Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: When the Child Becomes the Parent
5 Comments | posted April 11th, 2007 at 11:05 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

I’m getting married at the end of July, which means that I am participating in a cultural tradition known as “the wedding.” Like most cultural traditions, “the wedding” can feel a big alienating at times. Sure, you identify with it, insofar as you’ve been to other weddings and you recognize the symbolism (white dress, fancy ring, lots of flowers etc.), but when it happens to you, the whole thing can feel a little strange. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is how wonderful it can be. I would never have predicted that I would find such a lasting love, someone that I want to make part of my family.

Speaking of family, that’s another thing about getting married: you get another family. Soon, I will have four parents. More parents eventually means more people to care for. Caring for others can be quite rewarding, and there is a wide range of potential experiences in this regard. However, our parents will get older. We will have to mitigate new relationships with them as they age. This is just part of the life cycle, for better or worse (richer or poorer, you know the drill).

Of course, they could have done a little more to help us out. Unless something changes–and Baby Boomers start planning for retirement and aging–our generation is pretty much screwed.

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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.

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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Daytona Beach Edition.
3 Comments | posted April 10th, 2007 at 02:25 pm by Kate Torgovnick

img_0355.jpg

This week, I headed to the NCA College Cheerleading Nationals in Daytona Beach. And while I had a blast at the competition, Daytona Beach itself was pretty horrifying. Let’s just say that I’ll never make a joke about New Jersey again. I am hereby declaring Daytona one of the worst places in America, and here are just a few of the reasons why.

1. Since people can drive their cars on Daytona beaches, you have to watch for traffic while you build a sandcastle. And, um, did anyone else notice that there are speed limit signs on the on the beach? That’s just whack.

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: All-at-Onceness
2 Comments | posted April 10th, 2007 at 02:19 pm by Courtney E. Martin

Veruca Salt

Okay, here’s another concept for you to try on: “all-at-onceness.” We can thank media scholar Marshall McLuhan—of “the medium is the message” fame—for this one.

Essentially the idea is that in this time of constant communication, unparalleled access to information, and ever-rising ambitions, we are a generation accustomed to “all-at-onceness.” I think of it in terms of both quantity and timing—we want it all and, please and thank you, we want it all now. A little like Willy’s old friend, Veruca Salt.

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: The Criminalization of Racism
3 Comments | posted April 10th, 2007 at 11:02 am by Theo Gangi

“It happens to be Mr. Imus. But behind Mr. Imus it’s all of us.” –Rutgers Coach Vicki Stringer.

Not again. E Tu, Imus

I’m not going to get in line to take shots at Imus. The repugnant idiocy of his comment is self-explanatory. Whether or not he should be fired is another issue.

Unlike Mel Gibson and Michael Richards, Imus has done a ton of good with his celebrity. He championed Harold Ford Jr.’s run to be the first black senator of Tennessee. He regularly promotes a line of green safe cleaning products and a ranch for kids with cancer. Politicians go on his show to expose issues neglected by the media. Unlike Mel Gibson, his slur came in the midst of a comedy act. Unlike Michael Richards, Imus wasn’t in a primal rage.

So who wants Imus canned? Many rightly outraged black leaders. Also the same man who wants to charge the cops in the tragic Shawn Bell shooting with premeditated murder. It’s not that Al Sharpton invents issues. It’s that his hellfire approach terrifies white people, and does nothing to address the racism behind their revelatory gaffs.

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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?

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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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

Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: The Power Of Ritual
7 Comments | posted April 05th, 2007 at 09:41 pm by Kimberlee Auerbach

“Ritual gives structure to chaos,” says Judy Davis, author of Who’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is This Anyway. “It’s a form of communal holding. All who light candles in this way are connected, part of a family, part of something larger.”

It’s the morning after the second night of Passover, and we’re sitting in her kitchen, eating Matzo Brei covered with real maple syrup. Delicious.

She goes on to explain, “All rituals have open and closed parts. Everyone usually agrees about the closed parts. A Christmas tree on Christmas. A turkey on Thanksgiving. Open parts are the ways in which we can contribute our signature stamp, personalize the structure.”

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Origin of Love
5 Comments | posted April 05th, 2007 at 05:09 pm by Cristina Pippa

This time eavesdropping was the last thing on my mind. I was about to cross the street when the conversation behind me brought me to a halt. I had a walk sign, there were no cars coming, but I stood there on the corner for you, Crucial Minutiae, snatching a bit of real life soap opera on a park bench. Okay, I’ll admit it. It was my own curiosity that caused me to turn and look at the preppy kid whose hand was inching toward the neck of a wide-eyed brunette.

“Oh, my girlfriend. She’s just mad because I’m taking you home with me. But I said I would, and I’m going to. You know? I mean, she should know I love her.”

Love. On the tennis courts, it means zero. Off the courts it can mean everything– or still zero. It’s a word packed with meaning and forever open to interpretation. Some use it frivolously while others are scared to use it at all. Many believe it can never be conveyed enough and make a habit of ending every phone call with a mention of it. Americans throw it around as a compliment or an expression of taste too. “I love that sweater!” “He loves pies.” “Don’t you just love it when she says that?”

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Your “H” Questions Answered
5 Comments | posted April 05th, 2007 at 01:02 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my interactions with “H”, a former Harvard Hopeful who revealed a major lie and was subsequently cast out of Fat Envelope Frenzy fame (see my first post for the whole story). Since then, I’ve received numerous emails and telephone calls with similar themes. In general, people start by offering their sympathy (with the exception of my good friend Ben Wakelin, who scolded me on the blogosphere by–correctly–pointing out that I had a hand in getting myself into this situation). Then, they usually move on to the following comments:

What was “H” thinking? How did he plan to get away with this?

and

You should totally use this material in your book. It shows the lengths that kids will go to in this achievement-at-all-costs culture.

People seem to understand my response to the first comment more than my reaction to the second.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Me and Vicky’s Girls
8 Comments | posted April 04th, 2007 at 03:29 pm by Courtney E. Martin

In case you weren’t sure, the world is officially full of gut-splitting ironies.

Victoria’s Secret ModelsI showed up at the Hotel Gansevoort, a fancy schmance hotel in the disgustingly trendy meatpacking district, for an interview and photo shoot with British magazine You. (Yes, you read that right, photo shoot; I was dumbfounded too.) They bought the first rights to publish an excerpt and an interview with me from my UK publisher, Piatkus.

The photojournalist and his assistant decided that the roof bar would be a great place to take shots of me. We rode the elevator up while making awkward small talk (or was that me and my internal voice wondering what the hell I was doing in a photo shoot?).

The elevator doors opened and we stepped out…right into a sea of giant models in bikinis and high heels. That’s right. Victoria Secret was doing a photo shoot at the exact same time in the exact same place.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Women Prefer Sought-After Men, Men Eschew Sought-After Women
5 Comments | posted April 04th, 2007 at 12:26 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Ok, so this one is straight from the thanks-science-for-proving-something-everyone-already-knew department:

The Royal Society of London performed an experiment in which they showed men and women photos of the opposite sex. Photos of guys were paired with pictures of women either smiling in their direction or with a neutral expression on their faces, and vice versa. The study found that women were more likely to find a guy attractive when he had a positive female expression turned towards him, while men were less likely to find a woman attractive in the same circumstance. The guys, however, preferred a guy who was neutrally regarded by women. The study concludes that “within-sex competition promotes negative attitudes among men towards other men who are the target of positive social interest from women.” (From The Atlantic Monthly.)

Men & Women Attractiveness Study

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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…

Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Ugly Car Colors.
4 Comments | posted April 03rd, 2007 at 09:33 pm by Kate Torgovnick

I had a friend in high school who drove the ugliest colored car ever—it was a color I can only refer to as vomit orange. I’d assumed that it was used and all she could afford because it never occurred to me that anyone would choose such a color. But then she told me that she actually bought this car and picked it out from all the others on the lot. Why? She claimed that because fewer cars of that color would made it was rarer and would be worth more money when she traded it in. I’ve been trying to confirm or disprove this theory for years, so anyone with any information, please pass it on.

And why am I thinking about this now? I was in Texas this weekend (hanging out with cheerleaders for my book, Making the Castle) and almost everyone had bizarre yellow, orange, and mint green colored cars. But then again, I went to a bar that had a pool in the back. Fun for water volleyball, but not such a good idea when you’re also offering pitchers. —Kate orange-car.jpgviolet-car.jpgyellow-car.jpg

Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Dudes and Babies
5 Comments | posted April 03rd, 2007 at 09:39 am by Courtney E. Martin

So I’m sitting on the train, headed God knows where, and a guy with Fu Manchu facial hair and a track suit wheels his fat-cheeked baby son on to the 5 train. He sits next to another guy—this one Asian-American and all suited up, pink tie, baby blue button-up. Fu Manchu tries to put his baby’s Timberland boots back on his tiny little feet and the Suit says, “Don’t you hate how those always fall off?”

“Yeah man.”

“You can get these little boots with velcro, so they don’t fall off, and the sole is softer so the baby can really feel his feet on the ground. That’s good for ‘em.”

“Cool man, where do you get those?”

I honestly thought I was going to cry. Not because this is unusual. I’m sure there are dads of different stripes trading parenting tips all over the globe, but I rarely witness it in such unabashed, matter-of-fact form.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Don’t Listen To Darth Vader—Your Feelings Lie
1 Comment | posted April 02nd, 2007 at 11:27 am by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

empirestrikesback.jpg“Luke, I am your father,” Darth Vader informed Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. “Search your feelings—you know it be true.”

For men, I would argue, feelings are a pretty piss-poor place to find truth.

After my scarring spring break trip to Cancun freshman year of college, I started dating a girl, H. The whole thing nearly fell apart because I followed Vader’s advice and trusted my feelings.

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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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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: A Racial Conversation About Nothing
4 Comments | posted March 30th, 2007 at 12:21 am by Theo Gangi

Conversation about race today is about nothing. It belongs on Seinfeld.

The sitcom has an interesting history regarding race. Even at the height of its popularity, its ethnocentricity and racism was widely overlooked. Minorities who appeared on the show were hypersensitive rants impossible not to offend. The writers were smart enough to recognize this, and played to it in a brilliant episode where George, in order to prove that he isn’t racist, tries to make friends with every black person he sees.

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