Friday, September 13, 2013

whatever we want

No dancing today. Not, that anyone but me knew today I intended to talk about dancing. I’ve already mentioned Rita’s dorky dancing

and Debbie’s crazy dancing

and there is so much more awesome and horrendous dancing in Groundhog Day. But, it will have to wait as the software I use to cut clips is busy doing something else that I did not expect to take so long.

(And, isn’t it nice to see someone other than Phil Connors trapped in a time loop like that… there’s a bit in Lupoff’s “12:01 P.M.” in which Myron Castleman thinks,

…philosophically, it could be worse. Hung up at a period of five minutes, he’d never get anything done. And if it were really short—say, a second or less—it would be a living hell.

I think Rita and Debbie have the right idea for a tiny time loop. You just gotta dance.)

And, I could have just not mentioned it. But, that wouldn’t be fair (even if it might make for a more fluid blog entry) because this blog is about life, its ups and its downs, its Bill Murray movies and its famous rodents. Sometimes even the little things don’t go our way. Spend some time getting to know a girl—let’s call her Rita—and then she just isn’t available all of a sudden…

(And, how does that phrase work? All of a sudden. Why is “sudden” a noun here? According to phrases.org, this phrase came from Shakespeare. And, if I grant Richard Lupoff the right to invent words and he’s just some science fiction writer, I think I can certainly allow for Shakespeare to invent some. Hell, he’s invented quite a few words and phrases we use all the time; for example, “foregone conclusion” comes from Othello, “heart’s content” comes from Henry VI, Part II, “good riddance” comes from Troilus and Cressida, “short shrift” comes from Richard III, and “wild-goose chase” comes from Romeo and Juliet. According to English Language & Usage, Google suggests the phrase should be “all of the sudden” (63 million results with only 22 million results for “all of a sudden.” However, the line from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is “Is it possible That love should of a sodaine take such hold?” Apparently, “sodaine” is a Tudor spelling for “sudden.” But, the interesting thing here is that the phrases.org page, in explaining the phrase a little more actually contradicts its own notion that Shakespeare coined the phrase:

With that coinage, Shakespeare gave us the version of the expression that most grammarians now prefer. The modern alternative 'all of the sudden', which is preferred by the young, is disparaged as non-standard English. In fact, there's no good grammatical reason to say 'all of a sudden' in preference to 'all of the sudden'. If we go back beyond Shakespeare the variant 'the sudden' was commonplace; for example, in John Greenwood's Collection of Articles [of Henry Barrow and others], 1590, we find:

I was compelled to answere of the sodaine vnto such articles.

So, Shakespeare coined it in 1596, but this Barrow guy used it in 1590. Perhaps Barrow was in a 6-year time loop.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, sometimes life doesn’t go how you want, not just the big stuff but little things. Bad timing with messages back and forth perhaps means no second date, for example. Or a misunderstanding of how a persuasive speech should be structured combined with a low number of entries in the tournament means you are guaranteed a spot in finals but you are also guaranteed to come in last place. For example.

Meanwhile, Rita just told Phil—again—that everyone wants, “career, love, marriage, children.” I think it’s simpler than that; we all just want something that gives us purpose. Some find it in religion, some find it career, some find it I love or marriage or children. Some find it, at least for blocks of about 95 minutes, in deconstructing Groundhog Day and everything it represents. And, here’s Phil working the details. It isn’t even that ordering Jim Beam is wrong or that drinking to the groundhog is a bad idea. Phil really has no clue what he’s doing, does he? I’m on a date and she orders Sweet Vermouth on the rocks with a twist, I will still order a White Russian because that’s my drink lately…

Well, that’s not true. If my date were to order Rita’s drink, I would need to know why—I mean, has she been reading my blog and she’s trying—to coin a phrase—to Phil Connor me? Or, just by coincidence, did she discover alcohol because of Groundhog Day? Then, she could make for a fascinating case study. If her reasons have anything to do with this film, then I would have to, in solidarity, also order Sweet Vermouth on the rocks with a twist. If it were just the universe playing a weird joke, I’d go ahead and order my drink. We don’t have to drink the same thing. Hell, it’s probably better if we don’t always do the same things or have even all the same interests. We don’t have to like the same flavors of fudge or ice cream. But we should be willing to give each other’s interests and favorites a shot from time to time. Life, or even just a date, does not need to go exactly as you plan it to be fun or interesting or to turn out well. And, even when things fit together really well, that doesn’t mean they will last, as Phil’s about to learn as I type this.

The list isn’t love, Phil. But, hey, he did get Rita to care about him, so there’s a small victory there, I suppose.

And then, he goes over the top.

(And, phrases.org suggests that phrase comes from World War I. For some reason, I thought it would be older than that. Here’s what it has to say:

In the First World War the phrase was used by the British to describe the infantry emerging from the safety of their trenches to attack the enemy across open ground. An early example of that in print is from a 1916 edition of War Illustrated:

"Some fellows asked our captain when we were going over the top."

More recently, with allusion back to the WWI usage, the phrase has come to describe excessive or foolhardy actions. This figurative use originated not long after the war and the earliest record of it that I've found is in Lincoln Steffens' Letters, 1935:

"I had come to regard the New Capitalism as an experiment till, in 1929, the whole thing went over the top and slid down to an utter collapse."

I don’t know; I think, if “over the top” can’t be some Old English phrase, probably related to sex or beating your wife, or both—the Old English were weird folk—then I’d prefer if the phrase originated—

(And, Buster’s second-in-command just yelled at me: “What are you doing?!” Or he might have been yelling at Phil Connors. It’s hard to be sure after these many days. Have a little too much to drink or do the right drugs and I’d probably think I’m right there in Punxsutawney with all these people. Just as long as I get to experience each day like Phil and not have everything I do unhappen, I’m okay with that. Fictional characters should not be critiquing my somewhat random approach to today’s entry, anyway. At least I’m not scripted.)

Anyway, I’d prefer it if “over the top” originated as a phrase because of the 1987 classic Sylvester Stallone vehicle, Over the Top. Without a doubt, the greatest feature film ever made about arm wrestling.)

And, now Phil has fallen, or jumped. But, “fallen” was the word in my head, and it made me think of that bit in The Goonies when Data’s complaining, “The stupid guys tell me to use the stairs when Data's falling.” I always heard that as “when Data has fallen” but the internet disagrees with my ears.

And, I like the music cue on “you like boats but not the ocean.” It comes out of nowhere and it’s almost too sweet, but it totally works.

Now, I could say life is like that, too, but that would be cheesy. And, I have to work up to cheesy… still, I stopped typing long enough to get through the rest of “god” day. Phil’s speech to Rita as she sleeps stills comes across as sweet and genuine, even on the 43rd day in a row. Here is it, if you need a reminder:

What I wanted to say was… I think you're the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I've ever met in my life. I've never seen anyone that's nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you, something happened… to me. I never told you, but I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could. I don't deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.

Now, I’ll be cheesy. I’d like to be able to say all that to someone someday and mean every word. It’s profound in its simplicity.

(And, it had me doublechecking some details. See, that speech is in the second revision by Ramis that I recently spent three entries going over. But, I checked Rubin’s timeline of drafts in his appendix, “Credit: Who Wrote What?” Sure enough, Rubin calls that draft—dated January 7, 1992—the “Harold and Bill draft.” That was one of the things that perplexed me reading that draft because Ramis says in the commentary that the speech was Bill’s idea. I’d forgotten to check on it until now.)

There’s also real feeling there, which is an unusual thing for a Bill Murray character. His haggard face and his usual smartass attitude make real feeling extraordinary. And, I get that. Sarcasm, snarkiness—we all know those are just defense mechanisms to avoid real feeling, at least most of the time. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes sarcasm is exactly what is warranted in response to some people’s stupidity. But, yeah, sometimes making smartass comments is easier than being more straightforward. And, sometimes, rambling about random things is easier than being too serious yet again. Just like it’s easier to talk about Phil Connors’ life than to talk about my own. And it’s easier to generalize about life than to figure out the specifics.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to take things seriously when warranted, to make fun of things when appropriate.

(And, to maybe never use a “blockquote” tag ever again.)

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