ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Aug 15, 2017

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Well, everyone, it's Tuesday! 

Hope you're doing well. The most exciting thing I learned this week is that Louisa May Alcott secretly wrote thrillers with titles like "Pauline's Passion and Punishment" and "Behind The Mask." What good things have you learned lately?

I am sorry you have to live in these times. Everything is crazy, and nothing is funny, but we desperately need to laugh, and Bertolt Brecht is dead, but I never thought he was funny anyway. Throwing some random quotes your way... “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien “The truth is that the world is full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks. But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

I like the use of "Bilbo" as a verb!

Are you too young to remember a previous total eclipse occurring? Do you think the hype is too much or a welcome respite? 50 or so years ago, I recall that people were advised to view an eclipse safely by putting a cardboard box over their heads. Before doing this, you were supposed to punch a pinhole in the side that would face the sun, and tape a white piece of paper on the inside of the box opposite the pinhole. You could see the circle of sunlight falling on the paper eclipsed by the moon as the circle of light disappeared.

I saw I think a partial eclipse when I was in kindergarten? I remember going outside and looking through a paper plate. What do we have planned for this one?

than a lips tick.

I agree, wholeheartedly. Is this another of those things that has suddenly and inexplicably become subject to debate? I don't want that. 

but a chicken house won't have a row of stuffed chicken heads?

When you say "chicken house," are you thinking "henhouse" or, like, an International House Of Chicken? I am there for either. 

Sorry I missed the chat last week. Easy solution to the Stalactites/Stalagmites differentiation issue - Stalactites has a "c" for ceiling in it. Stalagmites has a "g" for ground.

That wasn't the question! The question was what to do about lying and laying. (If my grandmother were in this chat she would halt to make some sort of a Bill Clinton joke right now but I don't think she is. If she is, hi!)

Not sure if this is in your realm at all, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts about ABC's decision to air BIP after the allegations of misconduct and sexual assault. According to the network, they conducted an investigation and found no proof of wrongdoing, so went ahead and finished the season. On the premiere, they sort of addressed it, but mostly implied they were going to provide more information on tonight's episode. It was weird, and somewhat icky, and I'm wondering what networks should do, or have done, in cases like this. I don't think you can avoid addressing it, because people certainly know about the allegations, but using it as a teaser feels pretty inappropriate.

That last sentence exactly expresses my opinions. I think it is one thing to go on with the show in spite of something like that's having happened, but to go on with the show and USE IT TO PROMOTE THE SHOW seems wrong. Reality TV runs into this sort of thing often; remember when that gentleman from Deadliest Catch died? But I think it is possible to handle it in a way that doesn't convert pain into publicity to a greater degree than you agree to by signing up, and I'm not sure this (or their handling of that one racist Bachelorette contestant) fall on the right side of the line. But other people who know this world better have written better thoughts. 

And why do BBQ joints always have smiling pigs on their signs?

Yes, can we discuss this convention? The pigs on signs always seem so jovial about the prospect of being devoured! 

Sorry, but this conjures up a number of jokes. What you were supposed to do was put your head inside a cardboard box and look down at the white piece of paper, not stand upright with a box over your head.

HA, but the visual is great! 

I want to find the guy who told people that the way to see the eclipse was to put a big box over their heads and stand outside. 

Conducter: "Next station, Brookland" Tourist in Hootie and Blowfish T-shirt (to man in suit): "There's a train to Brooklyn?" Man in suit: "BrookLAND. It's a neighborhood in DC." Tourist: "You don't have to be a jerk. I'm a tourist." Man in suit: "You're a tourist in DC. Not in New York." Tourist's kid (in Beavis and Butthead t-shirt): "Oooh, burn. He got you, Mom."

Kids, man. No loyalty. 

What I think is even funnier is that she has her autobiographical heroine Jo refuse to write stories for a clergyman who demanded that all the bad children be horribly punished. LMA preaching against preachiness while writing one of the preachiest novels ever!

It's So Meta That Even This Acronym 

(to borrow that old internet meme)

You can't lie an egg. P.S. Your acronym is mteta

Your text today on Charlottesville was wonderful, thank you! it was not that light, but it was giving strong food for thought.

Thank you! And thank you to everyone else who sent similar kind messages to the chat! I think I sometimes over-post mean things that people have said and don't share enough nice ones, but I really appreciate your words. It didn't seem like something to be funny or silent about. Also in the course of working on my next book proposal I've been having to read a lot of history and think about history a lot and what stories we tell and why we tell them. What do we remember and why? I just got a copy of Ford (auto) magazine from 1961 listing all the fun activities that were happening to commemorate the Civil War centennial and the things they were marking vs the things they were forgetting -- at the height of the Civil Rights movement -- were extremely telling. It was like "see where General Forrest went! Savor the excellence of JEB Stuart and his whimsical banjo! Mourn the fall of Fort X..."

I decided, several years ago, to look up the titles of the novels that LMA cited as good influences, or that she loved as a girl, since so much 19th-century fiction is now available on line (UPenn's On-Line Books Page is even better than Project Gutenberg). Well. Talk about hilarifying.

Yes, please talk about it! What were they?

Of course, Mom could have avoided all this by not being a jerk to someone who was just giving her local information.

Wait . . . is that an actual gerund?

It is not an elegant gerund but I'm very dedicated to bringing them around even when they aren't wanted. 


before we get too serious or anything

It seems no coincidence that Trump issued a prompt insult of Merck's Black CEO Kenneth Frazier for quitting Trump's manufacturing commission the same day Trump delivered his belated statement about Charlottesville. After all, Trump still needed to signal to the alt-right segment among his backers that he wasn't abandoning them, so they wouldn't turn against him (and perhaps attempt retaliation).

I guess, Joe Arpaio.

We have reached the point where the word "spork" (which evokes dorkiness) has usurped the rightful place of "foon" (which evokes both fun and a boon).


wait, I have it: What do you call a really fit spork?


Alexandra - thank you for your article yesterday (8/14/17). You usually speak to my sense of humor, but last night you spoke for my heart and expressed so well that nagging worry and current fear I feel for the party and culture I left in 2008. I wish that more citizens in- and outside of our government would speak the truth so clearly. Thank you again.

Thank you!

See, people need to discuss porgs or I will have to keep posting these lovely notes! 

I mean, I've already blown past that. "Ahch-To?" "Gesundheit."

Wait, do people in the Star Wars universe say "May The Force Be With You" when you sneeze? I would pay serious money to see that happen on screen. 

Porg, Porgs porgs porgly. Porgs porg? Porg

Thank you, chatter, for this fine and illuminating contribution. 

Surely there's no "That" in ISMETA?


Do you pronounce "lol" as an acronym (SCUBA) or an initialism (CIA)?

I say "loll" myself. 

Well, "The Heir of Redclyffe" (that Jo et al used to cry over) wasn't bad, but "The Wide, Wide World" was as bad as Elsie Dinsmore. Ellen, cast upon that wide wide world when her mother dies, is neglected by her father and sneered at by strangers but, told to trust in God, spends the rest of the novel crying because she's still being ill-treated even though her trust in God sustains her, sort of. Like that.

hooo boy. Well, I asked!

They make me think of popplers from Futurama:

Important question: do we think they are edible?

. . . but here's Linus planning to look at the eclipse through a paper plate (actually a bit of cardboard, but a little artistic license, please): and of course the inevitable happening:


Worth both clicks. 

When I think Chicken House, I think this: And in Bryans Road, there used to be a BBQ place with a smiling pig. Not sure why he was smiling, as there were flames licking at his legs. I used to think of it as the "Pig in Hell" restaurant.



Is there a good reason?

I don't know! Isn't BB-8 enough for you, ungrateful world?

What was your favorite animal in the Redwall series? (trick question, obviously the otters)


Seen at a national outdoor goods/hunting stuff chain store - stuffed animal heads hanging on walls in the children's section. But what should kids do with the remainder of their formerly intact stuffed animal friends?


That belongs in an art museum, not a child's bedroom. Then again, that would be a hilarious red flag. "Here is my child's stuffed animal collection, and here on the other hand are his stuffed and mounted animals, who did not Live Up to his expectations." 

They're also meandering and incredibly badly plotted. Best-sellers, though.

I will die by this assertion Actually probably more likely to die by nuclear war but hey

"Porgy and Bess"?

*Porgy and Bespin

The final proof that the Star Wars universe has devolved into one purpose: Merchandising.

I mean, it was ALWAYS commercial and that was part of its charm, but I just am not convinced that anything that cute can serve the plot. 

Then again, Ghus in Saga is adorable and very helpful to the plot, so maybe I should not judge my porgs before they hatch, or whatever it is porgs do. 

Are ewoks edible?

I'm just saying, I think it should go both ways. 

Read the EW cover story and suppress a tear. Going to be a lot of gut-punching moments in this film.

With all the state fairs going on, there are photos of farm youth proudly displaying their animals in contests. But do the animals know that most of them are destined to shortly end up as BBQ? (part of a heated argument in IA where a photo showed a young boy sleeping on his show cow and she had her head on his shoulder.)

Maybe she's just for milking? 

About 25 years ago Spy Magazine created a fake fast food chain called Bunny Burgers ("kinda like chicken, kinda like roast beef..."). I think they explored the creepier aspects of using a cute version of the animal being consumed as a way to inspire folks to eat that animal. I still remember the jingle (which was available by calling a NY number and listening to the recording). They later put the concept on a short-lived TV show.

I mean, rabbit is edible... I'll have to check out the show. 

They do seem so enthusiastic. I've eaten lots of barbecue and have cultivated the following three options, which are not mutually exclusive. (a) Barbecue is so delicious, even I eat it! (b) The prophet Wilbur has revealed that all pigs consumed as barbecue go to heaven and seventy virginal farmer's daughters bring them slops without having to share them with rats. (c) You are about to eat Larry. I hate that guy. Good riddance.

I love (a) and (c). Those are delightfully twisted. 

Is it cooked in ewoks?

came in handy last holiday season, when my six-year-old great-niece was told by her kindergarten teacher to bring in "a toy suitable for a girl" to the Christmas gift exchange, and picked out a Darth Vader tree ornament.

the MOST SUITABLE of gifts! Full concur. 

Has anyone posited that Porgs are an attempt to make people forget about JarJar Binks as a species after parents said the dolls were satanic sex toys


I was with you up to "Has anyone posited that Porgs are an attempt to make people forget about JarJar Binks as a species" and then the rest of the sentence -- link, please? Whaaa?

Farm kids know exactly what's going to happen to their show animals. That's one of the good things about raising livestock; your kids grow up with a grasp of reality.

That's the kind of statement that could only have been made by one of Those Darned Millennials(TM). Sure, they were always commercial for YOU. But grizzled Gen Xers like me remember when there were no Star Wars toys. There were only comics and tie-in novels, and then trading cards. Then there were action figures, followed by vehicles. We were surprised and delighted every time. "Y-you mean there are MORE Star Wars products to buy? Wow!" "Yeah! Maybe someday EVERYTHING will be a Star Wars product, like sheets and pajamas and lightsabers and notebooks. I mean, that's obviously impossible, but it's fun to imagine."

worse than the smiling pig signs are steakhouses that keep cattle outside.

worse even than those are steakhouses that keep smiling cattle outside.

...why did I ask. This is on my head.

Rabbit is commonly eaten almost everywhere it occurs. The idea that nothing cute should be eaten unless it's suitably disguised in plastic wrap in the supermarket is a way of detaching from real life. We need to follow the example of the French, who demand to know exactly where that hunk of meat came from.

Montgomery County Fair a few years ago. It isn't like showing a dog. The dog seems to want to please its handlers. The cow/heifer/steer/whatever does not. It will move its leg if you poke to leg enough that moving is more comfortable to the animal than not moving. But it isn't dong it because it cares what you think about its leg position. I don't think that beyond the "eager to see you because you have the food" that working with livestock is the same as working with animals that we keep as pets.

except they don't hatch or light up neon? kids aren't going to be suckered in for a drab version of last year's hottest toy


You raise a fair point. If it doesn't glow in the dark, how do we expect it to sell?

Son returned from hiking the Machu Picchu region. Has pictures of furry, cuddly-looking guinea pigs in little castles. Mom thinking they are awfully cute. Son says no, they are being served up as the entree for restaurant meals.

Really? We bought "Star Wars" bedsheets for friends' kid in fall 1977.

Any advice for a millenial who works exclusively with boomers who in typical millenial fashion didn't request off for the eclipse six months ago like all the boomers did and now is stuck as the "guy who has to come in"?

thought: if NONE of the boomers are coming in because of the eclipse, will they notice that you aren't there?

The topics reminded me of an independent comic series, DESCENDER, that has a robot "dog" named Bandit. You get Star Wars AND Jonny Quest (with a dash of A.I. thrown in) Plus, it's an interesting story and beautifully illustrated, in watercolors, no less. The story comes out in small bites but the TPBs solve that issue.

Isn't BANDIT also the name of the dog from We3, speaking of animals who are food and die?

What are you talking a out? The orig trig was famous for toys everywhere (my brother had a ton). Carrie Fisher did a bit on it in her standup about being a shampoo bottle.

no, no, that was ART! 

"I just am not convinced that anything that cute can serve the plot. " BB-8 has a few beeps for you. "But grizzled Gen Xers like me remember when there were no Star Wars toys." True, but that was on the toy companies themselves. At the time, movies were relatively short-lived, and therefore less likely to be merchandised than TV shows. And Star Wars was famously underappreciated prior to its release. When Star Wars mania hit, companies were scrambling for licenses. However, it takes awhile to gear up a new toy line, hence the "Early Bird" coupons that some kids got for Christmas 1977 while Kenner was getting up to speed.

are velcro towels a good idea? the convenience of not having to hold the towel might be outdone by the inconvenience of scraping your face on the valcro right? or having to undo the monstrous ball of fabric when it comes out of the dryer? what does it mean that i'm dreaming about velcro towels asking for a friend

I can answer this! I used to have a velcro towel!

Here is the problem with velcro towels: they do not work. The velcro quickly gets gunk in it after a few washes and then it no longer holds the towel up. 

take time off for that. Assume the Boomers will be dead or too decrepit to go. Buy their fancy sun observation binoculars off them on the cheap after Monday.

There is the advice you needed! 

I am not at all a Star Wars person (*ducks and hides*), but the term automatically made me think of pigoons from Madd Adam and left me totally creeped out. I'm glad I googled porgs and figured out that there is no similarity whatsoever.

Oh gosh, pigoons! I'd forgotten all about them, and now -- there they are again. eeeerrgg

I ... I can't even. Please explain.

They seem like a good idea, and that is how they get you! 

I hate to admit it, but when the cattle bringing me the BBQ are smiling, I give them bigger tips.

How has it been this long into the chat before I remembered to bring up Bojack Horseman, which has several great bits about this with cow waitresses and chicken farms? 

So, since we get "good-bye" from a contraction of "God be wi' ye," do people in the Star Wars universe say farewell with a "force-bye!"?


Hmm, maybe that's why Han went with "So long, princess!" 

I think we need to distinguish between merchandising BECAUSE something is popular (e.g ANH) and creating something specifically for its use in merchandising (e.g. Ewoks) (clearly, ROTJ was MY final proof).

This is a subtle but meaningful distinction! George didn't cast Carrie Fisher thinking, "ah yes, she will make an excellent shampoo bottle." Or maybe he did. Hard to say. 

HOW? How does rubbing your hair and body with scratchy plastic seem like a good idea? I mean, I had no idea such a thing existed and I can't imagine what they actually are.

No, no, they just have a bit of velcro so you can attach the ends instead of having to tuck them yourself. Which seems like it could work, but stops working before you want it to. 

onesies for your baby that doubled as a dust mop fidget spinners with lip glosses in the end omniscient digital assistants that live by your bed and record everything you say so they can switch the song on spotify for you

But they are nice murder deterrents! At least, that last one is. The first ones, less so. 

You mean those sort of swirly-looking towels that you wrap up your wet hair in? (Also, don't you just attach the hook bit to the pad bit before you throw them into the washing machine?

...maybe you do. 

Mine always seem to get awful if I fold them on the drying rack. What is the magical secret to folded, non-mildew towels? Please send help.

Do I look like someone who knows how to stop tucked towels from getting mildewy? Chat, help!

Some believe that when you sneeze, midichlorians escape your body. It's a silly superstition. They reside in the blood. ... Okay, I have more questions...

I thought those were a great idea but also I do not have a baby

So the dopey side-buns were just to make the bottle top easier to grasp?

Now It Can Be Told!

Dry them on the rack, folded or un-. Then toss them in the dryer for 10 minutes. If you are a millennial who has destroyed both home ownership and dryer ownership, schlep your mostly dry clothes to the laundromat, where it is possible to purchase brief periods of drying time.

Thank you for this, helpful chatter! Take all my avocados. 

My parents put the towels through a short dryer cycle every time they shower. They don't wash every time, but they dry. Mom said that once she was over 60 she should be able to have soft, fluffy towels every time. Also, they moved into a town house that had the laundry as a closet in the bathroom, so it is easy to do - no bringing them to and from the basement like the house I grew up in. Doesn't work at all if you pay for every dryer cycle like I do in my apartment.

There is no telling what goes on in the mind of someone who seriously insists that there is no underwear in space.

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