Recently Read, Watched

The telos of this website, its abiding purpose, is a record of the things that I have read and watched. For the reasons undergirding this project, see what I’ve written about it.

NYRB on Charles Ray
Ibn Tufail, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, 2 pp.
Stendhal, Charterhouse of Parma, 10 pp

NYRB on Tocqueville, V. Woolf

Charterhouse, 50 pp.

Close Up (1990), first hour
One effect of my cinematic akrasia is that although the name of the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has been known to me for some time, I’d until now seen nothing by him.
And still I haven’t finished it!

G.I.Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009)
Yet I was somehow able to consume all of this POS. In my defense, I was sick with the flu—sick for the first time since before COVID, mind you. I needed some comfort entertainment. And just like comfort food, the experience is one of shame.
And yet, watching this, even if sick and mostly shocked by the excessive use of computer-generated imagery to sketch the scenes, found something to think about.
This film, interestingly enough, is about the lust inspired by the characters of Baroness and Scarlet in the characters of Duke and Ripcord, respectively. Everything else ends up being secondary. Even the famous duels between Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow!
Ripcord is black (Marlon Wayans) and a kind of picaresque character, at best. Meanwhile, Baroness and Duke has been a couple, even engaged, before they became enemies.

A Short Autobiographical, Historical Sketch

G.I.Joe was originally a toy manufactured by the company Hasbro (as early as 1964, says Wikipedia!). The original “action figures” were 12″, but a new series — G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero — only 3.75″ tall was introduced in the 1980s. The phrase “action figure” was coined by Hasbro to solve the marketing problem presented by selling “dolls” to boys!

‘Twas the 1980s 3.75″ action figures, that is, the “real American hero,” that captured my attention, resulting in the purchase of the figure/doll Stalker, sadly completely unrelated to the famous Tarkovsky film. I recall being dazzled by the exposively-illustrated cardboard backing for the toy encased in plastic.

Recall paying around $3-4 for this action figure, three–four weeks’ allowance, to make this object into my own.

As I entered into adolescence and was shamed into no longer playing with action figures, the Marvel comic series G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero became a new way to enjoy militaristic fantasies of control and power (as well as to reify the fantasy of America’s geopolitical military dominance, for this was the Cold War), for kids that couldn’t play with dolls any longer. The series began back in 1982 but I began reading in the late 1980s.

Believe that I’d purchased my first Uncanny X-Men comic book prior to this—pretty sure it was in a grocery store in Bellaire, Oh.—and when I’d started reading G.I.Joe I was already in love with comics.

It’s hard to describe that experience today, given that no one reads comic books in their hard copy versions (no one meaning not me, basically). You couldn’t torrent whole collections of comic books back then. And after that comic book was no longer available at the grocery store (some 30 miles from home, at that time), how would you come across the older issues that you’d missed?!

Part of the experience of comic books, at that time, was the want for older and newer issues. The newer required waiting, as today. But the older required mail orders—snail mail, folks. Transactions stretched out over four to six weeks!

Here’s the real point:
White working-class American culture in the 1980s was grappling with Vietnam, an unpalatable contradiction in light of the celebrated experience of the American military in the first and second World Wars. So it’s not surprising that to rebrand G.I.Joe, Hasbro baptized it “A Real American Hero”!

Think of “Magnum, P.I.” [1980-88] (in his earlier iterations on “The Rockford Files,” Tom Selleck played a sort of idiot-savant detective that Rockford tolerates). Magnum’s masculinity is more complicated than other versions. His whiny voice was somehow a charming feature! But at his basis, he’s haunted by his participation in Vietnam, the distance between that self-knowledge and his fetishization of his WWII father).

G.I.Joe was an option to retell that story for kids!

Heroes are a lot easier to create if they are fighting (domestic) terrorists bent on world domination! Of course, this was the 1980s, before the concept of “domestic terrorists.” Moreover, what kind of terrorists have uniforms! The whole point of terrorism is that it cannot be distinguishable from everyday people! So Cobra is really just a paramilitary organization in the mold of the SD, for example. It’s a lot easier to be a hero is the enemy mark themselves as the enemy, have no interest in civilians deaths.

Kicking and Screaming (1995)
One of those horrible 1990s films. “Indie filmmaker.” Poor production values. Parker Posey in every fucking movie. And then Elliot Gould!
Charterhouse, 5 pp.

Did you know that Giancarlo Esposito was acting before “Breaking Bad”?

Kaleidoscope (2023), eps. Yellow, Green
More Giancarlo Esposito? Yes please. Of course, as it happens, he was actually acting long before “Breaking Bad”!
Edgar Lee Masters, Annotated Spoon River Anthology, 20 pp.
Been reading this since at least November.
Charterhouse, 15 pp.
— “Secret Lives of Words”, New York Times

Charterhouse, 60 pp.

Operation Mincemeat (2021)
Much more emotionally complex than one might imagine.
Charterhouse, 30 pp.

Charterhouse, 125 pp.


Kaleidoscope, eps. Blue, Orange, Violet

Charterhouse, 15 pp.

— Reading articles by my downstair neighbor, Tre Johnson! This place is silly with writers! He’s a writer, she’s a writer … everyone except me.