Cocktail Chatter

Georgia’s Hunger Games, Grad School, and the Best Worst Beers

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Overloaded student in library.

Don’t waste your life this way, says Ron Rosenbaum

Photo by Otmar Winterleitner/iStockPhoto.

Should You Go To Grad School? My story,” by Ron Rosenbaum. Relinquish the world of the living for “dusty, drowsy” seminar rooms, where students drift around in suspended animation and professors hubristically trash all of Hamlet’s best lines? Never, never, never, never, never, says Rosenbaum (quoting Lear). Get thee behind me, grad school.   

The Departed: Three soon-to-be-former congressmen talk about how bad things have gotten,” by David Weigel. Weigel conducts exit interviews with outgoing representatives about what it was like “to serve in an institution 85 percent of Americans can’t stand.” The politicos dispense life wisdom (“Anytime you’re explaining, you’re losing”), reminisce about colleagues, and try to pinpoint when they first intimated that “this Congress would be rough.”

The One-Eyed Man Is King: How did the monocle become a symbol of wealth?” by Bryan Lowder. By being inconvenient, impractical, and expensive enough to assume the connotations of an ornament, rather than a useful device. After holding up a magnifying glass to the posh history of the eyepiece, Lowder informs us we can still buy monocles from retailer Warby Parker for $50. 

A Christmas Miracle: Packaging Is Less Infuriating. Did you swear as much at clamshells and twist ties this year?” by Farhad Manjoo. The package designer’s lament, according to Manjoo, is that no one ever notices packaging unless it is truly awful. We expect plastic ties to slip off like water and cardboard to unfold itself. But our unreasonable expectations are nearer to being met in 2012, as retailers continue to research how they can improve the unwrapping experience. “Joy to the world!” concludes Manjoo. “The clamshell is rare, and soon it will be dead.” 

Georgia’s Hunger Games: Fewer than 4,000 adults in the Southern state receive welfare, even as poverty is soaring. How Georgia declared war on its poorest citizens—leaving them to fight for themselves,” by Neil deMause. Rising poverty rates, plunging welfare rolls, and a state government that sees financial aid as a gladiatorial contest: The dystopian reality in Georgia could have risen from the pages of a Suzanne Collins novel. Combining grim statistics and face-to-face conversations with poor Americans, deMause argues for a policy overhaul.  

The Worst Cads of 2012: From the dirtbags (Chris Brown) to the doxxed (Violentacrez), our list of the year’s most accomplished sleazeballs,” by Holly Allen and Virginia Choi. What do Rush Limbaugh, Lance Armstrong, and Kristen Stewart have in common? Way too much chutzpah and the ignominious distinction of being included in our yearly roundup of jerks, arses, clownheads, and scumbags. Congratulations?

25 Years of Prozac, 100 Years of Crosswords: All your 2013 anniversary coverage, previewed in 2012,” by Matthew J.X. Malady. Spoilers abound as Malady scans 2013 for important anniversaries, including the 10th birthday of the Apple iTunes Store and the 50th anniversary of ZIP codes. He speculates about which news outlets will seize on which story, what headlines they’ll deploy, whom they’ll quote, and more. If he’s right, stay tuned to Slate for a blistering takedown of Pride and Prejudice, 200 years after its publication.

The Top Newfound Species of 2012: Meet the gorgeous, creepy, goofy plants and animals discovered this year,” by Kara Brandeisky. Brandeisky introduces us to the latest footnotes in the book of life, among them a Gollum-faced lesula monkey, the world’s tiniest frog, a skink lizard with a vivid blue tail, a venomous primate, and a real life Swedish Fish. (It’s called a reticulated dragonet.)

Let Old Complaints Be Forgot: Prudie shares updates from memorable letters as 2012 comes to a close,” by Emily Yoffe. Wondering what ever happened to that dad who wanted to ask his infertile Asian wife to please find a white egg donor? Or to the widower whose stepdaughter developed feelings for him? After following up with some of her most intriguing interlocutors, Slate’s Dear Prudie reports on where they are now.

The Best Worst Brews: A taste test of cheap beers. (No, Bud Light isn’t cheap enough to be a ‘cheap beer’),” by Troy Patterson. Slate readers voted, and Patterson received his marching orders: to sample and rank the cheapest of budget beers and live to tell the tale. Busch or PBR? Natural Light or Porkslap Pale Ale? We sip so you don’t have to.