Cocktail Chatter

The Cleveland Abductions, School Cheating Scandals, and Dogs, Dogs, Dogs

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

The house of Amanda Berry’s sister, one of the three women held captive for a decade, stands decorated by well wishers May 7, 2013 in Cleveland.

Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Being Amanda Berry: Our morbid fascination with the real-life tales of abducted girls,” by Emily Bazelon. Ordeals like Amanda Berry’s “are our gothic horror stories, our Bluebeards come to life,” and we often treat such events like sensational nightmares. Bazelon reminds us of the long journey Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Berry and her daughter all have ahead in recovering from such an experience.

 “No, I Do Not Want to Pet Your Dog: They’re lounging in our offices and licking us at our cafés. It’s time to take America back,” by Farhad Manjoo. After encountering a loud Doberman at his gym of all places, Manjoo questions the ubiquity of dogs in our society. Not everyone likes dogs, after all. He compares dog lovers with parents of toddlers, like himself, and finds that parents are a little more considerate. “Whenever I go into public spaces with my toddler, I treat him as if I were handling nuclear waste or a dangerous animal.”

Failing the Test: Why cheating scandals and parent rebellions are erupting in schools in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta,” by David L. Kirp. Education reform based primarily on test scores alienates teachers and doesn’t help students, Kirp claims. He cautions that there are no quick fixes for our current problems and makes the case for trusting teachers and encouraging them to collaborate.

 “The Problem With Handsome, Enigmatic Men: They’re boring,” by Simon Doonan. Characters like Jay Gatsby and Don Draper may be attractive, but they’re not very interesting. Doonan breaks down the characteristics you need to be popular despite lacking a personality but warns that such “attractive grumpsters” usually don’t get happy endings. Speaking of Gatsby, check out Dana Stevens’ review of the movie, out this weekend, and play Slate’s Gatsby video game.

The Weight of the Presidency: The fact that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s weight-loss surgery is both personal and political is the true sign that he is a contender,” by John Dickerson. Gov.  Christie recently underwent lap-band surgery, supposedly for personal health reasons. Dickerson lays out how losing weight could help him if he runs for president in 2016.

Elmo Fever: Why are kids so obsessed with that short red Sesame Street muppet?” by Melinda Wenner Moyer. The short answer: He’s just like them. Moyer explains that toddlers love Elmo because he interacts with the world in the same curious way they do. His eye-catching red fur doesn’t hurt either.

  “Violence Against Women Can Be Funny: In defense of the Onion’s story about Chris Brown’s desire to beat Rihanna to death,” by Hanna Rosin. Should some topics be off limits for satire? Rosin doesn’t think so—what’s important is how well you do it. The Onion’s story may be horrifying, but it’s also hilarious and “brings more attention to domestic violence than 100 earnest blog posts on the same subject ever could.”

Don’t Fear the 3-D Gun: Yes, it will be possible to make weapons with 3-D printers. No, that doesn’t make gun control futile,” by Farhad Manjoo. Law student and activist Cody Wilson uploaded plans for a homemade gun to the Internet, but don’t panic—gun control is still important and helpful. Manjoo crunches the numbers on why 3-D printed guns won’t overtake the mass-produced kind anytime soon.

Are We Good? Comedian Marc Maron’s unlikely career is at a crossroads,” by David Haglund. With a new TV show, memoir, and stand-up special coming out, Marc Maron is more visible than ever before. Long-time fan Haglund looks back at Maron’s rise to prominence and explores how narcissism defines his work (to everyone’s benefit).

Dodgeball Should Not Be Part of Any Curriculum, Ever: Making kids play team sports in PE is neither healthy nor educational,” by Jessica Olien. Physical education is meant to improve kids’ health and teach them to work together. But Olien argues that team sports do neither, but they do destroy the confidence of those who are less athletically inclined.