Cocktail Chatter

Now, this would normally be a regularly scheduled installment of Cocktail Chatter, but we’re breaking early this week in honor of the fact that Netscape beat estimates yesterday, losing just 2 cents a share for the quarter (way to go, guys!). So it’s Wednesday afternoon as I’m writing this, and Wednesday evening is kind of early to start the weekend, even when you don’t have an actual job to go to in the morning. While more than a few of you have written me to explain that no one actually goes to cocktail parties any more–those of you who feel this way should think of “cocktail party” as a kind of empty signifier, meaning whatever you want to mean–it’s definitely true that no one goes to cocktail parties on Wednesdays any more. South Park, after all, has to be watched in a completely sober state.

All of which is a longwinded way of saying that this week we’re calling our offering “Talking Points,” seven business-related conversational openings you can use when you’ve been flummoxed by a special prosecutor, an angry neighbor, or boring children. Think of them as the tactical equivalent of “Hey, your shoe lace is untied.”

[Most of Slate is taking off next week, but “Moneybox” will continue with its regular schedule, as will Randy Cohen’s “NewsQuiz,” which should be the first thing you read every morning, or the last thing you read every night.]

 1. “Tower Records is going to start selling CDs and books over the Internet, which means, the company said, that ‘Whether you are mad for Madonna in Mozambique or avid for ABBA in Alaska,’ you’ll be able to satisfy your desires at Tower. Think how long it must have taken them to come up with that. ‘Whether you are bonkers for Brandy in Britain or wild for Wilco in Wyoming or kooky for Coolio in Kazakhstan …’ Okay, I’ll stop now.”

2. “Yesterday’s big bounce in the market was called by some a ’ reliefrally’ after Clinton’s apology Monday. What did the market expect? That Clinton was going to tear off his mask and reveal that he was, in reality, Maynard G. Krebs?”

3. “Russia’s devaluation of the ruble, just days after Yeltsin insisted that the country would not devalue, did not do wonders for the government’s credibility. But it was, as George Soros, the right and brave thing to do. In the end, money is only worth what someone will pay for it.”

4. “Alan Greenspan keeps his investment portfolio almost entirely in short- term Treasuries. I wonder if he’s ever been tempted to sell the stock market short and then call a press conference to announce that he thinks a monumental crash is imminent.”

5. “Dell posted stunning blow-out quarterly results yet again. It’s strange that people seem to assume that manufacturing is so easy, when a comparison between Dell and all of its competitors would show just how hard making things as well as Dell does is more magical than almost anything else.”

6. “Ron Perelman’s pulled another one out of the hat, salvaging a little from the Sunbeam debacle by getting the company’s board to give him millions of options to buy the company’s stock at a low price. That’s ‘give.’ Needless to say, no other Sunbeam shareholders have benefited from the board’s largesse.”

7. “Why is it that despite their best efforts, the rulers of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) still can’t get rid of that ‘formerly known as Burma’ tagline?”

7a. “Can you buy Coca-Cola in Myanmar? Or is that a deportable offense as well?”