "yes, Mr Waterski." I'm going to call it waTERskiing from now on.


When I read that Jack the Ripper was known for being into, as it was described back in the 1880s, as "self-abuse", I at first thought they meant that he was a cuter or something like that. I later realized they meant he was more like, how do you say, like Hans Solo.

Wow, you really had to work at that, and I congratulate and salute you. With both hands!


Lu-, Hambur-, Ei-, Al-


Re "waTERskiing": I recall a scene in "How Green Was My Valley" where the brilliant but impoverished young son of a coal miner knows the word "misled" only from reading print material, so is cruelly mocked when he mispronounces it in class as "MY-zled."

That's how I used to pronounce it too! Someone myzeld me!

Ray Rice Janay Rice Malaysia Flight 17 College rankings iPhone Destiny I was fine (albeit depressed) until I reached the last two. Is an iPhone my Destiny???

It's not as bad as the CNN homepage a few weeks ago which ran something like "severed heads Ferguson death of robin williams SWASTIKA FOUND IN MCDONALDS BUN."

I said "mizzled" until my father corrected me. I think I was a teenager at the time (of the correction, I mean).

Tie him to the mizzlemast!

Tom the Butcher just wrote a book which seems to be about the serious study of the psychological use of illegal drugs such as LSD. To test the book, is the entire Post staff now trying LSD to see if the book is correct?If you all are on LSD, will we able to tell if it affects the Post writings or should it look the same as before?

Should look about the same, except






they're trying to tell us something 

I just know it

I'm not sure I'd trust one. Imagine you're in hands-off and a truck is heading for you and the screen suddenly shows "RECALL NOTICE FOR SOFTWARE ISSUE"

I can't wait, personally!


I just read Gene's chat for this week. I also wonder why so many people take naked photos of themselves and their friends. I never did and it never occurred to me to do so. Granted, I know no one would ever want to see a photo of me naked, or even a photoshopped naked photo of me so long as my face shows, but still….Is this something indicating a major psychological change in how people think? Are people so narcosis tic that they hope that even embarrassing remembrances can be found by others? Is that how people want to be remembered: just as long as you remember the name?. Are we all becoming Paris Hilton?

Okay, okay!

I honestly think this discussion would be better served if we made it about salads. 

"Why do so many people take undressed photos of their salads and their friends' salads? I never did and it never occurred to me to do so. Granted, I know no one would ever want to see a photo of my salad, or even a photoshopped image of my salad so long as no radishes are showing, but still... Is this something indicating a major psychological change in how people thing? Are people so narcissistic that they hope that even SALAD PICTURES can be found by others? is that how people want to be remembered, just as long as you remember the salad? Are we all becoming Paris Hilton?"

Pretty much all of these questions could equally be asked of food pictures: they are things that people take a lot of, now, and NEVER would have, before. 

Just saying. 

On to the actual question:

I just emailed Weingarten (he also asked me this question this weekend, so I had a draft half done) but I think it comes down to two factors:

one: not only "the Internet is for porn" in the immortal words of Avenue Q, but also your computer/phone (surprising number of people do this on their phones, actually) is where you access it. You feel comfortable that certain things you wouldn't want broadcast to the world at large can be seen and/or kept on your personal electronic devices. 

two: it's there, and it's "free." People take more pictures now, full stop. The technology to do so is always with you, and an individual picture has no "cost." The democratization of this technology -- and placing it in the hands of folks with still-developing brains, always a way to test what the most impulsive use of a given technology will be -- means that you are going to have pictures you didn't have before. Also, before, if you took a picture, you had to keep a physical record, even if it were a polaroid where it had to pass through no hands but yours. If you took nudes on a regular film camera, who was to say that Robin Williams' character in One Hour Photo wouldn't seize them and hang them lovingly in his den? 

Now, you don't have to store them in a "place" and you can keep them the same place you keep all your other most personal secrets -- your notes, all your private communications with your friends, your diary, even. I don't think it's for show. I think it's a record. I think people who take them do still realize they're potentially embarrassing, but I think if you don't forward them carelessly, you're entitled to believe that they're as secure as all your other private files -- which these should have been.

I had issues with detritus for a very, very long time. So long, that I think people didn't actually know what I was trying to say so they couldn't correct me. I was putting the accent on the first syllable. And possibly pronouncing the "i" as an "ee."

"de TREE tis?"

Detritus never bugged me, I think because Petri is pronounced with a similar strange emphasis and hard I.

and what you do mean the C in indict is silent?

This reminds me of the Ambrose Bierce classic:

A spelling reformer indicted
For fudge was before the court cicted.
The judge said: "Enough –
His candle we'll snough,
And his sepulchre shall not be whicted."

Have you ever seen the clip of Ally Sheedy on "To Tell The Truth" at age 13 in 1975 after she wrote a book about Queen Elizabeth I called "She Was Nice To Mice" and before she became a movie star? It's out there on YouTube. I wish I had been that together at that age.

Wait, WAS she nice to mice?

I'm getting side-tracked by the content here. I didn't know this was a reputation QE1 had!

Cute is as cute does.

Some cutters are small sailboats.

A long I. Consonants are hard and soft; vowels are short and long.

Well, that explains why everyone always has so much difficulty pronouncing it, I guess! The hard I and the soft T!

Once met someone who pronounced it DER-biss. Cause, ya know, that's how it's spelled.

This kind of HUR-biss will be punished eventually.

Oh, no, Facebook is down. Should I call 911? Does anyone have 911's phone number?

Google it! Google it!

Sideshow Bob, not to mention his ex-wife Patty (or is it Selma?)

Yes! Never forget!

I am Mr. Zitorzylovynovigconiz The "c" is silent.

At least one of them's silent!

When the minister said "I now pronounce 'you' 'man and wife.'" Yet I still heard him say "you" after that.

I've never heard that before! 

I don't think anybody knows whether she was. Ally was just lucky enough to have a mom in the publishing biz who got her cute little story published. A certain amount was made at the time that it's all in Who You Know (or are related to).

Also, can we start calling them QE1 and QE2? I think this needs to occur!

If everyone "likes" facebook on twitter (do they have likes there?) facebook will no longer be down. It's like clapping for Tinkerbell. Trust me. I'm an IT guy.


They will discover them in a box and see that you were once young and pretty. They will not believe it, course.

"Amazing what they could do with photoshop in those days," they'll murmur.

Even when I (a person also named Alexandra) type our first name into the Google search bar, yours is the 3rd result!

I think it's also due to the tireless efforts of Other Alexandra (Alexandra E) who has been posting daily about different and intriguing foods that you can enjoy on your world travels. 

Just because more people take pictures of salads today than in 1974 or 1934 doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. But it also doesn't mean that it's a good thing. What I read in Gene's update is the question: "why do you think it's a good thing when I think it's a bad thing?" Your answer says, basically, "what I think is a good thing is irrelevant because it's private." I think there's some merit in that answer but it doesn't address the other question of how to decide what is right and wrong, and why this has gone from being "wrong" to Gene to "right" for you.

I just really don't see this as a question of right and wrong.  I thought he was asking why more pictures were taken now, and I think the bottom line answer to that is: you give everyone in the world a camera to carry with them at all times, you are going to wind up with more pictures of more things than you used to have. Some people will use the camera only in ways Gene finds appropriate, other people won't. 

I think pretty much all the cases for why it's a bad thing hinge on "well, if it falls into the wrong hands, there'll be hell to pay" but I'm not sure that's a good basis for making decisions about what you do in private. I'm inclined to let people decide that for themselves, with the same assumptions of privacy that they have for the rest of the embarrassing material on their hard drives.

In third place on my list, behind Daddario and Shipp, are Hedison and Chando. I think Google must be humoring you.


They will go EWWWWW and bleach their eyeballs. A young couple we met at a block party told us that when they bought their house, they found, stuck in a corner in the attic, a photo album of BDSM pix of the previous owners, who had moved to a nursing home. It made the young couple particularly uncomfortable because they had grown up a block away and played with the previous owners' grandchildren.

And, see, now, we won't have that problem, because those pics will travel on their hard drives to the nursing home with them, where only their nearest family members will have to go through them, assuming they forget to remove the folders before their demise.

Sometimes I fell left out of the inside joke. terwillipatty? terwillisideshow bob? sign me quizzical

It's the GER family!

OK, I am a pretty serious cook, and I travel and eat out quite a bit. I do NOT understand the obsession with taking photos of your food. What's up with that?

I don't get it either! 

I like seeing what my friends have baked, but that's because cakes always look good. But some salads just don't sing to you, no matter how you plate them. 

I guess I can understand showing people what wonderful meals you're making, or what fancy restaurants you've been to, under the sort of loose Facebook assumption that people enjoy a passenger seat to your life. Maybe?

said you could tell the brainy nerd students because they would have huge vocabularies but pronounce half the words wrong because they were learning them all from books.

Yes! When you come at life book-first, it's awkward!

Re. "I think pretty much all the cases for why it's a bad thing hinge on "well, if it falls into the wrong hands, there'll be hell to pay" ------------- or, It takes intimacy out of the one-to-one sensual realm, with your partner present for all the senses to be engages. (ie/sense of touch.) Taking and sharing pictures cheapens that, even if it's necessary because you are apart, or want to arouse using another less direct medium. You don't have to agree this is wrong, but it's there...

I think you have to take this up with Gene. 

Philadelphia, like, just decriminalized marijuana and I like, like, man, that may not be the best, you know, idea, because there are all these butterflies flying around and, like, they create lots of color and, man, I think it is burning my eyes.

Be well and try to avoid Times columnists!

To defend nerds, my three children (mental giants though they may be :)) each took high school French. They can never help their nerd mother pronounce an unfamiliar French phrase or answer a crossword clue like "Nice Spring". It doesn't take intelligence to say a word correctly.


Thank you Alexandra. I like some of Gene's writing, but he often just doesn't get it, especially on women's issues. (And his insistence that he knows more about feminism than women do makes me INSANE.)

They'll likely wonder why we limited ourselves to two arms, two legs, and other assorted appendages... Viva La Future.

I for one welcome our insect overlords. 

I have an exceedingly common name and the last time I checked, I was somewhere around page 43 of the Google results for "{Forename} {Surname}". At first I found this somewhat distressing, but then I realized that future employers will never find those embarrassing photos! As long as I don't run for public office, anyway.

Who was it who said "It's easy to find a needle in a haystack with a match?" 

I always take photographs of my food, especially my salads. I love it when my salad has no dressing. What is wrong with such photos? (We are still talking about naked photographs, right?)

I'm sorry I used the word "salad." Word salad.




DEE - tree - tus. Like I said, I think no one had any idea what word I was aiming for. Sounded a little like Atreus, as in House of Atreus. Though they aren't spelled at all alike, so I don't think I can use that as an excuse.

If Greek drama has taught us anything, it is that you can always use the house of Atreus as an excuse. 

I figure it'll be like Zaphod and his handy extra arm.

Oh, that would be handy!

It's 12:40 PM ET! Do you know where your towel is? 

I totally understand your points but I do think in the end it is incumbent on each of us to consider the worst possible outcomes of behaviors and decide about them accordingly. If someone steals you picture of a salad, so what. But naked pictures is a different story. Look the people who stole them are criminals, NO ARGUMENT. But it is not victim blaming to say that you should behave in ways that minimizes your exposure to these horrible people. Until there are no bad people in the world (i.e. never) you have to do so. It is not victim blaming to say wear a seat belt because a bad drunk driver may hit you. He is wrong, you can minimize the possible damage he can do to you. Do you think I'm wrong here?

I obviously don't think you're wrong about seatbelts. This is the parallel everyone uses for all situations, though, and I don't think it's applicable as universally as some folks seem to think.

"Behave in ways that minimizes your exposure to these horrible people" -- what does this mean? Don't have anything in your house that you don't want the whole Internet to see? That's no way to live. 

You have the right to a private life. Celebrities are under more attack from people who want to get under their facade, so they have to take more precautions, but they have the right to a private life. Obviously it's possible to be too naive about this. But I don't think it's a seatbelt situation. Not exactly. There is a cost to living your life as though you were in public all the time that's higher than the cost of buckling and driving on normally. And even if you do, that may not be enough for some of those "horrible people." There's no pleasing horrible people. That's one of the reasons they're so horrible. 

TIN-ni-tus, not tin-EYE-tus.

It's not tinnitus? 

Then what's tintinnabulation?

He's Odysseus relative and is always giving him bad advice.

My favorite Odysseus companion is Elpenor!

I'm now on the martini diet. So far, only my head has gotten lighter.

Wow, a martini! My grandparents call lunch "beer and wine time," but you're clearly well ahead of them.

Now I"m remembering "Barney Miller," where Sgt. Wojciehowicz would tell people trying to read his nameplate, "it's pronounced just like it's spelled."


My family STILL won't let that one go. I was 8 and we were going to Yellowstone! I didn't know it wasn't pronounced like geezer!

Old Faithful is a good name for a geezer!

From a legal perspective, people who - choose - to be public figures (like celebs) do actually have a lower expectation of privacy than those who do not put themselves in the public eye..

Definitely! That's part of the trade-off. Lower, though, not zero.

I think that native English speakers just can't see the individual letters in French words at all. Why else would they pronounce "bouillon" the same as "bullion"?

Yes! Or any of our French-origin city names!

I wondered why Odysseus didn't just blow Elpenor off - I wouldn't have gone back to Circe's island and risk enslavement a second time just to bury a ditz. But then I'm not Odysseus.

I think we can all agree that Elpenor did not do a good job of minimizing his exposure. 

But the individual letters in "bouillon" are not pronounced. Which reminds me of the saying that French is easy to learn because you don't pronounce any of the consonants and all of the vowels are pronounced "eh."


I love that. 

And on that note, I should skedaddle, eh! 

Have a great week! Don't anger the Cloud! Feel free to join me on Twitter and keep reading the Compost!

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Alexandra Petri
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