ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Feb 21, 2017

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Live chat with Alexandra Petri at 11 a.m. ET. Submit questions and comments for her to respond to now.

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Connect on Twitter: @petridishes And catch up with the blog here!

Happy Tuesday, all! Let's rumble!

If you search for "Alexandra Petri" only the chats come up. If you refine the search for only articles, a bunch of stuff by other people comes up and nothing by you. How do I find your humor articles?

Hm! I recommend going to or clicking on the Opinions vertical and going to the blog from there! Adding chaos to the mix is the fact that Alexandra E. Petri, my google doppelgänger, has also written for the Post...

What were you doing in Chicago last week? Wait, wait, don't tell me...

Okay, I won't! :)

You should have let us know. Are you going to be a regular, or did Roxanne need an emergency fill in? Also, I'm so curious. What is the timing like? Do they fly you in early on Thursday (they tape on Thursday, right?) and let you hang in Chicago before the taping? Or are you buried in a hotel room reviewing off beat news of the week? And then is it a red eye to get home? Or a fabulous dinner out with the other panelists a la the Algonquin Round Table? Anyway, I hope they have you back. Signed, Not your mother

Thank you! I was so nervous before it happened that even after getting invited to panel I did not believe it (a) would really happen and (b) would air until it was literally coming through the radio. It was a blast and I hope they'll have me back. They fly you in on Thursday and I sort of puttered around my hotel room filing on the Trump presser and writing my "Bluff the Listener" piece and worrying far far too much about my outfit considering that radio is not a visual medium. They fed us delicious barbecue in the green room before the show, which I bet the Algonquin roundtable would have killed for. They also tape for approx two hours and only keep some of it, which means that a full hour of very specific Star Wars jokes are on a cutting room floor somewhere...

without an ancient mariner telling me his tale of woe.

I guess it's just your albatross to bear.

Regarding the idea mentioned in the Feb 14 chat that toilet paper rolls should be oriented to prevent cats from unrolling them, in my opinion if your cat is able to open doors then you have bigger problems than toilet paper direction. (If you have indoor pets why would you not keep *that* door closed?)

It does seem like a potentially easy fix, but i am sure there are good reasons for keeping that door open that are simply eluding me.

Tess of the d'Ubervilles.


This is not as good as yours, but what old-time actor drove people to the airport?

montgomery clyft!

Hello from Sweden where nothing really happens. Ever. Even when ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 that happened in England.

Tell me more, o voice of Sweden! Did you see The Ark, ever? I loved that band.

Any personal favorites among best picture, and any you haven't seen?

I loved Hidden Figures a lot. I also loved Hell or High Water! I have seen that and La La Land and, uh, Rogue One this year and that's it. I hear that Moonlight and Arrival are great but I have missed them both so far. What have you seen that you recommend? 

Because a closed bathroom door is the universal sign for "occupied"

If a listener picks your story as being the real one, then you get a point. But one person is telling a true story. And the other people are telling a false story. I understand why you would get a point for telling a false story that seems plausible enough to be true and fooling the listener. But why do you get a point for telling a true story that the listener figures out is true? It isn't fooling anyone. I get there has to be a chance for the true story teller to get a point or it seems a little unfair, but it isn't like there is anything at stake for the story tellers. Used to be that the person who won overall got to give their response to the question at the end of the show first (presumably this was a benefit because you wouldn't have to change your answer if someone gave a similar one before you). But I don't think they even do that anymore. So why get a point for telling a true (but slightly outrageous) story that the listener figures out is true?

 I would argue that you get the point to compensate you for not getting to make up a fun story from whole cloth and for telling the story coherently enough that the person can get it right, but the incentives overall are confusing! 

The wedding DJ has replaced the Ancient Mariner in the endless tale wedding event. We once sneaked out before the cake was cut because we'd already finished our sit-down meal and listened to every single thing and person in the ceremony endlessly described by the DJ. We were literally there for three hours before we gave up.

"waiter! waiter!" everywhere and not a drop to drink 

Hello Sweden, from Connecticut, where things are always happening, but we only appear in the news when something HORRIBLE happens. Currently, a Russian spy ship is watching us intently.

The only proper response to being stared at intensely by a Russian spy ship is to bore it to death. You are doing yeoman work! 

because that's where the litter box is. Sometimes we take care of our business at the same time. So charming. (I live in an apartment). (And so does my cat).

My favorite Swedish band is called Dead Starlet, fronted by Camela Leierth. I had a Swedish friend (I mean, we're still friends but we no longer live in the same city) who burned me a copy of her CD (back when doing that was a thing). I have multiple copies of that CD now, all carefully burned off the original, since I haven't found the original anywhere and I think maybe they only made the one album? And I don't want to lose it forever. But now there's YouTube! Here's the first track, it's awesome.

I am very excited to listen to this! Our next chat playlist can be Swedish Music Recommendations...

Or does Daphne wear an ascot in honor of Fred?

Neither of them could get off ascot free.

In the olden days, in some office building rest rooms, toilet paper dispensers had a spare roll locked (one roll perched above the other) inside a metal box, with only one roll accessible at a time in the bottom half of the box. Unless the roll was installed so that a new sheet was on top facing the user, it would be nearly impossible to start a new roll. One could surmise from that design, at least, that the designer assumed this over the top and off the front alignment was the correct one. One could also assume that at times some folks found it useful to have thin fingers to try to access a new roll of toilet paper, and that some people were stuck in rest rooms for longer than they might have anticipated. (The new roll could be released and dropped into view by pushing down a lever that ran across the center of the metal box, and above the opening in the bottom half of the box.)

This level of security sounds frankly excessive. What did people use to do to toilet paper to make all the old holsters like this?

Did you know that the word "cravat" is literally the French for a Croatian? Croatian mercenaries wore colorful scarves around their necks that the French thought were so cool that they invented the necktie then and there, calling them after the mercenaries hired by Richelieu or the king or somebody.

This is suitably colorful and so I am going to believe it without googling! 

I have a fun(?) and exciting(?) question that split my entire group of friends this weekend. 

Picture a row of three people all facing the same direction: A B C. If the middle person starts and says "let's go clockwise", would person C or person A go next? 

They used too much of it, which cost the owner of the facilities. That's the rationale behind all of those irritating TP holders that are hard to use.

I guess it's true what they say: Behind every inconvenient multi-step system is one guy who didn't respect unwritten rules about the use of office toilet paper.

This chat is now a primary source for the cravat origin story.

You're welcome, Wikipedia!

Will this include Ghost and their ultra-satanic metal?

As long as it isn't satanic enough to summon something, sure!

Stockholm syndrome came from an incident in an Albuquerque Ikea.

No more Scooby Snacks for you.

Yes!!! I'm glad someone went there!

I found last year's winner, Spotlight, to be riveting (i.e., I first saw it streaming and couldn't leave the room and didn't want to stop it for any reason). I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. This year, in dire need of escape, I have only seen La La Land and Hidden Figures (not even Rogue One because I pieced together the ending from reviews and needed some lighter fare). I really liked the music and visual beauty of La La Land, but really liked Hidden Figures and think it would be a consensus choice of viewers over La La Land. Interestingly, in analyzing the different opinions of La La Land, I have found that many of its detractors are female. What do you think? Would a different ending have mattered to detractors?

I liked the ending of La La Land! I thought it was an enjoyable confection of a movie, and Gosling and Stone have enough chemistry to make Marie Curie turn green with envy. But as a musical, it bothered me. It felt a lot like an old fashioned movie musical in the sense that the songs were sort of plunked in there because it seemed like there should be a song there, as opposed to because the characters had something to say that could only be expressed in song. And because the songs weren't doing any dramatic work I am still not sure what the majority of the lyrics said. But I did really enjoy it and I thought it did a lovely job of showing you can tell a modern story in an old-fashioned way and still have it sing.

which the Croatians celebrate as International Necktie Day. I am not, as the great Dave Barry says, making that up.

Depends on which direction they're facing. Whoever is to the right of or behind B goes next.

Say they are all facing north, putting C to B's right! 

Caught part of you on WWDTM this weekend! You're even less funny aurally than you are in print (but then that's the soft bigotry of low expectations, right?). Was the pronunciation of your name an ongoing joke, or is it really "pea-try"?

It really is pea-try! I am sorry you don't enjoy me! I don't suppose it's worth trying to convince you that the Star Wars material that vanished into the cutting room was actually virtuoso minutes of riveting comic genius that would have changed your opinion of me forever? No, I thought not. Thank you for coming to the chat, anyhow, and I hope your week is terrific! 

the centre of the clock is in front of B, so whoever is on B's left would go next.

The plot thickens! 

This is the argument we had! 

You know those huge wheels of TP that are installed in sets of two, both of which are accessible at the same time? It poses a problem for restroom staff because apparently humans are irresistibly drawn to symmetry, so they use both wheels, in a subconscious attempt to keep the wheels the same size, so that the staff can't be efficient in replacing them. You have two quarter-wheels that dwindle at the same rate, and the poor maintenance people have to keep coming back to see when to replace both of them.

This makes a lot of sense, actually. Trust human beings to find a way to double our inefficiency and waste our waste paper. 

are facing "north" or "south"? If they are facing north then A is the person on B's left and is the clockwise direction. If they are facing south, the C is to B's left and is the clockwise direction? This argument would have been much more interesting drunk, at the beach, around a fire.

I should have specified, sorry! But a difference of opinion is emerging! One person said you go with the rightward person whether facing north or south, whereas you are maintaining left! 

This would be more fun to discuss drunk around a fire than typing at noon, but at least there is no fire here if the discussion grows heated.

which works out to clockwise around a table, so the person to the left starts.

Then C goes next. If a 4th person, D, were facing them from the North and was the one who told them to go clockwise then I would see the case for A going next, but from the perspective of only ABC, C is absolutely next.

at the end of the chat I will disclose which side of this issue I was on! Please keep these coming, this will prove useful in the next argument!

First of all, a line doesn't move as a circle does, and so I would pummel B until B gave a good suggestion that wasn't confusing. But if, say, we were reading a treasure map, which could not be pummeled, I would interpret the direction as saying that you should move in a circle in a clockwise fashion. If everyone is facing north, then everyone is sort of at 6 o'clock on the face. So A should move first, from 6 to 7 to 8 and on up, then B, then C. The only way it works for C to go first is to consider that you are standing at 12 o'clock, and then C would have to move in a retrograde circle to travel clockwise. So I think it's A. I have one of these. I guarantee it's cat proof. I have 3 cats.

That should be the tag line at the end of the commercial, ideally with you posing with your three felines and pristine toilet paper! I would trust that.

I assume the "-tri" is as in triangle. In folks of my vintage, mispronunciation of your name could be due to the similarity to the name of Rob Petrie in the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Yup, it's either Rob or the dish! 

is a circular motion. Everyone moves at once, unless one of the people is in the center and just spins.

Ha! yes, maybe it is the fault of whoever tried to impose clockwiseness where no clockwiseness existed. "Clockwise," one might well grumble, "more like clockFOOLISH!"

Also, instead of picturing a circular clock like you would with people around a table, with a line you should envision a conveyor belt. Clockwise movement goes rightward and then skips around their backs.

Now, I am well out of the demographic target of the show (though I'm enjoying it just for fun), but even I don't think those actors look anything like high school sophomores. As in NOTHING. Is it more disturbing when the actors look exactly like your peers and are pretending to be half your age? To me they just look like young people and who cares if they are about 10 years past high school. Or maybe a bit more than that.

What is even more terrifying is that they look like that and then Archie is in fact 19! But the trouble with TV teens is that if they hook up with TV adults, it just looks like two fun adults doing something consensual instead of what it in fact is, an icky abuse of power. Where one party has glasses that are trying valiantly to succeed where Rick Perry'a glasses failed. 

I listened to the podcast this weekend, and when they announced your name, I became giddy. I could not have been prouder if I were your elderly aunt (The cool one who taught you about Star Wars, not the one who still says "the twitter.")

Thanks! Like Bertie Wooster, I can think of no higher achievement than an aunt's approval!

These clocks (not watches) are virtually always vertical. Therefore they all do cartwheels until they arrive at their destination. I'm guessing it's an antique store.

because otherwise, those nifty little points they fold into the paper would be hidden against the wall. See Motel of the Mysteries. Also, why is over less tempting to a cat? I guess the under direction would be closer to the floor and therefore easier for the cat to see, but I don't see why a cat would totally ignore an over the top roll.

This is also making me wonder what effect those nifty little points would have on a cat. Maybe the cat would leave them alone in order to leave proof that she dwelt in a classy establishment...

I am sure that there's a psychologist out there who will tell us that our answers all pertain to some kind of deep thought pattern. As for me, I'm going to assume that people who think of the line as looking "in" toward the center of the clock will envision that the progression would follow from right to left. If you envision the people looking "out" of the clock, it would go left to right.

I STRENUOUSLY object! Alex is just as funny in real life as she is in this chat. We went to her book tour talk in DC and now we worship her more than ever. So there.

Aw, that is very nice of you! I guess this just proves that I am consistent! If you don't enjoy my writing, definitely don't seek me out in other mediums! But if you do, hooray! So glad you came and enjoyed.

The fingers curl widdershins.

If I choose direction that way it has me picking A next, though.

As long as it Aunt Dahlia's approval. Gaining Aunt Agatha's would involve marrying Florence or one of the Glossops.

*shudders* Yes, the Nephew Crusher has earned her moniker.

if the person in the middle were to say "let's go clockwise" and I were one of the other two, I would say "I have no idea what you mean." You need to (a) define a frame of reference and (b) explain what sort of collective motion you are desirous of inducing.

In B's defense, a game was starting and B wanted them to figure out turn order while remaining standing in this position. But B should have chosen a different word.

C'mon, TV has been casting adults as teens for years. "Riverdale" nods to this, intentionally or not, by having Archie's dad Fred played by Luke Perry, who was 24 when he played high school sophomore Dylan Walsh on "90210."

What's sad is I know him as Reverend Cloutier from that gritty prison drama Oz...

I don't like the colour of your aura either, but I think you're funny.

I've been told it's sort of yellow-ish, but that person also told me I was an Arcturian alien who during my last time on earth spent a lot of time reading newspapers about Jack the Ripper and so I don't know how trustworthy any of this was.  

A, B & C each - individually - spins clockwise on their own. They don't need to go clockwise as a group.

But that would be crazy. People face clocks when looking at them. Nobody looks out of a clock, except in maybe Alice Through the Looking-Glass.

And of course Drosselmeyer stands on top of a clock, but he is weird and not to be emulated socially. 

to most likely assumes a circle (or square, or other closed arrangement) and arguably has no clear meaning with a straight line - thus, the lack of consensus....

I can see kids in ten years saying "clockwise? What's clockwise?" And I'll say, "it's the direction a record player turns." And they'll say...

"It's the opposite of how the earth rotates!" "Push mom we all know 50 percent of people agree that that the earth is flat..."

That's for determining North on a planet, which spin counter-clockwise when viewed from over the North pole. Also, someone has been listening to Startalk.

They show stuff happening in an old style VW Beetle that is simply impossible in such a car.

Truly that was the part of the show that rang most false, and 100% of the dialogue is Truman Capote references! It is a rare seatless VW with a back like the Tardis.

you might as well have the panel in a round them and declare that they must each go stand in a corner.

I'm assuming they are sitting or standing side-by side (not front to back) and that they are facing looking in to the center of the clock (because i suppose they could just as easily be facing outward). The person on B's left (C) would go after B. Just imagine having D through L as well, then all holding imaginary hands and forming an imaginary circle. Why are we even calling them A, B and C? Let's call them 12, 1 and 2 and have done with it! And now that we're all set up, let's play an imaginary game of Duck Duck Goose. Duck . . . Duck . . . Duck . . . Duck . . .

But if you imagine B is 12 and there is a clock hand moving from B and facing the same direction as B, it would NEXT rotate towards C. 

(This, full disclosure, is what I argued at the time. This chat has been much more evenly split than the group was.)

I don't think I can compete with this, so I won't! Have a great rest of the week, everyone! You can find me on the blog ( or on a twitter (@petridishes) until next time! 

And if you think all planets spin in the same direction, think again and again and again, and then in twain.

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