Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day!

We're almost halfway through the week already.That would feel more like an accomplishment except the week is moving very slowly so far.

Today was Groundhog Day. I find that to be an odd tradition. A groundhog is woken from a coma-like state just to be thrust outside to see if he sees his shadow. When he's done, he's put away again. I heard that PETA was trying to stop the tradition and replace the groundhog with a robotic one.

Now, while I really don't get the point of Punxatawny Phil, the groundhog, it's a slightly more logical tradition that getting out a robot.

Ok, when I say logical, I say logical in the way that traditions often are; They don't make a whole lot of sense as time evolves but we still hang on to them as they slowly change over time. Take Christmas, for example. Aside from the obvious Birth of Jesus celebration, Christmas is a hodgepodge of traditions from all over the world, the trees, the yule logs, Boxing Day....when you dissect it, it isn't really a cohesive picture other than the fact that it is Christmas. Same goes for Easter, really. How else can you really tie a giant Bunny that leaves colourful eggs to the death of Jesus?

What it really comes down to is that Groundhog day isn't a real holiday. We don't send cards and to me, that's a pretty good marker of whether something is worth commenorating. If Hallmark doesn't make a Happy Groundhog Day card then it's not a true holiday. Though, by now, they very well might.

In truth, it's a pretty silly holiday. It's a legend- the groundhog sees his shadow and there's six weeks of winter left. Well, it's February 2nd. Traditionally, in Pennsylvania as well as most other places that have seasons, winter generally lasts at least until April, sometimes longer. Thus, we really don't need to wake a sleeping groundhog to tell us this. Especially given that there's always a shadow, as long as there's light coming from somewhere. It might be faint but there's usually a shadow.

So, while I feel like Punxatawny Phil probably could be left to sleep for, oh, say, six weeks longer instead of being forced into the light, it doesn't mean that I support the idea of a robotic Phil-The-Groundhog.

It seems a little silly to me, to be honest. The groundhog is a figurehead, a tradition. It doesn't really mean anything. Even if the groundhog didn't see his shadow, I'm going to take a wild guess and say it's likely there's still at least six weeks of winter left.

Which means that Phil could probably retire and we'd all be ok. We could still call it Groundhog Day, I suppose. Retiring the tradition would probably be slightly more dignified than celebrating Animatronic Groundhog Day. I mean, what if the animatronic version broke down and hundreds of children were watching? Even if it's as realistic as some of those creepy Fur Real pets you see in stores, the batteries could die and when the batteries die, so does the groundhog. Score one for Peta who protected Phil from being woken up but left thousands of children scarred for life because the groundhog "died".

Ok, that's the worse case scenerio, I admit. But it could happen.

I suppose what I'm really getting at is that if we are reduced to an animatronic groundhog, it would be a little pointless. Where's the meaning in that? With Punxatawny Phil, there's the ability to see a furry little critter with somewhat-scary-teeth who sleepily stumbles around for a moment, once a year and lives to celebrate his ongoing fame. He has a personality, even if it is a slightly zombie-like one. Animatronics are not the same. Trust me, I've been to Disneyland and ridden Pirates of the Caribbean many times and even though the animatronic figure looks quite like Captain Jack Sparrow and has Johnny's Depp's character's voice, it's NOT Captain Jack Sparrow and it's just not the same.

So, in defense of Phil, I say if PETA puts enough pressure on to replace the organic creature with a robotic version, it's probably not worth Celebrating Groundhog day. An animatronic version isn't that far off from being a computer in which case, why don't we just design an animation of Phil going out from his hole, seeing his shadow and returning to slumber? It'd be about the same thing.

You probably know that, shockingly enough, Phil did see his shadow again today. Just like he seems to do every year. I don't really wait with bated breath to find out if he will. To be honest, I almost forgot it was Groundhog Day until I heard about PETA's protests. My favourite part of Groundhog Day is the Bill Murray movie. My favourite moment is where Bill Murray, on one of his repeats of the day, enthusiastically recognizes his old classmate who is very annoying with a "Ned? Ned Ryerson?" and then punches him in the face. It's not as violent as he sounds but it's the joyful glee you see in Bill Murray's eyes as he does so that just makes you laugh. Most of the movie makes you laugh. There's nothing funnier than Bill Murray when he's in one of his insane moments of sanity like he was in "Groundhog Day" and "What About Bob."

I should probably watch that movie again. If I recall, they have a real groundhog in the movie, even if it's probably substituted for a fake one during the stunt scenes. If not, I'm sure PETA would have been on the case and the scenes would been dubbed with an animatronic version.

Happy Animatronic Groundhog Day just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Happy Wednesday!

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