Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
July 21 2006 5:19 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Slate's handy guide to small talk.

Slate offers you a quick and easy guide to help you fake your way through overly cultured cocktail parties this weekend.



If you're a member of the New York Media Mafia, or just friends with them, your gathering will be all atwitter about Robert De Niro's failed deal to buy the New York Observer. There'll probably be someone at the party who can shed more light on editor Peter Kaplan's cryptic observation that "sometimes things just don't" happen, so ply them with bourbon and find out what really went down at the salmon broadsheet. Did owner Arthur Carter balk at the last minute? Did De Niro try to guarantee himself regular mentions in The Transom?

Note to Left Coast hosts: Seat reality TV writers even farther away than usual from network execs this weekend. There's bound to be tension in the air, now that the writers from America's Next Top Model are threatening a walkout if they're not granted union representation. We can only hope that Tyra's bons mots will not be affected.

The only books that appear on both MySpace's new top books list and the New York Times Book Review best-seller lists are The Devil Wears Prada, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels and Demons.

If conversation starts to drag, have people gather 'round the computer to watch portions of a 1971 debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault that has been posted on YouTube. The debate confirms that Chomsky's impenetrability is not a recent development. (For added fun, have members of your party re-enact the debate, using this handy script as your guide.)

Everyone at your party is bound to have an opinion about whether Joel Siegel stood up for propriety and the plight of the embattled movie critic, or whether Kevin Smith struck a blow for the creative process and the rights of the embattled film director. Or perhaps this is all a publicity stunt dreamed up by an evil genius in a Mallrats T-shirt.

Forbidden topics: The Man Who Heard Voices, Tim Gunn