Sunday, October 27, 2013

bundle up warm of course

Speech tournament the past two days, and today I judged, among other things, impromptu again. So, just like I did two weeks ago, it's time to connect Groundhog Day to all the... well, round one of impromptu didn't use quotations today but rather "haikus." And, I put that in quotation marks because some of them are not haikus by the usual shallow standard of syllable count and none of them are haikus by the less shallow standard of being about nature. But, anyway, I've got 14 of them--two each for up to seven competitors--and so my task is now to link them all to Groundhog Day.

We hunt perfection
true love and our destiny
but it hunts us too

Starting off with an easy one, these lines epitomize Phil's journey quite well, depending on what we take perfection to mean. We could apply it to Rita, or Phil's idealized version of Rita. We could apply it to the idealized version of Phil as well. The tricky part is that last line. Arguably, Groundhog Day tells us nothing about fate, and that last line screams fate to me, that our destiny is somehow decided and so whether we aim for it or not it will find us. Taking this as true, Phil's journey becomes less meaningful, so, while I would say this could easily apply to the whole film, I would also be tempted to disagree with the haiku simply to promote autonomy and human agency over the idea of destiny. Phil doesn't become a better man because he's destined to. He a) becomes a better man because he realizes that is a far better option than what he has been otherwise or b) he becomes a better man because he's exhausted all other options... which could almost fit that last line if we stretch it a bit.

If only I knew
how to find and heal lost souls
I'd be a shaman

Interpreting this one is strange, because it could mean two slightly but importantly different things: a) knowing how to heal people, I would choose to be a shaman or b) in knowing how to heal people, I would by definition already be a shaman. Phil's journey and his good deeds phase definitely falls in line with the former, but the latter is more a rhetorical exercise more than it really means anything. Either way, though, I think I could definitely argue that Phil does know how to "heal lost souls" in Punxsutawney--case in point, Debbie Kleiser--and by the end of the time loop he could easily take on the role of shaman of Punxsutawney.

To be a leader
one must first dream then act out
fulfillment is yours

Jumping right off the previous one, Phil is not a "leader" as we might think of it, but he is a great example, especially for us, of what we can and maybe should be. And, he has gotten there by dreaming (though his dreams at first were not good ones, per se) and acting out until the only acts left are good ones, fulfilling ones.

Loving you was
endless disappointment
with moments of denial

This is one that doesn't fit the 5-7-5 model of haiku. But, the connection to Groundhog Day is simple enough. With Rita as "you" this is date night in a nutshell. The endless disappointment is the series of slaps and the suicides, endings that end nothing. And, Phil's denial is one of positive change because he's too stuck on old ways and old expectations as to who and what he is and how he should act.

Your kiss is better
than finding twenty dollars
in yesterday's pants

Aside from the fact that, for Phil, yesterday's pants are today's pants and tomorrow's pants, I'd like to interpret this haiku to not only suggest that kissing is good but also that that twenty dollars is good as well. Effectively, I could extend this to mean that everything has value, and I could not only link this to Phil's journey but also Nietzsche's eternal recurrence. Taken to an extreme, you get the version of Phil I painted yesterday, but in simpler terms, you have Phil learning that everyone and everything has some value so putting so much effort into belittling the locals is a waste of energy.

Email malfunction
panic, sense of disconnect
belonging crippled

The email reference is maybe a little too current for Phil Connors, but I think this encapsulates his urban sensibilities pretty well. He doesn't form real connections with people because he's the modern man, and an egocentric one at that, seeing himself above everyone else around him. Because of this, he doesn't belong anywhere. He's got a good job at PBH but he brags--and the film gives us no reason to believe he's being honest--that a major network is interested in him. He looks to something he doesn't have as the life he wants. He can't accept and appreciate what he's got.

People united
to secure their liberty
out of many, one

This one is lame and, at first blush, uniquely and specifically about the United States. But, taking liberty as something more abstract, this could also describe Phil's ability later in the time loop to finally connect with the people of Punxsutawney, to be a part of the community. That the community can appreciate him as well--as demonstrated at the party--shows us that he is one of them.

The histories we try to forget
end up
defining who we are

Another one that is not a haiku at all. It actually seems more like a quotation one might see on a normal impromptu sheet. This one is interesting in terms of Groundhog Day because there's no real evidence that Phil is trying to "forget" anything. But, this could be interpreted to mean simply that we are defined by what we are not--that is, put aside the conscious effort implicit in the "try" and this is simple setting up a dichotomy of what we are and what we are not. Phil sees himself as one thing but moves rather steadily away from that person. His effort isn't even necessarily conscious, but his energy does direct him toward his own improvement. In a way, you could use Phil to suggest that this "haiku" is backward. He redefines himself by forgetting who he thought he was, finding instead some new core identity.

America is taxing my dreams
so I'm moving
to Canada

Not a haiku by any measure. But, taken as a quotation, I'd have to disagree with it in terms of Groundhog Day. This "haiku" comes from one who runs away from his problems to some imagined better place. Phil Connors, on the other hand, finds himself in what turns out to be a better place, and wants to run away but he cannot. Punxsutawney is taxing his dreams, but he can't go into Pittsburgh. This haiku is wrong, and Phil is forced to realize it--we cannot just run away from things we don't like. We might find they tax our dreams in Canada as well. So, instead we need have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

A vibration is
motion that cannot decide
which way it should go

I get the feeling that a physicist who's into string theory would appreciate this one. And, I can see Phil compared to the hypothetical string of energy at the heart of all matter or, switching branches of science, as a stem cell that hasn't been assigned just yet. He's capable of anything but it takes him trying the wrong directions before he can vibrate in better ones.

Do NOT partake of
knowledge of good and evil
Satan's fruit, broad lies

I picture Phil in Ramis' second revision of the script more than film Phil here, hitting rock bottom drug addled and partying with "ANGIE and another, overweight, not-very-pretty MADONNA WANNA-BE." But, it also fits the lesser hedonism of film Phil. He ignores the advice this haiku gives, and he suffers for it... sort of. He at least sees the emptiness of it.

Some days I'm Cylon
other days I feel like the
last civilized

This one seems incomplete--I'd maybe complete it with "man" at the end. And, then this could cover Phil with the knowledge he gains from the time loop. Sometimes, he might feel like the last normal man in a town of crazy people--really, from his perspective, how crazy is it to worry about tomorrow for example? And, sometimes, he's more like the Cylons, something separate from but similar to humans, jealous perhaps of what humanity is allowed to be. And, like the Cylons, Phil is reborn after he dies to live again.

Destiny dictates
I will one day run and leap
as building explodes

This one is weird, but if forced to use it, I would interpret it quite simply. However much we plan things, sometimes they still blow up in our face. Like the saying, "man plans, god laughs." And, this is exemplified in date night; despite Phil's efforts day after day after day, he simply cannot perfect his interactions with Rita to the point that they will not eventually end with her slapping him. It is only after he stops trying to plan his way into her heart that he finally finds a place there.

To some, solutions
are answers. To chemists they
are still all mixed up.

This one is a silly pun on two definitions of a "solution." But, I could work with it in much the same way I did the previous haiku; no matter how much we might think we have found the solution to some problem in life, life has another problem lined up behind it. Phil knows this all too well on date night and in trying to save O'Reilly. Life does not simply work out just because we want it to do so. But, I'd argue, that's what makes it so fun.

Today's reason to
repeat a day forever:
to live and enjoy.

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