Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jan 23, 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.

Afternoon, everyone! Thanks for coming. I'm neck-deep in a fascinating story and didn't realize how late it was until right about now. (Said fascinating story is also why the chat was cancelled last week -- I was on the road, but I missed you.) Let's hope you all have interesting things to talk about, hmm?

Have you noticed these commercials in our area? Since when are bomb shelters making a comeback?

Oh man, I've always wanted to visit a bomb shelter. Who has one? Who will invite us all over?

Cupcake, even though you thought you were joking, you and Dan called it correctly on the male up-do! Not one, but two at the Golden Globes. Confess, did you call Dan and squeal?

You mean these fine examples of fancy lady hair? 

You bet Dan and I squealed. We did it over email instead of phone, but there was a lot of self-satisfied smugness.

That was a great article on the "50 Shades" musical. I want to please make my observation: I understand the original book was written by a woman who was too embarrased to discuss her fantasies with her husband so she put them down in writing. I think the message to the public from all this should be: feel free to communicate with your partner what you desire. You may need to be prepared to discover that your partner does not share your fantasies, yet you should both agree to listen. If the parties are able to accomodate each other, the relationship should improve. If not, at least you have a better understanding of each other. Chances are, you may find agreement, as some things are common fantasies but often considered taboo, and the couple may indeed mutally benefit. I just think that is better than your spouse or partner discovering it in a book, or more likely for most couples, in an Internet search history.

Okay. Except I bet that E.L. James's husband is pretty dang happy with how things have turned out.

Oh, and here's a link to that 50 Shades story.

The NSA looked at your Internet search history, and they have determined you are all right.

They obviously weren't searching hard enough. I Google all sorts of concerning things.

Dear Web Hostess, why is it SO hard to find what chat is happening daily on the Washington Post website? Often the front page has past chats listed under Discussions, and the 'Q&A' page it often wrong or a re-direct to the home page. I'm surprised any of us find ya'll at all! It's frustrating because the chats overall are quite literally my favorite thing on the Internet!

Oh, we make it difficult on purpose. Have to make sure that none of the wrong riff raff are getting in here.

What did you think of the Jezebel/Lena Dunham/Vogue controversy?

Or, controversette, as the case may be. To recap: "Girls" star Lena Dunham appeared on the cover of Vogue. Feminist blog Jezebel offered $10,000 to anyone who would provide un retouched photos of Dunham's original photo shoot, which they got within an afternoon.


I thought it was...odd. I applaud blogs and actresses who speak out against extreme photoshopping, which forwards unrealistic body expectations for average women. But one of Lena Dunham's hallmarks has alwasy been how open she is in showcasing her less-than-perfect body. It seems strange that Jezebel would choose to go after someone who works to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And also unnecessary. We already know what Lena Dunham really looks like. Right?


Anyone else have thoughts?

I don't know if I'm late to this game or cutting-edge, but I think this is important to share: http://www.my1992diary.com

Thank you for this crucial contribution. And the blogger's 1992 self was completely right: Necessary Roughness is an amazing movie.

(BRB, I am starving and need an immediate sandwich. Please flood queue on your own for the next three minutes).

Well, my Gran's house in Georgia does. It was built buy her father in the early 1950s (and has been in the family ever since) and comes complete with a basement fall out shelter. It is currently the home of all sorts of strange and interesting artifacts.

What is the decor? Is there a sofa? Bunkbeds? Canned goods with old labels?

I felt a lot better about myself when I learned that it's actually extremely common for people to fall into the "it's 1 a.m., why am I sitting here reading about notorious unsolved murders on Wikipedia?" vortex.

Or, in my case last night, strange arsons.

the Wye Plantation on the eastern shore, owned by the Aspen institute has a very large bomb shelter. I have driven by it many times and wanted to go inside to see what it was like. It was put in decades ago by a private citizen worried about a nuclear blast in DC.

Oh MAN. The Eastern Shore is where I was traveling for work. Such despair to only learn about this now.

I think the bigger issue is that she started out writing it as Twilight fanfiction. It's pretty hard to communicate desires to one's partner if those desires are "I wish you to look like a very pale and sparkly Robert Pattinson. In a $3000 suit."

And yet you just communicated it so well...

I liked one commenter who noted if the original photos had been better, they would have needed fewer touch-ups. The lighting seemed very dark in the originals.

Interesting. I wonder what photographers and stagers would say about  photoshopping -- is there less of an incentive to get it perfect the first time, because photoshop is just going to swoop in an catch anything you missed? Visual spellcheck?

I don't think Jezebel (a site I'm not entirely a fan of) is going after Lena Dunham--they're going after Vogue. Although one wonders whether Lena Dunham had any say in the final pix.

Regardless of whether she had a say in the beginning, she's come out to say she's a fan of the pictures now, describing the purpose of Vogue as a fantasy, rather than reflection of reality.

I love a good PhotoShop Before-and-After as much as anyone, but that was just Mean Girl stuff disguised as feminism. They were clearly expecting her to look much worse than she did in those (quite lovely, actually) pictures, and when she didn't, they still ran with what seemed to be their planned "expose" on the shocking differences, some of which were as small as "raised neckline" or "moved knee." That was clearly a case where the site thought up the message they wanted to convey first ("PhotoShopping places unreasonable bodily standards on women"), and then forced a prominent female creative force who's been under intense scrutiny, both for her work and her body, into pushing their agenda against her will. Sounds like they were aiming for a hit-count extravaganza. They got one, but not in the way they were planning.

Yes, I meant to mention this in my first response. It seems that the original untouched images didn't look as shocking as they thought they would, so it's interesting they continued to go forth with the same premise. Rather than changing the post to, "Hey, Vogue -- good on you! This is more of what we'd like to see."

"Yeah, like... like... the guy in the $3000 suit is going to suck your neck and then chain you to a wall. COME ON!" </Arrested Development>

Never seen it [ducks]. But I -am- fully caught up on the first season of Veronica Mars, only nine years late.

Isn't the ultimate bomb shelter the one up in Greenbrier, WV., to which Congress-critters can repair in event of a nuclear disaster? Shhh, don't tell anyone, it's supposed to be a secret.

Bet thats a really classy bomb shelter. The Greenbriar is *expensive*

I thought I heard that Jezebel regularly acquires those photos. I am trying to figure if Lena Dunham's were so important because she's a champion for real bodies being on display. Are they calling hypocrisy? Or are they saying that it's even worse for Vogue to touch up somebody who is so open about her real appearance? I'm having a hard time figuring out which woman Jezebel is condemning.

I think they meant to do both of those things, yes, but as discussed, ended up seeing that, hey, Lena Dunham looks pretty good in Vogue, and also pretty good in un-retouched Vogue. 


On the topic of real women's bodies, did everyone get a gander at the salacious American Apparel mannequins?

I'm no fan of the show Girls, but why are people so annoyed at Lena Dunham for retouched photos of her. The magazine editors decide what to photoshop. It's not like she was behind it.

I imagine there are a few celebrities who are powerful enough that they could write "no retouching" clauses into contracts with magazines. But I imagine that Lena Dunham is not powerful enough, and the women who are would never opt for that. It's really a difficult situation. You might theoretically support natural photos in magazines, but if everyone else is being photoshopped within an inch of her life, are you going to raise your hand to be the celebrity with dark eye circles and back fat?

Oooh, can we just talk about that? I'm rewatching in anticipation of the movie--am in the middle of season 2.

It's really a show for middle aged men, to teach them the right way to talk to their teenage daughters. Right? That's the conclusion I'm drawing.

I don't care very much if he consumes alcohol, pot and prescription drugs, to his own detriment. However, I care A WHOLE LOT that his drag-racing potentially endangers life and limb of innocent others.

Poor Justin. After his rise to fame, he never really had a chance, did he?

In Soho, NY there's a large billboard on a building displaying gorgeous women, above which it reads "These Women Have Not Been Retouched." What a clever ad. It never said the photo wasn't retouched.

You mean this Aerie beauty campaign?

It has an antique bedroom set and once had a sofa. It has a bathroom that I've always thought was totally creepy and still refuse to use. It's also the site of general house storage and we're always finding new and interesting things down there (picture books from 1918? Magazines on JFK's assassination? Check! Aspirin from 1983? Check!)

Man, all I ever find in my grandmothers' basements are creepy broken baby dolls and back issues of Readers Digest.

I am amused by the Enter Topic box for comments, which suggests: Examples: Bipartisanship, Redskins Defense, Bridezillas. I am sure in some chat we have discussed Bipartisan Redskins Bridezillas. Or even Bipartisan Bridezilla Redskins.

I don't understand why people always complain about not being able to find the chats. They are always there, every day, on the bottom right-hand side of the home page in a list titled LIVE DISCUSSIONS. I use both Chrome and Firefox and that list is ALWAYS there.

Well, bless you. It works that way for me, too, and yet every week I get a few readers saying they can't find us.

Is this just about Buffet improving his social media score? "Win $1 billion" is the sort of thing that goes viral, but it does seem pretty goofy for his usual persona.

How many entries does each person get? Couldn't you just get together 100 of your closest friends and agree to cover as many permutations as possible? I mean, split the winnings 100 ways and you're all still millionaires.

Let's not be quick to assume that the Bieber's bad behavior is attributed to his drug and alcohol abuse. Not all addicts are jerks. If the rehab experience doesn't humble him enough then they should send him to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's farm.


I know pictures are photoshopped. And also that people on TV and in movies have access to fantastic lighting and reeeeally good makeup artists. But am I the only woman on the planet who doesn't compare myself to these idealized images? I wouldn't compare myself to a painting either, for crying out loud. Or am I perpetuating an unrealistic view of what women are "supposed" to look like by dyeing my hair? GASP!

You would be surprised, I think, at how insidious the retouched images are, especially to younger girls -- and boys, too -- who see magazines as "normal."

Yes. Scroll down and you'll see it reads "The girl in this photo has not been retouched." Of course SHE hasn't.

I dunno. I think you're over-reading. This entire campaign is built on the idea that they are anti-retouching. If it turned out that they were actually photoshopping up the wazoo and people found out, they would be in so much troubbbbbbllllllle.

This is precisely why people CAN'T find the chat. For me, the discussions thing appears on the left-hand side of the home page and is currently showing yesterday's lineup of discussions. Then I have to click the word "discussions" and go to "live online today". The "live online today" section is not updated regularly, though fortunately it's up to date today.

Hmm. How is this happening? For me, it's on the righthand side, and it's all the discussions that are happening right now.

He's made enough money and if he's somewhat careful, he's set for life. However, given what he's been doing, Celebrity Survivor and other has-been shows will soon have a new guest.

It's probably really easy to become addicted to fame. If he was smart -- if a lot of young stars were smart -- they would know when to bow out of the fame game, and spend the rest of their lives doing interesting things like getting PhDs or traveling to Mayan ruins or something. But it's so much easier said than done. I bet that as much as celebrities dislike paparazzi, it's really difficult to know how to function once they're gone.

Is it just me, or does everyone else think they look different in photos than how they look in the mirror? Sort of the visual equivalent of hearing your own voice on a recording

Someone told me once that in the mirror, we all think we're more attractive than we are, but photos are how we really look. I hope that's a lie.

My teacher used to read this to us when I was a kid. I just looked her up on Wikipedia. I had no idea that she was a widow to a pirate! She must have been quite the saucy broad back in the day.

The greatest.

Yes, but how awesome would that be? Don't tell me you wouldn't love to have that scoop. But why don't they say the photos aren't retouched. It sounds weird to say the women weren't retoucehd, doesn't it? I don't know. I'm just saying if I was a copy editor on that campaign I might bring that up and suggest a one-word change.

No, I like the "women" wording better. I think what it's doing is implicitly saying, "These are real people. We don't think they need to be 'fixed' like a photography project. They're women, not just something to point the camera at."

Why is the OP not just bookmarking this url: http://live.washingtonpost.com/? Then you know where to find every discussion for every day. Easy.


Actually, everyone does look different in photos than they do in mirrors. Mirrors reverse the image, photos don't. Unless, you have one of those non-reversing mirrors made for actors and the supremely vain.

Okay, but that would mean that if I looked in a photograph, I might appear to have a gargoyle eye on one side -- but if I looked in the mirror, I would still have a gargoyle eye, just on the other side. 


What I'm saying is that when I look in the mirror, I appear to be gargoyle-free, but in photographs I have gargoyles.

It seems to be getting a tad "ugly" in here...

It does? 

Go make friends with professional photographers. I once went to the birthday party of a photographer acquaintance, and the one picture of me on her Facebook page, where I'm making a strange expression and tilting my body in a strange way, still makes me look LUMINOUSLY BEAUTIFUL. I was like, "Dammit, why aren't I closer with you so that I can have constantly updated profile photos where I don't look like a spaz."


What also annoys me about this whole issue is that they seem to be placing an unrealistic standard on women to NOT want to look nice in photos, down to not retouching small imperfections, because body pride. But then when they're covering somebody with a, for lack of a better term, "less typically Hollywood" body like Melissa McCarthy, they rage at the magazines for NOT making her look more glamorous. I wish they'd just pick a sensible stance on photoshopping - namely, that it's a useful tool for 21st-century media, but overuse has made it dangerous from a societal standpoint - instead of using it as a weapon whenever the story fits their site-approved talking points. I say this as someone who reads Jezebel every day - it's just that lately, they've been alternately going soft and hard on certain issues with no rhyme or reason aside from how they make the editors and writers feel. See also: "Famous Actress Treated as Sex Symbol Instead of Capable Professional!" Next article: "Salivate Over These Hot Pictures of Your Boyfriend Idris Elba."

I'm just posting this flat out because there are many interesting observations here.

I helped my wife clean out her great grandmother's basement. we found lots of canned meat and canned vegetables decades out of date that had rotted. We did keep the cool old jars and lids though.

Oh, I hope they were canned creamed peas or other vegetables we don't see a lot of these days.

I work with professional athletes (not really the same thing as the Biebs, but a certain kind of fame) and a lot of them have a really difficult time walking away from fame. Even if you don't think you love the attention, that level of attention becomes your normal and often shapes how you define yourself. It can be just as devastating when it's gone.

Right. This says it well. It also makes me worry for college-level athletes. For four years they're treated as royalty and interviewed on national television every week. But most of them won't go on to be professional football or basketball players -- and how do you adjust when, the day after graduation, you've gone from being a god to being an office temp in an entry level position?

A good photo is a curse. I'd much rather people think I look better in person.

You think that now -- but in the future, isn't it more pleasant to think of your grankids saying, "Whoa, MeeMaw was a babe!" rather than, "I'm told MeeMaw wasn't so unfortunate looking in person."

After Googling this, now I want to buy one and install it in my bathroom, not out of vanity, but to prank house guests.

Please do this and tell us how it works. They're only $200-$300 dollars, for a lifetime of unnerving your friends.

She might as well make some quick cash off of someone trying to mock her.

Maybe she was behind the whole thing. First, she called up Jezebel and said, "You guys. Please offer a $10,000 reward." Then, she...

What are your thoughts on human/Operating System love affairs?

Mixed. I wish I'd seen this question earlier. I loved this movie. What did you all think?

Q: Does it bother you that so many people ask for an autograph? A: It will bother me when they don't.

Sellebrity is a pretty recent -- and pretty interesting -- documentary about the relationship between celebrities and their fame. Here's the trailer

I'm sorry to break it everyone, but we look like what we look like. When you ask someone "do I really look that bad in person" no one is going to say yes. But they would be telling the truth. People are equally shocked when they hear the sound of their voice. But guess what? We sound like that too.


If you're Jamie Lee Curtis you are.

But she didn't for years.

And then there's the Mindy Kaling controversy, where everyone was up in arms and she was like, "I think I look gorgeous!"

And she thought she did too!

That's all for now, guys. It's later than I thought it was. See you next week? Hopefully I'll be unburied from this project and able to get a jump on posting some discussion topics earlier. Until then, GSTQ.

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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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