The Web Hostess: Online manners, memes and must-see video

Jan 11, 2012

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.

As you may or may not have noticed, the Republican primary is going on. Today I thought I'd bring up a couple of election-related memes. In the first, Ron Paul Newsletter, a fake Twitter feed Tweets out real segments from old Paul newsletters. For example: "I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming."


In the second meme, allegedly real Rick Santorum quotes are used as captions for New Yorker cartoons.


Obviously, both of these memes were created for humorous purposes. And, it seems pretty apparent, both cherrypick quotes to hint at the purported ridiculousness of each candidate.


I don't have any particular questions related to these memes, but as always, I'd love your thoughts. Are they funny? Well done? Fair? (Hey -- I guess those were particular questions!)

Lots of other topics in the queue, though, so we'll get started at 2.

Hi Monica - I finally, finally joined FB (you gave me some advice about it a few chats ago). I set my privacy and security settings pretty strictly. My question to you is - how do I know what's showing up elsewhere on FB? For example, on my page, FB is helpfully telling me that I might know "these people". Is my photo popping up on friends of my friends like that? Also - is it generally ok to "friend" someone without warning - for example, someone I haven't spoken to in years? It seems so abrupt and sometimes I feel compelled to explain why I haven't been in touch. Is that what "message" is for? Oh web hostess, give me some guidance! Thanks!!!

Yes and yes -- unless you have set your Facebook privacy on a setting equivalent to the US missile codes, then people who might know you (old classmates, etc) are likely seeing your name pop up as a person they might like to add.

And it's perfectly okay to request friendship from someone you haven't spoken to in awhile. If you're uncomfortable about it feeling too abrupt, you can always add on a brief note. Nothing too elaborate, just something like, "Nice to see you on here. I'd love to hear what you're up to. I'm living in Charlotte with my husband and working at a bank." (A phrasing that will work best if you are actually living in Charlotte and working at a bank).

bored at work, please help. what I'd really like is to be able to read e-books on my computer screen, but I have a nook and it only lets you view PURCHASED books on multiple devices, not borrowed library books, which is what I've got. Any ideas?

What kind of books are you after? I'm frequently impressed by Google books' options. And lots of university libraries have a fairly wide selection of free books online. I'm linking to UPenn's here. I'm sure a lot of it is subject specific, but with 1 million free books, there's got to be something you're interested in, especially if you like reading classics.

Give us a little more specificity, though, and we'll see what we can do.

I took your advice last week and have just started referring to the "Likert scale" as "this 5-point scale," because that is what it is and I have realized only pompous academics use the formal term. You've probably seen a Likert scale a million times - there are different permutations of it, but it is generally comprised of two extremes, a neutral in the middle, and two ratings half-way in between. For example: 1. Strongly disagree 2. Disagree 3. Neither agree nor disagree 4. Agree 5. Strongly agree. "Likert" is just a fancy way of saying something completely ordinary. Like using "chinoise" when "strainer" works perfectly well, and most people would recognize the latter not the former. (I'm looking at you, dastardly soup recipe.)

Marvelous! And now that you have explained what the Likert scale is, I feel even more assured of our advice, since, as you say, there is no need to fancy up a relatively simple term.

Do you think any other animal gets revenge quite like a skunk? Even after being killed they get you with their stench.

Porcupines. Obviously.

I am several weeks late in responding to a commenter who wanted to know if it was proper etiquette to announce his/her cancer by e-mail. If he/she is reading this, here are my thoughts. First of all, you have cancer - SCREW ETIQUETTE!

I announced my cancer diagnosis by e-mail. I have many friends and acquaintances around the country and, like the divorcee who started this discussion, I wanted them to hear it from me rather than through the grapevine. I got concerned responses from most. However, a few people did not respond at all. That really irked me. One has to prepare oneself for these non-responses.

Another reason to announce by e-mail, especially for cancer patients, is to include the link for the blog that you are writing/going to write. Many cancer patients are doing that to keep family and friends apprised of their status. I am now 1.5 years post therapy. I like to say that I'm still dying, but at a much, much slower rate than two years ago. Unfortunately, most people don't get the joke. Good luck in your therapy. You'll actually meet some really interesting and wonderful people in this ordeal.

I love everything you've written here, really. Thanks for chiming in with your own experiences.

I have not been back to read your chat since the discussion about freezing one's pants last year, but I have to put my two cents in on the subject. Do not do it. It does not work for a multitude of reasons, but the most important is that the cold will not kill all of the bacteria, fungi and other organisms that collect on your pants. As a microbiologist who works with many of these organisms I will tell you that we store them at -20 C and even -80 C for years at a time and they are still alive when we thaw them out. So just stop being lazy and go to a laundromat every so often and wash your pants. People around you will thank you.

Who would have ever guessed that the subject of freezing pants would have a longer life than almost any other subject on this chat?

Now that we have heard from an official microbiologist, I hope we can all put this nonsense behind us and begin doing the proper thing of washing and drying our clothes, then putting them on while they're warm and snuggly, not frozen.

Well, the issue is that I've got borrowed library books that I want to read, not start a separate book on the computer, if you know what I mean. And I just thought of the answer to my own question, which is that I need to install Adobe ePUB at work. Duh. But, hey, I'm a Penn alum so thanks for suggesting that site too!

Ah, I see. I hope this works out for you, and I'm glad you managed to be your own solution.

This advice stuck with me from reading Strunk & White in high school. It's the reason I hate "utilize."

Almost every single word in the dictionary has a unique and special purporse, and most synonyms are absolutely necessary. Silly is different than wacky is different than zany, etc.

However, utilize is never, ever a better selection. Not unless you are writing a poem and you need something to rhyme with "brutalize."

Local libraries are a great source for reading e-books. The DC library site has thousands of books available in several formats. I just wish their search functionality was better.

Right -- sorry, when I said "university libraries," I meant to say, "and public."

In keeping with current topics, I even had a dead skunk joke. Do you know what is the difference between a dead skunk in the middle of the road and a dead Beltway resident in the middle of a Mississippi road? There are skids marks in front of the dead skunk.

I had only heard that joke with "dead journalist." I'm glad to see that I belong to two classes of people that Mississippians would not brake for.

I am here to reassure all that it really exists. I'm in SF and work upstairs from the Current TV office/studio. It seems to be undergoing renovation right now. Have never spotted Olberman, but I only started this job a couple of months ago :-)

Wait, did we ever say it didn't exist? I am confused. As I am much of the time. But glad you are here!

Don't know if you know about this, but the site is terrific. Not a lot can make you want to see Gigli.....

Thanks. I believe -- though could be misremembering -- that Rifftrax was founded by half of the alums of Mystery Science Theater 3000. (There was a dispute over who owned the copyright, and the other half have gone on to do something else in the film-mocking industry).

Twitter keeps recommending I follow Amanda Hess. I see she is a lifestyle writer as well. Are you related, and if so, does the Hess family control all media on lifestyle matters?

Amanda used to write for the City Paper in DC. I never met her, but would email her sometimes just to congratulate my name-almost-double on a job well done. I also have another friend with the last name Hess who is a writer in the area -- and of course, there was the writer Hermann Hesse, the biggest lifestyle writer of them all if, by "lifestyle" you mean "meaning of life."

Hi, I have written in once before, still reluctant to get out there on Facebook - but I did sign up - have not posted anything as of yet. I'm sure I will soon. Anyway, my question is: I (and my parents) have a lot of "stuff" in good condition we would like to sell via a website. I know NOTHING about this? Steer a novice in the right direction - KISS - please! Woodbridge Needs Guidance

The largest go-to place for selling stuff online is going to be a site like eBay. But I'm gathering that you're new at this (maybe a bit new to the Internet?) and so you might prefer a site that did more of the transactional work for you. What kind of set-up are you looking for?

Also, depending on what kind of stuff -- and how much of it -- you have to sell, I have never used anything but Craigslist. The benefit of is that you can target your geographical area specifically, and rather than having to pack up stuff and take it to the post office, you can arrange a drop-off or pick up. And it works for everything from a pile of books to a sofa.

That deadly puffer fish that must be cooked exactly right or it kills the person who eats it.


I would just like to note that rather be ina "very long wait" for a disc, I would be willing to pay a premium for that disc. like a hot lane for netflix. I would pay $10 for this disc, above my monthly rate, because I want to watch it so much. If netflix is still hurting from that quickster nonsense, it should look into this. Thanks. (I really want to watch season 2 of justified before season 3 starts and there is NO way that's going to happen. darn that 'very long wait')

Interesting thought. Anyone else? I believe I've read stories about Netflix's algorithm, and how they decide who gets what disc next. In short, it's not entirely based on who requested the item first. It's also based on who has the best track record for returning things quickly. So, if you regularly watch your DVDs the night you receive them and then send them back, you'll be prioritized over the user who is prone to hanging on to the same disc for 30 days.

I'm starting the process of buying my first place (scary! it's something ADULTS do!) and have spent copious amounts of time on Redfin, Trulia, and Any I'm missing? I am meeting with an actual Realtor soon, but am wondering what other sites I should be browsing instead of, you know, working. is a site pretty similar to Trulia - you might compare, just to see if you get anything different. I'm also not sure what state you live in, but I'm a fan of LongandFoster's site. They have a map feature that's pretty user-friendly, and often seems to have more hits for me than the other sites you've mentioned.

(We'll also take advice from someone who actually owns property. Unlike me.)

Any relation to Hess Oil? If so, do you have free Hess trucks for all of us at Christmas?

Sigh. People. It is Hesse. The last "e" is not only present, but actually pronounced in my family. Hesseeeee.

I would really like a GOOD and free ecard website. Any you can recommend?

I know that you asked me for help, and I usually take that responsibility very seriously, but before I do that, I must say the following.

Are you sending out invitations to a party? If so, I will offer some suggestions for sites.

If you are not, please don't. Please do not send an e-card for any other reason. They are less personal than emails. They do not display themselves correctly on many screens. Do not send them. Do not.

Hail, cupcake! Longtime lurker, first time writer. Got myself smitten during a recent vacay with an awesome guy who lives sooper far away (int'l, and how). My tech knowledge is SO limited; do things like Skype actually work reasonably well? Are there other suggested tools out there to make trying to maintain this infatuation less of a fool's errand? Can/should I get over the dorkiness I think I'd feel in using videochat (I typically run from cameras)? Or do you advise abdicating all possibly vain romantic hope now and looking harder in my own (heavily already married; suburban) backyard?

Skype is a lovely tool, and you should avail yourself of it immediately! You do not have to enable the video funtion, if you do not like. In fact, since it sounds like you're awkward around cameras, I would opt for ignoring them entirely, at least during the first few weeks of your courtship. Nobody looks good on video chats, and nobody needs the pressure of being reminded that they probably look weird. Good luck!

au contraire! If you are a normal human being, please for the love of good writing, do not use 'utilize.' However, in certain business contexts, it is better to say you "utilize" your skills in XYZ rather than "use."

The fact that is is used (USED) in business contexts is even more of an argument to abolish this word. "Business context" is also where people start talking about "problematizing" and a whole manner of other ridiculousness.

If the previous chatter is that desperate to watch "Justified," I bet s/he could get buy it from iTunes or Amazon for not so much more. There is (almost) always a way, it's just a question of price.

Well, yes. If you're going to pay $10 to get the DVD to your door faster, you might as well pay $1 an episode to get it on your computer immediately.

The downside is you have to let people come to your house.

If you are trying to sell something huge, like a couch. If your "stuff" is more like a lamp and some books and a microwave, you could arrange to meet in a neutral location, like a library parking lot, or McDonalds or what have you.

Any relations to Monica from "Friends", Or is that spelled differently?

Oh, obviously all Monicas are related. Lewinsky and Seles and I were just talking about this the other day, as we planned the annual reunion.

Saw it, reblogged it, sang its praises to the heavens. Thank heavens for that brother.

I am also in the process of buying my first place. I found the place! Just waiting to close and move in. If you haven't, go to HUD's website and use the calculators to figure out exactly how much you really can afford? The realtor will help you figure that out too though. Just make sure you get a good realtor to help you! Mine is awesome--really lucked out. I also didn't think I could afford a place in a totally sweet location but I did, and also didn't have to compromise a thing on my "must haves" list either. Good luck. Can't wait to be a grown up!

Thanks! And congrats!

I second this. E-cards always make me roll my eyes and cringe. I also wonder whether the sender is carrying a not-so-secret grudge against me.


I understand romantic poems are IN. So maybe there is a need to rhyme "brutalize" with "utilize", although, that may not be too romantic.

It would probably be a poem about "Jane Eyre." That Mr. Rochester. Tres brutal.

""Business context" is also where people start talking about "problematizing" and a whole manner of other ridiculousness" Showtime debuted a new show called "House of Lies" with Don Cheadle. It's described as "A subversive, scathing look at a self-loathing management consultant from a top-tier firm. Marty, a highly successful, cutthroat consultant is never above using any means (or anyone) necessary to get his clients the information they want." In the pilot, his character was having a problem with a client so he turns to the camera and says something like "When this happens, it's time to turn on the business-speak" and then proceeds to spout a non-stop oratory using all the buzz-words but actually saying nothing of substance. It was quite funny.

I need to find this clip. Immediately, post-chat.

No, it's not. The word utilize is only used by those who are trying to sound smarter than they are. That's the only reason that word exists.

We need to figure out who invented this word and how it came to plague the nation. It sounds like an excellent time-wasting project, in fact.

And I finally, finally stopped posting anything on FB. I got bored with it, stopped posting updates and photos and haven't missed it a bit.

Glad you're happy!

Well now I feel bad for the dead possum I drove by this morning. He did not send off fumes or quills so I doubt many people thought about him when they zoomed by.

Awesome possum.

You were utilized, then brutalized.

I believe the other half are doing Cinematic Titanic.

Yes! A name I should have remembered considering that I wrote about it when they came to town. Oh dear.

sorry to bring this up on a Wapo chat, but I was among those lucky people who got unlimited access to the NY Times website thru the end of 2011. I just hit the limit on how many pages I'm allowed to see now that the gravy train has stopped. I am feeling conflicted about whether to pay up or not. I check that site (and yours) multiple times a day, so I'm clearly a candidate for the pay wall, but at $15/month, I don't know... what if Wapo puts up a pay wall too? I can't pay for all of you!

You should pay. Journalists are people, too, and we need to eat. You should pay. Not to go all Sally Struthers on you, but $15 a month could easily be less than your coffee budget for a week. You should pay.

Just stumbled across this. (Cute YouTube bump for it, too.)

I...don't know what I think about this.

Netflix would benefit explaining the cause of a "very long wait." While most of the time, its a new release that everyone has in their queue but recently I had a 3 month wait for disc 4 of season 3 of the West Wing (but not the rest of the season). It was the most random disc to be waiting for and after a few months of this, I just skipped it and move on to the next. Why? Did someone lose their only copy??

I don't know. Season 3 was pretty good. Wasn't that Rob Lowe's last?

Who would have thought a microbiologist would show up and comment on it!

I would. I have faith in the diversity of you chatters.

The business jargon all seems to end in "ize." Problematize. Productize. Monetize.


I'm in my six month of a LD relationship. She was home for three weeks over the holiday but left Sunday. Tech does nothing to's still LD, you're still living separate lives with separate groups of friends. Tech doesn't make LD relationships work any better.

I think that's a bit of an overstatement. I think we can say with relative certainty that it is easier to keep in touch with people now that we have telephones, computers, the postal system, etc -- all of which are examples of technology. Without those, they wouldn't be relationships at all. They would just be two people living in different cities.

Granted, there's no substitute for face time, but.

But then the person either doesn't show up or doesn't want the product, and then you have to do it over an over until it gets sold. Maybe its' just me, I've had some back luck with Craigslist selling.

I'm sorry. I've had only good luck, both buying and selling.

I hate ecards as well. I always fear getting something like this: The following e-card is available for you to pick up:

This link won't work for me. Given the words in it, however, I can only imagine.

netflix indicated that we had a 'very long wait' for The Muppet Movie, but then it came a couple of days later. it was so very strange. We thought after dragging kids to the newest muppet movie, they should see the original.

You are good parents.

Surprisingly, "utilize," a 19th-century loanword from French (8), does have very specific and valid uses, mostly in the scientific world. The word "utilize" often appears "in contexts in which a strategy is put to practical advantage or a chemical or nutrient is being taken up and used effectively" (9). For example, according to the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, you might hear "utilize" properly used in a sentence such as "If a diet contains too much phosphorus, calcium is not utilized."

The minute that any of you ever has cause to utter a sentence like that, I give you permission to use "utilize." But I don't think that will apply to very many of you. Except, maybe, the microbiologist.

How does "If I die" know I died? I archive what I write into the" cloud" and I sort of figure my one reader will presume something happened to me when I stop posting anything over a few decades or so.

These are the philosophical questions of today.

Did you see him on Californication? Wow. Quite a different character than "Parks and Recreation".

Oddly, however, both of these shows rhyme.

Writing snail mail to each other. Anticipating getting home to look through the mailbox.

Did you notice that I included the postal system in "technological innovations?"

are so very last decade. I have a co-worker who sends them constantly - every holiday, large or small, significant or not. Very annoying. The only ecards I find acceptable nowadays are from, and only if they come from a very close friend.


Think happy thoughts. The dead possum might not be dead. Our dog caught a possum once and we took it away from the dog and throw it into the outdoors garbage pail. Hours later we heard it rumbling trying to get out. They indeed do a good job of playing dead. Incidentally, we did let it out and be free. I believe it moved to Mississippi where it become a Beltway writer.

Posting. For all of us.

And here I was, synergizing my challenges and trying to monetize them into solutions.

 Next time, try to impact them into mutually beneficial upstartedness.

This is the full episode (edited to make it safe for work - it is on Showtime). The scene with the business speak starts at 9:00 (ish)


I mentioned to my aunt that she might want to skype with her grandkids then she poo poo'd that. She said she doesn't want anyone to see her. I thought of the Jetsons, when Judy has to put on her 'face' when video chatting, because it's too early in the AM.

Third Jetsons reference I have heard this week. Something is in the air. Something besides the Jetsons flying cars.

Like "functionality"? Geez. Stop working so hard to make words, folks. And btw, I'm on a one human mission to eliminate "importation" and "exportation" from laws. Think of the money we could save on ink and eink if we just stuck to use, function, import, and export. Budget crisis solved!

We need a guy/gal like you on the Hill. Keep at it, Word Hero.

So in other words you were challengizing and solutionizing.


And I didnt see it coming! I clearly hadnt watched it or paid attention when it aired...

It was sad for all of us. Especially since he originally left, I believe, to go do some cockamamie show called "K Street" that died after a few episodes.

Yesterday Google announced that it would incorporate info from Google+ social accounts into general search results. Another sign of the apocalypse? I mean, yikes! What's your take on this? Also, I read that your company (Hostess) has declared bankruptcy. Sorry. Hope you can keep makin Twinkies and cupcakes.

Since I've already overstayed my welcome, I'll have to go with a brief "yes." Yes, this is a sign of the apocalypse.

Thank you for your Hostess condolences. Don't tell the mothership that I was always more of a Little Debbie fan.

I did not realize the rhyme. and this will be quick and crude, but here goes: Rob Lowe finds his can utilitze, His charms on "Parks and Recreation>: But he can also brutalize When he is on "Californication:

Can anyone else top this, in terms of bringing together chat threads? I can't. Let's call it a day, folks.


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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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