ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Feb 13, 2018

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Happy Fat Tuesday, all! How is your Valentine's eve? 

My new-ish boss asked my work group to write valentines to each other, describing “how much we LOVE working together.” She provided cute, little cards and candy hearts and stickers to decorate them (I wish that were an exaggeration). It’s clearly an attempt at team building, albeit a subtly hostile one. What would you even write on a card like this (and how many candy hearts would you tape to it)?


I would write something snarky and eat the candy hearts myself while making eye contact with their intended recipient, but I sense this is not an option. No, actually, I would intend to write something sort of sweet and it would come out sounding inexplicably mean, like "Ann has a detailed foot-care regimen and is appreciated by many" or "Lizzie did not murder her parents with an axe, although she does share a first name with someone who did!" 

Alexandra, knowing that you are a Punster, par excellence, perhaps you can tell us if there is a special word that applies to puns that work in written form but are not as good orally. The following dialogue comes from a Shoe cartoon long ago, that may offer an example (although the first instance does confuse the issue somewhat): Sklyer: Do you spell nerd with an "i" or an "e"? Shoe: I always thought it was "u"! [N.B., the "u" orally can also become "you."]

Ha, that seems like it might work pretty well out loud, but I know exactly what you mean! I've been trying to make a joke about a nerd's sweatpants with pi on them and PIE ON THEM and it turns out that only works on the page. I guess you could change it to "covered in the digits of pi... and the crumbs of PIE" but you could also give up on the effort to make this joke entirely. I don't know if there's a term but I bet someone in this chat would! 

Surely there is a good joke or two in there!

vaLENTine's day! 

don't worry I have more where this came from

What did you think of the Obama portraits? I think they're pretty cool, albeit I saw more color and less plain and grey in the former president's portrait than that of the First Lady.

Jokes aside ( I really liked the president's portrait! I think it's very cool and striking, and not just a tribute to "his predecessors, the Bushes," as Ariel Edwards-Levy put it on twitter. It really pops! 

I think the painting of the First Lady is also very interesting to look at and I love what her dress is doing (, but I am a pushover for loud paintings with busy backdrops and it is somewhat more subdued and subtle than that. Also I think his likeness is incredibly spot-on! 

... If it had Chewbacca's son, Lumpy? That's the question that's going to keep me awake.

I am team Bring Us The Lando-Only Edit or team If You Can Bring Me Convincing Evidence It's Just A Buddy Comedy I Will Consider It but I think Team Lumpy is the place to be. 

They'd squirt ink out of their butts.

I have nothing to add to this. 

Would you rather get a valentine from Chris Hemsworth or Chris Pratt?

Hemsworth! He looks like a plausible mythological being!

Amino Acid Asparagine, found in Asparagus, causes cancer to metastasize. Is this true? . . . Well of course it is! It's a mean old acid . . .


You know what they say, with asparagus, you're in trouble. 

I'm debating whether to put a heart-shaped blob of ashes on my forehead tomorrow.

Do it? I say, in a voice that quakes with uncertainty. 

Does she secretly want to be a kindergarten teacher?

Sounds like that's the work environment she's going for!

That's tomorrow. You don't feast and debauch during Lent.

No, it's Lent Eve! Tomorrow is vaLENTine's day! 

Friday the 13th falls on a Tuesday this month. That's like, tied for the second worst day.

Mondays are just Tuesdays for the basic. 

So excited to have a holiday named for me! - Reginald Tuesday

... half of them would say "TWSS".

Tele Work So Sweet? 

On the left hand side is people who stay on their side of the Venn diagram. On the right hand side is people who don't stay on their side of the Venn diagram.

If the people on the left side of the Venn Diagram would just say on their side of the Venn Diagram, we wouldn't have a -- wait

As in, your new haircut is "interesting." Tell us what you really think!

Ha, see, this is why my valentines to coworkers would go so poorly! 

I would raise my hand and say that I do not celebrate Valentine's Day for religious reasons. Or possibly allergies.

I heard Han has a musical number that he sings all by himself...

ah yes!

a Hanologue!

Speaking of Han Solo, did it make any sense that he would leave the Rebellion (as planned at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back) because there was a bounty on him? Like, the Empire doesn't have bounties on all of them? Including him? And whatnot? I bet no one has talked about this before, since the movie only came out 38 years ago. Omg. I am old.

Maybe they ran into a specific bounty hunter who changed his mind? 

I think fretting over this question may have been why George Lucas inserted that scene with Jabba the Hutt into ANH -- so you knew exactly whom he owed money to and how relentless he would be? 

honestly, I'd be super-pissed and would march directly to HR. Forced "love" on the job??? Has the new-ish boss been living under a rock for the past year? This is not cute or funny (which, I know, is the preferred tenor of this chat, so my apologies) and new-ish boss needs to get the message pronto.

No, thanks for chiming in! A part of me wonders if the kindergarten vibe was intentional to try to inoculate against the vibe you point out ("See, look, it's like when you all had to make construction-paper valentines for the whole class and they were just obviously platonic arts and crafts, and not at all like the adult holiday? Right?" *seven minutes of nervous laughter*) Anyway, putting this out there to let OP know that if you had this response, you wouldn't be alone; there's a chatter to back you up. 

Hey, free candy? I wouldn't complain; you've obviously never worked in some of the places I have (think mandatory Valentines, but the employees would be required to pay for them themselves, from the boss's nephew's greeting card company, at ten bucks a pop)(OK, OK, that precise situation never really happened, but similar). Anyway, I'd go with work-related themes such as "I assume I won't get in trouble with HR if I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day" or "my one true love is the end of the work week" or "don't forget to leave work early today so people think you actually have Valentine's Day plans."

Assuming we accept the premise that you have to write these cards in the first place, I really like "My one true love is the end of the work week"! The other ones I think I'd really have to know the person to be sure I I wasn't overstepping! ""I assume I won't get in trouble with HR if I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day, As Our Boss Is Apparently Requiring Us To Do, Oh Gosh, I Respect You As A Colleague Though That's Really What I'm Trying To Convey Here With This Card." 

Should I silently make lentil soup, in a pot lent to me by a neighbor?

Or a polenta! 

The important question is, what KIND of breakfast sandwich do I need to eat in order to shred the halfpipe?

I wanted to know this answer to! Maybe the kind is "doesn't matter what kind so long as it's only a partial sandwich"! 

(sniff) Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Not Mardi Gras.

I think we're all in agreement on this point! I've been calling Mardi Gras Lent Eve in the sense that it's the Night Before Lent, not the sense that I think Lent has started yet. Like New Year's Eve! 

It also worsens shingles.

Oh no, now we're just sharing unpleasant facts about asparagus instead of making urine puns! 

Stop casting aspersions on my asparagus!

Ruth was supposedly invited to the FDR White House for a formal dinner. He was seated next to Mrs. Roosevelt as the guest of honor with the president naturally at the head of the table. The first course was cooked asparagus with melted butter. Everybody tucked in except Ruth who only sat there and looked at his plate. Mrs. Roosevelt, noticing that Ruth was not partaking, turned to him and said, "Why Mr. Ruth, don't you care for asparagus"? To which the Babe replied, "Nah, it makes my urine stink." [N.B. there are variations of this story online, so can't be sure if it is true. But plausible.]


Too Good To Check, as they say!

I just started reading the life of Samuel Johnson, which is absolutely crowded with this kind of too good to check story so far! For instance

-a random woman literally died of love for his father! When he found out this was happening, he went to her bedside and was like "i can marry you, if that would help" and she said NO IT IS TOO LATE I AM MUCH TOO FAR GONE and died, and then his father buried her under a stone that said "A STRANGER"

-Samuel Johnson's fellow students always acknowledged his genius and they used to CARRY HIM TO SCHOOL between them, one hoisting him aloft and two others on the side

-once he stepped on a duckling by mistake and killed it (???) but, Boswell says, the poem he was then said to have written on the occasion was APOCRYPHAL 

The Dilbert strip would have a field day with this scenario

Are suggesting that I have to do some serious feasting and debauching this evening? It wasn't on my calendar and I was planning to stay home and maybe read a book.

No, TOMORROW you should stay home and maybe read a book! Tonight we FEAST AND DEBAUCH!

You're the highlighter of my memo.

Valentines Day is to restaurants what New Years Eve is to bars, amateur night. Normally I broil my wife a nice steak dinner at home but since tomorrow is also Ash Wednesday she's going to have to settle for wild-caught coho salmon.

"she's going to have to settle for wild-caught coho salmon," the chatter says, as though the verb for any fish accompanied by that many adjectives was "settling"


True Workers Share Snacks

Something silly and weird made me happy in the past week, and I wanted to share it here, and now I can't remember what it was.

Happens to me all the time! I feel like the other people in the conversation often appreciate the notice that there might have been a story but they were spared more than they would appreciate the actual story. 

Or is it really a gift more for the giver than the recipient? Discuss.

Hmm, I think it's like giving someone wrapping paper. It's technically a gift, but it's a gift given to help them present you with something you would like. Then again, some people love having nice wrapping paper and would genuinely be delighted by it! I think this is a gift where it really helps to know the recipient. Some people enjoy gift-wrap in the abstract even when the recipient is indifferent; other people are staunch The Gift Is What's Inside And Thus I Am Committed To The Gift Bag Lifestyle types and will be confused and alarmed. There is no one-size fits all. 

Violets are blue / Roses are red / Rhyming is hard / TWSS

That's what SHAKESPEARE Said

In my husband's family, it means "I hate it but I'm too polite to say so."

Sometimes it means "For those who like that sort of thing, that is exactly the sort of thing that they would like!" 

I would give my next paycheck for a digitally remastered ANH that has deleted all of Lucas's stupid additions. That scene with Jabba completely ruins the effect of The Big Hulking Monster by showing him as a kind of human-sized blob.

Especially when you learn from the commentary that he was supposed to be sort of a furry character, like Chewbacca, with, er, much greater mobility, and they had to digitally shift Han and make him step on his tail in order for the footage to even work. 

A week ago on NPR's Sunday morning puzzle segment, puzzle master Will Shortz's listener challenge was: "Name a famous actor — first and last names. The last name is a well-known brand. Drop the last letter of the first name and you'll get the kind of product it's a brand of. Who is it?" ANSWER at:

Armie Hammer. No, wait. 


Well, sure, he SAID he was leaving to repay Jabba. But everyone knew that he was hiding the real answer: he was a little afraid of getting killed, and a lot afraid he was falling in love with Leia. Sort of like no one challenges him on making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.

Let the record show that I uncovered the only thing in all the Star Wars movies that doesn't make sense.

You did it! It was you, the first and last!

We already knew who set the bounty. Greedo said so in the cantina.

I know! Sometimes I wonder if George forgot that scene existed, but I know he didn't, because he changed the order of shooting. 

Does the Boss provide blunt scissors for the workers too?

If they aren't blunt, is it really the full kindergarten experience?

My valentines would say things like "I value George's professionalism" and "Bonnie is a dynamic communicator with the ability to suit her message to the audience." In other words, celebrating coworkers' traits while subtly expressing hostility to the concept of work valentines. Maybe too subtle, though.

Ha, my first thought was, "those are just really nice, and I wouldn't be surprised if you found one over Bonnie's desk taped up proudly months later!"

Han Solo wasn't "leaving," leaving. He had to go pay back Jabba the money he owed him (that's why he took the job to deliver the gang to Alderaan in the first place). There was really no indication that Jabba wouldn't accept it, until Luke tried to pay him back in exchange for Solo, and Jabba refused. I guess that whatever Solo owed Jabba was less than what Jabba would have to pay for a sculpture to replace "Solo in Carbonite."

What a likeness! 

pun in the comments of one of the "the administration want to turn SNAP into a terrible food version of failing business model Blue Apron" articles. Very funny. I think Blue Apron SNAP has the chance to be funny. Or maybe it is new challenge for the Food Channel show "Chopped." How to make a meal out of shelf stable milk, surplus cheese food product powder and canned something.

That sounds like a good place for a pun! Not enough spam mail these days is actual spam. 

I love that they have taken the name of something whose central idea is at least theoretically to be made from fresh ingredients but if you read what the basket will contain the answer is Definitely Non-Perishables. It's putting a fancy name on an idea that sounds like a logistical paternalistic nightmare no one asked for, but hey, Blue Apron! 

This is a bit like eating Lobster Thermidor on Good Friday as a "sacrifice."

These things are sent to try us!

It was Mrs. Coolidge.

You're on your own for your used rocks and scissors.

Cari Fisher. OK, so that's not how her name's spelled and nobody's ever heard of the brand.

But I like the thought! 

Neither a borrower or a Lenter be.

And on that note, I should skedaddle! Have a fantastic week, everyone! Merry Lent, and see you next Tuesday! In the interim, I'll be on the blog ( and Twitter (@petridishes)! 

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Alexandra Petri
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