Cocktail Chatter

Scandals Galore, Sensory Deprivation, and Bitter Beer Backlash

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

 President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference on Thursday, answering questions on the IRS Justice Department invesigation.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Scandal Jujitsu: How is Obama coping with multiple scandals? By playing them off against one another,” by William Saletan. It’s been a bad week for the White House, with scandals over the 2012 Benghazi attacks, IRS targeting of conservative groups, and Justice Department monitoring of AP reporters’ phone records all making national headlines. Saletan criticizes the administration’s tactic of justifying the AP phone record surveillance by tying it to Republican’s concern about Benghazi-like security breaches. He writes that it’s a cynical move and a failure in messaging that won’t make any of these headaches go away.

The White House Field Guide to Scandal: How the trio of Obama scandals could save immigration reform and the welfare state,” by David Weigel. Weigel assesses the potential damage from the various scandals and concludes that just as the Iran-Contra scandal didn’t sink Reagan’s presidency, Obama will survive the current situation, possibly even with new Republican cooperation on issues such as immigration reform.

À La Carte Won’t Fix Cable: Unbundling cable will actually raise prices and reduce choices for most customers,” by Matthew Yglesias. Sen. John McCain introduced a bill last week requiring cable television companies to offer their subscribers channels on an à la carte basis, but Yglesias argues that this would be a bad deal for consumers. He explains that the low level of competition in the cable TV industry means that simply requiring lower rates would make more sense and be more beneficial to subscribers than the McCain proposal.

Against Hoppy Beer: The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews,” by Adrienne So. While utilization of hops in more than token amounts has been a huge selling point for craft brewers in the United States, So argues that beer makers have lately gotten carried away with overly hoppy products. She contends that the resultant bitterness of these beers is unappealing to many and a “pointless gimmick” which overshadows a good beer’s other wonderful characteristics. 

I Boldly Went Where Every Star Trek Movie and TV Show Has Gone Before: Now I can tell you exactly why this franchise is great,” by Matthew Yglesias. Yglesias undertook the astronomical task of watching every Star Trek movie and television episode—ever—and lived to write about it. In his epic article, he explains how the long-running series keeps alive the “spirit of midcentury optimism,” celebrating American values of “peace, progress, and tolerance.”

Embracing the Void: The profound, ecstatic state of nothingness I achieved while floating naked in a sensory deprivation tank,” by Seth Stevenson. Stevenson explores the trippy world of sensory deprivation, achieved while enclosed in a pitch-dark tank full of salt water. “For the first time in my waking life,” he writes, “I had zero thoughts. It was a mental quietude I’d never known existed.”

Far From the Tree: Why Vermont wants you to use wine descriptors to talk about maple syrup,” by Warren Cornwall. The “terroir movement” which has consumers paying top dollar for coffee or wine from a single specific location has now spread to the world of maple syrup. Cornwall reports on maple syrup producers’ efforts to target a more gourmet-minded clientele and explains why different maple syrups can taste so different from one another.   

Escape Plans: Why do we need a space program? Because Earth isn’t going to be a safe place in the long term,” by Annalee Newitz. Touching on the themes of her new book, Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, Newitz writes about the great importance of space exploration and technological innovation in light of Earth’s future inhabitability. She explains that while mega-cities on other planets may be a long way off, projects like deflecting deadly asteroids and devising alternatives to rocket-travel are within our reach.  

How to Beat GeoGuessr, the Insanely Addictive Google Maps Guessing Game: Tips and tricks from a National Geographic cartographer,” by Will Oremus. If you haven’t already played GeoGuessr, a new online game in which users guess the global location of randomly selected Google Street Views, beware—because it’s extremely addictive. Oremus plays a round with Rosemary Wardley, senior GIS cartographer at National Geographic Maps, and shares some tips for how to play like a pro.

The Gatsby Test: I’ve never read The Great Gatsby. But can I write a convincing high school essay about the novel after watching the film?” by J. Bryan Lowder. The otherwise well-read Lowder tests his ability to write a high school English essay about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby based only on Baz Lurman’s new film. His subpar results lead him to advise, “Read the real deal, and don’t let some Hollywood director’s carnivalesque, hip-hop-infused, champagne-soaked siren call lead you astray.”