abstract

Recovering files from my old computer and transferring them to the new one, I came across my dissertation. Here is the abstract:

Substituting action for the logical deduction that had become standard for the detective genre in the wake of Edgar Allan Poe, hard-boiled fiction offered a world where heroes acted with a fury that mirrored the chaos they were opposing. Early works validated the usefulness of individual chaotic fury in opposing social chaos, but Dashiell Hammett attempted to use the genre to critique notions of chaotic heroism, while Raymond Chandler steps back from the more radical claims of Hammett’s work, which implicates the detective as well as society as a whole. Chandler’s heroes are always disillusioned not by something as grand as “society” but rather by something quite specific: women, who are desired as damsels in distress but who are eventually exposed as representatives of chaos. In the post-war era, the massively popular Mickey Spillane reduces the art of his forebears to a stripped-down, violent neo-fascism that largely ignores Chandler’s romanticism and completely overturns Hammett’s critique in a celebration of the chaotic fury which Hammett condemned. Even more than in Chandler’s work, Spillane places women at the center of society’s corruptions; unlike Hammett, Spillane allows his hero mostly unqualified success. Robert B. Parker gives his hero a regular and significant love interest, refuses to accept the demonization of women, and attempts to recognize women as partners, if not full-fledged heroines, in his adventures. The novels of Sara Paretsky extend these changes in the genre’s attitudes towards women, merging a feminist vision of women in the late twentieth century, working communally towards common goals, with a vision of the individual on whom society calls when chaos threatens. Rather than rejecting the entire tradition out of hand, Paretsky synthesizes the notion of empowered women in a community, with the individualist notions of the heroes in the genre’s past, attempting to extract the power that comes to those who harness chaos without losing sight of the needs of the oppressed.


1984 addendum

Should have thought to include this in the TT post:

1984

The captions are a little blurry, so:

  • Upper left, "The withered old prole tells her story."
  • Upper right, "Julia flirts while Winston reads."
  • Middle left, "Winston and Julia are caught together."
  • Middle right, "Big Brother's 'Exiles'."

And in the group photo at the bottom, which is of the acting group from my senior year, you can see a few friends of the blog. That's Robin Smith in the front, second from right. In the back row, sitting next to each other (#5-6 from the left) are the future Dub Debrie, and Tina Sellars who was then Gooch. On Tina's left is Lynette Shaw, later a pioneer in legalizing marijuana and once the Libertarian candidate for Lt. Governor of California. I feel like this is not the full picture ... for one thing, I'm not in it.

Also, here's a picture of me getting made up for my role in 1984:

Steven in makeup 1984

A few other mementos I can get to easily ... all from high school, there are no pictures as far as I know of me in junior-high plays. From Inherit the Wind ... that's me as the William Jennings Bryan character.

Inherit the wind

This is from My Three Angels, which was made into the movie We're No Angels on two occasions, 1955 when Aldo Ray played my character, and 1989, which I haven't seen but I think maybe Sean Penn played my part. In the picture, that's me in the middle.

Mythreeangels

[Edited to add this photo from Arsenic and Old Lace ... I played the Boris Karloff character, and am in the back, behind the guy who is in ropes.]

Arsenic and old lace


the full blackboard

This is a story I think I've told many times, but I can't find any reference to it on this blog, where I've been writing since 2002, so maybe I haven't told the story as often as I thought. It also took place long enough ago that I can't really remember the context, i.e. where and when it took place. But I think it's worth telling, so I've dive in, even with the holes in my memory.

It took place in a classroom. I can't recall if I was a junior college student or if I was a university teacher, which means I can't remember if it was the 1970s or the 1990s or even later. And I can't remember if I had power in the classroom (teacher) or little power (student). And those things matter to the story, but again, not enough for me to shut up. I can say that I do think it happened when I was teaching at Cal, emphasis on "think".

The classroom discussion was about the participation of women in the classroom, or rather, the over-participation of men. This was a hot topic at one time ... sadly, I imagine it's still a topic, but it would be nice to think otherwise. As a teacher in a small, discussion-oriented class, we were taught to be inclusive when calling on students, and to beware of habits we might have that unconsciously tipped the balance of men and women speakers. In this case, at some point I realized that men (me included, of course) were dominating the discussion. So I had an idea (and this is one reason I suspect I was a teacher, because a student doesn't ordinarily get to make the kind of suggestion I'm going to describe). I decided all of the men should leave the classroom ... I forget how long, 10 minutes, 15 ... which would give the women a chance to discuss the topic without the men dominating everything. And so the men went outside for awhile while the women stayed in the room. I recall a couple of the male students were pissed off ... they didn't dominate discussions, the whole notion was ridiculous, and if women didn't want to speak up, you can't force them to do so.

After the allotted time, us guys returned to the classroom. One look at the blackboards (for there were more than one) told us everything we needed to know.

Every blackboard in the room was covered with writing.


buffy and school

Steven Rubio's Online Life

 


honorifics

Honorifics are funny things. I like using them, but feel unworthy when someone uses them to refer to me.

We got married by a judge. But not just any judge ... Judge Rose and his family were friends of both Robin and I. I’ve known a couple of the Rose children longer than I’ve known Robin ... they used to live across a big dirt lot from our house in Antioch. They were and are a fine family, and Judge Rose is a fine fellow (I’m sure he was also a fine judge, but since I never went before him, I’ll have to just guess about that). We referred to the parents of most of our friends growing up as Mr. or Mrs., and there were also the various medical doctors who got the “Dr.” title. Oh, and priests or ministers were “Father”. Of all of those, though, the best was Judge Rose. Somehow, it made you feel good to refer to “The Judge” ... it’s not that he was a better person than the other parents, but he had earned his title.

When I got my Ph.D, I found my new title to be a mixed blessing. Some things changed in nice ways ... in a single day, I went from being in a ceremony accepting the title of Doctor to sitting on the stage at another graduation and reading the names of graduating undergraduates. (I also got to sit next to the Rev. Cecil Williams.) Perhaps the strangest thing about the latter was when we were in line to enter Zellerbach Hall ... an old friend, a geography professor I hadn’t seen in some time, turned around, saw me standing behind him, and exclaimed, “What are YOU doing here?” Other things weren’t as nice, because while I was proud to have finally accomplished something, I still felt funny having an honorific bestowed on me ... I wasn’t sure I deserved it.

Soon afterwards, a favorite neighbor who happened to work on campus showed up at our door with a lovely gift, an Elvis Presley quilt that she had made. I remember answering the door to be greeted with, “Is there a doctor in the house?” I was delighted, if also slightly embarrassed. But it was a bit like knowing The Judge, from the other side. My friend made me feel like my accomplishment was something the whole neighborhood could be a part of, and I was grateful.

Another friend who also lived our block worked for many years doing virtually every odd job imaginable for us. He passed away a few years ago, and remains sorely missed. He was delighted that I was a doctor ... he seemed especially impressed that I had written pieces for a lot of books, and I gave him copies of a few, which he was proud to show at his home. I think sometimes he would tell his friends, you know that guy down the block, he writes books, a slight exaggeration, but again, I think he felt a part of it all. Sometimes it got a little silly, though. He would come to me with some difficult question about science or nature or the like, assuming I’d know the answer because I was “a Doctor”. I’d always tell him he should ask Robin, who knew about way more things than I did ... I was a “Doctor of Television”, I’d say, or a “Doctor of Movies”. But he’d insist, and so I’d go in the house, ask Robin the question, she’d tell me the answer, I’d go back to our friend and pass along the information, making sure he knew that it was Robin who had the answers, not me. But no, I was a Doctor. Funny thing is, our friend could do just about anything ... he was the model of a handyman, always coming up with some unknown-to-me skill. Since I have no skills ... I am the anti-handyman ... I was at least as impressed with him as he was with me. But I had the honorific.

When I was a teacher, my students would refer to me using various honorifics. I always referred to myself as Steven, in person and in online communications. But my students would call me Professor Rubio, or Mr. Rubio, or Dr. Rubio. (“Mr. Rubio” bothered me quite a bit ... “Mr. Rubio is my father!” I would shout, until one day I made a student cry and I realized I was being an ass.) One oddity is that the various places I taught had different official job titles. At Cal, where I was first a Graduate Student Instructor, and then, for some years, an Lecturer (or Adjunct), my title was never officially “Professor”. When I taught at San Francisco State, I was a visiting professor, I guess ... to be honest, I taught there twice without ever figuring out exactly what my job title was. And when I taught at a community college, my job title was Professor, even though I was still technically just another adjunct making ends meet.

Just last weekend, at a family gathering, a cousin of mine, on finding out I was “Dr. Rubio”, started telling me about a medical problem she was having. Sorry, I explained, I’m just an English teacher.

The point in all of this is that I like offering honorifics to others, but when they are offered to me, I’m just not sure it’s right. More than once, I’ve been asked out of the blue to contribute to an anthology, and I always say, “How do you know me?” (or, in the case of one academic tome, “Are you sure I’m the person you want? Have you read my writing? Do you know my style?”). Google has been my friend ... I’ve had a couple of cases of “it’s who you know”, but more often, someone finds something I’ve written via a search engine (I guess that’s the advantage of having this decade-plus blog). My insecurities remain ... as I said earlier, I’m never certain I deserve honorifics, or other accolades. (In the case of writing, that’s particularly pathetic, since I know writing is far and away my best skill, yet I’m still surprised that anyone notices.)

You know what I really find attractive? The honorific “Champ” when it’s given to a boxing champion. I love that no one is called “Champ” unless they have actually earned it. Even more, I like that you can never lose the title, as a referent if not literally. Even after you are no longer the literal champion, you remain “Champ”. So Muhammad Ali is “Champ” ... George Foreman is “Champ” ... they will never not be “Champ”.

And I guess I’ll never not be “Doctor”. It’s not the same, though ... no one calls me “Doctor”, and I’d feel funny if they did. Manuel Rose is “The Judge”, Cecil Williams is “Reverend”, the person who takes care of me at Kaiser is “Doctor”. But me? I’m Steven.


throwback thingie

Are people still doing this?

dance group

This is a picture of one of the dance groups at Antioch High School in my senior year, which makes it 1969-1970, which makes me 16 years old. As I recall, there were two official dance groups, and anyone must have been able to join this one, because I had never taken a dance class and my skills were non-existent. I did this because a lot of my friends were involved (just to note the obvious example, my future wife of 40+ years is just over my left shoulder).

I imagine the real reason I was in this group can be ascertained by looking at the positioning of the various participants. The real male dancers are sitting in the front. The ringer (me) is standing amidst all of the female dancers. A few of them were girlfriends of mine, again obviously including my future wife.

Three of the people in the photograph are now dead, to my knowledge … I assume there are more than I know about, everyone in the picture would be in their early sixties by now. A couple of them continued in dance after high school … one founded a dance company at a major university. At least one person in the picture became a doctor … well, two if you count me, but I’m talking about medical doctors. One of them ran for Lt. Governor of California on the Libertarian ticket. One of them was the maid of honor at our wedding.

I’m still in touch with a few of these folks. I see the girl to my right once in a while … my wife sees her more often than that. One of the boys and one of the girls have been to my house, which if you know me is a big deal. I’m friends with a few of them on Facebook.


i planned to go to s.f.

I posted this, which I had scanned, nine years ago. I’m doing a double-nostalgia move, one where I remember nine years ago, and one where I remember 1967:

golden arch bio

This comes from the program for the first play I participated in once I got into high school. It was called My Three Angels, which was made into a movie with Humphrey Bogart. My part (“Alfred”) was played by Darren McGavin in the original Broadway run, by Aldo Ray in the Bogart film version, and by George Grizzard in a later TV version. There was a Robert De Niro version in 1989, but my character wasn’t in that one, I guess.

I was a sophomore, and the way the Antioch school system was structured in those days, 7th-9th grades were “junior high” and 10th-12th grades were “high school”. There was no “intermediate”, or whatever they call 6th-8th grades now. Of the three junior high plays listed, I only remember The Wizard of Oz. I was the Scarecrow, and I was unable to hold my arms straight out when Dorothy discovered me guarding the corn field, so they gave me a pole I could use that enabled me to rest my arms using my shoulders as support. I should probably remember more about that, but hey, I was in 7th grade.

It says I was “majoring” in drama, but I don’t recall having “majors” in high school. While I was doing OK in school, I apparently had no thoughts of college. This was the end of the Summer of Love, all I wanted to be was a hippie, and thus my plans were limited to going to San Francisco and eating (no mention of a job, of course). I actually did spend about a month in S.F. after I graduated from high school, but with no money and no job, I was soon back at home with my parents.

Here’s a lo-fi picture of me in My Three Angels … that’s me in the back:

mythreeangels


how i wrote in 1987

Continuing from this post, here is the third paragraph of my honors thesis for my American Studies B.A.:

American culture has always been fixated on the mechanism of scapegoating. That which we fear is that which is closest to ourselves. The best way to separate ourselves from the evil is to create, through a scapegoat mechanism, a sharp contrast between our good selves and the Other that threatens our stability. So America has a long history of demonizing our enemies, developing strict standards for good behavior and thrusting our inner turmoil onto social groups, Others, that can be identified as separate. We fear evil because it is us. And so we categorize, in order to recognize the evil and to confirm the good. If white men are good, then men of color are bad. Women are witches, men their opposites. Americans separate themselves from the Other, hoping desperately to establish a “good” national persona by maximum contrast to that which disturbs by its closeness: the evil we can never escape.


how i wrote in 1987

Continuing from this post, here is the second paragraph of my honors thesis for my American Studies B.A.:

Evil is what we hoped to escape when our forefathers first came to America. (The Puritans’ European persecutors, according to William Bradford, were antichristian, lordly, and tyrannous.) But the great escape of Europeans to America, and the escape into the wilderness that followed, was always that, an escape from old ties, not a genesis, not a brand new world. We have always carried our evil bloodlines with us as we escaped, and we have therefore always been a nation on intimate terms with evil. In a complex way it is evil, rather than good, that governs how mainstream American culture is formed, because of the fear that we are in reality an evil people, and also because it is through the definition of evil that we can recognize what is good.


how i wrote in 1987

A couple of weeks ago, I offered three quotes that led off my honors thesis for my B.A. in American Studies at Cal, which my daughter dug up. Here is the first actual paragraph, written in 1987:

Since the time of the Puritans, Americans have seen themselves as God’s chosen people. In John Winthrop’s words, we are “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” In this view, America, the “greatest country in the world”, shines like a beacon to all free-thinking people across the globe. But there is a darker side to this Promised Land, a side that deals as seriously in evil as in good. The darker vision of America acknowledges the evil and utilizes it to separate proper behavior from socially destructive behavior. Americans can’t seem to recognize themselves except in opposition to supposed enemies. Therefore America needs evil, for without it, the vision of America’s greatness would have no landmark, nothing to set off its brilliance.

Just to date this work, it was printed with a dot-matrix printer.