Intrepid Girl Reporter

Thursday, 11/5: lockdown
November 5, 2009, 11:36 pm
Filed under: 공부방 (after-school program), media

I wore the least amount of clothes that could still be considered professional today at work. That sentence took me maybe four tries. The older secretary in my office came in and said, “You know, the man came in yesterday with his little temperature gun, and he pointed it in here and he said it was one hundred degrees!” Which proves that I was actually underselling my situation yesterday, and also leads me to wonder what sort of gun takes a temperature. Because I want it.

No major disciplinary incidents today, thank God, probably because one of the teachers put the entire cafeteria on silent. I realize that this is a cultural thing I just have to get around, but it’s so jarring to hear the teachers yell like that – the assumption is that because they’re kids, they will inherently try to get away with something, and so you have to do a preemptive strike (in this case, ensuring that everyone enters the cafeteria and puts their heads down). I didn’t like that outlook as a child, and nothing much has changed, but I realize that I’m also biased because my parents rarely, if ever, yelled at me in that sort of habitual manner. Yelling was reserved for when we really screwed up and was served with a healthy side of guilt. Anyway. You’re probably thinking: isn’t this your program? To which I must reply: But it isn’t my school. This was done by decree of the principal, who – to be fair – has taken a school with a lot stacked against it and turned it into a success, and she is the final word on this matter. It does make me feel sort of – well, I suppose emasculated is not the right word, but something like it.

Today was a mostly terrible day for mostly the reasons stated above, so instead I’m going to refer you to a much happier matter about which I also wrote.

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.

Sunday, 10/19: more of the same
October 20, 2008, 3:54 am
Filed under: crushes, media

A spotlight on an actor for whom, as previously mentioned, I have a particular affinity, which this article only serves to underscore. I would love to see that play, especially considering the fact that it also features “Mad Men”‘s Elisabeth Moss.

Also, according to some commercials that just played, there is a pet crematorium in Elizabethton (of course), and some actor from “Gilmore Girls” is starring in “Nunsense” in Bristol. Which is a pretty far journey in a relatively short period of time.

I’ve been crafting up a storm here. And the (Devil) Rays are going TO THE WORLD SERIES.

Thursday, 10/9: the other reason that “The Office” is brilliant, etc.
October 10, 2008, 4:55 am
Filed under: media, television | Tags: ,

I know, nothing for a week and then two posts in one day.

Sometimes I am very easily satisfied. For example, even though this particular phenomenon has jumped the shark, I take immense pleasure in the following image:

Therefore, I would probably have been happy enough if “The Office” had simply continued to display competency in the areas in which it has a record of doing well: clever writing, sharp satirical observations of American corporate culture, making John Krasinski look adorable and his relationship with Pam almost blinding in the jealousy it induces. I would probably have assumed that, yes, it too had jumped the shark, which was what the post-strike episodes of last season seemed to indicate. Conventional wisdom says that when you put the will-they or won’t-they couple solidly into will-they zone, the clock is ticking.

BUT ACTUALLY. I’ve watched both episodes this season, and while they do seem to be getting a little bit of their edge back, that’s not what I find most impressive. What the writers of the show have managed to do is shift the focus OFF of (Pam and Jim)* and ON to two other couples/potential couples/situations within Dunder Mifflin without losing momentum. The whole (Michael and Holly) and (Angela and Dwight and Andy) thing could have felt like a feeble attempt to revisit proven ground, but it doesn’t, because they’re different stories. In other words, the writers seem to be viewing “The Office” like an office, one that has more than two people in it. In other words, somehow, they strapped on their waterskis and went around the shark.

Other things I am enjoying and/or have a strong opinion on today: 1) the Daily Intel makes the mistake of asking, “Why is he so popular?” with regards to Ryan Reynolds. I will tell you, New York Daily News: because Ryan Reynolds is awesome. He was popular with me long before it was popular for him to be popular, probably because I was one of the few middle schoolers (/viewers) in America who regularly watched “Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place.”** Also because of his underrated cameo in Harold and Kumar (natch)***, the fact that I really enjoyed Definitely Maybe more than I had anticipated, knowing that had we gone to high school together I would have had a big crush on him, the fact that he dated Alanis Morrisette,**** et al. NYDN eventually comes around to my point of view, citing his essay in the Huffington Post re: the NYC Marathon; okay, he’s not David Sedaris, but he IS funny, thus confirming what I’ve always secretly known*****. Most people who meet me assume that I have the good judgment to stay away from this cocky sort of man, and always, always they are proven wrong.

2) my college has, as one of their freshman bloggers, a hapa whose father is Asian. A) It is nice to know that there are more of us out there, B) it is nice to know that they are in Kentucky.

3) La Sister came home last night for fall break, pulling into the driveway mere minutes after my mother and I. I am happy she is here.

4) the Esquire 75th Anniversary Issue is worth purchasing. Not just because of the flashing cover either.

5) This American Life also recently did a story on (recurring theme alert) Geoffrey Canada. Duh, I recommend it.

*When I was growing up, our neighbors – they were good friends with my parents, we were tight with their kids – were named Pam and Jim. It was difficult for a while for me to hear those names together and not visualize an Italian-American podiatrist and his wife.

**My affinity for crappy sitcoms being well-documented, and probably worth exploring for the insights it might provide into my psyche.

***Aside from the fact that this movie is awesome for all the reasons I have named in past posts, it also deserves credit for having really great cameos. Like, you know, NPH.

****I was really into Alanis Morissette around the same time I was watching “Two Guys.” Because I always sort of pictured Mr. Reynolds as out of *my* league, had I been of age etc., but I also always sort of identified with this whole sort of angry vulnerable feminist thing that Alanis had when she first came out, their dating appeared to be the equivalent of the captain of the soccer team falling in love with the editor of the literary magazine; even though at the time of their relationship I was sort of over them both, it raised my opinion of him.

*****It’s such a strange phenomenon, the way we subconsciously create these conceptions of what famous people must be like based on the limited information we’re given by their performances. For that reason, I find it gratifying that – while I had never considered what an essay by Ryan Reynolds might sound like – it sounds like what I would have imagined.

Saturday, 9/27: dorkus maximus
September 28, 2008, 4:38 am
Filed under: IGR Recommends, life progress, media, music

I would like to tell the media, all of them, that I am a little disappointed in them for not devoting more serious mockery to Joe Biden, a man who, by all appearances, is the very definition of a crazy old coot. I just watched another Tina Fey skit re: Sarah Palin, and it’s not that Tina isn’t terrific or that there’s not a lot of absurdity in the Palin situation, but come on. Joe Biden told an audience that when the stock market crashed in 1929, FDR got on TV to comfort the American people. This is a man who has the potential to be the next Dan Quayle! And yet the media, with the exception of the mostly-reliable (and ever-dreamy) Jon Stewart, seems to be leaving him largely alone. When media bias starts depriving us of cheap shots, it’s time to draw the line.

Yesterday I saw Ghost Town, which I recommend in the same vein as Definitely Maybe – it’s not going to blow your mind open, but as a romantic comedy, it was just really well done, every aspect, and Ricky Gervais is awesome (duh). There was a song playing in the credits and I was like, that’s a beautiful song, who sings it? They sound familiar. It was John Mayer, of course. Some force in the universe is driving me back hardcore to the music of my past, maybe because it feels like my ego needs to be taken down a few notches. (Evidently months of unemployment hasn’t done it yet.) I’m never going to leave adolescence, evidently, especially not considering that listening to “Heart of Life” actually made me feel a little bit better than I have lately, a little less sour and stale. Look, I need to hear that it’s okay that all my plans are sort of derailed and I feel directionless, okay? Even if it’s from the singer of “Your Body is a Wonderland.” And for the record, I met him once at EarXTacy in Louisville when I was sixteen and he was totally cool, even given the fact that I spewed nonsense about how I sang one of his songs at my high school talent show.

Oh man Kenan Thompson is starring in this next skit. I am so glad he is on SNL. This is the most context-appropriate, and perfect, child-star result I can imagine.

you know it’s nothing new
bad news never had good timing
but then the circle of your friends
will defend the silver lining

pain throws your heart to the ground
love turns the whole thing around
no it won’t all go the way it should
but i know the heart of life is good

I made siu mai with my mother tonight. When she paints the lines of egg along the wrappers they have this almost Mondrian precision. Mine, on a good day, are best compared to Jackson Pollock. But I’m learning.

Thursday, 9/4: more fun facts
September 5, 2008, 5:11 am
Filed under: blogz, fashion, IGR Recommends, media, politics

More from your favorite pundit.* I’m writing this from an almost totally clean room, a feeling so refreshing as to be almost foreign. All thanks to the preponderance of medical school students who will descend on our house Saturday for the party, thrown by their teacher and my father, that ranks in legend as one of the parties of the year. (No, really.) I am currently taking suggestions for a party playlist. In the meantime, some recommendations.

1. Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. I know, a big brouhaha was made over it a couple of years ago. I wanted to read it then, but as previously discussed, I’m a big fan of being behind the times when it comes to pop culture. At any rate, this book has prevented me from being productive for the past three days. Her documentation – and refusal to pass judgment or offer excuses – is incredible, although you may need some sort of cheat sheet to keep up with all the men and children who pass in and out of the two main women’s lives.

2. Leanne on Project Runway. a) Adorable (with a sense of humor!) and b) actually reminds me of some of my friends. And c) I generally like her clothes and her aesthetic a lot. But I’m sad to see Stella Zotis and her phone calls to her boo Ratbones go. Who isn’t, really.

I like Kenley’s personal style, in general, and I like most of her pieces, but I think Project Rungay hits the mark when they describe her as “the kind of girl that other girls hate on sight.” She reminds me of a girl I knew from My College. I think it’s the laugh. Although, you know, I’ve been That Girl before too, so I’m willing to give her a little slack. Just a little. Also, did Blayne REALLY think that Mary-Kate Olsen was a fashion icon? I am hardly well versed in the language of couture, but I know when the line between high-fashion and homeless has been crossed.

3. Making your own freezer jam. Who knew preserving was so simple? Maybe I’d make a good pioneer after all.

4. Tulle has made three of my favorite coats, all of which were under $100 and all of which are adorable, colorful, and well-made. Browsing the site, it appears that they have a lot of nice stuff that is also affordable, but it is in the outerwear arena where they really appear to shine. I love the Mary Tyler Moore aesthetic that a lot of them have going on, especially my new corduroy roll-neck jacket:

what a snuggly jacket

what a snuggly jacket

I like the fact that it also evokes Paddington Bear, although I’m not sure what that says about me.

5. Fortune Magazine investigates the gender gap in pay and finds that, apparently, there are a lot of factors besides gender that influence this gap. I sort of disagree with Cait Murphy in her “let them be social workers” analysis, but for different reasons than those her opponents mention – I don’t know that we should offer higher pay for these industries simply because they’re not being paid the same (because equivalency is far more complex to determine than such a blanket statement would suggest), but more because increasing pay would, in many instances, increase the prestige (and thus the talent pool) of different careers and would work to alleviate the sort of burnout that characterizes, for example, the teaching profession. Nonetheless, I was unaware of this study, and I find the results indicative of a whole host of other issues that also require discussion and address. Have there been any studies done that counter this? Thoughts?

6. What I like most about The American Scene, to be totally honest, is its reasonable tone. Hysterics aren’t foreign to either side of the political spectrum, obviously, but in all the Obama frenzy a lot of conservative talking heads seem to be almost more unable to keep a note of bitterness out of their analyses. These guys are conservative, make no mistake – more so than I am, at least in the two days I’ve been reading their blog – but they’re not party zealots, and regardless of affiliation, their writing is engaging and offers clear, thoughtful analysis of their positions. Also, apparently Reihan Salam is only 28, which makes me feel totally worthless and like I have done nothing with my life.

7. I am published for the first time in several months. I am also working on a piece re: Obama supporters in the 1st District of Tennessee; they’re an admirable bunch, given that this is one of the most densely Republican districts in the nation. Although, frankly speaking, the Tri-Cities being heavily Republican is not much of an endorsement for the GOP.

8. Francis Fukuyama, end-of-history theorist and neo-con-turned-Obama-supporter, has a magazine. I am intrigued. I am also considering appropriating the name Francis Fukuyama for a future child or pet.


*Thanks for the nickname, Grey Munford.

Sunday, 8/17: IGR still loves Paul Tough

IGR is, in fact, a big fan of the aforementioned NYT education reporter, although the initial exposure came not from an article about education but rather an article on the Weakerthans that ought to be required reading for anyone who has ever lived somewhere that is less than ideal.

His articles on the American educational system and its successes and failures, however, are equally compelling.

Here’s one on Katrina and the opportunity to utilize New Orleans as a sort of test lab for education (it sounds a lot creepier when phrased that way, but quite frankly, there was nowhere for NOLA to go but up). He also did a fascinating earlier piece on the successes and failures of NCLB. What I like about him is a refreshing fairness; I find that most of the education articles I read are biased one way or the other, although, you know, if either side was totally right we would not have these problems. Not to point out the obvious or anything.

One question that does arise for me though is regarding a not-inconsequential reform that is barely mentioned in the articles, simply because it’s not all that widespread: teacher pay. This, to me, seems like a significant variable that has in no way received the attention it deserves. Teach for America has done an admirable job bringing a degree of prestige back to the teaching profession. But however: there’s still the inevitable whiff of the “do-gooder” about it, a faint hint of martyrdom. Teaching is difficult, but it is also really fun if you like that sort of thing, provides the practitioner with the opportunity to learn innumerable skills, and, I think, deserves considerably more rigorous study than what it is so often granted. As a result, the profession remains – well, not inaccessible, but it certainly garners less respect in many circles than it deserves, and it still lacks the prestige it ought to have. So it’s attracting a smaller pool of talent and burning out the talent it brings in. I wonder what studies exist re: pay and performance. Note to self.

I would also like to recommend an article on the other man who rules my heart. Hey guess what, Jon Stewart doesn’t like ideology either.