Posts Tagged ‘Groundhog Day’
Devotees will recall I listen to a lot of podcasts. An especially good one that has just arrived on the scene is Matt Gourley’s I Was There Too, which interviews people who had bit parts in great movies. All the episodes have been great, but I’d especially recommend Paul F. Tompkins (more or less cut from There Will Be Blood), Johnny Williams (the guy who buys his wife a fur coat and a new car after the Lufthansa heist in Goodfellas), the one with all the bus passengers from Speed, Paul Rust (one of the Basterds in Inglourious Basterds), Eileen Dietz (Captain Howdy in The Exorcist), Jenette Goldstein (Lt. Vasquez in Aliens), D.C. Pierson (the Apple Store Guy in Captain America 2) and especially especially today’s entry, Stephen Tobolowsky (the immortal Ned Ryerson, Groundhog Day). Go listen!
* This is not a glitch in the system. It is the system. Readers are gullible, the media is feckless, garbage is circulated around, and everyone goes to bed happy and fed. The Year We Broke the Internet.
* But who gets to write in The New York Times — and to whom is The New York Times accessible? If we’re talking about accessibility and insularity, it’s worth looking at The New York Times’s own content generation cycle and the relationship between press junkets and patronage.
* Lately, some people have suggested that doctoral programs should take somemodest steps in order to keep track of what happens to their Ph.D.s after graduation. It’s a good idea, and these suggestions are made with the best of intentions, even if they’re coming about 50 years too late. They are, unfortunately, looking in the wrong place as far as you are concerned. You can’t just count up how many of a program’s graduates end up as professors—otherwise, the best qualification you could get in grad school is marrying a professor of engineering or accountancy who can swing a spousal hire for you. Instead, there is just one thing you should be looking at: What percentage of a program’s graduates are hired for tenure-track jobs through competitive searches?
Rutgers University, already the most prolific subsidizer of sports of all Division I public institutions, gave its athletics department nearly $47 million in 2012-13, USA Today reported, a 67.9 percent increase over the 2011-12 subsidy of $27.9 million. Rutgers athletics is $79 million in the red, but officials say that the university’s move to the Big Ten Conference will generate close to $200 million over its first 12 years as a member. The most recent subsidies make up 59.9 percent of the athletics department’s total allocations, and total more than the entire operating revenues at all but 53 of Division I’s 228 public sports programs.
* State-by-state misery index. Wisconsin’s doing pretty all right, and that’s counting the existence of Wiscsonin winters…
* Down an unremarkable side street in Southwark, London, is a fenced lot filled with broken concrete slabs, patches of overgrown grass and the odd piece of abandoned construction equipment. Its dark history and iron gates separate this sad little patch from the outside world. Lengths of ribbon, handwritten messages and tokens weave a tight pattern through the bars of the rusty gates … all tributes to the 15,000 Outcast Dead of London. Thanks, Liz!
* Geronrockandrolltocracy: On average, the Rolling Stones are older than the Supreme Court.
* The financially strapped University of California system is losing about $6 million each year due to risky bets on interest rates under deals pushed by Wall Street banks.
* Department of Mixed Feelings: Marquette likely to get its own police force.
* Sunday map-reading: an index of maps from fantasy novels.
The UC administration constitutes a parasitic bureaucracy that grows and expands by consuming those elements of the university that remain outside of it. It can only survive by extracting tuition from students and wages from university workers. In return, it does not grow the university—it grows only itself.
* Relatedly: MOOCs and university management troubles.
* Proponents of the current craze ought to think carefully about the human costs of technology before enthusiastically proclaiming the end of a system that could leave hundreds of thousands of people without work, students cheated out of a quality education, and that would further contribute to the creation of a world where virtualization is always and everywhere, without qualification or questioning, heralded as an unequivocal good.
* Ban double majors! That’ll solve it.
* Obama administration vs. fair use? My god, why?
* Film and television news! Is Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood the greatest television show ever made? Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective. The “gentleman’s F” and the scourge of deliberate mediocrity.
The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.”
There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence.” The feeling haunts people all their lives.
* Great animated short from Disney: Paperman.
* Some iPad and iPhone puzzle game recommendations. I’ve been obsessed with Flow and Hundreds lately myself.
* And tempered glass can just randomly explode for no reason. The more you know!
As I was hashing out on Twitter this afternoon (1, 2, 3, 4) I feel as though last night’s Mad Men was a fine ending to a truly superb season that challenged the best seasons of The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire. I think I may be bucking the Internet consensus on this; here’s a representative negative take from Amanda Marcotte:
The main problem with the episode is that it, frankly, sucked. Besides the abortion cop-out,* it wasn’t even really the plot or the ideas or the character development. At the end of the day, it was the pacing and the scripting, which were lazy and anvilicious. Matthew Weiner admits they just finished the episode on Wednesday, and I think that’s all you need to know about why it didn’t work. The editing was all off—the fact that they got home from California and were in his apartment in a quick cut was confusing, and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how long they’d been back in New York. I realize they were trying to speed things up to capture the idea of a whirlwind courtship, but they failed. It’s not like the team behind “Mad Men” can’t do a swift and dirty episode. The end of last season was amazing. But this was just confusing.
Putting “the abortion cop-out” aside—which honestly didn’t bother me in the slightest—it seems to me that the actual point of the episode was precisely to capture the idea of a whirlwind courtship, as opposed to the actual thing. Don and Megan are plainly not a good match; she’s too young for him and he knows almost nothing about her except that (unlike poor Dr. Faye) she won’t ever challenge him to be more than he currently is. She’s pretty and good with the children, and he really is a person who likes “the beginnings of things,” so he went and proposed on a whim. (“The writing I most enjoy, is the writing where I can see myself in the man who is, with good reason, wrecking his life.” For the wrong take on this, see Ezra Klein.)
It’s obvious that Don’s fooling himself, and we’ve already seen from Roger how this story ends. But it’s next season that we see this self-delusion come undone; the point of this episode was to show the falseness of all this, how easy we can backslide and how hard it is to genuinely change, and how seductive lies can be when we want to believe them.
So I find it’s not a sloppy episode, or lazy, or anvilicious; it’s just that its narrative presentation is very closely linked to Don’s selfish, self-deluded perspective. But the writers leave more than enough (in Henry’s rant, in the Peggy and Joan scene, in the very idea of Roger Sterling, in the final shot) to puncture that balloon. Heather Havrilesky at Salon writes:
At the start of the episode, Don asks Faye, “Will you at least put me out of my misery before you go?” Don would choose death, or an absence of feeling, over the excruciating pain of seeing himself clearly, over the constant struggle of “trying to be a person like the rest of us.” Since Faye won’t allow him to shut off from his life, to power down and drift through the world like a handsome ghost, he chooses Megan instead. At the end, Don has found his new winning story, his new heroic role, his new, patently false proclamation of victory. The central identity parable of “Mad Men,” which seemed like a simple act of deception in the first few seasons, has deepened into something richer and more ominous. Don Draper reflects the American compulsion to sidestep the hard work of living a flawed but authentic life for the empty illusion of perfection, as shiny and skin-deep as an advertisement that promises the impossible.
I realized earlier this evening that the episode puts this together quite nicely using a visual metaphor of sleep. At the beginning of the episode—in its very first shot—Don claims to have a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach but he is able, quite literally, to sleep at night.
When Faye awakens him, he is self-effacing and charming, and they have an adult conversation, face-to-face as equals, about how he might do the tough work of making peace with his past so he can have a future.
At the end of the episode, he has Megan asleep on his chest. No conversation of equals is possible here—and for the second time in the episode, we find Don can no longer sleep.
As the “Theme from Groundhog Day” begins to play, a tracking shot towards the window makes it clear: bathed in darkness, he’s already turning away from Megan, already looking for the door.
Fun: 137 uncomfortable plot summaries. Some highlights:
ALIENS: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
BATMAN: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Teenage serial killer destroys town in fit of semi-religious fervor.
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF: Amoral narcissist makes world dance for his amusement.
SERENITY: Men fight for possession of scantily clad mentally ill teenage girl.
GROUNDHOG DAY: Misanthropic creep exploits space/time anomaly to stalk coworker.
HARRY POTTER: Celebrity Jock thinks rules don’t apply to him, is right.
JFK: Family man wastes life for nothing in crusade against homosexuals.
JUNO: Teen fails to get abortion, ruins lives.
JURASSIC PARK: Theme park’s grand opening pushed back.
KILL BILL: Irresponsible mother wants custody of her child.
LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.
RAMBO III: The United States provides arms, equipment and training to the terrorists behind 9/11.
RED DAWN: Despite shock-and-awe tactics, a superior occupying force is no match for a tenacious sect of terrorist insurgents.
STAR TREK: Over-sexed officer routinely places crew in danger.
STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE – Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, killing thousands.
SUPERMAN RETURNS: Illegal immigrant is deadbeat dad.
TERMINATOR: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.