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

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Drop the Habit Day
No Comments | posted May 31st, 2007 at 06:58 pm by Cristina Pippa

In case you hadn’t heard, today is World No Tobacco Day. Did that affect any of you? For those of us who don’t smoke, today didn’t call for any sacrifice whatsoever. For those who smoke regularly, well, I’m wondering how many of you felt compelled to take a day off because the World Health Organization sponsored a day to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking.

We all know about the perils that await smokers and second-handers, right?

Read more…

Jennifer Gandin Le
Happy Birthday, Walt!
3 Comments | posted May 31st, 2007 at 04:09 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

I love American Public Media’s daily newsletter, The Writer’s Almanac. It’s a spectacular daily vitamin containing historical writerly birthdays, other “on this day in literature history” paragraphs, and a daily poem.

I have a huge crush on whoever it is that researches and writes the “today in history” section, because they unearth the most exquisite quotes and trivia tidbits. For example, today is Walt Whitman’s birthday, and they include this quote of his:

“The public is a thick-skinned beast and you have to keep whacking away at its hide to let it know you’re there.”

I thought all you published-and-publishing authors out there might appreciate that. See, it’s not a recent phenomenon! I find that both heartening and sad.

To read more about Walt, check out the full bio on the APM page (scroll down to May 31st).

Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: Huffington Post
2 Comments | posted May 31st, 2007 at 10:36 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

Please forgive me. My heart is breaking. I have to practice for my Jewish Book Council audition tonight. And my head is pounding.

Rather than write another sappy post about dying flowers like I did last week, I am going to refer you to someone else this week: Ester Perel on Huffington Post. She wrote a book called Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. Courtney wrote about this too: The Pleasure of Distance.

I also want to congratulate Huffington Post on their new expansion. It rocks! Plus, they now link to Crucial Minutiae! How cool is that?!

Florian Duijsens
Unlikely Summer Jams 2007: Kids Rap
No Comments | posted May 30th, 2007 at 06:03 pm by Florian Duijsens

For this second set of summer jams, I picked Rappers Delight Club and Wilcannia Mob, two acts that are not just singalongably sunny, but also hilariously honest. Both come from the peculiar and wonderful genre of kids’ rap, but manage to stay far from the glossy Lil’ clones so familiar from MTV (excepting the aforeblogged lipgloss-genius Lil’ Mama, and with one honorably surreal mention of seven-year-old reggeaton sensation Miguelito, whose video for Boom Boom disturbingly alternates between cute kids at the zoo and gyrating mamas at a racetrack).

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Online Adolescence
16 Comments | posted May 30th, 2007 at 12:27 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

When you google my name–I’m the only “Joie Jager-Hyman” on record–the first thing that pops up is this trying-too-hard-to-sound-like-an-adult letter that I wrote to the editor of the Dartmouth Review when I was a sophomore in college.

My friend at the time had written an article about the death of antisemitism, which I found offensive. I told him so over lunch, and he actually got excited. He encouraged me to Write a letter! So I finished my dinning hall delicacy, cleared my big red plastic tray and stomped back to my dorm room to compose a “thoughtful” response on my Power Mac.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Skeptically Fated
No Comments | posted May 30th, 2007 at 11:05 am by Courtney E. Martin

As I continue talking, talking, talking about Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters–on the radio, at colleges, in documentary interviews–the more I am convinced that I have written the book I was supposed to write. Which, of course, is an amazing feeling.

You see I wasn’t that keen on writing about eating disorders specifically, and food and fitness obsession generally, in the first place. I thought my first book was going to be this memoir-ish thing that I wrote for my masters thesis at Gallatin about my grandmother’s mental illness. Perhaps that reflection will still make it out into the world, but after lots of rejections from agents and publishers, I realized that it wasn’t ready.

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Bringing SexyBack
1 Comment | posted May 30th, 2007 at 08:08 am by Jennifer Gandin Le


I’ll be honest. Sometimes, I feel like a fool, writing this column week after week. I stubbornly search for some small piece of beauty hidden in the dire daily news parade of Bad, Worse, and Worst. All because I refuse to learn the lesson that the world is awful, people are basically evil, and the best news is the bloodiest news.

And yet — sometimes I feel obligated (to whom, I ask myself?) to tone down my posts, to make sure I include a dollop of gloom-and-doom to the news stories that I highlight here.

For example:

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Florian Duijsens
Unlikely Summer Jams 2007: The Go Find
6 Comments | posted May 29th, 2007 at 04:13 pm by Florian Duijsens

Now that summer has hit New York in all its sweaty humid glory, I have immediately started to look for this year’s summer jams. Not only the hits popping loud from every corner deli or Humm-ousine, but songs that can define a season and become inextricably enwrapped with its memories: In short, a soundtrack for summer ‘07. In my next few posts, I’ll suggest a few tracks that either through their sheer rhythmic heat, or their poptastic choruses should make their way onto your picnic boomboxes or roadtripping iPods.

The likeliest options are obviously Rihanna’s twirly emo-r’n'b hit Umbrella, or Lil’ Mama’s feisty, minimalist handclapfest Lip Gloss (and they surely deserve their own posts), but my first suggestion is a little more farfetched. In fact, it is fetched all the way from my exotic, and sometimes sunny motherland, Belgium.

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Chip Clips No More!
2 Comments | posted May 29th, 2007 at 02:57 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

After the cut, check out the unusually thrilling demo of how to close a bag of chips without a chip clip or clothespin. The music really gives it heart-pounding excitement!

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: In Defense of Meat and Fire
8 Comments | posted May 29th, 2007 at 01:08 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Flaming meatNina Planck, an author and former vegan, published an op-ed in the Times last week decrying vegan diets and their effects on children. She cites the examples of three vegan couples who were convicted of manslaughter when their children died of malnutrition, and she asserts that “you cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.” The letters that followed contradicted her, and I have no idea of the truth of the science.

But I do think this: restricted diets such as veganism and raw foods are our modern-day asceticism. What do these people have against meat and fire?

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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Mechanical Pencils Rule.
4 Comments | posted May 29th, 2007 at 08:56 am by Kate Torgovnick

pencil.jpg In high school, when my history teacher went on maternity leave, my World History class got a long-term substitute teacher who was a little wacky. He was short and stocky with a military haircut, and was convinced he’d met Anastasia on a train in Russia. He had all kinds of strange theories for classroom dynamics—for example, if the blinds on the windows were not perfectly straight and even, the class would be rowdy. In his class you could only write using a mechanical pencil because they “made you smarter.”

I hadn’t thought about this teacher in years, until about a month ago, when I rediscovered the mechanical pencil. I gotta say, it’s a pretty amazing writing instrument. I started to wonder if Mr. What’s-His-Name (any Jordan High Schoolers out there remember this dude’s name?) wasn’t crazy after all. I mean, using a mechanical pencil, I did feel smarter. My edits felt much mure sure and precise—no indecisive cross-outs of things I’d changed my mind on. So I decided to do some reasearch today and find out if the mechanical pencil theory was based on fact—who knows, some psychologist somewhere may have studied it.

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: War in a Time of Overwhelm
8 Comments | posted May 29th, 2007 at 08:08 am by Courtney E. Martin

peace flagAlthough the majority of the American public seemed to be capable of happily eating their hotdogs and spitting their watermelon seeds this weekend, we all know that there was a somber, sadder side to the Memorial holiday. Frankly put, dead soldiers.

At a time when Lindsey and Iowa and Wolfowitz and American Idol all vie for our attention, the war sometimes seem to recede from view all together. As Richard A. Lanham writes in The Economics of Attention, our attention is—in fact—our greatest resource in this time of 24 hour news, IM, and crackberries. And let’s face it, it is often our most squandered resource.

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Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: I Never Meant To Cause You Any Sorrow
9 Comments | posted May 27th, 2007 at 12:37 pm by Felice Belle

If I had the chance 2 do it all again
I wouldn’t change a stroke

- Prince, Raspberry Beret

January 30, 2007
12:06 AM, Robyn emails to say Prince is in Vegas and we should be there too. By 5:38 PM, the same day, we have purchased concert tickets, plane tickets and booked a hotel room.

We don’t play.

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Raise Your Hand If You Think We’re All Infidels
2 Comments | posted May 25th, 2007 at 01:07 pm by Theo Gangi

After my post last Friday about the passing of Jerry Falwell, it occurred to me that many people do not know about a fundamental Evangelical belief—the Second Coming. While many people are familiar with terms like the Anti-Christ, Rapture, and 666, the prophecy itself seems largely unknown by those who do not believe it will occur.

In a nutshell, first there will be world peace. The Anti-Christ will unify all countries, make one currency (careful of the Euro), squash all beef and be loved as a hero. He will bear the mark of the beast (666). Then he will flip and begin the worst holocaust the world has ever known. Then all who embrace Jesus will simultaneously ascend to heaven, while the rest of us are Anti-Christ kindling.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
On Scandals
5 Comments | posted May 25th, 2007 at 11:02 am by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Gwen IfillSo I know the Imus thing is old news, but I just picked up an issue from Time a few months ago that was lying around and read a viewpoint by Cynthia Tucker, the editorial-page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In it, she talks about a piece of Imus old news around when The New York Times assigned Gwen Ifill (see photo) to cover the Clinton presidency. At this, Imus remarked “Isn’t the Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”

Now, perhaps I cut off my Imus scandal reading before it hit the saturation point, but I never heard the remark. To me, it is much more offensive than the nappy-headed hos comment. Why do some incidents beget scandals while others don’t?

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Three Beautiful Things
7 Comments | posted May 25th, 2007 at 08:08 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

I recently discovered the blog Three Beautiful Things, written by a British woman named Clare. Almost every day for the last three years, she has recorded three things that have given her pleasure on that day. From charming Italian waiters to having tea in bed, Clare’s lists are exquisite in their detail. She’s definitely a woman after my own heart — looking purposefully for beauty in the world around her.

So, in her honor, I’m going to start posting occasional Three Beautiful Things posts, starting today. Read more…

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Who remembers hopping, skipping, and jumping?
3 Comments | posted May 24th, 2007 at 05:09 pm by Cristina Pippa


I heard what I consider a very sad thing today– that American kids aren’t balancing on logs, crawling under tree trunks, and running through fields like they used to. Instead, they’re funneled right into athletic teams as early as at the age of five. Although organized sports obviously have a lot of benefits, such as leadership and sportsmanship, they may not teach all the coordination skills (and let’s not forget a certain sense of adventure) that good old-fashioned, unstructured play does.

This comes second hand, but ironically, from a coach at Velocity Sports Performance, a national franchise that trains youth as well as elite athletes to maximize their potential on the field or court. They boast a long list of clients who were prospects for pro football this year and advertise that they will “give you the training to get you in the game!”

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Therapy Thursdays: African Voilet
5 Comments | posted May 24th, 2007 at 10:37 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

african-violet.jpgA friend gave me an African Violet for my birthday years ago.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Don’t you like it?”

I liked it just fine. The truth was I was afraid I’d kill it.

See, aside from my “Feed Me, Seymour!” plant, which is taking over my living room now, I have not had great success in keeping things alive. I have killed five goldfish, a red-bellied frog and two Ficus trees.

Yes, I am free to babysit your cat.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
The Value of Citizen Journalism
7 Comments | posted May 23rd, 2007 at 03:02 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

This is, quite simply, the coolest nature video I have ever seen. It’s a battle between a pride of lions, a herd of buffalo, and two crocodiles for the life of a buffalo calf. It is, in my opinion, an example of the value of citizen journalism once the flash dies out of the pan.

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Life Imitating Art
3 Comments | posted May 23rd, 2007 at 08:08 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

How much fun is it when life imitates art? Okay, I guess some times are more fun than others.

Luckily, this is one of the fun times. Via The Telegraph:


Dr Howard Chang, from the University of Stanford in California, a joint leader of the research, said: “In almost every episode of Star Trek there is a device called a tricorder, which they used non-invasively to scan living or non-living matter to determine its molecular makeup. Something like that would be very, very useful.”

And it could be just around the corner! The scientific journal Nature Biotechnology reported on Monday that researchers have discovered patterns in x-ray images that might help doctors “translate the genetic ‘language’ of tumors.”

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