Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Crackberries
5 Comments | posted April 24th, 2007 at 12:19 am by Courtney E. Martin

So I’m having dinner with my incredibly smart and kind Harvard Med School buddy the other night and she tells me about one of her most mysterious cases as of late. A woman came in with a very strange discoloration on her right forearm. No one could figure out what had caused it–psoriasis, skin cancer, alien kiss? Not in the least. It turns out that the woman had severe tendonitis from scrolling through her Blackberry so obsessively, so often. A previous doc had given her a shot of something to relieve the pain and she had gone right back to scrolling, creating an even more serious reaction.

Seriously? Are we a culture of workaholics so dependent on our technological doo-hickeys (to make us feel important) that we can’t call it quits when our appendages turn funny colors and stop working?

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Spread the Word
2 Comments | posted April 19th, 2007 at 09:40 am by Cristina Pippa

Court's book

“She really inspired me. I still call her Professor.”

So many of us thought of women and girls we know, and maybe ourselves, who too easily identify with Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body. If only we could have fit hundreds more of them and the men who love them into the narrow Lower East Side bar where one of our favorite Crucial Minutists read passages from her newly released book.

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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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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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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?

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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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: More Next Next Titles to Make You Feel Important
1 Comment | posted March 27th, 2007 at 10:49 am by Courtney E. Martin

If you thought social entrepreneur was an exciting new title, I’ve got yet another possibly ridiculous but still impressive sounding super-modern descriptor for your super-modern life: portfolio career.

Apparently, what my mom did in shoulder pads and massive earrings back in ’88—clinical social work/community organizing/mothering/newspaper founding/film festival running—is now called a portfolio career. I got one too—writing/teaching/filmmaking/consulting/singingoffkey/publicspeaking. On good days I called it “liberating freelancing,” on bad “crippling insecurity and black hole emailing,” but I never called it a portfolio career.

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: The Next Next for Your Old-Timey Resume
1 Comment | posted March 20th, 2007 at 08:38 am by Courtney E. Martin

I went to a fascinating panel a couple of weeks ago at NYU, hosted by Americans for Informed Democracy called “Social Entrepreneurship and Global Change.”

Yeah, I had no idea what it meant either, but apparently me, you, and everyone we know (shout out to the mystically talented Miranda July) is one. (And, yes, July is one too.) As I understood it, if you are someone enacting creative solutions to social problems—and aren’t opposed to blurring the line a bit between nonprofit and profit, grassroots and government, pop culture and theory—then you can slap a fancy new title on your resume.

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