Crucial Minutia
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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Why Japanese Culture Is So Weird
3 Comments | posted April 19th, 2007 at 04:56 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Hello Kitty FashionIf you’re anything like me, everytime you see Dragonball Z, Akira, Princess Mononoke, or any hentai you—ahem—accidentally come across, you wonder, “What is up with Japan? Why is their culture so weird?” In a feature in this month’s Atlantic Monthly about the popularity of anonymous group suicide in Japan (subscription required), the first plausible theory I’ve heard is offered:

“Japan lost the war to the Americans,” [Hideaki Anno, creator of the popular Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series] explains…Since that time, the education we received is not one that creates adults. Even for us, people in their 40s, and for the generation older than me, in their 50s and 60s, there’s no reasonable model of what an adult should be like.” The theory that Japan’s defeat stripped the country of its independence and led to the creation of a nation of permanent children, weaklings forced to live under the protection of the American Big Daddy, is widely shared by artists and intellectuals in Japan.

This is mentioned in the context of anonymous group suicide, but for me it goes a long way towards explaining Hello Kitty fanatics, large-iris manga contact lenses, and viral slapping videos. I mean, this stuff is weird!

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

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Kate Torgovnick
Miss ya Kurt.
5 Comments | posted April 11th, 2007 at 10:47 pm by Kate Torgovnick

I’m feeling super bummed right now because I just saw that Kurt Vonnegut died. This sucks because he is one of the best, funniest writers ever. I actually got to meet him once when he did a reading of Timequake at Duke University my senior year of high school. Here is the entire transcript of our conversation, from my memory, of course:

Me: (Looking star struck as I walk to the table where he’s signing books).
Kurt: What the hell happened to your hair?
Me: (Feeling self-conscious about the blue streak in my hair for the first time in years) Um, freak accident at a Crayola Factory?
Him: (Shrug).
Me: (Hands him a copy of Breakfast of Champions.)
Him: (Signs it in the most illegible handwriting ever.) Don’t read Timequake. It’s terrible.
Me: Then why did you write it?
Him: (Slides fingers together as if counting dollar bills.)

And that’s it. Long live Kilgore Trout. —Kate

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: What Men Can Learn From Wenches
3 Comments | posted April 09th, 2007 at 02:08 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

“A good wench is so hard to find,” laments King Phillip, sitting on his throne, speaking with Hank Hill. “You are fortunate. Yours seems sturdy. If I had her in my employ, it would solidify the bond between our two kingdoms.”

In the King of the Hill episode “Joust Like a Woman,” Hank Hill is trying to make a big propane sale to Phillip’s traveling Renaissance Fair. But Phillip refuses to drop character, speaking only with thee’s and thou’s in a British accent. (He’s voiced by Alan Rickman.)

Phillip’s kingdom is a misogynist’s fantasy. Women are put in the stocks for “the crime of offering her own opinion,” paid less than men, and have no rights. To help Hank make the sale, though, his wife Peggy agrees to work for Phillip. Upon discovering the inequalities, she goes to speak with Phillip, who ignores her unless she addresses him as King. When she asks him if he’s familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, he asks how could he be? After all, it is but the year 1590. Peggy tries to organize a revolt of the wenches by throwing tomatoes at Phillip, but the other women abandon her at the last second. To keep Peggy from the stocks, Hank agrees to fight a joust for Peggy’s honor—and the propane account.

“Take off that crown! I’m kicking your ass!”

*     *     *

Here’s the thing: men are in trouble in our society.

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Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: The Flavor of Love
2 Comments | posted April 08th, 2007 at 11:47 am by Felice Belle

Flavor Flaaaav!

With 3.3.million viewers, Flavor of Love 2 was the highest rated series debut on VH1 until it was bested by its spin-off I Love New York, which netted 4.43 million viewers.

Clearly VH1 hopes to strike ratings gold with the newest addition to the franchise — Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School.

Charm School will follow thirteen of the “breakout stars” from Flavor of Love, seasons one and two, as they compete in self improvement and etiquette-based challenges. The last woman standing will win $50,000 to help her achieve her life’s dream.

According to the video blogs on the VH1 website, Serious (not her real name) hopes to start a non-profit called Be A Role Model, while Smiley (also a fake name) aspires to “teach all of America […] to be their sexy selves” through the art of pole dancing.

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Felice Belle
Stakes is High: You Are What You Eat
4 Comments | posted April 01st, 2007 at 09:28 am by Felice Belle

ouch! my tooth.

On Monday, March 26, 2007 Britney Spears had a toothache and went to the dentist.

On Tuesday March 27, 2007 a truck bomb exploded in Iraq, killing 152 people and wounding 347.

You might dismiss this as apples to oranges, but last week both of these events qualified as news.

Surprisingly, I only heard about one of them.

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Then Jesus was like…
4 Comments | posted March 29th, 2007 at 09:24 am by Cristina Pippa

PRIEST: So the Pharisees brought this adultress before Jesus, and they were like, “Adultery is punishable by stoning. Are you gonna break that law?” And Jesus was like, “Yo, whoever is without sin can be the one to cast the first stone.” Then Jesus was totally alone with this woman and he was all, “Who are your accusers?” And she was like, “No man, Lord.” So Jesus was like, “I won’t accuse you either. Go, get outta here, and try not to sin.”

Most of my experiences with the Catholic Church have been in Sardinia– where my cousins still celebrate saints’ days because the solemn parading of the saint and his/her relics is usually accompanied by a carnival with giant blocks of torrone and fun houses pumping techno music. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised last Sunday when I visited a very liberal Catholic Church (yes, it seems that those actually do exist in America) where amid full regalia of cloaks and candles, the priest spoke like he was reporting on a tailgate party the night before.

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Felice Belle
A Loss for Words
1 Comment | posted March 27th, 2007 at 09:07 pm by Felice Belle

totally avril

“She’s like so whatever.”
– Avril Lavigne, from the single Girlfriend.

Never before has a song lyric been used to communicate so little.

p.s. Full disclosure: Two days after posting this, I made Girlfriend the song on my myspace page. Damn you and your catchy pop music, Avril.

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Danny Tanner vs. Alcibiades in Cancun
6 Comments | posted March 26th, 2007 at 01:54 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

My freshman year of college, I went to Cancun for Spring Break. This was a mistake.

I went with my hallmates. We were three nice guys, decent-looking, average builds. At our college, we were considered fine specimens. But in Cancun, we figured, we’d clean up. Our first act in arriving (besides purchasing a bottle of tequila), was to sit down and figure out a “point system” so we could determine who “won Cancun.” Should kissing a girl on the dance floor be worth more or less than kissing in a hotel room? Is a threesome the same if—well, you get the idea.

Don’t worry; we got what was coming to us.

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Felice Belle
Stakes is High: I Think I Love Real Life
2 Comments | posted March 25th, 2007 at 12:18 am by Felice Belle

Happily Ever After

We are a nation built on myth and legend. From Christopher Columbus’ discovery of already existing land to George Washington’s alleged inability to lie, the stories we tell ourselves become the foundation for the reality we create.

So it should come as no surprise that Hollywood continues to sell us fairytales. Nearly every romantic comedy created follows the once upon a time formula. Girl and boy meet, obstacles are overcome and in the end, an enchanted love prevails.

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Florian Duijsens
Loney, Dear’s punctuated Scandinavian pop
2 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 06:10 pm by Florian Duijsens

After The Pipettes’ fabulous encore, I hopped into my waiting car service (or probably someone else’s) and rushed through downtown Brooklyn to sneak into Union Hall’s sightline-challenged basement. Thank the gods, Loney, Dear had only just started their set. What you need to know about this Swede is that he is quite relentless. Already four albums into his short one-man-band (expanded to four on stage) career, his latest, “Loney, Noir” is pop almost to a fault.

Laden with cheery hooks and brassy Sufjan-strumentation, the album is precise and hopeful even in the face of mild tragedy, a state of mind that can be a bit much for those who sometimes like their sentiments sloppy and slushy. On closer inspection, the songs always undercut their own pop-bravado. “I Am John,” the free mp3 offered by Sub Pop is undeniably the album’s tour-de-force in peppy relentlessness (sparkly xylophone included), but Emil Svanängen’s lyrics hint at a tragic romantic realism when he follows the chorus’ “Never gonna let you down” with the downer line, “but i will always let you down.”

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Florian Duijsens
The Pipettes’ Brooklyn charm offensive
3 Comments | posted March 20th, 2007 at 03:27 pm by Florian Duijsens

After the ridiculous cool-concert drought of February 2007, I was more than enthusiastically snapping up tickets to the many SXSW-related shows happening all over NYC in March. Belatedly realizing, after clicking the ‘Confirm Payment’ button, that I had bought tickets for two shows happening on the same night. Moreover, the first was happening in Williamsburg, the other in Park Slope, a true Brooklyn logistics horror.

Sure enough, my double-booked evening did not start well, I stood in the lush Luna Lounge anxiously hoping The Pipettes would start on time so I could make it to the nerdy Union Hall in time for the uniquely Swedish indie-pop of Loney, Dear (but more on the Swedes in my next post). The Pipettes were late, and nervous; their tech-guys checking up on the same keyboard five times. The suspense was killing me, I hardly even noticed my teen-idol, the ever-present ex-Pumpkin James Iha, lounging around behind me. Still, when girl-group-goddesses Gwenno, Becki, and Rose stepped on the stage, dressed in three different, but equally polka-dotted dresses, all was forgiven. The group performed choreographed literal dancemoves, democratically alternated on vocals, awkwardly said ‘cheers’ between songs, and in the process played all my favorite tracks off “We are The Pipettes“.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Don’t Be A Pussy
6 Comments | posted March 19th, 2007 at 04:13 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

“Come on, guys! You barely need to get any air!” Trent called up, leaning against his ski poles fifty feet below us on the snowy slope. “Just enough to clear those rocks!”

Matt, my beanpole-shaped college roommate, took one last look over the edge and called back, “Sorry, Trent. My vagina hurts.” He skied around the precipice and came to stand with Trent and the girls below.

I nodded. Smart move on Matt’s part to go there; Trent would have no worse insult to add. I leaned over to look at the small cliff he had just jumped over. Mind you, this would be the second cliff I would jump off on this run if I did it—the last one was a five foot drop onto the steep, slushy slope that we had just skied down.

I couldn’t see the rocks very well, but it was a patch at least a few feet long. They were jagged, unforgiving granite. If I mistimed my jump, I could break my skis, my legs. But if I made it—Matt hadn’t done it. He usually took more risks than I did. I could leapfrog him, if only for that day, on the cojones scale. I carefully stepped my way back up the slope to get some approach speed. I peered down at the rocks again.

“Oh, just do it!” Trent yelled. “Don’t be a pussy.”

*     *     *

Pussy. In one form or another, it is the ultimate trump card a guy can play.

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Felice Belle
Stakes is High: Why I Won’t Watch “The Hills”
2 Comments | posted March 18th, 2007 at 06:29 pm by Felice Belle

The Hills Logo

I graduated from high school the same year as Brenda, Brandon and the whole gang from West Beverly Hills High. I rooted for Kelly when she hooked up with Dylan, while Sophie B. Hawkins’ Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover underscored their oceanside infidelity. I shouted “Donna Martin graduates” at my television when the principal threatened to keep Tori Spelling from getting her diploma because of her drunken prom night antics. I have even, on occasion, shed a tear during particularly poignant episodes of Dawson’s Creek. (Laugh if you must, but the writing on that show was exquisite, especially during the first two seasons when Kevin Williamson was still the Executive Producer). I just want to make it clear that I love a teen melodrama in all its glory. Yet and still, I cannot understand why people I know and love and respect are watching The Hills.

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Why We’re Not Spoiled Brats, Damn It
1 Comment | posted March 13th, 2007 at 10:53 pm by Courtney E. Martin

A reporter for Pink Magazine interviewed Kate, Jennifer, and me about intergenerational conflict among women on our lunch break from writing at the New York Public Library (Florian taught us to call it nipple, cause he’s Dutch and funny) the other day.

We talked about the complexity of mentorship, freelance insecurity, and a bunch of other interesting topics, but what really got me thinking was a brief fore into the land of Gen Y “entitlement.” Seems that in a survey of boomer ladies, the majority complained of our generation’s audacious sense of entitlement to meaningful work, fancy titles, and respect without paying the requisite dues.

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