ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Mar 26, 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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Oh boy, it's Tuesday!!! Hello, everyone! Let's get started! 

Any chance we can make today's chat Mueller Investigation Free? Please!!!

Oh no, you mentioned the Dreaded Name! 

My 12 year old niece sent a link to what I think is her first fan fiction. And it is based on Shakespeare! I couldn't be prouder. Something of a "fix it" version of Winter's Tale. Totally modernized language. Explained/expanded some things that just happen much too quickly in the play. Plenty of backstory and behind the scenes stuff. She has some interesting narrator interjections that I would say take down the fourth wall if it were a play, but it isn't. One of her chapters is called" Bears, Adoption, Time and Boyfriends" which I think is adorable. She did a decent job using references to Greek mythology including Oizys who is the goddess of Misery, Anxiety, Grief and Depression and I don't recall at all - what a useful deity. Just bragging here, though the link was an invitation to edit which I don't know if it is meant seriously or not. There are a reasonable number of typos over 44 pages. Plus stuff I would point out that I particularly like. I probably should ask first.

I hadn't heard of Oizys either, but you're right -- what an incredibly useful deity! I am going to make her an appropriate shrine. Unless that would invite her in? Worth pondering. 

I feel like it's always good to ask if people want edits or just feedback -- everything you've said pretty is much feedback that I think I would be delighted to hear, with the exception of the word "adorable" which was anathema to me as a youth, but I feel like it would be awesome to hear from someone you sent your story to that they loved it and thought it was full of terrific references, and then you could also ask if she wants line edits because you are a grammar maven capable of spotting a typo at twenty paces, which could be useful if she wants to share it any further with anyone else! 

And no Defoliation, either!

Defenestration is RIGHT OUT

Are there any humorists who you consider major influences? Btw, I think you’re one of a kind.

So fun fact, I had a NIGHTMARE last night that I met James Thurber and he was disappointing! So definitely James Thurber. 

The dream, as long as we're in the Telling Dreams phase of the chat, was that we were at a Mean Girls cast reunion (Dream James Thurber was heavily involved with the Mean Girls movie, I guess) and Joe Biden was also there. Everyone was shouting rhymes to break the ice, and Joe Biden offered a verse about healthcare (I don't remember what it said, other than that it rhymed "quell" and "that guy's unwell") and James Thurber hated it and delivered a long non-rhyming un-funny tirade about why it was bad, and I was so angry and disappointed that someone I respected so much was being so mean and unfunny. Then he climbed into an egg and disappeared.  


Actually, that's fine with me. Someone on Facebook posted a photo of an observatory in Germany that was painted to look like R2D2. It looks very nice!

We should have realized from the fact that his name was "Barr" that we might not get to see the report! 

Hey, what a perfect paint scheme for an observatory! The shape's already ready for it!

I feel like Tom Sawyer right before he has enough tickets to win that bible in Sunday school. Oh, except there still isn't anything that interesting to exchange them for. Speaking of Tom Sawyer, how did the Sunday School teachers remember which bible verses each student had already memorized? Seems like it would be hard to recite the exact same ones every week, but a 6 or 7 week rotation might work. You certainly wouldn't have to get to 2000 unique ones, would you?

Maybe there was a physical book in which you checked off each student's verses? That seems like the only possible way of holding folks accountable. You couldn't keep it all mentally unless you had some sort of Holmes-scale mind-palace!

Why are Avengers: Endgame tickets not for sale yet? (I will be checking several times in the course of this chat.)

Oh yes, Avengers Endgame, the thing that follows the Star Wars trailer! 

Only three posts by 11:22? Is it you, or us?

It's always I! That feels correct, but looks wrong, just as answering the phone "This is she" does. 

I'm not sure I've ever had a rhyme in any of my dreams. Now to figure out how to check...

I only remember the exact rhyme because, in the dream, I telephoned a friend and retold to her what had just happened because I was so upset at James Thurber. But my unconscious is just always off doing its own elaborate thing. 

Have you ever visited the Thurber House in downtown Columbus, Ohio? It's where the event that inspired "The Night the Bed Fell" occurred! There's quite a cultural center in the building, as well as life-size Thurber-dog sculptures in the garden.

NO but clearly I need to ROAD TRIP

Was this like a rap battle? Let's hear more of your flow, please. And Joe's.

The only other part I remember was the Mean Girls cast starting it off by shouting "Witches, bitches!"

Can I say that on the chat? Let us assume that they were female dogs. 

How soon will the Cherry blossoms appear? Here near Kennett Square, PA the local trees are just waking up. The buds are tightly wrapped with no hint of the beauty that lies within. We have at least three weeks. How many weeks do you have?

It seems like they are about ready to open up? I think they are waiting on the attorney general. 

Fowler's English Usage calls "It's me" a "sturdy indefensible," which is an expression I just love.

What are other Sturdy Indefensibles? I want a whole brigade of them! 

Word is it is 182 minutes long! That's more than 3 Hours for another snap of the fingers to bring back everyone killed in the first one. Have mercy on our bladders!

It should have an intermission! Just stop midway through and play the Lawrence of Arabia theme music over and over while everyone rushes for popcorn. Movie theaters would love it! 

Thank you for reminding me of James Thurber. My parents had several of his books and I read them all when I was a child. I'm going to get some for my Kindle, in preparation for an upcoming trip with lots of airline flights & layovers. Bonus points if you understand the reference to Perth Amboy.

Terra Cotta! Bill of Lading! Uh, Walla-Walla! 

So last night I dreamed I was in a house and there was a big hole in the wall with a dark empty space behind it, and I was worried that all kinds of pestilential creatures would get in but instead cats started coming through, including a very handsome black cat with a collar. But I thought I should block the hole anyway, and was able to get into the space on the other side, which turned out to be a large utility room of some sort, and the reason for the hole was that someone had tried to block the aperture in a totally half-assed way, with random bits of wood insecurely nailed, so I thought I would get some more wood and block the hole properly, but then a guy with a janitorial outfit showed up and told me I couldn't that because it was against code to block the doorway EXCEPT (a) it was not a doorway and (b) what's the point of a doorway on the other side of solid wall? Then the dream ended so I don't know how the standoff was resolved. I have been thinking about getting another cat to keep my present cat company but I don't know whether this dream is saying yes or no to that idea.

I think if you let the handsome black cat with a collar come through the door and were pleased about it, dream you wants a cat! I also think that mystery janitor is right that your dream building is not up to code, but it seems to me that it is for different reasons. 

NOOOOOOOO!!!! They're waiting FOR the AG. Store clerks and restaurant servers wait ON a person.

I can't tell if I need to apologize and prostrate myself immediately before a copy of Strunk and White or if this is a situation like "waiting on line" and "waiting in line" where variability is permissible. If the former, I APOLOGIZE PROFUSELY. 

"Who are you going with?"

Is "Send it to her and I" sturdy or just indefensible? 

Definitely recommend Columbus Ohio road trip. They've got a PB & J Sandwich Store!

I know, too, that they have a wonderful bookstore. At any rate they did years ago when I went there for a wedding. 

That would make ANY movie great!!

Well, maybe not "Vice."

If anyone remembers the intermission for "2001: A Space Odyssey", it was right after the scene where the astronauts were talking to each other in the pod, and we can see the HAL Computer reading their lips. Word is the intermission was put there so the smarter movie-goers could tell the ones without a clue that HAL was not to be trusted.

Oh, that's an intriguing theory of intermission placement! They should have put a very short intermission right before the coffee mug drops during "The Usual Suspects." 

on Monday. We are getting closer. Though I saw some trees I presumed were cherries but much pinker than Yoshinos with a lot of flowers open near the DC Chevy Chase neighborhood library on Sunday.

Well, 'peduncle elongation' is a phrase I now know is just as innocuous as it doesn't sound! Like matriculation. 

You don't rush off for popcorn, you rush off for a beverage, preferably two large glassed lemon aid -- with ice--, for me and my friend.


How strange is it that we need to evacuate our systems so frequently. And yet the very idea is undignified. Someone should make jokes about this phenomenon.

Yes, indubitably. What a carminative observation!

We could be talking about Game of Thrones and how many people have HBO and how many will manage to see it nevertheless and what is going to happen and also no spoilers and also how are we going to feel and how our expectations are going to be missed or exceeded or are we emotionally dead enough to endure whatever happens or doesn't happen.

This is a good thought. Are we Game of Thrones optimists or Game of Thrones nihilists? For instance, I think I would be more disappointed if it ends well than if, say, the Ice King wins it all. I would like some fictional emotional distress! 

Anyone else have dreams where the proportions of animals are off? Like I had a dream recently where all the giraffes had super short, stubby legs, even though the rest of their bodies were all the same?


"waiting on line" is never permissible. It just sounds odd. The only online is the internet and you probably shouldn't wait there, or even pass through quickly.

That's what I long believed, but it seems regional!

It's still there in German Village (Columbus neighborhood). Still wonderful. Some of the other used bookstores have gone out of business, but not that one. As far as I know. I don't want to jinx them.

Yes, touch wood (en bookcase.) I bought a lovely edition of James Merrill's poetry there. 

My grandmother used the entire intermission when we saw Dr. Zhivago to complain about the bad Russian the actors were using. I'm certain that was not the reason for the intermission, as she could not be available to attend all showings all over the country.

I don't know, it seems like the ideal use of the time. Perhaps there was a team of rival grandmothers, nationwide. 

"She speaking."


In the final episode, we learn it was "just a dream." And you were there, and you were there, and ...well, so was James Thurber and Joe Biden.

And a handsome black cat!

This is when I would make a reference to Master and Margarita but alas I have only read the first 70 pages so I can't! 

I would like to see Jon and Danaerys sitting down to a nice plate of onion rings, while the Ice King tries to buy the world a Coke, and Tyrion plays with a snow globe.

If Game of Thrones turns out to be covered by Tommy Westphall theory...

This is the silliest thing I've read all week. "On line" is a regionalism, and using a different preposition is perfectly fine. "It just sounds odd" is not how usage is defined. Also, it should be "on line" or "on-line." As long as we're picking nits.

Indeed, it is for our correct and witty opinions on the subject of such nits that people generally refer to us as nit-wits! 

As a 'tween, I dreamed in rhyme a lot. They seemed brilliant to me at the time, and I regretted not being able to recall them when i woke up. So one night I left a pencil and paper on the nightstand, and when I half-woke with the poem still in my head, I wrote it down. In the morning I read it, and it was was nonsensical doggerel (NOT of the sort that would make Edward Lear or Ogden Nash proud, either!)

I once dreamed a recipe for invisibility, and -- spoiler alert! --although I wrote it down and followed it as instructed, it did not work. It was like that classic Onion video of the dream omelet. 

With all the lineage drama and sudden offings, I'm hoping GoT goes full soap opera. Ned Stark is still alive! Jon Snow has an evil twin! Arya Stark pushes the Hound down a flight of stairs while holding a glass of wine!

Yes! And they should include a mirror universe where everyone is the same but in, like, even more leather than previously! 

I'm scratching my head, because I don't remember any actual Russian being spoken by the British, Irish, American, Egyptian, and French actors in that movie.

Maybe that was her complaint!

Speaking of which, have you ever seen the movie CEMETERY MAN? It's a wild Italian movie starring Rupert Everett and featuring a town where the dead refuse to stay that way. There's an echo of Tommy Westphall in that ending, too.

No, but it's going on the list! I was picturing a man with the proportional powers of a cemetery -- like, he can become mossy and picturesque over decades, and 19th century people view him as a public park? 

It's the Night King!!

to Boris Pasternak. Seems unlikely but remotely possible. This was way before everyone was doing family tree research on-line. At least that great uncle was interesting, if a little odd.

I heard about the plot (including ending) of "Us" and now I'm more likely to see it at some point. I'm one of those people who are too wimpy to see horror if they have to worry about how it's going to turn out. [I'm not going to bother looking up the grammar of "one of those people who are/is". Feel free to be horrified.]

I am going to see it this week! I'm glad that the spoiler made you feel better about seeing it; I am trying to avoid them, but this second-hand reassurance is comforting. I can deal with two out of three horror things -- suspenseful situations, creepy music, and violence -- at one time, but I can never deal with jump scares, as my husband keeps learning when I do not realize he is at home, have greeted what I think is an empty room, and then discover someone behind me. 

.... right out the window?

We're making Prague-egress! 

My kids used to say that something happened “on accident.” I thought it was a charming mistake, but then I started hearing it from other people. Either my kids are more influential than I thought, or I live in a place where it’s a regionalism and they picked it up from the regionals.

Nope, it's your kids. Their influence is unstoppable and they have created a whole dialect. Tell them to make "sturdy indefensibles" happen next! 

I'm SURE the person who appears to be your husband is not really someone who has taken his place. Pleasant dreams!

Is this a spoiler for "Us"? I feel like he could also have called it "Is This Us?" but then again, it is a horror movie. 

Speaking of which, I think "This is Us" is probably a sturdy indefensible, right? 

My grandmother, whose first language was Greek, sat through the first 10 minutes of Never on Sunday reading the subtitles not quite silently. The the penny dropped, and she embarassed our whole family by yelling "It's Greek" right there in the theater. She got a kick out of using her Greek after all those decades

That's amazing! Is this something I should add to the playlist with "Cemetery Man"? It sounds cheerier, from the Wikipedia at least! 

I say "on accident" but "in line" I was waiting in line for hours. I missed the party on accident. What does this say about me? What region is "on line" common in?

There was a quiz to help determine this, let me find it! 

All right, last couple of questions time! 

Exactly! I can't be the only one who wants to take a bullhorn to NBC Studios and scream, "It's 'This is We,' dammit!". Can I?

It's not a mistake, for heaven's sake. Variations in usage occur all the time, and neither one is more correct than the other. Perhaps I'm overreacting because I know someone who continues to insist that the proper expression is "accidentally" rather than "by accident."

I feel like such people, like the ones who are overzealous in letting you know that you are not nauseous but nauseated, are not unmixed blessings to be around. 

As they said on the show Homicide, in line is skates.

Do I have to stop loving this movie now because of Kevin Spacey's transgressions? I feel like the answer is yes.

because the opposite of that is "on purpose"

I think I'd better shut down the chat before someone suggests that "by purpose" is actually just as valid! 

The report provides more questions than answers? We need more goats.

We absolutely need more goats. I am not sure how this relates to the report, exactly, but I concur re:goats. 

On that note, I am off! See you on the Internet ( and also, elsewhere on the Internet (@petridishes)!!

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