Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: We Have Nothing to Fear
4 Comments | posted April 20th, 2007 at 09:45 am by Theo Gangi

There was a practical reason for the second amendment. We were a citizens militia without a standing army, without a warrior class. Now it makes purchasing an automatic handgun with a hair-trigger and a 16 round clip as easy as ordering a sandwich.

The only purpose for such a weapon is to kill a mass of people as quickly as possible. These weapons are designed for the military and police, not duck hunting. Yet we sell them to children if they have a drivers license. Our most powerful political party defends this policy. And they’re adults. Virgina lawmakers should be charged with 33 counts of reckless endangerment.

And who profits? The same weapons manufacturers who are rolling in money since we invaded Iraq. Haliburton’s stock price has tripled since 2003. Their CEO made 100 million dollars last year. Are our politicians in the pocket of the defense industry? No. Our politicians are the defense industry. A person going from the state department, to being CEO of a defense contractor, and back into the vice presidency, defines the legal principle of a ‘conflict of interest’. The same man who wages war cannot be the same man who profits from one.

The majority of this country has been bulldozed by a powerful few for too long. They believe they are bigger than the constitution, bigger than the people, and bigger than the Geneva conventions, which call a war of aggression a war crime. Let me paraphrase the late Don Imus– our current leaders are war criminals.

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: Oh Yeah. Oh Yeah.
5 Comments | posted April 19th, 2007 at 09:16 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

ari-and-loyd.jpg My brother, his wife, my boyfriend and I were driving back from Philadelphia this past Saturday. We had gone down there for my stepmother’s 60th birthday party, which was stressful to say the least. We were rehashing the night’s events when my brother said, “Hey, did you guys see Entourage?”

“It’s back?!” I screamed, not believing I had missed the season premiere.

“Oh, yeah, it’s back,” he said.

“It was stupid,” his wife chimed in. “Nothing happened.”

“I LOVE Entourage,” I said, wanting to hit the gas to get home sooner to watch it On Demand.

Why was I so excited about a damn TV show?

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Daniel May
What Imus Can Teach Us About Virginia Tech
3 Comments | posted April 18th, 2007 at 04:52 pm by Daniel May

So I was all set this week to keep up with my habit of writing about yesterday’s news several days past the due-date of my column by ranting about Don Imus. And then the incomprehensible occurred in Virginia, again (the incomprehensible seems to keep happening) and so now my vent about the trivial is all folded into my emotions facing the unimaginable (What if my sister were there? What if it was my child who was killed, who did the killing? Scenarios of horror played out in wandering minds around the country). So, here’s the product of a week’s thinking about Imus and two days considering the impossible.

First, on Imus: every few years our nation offers a sacrificial lamb to the gods of racial sensitivity. It makes us feel better, like we’ve come so far, like we can spot a bigot, call the bigot a bigot, and that bigot will pay for his sins, absolving us all the process. It’s a purification rite. I’m not sure if the first act of sacrifice was Jimmy the Greek, or if that’s just the first one I can recall, but in 1988 he said this gem: “During the slave period, the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid—that’s where it all started,” and got summarily fired from NBC. And more recently, of course, we’ve had Michael Richards destroy his career via Youtube and a cell phone video. And now Imus joins the ranks of the slaughtered.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: A Perfectly Imperfect Girl
5 Comments | posted April 18th, 2007 at 11:33 am by Courtney E. Martin

my hero
My inspiration for the day? This little girl I saw rocking a tutu and eating chips at the Brooklyn Musuem of Art. In case anyone was wondering.

Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: Sticks and Stones
3 Comments | posted April 15th, 2007 at 12:09 pm by Felice Belle

Snoop Dogg Speaks Out

As a black woman with a blog column, I somehow felt obligated to address the whole Don Imus situation, when all I really want to do this week is write about poetry.

Thankfully, Snoop Dogg stepped up and made an official statement, Oprah held a two-day Town Hall meeting and Don Imus was fired, so technically I’m off the hook.

Let’s talk about poems.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: The Calm Before the Storm
8 Comments | posted April 11th, 2007 at 12:42 pm by Courtney E. Martin


My book comes out in a week and I am feeling strangely calm about the whole thing. What can possibly explain this? (Especially given my predisposition to anxiety when I’m not staring down the publication of my first book.)

Maybe it was living through my first television experience—on Fox News’ Cavuto on Business no less—last week. It was me and five TV-veteran, business experts hanging in Bill O’Reilly’s green room with a collective foot of makeup on our faces. I lost track of how many times someone told me that I looked like I was 12-years-old.

Maybe it was being around my motley crew of a writer’s group last night and talking about the writer’s life, drinking beers, eating pizza, and laughing our collective, writerly asses off.

Maybe I am just too excited for my book party, which promises to be an overwhelming coming together of all the different facets of my life in one small room…with cupcakes and vodka.

Maybe it is that I have been getting really beautiful emails from young women who have their hot little hands on early copies and they’ve said things like this:

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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?


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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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

Daniel May
He’s the DJ I’m the Ranter: Breakfast with Barack
1 Comment | posted March 28th, 2007 at 05:23 pm by Daniel May

The Russell Office Building’s Room 325 is where Anita Hill testified, where hearings into the sinking of the titanic were held, and where John F. Kennedy announced his campaign for presidency. The room looks the part: along the back wall hang red curtains that bend between white pillars, a backdrop so theatrical it makes the room look like a set dressed for a filming of the hearings on the sinking of the titanic more than the actual room where they happened. The pillars are way too big for the space, and the ceiling is easily as tall as the room is wide. Room 325 is, above all, stately.

Room 325 is also where the Senators from Illinois host their “constituent coffee” every Thursday at 8:30am. On a bitingly cold morning February morning, the room was less crowded than I expected. The face of one of the senators, after all, had greeted my walk through Union Station, gently smiling out from the covers of a dozen books stacked in a display in the B. Dalton window. It was cold, and it was early, but it was also Barack Obama. He was set to announce his presidency for candidate the following Saturday, and I was nervous, running in the cold at 8:25, that I wouldn’t get in to the thing. Instead, of the maybe 150 seats, 60 or 65 were taken. Most of the donuts and coffee, on a table to the side, went uneaten.

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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.

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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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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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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Today are Liars
9 Comments | posted March 14th, 2007 at 04:27 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

Kidz today are liars.

This was not how I expected to start my first column, but please let me explain.

Last Monday, March 12th, I came down to New Orleans to interview one of the five students who I have been following for my book. Since August, I have spent countless hours getting to know each of them—visiting their schools across the country, talking to them about their lives, and interviewing their teachers, friends and family members.

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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:

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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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