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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Superstar" Malbec just $18.99 in VERY limited quantities! Last weekend for the SALE

 

“This is a Superstar!”
--Cloverleaf customer Stefan Krasusky

92 pt* Malbec on sale for just $18.99!
“Tastes like thirty bucks”—Tom Natoci
“Sensational value” on a nice Tuscan blend--$8.99
Final Chance: Our SALE concludes this Sunday

*Cloverleaf estimate

“Like” us on our new Business page on Facebook.
Hey, have you all heard of this newfangled “Facebook” doo-hickey? All the rage with the kids. Well, Cloverleaf has had a presence on Facebook, but we made an original sin at the start and signed up as a personal profile page. Many of you have “friended” us on that page. Unfortunately, we need to close that page out and move everyone to our news Business page. In a couple weeks we will be exclusive to our Business page, and we plan to be much more active with offers, deals, tips, recipes, jokes, ramblings, etc. So please “Fan” us now (the hyperlink above will bring you directly to it) and welcome us alas to the 21st Century.
Sensational Malbec under twenty bucks won’t last long
2008 Trivento Malbec Golden Reserve
Sale price: $18.99 (no further discounts)

Noted Cloverleaf customer, chef, and raconteur Stefan Krasusky happened by one snowy evening this week, just as a few of the guys were buzzing about the new 2008 Trivento Malbec Golden Reserve they were tasting in the back room. Asked his opinion about the wine, Stefan twirled a couple ounces in his glass, kicked it around his palate for a moment, swallowed divinely, and exclaimed, “This is a superstar!” Asked if he could be quoted on that, Stefan eagerly conceded, adding: “This is one of the best wines I have tasted at Cloverleaf in the three years I have been a patron!”

The follow up to the excellent 2007 vintage from Trivento, which received a solid 90 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, the ’08 trumps that very good wine. “The 2008 is better,” concluded Cloverleaf’s Tom Natoci. “This wine will receive at least 91 points, probably 92.” When we tasted this with our supplier earlier this week, we were told they have 30 six-packs to sell in this market. We bought ‘em all. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Tom’s Tasting Note: “Dark purple black color that stains the glass.  Rich, ripe blackberry and cassis aromas with a hint of vanilla oak tones.  Very full-bodied, chewy and concentrated mid-palate.  Lush texture of mocha, cassis & chocolate with smooth velvety tannins in a long balanced finish. Fantastic Malbec for the price! Tastes like thirty bucks.”

Doesn’t Cloverleaf ALWAYS find you the killer value wines?

If you haven’t come to realize that our guys can sniff out the great values, you haven’t been paying attention! Our guys pride themselves on finding truly unique, unexpected, delicious wines at tremendous value—wines that blow away the stuff you’ll find ubiquitously taking up space at every grocery store, drugstore, and big box behemoth that cynically dumbs down the wine-drinking public. Well, we won’t steer you wrong, ever. There are literally hundreds of great wines at tremendous value, every year, and with the help of great suppliers we’ve built relationships with over many years, we are able to find, taste, and bring these wines to you. This week we discovered this quite substantial 2007 Banfi Centine! , a lovely blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, from an excellent 2007 vintage in the Tuscan region of Banfi known for making great Barolo.

2007 Banfi Centine
Sale price: $8.99 (no further discounts)
Tom’s Tasting Note: “Dark ruby color with a great bouquet of black cherries, sweet thyme notes, and violets. Very good weight in the mid-palate and a nice, smooth finish.”

Sale! Sale! Sale!

What: Cloverleaf’s 2nd Annual Mid-Winter Sale
When: Now thru this Sunday, February 27
Hours: Mon-Weds 10-7; Thurs-Sat 10-8; Sun 12-5

Our 2nd Annual Mid-Winter Sale has been very successful and concludes this Sunday, February 27th. Please stop in to enjoy savings up to 25% on more than 100 wines. And bring a friend—more fun for everyone!


Our Weekly Recommendations…

Aside from our weekly features, there are great bottles everyday throughout our store. Each week we pull a few bottles from the hundreds on our shelves as representative great wines—from all price points on the spectrum—and put them on sale for the week ahead! The Collectible category will feature higher-end wines that make great gifts for wine collectors and can be cellared for many years.  Distinguished wines are those from the middle price range that we feel are eminently lovely and drinkable, truly exceptional in their style, and can be enjoyed now or cellared for several years. And Best Buys will feature! a Cloverleaf specialty—truly excellent wines you can’t find everywhere that often drink better than bottles you can find everywhere sold for twice the price. Here are this week’s selections:

*All noted sale prices are effective through next Sunday, March 6

Collectible

2007 Regusci Patriarch Red Meritage
Reg. price: $90
Sale price: $74.99
Note: This is the first time this flagship cuvee has been available in Michigan. Very scarce. From the great ‘07 vintage in Napa Valley. Not yet scored, but the ’06 Regusci Patriatch received 92 points and the ’07 is even better.

Distinguished

2008 Domaine Tempier Bandol
Reg. Price: $43
Sale Price: $35.99
Note: Always an overachiever, this wine has a large and devoted fanbase here at Cloverleaf. Very limited.


Best Buys

2009 Chateau d’Oupia Minervois
Reg. price: $13.49
Sale price: $10.99
Note: Another perennial Cloverleaf favorite from the great 2009 vintage in southern France.

--The Guys at Cloverleaf
 

---
Cloverleaf Fine Wine and Spirits
www.cloverleafwine.com

711 South Main Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Voice: 248.399.7166 Fax: 248.399.7239
E-Mail: cloverleaf@cloverleafwine.com

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mirage Studios and Amanda Tapping twitter channels

Hail the Iron Lady!!

This day in 1975 Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of British Conservative Party-we could use some leaders like her in today's world.
Derek Moss
Hail to the Iron Lady!
Her words ring well today
Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous, you get knocked down by traffic from both sides.
Funny! I thought I coined that phrase (kidding, kidding).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tachikoma

Just more than four years ago I caught nearly all of the English dubbed version of the anime Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The Adult Swim programming block of the Cartoon Network was once a wonderful opportunity.  By November 2006 they broadcast the entire first season of the program minus the humorous shorts at the end (It is difficult to say I watched an entire program if the tv station cuts off the end, after all). In spring 2007 they finally broadcast similarly cut episodes of Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG, which was the second season. My cable situation rendered me only able to watch the first episodes of that program.

The Tachikoma "Think Tanks" were not loved by me for their characterization(s) which collectively and generally could be described as "cute" or "cutesy" but they had a certain charm to me because of their visual. These things are walking sentient tanks!



Removing the philosophical or narrative implications of the Artificial Intelligence aspect I really love the light blue metal mini-tanks. This description fits:
They normally operate as independent units and receive orders from human agents, but they can also be directly piloted from a cockpit in their abdomen.

Tachikoma have four legs and two arms. They can move by walking, or they can drive at high speed by using the wheeled footpads on each of their four legs... Each wheel appears to be angled and omnidirectional, allowing the Tachikomas to move in any direction with their holonomic drive system. Other abilities of the Tachikoma include jumping great distances, sticking to vertical or inverted surfaces, engaging a thermoptic camouflage mechanism, and grappling/rappelling using their adhesive string launchers. Tachikoma maintain control of their legs while using wheels to drive down a road, and shift their weight around turns. They can also roll briefly on to two legs while driving to avoid an obstacle or pass through a narrow space. To make balance easier, they can move their heavy abdomens with a ball joint. Their movements when walking and jumping were modelled [sic] on a jumping spider.
"Holonomic drive system" likely refers to a type of motion control apparatus.  "Thermoptic camoflage" refers to an invisibility macguffin that in the original anime linked to cartoon nudity.  In describing the robot tanks I left out stuff like motivation or personality or character history.  Forgive me but the inner child which is the catalyst/hinge on which my enjoyment of this stuff is based only cares about the action sequence possibilities of the armored sometimes-vehicles, and not characterization.  Apparently true fans like the "childlike wonder" of the "characters".  Que sera sera.

Examples of the season one design:








Michael Fichtenmayer constructed, painted, reviewed, and photographed a model of a Tachikoma from Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG, manufactured by Wave.


Fanart (quality fanart no less) illustrates the popularity, or at least the design, quite well.


Ghost in the Shell: Tachikoma by ~Okaria on deviantART


Tachikoma - Unfinished by ~Mercilless on deviantART



Tachikoma by ~arrghman on deviantART


And somewhere out there exists the joke motivational poster with a screenshot from Stand Alone Complex.  Oh wait, here it is.

If you click the link you will get a know-it-all woman-child of poor judgment telling us that it is not art.  In reality it is simply bad art.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Richard Dreyfuss attacks Citizens United head on! Move On Richard

I was at CPAC and Richard Dreyfuss was at CPAC but it is fairly unclear if we were there simultaneously.

I assume that Mr. Dreyfuss was at the Conservative Political Action Conference in order to promote his program and rally support for it among the rightists. This is not a bad thing nor is it a bad motivation.

Mind you he apparently has some aggressive and vitriolic instincts bottled up in his frame for when Richard Dreyfuss encountered David Bossie, boss of Citizens United, he was not very nice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

remember the "New Fantastic Four"?



I keep noting how comic books can be incredibly thick and complicated upon a second look, and that second look is what makes it difficult for an intended so-called "new reader" to start reading a series for certain characters, franchises, or genres within this specific medium.

While one could argue that there television shows that as difficult to catch up on, that argument would be daft. At its worst The X-Files is still one television show and while there may be difficulty in understand the new episodes at the time with only syndicated re-runs to inform you, with the internet as loose back-up, contemporary times have (relatively) inexpensive DVD sets with a more organized internet fanbase, complete with nerd-fueled databases uniformly set. A popular television program is merely one series and there are ways to keep track of what is what.

Even television franchises with multiple series, such as the Stargate franchise or Star Trek, have fortunate separations into discrete television series with more or less a given order of events, with the understanding of what exactly retcons are.

Only the Star Wars Expanded Universe is unduly complicated to the extent of comic books and the multimedia canon in that does include comic book series.

Comic books have discrete series with discrete issues and different sorts and formats of stories, many of them are told in multiple parts and/or chapters. Plots, subplots, and character arcs can and often do carry over from one issue to another or even into an issue of a different series. None of those mechanics are quite as important to explaining how this works or comes to be in a simple but comprehensive manner until we just assert a very common tendency. Comic book characters, settings, and stories owned by one company all tend to be set, by fiat or by assumption, as set in one larger setting, or meta-setting, generally referred to as a "shared universe".

The shared universes within the worlds of comic books are each respectively referred to as a "universe", simply, usually. The word "Universe" is typically capitalized and some companies have multiple Universes, usually created by other comics that were bought out or served as imprints of the publishing line.

Marvel Comics has owned and published comics set and stories set within its own Marvel Universe, the Ultraverse, and the New Universe, for example. Each Universe has its own rules for how stuff works, including how stories get told, what is allowed to go on, limitations of characters and superpowers, and to some extent alternate dimensions and heroes' power sources. The DC Universe, home to the various Super-Heroes and Super-Villains of DC Comics, has its Speed Force and Lords of Chaos as well as Lords of Order. The Marvel Universe has its Quantum Zone. I never read any of those pesky Ultraverse comics or the New Universe but everything comes down to Author-Intent when it comes to Rules of Stories.

In any case a given shared universe has as its history, a canon. This canon consists of the accumulated events of the accumulated stories from the various series and respective characters all ordered by some sort of continuity. Various images may represent how we view characters and some of them are our favorite ever. Each issue itself is a frozen moment in time so it can be visited and revisited but the "current continuity" is set in the folds of author intent and the latest issue to come out.

All of that means that the "New Fantastic Four" is about twenty years old. That's alright. The team only lasted for a single story that ran for two issues.

The Fantastic Four are a family of super-heroes/explorers. They discover new things and battle threats to earth along the way rather than seek out costumed thugs to pummel. They fight monsters and travel to other worlds. The New Fantastic Four was assembled from the four most commercially popular Marvel Super-Heroes at the time: Spider-Man, the (gray) Hulk, the (second) Ghost Rider, and Wolverine (wearing plain clothes). As it stands only Spider-Man and Wolverine are essentially the same characters visually right now as they were then. As far as characterizations and history go, however, there are vast and horrible differences.

In current continuity Spider-Man sold his marriage, wife, and married life to the devil in order to bring his ninety-something year-old aunt back from the brink of death via gunshot-wound to the constant brink of death via threat of heart attack.
In current continuity Wolverine has two or three costumes, is on the X-Men, two Avengers teams, and still has his solo adventures. Back then it was about the same only he was not on the Avengers.
In current continuity the Thing is pretty much like he always is; back around that story he was wearing a Thing suit.
In current continuity the Human Torch is pretty much like he always is; back around that story he was married to the Thing's classic love interest.

Those are merely horrible examples. The use of continuity does enrich the experience of reading the stories. Next I will either study the Fantastic Four's resistance to continuity and change or I will briefly touch upon the phenomena of the "classic love interest".

Essentially I make this up as I go.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

updating Egypt

Uninstalling dictator ... 99% complete ███████████████████████████░ Error 404 Freedom not Found
 
program **installing freeeedom.exe** has stopped responding. remove corrupt file.. please be patient and meanwhile reinstall a new dictator trial version..

Thursday, February 10, 2011

no Arndt money for Denns Lennox

one of the happier moments in my political autobiography was when I realized that Kyle Bristow will no longer speak to me.

At some point I'll be equally happy when Dennis Lennox stops sending me messages implying that I will come to an event and donate to a PAC or an organization that will just give him money for whatever political war chest he builds. I will not give him money. I will not knowingly or deliberately donate to an institution that will donate to any of his campaigns.

I probably won't attend "receptions" or parties that have him as "co-chairman" and list him "Honourable" or "Honorable".

I know him personally. I count him as a friend and as friend I won't lie simply so he can benefit for his own ends. I think he is too young and his basic participation in politics is destructive to our state. I don't believe he is fit to be in the legislature until he is older, more mature, and is more personally sacrificial.

Do I believe Dennis Lennox should be forever barred from serving in public office? No! In a few years I look forward to a time when I can publicly endorse my friend. But I also know him as he is today, and yesterday, and as he has been for years and I think it is unwise to place him in a position of serious responsibility and policy.

I would not protect my friends from the authorities if they murdered and I will never endorse a friend earlier than I believe is the healthy time for him or her to represent the community or the state in the legislature.

For the near future, for the short term, I register an indefinite anti-endorsement of my friend Dennis Lennox. If he was not my friend I would have no opinion on the matter.

To that end I won't attend the One Nation PAC reception but I have an opinion on that, too!

It's generic, for one thing.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Leighton Meester in a bikini

Here is a relatively old photograph of fit and attractive actress Leighton Meester in a bikini.  
She is apparently with people the morons in the internet blogging media are stating that this came from her Twitter. It has not, recently or otherwise.

For the heck of it there is more, less relevant but still easy on the eyes, after the jump.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

why more people don't play video games



For the record I learned to play video games with a joystick with single button. That's right: my childhood console is the Atari 2600.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Jonah Goldberg on the fetishization of the "center" and the usefulness of labels

Back in an article dated December 10, Jonah Goldberg attacked the "No Labels" group. "No Labels" lost its notoriety in the news cycles fairly quickly, a far as I can tell anyway. Christmas probably did it. Crazed non-political activist Jared Loughner shooting people at an event set up by/for US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona on January 8th, 2011 probably did not help their cause. Mr. Goldberg has some excellent and salient points however, to the extent that I barely need to comment.

Pardon my linking to National Review Online's copy but Jewish World Review's copy is not online now, due to some pilot error.

Batman battles the Joker the very first time

The Joker first appeared in Batman #1 and he was not a humor character.
Growing up watching the old Adam West TV series, a lot of us got the idea that the Joker was just some wacky guy with a twisted sense of humor that lived to play practical jokes on the dynamic duo. The Batman cartoons from the 70s didn't do much to change that image, either. What surprises me is that the character was much darker and malevolent in his first appearance.
Think I'm kidding? This story has four murders in it.
Read the original story, scanned from THE GREATEST JOKER STORIES EVER TOLD (ISBN: 0930289-36-6) 1988
originally from BATMAN #1, Spring 1940

What always sticks out to me is that Batman wears a bulletproof vest here, about five decades before the idea that the Caped Crusader wears always wears a thick armor.

In the 1970s it seems like his tunic is just a grey shirt and it all fits under his normal clothes, including his giant cape and thick, everything-included utility belt.

Iron Man armor isn't simple (to summarize)



Iron Man is a simple idea for a character: he's an armored super-hero. His super-powers and abilities come from a mechanical suit that he wears.
millionaire scientist/industrialist Anthony Stark, who was imprisoned by the North Vietnamese Commies and forced to create a weapon for them. Instead, he created a weapon for himself — a suit of high-tech armor, equipped with every useful weapon from laser beams in the fingertips to built-in jet propulsion, and used it to escape. Back in America, he continued using his armor to fight evil, adopting the name Iron Man. Stark explained the obvious close association between Iron Man and his business enterprises by claiming to have hired the superhero as his personal bodyguard.
It is a simple origin and a simple concept. He is not the first armored super-hero but he is the most famous, which until 2008 is a near-meaningless claim to fame unless you remember your cartoons or enjoy comic books. Iron Man first appeared in the March 1963 issue of anthology comic book Tales of Suspense (which was released in December 1962), giving the character quite an impressive vintage, even if he only broke out into greater pop culture visibility in summer 2008.

By "armored super-hero", I do not refer to hard-covered characters such as Captain America (who wears either chain-mail or scale-mail depending on the writer/artist) nor well-padded characters like Batman; nor do I refer to medieval nobleman warriors like the Silent Knight. I refer to powered armor and science fiction costuming. Another example besides Iron Man is the Superman supporting character Steel.

Unlike most comic book super-heroes adapted into movies and cartoons with ongoing comic book runs such as Superman and Spider-Man, Iron Man does not have just one simple, uniformly drawn image or costume.  Superman's costume has remained more or less static since the 1950s with the only changes being the size of S on his chest, and whether or not there is an additional super-symbol on his belt buckle and/or cape.  However as time went on in the Iron Man narrative and the character's ongoing canon and continuity Tony Stark designed and manufactured a new set of armor and at some point different artists enjoyed making his respective stamp on the character and the new armor was visually distinct from the previous one.  Somehow I am sure that may have helped the sales of action figures but also hindered the popularization of the character.

The picture at the top depicting an "Iron Man" character illustrates exactly the problematic complexity of the character's overall visual narrative.  While the basic concept of the character and his abilities is very basic, how each visual came to be and why it is different from another one can be literally painful to explain.  The Iron Man pictured, for example, is Rebel O'Reilly, the original Iron Man of the Heroes Reborn Pocket Universe, flying his test Promethean armor.

I don't want to explain "Heroes Reborn" right now and I certainly do not want to explain what a pocket universe is or how it relates to the Iron Man of the almost-fifty-year-old ongoing continuity, or how it doesn't relate to the movies or cartoons.  Yet the visual is out there and it is both similar enough to most images to be identifiable as Iron Man and different enough to raise time-wasting questions.

To explain it in varying detail there is
  • Advanced Iron's Iron Man Armory
  • which contains a link to detailed profiles for the "General Purpose Iron man Armors", which really is the basic super-hero garb, sorted chronologically and described in the most relevant basic detail.  Everything is named according to description and that seems best.  It is not the most up to date.
  • It also contains other armor, such as "mission-specific" armor, which really just means "story specific" armor.
  • The Marvel Universe database wiki has their "Battlesuits" category which contains Iron Man armor with most of their canonical names, as well as the suits and weapons for his sidekicks/understudies, Soviet counterparts, and ancillary characters, as well as spin-offs in other media.
  • The movie is apparently "Earth-199999".
  • Alan Kistler wrote his column on Iron Man's Evolving Armors.  He really does explain it, translating the stuff best for the newcomer.
Is the character great?  Yes!  But as he is nearly impenetrable it occasionally takes some effort to sell how easy the character is, simply because not all of his fascinating history is necessary to know in order to enjoy the character, but knowing all of it can enhance the enjoyment.  The sheer bulk of the accumulated stuff, however, should be sorted, acknowledged, and then set aside just to introduce new readers without alienating old readership.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Groundhog Day

From the official website for Punxsutawney, PA

Happy Groundhog Day from Punxsutawney!

Phil Says Expect an Early Spring!

Phil's official forecast as read February 2nd, 2011, at sunrise at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, PA:
Here Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Groundhog Day, February 2, 2011
Punxsutawney Phil was raised from his burrow
By the call of President Bill Deeley.
He greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.
After casting an inquisitive eye towards thousands of his faithful followers,
He proclaimed that the Steelers are going to the Super Bowl!
Back to the business at hand...
He surveyed his surroundings carefully and found that there was no shadow around,
So, an early spring it will be.
Note: In order to help handle the enormous amount of traffic on the web site, we have temporarily trimmed the site to a bare bones, low-bandwidth version. Please visit us again for the full version of our site, with news and other fun features about Punxsutawney and its most famous resident! Oh, and GO STEELERS!
Because the calender and orbital cycles, the revolution and rotation of the earth will become slightly hinged differently upon the observations of a rodent-like creature.

According to the community newspaper, the Punxsutawney Spirit:

NO SHADOW! EARLY SPRING!

February 2, 2011



This morning, contrary to the recent weather, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow and predicted an early spring during the year of the "Groundhog Day" storm. (Photo by Tom Chapin)
PUNXSUTAWNEY — Appropriately beginning a day that pretty much saw all forms of weather — wind, snow, freezing rain, fog and sunshine — in the Weather Capital of the World, Punxsutawney Phil stunned shivering and wet fans at Gobbler's Knob and proclaimed Wednesday that no, he did not see a shadow, and yes, an early spring is on its way.
"The sky is clear; prepare yourself for warmth," Inner Circle Vice-President Mike Johnston said following Punxsy Phil's prognostication, which came on the heels of severe winter storm warnings for the Midwest, Pennsylvania, New York and the Northeast.
Sounds like six more weeks of winter, right? Not so, according to Punxsutawney Phil.
See where Punxsutawney, PA is located.

Note the joy of the official http://groundhog.org, the official Punxustawney Groundhog Day Club....

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Jonah Goldberg Groundhog Day




A Movie for All Time
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, Groundhog Day scores

By Jonah Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece was the February 14, 2005, cover story in National Review. (You can dig into NR's archives anytime here).

Here's a line you'll either recognize or you won't: "This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather." If you don't recognize this little gem, you've either never seen Groundhog Day or you're not a fan of what is, in my opinion, one of the best films of the last 40 years. As the day of the groundhog again approaches, it seems only fitting to celebrate what will almost undoubtedly join It's A Wonderful Life in the pantheon of America's most uplifting, morally serious, enjoyable, and timeless movies.

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. You might like to know that the rodent in question is actually Jesus — at least that's what film historian Michael Bronski told the Times. "The groundhog is clearly the resurrected Christ, the ever-hopeful renewal of life at springtime, at a time of pagan-Christian holidays. And when I say that the groundhog is Jesus, I say that with great respect."

That may be going overboard, but something important is going on here. What is it about this ostensibly farcical film about a wisecracking weatherman that speaks to so many on such a deep spiritual level?

THOROUGHLY POSTMODERN PHIL

A recap is in order. Bill Murray, the movie's indispensible and perfect lead, plays Phil Connors, a Pittsburgh weatherman with delusions of grandeur (he unselfconsciously refers to himself as "the talent"). Accompanied by his producer and love interest, Rita (played by Andie MacDowell), and a cameraman (Chris Elliott), Connors goes on assignment to cover the Groundhog Day festival in Punxsutawney, Pa., at which "Punxsutawney Phil" — a real groundhog — comes out of his hole to reveal how much longer winter will last. Connors believes he's too good for the assignment — and for Punxsutawney, Pittsburgh, and everything in between. He is a thoroughly postmodern man: arrogant, world-weary, and contemptuous without cause.

Rita tells Phil that people love the groundhog story, to which he responds, "People like blood sausage, too, people are morons." Later, at the Groundhog Festival, she tells him: "You're missing all the fun. These people are great! Some of them have been partying all night long. They sing songs 'til they get too cold and then they go sit by the fire and get warm and then they come back and sing some more." Phil replies, "Yeah, they're hicks, Rita."

Phil does his reporting schtick when the groundhog emerges and plans to head home as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, a blizzard stops him at the outskirts of town. A state trooper explains that the highway's closed: "Don't you watch the weather reports?" the cop asks. Connors replies (blasphemously, according to some), "I make the weather!" Moving on, the cop explains he can either turn around to Punxsutawney or freeze to death. "Which is it?" he asks. Connors answers, "I'm thinking, I'm thinking." Reluctantly returning to Punxsutawney, Connors spends another night in a sweet little bed and breakfast run by the sort of un-ironic, un-hip, decent folks he considers hicks.

The next morning, the clock radio in his room goes off and he hears the same radio show he'd heard the day before, complete with a broadcast of "I Got You Babe" and the declaration, "It's Groundhog Day!" At first, Connors believes it's an amateurish gaffe by a second-rate radio station. But slowly he discovers it's the same day all over again. "What if there is no tomorrow?" he asks. "There wasn't one today!"

And this is the plot device for the whole film, which has seeped into the larger culture. Indeed, "Groundhog Day" has become shorthand for (translating nicely) "same stuff, different day." Troops in Iraq regularly use it as a rough synonym for "snafu," which (also translated nicely) means "situation normal: all fouled-up." Connors spends an unknown number of days repeating the exact same day over and over again. Everyone else experiences that day for the "first" time, while Connors experiences it with Sisyphean repetition. Estimates vary on how many actual Groundhog Days Connors endures. We see him relive 34 of them. But many more are implied. According to Harold Ramis, the co-writer and director, the original script called for him to endure 10,000 years in Punxsutawney, but it was probably closer to ten.

 But this is a small mystery. A far more important one is why the day repeats itself and why it stops repeating at the end. Because the viewer is left to draw his own conclusions, we have what many believe is the best cinematic moral allegory popular culture has produced in decades — perhaps ever.

Interpretations of this central mystery vary. But central to all is a morally complicated and powerful story arc to the main character. When Phil Connors arrives in Punxsutawney, he's a perfect representative of the Seinfeld generation: been-there-done-that. When he first realizes he's not crazy and that he can, in effect, live forever without consequences — if there's no tomorrow, how can you be punished? — he indulges his adolescent self. He shoves cigarettes and pastries into his face with no fear of love-handles or lung cancer. "I am not going to play by their rules any longer," he declares as he goes for a drunk-driving spree. He uses his ability to glean intelligence about the locals to bed women with lies. When that no longer gratifies, he steals money and gets kinky, dressing up and play-acting. When Andie MacDowell sees him like this she quotes a poem by Sir Walter Scott: "The wretch, concentrated all in self / Living, shall forfeit fair renown / And, doubly dying, shall go down / To the vile dust, from whence he sprung / Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung."


Connors cackles at her earnestness. "You don't like poetry?" She asks. "I love poetry," he replies, "I just thought that was Willard Scott."

Still, Conners schemes to bed Rita with the same techniques he used on other women, and fails, time and again. When he realizes that his failures stem not from a lack of information about Rita's desires but rather from his own basic hollowness, he grows suicidal. Or, some argue, he grows suicidal after learning that all of the material and sexual gratification in the world is not spiritually sustaining. Either way, he blames the groundhog and kills it in a murder-suicide pact — if you can call killing the varmint murder. Discovering, after countless more suicide attempts, that he cannot even die without waking up the next day he begins to believe he is "a god." When Rita scoffs at this — noting that she had twelve years of Catholic school (the only mention of religion in the film) — he replies that he didn't say he was "the God" but merely "a god." Then again, he remarks, maybe God really isn't all-powerful, maybe he's just been around so long he knows everything that's going to happen. This, according to some, is a reference to the doctrine of God's "middle knowledge," first put forward by the 16th-century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, who argued that human free will is possible because God's omniscience includes His knowledge of every possible outcome of every possible decision.

THE METAMORPHOSIS

The point is that Connors slowly realizes that what makes life worth living is not what you get from it, but what you put into it. He takes up the piano. He reads poetry — no longer to impress Rita, but for its own sake. He helps the locals in matters great and small, including catching a boy who falls from a tree every day. "You never thank me!" he yells at the fleeing brat. He also discovers that there are some things he cannot change, that he cannot be God. The homeless man whom Connors scorns at the beginning of the film becomes an obsession of his at the end because he dies every Groundhog Day. Calling him "pop" and "dad," Connors tries to save him but never can.


By the end of the film, Connors is no longer obsessed with bedding Rita. He's in love with her, without reservation and without hope of his affection being requited. Only in the end, when he completely gives up hope, does he in fact "get" the woman he loves. And with that, with her love, he finally wakes on February 3, the great wheel of life no longer stuck on Groundhog Day. As NR's own Rick Brookhiser explains it, "The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived. And his reward is that the day is taken from him. Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes."

Personally, I always saw Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal return of the same in this story. That was Nietzsche's idea — metaphorical or literal — to imagine life as an endless repetition of the same events over and over. How would this shape your actions? What would you choose to live out for all eternity? Others see Camus, who writes about how we should live once we realize the absurdity of life. But existentialism doesn't explain the film's broader appeal. It is the religious resonance — if not necessarily explicit religious themes — that draws many to it. There's much to the view of Punxsutawney as purgatory: Connors goes to his own version of hell, but since he's not evil it turns out to be purgatory, from which he is released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love. Meanwhile, Hindus and Buddhists see versions of reincarnation here, and Jews find great significance in the fact that Connors is saved only after he performs mitzvahs (good deeds) and is returned to earth, not heaven, to perform more.

The burning question: Was all this intentional? Yes and no. Ultimately, the story is one of redemption, so it should surprise no one that it speaks to those in search of the same. But there is also a secular, even conservative, point to be made here. Connors's metamorphosis contradicts almost everything postmodernity teaches. He doesn't find paradise or liberation by becoming more "authentic," by acting on his whims and urges and listening to his inner voices. That behavior is soul-killing. He does exactly the opposite: He learns to appreciate the crowd, the community, even the bourgeois hicks and their values. He determines to make himself better by reading poetry and the classics and by learning to sculpt ice and make music, and most of all by shedding his ironic detachment from the world.

Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, the writer of the original story, are not philosophers. Ramis was born Jewish and is now a lackadaisical Buddhist. He wears meditation beads on his wrist, he told the New York Times, "because I'm on a Buddhist diet. They're supposed to remind me not to eat, but actually just get in the way when I'm cutting my steak." Rubin's original script was apparently much more complex and philosophical — it opened in the middle of Connors's sentence to purgatory and ended with the revelation that Rita was caught in a cycle of her own. Murray wanted the film to be more philosophical (indeed, the film is surely the best sign of his reincarnation as a great actor), but Ramis constantly insisted that the film be funny first and philosophical second.

And this is the film's true triumph. It is a very, very funny movie, in which all of the themes are invisible to people who just want to have a good time. There's no violence, no strong language, and the sexual content is about as tame as it gets. (Some e-mailers complained that Connors is only liberated when he has sex with Rita. Not true: They merely fall asleep together.) If this were a French film dealing with the same themes, it would be in black and white, the sex would be constant and depraved, and it would end in cold death. My only criticism is that Andie MacDowell isn't nearly charming enough to warrant all the fuss (she says a prayer for world peace every time she orders a drink!). And yet for all the opportunities the film presents for self-importance and sentimentality, it almost never falls for either. The best example: When the two lovebirds emerge from the B&B to embrace a happy new life together in what Connors considers a paradisiacal Punxsutawney, Connors declares, "Let's live here!" They kiss, the music builds, and then in the film's last line he adds: "We'll rent to start."


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