Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Jennifer Gandin LeJennifer Gandin Le is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn whose work has appeared in several New York and national magazines. Her current project is a feature-length screenplay titled Tuesday, a post-September 11th New York City love story. Jennifer writes the Beauty in a Wicked World column, which appears on Wednesdays.
Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Don’t Say I Never Gave You Nothin’
1 Comment | posted April 25th, 2007 at 08:00 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

genshiro_small.jpgLast month, billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto, a Japanese real estate mogul and billionaire, opened three of his multi-million dollar homes in Hawaii to three homeless families of Native Hawaiian descent. The families can live there rent-free, but paying utilities, for ten years.

Some people have criticized Kawamoto’s gesture as being empty and impractical: how will the families pay for their bills? If this billionaire really wanted to help the homeless, he’d build affordable housing or fund programs that help people stay off the streets. One commenter on the article says, “This is just a sick P.R. move.” It’s possible. Kawamoto has a bumpy ethical track record: in 2002, he evicted 27 Oahu tenants with 30 days’ notice because he wanted to catch the rising housing prices.

His supporters disagree, saying that a good deed is a good deed, no matter what the motivations.

So what do you think? Does a good deed have to have good intentions, or does it stand on its own as an act?

Photo Credit: AP

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: The “Other” in Your Family
4 Comments | posted April 18th, 2007 at 09:23 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

Gandin LeLast September, I married my dear friend and roommate, Chris.

Fifty years ago, we could have been arrested in 24 states for doing so.

Now, we’re part of a trend.

From last week’s AP article entitled “40 years after landmark ruling, interracial marriage flourishing in U.S.”:

Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America’s 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.

Later in the article, Rosenfeld says, “The racial divide in the U.S. is a fundamental divide. … but when you have the ‘other’ in your own family, it’s hard to think of them as ‘other’ anymore.”

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Men, Eyeliner, and Sex Appeal
7 Comments | posted April 14th, 2007 at 11:28 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

To me, there is nothing sexier than a man who can work both eyeliner and a sharp suit in turn.

I am not a big hunky-testosterone-muscle-man fan.

I love men who are almost changelings, who can walk that delicious line between masculine and feminine with style. Any man who can do this instantly wins my heart and my loins.

Take, for instance, Eddie Izzard.

Eddie Izzard, from his website Eddie Izzard, in The Riches

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Poetic People Power
2 Comments | posted April 12th, 2007 at 02:37 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

Poetic People Power logoI’d like to give a shout out to Ms. Tara Bracco, a friend of many Crucial Minutists. (Though that’s not really a word, and it looks kind of like “Menudo.” Maybe we need a different term for ourselves.)

Tara’s the founder and producer of Poetic People Power, an annual poetry event that combines poetry and activism. Last night was the project’s fifth event. Tara always offers a great variety of poets and styles: from the hilariously theatrical and brief Sugar Johnson to the long-form lyricism of Pamela Sneed.

The cool thing about this project is that Tara commissions a new poem from each writer, each year on a different subject. This year it was universal health care. You’d think those poems might be awfully dry, but they were eloquent and moving. Each poet reads their commissioned piece, and another original poem that represents their style. The result is a delicious sampling that addresses one issue, but weaves in the poets’ other passions as well.

Another thing I dig: Tara always provides a “Stay Active!” section in the program, which offers several organizations doing concrete work to make a difference.

I overheard Kimmi talking with several other audience members after the show. They were saying how refreshing it was to listen to people speak out passionately about an issue, without being embarrassed or ironic.

I wish those crotchety critics of young people could see projects like Tara’s. They might think twice before accusing us of apathy.

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Phone Number of My Dreams
2 Comments | posted April 11th, 2007 at 08:15 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

cell phone manIt might be the best pick-up line ever. “Did I meet you last night?”

Dreamed up phone number leads man to bride.

According to David Brown, of London, England, he woke up one morning with a phone number running through his head. He decided to text the above message to that number, and the young woman who received it somehow decided to respond. After several texts, a phone call, and a letter, they fell in love, and are now married.

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Advanced Spring Cleaning
3 Comments | posted April 09th, 2007 at 03:16 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

I know I’m not the only one who’s been enjoying a rush of spring cleaning lately. In the last two weeks, I’ve reduced seven boxes of old papers to two boxes, and I’ve just cleared three bags of clothing from my closet. There’s nothing like that rush of adrenaline after ridding yourself of old stuff you don’t need.

So I know that you’ll also appreciate this story of a 45-year-old Minnesota woman who’s selling most of her belongings in one massive auction on eBay.

“I’ve been schlepping this stuff across the country for more than 20 years,” she said. “I’m tired of thinking: ‘Oh my God, what if it breaks in the next move?’ Who cares?”

There’s something genius about this move: shedding the detritus of your life and setting out with only your memories (and your dog, cat, and photo albums). Of course, her sudden clearing-out could also be a warning sign of depression or suicide. It’s hard to tell, having only read the news story. We live in a complex world.

What about you? Have you ever considered shedding your possessions like this?

Jennifer Gandin Le
Love Ash-ually…
3 Comments | posted April 06th, 2007 at 08:27 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

woman and urn

Yeah, cheesiest title ever, but hey, when one week provided four news stories involving the strange treatment of human ashes, what choice did I have?

As William Shatner so eloquently put it, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re gonna die.” Let’s all hope that when we do, we have relatives who will be as creative with our remains as the three folks posted above.

Photo: Some rights reserved, by Grant Mitchell

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: The Sky is Falling?
7 Comments | posted April 04th, 2007 at 10:14 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

No doubt, the climate change picture is bleak. A new UN report out this week says that 20 to 30 percent of all life on the planet could be destroyed within decades. Millions could go hungry. Fresh water could vanish. Blah blah blah death destruction, etc.

I don’t mean to minimize how much this sucks. But if we think we’re screwed no matter what, why would we bother to act?

Buried at the bottom of the CBS article (of course) is the good news. In May, the UN will issue a third report with strategies for how we can slow global warming. James J. McCarthy, a Harvard oceanographer and author of a 2001 report on climate change, says, “…Many of these [projections] can be avoided.” Says the article:

He said he is optimistic the worst won’t happen “because we can’t be that stupid.”

I agree. Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: The Daffodil Project
1 Comment | posted March 28th, 2007 at 08:47 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

Daffodil ProjectIt’s late March, which means that flowers are starting to sprout in Fort Greene Park, like the one to the left. But this isn’t just any daffodil.

Five and a half years ago, shortly after September 11, 2001, Netherlands resident Hans van Waardenburg wanted to do something for the grieving citizens of New York City. So he donated half a million daffodil bulbs to NYC, as a gift from the City of Rotterdam.

Several parks groups coordinated 10,000 volunteers who planted 250,000 bulbs on October 20th, the first day of planting. This work is known as the Daffodil Project. It gave stunned New Yorkers something concrete to do. That next spring, the flowers burst into bloom and surprised us as we read news articles about the six-month commemoration ceremonies. They were yellow, the color of remembrance. It was perfect.

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Spring is here!
5 Comments | posted March 21st, 2007 at 02:21 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

Happy first day of Spring, all! In the spirit of new growth and abundance, I bring you this tidbit.

My class-warrior husband and I often talk about money, especially family money that makes some young people very, very rich. We get especially frustrated with young, wealthy people who act and live like they don’t have any money. Obviously it’s a complex issue, and it’s easy for me to judge from the outside, but their denial of the reality of their lives almost orientalizes the poor, as if it’s a lifestyle choice not to have money.

Which is why I was so encouraged to read this article in the February 26 issue of U.S. News:

Making Their Privilege Pay: Wealthy generation X-ers are finding it takes more than money to do good deeds

The article (written by Kimberly Palmer) talks about wealthy Gen Xers who have formed organizations, like Resource Generation and Grand Street, to counsel each other on how best to use their money for philanthropy and the greater good.

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Gallup Statistics for the Bored
2 Comments | posted March 20th, 2007 at 11:23 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

I ran across the Gallup website while researching an op-ed today. If you’ve never flipped through their poll statistics, bookmark this page for the next time you want to procrastinate:

http://www.galluppoll.com/topics/

I’m amused by the various poll topics. They cover everything from abortion to Osama bin Laden to Work. It’s also striking that poll respondents named two of the hot button issues in politics — abortion and gay rights — as having “low urgency.” Note these two quotes:

“Of any issues tested, it [homosexuality] had the lowest importance for the 2004 presidential vote.”

“Abortion is not an important issue for most Americans.”

I know others have discussed this before, but it amazes me every time I hear it. The media (printed, visual, and virtual) has such power to shape the national dialogue, even when it contradicts our every day experience.

No conclusions, just that observation.

Jennifer Gandin Le
Scientists. You gotta love them.
1 Comment | posted March 15th, 2007 at 10:57 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

With all that hard work in the lab on killers like AIDS, cancer, disease, etc., you might think that most scientists have lost their sense of humor.

Not true. From a New York Times article by John Tierney:

Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Washington State University, discovered that rats emit an ultrasonic chirp (inaudible to humans without special equipment) when they’re tickled, and they like the sensation so much they keep coming back for more tickling.

Lest you think I’m mocking Dr. Panksepp, I’m actually delighted by the idea of a rat being tickled. If we’re on a planet where wars rage and people kill, why shouldn’t we also enjoy the knowledge that rat laughter exists?

Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Weeds and Youth Activism
1 Comment | posted March 14th, 2007 at 02:04 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

Welcome to my new column on Crucial Minutiae. Every Wednesday, “Beauty in a Wicked World” will offer evidence — some huge, some tiny — that hope still exists in the world, that we aren’t all going to hell in a handbag.
Crow Poison
Today, in Brooklyn, the trees are still bare, and the partial sun and 60 degrees might slip back into snow by the weekend. But in Houston, where I’m from, my favorite flower has sprouted up all over the place. It’s a weed that grows in great bunches throughout Texas. I used to pick handfuls of them and plop them in a Dixie cup when I was a kid.

The weed’s name? Nothing poetic like “bluebonnet” or “Indian paintbrush.” No, it’s called Crow-poison, or false garlic. There is still hope when something so lovely goes by such a funky name. I appreciate that.

Now that your senses are warmed up, here’s a more dramatic item for you:

Read more…