Cocktail Chatter

Gay Bars, Sharkonomics, and Living on Groupon

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

The Gay Bar: Its Riotous Past and Uncertain Future,” by June Thomas. In a six-part series on the history of the  gay bar, Thomas explores the institution’s role as a segregated “third place” for informal public life in the gay liberation movement, and the challenges it will face in the future. As long as the “need for queer communion” endures, writes Thomas, so will the good old rainbow-flagged gay bar.

Has Bachmann Met Her Waterloo? The old parochialism meets the not-so-new isolationism in Michele Bachmann,” by Christopher Hitchens. Michele Bachmann is one of many politicians marketing her small-town upbringing to get ahead in the race. But as long as Bachmann continues to focus on the wrong global issues, and belittle the plight of the Libyan people, leveraging her modest roots alone won’t lead to political success.

More Like Google Minus: Google+, the search company’s new social network, is the online equivalent of arranging wedding seating charts,” by Farhad Manjoo. Google+ is trying to take on Facebook. But does it have the necessary innovative ingredients (read: new ways to waste time online) to compete with the social media giant? Though not entirely new, the feature “Circles” has the potential to more accurately simulate our (sad) tendency to segregate friends in real life, writes Manjoo. But will that—and features like Huddle and Hangout—be enough to lure hard-core Facebookers over to the nascent network? Manjoo remains unconvinced. 

No TV Until You’re Done: Obama asks Congress to work on the budget the way his daughters work on their homework,” by John Dickerson. Come on, Congress. Even Malia and Sasha could have solved the debt crisis by now. This week, Obama sounded more like a father than a president when he called on Congress to stay in town until the debt limit crisis is solved. The threat of a government default is growing by the day, and Republicans and Democrats need to look beyond short term political issues if they want to figure out a solution. And if they want a longer summer vacation.

Scientists to Chemical Regulators: Stop Ignoring Boobs:  A new set of reports shows that federal policy on chemicals testing neglects breast health,” by Florence Williams. Generally speaking, boobs get plenty of attention. But they’ve been ignored, it seems, by the group that matters the most: Federal chemical-safety agencies. They’ve consistently disregarded the effects that new pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and plastics might have on the mammary gland. Since breast cancer is the No. 1  cause of death among middle-aged women, it’s time for these agencies to test chemicals more rigorously for their effects on breasts.

Couch Wars: does one form of psychotherapy work better than another?” by Alastair Gee. Health care reform will allow more people access to psychological treatment. But though it may seem crucial to pick the “best” therapy from the tried-and-true favorites—Freudian, cognitive-behavior, and interpersonal—such a treatment may not actually exist, writes Gee. Proponents of the so-called “dodo-bird verdict” or “everyone-gets-a-prize-effect” argue that patients will always feel better regardless of which method they choose.

My Groupon Week: What I learned by living off Internet coupons for seven straight days,” by Noreen Malone. Two hundred dollars. One week. One reporter. Tons of coupons. Dream or nightmare? Brace yourself for tales of an overpriced laundry pick-up, an un-seasonal greens delivery, 14 hours of tarot-card instructions and geographically inconvenient deals. But we may only have ourselves to blame for Groupon’s success. It’s the “Tocqueville of the moment” and we asked for it, Malone concludes.

Pravda Will Set You Free: Russia’s answer to Fox News and MSNBC,” by David Weigel. Bad publicity in the U.S.? No problem. Russia has the answer: Launch your very own news channel. Professionally produced, widely distributed, and funded by the Russian federal budget, cable news station Russia Today has established a successful network to “counter anti-Russian bias” in Western media, writes Weigel. RT says they just give the paranoid masses what they ask for: Pravda.

Who Grunted? Match the shriek to the tennis player—an interactive quiz,” by Holly Allen, Josh Levin, and Jeremy Singer-Vine. Earlier this month, Wimbledon’s All England Lawn and Tennis Club Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said he would “prefer to see less grunting” at the tournament. But Slate believes the guttural volley is as central to the game as the overhead. Honor the game’s most vocal players with our quiz: See if you can match the grunt with the grunter.

Sharkonomics: What’s good for sharks is good for the economy,” by Juliet Eilperin. For nearly 400 million years, sharks have glided through the ocean peacefully, occasionally maiming a human or two.  Historically, we’ve been preoccupied with how the creatures affect us, not how we—or our economic systems—affect their survival. But communism may be just as terrifying to a shark as that exposed, gray fin is to a surfer. So which system is best for the sharks? Read to find out why environmentalists say capitalism trumps all.