ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri: December 10

Dec 10, 2019

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Happy Tuesday, all! I hope you are enjoying this uneventful week! I have a sous vide egg bite and I just watched some articles of impeachment be unveiled and I am ready to chat!

Did you ever hear the old joke about the three branches of government that were going to check and balance each other to prevent tyranny?

I did! Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll snare. Curtains. 

Loved the Xmas card update. Can we have each family member's New Year's resolutions next? Suggested by many of your fans.

Ooh, an intriguing idea! Although I have been slightly sidetracked by another Untitled Christmas Article that I am extremely excited by. 

No doubt you are familiar with Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, and its ditty, “Every Sperm is Sacred”? (There are other wonderful musical moments in the film, including John Cleese’s favorite song about the galaxy.) If not, I highly recommend the film to you and your readers.

I love this movie! I used to watch it every night before standardized tests, and then I would take the SAT or SAT2 with "Every sperm is useful! Every sperm is fine!" running cheerfully if unhelpfully through my head. 

Avocados, with edible skin. What will they think of next?

I have an avocado Christmas tree ornament now!! 

situation over Alyssa's. I think the *single* thing you can mention about a president/politician/celebrity's kid is his or her name. Because even the people who go all out on the personhood of a fetus, don't believe that the fetus picks its own name. That is all, 100% on the parent. The fact that the child is mentioned is about as interesting as mentioning the fact that the adult drives a [fill in name of car] or anything like that. And it was, in fact, a pretty good metaphor for the idea that calling something X doesn't make it X if it is literally impossible for that thing to be X, no matter how many times you use the term X to refer to it.

Thank you for agreeing with me! I do think that kids should be off limits, but simply mentioning that they exist and have names and that those names do not make them landed gentry -- if that mild wordplay is a bridge too far, then no wordplay is safe. I think, though, you can't dissever the kid from the name; even if the parent picked it, the kid has it now, and whatever insult you have for the name, lands on the kid. But for this to be an insult you would have to think that not being a literal baron was an insult, and if that's the case, then America's entire founding premise was a failure. The other argument could be that ever mentioning that a child exists at all is just something you should not do, just to avoid discussions like this, which are always depressing wastes of time: on that second point, I am in complete agreement with Alyssa. I also thought she made some lovely points about the much uglier things that have been said on these lines before, and the futility of all such discussions. Which this certainly wasn't not. 

Now they need to create something to grow around the avocados to protect and preserve the edible skin.

I know: plastic!

For a long time I did not understand what the fuss was about a lump of egg with things in it. Was it not just a pelletized omelet? The time finally came when I was ravenous and at a Starbucks and...huh, I get the appeal now. So enjoy your egg bite (which is really more like an egg 2-bite)

It's so good! I would eat them every day if I didn't know about cholesterol! 

Did you make them last year? I could theoretically try to find anything you may have written about it. Did you accomplish any of them to any degree? (I didn't. I also don't diet. One explanation is that I am perfecdt.)

Making resolutions is one of the keenest joys of my life. That I make them every year and they somewhat erode after a few months has never stopped me. I usually make a big list of things to accomplish that year and then I see at the end of the year how I did. I find that generally, resolving on incremental behavioral changes rather than larger Accomplishments can feel less daunting, but sometimes you just have to say "Read Anna Karenina" and then read Anna Karenina. This year my resolution was to read 30 pages (for pleasure) a day. I have... not quite achieved it, but I am trying to see if I can catch up on the back end. My average, I am chagrined to admit, is closer to 10 a day, but the year is young yet!

Wait, what? What’s an egg bite? WHAT AM I MISSING?!

For many years my devotion to Starbucks was punished by their breakfast selection. No longer! I feel about sous vide egg bites the way I used to feel about Pumpkin Spice Lattes: that they are a still, joyful point of the turning world. They are perfect warm discrete bites of egg and they have several great flavors. 

This for all the Art History majors: If a banana duct taped to a wall supposedly fetches $120,000, would a similarly affixed cucumber fetch more, or less? How about a zucchini? Discuss. Cite examples from contemporary artists.

Also, please note in your response whether the banana is more or less valuable if it was plucked from a previously intact hand of bananas sold by weight. 

I suggest resolving to read 30 pages (for spite) a day.

Now that is a motivator!

They are so easy to make in an Instant Pot:

Baby Groot or Baby Yoda?

Let me first note that I love Baby Yoda. 

This being noted, let me complain that on my most curmudgeonly days I feel that Baby Yoda is to regular Yoda what this new Disney wave of Star Wars is to Old Star Wars -- so exactly and precisely engineered to be what I want that I almost don't want it any more, but, also, I want it. Sometimes I miss when Star Wars was just one man's bad ideas. 

But the Mandalorian is great. Why am I standing in the way of my own happiness? Do I genuinely miss the prequels? What am I thinking?

A single tear rolls down my cheek. I have won the last victory over myself. I love Baby Yoda. 

How big a page, in what size font?

You can make up quite a lot of time by reading plays or poetry, in a pinch!

My parents grew up in Cleveland and my sibling and I were born there (we moved away when I was little). My parents often took us to Chagrin Falls, which is a town near Cleveland that features a waterfall. I've seen photographs from our visits, and it seems very lovely, but ever since I learned the meaning of the word chagrin, I've felt so sad about both the town and the waterfall. Why would someone name anything after that word??

Oscar Wilde called Niagara Falls, 'the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointment of American married life." Maybe Chagrin Falls took after that? 

You don't say /what/ you're reading. May I suggest something fun and easily consumable to get you back in the habit? The flip side is you may end up becoming a "inhale a book in one or two lengthy fugue states" type like me if they're /too/ easily consumable.

I do sometimes get into book-inhaling fugue states, but those tend to be with biographies! I don't know, I wish I read more delightful books proportionally faster. I toiled painfully over The Greek Millionaire's Virgin Bride all summer long without finishing it, to the bemusement of my friends. If I had to time myself reading I would say that the thing I read fastest is the introduction to a book I have just finished. This is why Forewords and Afterwords by W. H. Auden was such a hit with me. It was just a whole book of these! 

are just chawanmushi, aren't they? Japanese single-serving egg puddings baked in the oven over a pan of water, or in the microwave.

I am no expert but that does sound right! Can someone with more knowledge of chawanmushi confirm?

Many years ago now, I made the resolution to use the word "terrific" more often. I kept that one! I use the word pretty often, too, now. And it makes me feel good, because what started the whole thing was me emailing a friend and telling them about my new haircut, and them telling me "I bet you look terrific!"

Aw, what a terrific resolution!

I'd feel very deprived. But then I'm retired. On the other hand, Alex, isn't it your job to read for a living, so that you may write for a living?

Yes, but so much of what I read is the Bottomless Internet. And then there is Peak TV to consider! 

Large-print books are also great for this purpose. As we discovered in high school English class when given a minimum-page-reading requirement.

What is your favorite movie soundtrack and why?

Seriously: The Empire Strikes Back! It has all the great Star Wars themes united in one place for the first time!

That I Listen To Surprisingly Often: The Matrix Reloaded, but there is no justifying this. 

Depending on the material, ten pages a day can be plenty. That's about my limit with the novel I am reading right now, _Gravity's Rainbow_. I have been reading it since November 2018. Pynchon is a young man's game.

What we know about the role of eggs in heart health is changing. My nutritionist told me last year that eggs don't provide enough dietary cholesterol to clog your arteries. You have to watch out for the cheese and sausage and fried ham and lard that you cook them in. But eggs alone -- hard-boiled eggs, say -- can be eaten 2 a day, every day, without ill effects. Don't get suckered by the anti-egg lobby.

Ah, I should have mentioned: the eggs I most enjoy are wrapped in bacon and liberally endowed with cheese. 

I bet Mrs. Wilde just laughed her head off about that one.

I don't know what news I should break to you first. Let me start with: Oscar Wilde was not American. And neither was his wife! 

According to the Case Western Reserve University Encyclopedia of Cleveland, the Chagrin River (which falls at Chagrin Falls) was named as a result of a bad Anglicization of the inaccurate pronunciation by the native tribes of the French name of an 18th century fur trader. So, chagrin all around!

Me too, but I have just finished a virtuous omelet chock-full of chopped fresh parsley and sorrel from my garden, in the hope of getting rid of the upper respiratory infection I have now had for a week and a half.

Does parsley and sorrel help dispel respiratory infections? The more you know!

Does it count as 30 pages if you have to keep re-reading the same lines over and over again because your mind is busy on other things? hashtag no, YOU have ADD

If there were a system to account for that, I would have read so many more pages! 

I'm imagining a wealthy, fusty, old kajillionaire giving a warehouse-sized block of cheese to his alma mater.

Ha! "When you said you were going to give the Alma Mater some cheddar this year, we did not realize you meant... literal cheddar." 

I always assumed that newlyweds vacationed at Niagara Falls so if one of them had serious qualms about the situation, he or she could quietly slip off into the vastness of Canada.

I like that thought. I was worried until the end of the sentence that someone was being pushed over the falls in a barrel. 

I have never been diagnosed with anything like ADHD, but for some reason, reading 30 pages of a novel always seemed like work, no matter how good the novel was. I prefer reading newspaper or magazine articles much more, as they are completed in minutes, not days or weeks. The only pleasure I got from reading a long novel was the sense of accomplishment when it was completed.

It's like the old saying, I hate writing, but I love having written! Some novels are the same way -- no fun to read, but satisfying to have read. Though I am more prone to abandon novels than I used to be. I've been 140ish pages into Madame Bovary for years now. 

Recently I sought a book at my public library, only to find that the only available copy was the Large Print Edition. I knocked off thirty pages a day in no time. Of course the book was also ridiculously long as a result.

Have you seen Untitled Goose Game? You can buy it or just enjoy free videos of other people playing it.

I watched over someone's shoulder as he played and it was an absolute delight. I highly recommend this game. 

of articles on how to get through Thanksgiving without a fight over politics? Seems to have increased by an order of magnitude. I keep being reminded of the famous Caran d'Ache cartoon of a Paris dining room, with Papa saying, "No one is to speak of it!" [the Dreyfus Affair] Second panel: wrecked dining room, captioned "they spoke of it!"

I think this year, for the first time, I've seen some articles pointing out that The Premise Of Most Of These Articles Is Baloney. Perhaps we have reached peak How To Speak To The Family At Thanksgiving? That cartoon sounds wonderful. 

When are most offices having their holiday / war on Xmas parties? If you have it too late, you risk too many people being on vacation. Or maybe your offices are different from mine. What sort of office party shenanigans should we talk about?

"Attend an Office Party" is on my list of Classic In-Person Christmas Activities, which I am attempting to rank definitively once and for all this year, so I will be able to report back soon. I guess the disadvantage of everyone's being gone is that you have fewer people among whom to divide any open bar. 

Parsley and cilantro are veritable powerhouses of vitamins and minerals. I just added the sorrel because it was there and I like it (a tart almost lemony taste). And I can taste it, unlike many other foods right now.

Yes, I know. I'm just picturing her eye-rolling when she read that bon mot in The Times.

I think her marriage to Oscar Wilde was disappointing for additional reasons! 

Seem to be a big thing in stores this year. Do you/would you own one?

I own several! One has sequins and the others have Ted Cruz! I would like to own more! 

“Niagara will survive any criticism of mine. I must say this, however, that it is the first disappointment in the married life of many Americans who spend their honeymoon there.”

Okay,! You win this round. 

Cholesterol from your food gets broken down in your stomach. Your liver manufactures cholesterol.

You don't have to attend an office holiday party in person anymore! My office just came up with a video teleconference option for employees outside headquarters. So you can dial in and watch other people eat (oh yeah, the party is in a conference room, not a swank hotel or restaurant)!

Ha, this sounds optimal yet nightmarish, like so many of our modern innovations! I hope you have a nice time!

I find I read all the time -- mostly fairly short articles and social media posts. It reminds me of a realization I had some years ago about long words and names. Why should a 4-syllable name be intimidating? Just break it up into two 2-syllable parts and it's ridiculously simple. Clearly part of my brain is afraid of commitment.

I read somewhere that every day online we consume approximately the word count equivalent of On The Road, which has always cheered and depressed me in equal measure! And on this note, I am going to skedaddle! To, I guess, read -- or contribute to everyone else's pile of impeachment-themed pixels! Have a great week, all! See you on Twitter and on the blog

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
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