Archive for February 2nd, 2006

Gotta Share This

February 2, 2006 @ 10:46 am | Filed under:

So my Mr. Putty post got a trackback today from our neighbor, Steve the Llama Butcher (and thank you very much, Steve), and naturally I popped over to his site (which I visit regularly) to see his whole post. Which I must say amused me mightily. Someday Mrs. Llama Butcher and I will have to get our husbands out of their respective basements to volley political barbs over a pizza. But I digress.

I noticed that the post right above that one is about a movie Scott and I are enormous fans of: Groundhog Day. And this review Steve shares, I’ve got to pass it along too.

When I set out to write this article, I thought it’d be fun to do a quirky homage to an offbeat flick, one I think is brilliant as both comedy and moral philosophy. But while doing what I intended to be cursory research — how much reporting do you need for a review of a twelve-year-old movie that plays constantly on cable? — I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my interest. In the years since its release the film has been taken up by Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and followers of the oppressed Chinese Falun Gong movement. Meanwhile, the Internet brims with weighty philosophical treatises on the deep Platonist, Aristotelian, and existentialist themes providing the skin and bones beneath the film’s clown makeup. On National Review Online’s group blog, The Corner, I asked readers to send in their views on the film. Over 200 e-mails later I had learned that countless professors use it to teach ethics and a host of philosophical approaches. Several pastors sent me excerpts from sermons in which Groundhog Day was the central metaphor. And dozens of committed Christians of all denominations related that it was one of their most cherished movies.

When the Museum of Modern Art in New York debuted a film series on “The Hidden God: Film and Faith” two years ago, it opened with Groundhog Day. The rest of the films were drawn from the ranks of turgid and bleak intellectual cinema, including standards from Ingmar Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. According to the New York Times, curators of the series were stunned to discover that so many of the 35 leading literary and religious scholars who had been polled to pick the series entries had chosen Groundhog Day that a spat had broken out among the scholars over who would get to write about the film for the catalogue. In a wonderful essay for the Christian magazine Touchstone, theology professor Michael P. Foley wrote that Groundhog Day is “a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos.” Charles Murray, author of Human Accomplishment, has cited Groundhog Day more than once as one of the few cultural achievements of recent times that will be remembered centuries from now. He was quoted in The New Yorker declaring, “It is a brilliant moral fable offering an Aristotelian view of the world.”

I know what you’re thinking: We’re talking about the movie in which Bill Murray tells a big rat sitting on his lap, “Don’t drive angry,” right? Yep, that’s the one.

Read the rest right here. And thanks for this, too, Steve.

Around the World with Mr. Putty

February 2, 2006 @ 3:27 am | Filed under: ,

Recently the kids and I hit upon a new idea that has brought an extra layer of interest and mirth to our morning read-aloud sessions. We decided to make a little marker that we could move around the globe to the location of each story we’re reading. We started with a little blob of blue putty—you know, the kind that was supposed to hold our timeline to the wall without marking up the paint. It didn’t. Instead, it seems to travel all around the house in the busy fingers of my children.

Well, now it travels around the globe. A little piece of it, at least. Such a simple idea, and such fun! Yesterday Mr. Putty began (as he always does) here in Virginia; hopped over to Palestine; sojourned down to Egypt; zipped to Italy to visit St. John Bosco; flew back across the Atlantic to New England, where Robert Frost was picking apples; escaped to Germany to avoid hearing my children mangle the language in our sitting room; reunited with us in Greenland, where a windswept traveler was regaling the household of Eric the Red with tales of a new land to the west; hurried to Scandinavia, arriving just in time to see some strange folks pop out of the armpit of Ymir the frost giant; and there he lingered for the rest of the day.

The girls take turns assisting Mr. Putty with his travels. (Beanie often has to be dissuaded from allowing him to visit her grandparents in Colorado instead of venturing to his next book-inspired rendesvous.) At some point, our intrepid explorer sprouted a tiny American flag (complete with gold-painted toothpick flagpole) from the top of his blobby self. While I’m a little uncomfortable with the imperial overtones of such an adornment—Mr. Putty is, in effect, planting the U.S. flag in the soil of countries all over the world—it does make it easier to see where he’s stuck himself now. And it’s such a sweet little flag.

Dear Mr. Putty! I wonder where in the world he’ll go today?