Scotty Lago, Scott Brown and the most helpful Web site of all time -- The Web Hostess

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Monica Hesse
Wednesday, February 24, 2010; 1:00 PM

This week, Monica Hesse discusses Olympian Scotty Lago becoming the ultimate Internet photo causality, the social media backlash for Sen. Scott Brown and reveals one of the best Web sites ever for making sure you're not behind the Internet curve.

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Monica Hesse: Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by.My favorite sites of the week are www.youshouldhaveseenthis.com and youshouldhavealsoseenthis.com -- each containing 99 must-see memes and videso and dedicated to making you an informed Internet consumer.Take a minute and scroll through, then come back to brag about how many you've seen, or snottily discuss how incomplete the lists are.Also on the Interwebs this week: Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago became the latest casualty of Don't Put That Online when photos of women kissing his unfortunately-placed medal circulated on TMZ. He left Vancouver.Question: Was it right for him to leave? Does the inclusion of Team USA gear in the photo effect your opinion? What if he was not a snowboarder but, say, a ski-archer? Does that change your thoughts about him? Why is ski-archery a sport?Also: Sen. Scott Brown's body was up for online discussion again this week, not because of the Cosmo nudie pics we've discussed before, but because of the revelation that he used to wear pink leather shorts. Question: Which is worse -- barely-covered man bits in Cosmo, or pink leather shorts? Please defend your answer.Also: My colleague Michael Rosenwald had a popular piece in earlier this week about smart phone addiction. Question: How many of you found these people sort of normal? How many of you pretended to find them appalling, while secretly finding them sort of normal?Okay, that should be enough to get going. Let's start.

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Epic Beard Man: How long do you think the EBM meme will play out? The more I see this guy, the sadder I feel about him. The original video (NSFW language) was riveting and some of the mash-ups are pretty funny - but the guy obviously has some serious issues.

Monica Hesse: (Epic Beard Man, for those a little behind, is a secretly video'd and racially charged confrontation between two men on an Oakland bus.) what makes it compelling as human theater. But in terms of its spreadability as a meme, it has several other things making it work. It's an out-of-context moment in time, which makes users want to fill in the backstory or sidestories with their own videos and responses. It comes with its own mysteries and phrases (Amber Lamps has take on a whole new meaning).This video is pretty interesting because it exists at junctions of poignant, scary, ridiculous, and a whole bunch of other things. I'd love to hear other people's responses.

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More than the Internet?: Just stumbed over Julia Nunes on YouTube. Did she seriously build a career out of Youtube videos? And CafePress? Or was there something else before? I mean, I like her music, I'm just bewildered. Are we already living in the future?

Monica Hesse: Hmmm, I actually don't know anything about Julia Nunes other than the ukelele thing. That being said, she wouldn't be the first performer to build a career entirely out of an Internet presence. That's where Tila Tequila came from, and Justin Bieber, and lots of others I'll think of as soon as I hit "publish."

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How it Should Have Ended: This could well fall into the category of "viral things I just learned about but everyone else has known forever" (your article a couple weeks ago), but my new favorite time waster is How it Should Have Ended.These are 2-5 minute mashups of movies, most of them pretty funny. And if this is old news to the Web Hostess and her followers, please be gentle with me.

Monica Hesse: Evilly, the sound on my computer just died, so I haven't gotten a chance to look at any of these. But I consider a half-hour of my evening now spoken for.

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Scotty Lago: Between this and the Michael Phelps bong photos, what kind of media training do you think the USOC should adopt?

Monica Hesse: The athletes, you mean? before they win a medal. They're not used to rowdy bar pics becoming fodder on TMZ.In general, they probably need the mantra that everyone needs these days: Don't do it if you don't want it on the Internet. Or is that too cut and dry?

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g-chat etiquette?: Whenever I log onto gmail or Facebook, there are a few people who always initiate a chat. I'm fine with saying hi, but none of these people are particularly good friends, and I just don't need to have daily -- or even weekly -- conversations with them.But I feel awkward saying "gotta go," when it's quite apparent by the fact that I remain signed on that I DON'T have to go.Etiquette, here? I don't want to be rude, but sometimes I'm on Facebook just to check out my sister's baby photos, not to talk with my high school lab partner.The two activities don't mix. It's like I'm in the bathroom and someone keeps asking me to make them an omelet.

Monica Hesse: The passive answer is configuring your settings to "invisible," so these people don't know when you're online.But that should be a last resort, when really all you need to do is set a few boundaries. (Typing that made me gag a little).It's both possible and acceptable to politely decline a chat request, by saying nearly what you've written above: "Hey! Great to hear from you. I'm actually only on here to look at my new niece's baby photos, then I really need to get back to work. Hope all is well." If you find a way to work toilets and omelets into that, well, awesome.But any regular user of Facebook or Gmail will understand that there are many reasons you might be hanging out on the site, and not take offense when you can't talk.

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I don't get the Lago Controversy: It's his medal, he can do whatever he wants with it. If people have a problem with it, they should feel free to win their own Olympic medals and treat them in the manner that they deem appropriate.I can't help but shake the feeling that a lot of this "controversy" is being sparked by...we'll just say "traditionalists" who don't even think that snowboarding should be in the Olympics to begin with.

Monica Hesse: "What can you expect from a sport where the uniforms include fake jeans with fake rips and giant plaid shirts?"

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Snowboarders: Really, shouldn't the various Olympics poohbahs be relieved that this is the worst thing a snowboarder was caught doing?

Monica Hesse: Snowboarder discrimination! Snowboarder discrimination!But, um, yeah.

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Scotty and Privacy: I say cut Scotty Lago a ton of slack. The bigger issue here has to do with the future of privacy, which most media theorists imagine will be pretty well done in a few years, as the ability to record and upload becomes even more ubiquitous than ever.Sure, you can say that "you should never do something you'd be ashamed for others to know about," but in my case that would include disclosure of endless hours watching poker on television, which probably doesn't do my professional image much good.The point is that we used to allow folks a private life to do all sorts of things, some of them really stupid. Like letting people kiss your medal. Stupid is sometimes healthy. I could go all Foucault on you and use a fancy word like "panopticon" (guess I just did), but my point is that the day we have to worry about every single aspect of life getting put out there is the day I think we lose lots of freedoms.

Monica Hesse: I take, and agree with, all of your points. Unfortunately, I think that the theoretical day you speak of has already arrived -- at least for "celebrities" who are even vaguely in the public eye. We've tacitly accepted, for years now, that being Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie means that you give up some privacy in exchange. What's interesting is that we're in an age where our definition of "celebrity" is ever-widening, and we're finding it increasingly acceptable to invade their lives in ways we wouldn't have 10 or 15 years ago.For those of you who stayed awake after "panopticon," there are a few good books about this subject that I'll come back with next time. Relate to the Internet and everything.

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Internet addiction: The Rosenwald piece reminded me to ask you something -- did you have any thoughts on Internet Addiction not making the cut for the DSM-V as a diagnosed psychiatric disorder?

Monica Hesse: What's interesting is that it qualifies as a disorder in other countries -- China's in big trouble with its Internet Addiction camps -- so the U.S. might eventually follow suit.I'm no psychiatric expert, but it seems that if gambling is a diagnosed disorder, the Internet should be as well. Thoughts, chatters?

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Lago and the Kiss: You know, I think that the Russian figure skaters' behavior was in poorer taste than the Lago photo. They should have left the games because of their whiny and boorish behavior after not winning gold. If anything is against the Olympic "spirit", it is that.

Monica Hesse: Best outcome of the Russian figure skater's behavior -- and maybe Paul can find a screen grab if we asked nicely -- was that after winning the silver, he went to his personal web page and invented a new medal. Told everyone he'd won platinum. Bless him.

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Cosmo vs. pink leather shorts: Cosmo left something to the imagination. Pink leather shorts burn into your retinas.

Monica Hesse: I haven't even seen them and I have bad dreams about them.

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How 'bout them Curling Pants: Far more obscene than Lago's medal kiss are those Norwegian curler's pants, which I'll confess loving.. Clearly this is a potent meme, with 400,000+ Facebook fans by yesterday.

Monica Hesse: Zubaz pants!

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Smart phones: The article on Smart Phone users reminded me of my husband. We had to have "a talk" about a week ago, when he was on his iPhone during our entire dinner out. Every time I would try to tell him to put it away, he'd say "oh, I'm just checking my email." Finally, when the check came, he was like, "I can't believe we're done already. That was so quick" even though we'd been sitting for an hour.

Monica Hesse: So, at what point did his steak end up in his lap?

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Re: Gmail and FB Chat: Or you could, I don't know, NOT sign into chat when you are on FB and Gmail. Duh. At least set your status as "unavailable."

Monica Hesse: Well, yeah. But sometimes you might want to talk to one person but not another, or talk to one person but only for a minute. Seems like there's no need to hide behind key functions and have technology protect us, when we should all learn to just say "Can't talk now."

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Panopticon: If the public likes you, your transgressions and pictures are forgiven (see Charlie Wilson). If the public hates you, tongues will cluck (see Bill Clinton). For most of us, the public is indifferent, with the exception of Mom (please don't tell her about the Internet).

Monica Hesse: "the public's" transgressions will be up there, too. And people who sit behind glass computer screens shouldn't throw stones.

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spoiler assistance: My two roommates and I are in need of some definitive spoiler rules before we all start seeking alternative living arrangements.The situation: We are all fans of Lost. We are just not fans of Lost at the same time. I have been a fan from the beginning, and watch it every Tuesday when it plays live.Roommate B has class evenings, so she watches it online when she has time, usually Thursday or Friday.Roommate C is a latecomer and frantically trying to catch up with Netflix. He tries, but the lad is still stuck in the weeds of season 3.Dirty looks abound whenever one of us (okay, me) accidentally mentions something, and Roommate C was huffy for two days when B and I accidentally mentioned we were so glad that **** wasn't really ****.Fer cryin' out loud. How long must we be silent in order to obey the law of the unholy spoiler?

Monica Hesse: Chatters? What are the spoiler rules in your house?I'm also forwarding this to my Smart Sister Paige, who dealt with this very same issue in Battlestar Galactica form. I'm pretty sure that all of her roommates are still living.

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"Can't Talk Now": What do you do with people who ignore that? I can't count how many times people ignore my "Busy" and "Do Not Disturb" IM statuses at work. It's as if they think I am saying "I'm too busy for anyone but YOU, because you're such a special little snowflake!"

Monica Hesse: Those people, you just ignore. It's the IM equivalent with ending a phone conversation with "OkaythiswasgreatbutIdoneedtoletyougonowbye."And if they get petulant about it, you probably start to wonder why they're on your friend list to begin with.Or you block them. You block them and you shed one, single tear for lack of Internet etiquette.

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Retracting a friend request?: On Hax's chat last week, there was a guy who wrote in about his ex repeatedly sending him a friend request and then retracting it. He took this as a sign that she was obsessed with him. I don't think you can retract a friend request, can you? My guess is that it just appears to be going away because of all the updates and technical issues that FB has.

Monica Hesse: I saw that too, and wondered the same thing. Didn't have a chance to check it out, though.Either way, I got the sad feeling that this ex was being perceived of as a crazy person, when she might have just been the victim of technology.

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Widening Celebrity: The Web Hostess wisely notes that celebrities have fairly much forfeited (though I don't know that they signed any contracts) any sense of privacy. Also wise is the notion that "celebrity" is expanding, even for a Warhol-like 15 minutes. I read an article in some paper today about whether 911 calls should be kept private. A woman who phoned in the beating death of her daughter (I think) was treated to a replay on the nightly news the next day. As long as we like to see people going down on medals or hear a woman scream on the phone as her daughter dies (bear with the extremes of that continuum), we feed this drive for ever-more disclosure, permission be damned.

Monica Hesse: Solution? Changing the channel? Throwing out your computer? Sometimes we click on things just to be outraged -- so that we can listen to the 911 call, and feel sickened that it was recorded. But calling into the station to protest that it was replayed only tells them one thing: People are watching. Yay.I wonder what responsibility consumers have in halting the cycle.

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re: spoiler assistance: Ohh, this is the future of TV! If you're havng problems now, just wait. I mean, this seems like common courtesy! Don't talk about Lost while Roommate C is around unless he initiates conversation. I forgot-- folks who watch Lost can't seem to talk about anything else...Sorry that was an easy shot and I had to take it.

Paul Williams: Did we mention the Lost chat is coming up at 2?

Monica Hesse: Yeah, I'm going to have to skedaddle soon and submit my new theor -- I mean, work on a very important article.

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Monica Hesse: And on that note -- thanks for stopping by, and I'll chat with you next week.


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