1) “Hellfire Holidays: Secrets of the great British sex clubs,” by Tony Perrottet. The intrepid author sets out to uncover formerly swinging Georgian-era sex dens throughout Britain put out of business by prudish Victorians.
2) “The Enthusiasm Gap: How Obama plans to get the Democrats excited about health care and 2010,” by John Dickerson. Obama has to lure back disaffected Dems—attacking Republicans for obstructing health care reform might be a good place to start.
3) ” ’I Do Things the Accountants of Truth Would Not Do’: Werner Herzog discusses his two new films,” by Jacob Weisberg. The editor-in-chief of The Slate Group interviews the German auteur, whose recent films put a twist on the classic American crime tale.
4) “Oral Roberts and His Green Buick: He launched one of America’s few homegrown theologies, the prosperity gospel,” by Hanna Rosin. Dead this week at 91, Roberts was the granddaddy of all “give and ye shall receive”-style celebrity preachers.
5) “The Gaming Club: Slate’s year-end gaming club,” by Leigh Alexander, Jamin Brophy-Warren, Mitch Krpata, and Chris Suellentrop. Video-game experts look back at the year in game-play and wonder whether the genre can achieve high art.
6) “The YouTube Bully and the Sex-Messaging Cop: Courts stick up for the constitutional rights of online troublemakers,” by Emily Bazelon. California courts heard two cases this week that could set important cyberlaw precedents—if only they could define the word cyberlaw.
7) “Let Them Eat Fruitcake: Why we should embrace the boozy, dense, candied cake,” by Sara Dickerman. Quit using it as a doorstop—your Aunt Edna’s dreaded holiday confection really can be a treat.
8) “Strange Brew: The tea partiers get smarter in undermining health care reform,” by Christopher Beam. Anti-health-care-reform activists are bending the ears of Republican lawmakers and even Democrats, but their wacky antics keep them on the fringe.
9) “Trojan Horse: Prime time’s first countercultural hero was a palomino named Mr. Ed,” by Nathan Heller. Listen closely and you’ll discover that America’s favorite TV horse channeled the uneasy cultural zeitgeist of the 1960s and wielded a sharply progressive wit.
10) “The Human Grease Murders: A mysterious crime in Peru revives a vampire legend that’s more than 400 years old,” by Daniel Engber. The recently discredited news item about roving Peruvian gangs slaying people for their fat has its origins in the legend of the pishtaco.
The Best of The Slatest
1) A New Yorker piece wonders whether Time’s pick of Ben Bernanke for “Person of the Year” is a reverse indicator of future success.
2) War enemies can use a simple computer program to hack into drone aircraft and observe exactly what U.S. personnel are seeing.
3) Scientists have discovered an Earth-like planet 42 light-years away and are really excited about it.
4) Journalist Thomas Friedman’s assertion that Islam “needs” a civil war has agitated other pundits.
5) ProPublica, the Times-Picayune, and PBS’s Frontline have published a detailed investigation into post-Hurricane Katrina police-involved shootings in New Orleans.