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!

Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: Blogging. Therapeutic Or Plain Anxiety-Provoking?
7 Comments | posted April 12th, 2007 at 09:33 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

Blogging, for me, is kind of like being drunk and deciding to get a tattoo. It’s fun, reckless. Permanent. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Sure, you can erase it, pretend it never happened, but someone somewhere saw it.

While I was writing my book, I showed it to friends, I showed it to my writers group. I got feedback from my editor. Someone caught a typo here, a grammatical error there. A leap in logic. A misused word. I got check marks, compliments and reassurance. It made the whole process feel safe.

Blogging, on the other hand, is self-edited, off-the-cuff and raw.

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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


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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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

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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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.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Egyptian Bluetooth Prostitutes
4 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 11:02 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

How do you find a prostitute in a Muslim country? Why, stroll into the local Marriott and turn on your cellphone’s Bluetooth, of course.

I was in Cairo this past January, stopping at the hotel to use the ATM. My sister’s friend pointed to the courtyard as we passed and casually mentioned that it was probably “full of prostitutes.” I craned my neck, but didn’t see any scantily clad or over-makeup’ed women. It turns out that in Egypt, at least, since Bluetooth technology was introduced a couple of years ago, the age-old dance of Jane and John has a new step. Islamic culture frowns on brazenly approaching the opposite sex, male or female, so sex workers and sex seekers merely go to the same location—an upscale hotel lobby, or certain local coffeeshops—and make their arrangements over the radio waves.

My companion said that her boyfriend, who is Egyptian, will look at his phone every now and then in a coffeeshop and go, “Oh, no. Here they go again,” with little kittenish messages popping up on his phone.

The really weird thing? Islamic sex workers often wear the head-to-toe black burkha, far more covering than the average Egyptian woman’s veil. So, next time you see one of those photos of black-veiled women that our media loves to show us of Islamic countries, just remember: she could be a prostitute.

Felice Belle
Rest for the Weary
3 Comments | posted March 21st, 2007 at 07:19 pm by Felice Belle

Aunt J Rockin' Pearls and a Perm

During my lunch period, I go to the local bodega to get honey turkey on roll with jack cheese and mayonnaise. No lettuce. No tomato.

Waiting by the register I notice Aunt Jemima pancakes in the frozen food case. I am outraged.

When I get back to school, I immediately email my friend Robb, “Why is Aunt Jemima still a brand?”

Robb responds, “Don’t even get me started on Uncle Ben.”

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:

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.

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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