Crucial Minutia
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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Don’t Say I Never Gave You Nothin’
1 Comment | posted April 25th, 2007 at 08:00 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

genshiro_small.jpgLast month, billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto, a Japanese real estate mogul and billionaire, opened three of his multi-million dollar homes in Hawaii to three homeless families of Native Hawaiian descent. The families can live there rent-free, but paying utilities, for ten years.

Some people have criticized Kawamoto’s gesture as being empty and impractical: how will the families pay for their bills? If this billionaire really wanted to help the homeless, he’d build affordable housing or fund programs that help people stay off the streets. One commenter on the article says, “This is just a sick P.R. move.” It’s possible. Kawamoto has a bumpy ethical track record: in 2002, he evicted 27 Oahu tenants with 30 days’ notice because he wanted to catch the rising housing prices.

His supporters disagree, saying that a good deed is a good deed, no matter what the motivations.

So what do you think? Does a good deed have to have good intentions, or does it stand on its own as an act?

Photo Credit: AP

Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: This Week’s Wow Award
1 Comment | posted April 22nd, 2007 at 09:12 am by Felice Belle


Every now then I hear a piece of news that leaves me speechless. Not that there are no words to say, just that in the moment I cannot find them.

When this happens my default response is, “wow.”

Short, simple, to the point. Communicating just the right amount of shock, awe and/or wonder.

This week, I’d like to present my first ever Wow Award to a German Army training video. According to the BBC, “during the filmed training session, an instructor tells the soldier: ‘You’re in the Bronx, a black van pulls up in front of you and three African-Americans get out and start really insulting your mother… act!’”

(On so many levels).

Read more…

Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Kill
9 Comments | posted April 18th, 2007 at 11:10 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again?

It seems like Monday, April 16, 2007 was a day destined to inspire these existential questions.

The devastating massacre at Virginia Tech.

We will never know why Cho Seung-Hui ended the lives of so many promising young students and their teachers. He is permanently silenced. Any explanation we conceive regarding his motive or circumstance is pure speculation. Yet, we keep searching. Twenty-four-hour cable news is on it’s 48th hour of coverage. Somehow, not being able to understand or make sense of this tragedy is almost more horrific and unsettling than the actual event.

How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again?

Monday, April 16,2007 was also Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom HaShoah in Hebrew. It is a day of mourning for the worst crime of the 20th century.

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: The “Other” in Your Family
4 Comments | posted April 18th, 2007 at 09:23 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

Gandin LeLast September, I married my dear friend and roommate, Chris.

Fifty years ago, we could have been arrested in 24 states for doing so.

Now, we’re part of a trend.

From last week’s AP article entitled “40 years after landmark ruling, interracial marriage flourishing in U.S.”:

Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America’s 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.

Later in the article, Rosenfeld says, “The racial divide in the U.S. is a fundamental divide. … but when you have the ‘other’ in your own family, it’s hard to think of them as ‘other’ anymore.”

Read more…

Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Too Much Sugar, Not Enough Medicine?
2 Comments | posted April 17th, 2007 at 08:26 am by Courtney E. Martin

stewartA new study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press confirms the obvious hunch that Americans are not so informed about current events. They concluded this by asking people stumpers like, “Who is the current vice president?” Thirty one percent of people either didn’t know or were too embarassed to utter Slick Dick’s name.

Here’s the really interesting bit, though: of the six news sources cited most often, “The Daily Show” and “The Cobert Report” were tied at the top with websites of major newspapers. As “well, duh” as that seems, we have to take a moment to reflect on how totally unprecedented it is that the majority of Americans are getting their news from a comedy show.

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Just Leave the College Kids Alone.
7 Comments | posted April 13th, 2007 at 09:08 am by Theo Gangi

Isn’t there a war somewhere? I mean one not between activists and a week-old comment?

I would like to stop talking about Imus. The problem with that is, I watch the news. Unless I quit, it’s the Imus-Rutgers-a-thon.

There is something about this comment that will not go away. My father mentioned that the Rutgers girls’ team press conference is what put the final nail in the Imus coffin. People saw who was attacked, and how undeserving they were. Race issues jump a hypersensitive notch when dealing with college kids. Look at how the media/public condemned the Duke Lacrosse players on hearsay.

The media frenzy at Rutgers took my back to an incident I was involved in back in college.

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Here on Earth
7 Comments | posted April 12th, 2007 at 11:34 am by Cristina Pippa

Darfur“Oh,” a woman in a thick overcoat whimpered outside a market. She was covering her mouth as she look over a bed of lifeless tulips. I joined her at what might as well have been the seen of an accident, at which point she said, “I know how they feel.”

“Me too,” I admitted to this stranger, although I didn’t go so far as to tell her that I had once googled Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately nicknamed “SAD.” Surely there are bigger things to worry about than when the sun will come out and the temperature will spring up again.

Yesterday I discovered that Google Earth and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have teamed up on a project called Crisis in Darfur. 200 million Google Earth users (a group which can include you if it doesn’t already– since it’s free to download and you must have some access to a computer if you’re reading this) have the ability to coast over an almost 3-D depiction of our planet to Sudan. There, they will find a bevy of red flames, signaling which villages have been destroyed. They can also click on camera icons to see photos and read stories of genocide.

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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

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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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?

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

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Women Prefer Sought-After Men, Men Eschew Sought-After Women
6 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…

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.

Read more…

Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Political Theater
1 Comment | posted March 23rd, 2007 at 06:09 pm by Theo Gangi

The problem with Hollywood’s recent Historical action flicks is the marginal interest in history. At the top of the box office last weekend, 300, based on a Frank Miller comic book, tells the story of a famous Spartan last stand. What’s troublesome is that the movie surgically removes the strategic reason for this sacrifice—to save the lives of the 6,000 other Greek soldiers who would’ve been slaughtered. Why this fact is left out isn’t exactly clear, but it is disconcerting that somehow it’s easier for an audience to swallow a sacrifice for a vague, undefined ideology than for a strategic purpose.

It reeks of Bush logic. The Spartan king goes off to war while the Greek people are either too corrupt or too stupid to know it’s time to fight. This king represents only 300 of his constituency, the way our president only represents 30%. This king kills the Persian diplomat for suggesting a negotiation. Why mention that the Greeks destroyed an important Persian temple just years before? No, these ‘ambassadors’ are people of color coming for our freedom. Can’t talk, gotta kill ‘em. Git ‘er done. But most shameful, the movie pretends the 300 Spartans didn’t go to war with 6,000 other Greeks because then they would’ve looked like pussies. The filmakers also removed the Spartan’s body armor. I’m surprised they didn’t remove the spears and shields as well, and go into battle swinging their genitals.

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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

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Persian New Year
2 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 07:20 pm by Cristina Pippa

All the World is a weekly column on the drama of life appearing Thursdays.

“Happy Vernal Equinox!”

“I was just thinking– Wait, what?”

“Vernal Equinox. First day of spring? Makes me giddy.”

“You just want an excuse to get naked.”

“I was going to say, we’re having a party tonight.”

That was a conversation at my gym. And it’s true. The sun has crossed the celestial equator. It only happens twice a year and it does something to us, doesn’t it? Perhaps we’ve gotten a little frisky or started shoving sweaters to the back of our closets. Some of us can’t help staying up later, even though we’ve set our clocks forward. And even if we don’t exactly identify with the Onion’s article about the “Area Pagan Dreading Big Family Vernal Equinox Celebration,” this is a significant time of the year around the world.

In Iran, the new year begins with the first day of spring.

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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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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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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Soldiers on a Plane
2 Comments | posted March 15th, 2007 at 10:08 am by Cristina Pippa

GATE AGENT: We will now begin boarding flight 4081 to San Francisco. All first class passengers and uniforms (pause) meaning (long pause) all soldiers.

The best-dressed business types in the crowd step back as four soldiers approach the gate. One is a woman. One has dark skin. One has a fresh scar on the back of his neck.

A man fearlessly reading an article entitled “Anatomy of a Plane Crash,” looks up at the soldiers from behind his copy of Popular Mechanics. A woman lowers her New York Times to her side, covering the picture of a war protest at which a woman lifts a giant sign reading, “Give me back my husband!”

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