Robert Redford Is Not a Native Speaker of English

By JoCo November 21, 2007

I am not making this up. Here is what it says on page one of the Sundance Christmas catalog (I mean “Holiday Catalog”). This is supposedly a message straight from Robert Redford. And I quote:

“Holidays again. Forgive me while I dodge the rumble of the million footed throngs that have succumbed to the marketing ether for Christmas and its days.

Holiday. Can we, without disappointing the children and others who long for the surprise of gift giving, just look to a different value to digest, wherever you are? Those details that are natural and sometimes hidden? That have a satisfying and long lasting lifespan? Things that you miss when you’re away? That when someone might remind you, you say, oh yes, how wonderful. And of course the most vivid of details: loved ones who are there in body and spirit.

Happy holidays from all of us at Sundance.”

Wait, what? It’s like he snorted a bunch of pulped Christmas cards and fragments of them shot up into his brain, and then he got really high, punched an intern in the face, and dictated this – IN CHINESE. Seriously, what happened here? $100 to the first person who can explain this to me.


Mystral721 says

Dude, I think your $100 is safe....

Patrick M says

If you first misread that first line as "a million footed thongs" and then go back and reread it, it's not as bad.

It's pretty much all uphill from "a million footed thongs" ..

Terisa says

Have you tried a simple substitution cipher?

patty says

ok, are we being snobs about grammar here? what, you never heard of disguising phrases and clauses (and fragments... and, well, nonsense?) as sentences? let alone random words smattered across a page with randomer still punctuation to artsy it all up? (try it without any capitalization and see if it doesn't gain another layer of that je ne said quoi, btw...) give it a soundtrack and some mediocre cinematography and honey, i smell oscar....

i'm waiting for my check.... but will happily meet you halfway and accept the reward in cash. unmarked bills of course. or lots and lots of coin.

Tyler says

He's trying to sound sappy to improve income.

May I have my $100 now?

Jim says

That's what this was---a literal dictation done from a tape recording. One take, probably with many pauses; that would explain all the odd fragments and commas.
In the end, it's another impassioned plea to not get sucked into the rampant commercialization or the cliche Christmas cheer that you summarized in "Christmas is Interesting".
In his own jumbled way, this says the following: "Hey, we survived another year on this planet. Congratulations. Hope you recognize and remember the things that make you happy to be alive, whether it's family, friends, or a bowl of 7-Eleven taquitos. P.S. Rankin/Bass specials are awesome to watch while stoned."
Will this $100 be in cash or check?

Dr. J says

Normally, wealthy veteran actors would hire someone witty to ghostwrite a literate Christmas message of hope and cheer. Due to impending deadlines this year, it was written by the Sundance catalog business manager's Chinese intern.



dragonlady474 says

Well it’s very easy to explain…
On one hand you have your traditions and on the other consumerism, then add a little ham, some sweet potatoes and then there’s the whole “the bastards didn’t buy anything on my list!” thing. Which is only worsened by the expectations by the children, and felt by the elves, enslaved by Santa, who was only pissed off because little Tommy forgot to leave cookies last year (he always placed his favorites by the fire) and the others that he ate gave him heartburn. But the fire in his heart was no way near the fire that burned in the elves, who were forever humiliated because they were made to wear small pointy shoes and hats designed by Salvador Dali.
THAT’S all he was trying to say!

Gle3nn says

There's a writers strike on.

ProdigalTim says

Explanation time again. Forgive me while I ignore all the posts above me that have succumbed to the ignorance that is the English language.

Explanation. Can we, without telling everything in one sentence and thereby disappointing everyone looking for the most intelligent answer, just look to a less reasonable answer to digest, wherever that be? Those details that are witty and sometimes perfect? That answers every philosophical question asked? Things that you miss when you awaken from the dream that explains all? That when someone asks, you say, oh yes, I know the answer! And of course the most precious of details: family, those alive, dead, and undead.

Happy explanation from me!

Impossibly Stupid says

Your proposal is acceptable! I'm going to assume you can actually parse the first and last short paragraphs. If not, I can dissect them as well. Otherwise, here is the "translation" of the main paragraph, sentence by sentence:


Celebrate . . . just one day out of life . . .

"Can we, without disappointing the children and others who long for the surprise of gift giving, just look to a different value to digest, wherever you are?"

He's asking us to consider the fact that sometimes it is more important to plan for the long haul than to stagger (like zombies! :-) through our lives only to mark certain days as special.

"Those details that are natural and sometimes hidden?"

As mentioned in the first paragraph, the marketing of holidays keeps increasing. It is in-your-face in a *very* unnatural way. He's asking you, for example, to appreciate that a tree just being a tree in a forest can be more beautiful than cutting it down, stuffing it in your living room, and hanging crap on it.

"That have a satisfying and long lasting lifespan?"

Again, holidays are big build-ups to a day or two of transient joy. He questions if it might not be more rewarding to instead invest in something that matters more, to see things less like working to get drunk on the weekend and more like an alcoholic counting their days sober.

"Things that you miss when you’re away?"

As above, the holiday marketing is pervasive and so blandly uniform that you can never quite escape the franchise feel of it. The shared experience is supposed to bring us together, but when your participation is more like that of a cog in the machine it actually leaves many people feeling more distant.

"That when someone might remind you, you say, oh yes, how wonderful."

He's again lamenting the increasing lack of unique experiences. Remember that rural pie shop up-state that had the best cherry cobbler? Oh, yes! How wonderful! Remember that burger and fries you got at McDonalds for lunch? SS,DD . . .

"And of course the most vivid of details: loved ones who are there in body and spirit."

And take care that you don't replace them, too, with generic counterparts just because things aren't always smooth sailing. You owe me $100!

Lindsay says

And that, dear Impossibly Stupid, is why *you* should have written it instead of Robert Redford.

Jyrms says

JoCo: "I am not making this up."
No of course you're not because clearly someone has already done that for you :)

Anonymous says

This is how I read this one, Jon:

"It's the holiday season again. Forgive me for wanting to avoid the packed malls and shopping centers that come with this time of year.

"I want you to examine your values for a moment. Could we rebuild Christmas around these values and discard our materialistic tendencies, or would that disappoint the children too much? We really should be thankful for the more subtle gifts, like living a long and accomplished life, or the people you miss when you're out on the road. Isn't it delightful to remember things and days gone by, to reminisce with your loved ones?

"No one here at Sundance had the cojones to second-guess me on this greeting."

Gilly says

Outsourcing. Robert Redford has, in a bold money-saving move, been outsourced to India.

Wait until you see what they do with Julia Roberts.

JP says

Oh, I always thought he was a cyborg, and now I finally have proof.

Brett says

Babelfish games. They wrote it in English, translated it to Innuit then translated it back. A good time was had by all.

rl says

The above answers to the question, I happily enjoy reading. Might some of them be good to be set musically as JC would do? Save effort and buy lyrics? I am happy and amused, with a feeling like reality based Xmas.
PS please forgive my not so good English. I am live NY.

JoeViturbo says

He's just trying to sound smart and deep and like a revolutionary thinker at the same time. That is the only explanation available. Revolutionary filmakers do not have time for proper punctuation, Revolutionary filmakers do not conform to the rules of sentence structure, and apparently, Revolutionary filmakers are not required to be comprehensible by anyone. The implication is that if you can't understand it you just aren't "indie" enough. ;)

dragonlady474 says

Of course there is the possibility that his cheese has slid off the cracker.

PonderousMan says

Er, does anyone else see the (delicious? tacky? agonizing?) irony in the fact that this came about from the Sundance Holiday *catalog*? Redford is bemoaning the lack of connection and overabundance of conspicuous consumption in a publication that is solely intended to get you to spend money...oh, and make you feel good while doing so. Is there any greater expression of the corruption of the holidays than that?

In terms of explanation of the writing, I got nothing - though I vote for ProdigalTim to win the prize, and I think rl's idea of putting this to lyrics is brilliant... though there might be some copyright issues involved. (Maybe use ProdigalTim's reply as lyrics instead?)

Marc says

I held this secret for a long time and I feel that it is finally time to get it off my chest.

Robert Redford died in early 2000 in a stunt accident while on the set of Spy Game. Already over-budget and under pressure from the studio, director Tony Scott hid the death from producers and opted to finish the film using a CGI Redford played by accomplished CG actor Andy Serkis (interestingly, it was this performance that convinced Peter Jackson to use Serkis for Gollum in LOTR).

The studio (and Redford's family) did eventually discover the truth, but with money still coming in from the late actor's performances, all parties agreed to continue to ruse. Through the use of bleeding edge animatronic technology and in a partnership with ILM, the cabal that holds this secret have continued to profit from Mr. Redford's fame.

Unfortunately, a problem has cropped up recently. When the project was begun Tony Scott opted for a lower priced open source speech generator. As time has passed, the program has begun to function erratically but as an open source project none of the original designers are around to update it. Although Scott, Redford's family, and the studios are scrambling to get a new speech generator written, in the meantime any live statements (as the one above was) are becoming notably incoherent.

Jen says

Um, hypoxia from the bad eye job?

Aiya! That's not even good back-translated Chinese. If you want to see how it's really done, check with globe-hopping model Elyse Sewell, who still has her own eyes.

(I hear another Bigfoot song coming on: "Your hairiness disease?!")

Grum Fan says

Wow. Someone needs "No Whining" pill.
Yes, it was written less clearly that it could have been. So what?

Its intent and meaning is clear enough.

If you couldn't understand it, perhaps you are the problem.

Tomorrow morning don't take the "Anal pedantry" pill when you get up.

Tim says

This is a well known Jedi mind trick in which the Jedi speaks in a disjointed manner about the crass commercialization of the holiday season in order to cloud your mind so you don't realize that he's asking you to BUY THINGS FROM HIS CRASSLY COMMERCIAL HOLIDAY CATALOG!

dragonlady474 says

Mr. Redford?? lol

Grum Fan says

Insert the word "a" as needed in the above comment. :-)

Thomas says

Robert Redford is 71 years old. And he's done more in those 71 years than any of us will ever do.

The best way to interpret this is to say it out loud, maybe on the porch of a Colorado ski lodge. Cup of coffee in hand. Staring out over the snow-capped Rockies.

You're contemplating your life up to this point, maybe chuckling silently over that time when you and Paul Newman pulled that practical joke on Catherine Tate while shooting Butch & Sundance. She thought she'd never get the chocolate out of her hair. Good times.

As you round the curve of the memo, you just go with the flow and let the words come. They make sense to you and that's all that matters. You're Robert Redford. You took independent film-making into your tanned and ruddy arms and gave it a home.

Oh, yes, how wonderful.

And now, the memo done, maybe you'll have time to give a listen to that CD one of your grandchildren left by the sofa, next to the lifetime achievement Oscar. "You'll dig it, grandpa," they said.

Smoking Money, was it? Sulking Monkey?

randal says

Don't forget that Robert Redford is 71 years old, which entitles him to long rambling stories that don't make any sense.

AverageJon says

It's pure poetry!!

It’s just begging for some talented and shaggily handsome musician to set it to music, record it, and post it on the internets.

Anton says

Ok, I had to read it twice. The first time I was thinking they were trying a little too hard to be eloquent. But no, upon second reading I realize that Robert Redford was just really drunk when he dictated this.

ouija repair says

Writer strike.

dlab says

Sounds like engrish. It was written by Robert Redford's sushi chef.

JoCo says

Yeah, to be clear, I understand what he was TRYING to say (commercialism is bad, Christmas is great, plus there is family and stuff), I'm just sort of amazed that something this poorly written actually made it into print. Did he actually write this? Was he drunk? Did nobody read it before they sent it to the printers?

JethroCola says

"Holiday. Merely an ephemeral camphor for the abrasive repression of quotidian existence...its palliative qualities severely mitigated by the herdlike assault of the maddening crowd."

I imagine Redford holed away in his ski resort, whiling away his winter years pondering life and churning out turgid statements like the one above. It qualifies as English, barely, but the purpose is not so much to communicate as to pedantically display his "depth". This is deep thought to Robert Redford. I think he's sad that Christmas (er, sorry, Holiday) has become nothing more than a shopping scheme (apologies to Mr. Lydon), but the funny part (as someone else pointed out) is that this woeful diatribe is the preface to a catalog. Here's a quick translation (in English this time)...

"Happy Holiday. I refuse to specify which holiday to avoid offending those of you who may celebrate this time of year eating bark and flaying the skin from a virgin's behind. Isn't it sad that such wonderful traditions get lost in the hustle of commercialism? Don't forget what's important this year. Hug your mother, or better yet, buy her a hand made sweater with the Sundance logo if you really want to remind her how much you love her. I'm off to count my millions and make another failed political film. Hugs...Robert."

(P.S. I know it is madding crowd, but I figure that Redford would make that mistake, so I left it as such)

dragonlady474 says

Maybe he needed a script? lol

Chris says

Had Sr. Redford hyphenated "million-footed," then the whole thing would make more sense.

Rottnkids2 says

Perhaps, because of the writers' strike, Mr. Redford had to hire the writer of the J. Peterman Catalog. Most of it sounds like it should be read aloud, as Thomas says "while sitting on the porch of a ski lodge."

Or, it's just that cheese and cracker thing dragonlady474 has mentioned. (Which, by the way, is the first thing that made me laugh out loud today.)

You guys are fun. Keep up the snarky! I love it!!

Robert H says

@JC - Give the man a break. He just got off a week-long bender of watching every Dawson's Creek episode from the boxed DVD sets.

Mr. Foot says

Understand? Me do.

Sure not why, you think this so hard to explain. He English read good.


dragonlady474 says

Mr. Foot, your comment reminded me of another possibility. Yoda wrote it! lol

Al says

Robert Redford is simply demonstrating his large vocabulary and trying to make it poetic.Translation to simpler terms:

"The holidays are coming again. Forgive me, as I do not join the crowds out Christmas shopping.
Ah, the holidays. Could we base them on something other than giving gifts, without making kids and other immature people cry? How about basing them on details, details that are natural and sometimes not obvious, but satisfying and long-lasting?[not about candy] Details that you miss when away from them. Details that, when someone reminds you of them, you remember with pleaure. The most notable among these details are your loved ones. [family & friends, not stuffed animals]
Happy holidays, speaking for all of us at Sundance. [I had to say that, in case you did not understand any of the rest]

Use the $100 for making bookmarks (see Celebration! forum).

James says

Robert Redford obviously lives a sheltered existence. He needs to spend some time at the mall and see how the real world lives. I woder how he functions talking (or even thinking) like this?

Roman V says

This is why, whenever I have to interview someone (for an article, obviously) I prefer email style. They have the opportunity to see if what they say actually flows well and makes sense on a page.

snabby says

Perhaps the Babelfish translation from English to Chinese and back will help:

Holiday again. Forgives me when I dodged have submitted have the foot to the marketing ether for the Christmas day and its day million pieces crowd's rumble.

Holiday. Can we, not disappoint the child and other people which the hope gift surprisedly gives, just look to other value digestion, regardless of where you are? Is these details which the nature and sometimes hides? That has satisfactory and the lasting life? You miss the matter when you are go? Perhaps that when some person reminds you, you said that, oh is, is wonderful. And certainly most vivid detail: Family in there in body and soul meat and spirit.

Holiday joyfully from our everybody in Sundance.

The English-Korean-English isn't bad, either:

Again holiday. Will go out and khu li su E su with it day the reel lu while the flesh pair getting out of the way the rumble the multitude who is million shots which submit will carry forgive in hazard selling and buying and.

Holiday. The futures which it gives it surprises it desires different it is different the people and children, the political party it sees freely in value and it is disappointed without where you are, it digests the possibility of doing to respect there are we? The natural enemy and, it hides from time to time the detail fact? To that it is satisfied, there is a life when it subsists long? You of the case where you will be falling must miss? Wondering Rob who will be extensive and when remaining, that, it spreads out and it talks, Ohio it is like that. And detail fact be fresh justly most,: The family which is from that place inside the flesh and spirit.

In the Sundance us the holiday when from all it is happy.

manstraw says

He acted it in his head, and if we could see him, it would add 90% to the meaning.

funny. I didn't have a problem understanding what he was saying. if I had, I wouldn't get too bent up about it. i prefer to laugh when people really blow their metaphors. there was this time a christmas editorial in a newspaper (actually by the editor) discussed the two certainties of life, death and taxes, in the context of christmas being a celebration of the death of christ. THAT, was something deserving of a purple nurple.

Janet says

I think there's too much light hitting the corners of his mind.

Personally, I blame the misty water-colored memmries.

Joseph Devon says

Any of the New Yorkers on here read the "Housing A Constitutional Amendment" fliers? Apparently Redford's a fan.

Al says

snabby, I haven't laughed this hard in quite a while. :-D :-D :-)

Impossibly Stupid says

JC, I'm sure it was read by many people, but anyone who even thought about editing it said nothing because it was written by Robert FLICKING Redford. It's just another case of a celebrity getting away with some eccentric behavior, although it is clearly on a much lesser scale than a star of his caliber *could* get away with. You've become so desensitized by the antics of OJ, Michael Jackson, and every young, drunk, vapid female star that your brain just can't process something as simple as an old codger who simply rambles on. Consider him the white trash neighbor that used to start fights with other kids, but now just screams "get off my lawn!" at them.

Janet says

Yes, but it's a holiday CATALOG. That is the most bizarre thing. A marketing piece.

Tom says

Well, I must say it's NOT interesting. Unlike Christmas. I guess that's what they get when they make it all generic 'holidays."

It's some kind of like some kind of hoity-toity-eco-mentalism speak - it's become it's own professional language, like having a doctor tell you you have a cold in clinical terms.

My grandaughter calls it yada yada bla bla bla.

'Tis the season to be led by a child - I agree with her.

Tesseract says

Well, it's gotten us talking about it... How many people have looked at this who'd have previously ignored it now?

Dave Kuzminski says

Actually, I liked the stylistic flow of his words regardless of who wrote them. It was a welcome change of pace compared to all the usual drivel spouted by celebrities.

Sherman says

It's badly written, yes. But what it is most of all is using the "Christmas has become too commercial" argument to try and sell us more stuff. That's what I don't like. Like that one car commercial, Saturn I think: "stop consuming (but before you do, consume our car." Plus that Sundance catalog is so frickin' expensive.

Molly says

Try picturing him saying this while standing on the stage of a small auditorium, with a pale blue blanket in tow, and starting out this whole passage with "Lights, please?"

It actually answers no questions, but damned if it doesn't entertain me.

Noelle says

Maybe last Christmas somebody gave him a thesaurus... and a lobotomy?

listenerking says

Well, I think we found out what Miss South Carolina is doing nowadays: she got a copy-writing internship at the Sundance Center. At least she seems to be improving...

Kevin says

"Babelfish games. They wrote it in English, translated it to Innuit then translated it back. A good time was had by all."

"Meet other festiveness mark. [Pardon me], during I the noise millions throngs avoid footed, which was subject to the ether of the marketing for Christmas and its days.

[Festiveness]. Can we, without at the children and of other one than loose to disappoint t-ever for the surprise of the gift, which just gives careful at a different value, around to digest where which is? These details, which are hidden naturally and sometimes? That has a satisfaction and a durable life expectancy? Things which misses it are missing when? That, if someone you so-called could remind it oh, how he is admirable. And naturally the most living thing on details: he liked united, which are there from body and alcohol.

Lucky festivenesses everything us in Sundance."

Lucky festiveness everything us, indeed. Lucky festiveness everything _everyone_...

Canadian Beaver says

A few words will sum this up for all of you. Out-Sourcing.

Bean says

Oh my god....this sounds exactly like the President of my organization (i.e. place I currently work). I'm thinking all head honchos attend a "how to make nice with customers and be communication-centric" workshops and learn how to verbalize/write like this. Run-on sentences. Fragments. Sentences that have no beginning...or end. Misplaced and misspelled (did I misspell that?) words. I'm banking that the workshops take place in - you guessed it - Sundance!

Chimera says


Why are people surprised at an apparent lack of grammar skills? Simply because of the celebrity of the person who has done the writing?

*shrugs* I've seen much, much worse, personally.

I will admit that in this context it did make me giggle. If I had seen it elsewhere beforehand I'm fairly certain I would have found it more interesting than amusing, however.

I'm fairly certain you've deciphered it yourself and that the $100 is a lie, so I'll refrain from posting my own interpretation ;)

Dean says

He wrote this in Microsoft Word and let the paper clip help him.

He should have written it on a Mac.

Dante says

Who cares?

Paradol Rex says

Well, lets be fair. He was a great actor, but he's basically old and senile now and probably gets frightened by the unpredictability of The Price is Right. All talent fades.

Zina says

Those throngs all with their million feet are terrifying. Humanoid millionipedes! I'd lose my ability to communicate cogently, too.

heather (errantdreams) says

Gilly wins. :D

Jim says


Mark says

Makes perfect sense to me.

Charlieboy says

Yes, it's very much in keeping with how a narcissist expresses himself. Very distant, lacking any real emotion.

fabro says

jajaja the guy was drunk at that time