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April 2002
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June 2002

get used to it


This is what the blog will be like for the next month.

I set the alarm for 4:15 AM, set the VCR to start taping at 4:30 in case I didn't get wakened, then woke up at 3:45 and couldn't go back to sleep anyway.

When I watch soccer on teevee, I usually spend 15 minutes or so during the match on the stationary bike. So I imagine I'll get lots of exercise in June ... but it might have looked a bit odd if Robin had gotten out of bed at 5 in the morning only to find her husband pedaling away while Senegal went up 1-0.

My picks for tonight's matches: Cameroon over Ireland, Denmark over Uruguay, Germany over Saudi Arabia. Of course, I picked France in the opener, so ...

my calendar

One thing sports do is serve as a kind of calendar. For example, I remember when it was that we moved into our current house, because the Twins and Cardinals were playing in the World Series while we moved, which means it was 1987.

The World Cup reminds me of living conditions, most specifically, where the teevees have been. My memories of Cups past are connected to the rooms where I watched each of them. In '94 our teevee was in the bedroom in the basement; in '98 it was in the upstairs bedroom. Meanwhile, I can calculate how old my friends Dale and Ginger's daughter Megan is, because her first birthday party took place during England-Cameroon '90. And my sister-in-law Katie got married four years ago, during France '98. This year, there's the big living room teevee and the Wega in the computer room, and I expect both to get a workout as I try to watch all 64 matches.

Meanwhile, I still have a few papers to grade and an essay to finish up (yes Charlie, it's coming). But for now, I should probably go to bed, because I have to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning for France-Senegal. See you in a month.

new york city

So, here comes the semi-short version of the trip to NYC.

We flew JetBlue to NYC. I like them ... cheap but decent, acceptable space. Stayed at Hotel Beacon on the Upper West Side ... Pink was playing at the Beacon Theatre a coupla doors down, but not until the day we left, so I guess I have to wait until later in June when I can see her at the Warfield. Robin and I went to a Japanese restaurant and bought some groceries (our suite had fridge, toaster, microwave, stove, everything). Neal, Sara and Sonia went to a bagel place, then to Times Square to the WWE restaurant.
Robin and I met up with Jillian's sister Jackie at Grand Central Station and we rode out to New Rochelle to see Rob and Laura Petrie ... well, really we visited our ex-in-law, Peter. Went to his home, which was v.lovely, spent time sitting in the sun, then back to Manhattan where we met up with the youngsters and ate Indian food. After that, Sara, Jackie, Peter and I went to a Greek restaurant for a nightcap. How grownup of us! Peter gave me a Norah Jones CD.
The wedding. Mitja and Elysia got married in Central Park. Got to meet up with Mitja's dad Franz and brother Aaron, who I hadn't seen for awhile. We managed to avoid meeting up with Mitja's mom. Then it was a charter bus to Chinatown, where they had a 12-course Chinese banquet. I ate stuff like jellyfish, sea cucumber, squid, and other delights ... managed to avoid most of the vegetables, at least! We met Mitja's friend Charlie, who turned out to be v.nice guy. Neal and Sonia snuck out and went to Little Italy, which is like around the block from Chinatown, and had cannoli. Then back home ... we rode the subway sometimes but also took lotsa cabs, and yes, Manhattan taxi drivers are v.exciting, to say the least.
Robin, Sara and I went out to Charol's house on Long Island. When I first visited Charol on Long Island back in 1982, she lived in Hempstead, which is barely outside the boroughs. Now she lives about halfway in, so she's getting closer and closer to where the Godfather lived. We were told that Jay Gatsby would have lived only a few minutes from her house. They "only" have five acres. Basically, they live in a forest, and have a gardener named Nino. If you've seen the movie Meet the Parents, they live where that was filmed. Then back to Manhattan, where the five Smith-Rubios ate at an Italian place.
We came home. Before that, though, Robin and I went to the Museum of Natural History for an exhibit called "Baseball As America" which was pretty good.
I wrote this. Then I graded papers, and prepared for the World Cup.

monsoon wedding and insomnia

and then .

Well, while Steven's away, I decided I'd go and download Microsoft's damn Internet Explorer.... still can't figure out why Blogger can't allow one using Netscape to post, but I'll let it go for now...

Ok, so far this weekend Karen and I have gone to see two movies: one which she chose, and the other one I chose. Now, Steven knows Memento is one of Karen's favorite movies (hence, he got her the DVD for her birthday), so you might think Karen chose Insomnia. Not so... she chose Monsoon Wedding, and I chose Insomnia.

I'm not close to being the movie critic my brother Steven is, but being a Rubio, you can bet I've got an opinion. First movie we saw was Monsoon Wedding. It took everything I had not to walk out on that one, especially during the first hour. I was bored, not bored like I was with Amelie (with that one, I was bored and pissed at its "cuteness"), but bored like you get when your team is losing 11-0 and its the 6th inning. The theatre in which we saw Monsoon Wedding is called the Tower Theatre in Sacramento, and it is not surprisingly surrounded by Tower Records, Books, and Videos. Knowing that I could simply walk out and peruse some books or music was very tempting, but I stayed in the theatre with Karen, hoping the movie would pick up. It did, but if I was a tired Al Pacino, I'd have fallen asleep in the first hour in a snap. On a scale of 10, I give it a 5.0 (for comparison, I give Four Weddings and a Funeral a 7.0 and Amelie a 2.5). [Edit: Karen says she would give Monsoon Wedding a 7.5]

The next night, last night, we went to see Insomnia. Karen confessed she went with me to shut me up; several days leading up to its release, literally every day I'd share with her something new I'd read about it. The truth is, I wasn't sure it was a movie I could see, since there are certain violent acts I simply cannot watch (rape, over-the-top graphic violence & excessive blood, torture, and the like). Of course, that meant I had to read everything I could about the movie to decide if I could see it. Once I realized I could, I felt like we ought to go see it, because like Karen, I, too, really liked Memento, and I wanted to see Chris Nolan's latest movie. I also like Pacino, Hillary Swank, and Maura Tierney (sp?), the cute nurse from ER. Don't want to spoil the movie, so I won't give many particulars, but I will say, I was disappointed. Maybe I should have read more and I would have learned it was gonna be rather average, at least for my taste. But the truth is, I got a bug in my ear saying we should go see the movie, and Karen knew that had happened, so she probably figured the sooner we went the sooner I'd shut up. Pacino is solid; Williams is ok; Swank's character couldn't hold the badge of Tyne Daly in The Enforcer; Tierney played the same type of character she plays on ER. On a scale of 10, I give Insomnia a 6.0 (for comparison, I give Taxi Driver a 9.0 as I would Memento).

Filling in for her big brother, I'm signing off now to watch a DVD (I believe it's Vanilla Sky tonight).

(posted by Chris Rubio)

buffy season finale

evil willow

Not sure why I bother to say this, but spoilers ahead.

Yesterday I watched But I'm a Cheerleader. Nice movie, wants to be John Waters Lite but isn't even Paul Bartel Lite, but I can't really think of anything bad about it and I'm not sorry I saw it. Thanks to Sara, who recommended it.

There's some other thing Sara recommended to me once upon a time that I watched last night. What was it again? Oh yeah ... the season finale of Buffy.

Evil Willow rules. And in these episodes (2-part finale), she got to say some of the things people like me have thought for a long time. ("Dawn, shut your bloody hole, you self-absorbed twerp!") Xander's heroic love was touching and appropriate. Buffy climbing out of the grave with Dawn was a nice way to bring the season full circle; this time she wanted to leave the grave.

So, Season Six. It's easy to rank it next to the other seasons: it's sixth. There were good things. The early episodes where Buffy dealt with her unhappiness with being brought back to life were strong; the hints that Willow was going to have to pay the piper for the repercussions of her actions were promising; the musical was surprisingly wonderful. (And yes, Evil Willow rules.) The overall theme of the season, revolving around the fact that young people have to become grownups whether they like it or not, perhaps didn't resonate as powerfully as the first three seasons, which did such a wonderful job of using high-school teenagerdom within a vampire setting, but it was nonetheless time for Buffy and the Scoobies to grow up.

But ... and there are far more buts for this season than for any other. The episodes after the musical, pretty much up until the final few weeks, were erratic at best. Xander leaving Anya at the altar was handled very badly. And then there were the two awful plot threads that, for me at least, regularly brought the season down. First, there was the Spike Loves Buffy angle. Spike is (was?) a soulless vampire who is ready to kill at a moment's notice, except for this chip in his head that performs unwanted behavioral therapy on him. As long as he is a killer without a soul, he can not be redeemed. For this, and for a variety of other reasons, he should have been staked long ago. That the fans love his character, that we like having him around, is both true and irrelevant. He shouldn't have been there, and even his best scenes (and there were plenty, this is still a wonderful show) were ruined by the obvious fact that he had no business still being alive in the Buffyverse.

Second, and even worse, the Willow-as-Addict theme was just pathetic. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the best television show of its day because it rejects the easy and commonplace in favor of complex representations, realistic and metaphoric, of teenage and now young adult life. A season that dealt in a complex fashion with the implications of Willow's increasing power would have had a chance at being the best season of them all. This was hinted at in the finale; everyone finally seemed to recognize by the end of the episode that it wasn't about addiction to magic, it was about being overwhelmed with the possibilities inherent in POWER. If only the season had been about Power. But it wasn't: it was an after-school special warning about the dangers of drugs. Using vamps and demons as metaphors for the lonely outsider status of teenagers was brilliant. This season wasn't brilliant; it took the lazy way out. Until those final scenes, they never pushed Willow's addiction as a starting point for a treatise on power. Instead, they did the clunkiest thing possible, beating the audience over the head in very unsubtle ways until even the dumbest viewer got it: "Magic = Drugs, Willow = Addict." It was unworthy of the high standards the show has established over the years.

I don't mind if Buffy never again reaches the heights of the glory (no pun intended) years of Seasons Two and Three. Myself, I doubt it's possible to recapture those years, because I think the best thing the program did related specifically to the characters being highschoolers, and they've grown up since then. Having said that, there is no reason why Buffy can't continue to be one of the best shows on teevee. As of now, despite my complaining above, it remains one of the best. But a crucial moment has been reached, and Season Seven (by some accounts, the last season) is going to be important. Here's a benchmark for that season: don't forget, Willow killed a human being.

Tara R.I.P.

chris on joe

My sister Chris often wants to contribute to this blog. However, since I "upgraded" awhile ago to Blogger Pro (which means I give them money), she has been unable to post, because Blogger Pro currently won't allow Netscape users to post. So I'm posting for her in this case, since she has lots to say about Joe Lockard's article, to which I linked earlier today. While I found Joe's piece one of the best I've read, Chris ... well, here's what she wrote:

Every couple of days or so, I check out Steven's blog... mostly to see what he's thinking, or what movies he's watched lately, basically what's going on in his life. When I read the May 21 post, I followed the link to his friend Joe Lockard's article, in great part because it is about being an English teacher, and since I'm one, I figured I'd be interested in the piece.

Sure enough, I was, but not in the way I expected to. Frankly, I didn't feel sorry for the guy, though I understand he's had a tough time getting a permanent job. But I didn't totally understand his frustration with not being able to get a full-time job teaching English, especially since he writes, "I cannot conceive of myself as anyone other than an English teacher."

Much of his piece early on describes his painstaking trips each December to the MLA convention, where he hopes to interview for, and subsequently obtain, a full-time teaching job. Teaching English, I presume, because that is his dream job. Again, as he writes of his love for teaching, he says, "As I begin to do the work of teaching, of explicating a text and its ideas, I am as free a human being as exists.... Yet if we cannot earn our livings by teaching, then we have lost that freedom to profess."

Now, I admit I don't know a great deal about teaching at the university level, but from what I understand, university tenure-track faculty members aren't primarily hired to be teachers, nor are candidates rewarded for good teaching; instead, both are looked upon to conduct research, publish in various reputable journals, serve on campus committees, and the like. This is where I kept scratching my head at Lockard's frustration. Have a desire to teach English, and be recognized for your outstanding teaching? Can't conceive of yourself as anyone other than an English teacher?

Welcome to the community college, where full-time jobs in teaching English are available every year, where hiring committees look first and foremost at teaching experience and quality teachers, and the pay and rewards are quite respectable.

Teaching is the primary job of faculty at community colleges. Yes, we serve on committees, participate in department activities, and we have to complete a tenure-review process. But we are judged first and foremost on our teaching, and we are recognized first and foremost for good teaching -- both by colleagues in our own departments and by the campus administration.

Yes, you'll teach more classes at a community college than you will at a university, but if teaching is what you love to do, why wouldn't you give community colleges a try? And the salary? In the Los Rios Community College District (located in Sacramento, CA), a Ph.D. with only one year of teaching experience would start at $47,424; if you have five years teaching experience, $55,480. And each year that salary would increase, currently capping at a salary of $80,090 for 15 years teaching experience. Lockard himself believed that "As junior faculty in the English profession, one without a permanent appointment, there is only one way forward. Send out large numbers of job applications and turn up in late December at the MLA for the few hiring committee interviews that result." However, few of the colleagues I chat with in the halls and mailroom everyday have ever even attended one MLA conference, and they seem to enjoy teaching English full-time regardless.

I understand Lockard has recently found that ideal job, teaching English at Arizona State. I wish him well, and I hope that his new job is all he hopes it will be. I'd like to say he could have saved himself several trips to MLA if he'd applied for a community college job, but what do I know? This month, at American River College, we only hired three full-time tenure-track faculty to start in the Fall (with our two sister campuses in Sacramento also hiring one each), and last year, we only hired two. And only four the year before.

Maybe, just maybe, there is more than "one way forward."

celebrating dr. sandell

Last night we attended the Women's Studies graduation ceremonies at Cal, where among others our dear friend Jillian Sandell, now Dr. Sandell, was feted with love and affection and respect by her colleagues, workmates, and students. Jillian is one of the best teachers I know, and it's terrific that she will be teaching for the next year in the Berkeley Women's Studies department. Luckily, I'll be her colleague, as I am teaching for the next year in the UCB Mass Comm program.

Our students will call us "Professor," but at Berkeley, "professor" is not an honorary salutation, but rather a job title. Jillian and I will in fact fall under the job category known as "lecturer," meaning among other things that our appointments are for a limited time (in our case, one year), that we are not on the tenure track, that we have no real job security.

Our friend Joe Lockard, another exemplary scholar and teacher, has just published a piece on this subject that is so on target that I can do nothing but post the link for readers here. Check this one out, it's worth it. It's "The Disappearances of Academia."

the road warrior

Just watched The Road Warrior for the gazillionth time. I was thinking that it was probably the greatest action movie of all time ... I guess I was defining "action" as "action movie absent much else," if you know what I mean. I thought I'd check out the Internet Movie Database to see if others agreed with me.

Imagine my surprise: as the IMDB defines "action" movie, The Road Warrior is not among the top 50. The Road Warrior receives an overall user rating of 7.5 on a scale of 10 (I give it a 10); the 50th-best action movie, Goldfinger, gets a 7.7. The top three are Seven Samurai, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. OK, Seven Samurai is a better movie, but it's so much more than just an action movie. Star Wars isn't as good, and it's really science-fiction. Raiders is more what I mean by "action" movie, and it's pretty good ... I can't really argue with someone who thinks it's better than Road Warrior. I just think they are wrong.

Oh, and it's also the second-best sequel of all time. And the early-80s were the golden era for what I mean as "action" movie ... Road Warrior, Raiders, Terminator, and more.

more dey young trivia

Dey Young is Leigh Taylor-Young's little sister. Leigh Taylor-Young used to be married to Ryan O'Neal, which means Ryan was Dey's brother-in-law. Meanwhile, Rebecca De Mornay is Wally George's daughter (if you have to ask who Wally George is, I don't have time to explain). Rebecca De Mornay married Patrick O'Neal, whose parents are Leigh and Ryan. So Dey Young is almost kinda related to Wally George!

Meanwhile, Dey Young married David Ladd, who is Alan Ladd's son. David used to be married to Cheryl Ladd. So Dey and Cheryl have something in common: they were both Alan Ladd's daughter-in-law (except Alan was probably dead by then).

You could also do Kevin Bacon stuff with this. Alan Ladd was in Brother Rat and a Baby with Eddie Albert, who was in The Big Picture with Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon was in My Dog Skip with Clint Howard, who was in Rock and Roll High School with Dey Young. Clint Howard is Ron Howard's brother; Dey Young is Leigh Taylor-Young's sister. Clint was in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me with Michael James McDonald, who was in Slackers with Leigh Taylor-Young!

Oh, and in case you missed it:

Congratulations, Dr. Jillian Sandell!!!