Can A Movie Alter My Daily Routine? Apparently So.

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

My father’s son, I am a mammalian of habit.

For the better part of his adult life, Art Kaplan ate the same meal for lunch every day.

A carton of cottage cheese. Saltines.

Odd as it was, at some juncture, my mother stopped nagging/ teasing him about it and let it be.

For the last score of years, I’ve savored the same breakfast daily.

Peanut butter on apple.

More specifically, Smuckers All Natural Crunchy slathered on sliced Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, or, in a pinch during certain seasons of the year, Pacific Rose or Pink Lady.

With coffee. Thee dollops of cream. Two packs of yellow sweetener. (How we have come to identifying artificial sweeteners by the color of packaging is a fascinating curiosity but another consideration for another time.)

Since at some point about a decade or so ago, my local daily newspaper turned into a thin compendium of typos (since, pity the real journalists still left on staff, there are apparently no copy editors). So, frustrated, I replaced the morning ritual of my lifetime. I’d read the paper edition of the paper first thing in the morning since the 5th grade.

Since I no longer subscribe to that fallen publication, I now read through several sports, news and general info sites on my laptop in a fairly rigid order.

One of which is the New York Times, to which I have an online subscription.

Which brings me finally to the documentary I saw the other night at the Speed Museum which has altered that new routine. Somewhat anyway. For the better and better illuminative for sure.

The film is “Obit.,” an engaging and well crafted documentary by Vanessa Gould, which examines the writers and process that result in NYT’s daily obituaries page.

Part of the movie examines the philosophical and technical aspects of the institution’s procedures. Its structure is to focus on a day in the life look at how it works there at the Times.

Obit writer Bruce Weber is tackling a remembrance of one William P. Wilson, the deceased of consequence because he was the first TV consultant hired by an American presidential candidate.

Wilson’s the fellow whose crafty insight gave JFK the visual and tactical advantage over Richard Nixon in that iconic first debate in 1960, which is now accepted as being a turning point in the American political process.

So, faced with how to reveal that moment’s importance to younger readers who might not be aware of it, and provide a sense of Wilson as a man and husband and father, Weber gathers info then enters a dialog with himself and his editors how to fashion the piece.

Other writers in the department are interviewed. Other obits in the making are examined.

And there are trips to the morgue. Not the morgue morgue, but the NYT’s morgue, with its thousands of filing cabinets of clippings and photos, etc, etc. Jeff Roth, the deadpan keeper of the morgue, provides a modicum of humor, while explaining how that aspect works.

Though I shouldn’t have been, what struck me is what good reporters these obit writers are. The extent of research necessary, how they have to track down facts. Through interviews. Online. Contacting sources.

Old school, hold the presses stuff.

Anyhow, the movie was swell. See if you can track it down somewhere.

And, my point here, reading those obits, or at least some of them is now a new part of my daily morning breakfast ritual.

So, after recent excursions, I’m better versed in the etymology of African-American street lingo, thanks to William Grimes’ obit of Roger D. Abrahams; as well as learning of the love/hate relationship Gary DeCarlo had with his hit, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” thanks to Daniel E. Slotnick’s obituary of the singer. I now know of Simone Veil, an Auschwitz survivor, who wrote France’s first law permitting abortions.

Tasty morsels of historical anecdotia added to my first meal of the day. Nuggetoids of info I wouldn’t have known.

So, my point. This documentary changed my daily routine, the first movie I can recall ever to do so.

Not that some tendencies don’t remain inviolate.

I still won’t touch peanut butter with added sugar or oils.

Nor allow apple to pass my lips that is not both crisp and sweet.

Nor allow a granule of that green or pink or blue artificial sweetener in my morning cup o’ java, whatever their names might be.

— c d kaplan


One Comment on “Can A Movie Alter My Daily Routine? Apparently So.”

  1. 1 Saundra said at 10:23 am on July 4th, 2017:

    Jif extra crunchy on fuji for me. I thought the apple/pb taste treat was unique to me.


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