Soaring in Paris: Bird People

The opening scene of Bird People, a Pascale Ferran film screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, celebrates the mundane of riding in a commuter rail to work. You overhear two students arguing about Cuban history. You sneak a listen to the music blaring in the headphones of another rider. You even get to dive inside the thoughts of a gate attendant for Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, mentally rehearsing the script and procedure to check-in passengers before they board their aircraft. The scene concludes with the introduction of the denim-clad Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier), a college-aged housekeeper for the Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport peering out of her window, focused on a tiny sparrow outside.

This introduction establishes the Parisian setting as another major character in the film, whose sights and sounds act as both a catalyst to advance the story and as a narrator to fill in the many scenes where dialogue is nonexistent. The other character central to this story, Silicon Valley engineer Gary Newman (Josh Charles), receives a similar introduction to Audrey: he stands slightly slouched and statuesque — think Napoleon Dynamite before his big dance — at a baggage claim carousel at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the conveyor belt rumbling as luggage and more luggage cycle past Newman. A plastic tan suitcase appears on screen and Newman suddenly springs to life to claim it and then exit, ending the scene.

But it is the nearby Hilton hotel where Audrey works that brings her and Gary — a guest at the Hilton for a day-long layover at Paris for a meeting before departing for Dubai — together. Even though both characters are in the Hilton simultaneously for much of the movie, there is actually little interaction between the French woman and the American man; the two-hour film is divided into two halves and tells Gary’s story first before delving into Audrey’s.

Despite the lack of interaction between the two, Hilton symbolically traps Gary and Audrey in the parallel situation of being fed up with their keep: Gary with the stress of his high stakes job and unhappy marriage to Elisabeth (Radha Mitchell) and Audrey with her increasingly demanding job, where her bosses continuously ask her to up the number of days and hours she works without increasing their appreciation of her efforts. In between the rising tension, Ferran reinforces the abundant symbolism in the film by peppering scenes of both characters looking out of the windows to Charles de Gaulle airport and watching airplanes take off, land, and taxi.

Eventually, the characters catch on to the symbolism of the airplane, and Gary and Audrey each separately find themselves free from the shackles of their mundane lives. After a late-night anxiety attack that features a wonderful 30 seconds of Gary playing Tetris in the middle of night, Gary makes a series of phone calls with business partners Allan (Geoffrey Cantor) and McCullan (Clark Johnson) to quit his job and wash his hands of all interests with the company before engaging in a tense Skype conversation with Elisabeth over the dissolution of the marriage. With the use of Skype in favor of the phone, the focus ends up on Gary’s stoic demeanor in the face of Elisabeth’s fluctuation from anger to sadness to resignation when they have to figure out how to break the news to their kids. Gary’s emotional and physical detachment is complete, and although Gary’s act is unforgivably selfish, his newfound emotions after the decision make it difficult to be totally unsympathetic to him.

Audrey’s parallel liberation requires you to watch the film. The only other things I’ll say about her half of the film is that Audrey’s curiosity is endearing, a Japanese artist (Taklyt Vongdara) gets the chance to shine, and the film presents some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’ve ever seen. Even though Audrey’s backstory is not as fleshed out as Gary’s, she comes across as a sensitive soul due to that curiosity and her observant ways. Those traits shine through when Audrey and Gary finally meet and provide the warmth that was missing in each individual’s interactions with the other characters. And when you’re exiting the theater, you’ll feel that same warmth after all the sights and sounds you experienced with Gary and Audrey in your brief stay in Paris.

US Open Marathon

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11 am: Sparse crowd for Errani v. Lucic-Baroni…

The two strangest things I saw in the six hours I spent at Arthur Ashe Stadium for Sunday’s day session of the US Open were the words “Visit Orlando.” Why does the theme park capital of the world need a marketing arm for its tourism industry? Those words shared ad space at Ashe Stadium with Mercedes Benz, American Express, Citizen, and IBM — traditional, heavyweight sponsors of the tournament associated with luxury and business. But everyone attending the tournament on Sunday afternoon should have no reason to visit Orlando anymore after what they sat through. Yesterday’s weather at Flushing Meadows was a microcosm of a typical Orlando summer: hot, humid, sunny, stormy.

It was under the dreadful conditions of “hot, humid, sunny” that I witnessed the day’s first Round 4 match for the Women’s Singles tournament. This matinee, 13th seed Sara Errani’s 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 victory over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, was a lesson in letting your opponent defeat herself. These are the staggering stats that defined this match: Errani only had four winners to Lucic-Baroni’s 46 winners, but Lucic-Baroni had 69 unforced errors to Errani’s nine. Lucic-Baroni overpowered Errani in the second set to claw back into the match, but the control that accompanied that power in the second set disappeared in the third and cost Lucic-Baroni the match. Errani just kept the ball in play throughout the match and let Lucic-Baroni do the damage herself.

While I admired Errani’s low-risk playing style, her serve was the most unorthodox one I’ve ever seen. Before her left hand tosses the ball in the air, Errani takes her right arm and flexes it behind her head, so that the way she holds her racket looks like she’s drawing a sword from the back. I don’t know if the uncomfortable playing conditions made it harder for her to execute her serve or that serve just has a high degree of difficulty, but over the course of the entire match, I counted that Errani halted 24 attempts at a serve because of an errant toss. That total may be higher, though; I missed Errani’s first service game of the second set when I stepped aside to buy a bottle of water.

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1 pm: That’s a respectable crowd for Sharapova v. Wozniacki…

That bottle of water only lasted through the second set of the Errani/Lucic-Baroni match, so in the prolonged battle against dehydration, I returned with a bottle of Powerade for the start of the main event: 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki’s victory 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 over 5th seed Maria Sharapova. The sun started to cede some of its supremacy in the sky to the gathering clouds, making the conditions in the nose bleeds of Ashe Stadium a little more tolerable despite the heat.

This was a contest of power against mobility. In the first set, if Sharapova launched shots away from Wozniacki, Wozniacki would run cross-court along the baseline to hit a return at a shallow angle for the winner or keep it in play for an extended rally until Sharapova committed one of her 21 unforced errors. Wozniacki’s defense was her best offense, but she had a new trick up her sleeve for four of her 36 winners in this set: she crashed the net.

Sharapova regrouped and found her best play in the second set. Those passing shots in the first set that went long or were retrieved by Wozniacki had an extra oomph in the second set, traveling too fast and dipping too low after clearing the net for Wozniacki to catch. It was an impressive demonstration of how Sharapova’s power play could save the other aspects of her game, with her 22 winners canceling out four double faults and 12 unforced errors.

Wozniacki kept running into the third set, though. Considering that she is set to run the New York Marathon in two months for Team for Kids, it was fitting that — in a match that ran for over three hours inclusive of breaks — this running won her the match-defining triple break point early in the third set. Sharapova hit three separate cross-court passing shots that sent Wozniacki running east-west each time; Wozniacki somehow tracked each of them down. After the third reply from Wozniacki, Sharapova, who was stationed by the net, hit a weak backhanded volley that dropped the ball into net. That point drew a roar of approval from the entire crowd and a few standing ovations, and left Sharapova in an exasperated state.

Wozniacki didn’t need to outgun Sharapova at the latter’s own game. Like what she’ll probably do to many of her fellow racers at the marathon in two months, Wozniacki only had to outrun Sharapova.

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4 pm: Federer v. Granollers… Where were you all you people the last five hours?

After five hours of waiting, the main event for everyone else not named Bryan Garcia was the demolition that Roger Federer would put on Marcel Granollers. The Script’s “Hall of Fame” and crowd applause greeted Federer as he warmed up with Granollers, and the weather finally reached a point of perfection as clouds took over the sky to create a cool, comfortable environment.

But in hindsight, that was only the clichéd calm before the storm.

The first storm that this poor Federer-loving crowd dealt with was a disjointed Federer, whose play wasn’t as stylish as the sea green top and blue shorts that the Swiss legend donned for the match. (What? Those colors looked better than I thought they would.) Granollers’s serve overwhelmed Federer to where to a shutout; the first game barely lasted two minutes. If it wasn’t a Granollers ace, Federer returned the serve wide or long.

OK, early game jitters. Federer will turn it around in his first service game.

Or not. Granollers shut out Federer again and broke him for a 2-0 lead. These fans waited all these hours for the revitalized Federer and instead they saw the shadow of the player who was on tour in 2013. Eight straight points lost; even with Granollers serving now, that streak will end soon, right?

15-0 Granollers. 30-0 Granollers. The crowd was probably approaching panic mode after seeing Federer lose 10 straight points in under 10 minutes. Then the chair umpire announced this glorious score to the ears of the worried crowd: 30-15 Granollers.

Finally.

That was Federer’s lone point through the first three games of the match, but it seemed to wake him up. Instead of the wild errors — there were a lot of high and long shots from Federer early on — we finally started to see flashes of the brilliant Federer. One-handed backhands and sweet groundstrokes that barely clear the net for a point. An airborne Federer hitting a forehand winner. The forehand winner that crossed the net and landed at too shallow of an angle for Granollers to catch. This was the art we all waited patiently for.

As Federer started to find his footing in the match, a thunderstorm worthy of pounding of Florida found its way into Flushing Meadows. A flooding alert siren somewhere out in Queens blared loud enough for the crowd in Ashe Stadium to hear. The sky turned a dark, drab gray. A rain drop hit my right arm, then another one landed on my left eye (ugh). Sensing that they were running out of time, Federer and Granollers accelerated their already-fervent pace of play and crammed a couple more points. Before Federer could complete his service game, though, the chair umpire suspended play for the weather.

The two men were models of efficiency before the weather halted play: in the twenty minutes of match play, Federer and Granollers played seven games (2-5 Granollers). Of course, none of that efficiency would have been possible if it weren’t for the Federer mishits and aggressive attacks by Granoller that killed many rallies in three shots or fewer.

The players abandoned the court and the dejected crowd abandoned their seats for shelter in the concourse.

Then that final element of the Florida summer, the spontaneous storm, arrived over Flushing Meadows. Lightning, thunder, wind, rain — the whole package. The wind blew rain into the concourse and soaked the folks at the edges of the concourse; more rain fell from the overhangs, traveled down the sloped entrances to the stands, and flooded the ground that the folks in the interior of the concourse stood on. When the storm cleared up a little, some people took out their cameras and photographed the storm.

The crowd loitered in the concourse for 30 minutes before the US Open announced — via Twitter first, then through security staff about five minutes later — that the day session was canceled. To add salt to the wound, the night session ticketholders would get to see the completion of the Federer match that we were being kicked out of. After all those hours of waiting through two matches and all that rain, all that these Federer fans had to show for that was 20 minutes of (sloppy) play. I felt so bad for them, especially the New York University graduate student in marketing who sat next to me through five hours of heat and other tennis matches just for Federer. Then the cruel weather took Federer away from them before he could consistently put on his best play for them.

But that rain delay was probably the best thing that could have happened for Federer. After being down 2-5 before the delay, Federer returned from it and lost first set 4-6 before sweeping the last three sets 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

Other than missing out on most of the Federer match, this was another excellent Labor Day weekend out at the US Open. I’m already planning next year’s trip for my fourth consecutive year at the US Open — but hopefully Visit Orlando and my home city’s crappy summer weather stay away from The Big Apple next time around.

Florida: New York City Edition

My 20 minute trek from a restaurant by the Rockefeller Center to my hotel by the Chelsea district felt more like a jaunt through the University of Florida campus than one through New York City. How appropriate for the first day of Florida’s college football season.

Because it’s officially college football season, I had to wear a Florida shirt to mark the occasion. Wearing that shirt makes me stick out like a sore thumb among all the trendily dressed 20-somethings roaming the roads of the city, but it was the sole thing responsible for creating the environment that temporarily turned The Big Apple into Gainesville.

After only taking 20 steps out the door from Pasta Lovers, the 49th Street restaurant where I had dinner, I made eye contact with a face I had never seen in person before, but knew of from pictures on the internet. He had the same inkling and greeted me.

It someone from UF I have no recollection of seeing on campus, but was friends on Facebook with because of the old “Class of 2011″ UF Facebook group that existed when university email addresses and Groups actually meant something on Facebook. After accepting his friend request in 2007 and never actually meeting this guy — now a med school student working in the city — I randomly ran into him and spoke to him for the first time in America’s largest city. 

The world works in weird ways.

Afterward, I hopped to a Downtown D Train at the Rockefeller Center station and got off at the Herald Square Station, a maze of a subway station that connections the N, Q, and R lines with the D and F lines and the New Jersey PATH Trains. While navigating that mess to find the southernmost exist out of the station, I caught sight of a couple walking in the opposite direction of me who stood out of the crowd for the same reason as me — what they were wearing. While I was on the extreme side of casual clothing, these two were on the opposite end of the scale: The man was in your generic fancy suit, while the woman wore a black and gold evening gown.

As we approached the intersecting point of our walks, I made eye contact at the man first. He looked at me suspiciously, which left me confused. So I turned my attention to his partner, a gorgeous brunette who was already looking in my direction and smiling. When our paths crossed, the two words I should have expected, but didn’t expect because I was trying my best not to smile too much back at her, lest I want this guy to beat me up:

“Go Gators!” she said as crossed paths

(Oh, hey, a fellow Gator!)

“Go Gators!” I said, now forgoing any attempt to restrain myself from smiling back at her.

Yeah, I’m not sorry for stealing your thunder, dude. She and I and my Facebook med school bud all have an unbreakable bond because of our Alma mater. We’re everywhere. Go Gators.

 

The Line

The local Moe’s is one of the last places I would have expected to have some of my faith in humanity restored.

The staff of four at the Moe’s was already caught in the Friday night dinner rush when I entered shortly after 6:40 pm, with me taking the tenth slot in line. The shortage in chicken coincided with those in front of me ordering chicken dishes. A father and his daughter took their places in line behind me. A machine spit out the receipt of an order that someone phoned in; the staff had to divert their attention from a father, mother, and elementary school-aged daughter to take care of the orders for three tacos printed on the receipt. On top of all that, the air conditioning wasn’t working at that part of the restaurant. It created a warm, but tolerable, climate for those of us standing idly in line, but for the employees scrambling behind the glass to take care of everyone’s orders, the conditions probably exacerbated an already stressful environment.

And yet, no one lost their cool.

One of the women behind the glass apologized profusely to the family of three for the delays caused by the phoned-in order and the large meals ordered by the folks ahead of them in line.

“No worries! It’s fine,” the mother replied. Then mother, father (who wore an awesome “I void warranties” shirt) and daughter happily ordered their burritos.

A second employee calmly too care of my order. She and the other three with her weren’t visibly fazed by the growing line behind me; they somehow kept smiling.

Another logjam at the register have the father and daughter behind me some extra time to ponder ordering a side for their burrito bowls. They settled on a side cup of guacamole — but the father told the employee not to fill that cup all the way because “they wouldn’t eat it all” if it was filled to the brim.

Not wasting. What a lovely concept!

After 15 minutes, I finally reached the register to pay for the mountain of salt and beef and cheese my poor body would be inflicted with. The cashier apologized again for the wait, but it was nothing to worry about. They handled themselves well.

With the way society seems fixated on the instant gratification, the patience shown by everyone — employees and all the customers in line — was one of those little things that reminded me of the good we’re capable of. That alone was worth the wait.

——————Update:

A couple minutes after I posted this from my phone, I got up from my seat at Moe’s to refill my cup with sweet tea. One of the four employees was there, filling up a large cup with some red drink that I assume was Fanta. So, I started a conversation, complimenting them for how they handled the dinner rush.

“Thank you, thank you. Were you there for the fire?” she said.

Fire?

She explained the whole situation, A few minutes before I showed up, the grill caught fire and it spread to the lid.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I tried blowing out the flames, but it kept growing.”

So she grabbed water and dumped it on the grill to extinguish the fire. While that put out the fire, it also ruined the chicken that was being cooked on the grill for the orders ahead of me and the inventory for later orders. That explains why there was a chicken shortage when it got to my section of the line. 

Thankfully, no one was harmed, the building still stands, and all the employees got a well-earned break with no new customers showing up shortly after 8 pm.

SmartPost

The staff at this website has used this as a vehicle for new experiences. In the spirit of “trying out new stuff” and technology’s continued shrinkage to tablets and smartphones, the staff is using this piece as an experiment.

This post will be typed in its entirety on a smartphone.

OK, so this isn’t a groundbreaking event, but it is an excellent test of patience for this very patient staff. For example: how many times will my left thumb hit the “R” key instead of the intended “E” key before I get angry and chuck my phone across the room?

It would be very rude to chuck my phone in the public setting I’m typing this from. Being the excellent mechanical engineer that I am, I pay the folks at Super Walmart to change the oil in my car for me.

The mechanic said that the service will be done in an hour and 20 minutes. That means I’m spending the next hour and 20 minutes sitting inside the pinnacle of American cuisine, McDonald’s, which has a restaurant built into the Walmart. I don’t want to chuck my phonr and accidrntally hit somr poor customrr brcausr my thumb krrps hitting “R” whrn I want it to tap “E.”

It took me 25 minutes to walk from the auto repair section on the south end of the Walmart to the McDonald’s at the north end, order a large fries and sweet tea, sit down at a table, and eat and type out the entry up until this point. I have no idea how I’ll survive the next hour before succumbing to boredom.

And now I’m out of fries. This is DEFCOM 5 on the boredom scale. At this rate, I may take up this special offer from the McDonald’s: make a $20 donation to the Ronald McDonald House to receive a bundle of Happy Meal Toys to keep myself occupied.

I decided against the Happy Meal Toys, because I just remembered that I am typing this on a Smartphone. (I can’t italicize smartphone because it’s a pain in the butt to highlight the word on a mobile device, then scroll back to the top of the page to tap the Italics button, then scroll back down to where I left off.)

Because this is a smartphone and I have an internet connection, I can surf Facebook and Twitter to my heart’s content. Or, more realistically, until my phone battery dies or a Walmart employee publicly shames me by announcing “BRYAN GARCIA, YOUR OIL CHANGE IS COMPLETE AND YOUR CAR IS READY TO BE PICKED UP AT YOUR CONVENIENCE.”

That announcement has happened to me before. Twice.

On that cheerful note, I bring this grand experiment in new age blogging to a premature end. I still have 40 minutes to go, but I think this has inflicted carpal tunnel on me. Smartphones are great for liking Facebook status updates and favoriting tweets, but, my God, I need a keyboard to write.

Out of My League

One of the hashtags I occasionally whip out on Twitter is #dyingalone. Apparently a lot of other people use this hashtag; I credit my awareness of it to one writer. The hashtag is my stupid way of taking swipes at myself and at the rural Connecticut way of life that I clash with, which makes it difficult for me to relate to the rare 20-somethings I meet in Conn. On Saturday night, though, it helped my brain dredge up a story from freshman year of college. While everyone I know on Facebook (and probably you) screened Guardians of the Galaxy, I sat alone in my apartment, finalizing my plans for a Sunday matinee of Guardians of the Galaxy, watching the Liverpool vs. AC Milan friendly, and piecing together this extended edition of #dyingalone. After seven years, I’m fine with laughing about it for all of the internet* to see and subsequently use against me.

Technical Writing was one of the five courses I took in my first semester at UF. It was a class that maxed out at 30 people and contained a hodgepodge of engineering students, business undergraduates who will be my bosses in 10 years, three softball players, and one Family, Youth, and Community Sciences major.

No, that FYC Sciences student was not Tim Tebow.

She was a junior in the FYC Sciences program, a lifelong southerner with long blond hair and calm brown eyes we’ll name Laura** for the purposes of this exercise. You could say she was my first crush in college, because when it comes to crushes, fear of rejection stops you from inquiring about a coffee date or because you automatically assume that it’s unrealistic for that person to be interested in you. As a naive freshman, I fell under both categories as a freshman.

The classroom was set up for peer interaction, though: two columns of tables that each had seats for three students and individual desktop computers for each student. The instructor set up in-class writing assignments and gave us the freedom to peer edit each other’s documents and help each other out with navigating that perplexing behemoth of a program known as Microsoft Word. Working with the other engineering students in the classroom limited my interaction with Laura in the classroom; I really can’t recall having to edit any of her papers or helping her find something on Microsoft Word.

Whenever I ran into Laura outside of the classroom, things were the opposite. She’d say “Hi!” and hug me and then actually hold a conversation with me for a few minutes. We encountered each other outside of our Rolfes Hall classroom for the first time at Weimar Hall, the College of Journalism building. Among a lot of biographical details exchanged that I’ve long forgotten, I learned she also taught a section of First Year Florida, a course for freshman to basically network and learn how to navigate campus, the registration system, and all those other academic details we should worry about. Maybe it was because her voice was of a higher pitch, but she always sounded cheerful when we spoke.

As a freshman, this was mind-blowing: despite little to no interaction in class, Laura knew who I was! Laura hugged me! I don’t hug anyone outside of my own nuclear family! I didn’t break out into a nervous sweat when we spoke to each other! Wait, why is she hugging me if we didn’t really speak to other class?

WHO CARES?!

This cycle of running into each other happened on more than a few occasions, usually around the Reitz Student Union area, thanks to how our schedules seemed to match up for passing through that area at the same time. If I had just a tiny ounce of awareness, I could have used one of these random encounters to take a punt and see if she’d be up for Starbuck at the Reitz. But because I wasn’t not that smart and aware, I forgot that “being the guy and initiating the next step” was an option, and I simply went about my merry way after each encounter.

Once I started the second semester of my freshman year, I lost all contact with Laura and forgot about her. I went about my merry way in that period, constantly questioning whether or not to continue with the engineering program.***

One year later, on a spring afternoon in the second semester of my sophomore year, I walked into the welcome center inside the Reitz Union. Laura, in an orange tank top and denim shorts for the victorious orange and blue combo, and her blond hair tied in a ponytail, just finished descending the steps from the bookstore to the welcome center and noticed me first.

I was caught off-guard that she would remember me of all people after a year of nothing. The meeting was like we still in that first semester, though: hello!, hug, catching up on what went down the past year for almost 10 minutes. Her getting for graduation and then heading to graduate school at USF (she sounded especially happy then). Me trying to find something interesting to say besides trying not to fail my Numerical Methods class. Or my Intermediate Engineering Analysis class. Or Circuits. Or — oh geez, I want to forget about my worst semester ever at UF.

With 1.5 years of college under my belt, I should have been mature enough to just take a punt and inquire if she’d be up for Starbucks at the Reitz before the semester ended. But because we already established that I wasn’t that smart or aware at the time, I said “congrats!” and “awesome!” and then we exchanged “great seeing you again after so long!” and “see you later!” before I went about my merry way to grab a body-destroying, fast food lunch at the food court upstairs.

I never saw Laura again.

In hindsight — as in, this past Saturday, when I thought about that whole story for the first time from a distance — I was a pretty oblivious fellow. Maybe she would have said no to the coffee date, but, in hindsight again, there seemed to be enough circumstantial evidence to suggest otherwise if some light switch flicked on in my brain and told me to ask. But all things work out in the end: my obliviousness gave me something to laugh about this weekend.

As for Laura, she has that Master’s degree, now works as a family therapist, and is married to a hot shot venture capitalist. Like I said, things work out in the end.

#dyingalone #retro #extendededition

————————–

* “all of the internet” = the average of 10 people who read this site every day. Hi, Mom and Dad!

** Not her real name. The name was arbitrarily chosen from the name of the actress who portrayed Peter Quill’s mom in Guardians of the Galaxy. Go see it.

*** I have my doubts about being one of those lifetime engineers, because I still have more fun writing. But I’ll always be grateful to my Calculus 2 professor — a PhD student at the time — for taking the time to listen to me vent those fears about staying the course outside of class time. Then he always offered advice on how to conquer those fears; his advice about college and life, in general, played a pivotal role in keeping me in the engineering program.

The Boss Behind Bugs Bunny

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A sign promoting What’s Up Doc, the Animation Art of Chuck Jones, at the Steinway Street stop in Astoria, Queens.

For Chuck Jones, the basis of all great animation was a straight line. Jones’s command of the straight line and his ability to teach that skill to his animators — plus a dash of comedic influence from vaudeville acts such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers — gave rise to a decorated career that lists him as the director of more than 300 animated films, the winner of three Oscar awards, and now the subject of one Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that is at the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Queens, N.Y. until January 2015.

That exhibit, What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones, celebrates Jones’s 60-year career by diving into his approach to animation and supplementing that with sketches from the artist himself and footage from some of his most acclaimed work. The approach that Jones took was as meticulous as one that would be associated with an engineer; he provided direction on the most minute of details. In a model sheet for Bugs Bunny, there were back views, profile views, and isometric views of the character’s body and face. His artists had to follow Jones’s example when drawing Bugs, or any other of the Warner Bros. characters.

Jones would also create character layout sketches that would show how his animator should depict a particular action for a cartoon, and for emphasis, he would annotate those sketches with a Batman-like sound effect (“SPLOT,” “SPLAT,” “CLANG”) or a word like “BAL” (Balance) and “Hesitate” for timing purposes. Timing was important to Jones; one of his quotes in the exhibit specified that it took 18 frames for Wile E. Coyote to fall and disappear, and then another 14 frames until the Coyote made impact with the ground.

But in the end, everything went back to the straight line. In that model sheet for Bugs Bunny, Jones directed his staff to draw a straight line, then to use that line to shape Bugs like “a dollar sign” when he was “pooped.” Jones tossed angles, verticals, horizontals, and perpendiculars in his drawings as if he was an engineer creating a 2D sketch for a part, but his finished parts were entities that took on lives of their own and have entertained generations of Americans since the 1940s.

As such, the exhibit is also a trip down memory lane for Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y — you know, everyone in America who is not in elementary school or below. I sat in on a screening of Jones’s Duck Amuck, the famous short where Daffy Duck is tormented by some sadistic animator named Bugs Bunny, surrounded by grandparents, parents in their 30s and 40s with young children, and folks my age. It’s a testament to the timelessness of Jones’s work that when laughter broke out in the theater, it was always universal; the jokes transcended all of the generation gaps that we’ve arbitrarily defined in the name of social science.

For those parents who took their young children to the exhibit, it was as much about reliving the past as it was about introducing their children to the Warner Bros. cartoons. In one of my many trips to the television to relive the “Pronoun Trouble” wordplay of Rabbit Seasoning, I saw a mom and dad watch the scene with their two children, then the family acted out the scene using a poster of the script next to the television. Across the aisle, a mother towed her three children to the video screen showing Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century and went on to explain Planet X to her kids after they saw Daffy and Marvin the Martian both claim possession of Planet X. Jones’s work is in good hands for the future.

The exhibit helped me appreciate fully the finer points that Jones put into his work. Elmer shooting Daffy twice because of his pronoun troubles is funny in itself, but at MoMI, I watched that loop over and over for the nonchalant expressions and tone of voice from Bugs and Daffy that left me cracking up as I stared at the screen. I could now appreciate that What’s Opera, Doc? parodied Walt Disney’s Fantasia by giving Elmer a “magic helmet” that could create a destructive thunderstorm. The rules that Jones laid out for his Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons — including such gems like the “Road Runner must say on the road; otherwise, logically, he isn’t a road runner” or “Only the Coyote’s ineptitude or ACME products can harm him; no outside forces can” — reinforce the careful attention he paid to each cartoon, for the sake of consistency and believability in his characters. I could also celebrate Jones as an engineer in his field, thanks to the precision he put into his art.

And although Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Feleng, Robert McKimson, and Mel Blanc get the most attention for their contributions to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, the exhibit paid deserved homage to vital contributors whose names are less known: voices actors June Foray (Granny) and Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer); background artist Maurice Noble; background painter Philip DeGuard; and the many men and women who animated and colored cels under Jones.

As I took one last walk through the exhibit to admire the pencil sketches of Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig, the Coyote, the Road Runner, and Pepe Le Pew, I constantly reminded myself that these are original sketches by Chuck Jones. I was looking at the animation equivalent to a Da Vinci work of art. But Jones, ever the playful type from what I gathered at the exhibit, wouldn’t want that praise. Instead, Jones would probably prefer to be associated with the final words in Duck Amuck, uttered by none other than Bugs Bunny.

“Ain’t I a stinker?”