ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Mar 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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Happy Tuesday, everyone! 

First, I'd like to apologize for last week. I wish I had a better excuse than "I genuinely forgot what day of the week it was" like "I had to fight a bear and both my hands were occupied" -- especially since regulars know I love this chat and literally did this from a hospital waiting for an appendectomy one time. But I do not, and I am sorry. 


We need hearings on last week's chat. "What did you forget and when did you forget it? ... Okay, we know what you forgot. And I guess we know what time it was supposed to be. So... Okay, we're done here. Good job, everyone!"

Hearings confirmed that I WAS ACTUALLY THERE LAST WEEK, if the Fox & Friends excerpts are to be believed. 

Sorry to take you away from the Gorsuch monolog.

He will still be there when I get back! And maybe still talking! 

@roguepotusstaff suggested yesterday after the Comey hearings that it's all a ruse designed to placate the outraged masses. While I'm sure many of us hope that isn't the case, what can we do if it is?

I don't think @Rogue Potus Staff is in the know to any greater degree than an average member of the viewing public. I tend not to assume that things are part of a Cunning Master Plan -- especially not a situation like this where early-morning tweets spiral into congressional hearings. But maybe everything is under control and everyone is fiendishly clever.

You have said (at FSF event) that you take commenting on events as an opportunity to read/re-read books that you have wanted to get to. So what are you reading these days.

Oh man these days I'm super behind on my reading -- I have been carrying Madam Bovary around since January and glowering at it. I am about halfway through some more Benchley and I'm reading the Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck. But I need history recs!

Is there any way to turn off the streaming video on the home page? I like to keep the Post up at work during the day, but my workplace does not allow streaming (and they are cracking down on this month during March Madness!). There doesn't appear to be an option to close the live coverage of the Gorsuch hearing, for instance. I'm on Mozilla Firefox, if that matters.

Ooh, I think you can close each video individually, but it's kind of a pain? Let me see if I can get a better answer. 

For a follow-up, can you create a 10x10 grid (à la football pools) for prognosticating which Trump person leaves first, with the next 10 months in one direction and 10 names in the other (including Melania)?

Who are the 10? Let's say Melania's there for the duration...

How does it compare with the appendectomy?

At least after the appendectomy they gave me a take-home container of pain medication...

Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop, of course.

Is this Kurt Vonnegut or the Mad Hatter?

And I have different weekly meetings and such. But I wear black slacks Monday, khaki Tuesday, grey Wednesday, black again Thursday, and jeans Friday. If I can't tell Monday from Thursday, I deserve to look stupid. But I can pretty much look down and know what I'm supposed to do/where to be. I'm like a (allegedly) human day planner.

This is a good system! It's what the hip youth of today are calling a Pod Wardrobe, I think. Or a Capsule Wardrobe. The idea maybe being that if you were shot into space with only this small set of clothes you would still be fine and able to assemble numerous outfits, assuming you survived in the atmosphere.

Your heart-warming account of all there is like about the Republican budget was great. So glad it was properly appreciated. ;-)

Thanks! It was fun to be Real News for a change, though I hope not to make a habit of it. 

What would you do if you found out that the president watched your morning talk show for hours every day and it's the basis for his opinions about everything? Would you determine to be more responsible? Or would you have fun with it?

Can't it be both? Couldn't you figure out a fun way of slipping him accurate facts? Or pull off a presidential version of The Uncommon Reader?

Voters of the U.S., unite! You have nothing to lose but the facts!

They are the least fun opiate of all the opiates (I assume based upon others' accounts)

Today's WashPost book review is of a new bio of Jonathan Swift, who should be right up your alley. I didn't know the poor guy was kicked away by his mother as soon as he was born, possibly because his father died of syphilis right after impregnating her.

Well, THAT's a promising start to any life. 

because that is about as hard to predict as a Metro driver saying "momentarily" before stopping for 5 minutes or more. Also, the post points system has been a disaster lately. How the heck am I supposed to get enough points to get something more useful than the inflatable, ride-on swan if I can't get my points? Really, they refer to checking points in a place called "points pending" and there is no such link on the entire site. And if you try to get your points that haven't been credited, there is no place to submit the complaint if you just put in a code, get a completely baffling computer error code, then can't try again because it claims you already used that code. It is like it was designed by the person who failed every ergonomics course in the whole world on purpose.

This is their way of telling you to get the swan!

I am still getting over the loss of the peeps, as long as we're airing Post-related grievances.

Did becoming a credible news source change your life ?

My complexion became clearer, all my cows recovered, and my lands became fertile beyond my wildest imaginings! 

Besides Melania, the 10 should include Spicer, Bannon, Miller, Conway, Sessions, Mattis, Comey... Do you have some other nominees?

Priebus, Tillerson, Kushner?

I mean, I know the answer, but can you guess the gender of the writer of the questions you receive?

Sometimes, but I try not to assume! In the chat, nobody knows you're a dog, to quote that old cartoon. You can be anyone. 

But if you come to a fork in the road, take it (as Yogi Berra famously said). Of course I don't know what I'd do if I came upon a knife, spoon or spork.

Take the knife and spoon. Leave the spork as an abomination against god and man. 

I don't think very many of the rogue or alt twitter accounts are genuine. I'm afraid of how many people think they are. Making people unsure of who is genuine is part of confusing the opposition. I read some article about this a couple/few months ago in Russia and/or Ukraine. Bottom line is that it's pretty scary how things spiral as soon as we let lies become acceptable.

Yes. Suddenly everything's suspect. 

Sounds like the way I pack the rollie suitcase I use for long trips, the kind of bag that fits in the plane's overhead compartment.

Actually, I'd be curious to know more people's Desert Island Wardrobe items (with the constraint being that you weren't actually dressing for desert island conditions). 

Do you know Mr Ron Charles, the book reviewing gentleman? His videos are a hoot! I think you and he should get together and come up with wacky skits etc to distract us from our present woes and prevent Democracy from Dying.

I love him and I'm a big fan of his reviews, both video and print. I would totally do a wacky skit with him but I feel like he has his own excellent thing going and I don't want to interfere with his groove. He's one of the things keeping us all sane!  

Lohengrin would've like that!

During your interview I was afraid/hopeful you were going to burst out laughing at any second. Was this actually the case?

It had been a long day and I am relieved we didn't! I was less scared about laughing and more very nervous about the Assertive Plaid that I was wearing. Earlier I emailed the post PR team to warn them of its brightness and asked "should I go change?" but they said that it would be fine since it was festive. 

I did not know you could recover cows. I thought they're stuck with their original suede.

HA! 10 points to you for making me giggle.

Bill Bryson: "One Summer" = U.S. (mostly) history surrounding 1927. Great read.

Thanks for the recommendation! I like what I've read of Bryson, but I haven't read very much.

I will never get over it. Even with the Westminster Md. peeps show to look forward to. My one regret on retiring from NSA was that I would no longer be able to see the internal Peeps show, many of whose entries were brilliantly funny, even though you had to have the right classification to get the jokes.

There was an INTERNAL peeps show at the NSA? Are you even allowed to tell us this? I thought the only kind of peeps show the NSA did was singular.

He had lifelong trust issues, it seems. Not at all surprisingly.

Hmm, maybe THAT's what it takes. I know that Hobbes had issues of that kind as well because something similar happened to his mother, though I can't remember what. 

Former Postie Rick Atkinson's trilogy on the US army in WWII is highly recommended, if that's your cup of joe.

No Peeps, no Hunt. And probably no cherry blossoms. Spring has been Trumped this year.

Well, maybe this is our opening to create a new tradition. What should fill the void?

These automatically-playing videos (at WaPo and elsewhere) are really annoying. I've stopped visiting some sites because of it.

At least ours don't have automatic sound! 

I find them helpful, but I'm a glutton for this sort of thing.

Paddy O'Furniture!


What do you call a guy with a rubber toe? Roberto!


Did I ever mention I was a finalist in the American Bar Association Peeps in Law competition in 2012? And that the word "anus" was removed from my description (even though I pulled the language directly from the complaint filed in court)? I can't understand why I didn't win:

What is the world COMING to? Maybe the institution itself was rotten, between this and Defenestration of Peeps, and needed to have its swamp drained before it could rise anew.

I'd have to decide on brown or blue/black first. When I traveled a lot for business, I had a summer list & a winter list, and a Silicon Valley list and a UK list (obviously a certain amount of overlap there), but since I wore suits, I had to decide early on whether to focus on navy pumps/purse or brown. I was the queen of neutrals.

You are the Swiss Army knife of outfits: versatile and coming from a place of neutrality.

If you accept the premise of that weird mutant, the spork, the only alternative I can envision would just be a slotted spoon - less useful for actually eating anything liquid and frustrating for spearing vulnerable food objects. Speaking of mutant eating utensils, have you seen the straw (at convenience stores that shall not be named here unless they pay for the privilege - why else would the Post drop the peeps?) that have the spoon-like feature protruding from one end?

I love spoonlike straws! They help when you are trying to summon a viscous liquid, or I have convinced myself they do. The physics seems unlikely to bear me out.

Geez, it's WHAT clothes you have on a desert isalnd. What you need are some that are Very Colorful And That Can Be Seen For Long Distances (and by radar), so you can rescued. Otherwise, you've got kind of a Tom Hanks-Castaway things going on. And those clothes were terrible!

Any particular period of history you are interested in? Or not interested in? In Monica Hesse's chat, there was a brief discussion of a biography of Queen Victoria written by Julia Baird, an Australian. It sounds quite good. It's only 750 pages long.

For Victoria, that's short! 


"What time does the next swan leave?" anecdote, told about every heldentenor since Lauritz Melchior.

So mundane, I fear. All clothing must be hand washable/drip-dry: slacks and matching jackets in black, navy and tan; cotton tops in several solid colors. Three days' worth of underwear and hosiery. Broomstick-fabric skirt that twists into a tight knot for packing. Lightweight silk scarves to complement and dress up the mix-match ensembles. Black oxfords, gray sandals, sneakers, red cloth espadrilles, one pair of sling-back pumps. TSA-mandated quart bag for liquid and gel materials (deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.); another bag for other toiletries, toothbrush, makeup, aspirin, adhesive bandages, comb, disposable razors. If I forget anything, I can always buy it wherever I'm going.

No, someone has to be practical! I appreciate this suitcase.

Please stick with his essay collections. He's an entertainer who wouldn't know real research if it bit him, and his "history" books like the ones on houses and the English language are just embarrassingly inaccurate.


I still maintain it's a llama in drag.


From the Post's obit for Robert Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books: "Silvers was often at work at nights on holidays, surrounded by assistants at the Review’s book-mobbed offices. One writer, Timothy Garton Ash, told of being called at home on Christmas Day because the editor had spotted a dangling modifier in his story. Daniel Mendelsohn would remember being on a ship on the Aegean Sea when he was urgently summoned to the telephone. Convinced a close relative had died, Mendelsohn warily picked up the receiver and heard Silvers’ enthusiastic voice on the other end, suggesting that a semicolon be changed to a period. "

Alas, in my case it is usually over email, and I am never in such exciting locations. But punctuation is important! 

You'd be surprised at what we're allowed to tell you. Individual offices set up their own Peeps displays, and once you reach a certain level of access, it's usually no problem having a colleague buzz you through the office door to see their efforts. It's literally the only thing I miss about working there.

Maybe his mother wasn't a stuffed tiger?

Ha, plus 10!

Could they move the non-classified ones to the Cryptologic museum for a temp exhibit? That would be amazing. Not that the museum isn't already amazing. Where else can you mess around with an Enigma machine. I guess they have so many, they literally have one of the less well preserved ones out on a table and you can press the buttons and manipulate the rotors.

Can they? Aren't they functionally indestructible? I would vigorously attend that exhibit! 

I wish there were a tunnel from the spy museum to the cryptologic museum, although I recognize that it would be a long and impractical tunnel. 

Was the poor woman solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short? Or as someone once described Kingsley Amis, "Nasty, British, and short"?

Ha, plus 5! And plus another 5 for the first three words, which tend to get left out!

Um, would that be the fine bear named Hobbes who was Calvin's friend in the comic strip? I can imagine a lot of bad things happened to his mom.

BEAR? *overturns small table* WHAT BEAR? Hobbes was a tiger! 

Sporks are the outgrowth of ice cream forks, one of the COOLEST pieces of flatware that exist,

They are also physically quite cool! Unless that is what you meant! 

I read an essay that included it as the punchline in the following anecdote (my English translation): Two pooches are talking in a park. The older one asks the other, “Are you on Facebook?” / Startled by such a question, the younger one replies earnestly, “Get real! How could I be on Facebook? That’s a human thing. You and I are dogs!” / The older one, astonished at his friend’s naïveté, calmly says, “So don’t you realize that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog?” LINK:

I have always wondered what killing a joke looked like.


HA! Plus 7, arbitrarily! 

Very serious question here. I am a simple dresser, solid colored dockers pretty much every day, and I wear either black or brown dress shoes. But what do you wear with blue pants? Neither color shoe looks right to me. Thanks and I'll hand up and listen to the answer.

I think it's brown but I willingly defer to anyone with actual knowledge!

My favorite straight jeans Navy and black leggings hooded sweatshirt tunic (the most comfortable thing known to man) my favorite dress, which can be worn with or without aforementioned leggings my favorite sweater, to go with the jeans 2 really soft v-neck t-shirts, long enough to wear with the leggings ballet flats flip flops a bathing suit (being an island and all)

This sounds better than my regular-sized wardrobe! Also, clearly I need a sweatshirt tunic.

It was tenor Leo Slezak, not Lauritz Melchoir, who asked when the next swan was leaving.

But it's too good an anecdote to be confined to a single source! Can't it be every tenor?

Are books animate? A book-stuffed office I can see, but what kind of books form mobs? I ask you this from my yacht in the Aegean.

The kind of book sent to you by the publisher in the hopes that you will review it forms a mob VERY quickly and will seize all available surfaces if it is not stopped. Such a book will even burn other books to make it to the top of the pile.

None of them are unclassified, because they all have to do with the work that classified offices do. Sorry. You will have to wait fifty years or osmething like that. By which time everyone will have forgotten Peeps Shows.

My plans for the group project have been ruined. All my pre-planning has gone to waste. And I get no closure from my complete failure all those years ago. Signed, the "The Defenestration of Peeps" creator. Speaking of which, I did send you the pics a year or two ago. Did you ever get them? I figure your Post mail boxes must be unlimited in size in case someone decides to send you the high def photos of the President's tax returns or something, so I didn't worry about the size of the files.

I did get them! They were splendid! I thought I posted them in the chat -- if I didn't, I should have! 

Don't know about that. We could use another metro line out in that direction. Yes, it is from Penn Quarter to past the halfway point to Baltimore, but if we are going to loose 30% of the EPA staff and the programs that keep China from being the only big international presence in Africa, then we could at least get some transportation out of it. Not half a ship we don't need and the navy doesn't want.


What shade of blue? if navy, either black or brown will do, and it will depend on the color of your sport jacket.

I've never understood why the Victorians, with all their silverware inventiveness (I mean really, celery forks?) didn't invent trout tweezers, for those tiny bones.

What a time to be alive, when all the disruptive innovation was taking place in the realm of Tiny Novelty Flatware of Limited Application.

When in doubt, go with cordovan. The rich shade of burgundy kind. Also called oxblood.

This might answer the question and might not but those are two great color words!

Every heldentenor. Not just regular tenors. And it's been told about all of them.

Black shoes if conservative, a shade of brown to be unconventional, and a third pair - oxblood (burgundy) to be stylish. Matching belt. Can't cite an authority, other than personal judgment.

I thought it was just one person but based on IP addresses MULTIPLE CHATTERS are in the tank for oxblood!

He deserves to be remembered for his "Lohengrin" swan ad-lib, because nowadays his only claim to fame is having been actor Walter Slezak's father. Whereas Lauritz Melchior is legendary.

oxblood is thicker than water Let us consider the merits of oxblood, the handsome dark red hue found on The Brando, our Italian semi-brogue and most popular product.

A twinkie - probably the same, but a peep?

Maybe our new tradition should be the creation and eventual opening of a Peep time capsule -- both to see how time treats the joke and to see how time treats the Peep.

"Pre-planning" is the Lion King in my menagerie of pet peeves. It's the ultimate redundancy.

True. Then again, as a veteran procrastinator, I do a lot of planning to make plans...

Cordovan loafers!

Why are you and Gene both talking about sporks on your chats today?

One rule of Post Live chats is you are never more than one question away from a discussion of sporks.

That's another complaint of mine – too much use of this prefix "pre". It's all over the language now — "pre"-this, "pre"-that, place the turkey in a "pre-heated" oven. It's ridiculous! There are only two states an oven can possibly exist in: Heated or unheated! "Pre-heated" is a meaningless [BLEEPING] term! It's like "pre-recorded" — "This program was pre-recorded." Well, of course it was pre-recorded! When else are you gonna record it, afterwards? That's the whole purpose of recording; to do it beforehand! Otherwise it doesn't really work, does it? "Pre-existing", "pre-planning", "pre-screening" — you know what I tell these people?

Sounds like someone's pre-heated...

I assume you've never taken the boat ride on the River Styx in Howe Caverns in Upstate NY?

No, I have not! But now I know I must!


Not true. You can start heating an oven and it will take up to 20 minutes. The in-between state will not work for baking, so you need to make sure it is pre-heated. Or as my husband and I joke, "pre-het." We like strong verbs.

Strong verbs are important! But pre-het sounds like a fanfiction rating.

Article on whether a state statute disallowed overtime pay for people delivering perishable foods. Sadly, the article seemed to assume that the reader understood the issue involving the overtime rules and the explanation of the significance was a bit confusing. I vote that the comma was implied, otherwise couldn't tell if the string of items was conjunctive or disjunctive.

This was my favorite story in a while! The Oxford comma is the only thing standing between us and chaos, provided us and chaos are the last two items in a three item series.

Still not as noxious as "pro-active".

Do I have time to google the wonderful Strong Verbs list that has things like "bleach/blaught" and "breakfast/brokefast"?

Please do, that will be a perfect note to close the chat on! We will have chatted, or, er, chaut? No.

Au contraire! When baking bread, after the final rise I turn on the oven so the dough can rise even more while the oven's heating, even the the recipes always say to bake the dough in a pre-heated oven.

And on that note, have a fun day! Godspeed, all!

We have chatten.

We chit!

(I'm on twitter @petridishes and the blog if you need me!)

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Alexandra Petri
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