Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Nov 07, 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. I know there have been a few last-minute cancellations recently, for which I apologize. Last week I was sent out of town at the last minute. Please be magnanimous in your forgiveness.

What shall we talk about today? After months of should-we-or-shouldn't-we discussion of Ender's Game, did anyone see it? (I did).

Also: Some of you may have seen this a few weeks ago -- a video in which a trio of men "motorboat" women in the name of breast cancer research.


It has now been met by a rejoinder: a trio of women groping strange men on the street in the name of prostate cancer research.


Enjoy. (Or be outraged. Either way.).

Hope some folks show up anyway!

I have just been informed of this dastardly problem, which occured because when I cloned the chat from last week in order to build this one, I forgot that the "cancelled" text would carry over. We are not cancelled. We are alive. Let us up that enough people can intuit that we're all here together, despite the cancelled sign. (And I'm having a producer attempt to remove the the cancelled sign, too.).

Just wanted everyone here to know.

Congratulations! That is spectacular. Tell us what it's about. (Or guard it jealously until it becomes a bestseller)

Which I would have asked last week, but now I'll just keep as a resource for next year. I dressed up as Daenarys Stormborn for Halloween. I was really proud of my costume, but a friend scoffed that it was "too easy" because lots of people were doing it. What's the rule on when a costume is overdone?

Oh, I like this question. Obviously, there are rules. For example, it is always acceptable to be a witch or ghost for Halloween. Those never go out of style, no matter how many people are wearing white sheets. (Careful that your white sheet is obviously a ghost costume, not a KKK costume).


In general, though, I think the rule is that there is a directly proportional relationship between how common your costume is, and how good it should be. If you're going to be the 12,0000th Harry Potter, then you better represent with more than a lightning bolt drawn on your forehad in eyeliner. Conversely, if your costume is strange and original, it does not need to be particularly good. Does that make sense or seem fair?


HOWEVER, as a more overarching comment: Halloween comes once a year. Wear whatever is going to make you happy.


HOWEVER: please recognize that probably no one is going to be more adorable as Daenarys than Kristen Bell, whose husband also went full Game of Thrones for Halloween.

but I bet a lot of other people aren't because the schedule says you're cancelled. I just clicked on the link to see if there was an explanation ... color me happily surprised to find you here!

(I think the "cancelled" thing has been fixed now. At this point, we all just have to collectively assert that we do believe in fairies, and hope that more people join us).

My brother and nephew refuse to see Ender's Game because apparently the author is an awful, hateful person. What do you and other chatters think? (BTW, this is the first time I have attended the chat through my smartphone.).

We've actually talked about this very thing several times in the chat, so I won't completely raise it again except to say that: 1) Orson Scott Card was paid a flat fee for the movie, so seeing it won't line his pockets with any more money than he already has. 2) I think there are good arguments to be made for trying to seperate an artist's works from his politics, and Alexandra Petri makes a few of those arguments here, and 3) Nothing would be more pleasing than if in an adaptation of a future Card book, a loving married couple was recast as gay. I vote for Valentine to be a lesbian. You read it here first.

I saw it. Didn't like. Did you?

I liked it about as well as I would expect to like an adaptation of a book I have read probably 12 times. Which is to say, I knew that I wasn't going to be happy with it unless the film was nine hours long and a literal transcript of all of the dialogue. Casting was great, though.

So we moved recently and were invited to a meet and greet with other fellow new neighbors in the hood. Meet a nice couple who had potential until the guy started in on why my love of actual book and refusal to convert to an e-reader. Seems weird to be so concerned about another person's choice in reading material. What do you think?

Wait, I am confused -- you refuse to conver to an ereader, and that made him upset? It's weird. But not so weird as to abandon friendship potential. This might end up being the beginning of a long and bickering friendship, in which you have lots of barbecues and periodically roll your eyes at each other's unwillingness to bend on the books issue.

Besides, it's not black and white. Just yesterday I was bemoaning all of the bookstores that have closed in the DC area, while simultaneously realizing that I buy everything on Kindle now.


How do you mark things up? Don't you miss it?

Sure. Sort of. I still have shelves and shelves full of all the English-major-issued classics, and those are all marked up. What I miss more than marking things up with a pen is the ability to quickly flip back to a previous section to refresh your memory with a detail. Much more difficult to do on an e-reader.

But: I live in a small apartment with limited shelf space, and if I want to keep owning more books, the Kindle was the best way to do it.

How have others dealt with transitioning (or not) to ereaders?

I met a new girlfriend on an online dating site and was recently introduced to her friends and was surprised to find out that she had made up a different story of how we met. My friends and family know the actual story, so if we keep dating for a while, her friends would find out. Are people still ashamed of online dating? Am I obligated to lie to her friends too?

Oh, this is riculous. Obviously at least one person is still ashamed of online dating -- what a pity it's the person you're currently dating via an online meeting.


Have you talked to her about it? You should. Hopefully when you do, she'll feel a little silly and agree that there's nothing weird about the way you met -- and you can henceforth tell the true story of your meeting. If one of her friends catched the mixup -- "Oh, wait, I thought you guys met at the rodeo" -- then she can correct them with a, "Nope, you must be thinking of someone else. We met on JDate."  Because, frankly, nobody else remembers the stories of how we met our paramours nearly as much as we think they will. They're too busy being the stars of their own lives to get too mixed up in the details of yours.


Out of curiosity -- how did she say you met? I think that's the more interesting and revealing story.


Other thoughts?

My brother is a "nine hours" person. I'm a "slash the subplots until the storyline fits into a reasonable arc and running time" person. (Which is why Order Of The Phoenix is the best HP *movie*, even if it is not the best HP book. [Dear POA fans with pitchforks: The Shrieking Shack scene is one of the most pivotal in the whole series and it was a total hash on screen. Be quiet.]) I consider myself a book-first person, as I suspect you are, so I wonder what it is that leads readers into being reproductionists vs. adaptationalists.

Oh, in most cases I agree with you. Personally, I liked Goblet of Fire the best of all the Potter movies, and they were slashing subplots right and left. It's just with this particular book -- truly, it's almost holy to me. I couldn't even watch the previews because I was so afraid of moviemakers messing it up.


But you raise an interesting question: How do you maximize both book faithfulness and movie enjoyment?

So I haven't downloaded enough to know how I'm handling the transition. The entire Baum Oz series (illustrated) for $0.99 makes me feel pretty good about it, though.

Good find -- I didn't know those were on there.

I was once scolded at the start of a trip - while waiting in the airport - by the much older group leader because I WAS carrying an eReader. She started scoffing about "youth today" and how in HER DAY, she brought BOOKS on a vacation and nobody reads anymore. I countered that I had brought "books" on a trip - dozens of them, on a portable and lightweight device. She asked if I even had a single paper book with me, and I said, "Yes, one." She snorted and said, "Well, that explains everything," even though it explained nothing. Happy Ending: The organization running the trip later ended up removing her from all future expeditions because she spent the rest of the trip being terrible to other people for equally ludicrous reasons.

"That explains everything. Mostly it explains why I have no friends."

I read the book four? years ago, having never read it as a child - it's my boyfriend's favorite book, so I'd wanted to read it so we could talk about it. Saw the movie with him; he was much more fussy about it than I was (but then, that's true of nearly every movie we see in which there's some sort of inaccuracy or scientific impossibility, and it sort of drives me nuts because I'm able to shut out those distractions and enjoy the story, whereas he gets fixated on them and that's all he wants to talk about. We're not going to see Gravity together, that's for sure.) - um, sorry about that. Anyway, I enjoyed it, but I'd tampered my expectations. Viola Davis was a surprise favorite. Oh, and my litmus test for whether or not a movie was worth it: did I stay awake? (I have film narcolepsy, which does not bode well for the film festival I'm going to this weekend wherein I have tickets to 11 screenings...) I did, with this one.

Viola Davis was great. Asa Butterfield was great. I really thought most of the main cast was great, which is one of the hardest things to get right in a movie like this.

Well, it's not his views I object to. Lots of my friends and family have them. My husband reads everything on his iPad. I think I have a problem with people who feel they need to convert me to their point of view. But it may be my bias since I have had to stop being friends with people who moved from agree to disagree to being down right disrespectful.

Yes, yes, completely understood. So it's a red flag to watch out for, because you're right -- someone who cannot agree to disagree over trivial matters is going to get really bothersome. Let's just see what happens the next time you get together, when he spends 15 minutes talking about how you have to order the linguine, and then your order the ravioli just to mess with him.

I have owned a Sony e-reader for three and a half years and have yet to buy anything on it--I use it mostly for community, and borrow library books. But this leads to something that's always plagues me about it: how do you browse when you want a book, but not a specific one? I can wander around the library until something catches my fancy, but there are no good ways to search the Overdrive catalog (or to weed through the junk easily). Any time I try to narrow down to a category or whatever, there are 38621 options, and no way to display more than 10 on a page.

Hmmm. I'm not familiar with the way the Sony eReader is organized, since I have a different ereader. On the Kindle, it's possible to get the sub-genres small enough that I find browsing to be not too taxing.


The Post's book critic, Ron Charles, has written about a new ethical dilemma that has appeared in the digital age, i.e: Many people are apparently going to Barnes and Noble or other bookstores just to browse around and find what they want, and then purchasing the books digitally for less money.


Is this acceptable? Or is this a version of stealing?

The best book-movie combo I know of. People get bored stiff with the movie, especially at the beginning... but read the book and it all becomes clear.

Thank you.

We have a mutual friend that we found out about later, so she told people we met through that friend. That friend hasn't been told yet how we met, just that we did, so he could de-bunk it later. It's all kind of stupid.

It is kind of stupid. And kind of immature. Luckily, it also sounds pretty fixable. Because down the road when someone says, "Didn't you meet through Joe?" you can say, "No, we met on OKCupid; we just later learned we both know Joe." And there's a good chance that the friend in question will just assume they were confused.

But what about when it's not a trivial matter. What about when someone holds a generally incorrect viewpoint? Then are we allowed to keep arguing about it?

Depending on so very many factors. Like: What is the issue? Is it something like a minor grammatical issue, or something like, "No, really, earth is bigger than the sun."

Or: How close are you to the person? When it comes down to it, what is more important -- having them in your life, or being right?

For really noxious beliefs, like, I don't know, "People with red hair will give you ebola," then yes, you're morally required to try to correct them. But really, you don't want to spend your whole life trying to change someone's mind. At a certain point, that's just exhausting.

Provided that people still know who you are. I was getting confused squints all night long for my bathrobe + towel + carrying a certain guidebook + hopefully asking everyone for a cup of tea + handing out a bag of Swedish fish and telling people to put it into their ear combo. Thankfully, there were enough hoopy froods who have a close emotional connection to the number 42 out there to be charmed by it.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

I'm the girl who wrote in a few weeks about what online dating sites people liked etc after being told I was old at 37 and to flick a friend in the forehead. So! I cleaned up a profile, had my friends edit it, threw it out there (okcupid, etc), and....nothing. At all. I've sent what I thought were interesting or funny short emails to guys that looked like decent guys, and nothing. I should say that by nothing, I have gotten the ubiquitous "u r hawt", "let's meet up for one night stands" emails which just baffle me. I am also thrown by the number of guys that are on there who say they are married, but their wife is totally cool with them sleeping with other women. Yeah. I'm not. So instead of falling onto the fainting chaise lounge and bemoaning the horror of my existence, I've decided to just get back to my awesome life of hanging out with my friends, walking my dog, mastering the recipe for awesome meatballs, and trying every single decent IPA in the DMV area. But my thanks for everyone's help. The experiment was...enlightening.

If you are comfortable with this -- and only if you are comfortable -- I would really like to see your online profile. Feel free to email me after the chat at hessem@washpost.com. I am as flummoxed as you are.

Uh, I browse at B&N then check for a cheaper price on Amazon. I never thought I was doing anything wrong, especially since I always get a cup of coffee while I'm there. (Kinda like buying a bottle of water when I use a gas station restroom.) And if their price is competitive, maybe a little more but I can have it that day instead of waiting a week, I'll go ahead and buy it.

Well, you partly answered what was going to be my follow up question: Does the dymanic change if you purchase a token item (i.e. cup of coffee, piece of chocolate) to act as a "browsing fee" for your time spent in the bookstore?


Then again, there are already places where browsing is encouraged for free. They are called libraries.


Oh, google it. Flex those cultural muscles!

Out of curiosity, what kinds of photos did you put up? I tried online dating once, and while I decided it wasn't for me in general, the quality and number of my messages increased significantly the second I put up photos more targeted to my ideal "audience". There was a study a while back that said that online daters are more attracted to exciting and dynamic shots that reveal personality than simple posed shots. In other words, if you put up a picture of you beaming at being caught in the act of making your awesome meatballs, that's likely to be a winner. My killer shot was basically that, but with cookies.

That's interesting, and it makes sense. I also like the example that you used -- the photo doesn't necessarily have to be you at the finish line of a marathon, but it's nice when it feels like a photo of a person you could hang out with, rather than just a corporate or posted headshot.

I read this quote recently and it made me actually laugh out loud. "Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts" by economist Henry Rosovsky. I agree with you about the metrics of intimacy vs being right.

What a great quote -- I don't think I'd seen it before.

My vision of the future: libraries will be bookstores and vice versa (but far fewer overall), supported by whichever online book retailer they partner with. For example, I will go to my local bookstore/library and browse around. If I find a book I like, I can either borrow it (if I have a paid membership) or buy it. If purchased, the act of swiping the book will automatically order a new one from the online retailer. If I want a never-borrowed copy, I can guarantee myself a brand-new copy by ordering it online (perhaps at a discount from that particular online retailer if I am a loyal member of their bookstore/library). You heard it here first.

Would there still be multiple copies of best selling books, as there are in bookstores? I assume so. A small problem with your swiping-replenishment idea is that bookstores stash dozens of copies of big books around the time of their releases -- which is good, because everyone wants to read the new Divergent book when it first comes out -- but eventually, interest will decline. Six months after "Divergent's" release, you do not need to still be stocking 48 copies.


Anyway. I like this.

A friend was just trying to help another woman fix up her online dating profile. The woman's main photo was a snapshot of her - and her father. A lot of little things like that can turn people off.

Fascinating. Partly because, if you didn't know it was her father, would you just think, "Is that an old boyfriend? Is she into older guys? I better not contact her -- my hair is not gray enough yet."

'Zactly. In fact, those photos can sometimes be a TURN-OFF, because your potential significant other can't figure out how he or she is supposed to fit into your amazing and busy life of training or hiking across Peru all the time and so forth. Which is certainly nothing against those photos, but it's always helpful to put up a few shots that say, "If we were a couple, this is the role I'd play in your daily life," whether that's cooking or playing the guitar at a house party or refinishing a cabinet.

It's occuring to me these photos are the equivalent of an HGTV show, when the realtor runs around tossing throw pillows on the  couches, because she wants prospective buyers to picture themselve lounging around and feeling at home.

This calls for one of the best poems about writing in the world, 'The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered':

The title is really glorious.

A guy friend also pointed out that some people's (both men's and women's) profiles make them sound so incredibly busy (i.e. I run ultra-marathons, rescue dolphins, brew my own beer, and travel to Tokyo and Paris on the weekends when I'm not helping run the country) that it seems they have to time for dating, much less a relationship.

Or that, if you want to be in a relationship with them, you better enjoy doing all these dolphin rescuing, home-brewing activities too, because it's the only way you're ever going to be able to see them.

The only problem I have with that is that it limits information and books to people who can afford it. The great benefit of a library is that it is free, and that you have librarians who are sorting and cataloguing all that information and those books. I do a lot of my book shopping online, but do try to browse and buy in physical bookstores when I can. I don't want them to disappear!

This is completely true -- I read right past the "paid membership" stipulation in the original post. I don't like that at all. We already pay for libaries in taxes.

I think this is totally acceptable- they tried to kill the indie book stores so I don't feel bad that they feel the internet is killing their sales. FWIW, I do this too, but not to buy cheaper elsewhere- I love to wander to see new titles that I either add to my library queue or I buy from indie sellers (like One More Page in Arlington or Powells if I must buy online). B&N just has a larger array based on sheer size. When Borders existed I preferred them but what you gonna do, yo.


Worse yet, you think: "Whoa, major daddy issues." Which reminds me of the guy who contacted me and then had a profile that involved a long rant about how he likes to spend every single Friday night with his extended family because he values family above all else and he doesn't understand anyone who doesn't feel that way. I appreciated the heads-up about my future-that-never-was emotionally needy in-laws.

When really, that photo was probably only up there because it was taken when the person in question was having a good hair day and wearing her favorite sweater.

We must remember that for many adults in this world, the learning is over.

But many of us come back here, week after week.

Sorry we were a little slow today -- I'll blame it on the false cancellation. Kudos to all of you who made it here despite that. I think this means you all get the golden ticket. See you next week, one hopes, one hopes.

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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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