Sunday, October 27, 2013

Groundhog Day (1993): Egotist learns to love himself and others via a time loop

Title: Groundhog Day
Director: Harold Ramis
Language: English
Rating: PG

Hell is being stuck with yourself when you're full of self-loathing.

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) strikes people as having a high opinion of himself. He's a Pittsburgh weatherman full of contempt for his colleagues; he's convinced he's headed for a more prominent spot on national TV. An assignment to cover the Groundhog Day festivities at Punxsutawney is a personal affront to him; he hates the yokels in small towns and their silly traditions. When a snowstorm forces him to stay overnight in Punxsutawney with his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), and cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliott), he's gone through what he probably considers the most pointless, boring day of his life.

Until the gets up the next morning, and finds out it's Groundhog Day all over again.

Time is stuck in a loop, forcing Phil to relive the same day over and over. At first, he thinks he's going nuts. How can it be that he's waking up every morning at 6:00 am in the same bed and breakfast, with the same song playing from the alarm radio? As he realizes that this is real, and he's actually trapped in Punxsutawney in a 24-hour loop, he begins to indulge his hedonistic side: speeding, thieving, seducing women, eating junk food the way a man would when he doesn't have to care about cholesterol and cavities.

Bill Murray overindulging in Groundhog Day

Friday, October 25, 2013

Week in Seven Words #187

authenticity
For sale at the Renaissance Faire: Ye olde funnel cakes and cheesecake on a stick.

bantam
The event is advertised as a chess match with actual people as chess pieces, going head to head on a grassy field. Only, it doesn't look like chess. There are some poorly choreographed sword fights and a guy who leaps into battle with a pair of rubber chickens. The people sitting behind us on the stands are speculating about the real-life occupation of each fighter. "That one's an insurance salesman," they say, "and that one's probably a secretary."

masterly
It's worth watching the artists and musical folks, the ones who make lovely clay bowls and wear a phantom-like mask as they play the organ.

menagerie
Their menagerie contains ducks, pigeons, and a tortoise. Also a kookaburra, trapped in a mesh cage far from its native soil. Across the lane, a patient camel waits to take children on its back and plod with them around a field as their parents wave and snap photos from the side.

nickel-and-dimed
The maze is advertised as an Amazing Maze, but the only amazing thing about it is that we actually coughed up an extra couple of bucks to wander through its short, creaky corridors.

novelty
The first time he rides on a school bus, he's over 60. Some experiences are too good to pass up on in life.

pageantry
It's a parade of dignified queens and saucy barmaids, warriors in eclectic armor and non-magical folk who wish they were wizards. Some have sprouted fairy wings; others have clapped aluminum swords to the waistband of their jeans. The ale on offer helps fuel their fantasies.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Three Short Stories About War from Around the World

Story Collection: World Literature: An Anthology of Great Short Stories, Drama, and Poetry
Editor: Donna Rosenberg


Title: One Soldier
Author: Katai Tayama
Translator: Jai Ratan

This story is more or less a one-man death march, and the soldier it focuses on could be anyone. He's Japanese, fighting against Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, but the details of the war don't matter. All we see is him, leaving a military hospital prematurely because he can't stand to be there anymore, and trying to catch up with the other soldiers in his company. He realizes, while marching through the countryside, that he's still sick with beriberi, a horrible condition brought about by thiamine deficiency. He thinks about the glorious ideas that made him eager to participate in the war, and the possibility of dying from cardiac arrest after straining to walk for miles with beriberi. Or, even if he survives, the thought that he'll be trapped anyway, gunned down somewhere. War is a giant trap, and every moment he's alive he's in pain. The heart of the story is his terrible cry: "This pain, this pain, this pain!"

Title: The Soldier
Author: Krishan Chandar
Translator: (Info not provided)

Shortly after the end of World War II, a Pakistani soldier returns to his village. He wishes with everything in him that life will continue as before, only with the added benefit of people regarding him as a hero. But he knows, from the start, that everything will be different. He's lost his leg, and people notice the loss of the leg more than the medals he's received for his heroics; the glory of his sacrifice is tarnished by pity. Others have moved on with their lives, and there he is, an object of pity among them, beloved to them but also strange and upsetting. What does he live for at the end?

Title: War
Author: Luigi Pirandello
Translator: (Info not provided)

Although it's set against a backdrop of war, the story is not so much about war, but more about the difference between people's thoughts and the misleading impressions they give with what they say. There are a group of parents in a train car whose sons have enlisted in the military. They squabble about who has cause to worry most, and one passenger delivers a monologue on patriotism, and how "our children do not belong to us, they belong to the Country..." He nearly convinces one woman that she hasn't risen to the occasion and that she should resign herself to the possibility of her son dying in war. But all it takes is one innocent question to expose his own love and grief, which can't be quieted by any amount of tribute paid to abstract principles.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week in Seven Words #186

airless
A lack of productivity is suffocating.

bullish
The cashiers summon customers by waving red flags.

complacently
A number of people think that 'natural' automatically means 'desirable' or 'immutable.'

deadwood
Branches snap and fall, no longer able to bear their own weight.

impositions
An inability to handle uncertainty lies at the heart of so much misery and evil.

rack
Can people change in their essentials? It's hard enough to get rid of a single bad habit. What about five or ten of them? What about the dark, habitual thoughts that choke the life out of the mind?

regressed
In the library, two old men fight over a hat. The owner of the hat allegedly took a newspaper away from the other guy, who retaliated by snatching the hat away and refusing to return it. They argue loudly, the hat-owner shrill and indignant, the hat-snatcher muttering filthy insults.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cool makeup artist on YouTube (and potential Halloween ideas)

Get inspired by this makeup artist who's been posting many tutorials on YouTube.

Here's one for achieving "The Terminator" look, part of her special effects series:


Her other tutorials include series of arty designs and popular Halloween choices ranging from Arwen to Voldemort.

She's also made videos for each of the seven deadly sins. Here's gluttony:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Week in Seven Words #184 and #185

#184
ambition
He struggles with reading and math but maybe he'll get the life he wants anyway, his photo in Sports Illustrated and a mansion with many sports cars.

embalmed
Old cakes topped with sugared roses wilt in the dull white light.

faultfinding
It doesn't need to be perfect; it just needs to get done. It doesn't need to be perfect; it just needs to get done.

nasal
A drippy optician, sniffling while squinting at a computer that doesn't work.

resurrection
She pulls back the moth-eaten curtains and discovers a world that's forgotten she exists.

promotion
They've recruited an unfunny comedian to hand out flyers for their comedy club. People will be sure to come.

whitecaps
Light breaks in waves against my brain.