Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Dec 19, 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. Bear with me while I load up some things in the queue -- I just ran in from a thing, and haven't prepped anything. Amuse yourselves (amuse me!) in the meantime.

First things first:  This may or may not be our last chat before the New Year. I'll be working next week, but a lot of you probably won't be. I'm not sure whether the Post will want us hosts to carry on and chat with ourselves, or cancel for the empty holiday week.

Second things second: I'd said that I would have a list of the best memes of 2012 at the ready for this week. But there were so many other Top Meme lists, that I wondered if we might have more fun analyzing and critiquing and poo-pooing what's already out there. Here, for example, is what Buzzfeed had to say on the matter. Here's Uproxx. Here's Mashable.

Please peruse, then discuss. Fighting words are encouraged.

Monica! I was so sad to hear the Post is ending Celebritology! Please tell me you are safe! Otherwise, I don't know where I will turn for my procrastination needs.

Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. (Why? Have you heard something? What have you heard?)

If you want to change political policy, or even want to keep political policy where it is, vote. Write your congressman (or woman). Run for office. Please don't post a "well-written," "interesting," "not often reported," "just-the-facts," "thing those people in Washington won't want you to know," etc. type of piece on Facebook. It won't change anybody's mind. Really. It won't. Won't Won't Won't Wont.... won't.

I'm not sure about that, actually. I think that "just the facts" and "well-written" posts on Facebook can be useful tools, as can simple status updates saying, "This is what I believe." Why? Because so often, it's fringers and wingnuts who manage to hijack the national discussion -- hijack it to such an extent that they manage to convince the media or Congress that their opinions represent the mainstream. It's necessary for the mainstream to be vocal about their opinions, too, because it paints a more accurate picture of what the majority of the country really things.


So, vote -- yes please, absolutely. But don't write off the civic platform of Facebook.

So it was mentioned last chat that the Prydain YA books don't hold up today. I unearthed my much loved set, and took that challenge. I have to respectfully disagree - I think they hold up remarkably well. They are all short and a bit simplistic in their storytelling, but I'm finding that to be a breath of fresh air after recently slogging through the "Song of Ice and Fire" books (which I love also, but in a different way). Anyway, I consider the Prydain books absolutely timeless, and they're a real joy to read even 20 years (oh my god) after I first picked them up. Team Prydain!

I think I'm going to have to pick these up again and be the final arbiter on whether these books are awesome (obviously they're awesome).

After everything from last week, I've been seeking out pages that have cute pictures or good stories or something along those lines. I've been zipping through buzzfeed.com and thechive.com and theberry.com and happyplace.com and mentalfloss.com. Do you have more suggestions for me?

I've mentioned it before, but the sub-boards on Reddit are chock full of adorability. And -- it's not the same kind of cuteness -- but I can't visit Cracked.com without ending up in giddy laughter at least once or twice. Chatters?

I'll be here!

Cool -- want to swing by my desk and watch American Horror Story on Amazon?

We live in a strange world when my cat, who is afraid of most people but acts like Oprah-couch-version Tom Cruise when I'm home, could get famous on the internet. I want to get him on Buzzfeed's list of important cats for 2013. How should I go about promoting Smudge's online profile?

This is an excellent question. Does Smudge have a Twitter account, where he can chat with other important Cats (i.e. Grumpy Cat, Wealthy Cat?)  Does Smudge have a signature move or facial expression that would be suited to lots of different captions? Does Smudge have a catchphrase? (A cat-phrase?)

Will you blog each episode of "Downton Abbey III" for us?

Here's the tricky thing. It's already been blogged, yes? Because the whole season has already aired in the UK, and their bloggers over there already took care of that. (It's a gooood season. You will like it).

Ha! If you write to an officeholder with a view counter to his/hers, all you get is a form letter thanking you for your opinion. But the officeholder still goes his/her merry way and votes just as s/he would have anyhow.

Well, at least you have the form letter. At least you have that.


Monica is having computer problems, but will be back as soon as she reboots.  Please standby, she'll be back soon! Thanks.

I love ridiculously photogenic guy the most, mostly because he *really is* ridiculously photogenic.

He is, isn't he? And his female counterpart, ridiculously photogenic surgery girl.

(Sorry for the disappearance -- Firefox fail).

He's got good raw material, but we'll have to work on the branding end of it. Thanks for the suggestions.

Oh, this is excellent raw material. He looks truly evil. You need to play with that. Evil Cat is probably a little overdone, but maybe he's evil in a very particular way.

...westboro baptist church finally getting some organized backlash

They've had organized backlash for awhile, no? I'm thinking of the hundreds of students in Texas who lined up to form a human shield, or the bikers who regularly form protective guard.

There was a question from someone working in a company's HR department to your colleague "Dear Prudence" concerning an inability to track down a candidate's activities through social media of their college years. Other than this the candidate had a stellar record. The HR person thought that their inability to track this information down was a potential red flag. As someone who is not very active on social media scares me somewhat. Do you think a presence on social media of potential employees is a big part of hiring decisions today?

I think it's at least a part, but it should be mostly in the opposite direction -- i.e. if the person has too much/too crazy of a social media presence. A lack of social media presence just means the job candidate either shows good judgment or good hiding skills.

I'll be in too. Sadly I fear my boss would be upset if I went to watch TV with you, but I could totally do lunch and call it networking. We could all meet for lunch like Tracy Hamilton had her happy hour with her chatters.

Good Lord, are all of you in next week?

I will also be here! Please chat!

(I guess so).

...likely thrives on organized backlash. I know that's not very satisfying... they are about as hateful as it can get... but getting all this attention only fuels the fire.

What's amazing is that there are literally, like 20 of them. And that's it.

You meant this ironically, right?

Not at all.

Is there anyone cuter than Bo Obama?

I'm going to put it out there. Bo doesn't do it for me. And I like almost all dogs. I'm not into the texture of his fur.

Give me a break... FB is a soapbox (for better or worse). Of course people are going to post political opinions on there. If you don't like it, make use of the hide button.

When it comes down to it, "civic platform" and "soapbox" are two sides of the same coin.

Something to remember, though, is that there may be people in your friends list who were affected directly by whatever tragedy you're discussing. For example, when Tosh made his odious comments about rape, numerous men on my feed were saying it was "no big deal" and "women have no sense of humor"...not understanding that, statistically, something like one out of four of the women on their friends list were rape survivors. Or, more recently, my newsfeed was littered by people screaming for heads on platters after Benghazi...never mind that these were being read by a friend of mine who lost her boss and colleagues in the attack. Yes, it's the Internet, and it's our own personal soapboxes, but it's important to keep in mind that there's a line between "a bit offensive/people will disagree" and "just plain cruel." So consider who is on your friends list before mouthing off.

Yes. And even if you can't think of anyone on your friend list, remember that your updates can always be screen-captured and then re-posted.

I don't think I ever saw the Chandler dancing one. Huh. But looking at those really was a walk down Internet memory lane.

The Chandler Dancing meme seemed like a wild card. I don't think it deserved to be on anyone's list.

Your use of the word peruse reminds me that it is one of those words that doesn't exactly mean what people think it means. The definition of word according to an online dictionary is "a : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study b : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner ". So, in other words, it means to closely examine something, but only in a casual or cursory way. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means" <end of rant>

But that is exactly what I meant it to mean.

any list of the top memes of 2012 that does not include PSY is lacking. mckayla is not impressed.

I think that most of these lists were seperating "Memes" from "Viral Videos." Was this a wise seperation? I'm not sure.

This isn't in the same category as cute kitten pictures, but I have been catching up with the stories from Vanity Fair's comedy issue this week. One's about the making of the Blues Brothers, and another is a sweet profile of Martin Short, and they're both online.

Excellent, thanks.

Wasn't the Celebritology blog one of the best ways to kill time online?

It's true, this impacts all of us. Jen's a great colleague -- I can't wait to see where she ends up next.

Agreed that Season 3 is good. I really enjoyed Season 1, then thought it was getting a bit too soap-opera-ish in Season 2, but Season 3 pulled me back. However, Maggie Smith is *ALWAYS* amazing!

She is, isn't she? I would watch a one-woman performance consisting solely of her lines, back to back.

But he's PORTUGUESE!!!!

Does he -speak- portuguese? Because that might change things.

yes, but not organized on the level of anonymous's takedown of their site and twitter accounts, the white house petition to recognize them as a hate group, etc. the backlash has mostly been in-person, offline up til now.

Anonymous has become such an ever-present vigilante in these situations. It's a good and bad thing.

But, if 200 of us write the same opinion, the congressperson is forced to consider that perhaps their constituency is shifting in opinion. Like a vote cast, letters don't seem like all that much until many of them are added up.

I like your dedication to the process.

Does the evil vicious O'Brien get horribly killed?

No one would like the show if they did awful things like that. Part of what we love is its courtly gentleness.

Maybe it works better if the letter contains a campaign donation, preferably a whole passel of them "bundled."

I appreciate the use of the word "passel."

I'm going to go and say the two meanings cited are pretty much opposites, so you can use it however you want. Like inflammable, means able to be set aflame, and not able to be set aflame. That said, I love hearing what grammar things set other people off. My current peeve: "should of". This means nothing, it is lazy, and it makes my eyes hurt.

Do people actually write "should of," or do they just say it? And if they just say it, are we sure they're not saying, "should have," but with an accent?

Sure Bo speaks Portuguese - barç, barç, barç.

I think you are lying to me.

I'll be here, but I have a meeting at 2pm.

Cancel it, please.

Tell me how the late Mrs. Bates, and the evil vicious O'Brien, and the unspeakably odious footman, are courtly and gentle?

My point is that someone getting "horribly killed" is exactly what I do not need to watch on a Masterpiece Theater production. Or, in this day and age, anywhere else, for that matter.

If it's a one-off vid, it's not a meme. If everyone does their own take and then shares the results, the bar of meme-worthiness has been met. When Gangnam Style has been mimicked in so many ways (From SNL skits to Farmer Style http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX153eYcVrY ), it's definitely a meme.

Yes, I agree with that definition. Which is why I think that Gangnam Style should have been included as a contender in both categories, when it seems that most outlets excluded him from "memes."

I really do believe the best way to stop attention-whoring is to ignore them. Why must hate get so much attention. It's 20 people! Yes they are deeply cruel and ignorant. Please people stop paying attention to them typing out name of "church" or clicking on stories about them.

The trouble is that it's impossible for the people -at- the funerals to ignore them, because they make it their business to disrupt the saddest day of people's lives. And when others hear about this disruption, they become enraged and want to do something about it. So, yes, ignoring might be the solution, but I think the attention comes from people's hearts being in the right place.


So, do dogs in Portugal go "Lat! Lat! Lat!"

I think the Instagrammed evil cat is less evil and more indifferent, maybe Victoria Beckham-ish?

I think you might be right. Original Poster? I think this might be the way for you to go.

Yes, people actually write it & I agree with the OP - it is ridiculously offensive to me that the most basic grammar skills are missing.

You know what? This doesn't bother me. I can't say why. I have my own nails-on-chalkboard reactions to various grammatical problems. But this one, I kind of like. If someone writes it, out, it gives me a better understanding of how that person might talk. And I like being able to see how people might talk.

I've got an odd internet question - I won a contest on Facebook, and I'm now in possession of a 3' x 4' portrait of Obama done entirely in Cheetos. After the first flush of winning, and the excitement of getting a "major award" (the crate was even marked Fra-gi-le)... Frankly, the thing is kind of creepy. Putting it on Ebay is logistically problematic (I don't think I would get an offer high enough to cover the postage - what do I do with this?

I think you should put it on Ebay anyway, just to see how high people are willing to go. I'm assuming these Cheetos are stale?

Even the evil vicious O'Brien had compassion for shell-shocked veterans, including poor Mr. Lang. One wonders why.

Because nobody is 100% evil and vicious?

I never say "should of" but when I say "should have", it could sound like "should of." Of course, I still say Don and Dawn are pronounced the same.

We really need to meet in person so I can explain to you how you are wrong.

Wow. I'm kind of amazed at how quickly these things totally disappear from my consciousness. Anything more than a couple of weeks old is gone for me. Hey, the Olympics were this year. Totally forgot that. Is that normal, or is the internet speeding it up?

The Internet has vastly increased the speed of our cultural metabolism. We digest things more quickly than ever before.

You could always give Frito-Lay a call and see if they'd be interested in it. Not that I know how you would actually get in touch with a live human being at the company. Chester Cheetah does have a Twitter feed....

Or, just let it sit and see how long it takes to dissolve...

YOu mean with an apostrophe, right? And yes, I have seen people write should of. Also might of and would of. Dreadful.

Again. I know what is correct. But this doesn't bother me. It just doesn't.

Here's a handy guide..

Oh, no no. If we're going to go in the direction of a book, one might as well just get Sturnk & White.

I won it from Pepsico - I think they specifically put in a "no backsies" clause in the contest rules.


How 'bout woulda and shoulda? Or wanna?

Fine with it, in appropriate context.

I assumed this started because people heard others say "should've" but interpreted it as "should of". There can't be any other excuse for it, can there? As awful as it is, I can sort forgive it for that reason.

Oh, interesting. I didn't even think of this contraction problem.

We don't need to wonder. She herself explained that she'd had a brother, her favorite, who'd had shellshock. It's part of her awfulness that she is mean about everybody and everything except for what affects her personally.

Really, I'm about to advise all of you not to watch season three at all this year. I think it might be too much for you.

My alter-ego email addressee who lives in a big house by San Diego is having a Christmas party. On her mailed invites(I saw the proof), she of course has my email address listed. So I'm getting all of her RSVP's. Double check your email addresses, folks!

This picks up a discussion chain from a few months ago, but I think we can all agree there's only one course of action here: Attend. This. Party.

Have you ever heard puzzlemaster Will Shortz do his annual list of newly famous people that year? It's on NPR Sunday Morning Edition (usually the last Sunday in old year, or the first Sunday in the New Year).

Someone should do a year end list of year end lists -- The lists that actually matter. (Obviously, the only list that matters is The List, which Dan and I will release on January 1).

I think we need a photo of this Cheetos Obama thing because it sounds spectacular. Also - I'm jealous.

I know. Why this chatter did not include a photo is beyond me.

Does that mean that Father Cupcake's coming to town? Maybe you should schedule a meet 'n' greet for us with your family if he's here.

Father Cupcake was just here this weekend! We did lots of Christmasy activities.

Seriously: Would you agree these "errors" is how language evolves? Even horrible grammar might turn into a different way to say things that are eventually correct. Shakespeare is filled with things that made people cringe at the time

Exactly. I mean, this all goes back to whether you believe language should be prescribed or described. And people will fight to the death over this question.

my name is not pronounced like "Don." Think "fawn" vs. "octopus" Two different sounds.

Thank you. Also, I think this is my mother, a Dawn who is married to a Don, which is now, I believe, this whole discussion strain started many months ago.

I'd like him to do something like "Cheri Oteri is this generation's Yma Sumac." Seriously, I find Ms. Oteri in my crosswords once a week at least.


I took the advice and have responded to more direct emails to say that it is the wrong recipient, but have not replied to mass emails. That said, i may have ruined some kid's chance of getting into college because I had to inform the head of financial aid that he/she gave an incorrect email. I hope the party RSVP person gets a personal apology from the alter ego. AFter all, we know they have her email address! :-)

Fabulous! Is there anyone else out there who has taken our dubious advice and applied it? How useless are we?

Do we really have records of people expressing their cringes at Shakespeare's usage, from Shakespeare's time? I doubt it.

Oh, I bet we do. I haven't the time to find any at this very minute, but I bet we do.

Because the OP didn't know how to embed a photo (I'm new at this...) but it was covered by The Daily What and a bunch of newspapers when the contest happened - just google Cheeto Obama. I'll send you a copy of the picture directly - you be the judge.

Thank you.

McKayla, hands down. Even Obama got in on it!

And we are already far over our regular stopping time, and someone informs me that there are free cupcakes out by the elevator.

Such a momentous event - Last Chat of the Year. I took a shower, brushed my hair and my teeth (not with the same brush!), and have now ceremoniously shaken the cookie crumbs off my keyboard. Welcome to the last chat of the year and thank you Monica for all the love and goofy clips and insightful comments. Let's do this all over again in 2013. Hugs to the fellow chatters as well. Mwuah!

And I think we shall end here.

Still not sure whether I'll be present next week, but if I am, y'all better be, too. I don't want to host this party and then end up with a lot of extra spinach dip and nobody around to eat it.


In This Chat
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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