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

Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Women’s Studies Gets Hip
3 Comments | posted June 30th, 2007 at 01:53 pm by Courtney E. Martin

The National Women’s Studies Association meeting in St. Charles, IL has been one long feminist party. Jessica Valenti, co-founder of feministing and author of Full Frontal Feminism, and I did a presentation on how to incorporate new media (blogs, video etc.) in the women’s studies classroom yesterday, and then today we did a little one-two punch on how to attract non-feminist types into the fold.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
The Comraderie of Extreme Sports
3 Comments | posted June 29th, 2007 at 10:00 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Parkour: Throwing Yourself Against the Wall

Had a piece in the Times today about parkour, a form of urban gymnastics. One thing I was surprised about was how all the practitioners were so supportive of each other and not competitive. But my editor wasn’t, saying it was the same in skateboarding, trick biking, etc–all those “extreme” sports.

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: RIP Hip-hop, Joe Torre and John Edwards
6 Comments | posted June 29th, 2007 at 10:42 am by Theo Gangi

Hip-hop died last week from shock when it realized people actually took what it said seriously.

The death of hip-hop, as announced most recently by Nas, (his last album titled “Hip-hop is Dead”) became real for me this past week. Foxy Brown, after having discovered her new man was a pimp, broke up with him. As pimps are never ones to take female independence lightly, a few days later he had his girls f*** Foxy up. They ripped out her weave and stole her hearing aide. Yes, her hearing aide. Hell hath no fury like a man who controls violent women scorned.

I don’t mean to make light of Foxy’s situation, I wish the best for her. But can an art form really be considered cutting edge when its artists are having their hearing aides forcibly taken? More to the point, this seemingly trivial incident says a lot about hip-hop’s long burdened paradox. You can’t talk gangster s**t and not get treated like a gangster.

Foxy was stunned her boyfriend was a real pimp. Has she listened to a rap song in the last ten years? Or even her own lyrics? So who the playa? I still keep you in the illest gators. How long could hip-hop get away with promoting pimps, whores, gangsters and cocaine while trying to be mainstream?

There will still be some great and catchy songs. Pop music will absorb the beats. Dance clubs will play the music, beside their reggae set and disco set and eighties set. But as far as the active creation of the art form, I’m sad to say it’s all over but the crying.

Joe Torre’s Yankees were finally pronounced dead this week from blood loss due to massive head trauma, which has been slowly bleeding since 2004.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Chi-Town
No Comments | posted June 28th, 2007 at 05:27 pm by Courtney E. Martin

marqueeThough Deborah Siegel and I had a sparsely-attended reading last night at Women & Children First, it was truly an example of quality trumping quantity. My favorite comments came from Liz, a gorgeous red head college student, who is just discovering feminism. As a marketing and communications major at Purdue, she is already hatching how to “rebrand” feminism for a new generation. I love this girl.

And I love this store! (The other side of the marquee was Harry Potter. You can see I’ve officially hit the big time.) If you are ever in the Chicago area, be sure to check it out. The staff writes recommendations on note cards that are taped up next to the creatively displayed books. Chelsea, the young woman who introduced us, had actually read our books and had some powerful reflections about them. She also asked a great question about the distance between theory and activism. Man, the future is in safe hands!

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Boots Made for More than Walking
3 Comments | posted June 28th, 2007 at 04:25 pm by Cristina Pippa

CowgirlJust before a tragic parting at a seemingly unoperational airport in the dry Yampa Valley, I took our good friend Florian to F.M. Light and Sons, knowing that he would appreciate a store packed with John Wayne-style Americana, which boasts that they’ve been “Outfittin’ the west for 100 years.” We stood in line, bearing souvenirs such as flourescent bandanas and a bouncy ball containing glitter and a plastic pony, while a much more serious purchase was made in front of us: leather boots with spurs for a cowgirl no more than 4 years old. Her sister, who must have been about 7, had her thumbs hooked in the belt loops of her dusty jeans, while their mother stood tall in her own cowgirl boots, writing a check which she didn’t have to provide identificiation for. (Yeah, women still love their checks in Colorado).

The little one was rocking back and forth on her new spurs, slightly off balance, when her mother informed her, “You better figure out how to walk in those boots, because you’re riding in them tonight.”

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Pussy Power
5 Comments | posted June 28th, 2007 at 08:14 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

This past Sunday I went to Jennifer Gandin Le’s graduation. Not your typical graduation. First of all, it was women only. Second, the women weren’t wearing black robes or stiff hats. They were wearing pink boas and beautiful, sparkly dresses. And as they walked down the aisle, they didn’t stand at attention, shoulders back, in proper form. They moved their hips, gyrating with pleasure, yelling out the word “Yes!”

It was Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts Mastery graduation, and let me tell you, there was enough “pussy power” in that room to fill an ocean.

I was a little apprehensive about going. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure if the women were going to show us their vaginas or try to bedazzle mine. All I knew is that I had watched Jennifer blossom over the past few months, and I wanted to see the source of this transformation.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: The Darkest Side of Being Black Today
18 Comments | posted June 27th, 2007 at 11:01 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

Please allow me to introduce you to 16-year-old Blair Holt. He’s the handsome kid in the picture below, who is described by the Chicago Tribune as a “sharp dresser…popular among his classmates” and as having the “ability to make friends across social boundaries.”

It seems that everyone’s talking about the murder of Jessie Davis and her 9 month-old fetus or how wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and seven-year-old son before committing suicide this weekend. And these tragedies deserve a certain amount of media coverage because they are criminal, horrible and senseless.

But there are tragic crimes going on all around us that never get talked about. Do you know what happened to Blair Holt just a few months ago?

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Women’s Rights in Uganda
No Comments | posted June 27th, 2007 at 08:08 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

uganda.jpgA news byte for your dose of beauty today:

From the Christian Science Monitor: Women lawyers force big rights gains in Uganda.

This spring, the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-U) helped overturn laws that gave men more rights than women. The Constitutional Court overturned key pieces of the adultery law, which allowed married men, but not women, to have an affair. Parts of the Succession Act, which gave husbands more rights than wives when a spouse dies, were also ditched.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Cali Volume II
No Comments | posted June 27th, 2007 at 12:21 am by Courtney E. Martin

codysSan Francisco is all reds and yellows and blues. Unlike New York–which mostly feels like black, silver, white–the bay area is filled with a close-to-the-sea sensibility. Things move a bit slower. People seem less anxious. Ideas come in undulating waves unlike New York’s pulsing, beating apple heart.

After an anticlimactic television taping at KRON—where I was stuck in between a tear-jerking “Dear Olivia” story and some death-defying male cheerleaders—we spent the morning watching the pride parade. It was an absolute spectacle—wearable wings and leather and smiles everywhere. My favorite moment was when a huge group of families marched by with signs that said “love makes a family.”

Then we headed to Berkeley to take a wonderful hilly walk with Joan Blades, founder of Moveon and, more recently, Momsrising.

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Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The World’s Most Expensive Pants.
3 Comments | posted June 26th, 2007 at 08:46 am by Kate Torgovnick

The other week, my local laundromat lost a pair of my pants. They were grey and pinstriped, and one of the few “businessy” pieces of clothing I own, so I made a stink even though the pants only cost me $25 to begin with. I told all my friends in my neighborhood, which only amounts to about 4 people, not to go there anymore. They didn’t anyway.

Little did I know that two years ago in Washington DC, when this same scenario happened to Judge Roy L. Pearson Jr, he…sued the laundromat for $54 million dollars in damages. Yes, you read that right. Not $54 dollars. Not even an exorbitant $5,400. Nope—$54 freaking million dollars. Even though the pants were returned to him about four days later, he’s stuck to this case all this time. In March, he even rejected an unbelievable settlement offer of $12,000. Luckily, for the rest of us living in Sane-World, his case was struck down yesterday. The judge was not even convinced that misplacing a pair of pants for 4 days constitutes “losing them” at all. —Kate

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Drama Kings
10 Comments | posted June 25th, 2007 at 11:33 am by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Women have a rap for being dramatic. The phrase “drama queen” gets three times as many hits on Google as “drama king.” The way women choose to express their emotions—which is to say, that they choose to express their emotions—seems to lend itself to the sorts of situations that are entertaining if you’re a spectator and upsetting if you’re a participant. In other words: drama.

But I think that’s a mistake. Guys make for way better drama.

Let me explain. (No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marrying Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour…)

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Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: When You Wish Upon A Star
5 Comments | posted June 24th, 2007 at 02:21 pm by Felice Belle

“You look for your dreams in heaven/ But what the hell are you supposed to do when they come true.”
George Michael, Waiting for the Day (reprise)


One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell is about the first time the family went to Disney World. I was three, maybe four, years old so I don’t remember any of this. But according to my father, when I saw Mickey Mouse I went ballistic. Hollering, “Mickey! Mickey!!” Bouncing up and down and hugging the man (or woman) wearing the Mickey Mouse costume.

I can only imagine the sheer exhilaration I felt seeing my favorite cartoon character come to life. No longer would Mickey be a fictional creation. I had seen him and touched him, possibly even held a conversation with him. Four-year old Felice knew that dreams could come true. And this was irrefutable proof.

Fast forward a few decades…

Mickey Mouse (metaphorical or otherwise) is no longer enough to get me through another humid day in the concrete city. Read more…

Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Cali Volume I
1 Comment | posted June 23rd, 2007 at 02:16 pm by Courtney E. Martin

As my mom and I drove into wine country, we realized that a less deserving pair probably didn’t exist, considering that neither of us can tell a boxed rose from a really fancy shmance brand. Sommeliers we are not.

We stayed with the lovely and funny Carly, who used to be my babysitter back in Colorado Springs. Now she is a really high-end babysitter, i.e. human resources director. No, but seriously, Carly has one of the more coveted jobs in the universe as the head of HR for all of famous chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants (The French Laundry, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and most recently, Ad Hoc) in wine country. As you might imagine, she gets to eat really good food.

Now we’re in San Francisco.

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Tony Soprano for President
5 Comments | posted June 22nd, 2007 at 01:32 pm by Theo Gangi

In a recent article in New York magazine, Emily Nussbaun suggests that like Dr. Melfi and her talk therapy, the addicted viewing public became Tony’s enablers.

Given Tony Soprano’s routine violation of common decency, it is striking to see a presidential candidate play him in a skit, no matter how much of a joke it was. No matter what Tony does, he’s forgiven. He can murder his best friend, make a pass at his cousin’s wife then have her killed, and make infidelity a hobby, and never undermine his iconic status.

Hillary seems to be vying for the same kind of free pass Tony gets.
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Jennifer Gandin Le
Dramatic Chipmunk
3 Comments | posted June 22nd, 2007 at 09:20 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

By this time, you may already have seen this, but if not, enjoy. To get the full effect, watch it five times in a row.

Happy weekend, all!

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Mountain as Metaphor
6 Comments | posted June 21st, 2007 at 05:07 pm by Cristina Pippa

The Ascent: Moving up in the world can induce dizziness, dry skin and lips, and headaches which bring ice picks to mind– seemingly literally. That last symptom is what kept me from writing on Crucial Minutiae last Thursday (excuses, excuses), my first day teaching at a Performing Arts School almost 7,000 feet above sea level. They call it altitude sickness, but the amazing thing is that your body adapts to it. Lesson 1: Get yourself up to the top and stay there for a while, and you’ll get used to it.

Or is there a Top? — A Native American Blessing: Picture over seventy actors, directors, and playwrights gathered in a circle way up in the Utah mountains. A Native American sprititual leader/medicine man stands in the center. He calls the Great Father, and an eagle flies overhead. He beats a drum, and a deer bounces to the beat toward the circle of soon-to-be-believers. He burns sage and waves it in the direction of each artist as he slowly makes his way around the circle, giving individual blessings for a prosperous summer. There is a lot of time to meditate before he stands before me and brushes an eagle feather over my face– probably something like 60 blessings. So I look up at the mountains. And I learn something.

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Lessons in Smallness
7 Comments | posted June 21st, 2007 at 12:16 pm by Kimberlee Auerbach

earth.jpgThere are two kinds of small I feel. One is crushing. It makes me feel all alone in the world. Powerless. The other is expansive. It makes me feel part of something bigger. Also powerless.

I’m with my dad right now in Palm Beach Gardens, not exactly the place you’d think would inspire this particular post. But when I landed in West Palm Beach yesterday, I felt small. Not the good kind. The person I had called from the tarmac for the last five years wasn’t waiting to hear my voice. I could land or not land and no one would know. Okay, I’m being dramatic. A lot of people would notice my absence. But you know what I mean. I like the idea of one special person being there to witness your life.

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Courtney E. Martin
Book Tour Blog: Damn All This Green
8 Comments | posted June 20th, 2007 at 11:36 pm by Courtney E. Martin

oregon coastReasons why I have officially fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest:

1. Powell’s (these people love books)
2. Forest abutting the sea
3. Espresso frickin’ everywhere
4. Tightwad Tuesdays at the bar near my reading: vodka tonics for $1.99
5. Industrial bridges proudly stretching, one after the other, across dark, blue rivers

After our weekend adventure on the coast, my mom and I headed back towards Portland and took over a basement bedroom in her cousin, Betsy’s, home in Vancouver, Washington (right at the WA/OR border). For the last few days we’ve been adventuring during the day and then returning to Betsy and her amazing family at night for old stories on the front porch.

Back on tour, I did a fun local TV stint on KATU with a perky redhead named Helen and her sidekick with a bad tie. It turned out Helen, too, had once named a pet Murphy Brown. We bonded.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: Kidz Care about Rankings
6 Comments | posted June 20th, 2007 at 12:25 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

The U.S. News and World Report College Rankings issue has become the bible of college quality. Some colleges hate it, some love it, all buy into one way or another.

Every year, there’s talk among administrators about withdrawing from the rankings (note: the majority of schools included in the magazine have given their consent by completing and returning surveys of data).

And it’s always the same schools that complain: the ones in the “middle,” who think that the rankings underrate the quality of their institutions. They may very well be right. These rankings were devised by editors to sell magazines not by educators to evaluate the quality of an institution.

U.S. News is so entrenched in our culture that few people know much about how it evolved to become “the decider” of college cache. So, here’s the skinny on College Rankings:

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Visual Aides
3 Comments | posted June 20th, 2007 at 08:08 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

I find Google image search endlessly entertaining. It’s fun to search for abstract words like “happiness” or “peace” and see what comes up. This week, I bring you the more interesting results of a Google image search on “beauty in a wicked world.” I wanted to know what Google’s algorithm discovers as “beautiful.” (All photos linked to their source pages.)


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