Cocktail Chatter

Clint Eastwood, Cat Videos, and the Shocking Truth About the Swedish Chef

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

The candidates and their wives at the conclusion of the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/GettyImages

Dispatches from the Republican National Convention,” by John Dickerson, Dave Weigel and Sasha Issenberg. Slate had the RNC covered this week with the “Breakfast Table,” a series of notes from our political reporters at the GOP convention in Tampa.  Dave Weigel makes a listicle of Paul Ryan’s convention fibs while Emily Bazelon wonders how his love for his mother could translate into good policy for seniors. Sasha Issenberg wants to end the embargo on discussion of Romney’s faith, and John Dickerson ponders whether Romney’s workmanlike speech can overcome the candidate’s flaws and Clint Eastwood’s performance art.

You Didn’t Build That” Isn’t Going Away: It doesn’t matter what Obama meant. Here’s why,” by Rachael Larimore. Liberals have defended President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments as being taken out of context by conservatives, but Larimore argues that it doesn’t matter what Obama meant; what matters is what he conveyed—and what small businessmen heard was that they didn’t deserve credit for their work.

What Do Swedes Think of the Swedish Chef? They think he sounds Norwegian. Also, they’d like you to stop asking,” by Jeremy Stahl. A true cultural icon, Sesame Street’s Swedish Chef has touched the hearts and minds of American children for decades. But how is this treasured muppet received in his ostensible home country? Jeremy Stahl breaks through the myths and mysteries surrounding the chef to reveal the shocking truth.

Death, Explained: Christopher Hitchens’ Mortality, a rare honest book about death,” by Katie Roiphe. In his new, posthumous book, Hitchens confronts cancer and death with unflinching honesty, as he approached all of life’s pains and pleasures. Roiphe praises the author’s charm and directness, and mourns the loss of this unique, irreplaceable voice.

The Kindle Wants To Be Free: Next week or next year, Amazon will start giving away its e-reader. Here’s why,” by Farhad Manjoo. Reading Amazon’s tea leaves is a hit-or-miss business, but Manjoo makes a compelling case that a Kindle will come free with an Amazon Prime membership in the near future. Owning a Kindle is an obvious enticement to buy Kindle-compatible e-books, and with the price of Kindle parts dropping rapidly, it’s an economic risk Amazon can afford to take.

Will Starving Yourself Help You Live Longer? A major new study says what you eat may matter more than how much you eat,” by Bill Gifford. If you’ve been starving yourself in an attempt to live forever, Bill Gifford has some bad news. A new study conducted by the National Institute of Aging suggests that calorie-restriction diets are likely not the key to eternal life but can in fact damage your health. (It was still romantic when Jack Kerouac did it, though.)

Dear Paul: Why I’m breaking up with Paul Ryan,” by William Saletan. The love affair is over. Saletan admits that he might have been premature in declaring his affection for GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Upon further review, he’s learned that Ryan has caved on cutting defense spending and abandoned his hard-line position on Medicare cuts. Plus, he’s not nearly as rugged as he makes himself out to be.

Toddlers & Tiaras Justice: Pageant mom Lindsay Jackson put her daughter on TV in a Dolly Parton costume. Now she might lose custody for it,” by Hilary Levey Friedman. Will a mother whose daughter starred on TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras lose custody of her daughter for allegedly sexualizing her daughter for the sake of pageants? Friedman makes a case for the basically benign nature of child beauty pageants, which she says are unfairly maligned as sexualizing and damaging to children. If Jackson does lose custody, Friedman notes, it will be primarily because of the spotlight TLC brought upon the divorced pageant mom and her preternaturally beautiful daughter.

 “Doctor Feelbad: The most nakedly emotional show on TV just might be the nerdy British series with time-traveling and aliens,” by June Thomas. Forget the stiff upper lip. TV’s most sentimental and emotionally honest show is a British import with terrible special effects, writes Thomas. In a decade when superheroes have superseded sci-fi, Doctor Who uses its genre’s conceits to explore loneliness, aging, and death.

Apocalypse Meow: A dispatch from the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival,” by Seth Stevenson. It has been said that the internet is made of cats, but it seems our feline friends have decided to conquer a new territory: art museums.  Seth Stevenson reports from the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis, a high-concept outdoor screening devoted to kitty-centric YouTube clips.