Intrepid Girl Reporter

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.


Saturday, 5/24: a laundry list of my obsessions
May 24, 2008, 3:26 pm
Filed under: IGR Recommends, Jeju crew, media, music, reading, television, Uncategorized

In which we take a break from our regularly scheduled programming of constant complaining about all the stress in my life and examine a few things that I really, really love. It’s a special Super Size version of IGR Recommends.

When we were in Japan, I discovered a heretofore unknown fact about Soccer: given any iteration of the game “Would You Rather,” wherein one option is anything in the world and the other option involves Billy Crystal, she will always choose the one featuring Billy Crystal. This is a rule I like to think of as “Soccer’s Law.” At first I thought she was crazy. I’m not going to say that I suddenly had some sort of epiphany about my feelings towards Billy Crystal – they still remain in the indifferent-to-occasionally-annoying range – but I do, now, understand where she’s coming from.

I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull* with some of the Jeju crew and Co-Teacher D, and I was trying to explain to CTD how adorable I find Shia LaBeouf and why. As it happens, I had also been discussing my love of the show “Cupid” with Oregon and Arkansas earlier, which is another relatively obscure thing about which I am passionate. I’ve also been listening to more Korean psychedelia lately. These three seemingly unrelated occurrences helped me to realize that I, too, have a lot of things I don’t necessarily think are the best in the world, but, given the option, will always choose for whatever reason. These strange little obsessions are itemized for the first time here.

Note: the following list doesn’t include obvious concepts like “favorite artist,” and it’s not comprehensive. Also, most of these do not reflect very well on me.

Note 2: if you have known me for longer than six months, you have probably heard me talk about at least one of these.

Note 3: My sister shares a lot of these. I’m not sure why.

1. “Sesame Street”

I love “Sesame Street.” I have always loved “Sesame Street,” and I probably always will. It still makes me laugh, and not in the “oh that’s so cute way,” more in the “Grover why did you bring out a grapefruit on a hot dog bun” kind of way. I love that it doesn’t talk down to kids, that it features characters who aren’t always sugary sweet to each other, that it takes on Hemingway and Hitchcock. If I create something with as wide an impact – if I even created something nearly as entertaining – I will be very, very proud.

Arrivederci, frog.

2. Shia LaBeouf

When I was in high school, I used to watch “Even Stevens” with my sister specifically for the purpose of seeing Shia LaBeouf. If “Even Stevens” was interrupted by “Lizzie McGuire,” I would complain loudly until that Hilary Duff monstrosity had ended and “Even Stevens” was back on again.

I totally want to hang out with him. I think he is absolutely adorable. I thought so when I thought he was like six years younger than me and he seemed to be the kind of kid I would have loved if he were my age, and I think so now that I realize that he is, in fact, my age. I like the fact that he broke into the movie business in an unconventional way and that he chooses a wide variety of movies. Also, he seems to have trouble with women, which if you know me at ALL you will realize that this, to me, makes him even more endearing. I would date him as well as hang out with him. Just saying.

3. Korean psychedelia/folk

I bought an album by Shin Jung Hyeon yesterday and it’s really good. I also want to listen to more Kim Jung Mi. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this stuff before. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Big Bang okay, but this is a total scene that apparently disappeared and was replaced by NOTHING.

4. My Co-Teacher, ACT

ACT is the most awesome woman on the planet. She hugs me and listens to me rant about things she can’t do anything about. Right now she is in Seoul protesting the Lee Myung Bak administration. I asked her what they were going to do in the demonstration and she said, “Shouting.”

5. KoreanAir

Consistently nice, always helpful, everyone speaks English.

6. Jeremy Piven

No one ever knows who Jeremy Piven is. Which is too bad, because I love Jeremy Piven. I have loved him ever since I watched “Ellen” with my mother when I was in elementary school. I loved him in “Cupid” (see below), and I love him in “Entourage.” (Note: this is a key distinction between the items on this list and actual normal things I find attractive. Adrian Grenier is much, much more attractive than Jeremy Piven. I realize this. I find Adrian Grenier incredibly beautiful. But I would not necessarily go see a terrible movie featuring Adrian Grenier. I would do this for Jeremy Piven.) I think that I associate him in part with this sort of nostalgia for the mid-90s, when I was first starting to imagine myself as something more than what I was then, and the media I consumed featured adults living these lives that were possibilities for me. Also, I watched these things with my parents, and that was fun.

7. “Cupid”

“Cupid” was canceled prematurely. “Cupid” is one of the cutest shows ever, and I mean that in the most positive possible way. Jeremy Piven played this guy who was convinced he was Cupid, and Paula Marshall played this psychiatrist who was convinced he wasn’t and that love was all about science, and they wrestled with it as he tried to hook up every single person in the city, and I was twelve and really wanted to fall in love. Theme song by the Pretenders, which added to the awesome, as I also wanted to be tough like Chrissie Hynde.

8. My father’s boss and his wife

They ply us with delicious baked goods and have really adorable Nova Scotian accents. They are older and, we are sure, make wonderful grandparents. Cute dogs round out the package.

9. GS25

10. The book Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Highly recommended. Totally different from the movie, as previously discussed.

11. Blessid Union of Souls

Again from the mid-90s. Lyrically terrible and incredibly catchy.

12. Men’s style magazines

Esquire and Details feature authors I actually like reading outside of magazines (ex. Chuck Klosterman, Nick Hornby). They also write as though they are speaking to an audience older than tenth grade. While I’m not a fan of the way the dating articles occasionally veer into misogyny, they are far more entertaining than their female counterparts. The only comparable women’s mag would probably be Jane, but Jane was a) a little full of itself, b) targeted towards women who wanted to make it known that they read Jane, and c) halted sometime last year, which means I can no longer subscribe.

13. Reusing and making stuff

My father is a pack rat. So am I. He and my mother are also both bargain hunters, a trait I have inherited. Also, I have always liked making things, as my mother can attest, when she used to take me to the craft store as a treat. As a result, my rooms wherever I live are always cluttered with projects in process.

14. Social marketing

I did my thesis on this. I love good marketing. I’d rather be convinced than preached at.

15. Thomas Haden Church

There was a summer when I was moving and everything I owned was in a box, which meant that the only thing I had available as entertainment was USAm, the USA network’s feeble attempt to recycle old programming for the unemployed. I got really into “Ned and Stacey.”

Look at those crazy antics!

I actually think that “Ned and Stacey” was a good show for what it was – the writing may not have been top-notch, but Debra Messing is kind of endearing. More importantly, Thomas Haden Church is both full of himself and completely unashamed of being crazy, which seems to be the role he fits in the best. (Also, I’m a fan of mid-90s sitcoms that weren’t very good. Don’t even ask me about Caroline in the City.)

My sister understands this, as she watched a lot of Nick at Nite during this time and went through a similar phase with “Wings.” We also both enjoyed “Sideways.” Thomas Haden Church seems to be crazy in the same way we are, which is to say that I suspect that if we played “Would You Rather” with him long enough, we would find his Billy Crystal, so to speak. And isn’t someone we can play such games with what we all want, in the end?

*SPOILER: I briefly entertained the notion that the UFO was there, and looked incredibly cliche, as a sort of tribute to these sci-fi movies of the time period when IJ is set, but Oregon disagrees with me here, and I think she might be right. It’s difficult for me to say, anyway, because I’ve never seen the rest of the movies (don’t start on me). Also, CTE is lots of fun.

for Park Street
October 23, 2007, 3:31 pm
Filed under: reading

I have a friend at home who loves Robert Creeley, and I never bothered to read him until now, when I am in need of a little poetry in my life.

The Rain

by Robert Creeley

All night the sound had

come back again,

and again falls

this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself

that must be remembered,

insisted upon

so often? Is it

that never the ease,

even the hardness,

of rain falling

will have for me

something other than this,

something not so insistent—

am I to be locked in this

final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,

lie next to me.

Be for me, like rain,

the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-

lust of intentional indifference.

Be wet

with a decent happiness.



For No Clear Reason

by Robert Creeley

I dreamt last night

the fright was over, that

the dust came, and then water,

and women and men, together

again, and all was quiet

in the dim moon’s light.

A paean of such patience—

laughing, laughing at me,

and the days extend over

the earth’s great cover,

grass, trees, and flower-

ing season, for no clear reason.




It’s not instant love, but still – a paean of such patience. I am making a point to read more, in general.

we’ll make our homes on the water

Considering the typhoon, it was a surprisingly wonderful Sunday.

Full disclosure, as always:  We brought the storm on ourselves. My friend G’s host sister, J, told her cheerfully that a typhoon was coming Sunday, but given the fact that no one seemed to be evacuating, we all laughed it off as typical Korean hyperbole.* Also, the two weather words all my students seem to know on their own are “fine” and “typhoon.” I thought this was funny.

I was wrong.

It’s been a rough week anyway for pretty much everyone I know – my friend A said that atmospheric changes were afoot, which explained my desire on Friday to personally throttle every single student in my second grade class**, but I don’t know anyone on this island who made it through the week without at least once casting a longing glance back towards American shores. So ending with a Category 4 hurricane isn’t really surprising, I guess. Yesterday was cloudy, a little rainy, but about 75% of the island crew ended up seeing The Bourne Supremacy and/or wandering around looking for entertainment and/or eating Red Mango (finally), eating Indian food, receiving a free coffee mug from the only GNC in the province, and visiting the English bookstore and buying copies of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and Paul Auster’s New York trilogy. (Okay, the last part was just me.) Then G and my friend E and I went to the jjimjilbang with my host fam, where we all fell asleep on the floor and didn’t leave until 2 AM. At this point: no evacuations, no alarms, no warnings from the Big Brother-style speaker on my wall from which the superintendent declaims. I hope you don’t think I’m joking on that last part.

We woke up this morning with a promise hanging over our heads: pudding, or “ding-pu,” as Host Brother has taken to calling it. (The first time I made it – out of boredom, on another rainy night – he called the ingredients pudding, but after witnessing its metamorphosis into dessert, decided that the name needed a change as well.) Because it was HB’s birthday party day, E and G and I ventured out into the rain to the supermarket down the street and to Paris Baguette for breakfast. It was a walk that would cost us four umbrellas. I had trouble standing upright. By the time we realized how bad it was, however, we were on a mission. Also so wet that it didn’t really matter if we got any wetter.

So we got our chocolate and our sugar and our croissants and sticky buns and green-tea-cream-cheese-pancakey-thing, and headed home, where the power appeared to be flickering, to no one’s consternation but ours. We made pudding by candlelight. We ate pudding and fried chicken with Host Family and HB’s friends by candlelight. At this point, trees were falling. Then we sat around and talked and read our books, in English, and took a nap, listening to the winds batter the window. When we woke up, the buses weren’t running, so we played Uno with Host Sister.

When we finally made it to the bus station, the streets were flooded, windows were broken, and branches littered the streets. We got E on a bus to Seogwipo and G in her taxi to Hallim, and made it home, where Host Dad, HB, HS and I ate ramen and, because I am forever behind every trend, I read more of the last Harry Potter, again by candlelight. (Side note: I can’t put it down. I wouldn’t call myself a Potter fanatic, but what I love about Rowling is her ability to create a propulsive story – i.e., I always always always want to keep reading.) Then the lights came back on, and I was able to discover that what had actually occurred was Typhoon Nari, with winds somewhere between 131 and 155 miles per hour. Oh.

This is so typical, for us to be here and have no idea that we’re surviving a massive storm.  It’s the grand-scale edition of getting on a bus and hoping it goes our way. Welcome to life in a foreign country. My American mother asked me today if people don’t evacuate, and HS said no; I’m not sure if this was the first typhoon to hit the island, or if it was just the first typhoon in a while, based on what she said (see? SEE?), and I don’t know if people are blase or if they’re actually freaking out and they’re just doing it in Korean. You know? I never imagined that I could experience a storm in this way. But then I never imagined a lot of things.

*There is no typical Korean hyperbole. Mistake Number One.

**Explanation: In Korea, elementary school goes to sixth grade. Once students hit middle school, the grades are started over, so seventh grade = first grade, eighth grade = second grade, ninth grade = third grade. Then the whole thing is started again in high school. Any rhetorical confusion is usually alleviated with the explanation “(grade) (school),” as in “first grade high school,” but since I teach middle school, I think you all can figure it out for yourselves.