Tuesday, April 29, 2014

maybe the real god uses tricks

Imagine a sequel, Groundhog Day 2: The Quickening perhaps, or Groundhog Day 2: Electric Boogaloo. The latter is funnier, but the former makes more sense for the point I'm about to make. Imagine Phil Connors, back living day-to-day, but occasionally, he bounces into another day, so while he's living a normal life, he often has inside information on what's coming. It's interesting, but it's already not an appropriate successor to Groundhog Day. But, there's more. There's no Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez coming back from the dead, no planet Zeist, but there is apparently an Adjustment Bureau-style behind-the-scenes illuminati that are driving all the time bouncing, which negates everything we know from the previous stories...

Oh, I'm not talking about Groundhog Day, but imagine it. Some secret organization, of which it turns out Rita Hanson is a member, were manipulating the time loop all along, training Phil to be able to loop on his own whenever he wants...

This is basically the premise of Richard Lupoff's "12:03 P.M." The original story, "12:01 P.M.", a few cheesy 1973 details aside, was a well-crafted, bleak little nightmare. The far more recent (2011) sequel, "12:02 P.M.", extended the original just a little bit, losing some of the bleak charm of Myron Castleman's story for an odd, and slightly unexplained twist and abrupt ending. Finally, Lupoff's (2012) trilogy capper (although, given the ending, there could be more in store for Castleman, but I hope not), "12:03 P.M.", throws the repeating day premise out almost entirely. Instead, the "bounce" has become something else entirely. In fact, if Castleman's understanding of what happened to him after the second story is correct--

"You tried to stop me but I got away," he tells his lawyer friend, "and jumped off your terrace. I went straight down, like a diver going off a diving board, and I twisted--I twisted--on my way down to the street. Not just my body, I twisted my mind and when I hit the pavement instead of bouncing straight back through time I bounced through..." He trails off and his friend suggests he see a "head-shrinker."

--then none of Rosenbluth's "time bounce" theory matters, and the ending of the original, retroactively, loses much of its power. And, Castleman's trip to the library to read Rosenbluth's journal article in the second story becomes rather pointless.

There are some details in the third story I like--it's not all bad. The new version of the bounce, just like it shifted Castleman to Kastleman in the second story, has put Castleman into a slightly altered universe, in which Spiro T. Agnew is President (keep in mind, it's 1973), Nixon his Vice President, and Quebec has just become an independent nation. Neither of these details matter to the plot, but they make for a slightly off-kilter feel that plays like less cheesy science fiction than some of the time bounce stuff in the previous stories.

Ultimately, I still like the original story, and I love the 1990 short film adaptation starring Kurtwood Smith. But, Dolores knowing what's been going on with Castleman since the beginning makes her seem a bit cruel, letting him go through all those resumptions (that word is, again, absent) with no light at the end of the tunnel. And, in the end, when Castleman--it seems a little late for a SPOILER warning--saves Agnew and the Québécois President René Lévesque from assassination, Dolores calls him "a hero... An authentic hero" I couldn't help but disagree wholeheartedly. He got shot in the head, sure, but then he bounced right back into the "present"; it is not heroic for a guy who is arguably immortal to get in the way of a gun, or at least only slightly heroic at best.

Phil Connors, on the other hand, is heroic, ultimately. He saves Buster from choking, saves Zacchaeus from breaking his leg--and he has no expectation of recompense. The film doesn't even suggest that he is doing these good deeds because he believes he should to escape the time loop. Phil exists in a new state by the end of the film; he doesn't need to escape the time loop. The time loop has become his life, his baseline. The cynic--in me or in you--might think Phil does good because he's run out of bad or figures it's the only way out of whatever god's test he is subject to, but Groundhog Day does not tell us this. And, since my approach in this blog is hermeneutic whenever possible, I must go by the text as presented.

A thought occurs to me--Phil's choice of ice sculpting proves that he has a) accepted his place in the time loop and b) is no longer trying to manipulate events toward escape or winning over Rita. Think about this: assume for the moment that the last day of the time loop that we see has all been planned; Phil knows just when Rita will enter the dance so he has only learned to play those two songs; Phil took up ice sculpting just so that he could impress Rita with a portrait; and Phil has only done all those good deeds because he knows that the mystery of all these people loving him and thanking him will intrigue Rita's producer side and get her into his bed. It works. It isn't in the text, but it also doesn't contradict the text... except for this: why ice sculpting?

He could just as easily take up painting or, as in Rubin's original, sculpting marble. But, he chooses an artform that, by its very nature, does not last. I've compared it to sand mandalas before, but it is worth mentioning again. Phil's chosen artform is not predicated on lasting into the future. It is predicated only on the present. It's more meditative and thoughtful, however much Rubin tries to justify the choice of marble--Phil tells Rita, "The wonderful thing about marble. You can take a lifetime of love and beauty, warmth and softness, and preserve it in a single moment of stone" (Rubin, 2012, p. 65). That turn of phrase is nice, single moment of stone, but it makes more sense and is far more poetic for it to be ice. And, Phil's choice of ice shows that he is no longer thinking about the future. There is only the present for him. The present may be 24 hours or so in length, but it is still just the present.

Phil doesn't just save lives each day; he improves lives. In big ways--getting Debbie Kleiser over her cold feet--and small ways--the old ladies could have certainly called the motor club if Phil had not been there. He entertains at the party not to show off but because he can. Mary might be a good piano player, but I have a feeling that Phil's situation makes him quite good at Jazz-style improvisation, because for him music is always now, always old, always new. Phil is the authentic hero. Myron Castleman is not.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to be an authentic hero, obviously.

Monday, April 28, 2014

your english teacher

1973, Richard Lupoff publishes "12:01 P.M." in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In it, Myron Castleman is trapped in a time loop that lasts only an hour. It and the 1990 short film based on it are rather bleak because, well--SPOILERS (even though the story is four decades old and I've written about it in this blog before)--Myron doesn't escape the time loop. Actually, I should call it a time bounce when talking about "12:01 P.M." Three years ago, Lupoff published the first of two sequels to the story.

I've got a few responses--and there will be SPOILERS obviously.

First, the little things: I don't like that Lupoff (and by extension, Castleman) doesn't call the repeated days "resumptions" in the new story. I liked that word. I've used that word since reading "12:01 P.M." in my discussions of Groundhog Day.

I actually had a weird moment of cognitive dissonance when I realized the new story, "12:02 P.M." is set in New York City. I had seen the 12:01 P.M. short before I ever read Lupoff's short story last year, and I saw the TV-movie version 12:01 when it aired in 1993, and both of those take place in Los Angeles. Well, I don't know if they actually call it Los Angeles in the short film, but it's definitely filmed in Los Angeles. I hadn't noticed in the original short story the street names fit New York. It's not a big deal; I just didn't notice it and thought of Lupoff's story as an L.A. story.

I read "12:01 P.M." in the first month of this blog, so I hadn't gotten into a lot of the details of Groundhog Day, so I didn't notice back then, for example, that the receptionist in the short story is named Stephanie. I would have probably made something of that, since in Ramis' second revision, it is Stephanie Decastro who causes the time loop to happen. Not that this Stephanie causes the loop, but it's the kind of detail I might have latched on to.

The bigger things:

The titles involved for the pseudoscience explanations for the time bounce seem a bit cheesy for me, which on the one hand makes it seem like a story written in 1973 rather than just set then, but on the other hand makes the story seem a little too... quaint. The publication that has published an article about the time bounce is called Proceedings in Theoretical Temporal Physics. The article in question is called "Aspects of Opposing Temporal Displacement Phenomena and Five-Dimensional Symmetry, with Theorems and Analyses." It reads to me like a sequel Lupoff actually wrote in the 70s and just never submitted for publication until more recently.

But, I sort of like this bit, when Castleman reads the abstract--he can't get much further because a) his time is limited and b) it's quite technical of the journal article.

Based on the abstract, Rosenbluth and Company had pretty well figured out what was happening. They had started with the idea that everything in the universe was balance. Past and future, up and down, big and small. Atoms were made of positive protons and negative electrons. Whoever wrote the abstract even mentioned that the Buddhists believed in a balance of good and bad karma. And when you carried the concept to the grandest possible scale, the entire universe was balanced with a mirror image of itself. In the counter-universe past was future, positive was negative, dark was light.

If the two versions of the universe should ever collide, what would happen? Rosenbluth et al. decided that each would bounce off the other, like one of those children's toys. Superballs dropped from a tall building. Each one would bounce back, then fall forward again, then they would collide and each would bounce back again, endlessly. (p. 190)

Not endlessly, though, as the time loop seems to be getting shorter in this second story. But, I only quoted that second paragraph because it went with the first. It was the inclusion of Buddhism that intrigued me here because, well, Buddhist ideas have been important for a few entries I've written about Groundhog Day (like this one or this one). And, there's good reason to believe that Harold Ramis' Buddhist sensibilities--

(Faust's (2004) New Yorker profile of Ramis, mentions how Ramis liked to say,

“I’m Buddh-ish” ...acknowledging that he has been unable to divest himself of “sarcasm, cruelty, self-indulgence, and torpor.” He developed a laminated “5 minute Buddhist” card that he hands out, enjoying the joke of presenting the path to salvation—“The Four Sublime States,” “The Five Hindrances”—as if it were a Chinese menu.

Caro's (2014) article about Ramis's death mentions that card:

Ramis used to carry around a sheet titled “The 5-Minute Buddhist,” which sums up such tenets as “The self, the soul, the ego are mental projections, false beliefs ….” Apatow said he got a copy from Ramis and keeps it in his desk.

“He was the nicest man I've ever met, and he taught me so much about comedy and about spirituality and about being a good person,” Apatow said.

While I've written in this blog and in a college paper about how various religions see Groundhog Day as their film, I keep coming back to Buddhism, I keep finding ways to reference Siddhartha, and Danny Rubin even says in How to Write Groundhog Day that he imagined Phil's personal journey as being like Siddhartha's (p. 74).)

--formed a lot of the core structure and heart of the film. But, Lupoff cites Buddhism here almost like a pop cultural reference point, a brief touchstone to make his story seem more thoughtful and philosophical. "12:02 P.M." is neither of these things. "12:01 P.M." was almost these things, but it's difficult to take a story with no ending as being particularly thoughtful about life... when neither the story nor its protagonist makes any comparison to the usual repetitive nature of life. Castleman even works in an office, and watching the short film, one gets the idea that his lunch break--which happens to be the hour in which the bounce occurs--is often quite dreary and uneventful, as repetitive as the time bounce version. "12:01 P.M." is a story that wants to be thoughtful, wants to be philosophical, but gets bogged down in both an explanation and a bleak ending. "12:02 P.M." suffers from more of the same, coming finally to a somewhat silly conclusion as Kastleman--and that K is not a mistake, as you will see in a moment--times his suicide with the resumption of the time bounce to put some "English on one of those Superballs." It works, and the it's like a happy ending that came four decades too late and hardly matters anymore.

But, I have a little hope because of two details. The first is that I've still got "12:03 P.M." to read, and that guy who escapes the time bounce is Myron Kastleman, with a K. In this second story, Castleman keeps noting the time with each resumption, 12:01, 12:02, 12:03, but always seeing that as the time it's always been when the time bounce happened. His days are blurring together and in the end, I think the idea Lupoff is going for is that the two universes are blurring together as well. And, the guy experiencing the time bounce consciously in the other universe--he spells his last name with a K. And, it is that guy who escapes, or disturbs the bounce, I guess. So, maybe Castleman with a C is still in the bounce, or maybe the bounce is not what Rosenbluth et al have said, and there's more to it.

I will find out tomorrow.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to put some English on my day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

what's wrong

I wanted to start with one of two lines today: What's wrong with you? or There's nothing wrong with you.

I had a thought today that really there's nothing wrong with any of us. We have, as a society, decided certain things are wrong, certain actions, certain thoughts. But, those things differ from culture to culture. Sure, there are universals. Murder, for example--it's wrong everywhere. But, I don't think anyone comes to murder--to stick with that example--lightly or, necessarily, deliberately. The final act, even the plotting may be deliberate, but a whole chain of events leads up to such an act. I'm reminded of a passage from More's Utopia:

If you allow people to be badly brought up and their habits to be corrupted little by little from childhood, and if you then punish them for crimes to which their early training has disposed them, what else is this, I ask, but first making them thieves and then punishing them for it? (p. 11)

I don't normally involve political notions in this blog--maybe a little when I wrote of homelessness (here and here)--and really I think I would like to argue that this isn't even political. A while back, just after I had returned from my pilgrimage to Woodstock, where they filmed Groundhog Day, I wrote the following:

Just yesterday a friend of mine--a member of our speech team, actually--who has never seen Groundhog Day (didn't even know what it was about), asked me what the point of the movie was. At the symposium on Saturday with Danny Rubin as special guest, someone asked about what made a movie a classic. I think the answers to these two questions are fairly close in this case. Groundhog Day is a classic because its main idea is a very simple one that we can all understand--we all want to be better than we are. The theme is universal, and the film is well put together, so it holds up time and time again, even now 21 years after it was released, 22 years after it was filmed there in Woodstock.

I don't operate under the assumption that anyone means to be bad or means to do wrong. I think, sometimes, that assumption does more damage than some of the supposed wrongs being done. If we can call what someone else does bad or wrong, we can excuse wrongs done to that person, we can justify punishment, mistreatment, violence and war. Fiske (2002) writes:

People typically seek other people who are similar to themselves, being comfortable with others they perceive as members of their own in-group. From comfort follows, at best, neglect of people from out-groups and, at worst, murderous hostility toward out-groups perceived as threatening the in-group...

Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination reflect, respectively, people's cognitive, affective, and behavioral reactions to people from other groups (Fiske, 1998). (p. 123)

We delineate our in-group from a particular out-group quite easily by that group doing something wrong, something differently than we do it. It doesn't have to be the above example of murder. It could simply be the way they worship their god, or the name they give him. It could be the way they wear their hair, the clothing they choose to cover themselves, the food they eat or don't eat, the songs they like or don't like, the fashions they can afford or not afford to wear. Anything. We are a petty species, humans. As much as we so obviously, so painfully, want to find people with which we can feel a sense of belonging, it seems like we often want to find an excuse, any excuse, to exclude the ones who don't belong.

Phil Connors may not be the most friendly of men, pre-loop, but you could call him an equal opportunity insulter. He points his sardonic and sarcastic wit, and his projected self-hatred, at everyone. For Phil, there is no in-group, only out-groups. It is not a great lesson to take from Phil, but aside from that one punch to Ned Ryerson, he doesn't turn to violence in the film, and ultimately, he learns to appreciate everyone and dial back the acid in his tongue. Speaking of Ned, though--and in today's viewing, that punch has just happened--I wonder now how wrong it is that we all find it so funny when Phil hits him.

(Nevermind how wrong it may be that we laugh when Phil makes Ned uncomfortable later by hugging him a little too much... our homophobic tendencies in action. Also, how wrong is it that I am suggesting something is wrong?)

The situation plays a little differently in Rubin's original script. Phil hits Ned every time he sees him, because the story begins in medias res, and when he eventually refrains because he (Phil) is becoming a better person, only to learn that Ned is an insurance salesman, the punchline comes in the scene without the violence. Still, the punchline comes from our... distrust? dislike? of insurance agents. They--Ned the current exemplar--are like ambulance-chasing lawyers, bottom-feeders who take advantage of our weaknesses and our frailties. Right?

But, what do we think of them when we need an insurance payout?

As a writer, I subscribe to the idea that no one is the villain in his own story. This story--Phil's story, my story, your story--there is no villain. There is the societal--or is it natural?--tendency toward competition. There is circumstance that puts us one against another. There is circumstance that leaves some of us better off than others, some of so desperate to survive, or so corrupted by our selves, that we turn on one another, take what isn't ours, manipulate circumstance to our advantage, another's misfortune.

One of the reasons, if not the reason, I want to be a teacher, is because I want to make people better than they are. No, that isn't quite what I mean. I want to help people become better than they are. I don't really want to make them anything. No one makes Phil Connors improve himself. Whether he does it because he has run out of all other options or because he sees the light and realizes there is a better option than what he has been doing thus far, he does change. He chooses to change. No one makes him.

This is part of the reason, early in this blog, that I so adamantly disagreed with, say, Bacha's (1998) suggestion (after the "date night" sequence) that "Phil thinks he must find a way of making Rita choose him and surrender him completely. He thus becomes the admired one in the community. He believes that it is not enough to pretend goodness, he must be good" (p. 396). If Phil is merely improving himself as one more step in his attempted seduction of Rita, then he is not a good example for the audience. And, though he is arguably rewarded when Rita does become the "chooser" as Bacha says, and she chooses Phil, we see this as a bonus of a sort. Phil deserves something, some reward, because he has managed to do what we all wish we had the time to do. He has transformed himself into someone better. No one forces him. He does it because--and I do not here choose this word lightly--it is the right thing to do.

(Phil even has, there, a halo of sorts, as he stands ready to make himself and things around him better... perhaps one more link to Phil as Christ-Figure.)

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to do nothing but right, to better myself and everyone (and everything) around me.

References:

Bacha, C.S. (1998). Groundhog Day: the individual, the couple, the group and the space between. Psychodynamic Counselling 4.3 (August). pp. 383-406.

Fiske, S.T. (2002). What We Know Now About Bias and Intergroup Conflict, the Problem of the Century. Current Directions in Psychological Science 11:4 (August). pp. 123-128.

More, T. (1949). Utopia. (H.V.S. Ogden, Trans.) Northbrook, IL: AHM. (Original work published 1516).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

wracking my brain

Got busy grading exams and watching Caprica episodes today and never got around to reading Lupoff's first sequel to his 12:01 P.M. story. I've also got a syllabus (or something like it) for a college class dealing with Groundhog Day that I've been meaning to read through, but I didn't get to that today either. I am once again a blogger without a plan today. As Phil marches through the snow to talk to the "commander" about the blizzard, I sit here with nothing in particular to say.

The thing is, that's okay.

Not every blog entry has to be about something, just like not every moment needs to be about something, not every day needs to be about something. Sometimes, life is just life, and a moment is just a moment, and a blog is just a blog...

Oh, who am I kidding. I wish I had something prepped, something meaningful because those are the best topics for me. Sure, I like the funny ones and the weird ones, but meaningful--that is what I love. Right now, I'm doing my darnedest to tie my lack of topic into something profound about life, about how you just cannot plan for everything. Sometimes you just have to let life happen. But, that seems like a lesson so obviously inherent in Groundhog Day that I feel like I've written about it time and time again.

Phil breaks his pencil and I have nothing to write... I try to make that sound like an awesome coincidence, meaningful and deep. It isn't. He does that literally every day in recent months...

I was flipping through my copy of Siddhartha just now and happened upon this highlighted bit (which I'm sure I have shared here before because it connects to directly to Groundhog Day):

I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. But it was right that it should be so; my eyes and heart acclaim it. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace, to hear Om again, to sleep deeply again and to awaken refreshed again... I had to sin in order to live again. (Hesse, 1951, p. 78)

Phil has just figured out the time loop. He kissed Florence Lancaster and punched Ned Ryerson and didn't step in the puddle. He's a man of vice. He won't find his depths or "become a child again" for a while.

And, I just got sidetracked looking at the newspaper Nancy has when Phil meets her. I thought it might be an Earl Hays Press newspaper prop, but it doesn't seem to be. It might just be an actual issue of the Punxsutawney Spirit.

There's a headline: U.N. Leaders Seek Stronger Role in Peace; I'm guessing that might have something to do with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, which began in February 1992, just as production of Groundhog Day was getting under way. But, it's a generic enough headline as to be virtually timeless.

Today turned out to mostly be a just-watch-the-movie day. Tomorrow I will be probably be out for much of the day, but I will try to get 12:02 P.M. or that syllabus read. Or maybe I'll just let life happen.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to sleep deeply and awaken refreshed again and again and again.

that glass is half empty

In 1966, Harold Ramis met artist Anne Plotkin. He was twenty-two and had just avoided service in Vietnam "by checking every box on the Army's medical history form, claiming to suffer from conditions ranging from night sweats to bedwetting to homosexuality" (Friend, 2004). Anne was a free-spirited kind of 60s girl. She would "fly to Bulgaria on a whim to find a Bulgarian psychic to teach them French, or slap [Harold] just to gauge his reaction." Tad Friend recounts in The New Yorker, 19 April 2004, how Anne recalls "the time a soap bubble from the sink glistened on their wall for three miraculous days. She told me, 'I consider that one of the high points of our marriage."

Thoughts are too brief but also far too long
They linger long enough to pain and bleed
In my head echoes a melancholy song
The agonizing future is still but a seed

15 May 1984, Harold wrote "NEW LIFE" on a red index card and taped it to the inside of a kitchen cabinet in the house they shared. Ramis tells Friend, "That resolution was inspired by a combination of marital discontent and being hung over in some way... The image I was cultivating was Last Man Standing, but I realized I felt sick most of the time, that anhedonia had set in..." Friend explains further, "Ramis left Anne, forswore drugs and, later, cigarettes, and, in 1989, married Erica Mann, his former assistant. Erica and her mother had both spent time at Buddhist retreats, and Ramis began to move in that direction."

Broken hearts still beat
Shattered dreams linger nearby
And life still goes on

In 1992, when Groundhog Day was in production, Bill Murray's marriage to Mickey Kelly, with whom he had eloped in 1981, was coming to an end. He was having an affair with Jennifer Butler, costume designer for Groundhog Day (and costumer for Scrooged, Ghostbusters II and What About Bob?. Sometimes, Murray "was just really irrationally mean and unavailable; he was constantly late on set," Ramis tells Friend.

These lives are damaged
Why do we throw them out and start anew
Rather than repair the damage?

Bill and Mickey would divorce in 1996. Bill and Jennifer would divorce in 2008. She would accuse him of abuse, abandonment, drug addiction and adultery.

I imagine neural pathways that include you are screaming at the realization they will soon need to atrophy. A part of me will die. Proximity and expectation and the neural pathways built in the past decade plus and it will all be gone or deformed. It is no wonder that I must grieve.

We like to think love is forever and marriage is "till death do us part." It doesn't always work out that way. Those indented bits above are just a sampling of the melodramatic things I would write in the notebook I used to carry with me, back when separation was painful and divorce was something like... scary. There are pages of scribbled bits of pain and anger and grief. Though I've come to terms with the end of my own marriage since, it still hurts to read some of this stuff. I think that neural pathway line is actually a good measure of why a divorce or break-up can hurt so much...

Rita just slapped Phil on date night and I wonder how many days did he spend in pursuit of her. More than we see, for sure. She's a fixture in his world, and here she is rejecting him. Then, she rejects him again and again and again. Is it any wonder that his darkest days (that we see) come right after?

The more time we spend with another person, or at a particular job, or in a particular home--the more it becomes such a fixture in our life. Neural pathways are altered and formed anew and a part of who we are in the present includes that person, that job, that home. Sometimes it seems like identity is entirely internal, that what we present to the world around us is just an outward expression of what is inside. But so much of who we are--internally--is formed by what is around us, the opposite of the previous sentence. And...

I'm rambling when I think I know exactly what I want to say here. I want to say that our personalities are a combination of genetics, upbringing and choice. I want to say that when we choose to be with a particular someone, we become a different version of our self. I want to say that when that version can no longer be, it hurts, in a way, as much as it might hurt to lose a limb. For a time, the world might not make much sense at all, and we may feel like there is a hole inside, and there is no way to fill it any longer. But, over time, that hole becomes the new normal; a new version of self emerges, and life goes on. It's trite, it's clichéd, it's true. I want to say that no matter how much pain you might be in, because of a break up, because of losing a job, because of losing a home, losing a limb, losing a general hope for the future, it can get... easier to deal with, if you give it enough time, and you focus on what works, on what's good.

When divorce became a real possibility for my wife and I, I was working on notes for a new novel. This note regarding that story perhaps says more about what I was going through than a lot of the lame bits of poetry and scribbled rants:

I think I figured out yesterday the theme for Last Song of Whisper Blackbraid. It's about letting go, moving on, when you know you have to but can barely even bear the idea let alone the reality of it. Those parents losing their children, Jason longing for the wife he hasn't seen in years even as he had finally almost moved on to Rien, two old people long for comfort before they pass. And at the center, Quarrel, feeling that he has but a short time left with his wife, knowing he'll be gone soon, and trying to do his job in the meantime even when all he wants to to do is lay in bed with Nikkel, making the last days take as long as they can. So, it's probably Quarrel who will die in this story, never having to leave Gardea again and be without his wife, while Jason survives to see Nakusa one more time, only to leave Rien behind. The narrative may leave Nikkel and Rien behind in the end but the air of sadness, of loss, will already be there... perhaps Quarrel at least will try in some way to prepare Nikkel for life without him--maybe that's why he gets engrossed in his work, in solving the mystery of Whisper Blackbraid, because the only alternative to staying with Nikkel every moment of his last days with her is to distance himself, leave her alone to get used to his absence... and does she figure this out? She must know about the (curse); he had to have told her about it in all their years together. So, she'll realize, just as he can feel it in his bones, that he will be gone soon. Maybe there can even be a scene of her comforting Rien in some way, a hopeful moment for these two old women soon to be alone... I don't think this is a short story at all, but maybe with all this melancholy, it shouldn't linger so long as a novel either or it might be too depressing.

Writing a story about loss was not in the cards for me at the time, though. I wrote a chapter and put it aside for a later date. I think I needed something more positive. Eventually, that need gave birth to the Groundhog Day Project. If I do get around to writing Last Song of Whisper Blackbraid, it will still be about loss, but maybe it will not be as painful to write now that I have had more time to... accept is the wrong word, or not exactly the right word. But, I have accepted the end of what for a time seemed would last for the rest of my life.

I do not imagine that writing NEW LIFE on that index card was easy or painless. But, I like the simplicity of it. I am still finding my new life, recognizing all of its parts. It (and I) is an ongoing process. My time loop still turns and resumes, and I emerge constantly out of earlier versions of my self.

And, it goes pretty well so far, I think.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to invent myself anew each day like the Joker in Morrison's Arkham Asylum... but without the occasional homicidal urges.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

that glass is half full

...Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain. The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose existence is ceaseless change.
-- Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

...you can follow Phil's lead to achieve this transformation in your own life. Like Phil, we can all wake up and discover joy rather than boredom, hope rather than emptiness, and love rather than self-absorption.
-- Paul Hannam, The Magic of Groundhog Day

Sometimes I watch this movie and I figure I could write a self help just like Hannam did, take this... little cinematic piece of... if Rita can call a sticky bun heaven I can call this film heaven. To be fair, since, you know, she did 12 years of Catholic school and is a nice wholesome character in a popular film, it might be safe to assume she's a Christian. I, as I have mentioned before, am not. So, heaven is just a word... with a whole lot of cultural baggage attached. James Parker, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2013, suggests that to get the message of Groundhog Day, you must be "a seeker: spiritually curious, mystically a-tremble, slightly mentally ill, whatever." I think anyone can get the message of Groundhog Day. Of course, I think in our modern age, most anyone is probably at least "slightly mentally ill" if not the other things Parker lists. I am--or was when I began this project if not currently--all of those things Parker lists. For a while in the 90s, I had that poster from The X-Files--you know the one; it's got the flying saucer hovering over the woods and across the bottom it says "I WANT TO BELIEVE"

--on my wall. I've still got the poster, but it no longer dwells on my wall. On my wall are framed images of each of my three kids and posters of two paintings (on either side of the mirror attached to my dresser):

Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Van Gogh's Starry Night

The former reminds me, like the view out my window at night, of my place in the universe, subject to greater forces than me (but not supernatural or Godly ones), but able to deal with the whims of the world, able to take my hits and keep going.

The latter reminds me (often by way of the Doctor Who episode, "Vincent and the Doctor") the universe is an amazing, always in motion and full of great beauty, and I am a part of that motion and that beauty.

(To be fair, there is also a LEGO Movie poster on the wall in my LEGO closet, Benny the classic space man who just wants to build spaceships. And, maybe the presence of this poster, plus the fact that is is upside down and angled slightly, says more about my personality than the other two.)

Phil doesn't get to choose what decorates his room at the Cherry Street Inn, so there isn't much direct comparison between my life and Phil's here. I've mentioned before the dogs in Phil's room. I have no dogs on my wall.

The posters on my wall are a new thing. I bought them for myself for Christmas. In a way, these posters marked the room as my own. It's the same room I used to share with my wife, but now, it is mine alone. Well, the cats might object to that description, but I am the only human who sleeps there regularly. Someone asked me recently how the whole separation/divorce situation was going--I suppose people will occasionally still ask that until well after the divorce actually happens and life moves on legally as well as practically. I said that it was hard at first but lately, it feels like the right thing. I know it still affects my kids' lives and I wish I could keep that from ever being negative, but on a personal level, not being married has become my norm. It's a new status quo, a new day in my time loop. Oscar Wilde's suffering has been left behind. And, now it's just life. Do what I can for the kids, do my own schoolwork, whatever else comes up--life is life. Parker (2013) says, the message he got from Groundhog Day was, "There is a way back, a way through the imprisoning mystery of yourself, a way back into life." I get that. The imprisoning mystery line, the back into life line--I get it. Sometimes, life derails a bit. But, then we can create our own resumption, build a new day when the time loop resets into a new day, and move forward.

Parker ends his article with the following:

Oh, it deepens with every encounter, this movie. I watched Groundhog Day twice while writing this column. I think I need to watch it again.

We all need to watch it again. You do. I do. I'm optimistic right now. I imagine that tomorrow will be a better day than today, and today was not bad. I am more myself right now than I have been sometimes lately. I imagine a future version of me, and he's got his shit together. I figure I'm on my way to being him. On my TV, Phil just woke up after "god day" and he's got a good thing going on now. I imagine tomorrow I will be productive, I will take some time for something fun (might work on my current LEGO project), some time for reading, some time for school work, and the day will be "a pretty good day."

Something worth repeating.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to always be productive, to learn, to teach, to laugh, to cry, to make the world a better place and me a better person with each resumption.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

a really good producer

I just had to yell (sort of) at Rita. It wasn't about the robotic tendencies or the insult-by-poetry (I've begun to think that kinda cool, actually, and wish I knew the right poetry to insult people on a regular basis); rather it was about two things in the Tip Top Cafe scene on Day 3. She's there to talk to Phil who was "too sick to work" that morning. As his producer, you'd think she would want to get to the bottom of the situation as soon as possible, maybe start coming up with some way to a) reprimand Phil for screwing up the Groundhog Day report and b) not get any of the blame herself. But, instead she takes the time to eat an entire sticky bun before even saying to Phil: "Okay, now tell me why you're too sick to work, and it better be good."

He proceeds to tell her about the time loop, which implies a serious psychological break or at least some issue with drugs, both pretty big concerns, but she wants to "talk about it back in Pittsburgh." Rita has already delayed this conversation, and now she wants to postpone the rest of it another hour-and-a-half.

I told Rita to get her priorities straight. I question whether or not she's even going to "be a really good producer" as Phil's assistant Kenny predicts.

Speaking of that line, I just typed it as "be a great producer" at first. And, it occurred to me, as I realized my mistake and fixed it, that Ramis really liked his adverbs. Don't get me wrong, Larry's line--"He was a really great guy. I really really liked him... a lot"--is possibly a perfect line of dialogue for the scene, for the character, for the film. But, there are a lot of reallys in this movie. Verys as well.

Thirty two of each, actually. Some examples:

Kenny describing Rita: "She's really nice. I think she's gonna be a really good producer."

Phil to Nancy: "You look very very terrific."

Phil in response to Rita's list of traits for her "perfect guy": "I'm really close on this one. Really really close."

Part of Phil's weather report in the studio: "they're gonna have some very very tall trees." (Which Kenny misquotes as "really big trees.")

I must correct what was a really really innocent mistake above. There may be 32 reallys, but I neglected to think of how very exists inside the word every. There are only 13 verys in Groundhog Day.

To be fair, there are over 10,000 words in the movie (including song lyrics), so even 32 is a small number relative to that total. But, it bugs me that both Phil and Larry use "really really." It is only Phil that uses "very very" and it occurs to me now that maybe Larry talks like Phil, in much the same way that he pursues Nancy at the end of the film, because he is a lot like Phil. He's slightly more dorky, I suppose, but I would guess Larry would love to have the life of pre-loop Phil.

On another note, before I cut today's entry short, this is Day 265 of the Groundhog Day Project. There are only 100 days left. It's time to start getting to entries that I have been putting off.

Today's day to repeat a day forever: to really really enjoy it and have a very very fulfilling experience.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

do you have life insurance

An addendum before I get into today's... rambling: it should have been three hotels yesterday. I had forgotten that our coaches trip to Palm Springs happened after this project began. That trip would also make two different cars and a minivan in addition to the four planes. But...

It is certainly not the most important aspect of this project--the detail as to all the places I've watched Groundhog Day. Obviously, it's important that I've watched it daily, since that is the point. But...

In competitive debate, we talk about class issues a lot, and it occurred to me yesterday that some people don't have the opportunity to a) travel as I have this past year--to Pismo, to Palm Springs, to Salt Lake City, to Woodstock, to Detroit--and b) to waste their time with a project such as this one. Not that I believe it to be a waste of time. It isn't. But, it is certainly the conspicuous spending of time a lot of people simply do not and cannot have.

Daughton...

(I don't have Daughton handy right now, so I will leave out the proper year citation. I also will not be able to properly quote Daughton)

Daughton talks about Phil Connors' situation in comparison with that of the Other (for Phil), working class and lower middle class people trapped in their day-to-day lives by economic circumstance. Phil's situation is not economic on any literal level, of course. Economically, Phil is probably doing quite well; in fact, in Ramis' (1992, January 7) second revision, Phil drives himself to Punxsutawney in a... I think it's a BMW.

(I'm on the plane as I write this, so I cannot check.)

I've suggested before that Phil's situation actually foregoes all economic concerns, really. Along with not needing to sleep or eat any longer, he also has no need for money, no need to work. It might be an ideal situation if there were some way to leave a mark on the world... And, I admit that might seem wrong to, say, a Buddhist. When I wrote about Mandalas in relation to Groundhog Day before, I compared the transient nature of Mandalic art to that of Phil's ice sculpting. Phil's sculpting is not about leaving his mark on the world. In actuality, Phil manages to find pastimes that make time and its passage irrelevant. He reads books, he plays music and he sculpts ice. Each of these things can be done within the time loop in the same way it can be done outside of it.

(I would mention that if Punxsutawney had a good movie rental place--it's 1993 so probably a Blockbuster Video--Phil could watch movies like he could read. With the internet today, movie (and TV show) watching could go on for quite a long time.)

Phil embraces his temporal captivity, finding things he can do under those circumstances (In deleted scenes, he is shown to have also mastered bowling and billiard skills). This adaptation to the circumstances forced upon him by the universe is exactly what Daughton is getting at. Everyone else is still operating under notions of time and space (and society) as malleable things, things that come with requirements and responsibilities. In terms of the time loop, everyone else has become whatever the opposite of the Other is. They still have jobs to get to--after they take some time out to celebrate that local holiday, of course--families to take care of, homework to do. They still live in the world in motion, with societal expectations, economic responsibilities. Phil is now the Other. But, his story barely seems like a hardship, except perhaps when he goes through his depressed, and eventually suicidal, stage. It's like some romanticized portrait of a poor family who live free off the land, unshackled by society's rules; they don't need to work for the Man to get by, they don't need to worry about jobs and social norms and mores. They can live like communal hippies probably dreamed... except, as I said, that's a romanticized idea. The working poor, for example, are not free from the shackles of society; rather, they have extra shackles, concerns about shelter, about their next meal, about the possibility of injury or illness costing them all the money they might have saved, if they ever actually managed to save any.

I'm not rich--three of the trips I mentioned above were paid for by the University--but I am also not so poor that I worry about where my next meal might come from. Still, I don't have much money saved. Fortunately, I can afford insurance, or I might worry about medical bills. And, I do have the time to do projects like the Groundhog Day Project. I have time to build with my closet full of LEGO blocks... and I can afford to have said closet. I am not the Other. I am more like Phil Connors, sent by my employer on a trip across the country--well, he didn't go that far--but, unlike Phil I look forward to such trips. I like coaching, I like taking my students to a national tournament...

If I were poorer, though, I probably couldn't come on this trip. My kids might not have their mother to come stay with them while I am gone. We might not have been able to buy groceries ahead of time so that they wouldn't have to worry about food while I am gone.

Phil has the benefit of no such attachments, I should point out. While, in Rubin's original script, he does have at least a mother to which he still has some attachment (and he even manages to get out of Punxsutawney to visit her, only to be yanked back by the time loop when morning comes), the film version of Phil Connors has no such apparent attachments. Ned mentions Phil's sister, but Phil never speaks of her. He might not even think of her much... at least, pre- and early-loop Phil probably doesn't. Later in the loop, he probably thinks of his family, maybe even misses them. He may even have those he would call friends back in Pittsburgh, maybe some fellow on-air talent from WPBH with whom he goes out for drinks after work sometimes. We don't know that Phil's misanthropy is complete.

My point is this... or my points are these, rather: a) I realize I am better off than many, but I think that everyone can benefit from seeing and contemplating the ideas in this film (and here in these many blog entries as well), and b) Phil does seem a reasonable stand-in for the Other, stuck in a situation out of his control. Sure, he manages to find a way to thrive within that situation but he has seemingly unlimited time and no real responsibilities to take away from that effort. And, I could suggest that we should all, rich or poor, lower class or upper class, find ways to thrive within our circumstances, to live within the means were are allowed. But, I would rather hope that somehow we could find our way around and outside of the circumstances and restrictions put upon us, and that those of us with more room to stretch could help others out. Like Phil on that last day of the time loop, I'd like to think that given the opportunity to do so, we would all choose to help those around us in trouble. Sometimes, I actually think the best of we humans.

Or maybe the high altitude is just getting to me.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: a combination of two ideas I have presented before: to meet and get to know and help everyone around me that I can and to share the process of clearing out not only my Netflix queue (and every other film and TV show Netflix has, with the people I meet.

Monday, April 21, 2014

travel later today

I begin today's entry from the Student Center on Eastern Michigan University's campus. The first of two Final rounds is going on and I've got a break before the second. I've watched about half an hour of Groundhog Day so far today but wanted to write at least something from the campus... I have watched the movie now in... Well, I actually don't know how many states. If you count airspace, that is; I'd have to look up the flight paths from Los Angeles to Dallas and Dallas to Detroit, and Chicago to San Francisco, San Francisco to Los Angeles. I've watched the movie in Michigan, in Illinois, in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. And, of course, California. I've watched the movie on the campuses of California State University Los Angeles, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and now Eastern Michigan University. I've watched it in three different planes, in a van, in two hotels, sitting by a campfire, in the snow, and by a pond. Right side up and sideways (it's a thing, when I'm in bed). On the TV, the iPad, the iPod, the big screen. With sound and without. With subtitles and without. With commentary and without... I think I want to watch the movie with different audio tracks; the DVD has several foreign-language tracks. Whenever I finally get the time again to finish cutting the scenes apart I will also watch it in reverse order, just because.

I'd even watch it with green eggs and ham... if I weren't a vegetarian.

As I said yesterday, Groundhog Day is a part of me, now. A fixture in my memory, my being and my life story. This is the year I watched Groundhog Day every day and blogged about it. This project is 72% done.

...

It is now several hours later. Sitting in the hotel, going to watch the last bit of Groundhog Day and go to bed soon. Flying home in the morning. In the meantime, I looked up some flight path information. From Chicago (ORD) to San Francisco (SFO), I watched Groundhog Day and then Enough Said, so Groundhog Day probably ran while I was over Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, probably not over Wyoming or Colorado.

Dallas (DFW) to Detroit (DTW), Groundhog Day ran the entire time we were at cruising altitude, so that was over Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana and Michigan.

Tomorrow, I think I'll watch Groundhog Day on the second leg of our trip home, Dallas to Los Angeles, so I can add New Mexico to the list. That will make fourteen states. I don't think I will manage any more before the project is complete. I still like my documentary idea that would involve screening the movie in all 50 states, but I don't know a thing about making that actually happen.

I would like to show the movie to some more people who haven't seen it. I learned today that Tracey, one of the students I brought to Michigan, not only hadn't seen the movie but didn't even realize it was a movie and thought "Groundhog Day" was something I made up.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: a) to see how many state I can travel to and b) to see how many people I can show Groundhog Day to.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

i could have done it with my eyes closed

Long tournaments can be exhausting... actually, no, it isn't the tournament. It's the schedule. Once the tournament day is over, we get to dinner and back to the hotel late. And last night, I had to write the blog and then watch the movie. Movie ended around 2, had to get up by 630. Similar schedule the last few days. So, today when I had 2 rounds in a row off from judging, I turned on Groundhog Day on my iPad, put in my new earphones, and put my head back in the chair and closed my eyes. Slept off an on for an hour, but totally saw the movie the entire time in my head. This movie's a part of me now. I can watch it in my sleep.

But I wanted to mention something else. A guy I judged yesterday in informative speaking did a speech about brain-to-brain-transfer... that is, the transfer of thoughts from brain to computer out to another brain. One actual example of the process already having been done was one guy choosing the actions for a video game and another guy a good distance away holding the controller. Guy #1 was controlling Guy #2's hands through a computer connection.

That's not the part that connected it to Groundhog Day for me, though. What it was was the implication that this same process could amount not just to temporary control but the sharing of thoughts and ideas. The thing is, this could mean that if you get hooked up to, say, a guy who can play piano, then that skill--the mental side of it anyway (I assumed there's some muscle memory involved)--becomes yours. Phil Connors could have learned a lot more skills that way rather than take all the time to, you know, actually learn to play at least two songs.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to steal skills and ideas and memories from everybody I can find (assuming, my time loop happens after the process above is a thing).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

a dream of spring

You want to know what's really amazing? I've been waiting for you every day for ten thousand years. I dream of you every night of my life. You've been my constant weapon against total despair, and just knowing you exist has kept me alive... (Ramis, 1992, 12 January, p. 115)

That's Phil Connors near the end of the second revision of Groundhog Day. I bring it up today because just this morning, Cracked posted a link on Facebook to an old article from 2011: "7 Hotly Debated Movie Questions that Totally Have Answers." One of those questions: Why Did Bill Murray Get Stuck in a Time Loop? In their answer, they cite the second revision to bring up Stephanie Decastro and to mention that Phil was in the loop for ten thousand years.

Now, let us engage our critiquing, nitpicking masks.

First of all, Bill Murray was never stuck in any time loop, as far as I know. Phil Connors was.

Second of all, looking at that quotation above, I gotta say, I don't think Phil is necessarily being literal about it having been ten thousand years. In fact, I think he's lying in a few ways in just those few lines--and this is at the end of the script when Phil is supposed to be a better guy. I think Ramis just couldn't manage some dialogue that was actually romantic. Hell, in the description after Phil's dialogue, it says, "Rita can't even speak. This is clearly the nicest thing anybody has ever said to anybody."

1. That last bit might be true if the content of what Phil said were also true.

2. If you have to tell us this is clearly anything, then it is not clear at all.

3. I think this bit of dialogue from Phil fails to be what it is trying to be, and I am glad it did not survive into the film.

4. Now, onto the specifics... but in reverse order (you'll see why in a moment).

You've been my constant weapon against total despair, and just knowing you exist has kept me alive.

That last part if blatantly false; the existence of the time loop and Phil's place within it is what has kept Phil alive. And, that first part is also false. Phil has killed himself; that is usually a sign of "total despair" so he cannot claim Rita has kept him from that... Okay, to be fair, he calls her is "constant weapon," he doesn't say that he won the fight he was fighting with that weapon. However, I would still question that constant since he was not even conscious of any attraction for Rita for quite a while. Hell, if the ten thousand year figure is accurate, then we can probably assume it was years before Phil actively pursued Rita.

I dream of you every night of my life.

I don't think Phil dreamed of Rita the night between February 1st and 2nd; if he had, he probably would have thought of going after her sooner. And, I doubt that he goes to bed every night in time to get any dreams before the time loop resets to the previous morning. I'm not sure that he dreams at all. Additionally, this sounds like a line. Like something Phil would say when he gets Rita into his room on date night. It doesn't ring true.

(Similarly, one line that is in the end of the film that doesn't quite ring true is Phil's: "I know your face so well, I could have done it with my eyes closed.)

It sounds like a bit of dialogue from a romantic comedy rather than something someone might actually say.

I've been waiting for you every day for ten thousand years.

Nevermind that even Harold Ramis puts the length of the time loop in the film somewhere around 30 to 40 years. There is no reason we should take what Phil says as absolute fact. Consider: had he actually lived ten thousand years, would he still be counting the days? Ramis' second revision doesn't even include the book calendar system that was in Rubin's original, so Phil isn't even counting the days in this version. He certainly hasn't kept track of 3,650,000 (plus) days. This also sounds like a line. If we want to find our figures from earlier drafts, I'd say go back to Rubin's original; he gives more specific numbers (though not at the end). Page 67, for example, when Phil is throwing his "birthday party" JOANNE asks him how old he is. He claims to be--and the implication is that this--minus his age, which in the original is younger than Bill Murray in the film--is how long he has been in the time loop--to be 263 years old. Phil in Rubin's original, is about 28 years old, by the way

(Consider this: Rubin calls Phil "a twenty-eight-year-old man mired in a life of shallow relationships and superficial aspirations was perfectly understandable to me as a similarly aged man when I wrote it" (Rubin, 2012, p. 74))

so that would mean he has been in the time loop for about 245 years when he celebrates his birthday. Of course, earlier in Rubin's script, Phil tells us in voiceover upon getting out of town to visit his mother: "Every visit to my mother was an exercise in aggravation. That hadn’t changed in three hundred years." 300 before 263 (245)... I don't think Phil can be trusted on numbers.

But, there is a bigger issue when it comes to the ten thousand year figure. Namely, if Phil has been stuck in the time loop for ten thousand years, he would have absolutely no useful knowledge or skill when it comes to living in real time. I've written before about how it would be difficult for Phil to return to normal life after the loop, and I wasn't even operating under the assumption of ten thousand years. And, what I said before was

I imagine Phil Connors will have some trouble getting on with regular life after the time loop. He’ll probably overthink everything. Or maybe, at least at first, he won’t think anything through at all. He’ll just act and hope for the best; hell he probably won’t even hope for the best, just that the best will become obvious as he goes. Think about it. He’s used to now being able to just do things, no consequences. He has to actually relearn the idea of consequences. He might quit his job. Let’s hope he’s got some money saved up. Or maybe he’ll keep that job and he’ll be the awesomely philosophical weatherman, and a network will notice him, and he’ll leave Pittsburgh for something bigger. And that will come between he and Rita, if they’re even still together. Though the film has a happy ending, I don’t see it as the “happily ever after” of a fairy tale. Phil and Rita will probably be fine for a while, but will it last? Is Rita really the right girl for Phil? Should Phil even be heading into a long-term relationship after the time loop? I mean, adjusting to regular life after that has got to be about as big an adjustment as coming off drug addiction. He shouldn’t be making any big life-changing decisions. But, he’s going to want to.

Separate from that romantic comedy/fairy tale ending, I question the idea that Phil getting out of the time loop after ten thousand years is even a happy ending just for him. His entire world would have just been yanked out from beneath him. Everything he knows--surely, he would have no memory anymore of life pre-loop, and really he only knows that life exists outside the loop because it exists maybe in some genetic memory, internal mythology within his mind. Think about how your life was going a year ago. Five years ago. Ten. Fifteen. If you're old enough, go for 20, 25, 50. Recall all the details of how your day-to-day life went. All the details.

Christ supposedly lived about two thousand years ago, yet we cannot prove conclusively that he even existed, let alone that he was who the Holy Bible says he was. And, we fight over what it really means if he did exist, how it affects our lives today. And, that is with a gap of only two thousand years. Go back further, Ancient Greece. We've still got some details of how they lived. Go back further, to cavemen. We've got some detail, but certainly not a perfect picture. Go back ten thousand years, and how much detail do we know? Maybe we've got facts, archaeological facts, but that sort of thing lacks the nuance of personal memory. I cannot imagine personal memory lasting that long. And, I really do not think Phil's memories of his pre-loop life would be still within him.

In fact, if we assume the ten thousand year figure is true, then maybe he isn't lying about Rita being his constant weapon against total despair; maybe he simply doesn't remember when he felt total despair. His yearning for Rita is a constant detail, a capital-T Truth, a driving philosophy or religion in the life of Phil Connors. He doesn't dream of escape. He truly dreams only of Rita, for what else is there?

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to remember everything, no matter how long it takes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

...again

There were 6 speech (and 2 debate) rounds today. I judged all 6. Mostly it was interpretation, but I also judge on round of impromptu. You may recall, if you've been following this blog long enough, that I've tied Groundhog Day to impromptu quotations before...

Here, here, here & here and here & here, and here & here.

Today's round was run differently than those previous ones--I won't bore you with the details, but it only had one quotation and competitors came in one at a time. So, this should be easy.

The quotation was:

"If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent could ever get done." - Ludwig Wittgenstein

First of all, it was sad how competitors butchered Wittgenstein's name. Second of all, the interpretation is simple--

But, I neglected to mention some recent... developments (though that seems like an inappropriate word for some of what I am about to mention) at the Groundhog Day Project.

1. As I mentioned yesterday, the iPod copy of Groundhog Day seems to have been inadvertently removed the last time I updated its contents. I will fix that when I am back home in a few days. Tonight I have borrowed the laptop of Diego, one of the students I brought to this tournament, so I have the movie playing as I am typing so I will not have to stay up as late as last night.

2. Frankie, a competitor from another school who I met at the tournament in Utah back in January--he was introduced to the Groundhog Day Project when I had the movie playing on my iPad as I was leaving the restroom--saw me today and asked if I was still at it, and what day was I on. I gave him one of my cards so he can check out the blog finally.

3. Actually, I'm not sure if there was a #3

4. Since Pablo wanted to get mentioned again, I should relate how the viewing of Groundhog Day went two days ago. On the flight from Dallas to Detroit, I got out my iPad to watch the movie and I mentioned to Pablo that I had an earphone splitter. So, he dropped what he was going to do to watch the movie. Turned out, though, that my splitter doesn't work too well, my earphones were broken, and so were his. So, first we had both of our earphones plugged in and we could barely hear anything from the movie. Then, I unplugged mine--I have the dialogue memorized anyway--and removed the splitter from the equation. But his earphones weren't working too well either. Subtitles were on, fortunately. And, I was reciting all the lines, mostly to myself. It was an interesting take on watching the movie. So often, I hear the movie more attentively than I see it because I'll be writing the day's blog entry. This time, it was all visuals--sort of Benesh-ish, I guess, since she watched it twice with the sound off in the process of coming to her list of notable visuals.

But anyway, the silly things quotation is almost too easy to apply to Groundhog Day, or vice versa. For Phil, it's literal. He does silly things before he can do intelligent things. He's got his adolescent/hedonist stage, with the robbery and the Phil Connoring of Nancy Taylor, the costumed date with Laraine. He's got his shallow, manipulative pursuit of Rita Hanson. And, only after that pursuit fails does he, arguably, give up the silly things. I say arguably because it might be fair to call his suicides "silly." Then comes the intelligent things, his reading, his pursuit of music, of helping people--his betterment of self.

And, I remembered what #3 should have been. We ate dinner at Applebee's last night. That isn't it; there's more. So, while we're looking over our menus, I overhear a waiter at the table next to ours say--and I only caught the tale end so I have no idea how it got to this: "...the Groundhog, but he hasn't seen his shadow yet." a) As I said, I don't know what brought that up. b) It's factually incorrect. Groundhog Day was 2 1/2 months ago and Punxsutawney Phil, Woodstock Willie and others did see their shadows...

Well, let's be honest, those groundhogs may have seen nothing at all. But their handlers claimed they saw their shadows. I mean, all those groundhogs except for Phil and Willie. Phil is immortal and does not lie. And Willie--he's the descendant of Scooter who was in Groundhog Day, he's a legacy groundhog. I think we can trust him.

5. I mentioned that Benesh messaged me back. I won't quote the messages (not without permission, and I haven't asked for that) but I will mention that she has read at least two of the latest entries dealing with her dissertation. I warned her that I was nitpicky, critical, argumentative and sometimes rude. She didn't seem to bothered by the first one she read, i.e. the last entry about her dissertation, but that one was particularly nice, I think. She should read the one about lines and spheres, maybe.

Is that one of my silly things or one of my intelligent things? Openly disputing what someone has written and then getting her attention, I mean.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: not to be horribly specific--to not have my feet hurt. Right now they do. Apparently, my boots are on their last legs and are not doing well for my feet with all the walking to and from rounds. So, if, say, today were to repeat, I would go buy some new shoes first thing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

optional death and dismemberment plan

Today's blog will necessarily be very short. Turns out there is no copy of Groundhog Day on my iPod anymore (gotta fix that when I get home). So, it is midnight already local time, though I don't know if I'm on local time just yet. And, I've got to write my blog and watch the movie, both on the iPad.

I don't know that I have much to say tonight anyway. I was given a question from my friend Pablo (who I've mentioned before) as prompts. I forget the exact phrasing, unfortunately--and he should be asleep--but it was about what happens after we die. In terms of Groundhog Day, it's hard to say there's a particular answer. We see Phil die, of course, and there is life after death, of course, but the circumstances are special. What's most important about what comes after death in the film is not what comes from Phil--for we don't really know that he has any special knowledge from having died--but from what comes of the death of others within the film. As I said, we see Phil die, and after his fourth death on screen, we get one of only two scenes in the film that do not include Phil Connors.

We see Larry and Rita in a morgue, or maybe a coroner's office, a mortician or coroner standing nearby. Phil is dead on the table, his body covered in a sheet. Rita identifies him simply; "That's him," she says. And, she turns to Larry, clearly bothered by death at worst, and specifically the death of Phil Connors at best. She met him yesterday--and it's probably still morning, and Phil probably skipped out on his report from Gobbler's Knob to go kill himself, so really the only time she has spent with him is that hour-and-a-half drive from Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney. On the one hand, this demonstrates to us that Rita is a caring individual. On the other hand, it demonstrates that even an ego-centric jerk can leave a mark and be mourned.

It's hard to argue, however, that Larry's line is sincere. "He was a really great guy," he says. "I really really liked him... a lot." It doesn't sound sincere, but even then he felt the need to say something. And, I'm sure he will miss trading jibes with Phil.

There is another death later in the film, one that repeats as Phil's does. O'Reilly, the Old Man--his death leaves a mark as well. It leaves a mark on Phil. And, it leaves a mark on us. For Phil, it is O'Reilly's death that finally--if he hasn't already learned this lesson--teaches him that he cannot control everything. No matter how much knowledge and skill he gains through the time loop, he cannot save this one man from his inevitable demise. There's a deleted scene in which Phil studies medical texts and looks at x-rays. And, he still cannot save the Old Man.

For us, the death of O'Reilly reminds us that death is supposed to be tragic, supposed to be sad. Phil's deaths were certainly a dark moment for the film, and for Phil, but they don't play as quite sad. But, O'Reilly's death plays as the low emotional point at the climax of the film.

Death is supposed to matter. We, watching the film, need to be reminded of that. And, Phil, stuck in a deathless loop, needs to be reminded as well.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to be reminded of death, sure, but also to take some days to avoid all death, all sadness, to steer clear of everything dark and experience, perhaps, pure joy.

what everybody wants

How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd

On a plane right now as I write this, Los Angeles to Dallas, then Dallas to Detroit. It occurs to me that flights are very repetitive. Details are different--a bigger plane might have personal TV screens in the backs of the seats, for example--but so much is the same. I wonder if businessmen and businesswomen, traveling regularly, lose track of time. Hell, I wonder if their bodies lose track of time, like they age differently because of all those travel miles, all that time spent at high altitude.

I made a new connection last night. In Groundhog Day, Phil wakes up every morning in dark blue pajamas. In another one of my favorite films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel Barish wears pajamas that are quite similar the night his memories are erased. The screenplay refers to them simply as "fresh pajamas" (Kaufman, 2004, p. 40). But, someone made the decision for them to be blue, for them to be that shade of blue. Or, if no one did, I will choose here to subscribe to something Benesh told me in one of her recent messages: "there are no accidents." She was referring the presence of the COPIES sign by Ned's Corner, but the point stands anyway.

Joel's pajamas are the color they are because Phil's are the color they are. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Joel's destiny (SPOILERS--and if you haven't seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, come on over sometime and watch it with me) to repeat his doomed relationship with Clementine is just like Phil is doomed to repeat his Groundhog Day.

And, it's like all of us doomed to repeat so many things in our lives, trivial and not so trivial. Each day begins much the same, middles much the same, and ends much the same. There are variations, just like Phil finds (and creates) variations in his day, but so much is just the same shit, different day. Gotta get up by 7, get to work by 8, eat breakfast, maybe stop for coffee, work work work, keep busy, busy, busy (as a Bokononist might say), get some lunch, work some more, then head home to the wife and kids, or the dog, or the empty apartment bereft of hope, the world forgetting, by the world forgot. Dinner with the family, dinner alone, a dinner date--variations on a theme. Rinse and repeat.

If you're lucky, all this resumption and repetition gets some momentum toward a pleasant end. And, I don't mean your death. I mean your life, fulfilled, fulfilling, meaningful more than wasted, so the monotonous moments blur more easily together to make way in your memory for the happy moments, the thrilling moments, time with those you care about, time with those who care about you. Time doing what you want to do more than what you have to do (or maybe finding something that happens to make those two things one and the same).

We don't all want career, love, marriage, children. We certainly don't all want them in that order (to be fair, Rita might not be listing those things by order of importance in that scene). But, there are fundamental truths in how she boils it down. We could all do with a career, or a pasttime, that makes us more whole, makes us feel like we're contributing something to the world around us. Even a guy who tries to tear down the world around him does it because he hopes the world that results after is something better than what he's seeing in the present... or I'd like to think so, anyway (and barring insanity, I suppose, but that just makes for a different way of seeing, not necessarily a different way of wanting). We all want to do things that we enjoy, or things we can put up with while we mark the moments between joys. We all want to be able to pass our time intrigued and interested in what surrounds us.

And, we want to share that with someone else as well. The human is a social animal, as clichéd as that might sound. Even in our most misanthropic moments, we surely long for someone as misanthropic as us to share it, to fuel our rants about what's wrong with everybody else, what's wrong with the world, how this thing or that thing is ruining it all. I heard recently--it might have been something Stephen Tobolowsky mentioned at the Festival of Books actually--that the reason a break up hurts is because while you are with someone, you become someone else, a new version of your self. There's some core being, sure, but your personality is shaped by those around you and the more someone is around you, a lover, a spouse, a best friend, family, the more that person shapes who you are, who you become, and the more you do the same for them. Charlie Kaufman notes (in the interview in the back of the published version of the screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), "Almost everything you see about Clementine [in the film] is Joel, really" (p. 135). That rings true to me. So much of who our lover is, who our kids are, who our friends are--it's just a facet of our self we project out into the world and they fill a niche within it. We create our impressions, and much of it is fueled more by our subjectivity than anything even remotely objective. "For the most part," Kaufman says, "you're constructing the person" (stress mine).

Phil, in a way, does just that, deliberately, in Groundhog Day. He also, obviously, does quite the opposite, deliberately reshaping his self to fit a mold he thinks Rita has for her perfect guy. The problem, really, is that no matter how much Rita can tell him (on purpose or in passing) about her perfect guy, maybe she doesn't really know who her perfect guy is. Maybe she just thinks she knows. And, Phil squeezing and stretching his self to fit into that role and her still rejecting him may be more of a critique of Rita's wants than Phil's actions.

It doesn't have to be marriage, though. I'm not sure I believe that we all have to have that kind of love, that we need a mate and a marriage (legally bound or just de facto). But, I do believe we all need and want some sort of love. We want to receive it, we want to give it, we want to make connections with the people around us, if for no other reason, just to prove we're human ourselves, that we belong somewhere. Whether we look to Maslow or Glasser, one of our basic drives seems to be a need for a sense of belonging.

But, what about the children thing? On the one hand it seems innate, the need to procreate. A species that doesn't have that need (or at least an urge to mate) wouldn't survive, so it's safe to say every species on this planet "wants" to procreate. I put wants in quotation marks, though, because I don't want to imply a conscious effort. Even with people, I don't know if it has to be a conscious effort. Hell, we can make a conscious effort not to have kids. But, in a way, having children is a little like the other wants Rita espouses; we want to know that it mattered that we existed when it comes time for us to shuffle off this mortal coil, to not be forgotten by the world. That's why mind-numbing jobs are so horrible; pushing papers as they say, never feels like something that matters. We want to matter. If we can't get a career that does something good for the world, then we can fall back to having kids and supporting them, raising them up to have a better chance than we did at finding that way to make a mark.

It doesn't have to be kids. It doesn't have to be marriage. It doesn't even have to be love necessarily (but something more like belonging). It certainly doesn't have to be a job. But, it has to be something. We need something. If we didn't need something, we would stagnate and die.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to give my wants a break for a while, see what happens. Then, to get what I want, everything I can think of wanting, try everything, do everything, and sort it all out for that perfect time loop exit day. Then to live.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

see where it leads me

Today had its moments, good and bad. I had no school today--good. I got caught up on some TV shows--good. I figured out I'd put Book of Mormon on my calendar incorrectly, so our tickets were not good for tonight's show as I thought--bad. I worked on a LEGO project--good. Headed out for dinner with two of my kids--good--but got a flat tire (a nail in it)--bad. Hung out with the kids a bit, played some rounds of Draw Something--good. Watched some good new TV tonight (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fargo)--good. And, as soon as the premiere of Fargo is over, I will finally get to Groundhog Day. Tomorrow, flying out of town with six undergrads to Michigan for a national speech tournament, will be there for nearly a whole week. I'll miss my kids--bad. But it should be fun, and productive even if we don't bring home any awards--good.

The cool thing, in regards to this blog, right now there is no set agenda. I've got a folder full of articles connected to Groundhog Day to read, but no planned topics. I met the deadlines I set a few days ago, finishing up my critique/deconstruction of Benesh's dissertation and my viewing of/commentary on Day Break. Maybe I'll sample some episodes of Tru Calling while I'm away. Maybe I'll watch some of those TV Time Loop Day episodes again. Maybe I will simply do as Rita (claims she) does: "go with the flow, see what happens."

Eight-and-a-half months I've been doing this. That's the second [correction: third] longest relationship I've had. The idea of what I just typed makes me smile and makes me wonder again just how crazy I must be to have undertaken this sort of thing in the first place. But, I suppose all the best ideas were crazy when they first showed themselves. I'm reminded of a line from Siddhartha--"Was it not a comedy, a strange and stupid thing, this repetition, this course of events in a fateful circle?"

Phil's making fun of Rita in the newsvan right now. She seems pleasantly amused more than at all offended. As Fink from Meatballs would say, "she wants it." It's obvious.

Really, though, I had a thought recently about why Rita would get together with Phil on that last day of the time loop. Recall the earlier scene in which Phil asks her, "Rita, if you only had one day to live, what would you do with it?" Told the whole world is about to explode (hypothetically), she "just want[s] to know where to put the camera." She can't ignore a good story. And, she can't ignore a good mystery either. Phil Connors on that last day of the time loop--he's both. And, the only way Rita can hope to figure him out is to stay close to him, dance with him, buy him off that auction block, and even go back with him to his room at the Cherry Street Inn.

I've written before about Rita's perspective on the events in the film, even cut down a short film version of Rita's Groundhog Day. While we watch the film, we accept Rita and Phil ending up together because we've seen Phil change; we trust that it is genuine. But, really, Rita should not so readily accept that Phil has changed. She shouldn't trust it. And, maybe she doesn't. Maybe she just sees the story, the mystery, and she wants to figure him out. Writing about this before, I called him "an enigma worth her time." This version of events even fits with why Rita would be surprised that Phil didn't try to get her into bed but instead went to sleep. She's trying to figure out what makes him tick, and not seducing her, or at least trying to seduce her--that does not fit the Phil Connors she's heard about back at the station. Remember, in Ramis' second revision of the screenplay, Rita knows all about Phil. She says, "You know, Phil, you can charm all the little P.A.'s at the station, all the secretaries, and even some of the weekend anchors, but not me--not in a thousand years" (Ramis, 1992, 7 January, p. 40). This new Phil and the one with whom she rode to Punxstutawney--she can see they are not really the same guy, and that intrigues her.

This film, then, is not a romantic comedy at all.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to figure things out as I go. Plans come from having limited time, I think. If I have forever, then I really will just go with the flow.

Monday, April 14, 2014

single premium life

Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times, 2 February 2013, opens with an interesting tidbit about Stephen Tobolowsky and Groundhog Day; when he first read the script, he thought it "just another comedy, nothing special." He says it changed into "one of the greatest comedies ever created" as they were filming it.

On the one hand, I do agree that it became that. But, I wonder when and where it became that.

Tobolowsky told Macdonald that Ramis shot the scene in which Phil Connors

"shaves his head into a mohawk, takes spray paint and paints graffiti all over the inside of his room, then he takes a chain saw and starts sawing the room in half." It was an expensive scene, and Ramis, after consideration, quickly cut it. He replaced it with a much quieter, simpler moment: [Connors], going to bed terrified, breaks a pencil in half and puts it on his radio. When he said, the audience gasped at that moment, "We expect a crazy Bill Murray movie... and [Ramis] replaced it with visual poetry."

Tobolowsky elaborates for Slate, 25 February 2014:

If you know anything about filmmaking, you know how difficult and expensive that scene was to shoot. It took three days. Everything that was destroyed had to be rebuilt. Paint had to be cleaned off the walls. The set had to be restored for different camera shots. Bill's mohawk toupee cost thousands to make. Not to mention it was near the beginning of shooting, when everything a director does is scrutinized by the studios.

Harold shot the scene, looked at it, and threw it away.

He replaced it with simplicity itself. Bill is about to go to sleep. He breaks a pencil and puts the two pieces on his nightstand. Cut to: Sonny and Cher on the radio. Bill wakes up. The pencil is whole.

When I saw this in a theater filled with real people, the audience gasped. Harold understood the power of poetry and had the courage to tell the story his way.

He's saying this of the director who gave us the poop in the pool bit in Caddyshack, of course... and I feel a little bad for saying that, because I like Ramis, I like his films, and I like Stephen Tobolowsky. I don't think that I think of any bit of them, even Groundhog Day as poetry, though.

Ned Ryerson is on the screen for the second time right now. He grabs Phil's shoulder like they are the best of friends, which I don't get the impression they even were back at Case Western High School. And, he doesn't blink. I've never accused him of being a robot though (unlike Rita). Ned has very little material to work with, or rather Stephen Tobolowsky has very little material to work with here, a few versions of the same scene mostly, but he gives life to a guy who seems at once a force of nature and a lonely misanthrope who in his own way is isolated from the world around him--though he lays claim to having insurance salesmen friends--as much as Phil Connors is.

Third time now--that one is brief. I just turned the director's commentary on, because I want to check something. And, Ramis points out, sarcastically of course, the subtlety of having stopped clocks on the wall in the Tip Top Cafe. Ramis is not known for his subtlety.

The thing I was checking--there are things about this movie I still don't know exactly. Though I have listened to the commentary twice, somehow I missed that Ramis says they did film that bit with Phil destroying the room. I'd gotten the impression before that this was a sequence cut before they even filmed it because it would be expensive. Tobolowsky's story, in two places here, was ringing false to me...

Well, not false, exactly. Factually incorrect. Even if the sequence (or "device" as Ramis calls it in the commentary) was not filmed, that doesn't necessarily make Tobolowsky's story untrue. One of the questions someone asked Tobolowsky at his Festival of Books appearance yesterday was about the detail in his stories, whether he's just always "journaled" and that is how he can recall such detail. Tobolowsky said he didn't journal exactly but that he did always take notes on stuff in his life since he was a kid. He also mentioned that he read a study that said something to the effect that adults who don't recollect much of their childhood probably suffered from some depression and (one of the reasons) they might remember a lot is that they were terrorized--he figures he was terrorized. I suppose I was somewhat as well...

By a cult-ish church telling me the end of the world was coming, by the Cold War telling me nuclear war was imminent, by one of my older sisters occasionally scaring me by, for example, telling me one time our parents who were out were not going to make it home because they were dead. I can't remember if her telling me an earthquake was coming was the same occasion and that was what would kill them or if I am conflating two events. Memory is interesting. And, storytelling like Tobolowsky's--so detailed as to obviously include some invention but so true nonetheless--it fascinates me. I'd like to tell the odd story about seemingly innocuous events in my life to get at some nugget of universal truth. But, so many stories seem to miss that nugget when I think of them, or they are so brief and self-contained as to seem not worth sharing.

Tobolowsky, on the other hand, can make the story of how he inadvertently adopted a stray dog--the story he read yesterday--into an enlightening and hilarious snapshot of something... universal is not the word I want, but it approximates what I want to say. He tells a story so that you want every detail, even specific bits of dialogue--most definitely an invention no matter how factual the tale--to be absolutely true. And, even if the story itself seems simple, shallow, you get a greater depth out of it. I recently wrote about new people coming into our lives and his story made me think of that again. For him--in this case--it was a dog, but you get a sense from the story of how one thing can change the structure of one's life. I wrote in recent... months (I guess) about having a crush on a fellow grad student. But, let's jump into the way-back machine and go a little further. I'm in my 20s, I like this girl, Marie, who works at a Johnny Rockets in Old Town Pasadena, so I find an excuse to go there regularly. I like seeing movies anyway, but that particular summer I saw every single movie that played at the two theaters within a block of that restaurant, a few of them more than once. I made walking across town into my exercise for the time. I altered my daily routine to see more of her. It's the kind of thing I'd like to tell a story about. But then, I get bogged down in details that distract from the point, if I even understand the point.

Phil walks past ice sculptures and, oddly, I am reminded of one day in particular walking across town.

I had just tried to cut my own hair (something I had managed successfully a few times before and many time since) but a mishap with the little plastic length guide thingy on the clippers had me accidentally cutting my hair far shorter than intended in one spot--maybe talk of Phil Connors shaving his head sewed the seed for this memory returning just now. Of course, I had to cut the rest to match, so I had a buzzcut that was the shortest you can do with the clippers. And, I walked to Old Town that day wearing cargo pants--I believe they were dark grey--a tank top, and sandals. I remember the sandals because I didn't often wear them when I knew I'd be walking far. I had a bracelet on as well, chain links, and I had the passing thought that I might resemble some skinhead if not for the shoes, angry at the world when I was probably in a great mood. I had just been writing before leaving home. It was my usual practice that summer to write for an hour or two after I got home from work. I was working a temporary office job that would end up lasting for nine months and I would be asked to leave by a new supervisor who didn't like that I decorated the carpeted wall of my cubicle with chains of staples I had removed from the reports I had to sort as one of my daily tasks. I worked from 7 to 3:30 with a half hour for lunch. I was home by 4 and then I would sit down to write. I was working at the time on a novel called DemonAngel: Crossing Rubicon, the second in a series. The main character, Rachel Doyle, also had a tendency to walk around her town a lot, but she was not out there looking for guys (though she did often find them); she was looking to avoid the everyday existence--

(Kinda like Phil Connors, actually.)

She was HIV positive, her brother had been abducted at a young age by a secret government cabal intent on harnessing his supernatural abilities, but she didn't know that yet. A different waitress than the one I liked may have had a thing for me, but I didn't know that yet. I was probably seeing American Pie that day; it was one of the movies I saw more than once, so I am just playing the odds here. I stopped at Target to buy a CD... I don't remember what it was but I remember that it fit snuggly in my pants pocket as I walked.

Marie, it turned out, was not working that day. Another girl with whom I was friendly, Ariel, was. I ordered some fries and a chocolate coke--they weren't supposed to add the extra flavor to any refill but Marie normally would add vanilla or cherry or chocolate to any of my refills. Ariel did not. The place was empty and Ariel and I ended up talking a bit and there was a lot of laughing, but I cannot remember much detail but for the children's menu we were both taking turns coloring. I don't think she said anything about my missing hair.

Phil's doing the speech now, the one in bed with Rita asleep before him. Since that bit starting having some feeling for me again, it hasn't gone away. I wish I not only could say such things to someone but that I would mean it. And, back in the summer of 1999, I probably wanted much the same. I had a tendency to want the girl I couldn't have and not notice the girl who wanted me. Back in college--the first time--I had a thing for a girl in my Spanish class and one day a different girl in that same class said something, and I wish I could remember exactly what it was, about going to her dorm room. I realized only later, because I was a moron, she was asking me out. There is so much of my life since then that I would never want to lose, and I believe in a sort of butterfly effect kind of life experience, that one moment goes a different way and my whole life from then until now changes, maybe I don't have my kids today, maybe I'm not back in school working to be a teacher, maybe I'm not even doing this blog. But, there have been times where I wished I had not been such an oblivious idiot that day in the hallway. My 20s would have been a very different time, but then maybe I would never have tried writing regularly--even if that didn't pan out into a career, I think my novels and my short stories and my screenplays are a huge part of who I am. They've helped me exorcise personal demons, dispel unreached dreams, and deal with a lot of my, for lack of a better word, fundamental understanding of the universe and my place in it. This blog does the same a lot of the time. I mean, I think now about Ariel and Marie and Jonna (the college girl) and I think of alternate universes in which things were different. I wonder if that other me has kids, if they are anything like the ones I have in this universe.

I don't believe in alternate universes of course, but as Jan Harold Brunvand likes to say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And, alternatively, as I said above in regards to Stephen Tobolowsky's storytelling, never let invented details get in the way of the truth. A story's truth is not dependent on facts. The two things are close in definition but far far apart in actual practice. When I was reading Tobolowsky's recounting of that scene of destruction, and thinking it wasn't actually filmed, his conclusion still rang true, to an extent. I mean, to be fair, in the commentary, Ramis implies that the reason they didn't use the footage was because they couldn't match up the shot of the destroyed room to the intact room for the transition into the next day, a practical reason, not necessarily because he thought the scene didn't work. Still Ramis, Tobolowsky, and I all think the pencil breaking scene that replaced it was a far better choice.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to find a pencil worth breaking (even if that metaphor seems meaningless).