Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Dec 05, 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.


This is my first chat conducted from Dinoputer in four months. Back at the office! No more pajamas! Entirely appropriate office attire and combed hair! What shall we chat about today?


I've been using Hulu Plus for over a year now. When will they stop with the beta version and put in a system that works? I've used Crackle, Amazon, and Netflix, and all have easier interfaces. Is there another way I can get just-run TV shows besides going network to network.

I don't have an answer for you, but I do think its fascinating when things stay in beta for years and years and years. After awhile, it just starts to look like an acknowledgment of cruddiness, right? "Don't blame us for the non-functioning of our site. We're just in beta."

This is a pretty callous thing to say, but I'm pretty frustrated that I've followed this blog for the last 3 months or so, waiting for the escalation that was promised and the eventual horrible pay out, and it never happened. I know it has to be the worst thing in the world, talking about how your child died just a year ago, but if you can't do it, then don't start. And I feel like a super jerk for being mad about it. But it's like a novel at this point, where the events are irritatingly detailed for hundreds of pages and the ending is "she died."

The LW is referring to this blog, recounting the events leading up to the mysterious events of a young Colorado woman's death, which many of us in this chat had been faithfully following.


What you're saying does sound horrible. It also mirrors my reactions entirely (I stopped reading the blog about three weeks ago). The writer of this blog has done a phenomenol job laying out the story of the final year of her daughter's life. She's almost Dan-Brown-like in her ability to create suspense: chapters will frequently end with things like, "Of course, we had no idea how much worse it would get tomorrow."


The trouble -- and I hate to even use the word "trouble" -- for the reader is that, as you point out, the escalation never comes. She spends the blog implying that we'll eventually learn who the stalker is. That we'll eventually see creepy notes delivered in the mail, or harassing phone calls. We don't see any of that. The events are related with the spectre of fear, but without anything solid ever happening. The mother is a genius for making us read along for as long as she did. Because frankly, reading between the lines, one could wonder whether the stalker ever existed at all. Disclosure? I wondered that myself. The blog was an exercise in potentially unreliable narration.



hey - the princess and her nausea got me thinking about medical privacy online. People who are offended that their anonymous ghostly profile could be recorded @ airport security are often putting infertility deets on FB, tweeting their kids' ER foray or Tumblr-ing Pop-Pop's descent into dementia. HIPPA is over? Even basic civility and privacy? What's up with that?

When even the director of the CIA has no privacy online...


It's true. We're all up in arms about lumpy x-rays of our junk in the airport scanner, but are seldom as concerned about the information that we put out there ourselves. And privacy is so over anyway, right?

For the first time, even people at work have been talking about the Candid Camera type meme from Brazil in the elevator. I just wondered if they played this trick on everyone or only those whom they thought had a strong heart. Do you know?

You mean this video?

That prank should have been criminalized. Truly.

But Cupcake! Just think of all the time that took, which you could've spent doing actual work, having fun, or even sleeping in till later...

Unfortunately, I've recently returned from an overseas trip which has me waking up at 3 a.m. At which point there's really nothing to do but begin a very slow, concerted getting-ready-for-work process.

Welcome back, Monica! I can't remember if you've discussed this before, but I want your thoughts as a writer: childhood/teenage journals (both handwritten and LiveJournal-style), what to do with them? I am loathe to destroy/delete everything, but some of the content is potentially embarrassing if read by anyone else. I've thought about editing them down and eliminating any "squee! I <3 the boy with the bowl cut in fifth period!" entries, keeping only the "good" stuff, but that feels like cheating. What do you and the chatters think?

Ooh, good question.


Keep them, obviously. Can you really be embarrassed by something your 12-year-old self wrote? We're all doinks at that age. That's part of what makes these journals fun. It will keep you humble.


And if they're trapped online, be sure to have a print-out on acid-free paper. You never know when a site will disappear and take its content with it.


Any other perspectives, chatters?

On the metro yesterday, I saw a man wearing headphones looking up at the ceiling of the metro. He was projecting a music video up there from his phone. Is this what we're doing now? How long until someone projects a porno on the metro or other public space?

How long? Three years ago! Here's a story I wrote in 2009 about porn in public spaces.

No, I think they mean this one

So many terrifying elevator pranks. Let's all take the stairs.

Ya know, reading other people's reactions that there never was a stalker, I still think there was something going on. The problem now is that it seems like bull because it hasn't finished. In order to properly judge what seems to have happened, I need to know how it ended. She stopped the evening before Morgan died. Sunday was the anniversary, but we still don't know what happened that day. It's been an exceptional exercise in patience, for me. But I want to shake this woman and demand answers.

It's a really interesting question. Because on the one hand, I think you're exactly right. On the other hand -- this is a private citizen, not a paid author, using the blog to raise awareness for stalking and work out her grief over her daughter's death. How much does she owe the reader? Does she have any responsibilities to us at all to answer our questions?


(I'm not asking rhetorically -- I'm genuinely curious as to whether Toni Ingraham "owes" us more, and what the rationale would be for demanding it.)

Just think, if Roger Ailes had had his way, Petraeus could've become the next President, meaning that Paula Broadwell could've become, oh, say, Secretary of Defense (or perhaps First Lady, if P dumped Holly or vice versa).

Such wasted opportunities.

The one you linked is very scary, although the one the other poster linked is the one people at work have been discussing. Both, I think, could easily cause heart failure! I'm with you - stick with the stairs.

Good heavens, I just watched the ghost prank, which I hadn't seen before. I would have punched that little ghost girl, and then we would have been in real trouble.

So this isn't really your wheelhouse, but you and the rest of the crew here seem laid-back and smart: I am having my first baby in July. I know it will be a while before this comes up, but Husband and I are discussing Santa. I had a real and serious woldview problem when I found out there was no Santa as a kid. I didn't care one bit that he wasn't real -- I DID care that I had been made a fool of. I was horrified that, in a family that so valued knowledge as ours, I was allowed to be the one who was wrong about something that everybody else knew. So I don't want to do the Santa thing. Husband has accepted this, because he's awesome, but do I have some kind of moral accountability to the other kids in the family? I obviously don't plan to encourage my kid to tell everybody that Santa's a big ol' lie, but I can't guarantee he/she won't do that.

I'll through this out to the chatters.


But let me first say, with no background information whatsoever, that I think your parents might have dealt with Santa poorly if, when you found out the truth, you felt you had been "made a fool of."  Disappointed would have been an understandable emotion, yes, or maybe confused. But you should not have felt foolish.


In any case. You're right that it's impossible to predict what a four-year-old is going to tell his friends. I'm sure there are parents on here who have smart thoughts.

I think the way the blog has been written means she owes us a complete story. She's spoken so much about how law enforcement dropped the ball and has a tipline and is looking for answers herself. Because of this, I think she owes the public that she's been "working with" the full picture. It's almost decietful to ask for help and hide information from people. And I think people are attached to the story. People who think a travesty occurred and people who are just morbidly curious about how it all went down. Personally, I think if you start something and make promises, you have to keep them and finish it.

Your first point is a good one. She has, throughout the course of the blog, railed against the police, and encouraged her readers to contact law enforcement and demand that the investigation be re-opened. It's unfair for her to except cooperation or request assistance if she's withholding information. 

If feds and even local law enforcement can relatively easily access older emails (less than six months?) then should we be circumspect? If the email is obtained in an investigation, it becomes part of a case file? That is public record in my state, when the investigation is closed. With few execptions. Gulp.

Yes. We should be very, very circumspect.

What was your reaction to the Ombudsman's column about the decline of the Style section?

That it wasn't about the decline of Style so much as it was about hardworking reporters trying to do more with less, and to keep up standards in an increasingly difficult market. In short, it was about journalists everywhere.

I missed you. How did your cookies turn out?

This must be a Twitter follower who saw that, lacking a rolling pin, I was using a rolled up M.A. diploma to make my gingerbread men.


The answer is: Fat. The gingerbread men turned out bloated and kind of deformed and much more gigantic than I thought they would. Hope they taste okay, because I'm serving them to my guests tonight no matter what. (Get ready, guests).

My kids have divided parental pronouncements into promises and fibs. You must keep a promise, but Santa is a fib. What is better than a fib where you get presents?

Wait, are you saying your kids get annoyed if you break a promise to them, but they're okay if you lie to them? Truly, you have figured out a genius parenting method.

I guess I'm the only one still reading the Morgan blog, since all those questions and answers are from me. I suppose I feel duped. Sure, she doesn't really owe me anything, but in polite society, you finish what you started. Maybe she's too busy with Dr. Phil and all the other publicity this has garnered.

I am happy to have had a one-on-one discussion with you about a blog that no one else is reading. That is what I am here for.

For me the answer is "No." Also, I don't know how the artfully phrase this, but just because you read this blog, doesn't mean Ingraham "owes" anything to anyone, especially, nameless, faceless entities accessing a blog. You don't like it? Then articulate the violation and the punishment you'd consider just. Please keep in mind, "because I want to know" or " because I felt invested" aren't valid. Her real life does not have to present in a way nameless, faceless entities accessing a blog feel it should be. Finally, and I know I'm blathering, but if anyone would care to answer, if you are one those who "feel bad" about the lack of conclusion to this blog, what are your views online dating and any all other emotional attachment that are established via internet connection?

Posting for the alternative perspective -- although I do think that the LW had reasons beyond "because I want to know." 

I would suggest, don't encourage it. Don't give gifts "from Santa", and answer in a "vague" way that suggests he's the spirit of the holiday season, nothing more, nothing less. That way you're not really lying, and you also don't have to worry about your child(ren) telling everyone there's no Santa.

I like this suggestion. As it seems like the chances of a child blabbing to friends, "My mom says Santa is the metaphorical spirit of the holiday season" are much less than a child blabbing, "Santa isn't real."

You could've used a large round jar.

I also do not own a large, round jar.

If you, like me, are the sort of person who doesn't own a rolling pin, then (again, like me) you might be the sort of person who owns a pint glass or two. That works perfectly. As long as they are sturdy and you don't bear down too hard. No one wants glass in their cookies. My mom gave me that tip (to use the glass as a rolling pin, I realized that no one wants glassy cookies on my own).

I am telling you. The diploma tube was my best option. I wrapped it in Saran Wrap for hygeine. Although now that I think about it, I could have probably just used the saran wrap.

I'm confused. You're saying that somebody created a blog claiming she was being stalked, but she might not have been stalked. Isn't there a huge risk of such a blogger attracting a stalker BECAUSE of her blog? Unless, of course, she WANTED to be stalked?

The blog is written by a woman named Toni. Her daughter Morgan died last year in mysterious circumstances. The blog is a reconstruction of the last six months of Morgan's life. Toni says that a stalker killed Morgan. The police -- who were called to the house literally hundreds of times to investigate "suspicious activity," say that not only is there no evidence that a stalker killed Morgan, but there is no evidence that she even had a stalker. (I think I got all of that right).


It's terribly complex.

So, what -should- Will and Kate's baby's twitter handle be?

Of the ones that exist already? I'm most partial to @RoyalFoetus, for no other reason than I appreciate the odd British spelling of "fetus."


I am reading the Morgan blog but stopped back in September due to some major family things that kept me away from my computer for anything but necessity. Oddly enough, I decided to pick it up again on December 2nd, not realizing that was the actual anniversary of Morgan's death (oooooh, creepy, no?). I am catching up and am only at mid-November now, but I don't know that I think Tina Ingram owes us anything. She is trying to raise awareness of stalking, of which I think she is successful; she is trying to get her daughter's case reopened which, according to the petition numbers, also seems to be successful, but a blog, under any circumstances, is still just a journal of the writer, open to the public.


Doesn't food come in large round jars any more?

Well, I could have used, say, a soup can. But it did not seem long enough.

Large whiskey tumbler (note: not Tumblr). And you can't tell me you don't have at least one of those....

What is a whiskey tumbler? (Seriously, guys, I know I seem drunken through most of the chats, but the amount of alcohold I've consumed in my entire life could maybe fill a tea cup. I have plenty of tea cups. But they were not good rolling pins.

Came from my niece when she was four (after she watched something about the historic St. Nicholas). She told the kids at daycare the next day, "Santa's dead, he died a long time ago." That one got my sister a phone call at the office.


...then you could look forward, in your dotage, to proclaiming once again, GSTQ!

Only if they do not also have a son. Remember, in British Land, preference still goes to the male heir, even if he's younger. The only reason we even have a Queen Elizabeth is because her only other sibling was a sister.

I am reading it and am having the same reaction as the OP. I want to know about the last day. What happened? It seems to me that about mid-way through the blog the mom was able to engage the services of investigators or lawyers or someone who has been sanitizing her postings. I get the reasons why (defamation issues, fouling up the investigation) but for those of us who have been following all along the incidents started out seeming like an actual stalking and ended up feeling more like parental paranoia. Okay, now I don't know where I am going with this except that I feel like a read a book and someone tore out the last pages.

Do you see, OP? You are not the only one still reading this blog. We are all reading this blog.

I was raised with THE TRUTH (never believed in Santa and have always know how babies were made), and while I'm a big fan of being honest with kids, but: my siblings and I did not attend daycare, so there was a lot less chance of us kids sharing our knowledge with others (read: ticking off their parents). Also, there's something to be said for a little Christmas magic. I do remember some friends' parents going waaaay over-the-top to keep the belief going, and I really disagree with that. So my husband and I wrestled with it and decided to draw the truth line when it's requested. Meaning, we don't push the Santa story (no "you better behave or Santa will know), but we don't dispute it either (reading stories like Night Before Christmas and Polar Express). When our kids (4.5 and 1) ask if Santa is real, we will tell them that, sadly, there is no man in a red suit who lives at the North Pole, but explain that we ALL get to play Santa Claus by giving gifts that make others happy.

I like this, too.

I'm partial to @nonPlantagenetHeir myself, for much the same reason you like @RoyalFoetus

Really, anything that uses the word "Plantagenet" correctly. (Is it used correctly in that context? I don't even know.)

Monica SMASH!!!

Obviously, this would have been the solution. I failed. 

Oh I'm also reading the Morgan blog. I thought I read in a post where her Mom apologized for the delay in the entries it's just been really emotional for her. I think she even said she's sat down to write them but had to walk away. I got the impression she does plan on continuing. I'm also really invested in the story, but she just lived through the one year anniversary of her daughter's death. I'm willing to be patient as she's going through something unimaginable.


Go out at once and buy a bottle of wine. Drink it. Or have friends over to drink it. You now own a rolling pin.

I am beginning to think that none of the rest of you own rolling pins, either.

The rules have been changed so that the first-born is the heir, no matter the sex.

By George, you appear to be right! I knew that the bill had been drawn up, but I didn't know it had past. I'm tickled royal blue.

I believe this has been reformed so that the eldest child, regardless of gender, is first in line to the succession. About the only no-no any more is marrying a Catholic.

Actually, I think that's been changed as well. The monarch himself/herself must be of the Church of England, but his/her spouse does not have to be.

What about this Elf on the Shelf thing? I have seen it at book shops for a few years now, but it really seems to have gotten big in the last year or two. I think I have three or four different facebook friends posting about their elf every day. I don't get it, especially when some of them have kids in early middle school.

The elf on the shelf is very weird indeed.

I believe it's royal PURPLE, Cupcake!

Or, you know, if it's a girl, royal pink. 

Where else could we get disappearing elevator floors, ghosts, stalking, gingerbread men (and fat ones, at that) and rolling pins all in a one-hour conversation?

Nowhere, I tell you. Nowhere.

Was it morally right for that photojournalist to have snapped a picture of the man about to die on the subway tracks, rather than try to save his life?

In a million years, I cannot imagine making the choice that the photographer made.

I too have been reading along for three months since another chatter mentioned the blog here. The biggest thing about it for me has been reading all of the comments -- people have researched and hounded the different "characters" on facebook (Keenan, Brooke, etc.) and even the neighbor. The crowd-as-vigilante element distrubed me more than the initial crime.

Thanks -- crowd-as-vigilante has been a common thread on this chat. 

Yes, it's used correctly -- the reign of the House of Plantagenet (which is an incredibly fun word) ended in 1485 with the death of Richard the III. The current ruling House (ed. should that be capitalized?) is Windsor. Hence, the foetus in question would be an Windsor heir to the throne. And thank you for allowing me the chance to put my knowledge of English history to (questionably) good use.

It is beautiful and glorious knowledge. I hope we're all learning something here today, people.

It's those (rare) baking days that I miss my mom's fully stocked kitchen. She has all the tools AND she even has all the spices, including obscure ones. Anyway, fat gingerbread men sound good to me. Any chance they are gooey in the middle?

Alas, I have a 3 pm appointment (with the chat producer! She's going to teach me how to do something fancy!) So I have to sign off right at three today. I'm leaving us with visions of full stocked kitchens and fat gingerbread and/or whiskey tumblers.



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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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