Cocktail Chatter

Twits, Treasure Troves, and Paris for Perverts

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Twitter in a Wringer: What is it about Twitter that gets people in trouble?” by Jack Shafer. In the scrimmage between loudmouthery and tact, Twitter users leave more blood on the field than most. Why does the 140-character platform incite otherwise reasonable people to self-sabotage?

The Empathy Trap: What happens when Obama, like all presidents, tries to show Americans that he feels their pain,” by John Dickerson. “The risk of empathy is that it pushes a president into roles he’s not really suited to play: job counselor, psychotherapist, loan officer,” Dickerson writes. As the costs of living rise and wages flat-line, Obama must soothe constituents without stirring false hopes.

Kill the Men, Take the Thumb Drives: Was the Bin Laden raid a manhunt or an intelligence grab?” by William Saletan. Despite the White House’s official narrative, the operation in Abbottabad was not a hit-or-miss gamble but a meticulously planned piece of strategy. Had Osama not been in the compound, crucial documents, computers, and cell-phones still were. Why won’t the president acknowledge that his strike had an intelligence objective? 

Pixelated Breasts and Fountains of Blood: My strange, brief career as a video-game obscenity watchdog,” by Jacob Rubin. Now that computers are automatically assigning maturity ratings to video games, the wide-eyed sex-and-gore testers of old are finding themselves out of a job. One former “game vetter” reminisces about days spent flagging rogue genitalia for the ES Ratings Board.

Homance: What happens when you replace the boys in a Judd Apatow movie with Bridesmaids?” by Jessica Grose. The new Apatow comedy Bridesmaids inaugurates a genre of rowdy humor that sidelines the guys. In handy list form, Jessica Grose untangles the tropes of the “homance,” women’s answer to the original buddy flick.

Odd Future: Same as the odd past,” by Jonah Weiner. Tyler, the Creator hasn’t lost his flair for incendiary lyrics, but unapologetic misogyny makes him more of a bully than a trailblazer. Plus, says Weiner, “The tempos are plodding, the songs drab and overlong, the choruses abrasive—this is deeply pleasure-phobic music.”

Awsum Shoes! Is it ethical to fix grammatical and spelling errors in Internet reviews?” by Michael Agger. Recent studies show that customers are more enticed by negative but well-written product reviews than by effusive outpourings of illiteracy. Should companies be allowed to copy edit their own report cards?

Is College A Rotten Investment? Why student loans are not like subprime mortgages,” by Annie Lowrey. PayPal founder Peter Thiel insists that the higher education bubble, like the housing bubble, is a flimsy circlet of valueless cash. Lowrey disputes the analogy, arguing that “polymorphous investments” like college diplomas actually pay off in the long run.

The Rise of ‘Logical Punctuation’.” The period outside the quotation marks is not a copy error,” by Ben Yagoda. While a loyal faction of editors and professors still cling to the notion that commas and periods belong inside quotation marks, popular writing, especially on the web, begs to differ. Ben Yagoda uncaps his red pen and charges into the fray. 

Paris for Perverts: Last Fantasy in Paris,” by Tony Perrottet. In his five-part “Well-Traveled” series, the author wanders the City of Love in search of…well, what we buttoned-up Puritan types might call depravity. Day four brings him to the doorstep of “Le Chabanais,” a bordello once famous for its mirage of sensual delights—including a sex chair designed specifically for Dirty Bertie of Wales. (Warning: Don’t click on the accompanying slide show unless you care for nudity).