Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Sep 26, 2013

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. Apologies in advance: I have to leave right at 3 today for an interview, and I might disappear for a few minutes here or there during the chat for other interviews related to a deadline story.

What I wanted to talk about today is also what I have to disappear to go write about this afternoon: Yesterday the FBI made the decision to release 30 seconds of video footagte of Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

What do you think of this decision? Useful to your understanding of the situation? Callous? Necessary to prevent conspiracy theories? Macabre?

We'll get started in a few.

This may have been discussed before, I can't remember. But it's been getting on my nerves a LOT lately. Some random, unimportant people on Twitter let loose with a spew of something bad, and then the rest of the media blows up with the horrifying story. Most recent example: Nina Davuluri. Only a tiny percentage of people use Twitter, and only a small percentage of them spew nastiness. So why does this stuff show up EVERYWHERE as though it's widespread? Also, why does the Washington Post have SO MANY articles that talk about what people are saying on Twitter? For many of them, it seems like the writer is using Twitter "quotes" in a non-Twitter-related article in place of going out and doing interviews.

To address your second point, first: I do think that writers rely on Twitter quotes occasionally, likely because they are easier than "real" quotes. Think about it: Tweets are 140 carefully constructed characters. The Tweeter has spent time thinking about how to be succinct, funny, interesting, or inflammatory. It's everything that a journalist could want in a quote -- and it's right there for the using. Whereas a "real" quote, found in person, might involve traipsing around the streets for hours looking for someone who A) Knew something about your story. B) Was willing to be interviewed and quoted by name. C) Could be interesting and smart on the spot. It's a difficult trifecta to achieve.

As to your first point: It's true that not everyone is on Twitter, and it's also true that journalists sometimes behave as if a much larger percentage of the population is. It's easy to assume that the bubble you live in is the bubble that everyone lives in. Lots of journalists are on Twitter. However, Twitter isn't the only bubble that we get trapped in. I'm much more likely to think of stories set in the two-mile walk from the Post to my apartment in Columbia Heights, just because I do that walk every day. We all need to work hard to get out of our bubbles, virtual or otherwise.

 

Due to a terrible lack of exposure to single men in my daily life, I recently signed up for an online dating site. So far, it seems like a good way to see who's out there and weed out a lot of weirdos and jerks immediately. But sometimes it feels like online shopping and I'll suddenly feel guilty for rejecting what I know is a real human being, like I'm rejecting one of two dozen sweaters I've found during a shopping binge. But what other option do I have? They send new matches every single day and it's impossible to deal with them all. I guess I don't really have a question, but I'm curious to know how others feel about it.

Columbus never could have imagined someone so pretty.

Ugh. I thought it was awful to release it. It was just creepy. I didn't love how WP had a still frame of it showing in a large space on the Home page. It just didn't sit well with me. I know there are conspiracy theorists out there, but this has to be traumatic for people who were actually involved.

Apparently, the FBI made the victims families aware of the fact that the video would be released, but it wasn't clear whether the families had veto power over the release.

I could use a sammich right now.

Looks like I'm not the only one who was horrified by this 300 Sandwiches blog, in which a woman sets out to wrench a marriage proposal from her boyfriend by making him a series of delectable sandwiches. (Seriously, I would love a counterpoint argument from someone else who found this article and blog to be adorable. Because I...did not.)

Aaron Alexis claims things were being radio waved beamed into his head. I understand this is not an unusual type of phobia. Long story short: I used to get daily phone calls from a person complaining of the symptoms and one days the calls suddenly stopped. I was told someone told the person that they have contacted the FBI and the beams would be turned off. The person never called to complain aboutt the beams ever again. I later saw someone similar to this on an episode of "NYPD Blue" where they told the person that putting coffee grounds by the window blocks the waves. It is the theory that such people may really believe this is happening and what they are seeking is for someone to listen and solve the problem. In at leasts one cast, it seemed to work. Does anyone with more authority out there know how true this is? If it is, we should spread the word on how to help others with similar symptoms. Or, if this was just luck and is wrong, we need to get that message out as well.

I doubt that any of us here have enough expertise with these questions in order to answer -- and I further doubt that what works on one mentally ill person would work on another. It is fascinating to think that it might be possible to solve an imagined problem (The aliens are communicating to me through fillings in my teeth) with an imagined solution (Wear red -- aliens don't like the color and will leave you alone.)

I thought it was extremely creepy to watch the video. I didn't learn anything new about the shooting or the shooter. I don't understand why the FBI has to prove that it was not a conspiracy when only paranoid and mentally unhinged people subscribe to conspiracy theories.

I'm not sure whether your last sentence is true. It's astounding how many poeple believe that, say, JFK's death involved a conspiracy, and many of them we would probably consider quite normal.

In the same vein, I'm getting tired of articles that focus on one random terrible person's ramblings and use them as proof of some greater noxious trend. Case in point: Jezebel had a featured article this week about this creep who had a whole list of demanding requirements in a date - weight, behavior, race, etc. But while scrolling past it, I thought... WHY? Why did this need to be covered? Jezebel is ostensibly a feminist-minded blog. What's with this rubbernecking over one guy who would be considered loony even by fellow misogynists?

You are right. And yet. I find myself reading this again and again, trying to parse this guy out. He refuses to date African American women -- but are we supposed to think he's cool, because he'll date any other race? And for the most part, his spelling and punctuation seem under control, so what's with the random capitalization of the word "Ear"?

 

This is less about a noxious trend in my book, and more about a strange and rare zoo animal man, who we feel compelled to stare at.

Whoopsie Daisy -- scrolling up through previous answers, I just realized I accidentally printed a question about online dating, and answered it with "Columbus never could have imagined someone so pretty," which would seem a rather cryptic and bizarre answer. I accidentally posted my response to a completely different question in the wrong box. Please ignore me.

I don't understand how it squelches conspiracy theories. People who believe them are not going to be satisfied by a 30 second clip edited and released by the government of a rampage that lasted more than an hour.

This.

I can't imagine that releasing the video did anything to quash conspiracy theories. Most people who believe that stuff would never let anything as inconvenient as video evidence get in the way of a juicy theory.

And this.

I wouldn't watch the video, and I don't see why it was necessary to release it. Fine as evidence at AA's eventual trial (or hearing in which he is determined to be unfit to stand trial), but it just seems titillating.

FYI, the Alexis died in the shooting, so there will never be a trial.

I was wondering what you had done with my post.

I had lost my mind with your post.

Careful, that solution might actually make matters worse. What if the person who believed in the radio waves actually responded to "We've contacted the FBI" with "Oh no, they know I've found them out. I've got to take evasive actions"? But you're absolutely right that a surprising number of people suffer from this delusion. My understanding is that most of them probably have some form of paranoid schizophrenia, and when you think about it, it makes sense: You're hearing voices and seeing images, and because you don't know you suffer from schizophrenia (or refuse to accept it), you "know" they're originating from a source outside your own head. What technology has the power to produce that effect? Bam, radio waves. The same pathology can be found in accounts from medieval days, but they blame demons instead (and unfortunately, the more mentally neurotypical members of their community tended to readily accept that interpretation). And as someone in a job that gets a lot of mail from outside sources, I can say that the new "trend" is to blame the sights and sounds on drone flybys. Makes sense, since they've been all over the news and are terrifying no matter what your mental state may be.

This is all really interesting, especially the historic demon context.

I read through some of the posts, and they both come off sounding bad. He actually sounds pretty controlling. This is from no. 171: "He’s even created the Dress Exchange Program, where he’s offered to buy me a new dress in exchange for permission to toss one he doesn’t like from my closet." Not to get all Haxy here, but she should consider reading "The Gift of Fear."

Oh, that part didn't bother me. I can think of many items in several loved ones' closets that I would dearly like to throw out.

I'm a 29 year old woman, and have never identified myself as a feminist, but come on, THIS: "You've been up for 15 minutes and you haven't made me a sandwich?"

I'm going to assume this is an inside joke that they share that just doesn't translate well on screen.

In the past few years, one of the movies I've seen that's stuck with me is "Take This Waltz," in which that main couple expresses their affection by stating horrible things they are going to do to each other. i.e. "I love you so much I'm going to scoop your eyes out with a melon baller and saute them."

Which, written on page, seems like a Jeffrey Dahmer-esque expression of affection. But on screen, it's obvious that this is an intimate oddity. And, you know, two people in a relationship can sometimes develop private languages and references that would seem bat-crazy to anyone outside of said relationship.

Maybe we can set him up with the woman who is trying to wrench a marriage proposal out of her boyfriend. She seems pretty desperate.

Except: This dude is such a doink that he wouldn't have her, because she doesn't fit his racial requirements.

Me too, but if you don't accept their right in return to throw out something of yours, then your loved ones clearly need Becker's book. (Note: I am putting a big fat smiley face here. ;-)

Well, sure. If two people in a couple have equally offensive clothing -- or are equally offended by each other's clothing -- then they should both get to toss something.

However, if what Person A wants to throw out is a 20-year-old ripped Beavis and Butthead shirt with a spaghetti sauce stain, and what Person B wants to throw out is a perfectly fitted blouse that happens to be in a color they don't like -- I mean, come on. Not all fashion violations are created equal.

Because the blog seems like it was created solely for a movie deal? If they do get married and have babies, she's going to be making a heck of a lot more sandwiches than 300 for their kids.

This is precisely how I felt about 40 Days of Dating. I couldn't even take it seriously as an experiement, because it didn't seem like an experiment. It seemed like two people begging for book agents.

That's too bad. Because you sound like a feminist to me, and we need more women to acknowledge the value of feminism. Like being able to vote, and go to medical school, and not be asked why you're taking a job away from some man who has a family to support.

I didn't bother to get into this, but it caught my eye, too.

Yeah, but the Dress Exchange Program AND the "15 minutes no sandwich?!" combined makes me wonder real hard why that lovely woman is trying at all to impress such a jerk. (Note: I am 30 and have no problem identifying myself as a feminist.)

Well. Not to comment on someone I've never met, but: Any person who takes a throwaway comment like, "You're 300 sandwiches away from a marriage proposal" as a LITERAL PROMISE might have a few issues of their own.

The thing that jumped out at me was the fact this guy puts out a long list of requirements for what he expects in a woman, then has no sense of the irony in calling selfishness a turnoff.

And also thinks its perfectly acceptable to issue a long list of his requirements, without mentioning anything he has to offer. Where are -your- height and weight statistics, dude? Because I have less of a problem with you demanding someone fit and athletic if you also fit that description.

Everything is the closet is valuable and has meaning to me. It all stays.

Oh believe me. I know.

More like "Make me a book deal." Come on, they're both Brooklyn hipsters, they know what they're doing. The outrageous and borderline offensive nature of the project makes it publicity catnip. Quirky image-heavy food blog + controversial relationship issue = Urban Outfitters register display stand. When he does finally give her that ring, they'll get a windfall that should pay off the wedding AND honeymoon.

And, if they're lucky, Divorce!

A recent issue of the New Yorker recently had an article (alas, I cannot find it online) about how the same types of delusions have been noted throughout history (grandeur, for example, and persecution), but they manifest differently in different eras. Nobody has Napoleon complexes these days. The example they focused on is a more recent phenomenon where people think they are starring on a reality TV show that everyone else is in on. It is called the Truman Show complex.

I must read this article -- how fascinating.

My father proposed to my mother on their second date, on which he tasted her chocolate chip cookies.

Assuming that "chocolate chip cookies" is not a double entendre...this anecdot actually does not make your dad seem sweet. It makes him seem like someone for whom the ability to whip up a good meal was more important than a partner's personality or any number of other things that take more than two dates to ascertain. (But I am sure that your father really is a lovely, lovely man. Just don't tell the story in exactly that way again, okay?)

Why does it seem like half of the time, chatters think The Gift of Fear is the answer to relationship issues? Is it projecting? Was it quoted on Twitter? Is it what the voices in their heads are saying? Why can't I stop asking questions?

Carolyn loves The Gift of Fear, and Carolyn is a wise and amazing person.

I found it! It's by Andrew Marantz: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/09/16/130916fa_fact_marantz

Excellent!

If any man tries to toss any article of clotihng, shoes, bag, whatever, that is in my closet, he will find himself tossed out of the house. In return, he can wear anything he darned well pleases because the clothes he chooses to wear on HIS body are not a reflection of MY taste, and anyone who thinks so is an a**hat..

Oh man, you must live in a place with lots of closet space. When you and your partner share a small IKEA wardrobe, you will both grow to believe that the other person should be able to subsist on two sweaters and a pair of pants. (And this is only after you've already thrown out your grandma's wedding dress and all of your childhood souvenir t-shirts).

Can we all agree this is a lazy way to describe anyone and has been for at least a few years now? "Brooklyn hipster" is not a catch-all phrase to describe any young person who happens to do something you think is stupid.

It's true. We need a new subsitute for "hipster." Any ideas?

Hee hee. In the context of this chat, I realize it doesn't come out right. My dad was indeed sweet. And he was as good a cook as my mother, he just didn't do any baking then. (I'm the central Illinoian who posted about rhubarb pie and funerals not so long ago.)

Whew.

I wore my "The government has no right to know how boring I am" during the National Book Fair. Not one person asked me about it. It was then I realized: I am so boring people don't even want to ask about how boring I am.

I was too busy trying to get out of the pouring rain on Saturday at the Book Fest to notice what anyone else was wearing.

I thought releasing the video was unnecessary. I'm not sure what it added to the investigation or subsequent discussions. It was chilling to watch as a bystander, and must be upsetting to the survivors and families of the dead victims. Just seemed gratuitous to me. I must not be on the internet enough, and don't have cable news, so I'm not sure what the conspiracy theories are.

Posting.

Think of it this way: 1. If they've been on the site long enough, they're used to it, and 2. You're saving THEM time by removing yourself as a potential match when you know it wouldn't work out. Keep in mind that they're doing the same thing on the other end with THEIR matches.

Here, I'm posting this, which is actually a useful response to the online dating question, as opposed to my strange Christopher Columbus reference.

The video is very unsettling--particularly the last few seconds--despite not seeing any actual shooting. I think it's helpful to have it available to avoid conspiracy theories and to show the reality of the event. (I believe footage from Columbine is also available.) It immediately brought to mind footage of Atta going through security on 9/11.

The Columbine footags is available -- but I don't think it was made so until several months after the shooting. A few weeks might be abrupt.

Here is the best spin I can put on the article about the man who said he would propose after a woman made him 300 sandwiches: At least he shows he isn't bored with her sandwiches after 200 of them and thus is willing to stay with her sandwiches from the rest of his life. Other than that, it just seemed weird and a bit controlling.

This.

"Maybe she should quit at 299 and found out what happened then."

If I were in the sandwichmaker's shoes, I would tell the wonderful boyfriend that he will get his 300 sandwiches, but one of them will be poisoned and he won't know which one.

Ahhahahahaha.

I saw the need with the Boston bombing, where law enforcement was simultaneously trying to head off internet vigilantes and find suspects still at large, but I don't see the point here. There was already a photo of Alexis to accompany stories, and the details of his movements have been described...there's no added value except making something horrible even more horrible.

Yes, there was some comparison to the Boston Bombing video, but that was a different circumstance.

It was more frightening than most horror movies, knowing that this was a real life monster on his way to kill people.

I think, too, that the calm with which he seemed to be moving through the building was extremely upsetting to some people.

Also good to keep in mind that you do this every day in real life, it just doesn't feel that way when it's offline.

True -- we've been choosing romantic partners by rejecting the vast majority of the populaiton for ages.

I think it really needs to be specific to the situation wherein someone blogs solely in the hopes that it will result in a book deal. Blooker?

Where does the "L" come from in "Blooker?" (But I think we're onto something, I really do).

Besides historical differences, delusions also vary culturally: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/opinion/luhrmann-the-violence-in-our-heads.html?_r=0

Ooh, another thing I'll have to bookmark.

Those California Closet ads make me insane with rage because they purport to organize your closets so that you can use them better, when they actually show only areas that are more like gigantic dressing rooms with shelves. Which, like, everybody who needs closet space has, right?

Nearly every furniture-related ad fills me, a small-apartment city-dweller -- with rage.

Had to finally take a look at her actual blog after seeing all the posts about it yesterday and today. Aside from the entire idea being annoying and blech-worthy (300 sandwiches = ring . . . really?!), the blog itself is really bad. I mean, REALLY bad. First, it is ugly. Photos are ok, but the rest is really visually assaulting. Second, her writing is not good. Very consciously tongue-in-cheek and twee. Third, her boyfried sounds really obnoxious. That may be the fault of her writing but hard to tell. All told, it seems like she did this thinking it was going to be the next Julie & Julia.

That being said, the sandwiches look delicious.

Will you keep us posted on this story? I found it really compelling, and think that you should go to NK, too, I would totally read that.

I certainly will keep everyone posted -- thanks for the nice words.

before it was mentioned here. I think I need to un-Like Huffingtonpost.com and salon.com on Facebook.

Oh, but you can't just come to this chat to learn about new stuff. You need to bring your own show and tell, too. So it's excellent that you stay informed.

Like Blogger + Book

Intriguing.

I just don't believe that he's throwing out her ratty old T-shirts & sweats. I get the feeling he's throwing out perfectly lovely stuff that just doesn't fit his particular idea of what his woman should look like. It's not a flattering article. I may be reading too much into it, but, yuck!

Well, the DEP aside, I think there's probably enough anciallary evidence to not really like either one.

That was the feeling I was trying to put my finger on. Thank you. (Did anybody besides me find Julie kind of whiny? Maybe it's my fault for having read Julia's "My Life in France" first.)

Nobody likes Julie best in "Julie and Julia." Everybody skims ahead to the Julia parts.

Why do I really not care what my friends' or co-workers' spouses/significant others wear, but I'm certain that everyone is judging me by what my husband wears?

Ooh. Good question. (We're not, I promise).

We can't discuss this subject without mentioning the old joke: A doctor is making his rounds in a hospital. One patient keeps yelling, "I'm Napoleon! I'm Napoleon." The doctor walks over and says, "But you can't be Napoleon, Napoleon has been dead for years. Why do you think that you're Napoleon?" The patient looks up with a beatific smile and says, "God told me." And from the next bed over comes, "I did NOT!"

Hahahaha

Oh dear. Did the poor woman actually set out to write a food blog, then try to give it a cute new angle, and end up with people (including me) going WTF?

Now that would be tragic. All she wanted to do was bring tasty sandwiches to the world. FYI, I've already eaten lunch, but these sandwich discussions have made me very hungry.

Wear yellow. The aliens don't like yellow.

Cool.

I don't have a major problem with it, outside of that the release may be a bit too soon. I think this one is a little useful in showing people that bad guys don't necessarily look like raving madmen or military-style attackers. I was struck by how amazingly normal he looked (even wearing an ID badge).

This is an interesting point I hadn't thought of.

The poor guy already threw out his MeMaw's dress. Let him keep Cornholio.

Sorry, guys, lots of other good things in the queue, but I've got to dash for this story. Any post with "MeMaw" in it seems like a good one to end on. See you all next week! GSTQ.

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Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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