Saturday, May 31, 2014

what high school did you go to?

Two things: I just watched a short film Pablo (speech team member) posted to me on Facebook a couple days ago. And, I've been prompted with another sort of oddball topic from my daughter Saer.

First, the short film--The Other Side of Yesterday is a fairly simple thing, less than 10 minutes long, only two actors wandering around LACMA and talking. See, the woman, Iris--and I'll try not to be too SPOILERY--is stuck in yesterday, a trip to the museum she was supposed to take with her family but they were killed. Keller, who seems like he's her subconscious (or possibly some Adjustment Bureau-type agent if we take the film literally), convinces her that living in the past isn't a good idea. Simple enough idea, so-so acting, some great visuals but those mostly come from the art and architecture in the museum. The dialogue's a bit cheesy, but sometimes that works just fine like this bit from the end:

One truth remains constant: what's to come tomorrow, what's left behind in yesterday, is all determined by what we do today.

Cheesy, simplistic, but true.

Second--my daughter asked me what the backstories were for our Groundhog Day characters. She specified, in high school.

I recently suggested Phil might have been on the debate team at Case Western High in Cleveland--

I imagine Phil Connors may have participated in speech and debate when he was in college, or back at Case Western High... or maybe he would have thought it too nerdy... and yet he went into meteorology and/or some sort of media work in order to end up at Channel 9 Pittsburgh. His sarcasm probably would have made him the kind of debater I was, sometimes a smartass when something more level-headed was necessary.

--but I'm not sure he would have been that great a competitor; I have a feeling he wouldn't have put in the work necessary to excel. I wonder if he did a lot of drugs. Nothing too heavy, maybe some pot. It was the 60s, after all. And, some drug use might explain why he wouldn't remember the Ryerson twins, especially when one of them went out with Phil's sister, Mary Pat.


(That's Stevie Ray Vaughn in the middle, with the guitar.)

That tall skinny guy on the right in that photo is Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson) in high school. Here's a better look at what he looked like with hair (though this is later than high school, I'm pretty sure):

As skinny as he was, I wonder how good he could have been at the whistling belly button trick.

Anyway, Phil Connors--

--if he went to "Case Western High" he probably actually got good grades. Near as I can tell, the only thing resembling a high school that Case Western Reserve University had in the 60s was a pre-scholars program. There seems to be a Case Western Reserve High School in the present, but a Google search is weirdly uninformative about it. Anyway, Phil was probably good student but also something of a class clown. Like Fritz Coleman (real life Weather Reporter (without a degree in meteorology, mind you) from Pittsburgh but making it big in Los Angeles), he probably tried his hand at being a comedian before landing his gig as a Weather Reporter. And, maybe that started in Cleveland before he headed over to Pittsburgh. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. In high school, I'm sure he was popular enough. He wasn't a jock, but as nerdy as some of his proclivities might have been, he probably made light of them and would amuse anyone and everyone with a joke or a well-placed insult. And, he probably charmed at least a few girls in his high school days; I don't imagine he had a steady girlfriend, if he had any real girlfriend, but it was the 60s, so he probably wasn't a sad, virginal, lonely nerd like we might portray such a character if he were in high school today.

Rita Hanson--

--she was studious, I'm sure. She never tried drugs, and made sure everyone knew that. And, considering her family has a summer home on a lake--presumably in the Carolinas (just like Andie MacDowell's real life family had one in North Carolina), they were probably well-to-do. Having money and being pretty, she could have been resented, but she was quiet in the halls and kind to everyone when given the chance. She studied hard and always turned her homework in on time. Inspired by another Rita, Rita Moreno, maybe she liked to go out for school musicals (the lead of course, though she would be perfectly happy with a supporting role). She didn't have time for boys; sixties America, with the woman's liberation movement going on, Rita probably liked to think of herself as a liberated young woman. In college, she avoided a lot of the more radical elements, and in the 70s, when her friends were getting more free, she turned a little more conservative. In the 80s, she produced some local theater and eventually got a job at a local station in South Carolina, but that was not fulfilling. When she got a chance at a producer job in a bigger market like Pittsburgh, she leapt at the chance.

Larry--

(I couldn't find a high school photo of Chris Elliott, unfortunately.)

--he was like Phil Connors minus the charm, just like on their trip to Punxsutawney. If his high school had an AV Squad, he was on it. I imagine him a bit like Paul Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years, actually. You can see why his few friends would like him, but he's just a little too weird and nerdy for most to pay him any mind. Unlike Phil, Larry probably got pushed around by the more popular kids, the jocks and whatnot. He probably kept to himself more than anything, spending a lot of time reading Marvel Comics in his bedroom. He especially would have liked Spider-Man because he was a teenager like him, but with superpowers. He wouldn't have cared for the X-Men much, though, because they were too much outsiders like he was. Larry and his small circle of friends probably made little films that no one wanted to watch except maybe their parents. It's set at the end of the 70s, but I figure Larry is like the kid in Super 8 in that regard, but without the excitement of real aliens or a chance with his lead actress.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to invent background stories for every fictional character. Seriously, every.

Friday, May 30, 2014

you never talk about work

There’s a new arrival on my shelf. That Beanie Baby Punxsutawney Phil on the lower shelf (in the photo below) was a gift from the speech team for which I am one of the coaches. It was supposed to be part of my gift basket thing at last week’s banquet but hadn’t arrived in the mail in time. I got it yesterday before class.

And, since I was asked yesterday by Tracey (next year’s Vice President of our speech team) what stuff I’ve got on my Groundhog Day Project shelf (after I mentioned that this guy would end up there), I will explain what’s in the photo.

Top shelf has Paul Hannam’s The Magic of Groundhog Day (which I just realized I may have called The Groundhog Day Effect in a recent blog—

which I cannot seem to locate, so maybe I’m imagining it

—or maybe I was referring to the concept and not the title, in which case all is well), Ryan Gilbey’s BFI critique of Groundhog Day, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and Thomas Moore’s Utopia for the books. In front of them is a Woodstock Willie cookie I got while I was in Woodstock. This was my “prize” for getting the opening trivia question right in the trivia contest. I had already bought and eaten one of these the day before so I kept this one as a souvenir.

Next to the books are three issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine—each one has a Richard Lupoff story in it (12:01 P.M., 12:02 P.M. and 12:03 P.M.). Then come the DVDs—Day Break, È già ieri and Groundhog Day (which has a DVD (case only because the disc pretty much stays in the player) and two blu-ray copies (one laser burned, one not)).

The Punxsutawney Inn t-shirt was a birthday gift from the speech team back in January. The mini-poster I got at the symposium in Woodstock (Danny Rubin signed it). The glass and the large groundhog were souvenirs I bought in Woodstock, and inside the glass are two bits of stone from the quarry where Phil drives off the cliff to his death—I did not acquire these myself as a) I did not have time to drive out to the quarry because it was some distance west of Woodstock and b) I think the quarry, as it appears in the film, just doesn’t exist anymore; I believe there’s a manmade lake there now (presumably not as deep as that quarry was). The smaller Punxsutawn-e Phil Beanie Baby was a Connersmas present from my daughter Saer (who has several times prompted topics for this blog).

The blue folder to the right of the stuffed groundhogs is like a scrapbook of my trip to Woodstock; it’s got ticket stubs, receipts, brochures, my walking tour and screening notes (written on the backs of Groundhog Day Project postcards because that was the only paper I had), sheet music, a groundhog mask, schedules, raffle tickets (I did not win), my bowling score sheet and probably several things I don’t remember; I haven’t looked in there in a while.

Bottom shelf starts with my Christ-Figure binder, containing hardcopies of my sources for my Christ-Figure paper. Then are the four (so far) Groundhog Day Project binders. First one has some of the stuff I cite often like Daughton or Bacha or Foley. The second one, among other things, my hardcopy of Benesh and my hardcopy of Ramis’ second revision of the screenplay. Third binder has, among its contents, a lot of my sources when I was writing about Ramis after his death. Fourth binder has more recent stuff. It isn’t full yet. There is also a manila folder with sources I have read but not referenced yet, but it isn’t on either of the shelves. Sometimes it’s in my bag, sometimes it’s on or in the storage bench under our stairs (closer to where I generally write these blog entries than the bookshelf).

You can’t really see him, but my Phil Connors doll is just to the right of the binders, behind that glass jar. That glass jar has nothing to do with Groundhog Day but with change in it it’s heavy enough to keep the binders from falling. That jar actually came with candy in it and it was a graduation gift way back when I graduated high school... in 1993, so I guess it connects to Groundhog Day in that 1993 is the year the movie was released in theaters as well as the year I was released into the wild, so to speak.

My new arrival, a 2004 Punxsutawney Phil Beanie Baby, sits on my other copy of the second revision of the script—I really wish I could get my hands on the first revision or the shooting script—signed by Bill Murray and Chris Elliott when I got it and now also signed by Stephen Tobolowsky. By the way, I just checked to see if the poem inside this Phil’s tag was different from the other one. It is. It goes like this:

February 2nd has been decreed
A special day, special indeed
When I predict just once a year
If winter stays or spring is near!

I kind of wish that Danny Rubin’s How to Write Groundhog Day were available not as an e-book so I could have it on the shelf, but oh well.

Anyway, that is the current state of my Groundhog Day Project shelves.

It occurs to me that I was also asked yesterday—by Jackie (another speech team member)—why I wasn’t a poet. She was looking through my composition book that has some of my poetry in it—I mentioned yesterday that there was an open mic on campus and I read one of my poems; well, I had my book out trying to figure out what I was going to read. She and Tracey both read some of my poems and liked them. Had I known the open mic was only going to last an hour and I would only get on stage once, there would have been no question what poem I would read—The Ballad of Phil Connors—but, alas, I did not know, and I was saving that one for my second go on stage to namecheck my blog as intro and celebrate Day 300 with a public performance. I guess I will save that for the Day 365 party... and I just realized that will be a Friday night. Anyway, my answer to Jackie’s question was a simple one—and I imagine my future self, if my thesis goes according to the current prospectus (a draft of which was completed today) waiting with bated breath... actually, considering the mention of the speech team, this would already get coded for personal information. But, it’s about to earn itself a special place in the second coding pass. My answer was, I generally write poetry when I’m in a bad mood. Lately, I have been more happy so lately I don’t write poetry. I think, unfortunately, there’s a similar thing in place in regards to me writing fiction. My earliest completed novels were written when I was in my 20s and lonely. My most recent completed fiction (masks, feelings, maurice the turtle who wanted to be human, an offer of violence) was written after my wife and I separated. This blog started when divorce was on the table and I was living alone. But, this blog, and moving back in with my kids, and being a coach and a teacher and a grad student—these things have made my life better. So, while I can still write an academic paper readily enough and can manage this blog every day, I haven’t really written any fiction or poetry in quite a while.

It’s weird but I can actually cheat a little on my future writing by saying just the right thing in the blog. I almost wish I had come up with this particular thesis concept after the blog was complete because I don’t want to cheat. If this topic happens, I will just have to acknowledge that extra bit of weirdness and quote myself about cheating so as to be open and forthcoming

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to come up with new ideas for longform blogs I can use to aid in sensemaking and recreating my place in the world.

Quote that, future me. I dare you. But include this line as well; it’s only fair.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

round and round and round we go

It’s Day 300 so I should be doing something big… but I got nothing, and though my grad class tonight was canceled, I still had some stuff to do—open mic on the stage outside the Student Union on campus (I read a poem of mine) and dinner with 3 members of the speech team who also attended. Fortunately, since 300 is also divisible by 60, it’s time for another Groundhog Day Project recap. Previous recaps can be reached by clicking on the following links:

Day 62: for your information
Day 121: how else could you know so much?
Day 180: it would be great to stay for some of the other events
Day 240 – it’s your choice. so what’s it gonna be?

Day 241 – too early for flapjacks tells of the time I almost broke the rules of the Groundhog Day Project and doesn’t talk about Benesh (2011) for like eight paragraphs.

Day 242 – like a jerk again deals with Benesh, Hannam (The Groundhog Day Effect and whether or not Phil is trying to become Rita.

Day 243 – put some cherry syrup on the top deals with the mathematics of snowman lovin’ …sort of. It’s about potential meaning behind the snowmen, the ice angel, and the snow Rita, by way of Benesh.

Day 244 – a nice story deals with future plans, experiential liminality, Donnie Darko and bardo worlds.

Day 245 – he sees his shadow starts my re-viewing of Day Break with a little mention of the young adult novel 11 Birthdays.

Day 246 – and a donut continues on with episode two of Day Break and a bit on Benesh’s take on Phil wanting to eat the groundhog (i.e the digestion metaphor).

Day 247 – i’ve seen larry eat combines episode three of Day Break with Benesh’s take on the respiration metaphor.

Day 248 – i played the game involves an episode of Day Break and “game of groundhogs”—a mix of Groundhog Day and Game of Thrones.

Day 249 – it’s still just once a year suggests Groundhog Day is set in 1991, not 1993.

Day 250 – partying all night is very brief because my internet was having problems but I do link to the TV Tropes page on Groundhog Day.

Day 251 – let’s take a look at the five-day involves recap of stuff done for the blog so far and some plans I’ve still got for it in the future. It also shares the tale of how this Phil Connors doll came to be:

Day 252 – it just depends on how you look at it finishes up with Benesh.

With Benesh behind me, Day 253 – tomorrow you will have forgotten all about this details four episodes of Day Break and something about titles. And, Day 254 – is this what you do with eternity? involves three more episodes of Day Break.

Day 255 – catch a break deals with the last two episodes of Day Break and me getting to meet Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson). Day 256 – single premium life segues from a Stephen Tobolowsky story about Groundhog Day into a personal story from my 20s.

Day 257 – see where it leads me suggests that not having an agenda for upcoming blog entries is nice and Groundhog Day is not a romantic comedy after all.

Day 258 – what everybody wants is a nice little piece about, well, what we want out of life. It also connects Groundhog Day to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Day 259 – optional death and dismemberment plan is, fairly simply, about death. Hadn’t talked about it for a while.

Day 260 - …again doesn’t deal with an impromptu speech quotation but rather recounts watching Groundhog Day on a plane without any sound… the plane had sound but the movie didn’t. Well, it had sound. I just couldn’t hear it.

Day 261 – a dream of spring comes back to the day count for Phil’s time loop and discusses again whether or not Phil dreams.

Day 262 – i could have done it with my eyes closed involves watching the movie while dozing off. Also, there might be a way to “learn” the piano even faster than Phil did.

Day 263 – travel later today involves flight paths and me figuring out over which states I have watched Groundhog Day.

Day 264 – do you have insurance deals with some class issues.

Day 265 – a really good producer involves adverbs. Seriously, adverbs.

Day 266 – that glass is half empty broaches the subject of divorce but really is about how my life seems to be making more sense lately than it has in a while. Note to my future self: you might want to cite that entry in your thesis. Then comes Day 267 – that glass is half empty which tells of Harold Ramis’ divorce, Bill Murray’s divorce, and gets into some of my personal thoughts about my own. I expected it to be a depressing entry as I got into it, but I think this one and the one before it were cathartic rather than depressing.

Day 268 – wracking my brain is just a watch-the-movie-day entry, barely about anything… just like life.

Day 269 – what’s wrong deals with the basic idea of wrong and whether or not there is such a thing as bad person.

Day 270 – your english teacher involves Richard Lupoff’s short story 12:02 P.M., which is okay. And, Day 271 – maybe the real god uses tricks involves his 12:03 P.M., which is decidedly not, before arguing that Phil Connors is heroic.

Day 272 – english class details an English professor who uses Groundhog Day in his classes.

Day 273 – someone like you is a light little entry that my future self might like (hint hint).

Day 274 – know all about you is me being nitpicky about someone else’s writing about Groundhog Day. Go figure.

Day 275 – it doesn’t make any difference involves a piano cheering me up and the revelation that dead Phil occupied the same bed as dead O’Reilly—trust me, that means something.

(And, no, it doesn’t just mean they only had a limited space available that resembled a medical facility (or was a medical facility; I can’t remember where they filmed that bit) so of course it would be the same place. I’m talking about poetic echoes in the reality of the film.)

Day 276 – i sure as heck-fi remember you involves Scrooged and the mapping of the Christmas Carol ghosts onto Groundhog Day.

Day 277 – that will be one adult and… starts with the limited homeless population and gets sidetracked in a lot of math about how many available women might have been in Punxsutawney. This thread continues through Day 278 – two adults, i guess into Day 279 – who brought the old man in.

All that segues into Day 280 – so much about Punxsutawney which really talks about the visual grammar of film, particularly the 180 degree rule.

Day 281 – lots of kids is me answering my daughter’s challenge to map the characters from Peanuts onto those in Groundhog Day.

Day 282 – ned the head is when I finally watched the movie with the pop-up Ned Ryerson turned on.

In Day 283 – yo, mama, I share a scene from Rubin’s original script involving Phil’s mother and ends with some cheesy bit about how we all need someone to care for us.

Day 284 - …is ever going to end deals with bookmarks and folders and all the stuff I’ve found in regards to Groundhog Day.

Day 285 – why’d you make up something like this starts with what is probably best terms a lost tale from the Groundhog Day Project involving morality and modernity and how we’re all much more alike than we are different.

Day 286 – to the little lady starts into my multi-day dealing with sexism in Groundhog Day. This continues through Day 287 – jim beam, ice, water and Day 288 – fix your bra, honey, which gets sidetracked in slasher films, into Day 289 – I think you need help, which involves Rambo, heteronormativity, sexism and traditional gender roles.

Day 290 – sex and violence is like an afterthought to all that stuff about sexism and gender.

Day 291 – drunk’s more fun involves medication and seeing movies a lot of times (not just Groundhog Day).

Day 292 – can you keep a secret is my weird way of using details in Groundhog Day to prove that Harold Ramis directed The Shining.

Day 293 – what’s your name? goes from Phil’s immediate response to the time loop to the names of supporting characters. And, Day 294 – like the groundhog, phil gets into why Phil’s name means something besides just him sharing it with the groundhog.

Day 295 – I’m happy now involves a speech team banquet, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and being happy.

Day 296 – really close on this one is about the onscreen chemistry between Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray, Rita Hanson and Phil Connors.

Day 297 – you’re a sucker for french poetry and… involves movies from 1984 then gets sidetracked by the confusing layout of Phil’s room at the Cherry Street Inn. Day 298 – a very nice bed-and-breakfast provides a whole lot of screencaps to understand that layout in detail. And, Day 299 – abnormal psychology goes from that to why I obsess about things.

Finally, Day 300 – round and round and round we go recaps the last 60 entries in The Groundhog Day Project.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to do, well, whatever comes up, but then to name that particular iteration of the time loop after a line from a movie… and memorize all those names—my version of Phil’s book calendar from Rubin’s original script.

P.S. The Groundhog Day Project has a Twitter and a Facebook page. Follow and like them respectively and help spread the word.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

abnormal psychology

(Note to my future self: do not cite this entry if you end up doing your thesis on the currently being proposed topic; that would be cheating.)

First, let's get this out of the way. Yesterday as Groundhog Day played on my iPad, I was running the movie on the computer as well, skipping around to grab screencaps of the interiors of the Cherry Street Inn.

Obviously, that is not the interior. That is the exterior as shot in Woodstock. The interiors, as I mentioned the other day, were in a warehouse in Cary, IL.

This is the side of the building (from Google Street View):

So, here's the thing I need to get out of the way: Phil's room is designed in such a way that it could not possibly be in this building as it actually exists. Here's my diagram again:

The stairs go down to the left there, which would be west since the three windows at the bottom of that diagram look south. Now, if Phil's room was where it should be, at the top right of the Cherry Street Inn as the exterior exists (i.e. the southeast corner of the third floor--

except, that is not quite right, since Phil's room has windows on three sides, the south, the west and the north, Phil's room has to be the entire floor

--those stairs would be heading out of the western side of the building, or they would have to have a very tight spiral, which doesn't match the straight railing or the bottom of the those stairs that we see when Phil meets Chubby Man. If--and that's a big if--those stairs do spiral tightly down, then they would come down in the right place to meet the landing so that Phil can turn down to the central hallway on the first floor.

But--and that's a big but--I don't think those stairs are supposed to be spiral at all. So, the stairs don't work. If Phil's room--nevermind the windows on the other two walls or that little half bath that can't be there--were where it is supposed to be on the "southeast" corner of the third floor, then his stairs would come down into the hallway on the second floor heading west, and he would continue down the next stairs also to the west, then turn north toward the front entrance which is on the south side of the building.

I think I have figured out what happened in regards to why Phil's room doesn't work--whoever designed the interior somehow got his or her hands on a shot like this:

That's the exterior, but reversed. This would make it possible for Phil's room to have windows on the south side (that trio of windows), the west side (the window where he keeps his Rocky Road), and on the north side. And, it would explain why there are no windows on the east side of Phil's room, because presumably there is another room on the other side of that wall. Bonus: the POV shot of the street through Phil's window would now be at the correct angle as well.

Phil's stairs would only work with this setup if they had a tight spiral, which they do not seem to have.

But, all of that is not even my point today. I got to thinking today about why I obsess about details like this. I mean, on the one hand, taking this blog as a given, I kind of have to obsess about the most minute of details now and then in order to have something to talk about. On the other hand, can I really take this blog as a given if I'm questioning why I obsess about things?

A better question would be, why did I start this blog in the first place? What kind of a person am I that doing this for a year seemed like a reasonable thing to do?

In High School, my Meyers-Briggs results were INTP

(Nowadays, when I take the test, I tend to get INTJ. Also, recall, I took the test on Phil's behalf (twice) a while back.)

and the profile my teacher gave me--which I think I still have in a box in my closet--included this story about an INTP that got interested in some new topic, proceeded to cut out every news article he could find on that topic, studied all the details, learned everything he could, then got bored and moved on to something new.

Kind of like John Laroche (Chris Cooper) in one of my favorite movies, Adaptation.:

John Laroche: Then one morning, I woke up and said, Fuck fish. I renounce fish, I will never set foot in that ocean again. That's how much fuck fish. That was 17 years ago and I have never stuck so much as a toe in that ocean. And I love the ocean.
Susan Orlean: But why?
John Laroche: Done with fish.

I don't leave anything completely behind, though. I still toy with going back to my fictional town in the middle of the California Coast where I set several novels and numerous short stories, for example. But, lately, I have not had time for writing fiction. From time to time, I toy with trying to finish the comic book I started back in 2001--48 issues were outlined, 18 scripted, 2 drawn. But, I don't have time for that either.

(Sidenote: the INTP label, according to this profile, should have made me bored by the Groundhog Day Project long ago...

The INTP is above all a thinker and his inner (private) world is a place governed by a strong sense of logical structure. Every experience is to be rigorously analysed, the task of the INTP's mind is to fit each encountered idea or experience into a larger structure defined by logic. For here is the central goal of the INTP: to understand and seek truth. The experience of anything takes a back seat. The INTP is not interested in experiences themselves but is far more fascinated by concepts. The drive to understand things that are not yet understood is a very powerful force in the life of an INTP. ...the INTP will become quickly bored with anything that he has successfully analysed to the point of understanding it. Once understood, it has nothing left to offer, once the satisfaction which comes with achieving the goal of understanding diminishes. ... This is the real reason why INTPs are drawn to complexity: anything simple is too quickly understood and cannot hold the fascination for long.

Or maybe Groundhog Day just is not done with me yet, or vice versa, I suppose. As long as there are topics I can still write about in this blog, I will keep writing... well, until Day 365. After that, I need to get to work on my Master's Thesis, which, under the current proposal, will just come at this blog from a new angle.)

It would seem obsessing about things is in my personality. But, I wonder if there isn't something more than that... like the nurture to my nature

(If personality even comes from, you know, genes. I figure that personality comes, at least in part, from our genes. Like we inherit certain tendencies, certain traits. But, what we end up doing with those tendencies and traits is decided by upbringing and all of our interactions with, well, everyone we meet, everyone we read about or see in movies or on TV, everyone we imagine, all the things that happen to us... or don't happen to us. You can take that as determinism or just lump it all together and call it free will; I don't really care.)

that keeps me going the way I go. There's a certain conscious decisionmaking going on; that's for sure. I chose to go to grad school, and a lot of my studying has added detail to discussion here. I chose to start the Groundhog Day Project. The timing of that decision--well, there were a lot of factors that led to that, pending divorce, living alone, it was still summer break... this is why I don't think it would not be right to cite this entry in the future. My currently proposed thesis topic involves an autoethnographic look--

(That INTP profile linked above has this to say about my looking:

...the principle of detachment even encompasses how an INTP views himself. He may analyse his own thought processes as if his mind and body were separate from his conscious self. In wanting to understand his reactions to things, he may treat himself, even his own thoughts, as subjects for experiment.

The prospectus I am putting together now is basically just that--treating my self as the subject of, not an experiment, but a study, which is sort of the same thing.)

--at the construction of this blog and its role as a structuring force in my life when a lot of things were up in the air or had fallen apart. Aside from my usual tendency to obsess about things, I wonder if this project wasn't almost deliberately about me creating that structuring force explicitly to put some boundaries onto my life, to give me something I had to do every day, something that grounded me by, ironically, providing me a place to go crazy and rant and ramble about anything and everything that I want to... as long as I tie it back to Groundhog Day. Recall, my entry about how complicated that last day of the time loop must be for Phil Connors, tracking all the details, all the people he has gotten to know. All those people connect through Phil Connors, all of my blog entries here connect through Phil Connors and Groundhog Day. Hell, everything connects through Groundhog Day. What Would Phil Connors Do? indeed.

Phil is a measure of each and every one of us. At our worst, at our best, we are all just stuck in the time loop that is our life, trying to make the best of it. And, sometimes, we have to add some extra structure to keep things in line, to keep our sanity, to occupy the empty moments that might otherwise lend themselves to depression.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to always fill the empty moments... and to fill them in different ways with each resumption to test out all the hobbies that are possible.

Monday, May 26, 2014

a very nice bed-and-breakfast

No time for words today. The movie has just ended, and I spent the whole time putting together these:

Which got me this:

And I also put together these:

And these:

Near as I can tell, that is not the same hallway as the following images. Mrs. Lancaster comes into the scene from the left, another hallway. But, Phil leaves toward us to the right, which implies this is the same hallway as below. Maybe the hallway from which Mrs. Lancaster comes from is immediately next to the stairs down.

And, finally this. The stairs from the previous image are coming down from the left. The stairs going down on the right head toward the front entrance to the Cherry Street Inn.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to just go ahead and capture every frame of Groundhog Day separately, already.

you're a sucker for french poetry and...

As far as deja vu jokes go, Top Secret!--which has absolutely nothing else to do with Groundhog Day, except I just watched the former after not having seen it in many years and am now watching the latter--has a good one.

Du Quois introduces the Resistance members. The first group is "Chevalier, Montage, Detente, Avant Garde, and Deja Vu." That last one looks at our lead, Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) and says, "Have we not met before, Monsieur?"

Actually, I thought I found another link between Top Secret! and Groundhog Day when I saw that IMDb lists Top Secret!'s release date as June 8, 1984, the same day Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray and directed by Harold Ramis, came out. Except, on closer inspection, i.e. Box Office Mojo, I confirmed that Top Secret! actually came out 2 weeks later, the same day as Rhinestone, which I am sure Rita Hanson just loved. But Ghostbusters was still number one at the box office. And, since I've reminisced recently about watching a lot of movies when I was a kid, I looked over the Top Ten (actually 12) for that weekend.

  1. Ghostbusters (3)
  2. Gremlins (3)
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (5)
  4. Rhinestone (1)
  5. The Karate Kid (1)
  6. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (4)
  7. The Natural (7)
  8. The Pope of Greenwich Village (1)
  9. Beat Street (3)
  10. Romancing the Stone (13)
  11. Police Academy (14)

I had to look at the weeks in release numbers (the parentheticals above) because I saw 7 of those 12 in theaters (and another 3 later on TV or video), including Ghostbusters and Gremlins, which came out the same weekend, and The Karate Kid and Top Secret! which came out the same weekend.

Just because looking at Box Office Mojo pages fascinates me and I was curious, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, starring none other than Andie MacDowell, came out March 30 of that year, along with Romancing the Stone, but Police Academy in its second weekend was number one. Greystoke took second, Splash, starring Tom Hanks, who was on the shortlist to play Phil Connors 6 years later, took third in its fourth weekend, and Romancing the Stone took fourth. I saw all four of those in theaters.

I have been alive for 1,999 weeks (just a few days shy of my 2,000th week (how to celebrate?) according to How Long Have I Been Alive For?. My seen-it list on IMDb currently has 3,994 movies on it, and I'm sure it's still missing a few, so I'd say I've seen about 2 movies a week since I was born. Not a bad average, I suppose. Especially, since that total does not include multiple viewings of stuff like Top Secret! or Police Academy or Romancing the Stone which were all movies we had on video. Or Groundhog Day, which I've seen well over 300 times now.

When I first went to college, right out of high school, I wanted to get into the film program but didn't. Last year, when grad school classmates learned I was not TVF--our department is split between Communication Studies and Television Film (TVF)--after writing about Groundhog Day with my Christ-Figure paper and talking about this blog, I guess it made sense they might be confused. Looking at some of the courses in the catalog this past week while planning what I might take in my second year of grad school, I lamented that I hadn't taken a few of the TVF classes, actually. There might have been some interesting stuff for this blog...

Of course, that's a weird way to think about it. Not there might have been some useful stuff for my degree and my future career but there might have been some interesting stuff for this blog. In the words of Phil Connors, I may be having a problem.

But, nevermind that. I just noticed the stairs in the background as Phil goes to get the toaster to kill himself and they are not at the angle I had figured before. I had assumed the bottom of the staircase brought you down heading toward the entrance of the Cherry Street Inn. That is to say, since, in the movie, the bed and breakfast is north of Gobbler's Knob, thus facing south, this window would be on the north side (i.e. the back) of the building.

But, no, the lower part comes down toward the "east" so that window is on the "west." Why does this matter, you might be asking. Well, I'll tell you. Phil's room is a slightly awkward set--and it was a set, built in a warehouse in Cary, Illinois, though the exteriors were in Woodstock, Illinois (and actually south of the Square they used for Gobbler's Knob)--because the small alcove with the sink where he splashes water in his face each morning does not fit with the exterior shape of the building... for one. For another--something that's been bugging me lately--the room seems to be divided into two parts when Rita comes there the first time. You can see the divider, white panes with glass, and folding doors, in this screencap:

And, there's a fireplace on the "east" wall, a couch facing it. The chimney behind Rita in this screencap is probably connected to that fireplace--

--but Phil's eyeline looking at her implies that she is in the "northwest" corner of the room

Another thing: there are windows behind the couch, on the "west" wall, and on the "north" wall.

Just checked the scene in which Rita slaps Phil then leaves via the stairs. The chimney we see behind Rita is not the same one as has the fireplace. See it here:

There's a window to the left--where Phil had that ice cream waiting--and to the right, though we see no more than the railing, a staircase goes down. This is all behind the couch, so we are facing "west" here. But, if there's a wall right there and a chimney, those stairs cannot go west, perpendicular to the couch. Rita does sort of turn as she starts down those stairs, like they could be running parallel to the couch, toward the south. But, that doesn't make sense. The problem is this: for Phil to exit those stairs to meet Chubby Man and then head down the stairs, the stairs out of Phil's room have to go down to the west. Which is fine for the layout of the whole building in relation to the downstairs--Phil exits his stairs facing west, talks to Chubby Man, continues down to the west, turns right then right again to come down the stairs headed east, then turns south toward the entrance (the dining room to his left, i.e. east of the hallway. But, then that chimney cannot be where it is, and that window where he's got his ice cream cannot be where it is...

Phil's room--the set--basically takes up an entire floor... except it has no windows on its east wall so maybe the set was built as if it were on the left side here:

But, Phil's windows--even if the POV shot is from the left--are those on the right. It's like whoever designed the set confused the side of the building, but still wanted that trio of windows. But, if Phil's room is on the left there, then a) his chimney would be in the middle of the house and b) the stairs down from his room would pop out of the left side of the building.

Really, I guess the problem is that those stairs we see Rita start down are not really there. Maybe they go down a couple steps, but that's probably it...

And, my back-and-forth here is probably confusing. I should just work on a diagram. But, it is nearly 1 A.M. and I should get some sleep. I have a paper to write tomorrow.

(That paper does not involve Groundhog Day but the topic of the paper will probably come up in this blog in the next few days.)

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to memorize the layout of every building inside my time loop area, so I have none of this confusion.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

really close on this one

My daughter--who just called her self "the queen of romance"--wants me to write today about how Phil and Rita have no chemistry.

That one is difficult. The problem with Rita and Phil is not necessarily one of chemistry. Afterall, Justin Harlan comments at Cinapse that "Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell show great on-screen chemistry" and David Glushakow at Examiner, says they "have a nice onscreen chemistry that make[s] this comedy even more enjoyable" and James Berardinelli at Real Views says, "While the chemistry between them isn't smouldering, they work well together. Their characters' romance is credible because it's low key." The problem is not chemistry.

Jennifer Wood at Complex provides some rules for onscreen chemistry. One of her DOs: "Cast actors with real chemistry." The Turner Classic Movies entry for Groundhog Day, written by Eleanor Quin, tells us that crew members on the film recall Murray's and MacDowell's

positive chemistry, despite what Ramis called a "strong beauty and the beast quality." In an interview he explained, "She is kind of luminous, you know, I mean she has this perfect skin and a lovely, natural quality, and Bill is, you know, a few miles of rough road there, and yet they looked great together and she seemed to really enjoy him so much!"

Another one of Wood's DOs: "Mix personalities with quieter ones." She explains,

There's a reason why they say that opposites attract. And if you've ever been out with a couple where both members have outsized personalities, you know it can be exhausting. Smart movie producers know that one boisterous personality is more than enough--and cast/shape a film accordingly.

It's about balance, and Bill Murray is certainly boisterous enough that you needn't have another big personality on a film with him... though Ramis had done that a bit before with, say Caddyshack or Ghostbusters or, to a lesser extent, Stripes. An example (not Ramis') where Murray was the one big personality (the ghost of future present notwithstanding) would be Scrooged. Another (sort of Ramis') would be Meatballs; there are unique aspects to a few of the CITs but the big personality is all Murray as Tripper. Andie MacDowell makes for a strong physical presence, sure, but personality? Not so much.

Another one of Wood's DOs: "Make sure the actors' talent levels are equally matched." This is one where Groundhog Day has some problems. Someone like Chris Elliott as Larry, even with very little to do, holds his own against Bill Murray, as do Marita Geraghty as Nancy or Angela Paton as Mrs. Lancaster, or Murray's own brother, Brian Doyle-Murray as Buster. Rick Ducommun and Rick Overton as Gus and Ralph (respectively), given a little more material, could have stolen a scene or two from Murray; hell, Overton almost does with his, "That about sums it up for me." And Stephen Tobolowsky--well, Ned does sort of steal the scene away from Murray, so it's Murray having to keep up with him.

And then, there's Andie MacDowell. Don't get me wrong, back in the day I thought Andie MacDowell was quite attractive--especially when she was in Greystoke, but there her lines all got dubbed over with Glenn Close's voice because MacDowell just couldn't perform past her own southern accent. In Rita Hanson, MacDowell has a character she can play... when she has something to do. And, she can trade lines with Murray well enough here and there. But, if you watch her during the "god" scene at the Tip Top, she comes off as a weird combination of overpracticed in her movements and having no real idea what she's doing. Ramis is used to working with comedians and many of the actors in Groundhog Day are comedians Ramis already knew or had worked with. MacDowell is neither. And, this is one of her earliest films... actually, I just looked her up on IMDb to be sure and realized that was more my experience of Andie MacDowell at the time. I knew her from Greystoke in '84, St. Elmo's Fire in '85. I didn't see Green Card when it came out in '90, hadn't seen Sex, Lies, and Videotape in '89, but I knew of both movies. For me, Groundhog Day was a notable return for the actress, but she'd had a few other movies and some TV work since Greystoke (and I hadn't realized until just now just how much earlier that film was than Groundhog Day). The "god" scene is just ending, and there's a nice bit as Phil finishes the "You like boats but not the ocean" speech where MacDowell manages a good reaction. Not the bit where she says, "Larry?" twice but right before that. Her playfulness on some of the "date night" sequence or in the playing card scene that is on now--that's where she shines. But, that's not romance. And, I guess that does not quite translate into chemistry... at least to everyone's satisfaction.

But, there's the wooden, robotic moments as well, like this bit in the final scene. Rita has nothing to do but wait for Phil's line, turn to hug him, and wait for another line. You can see robotic movement (or lack of movement, I guess) in the scene where Phil tells her, "I just want you to remember we had a beautiful day together once," then he goes to steal Buster's truck and Punxsutawney Phil. In the background, MacDowell stands there awkwardly, like she's not even sure if she's still in the shot.

But, I don't mean to harp on MacDowell's performance. I think that she's got her charming moments and, obviously, most of the audience that Groundhog Day has ever had has bought the romance enough. There's no real reason Rita should fall for Phil on that last night, but we buy it because Phil has earned it and we've accepted Rita as being worth the effort he's gone through. Will they have a successful relationship going into the future? I've written a bit on that subject before, but I'm not sure the future matters with most people's singular (or at least not as plural as my, or my kids') experience with the film. We want a happy ending, we want Phil to be happy and he seems to like Rita.

Really, I think Murray is charming enough, even at his worst, that we can buy his winning. If Rita is the prize he wants, Rita's the prize he will get, even if it takes a few ups and downs.

Is my daughter right, though? Clearly, a whole lot of people who have seen this movie over the past two decades disagree with her. And, while I wonder if Rita and Phil necessarily have chemistry or will do well together, I do think Murray and MacDowell have a bit of chemistry, at least some of the time. And, that's good enough.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to figure everyone out so that I can fake chemistry with anyone.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

i'm happy now

I'm in a thoughtful mood tonight.

As Groundhog Day started tonight, I was eating a piece of cake with my face on it.

That's not why I'm thoughtful, but it seemed like something worth mentioning. The entire cake had a group photo of our speech team on it. Tonight was our end-of-the-year banquet. It was just like the banquet at the end of Groundhog Day, if Phil were actually three coaches and a team president and the people talking were not approaching to thank him (them) but to, well, sort of roast them. And, instead of auctioning people off, our head coach handed out a few awards and we had cake.

And Tracey, Vice President of the team for next year after only one year of doing this, performed an awesome piece with us coaches as birds (first eagles, then phoenixes--our official mascot is the golden eagle), the students as, well, the birds we're raising up to be eagles. I can't do it justice here. I don't know if any of my fellow coaches (who are graduating) read this blog, or which team members do (I know a few of them check in from time to time), but I must say that all three departing coaches will be missed and I am glad to have the chance to have worked with them and to have been a teammate to two of them (Ashley and Andrew) before that as well. Hell, I didn't know who he was at the time but the third coach (Sean) performed one of the first interpretation speeches I saw at my very first competition as a competitor and impressed in me what could be done with this activity.

Our departing team president, Victor, who may be a coach next year, does read this blog from time to time. He's done some great work this year, he's one of the smartest guys I know, and he has been, I think, a great team leader. If I don't get to work with him next year, that would be unfortunate.

To any team members who might read this, I look forward to next year, pushing you to find your voice, to go out and make something of yourselves on the speech circuit. Speech and Debate, and now Communication Studies, has provided me with an outlet for my ups and my downs, a place to teach people about things I was interested in, to play other roles beside my self, and find in the midst of it all, a fuller version of that self. I would imagine a similar thing comes from being on sports teams, but I know this more than that. And, come to think of it, I imagine Phil Connors may have participated in speech and debate when he was in college, or back at Case Western High... or maybe he would have thought it too nerdy... and yet he went into meteorology and/or some sort of media work in order to end up at Channel 9 Pittsburgh. His sarcasm probably would have made him the kind of debater I was, sometimes a smartass when something more level-headed was necessary.

My fellow coach, Andrew, was my debate partner in my final year of competing, and he was the more level-headed one. One judge, I remember, told us that if I had a little bit more of Andrew's line-by-line and he had a bit more of my preachiness, we'd be perfect debaters. Together, we did pretty well, ending the year in the top 75 parliamentary debate teams in the country, even though we had a tendency to always get stopped at the Bronze round. Tonight, Andrew compared the speech and debate community to the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland, a place we go to escape the everyday. But, it's more than that. We can use it to escape, but we can also use it to augment the everyday, drag all of our everyday interests and hopes and fears into our performances. We don't have to escape ourselves. That's Phil's problem as well. In the time loop, his impulse is to, not escape exactly, but to step outside the bounds of his usual life a bit, to break the rules and live without consequence. That might not be the best attitude if you go into a speech competition or a sports competition or a new job or a new relationship. No matter what you think of who you are right now, that person will still be there when you step outside his borders to perform a speech or play a game or tell an interviewer what he wants to hear to get a certain job or have a one-night-stand (or just ask a guy or girl out on a date, just to keep it simple).

I've been listening to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown a lot lately, because my daughter Saer and I both tried out for (separate) productions of the play for this summer. I find amazing similarities between Charlie Brown and myself (and between Charlie Brown and Phil Connors, for that matter). Charlie is like an eternal optimist who happens to suffer from clinical depression. Everything in his day can go horribly, but he finds hope in the idea that he's still himself, and that the cute little red-headed girl he's got a crush on turns out to be human (and not some idealized fantasy). I have had a tendency to overthink just about everything in my adult life, for sure. I second guess a great deal of my actions and talk myself out of enacting a lot of them. But, at the end of the day, I still think positively about life most of the time. I'm happy being who I am and doing what I do, being a father, being a coach and a teacher.

I won't get into detail (yet), but recently I've been working on a new approach to writing about this blog for my Master's Thesis next year. It has to do with using a blog, like this one, to make sense of one's place in the world, and I think it is safe to say that this blog has provided me an extra sense of order to a life that had in recent years come apart. My kids, my students, and Groundhog Day have provided a lot of structure that made healing and learning and living easier.

And, it's weird to think I might get to quote what I just said next year in a thesis. It's a little weird to be figuring out how to write about something I have not yet completed writing in the first place. But, that's sort of the way of life, isn't it?

One day is much like the next, but also, they are nothing alike, and one may be a response to the former, a reaction to things that went wrong or things that went right, a critique or commentary on how life was going yesterday so that maybe it will be better (or the same) tomorrow... What I'm trying to say, if any of my students are still reading, or if anyone is reading this really (since, in a way I could call you my student if you're getting something out of this), is nothing is ever complete. You are a work in progress. Life has its ups and its downs, and so will your schoolwork, your performances at competition, your performance on the job, your relationships. If we can take anything from Phil Connors, it is this: go with it, like a surfer catching the right wave; you may crash and burn (to mix metaphors) or you may soar. But, whatever happens, you've got another chance tomorrow. And my advice is make it--whatever it may be--the best you can make it this time, and better the next, and better the next. And, enjoy life as it goes, with the people that make it a fuller experience for you. There's a bit at the end of the closing song to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown that is cheesy but true:

Happiness is singing together when day is through,
And happiness is those who sing with you.
Happiness is morning and evening,
Daytime and nighttime too.

For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That's loved by you.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to love you all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

like the groundhog, phil

The character of Phil Connors is named Phil because that is the name of the groundhog in Punxsutawney's Groundhog Day celebration, as Rubin (2012) explains:

And who is the center of attention for the festivities in Punxsutawney? A groundhog named Phil. For the time being, I decided to call my character Phil as well, hoping that somehow there would be resonance created by associating my guy with the groundhog. (p. 15)

Many authors have latched onto that link between the two Phils, including of course Benesh (2011) and myself. And, Phil himself makes the connection before he kidnaps the groundhog and kills them both. But, after writing about names yesterday, I wondered if there wasn't some more resonance in Phil's name that just the obvious.

The name Philip (or Filippo in the Italian remake, È già ieri) means "lover of horses." More elaborately,

From the Greek name Φιλιππος (Philippos) which means "friend of horses", composed of the elements φιλος (philos) "friend, lover" and ‘ιππος (hippos) "horse". This was the name of five kings of Macedon, including Philip II the father of Alexander the Great. The name appears in the New Testament belonging to two people who are regarded as saints. First, one of the twelve apostles, and second, an early figure in the Christian church known as Philip the Deacon.

I've linked Phil to the apostles before, except he was not one of them before. He was the Christ-Figure. But, let us look at the connection to the Apostle Philip who, though a Saint, should not be confused with Philip the Evangelist.

In the Letter from Peter to Philip, Peter asks Philip to rejoin the other apostles. There is a tradition that Philip had undertaken his own mission, separate from the other apostles, much as Phil Connors has left Pittsburgh to speak to the people of Punxsutawney. Philip was responsible for, a miraculous healing, not unlike Phil Connors saving the life of Buster Greene. Saint Philip is often associated with his sister Mariamne and Bartholomew, with whom he was sent to preach in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. Professor Francois Bovon has been cited suggesting that Mariamne and Mary Magdalene were one and the same, but, more precisely,

he did not in any way state that the name "Mariamne" of the Acts of Philip should be the linked to the historical Mary Magdalene of the first century. In fact, the Acts of Philip presents the geographically improbable assertion that the figure "Mariamne" was both the sister of Philip of Bethsaida and of Martha of Bethany. In reality, Bovon proposed that this Mariamne, who both evangelized and baptised, was the same character whose persona in time evolved to become the fictitious Gnostic sage and evangelist, more closely linked to the Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and the Pistis Sofia.

(Perhaps the confusion in the middle there lies in the fact that Mariamne was sister to Martha of Bethany but was not sister to Philip but rather his bride, having become interested in him while he was trapped in a time loop.)

Recall, in my original Christ-Figuring entry, I connected both Nancy Taylor and Rita Hanson to Mary Magdalene relative to Phil's Christ.

(To be fair, I also linked Rita to John the Baptist and Judas.)

Specifically, I linked Rita to the Mary Magdalene-Figure because Kozlovic (2009) explains that this woman may be "sexually tagged," "Sexual consummation of such relationships are denied according to Scripture, or are repeatedly delayed to generate sexual tension until eventually given in too [sic] according to the Jesus-Magdalene marriage mythology" (p. 9). That sexual tension is very befitting of Groundhog Day "date night" sequence. So, the transitive property tells us then that Rita is Mary Magdalene is Mariamne is both sister and lover/wife to Philip.

(And, maybe we should be scouring Groundhog Day for clues to the location of the Holy Grail.)

Bartholomew, on the other hand, is a witness to the ascension of Christ just as Larry is witness (cameraman) to the waking of Punxsutawney Phil.

(Again, transitive property... Christ=Punxsutawney Phil=Phil Connors=Philip the Apostle.)

Additionally, Bartholomew is associated with and often conflated with Nathanael of whom Jesus said, "Here is a man in whom there is no deception" (John 1:47). Recall Larry, in his interaction with Nancy, coming right out with the line, "Hey, would you be at all interested in seeing the inside of the van?" Larry has no subtlety, no deception...

...if we ignore the thing about dropping a tip.

The name Bartholomew also reminds me of Bart Simpson, which reminds me of Futurama which I have written about before in this blog. The lead character in Futurama? Philip J. Fry. And, in part two of my Christ-Figuring entry, I decided Phil Connor's middle initial was also J for James. And, each of these Philip Js, Fry and Connors, end up in a time loop with his beloved.

That would make Rita into Leela, I suppose, and Larry into Bender. Even though Rita's the robot.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to concoct a way to get my own Sainthood, so I can figure in some guy's research on Christ-Figures, not just because of my contribution to the Kozlovic-Black Scale of Christ-Figuring, but also because he's got to identify a Saint Robert-Figure.

(Dismissing, of course the other Saint Robert.)