Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Dec 19, 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.

Hi everybody -- I'm here, but since I've been locked in a cave with Dan Zak coming up with this year's OUT/IN List, I don't have any pre-ordained topics. Let's mess about for an hour though, hmm?

Last week, and I think the week before, we talked here about credibility and holes in video gone viral. I am increasing defaulting to NOT believing them because I feel like every time something like that goes around Facebook, it's in one of several categories, all of which leave room for lots of holes. It was deliberately intended to go viral and crafted with that in mind, so there's manipulation at play; the actual video wasn't intended to go viral, but it's been repackaged in such a way to be, like with the "This video will restore your faith in humankind," or "You won't believe which of your rights Obama is trampling now!" variety, also manipulative and leading to questions about where the original came from; or the thing is authentic but was made for the seven people who followed the person's youtube channel, and so it's not really meant to stand up to any scrutiny.

I've been thinking a lot about this. "You won't believe" is such an eye-catching statement, isn't it? Because the natural human reaction is to day, "Oh yes, I bet I WILL believe it." The statement makes one naturally combative.


The larger issue with all of these faux-inspirational items of the Upworthy genre (fauxsperational?) is that ultimately, I believe, they decrease your optimism and sense of wonder, rather than building it up. If every video is labeled, "The most amazing thing you'll ever see," sooner or later, you'll become jaded about what is or is not amazing. Sooner or later, you'll become less trusting, not more. It's insidious. It's soul-crushing designed as inspiring.

Please say OUT.

Miley makes a cameo appearance in the List's intro, but is otherwise neither in nor out. We don't want to shame Miley. We just want to give her some comfy sweats and make her a cup of hot chocolate.

I'm so sick of click bait. SO TIRED OF IT. Officially boycotting.

Really, you're not alone.

I hate "This will make you feel ..."

Because the implication is that we need to be told how to feel. That there is a right response to have to this video, and if you don't have it, something is wrong with you.

I just read on the Internet that 1 in 200 women claim their births are are virgin births. I then realized, there could very well be millions of messiahs walking around. Each will then claim to represent the one true religion. Our world will then be divided into competing religions at war with each other. In other words, the world will be the same as it is now.

Virgin births is going to become pretty cliche, soon. I hope people are more creative with their explanations soon. Like, alien impregnation. I'd like to see more of that.

Just wanted to let you know, I popped on NPR yesterday while headed out to run a quick errand... heard Diane mention JK Rowling and turn to a 'Monica' on the panel for an opinion and I was immediately all, "Woot, it must be Cupcake!!!" This instinctive identification took all of 12 seconds, I kid you not. Nor have I actually heard you before (you sound so younnnng!) FWIW, this actually happens to me all the time when *reading* your pieces, too, before I know they're yours. I'm a paragraph into story text after a random click and suddenly realize, 'This must be Monica.' Every time I check the byline, I'm right. Thought you might appreciate knowing that's how distinctive your [approachable, witty, humorous] voice is. But you already knew we love ya!

Thank you (I think, mostly)! I bet you can do that with lots of writers in the Style section. It's one of the things we talk about here when we're coming up with stories, i.e. "I'd like to read a story about XYZ, and I'd like to read it in Dan's/Neely's/Hank's voice."


Diane Rehm is the most classy lady I've ever met. So polished, so polite, so able to put people so at ease. I think I might want to be her when I grow up, her or George Takei.

IN: Daffy Duck Dynasty

This all is making me feel better about our work on the List so far, because Duck Dynasty does, indeed, make an appearance (and we had them on the List -before- that whole GQ mess).

What happens in Nazareth stays in Nazareth.

Thought: A Bible-themed hotel would be a genius idea and probably make a lot of money. I would go. Wouldn't you? Especially if they gave you robes, and maybe a camel, and if the food was accurate and there were a few miracles.

Oh sweet baby cheesus- I realize these are all food-related things, but I cannot wait for both sweet potatoes & kale to be 'Out'. There's always the new hot food trends each year, but both of these are overrated and have lasted too long. I will pay or kiss (their preference) the entire Food Section staff the first week they do not have either in a single recipe.

Kale is so OUT that we didn't even declare it OUT. We declared the vegetable that came after kale OUT. (What is that vegetable? I guess you'll have to read the List to find out. Ta-da!)

Oh for the love of Pete, the one of the father and daughter recreating the wedding photos he took with his now-dead wife? It felt, at least from the accompanying narrative on buzzfeed or upworthy or whatever, like it was a very personal thing for him, the SIL photographer for some reason posted it to her blog and then it went viral. In my circles, the "this made me cry at my desk" links are all the rage. I feel so bad for the guy.

For those of you who hadn't seen it, this is the photo set.


You bring up another point I've thought about. What do the people who go viral tend to think about all of this? How does it feel when a moment that was personal and meaningful to you is suddenly being used to make a giant symbolic point, interpreted in different ways by different people?

Ugh. Living on dates and stale bread and months-old mutton? Forget it.

But there are already those Ezekial Bars, or whatever they're called, that purport to include only Biblically accurate foods, right? Actually, a lot of it might resemble the Meditteranesan (I spelled that wrong, didn't I?) diet that we're always being told is super healthy: fish, olives, olive oil, millet.

Honey Boo Boo last year, Duck Dynasty this year, which is next year's redneck clan that America sleeps with, then does the walk of shame?

Maybe "mocking redneck families" should just be OUT, hmm? And we're pretty much also done with mocking wealthy New Yorkers. And Alaskans. What's left? I'd like us to settle in with a Lutheran church, maybe in Wisconsin.


By the way: Next week we will NOT be chatting. However, on January 2, we WILL be chatting. Special guest star will be Dan Zak, and the chat will be dedicated to The List, so you might want to save your Listish observations until then.

Surely, the guys have consultants that advise them not to reduce human sexuality to discussing what kind of wee-wees men and women have when being interviewed by a major magazine. I'm cringing more at all the "First Amendment Rights VIOLATED!" tweets that are bound to come from the far right.

That's the problem. People tune into that show because they're so "authentic." The second that they start obeying what a consultant tells them to say or not say, then they are no longer authentic and no longer interesting.

I recall several years ago watching a TV show about a Bible themed amusement park, I believe in Orlando. (See Mickey, then see Jesus.) I wonder if they have a Bible themed hotel near there?

No matter how hard we try and avoid it, we always seem to bring back one special topic of a horrible book. I just searched the Internet to see if there is a Bible theme hotel. What I first found was a hotel in England that removed the Bibles in all its rooms and replaced them with "50 Shades of Grey". I just hope no one checks in there seeking salvation.

I bet that all of the guests are SO MAD. But that a lot more copies get stolen of 50 Shades than were stolen of the Bible.

Already been done in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Garrison Keillor has mined that genre for decades.

Which is why we would watch the show. We would want to see if the stereotypes are true. Just like Desperate Housewives came before Real Housewives.

That Henry Winkler is so accomodating.

Those guys are employees, and the network that airs their show is their employer. The guys are presumably under contract, but can still be terminated for cause. There's no "free-speech right" involved in being the employee of a private firm. The 1st Amendment has to do with free speech and the government.

Did anyone here argue otherwise?

Much prefer the Roman Empire hotels. Togas, gladiator movies, and a vomitorium.

Intriguing choice. I would also say "Victorian," except that half of all B&B's already have that theme. And also, I don't think people bathed very much then.

They are true. I just got back from another Midwestern post-funeral church-basement lunch.

Oh, I miss those. Hope there was a Jello mold.

Ack, sorry, I wasn't trying to say anything that wasn't complimentary! (The young voice thing? That's not bad! You kind of have that whole 'old soul' vibe going on is, all; I think that's what set me up for a different auditory expectation. Your voice is lovely!) As a very shy introvert who doesn't think well on her feet and is too often terrorized into immobility by confrontation, I closely observe how Diane gracefully handles the yammerers and wack-a-doos and filibustering commentators who call in. I'm not sure I've been able to *apply* anything I've gleaned yet, but her adroitness and warmth with both guests and callers is really reassuring to listen to.

It's a rare and special talent, to make all people feel included -- to appear to really listen to people rather than dismiss them. Diane has that in spades. She's like the special aunt, who comes to visit and makes you blosson. You really want to take Aunt Diane by the hand and show her how you just learned to play Fur Elise.

Kind of like when the Dixie Chicks were "Free Speech Warriors". Remember that?

It's true that there seem to be fundamental misunderstandings of First Amendment rights in the United States. It's not that you can say whatever you want and not be fired. It's that you can mostly say what you want, and not be beheaded by your government.

By the way, who has the best Christmas plans? Or most awful? What have you been saving up to watch/read/do/go?

Instead of Wisconsin, how about a reality show in an Illinois town, thus giving it more appeal to both the MidWest and the East, and for a normal town, how about Normal? Now, if we could only find an interesting family for a reality show in Normal, Illinois...

The Illinois-half of my family are community organizers. They're probably planning a festive protest on Christmas day, followed by the annual family racketball tournament.

Of course. and pie. And the green beans had bacon in them. Even a lasagna, and it was bland enough to be served in any school cafeteria.


A few years ago, I saw a play called "Church Basement Ladies" which, if I recall correctly, presented many of the stereotypes in a Midwestern church. I recall watching it and realizing that many of those same stereotypes reminded me of my youth watching the Ladies Benevolent Society of a New England church. There are some similarities that cross regions.

Well, that's reassuring.

Apparently Sarah Palin is exploiting the "Duck Dynasty" situation for her own benefit.

Well, you know, I think she has her own new reality show coming up. She's gotta do what she's gotta do.

I am inspired to make a Jello cake now... and maybe hit a Friday Fish Fry.

Can you try making these two-ingredient lemon angel food bars? They look very Midwestern and delicious; I just haven't gotten around to them yet.

The older I get, the less I like the cold. Leave for Cozumel tomorrow. Feliz Navidad!

Mele Kalikimaka.

for a Bible-themed hotel. No pork or shellfish served in the restaurant. Separate quarters for menstruating women. Fornicators who are caught might claim that the lady is the widow of their elder brother and therefore the sex is mandatory. No room service on the Sabbath.

On the other hand, the wine is fantastic.

It's the claim of authenticity that makes me avoid these shows like the plague. I wouldn't want these people as next-door neighbors; I certainly wouldn't voluntarily watch a show they were on.

Interesting, but the "wouldn't want these people as neighbors" feeling is exactly what appeals to people, I think. You know these are people you would not necessarily be friends with, but you can't help but be curious about their lifestyle. It's why we watch shows about uber rich people, too. Just to see what it would be like.

...online shopping horror stories?

No, Jan 2 is THE LIST!!

(Here's to hoping none of you have online shopping horror stories).

IN: Bruce Jenner becomes a woman.

Really, after a decade of living with the women in that clan, could you think of any other solution?

What about oleander?

Isn't that...poisonous? Are you trying to kill us all?

My liberal self gets to spend it with my Duck Dynasty and Sarah Palin lovin' family. Can I just go to Cozumel?

Oh, no, you will have a marvelous time. You're an anthropologist, an innocent bystander, watching everything with amusement. (I'd give the same advice to a hardcore Republican spending the holidays with their dippy-hippie family).

I can't get the link for you because it's blocked at work, but that video keeps getting passed around my social network, with violently mixed reactions. Some people would like them to get cancer and die for being smug. Some think it's adorable. Personally, I think it's kind of cute. Even though it's obvious self-promotion, it's well done, good-humored, and silly. These reactions, btw, are one of the reasons that I rarely share anything positive that happens to me on Facebook. I know lots of my friends and family are not as lucky as I am in a lot of ways, and I think they might just be jealous and annoyed if I mention my trip to the Galapagos or whatever. How much does that suck? Not feeling like you can share positive things because it will make other people feel bad...

These Christmas jammies?

I love this family. Love them. Sure, they live in a house that's nicer than any house I will ever live in, and they're more gorgeous than I will ever be, but you know what? They seem to have fun together. And the "accomplishments" they're touting are fun parental accomplishments -- "Look at my kid's awesome superhero T-shirts."


And, the dad's frankly pretty talented.


As for the second part of that -- I think people's reactions to positive news is often so dependent on how the positive news is delivered. I'd never be annoyed by "Wheeee! Three days to the Galapagos -- I hope I see a giant tortoise!" But I might be irritated by, "This is so stressful. The cruise line only lets me bring two suitcases to the Galapagos, which sucks because I have four new pairs of hiking boots."

Oh my! Those do look yummy too.

Don't they, though?

On the Midwest theme...I grew up in Wisconsin, albeit as the daughter of Northern European immigrants, so in many ways my childhood was not a prototype - either Midwestern nor American. However, one of our big family traditions around Christmas was going bowling. Sledding or skating was added as weather allowed. (For those who think Wisconsin is always covered in a foot of snow, that is not quite the case!)

We did a good bit of New Years Eve bowling in my childhood.

No. It's mildly toxic. You have to eat, like chew, swallow, etc. a heck of a lot to have it kill you. That said, there was a very weird case in Calif a few years ago where a pair of toddlers somehow acquired a taste for the oleander in their back yard and did die.

I'm basing all of my information on that Michelle Pfeiffer movie.

I'm opting out of Christmas this year. I had to put my dog to sleep last week and I'm in no holiday mood. I'll be doing the same thing I've been doing for the past week; sitting on the couch, drinking beer and staring into space. If I'm lucky, perhaps Mr. Bong will pay a visit.

Sometimes, that's exactly what you need on a holiday -- a solitary reboot, a period of melancholy reflection. (Last year on Christmas I ate a plate of tatertots and watched...some bad movie on TV. Can't remember which one.)

There will be a movie/tv marathon of some sort. Followed by dinner of ham, butternut squash and something green. I will then spend the next hour protecting my dinner from the horde of invading felines trying to steal my food (ok, it's really just the 1 cat who is addicted to butternut squash...he likes ham too). And finish off the evening with a book or more movies/tv. Bliss!

See, it's all in how you look at things.

My Christmas plans are nothing extraordinary, but I'm taking my mini baby to see her first snow while visiting my sister in PA. (I'm the micro-preemie mom y'all helped out with entertainment while I was stuck in the NICU for two months.) I'm excited for her tiny snowsuit pictures.

Oh, congratulations! I'm so happy for you and your baby! And for your sister, and for snow.

I loved the "XMas Jammies" video, until the end when it turned out to be an ad for the parent's company that makes videos. I was hoping they were talented amateurs.

Eh. It didn't bother me. Better that they're professionals who did it themselves than amateurs who spent $10,000 to have someone else help them with it. Plus, we can feel less jealous of them, because doing those videos will is their job. I mean, wouldn't you feel worse if they were both particle physicists who just happened to be gorgeous and also do this on the side?

Ugh. Count me in the camp that thinks they are smug and annoying and the sort of people I'd highly dislike if I met IRL. I don't wish them cancer, but I do wish I had never seen that video. Also, that little girl can't sing for crap- that "she can sing" was one of her accomplishments makes me think they are all overblown ... "counting to 100 in Chinese" (srsly? also, why?)

Oh, I think they're totally aware of how good of a singer their daughter actually is. People who work in that business have to be. I thought it was kind of a joke.

Alas and alack, I have to cut this off actually at 3 today, to get back to work. To recap: Next week, no chat. January 2, chat. With me, and with Dan Zak, who will be brought into the fold to discuss the ins and outs of the year.

Until 2014, GSTQ.

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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