wearing my late-night cranky pants

We’re down in New York again, to visit John’s parents. John’s father has been in and out of the hospital since July, when he (re)broke his hip. So we’ve been coming down here to visit quite often. (Actually, this summer, we estimate that we spent more time here than at home.) I’m glad that we are able to come down here pretty easily, as it’s only a 3 and half hour drive for us. And it’s so important to be with family, especially in difficult times.

Anyhow, John’s father is back in the hospital again, and here we are. To offer help and support. My main job is to offer Phoebe, who offers much cuteness and huggage. Never underestimate the power of distraction.

But, while I’m glad we can be here, and even pushed for us to make this trip down this week, I also (selfishly) am going batty. Because I have even less time to myself than I have at home. I don’t know why I expect to get things done on these trips. I had in mind all sorts of work I’d get done, and packed accordingly. Book to read for my class. Stationery for writing the last of my seriously overdue thank you notes. Soundfiles on my laptop for annotation. Microphone to do some recordings for work. Articles to read for work. But the days slip away with socializing with John’s mother, visiting the hospital, and caring for Phoebe, who is going through a tough teething period. The most I’ve gotten done of my work was to start the reading for my class, and then get distracted

And once again, here it is really freakin’ late at night. And rather than sleeping or getting to any of the work I should be doing, I sit here with my laptop writing about the work I should be doing and the sleep I should be getting.

My baby is a cross-dresser

Phoebe has a lot of clothes. Some of them girly. But many of them what I would consider gender-neutral. However, if it’s not girly (pink, purple, princessy and/or with hearts, flowers, butterflies or fairies), it’s apparently considered downright boyish. And we’re not even talking just blue or patterned with footballs or monster trucks. Or even stripes or plaid. We’re talking about animal prints. Teddy bears? Boyish. Doggies? Boyish. (Though kitties seem to be girlish) Hippos? Boyish. Owls? Boyish. (But other birds are girlish.) Frogs, turtles, alligators, lizards? Boyish. Bugs? Boyish. (Except for girly dragonflies, ladybugs and butterflies.) Green, yellow, or orange? Boyish. You’d be amazed at how many people take it as an affront when they discover that Phoebe is a girl when we have her dressed in [gasp] blue or [shudder] hippos.

For example, yesterday, when I took Phoebe to my old Tae Kwon Do school, I saw a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in ages. Some of whom didn’t know about the whole baby business. Phoebe was wearing jeans with a gray hoodie and gray socks, and had her beige jacket with teddy bear motif, and a pair of mary janes. And in two separate incidents, a couple of women asked, more or less, “who’s this guy?” To which I responded, more or less, “she’s Phoebe.” (n.b. They were like “who’s this guy,” and I was like “she’s a girl.”) One woman responded, with a look of shock: “But you have her in blue! I thought she was a boy.” (The bear jacket has blue details. The jeans are blue.) With the other, the jacket was off, so the reaction was “I saw the gray and black.” Each woman was a bit uncomfortable, apparently embarrassed for having made such a gaff. However, I didn’t mind. You see, Phoebe is a baby. And as far as I’m considered, her sexuality is not really an issue at this point.

Another time, when Phoebe was even smaller, there was a similar incident. At the Home Despot (a monstrously large hardware store, for those not in the know). A young woman (or perhaps teenager) who was working there stopped to look at Phoebe, who was wearing a yellowish orange outfit with fishies. And she (the employee, not Phoebe) said something like: “What a cute baby. I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl.” To which I replied, “Yeah, we tend to dress her gender-neutrally.” And then the young woman suggested that we could get Phoebe’s ears pierced so people could tell she was a girl. Hello? If I felt so strongly that people absolutely must never ever mistake my baby for a boy, why would I dress her gender neutrally? I would be capable of, for example, finding some article of pink clothing with which to label her, or slap a bow on her head. Without actually resorting to poking holes in her.

Anyhow, while Phoebe does have her share of girly clothes (and she does look terribly cute in them), she often dresses a lot like me. (Except for the animal prints. No teddy bears emblazen my coat, or anything else I wear.) I wear a lot of gray. Black. Dark colors. And actually, I like to wear men’s shirts. And men’s sweaters. And fairly recently, I also discovered men’s pants. You see, I can get great deals on clearance pants because my size is not a common size for men. So for instance, I got a couple of pairs of men’s pants at the Gap for $5.00 each from a clearance rack. Which is handy for my transitional pants needs. (When I tried the women’s clearance rack I was displeased both with the size I would need to get, and the styles available. Plus the women’s pants were way more expensive.) I also wear shoes that would not be described as girly. I like to wear Docs, and ones that could be either men’s or womens. So actually, many days, I wear outfits that are basically entirely men’s outfits. (Aside from the undies. Let’s not go there just now.) So, I guess I’m a bit of a cross-dresser myself.

Cross-dressing has quite a lot of representations in theater, film and TV. We have men dressing as women, and women dressing as men. Sometimes, it’s a case of pretending to be the opposite gender, other times it’s wearing oppositely-gendered clothes as a style choice. Or perhaps lifestyle choice. And sometimes there are other reasons. I’m working on a list, with some attempts to categorize. (And perhaps cross-categorize. Which is appropriate for cross-dressing, I suppose.) But as my list is getting quite long, and as I have work I need to do tonight, I’ll have to save the list for another day. (Those damn lists take a long time…)

goodbye, tokens

token11.jpgRecently, the MBTA (Boston’s public transit system, also called the T) underwent some major changes, which can be boiled down to a single big change: you no longer use tokens. They’ve converted to a an electronic system involving the use of cards. Last week I mentioned that I got my first Charlie Card. Previously I’d unwittingly bought a Charlie Ticket. What’s the difference? Let me lay out the differences and similarities for you:

Charlie Card: Hard plastic, like a credit card. Very sturdy.
Charlie Ticket: Stiff paper, like a business card. Somewhat flimsy.

Charlie Card: Available for free, then you pay to add credit to it.
Charlie Ticket: Available for free, then you pay to add credit to it.

Charlie Card: Can be reused by adding credit to it.
Charlie Ticket: Can be reused by adding credit to it.

Charlie Card: Can be registered in case it gets lost.
Charlie Ticket: Can’t be registered. If you lose it, you lose. (Loser.)

Charlie Card: A T ride costs $1.70
Charlie Ticket: A T ride costs $2.00

tokens_3.jpgYes, this paper version of the MBTA card lets you ride the T for 30 cents more than if you take the same ride using the Charlie Card. Why would anyone want to do that? Why did I buy one? The short answer is cluelessness. I hadn’t even realized there were two different kinds of tickets. The Charlie Ticket is what’s available from the machines. To get your Charlie Card, you must know to seek out a distribution point and ask for one. Easy enough, as long as you know. The Charlie Ticket must be meant especially for newbies and tourists. A tax on cluelessness, as it were. Perhaps it should be called the Sucker Ticket, or the Clueless Card. But I suppose that would spoil the fun.

And so that this post won’t end up being just a rant, I should bring up some fun trivia that folks not around Boston may not know about. The name of the Charlie Card actually refers to a song: “The M.T.A. Song,” by the Kingston Trio, a song about a guy named Charlie who gets stuck riding around on the T. Funny thing is, it’s a song written in protest of a fare increase in the Boston T system, then called the MTA. (And by the way, all these recent changes to the T system have also been accompanied by a big hike in fare.) And here, how about a list. A list of songs that relate to my T adventures:

  • “The M.T.A. Song,” by the Kingston Trio (Also known as “Charlie on the M.T.A.”)
  • “Skinhead on the MBTA,” by the Dropkick Murphies (An updated punk reinterpretation of the Kingston Trio classic.)
  • “Ambition,” by Subway Sect
  • “The Metro,” by Berlin
  • “She’s got a ticket to ride,” The Beatles
  • “She’s got her ticket,” Tracy Chapman
  • “Brand New Sucker,” Jonathan Coulton
  • “Ain’t Got a Clue,” The Lurkers
  • “Loser,” Beck
  • I am…someone I’ve never heard of

    John just sent me a link to this quiz:
    Which science fiction writer are you?

    It was an enjoyable quiz, with a number of questions that made me laugh. But then my answer:

    I am:

    Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs)

    A quiet and underrated master of “hard science” fiction who, among other things, foresaw integrated circuits back in the 1940s.

    Don’t you hate it when you get results on these things that you find disappointing? I mean, I appreciate the underrated, and also the evidence of great foresight. But why not somebody cool? I mean, John got Ursula LeGuin as a result. That is so cool. It’s the sort of thing that makes me want to go back and change my answers. (Now what does that say about me?)

    Okay. Here’s an update. My brother-in-law, who is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican with books on his shelf at home by Evil Bitch from Hell that Anne Coulter and Scary Dork of an Asshole Sean Hannity as well as other “authors,” just took the quiz and got the same frickin’ author as me.

    What did I do wrong?

    approaching level orange

    rings300.jpg I have to say that my stress levels are not great tonight. Due to a variety of factors good (my mother is visiting) and bad (we are renegotiating Phoebe’s terms of sleep), my time and concentration have been reduced to critically low levels.

    Please note that it is almost 1:00 a.m., and that rather than going to sleep I have chosen to: a) spend time writing, re-writing, re-re-writing (etc.) this largely incoherent rant due to stress-induced cognitive deficits and b) use a picture for which I had to 1) go on a scavenger hunt around the living room to locate a set of rings 2) set up said rings for a photo 3) upload pictures to my laptop 4) determine what application to use to put an arrow on a picture and 5) look up appropriate image-spacing html tags. And I wonder where my time goes.

    9 disappointing kick-ass women movies

    In my continuing quest to find media that prominently feature kick-ass women, I have come across examples of such that well…haven’t measured up. In some of these, a potentially kick-ass character was disappointingly wimpy. Or the actor/actress couldn’t pull off the role convincingly. In others, the movie was not great. In still other cases, the movie just plain sucked. Here’s the list of my biggest disappointments. As with previous lists, movies are ordered by year produced/released. With one big exception: I’m saving my all-time biggest disappointment for the end of the list.

    9 kick-ass women movies I hoped would be better:

    1. …coming up at the end of the post…
    2. Cutthroat Island (1995)
      I really want to like this movie, and it has its moments. Geena Davis plays a pirate. How cool is that? Lots of action, fight scenes, chase scenes, etc. And Geena Davis plays a pirate. But somehow, unfortunately, it’s just not that good a movie. But Geena Davis plays a pirate!
    3. The Fifth Element (1997)
      I remember looking forward to this one, since I’ve liked Besson’s other movies, and since it appeared to prominently feature a kick-ass woman. I saw it in the theater. However, I found the movie to be generally pretty forgettable. (As in, at this point, I don’t remember much beyond some bright colors and some irritation with Bruce Willis.)
    4. Star Wars: Episode I – the Phantom Menace (1999)
      This movie disappointed so many in so many ways. One of the ways in which it disappointed me was that I thought there was an opportunity for Natalie Portman to kick some ass. I was unimpressed. (And things just got worse in Episode II…)
    5. Rush Hour 2 (2001)
      Another movie I don’t remember too well. This one has Zhang Ziyi, playing a kick-ass villainous type. Problem is, she seems pretty unstrung, from what I remember. And of course, she’s not the star, so her character doesn’t get to win.
    6. Tomb Raider (2001)
      While Angelina Jolie did kick ass moderately well in this, the movie was pretty weak overall. I do remember a few cool fight scenes. I should probably give it another chance.
    7. Daredevil (2003)
      Another movie I really wanted to like. Probably because of Kevin Smith‘s involvement, as well as being a comic book/superhero movie. But let’s face it. Ben Affleck is just not convincing as a superhero. But Jennifer Garner kicked ass as Elektra in spite of things. At least in the fight scenes.
    8. Underworld (2003)
      I loved Kate Beckinsale in Cold Comfort Farm (one of my all-time favorite movies, though not in the kick-ass woman genre). However, this movie was…well…not great. And Kate was not terribly convincing in an action role.
    9. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
      I’m not sure what was going on with this movie. I found the first one entertaining and funny. This one just pained me.

    And here it is. My all time biggest disappointment in a movie in the kick-ass women category:

    1. The Avengers (1998)
      How could they???

    To say that The Avengers (1998) movie disappointed me would be like saying Everest is a pretty big mountain. That eating the chicken salad sandwich you left in your car all one hot July day may lead to stomach upset. That the Hindenberg disaster was the result of an unfortunate mishap. What I’m saying is that this movie was a gigantic, mountainous gut-spewing fireball of a disaster.

    Okay, perhaps I exaggerate. In that my expectations were pretty low, so I supposed the disappointment level couldn’t have been that extreme. But please understand that I love the Avengers show, at least in its 1965-1967 incarnation. That I have idolized the character Emma Peel, as portrayed by Diana Rigg, since my formative teenage years.

    This movie had a variety of “flaws” (Ralph Fiennes’ cardboard performance as Steed, the inclusion of the character “Mother,” Sean Connery’s unconvincing role as a megavillain, to name a few), which could have been overlooked if only the portrayal of the character Emma Peel had been appropriately…like Emma Peel. But she just wasn’t. Uma didn’t cut it.

    I actually got a fair amount of enjoyment, after I saw the movie, just from ranting about how many things they got wrong. Believe it or not, I want to watch it again. So that I can relive those rants, and perhaps share them here.