Cocktail Chatter

Prog Spring, the New New Deal, and the Best Vegan Ice Cream

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

The Nice: Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson, Brian Davison, David O’List.

From the private collection of Davy O’List

Prog Spring: The brief rise and inevitable fall of the world’s most hated pop music,” by David Weigel. Weigel’s opus explores the overstuffed, visionary madness of progressive (“prog”) rock. In Part 1, the Nice’s Keith Emerson buys an electric organ and lays the groundwork for the movement. Part 2 chronicles the retrospective, futuristic, experimental genre’s ascent. Part 3 details the most extravagantly hallucinogenic rock concert that ever was. Part 4 traces prog’s decline as it falls prey to its own mind-boggling excess. Part 5 examines a musical landscape still bathed in the afterglow of what Weigel calls the weirdest, and best, rebellion ever.

The Ryan Boost: Romney and his new running mate are electric on the campaign trail, but how long can the fun last?” by John Dickerson. It doesn’t take long for Paul Ryan’s reputation as the GOP’s secret weapon is beginning to fray. Dickerson takes a frank look at the veep nominee’s strengths and weaknesses, and concludes that the charismatic Romney-Ryan pairing is strong but not bulletproof. For more of Slate’s Ryan coverage, check out David Weigel on the candidate’s plan for Medicare, Fred Kaplan on his (lack of) foreign policy credentials, Eliot Spitzer on his budget numbers, Amanda Marcotte on his anti-abortion views, Emily Bazelon on implications for Florida, Jacob Weisberg on how Ryan’s inclusion in the race could bring unprecedented substance to the political conversation, Rachael Larimore on his base appeal, and Will Saletan on why he represents the model conservative

Two Scoops, Hold the Dairy: What’s the best vegan ice cream?” by Miriam Krule. A dairyless eater braves freezer burn, ingredient lists featuring kelp extracts, and other perils in her quest to find and crown the creamiest, deliciousest vegan ice cream.   

 “Confessions of a Fake Scientist: What I learned about real science from making fun of it,” by Phil Edwards. The author of the blog Fake Science was resolved to skewer experimenters’ “unearned sense of authority” until face time with real scientists convinced him that skepticism—and humility—were a huge part of the scientific enterprise. (Also, “real scientists are curious enough about the facts to make fun of them more accurately.”)

The New New Deal: President Obama’s stimulus has been an astonishing, and unrecognized, success, argues Michael Grunwald,” by David Plotz. Time reporter Michael Grunwald talks to Slate editor David Plotz about how Obama’s stimulus compares to President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the absence of “legacy projects” in the recovery, and whether the White House failed to communicate its economic achievements effectively to the American people.

Should You Trust Online Reviews? Yes and no,” by Ray Fisman. Trying to determine the prevalence of fake online evaluations, researchers at Yale, Dartmouth, and USC compared two travel sites with different criteria for posting reviews: Expedia and TripAdvisor. The findings? While hacks do occasionally muddy the consultative waters, smart users can still turn to online reviews for useful advice.   

 “Why Is There No Liberal Ayn Rand? American conservatives have a canon. Why don’t American liberals?” by Beverly Gage. Paul Ryan’s affection for the novels of the Russian émigré has fascinated pundits seeking insight into the origins of his conservatism. Meanwhile, Gage argues, U.S. liberals have frittered away their “movement culture,” a once-mighty collection of unifying ideals centered around Marx and Lenin. Maybe Democrats’ openness to diverse thinkers is an asset, but Gage worries that the left is ceding too much intellectual authority to the right.

 “Will the Elderly Ever Accept Care From Robots? The new movie Robot & Frank shows a machine taking care of an old man. The challenge here isn’t the technology, but the people,” by Thomas Rogers. The population is aging, robotic science is advancing, and the fantasy of mechanical helpmates to smooth one’s golden years isn’t far from becoming reality. There’s just one problem, says the author: Old people think robots are creepy. Can manufacturers somehow make their designs less alienating, or do they simply need to wait for a cultural shift?

Mormonism’s Jell-O Mold: Why do we associate the religion with the gelatin dessert?” by Christy Spackman. What is it about glistening cubes of wiggly gelatin that screams “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Spackman unpacks the naive, childlike associations that plague both the colorful dessert and the famously abstemious religious sect.

The Starbucks of Nightclubs: Can Marquee go global without losing its cool?” by Seth Stevenson. A nightclub’s mystique usually depends on avoiding the mainstream, but big-box franchises like New York’s Marquee are drawing crowds with “satisfying, consistent, mildly indulgent” service. Stevenson asks whether the new “Cheesecake Factory approach to clubbing” can last.