Tag Archives: G.I. Joe

Throwback Thursday: Lincoln Logs!

Believe it or not, I had Lincoln Logs as a first grader in 1978 or so … they might have even come in a bucket like this one; I can’t quite remember.  (I think there was a weird merchandising trend in the 1970’s in which toy sets and puzzles came packaged in tubes.)

The Lincoln Logs were made of wood!  (God, the idea that I once owned wooden toys makes me feel as old as … Lincoln, I guess.)  Here’s some weird trivia for you, if you remember these — they were invented in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, who was the son of famed architect Frank Loyd Wright.

I’d moved on to fancier things than Lincoln Logs fairly quickly — my parents had started me on Sears’ Brix Blox by 1980 or so.  (They were basically budget Legos, but they suited me just fine.)

Lincoln Logs never really went away during my early childhood, though … they would turn up in bits and pieces for years at the bottom of my toybox, my closet, my box of army men, whatever.  If you gave an absent-minded kid like me anything that included dozens of small parts, then they were destined to haunt the house in perpetuity.  There was sort of a permanent intermittent presence of Tinker Toys at my house too — you could sort of think of those as Legos’ surreal, cubist, crazy cousin.

Actually. let me qualify my admission above.  I might have scattered my small toys a lot as a little boy, but I pretty assiduously kept my G.I. Joes and their guns together.  That was a serious matter.  And I’d like to think I had a fairly good track record.






Photo credit: By Jesse Weinstein (JesseW) – Own work. (ID# 4b-2f), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=803043

Throwback Thursday: “The Swarm” (1978)!

I was surprised when I recently discovered that “The Swarm” (1978) was a feature film; I remembered it as a made-for-television movie from my childhood.  (After its theatrical release, it debuted on NBC with a hell of a lot of fanfare in February 1980.)  I was also surprised to read that it was both a critical and a commercial flop, and is often named as one of the worst films ever made.  I was in the second grade at the time, and — let me assure you — this was THE movie the kids in school talked about.  We were in awe of it.

The people behind “The Swarm” had high hopes for it in 1978.  The internet informs me that it was based on a best-seller by famed novelist Arthur Herzog. And it was helmed by director Irwin Allen, who gave us two classic 70’s film adaptations of disaster novels — “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972, and “The Towering Inferno” in 1974.  (Those were a pretty big deal back in the day.)  And just look at the cast named in the trailer below.  It’s like a who’s who of 1970’s cinema.  Yet it all apparently just didn’t pan out … contrary to my memories of second grade, “The Swarm” went down in pop culture history as a train wreck.

Check out the bee-proof suits worn by the guys with the flamethrowers.  Talk about an excellent G.I. Joe toy that was never made.  (Of course we had “Blowtorch,” but he was 80’s rad, and these guys in white are 70’s kitsch.)




A short review of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019)

It’s true what they say about “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019) — its script is almost completely brainless.  It’s got about as much depth as the old “G.I. Joe” cartoon (1983-1986) that played after school when we were kids.

But I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t enjoy this.  And I’m sure you know why — the big-budget, big-MONSTER special effects.  They were spectacular — and sometimes they approached being unexpectedly beautiful.  (It’s hard to explain here, but our eyes are treated to more than skyscraper-tall brawls between “titans.”  We get a light show too — thanks to some confusing, thinly scripted, but nonetheless dazzling energy-based monster powers.  It was really damned good.)

Add to this a generally excellent cast, and you might be able to forgive the screenplay for insulting your intelligence.  I know that most people would name Ken Watanabe as the actor who truly classes up the joint.  And there’s plenty of truth to that, but I myself would name Charles Dance as the movie’s biggest standout.  The man’s craft is goddam Shakespearean, and I think he’s equal of the likes of Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen.  And I’d like to think that his throwaway line, “Long live the King,” was at least partly a fan-service reference to what I’m guessing is his best known role — Tywin Lannister on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” (2011-2019).

Based on my own enjoyment, I’d rate this movie an 8 out of 10 — with the caveat that I’m a kid at heart when it comes to giant monsters.  If you’re the same way, then “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” might just become a guilty pleasure that you return to more than once.



Throwback Thursday: the “Galaxy 1” children’s science fiction books

Harriette Sheffer Abels’ “Galaxy 1” books appear to be fully consigned to obscurity — I don’t have a single friend who remembers them.  They were published by Crestwood House in 1979; I certainly loved the ones I found in my elementary school library in the 1980’s.  And that says a lot, because I was a kid who loved the fantasy genre far more than science fiction.  (I had an older brother who played “Dungeons & Dragons,” and Ralph Bakshi’s animated take on “The Lord of the Rings” had captured a lot of kids’ imaginations since 1978.)  I remember how pleased I was to discover anthology-style books that featured the same cast of characters on different space-based adventures.

I’m pretty sure that “Mystery on Mars,” “Medical Emergency,” and “Silent Invaders” were among those that I read.  My favorite, however, was “Green Invasion,” which featured alien vines that grew uncontrollably and crushed anything they could ensnare and tangle.  Lord knows that was a scenario I re-created with my G.I. Joes at home.









A tiny review of “Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016).

They had 20 years to develop a sequel for “Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016) — 20 years after the original “Independence Day” exploded into theaters, defining the 1990’s summer blockbuster.  You figure that’d be enough time to come up with a really cool script.

Maybe there was one — maybe they had a really great screenplay that was thrown out for some reason at the very last minute. (Political correctness?  Copyright issues?  Internal studio politics?)  Then this by-the-numbers, live-action “G.I. Joe” cartoon was hastily thrust in front of the cameras.  What we’ve got here is really just a lot of common tropes strung together by a thin story, performed by cliche stock characters.  The charm, surprises, humor and impact of the (admittedly silly) original film are entirely absent here.

Don’t get me wrong.  “Independence Day: Resurgence” isn’t quite as bad as some other reviewers might make it seem.  There’s some fun to be had, especially if the kid in you still gets a kick out of gooey aliens.  (The ending sequence was enjoyable.)

It’s just disappointing because it’s quite average.  I’d give it a 6 out of 10, and I’d caution you to wait until you pay a dollar for it at Redbox.

Postscript: given what the movie reveals as their goal, why don’t the aliens just nuke us from orbit?  Ellen Ripley is smarter than an entire alien race.


Faraway Moon Osprey. It’d be a wicked band name.

Is this a good picture?  Or not?

I posted it on my Facebook with the disclaimer that I knew it wasn’t a very good photo.  I saw an Osprey V-22 military aircraft flying past the moon  over my neighborhood the other day, and I thought it would make an amazing shot.  But I still need to learn to work the damn zoom function on my camera phone.  And, as you, can see it didn’t turn out so hot.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Osprey aircraft, it is a kick-ass, high-tech aircraft that is sort of a hybrid between a plane and a backwards helicopter.  It can point its immense rotary blades forward or upward, like a wicked 1980’s G.I. Joe toy, or a goddamn genuine-real-life Transformer.

So a couple of my friends keep “liking” it on Facebook, or commenting that they like my photos, but I’m pretty sure they’re doing so ironically by now.

Bear in mind, some of these people are British.  They have a dry sense of humor, and some of them are inscrutable.  You can hardly tell when these people are making fun of you.  They’re as dryly witty as goddam Benjamin Disraeli, and I’m usually on Facebook before I’ve finished my first cup of coffee.

There is one erudite lass in particular about whom I have grown paranoid.  I just picture her snickering at me while doing British things, like sipping tea and eating crumpets/crickets/rickets/trumpets/whatever while enjoying “Benny Hill” and socialized healthcare and sending telegrams to Churchill about the Blitz.  Seriously.