Joining the mile-high club, an interview with Ahmadinejad, and the decline of 3-D films: The week's most interesting Slate…

The week's most intriguing stories.
Sept. 17 2011 7:04 AM

Joining the Mile-High Club, An Interview With Ahmadinejad, and the Decline of 3-D Films

The week's most interesting Slate stories.

"An Exclusive Interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The president of Iran on his release of the hikers, his next nuclear plan, the Palestinian statehood vote, and more," by Lally Weymouth. The Iranian president, infamous for his anti-American and anti-Israel vitriol, again denied that his uranium enrichment plants exist for the purpose of making a nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad also condemned Israel and called on the U.N. to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state.

"'The Captain Requests That All Zippers Be Returned to the Upright Position': How are flight attendants supposed to deal with fornicating passengers?" by Brian Palmer. At a time when flight crews are extra vigilant about unusual passenger activity, having sex on an airplane ain't what it used to be, Palmer writes. According to flight attendant legend, crew members of the PanAm era sometimes greeted couples returning from the bathroom with a glass of champagne and a cigarette. These days, few flight crews tolerate airborne trysts: If two passengers are caught slipping into the lavatory for an extended amount of time, flight attendants will probably knock, inquire politely, and barge in if necessary.

"I Watched Every Steven Soderbergh Movie: Notes on one of the most varied careers in the history of cinema," by Dan Kois. Steven Soderbergh is a famously prolific director, and his work is all the more remarkable for its variation. One year, for instance, Soderbergh directed Ocean's Eleven, the breezy, stylish remake of the 1960 heist classic. The next, he directed Solaris, the sci-fi psychological drama. By watching every film Soderbergh ever worked on, Kois attempts to trace the recurring themes of the legendary director's portfolio. He even ranked the films – from the profound achievements to the dismal failures— and took a look at Soderbergh's lesser-known work.

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"Tarzan the Diaper Man: Testosterone shrinks when men become dads. Does that mean they're designed to nurture kids?" by William Saletan. A new study that says testosterone levels in men decrease after they become fathers has inspired an array of new takes on the evolution of men. Among the latest interpretations: Fatherhood awakens men's "nurturing side," and men are designed to help raise kids. But the results of the study aren't that clear-cut. It's highly possible, Saletan writes, that men have lower levels of testosterone during fatherhood because it's simply healthier. As the authors of the study note, testosterone is associated with heart disease and some cancers. 

"That's Hot: What does it take to inflame a pyromaniac?" by Jesse Bering. These days, we tend to throw around the word "pyromania" loosely, often to describe someone who has a little too much fun playing with matches. As a kid, Bering himself gleefully lit ants on fire. Still, in order to be a certifiable pyromaniac, you have to go much further than torching insects, Bering writes. Pyromania, it turns out, is a rare affliction, and only a handful of those arrested for setting fires on purpose meet the official guidelines of the condition.

"Hot Collars: I got three custom shirts online. I'll never buy off the rack again," by Farhad Manjoo. If you're a man who has trouble finding off-the-rack Oxford shirts that fit well, you should take a look at a new kind of clothier: companies that sell custom dress shirts online. The sites Manjoo extols allow for collar, cuff and monogram customization. But the best part, Manjoo writes, is that the shirts he purchased online were better than anything he ever found in a department store. Why trek to Nordstrom's if you don't have to?

"Tennis: An Aural History: Victoria Heinicke, the sport's first grunter. Plus: Notes on the evolution of grunting," by Josh Levin. Tennis in 2011 is loud. Novak Djokovic's four-set win over Rafael Nadal this week was as much an exchange of grunts as serves and volleys. But who started the practice of emitting noise when hitting the ball? It was likely a woman named Victoria Palmer Heinicke. When she was just 17, Heinicke competed in the 1962 National Singles Championships, now the U.S. Open, where she earned the nickname "The Grunter" for her guttural bursts. Levin tracked down Heinicke to uncover how the grunting phenomenon began, and how it has only amplified in the past few decades.

"'Let Him Die': A debate question exposes the incoherence — and cowardice — of the Republican candidates' opposition to Obamacare," by Jacob Weisberg. At the Republican presidential debate Monday night, CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressed Rep. Ron Paul about what he should do for a man who chose not to buy health insurance but became critically ill. "Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?" Blitzer asked. Before Paul could answer, some members of the audience began to cheer, and a few even shouted, "Yeah!"  The incident, Weisberg writes, revealed the appalling cruelty—and incoherence—of the Republicans' position on health care.

"Who Killed 3-D?: A box-office whodunit," by Daniel Engber. In 2010, Hollywood executives seemed convinced that 3-D movies would save their struggling industry. But the format didn't generate the revenue investors had hoped for. Who should they blame? There are a number of culprits, Engber writes, from film studios that hike prices on 3-D film tickets to old-fashioned bad filmmaking. As Engber notes, a bad film is a bad film, no matter what dimension the audience pays to see it in.

"Shooting Gallery: Why aren't there any civilians in military video games?" by Michael Thomsen. Video games have come a long way since the days of Mega Man and Super Nintendo. Players now experience breathtaking graphics and intricate scenery, especially in combat games. But the most recent titles that try to re-create a war zone—including Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield 3—all fall short in a fundamental way: They leave civilians out of the picture. It's natural for the developers of these games to avoid the controversy that could accompany a decision to include civilians in game play, Thomsen writes. But their reticence prevents a more realistic experience.

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