I was deeply saddened when I learned that Harold Ramis, one of the greatest comedic minds, had passed. Ramis was responsible - either as a writer, director, actor, or all three - for many of the all-time great movies: Animal House, Caddy Shack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Stripes - to name a few. In a lot ways Ramis created the modern language of humor in film and television. He helped shape the sense of humor of millions upon millions of young people. A couple of weeks ago I decided to live tweet the movie Groundhog Day, and it is just insane how many jokes Ramis could fit into a script. You can go back and watch so many of his old movies and still crack up laughing at jokes that you've heard twenty or thirty times before. There are a lot of comedies that do not hold well, a joke that worked in 1985 is not always going to hold up in the jaded, I've heard it all before, internet age; but the Twinkie bit from Ghostbusters will always be funny. The scenes between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray in Caddyshack will always be funny. Some writers are able to see down to the core level of the human condition and find the things that connect us. Ramis was one of these writers. He made jokes that resonated with people regardless of their background and upbringing. This is a rare gift, and Ramis used it to brighten up the lives of millions of people.
He also wrote characters that were incredibly easy to love. He made characters that were outsiders seem cool. His stories always glorified those people who saw life differently from the crowd. These days there is a certain coolness for being different from your peer group, but that was definitely not the case in the 1980s. The real genius of those early films was how Ramis was able get the viewer to empathize with the characters who were nerdy or uncool. The best way to remove a stigma on something we don't understand, hence fear, is to be able to laugh at it, to disarm it. In Ramis movies we laugh at the oddballs, and in doing so we realize that these people are not so different from ourselves, and that makes them likable, and worthy of our compassion. The oddballs in his films were not to be looked down upon, they may have been goofs, but they were also heroes. As someone who grew up as a bit of an oddball, having these kinds of characters to champion was a way to tell myself that I was OK. That there was nothing wrong with me.
Rest in peace Mr Ramis - you will be greatly missed.
Life is short, let's get as many laughs in while we can.
This weekend I was craving deep dish pizza, and on Sunday night I ordered one from my local pizza establishment, and went to town. You know that feeling when you eat so much that it physically hurts to do anything but lay in the fetal position? Yeah, that was me last night. You would think that eating to the point of pain would dissuade me from having another four pieces of pizza for lunch today. You would think that, and you would be wrong.
I'm telling you about this pizza crime as a way to explain how poorly I ran today. There's nothing quite as a disconcerting than feeling a two pound ball of pizza sloshing around your stomach as you are trying to distance run. I made it about a mile before before I started to burp up pepperoni flavored remnants of this weekends gluttony. I felt absolutely awful. I don't think I've ever sweated so much in my life. It was just a generally awful experience, and a reminder that sometimes you have to say no to pizza - sometimes.
I started reading And Weirs new book, The Martian today and it has instantly grabbed my attention. The basic outline of the plot is: in the future we are able to send men to Mars, on one of the missions to Mars things go haywire and one men gets stranded on the planet with limited resources to survive on. I'm not that far in, but the story is told through log entries, and the protagonist, Mark Watney seems to be a very likable fellow, and it is fascinating following his process on how he plans on staying alive long enough to be rescued.
I decided to read this novel now because it kept bubbling up in discussions on the book sites/podcasts I follow. I've managed to not have the book spoiled for me, which is a blessing. I know the basic pitch of the book is Cast Away meets Apollo 13. From the little I've read I can see those two movies being touchstones for the plot. I can also see why there has been so much discussion about the book on the internet, and can't wait to put some good time with it.