Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Kate TorgovnickKate Torgovnick is writing her first book, a Friday Night Lights-ish look at competitive college cheerleading (Making the Castle, Simon and Schuster, March 2008). She writes regularly for the New York Times and Jane, as well as a variety of other publications. She writes the You Can't Make This Stuff Up column, which appears on Tuesdays.
Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Caffeinated Soap.
1 Comment | posted April 24th, 2007 at 08:29 am by Kate Torgovnick


Piggybacking on Courtney’s are-we-all-way-too-addicted-to-technology post, this article I just read made me wonder if we’re all way too addicted to caffeine, too. Evidently, you can now get caffeine from a bar of soap? But don’t worry shower gel users, that version is available, too.

The folks who’ve invented this brilliant soap, called Shower Shock, say that it releases the same amount of caffeine into your bloodstream as two cups of coffee and “is infused with peppermint and citrus so the user doesn’t end up smelling of coffee.”

What is our world coming to? —Kate

Kate Torgovnick
Sorry dudes, it’s a birth control post.
5 Comments | posted April 20th, 2007 at 10:04 am by Kate Torgovnick

Not too many women I know love getting their period and the awesome cramps that come with it every month. So you’d think women would be jumping up and down after hearing that a new pill called Lybrel is likely to be approved this summer that eliminates periods completely. But instead of women being excited, it’s caused a pretty big uproar. Read this article for a good recap of the controversy.

Here is the argument I hear most often, usually from women who have been taking the pill for years: It seems unnatural to not get your period every month. But this argument hinges on some huge misinformation. And since I’ve spent years studying this as a health editor, I am taking it upon myself to clear it up.

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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Sketchy Tax Folks
2 Comments | posted April 17th, 2007 at 04:56 pm by Kate Torgovnick

So taxes are due tonight at midnight, and in honor of this special occasion, I thought I’d share a story. About three years ago, I asked a friend at work is she had an accountant she recommended. She gave me the name of a friend of a friend from college named Bill, now a CPA. I gave him a call and he sounded great over the phone—he was only going to charge me $100 bucks for his services. You know, the friend discount. I faxed him all my documents.

Since Bill lived in Queens, he often took trips to Manhattan, stopping by the offices of his clients so they could sign their tax returns. I was expecting to get a call from Reception any minute when instead my cell phone rang. “I can’t find anywhere to park,” said Bill. “Do you mind meeting me at my car?” Since he’s a friend of a friend I said yes.

I headed downstairs and waited in front of my office. And up pulled Bill. In a huge black Escalade. With gigantic gold rims. And 50 Cent playing, the bass thumping so loud that you could hear it a block away. He rolled down the window, where I could see several screens installed on the dashboard, playing 50’s music video, of course. And I signed my tax return right there, with a police officer staring at us like we were crazy.

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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

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


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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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

Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Law Students Get Jiggy Wit It.
2 Comments | posted March 28th, 2007 at 07:02 am by Kate Torgovnick

Law students aren’t exactly known for being, well, fun. But tonight through Friday, the kids at NYU Law School are throwing their annual Law Revue, which is a hybrid of sketchy comedy and musical numbers put on by law students who love theater. A sample bit: “Bill It,” a send up of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video where a gang of partners dance-off with a gang of associates. Expect lots of lawyerly jokes about things you don’t exactly get and professors you’ve never had. The students think of it as a last hurrah before exams.

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Kate Torgovnick
Please check your cat food.
No Comments | posted March 23rd, 2007 at 03:08 pm by Kate Torgovnick

In the same way that I can’t watch movies about pets because I know little Fido or Socks is going to bite it by the end, this article really made me sad:

Rat Poison Found in Tainted Pet Food

So if you have a pet, please check the bag before filling their bowl tonight. —Kate

Kate Torgovnick
Where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe?
1 Comment | posted March 23rd, 2007 at 01:06 pm by Kate Torgovnick

This morning I did my first ever radio interview, and as producer put me on hold, the music had to be my personal 8th ring of hell. It was “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex played on repeat. For. five. minutes.

This happens to be the worst song on the planet. If you are not familiar, listen to it here, but I warn you that your ears may bleed. Let me tell you a story about this song. It was camp, sometime in the late mid-nineties. And everyone was listening to this horrible song constantly all summer. So for our camp talent show, I asked the counselor responsible for the Rednex CD if I could borrow it for my skit. Foolishly, he didn’t ask what my talent was. Because when my turn came in the show, I got on stage and smashed the evil CD with a hammer. I felt bad afterwards so I gave the counselor $20, but still, it was one of the crowning achievements of my life.

Oh, and this is the kind of thing you find out when you Google “rednex.” Evidently, they’re a Swedish band? What the heck? —Kate

Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: 101 Mascots.
2 Comments | posted March 20th, 2007 at 07:08 pm by Kate Torgovnick

If you’ve been anywhere near a television recently, you’ve probably noticed that we are smack in the middle of March Madness. And as you watched the basketball festivities, you might have caught a glimpse of one of the gigantic furry creatures on the sidelines. Which means you might have had one of the following thoughts: What’s so rebellious about UNLV? How are UNC the Tarheels and the Rams at the same time? And why does the Kansas Jayhawk wear shoes?

Well, Dr. Roy E. Yarbrough, mascotologist extraordinaire, knows the answers. Not only was he the Greenville College Panther from 1969 to 1970, but he’s written an encyclopedia detailing how the mascots of more than 1700 colleges came to be. Here are the short stories for the teams in the Sweet Sixteen:

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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Live Forever.
2 Comments | posted March 06th, 2007 at 10:06 am by Kate Torgovnick

In a previous life (fine, four months ago), I was a health editor at Jane Magazine. I constantly was flipping through medical journals and Google searching for health news that could inspire an article. In the process, it never failed to amaze me just how many studies are going on at any given moment about things that make people live longer. Below is a (nearly) exhaustive list, from being tall to drinking donkey milk. I’ve divided it into two lists: “Things that make you live longer” and “Things linked to kicking the bucket earlier.” If you see more of yourself in list #1, kudos and I’ll help plan your 90th birthday party. And if you recognize yourself more in list #2, well, you didn’t really want to be 103 anyway. Here goes…

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