Cocktail Chatter

Turkeynomics, Mahna Mahna, and 20 Pies for 19 People

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Turkey Tussle
Turkey Tussle
Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Occupy the Gravy: Slate’s annual guide to your Thanksgiving dinner-table arguments,” by John Dickerson. It’s inevitable. At some point over hors d’ouevers, or while everyone is passing the stuffing and cranberries, a political debate will break out at your family dinner. Want to be prepared? Check out John Dickerson’s annual argument-settler, wherein he argues both sides of the big issues, from the supercommittee to Occupy Wall Street to the race for the GOP nomination.

20 Guests, 19 Pies: What happens when a Thanksgiving tradition gets completely out of hand,” by David Plotz.  Who says Thanksgiving can’t be an extravagant affair? That is, when it comes to pie. From pumpkin to mocha buttercrunch, read one family’s delicious—and delightfully excessive—take on a beloved November tradition. 

Mahna Mahna: How a ditty from a soft-core Italian movie became the Muppets’ catchiest tune,” by Sam Adams. Even if you didn’t tune in to The Muppet Show’s 1976 premiere, chances are you can still sing one of the episode’s original tunes: Mahna Mahna. But unlike Kermit the Frog or the Snouths, the ubiquitous melody didn’t originate in Jim Henson’s imagination. Warning: If you read this story and watch the charming YouTube clips, you may drive Thanksgiving guests crazy with incessant, uncontrollable humming. 

The Supercommittee Failed. Hooray!: How the absence of a deal may cut the deficit more than a deal would have,” by Matthew Yglesias. Earlier this week, the supercommittee’s failure to agree on, well, anything, became a disappointing reality for most Americans. But was their lack of compromise actually a blessing in disguise? Yglesias contends we’ll receive both more tax increases and spending cuts than we would have if the Supercommittee had succeeded, making its so-called “failure” a boon for deficit reduction.

Moneybox: A blog about business and economics,” by Matthew Yglesias. Want to keep a finger on our nation’s economic pulse? Check out Moneybox, a new blog by Matthew Yglesias, Slates new business and economics correspondent. Before joining the magazine, Yglesias worked for ThinkProgress, the Atlantic, TPM Media, and the American Prospect. This week, he’s already tackled subjects like unemployment benefits, the European debt crisis, and how currency speculators help cheesemongers.

This Book Is 119 Years Overdue: The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago,” by John Plotz. What do the books we read say about us as individuals, and our place in society? “What Middletown Read”—a database that tracks the borrowing records of Muncie, Indiana’s public library between 1891 and 1902—tackles this question head-on. The database stratifies its residents’ reading habits by age, gender, class, and more. John Plotz bridges past and present, drawing critical links between what we read and who we are.

How Douching Is Like Dial-Up: Summer’s Eve seeks to reinvent its brand,” by Seth Stevenson. These days, douching seems as ancient as dial-up, with just 12 percent of women aged 18-44 using the feminine hygiene products. But the architects of Summer’s Eve – a category-leading brand of lady’s douches—aren’t worried. They’re swapping their flagship product with a line of “external cleansing and freshening products” that appeals to an entire “post-douche” generation of women—and their gynecologists.

Opposites Attract: Gingrich vs. Romney: One’s too safe, the other’s too dangerous,” by John Dickerson. Talk about contrast: From Newt Gingrich’s “rock-‘em, sock’em” theatrics, to Mitt Romney’s “safe and steady” articulations, it’s clear the two GOP frontrunners couldn’t be more different. But who will be the last man standing? Read Dickerson’s take on what each candidate is selling—and what it means for swing voters next November.

Is Lady Gaga a Satanist Illuminati Slave? Pop music’s strangest conspiracy theories,” by Jonah Weiner. Okay, we admit it: the blogosphere’s a crazy place. For one, it’s crawling with conspiracy theorists with all sorts of half-baked ideas about the celebrity world. But how many people actually believe Jay-Z is an Illuminati puppet? Read on for more of pop music’s wildest—and most entertaining—speculations.

Can an Airline Pilot Really ‘Make Up’ Time During a Flight? Is it just a way of calming passengers?” by J. Bryan Lowder. Flying home for Thanksgiving? Here’s to hoping your pilot will get you to your destination as quickly as possible (he technically can make up some time during the air). But remember, faster isn’t always better when it comes to air travel: Burning more fuel over a shorter period of time could add thousands of dollars to overall flight expenses. Read on to learn how pilots save you time without hurting your wallet.

Too Cute To Eat: An Homage to Turkeys”: As you and your loved ones gather ‘round the table this Thanksgiving, take a moment to salute the noble bird that made it all possible: the turkey. Here, photographs from Life comprise a precious slideshow for America’s surprisingly adorable fowl.