Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Feb 20, 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, and thanks for stopping by. I've just come back from a vacation of literally no Internet access. Such abject deprivation! Please tell me what's going on in the world, and what we should discuss today.

I confess, I'm just not that into it. I watched the first season out of duty because I wanted to know what everyone was talking about. But I didn't watch any of the second season when it came out this weekend. And now, I guess, my question is, how soon do I have to watch it before I will be so far behind the times that I don't have to watch it at all?

Excellent question. What you're really asking for is an algebraic formula that somehow combines these two factors: X = The popularity of a show, Y = The staying power of a show, Z = ...I don't know, how much you hate the show?


In any case, I think that if you don't enjoy House of Cards, and if you haven't watched any of it in the next week, then you don't have to bother watching it. People who love the show have already seen it; it's what they spent the weekend doing. Spoilers are already out there. Everyone will be sick of talking about it pretty soon. Give yourself a break.

A dustup on sci-fi forums where whiny men complain about women in science fiction. It seemed like it would be up your alley.

I didn't see it. (Remember? Tragic Internetless person), but it's not totally surprising. Though it is fairly disappointing that people are still using a "It's hypocritical for her to be a feminist; she wears flattering clothing" argument.

I feel that way about Downton Abbey. Liked the first few seasons, but there's less and less textile porn and more and more soap-opera plotting. Too bad they didn't just end the series when That Main Character left.

And at this point, That Main Character could actually refer to one of several departures we've experienced on the show. Sidenote: When I interviewed some of the writers last year, they mentioned that it was much easier to write off the downstairs staff, because they could always just leave to get better jobs. But the upstairs family -- pretty much the only way for them to realistically leave is...to die.

At this point, I absolve you from having to watch any more Downton Abbey. You have seen a few seasons. You are culturally conversant. You are fine. I wish I had offered myself the same absolution with Breaking Bad. I still have 10 episodes left, I must finish, but frankly I think I should have just stopped a season ago.

I found out that Disney released most of the first two seasons of Gargoyles on Youtube, and have been obsessively sneaking five minutes of an episode when I can.

Well, but it's current to *you*.

I always ask my fellow Illinois emigrants how they feel about snow. Did you move here to escape it, or does it make you irrationally happy?

I never like it when East Coasters assume that because you're from a place of frozen tundra, you should be "used to" the cold. 5 degrees is freezing, period, any time, any place.

Also: I think it's just easier to be cold in the Midwest. We have heated garages, back yards, and parking lots. You can run from your house to the car to the office and never have to spend more than a minute outside. In cities, we're waiting for buses, walking the dog -- it's a much more miserable cold experience.

But my BFF still loves DA and wants to talk about it on our way to our weekly yoga class. First World Problem, I know. My husband wants to talk about Breaking Bad, but I really REALLY couldn't get into that one.

I'm so glad you say that. Breaking Bad wasn't too dark for me, it was just too...not interesting enough.

Or emigrate, or marry. If Lady Edith's older suitor hadn't dumped her at the altar (a real eye-roller, I thought), she could have faded out quietly or just appeared every once in a while. Too bad it was her sister who wanted off the show.

But there's been such a resurgence of Lady Edith love recently. She drives tractors! She writes columns! She takes trips to London on her own and has quietly become an interesting character.

Yes. And if you move to a milder climate, you get unused to it pretty fast.

Handling the cold: definitely not like riding a bike. Also -- now I'm on a roll -- Mid-Atlantic clothing stores do not sell coats that are nearly warm enough for Polar Vortex weather. Back in the Midwest, we understand that you can be attractive or your can be warm, and the whole population just kind of collectively chooses "warm" together.

Also, I think we're still getting plenty of "textile porn" on DA,- and from the same Ralph Lauren ads that play at the beginning. I don't care how many times I've seen them, I still drool! What was the favorite thing you did on your time away?

I did have a fabulous vacation. We visited these Mayan ruins in Belize that I had wanted to see for a long time.

You know what PBS ads I like? The Viking River Cruise ads. We should all be so lucky as vibrant retirees.

Every Monday there are articles all over the Internet that recap the latest episode of Downton Abbey. Less than five minutes of reading can keep the pre-yoga conversation flowing without having to watch if you're getting bored with it. And the last episode for the season is this coming weekend so you're almost home free anyway!

I vote to just take up a more obscure British television interest, like maybe "Wallender," and determinidly talk about that instead.

One day, I realized my walk from the metro to work was going to be bad - so I wore my ski pants, parka, and full-face balaklava to work. Did I look good, no. Did I stay warm, yes. Did I run an errand at a bank, heck no.

A few weeks ago on the bus, there was a woman wearing a blanket over a business suit. Not, like, a large, patterened pashmina. A fleece blanket. Over a suit.

So of course she must be punished for it. (Sorry if that's a spoiler.) What I hate is the telegraphing. Earl Rob't praises Matthew to the skies and thanks heaven for him, we cut to Lady Mary & the baby and Matthew being adoring, and BAM. Two hours of the first episode of this seaons with Bates and Anna glowing at each other so of course BAM in the next episode. It's getting annoying.

Mr. Bates is my least favorite character. There, I said it.

Augh, no, no, a thousand times no. I don't care how well done it is and how great the actors are (and I worship Kenneth Branagh & Tom Hiddleston), every episode made me want to slash my wrists. I quit after three.

What you're saying is that Wallender and Breaking Bad would be bad to watch back to back.

Oh, whoopsie -- here's something I forgot to mention at the beginning of the chat. As I may have mentioned last week, I started a new job at the Post, in the National section instead of the Style section. I want to continue with the chats. (Obviously). But I'm thinking about calling the chat something else, since I might no longer have the time to be as fully Internet conversant as Previous Job required me to be. Suggestions? For new chat names or chat formats? (Honestly, we talk about the Internet only half the time, anyway).

That's good. Or try Foyle's War. Love it! Or lately I've been enjoying Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. And the textile porn on that show is AMAZING!

For all of you who are not familiar with Miss Fisher, here is the show's description:


"Our lady sleuth sashays through the back lanes and jazz clubs of late 1920's Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger sharp wit."

is there any light, funny Scandinavian fiction? The novels that show up in the U.S. may be very well written, I agree that they are, but damn they're depressing. Do I have to stick with Pippi Longstocking?


Let me ask, though. Why are you interested in funny Scandinavian fiction, as opposed to regular funny fiction from other places? Interested in the culture? Or do you just think that Norwegian humor must be be weird and reindeer-filled?

It's not the web but if an app counts for the chat...I just downloaded it the other night for the heck of it and WOW that whole cougar thing is real. I'm in my 40s and went ahead and liked some cute young guys because eh, they won't like me back so who cares, but I could not have been more wrong. I don't know why people call me a cougar because I'm the one who feels like prey!

Good for you! (Cougar is a terrible word. Also, here is a funny Tumblr called "My Talking Tinder.")

Sooooo many people who claim to be admirers of the science-fiction genre just want a story about the past with rockets and alien babes tacked on. I used to moderate a science-fiction forum that hosted a baffling thread in which 60-something guys complained about having to stockpile enough incandescent light bulbs to last them the rest of their lives due to government bans.

This thread sounds pretty fantastic, actually, for sheer entertainment alone. I'm so pleased they all found each other online.

Yes. Scandinavia is beautiful, and they have some good food, and great government, so do the authors think it necessary to revolt against the idea that it's a great place to live?

Well, it's also very, very cold. And they spend large swathes of time in the dark. That's got to be a bummer -- and create a setting that is ready-made for crime fiction.

Ditto on the recaps! I've never seen an episode of Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, or any of the other popular shows. BUT, because I read recaps of everything, I can participate in office break room conversations. And this isn't cynicism; I DO get into the narratives and look forward to updates, but if I were actually watching ALL of these shows (including the ones I haven't listed here), I would have to budget something like 10 extra hours a week just for television. Ain't nobody got time for that!

It's true. Watching a few episodes of a show, just so you can put names with faces, and then moving onto recaps is an acceptable solution, and the only way to keep one's head above water.

Me again! That description you posted just makes me want to watch it all over again!

It makes me want to watch it for the first time.

ok, thanks to your posting of the description, there is yet another show I MUST find. I cant tell you how many interesting things (books, columns, essays, TV programs) I've looked into based on the chatters and your suggestions, Thank you! I'm still mulling over ideas for a possible name change..

Oh, that makes all of us so glad!

Thomas Barrow is mine. He's turned into Voldemort, which is just silly.

There doesn't even seem to be an reason for his evilness. It's one thing to be a scheming footman who dreams of bigger things and is tortured because he has to hide his sexuality. But at this point, he's out of the closet and he's been promoted to under butler, and really -- why must he continue to be so unpleasant?

Also the milder regions don't generally have the infrastructure in place that the northern Midwest does. Many buildings are not insulted as heavily, most road surfaces and bridge structures are designed to handle heat, not wicked cold, etc.

Exactly. Exactly. It is so much easier to weather the weather in the Midwest, even if the weather is objectively much colder.

Based on my stoic and fatalistic North Dakotan relatives, I used to think that Norwegians have no sense of humor, but those "what does the fox say" guys seem pretty funny and and Garrison Keillor has his moments. The food is hilarious, although I'm not sure that's intentional.

It's not their fault. They don't exactly live in a climate designed for farming. Any culture that thinks to soak fish in lye and then eat it should be commended for creativity, if nothing else.

Yes! This!

Yes! That!

And I'm wondering how all three of Mary's suitors will die considering she's going through them quicker than Spinal Tap went through drummers. Maybe some tragic hunting accident that I thought was going to befall #2.

I see this is just going to turn into a Downton Abbey chat, and I should just roll with it?

I'm sorry, I'm not usually one to nitpick spelling errors just for sport, but this is glorious. I pictured angry Midwesterners standing outside and saying cruel and hurtful things to their homes and offices to make them emotionally strong against the bad weather.

"You call yourself insulation? You couldn't protect a Hawaiian village in a light breeze."


Would that one day he would wake up and say, you know what? I just realized I don't have to be a doink.

and Carson lets him get away with not subbing as a footman when it's needed, which I really can't believe. Also, Carson lets him smoke during meals. Equally unbelievable.

Carson is kind of a homophobe, though, so maybe he's just trying not to engage with Thomas in general.

the monica blog. monica talks about anything. talk to monica about anything. the thursday blog. monica on thursdays. How am I doing?

Great! Except nothing with my name in it, please. Other than that, Great!

True story--I went on one 3 years ago. I'm 35. It was in Russia, and was great, but yeah, the friend I went with and I definitely brought down the average age. A LOT of retirees of whom I'm insanely jealous. A lot of them just go from cruise to cruise.

I bet the men all wear neatly pressed khakis and loafers, and the women have tasteful scarves and nice haircuts. And that all of them know how to dance.

So much to comment on today. I lived in the great frozen tundra of the Upper Midwest (i.e., Minneapolis) for 14 years. Have been back in Maryland for 20 years now and am ashamed to note that I have become a cold weather wuss. I don't enjoy it but I still know how to shovel snow and drive in snow. Unlike other people, dammit! Also, have spent a lot of time in the Nordic Countries - mainly Iceland, but also Denmark and Sweden. Alas, I have only ever flown over Norway. Their literature in general is not happy, happy, joy, joy. (Neither is their art. I still remember seeing a painting called "In Her Eyes, I Saw Death".) The winters are long, cold, and dark so you sit inside, read depressing novels, and drink coffee (and alcohol). The summers are sunny, bright, warm (not hot) and you sit outside and party and drink.

Thank you for these expert contributions. Of these countries, I have only been to Norway. I did visit a bookstore. I don't remember it being overrun with only sad mysteries. But what do I know. They were all in Norwegian.

The All Roads Somehow Lead Back to British Pop Culture Chat.

We need to stop this nonsense. We probably chase away dozens of new people every week.

Tuesdays with Cupcake?

So you're suggesting not only renaming the chat but moving it to a different day entirely?

The Cupcake Chat.

I was thinking more like "Nerd Alert." That's totally welcoming, right? right?

Saw that your novel was up for an award. Congratulations! Sounds like you had a good few weeks.


Something about culture. But pop-culture since that's what it's always been about. Maybe a joke about like a throat culture? Yeah, I got nothin'.

The Strep Throat Blog.

Yeah, this is going places.

OK. The thursday blog. Talk-about-things on thursdays. the thursday show. the thursday talk. thursdays at two. There are endless possibilities.

Just so long as Thor continues to permit the existence of Thursdays. If he takes it back, we're totally out of luck.

"you're from Mississippi, you should be used to this heat and humidity."

I bet they do. Do we have southerners here to verify?

Can't be Tuesdays with Cupcake. Weingarten already uses Tuesdays with Moron. Maybe Effete Pop Culture chat?

"affected, overrefined, and ineffectual?" Really, you shouldn't have.

Just finished watching the first season (all three episodes, I know, but I had to do it in little pieces...hooray for devices that save the spot you left off). I really liked it! On a related note, have you and the chatters seen the Amazon thing where they have a bunch of TV pilots and you can watch them and vote on the ones you'd like to see? I watched a couple that I'd really love to see made into regular series! (Even if it does take me a month and a half to watch two whole shows.) www.amazonoriginals.com

I did recommend Bletchley Circle! So glad you liked it. But I haven't gotten into watching the Amazon original pilots, preferring to just wait until they decide what to make into a show. Which ones have you liked?

So, does the new job come with a larger desk and room for a larger plant?

No, but there is a large portrait of an unidentifiable politician over my new desk, if that's worth any points.

does that mean we have to be all serious about current events? I hope not.

No, but we might really have to start closely examining currant events.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, because Brits.

"Directed by Kenneth Branagh" could just be the name of the chat.

Doesn't really get to the subject matter though.

Do we ever really get to the subject matter, though?

the chat. the chat show. chat with me. chat with me, please. chat about stuff. how am I doing? Pick a title, any title.

Chat with me...OR ELSE.

Now all that remains is for us to select the flavor of jam.

And for me to change my name to Jam.

Is it Henry Jackson? Are you able to post a link to a photo of this photo? It would be interesting to find out who it is. It could be sort of contest with no prize except the pride of being the first person to figure it out. Maybe it's Wilbur Mills?

I think it might be a Supreme Court Justice. It's not a portrait. It's an action shot, taken from profile. I shan't post a picture, because if it turned out it's someone really famous, like Clarence Darrow, I'll be really embarrassed for not knowing it. (It's not Clarence Darrlow. It sort of looks like Walter Cronkite, but the era is wrong.)

Kenneth Branagh is Irish, you twit.

Maybe that was the joke?

Because Germans.

Now we're onto something.

Okay, this was yet again a completely unproductive chat, so I feel really good about that. Next week I'll actually have topics. Prepare ye. 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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