Cocktail Chatter

Meta-Chatter: The Best of Slate’s Year-End Roundups

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

The Mary Celeste.
The Mary Celeste

As the stroke of midnight approaches Saturday, odds are you’ll find yourself at a New Year’s party. Over the twinkly chime of champagne flutes, people will swap superlatives, debating the most addictive YouTube clip of the year or the funniest political gaffe. Don’t panic. Our meta-edition of Cocktail Chatter represents (mostly) a highlight reel of Slate’s 2011 highlight reels.

Slate’s Most-Read Stories: The 10 most popular articles of 2011.” Our most popular articles of the year include a screed by Farhad Manjoo against writers who use two spaces after a period and Paul Collins’ haunting look at the history of a crewless ship called the Mary Celeste.

The Worst Cads of 2011: Ranking the pathetic deeds of Kim Kardashian, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and their deplorable peers.” Counting cads may not help you sleep, but who can sleep with the mortifying image of Anthony Weiner’s underwear flashing through her mind? Click through the “DoubleX” slide show to wallow in the disgraces of Charlie Sheen, Silvio Berlusconi, and the world’s first-ever “kad”—Kim Kardashian.

2011 Was a Terrible Year for Tech: All our devices got more complicated. And they won’t get simpler anytime soon,” by Farhad Manjoo. We saw many innovations in 2011, but it’s hard to make them work together. Apple’s Facetime doesn’t play nicely with Skype, and don’t even think about inviting someone on Facebook to your Google+ Hangout. Why is it suddenly so difficult to coordinate our various gadgets? Where is good old SMS text messaging when you need it? “Competing interests prevent [companies] from creating something that just works everywhere,” Manjoo opines.

Troy Patterson’s TV Top 10: Ten things about 2011 from a TV critic who’s careful not to watch too much television,” by Troy Patterson. Patterson likes to keep his eyes and mind fresh by not overconsuming. Here, the discriminating critic pronounces on such 2011 TV mileposts as the Republican presidential debates (a worthy reality series), Homeland (a riveting battle between poor writing and great acting), and Breaking Bad (the best show of the year, unless that honor goes to Charlie’s Angels).

Slate’s Best Slide Shows of 2011: The most popular and memorable photo galleries of the year,” by Heather Murphy. From sober black-and-white images of D-Day to “clichéd tourist poses,” Slate was awash in fascinating pictures this year. Browse 10 of our most clicked-through slideshows to see which photographs stuck in readers’ heads.

The Year’s Top Stocks: Warning: It’s a depressing list,” by Matthew Yglesias. Oil and gas industries were the big winners in 2011, thanks to the fracking boom. But discount clothing retailers like Ross Stores did well, too. “[Americans] don’t starve in bad economic times,” Yglesias explains, “They downsize their shopping habits.”  

The 2011 Pundit Audit: My four dumbest political predictions of the year,” by David Weigel. “In 2010, for the first time, I subjected myself to a round of pundit accountability, paging back through Slate’s easily navigable archives to discover what predictions I’d blown,” Weigel writes. “It was horrible, so I decided to do it again.” This time he flagellates himself for overestimating Rick Perry and underestimating Newt Gingrich. He closes by hoping for more surprises in 2012, even if it means he’s wrong.

The Music Club, 2011,” by Nitsuh Abebe, Ann Powers, Jody Rosen, Jonah Weiner, and Carl Wilson. Slate’s synopsis of the year in music continues, touching on the ubiquity of the stutter, the usefulness of the whistle, and the inanity of the Bon Iver lyric. Plus, find out how expectant mother Beyoncé melds the personas of “Roberta Flack, Betty Draper, and Kali, Giver and Destroyer of Life” in her trailblazing fourth album. 

The 12 Kinds of Undecided Voters: Liars, haters, mavens, know-nothings, bandwagon riders, and other kinds of voters who just can’t make up their minds,” by Sasha Issenberg. This anatomy of a slippery demographic, which features subgroup profiles, campaign strategies, and quotes from the ground, is a headache for aspiring politicians and a “must-read” for everyone else. Make sure you’re up to speed heading into an election year.