Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jan 09, 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.

Alright, gang. I have typed out an introduction at least three times, and I keep losing it. This is what a fourth-draft introduction looks like:


Let's chat.

OK Cupcake - thanks for getting every single Schoolhouse Rock song parading through my head on Sunday! Seriously, great piece. And what an important element of so many of our childhoods. Even in the late 90s when i was teachiing college grammar, I used to trot out a few of the videos as reminders for the students. Pretty timeless.

This is in reference to a story that ran on Friday, about the 40th Anniversary of Schoolhouse Rock. But I have a confession. I had never seen Schoolhouse Rock. It meant nothing to me. The original run went off the air when I was about 3. The entire piece had to be written based on the recollections of my colleagues who are a few years older.


-BUT-. This leads to an interesting chat topic. From the amount of reader email that I received, and the passionated devotion of Schoolhouse fans, I understand that this series was a defining cultural touchstone for people born between certain years. Just not my years. I'll open the floor now to other cultural touchstones. What bits of pop culture have defined your generation?


Bonus points if you choose something obscure that makes everyone else in the chat go, "Ohhhhh!"

Oh Monica, thank you for writing the excellent article about Schoolhouse Rock! That was me - I was that kid with the cereal bowl in the early 70s singing along to the Preamble, I'm just a Bill, and Three is a Magic Number. And you are 100% right about how it is a touchstone of Gen Xers. I went as the Bill to a Halloween party a few years ago (on Capitol Hill, even) and the entire party broke out in song. I went to the sing-along on Sunday (even missing the Redskins Game), and it was really fun to share that with the hundreds of people who showed up. My favorite part was when we all sang Interjections - that's my 6 and 8 year old boys favorite one right now - they crack up every time the boy says "it's no fair, giving a guy a shot down there." Anyway - long posting to say thanks!

Honestly, with how the Redskins game went, this was probably a wise decision. (What do I know? I wasn't at the singalong and I wasn't watching the Redskins either).

Monica - I was a huge fan of Jen and her blog. do you have any suggestions for a similar blog or page I can go to for basic celebrity and pop culture news with some semblance of accuracy/credibility. I loved having one place to check every day for basic celebrity news, box office info, movie previews, and fun pop culture items. Thanks!

This isn't what you're looking for, because it's less newsy and more analysis, but I've found myself clicking on a lot of links to pajiba.com lately. It's a strange mix of trash and essay, and you definitely have to wade through an assortment of bad photo galleries. But they cover pop culture in a way that's often kind of smart.


Also, if you're having a deep and specific Jen-missing, do head over to Vulture.com, the arts and culture blog for New York magazine. Jen is recapping Downton Abby and she's deliciously funny.


Naturally, I'll open this to the floor.

I just check out my cousin's cute friend (who I've only really meet a few times and spend a holiday weekend at my family cottage) profile a bit too much and it's weird, but harmless. Now I see there is a new app that tell people who looks at their profile the most. Urgh... guess it's time to ton down the stalking.

Is there really this new app? I think this app has been a rumor for about four years. Such a thing would be awful for Facebook -- surely they must know how much of their traffic comes from stalking like you are doing with your cousin's friend.

I'm a big Downton Abbey fan, but lack the technical savvy/gumption to pirate the episodes before now. However, thanks to the interwebs, I know *way* too much about the plot twists in store! I've decided to watch anyway, just because I love the clothes and the characters, but wonder if you'd share your thoughts on why we go looking for spoilers.

I love this question. And I am going to answer it by paraphrasing Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight. (No, seriously, stay with me). 

When she wrote her second book, New Moon, she encouraged readers to read it twice. Her rationale: When fans read it the first time, they got anxious when Edward disappeared a quarter of the way into the book, and they spent the rest of the book frantically flipping pages until he returned, not really enjoying any of the story. Upon their second read, though, she hoped that people would be able to enjoy the story because they now knew Edward would return at the end.


I think this is a hefty part of why we look for spoilers. Knowing what is going to happen can lure us into a sense of calm. We already know the destination, so we can relax more for the journey.


What do you guys think?

(Also, the Stephenie Meyer philosophy. I'm really sorry. I'll try not to do that too much.)

The folks manning the twitter account for @MasterpiecePBS seem to go all out during the hours of Sunday when "Downton Abbey" is playing in the different time zones across the continental United States (sorry Hawaii and Alaska).

The Downton Abbey tweets are out of control. I can say this, for they are written by my people.

Can haz CheetObama picture?

YES. But next week. I can't believe I forgot -- the chatter who received the marvelous Obama portrait made of Cheetos sent me a jpeg of it, and it is glorious. Unfortunately, it's not in a format that I can easily post on a chat. I will get some assistance and have it ready for next week.

The one before they'd show a movie with really big, movie-score sounding music? I saw that recently when going through old, unlabeled VHS tapes (we recorded all our movies off cable when I was little) and gasped. I totally forgot about it. I rewound it and watched it again. I hope I'm not the only one. Or that I'm explaining it well enough that people get it. This would have been early 90s or so.

Wait. I remember this. Allllmost. We didn't usually have HBO when I was a kid, but sometimes we'd end up with one of those free HBO for a month deals. 


I assume you're submitting this as a cultural touchstone? Because I welcome it either way, but on its own, this would be a pretty weird question to bring to the chat.

Monica - Short but sweet today. Is football stupid?


We collected them ALL. Literally went to different McDonald's and asked which ones they had. I loved those more than Mr. Potato Head.

Yeah, please? Because you are speaking hieroglyphics to me. (Although I also didn't have McDonalds as a kid. Good lord, I was deprived. Are my parents on the chat today?)

When I think of the pop culture of my childhood (late '80s, early '90s), I think of the unrelated moral lesson at the end of cartoons ("the more you know," "and knowing is half the battle," lessons from the Ninja Turtles on conservation and environmental responsibility, etc). Nothing I thought to question as a kid, but I can just imagine starting those things back up at the end of Yu-Gi-Oh or Phineas and Ferb.

Excellent. Thank you. 

I'm going to throw out a few words for all of you and see if anyone else gets excitable:

Mathnet. 3 2 1 Contact. Ghostwriter. 

go buy it RIGHT NOW. It's awesome. I watched it as a kid. THEN when I was in grad school - they would play it on saturday mornings. Okay, the first few times, well, I caught it by accident. THEN I started to, well, you know, watch it on purpose. We got the DVD of all of them a few years ago for the kids - and they LOVE them. Seriously, they're awesome.

Well, NOW I've seen a bunch of them -- I watched all of the important ones the day I was writing the article. But I don't think it's quite the same. Some things have to be introduced to your brain when you're a child. They can't absorb properly later.

Kids Incorporated (whoa, looks like we made it!), then a few years later, Saved By the Bell. Everyone can freak out like Jessie Spano on caffeine pills. I went to the Schoolhouse Rock event, even though I only came to the songs as an adult, mostly because I'm trying to be a more interesting person. Are the acoustics at Millennium Stage always terrible, or was it just because it was way overcrowded and we were too far back?

This is true. Every single person between the ages of, I'm going to say 28-32, would know exactly what you were doing if you started to wave your hands around and sing, "I'm So Excited!"

I'm a Gen X and never saw an episode of SchoolHouse Rock. I know about it, of course, but never saw it. (I think I'm an endangered species.) For other cultural touchstones, I would say Star Wars (the original movie). It was the first movie I saw on a big screen and I was mesmerized. Also, the John Hughes movies, particularly, The Breakfast Club.

Think smaller! Not just The Breakfast Club, but which scene, which moment, which dialogue?

If the poster is looking for pop culture with some sports mixed in, I'd recommend Grantland.com. Their pop culture blog "Hollywood Prospectus" has some great movie, tv coverage and they do interesting things like an NCAA-style bracket to determine the best character on The Wire (Bunk made the finals but was knocked off by Omar, if I recall).

Thanks -- Grantland.com is often fabulous.

Is there really an app that does that? The rumor is nothing new. I got suckered by that a decade+ ago as a high school freshman with AIM: "click here to see who's viewing your profile!" One click, one hijacked account, and two annoyed parents later...


Cupcake and "Downton Abbey's" Joanne Froggatt (plays Anna Smith Bates). GSTQ!

I would take that as a compliment, but I've met Joanne in live and we look absolutely nothing alike.

Not sure if is similar, but if you re-read the Harry Potter books, in order, there are so many pieces of information and clues about things to come. It actually increased my enjoyment of the books.

That's true. I think it's less true in a show like Downton Abbey, which is basically a meandering fashion show through the early 20th century, without a lot of foreshadowing to speak of. But in anything with a more solidified plot, I think that's definitely true.

It's the same reason many of us flip to the last few pages of a book partway in, espcially if the writing is really, really good. Don't want to miss the craft out of anxiety about the outcome, so uncover the outcome and then enjoy the rest of the process.

Exactly. This is what Stephenie Meyer said.

There are some circumstances in which knowing the end (or the spoilers) literally spoils your enjoyment of the book, movie, show, like with "Lost;" some, like "The Sixth Sense," in which knowing the twist definitely changes the way you watch but doesn't wholly destroy the experience; and things like "Mad Men," in which it's not really what happens anyway but how you get there. So sometimes I look for them in the third category of things, because knowing what's coming does that 'relaxing" thing you mentioned and I can enjoy the dialogue or costumes or auxiliary stuff without paying too close attention to the plot.

And really, in a show like Mad Men, the costumes are the plot.

Easily found on Google. There was a Mitt Romney too, but his name is not nearly as punable as CheetObama. Romneeto? Cheetomney? See what I mean.

Yes, but there is something magical about seeing a photo of it in someone's apartment.

I remember a few years back a movie was playing on Screen on the Green and the whole audience was "singing/humming" along with the HBO intro.

I shall have to Google this.

Way before your time, Cupcake, but 40 years ago Shell gas stations gave away roundish drinking glasses with the local NFL team insignia on them, as incentives for big fill-ups. I accumulated a huge number of Redskins (and a few Baltimore (sob!) Colts) glasses, which I then traded with friends in other parts of the country for several other teams' glasses. I wonder if anyone else still has theirs.

Oh, I'm sure!

I LOVED Ghostwriter. It was always my favorite part about being sick and staying home from school. Also, TGIF. Very important when I was a little lass.

Yes. TGIF meant something. Stephanie Tanner spoke for us all.

I detest spoilers. I go so far as to not even watch the preview for next week's episode of anything that's too intense, like Dexter or Homeland. I stay off IMDB until I'm completely caught up with a series or have watched a movie. However, I have a hard time not skipping to the last paragraph of a book chapter if I'm already on that page. And I often have to re-read endings becauce I'm so anxious to get to them that I skim 2-3 pages. But I never jump ahead. Maybe I'm a freak.

It is possible. I wonder why you're pro-spoiler in books but anti- in television?

I have a theory that if you werent introduced to 80s kids movies as a kid, you just cannot see the appeal. I was (am) a passionate Neverending Story kid, but never saw Labyrinth. In college, I met kids who were the opposite, and when watching the other's favorite, there was just no comprehension. Those were the 2 main films, but I'm sure the same goes for stuff like The Dark Crystal and that one about the kid and the pig named Arwen.

This is a completely factual statement. I've been through this several times, with friends trying to convince me how awesome some childhood movie was. So finally we rent it, and ... 

I guarantee someone will get this here.

I didn't think I got that, but then I Googled it and it all came back.

That is what they were called. Also, yes, Mathnet, 321 Contact, Ghostwriter. Did you like Monday or Tuesday better?

Monday. Obviously.

Cupcake, I certainly remember watching 3 2 1 Contact, although my poor memory does not wish to inform me what it was about! Science? Maybe that's why it was one of the few things my parents let us watch...because it was vaguely educational.

Was the Bloodhound Gang involved in 3 2 1 Contact? Or was that something else?

My roommate was just putting out to me this weekend about how the kids on "Ghostwriter" were all kind of ethnic stereotypes (the Southest Asian kid has super strict parents and was at the top of her class and played the clarinet, the Hispanic kids' parent run a bodega and had the most siblings, the Black kid lived without his parents with his grandmother who was a civil servant, etc...). I never thought of it, but it kind of had a point.

I never saw that growing up. But now will be able to think about nothing else. Assuming I ever see a Ghostwriter rerun.

I am mad with envy. I adore her. Also you are now only one degree removed from the wonderful Brendan Coyle.

I've met him too!

(No, just kidding. Mr. Bates wasn't there. But Lord and Lady Grantham were, and Thomas and Mr. Carson and Daisy).

like that Rags to Riches show with the man who adopted the daughters and they sang? I swear to God this was a show, but I think I am the only human alive who watched it. I mean, they interrupted it to show the live rescue of baby Jessica from the well.

It was a movie. It was called "Rags to Riches." My cousins Shannon and Katie and I watched it about 40 times growing up. Come to our next family reunion. We will show you the dance.

SO techincally not an interent things, but this came up in another chat ages ago. About people who read the end of the book first, then go read the whole thing. That is usually me and exactly for the reasons Whatsherface Twlight woman states. I like to know what happened. Then go see HOW it happened. Never ruins a story for me yet.

There must be certain personalities that are drawn to do this. I'd like to know what those personalities are.

I don't know, I find the show has tones of it. In Series 1, there was a lot of "if there's a war" talk. I remember is Series 2 how Cora mentions "there's that awful Spanish flu going around" and then the next episode a few folks cough and by the end half the characters are dying with only poor Ginger Lavinia taking away by plot angels.

Well, yeah. But it's not like there's a murder, and Daisy did it, and you can go back through the show looking for hints of her sociopathic nature. The things you describe are all current events for the time. And in a show about how a family reacts to current events, you can be fairly sure that World War I is going to eventually happen, and so is the Spanish flu.

Yeah, my parents have a set of Redskins glasses, which are used exclusively for Christmas egg nog.

Many others have written in to say exactly this. Minus the egg nog -- but that they still have their football glasses.

I grew up in Wisconsin, and ended up attending (and graduating from!) Marquette University in Milwaukee. I believe I was approximately in 8th grade when Marquette ran a fantastic TV ad (probably just in Wisconsin - maybe also northern Illinois, seeing as a good segment of the students did come from Chicagoland) that featured music from 'Carmina Burana.' Naturally, when I was in 8th grade (this was approximately 1988), I was not thinking much about college, but I. LOVED. THAT. AD. Fast forward a number of years, and I was a Marquette student - who found out that a fair number of my classmates also had vivid and fond memories of that ad. Hope that ad agency got a bonus - because it seems to have worked on a bunch of impressionable 13 years olds!

Let's hope Marquette didn't subtly program you to do anything else other than attend their college.

Yep. I saw "The Princess Bride" as an adult and while it's cute and all, I don't quite get all the fuss.


For those of us nerds who weren't quite nerdy enough to read real books.


Bad experience in the early 80s. I was on my way... literally in the car with mom... to see Empire Strikes Back. The radio DJ says something like "Hey! Can you believe Darth Vader is actually Luke's Father?" I could've killed him. Ruined the end of the movie.

He would know better than to do that now. We've gotten much more savvy about spoilers.

Oh you were at the event where Thomas said he would trade his wife & child for Michelle Obama? That was a hoot. Oh. Wait. I bet you wrote that article.

I did. You know about that exchange because I wrote about it.

Somethine weird just happened, didn't it?

I did that when I was in high school. I think I wanted to decide whether to read the book and I was very very unhappy in high school so I went looking for happy endings. I haven't done it in decades.

How sad, but how ultimately happy.

And we don't even have to wait for the Great Depression, what with the earl having lost his wife's money in a bad investment.

I just hope the show takes us up to the 1960s, when Downton will be forced to become a tourist attraction.

Did anyone else watch Pinwheel on Nickelodeon? I can sing the theme song, but have no recollection of the content, other than that it seemed to be insanely long.

I too can sing the song. I too do not know what it was about.

I watched it too! It was a TV movie, then they made it into a TV show for a season or two. The TV show was nowhere near as good as the movie. That evil Carlotta, come on, worst stepmom ever.

Thank you.

See, I get mad at myself when I spoil my books, even though I know I do it all the time. If I flip to a page where I can see the end of the chapter on the right, I'll have to hold my hand over it while I read the page on the left. So I don't like spoiling books, I think I just have ADD or something.

You are going to come to my house. We are going to read together. I will hand you one page at a time.

As a straight male, I would say that your new pic is exactly 72.3% hotter than the old one... I immigrated here in 1987 as a 7-year old, and I can remember the Saturday morning cartoons on ABC. Between commercial breaks, there were claymation donkeys/animals saying some goobedy gook. It was not until my English was better that I realized they were saying "We'll be right back after these commercial messages."

Oh, yes! I got a new picture! (Or rather I made them start using one from Facebook, because the official picture was just horrid. I met one too many readers who said, "You look a -lot- better in person).

I fondly remember those infernal Babysitters Club books. Everyone had them, everyone read them, there were a zillion in the library, it was pre-teen girl heaven. I stumbled across this blog a few years ago and wish, wish, wish she was still updating. http://claudiasroom.blogspot.com/

I wrote a whole piece about Babysitters nostalgia. Email me after the chat and I will find it for you.

So did I, and I adore it. There is so much more for an adult to get. I mean, what kid understands "never get involved in a land war in Asia"? It's like my parents watching Rocky & Bullwinkle with us and laughing at stuff we didn't get.

I might be due for a re-viewing.

Does anyone remember having to watch a movie in school about Penelope the Mouse who was molested (or at least bad-touched) by her rat-faced uncle? I have VIVID memories of this, but did I dream it?

I can't believe we have to end before learning whether this was a real thing or a disturbing fantasy -- and there are so many other memories in the queue! -- but I have a 3 pm meeting so I have to actually end on time today.


See you next week, same time and place.

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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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