Cocktail Chatter

Horror in Connecticut, The Hobbit, and White Tigers

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

President Obama
President Obama addresses the nation after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

President Obama, Today Is the Day To Politicize This Tragedy: We don’t need you to cry at the podium. We need you to do something,” by Allison Benedikt. Benedikt scolds the president for not using the occasion of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut to raise the topic of gun control.

The Original War on Christmas: The short, glorious history of the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving,” by Paul Collins. Manhattan shop girls banded together to fight againstChristmas gift giving … 100 years ago? Collins explains why.

 “The Arguments for Gay Marriage Undermine Affirmative Action: Here’s how Justice Kennedy could vote to recognize same-sex unions and scrap racial preferences,” by Richard D. Kahlenberg. Proponents of gay marriage argue that the government should not discriminate on the basis of unchangeable factors, and that public opinion is changing to favor their side. Opponents of affirmative action argue the same thing. Kahlenberg games out how the Supreme Court might respond to the gay marriage and affirmative action cases on the horizon. Also, read William Saletan on the Mormon case for gay marriage.

Why White Tigers Should Go Extinct: Everything you’ve been told about this exotic, royal, endangered species is wrong,” by Jackson Landers. White tigers don’t have white coats for camouflage in Siberia. They have white coats because we bred them that way. Landers makes a provocative case against perpetuating this so-called subspecies.

Barbie Math: Why does Doctor Barbie cost twice as much as Magician Barbie?” by Emily Oster. Why pay $32.91 for a Doctor Barbie when you can pay $12.99 for a Magician Barbie? “You are just paying an extra $12 to avoid your child aspiring to a career in magic,” Oster says, explaining the economics behind career Barbies.

The Roger Williams Code: How a team of scholars decrypted a secret language—and discovered the last known work of the American theologian,” by Ben Schreckinger. In July 2012, a group of academics finally decoded a book inscribed with strange symbols thought to belong to the founder of Rhode Island. Shreckinger details how they managed to translate Williams’ inscrutable shorthand into modern English.

 “Napoleon Wasn’t Defeated by the Russians: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture gives too much credit to cannons,” by Joe Knight. Russian military strength isn’t what took Napoleon down. It was lice. Knight tells an alternate history of the lurking pandemic that destroyed Napoleon’s army.

You and Your Precious 24 fps: In defense of The Hobbit’s increased frame rate,” by Daniel Engber. Engber defends the “queer and vivid look” of Peter Jackson’s new movie about Middle-earth and implores tetchy viewers to give 48 fps a chance.  Also read Dana Stevens’ review of The Hobbit  and a conversation between Katy Waldman and Emily Yoffe, two Hobbit virgins.

 “Grapefruit Is Disgusting: Why you shouldn’t give it to your loved ones as a holiday gift. Or to anyone, ever,” by Katy Waldman. It tastes gross, it makes a mess, and it could actually kill you. Waldman explains why dieters and holiday gift-givers are all wrong about grapefruit.

The Great Schism in the Environmental Movement: Can modern greens loosen nature’s grip on environmentalism?” by Keith Kloor. Who should be in charge—humans or Mother Nature? Kloor chronicles the debate raging within the environmental movement.