Cocktail Chatter

Biting ponies, Syrian lesbian bloggers, and—“Oh, My God! She’s Nude!’

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

 ”Going Sane: The Republican presidential field is much less wacky than expected,” by Jacob Weisberg. Gay bashing and Obama birth certificate conspiracies would make for an entertaining Republican debate, but they also make the party look, well, insane. Weisberg explains why this week’s surprisingly rational GOP debate could spell trouble for Obama.

Radical, Not Moderate: The Republican presidential debate revealed how alarmingly far right the mainstream GOP has shifted,” by Eliot Spitzer.  Uh oh. Spitzer heard what you said, Jacob Weisberg, and he begs to differ. The candidates’ plans for the economy and their stances on social issues represent a sprint to the political fringes, Spitzer says.

How To Be a Lesbian Blogger: Tom MacMaster and Bill Graber show the way,” by Jack Shafer. Disguising one’s sexuality isn’t a revolutionary practice: Shakespeare was famous for his masquerading characters. Still, Shafer notes, the ease of crafting a faux persona online (MacMaster and Graber are Exhibit A) threatens the uniqueness of our identities.

Has Facebook Peaked?: The social network lost users in America last month. Should Mark Zuckerberg be worried?” by Farhad Majoo. The author argues that the social network’s growth has slowed because nearly all the possible users have already signed up. But don’t expect Facebook to become any less pervasive. It’s conquered the internet—now it can begin governing it.

 ”Expert Insight: The fascinating new business that allows you to buy personal advice from a Nobel-prize winning economist or a poker champion” by Annie Lowrey. Lowrey investigates a site that lets you pepper an expert with questions for an hourly fee. It’s like the access you’d get at a top-notch school, without any other grade-grubbers eating up the professor’s time.

 ”Colored Judgment: Why does Herman Cain think about Muslims the way racists think about blacks?” by William Saletan. Lover of pizza and hater of sharia law Herman Cain thinks he’s immune to harboring prejudicial thoughts because of his own personal experiences with discrimination. That’s false, says Saletan. He runs through a long list of prejudiced comments from Cain , showing how much the presidential contender has to learn.

Fancy Pants: How I cured myself of a craving for selvedge denim,” by Mark Oppenheimer. We’ve heard that you’re not supposed to wash selvedge jeans. You’d think this would be reason enough to avoid the high-priced pants. Oppenheimer has a few more reasons. He reviews the book How to Be a Man, which wastes too much ink on things like smelly jeans and not enough on important stuff like how to be a good dad.

The Hunt for Bin Laden, Part II: How likely are treasure hunters to find Bin Laden’s body?” by Brian Palmer. The man who says he’s going to find Osama Bin Laden’s body with sonar would make a terrible pirate. In other words: He doesn’t stand a chance. The author answers some interesting, slightly more morbid questions, like what Bin Laden’s body might look like now. 

World Peace!: A photo history of beauty pageants,”  by Elizabeth Weingarten. Weingarten takes you inside the competitions that have lead to such headlines as “1,000 BATHING BEAUTIES ON VIEW IN PAGEANT” and “Oh, God, She’s Nude!” You’ll have to click through the slide show to learn which one of those is from the New York Times and which one is from Penthouse magazine. Also, there are Klingons. Who are you to resist?

Questions for Louis C.K.: The stand-up talks about the new season of Louie and defends Tracy Morgan against charges of homophobia,” by Jessica Grose. “My daughter really did get bit by a pony, and so that was true, and I felt like a piece of shit.” All this and more in Grose’s interview with the legendary comedian.