Cocktail Chatter

Off-Color Jokes, Japanese Sissies, and Destroying Toys

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

“Grass-eating” men are perplexing the Japanese

1) “The Herbivore’s Dilemma: Japan panics about the rise of ‘grass-eating men,’ who shun sex, don’t spend money, and like taking walks,” by Alexandra Harney. The growing trend of placid, vegetarian dudes is troubling a nation already fretting over its declining birthrate and anemic economy.

2) “May I Smash Open Your New iPhone, Please? The strange allure of unboxing and tearing apart new gadgets,” by Farhad Manjoo. The practice of de-packaging and disassembling consumer electronics—and documenting the whole process—has become an Internet sensation.


3) “Guilt by Calculation: It takes more than an Excel spreadsheet to prove the Iranian election was fixed,” by Jordan Ellenberg. Just because the aggregate vote totals showed a remarkably smooth average victory for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that doesn’t mean it’s artificial. There’s a standard deviation at work (though the election could still be rigged).


4) “The Quiet American: Why Obama isn’t showing more outrage about the Iranian election,” by John Dickerson. The president has come under fire for his faint disapproval of the postelection crackdown. The problem is that it’s hard to cull an Obama-esque address from a situation that changes every minute.

5) “Schrödinger’s Elephant: The brain-twisting paradoxes facing Republicans on health care reform,” by Christopher Beam. Isn’t a public option good for competition? Do we even need reform? And isn’t a Republican the patron saint of universal care? Conservatives are mired in contradiction.


6) “Dirty Jokes: What kidding about sexual predators and innocent teens says about us. And them,” by Dahlia Lithwick. As the latest Sarah Palin/David Letterman dustup illustrates, a joke is never just a joke—it all depends on who’s doing the cracking.

7) “Decoding the Iranian Demonstrations: How today’s protesters are co-opting the symbols and slogans of the 1979 Revolution,” by Henry Newman. If you lived through the overthrow of the Shah—or even if your parents told you about it—the events of the last week will seem awfully familiar.

8) “The Death of Windows: Step aside, bloated operating systems. The Web browser is coming to save the day,” by Chris Wilson. Could there ever be a day when not only all tabs operate in one window, but all applications simply run through a browser? What an elegant thought!

9) “Barack the Zionist: Why President Obama’s approach to settlements is far better than Benjamin Netanyahu’s is,” by Gershom Gorenberg. Harkening back to the pioneering spirit of the Israeli settlers isn’t doing Israel any good—only equitable division of the land will lead to peace and prosperity for both sides.

10) “Will Seniors Kill Health Reform? The Heritage Foundation borrows from the Democratic playbook,” by Timothy Noah. Old people aren’t going to get anything out of a health care revamp—they’ve already got Medicare. And they might just quash reform.