Tag Archives: movies

Don’t wallow in monotony. Create your own fun!

A long, long time loop ago, in a repetitive land far, far away…

I taught college freshman writing and basic English grammar classes.  I was wrapping up my master’s degree in literature and found a part-time teaching job from a four-line ad in the newspaper classified section.  (Actually, I answered four tiny ads despite my husband’s complete doubt that anyone could find a job that way. I got called back on two of them. Ha!)

The next thing I knew, I had a master’s degree and was moved into a full-time teaching position(that’s what I get for swearing I’d never be a teacher with five to six classes a day) at that business college (it wasn’t a university, but it helped pay bills).

Groundhog_Day_(movie_poster)After about three years, the Groundhog Day effect wore off. I couldn’t grow in that job anymore. Believe me, I tried.

What is the Groundhog Day Effect?

The Groundhog Day Effect has two main parts to it: Monotony and Growth. (The part in the middle called Giving Up, doesn’t apply–ever.)

In the movie, Phil finds himself reliving the same day (February 2) over and over again. The same things happen to him everyday–the same routine, the same conversations, the same meals…the same monotony.

He can’t escape this repeating insanity, so he tries to change it.  However, he chooses antagonistic behaviors. He insults his co-workers, punches an old acquaintance just for greeting him on the street, lies to people, and eats donuts until he makes himself sick.  When these behaviors don’t change his day, he escalates by trying to commit suicide. He gives up. It’s a good thing that didn’t work, because the movie would have had a sad ending.

Now at rock bottom, he tries a different direction. Sure, he starts this new path just as selfish as before, but something starts to change. He relaxes, learns new skills, reads poetry, makes friends with the townspeople, finds ways to be kind to his coworkers.  He discovers growth.

Harnessing the Groundhog Day Effect

When the daily grind starts to look and feel like it did for Phil in the first part of the movie, then it’s time to change things up.  If we sit in the same position for a long time, we get sore.  We have to get up and stretch.  We have to move around.  Eat chocolate.

I had already lived the growth part to make my teaching job enjoyable.  That is often how it is with a new job–lots of growth.  Even when the job was no longer new, I found every chance to learn new skills, overcome fears, make friends, edit a college English grammar text book…

Monotony set in, despite my best efforts. I had to leave or risk punching a student for misusing compound objective pronouns or getting subject-verb agreement wrong in every sentence in her essays. I couldn’t tweak my lesson plans anymore or edit the near-perfect grammar tests or grade another essay that could be written better by a twelve-year-old or be told that a failing student had to pass–again.

I’d reached my limit. There was no room for promotion, salaries were frozen (yet the director enjoyed plastic surgery and many overseas vacations), vacation time was impossible to take (no summers off either), and rumors of unethical practices were rampant. I’d taken on as much responsibility as I could, sponsored a student organization, and added Microsoft Office classes (MS Word was version 2 back then!) to my already long list of courses. During terms when I had all writing classes (no grammar or tech classes), there was so much grading that I might have thought about giving up, but I wasn’t Phil.

It was time to stretch. I started a new career as a technical writer, where 17 years later I’m still finding things to learn.

But what if we find ourselves in a monotony from which there seems to be no escape?

We have to create our own fun–just like Phil did. Even if we have to work within the limits of our environment, we can set goals that allow us to grow and break the monotony. We have to harness the positive Groundhog Day Effect to keep ourselves fresh and happy, even when the environment is stifling. At some point though, we have to decide when it’s time to stretch somewhere else.

How do you harness the positive Groundhog Day Effect? What do you do when faced with daily monotony? How do you stretch to find growth?

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Dawn Just After Midnight

I’m not sure how it happened.  I might be a little crazy for agreeing to the outing.  Working on three hours of sleep here, sooo….

Movie poster from Wikipedia

My neighbors are great. I don’t know many people around here who can say they know and regularly talk to many of the people who share the same street name in their snail mail address.

So when Breaking Dawn Part 2 tickets went on sale, the instigator (we’ll call her L) said, “Let’s go!”

I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book series.  I did.  My BFF and I watch the ones that are out on DVD so we can revel in the story and make fun of the special effects.  (Seriously, the animated talking werewolves in Breaking Dawn Part 1 killed us.)

I’m working on three hours of sleep here.  Forgive my ramblings.  Back to the story.

L, P, C, and I went to the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn Part 1 last year.  Of course, we’d go to the last installment November 15-16.  L bought our tickets online for the 12:01 showing.

Last night at 10 pm, I left my warm, cozy house and walked down the street to meet up with my coven pack uh, neighbors.  I swear it was like a synchronized arrival like you see in movies…

A character walks down the street and meets up with her peeps as she goes.  They join her just as she arrives at their locations.

It happened just like that.  I walked down a few houses and met up with P and C.  Then M (one of the several teens who joined us) walked out and met up with me.  Then L and her daughter S with one of her friends in tow.  Seven crazy females piled into L’s SUV (yep, she bought the tickets and drove–instigator and enabler), and her teenage son and his friend followed in his car.

Yes, I did indeed just say “teenage son and his friend.”  They joined us at the movie theater.  Their sole purpose for tagging along was to talk to girls at the theater.  They didn’t even sit with us when we got there.  The nerve.  They went into the theater that was full of girls rather than sit with us in the half-full theater.

Then we sat and talked and looked at Facebook in the dark for an hour and a half. At midnight, we were ready for the movie to start.  Some of us (not me) did the potty dance and excused themselves with 20 minutes of movie trailers to avoid.

My coven pack neighbors, photo courtesy of the one in pink. 😉

A couple walked in and sat down in front of us.  C and I looked at each other.  She said, “Seriously, they just walk in at midnight and find a seat?”  Who knew that we didn’t have to get there with enough time to check into security be able to find a decent seat this year?  Last year, we were way early and had to sit in the fourth row.  Waaaay too close.

No spoilers from me today, I promise, because I get to go see it again with my BFF.  I will say that it was the best of the five movies!  Something happens at the end and had the entire theater screaming and cheering and freaking out–a twist none of us saw coming.  There were grown men, who most likely didn’t read the book, who cheered and gasped and freaked out with the rest of us.

It was a scene that might not have read well in the book had it been written but was perfect for the movie.  Wow!

When I got home, I pulled the book out and read through the last chapter to see just how different the twist was from the book.  Oh, it’s different.  It is probably the only time I’ve ever said that a movie outdid its book, especially for a series that underdid its books in the first couple of installments. (Is “underdid” even a word? Three hours of sleep here, people. Move along.)

That’s all I say about that for fear of letting something slip.  I don’t need the Spoiler Volturi tracking me down for breaking that rule.

If you want to read in-depth descriptions of all the characters, you must read Debra Kristi’s blog: Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn Breakdown: Immortal Monday.

Are you going to see it?  Have you already seen it?  I’d love to hear what you think, but no spoilers just yet.  😉

An Asteroid to Save the Planet

It’s TINSTAAFL Tuesday.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to post about until I saw this bit of future possibility of science fiction becoming reality.  Speculative fiction might be a better description of it.

The article talks about the possibility of harnessing the dust from an asteroid to help reduce global warming.  The dust could act as a sunshade.

*blink, blink*

In the movie Armageddon, Harry (Bruce Willis), A.J. (Ben Affleck), Dan (Billy Bob Thornton), and several other key men (and other amazing actors) must save the Earth from the impact of an asteroid.  Meanwhile, Grace (Liv Tyler) waits for her father, Harry, and her boyfriend (A.J.) to pull off the impossible or die.  Well, if they die, everyone on Earth dies, too.

There is a difference between saving the Earth from impending doom, as in the movie, and geoengineering.  Yes, I know that the movie was fiction and full of inaccuracies of real science.  It was entertaining and fun to watch, and the characters in the movie had no free lunch.  Their lives and sanity were at risk the entire time.

I’m not altogether sold on the theory of global warming, mostly because I think the planet is what it is.  The jury is still out.  Yes, humans do a fine job messing with the environment, but Earth is not static.   There is so much we don’t know about the planet.

Back to the idea that we could harness an asteroid and nudge it close enough to Earth so that its dust particles shade us from the sun to cool us down a little bit.

*blink, blink*

But how do they calculate the tiny 1.7 percent reduction?  What if there is a miscalculation or misinterpretation of data?  Also, there is a concern for safety.

*blink, blink*

It’s not that I think this is a crazy idea (well, not completely).   I’m just saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

I won’t even list all the things that are humanly possible to go wrong with this idea.  Oh, fine, just two:

  • The percentage might be miscalculated.  A 17 percent change is significant whereas 1.7 percent isn’t.  I presume the scientists involved are much better at math than I am though.
  • The weight of the asteroid is bigger than thought so the momentum carries it too close for comfort.  And since the scenario in Armageddon isn’t realistic, the people in charge of space will have to come up with another plan while our moon is hurdled into a different orbit.

Very nice!  I just came up with new science fiction story ideas to start working on.  Cool!  Thanks, geoengineers!

Your turn to share a bit of your lunch.  🙂

Did you see the movie, Armageddon?  If so, did you like it?  Do you do anything on your own to help the planet (recycle, drive a hybrid vehicle, ride a bike to work)?   What do you think about the possibilities of geoengineering to safeguard the environment? 

Welcome to Gattaca

Here at Mermaids Don’t Do Windows, I’m introducing a theme for Tuesdays: “TINSTAAFL Tuesday.”

TINSTAAFL is an acronym for “There is no such thing as a free lunch” and is a common theme in science fiction literature.  It was the favorite theme for one of my SF literature professors.  Everything has a cost, which has little to do with money.  (Unless you’re Bill or Ted on an excellent adventure, and then there are no consequences).   Nothing is for free.  In SF, if it seems to good to be true, then that isn’t a good sign.  Payment will be due.

An article called “Genetically engineering ‘ethical’ babies is a moral obligation, says Oxford professor” creeped me out.  The geneticist insists that we are morally obligated to screen fetuses for imperfections and make them better people by tweaking their genes.

“Welcome to Gattaca” is the first thing I thought.  Gattaca is a 1997 SF film that stars Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.

The film is set in future Earth when eugenics determine every aspect of people’s lives.  Vincent (Ethan Hawke) was naturally conceived and born, and as  a result has imperfect vision and a heart problem.  His parents decide to give their second son a better life, and he’s perfect and picks on his older, weaker brother often.

The government catalogs everyone in a DNA database and conducts regular screenings.  DNA dictates which kinds of jobs people were allowed to have. The children who are naturally born are considered lowerclass and physically flawed and, as a result, limited to certain menial jobs.  Vincent dreams all his life of joining Gattaca and going into space, but He is trapped in his place in society.

Jerome (Jude Law) is perfect in everyway except an accident left him paralyzed.  Jerome provides Vincent with his fingerprints, blood,
urine, hair samples, and even a heartbeat–everything Vincent needs to take on Jerome’s identity.  With one DNA scan Vincent is accepted into Gattaca—the database thinks he is Jerome (absolutely flawless).  If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give the rest away.  It’s pretty intense.

That recent article brings up many questions about morals and ethics–whose definition of these terms is this geneticist using?   His own agenda makes it sound as if he is offering utopian people.  Well, we all know how utopias end.  Stories about them now are called dystopias–let’s call it what it is.

TINSTAAFL, I say to the idea of eugenics.  No one knows what the unintended consequences could be.  What’s the geneticist going to say if he mistakenly screens out the gene for friendliness because his hand twitched?  “Oops, sorry, your kid isn’t going to be friendly, but she’ll be a genius and will be able to swim across the Pacific Ocean.”

Sure, he’s implying that the procedure could weed out psychopaths and other undesirable character flaws and make the world a better place.  That just begs the question of nature vs. nuture, doesn’t it?  I don’t see a free lunch here.

Let’s say he creates all these happy, friendly, smart, caring people who don’t have any negative feelings or emotions.  I wonder if these eugenic people would be able to function in society.  “Oh, it’s okay, my teenaged-daughter, you can stay out until 3 am, because I trust everyone has been eugenicized.”  Creeeepy–borderline Stepford Wives (which deserves a TINSTAAFL Tuesday all to itself).

If given the chance to alter a future child’s DNA before birth, would you do it to the extent of Gattaca?   Are we adding another layer of science fiction meets reality to our lives?  Are you as bothered by this “obligation” as I am?