February 2021 I am devoting at least part of my reading and viewing each day to contributions to Black history
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, Chs. 1-2: His surprising comments on life on a plantation and how many slaves viewed their masters.
NYRB on the history of psychology
Queen’s Gambit, 1.6: Elizabeth crashes
The Next Three Days (2010), 35 minutes: Trainer time, otherwise I wouldn’t watch this ridiculous film starring Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks
Washington, Chs. 3-7
Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed, 5 pp.
Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native, 6 pp.: Started reading in hopes of joining the Philadelphia Classics Book Group, but, man, it’s a read requiring more attention than I can offer.
Rieppel, 10 pp.
Washington, Chs. 8-12
Borges, Collected Fictions, 10 pp.
Peter Brannen, “The Terrifying Warning Lurking in the Earth’s Ancient Rock Record”, Atlantic
Washington, Chs. 13-15
Borges, 10 pp.
Finished Washington, Up From Slavery
NYRB: Louise Gluck’s Nobel Prize speech, Cass Sunstein on economic narratives
Finally published the first post about Black History Month and the things that I’ve read in the past that form part of that history
Up From Slavery, “Introduction,” by William L. Andrews
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 10 pp.: This book is incredible. For more primary sources pertient to this book, see the collection at the Digital Public Library of America.
James Baldwin, “White Man’s Guilt”
Jacobs, 20 pp.
NYRB on Fernanda Melchior and Mexican occultism
Tolstoy, 5 pp.
Abandoned reading Return of the Native
Blazing Saddles (1974): Am I allowed to find this funny? After it was over Ben Mankiewicz (it was on TCM) told a story about how after studio head viewed it, they wrote up a series of recommendations for edits, which Mel Brooks then tossed in the trash can. Now I really think he should have thought a little about posterity. Good intentions, etc.
NYRB on Masada myths
Jacobs, 10 pp.
Next Three Days, 40 minutes: More trainer time, but it’s getting a little better. Brian Dennehy anyone?
NYRB: Diane Ravitch on “school choice” as a dog whistle for separate and unequal
Jacobs, 25 pp.: An excellent chapter on the way that slavery as an institution corrupts not only slaveowners themselves, but their families and their slaves
NYRB on catastrophic thinking, and the Supreme Court’s killing spree (hackles officially raised)
Integration Report 1 (1960)
A Tribute to Malcolm X (1967)
Published the first of two posts on Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery: this one on the circumstances of my knowledge of Washington and reading of the book
NYRB on Sybille Bedford: My first reaction while reading this was, I’ve got to find these books. It’s pretty hilarious.
Jacobs, 25 pp.: Linda escapes the Doctor Flint and waits patiently until her children are free.
NYRB on bird books
Jacobs, 25 pp.
Get Out (2017): Had never before seen this film, although it had been something I’d meant to watch. Why hadn’t I, I wonder? I suspect in part it was because I feared that it would turn out not to be as good a film as it has been said to be. Mostly those fears were unfounded . . .
Atlantiques (2009): Until this very minute, believed that this 15-minute documentary short was what Film Comment had been celebrating. Actually, it is a feature length dramatic film named Atlantics, by the same filmmaker, Mati Diop.
The Next Three Days (2010), finished: time spent while on my stationary bike. The last action part of the film was probably the best, but mainly if you are on a stationary bike and need some inspiration.
Jacobs, 30 pp.
Jacobs, 25 pp.: After seven years in the roof of a shed, Linda finally escapes to Philadelphia and then to New York where she meets her daughter, who has equally not completely slipped the bonds of slavery, and takes a job as a nanny for a British woman.
Jacobs, 25 pp.
Colors (1986), last hour: does this count as a film watched for Black History Month? I don’t think so.
Basic (2003): When you are tired from taking care of your son and trying to do one of your two different jobs, sometimes you select films like Basic to watch, hoping for momentary relief. But when you finish watching the film that had so disappointed you every five to ten minutes, you curse your stupidity. The ballad of the bad movie watcher.
Jacobs, 30 pp.: Finished Jacob’s narrative, but there are a number of appendices to finish reading.
Platoon (1986): Unlikely that I saw this movie in the theater. But in my education this film stood as the high water mark of good movies. I hadn’t seen much of anything at this time in my life. Films about Vietnam had a certain significance and license—they addressed a sensitive moment in American history, which I knew very little about but that did not stop me from thinking that it mean something to me.
Now the film strikes me as melodramatic. When I was in college I lived Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Now it is saccharine. Elias’ death was tragic: now it is too much. Charlie Sheen’s character is authentic, identifiable: now he is just a soldier who fragged his superior.
Jacobs, 10 pp.: One of Jacob’s first writings is a letter to the editor of a newspaper, dripping with righteous indignation.
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 12 pp.
Published the second post on Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery, in which I take up the man according to his own words (rather that those of W.E.B. Du Bois)
Muppet Show, 1.1-2
Finished Jacobs: Reading Harriet’s brother’s much shorter and less insightful narrative of his own life. Appendix 2.
Finished Rieppel: All intelligent people want to write books like this. The conclusion moved from the Gilded Age—what had concerned most of the book—into the present to witness the role of China in contemporary paleontology.
Unknown (2011): Time on the trainer means time watching bad movies.
The Witch (2016): Good disturbing. Alptraum.
Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 15 pp.: Du Bois has so much to teach us (me).
Du Bois, 5 pp.
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, 20 pp.
The Butler (2003), 40 minutes
Alexander, 38 pp.: The historical chapter of this book starts provoking lots of questions about the beginnings of slavery that the author is not prepared to resolve. But those questions do not restrain the effect of the sections narrating the periods after the Civil War. Especially ignominious moments include Reagan’s campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, Mississippi and Clinton’s execution of Ricky Ray Rector (Alexander fails to mention that Rector was mentally impaired because of his own suicide attempt—her point stands, no less).
Sixteen Candles (1984): This film has not aged well. Homosexual slurs are currency. Italian American jokes. Long Duk Dong. Jake gives Caroline to Farmer Ted, in a state in which she cannot express consent, to “take home,” this after explaining that, “I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” She apparently has sex with Farmer Ted.
Du Bois, 12 pp.
Duel at Diablo (1966): James Garner, Sidney Poitier assist a group of soldiers fighting against Apaches. One can’t help by be shocked by how well the army was integrated with a single black man (Poitier) …
Du Bois, 35 pp.: Fourth chapter, “The General Strike,” which argues that the Civil War was not begun because of grievance with slavery on either side and that Lincoln did not want to abolish slavery until the progress of the war made it unavoidable. Now I want to read Eric Foner’s book to see how much Du Bois was right about.
Catherine Sinclair, “Uncle David’s Nonsensical story of Giants and Fairies” from Victorian Fairy Tales
Ferdinand (2017), 30 minutes: I love this book on which it is based, The Story of Ferdinand. The film is okay . . .
E. A. Poe, “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado”
Mother (2009): Too long have I waited to see this film by Bong Joon-Ho, the director of Parasite (2019), which won Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars.
Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”
Du Bois, 10 pp.
Star Wars Episodes V, VI: Oh saddest boredom.