ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Jan 15, 2019

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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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Good morning, all! Have you dug yourselves out, if this is applicable? 

How I'll miss Carol Channing. Her career has paralleled my entire lifetime, and I can't imagine the entertainment world without her. P.S. Did you know she took pride in being named to Nixon's enemies list?

I learned that second fact this morning! I can well imagine! Carol Channing was an absolute legend. I can't believe she's gone.

(I actually was lucky enough to see her on tour as Dolly when she came to DC years ago! I was very little but a family friend was in the chorus and took us backstage, where she handed me some costume jewelry and told me something I now only imperfectly remember about the importance of diamonds.)

Oh, and in case you don't have a squirrel at your house eating chips and beer while watching the football game...or if you otherwise live in a squirrel free neighborhood, I can help. Option 1: Squirrels have been found to cause havoc at nuclear missle silos by chewing on cables and the like. Perhaps you can visit a nuclear missle silo and ask if you can hug a squirrel. Option 2: There is a website which lists all the unclassified terrorist attacks on the nation's power grid by squirrels. Maybe change it's mind about taking out a transmission line by giving it some good old fashion loving hugging. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-one-nuclear-missile-base-is-battling-ground-squirrels-3031350/ https://cybersquirrel1.com/

Hm, I like but am vaguely suspicious of the idea that the way to keep squirrels on the right side of the law is to give them More Love In Their Lives. Can't we just hug trees as (what's the opposite of synecdoche?) for squirrels? The whole should encompass its contents!

Winter has arrived here in Kennett SquarePA, west of Philly. The best part of Winter for me is the quiet that comes with falling snow. The worst part is the icy roads. What is the best and worst part of Winter for you?

The worst part of winter is that everywhere is the wrong temperature. This is also the worst part of summer. But in Summer you can go outdoors and sweat, whereas in winter the sidewalks are full of treachery and you must put on a warm coat before you seek the outside, and it is never warm enough, and also you have lost one glove. 

I happen to like snow (especially if I don't have to shovel it); I know how to drive in snow; and I work (seasonally, of course) in the snowsports industry. Can someone please explain why, when I lived in a Virginia suburb of D.C., the snow accumulations were always greater "north and west of the city," but now, when I'm in far northern Maryland, the one big storm produces greater accumulations "south and east of the city"?

It's you! Your presence must be what is causing it! 

I love winter. The snow is beautiful and covers all the ugly stuff. The only part I hate is that it gets dark early. If we had the same amount of sunlight as we do in the summer, winter would be perfect. Especially now that I hire someone to do the shoveling.

I will agree with this but counter that the best part of the snow is when the snow is not gross yet, a window of three to five days, followed by three months of sad brownish snow the approximate color of a cigarette butt that persists until the arrival of spring. 

I spent yesterday binge-watching Marie Kondo on Netflix, but at no point did I throw all of my clothing on the bed, or tap my books to wake them up. Am I a monster?

No! You are tidying your MIND!

I'm sure you've read Thurber's story "Here Lies Miss Groby," about the English teacher who set her students to relentlessly hunting figures of speech to the point where the writing ceased to have any meaning. After a nightmare about "the container for the thing contained," he came up with "the thing contained for the container": angry woman in kitchen says, grabbing a carton, "get away from me or I'll hit you with the milk."

I definitely read that, a long time ago! But had forgotten that delightful line about the milk! 

That's why you stay indoors where it's nice and cozy and there's hot chocolate.

Ah but sometimes you run out of hot chocolate, or discover that you omitted to buy a necessity on the way home from work! And then you have no option but to go out. 

Absolutely. I lost one glove at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and I am STILL BITTER and mildly disappointed in my glove maintaining skills.

OKAY do you you want to hear my Glove Indignation story? So among the Accepted Lore about me among my friends is that I am Late (I often am! But I have really been working on it! And I am less often the Latest than I used to be) and that I am Prone To Losing Gloves And Umbrellas. Unfortunately, because this is the accepted narrative, it is difficult to break through it even in cases where it is not strictly, I feel, applicable, as in the case of my most recent lost glove. In brief (too late!): husband and I were in an Uber. Both removed our gloves. I left the uber holding TWO gloves (one of mine and one of his); he left the uber holding only one (his). As a result of this random chance, he has a complete set of gloves and I have Lost My Gloves Again As Fits Neatly Into The Narrative. But have I? Yes, but it could as easily have been his that was the missing glove! I feel like I should carry a large glove asterisk. 

See, this is how I feel about summer. Going out in 90+ with high humidity is much nastier than going out in the snow.

Maybe the outdoors is just bad year-round?

when very small (9, I think). It was the first "real" play I ever saw that wasn't my uncle (much younger than my mother) in high school. Touring production in Boston. She was on the older side when I saw it and I am a lot older than you are. I still remember it fondly. It is odd to think that women's parts keep getting used for older and older actresses because there are so few parts for them. Meryl Streep was way too old for Mama Mia as the daughter is only 20 and the mother had her when she was young enough to be banished from her parents house for getting pregnant. And Lady Capulet is 27 maximum since Juliet is just shy of 14 and her mother was already her mother at the same age.

*indignant Meryl Streep voice* BUT SHE CAN PLAY ANYTHING

Well, this is why we need more roles for women, especially women above the age of... Nebulous Twenty-Something. 

Just wanted to tell you how nice it was to know I was not the only one who had a ROTJ flashback when rancor made the front page. It may be the only positive coming from the shutdown.

Whenever there is a rancor headline, I always go straight there. Especially Partisan Rancor. 

Best: snowy days inside, with fat fluffy flakes floating past the window and hot cocoa. Worst: cold rain where you must venture out.

Oh man, cold rain is definitely the worst form of precipitation. I assume golf-ball-sized hailstones are worse, but I have not personally had to deal with them, whereas cold rain and I go way back. 

Having lost my share of gloves, I know that they are hard to find in cold weather. Therefore, some months ago I bought a new scarf and a new pair of gloves in anticipation of the inevitable. Naturally, when cold weather came, I kept on wearing the old ones, because I didn't want to lose the new ones. It has now been 15 months, and the new ones are still resting, pristine, in my closet.

I feel like this is the only guaranteed way of not losing something: to have purchased a back-up. 

This is exactly why I hardly ever wear the world's most beautiful gloves, a leather pair that I got in Florence, Italy a few years ago. They are black over the wrist gloves with five red decorative buttons and red piping on the border. I paid more than $100 for them, and they are absolutely my favorite travel souvenir! I, like you, have a poor track record for glove sets. I have many gloves and mittens that are "single, looking for a mate"!

Maybe the solution is to wear them indoors? Or just instagram them heavily? Hurm. 

See, this is how we all end up wearing the Not-So-Good Clothes We Don't Care About Much all the time, whereas the Cherished, Elegant Outfits live permanently in the closet. If I am wearing something good, I am going to spill on it or misplace it. 

Definition of synecdoche: a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sails for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man. BTW the National Gallery of Art has a wonderfully thought-provoking work of art named Synecdoche: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.142289.html And if the National Gallery of Art ever opens again, you will be able to go view it. I hope you don’t think my post is metonymy-ous.

Oh perfect, synecdoche covers whole for a part! So hugging the whole tree can function for hugging the squirrel contained in that tree!

You are forgetting spring and fall, where being outside can be wonderful. Except for the mosquitoes.

And pollen! 

Have you considered the clips that are used to attach your gloves (or mittens) to your jacket to prevent it from being lost? Or did you lose those as well? :)

I think in that scenario I would just wind up losing the whole jacket. 

Do you decide how much to do to your hair and makeup by checking the weather? I mean, if your hair needs washing and it's sleeting out, do you just put on a scarf or hat, and forgo eye-shadow when it's 95degrees because it's going to melt off?

I should! I do not! For instance, this morning, I washed my hair, did not entirely dry it, and walked outdoors, a decision I am continuing to regret! 

Being stuck indoors when I'm much prefer going out, I'm actually enjoying cleaning--now that's scary. However, my daughter's impressed.

So am I!

At least, after a fashion. I was in a metro car the other day and there was some stuff shoved into the space between the seat and the wall. Normally this is just an extra copy of the Express and you can ignore it. But I looked and it was three packets of Swiss Miss instant. I have no ability to imagine how this happened other than a 5 year old being given control of the box then ignored. Maybe younger. I think even a 5 year old would understand that if you leave the hot cocoa packets on the train, you don't get to drink them. I want a story to explain this weird happenstance.

This is mind-boggling! Off the top of my head, some theories: someone was given free Swiss Miss and did not want it (this seems like a travesty, but I feel like even usually valued items can lose perceived value if someone hands them to you for free); this is a wishing seat-wall-well, and your wish prompted the appearance of the packets; someone was storing them for winter and forgot.  

Back in the 1990s, one or more squirrels chewed through a power line under Dupont Circle and caused a major but closely contained electrical outage (a few blocks). My building got an unexpected day off. Workers found at least one electrified squirrel.

This is the stuff of legend! (I googled this hoping for an article, but the first result was a video called Attacked By Squirrels And Neoclassicism.) 

Is absolutely hot, dry, and windy. I say this as a woman with long hair who cannot STAND IT when I get dust or sand or hair or anything in my eyes.

I hate sand. It's coarse, and rough, and it gets everywhere. 

It is when you break into the back-up that the missing item reappears.

I keep the missing one. I figure if they are mix matched I am going to lose one anyway. So why keep buying a pair knowing that I am going to lose one of them no matter what. Yes I go around wearing mismatched gloves but as long as one is a right and the other is a left who cares!!

I like this strategy! I used to practice it myself, but then I lost the mismatched gloves as well!

for a holiday gift. I returned them and used the credit to help buy a whole new winter coat on sale. Partly because I needed the coat a heck of a lot more than leather gloves - "sweater" gloves are more than warm enough for 80% of cold days in DC and the driving gloves that I found in an IKEA parking lot cover most of the rest. Partly because I would have been sure to lose them, or rather one of them.

This is a very smart assessment of the situation and allocation of resources! 

I saw her take the Gracie Allen role in a George Burns live show at the Westbury Music Fair many years ago. It wasn't a great fit, but it was a fun show.

YOU'RE GOING TO CATCH YOUR DEATH OF COLD

MOM I DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE IN THE CHAT

I happened to google Kennett Square after a previous chatter mentioned it and learned this delightful fun fact. From Wikipedia: "Kennett Square is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World because mushroom farming in the region produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a day, totaling half of the United States mushroom crop."

Wow! I feel like a road trip is in order! 

And here I would have thought that was one of Weingarten's GoogleNopes.

I remember that! My office faced the circle, and we got the day off too. More than one squirrel was found electrocuted. i always wondered why they chewed the cable(s) -- not normal squirrel food.

Deliberate sabotage, I think. 

As promised last week. They just needed to get a bit away from the White House and even three miles was tiny bit cooler because there was a bit of a breeze. And Willy had just died, so getting the family away from those memories helped. Also, he commuted to the White House every day in a carriage or on horseback. Three miles each way in about half an hour. And Walt Whitman used to wave at him as he went past. I wonder if you could commute by car from that part of town to the White House in half an hour these days?

Now I'm picturing the opening of Beauty and the Beast but with Lincoln commuting to work on a horse waving at Walt Whitman.

My great-grandfather told my grandfather, his son, that if he'd had the sense to wear a beard like God intended, he (granddad) would never have caught pneumonia.

Wow! That is certainly... a sentiment!

and just found out from a coworker I have been laid off. I'm going to start looking for a new job IMMEDIATELY upon the end of this chat.

Oh no!! I'm so sorry! What an awful thing to find out when you're under the weather, too! 

I can't believe you have never been there. It's a nice little town where you can buy three-pound boxes of exotic varieties of mushrooms, it's in a pretty part of Pennsylvania, minutes from Longwood Gardens and the Winterthur Estate/Museum, and there's a nice little restaurant called Buckley's Tavern to lunch at.

Well, this sounds great! 

As an adult in my 40's, I was visiting for parent for a weekend, washed my hair and started to go outside. My mother was shocked, and I told her "I do this every single day." She said (angrily), "Well, I get sick if I go outside with wet hair." You can't catch cold from this, because colds are from a virus. Do these people actually come down with pneumonia?

I wish I knew! It's such a prevailing vintage myth!

at his thing in Tennessee/Louisiana yesterday. Wasn't there a character in Gatsby who was really impressed by Gatsby having been at Oxford for a short while?

Yes! The man with molars for cuff-links!

My brain immediately started trying to write those lyrics, but my neck and head hurt and I'm anxious about democracy and my brain didn't work. Can someone more clever than I am write that for us?

I only got as far as 

THERE GOES ABE LINCOLN WITH HIS HORSE LIKE ALWAYS

but equally you could start with

THERE GOES WALT WHITMAN! SEE HIM WAVE LIKE ALWAYS 

HE'S HERE TO HELP THE TROOPS AS WELL

THOUGH HE'S WRITTEN LEAVES OF GRASS 

GEOLOGIST PETER LESLEY CALLED HIM A PRETENTIOUS ASS 

IN A LETTER TO EMERSON NO WAIT HANG ON

something something "Leaves of Grass, again, Mr. President?"

"If you like it so much, it's yours!" 

Wait, isn't Kennett Square the site of the annual World Mushroom Champignonship?

I know this is a pun, but I hope it is also a real competition!

People have differing vulnerabilities and immune systems. I catch cold very easily so I'm careful not to go out with wet hair when it's cold out. My husband never catches cold so he doesn't even think about hair-moisture vs. outdoors.

"An episode of the 1950s western TV series 'Trackdown' featured a snake oil salesman named 'Trump' who promised to build a wall in order to prevent the end of the world." LINK: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trackdown-trump-character-wall/

This has been making the rounds! I guess there really is nothing new under the sun. 

I also am glad that long-time fans of Trackdown are finally having their moment?

Kennett Square is in fact a great place for a trip. Just try to stay upwind of the mushroom farms.

I can't tell if this is a good or bad transition to returning to watching the Barr hearings, but I hope everyone has a very pleasant Tuesday! See you on the blog (washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost) and twitter (@petridishes)! 

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