happy birthday, steven rubio's online life

This blog began 14 years ago today.

Who the hell does anything for fourteen years?

There is something old-fashioned about persisting in a format that has long been overtaken by other forms of online presentation.

And there is something odd about continuing to write for the smallest of audiences.

But think of this: my blog has never had advertising. I’ve never made any money from it, unless you count published writing that had its root here (i.e. I was “discovered” via my blog writing ... of course, much of my published writing has been unpaid/academic). This allows me to pretend my writing is “pure”.

Changes have occurred over time. I used to write about a broader area. I hesitate now to write about things where I know people who can do better jobs, so I rarely write about politics, and I write less about sports than I did in the past. The blog has become an arts site, where I write about TV, movies, and music ... and admittedly, when someone has asked me to write for publication, it’s those areas that come up.

I know there is some good writing buried in the past fourteen years, pieces where I happen to read them by accident and don’t always know they are mine until I’m finished, and I think, “I am good enough”. The published stuff, which doesn’t appear here, is of varying quality ... I think my piece on punk cinema for Nick Rombes was good, ditto for my Bugs Bunny Meets Picasso essay for Michael Berube. My Battlestar Galactica and King Kong essays might be the best of my Smart Pop work. Point is, the form is shorter, but I occasionally reach those heights on this blog. Maybe for 2016 I should find a way to foreground Past Classics.

What I hope to avoid as much as possible is the type of naked confessional I am far too capable of indulging in. It’s worth repeating every once in awhile the motto for this blog, Kael’s “I’m frequently asked why I don’t write my memoirs. I think I have.”

Right now, the thing that has me most excited is catching up with The 100 before Season Three begins. I might have a pretty good post about that surprisingly fine show, which made #9 on my Top Ten List even though I only started watching it a short time ago.


notes from a smart phone

It couldn't be worse timing. My hard drive died just as this blog turned 13. Whenever I reach one of these anniversaries, I start wondering why I continue. The absence of an actual keyboard doesn't exactly make me want to compose a post. Smart phones are better served by Twitter, where we only have to type 140 characters. (It's funny that I say "type", when I'm using SwiftKey, which only requires that I swipe my finger.) But when I don't post, it's as if nothing happened. I'm watching some new TV shows, but no post, didn't happen. The grandkid does something cute... Well, that happened because it shows up on Google Plus. But my usual blogging topics just disappear. And I'm already tired of writing on my phone, so all this post really is, is a reminder that I am still alive.

temporary thing

Just a note: my computer is acting up, I'm worried the hard drive is dying, so things will be a bit spare around here for a bit. Yes, I know, I missed Music Friday, which was partly blog burnout, but also computer anxiety.

To make up for yesterday, I'll attach a music video to this post. Hadn't intended it to be this one, but I'm inspired by the title of the post.


blogging and throwback thursdays

Sometimes I get inspired, and there are blog posts every day. On the other hand, I’ve been doing this blog since for more than 12 years, and I’m running out of things to say.

But one way the Internet has changed since 2002 is that we have so many places to express ourselves. Straightforward blogs are out of fashion … too many words. People post Facebook updates, or hangout on Google+, or tweet, or use Instagram, or do all of these things at the same time.

I do this, too, although I limit myself to Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. But when I’m not particularly inspired, I miss a couple of days of blog posts. Still, I’m “posting”, just not here.

For instance, a few weeks ago, my niece mentioned that she used to like watching late-night shows, but having a kid around has changed her schedule a bit. I told her that no one watches late-night TV anymore, that we just wait for YouTube, but she noted how overwhelming and time-consuming that could be.

So I started a little … I guess you could call it a meme, except no one does it but me … every day or so, I post a few videos from the previous night’s late-night shows on Google+, calling it “Late night with Julie Machado”. The shows do most of the work for me … they are, to varying degrees, locked in to social media, so that, for instance, Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show will have posted highlights before they’ve even aired on the West Coast.

Something called “Throwback Thursdays” has popped up recently. I enjoy reading what other folks offer … I’m not sure, I think it’s only on Facebook. And a couple of Thursdays in a row, I’ve posted a vintage photo on FB. It’s the kind of thing I would normally put on this blog, but let’s face it, a lot more people see the stuff I put on Facebook, anyway.

I haven’t gotten around to tagging those FB photos with a “Throwback Thursday” pointer, so perhaps I could pretend I’m a guerilla in the throwback battles. In the meantime, here are the photos I’ve posted recently:



virtual virago: classic movies

A little more than a week ago, I came across a blog by Jennifer Garlen, Virtual Virago, subtitled “Classic movies, literature, and popular culture - welcome to my world!” I couldn’t help seeing a large number of similarities between Garlen and myself. She writes a blog about film, she has a PhD in English, she taught college English and literature for fourteen years at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and she continues to teach while homeschooling her kid (I haven’t asked her about all of this, I’m just taking the info from her G+ page).

A sampling of her recent blog posts gives a sense of what interests her: Two Smart People with Lucille Ball, Key Largo with Bogart and Bacall, Wee Willie Winkie with Shirley Temple, Love Me or Leave Me with Doris Day and James Cagney, and the Warner Brothers’ all-star extravaganza, Hollywood Canteen.

Another recent post rang some familiar chimes for many of us who write blogs about movies. In “Confessions of a Classic Movie Blogger”, she lets us in on a few secrets. “I start every movie hoping I'll really like it.” “I love genre films, even cheesy ones.” “In my other life, I was an English professor.” And perhaps my favorite, “I love what I do!”

It turns out Garlen has also written a book, Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching. In a G+ exchange about the book, I told her, “the first entry that I looked up was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Second was The Passion of Joan of Arc.” And I added, “What I found impressive was that you had something interesting to say about A&C Meet Frankenstein…. you made a couple of connections I hadn't thought of ... that Scooby-Doo comes from the same place, and that Lon Chaney, Jr. doesn't seem to be in on the joke.” One of her “confessions” in the above blog post was, ”I keep David Thomson's Have You Seen...? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films next to my bed at all times.” Beyond Casablanca includes only 10% as many films, but it’s another one to keep by your bedside. (Among the movies she discusses are personal faves like The Girl Can’t Help It, Rio Bravo, Night of the Hunter, and Top Hat.) She also includes with each film a list of other movies you might like in the same vein.

The seventh item on her list of confessions reads, “I wish I knew how to promote my classic movie guide and blog without being a pain about it.” I don’t mind being a pain. I recommend both book and blog, and look forward to a lot of reading.

am i dying?

On io9, my old friend Annalee Newitz has a piece, “Magazines have finally killed blogs – but in a way you never expected”. She describes how RSS grew out of Usenet (in the process, probably reminding us that most people don’t even know what those are, which matters to what follows).

Usenet was a text-based publishing system that allowed people to create newsgroups, kind of like group blogs or Tumblrs, where people could swap stories, news, information, pictures, and more. Like blogs, the topics of these newsgroups ranged from kinky sex and recipes, to microchip architecture and carpentry. And the way most people read newsgroups was to subscribe to the ones they liked so that they could ignore the thousands of newsgroups that were competing for their attention.

There were very strong online communities in the Usenet world … the ones I spent the most time in were rec.sport.baseball.sf-giants, and rec.music.artists.springsteen. Baseball Prospectus started when a few people from rec.sport.baseball decided there was a market for their brand of intelligent, feisty analysis (and when I was asked to join them, they knew me only from my posts in that newsgroup). Over time, people moved on, to email lists, to Facebook, to web sites that included a vital community of commenters. This wasn’t all that long ago, but for most people, my guess is it’s like Usenet never existed.

Annalee argues that the Usenet feel moved to RSS. “It was a way to recreate that newsgroup reader feeling for the web. People would publish to their blogs, and you'd use your RSS reader to bring all their posts into one place and read everything at your leisure, in reverse-chronological order. … That why RSS readers were so remarkable -- they let you take information from everywhere and organize it however you like.” Kind of like how it was on Usenet.

But, she points out, “Information in the world of RSS is not organized into silos that resemble magazines or social networks. And RSS no longer feels like the native land of the new web generation.”

Blogs made great use of RSS. You would pick up subscribers who would read your posts, along with the posts of anyone else the user was interested in. They didn’t have to search you out, or check your blog every day to see if something new had been posted. It just turned up in their feed reader. You’d get this odd blend of material … at any given time, my reader might offer up posts on the Giants, political science (sometimes both … hi, Jonathan), Android, television, and anything my friends had come up with.

Annalee notes that this is not how magazines tend to operate. “[M]agazines like Wired and the New Yorker have been able to transition more smoothly to the digital world than newspapers did a decade ago. They are porting their magazines directly into apps that silo content just the way paper magazines do. And many new online publications like Matter and The Atavist are following this model, creating apps that hold their content rather than syndicating them via RSS.” Maybe in the past, you’d see my blog and Wired in your feed reader, but now, you read Wired on your Nexus or Kindle or iPad, isolated from other material. Eventually, you’ll forget my blog exists.

All of this discussion is prompted by the news that Google is shutting down their RSS reader. As they say, “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.” Since Google Reader was the most popular reader, this announcement has serious implications for RSS itself. And if Annalee is right, this will benefit magazines like Wired at the expense of blogs like Steven Rubio’s Online Life.

To be honest, I can’t be sure how this affects me. My blog currently has 20 subscribers in Reader … I haven’t checked it in a long time, it’s possible I’ve already lost a few subscribers as people flock to new RSS tools. On the one hand, losing 20 readers doesn’t seem like such a big thing, especially since I assume a lot of those twenty people come to my blog from other places, as well. On the other hand, if my blog lost 20 readers, I might not have any readership left … it’s not like I have a huge audience to begin with.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been more diligent about cross-posting my blog posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I get some feedback from Facebook friends, and in fact I’m sure I have a few more readers than I used to, simply because until I started cross-posting, most of my Facebook friends had no idea I had a blog. Google+ works even better. For Facebook and Twitter, I just post a link to the blog, but for G+, I cut-and-paste the actual post, making another place where people can interact with what I’ve written. So I’m already adapting to the new, post-RSS world. I doubt anything can kill this blog at this point, eleven years into the project, until something kills me.