Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jan 09, 2014

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.

Hello, Everyone, and welcome to the first official chat of 2014. The first unofficial one took place last week, when guest star Dan Zak and I discussed the Out/In List. Peruse the transcript if you missed.

What shall we talk about today? I have no agenda, just one small offering. From time to time, people ask for suggestions on what to stream on Netflix or Amazon, based on what they already like. Based on the collective personality of the people who tend to participate in this chat, I have discovered the perfect show. It is called The Bletchley Circle. It is on Netflix. It is set in the 1940s, and it is about a group of female nerds -- former codebreakers in World War II -- who now use their math skills to solve murders. It has period costumes, British accents, math, and mysteries. It is the perfect show.


That's all -- someone else go now. (We'll start at 2).

Oh, thanks, Monica! I have had this in my queue forever, but never felt like turning it on. With your recommendation, I'll probably watch it this weekend. Have you watched "Bomb Girls" on Netflix Watch Instantly? Same time period, but Canadian women working in a bomb factory. I didn't think it was a great show, but it was really interesting for both the women in the factory as well as the Canadian aspects during WWII, especially the cultural differences with regard to one of the character's engagement to an American before US entry in the war. That's the great part about all these streaming services, I think - exposing us to shows, movies, and ideas that we never would have encountered otherwise. Some of my favorite TV shows are ones I first streamed through Netflix!

Actually, I recommend Bletchley Circle with similar caveats that you recommend Bomb Girls. Solely in terms of writing and plot, I would give it a B, not an A. But I upgraded it because it hits on so many things I find personally fascinating -- not the least of which is watching highly qualified women floating about after the war, trying to find places to apply their formidable skills. The main character in the group is a crack codebreaker who is now a housewife, and whose very well-meaning husband tries to help keep her mind occupied by presenting her with...a book of crossword puzzles.

OK, so totally not safe for work, but wicked funny.

Oh yeah, how did you all survive the Polar Vortex? (And this totally is safe for work, so long as you're listening with headphones).

I just started my subscription up again to watch Sherlock this weekend and was disappointed to find that Covert Affairs, In Plain Sight and Downton Abbey are gone. I've got other things in my queue, but I have a feeling I'll be needing more Brit TV to watch after Sherlock, so that's perfect!

You could also watch Top of the Lake, which is New Zealand crime drama but, you know, still accented. Mostly, I'm just looking for another opinion on this. It appeared on so many critics top 10 lists, but I thought it started really strong and then ended with so many holes it resembled a cobweb.

I did NOT. I went outside yesterday with slightly damp curly hair. IT FROZE. Spiral icicles coming off of my head. I felt like the freakin' Snow Queen. And now today it's all frizzy and won't keep a curl. I need to apologize to it and make it feel better but I don't know how. :-(

I'm indebted to you for this experiment. When I was a kid my hair would always freeze when leaving winter swim practices. I always wondered what if would be like if my hair was curly and it froze. Did your hair make a jingling sound when you moved? Did you catch pneumonia? (Everyone's moms on swim team always said we would catch pneumonia).

I just finished episode 3. If you are going to discuss the cobwebs of the rest of the show please let me know so I can refrain from reading. The scenery alone makes the show worth watching, though. I want to live in a place where people randomly ride around on their horses.

There will be no spoilers in this chat. You can stay.

But it was over the holidays and we never talked about it. What did everyone think of the PR executive who was fired after her mid-air tweet about AIDS in Africa?

You mean this PR executive? What an interesting case that was. Her Tweet -- "Going to Africa, hope I don't get AIDSs! Just kidding. I'm white!" -- was insensitive and nonsensical, and if you looked back through much of her Twitter feed, several of her Tweets were surprisingly questionable for someone whose job it is to represent a company publicly. All of that being said, there was something uncomfortable about the way this all unfolded. The way it spread so quickly while she was on an airplane and unable to respond, with teams of people waiting for her plane to land. She didn't highlight the best of humanity in her Tweet, but commenters didn't really, either.


What did you all think?

Are you going to have any more book giveaways/contests? I didn't enter the Twitter one, because I was certain I was getting it for Christmas. I was wrong.

Was I supposed to give it to you for Christmas? Did I fail you? I don't have any other giveaways of "Stray" planned, but its sequel, "Burn," comes out February 6, and I'll probably do a giveaway of that one. (Except that one will make very little sense if you haven't read "Stray.")

May I suggested a great, very droll Brit sitcom called Outnumbered, about a London family with three kids. Extremely well written in that cringeworthy British style.

Noted. Though I like British dramas better than British comedies, actually.

My favorite FB meme popped up today. It's the one where you promise to make something creative for the first ten people who comment on the post. I love this one because it's such fun to make things for folks. A nice way to start out the year.

Hmm. Mixed feelings about this practice. On the one hand, it's a lot better than the posts that say something like, "I want to know who my true friends are. If you don't post a comment here, you obviously don't love me."


On the other hand, it's still a little showboaty or manipulative, because goal is to force people to comment. (And what if people don't comment? Do they not want your handmade things?)


On the -other- hand, you are only trying to get people to comment so you can do something nice for them.


I'm so confused.

because it's completely recalibrated my definition of "cold". I think I'm good to go for the rest of the winter in comparatively balmy 20- and 30-degree highs, having experienced those two days of playing the "will my car start when it's 2 degrees outside?" game. (It did, happily.) Bring on the shorts and flip-flops!

It's true. When I headed outside to walk my dog this morning, the weather said it was 28 degrees, and I thought, pfffft, I don't even need gloves for that kind of weather. You'll have to recalibrate next year, though. Your body won't remember the cold from this year.

I agree, but you do something that stupid and you open yourself up to vicious commenters. Maybe this will teach her a lesson. Especially if this is typical of her behavior, because she is definitely in the wrong business.

Who else agrees with this?


I'm not sure I do. The real valuable lesson would have been if the "vicious commenters" were able to illustrate to her why her Tweet was offensive, and she could learn to change her beliefs or thought process. Instead, a lot of the ones I saw were violent threats or gleeful insults. Which doesn't teach her to believe anything different, it just teaches her to delete her Twitter account and make her address private.

Happy that at least I can contribute to the body of scientific research. It sort of TINKLED rather than jingled. Like very thin wind chimes. Only parts of it froze, thank goodness, so the haircicles were cushioned by the rest of my hair and didn't BREAK OFF, which I've heard is a thing. I did not catch pneumonia, although I did get paranoid about catching pneumonia and spent all night wrapped up in a heavy bathrobe and microwaving mac and cheese to warm my core body temperature. I know this is probably terrible science but I am sitting here hale and hearty, so I'm going to just say I cured myself. However, I then read on all these long hair forums that having your hair freeze makes the shaft expand and can permanently damage it, and so now I just keep petting my frazzled shapeless waves and Googling for deep-conditioning treatments.

Extremely useful information. Yes, I too have read that frozen hair can break in half. I always wanted to try that -- just snap off a whole ponytail. When I was younger, I probably thought my parents would kill me, and now, darnit, I just forgot to go out in 4 degree weather with wet hair.

I see your points, Monica, but I think you are really overthinking it. If someone doesn't comment, I don't take offense or think they don't love me or whatever. It's just meant to be fun.

I completely believe -you-, of course. It's just the general Facebook-jacking that gets squeamish.

Curly hair loves coconut milk! Deep condition with it before you shampoo. Seriously, it works!

I'm just a conduit here, not the person to blame if your head ends up smelling like a pina colada for several days.

I'm headed to London at the beginning of February and one of the highlights is being able to pick up my very own copy of Stray... alas, I'm leaving for Paris on the 5th, so I won't be able to grab Burn while I'm there and that gives me the sads. Talk about First World Problems, right?

When you find it in a bookstore, please take a photo of it. I collect them from around the world. (And you can still order Burn on Amazon.co.uk, it's just the shipping is a few dollars more).

One of my friends posted two separate items in Facebook, one featuring a poem and another featuring a work of art (neither of them made by her). For anyone who Liked either post, she would assign them an artist or poet; they would then have to post a poem or piece of artwork by that person on their own page and promise to assign an artist or poet to whomever Liked their posts. I participated in both, and it was fun to seek out new poetry and art both for my own page and to assign to my friends. Although my mom is the only one who has participated so far...

Oh, good, I'm glad you got something out of it. That's great. I would have failed to do the assignment and then spent three days worrying that I would have seven years of bad luck for breaking the chain letter, or whatever.

AAAIIIEEEE!! No freakin way. Christmas is OVER. My creativity was strained past its limit for the past three months and I am DONE.

Did you knit 70 scarves? Make 140 paper snowflakes? What was the cruel act that landed you in the sanitorium this time?

I was in LA over the holidays and spent Christmas day on the beach in 80 degree weather, so I'm all messed up. I may stay inside the rest of winter.

Probably wise.

I'm uncomfortable every time one of these cases appears in the media, where you have somebody who says something heinous and inadvertently summons the wrath of the internet. On one hand, I'm all for them being penalized for it if it's actively hurting someone or making a company look bad, but on the other hand, I think the response is INCREDIBLY disproportionate to the action in most cases, ruining lives and attaching a stigma to a name instead of giving them a chance to evolve and become better humans through reflection and discussion. I was just complaining to a friend that I see the same thing happening in the "social justice" communities on sites like Tumblr, where you have people who are ostensibly progressive allies screaming at each other and telling everyone to block a certain person because they goofed and used the wrong terminology (for instance, saying "wheelchair-bound" instead of "person who uses a wheelchair," or trying to talk about trans* issues without knowing the correct pronouns). At a certain point, these sorts of pile-ons become more about the pitchfork-carrier's desire to seem like a noble crusader for justice than about helping other evolve and making the world a kinder place. The response to this is usually, "No, screw that, it's not my responsibility to TEACH people not to be jerks." Fair enough, but then whose responsibility is it?

I love this whole post. This was partially the topic of Savage Love this week, in which a person wrote in that a friend of theirs had screamed at them for using the term "transgendered," and the letter writer couldn't figure out why. The correct term is "transgender" -- no "ed" -- but rather than explain that, the friend had apparently gone off the deep end.


It's troubling, and something I think about frequently as a member of the media. We're often leading the charge to publicize stories like that, but I do worry about  a culture that leaps to criticize mistakes so quickly, and that seems more interesting in mocking than learning.

Way too much work and involvement for me. What I Like is when my Like of, say, The New York Review of Books, earns me a suggestion by Facebook that I might Like, say, The Lapham Quarterly or the Paris Review. Reading posts from such publications gives me new poetry and art. I don't like giving my friends assignments.

To be fair, what the earlier poster described is all self-imposed homework. If you're not interested in doing it, all you have to do is...not Like the poem posted.

Did you read Amanda Hess's essay about women on the internet and the vicious, violent harrassment?  I've seen this a ton. Experienced it a little. I have <200 twitter followers and usually I'm not interesting enough to troll that hard. But yeesh.

There's nothing new about this phenomenon, but this is a fantastic and disturbing piece, and I'd actually meant to bring it up today.


So I will now, in the form of an interlude. Suppose the following scenario: Someone sets up an anonymous Twitter account to harass a journalist or public figure. They use it to send a Tweet to the journalist.


If the journalist is female, the Tweet says: "I know where you live. I'm going to rape you."


If the journalist is male, the Tweet says: "I know where you live. I'm going to cut your [bleep] off."


Are these equivalent? Why or why not?

My husband and I greatly enjoyed the first three seasons of Foyle's War. After that, only my husband enjoyed it.

Posting -- and thanks!

This has been popping up on FB. It's from last year, but still quite amazing. I'd be selling my house posthaste and moving uphill.

Or, you know, just not living in Minnesota.

WTF? I'm sorry, how are we supposed to know stuff like this, if it's even true that T people are bothered by a participle? It's like changing the password while someone's away and screaming at them for not knowing it when they get back.

Like anything, it depends on the individual, but yes, many transgender people are very, very upset by the accidental use of "transgendered" instead of "transgender." Many others just the opportunity to patiently explain why one is wrong and the other is right. We'll get there eventually. It wasn't long ago that we were struggling with the right terms for people of various races and sexual orientations.

I dunno. I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who, in this example, try to talk about trans issues without doing some due diligence. Marginalized communities are by definition not very well known or understood, so it seems a burden to put it on them to teach individuals. When I see it, the issue tends to escalate when a person gets called out and won't back down, admit a mistake, etc. Tthey keep saying "yeah, but I MEANT well," and want acknowledgement for that. At a certain point, though, having a ton of people say/do things that are not helpful and often times hurtful meaning well doesn't really matter. Sorry, but that's a micro statement in a macro kind of situation.

And the more marginalized or small the community, the more misunderstood they are likely to be, and the more teaching they are going to have to do, and the more exhausted they are going to be from the result of this teaching, etc etc.

Re: your examples, yes, those are equivalent, but I suspect that the Tweet directed toward females happens FAR more often than the Tweet directed toward males. I believe Megan McArdle, in polling colleagues, in this post: She specifically writes, "Most of the women, and a few of the men, had been accused of some sort of sexual activity with the Kochs, metaphorical or otherwise." It seems that certain men get *much* more upset about women writing certain things than about men writing similar things.

I agree that the Tweets geared toward women happen far more frequently than Tweets toward men. And for that reason, I wonder if they really are equivalent. The fact of the matter is, it is far, far, far more likely for a woman to be sexually assaulted than a man. And so I think it would be far easier to interpret the former ("I'm going to rape you") as a genuine threat, and the latter ("I'm going to cut your thing off") as someone a ridiculous and empty statement.

and I'm mostly bald now, so take this for what it's worth. No, hair won't break in half. It's mostly just the water around the hair follicles that is freezing. Though I can see how it could cause swelling or something. But as any swimmer will know, the best thing to do a deep condition is Infusium 23. It's a leave in conditioner that is awesome... though, again, now I'm bald. I swear it wasn't my swimming that caused this just bad genetics, it did start when I was about 18 though; crap, maybe it was swimming. It was good stuff; I spent about 25 hrs a week submerged in chlorine and had decent hair then.

I remember Infusium 23 well.

Ok, explain it to me.

Because "transgender" is an adjective, like -- as the Savage Love column points out -- "gay" or "white." You would say, "He is a gay man," not "He is a gayed man," and transgender works the same way.

What kind?

I would love to participate in one of those little crafty chains but unfortunately, I can't make anything with my hands. I've considered writing complex SQL update queries for people, but my friends don't seem to want those as much as cute little knitted hats.

Maybe you could just offer tutorials on what complex SQL update queries even are. I would be interested in that.

I inferred the difference between transgender vs. transgendered to be that the former were born that way (regardless of whether they'd had the surgery to make their equipment match their identity), whereas the latter had undergone the surgery.

Wow, this is very interesting, the way your mind had contorted itself to make sense of complex issues. But nope, that actually has nothing to do with it.

OP here. I understand the URGE behind that freak-out. I once went off the deep end in a discussion with family members who kept talking about trans* issues using all the wrong pronouns, and who teased me for overreacting the more heated I got about insisting on the correction. I was suddenly struck when I heard one of them say, from the next room, "I just feel like [OP] is about 20 years ahead of us on these issues."


It's not that they didn't care and were being callous; it's just that about a full 90% of what I was telling them was alien to them, and living in Super-Justice Bubble for so long had made me overestimate how prepared the average citizen is to discuss these topics, let alone be prepared to defend themselves in an oral examination. They're familiar with trans* issues BEING issues, but they still need time to work out all the logistics in their heads, and all the reasons behind campaigning for certain rights (e.g., using the bathroom or locker room as your identified gender, which makes a LOT of cisgendered people freak out).


So when I see posts on Tumblr that say things like, "I am SICK of cis people being ignorant fools about all this. You no longer have an excuse," I feel uneasy. No, you don't have an excuse if you frequent spaces regularly discussing these issues, but how frequently does it come up at the water cooler at work?


It IS, in fact, possible to be that oblivious, and all we end up doing is making these people's first encounters with certain issues - from sexuality to religion to gender to mental health and beyond - be hostile and negative. The Twitter pile-ons seem like they're solving something, but when people are attacked en masse, their first instinct is automatically to double down and defend themselves, not to engage in soul-searching.

This: "It is, in fact, possible to be that oblivious."

Is a really valuable phrase that is worth repeating, in lots of different situations, probably.

looks like a very bad Chief Illini.

...the mascot for the University of Illinois? What?

Women live in actual fear of being raped. No one actually cuts men's equipment off (even if it has happened a couple of times). There are lots of times when it just sucks to be a person these days (or probably just ever), but I think it probably sucks a lot worse to be a woman. It's good that the good of people greatly outweigh the bad though.


There's always winter surfing in Duluth on Lake Superior. Link:

Good god, Minnesotans.

But he can be a - tanned man, rumpled man, a broken man, a blue-eyed man, a red-headed man, etc. This is just the kool kids coming up with the new lingo.

I think we need a copy editor fanatic in here to tell us the difference between these kind of adjectives. I'm sure there is one.

Sorry -- Mal-inois, Ill-inois. Never mind. I guess it was too strained.

Ah. Yeah. No. Malinois is pronounced "Mal - in - wah," not "Mal - ih - noy," so it doesn't even remotely sound the same.

"ed" represents a process that happens to you. you were not tan. then you tanned, you are tan now. by removing the "ed" you remove an implication that gender identity was something optional or developed, rather than something intrinsic to your personhood.

I buy this, but it doesn't compute with another example the poster offered: blue-eyed. I was born with my blue eyes; they are intinsic to my personhood, and yet I am blue-eyed, not blue-eye.

My dad banned Cool Runnings to Winter Olympics years only (not because he doesn't like it, he does), I think there was a rationale for this. I don't remember what. Anyway. It felt plausible when his hair froze and he broke it off and looked so Sanka-ish about it.

This is a really good point, and we should all probably base our knowledge of  cold weather on the movie "Cool Runnings."

I feel like I have to turn in both my hipster and feminist buttons because I HATED "Top of the Lake." I couldn't even get through the first episode - I think I turned it off with 10 minutes left to go - because it was so twee.

Well, then it's definitely good we didn't talk about it here today.

OP, here. I am not crafty, so I write poems for people. Other people bake stuff. Feel free to offer what you can do.

"Feel free to offer what you can do" is actually the lesson of this entire chat, I think. So with that, I'll sign off.


I may have a conflict next Thursday, so check back for updates to see if we've been cancelled or not. I hope we're still on. Good to see you all again, and 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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