Monday, March 31, 2014

like a jerk again

This is from yesterday:

[Benesh] writes about references to eating the groundhog--Phil says he "had groundhog for lunch" and he reports about how the people of Punxsutawney "used to take the hog out and they used to eat it"--and she adds one more: "In another reference to ingesting the Other, Phil Connors once proposes toasting [to] the groundhog" (Benesh, 2011, p. 88). I don't know how it works in Benesh's circles, but whenever I have been present for a toast, we have not then eaten the person (or thing) being toasted. Still, there's a pink tab here labeled "eating groundhog."

She continues:

Phil Connors' desire to ingest the groundhog seems a parallel to his early hostile come-ons toward Rita, the allusion to his pelvic tilt, and to her sleeping alone and missing him, followed by his attempts to seduce her. (p. 88)

Because, clearly, Phil wants to eat Rita... and I'm using "eat" in the literal sense. This is what Benesh is implying. I know she is suggesting, or trying to suggest, digestion as a metaphor, but she isn't quite getting to her point clearly enough here. Instead, Phil wants to eat the groundhog because he toasts to it, and wants to eat Rita because... I don't know.

Her very next sentence probably says it better than that whole bit so far. She writes: "With both of them, the groundhog and Rita, who ultimately become his role models and inspiration, he at first wants to be close by dominating the other. But still, he wants to be close, if only to consume and conquer" (p. 88-9). Let me backtrack slightly. I mentioned yesterday how Benesh counters Phil's supposed liking of high places (and being "inflated and full of hot air") with the groundhog being "lowly, humble, and grounded, despite his being lauded by the town" (p. 87). I can accept the idea that an underground-dwelling rodent is "grounded" even if it does read as a bit on-the-nose, but I think it is presumptuous to suggest that Punxsutawney Phil is humble; the furry little guy has been demanding attention once a year for well over a century and he's got a circle of human minions who transport him around, and a climate-controlled abode in the public library.

It gets worse. Phil not only wants to eat the groundhog, he wants to have sex with it. Benesh writes:

Rita's question in the Punxsutawney Phil abduction scene, "Why would anyone [anybody] steal a groundhog?" interestingly, is answered by Larry: "I can [probably] think of a couple [of] reasons. Pervert." This suggestion that Phil Connors wants to mate with Punxsutawney Phil explicitly associates Phil's efforts to get close to Rita with his efforts to get close to Punxsutawney Phil, and as we see, even to die with him. (p. 89)

Except... no. In fact, structurally, the film sets it up so that these two things have very little to do with one another. Phil wants nothing to do with the groundhog. In the original screenplay, the line Gus says in the Tip Top, "Phil, like the groundhog Phil?" happens numerous times, and Phil Connors is bothered by it every time. Still, he responds, "Yeah, like the groundhog Phil." Reluctantly, he admits he has something in common with the groundhog, but he makes no effort to get near the groundhog except to kill it. If Benesh is correct... actually, the film suggests that she is more correct than the original screenplay does, since Phil only actually gets near the groundhog once and then to kill them both; in the original script, Phil stalks and tries to kill the groundhog well before he has sunk into suicidal depression. He goes after the groundhog out of desperation and anger. In the film, all of these feelings are rolled into one sequence. Phil is depressed after failing to "get close" to Rita, so he tries to end the time loop, to end the curse...

I don't mean to necessarily argue with Benesh here, actually. I think she is getting at an important point, but her hands are tied by her choice to go with the "reproductive metaphor" and the "digestive metaphor" and the "respiration metaphor" without--or so she suggests--a textual analysis of the film. My yellow tab on this page is labeled "consuming mating." And, I think the suggestion that these two processes can be figuratively one and the same is an important one to make here, because Phil's attempts on "date night" to practically become Rita by adopting all of her favorite things and all of her dreams as his own is about him not only mating with Rita but, metaphorically, consuming her, becoming her. This is quite important in understanding how Phil can get to the point that he is suicidal not because the time loop itself is beating him down but, specifically because he has been beaten by his own "pursuit" of Rita. Essentially, consumption equals consummation.

Origin of CONSUME
Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French consumer, from Latin consumere, from com- + sumere to take up, take, from sub- up + emere to take...
First Known Use: 14th century

Middle English consummat fulfilled, from Latin consummatus, past participle of consummare to sum up, finish, from com- + summa sum
First Known Use: 1527

Phil, then, is not failing to win over Rita but to transform himself--and this is an argument Benesh should appreciate since her overarching topic is transformation. "Date night" is not about Phil trying to seduce Rita. Phil is trying to become someone who doesn't need to seduce Rita. He is trying to not be himself. But, he fails, ironically, because he tries too hard. Instead of just being a better person--a better version of himself--he lies about who he is. Lying about who he is doesn't really change anything, so of course he cannot succeed in seducing Rita or changing himself. and, in failing to do either--but especially the latter--he has not only not escaped the curse of the time loop, but he has actually made matters worse. As Hannam (2008)--which I am finally reading--describes it, Phil is suffering from "the Groundhog Day Effect."

Hannam describes the Groundhog Day Effect like this:

A repetitive pattern is not necessarily harmful. Civilization would collapse without the repetitive patterns necessary to the supply of food and energy. As an individual, a regular structure is fine if you are happy in your routine. The difficulty arises if you are not happy, if you are not at peace, if you see no magic in everyday life. It is not so much outer repetition but inner repetition--repetitive thought patterns--that create the Groundhog Day Effect.

When we are oblivious to the magic of everyday life, caught in destructive and repetitive thought patterns, our first tendency is often to blame our predicament on our jobs, where we live, or on our partners. We believe that by changing our external circumstances we will break free from the loop. (p. 7-8)

Phil's thought patterns haven't really changed. He was a bit of a jerk before, he was a womanizer before. And, pursuing Rita he is still just that, even if he might be altering his individual actions and the individual things he says to make himself seem like something different. Inside, he is still the same guy.

In terms of couples and marriage, Johnson (2008) writes of what she calls "demon dialogues"--the topics that can turn a bit too easily into arguments. She writes:

For all of us, the person we love most in the world, the one who can send us soaring joyfully into space, is also the person who can send us crashing back to earth. All it takes is a slight turning away of the head or a flip, careless remark. There is no closeness without this sensitivity. If our connection with our mate is safe and strong, we can deal with these moments of sensitivity. Indeed, we can use them to bring our partner even closer. But when we don’t feel safe and connected, these moments are like a spark in a tinder forest. They set fire to the whole relationship. (p. 54)

We get stuck in the same patterns over and over, the same (potentially) volatile topics rear their heads, and things erupt. For Phil, he seems to be trying to fill the void in himself with something approximating love but it mostly amounts to sex. And, as he changes the outside of himself to manipulate Rita into his room, it is still a shallow pursuit of sex. There's a moment in the film I don't think I have every mentioned on this blog before. As Rita looks around Phil's room and wanders specifically into the bedroom side, Phil actually attempts to block her path back out of that side of the room. He isn't forceful about it, but he does get in her way.

Then, she walks around him. In a darker film, things may have gone further there. But, then Phil would have had even farther to go to dig himself out of the hole within himself to be a good person.

I've said before, Phil is not trapped in Punxsutawney, but rather he was trapped in Pittsburgh, trapped inside himself. In Punxsutawney, even if just because he is there so long that he runs out of other options, he finally manages to transform himself and become someone better, to get out of the demon dialogue he's go going with his own id, out of the Groundhog Day Effect that plagued his pre-loop life.

(Interestingly, with the mention of Phil's id there, I thought of my recent paper regarding Plato's charioteer myth and the modern visual trope of the shoulder angel and shoulder devil. It was the one paper--in two different incarnations now--in grad school so far that I didn't explicitly connect to Groundhog Day. I still probably couldn't squeeze the film into the paper, but I do think the paper could be squeezed into the blog at least. But, with nearly 1800 words already today, I will leave that for another time.)

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to let the black horse win, to let the white horse win, and to let the charioteer have his hedonistic moments as well as his ascetic moments... and to find the balance... which is to say, more generically, to be just like Phil Connors all the way to becoming a better version of myself.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

too early for flapjacks

Yesterday morning, the Groundhog Day Project woke me up. See, I'd written Friday's blog midday Friday--it was just going to be me sharing the text of the press release I put together. I didn't post it as soon as I wrote it because I had a couple of people read it because I'd never written a press release before. I also put together a good chunk of yesterday's (Saturday) recap entry on Friday because I knew I would be busy most of the day Saturday because of a practice speech tournament for nationals and the recap entries tend to be easy but take up a lot of time. So, when I woke up just before 6 AM Saturday (my alarm set for 6:12) having not posted any blog entry online on Friday I hurried to the computer and posted the Friday blog entry just in time. Technically, with the adding of topic labels and posting to Facebook and Twitter and reweeting it under my regular account, it happened after the 6 AM deadline. However--and this is an important however--since the blog was written and the film was watched... for the record, I will reiterate some important things:

The first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club.

The first rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club.

The first rule of the Groundhog Day Project is, as stated on Day 31, "I will watch Groundhog Day from beginning to end" with the addendum: "I will not require that my eyes remain glued to the screen every second."

And, the second rule of the Groundhog Day Project is, "I will blog about the movie or something related to it every day as well." While that verb "blog" does imply I will post the blog entry, I will give myself the benefit of the doubt just this once. The entry was written with 16 hours to spare and just barely inched in under the deadline for posting. There will be no figuring out the punishment for failing to keep the rules today...

Would it be starting over?

Really, I'm just telling this little story because a) I thought it was awesome that not posting woke me abruptly just in time to do so; my internal clock has somehow attuned itself to Groundhog Day; and b) I didn't feel like dealing with Benesh again today...

I mean, I could mention how she suggests that the groundhog in Groundhog Day "goes from a literal sign with a cartoon drawing, to a live (and then murdered) groundhog, to a series of ice sculptures to a mandala of groundhog images surrounding Phil Connors' head like a 'halo' (Thompson, 1999)" (Benesh, 2011, p. 85). Of course, then I would have to point out how that doesn't make for much of a linear progression, however accurate the details may be.

Or I could mention how she says,

Phil Connors shares with Punxsutawney Phil a name, a profession, and even an implied romantic rivalry over Rita, who thinks Punxsutawney Phil is cute, and is asked by Phil Connors if she likes guys with prominent upper teeth. (Benesh, 2011, p. 86)

Which I called "silly" in the margin.

I could mention mistakes that got Xs:

I spent an entire entry already on how it is not "the striped clothing most often worn by Phil Connors" (p. 82).

She refers to "the Rachmaninoff variations [plural] that Phil learns to play on the piano" (p. 82). Handwritten after the X: "Phil only learns the 18th."

She calls the gazebo at Gobbler's Knob, in which Phil and Rita dance, "round" (p. 82 again). It is octagonal.

She says "the human Phil likes high places" in order to contrast that with "the rodent Phil [being] lowly" (p. 87). But, there is no evidence that Phil likes high places. He tells Rita, "I wish we could all live in the mountains, at high altitude" but he is obviously taking that detail from something she said in a previous date night moment we didn't get to see. And, the only other high places we might associate with Phil are a) his room at the Cherry Street Inn, which was booked for him by Rita and we are never told that he likes b) the cliff at the Nimtz Quarry, from which he flies to his death and, similarly, c) the tower atop the Pennsylvanian Hotel, from which he flies to his death. I'm not really seeing any evidence of liking any of those places.

She misquotes Larry's line after Phil drives off that cliff at the quarry on p.87 (which gets her 3 Xs, one for each word she gets wrong. She writes it as, "Larry's 'he may [might] be all right [okay]' followed by fiery explosion and Larry's 'well, [no,] probably not now."

She writes about references to eating the groundhog--Phil says he "had groundhog for lunch" and he reports about how the people of Punxsutawney "used to take the hog out and they used to eat it"--and she adds one more: "In another reference to ingesting the Other, Phil Connors once proposes toasting [to] the groundhog" (Benesh, 2011, p. 88). I don't know how it works in Benesh's circles, but whenever I have been present for a toast, we have not then eaten the person (or thing) being toasted. Still, there's a pink tab here labeled "eating groundhog."

But, I don't want to talk about Benesh today. I just wanted to share that story about waking up in a panic before my alarm because I enjoy bragging about just how crazy I have become.

Also, this:

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to will myself to wake up earlier and earlier until, against all logic, I wake before the time loop has even begun in the first place.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

it's your choice. so what's it gonna be?

It’s time once again to recap what has been going on at the Groundhog Day Project. 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

Now, here’s what’s been going on since in the last 60 days:

(And here’s the latest version of the Transcript updated with notation for every line used as a title.)

Day 181 – i got ten bucks that says you’re mine was a brief entry that about Doris’ obsession with Phil and me maybe Phil Connoring Danny Rubin.

Day 182 – she wants to see paris before she dies suggests Doris is responsible for the time loop.

Day 183 – where are you going?, which goes over some of the events planned for the weekend in Woodstock, was written on the way there, with a little bit added after spending some time around town. The pilgrimage begins. Day 184 – it’s so beautiful was a recap of Day One in Woodstock written at a bar in town (and I have no idea why the image of the car covered in snow loads upside down; the image itself is not upside down). Day 185 – prognosticator of prognosticators was written in my hotel room after Day Two in Woodstock (and, like the last one, I have no idea why one of the images loads upside down… seriously, if you right click and choose “open image in new tab” it shows up the right way, and it’s just idiosyncratic enough that I don’t want to fix it by doing the obvious, reloading the image again). And, the pilgrimage ends with Day 186 – ok campers, rise and shine, written on the trip home, and detailing my interactions with Richard Henzel, who was one of the DJs in the film.

[If that image is upsidedown, I apologize. Back when I wrote this entry, I was still linking images from my website and sometimes blogger flipped 'em.]

But, of course, the pilgrimage had some spillover.

For example, Day 187 – what are the chances? details a few coincidences between my stay in Woodstock and details from the film.

Day 188 – to strangers and children details my notes from watching the movie on the big screen twice while I was in Woodstock.

Day 189 – turn to this tiny hamlet references an article by someone else who went to Woodstock for the weekend and explains why Groundhog Day is a classic worthy of the town celebrating it every year.

Day 190 – get some incredible footage starts the sharing of all my photos from Woodstock. Day 191 – hold a camera and point it at stuff continues with the photos.

Day 192 – first shot, right out of the box does two things, nitpicks some differences in layout of the town, comparing Woodstock and the film’s version of Punxsutawney, and details my notes taken while getting my friend Stephanie to watch the movie for the first time.

Day 193 – as an objective observer gets back to photos from Woodstock, as does Day 194 – where to put the camera.

Day 195 – in the movies celebrates the anniversary of the original release of Groundhog Day, 12 February 1993, recounting some things said by reviewers at the time.

Day 196 – keep the talent happy deals with Bill Murray and where Groundhog Day fit into his career.

Day 197 – i never miss it goes back to Woodstock with my notes from the walking tours with Bob Hudgins, location manager for the film.

Day 198 – it’s beginning to grow on me finishes out the photos from Woodstock with the ones I took of the display items in the local public library.

Day 199 – somebody asked me today is me figuring out what Phil Connors’ favorite color is.

Day 200 – i want to see his chart is me dealing with Phil Connors’ astrological sign(s).

Day 201 – he’s already in there details some of the many uses of the phrase “Groundhog Day” to compare to repetitive scenarios in the real world. This continues a little bit into Day 202 – it was just his time which also deals with an obituary and what it means to celebrate life.

Day 203 – what if there were no tomorrow? is a bit of a sequel to one of my favorite entries—Day 52 – if you only had one day to live, which is all about the meaning of life and what matters.

Day 204 – i surprise myself sometimes is me taking the Myers-Briggs personality test twice, once on the behalf of pre- and early-loop Phil Connors, and again on the behalf of late- and post-loop Phil Connors.

Day 205 – let me just drop a tip here is all about Larry as a character.

Day 206 – i’m waiting for the punchline is about, if anything, wanting something.

Day 207 – more than anything else and Day 208 – the last thing that you heard and Day 209 – the head groundhog honcho encompass my three day response to the death of Harold Ramis,

Day 210 – get it while it’s hot is a jumping on point of a sort for new arrivals.

Day 211 – it always makes me think of rome is my initial response to watching È già ieri, the Italian remake of Groundhog Day. Then I did a scene-by-scene breakdown in Day 212 – the way the sun hits the buildings in the afternoon since most of you will probably never see it.

Day 213 – congratulations, written on the day of the Oscars, details awards Groundhog Day was nominated for or won.

Day 214 – i am not making it up deals with the feud between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray after the production of Groundhog Day.

Day 215 – take a deep breah is about being timid, which Phil Connors is not.

In Day 216 – let’s not forget seatbelts I prepare to approach Julie Ellen Benesh’s (2011) dissertation on Groundhog Day systematically (and I still haven’t finished doing that).

Day 217 – here comes trouble gets into my notes on Benesh but gets sidetracked by Home Alone and my inability to pursue something (or someone, rather) I want.

Day 218 – you haven’t worked with her yet gets sidetracked in Meatballs before continuing with Benesh, including a bit on the monomyth and a return to the Christ-Figure.

Day 219 – seasons come and season go deals with Kubler-Ross and the stages of death and dying in relation to the structure of Groundhog Day, a topic that continues into Day 220 – i’ll make you smile again.

Day 221 – a dog barks explores the presence of (and potential meaning behind) dogs in Groundhog Day.

Day 222 – a gust of wind continues dealing with Benesh.

Day 223 – and longs to kiss your lips deals with Benesh, the Tao Te Ching, Siddhartha and kissing.

Day 224 – take me round again avoids Benesh (and the idea of being self-cursed) for Rita’s boyfriend and the Frog Prince. But then, two days later, I got back to the self-cursed thing in Day 226 – maybe it’s not a curse, which also delves into the excised character of Stephanie DeCastro and the curse that caused the time loop.

Meanwhile, Day 225 – what is Titicaca? gets sidetracked in adolescent humor.

Day 227 – would you help me with my pelvic tilt? uses Benesh as a jumping off point to explore phallic narcissism.

Prompted by my daughter (as I was with Phil’s favorite color above), Day 228 – do you have kids? is my attempt to decipher, from clues in the film, if Larry does indeed have any kids.

In Day 229 – welcome to our party, I try to avoid talking about Benesh and almost manage.

Day 230 – love handles ties Groundhog Day together with Love Actually and The Fountain to explore a very basic topic: love.

Day 231 – a place you used to crawl underneath consists of my thoughts as I watch Haunter a Canadian horror film that involves a repeating day.

Day 232 – i’m predicting march 21st was supposed to be about the vernal equinox, with some useless scientific factoids, but instead gets sidetracked into Benesh (which is the opposite direction things usually go) and the topics of communion, Phil’s emotional life, and his totemic opposite.

Day 233 – you got a problem with what i’m saying is my rejection of some of Benesh’s initial “findings” as I get to that part of her dissertation. Topics include the color white, lines, and not quite hands…

…because Day 234 – if you don’t believe me take me by the hand tries to make hands a separate issue.

Day 235 – can’t you feel you’re warming up? uses Benesh’s use of the Jungian shadow to link characters in Groundhog Day to characters in Peter Pan. It also deals in what I call “the progression of fire” in the film.

Day 236 – guy comes out with a big stick involves the name Gobbler’s Knob and whether or not it is sexually suggestive.

Day 237 – van still won’t start is me sharing a drawing of characters from Groundhog Day mapped onto characters from Scooby Doo.

Day 238 – waiting to worship a rat is about groundhogs and melatonin and why groundhogs may wake up midwinter.

Day 239 – there is a major network interested in me shares the text of the press release I put together to promote this blog as Day 250 nears.

And, Day 240 – it’s your choice. so what’s it gonna be? recaps all the entries since the last big recap on Day 180.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to make a list of every day of my life and what I did on it… which might have to involve some hypnosis to get the specifics right. Does memory even include enough details to go day-by-day?

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

there is a major network interested in me

Almost forgot to post this, violating one of the two official rules of this blog. It was complete 16 hours ago but I was waiting on a couple people to look at it for me.

28 March 2014

(image not included in press release)

Glendale, CA – Local man, Robert E G Black has been watching the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day every day since last August 2nd and has blogged it about daily as well at Day 250 is coming up soon—8 April. Every day—running 6 AM to 6 AM—he watches Groundhog Day from start to finish (including credits) and writes a blog directly linked to that viewing or inspired by the film.

He has deconstructed the movie from more angles than are probably necessary. And, every entry is titled with a separate line from the movie (repetition is not allowed) that has something to do with the topic at hand. He has explored philosophical topics (e.g. Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence), cinematic topics (e.g. spending numerous days deconstructing various drafts of the screenplay), and mundane topics (e.g. the prevalence of the color blue in the film).

He has spent time with other time loops on film—watching feature-length films (e.g. The Butterfly Effect), short films (e.g. 12:01 PM) and television episodes (e.g. The X-Files - “Monday”). He has even watched the Italian remake of Groundhog Day, È già ieri (“It’s Already Yesterday” aka Stork Day)… twice. He has read books for the blog as well—How to Write Groundhog Day by Danny Rubin (the author of the original screenplay) and Groundhog Day by Ryan Gilbey—and is currently reading The Magic of Groundhog Day by Paul Hannam.

And, this past Groundhog Day, he made a pilgrimage to Woodstock, Illinois, where they filmed Groundhog Day.

“…it's not just a movie, because it's a parable or an allegory or a modern myth or whatever else you want to label it really. It's a philosophical treatise on the nature of modern life, with explorations into hedonism, love, self-sacrifice, and ultimately a sense of communion with those around us. It's not a flawless film, but its flaws make it endearing. It's a film that embraces fully the imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness of the wabi-sabi view of life, made better by not being perfect. Hell, being perfect because it's not, if you can get your head around that one. It's transient and transcendent because it's so very mundane in its day-by-day exactitude.”
Day 77: you are new, aren’t you

“I don't have all the answers. And, neither does Phil Connors. But, if I could somehow give everyone the luxury of just sitting around watching an old show or an old movie, I would.”
Day 74: basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts

Contact information [actually press release includes more information than this, you know, like my address and phone number]:

Robert E G Black


Thursday, March 27, 2014

waiting to worship a rat

There may be a scientific explanation for why groundhogs (in the wild) would actually wake up midwinter. Consider this a sequel to my entry about the origins of Groundhog Day.

Groundhogs are very simple animals; Stutz (2006) tells us,

“They live pretty solitary lives, are good swimmers and adequate climbers, and, when not browsing on grasses, plants, and tree bark, spend the time working on their underground network of burrows. These activities take up half their lives. They spend the other half asleep. (p. 21)

He goes on to explain how “winter in the northern hemisphere can mean sparse pickings” for a plant eater like the groundhog, hence they have evolved, like many other mammals, to hibernate through the colder months because that’s “better than retiring hungry every night and a lot less work than migrating”—and here’s where Stutz is just rude—“especially if you’re a lumpy creature with stubby legs.”

Then Stutz provides a lengthy explanation about the hormone melatonin. The short version is this: it’s produced by the pineal gland, children have higher levels of it than adults, its production is affected by the presence of light, and production of melatonin regulates our sleep cycle and is produced in an inverse ratio to the production of sex hormones. Arendt and Skene (2005) explain in Sleep Medicine Reviews,

Melatonin, hormone of the pineal gland, is concerned with biological timing. It is secreted at night in all species and in ourselves is thereby associated with sleep, lowered core body temperature, and other night time events. The period of melatonin secretion has been described as ‘biological night’. Its main function in mammals is to ‘transduce’ information about the length of the night, for the organisation of daylength dependent changes, such as reproductive competence. (taken from the Abstract to their article, “Melatonin as a chronobiotic”)

Melatonin affects seasonal functions: fur growth and color, reproduction cycles, and hibernation.

An aside: since light affects melatonin production and melatonin production affects all these things, we’ve learned to manipulate, say, egg laying in chickens by regulating the light they receive. Zadina and Scheideler (2007) explain in NebFacts:

The avian reproductive cycle, which is how a hen produces eggs, is stimulated in poultry by increasing day length. As day length approaches 14 hours per day during early spring, chickens begin laying eggs, gradually increasing their production as the day length increases. They will reach their maximum egg laying potential when the day-light reaches approximately 16 hours per day. Nature utilizes this characteristic so that chicks will hatch in the spring and have the warmer months of summer and fall to mature before the harsher winter season arrives. By providing artificial light, growers can manipulate this natural cycle to their advantage and increase the egg laying potential of their flocks.

As mentioned above, approximately 14 hours of light per day is required to stimulate a hen to lay an egg. Anything below that will cause her reproductive cycle to shut down, triggering the hen to cease egg production until spring when the natural day length will increase to sufficient levels once again. Artificial light needs to be applied when the day length approaches 15 hours per day; which happens in September. Any supplemental light should be added during the morning hours, as sudden darkness can cause chickens to panic and pile up in a corner, which can consequently cause them to suffocate each other. By applying extra light in the morning rather than the evening, chickens will naturally go to roost with the setting of the sun.

Stutz (2006) explains further about melatonin in terms of the groundhog:

As summer and light wane, the groundhog’s pineal is on and producing melatonin longer than it’s off. At a certain point, with food resources dwindling and already having fattened themselves to bursting among your plants and vegetables, the groundhog feels it’s just not worth staying awake for those few hours of light each day. Besides which, the increased melatonin has depressed their sex drive (in the same way it staves off human puberty). So sometime in the late fall they wallow down their burrow and hibernate. It is no ordinary hibernation. Compared with groundhogs, bears are light sleepers. A hibernating bear’s body temperature may go down a few degrees. A groundhog’s body temperature drops to near freezing and its heart rate falls from 75 to 4 beats per minute…

A few times during the winter, groundhogs revive, have a look around, and return to their burrows until they awaken for good come spring. The question, of course, is if the groundhog lies asleep in its burrow and not in a cage in the Punxsutawney Public Library [where the real Punxsutawney Phil lives], and light can’t penetrate through to the burrow, how does the lengthening day affect their pineal and its production of melatonin? (p. 22-3).

I must interrupt here because it occurs to me that the prognosticating groundhogs that have their big public festivities on Groundhog Day—like Punxsutawney Phil or Woodstock Willie—should not be readily available at the beck and call of folks like the Inner Circle Committee in Punxsutawney or Inner Square Committee in Woodstock. But, since they don’t live in the wild, I suppose they can probably be manipulated into being “available” with a change in their lighting. Of course, if Stutz is correct in this next bit, maybe that actually wouldn’t work too well. To be fair, Woodstock Willie did not seem very happy—screaming as he was—about being pulled out of his stump on this recently past Groundhog Day morning.

Stutz (2006) continues:

The answer seems to be the genetic switches that turn the pineal on and off have somehow “memorized” the year’s cycle of light and dark. Sometime in early spring the melatonin stops flowing. When it does the groundhog’s level of gonadal hormones—testosterone—increases. He or she awakens, aroused by a kind of spring adolescence that also sets birds singing, frogs calling—

Interrupting to mention that Imbolc, the Gaelic festival the coincides approximately with Groundhog Day, gets its name from i mbolg meaning “in the belly,” linking it to ewes’ lambing season.

Stutz continues:

…and perhaps our own thoughts turning lightly to love [the commercial omnipresence of Valentine’s Day décor and products notwithstanding]. To appreciate the goings-on in Punxsutawney, you have to think of the groundhog as a sex god promising fertility.

”The general explanation which we have been led to adopt of these and many similar ceremonies,” writes Frazer [(1922)], “is that they are, or were in their origin, magical rites intended to ensure the revival of nature in spring.” The roots of a celebration around the reappearance of a hibernating animal go back to northern Europe. The Germans, who immigrated here and settled in Pennsylvania, brought the ritual with them. The faithful have been making the pilgrimage to Punxsutawney since 1887. (p. 23)

I have not been to Punxsutawney. But, I am not “faithful” to Groundhog Day but Groundhog Day. Hence, my trip to Woodstock this past February.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to not have to worry about sleep cycles, and maybe never sleep again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

van still won't start

(Click on image to enlarge)

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to refrain from using words when it is a) appropriate and b) more fun.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

the guy comes out with a big stick

Did anybody else find the name of the park where the groundhog ceremony was held funny?

That's the start of a thread on IMDb regarding Groundhog Day's Gobbler's Knob. Maybe I don't have the mind of a teenage boy but I never took it as anything more than the place's name. In fact, on the IMDb thread, I pointed out that knob is a geographical term and gobbler presumably refers to turkeys... I haven't confirmed the turkey thing as far as why the real Gobbler's Knob is called that, but my guess is once upon a time it has some wild turkeys hanging about. I never considered it as something suggestive because, if nothing else, that's the name of the actual place in Punxsutawney where they hold the groundhog ceremony.

Still, people insist on thinking it's suggestive. Recall, my friend Stephanie, watching the movie for the first time--at my urging and on my iPad--suggested the name Gobbler's Knob was a sex reference... actually, she suggested it was a masturbation joke.

And, even Benesh (2011) falls prey to the adolescent urge to hear sexual jokes in things that--probably--are not. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't suggest that the film chose the location or referenced its name as a sex joke. But, since I don't actually know the origin of the name, I cannot be sure the name itself is not a sex joke. But anyway, Benesh says, "The suggestively named town square, Gobbler's Knob, setting of the groundhog ceremony, is an example of a phallicentric, yet also communal space, thus combining aspects of masculine and feminine" (p. 81).

(Note: I've got an X through "suggestively.")

My handwritten note in the margin, with a line pointed (ironically?) to "phallicentric," says, "for the column, NOT the name." There's a column at the center of the square, a military memorial. That column might be phallic, but nothing else about the square suggests phallicentrism.

But, I can't help but wonder now about the origin of the name, Gobbler's Knob. The real Gobbler's Knob is a wooded area outside of town, not in the town square.

My English Through the Ages book doesn't say when "knob" first became a sexual reference. I'm guessing it was almost immediately... actually, since the word come from "knot" as in wood, I'm guessing it was a penis reference before it was even its own word.


knob (nŏb) n.
1. A rounded protuberance.
2. a. A rounded handle, as on a drawer or door.
b. A rounded control switch or dial.
3. A prominent rounded hill or mountain.

[Middle English knobbe, from Middle Low German, knot in wood.]

According to English Through the Ages, knob was a word by the year 1100. And, I cheated there a little, picking the string of definitions that did not include a slang term for the penis. My point here is that #3 there is a thing. Another definition specifies that a geographic knob could be morainic. A moraine is "a mass of rocks and sediment carried down and deposited by a glacier, typically as ridges at its edges or extremity." So, yeah, a knob is an actual geographic thing. And, Roadside America tells us, "The real [Gobbler's Knob] location is a couple of miles out of town, in a little clearing at the top of a wooded hill."

As for gobbler, well gobble--meaning to east quickly--was in use by 1605. To gobble, i.e. make noises like a turkey, was in use by 1680. And, turkeys were called gobblers by 1740.

There are other Gobbler's (or Gobblers) Knobs, by the way. A sampling might include Gobbler's Knob Road in Dover and Pawling, New York, a "hill" in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, a "hill" ten miles east of Salt Lake City, Utah, 10 summits in Oregon, and an amusement park in Cobleskill, New York.

(I've got hill in quotation marks there because that "hill" in Washington is 5,485 feet at its peak, and the one in Utah is 10,246.)

The amusement park, by the way, "Schoharie County's Family Fun Park" has turkeys (aka gobblers) displayed prominently on its website. I was hoping they had a petting zoo with turkeys until I remembered the wild turkeys are dangerous and domesticated ones are fat and probably fairly lethargic.

While Googling "Gobbler's Knob" I found an interesting bit in a book called Chasing Spring: An American Journey Through a Changing Season. The author refers to ceremonies like the Groundhog Day one, saying they "are, or were in their origin, magical rites intended to insure the revival of nature in spring" (Stutz, 2006, p. 23). I think back to the sixth entry in this blog--230 days ago--one entitled "groundhog day used to mean something in this town." I wrote a relatively brief explanation for the origins of Groundhog Day... Imbolc, Candlemas... and I think now of pagan ritual and I wonder if the men who went out to Gobbler's Knob outside Punxsutawney not because that was a place where they found groundhogs (or turkeys for that matter), not because the hill might be a good place for a secular ritual that would follow year after year after year, but because Gobbler's Knob was already a place where magical rites took place, where practitioners of witchcraft danced and probably also performed sex acts, and maybe the name has nothing at all to do with turkeys.

I cannot find a definitive explanation as to why that particular hill outside Punxsutawney is called Gobbler's Knob, so I suppose I can choose to like the most interesting one. That is how we humans do things, isn't it?

Punxsutawney, by the way, one source says comes from the Unami-Len'api term Put'schisk'tey, which means "poison vine." But more sources say the town's name comes from a Native American terms for "mosquito town."

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to perform magical rites... for fun, not because I believe in them.

Monday, March 24, 2014

can't you feel you're warming up?

Since Benesh deals in Jungian terminology, it's no surprise that the shadow comes up a lot. For example, Benesh suggests the "shadow must be recovered and reclaimed to create wholeness and balance" (p. 77). Which made me think of Peter Pan when I read it, hence the pink tab labeled "Peter Pan."

My handwritten note in the margin:

Peter Pan (literally)

Peter - Phil
Wendy - Rita
Tink [two arrows, one angled up to Rita, one angled down to Nancy]
Tiger Lily - Nancy
Lost Boys - Gus & Ralph
Punx. Phil - Crocodile
Michael & John - Larry

I'm not sure that matchup works if you put any thought into some of those choices, but Phil certainly has some things in common with Peter Pan, aside from the shadow thing. He won't grow old, and pre- and early-loop Phil probably doesn't even want to. Both Peter Pan and Phil Connors are arrogant, cocky and boastful. Both are mischievous. Each plays an instrument...

But, enough about Peter Pan. If I spend entire blog entries on one passing detail in Benesh, I will never finish deconstructing and arguing with Benesh.

So, moving, we come to fire. There's a purple tab with an asterisk and a pink tab labeled "fire" on the sheet with pages 79 and 80. Benesh (2011) has this to say about fire:

The orange fake fire that Phil uses to seduce Nancy Taylor [there is no real evidence for this] and attempts to use to seduce Rita has both positive and negative connotations. It signifies enlightenment [although not in context of this film, so probably saying too much already, there, Benesh], which is positive, and is associated with the impetus for Phil's calling Rita's name while having sex with Nancy Taylor...

First of all, he and Nancy can hardly be said to be "having sex" in that scene, though I think it is fair to assume sex came soon after. Second of all, the connection between the fire and Phil's impulse to say the wrong name is presumptuous and unsupported by the film.

...he has become conscious of something he has repressed...

Which is why it is the very next day that he starts pursuing Rita... except, no, that doesn't happen. The next day we see is the day of the armored truck robbery, which may or may not be the same day as the following scene outside the movie theater, and only after that does the sequence I call "date night" get underway

But it also signifies hell [in a Christian context, maybe, but that symbolism is not supported by the film either], the place where deception leads and that Phil experiences in his present life, like a bardo...

noun: bardo
1. (in Tibetan Buddhism) a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person's conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death
2. an indeterminate, transitional state
"wandering adrift in a bardo of intense negativity, blame, disappointment, criticism, and denial"
Origin: Tibetan bár-do, from bar ‘interval’ + do ‘two’ his stuckness.

Fire is an element that contrasts with that of ice, which is reflected in the ice sculpting Phil does...

I've said before how I don't like Benesh's use of snow (and here, ice) as symbolic in a film set in midwinter. If they truly wanted snow to have resounding visual symbolism in the film, they might have tried to film closer to actual midwinter instead of a couple months later, so that it would actually be freezing out and the ground would be covered in snow. One of Danny Rubin's scenes he talked about at the Symposium on Groundhog Day in Woodstock was one in which Phil strips off his clothes and simply walks off into the countryside to freeze to death. That would be a scene worth wondering about the symbolism of freezing, of snow, of man's impotence against the elements, or what have you. Phil's ice sculpting does suggest a certain symbolism, which I have written about before--his chosen artform is one that is inherently temporary--but it also comes from practical reality; while visiting Punxsutawney to see the real Groundhog Day festivities there, Rubin et al discovered among other things an ice sculpting contest. Note: in the original screenplay, Phil learns to sculpt in marble.

...and ice is closely related to snow, a major motif in the film, that which slows and sticks Phil Connors, who several times expresses a strong preference for heat...

I can only assume Benesh refers to Phil's preference for a hot shower, which we can assume from his plan to take one. Other than that, Phil doesn't express "a strong preference for heat." In fact, I have just added an X to page 80 because of this.

Lovers are commonly said to burn with passion, and Phil Connors tells the young bridegroom at the end of the film that he fanned the flames of the bride's passion, helping her over her cold feet. Jung also equates fire with speech, based upon a number of myths, a common etymology [which I am now curious about], and frequent analogies referring to fire as [a] consuming, devouring tongue, which relates it to a destructive consumption and digestion, and speech which can enlighten and also inflame (Jung, 1967b, p. 159).

I think Benesh relies on Jung here simply to expand the already belabored metaphor she's trying to make so that her later discussion of digestion somehow links back to the fire. I don't think it is necessary to connect these two things, even if both may be important within Groundhog Day.

The scene where Phil Connors nearly succeeds in seducing Rita in his room is called "Fake Fire."

I am not sure of the format in which Benesh watched the film. The title of the DVD chapter that would include this scene is "Perfect guy."

This name [which Benesh may have invented] appears to refer more to false declarations than feigned passion. The definition of the latter, passion, is more contestable than that of love, as passion can be lust or even emotional neediness, but love demands a higher standard, as Rita points out. The stolen truck later bursts into flames with the two Phils trapped inside, and the next method of suicide, the toaster, combines heat [which is not fire] with opposing water to result in electrocution. Finally, fire is made from friction, also a form of transformative contact. (Benesh, 2011, p. 80-1)

My handwritten note running down the center margin between pages 79 and 80 is this:

fire mentioned as warming-->(fake) fire seen as seductive-->fire seen as destructive (too bad we get no scene of Phil warming O'Reilly by a fire to bring fire back to explicitly warming)-->positive fire mentioned [with an arrow drawn to a box around "fanned the flames" in Benesh's paragraph]. *we only know the fire is fake on the night Phil fails at seduction

First, a note: that last bit after the asterisk is incorrect. Even I get some details wrong sometimes,

Call this sequence the progression of fire. I will elaborate on its details. The fire mentioned as warming comes from Rita:

You’re missing all the fun. These people are great. Some of them have been partying all night. They sing songs until they get too cold then they go sit by the fire and they get warm and they come back and sing some more.

The next significant fire is the one in Phil's room at the Cherry Street Inn. The fire is fake and we see it just before we see Phil and Nancy on the couch. While the "fake fire" is mentioned when Phil gets Rita into the room, we do not see the fire this time. One could take this to signify that the metaphorical flame here is something more real.

The fire seen as destructive is the obvious one, the explosion of the stolen truck which kills the two Phils.

And, like Benesh, I see Phil's line to Fred about Debbie--"I just fanned the flames of her passion for you"--as bringing the fire back around to something positive again. But, like I said in the parenthetical in my margin note, the progression of fire would work far better if we had more visuals.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to feel the flames of passion, and damn the shadows.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

if you don't believe me take me by the hand

If we took Benesh (2011) at face value, then we would have to assume every film in which characters have hands is somehow using those hands to mean something. I don't even think Benesh is all wrong in some of the symbolism she describes in Groundhog Day but she chooses such simplistic things--hands, snow--that the choices are more banal than meaningful.

If there were closeups of hands--to be fair, there are one or two--or characters talked about hands or their hands were particularly meaningful in context of the story... except Benesh doesn't want us looking to the narrative; she advises (by way of Izod (2000) citing Hillman (1983 presumably) that we "focus on an image-oriented reading versus one that rushes, as it typical, to narrative conclusions" (p. 63). But, the problem here is when looking at images pushes us not just past the narrative but into an entirely different universe from it. She wants to look at the film in terms of Jungian psychology and dream interpretation. Okay, fine. But, if I had this dream, I would not assume there was any significance to the hands. Nor would I think that the color white has any particular significance (though I would assume it was important that the dream was set in midwinter).

I noticed something recently that made me wonder about the deliberate placement of bars throughout the film--a topic Benesh hints at with her focus on lines. Gilbey (2004) also notes the bars. For example, he calls the pink stripes on the wallpaper in the Cherry Street Inn's dining room "Candy-coloured prison bars" (p. 35). Benesh uses Gilbey to back up her own references, including things like the blinds at the Tip Top and in the neurologist's office. My response to the blinds thing is simple: blinds are a reasonable thing to put over a window you want to have (you know, for realism) but don't want the audience to actually get distracted by. For example, the neurologist's office amounts to two walls, the light panel for the x-rays on one and a window with blinds on the other. Those walls are not actually part of a building but a cover set inside a warehouse. Those blinds give us the verisimilitude of it being a real place while completely blocking our view of its nonexistent exterior. Similarly, the frosted windows in the hallway and stairs of the Cherry Street Inn sets give us a sense of natural lighting and a world outside but also keep us from being able to look past the action to events outside.

My response to the lines/bars issue altogether comes in two parts. Part one: lines, both vertical and horizontal are ominpresent in the modern world. The wood panel wainscotting in Phil's room has vertical lines, for example, but then the upper wall has a floral design. Should we read into one while not reading into the other? Or should we assume that these just happen to be the details of that particular set? Out on the streets of Punxsutawney, there are vertical lines and horizontal lines everywhere, and what about that brick road? That has got to mean something, right? Or maybe it's just the road that happens to be in Woodstock, Illinois where they filmed. I mentioned in one of my first times dealing with Benesh in this blog the supposed line from Hemingway about The Old Man and the Sea and the symbolism everyone finds in it:

There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse. All the symbolism people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.

My response before began with this: "On the one hand, I think Hemingway is blatantly lying here." If nothing else--if that novel is merely a surface-level story about an old man struggling to catch a marlin--the old man carrying his broken mast around afterward is the most obvious of Christ-Figural symbols that if Hemingway didn't get it himself, there had to be something seriously wrong with him. However, as I said before, "On the other hand, looking for symbolism in commonplace objects might be pushing it sometimes." And, I think both Gilbey and Benesh are pushing it a little with the stripes thing. Hell, watch the blu-ray version of the film and you'll see so many lines and textures, even in costumes, that all of these things become meaningless...


But, I was thinking about Anderson's Fudge Shoppe in the film not that long ago. Like the Tip Top Cafe, Anderson's was a set built on location for the film. It's only in one, very brief scene--on "date night" Rita (presumably) eats fudge and turns down white chocolate, plus there's a nice deja vu joke. I wondered, was there no candy shop anywhere nearby that they could use for the film? Why build Anderson's just for that one scene? One scene, much like the restaurant scene in which Buster chokes, could be filmed in an existing location more easily, one would think, than building something anew. The Tip Top, for comparison, is used repeatedly so the film crew needed complete control over the set. The thing is, on the walking tour in Woodstock, Bob Hudgins mentioned how they built up the storefront across the street from the Tip Top to look like a pharmacy, complete with interior because, you know, blinds don't hide everything. And, the film never even goes inside that pharmacy, nor did they intend to. That was just the production fixing up an empty location that they knew would figure in the background of some of their shots. So, there is practical reason to build something like Anderson's, so between the one scene inside, the rocky road with the Anderson's logo, and Anderson's itself visible in the background in a couple scenes, it adds to the reality of the larger location. And, it creates a insular little world in that square, which is a big part of why the production picked a town square town in the first place.

And, I didn't even mention why Anderson's links to the topic of the bars/lines. The inside candy shop decor includes notable stripes on the walls; that's pretty much it.

But, back to hands.

There is an interesting thing that comes from Benesh's (2011) focus on hands in terms of the development of Rita's interactions with Phil. I think we can skip past the detail of the hands to the larger acts involved, but let's see Benesh's version first. She writes,

Rita repeatedly smoothes Phil's lapel before the groundhog ceremonies, slaps him nine times, flips cards into a hat with him in his room one night, reaches to help him down from the stage at the bachelor auction, and reaches over him on February 3 to turn off the alarm clock. (Benesh, 2011, p. 74-5)

1) I've already pointed out the mistake with "nine."

2) If I wanted to be even more of a smartass, I might wonder why Rita playing with her food in the "French poetry" scene isn't on Benesh's list.

3) I do think there is something here, I'm just not sure we need to rely on hands to see it. In fact, doing so skips us past some important steps. Let us look at this sequence in Benesh's terms first then move beyond that. First, if we go by just the actions Benesh mentions, we can get something like my handwritten note on page 75: "motherly-->hostile-->accepting?" It doesn't make for an obvious linear progression. Then again, neither does life much of the time. But, for a curvilinear progression, we could put these elements into it. But, it wouldn't tell the whole story of the progression of Rita's interactions with Phil. We would miss out entirely on why she is hostile, for example. The near seduction is just as important for our understanding of Rita as it is for our understanding of Phil. And, her staying with him on "god day" is better represented by her falling alseep on him, I would say, than by her throwing cards into the hat (nevermind that while the hat and cards get a closeup, Rita's hands do not). Still, Benesh's sequence is interesting in how it is bigger than the three steps I put in my margin note. I like that her last thing is Rita reaching over Phil to turn off the alarm clock. If I read this progression Benesh gives and didn't know the film, I might think the symbolism here is Rita moving past Phil, but it is far from that. Rita is in fact turning off the alarm to stay in bed with Phil a little longer.

There are other problems with Benesh's focus on hands--like mentioning Phil hugging Ned, which is about arms and not hands--but I think the Rita thing demonstrates why I think focusing too specifically here misses the point. I think about it like this:

When writing a scholarly essay (as I try to make this blog most of the time), you provide a parenthetical citation to indicate where a quotation comes from. You should have enough information in your parenthetical (or in the sentence preceding the quotation itself) that your reader can readily find more information on the source in your references page. And, you provide enough information in your references page that your reader can go find the original source if he is so inclined. Similarly--I think--a discussion of symbolism should be able to work out of context but also, if one were to read the discussion--say Benesh's take on hands--before seeing the film in question, it should hold up upon viewing said film. That is to say, knowing the film as I do, I can see Benesh's point, but I don't think that viewing the film in context of Benesh's description works as well. Phil's hands were just folded as he made the "boats but not the ocean" speech, for example, but I wouldn't have even noticed his hands if I weren't writing this particular blog entry on this particular night. His folded hands don't mean anything.

But, on the other hand, if one were to read, say May's (2012) piece about love in Groundhog Day, it would follow that you would see the love story in the film if you watched it afterward. But, if you watched the film first, before reading May, you would still see that love story. Benesh is steering the focus, creating (or rather, attempting to create) meaning where there isn't any. She hints at larger meanings with the hands thing, but I think this is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to see in every hand a synecdoche for each and every man, woman, and child. To see in every man-made object the hands that made it, the mind that imagined it, the history that led to it. To see context in the most minute of details, whether it makes sense or not.

P.S. May's piece, by the way:

May, T. (2012, February 26). Love and Death. The Stone. Retrieved from

Saturday, March 22, 2014

you got a problem with what i'm saying

Page 67 of Benesh (2011) is interesting. It's the start of her Chapter Four: Findings. At the bottom of the page, she lists, "The symbolic images chosen to amplify" and I have handwritten notes next to each one.

Her first: pairs/double

My handwritten note: whereas I noticed trios

I know I've written about the trio thing before, but I cannot find the entry [found it].

Her second: lines and spheres

My handwritten note: I reject

This one, I have definitely written about before.

Her third: blue-and-white colors

My handwritten note: I select only blue.

Which you can read about in at least a shallow way here.

Her fourth: hands, and

(I put a box around hands)

My handwritten note: is it, for example, Phil's still hand in the opening shot, countered by his moving, energetic hands playing piano? in that sense, his hands move when he stops in front the of the moving truck... so movement is both life and death? stillness is internal death. 1-11-14

I think I was, in British terms (not that I'm British) taking the piss here. Sort of making fun of Benesh... but also accepting that maybe there's something there.

Her last: the groundhog

My handwritten note (not next to this last image but below the entire list): another motif worth exploring is mimicry (mirroring and matching) + echoes (e.g. "out on a limb" --> Zacchaeus)

There's a yellow tab on this sheet--labeled "symbols"--in line with the list, a purple tab--with an asterisk and "echoes"--in line with my last handwritten note.

Also, highlighted: "All these metaphors [reproduction, digestion, and respiration] depict means of taking in and assimilating the Other, surrendering the former self, and actualizing a newly expanded capacity" (Benesh, 2011, p. 68).

The next sheet has a lot of writing from me as well, but I've already incorporated these notes into an entry on Benesh and the film's structure.

I suppose it makes sense I would have more notes in the Findings chapter than Benesh's literature review or methods sections. The next page has a few notes as well.

Benesh says, "Many other examples reflect the kinds of contrast mentioned above, like the blue sky and white clouds" (p. 71). I've got a box around "contrast" and around "blue sky and white clouds" and a handwritten note in the margin: "do clouds contrast sky? is that not their natural and normal place to be?"

Benesh says, "We soon see Phil paired with Larry, then with a production assistant, and finally with Rita" (p. 71). I've got an X through "paired," another X through "then" and another X through "and" because the scene in question (right after Phil's on air at the station) never frames Phil with Larry or Phil with Kenny, but rather all three together. And, nowhere in this scene or in the van ride that follows is Phil "paired" with Rita either, since Larry is there the entire time. In fact, the only person Phil is paired with in the station sequence is Nan, AKA Hairdo.

Benesh says, "By the end of the film, Phil's pairings have become more harmonious. He... hugs Ned Ryerson..." (p. 71). I've got "harmonious" and "hugs Ned" underlined, with an X between the two, and this handwritten note: "Phil hugging Ned is NOT harmonious. And, I still stand by that one. Phil hugging Ned is one of the couple things in the film that I think don't quite fit their timing in the story. By the time we see Phil hug Ned, Phil should actually be hugging Ned in a harmonious way; instead, he deliberately hugs him long enough to creep him out and send him running. And, it gets a laugh; I even think it's mildly amusing. But, it seems incongruous with Phil at that point in the journey. This is Phil near the end of his transformation--and given that transformation is Benesh's topic of choice, I think she should have seen that the hug isn't quite right for when it happens. By the way, the pink tab on this sheet is labeled "hug is not harmonious."

(For the record--I have mentioned it before, I'm pretty sure--the other detail I think is a little off in timing is Phil offering $1000 to Mary the Piano Teacher. On the one hand, yes, maybe after as long as he may have been in the time loop at this point, money may not mean anything to him. On the other hand, this far into the time loop, he also should be more mature about decisions like this. I choose to assume that on the next resumption he offered Mary less money for a lesson, and on the next resumption even less, until he found the lowest amount he could pay for the lesson without spending all of exo-loop Phil Connors' money... you know, just in case the loop suddenly ends.)

Those are the page 71 nitpicks.

On the next page I actually started reading into an image from the film that Benesh included... something like this:

I suppose I'm buying into Benesh's "pairing" symbology a bit in these comments, but I found a way to tie her pairing and these visuals into a basic outline of Phil's journey. On that image above, I've got this handwritten note in the margin: "big Phil - alone, egocentric, separate from the world. small Phil - on the map, part of the world, suppressed"

Then, there is this image:

My handwritten note: "small Phil has doubled and grown larger."

Then, I've got a third handwritten note without its own image: "in the end, big Phil is now part of the world, framed in the Mandala of grounding imagery--the groundhog 1-11-14." I've already written about that "Mandala" thing, which is, so far, possibly my favorite pull from Benesh.

Highlighted at the bottom of the page: "Conversely, just as one entity can split, become two, and differentiate, two can merge and become one" (Benesh, 2011, p. 72).

I've know already discussed the snowman scenes in terms of Benesh's pairing but I can't find the specific entry I'm thinking of at the moment [found it]. Anyway, she says, "The important snowman scenes... are presented as a pair" (p. 73). My handwritten note in the margin: "though the snowman is identical in body but with two different heads."

Benesh says, Phil "and anchorwoman Nan mirror one another, twisting their hands together" (p. 74). I take issue with the word twisting. Folded hands are normal things, while twisting implies what something more like wringing, something more active. But, Benesh is trying to make something out of hands--which should probably get an entire entry... maybe it will.

Finally, for today, Benesh says, "Rita repeatedly smooths Phil's lapel before the groundhog ceremonies, slaps him nine times, flips cards into a hat with him in his room one night..." (p. 74). I won't include the entire quotation because it fits better that separate discussion of hands. But, I will mention that there is an X through "nine" as Rita slaps Phil ten times, once on Day Two, once on that best version of "date night" and then eight times in a row in the montage.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to be more constructive than critical, more uplifting than demeaning, more complimentary than insulting.

i'm predicting march 21st

I'm watching Meatballs again before Groundhog Day tonight. And, while I had a title in mind for today's blog, I come to the writing of it without a plan. In fact, given that I'm watching Meatballs first, I probably won't even be posting this entry until after midnight, so my prediction will be wrong.

Since I'm in a pessimistic mood, I will suggest that I'm wrong about a lot of things like all the time.

I thought about writing some generic stuff about spring, but that just seems wrong since Groundhog Day is all about winter.

And Meatballs is set in the summer. My seasons are all confuzzled today.

Timing. That's the issue.

All I really want to say, in line with the title above, is this: March 21st will come just as any other day will. Time will go on. We may make new friends or lose old ones but life goes on.

So anyway, Benesh (2011) says,

At a given point in development, less conforming and more assertive agentic persons may cultivate a latent appreciation for communion and community. This expands them, not by increasing their agency, but by increasing their sense of community. This has two other potential effects. One, it helps the collective, that is, all those who are now more appreciated, to individuate, whether by cultivating an awareness of agency, as embodied in this new partner, and or by simply adding to its communal resources. Two, it may paradoxically, indirectly, increase the agency of the individual, who also gains strength through these new alliances. Through this integration of opposites, both expansion and wholeness is achieved. (p. 43)

Communion--that's the label on the yellow tab on this sheet.

Then, Benesh gets something slightly wrong. She says, "Nor do we know about his personal history outside of the 'one day' that is depicted in the film (in fact, he reveals only one significant memory of his prior life in the entire film." (Benesh, 2011, p. 44). The thing is, we know more than that about Phil Connors prior to the time loop. We know, for example, he's got a sister named Mary Pat. We know he went to school at Case Western High which is in Cleveland (and in the original screenplay, Phil even specifically says he's from Cleveland). We know he works as a weatherman for Channel 9 Pittsburgh but wishes he worked for a network. Per the second revision of screenplay, we also know he's a bit of a womanizer who has "charm[ed] all the little P.A.'s at the station, all the secretaries, and even some of the weekend anchors" (Ramis, 1992, January 7, p. 40).

And, on Meatballs just now Bill Murray said, "You gotta want it, Larry." And in the next scene, "For your information..." not Hairdo but Philip. Some Harold Ramis lines or Bill Murray lines repeating.

Sure, Phil doesn't reveal much about his life, but we can figure him out anyway.

On page 45, there are two Xs. Benesh (2001) suggests that Phil "masters" French, which there is no evidence for. She also lists "poetry (Baudelaire)" among the things he's mastered. Again, no evidence. He found a book of French poetry that included Baudelaire... maybe; we don't even know for sure he has that book. He may know that Rita won't take him up on the offer of reading to her, which means he wouldn't actually need the book.

CORRECTION: just as I was completing today's entry, the scene in which Phil offers to read French poetry to Rita played on my TV. And, Phil actually seems to have a book handy when he says it. He grabs it and lifts it just barely into frame.

Benesh (2011) makes an interesting point regarding Phil's emotional life. Here's the context:

In a text-relevant example [regarding that Gestalt Cycle of experience], Phil is dissatisfied emotionally, with his lovemaking with Nancy Taylor (sensation) and calls Rita's name (awareness). He becomes motivated to figure out how to get close to Rita (mobilization), and invests countless February seconds failing to successfully woo her, killing himself (excitement and action), finally hitting bottom and making contact (contact) in the form of his perfect day. The curse lifts. In this scenario, his "rent to start" comment and the closing theme music ("almost like being in love") are merely a healthy assimilation and withdrawal. (p. 49-50)

I like the idea of that. I mean, obviously, the "rent to start" line is a) there because it's funny and b) a lingering bit of Phil's sarcastic, cynical side. But, it's also a reasonable plan. You don't just move to a new town with a new girl (or guy) after just one night. That's just a bad idea. But, if you are going to, yeah, you don't buy property together. The yellow tab here is labeled "'rent to start' - healthy."

The next tab is a pink one--and it looks to be a topic I meant (and still mean) to look up in more detail. The label says "4 means of interpretation." Benesh says Frederickson's (2005) Jungian approach to film

...can be seen as an expansion of film scholar Bordwell's (1989) four means of interpretation, in which each is multiplicative of the others: (1) the film as imitation "world," (2) "explicit" intention of a moral or message, (3) intentional symbolic or "implicit" latent meaning, and (4) "repressed" meaning that is unconscious to the makers (pp. 8-9). I would connect these four means explicitly and say that the verisimilitude of a film, as "imitation world," will affect that realization of its potential to have its intended and other messages and symbols received, assimilated, transformed, and expanded upon by its audience. (Benesh, 2001, p. 54)

Without further research, I would say all that falls in line with something I've said more than once in this blog--when we want to find meaning, we can find it in any film, any scene, any line of dialogue. And, when we don't want deeper meaning, we won't necessarily see it. And, the meaning intended by the filmmakers and the meaning we take from the film as audience members are not the same thing. We see what we want and/or expect to see. It's called confirmation bias--I've written about it before.We ignore the details that don't fit with our current beliefs and values and we latch onto the details that do. That's one interesting thing that has come from doing this blog, watching the same film day after day after day--I've come at the film from so many angles, sometimes I forget what my biases are in regards to it.

I wish I could forget some other things as well.

The next tab is yellow--"merge with totem" the label says. Benesh (2011) suggests that Punxsutawney Phil is Phil Connors' "totemic opposite". More specifically, she references Gilbey (2004) pointing out that

...the camera, between the opening and closing credits, remains almost exclusively on the ground, eschewing the omniscient God's-eye view. Instead Phil Connors is a stand-in for the omniscient presence, fallible, but the best we have. A careful examination of the images in the film reflects the process through which the hot and heady, phallic-narcissistic, self- and goal-oriented Phil Connors can merge with his humble totemic opposite Punxsutawney Phil to become temperate, well-rounded, and timeless. (Benesh, 2011, p. 61-2)

The idea that the groundhog is--I don't know, exactly--grounded while Phil Connors is not makes a weird sort of sense... until you think about it and decide it's silly and simplistic... until you think about it some more and decide it's brilliant. Except, the groundhog has no personality except that with which it is imbued by Buster, by Goober, by the other Inner Circle guys, by Rita calling him cute, and by Phil forcing him to drive. The groundhog is little more than a MacGuffin. And, lacking real personality or character, I'm not sure it qualifies as a totem. In the film's terms, I mean--the film does not tell us what the groundhog represents or what it is like. In interpretive terms, one could run with this idea. And, I do like the sound of it.

And, in a related note (and a purple tab labeled "research"), Benesh cites Izod (2000), suggesting he "encourages the researcher, after having watched the film as many times as needed, to rerun it in his or her mind, with attention to the symbolic content, attending to its personal emotional resonance" (p. 63). This goes back to Benesh's notion that we each create our own "personal 'edition'" in our head of any film we have seen and take the time to think about (and really, just by watching it from our own, individually unique perspective, we create such a thing without putting any active thought into it). So, whether the groundhog is Phil's totem or not doesn't depend, necessarily, on what the film tells us but on what we tell ourselves when we watch.

And--it gets complicated here--Benesh (2011) cites Izod (2000) citing Hillman (1983) "in advising that we focus on an image-oriented reading versus one that rushes, as is typical, to narrative conclusions" (p. 63). I say, why not both?

Of course, I've got the time with this project to look at this film in many ways. I can do textual analysis in terms of narrative, in terms of thematic symbolism, in terms of visuals, in terms of... well, whatever comes to mind.

And, I will end today's entry, just as the "date night" sequence is getting underway, with the last tab I've got in Benesh's Chapter Three. Tying right in to what I was just saying, I accept the challenge Benesh says is impossible. She writes, "even over multiple viewings, it is impossible to list every image and object and less so to analyze such" (Benesh, 2011, p. 65). My pink label has a big X on it and the words "impossible task vs GDP" (GDP being, of course, Groundhog Day Project. I will catalog and analyze as much of this film as I can in these 365 days.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to not catalog anything, or write anything, for a good long while.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

a place you used to crawl underneath

The scripty font seems unjustified for a horror film. The butterfly seems pretentious. But, the people projected into the jars on the shelves is a nice visual and the production value already seems pretty good...

Oh, I should explain. I'm watching Haunter, a horror film with a time loop. Abigail Breslin stars. And those were my initial impressions. And SPOILERS will be coming.

When your little brother's imaginary friend--who he insists is not imaginary--leaves things in your room, you should be more freaked out.

By the way... "Lisa Johnson! Me and Edgar found the pirate treasure. Meet us in the secret cave." That walkie talkie bit has nothing on Sonny and Cher.

Not sure if this is awesome or really sad--definitely too on-the-nose. A bit of a dialogue between Lisa (Breslin) and her mother:

Mother: something something where do you want to go for dinner for your birthday tomorrow?

Lisa: Ask me tomorrow.

Mother: I hope we get there... because the car's having trouble.

Also this, regarding laundry: "I don't think it's possible for our clothes to wear out, ever."

Keep in mind: time loop... though, no the movie has not indicated it yet. Of course, the house is surrounding by a slightly unrealistic fog, a little like The Others. And, father character just mentioned the phones are out. Nope, nothing weird gonna happen to this family.

Lisa plays the clarinet--she is already part way to being Rita's perfect guy.

Rubik's Cube to solve... loop marker? Missing laundry, and Lisa already knows something's up. Same meals, same broken down car, and "there is no school, there is no work." And, "it's pretty frustrating" always being the day before she turns 16. Danny Rubin might appreciate this film, since his original script for Groundhog Day started in medias res like this.

Lisa recites dialogue from the TV show her family watches. Cut to next morning, she's woken up by her brother's (or rather, his imaginary friend's) toy again.

Lisa still goes down to do the laundry when her mother tells her. I guess being limited to a house makes a hedonistic stage fairly impossible. Weird noises this time in the basement. She probably shouldn't check it out, though, or she might learn that Phil Connors is wrong when he says "Anything different is good."

Reagan on the TV and a wall-mounted rotary-dial phone. It's worse than I thought. She's trapped in the 1980s.

Montage time already? We're only 13 minutes in. We haven't even hit the 17-minute mark, yet.

New development, someone outside her room during the night...

Next morning, her brother's toy walkie talkie again.

In the basement, she moves the dryer to find a hole in the wall with a tiny doorway. I'm guessing trolls or John Malkovich. Finds the door just after 16 minutes. 17-minute mark: she plays clarinet. I think the editor's timing was off.

But the noises are in the attic also? They interrupt her clarinet playing again--and does she have no books or games? She just practices her clarinet--and the same song--every night. Is this a female version of that bit Groundhog Day skips as Phil plays Rachmaninoff over and over and over again to get better at it?

Old School VCR--home video dated "Aug 24 1984." Someone's in their new home in the background of the footage. Nice.

Ouija Board. Bad idea. Of course, she wouldn't have seen, say, Paranormal Activity, but she could have seen Witchboard maybe, if her parents would allow it... checked IMDb and Witchboard didn't come out until 1986, so I guess Lisa probably didn't see it.

Father smokes. Lisa: "That's not part of the routine."

Nice Atari. And, on this non-routine day, the family doesn't watch Murder She Wrote.Dad is busy banging tools against the car engine; seriously, he's not doing any fixing, he is just angrily hitting it.

The scares and weird visuals and voices work pretty well, but I wonder if this film isn't going to suffer from the two porcupines problem... That's an Orson Scott Card thing. You can make your audience swallow one porcupine (i.e. one outlandish idea) but not two.

Next morning, her brother over the walkie talkie is more desperate and her parents are fighting in the kitchen. Dad thinks Mom took the sparkplugs.

Doorbell. This can't be good. If the phone company guy looks like Stephen McHattie, you just don't let him in, even if you don't suspect weird shit is going down. That's just a given. And, when his pupils have skulls in them... screw the phone, try smoke signals or something.

He wants to know how long Lisa's been "awake." She guesses a week. I'd wager longer. She's a little too comfortable with the resumptions for it to be so early in the loop.

Dad does not smoke after dinner. Mom references the recent surgeon general warning against smoking. Is there a reason this movie takes place in the 80s?

Bike ride into the fog... good idea, I suppose, but plays a little cheesy. Reminds me of In the Mouth of Madness though, since every direction is back home... and a link to that movie is nothing but good in my opinion.

Lisa has decided apparently, that she's dead and the voice she hears is alive. So, this is The Others then?

Ouija Board again... It occurs to me that I don't know where I first heard of the Ouija Board.

Lisa goes to her room to find someone in her bed, nice moment but the camera angle seems wrong, too much on Lisa and not on the bed. "Ghost" girl tells Lisa to look under the floor.

Under the floor, Lisa finds newspaper clippings, missing girls for every year since 1953. And a key to the Malkovich door.

An extra wing to the basement, flooded. No Coraline, no Malkovich, no trolls. Some random jewelry strewn about. And, girl burns in the furnace. Lisa runs. Not very helpful.

Phone rings... I'm hoping for someone to say, "Seven days" or "Have you checked the children?" The latter seems more timely.

Edgar's at the table when Lisa turns back. Young kid hanging out at the breakfast table in a suit in the 1980s cannot be up to any good.

It occurs to me as Lisa sees her family decay and cries out, "I don't want to be alone" that this movie has pretty much the same theme going on that Groundhog Day does. Well, one of the them anyway. Lisa wears a Siouxsie and the Banshees shirt, black of course, she's got a Cure poster among others on her wall. She's an early goth (or a late punk). Certainly lacking in genuine human connection.

She makes one, briefly, and this new bedroom is closer to our present. The decor is different, a little more Ikea... and there's an iPad. A different clarinet. Newspaper clipping--actually, a printout from the internet--dated April 23,1985 let's us know Lisa and her family were found dead. Ooh, her little brother is named Robert. I like him a little more now.

Lisa is now Olivia. Sister is playing on the Wii. Different mother is setting the table. Different father (who smokes) is getting angry with the car in the garage.

And, back to the 1985. You think Lisa makes a connection to Back to the Future?

Lisa finally picks a restaurant for her birthday. And, briefly, I suspect she has solved the time loop; her teenage indecisiveness was at fault all along. But, no.

Brother calls on the walkie talkie from the "secret cave" (i.e. behind the Malkovich doorway). But, no, he was messing with her. He actually in the attic and Stephen McHattie has locked Lisa in the basement. And, she found the One Ring... actually just a ring with writing on it: ...NDALE HIGH SCHOOL on the outside. Something (not Class, I don't think) of 1954 on the inside.

One hour mark: Climbs out of secret cave to find another girl trying to beat her way out of the garage with a hammer. Outfit screams 1954. Lisa recognizes her. Finding the ring connected them.

Lisa finds ether and suddenly thinks her father was in on whatever got them killed. I don't get that leap of logic.

Brother figured out they're all dead. "We're just like Pac Man," he says. "We play in the same maze over and over and we can never die. We're always in our house and that's just how it got to be." Sums up a time loop quite well.

Lisa purposely plays a new tune on her clarinet and connects to the girl in the present again, Olivia. Lisa writes a note on her arm for Olivia to GET OUT. Olivia has left a video on her laptop for Lisa. Big SPOILERS ahead. Edgar killed all those girls before but died in '83. And, Olivia's father is acting strange. In fact, he's being played by Stephen McHattie now instead of David Hewlett.

Back in 1985, Mother is "awake" now too. The missing laundry was clothes she packed to leave Dad... I'm sensing a problem here, though. Our main characters cannot actually solve anything, can they? Olivia's dad is possessed also... or is this the kind of time travel where you can change things?

Lisa confronts Dad about hiding the spark plugs. He is surprisingly quick to show he hid them. Problem now is the movie is reminding me of that part of the last season of Lost I didn't like, waking everyone up to the reality they're dead.

And then, it gets weird. And Lisa states the obvious: "We need to get out of this house."

But, when her family heads into the light out in the fog now, she stays behind. The house is in the past now, photo of young Edgar and his family on the wall. Clock stops. Kinda lame. Lisa finds Edgar using the ether on his parents. He tells her to get out of his house and she... runs. For a moment, I thought she was going to leave the house.

Edgar's got the jars seen at the beginning of the film.

Meanwhile, in the present/future, Olivia's dad looks for Olivia. She's Lisa again. She breaks down the Malkovich door and collects the jewelry to "wake up" everyone. Nice idea but Olivia's dad, then Edgar, interrupts.

Problem here: our protagonist is Lisa, but if Olivia knows her father is not himself, why can't she fight back? Why must Lisa be the one who manages to fight back? That kinda reduces Olivia's agency. I mean,

Edgar: "History doesn't repeat itself. It rhymes." Brilliant or stupid? Can't decide.

I guess I spoke too soon about Lisa being the only one who can fight back. Frances--the first victim--shows up. Then, all the rest of the girls, and Edgar's parents.

(Why not Lisa's mom and brother? They died too.)

Then--by magic or whatever, because figuring out you're a ghost means you can manipulate matter and whatnot right away--Edgar's in the furnace burning.

Lisa wishes Olivia a good life and goes to sleep. Fade to black...

But then, the walkie talkie, and fade in on Lisa waking up. The message is slightly different. It's the next morning, Lisa's birthday. Still dead, but still with her family. Outside, a big bright light. The second movie with David Hewlett in it to end with a character leaving into a bright light. And, didn't even realize it, same director. Cube was more engaging but this wasn't as bad as some people on IMDb would have you think.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: ...related to Haunter? Do I lock people in a house? No, that seems morally wrong. Figure out how to link myself to future people in my exact location? That seems a little too... not possible. Maybe I'll just do some laundry, everyone's laundry.