Intrepid Girl Reporter


Saturday, 5/29: the graduation of Little Broseph
May 29, 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: cultural theorizing, IGR Recommends, life progress, music

First of all, I am completely obsessed with this video, which I found thanks to the ever-knowledgeable Rachel.

It’s entirely possible that Janelle Monae might bring back saddle shoes single-handedly. Apparently she played the 9:30 Club this weekend, but unfortunately, I am not in DC right now, so I had to miss the Cindi Mayweather dance.

In reading about Monae, I also discovered Afrofuturism, which I had never heard of before but which is AWESOME. And I find Mark Dery’s explanation of it fairly compelling, inasmuch as I can comprehend it at this hour – it might be a bit late for cultural criticism, but the idea behind the movement makes sense (and could conceivably, with a bit of tweaking, be applied to other ethnic groups as well, should they move into the realm of science fiction). Also, fun fact: LeVar Burton’s real name is Levardis. Because that sounds like some kind of blood pressure medication, I’d probably go with LeVar too.

I’m home because Miguk Little Brother made it through high school – yes, the same high school that sells shirts that read “Topper Nation: Where Only the Strong Belong.” Which I maintain suggests, at the very least, eugenics. So I suppose I should be grateful that he made it through without being killed for weakness, or something. It wasn’t particularly emotional, probably because this is graduation #3 and we still have two college graduations, a graduate school graduation, and probably two more grad school graduations after that to get through. I guess after the first one the rite of passage doesn’t seem quite as shocking. La Sister gave him a sombrero, a whoopie cushion, and Groucho Marx glasses. I gave him a ramen spoon. I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s ready for the world.

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Sunday, 12/27: nothing you confess could make me love you less
December 28, 2009, 1:49 am
Filed under: IGR Recommends

One of the perks of having a blog that gets double-digit daily readership* is the ability to spread the word about things you (where “you” is “the blogger”) believe should have more exposure. I have a lot of ground to cover, however. So, in no particular order: capsule reviews, where I’ve been, a fresh edition of IGR Recommends, meditations on sentimentality, et cetera.

WHERE I HAVE BEEN

Discretion requires that I don’t write about work, which is a pity, because it’s definitely the funniest part of my day, if not the funnest. (Heh.) I will share these stories eventually, probably, just not when I’m employed at this position.

CAPSULE REVIEWS

Avatar

The aliens all looked like they had spent their summer following a String Cheese Incident tour. Also, the fluctuation of the main character’s accent bothered me, and the acting was pretty uniformly terrible. On the upside, I finally know what it would be like to explore FernGully.

The Ocarina

Miguk Little Brother received one for Christmas. His enthusiasm for the instrument has the effect of making me feel as though I am constantly on some sort of Andean quest.

OTHER NEWS

Miguk Apa felt the need to transfer some old videos to DVD, over Miguk LB’s vigorous protests. I actually totally get why he did not want to revisit it – remembering how deeply uncomfortable I felt in my own skin for much of my childhood, it’s not something to which it’s easy to return. I think the hardest part for me and him both is when my father deliberately teases us about how adorable we were then and how sad he is that we are no longer children living with him – which would be ordinary and in good fun for some people, maybe, but because our family a) is v. tightly knit and b) is all sort of neurotic, esp. where guilt is concerned, this makes us feel sort of legitimately bad, even though it’s an unavoidable (and, quite frankly, healthy) part of growing up.

On that DVD there was an old science video of myself and two people who were once very good friends of mine – although this was in high school, and it is fair to say that none of us are in high school anymore. One of my old high school classmates (who is not in this video) is now a relatively famous player in the NBA, and I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, this means – what common points we have/would have, were we ever to meet (because it’s not like we ever hung out back then). How much shared experience you need to have it mean something. But with these two – and we’re all very different people now – it almost doesn’t matter that they’re not in my life anymore; they were once, and that is enough. Weirdly enough, this sort of helps me consider my relationships now with some sanity.

Also, I am at home for another week while my car gets fixed, as I am more or less stranded here. It works out fairly well, I suppose – more time to finish the last of the grad school apps, recover from a rather unpleasant cold, etc. I got Miguk Momma’s old iPod, which is larger and in better shape than mine, and I have been reorganizing all of my music and sorting it by genre. It’s satisfying in a sick sort of way. Maybe this is a small step towards being a grown-up. Or, uh, maybe not.

IGR RECOMMENDS

This is my new favorite song, and for a song so pretty, it’s inexplicably unavailable anywhere except, uh, via purchase. Even the lyrics required extensive Googling, which is unusual for an album that is readily available from iTunes. It’s such a lovely and sad song, almost uncomfortably so; an artist like Elliott Smith, for example, can get so despairing that he seems almost distant – IGRB used to say that whenever he felt like being sad he just let Elliott Smith do it for him. This is a much more relatable kind of downtrodden aesthetic. But the way it soars, it almost doesn’t matter. There are some reviews describing it as “lazy” and/or “breezy,” but those reviews are wrong, and those people clearly haven’t read the lyrics.

The Court and Spark – We Were All Uptown Rulers

IGR also recommends the filesharing service used for that file, Droplr. It is very convenient, especially for Mac users. IGR does NOT recommend the beer referenced in the abovementioned song, however. A bartender in DC once tried to tell IGR that it was, quote, “a flat beer.” Whatever, it was gross.

Continuing on with the recommendations, IGR has fallen in love all over again with the following song, which is not the best Pretenders song ever but is certainly a good one. I suspect that there is very little Chrissie Hynde could do to remove herself from the top of my list of Coolest Musicians Ever.

I think that’s all I’ve got. I’ll try to return here with more frequency.

*thanks Google searches



Tuesday, 11/3: at least there’s that
November 3, 2009, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Good Brown Daughters (GBDs), IGR Recommends, the future, weird metaphors

An unintended side effect of applying to graduate school is the affirmation that I am following, unquestionably, the right subject for me. Princeton requires a policy memorandum, which I’ve spent the afternoon researching (having stayed home from work, not feeling well), and it has reminded me of something I’d forgotten: I LOVE international relations. I love it. I’m having fun (!) reading about drug trafficking and the rise of HIV/AIDS in Central Asia. (Sorry, AIDS sufferers. I know it’s not fun for you.) I miss studying, and I miss learning about this stuff, and I’m realizing that I’m still much more interested in international affairs than in domestic ones and in development than in pure political science – as the former allows me to indulge all of my schizophrenic interests. This makes me feel a lot better – even excited – about the prospect of going back to school itself, as opposed to simply using school as a tool to make life progress.

To write, I’ve been using Evernote, which is a very fine program except that I can’t link from one note to another. Otherwise, it is a very nice note-taking application, and its use makes me feel extremely productive. To ameliorate that one flaw (ahem, Evernote), I downloaded a trial of Curio, a mind mapping software that costs more than I can afford. I always thought that mind mappers were sort of bullshit, but it turns out that once again, I was wrong: look! There is my mind! Here are the areas about which I have the most information! This is what I should write about! (Maybe.) I’m a big fan of feeling like I’m getting something done. It’s a good distraction.

As for the rest of it, I’m doing okay; the punched-in-the-stomach feeling subsides a little every day. It occurs to me that part of the reason I’m having a hard time dealing with this, aside from the obvious, can be found in a conversation I had with Rooms right at the beginning, in which I told her that I was reluctant to engage in a relationship for the same reason I don’t have any pets (at least not with me), which is that eventually both are probably going to die before I do. Darling Rooms, who has a master’s degree in counseling for a reason, reminded me that that is not a very good way to go about living your life, and that the value lies in the experience. She told me the same thing when we were seniors in college and I expressed a reluctance to study the cello, as I already knew that it was too late for me to become a prodigy, and she pointed out that people do things because They Are Fun, and not for the purpose of becoming the best in the world. Obviously she is not a Good Brown Daughter. Also obviously, she is right, even if I only know it intellectually.

In conclusion: IGR recommends: Evernote; Curio (but only the free version, unless you make more money than she does); the study of international relations; listening to your friends.



Sunday, 18 October: the heart wants to feel and the heart wants to hold
October 19, 2009, 12:08 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, IGR Recommends, media, movies, reading

Nothing like fall for groundless melancholy. It’s been cold and wet here for the past five days; by this past Friday, my kids hadn’t had recess for three days straight, so for our Fun Friday we held a “Rainy Day Dance!” during which some of them literally just jumped up and down in place, presumably to burn the energy the monkey bars normally might have received. I let the teachers DJ, and the music seemed a little loud to me, but bear in mind whom we’re discussing: I hated school dances because I hate crowds and loud music, so all music in that sort of scenario is going to be too loud for me. I am not a good barometer. Then the principal called me over and told me that she had received parent complaints about the noise level, and that we had to be mindful of our noise because of our, quote, “changing population.” I think what this means is that she thinks white people are scared of loud music, but I’m not positive.

IGRB and I went to see “Where the Wild Things Are” this morning, and I loved it. He gave it 2.5-3 out of 5 stars, but to quote him, it’s okay to think wrong things sometimes. It’s very much a movie for my demographic and generation though, and maybe that sounds selfish, maybe I am too narrow-minded and the movie can be appreciated by all ages and backgrounds, but let’s be realistic here: it’s directed by Spike Jonze from a screenplay by Dave Eggers. I own a Spike Jonze music video retrospective. Come on now. Anyway, we were discussing this and being able to identify with the main characters – because I didn’t really appreciate the book until I was grown, being more of a Chicken Soup with Rice fan myself, and I definitely occupied more of the older-sister position in my household. But the thing is: I work with Max. I see him every day. There’s a kid named Marcus at my school, a kindergartener, who has to wait for his older brother to come downstairs so they can walk home, and during the beginning of this arrangement he cried for three days in a row because he was convinced that he might not come back. Now when he sees me, he tells me: “Not gonna cry today!” (Incidentally, I also have a three-year-old who says things like, “Ms. IGR, I’m not going to scratch anyone today.” Does he want a cookie?) It’s funny that in many respects, I wasn’t very good at being a kid. In some ways I think I’m better equipped for childhood now than I was back then.



Thursday, 12/18: the strange tale of Robert Barisford Brown
December 18, 2008, 11:27 pm
Filed under: blogz, design, holidays, IGR Recommends | Tags: ,

CLASSIC CHRISTMAS ALBUM POST #2
It is not Christmas in the IGR household without the dulcet tones of New Edition.

“Ha ha!” you are thinking. “She likes it in an ironic way because it’s kitsch! And because of the nostalgia it induces! Look at their pseudo-Motown styling, complete with sequined tuxes!”

You are wrong. I really like it.

Believe it or not, this is the one album that I can remember being played every holiday season, without fail. My uncle Pascal, a quiet computer programmer with a secret passion for dance music and techno*, sent us this some time before my memories begin. It’s the kind of disc that has the songs printed on the CD itself, along with the label (RCA). My father, who likes to compare himself to attractive black men**, fakes a microphone every year in order to sing along. Which is how Bobby Brown has become an inextricable part of my holiday season.

This is not, like most Christmas albums, a series of covers. Rather, it’s a group of originals – including “Give Love On Christmas Day” and my personal favorite, “All I Want For Christmas Is My Girl.” One might think that this makes this easier to judge them, as one is not faced by the twinges of conscience that would occur with a condemnation of “Silent Night.” Conversely, it could also be postulated that it’s harder to judge these songs, because there’s nothing to compare them to, with the possible exception of that song from Love Actually. Truthfully, it’s neither. I don’t even know if these songs are good or bad anymore, just like you probably can’t give an opinion regarding the objective merits of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” They just are, and they always will be, now and forever. Amen.

I’d like to change the subject briefly and highlight a few discoveries I’ve made lately, as well as provide more life updates.

First off: Logo Design Love and The Lovely Package. Font lovers’ dream.

Next, a series from the magazine Format that speaks for itself:

Thirdly, DCist, which may or may not make me give up my beloved Daily Intel. Via Iris, who is my new friend and whose blog should probably count for #4.

Fifthly, the group I work with in Johnson City gets on TV…when I’m out of town. Fortunately, they uploaded the story, because I guess TiVo doesn’t work on local channels. Thx TiVo.

Sixthly (good God): a book whose illustrations are entirely made out of letters. Could not be cuter.

LAST OF ALL! I have housing, although I’m sort of crashing for the first month, which means I can’t decorate, but I’m going to start reading Apartment Therapy anyway.

*He looks and sounds like a taller version of Eugene on Top Chef: New York. I am not the only one to notice this.

**He likes to compare himself to Denzel Washington, although he once got compared to Arthur Ashe by a childhood friend of mine who didn’t have a lot of exposure to minorities. This is actually not a bad comparison.



Monday, 12/15: like you and me
December 16, 2008, 1:20 am
Filed under: history, I am not cool, IGR Recommends, life progress, meta, music | Tags: ,

I thought I only had one thing to write about, but actually I was wrong.

1. You probably have (not) noticed that my avatar has changed. Tricia Takanawa seems to fit me, since we’re both essentially Connie Chung 2.0. Given the fact that I do have a job that will be starting soon, I need to make a much stronger effort towards anonymity. I’m also going to try to sort of consolidate my internet identity in the new year, because I have so many damn projects going on. I need to make sure that everything is identifiably me, where “me” is “anonymous” (unless you already know me). At least that’s what I’m thinking right now.

2. I lost my watch. I really hate losing things, which is strange, because I do it so often that one would think I would have established some sort of fail-safe by now. I know it’s in my room somewhere, and what I’m inclined to think happened is that I probably left it out on my dresser and the cleaning people MM hired to come every couple weeks put it somewhere I can’t find. (I don’t think they took it, because there are a lot of other nicer things they could have taken.) At any rate, I am usually okay with trying to find things over the course of time, but occasionally I lapse back into my old panic mode, which usually involves me blowing the whole thing out of proportion (i.e.: this means that I am forever irresponsible, that I have no appreciation for the nice things my parents have provided for me, therefore that I am a bad daughter, etc., etc.). All of which means that although I sound calm, I am secretly freaking out. I am reminded of a story I never liked about my father: when he was little his grandfather gave him a piastre and he lost it and went ballistic, so much so that his grandfather tried to give him another. “No,” he said. “I want THAT ONE.” I hated it for two reasons that should be fairly obvious: 1) even as a child I was concerned with the prospect of buying love and wanted my parents to know that I would never be so materialistic that I would care what they got me (yes, I was the most neurotic six-year-old on the planet); 2) I totally sympathized with my dad and knew that he never got that stupid coin back.

3. I will hopefully write a series of entries re: my favorite Christmas CDs, and I would like to start by discussing a set we listen to with some frequency every year:

We actually have 1 and 5 as well, but they never get as much play. It should be unsurprising that as a middle/high school student, I was far more taken with traditional songs covered in a way that could be construed as “edgy” (well, if you’re thirteen) than anything else. Also that I’m a big fan of what was considered cool in the mid-1990s. NONETHELESS: AVSC2 has an absolutely incredible cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Believe in You,” by Sinead O’Connor, as well as an awesome jazzy version of “What Child is This” by Vanessa Williams (yes, that Vanessa Williams). Meanwhile, 3 features the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Christmastime,” which makes wonderful use of that joyous thing the Pumpkins do so well when they want to, as well as “The Christmas Song,” one of my favorite Dave Matthews songs. SHUT UP. Also “Christmas is Now Drawing Near At Hand,” which is probably the best and weirdest thing that Steve Winwood (!!!) ever recorded.

4. I went to look at house shares in DC this weekend, which was for real almost as difficult as trying to get a job. Demand > supply. Fortunately, I managed to meet a lot of really cool people whom I would like to see again, even if I don’t live with them. Still, though, I got to experience the open house, which is basically like a co-ed Greek rush in which everyone is desperately trying to convince the current tenants that:

  1. they are the most fun person there, except
  2. that they are totally cool and already have friends and thus are not doing the housemate thing to make friends at all and that it doesn’t matter if the housemates want to hang out with them or not, and
  3. that in addition to being fun they are also responsible and employed and
  4. will simultaneously be really clean and not care at all if anyone else is dirty.

FUN STUFF. I will have housing updates by tomorrow at the latest.

We stopped at a Vietnamese place in Arlington on the way out, and it had canh chua tom, which is probably one of my favorite Vietnamese soups ever and is often absent from restaurant menus. I think it’s kind of a pain to make. The walls were lined with pictures of American military officials, all of whom had written notes for the owner. During the meal, I think I asked MA who used to cook for the family when he was a kid, and he started telling us about the nannies and the cook and the chauffeur/bouncer (“He was like a cool uncle”), none of whose whereabouts are currently known. At least not by us. Later he said, “The owner probably knows my mom.”

“Why?” I asked.

There’s a large Vietnamese community in NoVa, and apparently it’s full of ex-military officials and high-ups – which makes sense when one considers its location. Which is the circle my family would have been in. “You should ask to see him,” I said, and he shook his head.

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about that man a lot, and how young my father was when he lost all of that – a loss for which most people probably wouldn’t have much sympathy. No one has any love for the bougie.



Wednesday, 11/26: things for which I am a sucker
November 26, 2008, 1:44 pm
Filed under: IGR Recommends

It is the day before Thanksgiving and I am the second-sickest person in my house, a state of affairs that can plausibly be attributed to the fact that I spent the better part of last weekend chasing down a sick six-year-old, a sick three-year-old, and a sick baby. I would take some Sudafed but I generally find the side effects (for me) worse than the symptoms it addresses, which means that I am doomed to a cloudy head and a throat that feels like it’s filled with Karo syrup.

Anyway, topic at hand.

THE STRANGE

1. Is my audience familiar with Mick Collins, possibly the coolest (and oddest) man currently alive in America? Mick Collins is one of the few black punk pioneers of whom I am aware. He once released an album called I Sing The Booty Electric. He sounds sort of like James Earl Jones, he’s apparently an accomplished UNIX programmer, and he writes furry fiction in his spare time.

There’s a worthwhile interview with him (and his bandmate, who is significantly less cool) on The Sound of Young America. I think that link should work.

2. Weird musical genres, courtesy of This Recording.

MUSIC I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO TEN YEARS AGOOOOO

1. Billy Breathes by Phish. I heard the last song off this album in 1999, when I was a freshman in high school. I loved what I heard, so naturally, being me, I never listened to the album again, with the exception of “Prince Caspian.” Of course I like it now. I wonder if there is some sort of cosmic principle preventing me from being timely/cool.

2. Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces. Truthfully, I’m setting off on the same path here, because there’s only one song I know off this album: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding,” and I only know that because of Lost in Translation, but I started listening to some of the other songs and I liked those too, so hopefully I am not condemned to repeat it (history).

PSAs, RACIAL HARMONY

1. Aliens in America. I have only seen one episode of this show, which I found because its theme song is, as you might guess, the aforementioned E. Costello masterpiece, but I’m in the process of watching more. As you might expect of a television program about the wacky misadventures of a Midwestern nerd’s family and their Muslim exchange student, it is mo corny. As a result, I am not terribly surprised that it got cancelled after one season. But it’s sort of adorable even though it’s not that good, because aww, people are learning tolerance and understanding! There are also a few moments of absurdity that shine through (e.g., “This is the worst thing that ever happened in our house, and we once had a clown die in our living room,” “I found myself telling the exchange student things I wouldn’t have even confessed to the guys in chorus”). It also features Amy Pietz, from one of my other favorite crappy television shows, Caroline in the City.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION

1. Side projects #1 and #2.