Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...

You are currently browsing the Crucial Minutiae weblog archives for March, 2007.

Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: A Racial Conversation About Nothing
4 Comments | posted March 30th, 2007 at 12:21 am by Theo Gangi

Conversation about race today is about nothing. It belongs on Seinfeld.

The sitcom has an interesting history regarding race. Even at the height of its popularity, its ethnocentricity and racism was widely overlooked. Minorities who appeared on the show were hypersensitive rants impossible not to offend. The writers were smart enough to recognize this, and played to it in a brilliant episode where George, in order to prove that he isn’t racist, tries to make friends with every black person he sees.

Read more…

Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: Cliff Notes
4 Comments | posted March 29th, 2007 at 05:35 pm by Kimberlee Auerbach

Ever wonder about the difference between cognitive therapy and psychoanalysis? Neuropsychology and Psychiatry? Or is it a toss up between life coach and philosophical counselor for you?

I was talking to Theo about therapy on our way back to the city from writers group the other night. I was saying how hard it is to find the right therapist when you’re depressed, how your power of assessment is lower when you’re vulnerable, how it’s close to impossible to know if someone is a quack when you’re desperate.

My father used to say that only 1% of any professional is competent and that there is no real way to determine the competency of therapists. Sure, reputations develop. Trustworthy people give referrals. You can look up criminal records. But how do you really know if you are seeing someone good? Or should I say, good for you?

Read more…

Joie Jager-Hyman
They Don’t Call Them “Pampered” for Nothing
3 Comments | posted March 29th, 2007 at 11:48 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

I live on an island that is being invaded by a strange and powerful force: rich toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, I like toddlers and everything. But do they have to be growing at such a fast rate? And do they all have to be richer than me?

A few days ago, the New York Times ran the following article noting a major change in Manhattan demographics: click here for the article

Shockingly, in a city that once spat families with kids over its bridges and through its tunnels, the number of families with kids under the age of five in Manhattan has increased by 32 percent since 2000. And these aren’t just any toddlers. White families are having babies at a higher rate than any other group (according to the article, this is the first time since the 1960s that there are more white toddlers in Manhattan than black or Hispanic children of the same age). The median household income for a white non-Hispanic toddler is now $284,000. These are literally the richest and most powerful kids in America.

Read more…

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Then Jesus was like…
4 Comments | posted March 29th, 2007 at 09:24 am by Cristina Pippa

PRIEST: So the Pharisees brought this adultress before Jesus, and they were like, “Adultery is punishable by stoning. Are you gonna break that law?” And Jesus was like, “Yo, whoever is without sin can be the one to cast the first stone.” Then Jesus was totally alone with this woman and he was all, “Who are your accusers?” And she was like, “No man, Lord.” So Jesus was like, “I won’t accuse you either. Go, get outta here, and try not to sin.”

Most of my experiences with the Catholic Church have been in Sardinia– where my cousins still celebrate saints’ days because the solemn parading of the saint and his/her relics is usually accompanied by a carnival with giant blocks of torrone and fun houses pumping techno music. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised last Sunday when I visited a very liberal Catholic Church (yes, it seems that those actually do exist in America) where amid full regalia of cloaks and candles, the priest spoke like he was reporting on a tailgate party the night before.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Our Failing Colleges
2 Comments | posted March 28th, 2007 at 11:30 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

Recently, there has been much discussion on the need to increase educational attainment to insure American preeminence in a competitive global marketplace. However, little attention has been paid to whether or not students who enter college actually graduate with the skills they need to be competitive in the workplace.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy indicates that between 1993 and 2003, average prose literacy (the ability of students to read basic texts, such as newspapers and magazines) has declined for all students, including those with at least some college education or a bachelors degree. Only 66 percent of full-time four-year college students graduate within six years, which is approximately the same amount of time it now takes the average student to complete a bachelor’s degree. These statistics are unacceptable. Without oversight or accountability, the continued ability of American postsecondary institutions to produce a competent 21st century workforce will remain in question.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

Felice Belle
A Loss for Words
1 Comment | posted March 27th, 2007 at 09:07 pm by Felice Belle

totally avril

“She’s like so whatever.”
– Avril Lavigne, from the single Girlfriend.

Never before has a song lyric been used to communicate so little.

p.s. Full disclosure: Two days after posting this, I made Girlfriend the song on my myspace page. Damn you and your catchy pop music, Avril.

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.

Read more…

Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: The Conception
4 Comments | posted March 26th, 2007 at 08:39 pm by Courtney E. Martin

Writing a book is kind of like having a baby. (Disclaimer: I’ve never had a baby.) At least that’s what I imagine.

I sold the concept, more accurately, my awesome agent Tracy Brown who is kind of like a mix between an absent-minded professor and a matchmaker, sold the concept. Simon & Schuster’s Free Press declared their love for Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters (a title my brilliant dad came up with!) in April 2005.

I woke up the next morning and realized I actually had to write the damn thing. Which I imagine—again with no prior experience—is kind of like waking up and realizing that the thing you’ve wanted has come true, that you are responsible for carrying a frickin’ human being inside of your belly for the better part of a year.

I spent the next nine months of my life (no joke) feverishly researching, interviewing, reading, and occasionally freaking out.
Read more…

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Danny Tanner vs. Alcibiades in Cancun
6 Comments | posted March 26th, 2007 at 01:54 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

My freshman year of college, I went to Cancun for Spring Break. This was a mistake.

I went with my hallmates. We were three nice guys, decent-looking, average builds. At our college, we were considered fine specimens. But in Cancun, we figured, we’d clean up. Our first act in arriving (besides purchasing a bottle of tequila), was to sit down and figure out a “point system” so we could determine who “won Cancun.” Should kissing a girl on the dance floor be worth more or less than kissing in a hotel room? Is a threesome the same if—well, you get the idea.

Don’t worry; we got what was coming to us.

Read more…

Felice Belle
Stakes is High: I Think I Love Real Life
2 Comments | posted March 25th, 2007 at 12:18 am by Felice Belle

Happily Ever After

We are a nation built on myth and legend. From Christopher Columbus’ discovery of already existing land to George Washington’s alleged inability to lie, the stories we tell ourselves become the foundation for the reality we create.

So it should come as no surprise that Hollywood continues to sell us fairytales. Nearly every romantic comedy created follows the once upon a time formula. Girl and boy meet, obstacles are overcome and in the end, an enchanted love prevails.

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.

Read more…

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

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.

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.

Read more…

Florian Duijsens
Loney, Dear’s punctuated Scandinavian pop
2 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 06:10 pm by Florian Duijsens

After The Pipettes’ fabulous encore, I hopped into my waiting car service (or probably someone else’s) and rushed through downtown Brooklyn to sneak into Union Hall’s sightline-challenged basement. Thank the gods, Loney, Dear had only just started their set. What you need to know about this Swede is that he is quite relentless. Already four albums into his short one-man-band (expanded to four on stage) career, his latest, “Loney, Noir” is pop almost to a fault.

Laden with cheery hooks and brassy Sufjan-strumentation, the album is precise and hopeful even in the face of mild tragedy, a state of mind that can be a bit much for those who sometimes like their sentiments sloppy and slushy. On closer inspection, the songs always undercut their own pop-bravado. “I Am John,” the free mp3 offered by Sub Pop is undeniably the album’s tour-de-force in peppy relentlessness (sparkly xylophone included), but Emil Svanängen’s lyrics hint at a tragic romantic realism when he follows the chorus’ “Never gonna let you down” with the downer line, “but i will always let you down.”

Read more…

Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: How Many Therapists Does It Take To Be Happy?
4 Comments | posted March 22nd, 2007 at 03:32 pm by Kimberlee Auerbach

Therapy Thursdays is a weekly column on therapy appearing Thursdays.

Over the past ten years, I have been in individual therapy with five different therapists.

Three women. Two men.

My first therapist was an older man with a mustache, who liked using sports analogies to make a point. He was the coach for his son’s swimming team and would say to me, “I tell my kids all the time, go with your stroke.”

I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

Read more…