ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Oct 17, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, all! Finally, it feels like fall!

So it's time to talk... Halloween costumes! (And whatever else is on your mind.) 

I mean, may as well, right? My card game is cancelled.

I guess...

it wasn't in the cards. 

But I bet your chattererers know weird. I'll be in Austin for a weekend. What's the weirdest thing I shouldn't miss?

What weekend? If May, you might be able to catch the O. Henry Pun-Off... 

I dreamt that I missed the costume chat, and was unhappy, because I had a really good costume idea! I am now awake, have not missed the chat, and have no idea what that costume idea might have been.

Oh no!

I have been having a lot of vivid nightmares lately, and I don't know why. Maybe my feet are cold. 

Béchamel, Espagnole, Velouté, Hollandaise, and Tomate. Being an American, I am seeking to discover a sixth sauce.



There is an M. Night Shyamalan joke to be made here, but I don't know that it's a very good one. 

have a noisy neighbor or a nosy neighbor?

I think noisy, but if the nosy neighbor were unthreatening and wanted to watch my hypothetical cat when her detective skills informed her that I would be away, that would be fine. 

It comes from 'cook's tale', when the chef would hand you a drink and tell you a story while fixing your meal.

That DOES sound spurious! I recently was trying to tell someone to wear cocktail attire to an event and my phone autocorrected it to cockatoo. Which would certainly be... an attire. 

I would rather have no neighbor.

Ah, but in the middle of the night when the wind howls and you hear that noise come from the garage...

Would you refuse one? I think I'd like to see what's going on.

I think I might prefer to have one, but only assuming they provided strong audible context cues about what was going on so that I wasn't taken by surprise. 

OK, I'm not really into Halloween costumes, but I want to know if I have "done" my laundry. It went through the washers (took two) and dryers. I put it in my awesome laundry cart (three spaces, heavy duty tubes, high quality wheels, the third best thing I ever bought) and brought it back to my apartment, but I haven't folded/put away. Ironing is not an issue as I never iron anything. Is this done? Is folding and putting away another process? Two other processes? I want to feel the sense of accomplishment of having done it, but if I the chatters say I can only feel like I made a substantial step in that direction, I will accept that.

Ooh, this is a good one. My metric for having done laundry is that it has been through the machine to whatever degree is required for it to become wearable again. As someone who will frequently put things on again out of the clean clothes hamper, I still feel I have done laundries. But what is the sense of the chat?

We've been over this: it's Fry Sauce (in Idaho and Utah). (I believe the mayo is there in case the ketchup is too spicy).

It depends on the noise. I used to have neighbors whose, uh, romantic interludes (around the midnight hour Friday nights/early Saturday, week in and week out) I could hear. That was bad. I also have neighbors below me who are apparently musicians, and play the guitar loudly --- but quite well, and during appropriate hours. It's actually kind of nice sometimes, and never annoying.

But I think we should be more impressed by Edith Cavell's refusing one.

Captain Obvious suggests in his Twitter that we should dress as someone famous. And here I was going to dress as an omelet.

Omelet, Prince of Denmark could be a fun costume! 

It's pretty much all gone now, except for the bats at dusk. The national brands have moved in and taken over SXSW and 6th St. An alternative is an hour down the road in San Antonio: we spent a day touring 17th- and 18th-century Spanish missions. You get the map and just drive around; some of them are in sketchy neighborhoods, but not bad. Also, if you go another hour towards Bracketville, you can see where they filmed "The Alamo" -- not the bogus Quaid-infested version, the real one with John Wayne and Richard Widmark.

Any Austonians (that can't be the name) to rebut?

Between job hunting and breaking my leg (Guess I'm going to be Tiny Tim for Halloween), I've been avoiding the added stress of keeping up with the news in the last two months. Can I get a recap?

Basically, as usual, the new is ALL BAD AND THERE IS TOO MUCH OF IT. Manmade disasters and natural disasters have dominated the news for the last two months. We have fire in California, hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico (and Houston) and shooting deaths in Las Vegas. Hollywood is reeling from revelations that Harvey Weinstein was allegedly a disgusting sexual predator. Also, Donald Trump is still president and he continues to tweet. Anyone have good news to chime in with or an additional major disaster that slipped my mind?

I wore an air-filled rubber donut. How's that for a tire?


but also


Fry sauce, of course... weren't you here last week?

I retract my initial support for this sentiment! Fry sauce combines tomato and mayonnaise! It isn't distinct enough!

Are you perhaps portmanteaux-ing Austin and San Antonio? It's Austinian, as in the Austin Friars, followers of That Other St. Augustine, the one nobody remembers.

I thought it might also be Austinites, like detonated meteors...

a quick Google search offers "Austinites" but then says that not many people use it. As opposed to an Austinite, which WIkipedia says "is a member of the adelite-descloizite group, adelite subgroup, the Zn end member of the Cu-Zn series with conichalcite. It is the zinc analogue of cobaltaustinite and nickelaustinite."

Those adelite-descloizite groups have gotten so commercial lately. w

After watching "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Murder on the Orient Express" in preparation for next month's "Murder on the Orient Express," I wish I had either the money or talent to make a Wagon Lit Conductor's uniform for my husband and a red silk kimono for myself. Or honestly, vice-versa, we're not committed to gender roles.

Which "Murder on the Orient Express" is your favorite? 

Atlas Obscura will give you the weirdest sights in any city. Austin even has a Museum of the Weird.

Hollywood is not reeling. Hollywood knew all along. It's the rest of the country that is reeling.

So, you're not a Nats fan, or have you buried Game 5 into the dark deep recesses of your mind?


I went to the game and not only did we lose but I was in heels in the standing room area the whole time. 

We were in agreement: Replace Albert Finney with David Suchet, and the 1974 one would be pretty darn good. The David Suchet one was too broody-yelly.

"broody-yelly" is a great adjective that I want to start using for films and plays more. 

The Albert Finney one from the 1970s. No question. The David Suchet one was disappointing because it suffered from the "let's turn this series from a cozy into a Stephen King atmosphere" that ruined the last several seasons of Suchet's Poirot.

Ah yes, that... broody-yelly atmosphere. 

Nosy neighbors go to sleep like everyone else. Noisy neighbors leave the stereo and/or TV blasting when they fall asleep. My nightmare neighbor was a man who A: Played his music loud enough to shake the building, B: Screamed at his friends (who came every weekend to clean his room and do his laundry, because he was a man-child), C: Was terrible at playing his guitar, and worst of all D: Was friends with the landlord, so no amount of complaints from myself or other neighbors got anything done about it.

Wait, I'm sorry, my mind snagged on B and is still snagged there. Tell me everything you gleaned about these friends. How is it possible to induce your friends to come every weekend and clean your room and do your laundry? 

I saw a stage production of "Pride and Prejudice" this weekend. Do I qualify as an Austenite? Or am I an Austenphile?

Have you crashed to earth or are you still in the atmosphere?

The novel one. Failing that, the Albert Finney one. The David Suchet one looks as though it were made for television. Sad to say, Peter Ustinov didn't make one.

Sounds like you'd be really 'killing' it ...

As long as we're on the subject of bad puns (then again, when are we not?) for a second I was like "wagon lit? Is that the genre of Little House on the Prairie?"

I had an upstair neighbor whose boyfriend was an overweight trucker who only showed up after 2 am. I could hear every bed squeak and footsteps back and forth to the bathroom. She tried to blame the noises on her rowing machine. I've sworn never to live under anyone again.

How could you tell he was a trucker? Did he announce, "Well, another long day on the roads of America, but instead of stopping at a designated stop for others like myself, I am here!"

For some reason I am more invested in all these specifics than I anticipated. 

Thaler won the Nobel for Economics and Isuguro won for Literature. I thought those were nice pieces of news. On the other hand, I was confronted by Pumpkin plastic cups yesterday. The world may be at an end.

Then again, re: pumpkn cups, for those who like that sort of thing, that is exactly the sort of thing that they would like. But those were nice newses, you're right. 

Well, for years Mayor McCheese and Ronald have been trying to convince it is McDonald's Secret Sauce, but the Ham Burglar stole the recipe.

It was a booby trap.

I feel as though I should have heard this one before, yet I haven't! 

Clean + Folded = Done enough. Definitely does not need to be put away (since when everything is clean, we run out of space!). Socks are done when they come out of the dryer regardless whether their partner can be found.

Folded, huh? You drive a hard bargain. 

But strong agree on putting away. 

I was actually disappointed by the novel, which isn't nearly as tightly plotted and as good as the Albert Finney movie script.

He visited a turtle one day who asked "To what do I owe this pleasure?" and Hugh replied "Owe, the Hugh Manatee".

hmm, points for construction! Does anyone else have a version of this? Sounds like it will definitely involve manatees. 

(person who wrote in to ask about Post Points, I will try, but I have no idea where the relevant people sit!) 

Neither. You are a Janeite, or rather an aspiring one.

nice un-nosy and un-noisy ones would be best. As long as we didn't have to share walls.

Wagon Train. And then Star Trek, which was Wagon Train in outer space. Also, Radio Flyer.

Hey, we've got ourselves a genre!

an Austen lover hanging from the ceiling.


I am really enjoying these. 

Hey, that could be a good halloween costume: a Janeite! Dress as a meteorite but carry a book. 

I've noticed that the Post has used this word in some headlines recently. (Or maybe it was the infinitive form. Either way, adult as a verb.) How do you feel about this? I sometimes fold my laundry but leave it on my sofa for a few days, instead of putting it way. So I may not be adulting. But I still hate the verb.

I go back and forth in my feelings about the verb. Some friends and I were saying that you can tell you've become a real adult when you stop using "adulting" as a verb. I think this might check out. 

He parked his rig (well, just the tractor part) in the apartment complex lot when he visited. It would just be there in the morning. No truck, no late night noises. I also once lived underneath a very nice lesbian couple who had matching dachshunds. I swear their only dog toy was a bowling ball. It was [THUD, THUD, THUD] {yap-yap-yap} overhead for hours at a time.

I genuinely hope that it was a bowling ball. The image of two dachshunds playing with a bowling ball is a delightful one, even if not ideal to live under. 

We need an additional qualifier here. Socks, washcloths, underwear, etc. need not be folded, but shirts, slacks, etc. do need to be folded, if only to be stacked on top of the dryer or the folding table, because only then are they in wearable condition.

You are right, and it is for this reason that I am always so rumpled. There are clothes that can stand to be tossed into a laundry bag indiscriminately, and clothes that require a minimum amount of folding to wear. 

I could not figure out what the source of their loyalty was. There seemed to be a civil period for a few hours that almost always devolved into my neighbor flipping out and his friends trying to diffuse him. One of the first conversations I heard after moving in involved my neighbor yelling that freedom of speech gave him the right to call his friend a d-bag, which... I guess is technically true? Not my usual take-away from the importance of the first amendment.

Sorry about the delay in publishing, I got paranoid and had to check if we used "d-bag" in this newspaper before, but all signs are go!

This is fascinating. I guess I can imagine going over to do laundry and clean for the Freedom Of Speech Guy... once. 

I think it is because the stuff happening these days in the news isn't funny. Dressing up as thermonuclear war with North Korea just isn't going to get a laugh. Mitt Romney's tin ear about calling large numbers of resumes of women who could be considered for jobs in his administration "binders full of women" was funny. Rape and sexual assault aren't. Although I have to admit, I am almost to the point that I can laugh at the picture in my head of the professor who assaulted me with his eyes closed and his tongue out (he had me grabbed by the shoulders rather tight) as I pulled away. He looked like a combination of a puffer fish and one of those dogs that win the ugliest dog contests. The fact that is was 30 years ago and he is dead helps with making the mental image almost funny. It was not amusing AT ALL at the time.

Well put, thank you. Also, ugh, I am sorry that happened to you. (A phrase I have been saying a lot this week.) I am glad you've been able to retell it and find something to almost laugh at. The puffer fish-ugliest dog combo is a vivid one that I can immediately picture and, as you say, would be instantly funny if not for the context. 

I can never remember if they're the ones on the ground or ceiling. Wait, or is it roof? Why? It's the inside. I demand to see the people who invented our language. I have some dumb words for them.

The C is on the ceiling and the G is on the ground. If you find an F or R in any of the words, back away from it, as I don't know what it is or where it hangs. 

Spelled backwards is Party Boob. Also, booby traps are named after the dumb birds, because the idea is that only people with the observational skills of a booby would get caught by the traps.

Ah yes, the birds of the blue-footed and other-footed varieties!

what about tartar sauce? I mean, it isn't nice, but it's a sauce and I don't think it's related to the others.

Or is it a really narrow category where the covered wagons are burned by the bad guys?

No, that's Wagon Lit Lit. 

It's the visual equivalent of noisy.

Ha! Yes. Points. 

Are those the guys that haul 50 tons or more when they should only have 40 tons in their trailer, and the extra weight eventually leaves those depressions or wheel tracks in the asphalt?

At least he isn't failing to clear bridges. 

Is really just the millennial's way of saying "I'm being responsible and I don't want essential services to stop because I don't know how to pay bills."

Why would you want to spread this guy around? Oh, I see. You meant "defuse."

Ha, I didn't notice the homophone swap the first time, but I like the "why would you want to spread this guy around" retort? 

I have the tops draped over the end of the laundry cart. So in terms of rumpling, it is like staking them out flat (unfolded) on a surface. They are generally doing back bends, but are not stuffed into a bag. Trousers are draped over the other side. Towels I put back in the kitchen and bathroom for use. Do you folks rotate them? I have other ones but I keep them separate and nice for guests. I don't use them myself.

I put clean towels back into a container under the sink and only retrieve them after their predecessors become obviously unusable. 

That is not what "freedom of speech" as specified in the Constitution actually means. It means that you can say what you want without Uncle Sam punishing you for it. It doesn't mean anyone has to listen to you without responding. Well, OK, it means you can't punch him in the face for saying it, because punching in the face is another matter.

In the spirit of the thing, I like to watch every version simultaneously.

Do those no-iron pants and shirts actually work? I know I'm behind the times on this, but I've never purchased any of them. I just can't wrap my head around it. I throw these pants or a shirt in the washer and dryer, and when it comes out I can wear it without ironing it? And it looks neat, not all rumpled and wrinkly? I don't believe it can work.

I have a no-iron shirt and can speak to this! Of all my shirts, which I seldom iron, it is consistently the least wrinkly. 

Other noteworthy details about that neighbor: At least one pizzeria and one Chinese take-out refused to take his orders after he yelled at their deliverers for demanding he pay the proper amount for his food. Despite being an alcoholic, he drove a snow-plow for the town's public works dept.

I think a snow-plow might be as safe a thing to drive as any. If you get out of control, no one else is on the road, and if you weave back and forth a little, you just wind up clearing a wider swath of street than anticipated. But I know nothing about snowplow driving. 

Except I feel like everyone else is an imposter. Especially public figures.

Ah, the elusive Imposter Syndrome By Proxy!

They know how. You do it online and they are digital natives. They might not have the money to pay the bills, but that is different than not knowing how. Now, if they ever took away the option of sending a physical check in mail delivered by the USPS, my mother might not know how to pay bills. We can't get her on a computer for anything. She promises that she will learn to text when her grandchildren are old enough for cell phones. I'll believe it when I see it.

I always wonder about the expression "I'll believe it when I see it." It is so correct. When you see a thing happening is exactly the proper time to believe it. But people say it so skeptically. 

You have to take it out of the dryer the minute the cycle is done, or the minute the buzzer sounds, otherwise it will wrinkle. But if you grab it and hang it immediately, it works as advertised.

Here is another perspective!

I had a coworker who folded his underwear when he put it INTO the hamper. (His wife confirms this.) This practice would cause great confusion in my household where unfolded laundry sits in the basket on the floor for up to a week at a time.

My mother used to object to my grandfather (her father-in-law) going to get the newspaper in his boxers. She'd say "He shouldn't be out there with 'it' flapping in the breeze." A phrase which scars me to this day.

I hope and wish "it" was intended to refer to the newspaper but somehow I suspect it wasn't. 

Today's discussion of laundry has confirmed for me that I am an adult, so much so that I am beyond "adulting." I work at a job where everyone wears dry-clean-only suits, skirts, and pants, and irons their shirts (or has them done). If I cared for laundry the way other chatters do, I'd be a wrinkly laughingstock. Yes, I fold everything, because that's what you do when looking wrinkle-free is important. And I fold towels, underwear, etc. because it fits in the drawer or closet better that way. I'd tell you to get off my lawn, but I know you're all city dwellers.

Interesting that you went along with my spelling, even though I wasn't so sure about it, and only looked it up after the fact, and it looks like the usual spelling is "impostor" but that also doesn't look right, but apparently "imposter" is a valid alternative, but maybe I could look more carefully at these online dictionaries, but on second thought, this is not that interesting.

Oh no, I fell victim to the chat moderator fallacy of assuming the poster has looked up the spelling of the word before sending it! Also, I keep typing "poster" so words with "er" endings looked all right. In general, it is one of the words I struggle with, making me feel all the more like an impost -- er -- an impost -- thing. 

Garum. Rotted fish or something.


Violet Beauregard turned into the blueberry. Extra large blue sweat suit worn over one of those inflatable sumo costumes, paint your face blue, make a golden ticket and you're good to go

Valid alternative, FEH. "Advisor" ws spelled that way forever until recently, when people decided it should not look Latin but 'Mercan.

When I was in college (an engineering major, of course), I dressed up as a TI-83+ graphing calculator. I'll probably never top that one.

Ha, well, now that we've had two costumes, resolved a Laundry question, and been depressed at the world around us, it might be time to say farewell until next week! I'll be on twitter (@petridishes) and the blog ( in the interim, if you need costume advice or bad puns! See you soon!

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