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

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Letting the Cell Phone Out of the Bag
3 Comments | posted August 31st, 2007 at 09:21 am by Cristina Pippa

If you drop your cell phone on concrete as often as I do and it happens to have a SIM card (that’s the little chip in the back with all your info and all your digits), you may be about to thank me… Or the undercover guardian angel of delinquent cell phone users at the Sam’s in St. Louis.

This is our big wedding weekend– and with the arrival of our huge families and close friends as widely tossed around the world as Germany– I NEEDED MY CELL PHONE. But as I’ve already admitted, it doesn’t always make it into my bag, or if it does, it’s squashed by a camera and nicked by my keys. Besides, the sticking-out antenna is just asking for trouble. So, imagine my shock when my cell phone completely quit on me a few days ago. No outgoing calls, no incoming calls, no speedy text messages. And how much does a replacement cost? Upwards of $200! If you don’t have that kind of money and you don’t feel like logging onto Ebay and sending $70 plus $20 shipping (anybody know where the hell they’re sending these used cell phones from?) to someone who promises you won’t get a refund, you’re about to lose all inability to communicate on the go. UNLESS…

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Kimberlee Auerbach
The Beauty of Forgetfulness
6 Comments | posted August 31st, 2007 at 12:52 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

Totally forgot today was Thursday. I was just on the subway, coming home from a friend’s birthday party, rocking out to “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! I could be your girlfriend,” by Avril Lavigne on my iPod nano, and I was like, Oh, shit, I forgot about Therapy Thursdays.

I couldn’t believe I had completely forgotten about it. There have been a couple of times since we started Crucial Minutiae that I haven’t written my weekly column, but there was always a good reason. I was heartbroken. It was my birthday. That kind of thing. It was a choice. I never just forgot.

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: Hair, Homes, and Fashion as Feminism
6 Comments | posted August 29th, 2007 at 02:59 pm by Jennifer Gandin Le

Nick ArrojoLast week, Vidal Sassoon announced the charitable initiative Hairdressers Unlocking Hope, which, through Habitat for Humanity, will raise money for thousands of hairdressers to build a community of 18 new homes in St. Tammany Parish, La., this November. So far, they’ve raised $895,593 for the project — to be sure, a mere drop in the $81.2 billion bucket of damage there, but still, 18 families will have new homes, and that is not nothing.

One of the stylists involved in the project is Nick Arrojo, whom many of you will recognize as the hairstylist on the TLC reality show What Not to Wear.

To follow Kate’s earlier admission about “The Hills”, I must confess that I’m completely and delightfully addicted to “What Not to Wear,” and I think it is fantastically progressive and feminist. Now, don’t you want to know what I mean?

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: McDamage Control
13 Comments | posted August 29th, 2007 at 12:51 pm by Joie Jager-Hyman

Yesterday, the Trust for America’s Health, a health advocacy organization, announced the results of their latest report on the US obesity epidemic. Obesity–which is known to increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy complications, stroke, and certain types of cancer, among other things–is on the rise.

To put things in perspective, two-thirds of American adults today are considered either obese or overweight, compared with only 15 percent in 1980. More than one-in-four adults in 19 states are now classified as obese, up from 9 states in 2005.

This was also the first year that the report included obesity rates in kidz (ages 10-17). The results are alarming.

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Quarter-of-an-Inch Universe
4 Comments | posted August 28th, 2007 at 10:58 am by Courtney E. Martin

leafI just finished Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love. It is a beautiful little book about the human capacity to hold on to secrets (I hope our friend Joshua Prager, connoisseur of secrets, has read this one), the beauty of earnest childhood, and, well, love of course. One little quotation stuck out to me in a big way:

Sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
1 Comment | posted August 27th, 2007 at 10:58 am by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Hey folks. I’m going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this afternoon, and I want to write my post about that, so stay tuned.

Kate Torgovnick
The Addictiveness of the Hills (and Newport Harbor and Laguna Beach)
3 Comments | posted August 27th, 2007 at 08:21 am by Kate Torgovnick

the-hills.jpg I did a shameful thing this weekend. I watched the latest episode of the Hills for the third time. I also re-watched Newport Harbor, and relived the shock I had the first time that a group of teenagers who are throwing a “Pretty in Pink” party had no idea that the phrase was originally a Molly Ringwald movie. I am not alone in my obsession with these MTV shows—when the Hills premiered two weeks ago, millions of folks tuned in to watch, making it the highest rated program for the night.

So what the heck is so addicting about these shows? The characters are often infuriating (I wanted to scream when Heidi accepted Spencer’s proposal and slipped the ring he’d bought at some cheesmo mall store onto her finger) and vapid (Samantha on Newport Harbor believed that “bootylicious” had made it’s way into the dictionary). The plot lines even aren’t all that—you basically know everything that’s going to happen from the previews MTV plays aggressively through the week. So why would I waste multiple half hours re-watching these shows?

Here is my best theory:

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Story Time: Eddie May, Pt 2
1 Comment | posted August 24th, 2007 at 01:59 pm by Theo Gangi

So here’s part two of Eddie May. If you missed last week, click my name to read the beginning.

I step back and the TV disappears in darkness, the glass opaque now, with my reflection on its surface. I look bummy. I like to dress a bit better, clean shaven, cuff links now and then, how my wife likes me. She’s Puerto Rican, likes a little shine, some cologne. But Eddy told me how to dress like a detective, so I’m dressed like a detective.
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Jennifer Gandin Le
Friday Frippery: Ice Skating Penguins
4 Comments | posted August 24th, 2007 at 08:34 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

from the BBC websiteFor your Friday amusement:

Ah, 1967…the summer of love…Vietnam war protests…ice skating penguins…

On this date in 1967, two rockhopper penguins were taken on an excursion from their London-area zoo to the local Silver Blades ice skating rink, where they cooled off from the sweltering heat outside (nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the BBC website, you can view a silent video of their adventure. Come on, you know you wanna watch it. It’s penguins. It’s Friday. You love it.

Cristina Pippa
All the World: Destino
1 Comment | posted August 23rd, 2007 at 10:25 pm by Cristina Pippa


Disney and Dali. Can you think of less likely collaborators? Let’s be honest– Dali’s work can be downright lewd (and I mean that in a really good way; he’s my favorite artist… outside of certain family members to whom I must remain loyal). And the Disney trademark promises sugar, no spice, and almost everything nice. But their joint work, Destino, is beautiful and bizarre, while strangely familiar. I didn’t even know that it existed until I wandered into a screening of it at the Tate in London last week.

I had seen Dali’s collaborations with filmmakers such as Buñuel (Un Chien Andalou) thanks to an inspiring screenwriting class with Mickey Birnbaum in San Francisco 6 months ago, but I would never have expected Dali’s dabbling in film to cross the ocean to Hitchcock, and certainly not to good old Walt. By the way, another great feature of the exhibit was the inclusion of Dali’s correspondence with his collaborators– I’ll never forget Buñuel’s instruction to “please bring the ants” which they were to use in L’ Âge d’or. He even included instructions on how to ensure the ants’ safe journey, somewhat like a worried mother’s advice on how to prepare her son for the school science fair.

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Kick In The Ass
17 Comments | posted August 23rd, 2007 at 06:41 pm by Kimberlee Auerbach

I’m sorry this post is so late. My throat hurts like hell. I sound like a drag queen. And I slept till 2PM. I’m currently drinking lemonade and heating up matzo ball soup. I’m not sure why I get all Jew-y when I get sick. It’s as if I’m channeling my grandparents. I can hear them say, “Would it hurt you to eat a little more?” or “It’s time to go shloofy.” What I wouldn’t give for a cheese blintz right about now. Probably not good for my throat.


I’ve been thinking about support lately. Support of all kinds. Emotional support. Financial support. Technical support. Spiritual support. I think without some kind of support, we’d all be totally and completely lost.

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Joie Jager-Hyman
Kidz Today: A Profitable Non Profit
13 Comments | posted August 22nd, 2007 at 11:22 am by Joie Jager-Hyman

Yesterday, the Harvard Management Company made headlines for their enviable investment portfolio. Thanks to their savvy strategies, the university’s $29 billion endowment has grown into a $35 billion endowment with a 23-percent return on its investments during 2007 fiscal year.

In terms of college endowments, Harvard is undoubtedly the BMOC, blowing rivals Yale ($18 billion in 2006) and Stanford ($14 billion in 2006) out of the water.

In fact, Harvard is the second largest non-profit in the country. The first is the Catholic Church, which serves far more members.

With so much per-capita capital, you’d think that everything at Harvard would be free. Or you might think that Harvard professors get paid more money than faculty who work at competing institutions. Of course, if you thought this, you’d be wrong.

Q: So what does Harvard do with its money?

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Jennifer Gandin Le
Beauty in a Wicked World: It’s About Time
No Comments | posted August 22nd, 2007 at 08:08 am by Jennifer Gandin Le

I love how play-within-a-play-within-a-play the news media can get. For instance, I enjoyed this article (free registration required) in the New York Times on Monday, about Time Inc.’s coverage of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath — a reporter reporting on how the news is reported. Awesome!

The gist of the article is that 10 of Time Inc.’s magazines are running pieces about Katrina, a theme that grew from a New Orleans trip that editor-in-chief John Huey and 12 editors took in May. During their time in the still-devastated region, the editors realized that the story is still not over for local residents. They talked with local politicians, scientists, and engineers, and got a sobering view of the landscape.

Mr. Huey said the multimagazine experiment was not intended to build Web traffic or attract advertisers; rather, it was an attempt to put the journalistic weight of 10 big magazines behind a particular topic. “It felt good to flex those muscles all at the same time,” he said.

I appreciate this week’s example of a major corporation consciously using their journalistic weight to address a problem that still needs real solutions.

Kate Torgovnick
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Crossing the Pet Line.
5 Comments | posted August 21st, 2007 at 01:47 pm by Kate Torgovnick

weddingdog.jpgSometime in the next few weeks, I am going to adopt a kitten—and I’m a little too excited about it. I can’t freaking wait to have a cute, furry thing running around my apartment and raising a ruckus while I try to work.

I know that I am the type of person who can slide down the slippery slope of becoming far too obsessed with my pet. So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my “pet line” will be—the line where doting over a pet no longer becomes acceptable. Spiral, the gorgeous, fluffy Maine Coon who has my family’s pride and joy for 15 years, was a tad bit spoiled. Every morning, we gave her fresh cut cantaloupe. If she didn’t get it, she would meow like crazy and give you a look that seemed to say, “Do you really not care?” And her cantaloupe had to be fresh—if you tried to cut corners and buy the pre-cut kind, she could tell. Cantaloupe was my family’s pet line.

So before this kitten even arrives, I am laying down some ground rules:

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Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: Summer’s Last Hits
3 Comments | posted August 21st, 2007 at 09:02 am by Courtney E. Martin

bomb popEvery August I head to Santa Fe, New Mexico (where my parents live) and then the Telluride Film Festival (a holiday more required than Thanksgiving in my family) right about now and say goodbye to the dog days of NYC summer. I can’t remember a year when I did less of what I thought I’d do–beach lazin, novel grazin, ice cream amazin. But I did manage to have myself a few quintessentially summer moments. With the rain falling outside my window, I’ve still conjured up a list of the highlights. And, of course, because I am hopelessly ambitious and perpetually unsatisfied, the must-do’s for next summer…

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Ethan Todras-Whitehill
Punch-for-Punch: Not Today
2 Comments | posted August 20th, 2007 at 06:03 pm by Ethan Todras-Whitehill

Got nothing for today, maybe later in the week. Sorry, folks.

Felice Belle
Stakes Is High: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye
4 Comments | posted August 19th, 2007 at 01:26 pm by Felice Belle

jetblue.jpgThursday night I had a 6:50 pm flight on JetBlue. When I arrived at curbside check-in, the nice man told me my flight had been delayed until 8:15 pm. No worries, I thought. A few extra hours for me to take advantage of the free wireless.

Inside the terminal, the free wireless wasn’t working. No worries, I thought. I have some writing to do anyway.

My flight did not leave until 4:00 am.

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Theo Gangi
National Pastimes: Story Time: Eddie May
3 Comments | posted August 17th, 2007 at 02:28 pm by Theo Gangi

Some great books have been written and published in segments, such as Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Dasheill Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. In the spirit of American episodic pulp, I thought I’d put up a story in installments. This one’s called Eddie May.

Eddy tells me we can make money together. Eddy is the best police impersonator there is. He hangs out in police bars. He goes into police stations and talks to cops in perfect jargon. He goes down to court and gets search warrants and arrest forms and types them up. Eddy fed himself in the seventies by sending little kids into bathrooms to solicit pedophiles. Then he would go in like a cop and shake them down.

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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Bacchus, Tobacco, and Venus
5 Comments | posted August 16th, 2007 at 08:19 pm by Cristina Pippa

SardiniaMi dispiace (literally= my displeasure). Essentially= I’m sorry. I had all the best intentions of writing for Crucial Minutiae from Sardinia last week, but I got swept away (that’s a pun for anyone who knows the work of Lina Wertmüller) by the ocean, the mountains, the endless bounty of delicious eats, and my family full of characters. Plus, I had the added pressure of needing to show off the island paradise to my fiancé and two close friends from New York.

You’re not buying that selling Sardinia was difficult? You must have read the travel section of the New York Times this weekend. Someone let the farmer know how good the cheese is with pears!– that’s the Italian equivalent of someone let the cat out of the bag. In spite of my association with Ethan, I don’t think that the Times got their beat on the vacation scene in Sardinia from my travels back to the fatherland. They probably took their cue from the fact that Tom Creweesay (Italian pronunciation for you) was there with his babe and their baby. No, we did not see them. No one even mentioned them there. So enough celebrity gossip. Now that I’m back, sun-kissed and dying to spend the rest of my summers in the Mediterranean, I will return to the initial aim of this column with some imported dialogue.

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Kimberlee Auerbach
Overcoming My Fear of Flying
7 Comments | posted August 16th, 2007 at 11:27 am by Kimberlee Auerbach

The first time I got on a plane after September 11th was in March 2002, right before we went to war. I was with my boyfriend, flying to Vieques, where they had just stopped bombing practice. There was a lightning storm in the sky directly below us, and I could not, for the life of me, stop crying and shaking and sweating. My boyfriend held my hand and told me everything was going to be okay, but it didn’t make me feel better. I felt like a little girl, helpless and small.

When I had to fly to Boston for the DNC in 2004, I was equally as scared, but better at hiding it. The soles of my feet were wet as I clung to a caramel colored monkey for comfort.

Flying back from American Idol in 2006, the only thing that saved me when we hit a patch of turbulence was the fact that Topher Grace was sitting in first class. I thought to myself, we can’t go down… Topher’s on board. I wanted to send him flowers afterward as a thank you, as if his star power had kept us all safe.

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