ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri: The One Before Thanksgiving (November 26)

Nov 26, 2019

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri will be online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern for ComPost live, where she'll offer a lighter take on the news of the day. Submit your comments on her columns and any other questions you might have.

Read Alexandra Petri's columns or catch up on past ComPost chats.

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Friends, I have a funny story. I have been in the wrong chat. Hello! 

For the past several minutes I was gamely answering questions in the wrong chat, wondering why they were all addressed to Amber instead of to me! Let me catch up! How was your week past and how do you anticipate your week to come? Let’s talk turkey! 

As in past years, I have told everyone who asks that I am invited to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. In actuality, I will be snuggled on the couch with wine and The Crown all day. God willing, it will snow or rain so that I feel cosseted indoors. May I legitimately feel thankful?

You absolutely may, and I hope even in the event of nicer weather you will also strive to feel cosseted! 

"I'm curious why wasn't it done a long time ago? And also, I guess the answer to that is because now I'm president, we get things done." A President Trump quote as he signs the Woman's Suffrage Centennial Coin Act. While I'm not at all surprised POTUS doesn't know the meaning of the word centennial I am a bit surprised no one had explained this to him.

I answered this in Amber’s chat, and I stand by it: Trump is correct. In his administration, every day lasts a hundred years. This centennial should have taken place a week or two into his administration. 

My daughter, a freshman in college, says she wants to be a Classics major. I'm skeptical, but I understand you minored in Classics, so apparently it’s not total employability death. Are there any ways in which studying Classics has been useful for you in your work? If so, what? Also, is there anything I can tell her that will make her less annoyed with me for asking you this?

Tell her “BALE EIS KARAKAS!” which I believe means “go to Hell (literally, the crows), a single specific time.” I found it really fun and rewarding to get to dig into classic texts in the original language, even if it was slow and painstaking and the bones of my never fluent Greek are now pretty well picked clean now. My dad actually was a big proponent of studying classics because his theory was that since this was the discipline that everyone used to be in back in the E. M. Forster days there were still all these old 19th Century Chairs in it sitting around and in theory you could become a professor and spend your whole life conducting tours of the Mediterranean in comfort and security, though I don’t know how accurate that assessment is. There were approximately six Classics majors and we all got pudding on Fridays, I think for vestigial 19th century reasons? I liked how intimate it was and I think the most useful part of studying it was that you get this sense of how many of the questions and answers you have to things are not new; plus, these are things that so so many subsequent writers and thinkers have referenced, that it gives you the ability to make connections across time! Also, a lot of the Aristophanes fart jokes hold up. Is this at all helpful? 

It seems to me that Fox "News" types (and I include the President and his supporters) lack a sense of humor at best and have a quite odd sense of what is humorous at worst. Do you have any theories about how and/or why humor is so different among various news source watchers?

I have a simple and frustratingly circular answer: your sense of humor is based on what you think is funny. Or rather, on what you think is true. If I am operating with a different sense of what is real and right therefore of what is odd and wrong, I won’t laugh at the same things. If President Trump doesn’t view women as fully people, say, then he would laugh at a joke with that as its underlying premise, whereas I would not. 

Does this happen to you? If I read too many headlines, they start to blur together, e.g. ‘The Mandalorian,’ a Gunslinger in a Galaxy Far, Far Away is refocusing on her goal of becoming a nurse.

No, but I would watch that! 

I have questions about a kids toy and this chat may be the only chance I have of getting answers....

Ask away! I briefly impersonated Amber but am back!

let's talk about identity theft

I thought, wow, chat really wants to know what I think the takeaways from polls are! I thought this was Thanksgiving! 

Is the Trump administration the cause of the absurdist, post-truth world you so often portray, or merely the result?

I think it is certainly accelerating things, but the things were in place before. I am trying to think of an analogy. It is like we always had the materials required to make a vile and hideous pie, including some that we had been storing since the nation’s founding, but we assumed nobody would make the pie for a variety of obvious reasons. But now somebody is making the pie. No, this is not a good analogy. 

What should I do about a dinner guest who keeps answering questions posed to someone else? Kick them out, right?

Yes! My grandparents used to quip (or, I think, repeat the quip) that the definition of old age is when you start answering questions that no one has asked. 

As Miss Manners memorably informed a Gentle Reader many years ago who submitted an inquiry as to the propriety of telling a white lie to ward off unwelcome invitations (paraphrasing slightly here): "It is perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation by invoking a previous engagement. No one need know that said engagement consists of lounging on one's sofa and consuming bonbons while reading or watching TV!"

This week I will be doing more baking than I have in a few years, by making hopefully two boozy pies - one that is chocolate and cherries soaked in kirsch, and the other is cranberry/Grand Marnier. I am a little nervous, but looking forward to it!

Oooh, the cranberry-Grand Marnier pie sounds especially toothsome! Piespeed! 

A long time ago, a paper -- I can't remember which one; it might have been the Los Angeles Times, or maybe the New York Times -- had all of its arts critics temporarily switch jobs. So the film critic might have written something about TV, for example, and the pop music critic could write something about an art exhibit. You guys should do that with the chats one week! You could do some good work in Amber's chat.

That’s a good idea! 

If we didn't have the Classics, how would we know "quid pro quo." Or as the old joke went, Client to poorly educated attorney: "I've got this subpoena, what does that mean?" Attorney, "Son, let me put my Latins to it: sub, that mean's below or under. Poena, hmm, wait a minute, oh no, son, they got you by the shorts."

Wow. My husband was the sole classics major in college. His advisor, the Greek & Latin teacher, said he didn't really need to take Greek or Latin, which I think he sometimes regrets (husband regrets, not prof). An interdisciplinary degree is great for collecting minors; husband has one in philosophy. And no pudding.

At your Thanksgiving table, is it gauche to drink chilled red wine?

I think if it’s your own table you can drink what you please! But I usually drink chilled red wine when I’ve opened the wine before and just retrieved it from the fridge, which I hear is not how you are supposed to enjoy it. 

I took Akkadian in law school. I was sort of bored with the offerings available. The university had a code share with a class at a near by seminary that used the Code of Hammurabi as the basic text for learning the language. It was well known in the law school that you could get permission to take the first class of almost any language if you wrote your appeal to the Dean of Students properly. I wanted a challenge. It worked. And a story in the school newspaper came out and said that I was studying Acadian which is a Canadian form of French. In any event, Being able to recite a line or two of an ancient Semitic language in which the earliest legal code that most people have ever heard of and which isn't in the Bible has never made me unemployable as an attorney. And it was occasionally interesting as a topic of conversation in interviews. Now that no one cares about my transcript, it never comes up.

Acadian would also be fun to study! That’s where we get Acadia and Cajuns! And your final point is very, very true. People’s interest in your transcript exponentially decreases as your distance from graduation increases.

I'm sad to see that Amber has deleted your work in her chat, though she has saved a screenshot of it for our amusement. I mean, it's for the best, and I agree, but I can still be sad.

This is for the best and I do agree! I feel bad! 

Is the chat going to have a different subtitle every week now? (You mentioned last week that it might get a new name. I'm wondering if this is approach you've chosen.) Or is this just a special pre-Thanksgiving subtitle? It's very "Friends," which was probably intentional.

I think we’re trying to have a subtitle and, eventually, a title, to give people a better idea of what we’re about! 

How do I get my hands on an assortment of Bey Blades for my nephew that will work for him. He only has a few. Is evidently really excited that I said I would get them for him. But some minimal research indicates that there are various "generations" of them. Some have special versions. And even the basic toys have different battling "strategies" built into them (being heavier, being faster, etc.). I want to do a good job with this. He already has the arena (a moderate sized plastic thing in which the blades which are a form of top "battle." I think the best strategy is to get an assortment that comes with launchers (seems like the sort of thing that could break so having extras will be useful, while the arena doesn't need to be replicated) and packs into its own carrying case. The case is because I love my brother and sister-in-law as well as my nephew and making sure they can be put away in a designated locations seems like a good idea. So, anyone have any expertise in this thing?

Bey Blades? I am guessing from context clues that these are not knives?

Make sure to beat the egg whites separately, then fold them into the batter at the end.

If any of it's left, it's gauche.

Ha! Ten points!

Red wine is supposed to be room temperature, but that room can get pretty warm. The standard of "room temperature" wine & beer was established back when people kept their homes and premises a lot cooler, saving fuel and whatnot. So chill away, to a reasonable temperature.

I'd reserved a chair for my date for Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm now single again. My extended family has no boundaries, and they'll definitely ask me why we broke up. What are interesting facts I can use to change the subject

“Did you know that dogs dream of you, while cats dream of death?” and then you stare silently at the vacant chair.

Hello Ms. Petri, As a fellow Jeopardy! alum, how do you talk about it without sounding pompous? I'll be introduced to some new people this thanksgiving, and inevitably someone in my family will pop out from under a sewer grate and say, "Did you know he was on Jeopardy?" What's your strategy?

I always immediately allude to my terrible final wager and embarrassing loss! Failing that, just be as pompous as possible! “Oh yes, without a hemidemisemiquaver of doubt, I was assuredly on Jeopardy!, the show for the erudite!” 

Hi! I love getting holiday cards and especially love when people include letters (of the 'this is what we've been up to this year' variety). But I feel super self-conscious sending letters because I think, "who is going to want to read this?!" So. Do I send one or no?

My experience is that people always want to read the letter, but never for the reason the letter-sender thinks. Proceed with caution! 

And on that note I literally must take off! Have a great Thanksgiving, all! Enjoy your Grand Marnier and chilled red wine! 

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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