Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Love for the Piggly Wiggly.
No Comments | posted May 08th, 2007 at 04:53 pm by Kate Torgovnick

Apple shares Today, I had a traumatic writing moment. I had to cut an anecdote that I love, but that has no business being in a book about college cheerleading. So instead of having it disappear into the ether, I’m posting it here because, well, you can’t make this stuff up:

While in Baton Rouge, I stopped at my favorite grocery store chain ever—the Piggly Wiggly. I walked down the brightly lit aisles looking for toothpaste. I found cereal, oranges, mixed nuts, even an entire half aisle dedicated to pig lips and feet (ironic, considering the logo), but I couldn’t find the toothpaste. Finally, an employee rounded the corner in a bright red Piggly Wiggly manager’s smock, and asked in a sweet Southern drawl, “Can I help you find anything?”

“I’m looking for toothpaste?” I said.

“Oh, we keep that locked up,” he replied, his face dead serious.

I thought he was joking, until he walked me to the front of the store to a large metal cage with a sign reading “General Merchandise” across the front. He unlocked the gate with a set of prison guard keys. I walked in, grabbed a tube of Aquafresh, and headed towards the checkout counter. As the cashier rang me up, the manager jangled the keys as he locked the gate behind me.

Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Momma, Do What You Feel
No Comments | posted May 08th, 2007 at 09:55 am by Courtney E. Martin

I was recently being interviewed for a documentary about art and motherhood — alongside my own artist mother, pictured here in the form of a snow angel — when we both had a fascinating epiphany. For years she would bring up various meals that she used to make when I was growing up–all kinds of cliche middle America dishes like meatloaf–and I would simply shrug. I had absolutely no recognition of any of these meals. I hardly remember my mom in the kitchen at all, to be honest.

buy Apple shares Everytime we had this exchange–her remembering a meal she used to slave over, me admitting I had no recollection of it–she seemed geniunely hurt. My mom doesn’t love cooking like some people. She enjoys it at times, especially when she can really focus on it and immerse herself in the creative aspects, but when it came to throwing a meal together for an always hungry, sometimes picky, and often ungrateful family, she saw it as a challenging responsibility, not an artistic opportunity.

This came up during the interview and the interviewer immediately asked, “Well what do you remember?”

A litany of exciting memories came flooding out of my mouth:
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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Femisnow
No Comments | posted May 07th, 2007 at 04:37 pm by Courtney E. Martin

When I found out I would be reading at the amazing Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe, New Mexico on May 5th, I imagined a wonderful outdoor event, adobe glowing, folding chairs set up in the front patio, the sun shining down on all of our shoulders. As it happened, there were snowflakes.

But another part of my fantasy was totally realized–a community of intriguing locals interested in the work and eager to share their own ideas and struggles. One of the things that came up in discussion was my relationship to feminism. A wise and beautiful member of the audience kindly expressed her fear that the message in my book about perfect girls being the “unintented side effect” of feminism (i.e. supermoms raise supergirls) might be twisted in the minds of unsympathetic media and made to look like I am blaming feminism.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Lifting The Gaze of the Wandering Eye
3 Comments | posted May 07th, 2007 at 01:44 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

General Review of the Sex Situation
by Dorothy Parker

Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman’s moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?

how to invest in Apple shares If you don’t believe men are genetically predisposed to want a variety of women, you should try being one sometime. Each sustained eye contact on the subway, each wink at a bar, each swish of a skirt in the street, creates in so many committed boyfriends and husbands I know a momentary flash of anguish at not pursuing the opportunity. Or consider how guys respond when their girlfriends cut their hair, or dye it. He’s quite a bit more amorous, turned on by the illusion of a new girl in his bed.

This is, of course, a stereotype. But zoologically, it makes a tremendous amount of sense. A man’s evolutionary success hinges on his ability to impregnate the most women possible. A woman’s success relies on her ability to attract a genetically superior mate who will insure the survival of her offspring. But are we merely animals?

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Felice Belle
Stakes is High: Truth, Justice and the Celebrity Way
No Comments | posted May 06th, 2007 at 10:22 am by Felice Belle


On Friday, May 4 Paris Hilton was sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating the terms of her prior DUI arrest.

Meanwhile, R. Kelly — charged with 14 counts of child pornography in 2003 — has managed to make yet another chart-topping single about his sexual prowess.

In fact, no trial date has been set in the Kelly case.

Now I’m no expert on the legal system, but something seems amiss.

Next week: Stakes is High investigates the rules of celebrity justice.

Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Obamaman’s Kryptonite
3 Comments | posted May 04th, 2007 at 03:32 pm by Theo Gangi

Barak Obama recently became the first presidential candidate to request the Secret Service for protection.

Thank god.

Seemingly arriving from nowhere (Krypton?), Obama’s meteoric rise has been remarkable. Faster than a speeding Edwards, able to leap tall Clintons in a single bound, the man of community organization has seemed invulnerable to attack. Meanwhile, Hillary has a bit of Lois Lane/Jimmy Olsen—always the target of the enemy. Hillary is already a well-worn punch line, yet Conservatives are hesitant to throw frivolous dirt at Obama.

A whole mess of parking tickets?
Aww, he’s one of us.

Says ya’ll just because he’s in the south?
Well, we can’t tell a black man not to say ya’ll, can we? So what if he’s from Hawaii.

Has a provocative, hate spewing family preacher?
Wait, should we say he’s an angry Christian or angry Muslim?

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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up (Special Thursday Edition): New earth?
2 Comments | posted May 03rd, 2007 at 10:38 am by Kate Torgovnick

Alright, so my post on Tuesday was a little lame. So I’m coming at you again because I found better inspiration that you really can’t make up: this week European scientists discovered an extremely earth-like planet 50 million light years away. My first thought when I heard this was, “Woo hoo! We’re saved.” But now that I’m reading more about it, new earth kind of sucks. Consider these facts:

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: Suicide
7 Comments | posted May 03rd, 2007 at 08:08 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

Last week, as some of you may know, I posted some cell phone pictures of myself and talked about narcissism vs. self-love. It was a light post. Kind of tongue and cheek.

I’m not sure how it happened, but the comments turned to suicide. Is suicide selfish? Is it chemical? Is it psychological or sociological? It got heated and scary and over my head.

I am not a survivor of suicide. Thank God, no one in my family or circle of friends has ever died from suicide. When I was clinically depressed in college, I wanted a bus to run me over, but I never would have jumped out the window.

I have a friend, actually, Jennifer Gandin Le’s husband, Chris, who works in suicide prevention. Given his expertise, I thought I’d have him address last week’s discussion.

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Someone Explain Football
12 Comments | posted May 03rd, 2007 at 06:20 am by Cristina Pippa

So, my man casually mentioned “the draft” the other night, and I panicked. Don’t ask how, after hours of NPR on my road trip, I thought I missed the big news that instead of pulling soldiers out of Iraq we were going to begin drafting every kid who celebrates an eighteenth birthday.

“No, no. The NFL draft.”
“Well why’s it called that?”
“Because they’re drafted by teams to play in the NFL.”

I learned that the word drafted also means paid millions of dollars. The salary cap for each team is set at $109 MILLION this year. “So the average guy sitting on his couch, watching the all-American sport, is pinning his hopes on millionaires playing with millionaires against other millionaires?” Even my favorite Vikings fan admits that this is disturbing if he really thinks about it.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Yesterday
12 Comments | posted May 02nd, 2007 at 12:34 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman


The second season of Beverly Hills 90210 came out a few days ago. If I weren’t up in the country working on my book (see Kate’s Post), I would have already bought it by now. And no, I’m not a run-out-and-buy-every-new-DVD-released type of gal. My rare inspiration to jet to the store is motivated by the insane revelation that I actually think 90210 is a masterpiece worth owning.

Of course, so much of my intense 90210 affection stems from the fact that the show debuted exactly when I was in the seventh grade. I was their prime target. However, if you look at 90210 as a sort of cultural commentary, the show does have something to teach us about Kidz Yesterday v. Kidz Today. How are those of us who grew up in the 90s different?

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Marilyn, Ella, and Me
5 Comments | posted May 02nd, 2007 at 08:00 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

The myth of female in-fighting persists, in the workplace, at home, in friendships and peer groups, despite a thousand concrete examples of how women support and encourage each other.

When I was collaborating on a writing project with three of my best female friends, I remember telling people about us and, often, they’d look incredulous. “Four women working together? I’ve never heard of that before!” I mean, I’m all about healthy competition amongst women, but this back-biting, cat-fighting cliché is so overdone.
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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Country Mouse.
3 Comments | posted May 01st, 2007 at 11:26 pm by Kate Torgovnick

With our book due dates looming, Joie and I decided to take off for a country house that her mom’s work uses for retreats during the weekends. It’s beautiful out here—rolling hills, big open fields, no other houses for miles. We passed a dairy farm on the way to the house and the cows frolicking in the field were adorable. But as soon as night came, I started to feel super creeped out. And this is something I’ve always noticed about myself—being in the country in general freaks me out.

I have this theory that there are two kinds of people—those who are more afraid of country things and those who are more afraid of city things. I definitely fall into the former category (long stretches of deserted highway are one of those images that reappear in my nightmares), but I have met many people in my life who are very much the latter. Last night while, sitting on the porch listening to bizarre nature noises around us, I had this idea that which one scares you really comes down to whether deep down you believe that people are intrinsically good or that human nature is intrinsically bad. If you think that people are by nature good, you like streets where others are always in view, you enjoy living in a tiny apartment where other people are 10 feet below and above you. If you think people are by nature nasty, you’ll feel much more at ease in a house like this where there is no sign of others for miles.


Ethan Todras-Whitehill
“Touring the Spirit World” Bonus Anecdotes and Photos
1 Comment | posted May 01st, 2007 at 09:28 am by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Metaphysical tourists inside the Queen’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, Giza, EgyptSo my article on New Age spirituality tourism, “Touring the Spirit World,” ran in the New York Times travel section on Sunday. Read the piece.

And now, for your further enlightenment, a couple of anecdotes and photos that didn’t make it in for space reasons:

*     *     *

After the ritual in the pyramid, we walked outside the pyramid to get lunch and then get on to our camel ride, but it was drizzling. On the Gizan plateau, even a drizzle is rare. Sandy Zimmer nodded, not surprised. “This sort of thing sometimes happens when we do our work,” she confided. “But don’t worry: we’ll clear it up before we head out into the desert.”

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: To Love Oneself
4 Comments | posted May 01st, 2007 at 07:42 am by Courtney E. Martin

Speaking about my book has had me thinking a lot about the most fundamental and seemingly natural of human challenges: to love oneself. It is both fascinating and horrifying that it is so difficult–as if we are each born with a seed of self hate that flourishes in an insecurity-inducing culture.

I’ve been mulling this over and then Sunday I saw Beauty on the Vine, an amazing new play by Zak Berkman. It explores the disturbing manifestations of self-hate in an extreme makeover culture–shows like I Want a Famous Face on MTV, where people literally try to alter their own forms so they can look more like celebrities. We live in a time where the challenge to love oneself is often avoided–at least temporarily–by distraction, addiction, and cosmetic surgery. There are just so many damn ways to escape the hard work of accepting your divine nature.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Porn and the Useful Male Disconnect
28 Comments | posted April 30th, 2007 at 12:09 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

I’m reading Courtney’s enthralling new book, and while I think she’s spot-on with her analysis of women’s issues, I think the male mind works in different ways than she recognizes. She writes:

Sex drive, like hunger, is not easily circumscribed….A guy can’t make himself like a round belly if all he’s stared at for months on end is flat-as-a-board tummies…Guy after guy has told me that he feels as if he possesses two totally separate sexualities, the one in front of the screen and the one in front of the girlfriend. I’m skeptical. I know that when I get a pop-up ad for Häagen-Dazs while checking my bank account balance, I end up craving ice cream, not the frozen yogurt already sitting in my freezer.

Well, speaking as one of those guys who expressed this paradigm to Courtney while she was writing her book, I respectfully disagree. We males grow up with a powerful emotional disconnect, which can sometimes be very hurtful to those around us, but can also be downright useful.

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Daniel May
Riker’s Journal
4 Comments | posted April 30th, 2007 at 11:13 am by Daniel May

There are roughly 14,000 thousand inmates at Riker’s Island. They are divided into 14 different prisons: there is a prison for juveniles, a prison for men who haven’t been sentenced, a prison for drug addicts, a prison for men before they get sent upstate for longer sentences, a prison for men who are serving shorter sentences, a prison for those arrested in the Bronx (–oh, and it’s on a barge. Because there just isn’t enough space on the island), a women’s prison, and apparently another six or seven different facilities. You take a regular city bus to get there. But the stop isn’t actually marked with any signs. You can tell it’s the bus to Rikers because, as my friend Amy tells me while I’m wandering around under the trains at Queens Plaza “it’s where there are a bunch of young women holding babies.” I find the corner with the young women with babies. “Is this the bus to Rikers” I ask one. She looks at me, jostling her daughter in her arms. “You going to Rikers?” she asks. “Yeah.” She doesn’t say anything else. I guess I’m in the right place.

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Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: Type Casting
3 Comments | posted April 29th, 2007 at 10:43 am by Felice Belle

Stereotypes Are A Real Time-Saver
– Wallace Rickard, The Onion


Last Sunday, I almost missed the curtain for Jack Goes Boating because I got into a heated discussion about 50 Cent and Jimmy Iovine. My friend argued that 50 – a poor, orphaned black youth from South Jamaica, Queens – was unfairly maligned in the mainstream media, when the real target should be Jimmy – the wealthy, white, co-founder of Interscope Records who writes 50’s checks.

I was not so willing to let 50 off the hook.

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Cristina Pippa
Dear Reader,
No Comments | posted April 29th, 2007 at 10:30 am by Cristina Pippa

Iowa City was just warming up to draw its writers out of their dens with their coffee cups and notebooks, encouraging them to stake claims on bright sidewalk cafes, when I left for Chicago on Friday. I was back with the Hawkeyes for a couple of days to interview the WWII female soldier I’ve told you all about, but I got to catch up with friends finishing the Writer’s Workshop and Playwright’s Workshop this spring. As usual, we traded details about new projects and career moves. But how often have we talked about our audience– the very reason for our work? My friend had lent me a Billy Collins CD, and I thought of this as I drove off, listening to his poetry.

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Kate Torgovnick
Elephant polo is real. Really.
3 Comments | posted April 27th, 2007 at 11:52 am by Kate Torgovnick

elephant-polo.jpg This morning, I sent out an email to a bunch of friends, and in said email, I referenced the sport of elephant polo. Some people (ahem) seem to have think I made this up. But I did not. I even have the photo to prove it. Elephant polo is most popular in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. But (here’s some trivia for you) the reigning world champion of the World Elephant Polo Association is the Chivas Regal team from Scotland. See, you really can’t make this stuff up.

Other variations of polo besides your stock equestrian and water:
Bicycle polo (read my article in this morning’s Times here); canoe polo; camel polo; golfcart polo; motorcycle polo; yak polo.

Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Really, National Pastimes
10 Comments | posted April 27th, 2007 at 10:40 am by Theo Gangi

Last night I settled in to watch the first democratic debate and the Yankee game. Phil Hughes, the top prospect in baseball, was pitching his first game in the majors at the young age of 20. At the same time, the top prospect of the democrats, Barak Obama pitched in his first presidential debate. I flipped back and forth, until I remembered I could watch them both at the same time with that cool little bubble. Here’s my night, in a nutshell:

Hughes gives up two runs in the first inning.

Obama looks uncomfortable. Too abstract.

Yankees offense looks flat. I hope Arod does something.

Hilary criticizes prez for stubbornly refusing to listen to the American people as she stubbornly refuses to listen to the question she’s been asked.

Arod gets a hit. Not a homer.

How would people react if, during conversation, I said “I’m proud of the fact that I…” What would I say? ‘I’m proud of the fact that I was fully potty trained at the age of three.’

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