Friday, January 28, 2011

Where I Was 25 Years Ago Today

By Odienator

It’s funny the selective things you remember when you take stock of recalled mental inventory, and how you can re-stitch them into your current narrative. January 28th, 1986 began as any other day in my senior year of high school.  I was 15 and still coping with the half-blindness I’d acquired 9 months prior. Like most boys, I had dreams of being an astronaut, or at the very least, being able to fly a plane. Those dreams went the way of my self-confidence and self-esteem when I lost my eye. The only plus that came from my disfigurement was that my gym teacher would never get another opportunity to berate me in front of the class: I got a doctor’s note to sit out gym my senior year.

My senior year curriculum was an eerily prescient harbinger of my life and career to come: I had a writing class and a computer class,  the latter I took for college credit.  I also had a psychology class, which I enjoyed so much that I started college as a psych major. This class was an elective taught by Mr. R., the first and last class I took with him (though I saw him every day for three years in homeroom). Mr. R. liked to make jokes and tell us stories that, in hindsight, probably weren’t very politically correct.  Of course, having a rebellious edge is the best way to get through to teenagers, so we really enjoyed Mr. R. and his classes.

One thing I remember him joking about was the latest NASA mention. “There’s a teacher on it,” he said, “so it’ll probably blow up.” Mr. R. was always making jokes about teachers, and coming from a family of teachers, I’d pretty much heard them all already. He’d tell us he could cash his check on the bus, something my cousin says today.  Folks in my family also joked that the space shuttle might explode; their reason was because a Black person was on it. Whenever the shuttle mission would come up, Mr. R. would always casually mention that teacher, and how teachers were just not lucky.

Intro to Psych was 5th period in my schedule--It came right after my 4th period lunch.  Senior year was the first time I chose to stay in the school cafeteria during lunch; prior to that, I’d always gone to my aunt’s house to eat the sandwiches I dropped into her fridge before school.  I do not recall if I sat in the caf that day, but I do know I did not go anywhere near a TV. I probably accompanied some friends to one of the places they bought lunch, either the “Post Office Store,” so christened because it was across the street from the post office, or “Hold the Roach,” named for reasons you probably don’t want to know.

If memory serves, 5th period started something like 12:19 PM. Had I gone to my aunt’s, I would have known that, during my lunch period, the space shuttle Challenger had disintegrated during launch. All seven astronauts: Michael  J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, and Mr. R.’s fellow teacher, Christa McAuliffe died at 11:38 AM.

When class started, Mr. R. began by saying solemnly “the Challenger blew up.”  We thought he was kidding. How many times had he predicted it would? “No, I’m serious,” he said. “It blew up.”

There’s a big hole in my memory here. I don’t remember the rest of the school day, nor my own nor my fellow students’ reactions. My next recollection is what happened when I got home. My Mom said “a terrible tragedy happened today.” On the TV was the constant replaying of said tragedy. It got played over and over and over, like my generation’s Zapruder film equivalent. I was watching actual death on my TV. Since then, I have seen people die 10 feet away from where I stood, yet I will always remember just how traumatized I was by that footage. I don’t even think I’d seen the Zapruder film at this time, so this was a first for me.

That Mr. R. and my family had “predicted” this, even in jest, freaked me out to no end. It changed the way I wrote and spoke. I have wished violence on lots of people, both in print and in person, yet I’ve never wished something that could feasibly happen. I’d wish that the Moon would fall on the person, or that thing from Alien would bust out of their asses, or, in the case of the author of Twilight in my last post, the offending person would be shot out of a cannon. I can never bring myself to say to someone “I hope you die,” no matter how angry I get. This has nothing to do with my upbringing, so I have to attribute this in some way to my reaction to the Challenger tragedy.

I purposely avoided putting any pictures or links in this piece. You can find all that information on your own. I mean no disrespect—it’s just too much for me to relive at the moment.  Still, I am reminded often. My high school is now named after Ronald McNair, and in 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia also tragically disintegrated. In 1999, I worked in Nacogdoches, Texas, where pieces of the Columbia were found, so I saw people I’d met on TV talking about what was found in their front yards. All I could do was turn off the TV and weep, something I am sure I will also do at some point today.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Ploy To Get Laid Gone Awry

By Odienator

Blogger's Note:  This was written in November, 2009, the day a radio station sponsored screening of Twilght: New Moon unspooled at a theater I used to frequent when I lived in Ohio. An old classmate of mine mentioned that she'd suffered through it on DVD recently, which made me think of this story. Two things you should know about this story:

1. It has never seen the light of day, outside of the original E-mail it appeared in and

2. Normally, the tales of my adventures you will read here are 100% true. This one has a little bit of poetic license in it. I'll let you figure out where that is, but I must warn you: It is NOT where you think it is.


I got cussed out today by a woman.

I know. I know. "What else is new, Odie? When do you not get cussed out by a woman?" Today's cuss-out is brought to you by Stephenie Meyer, the woman who proves that Black folks aren't the only race of people who get way too creative with the spellings of regular names. Ms. Meyer is also the writer of the Twilight series, whose second installment opened in theaters at 9 PM tonight. I was at a bar next to one of the theaters out here. I noticed the line for the cinema spiraled around the parking lot and was full of women of all ages. Some of them were dressed as Bella, the main character played by Kristen Stewart. I didn't see one man on the line.

 "What's all this?" asked a guy sitting near me. "The theater has an early screening of the Twilight movie," said the bartender. A very attractive woman sitting next to me said "oh God, I can't wait to see that! I LOVE Edward!" Responding to the face I made, the woman said "I take it that you don't like Twilight?"

"It's not for me," I said."Well, if you read the books," the woman told me, "you'd see how pure and wonderful this love story is." She started to swoon. "Edward and Bella! I wish I had that kind of love!"

I'm being punked, I thought. Where is Ashton Kutcher?

I told her "I'll have you know that I read Twilight." She looked surprised, then pleased. Her pleasure was short-lived. "It was nauseating," I began. "The author should be shot out of a cannon. She single-handedly has suggested an entire generation of women should behave like obsessive wenches who can't live without a man. That Bella was straight up Fatal Attraction, pining for Edward to the point where I wanted to scream 'BITCH BUY A DILDO, DAMN!'"

The woman looked stunned, as if I'd slapped her in the face with a copy of Breaking Dawn. Her stunned expression gave way to a look I've seen before, pure Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned rage. She started breathing heavily, as if she were about to turn into the Hulk. "How dare you say that about EDWARRRRD?!!" Her voice was low and guttural. "He LOVED Bella! Fuck you, you bastard!!!" She stormed away from the bar and sat at one of the empty tables. She glared at me, shaking as she drank her cocktail.

The bartender shook his head and went back to cleaning his beer glasses. The other guy at the bar looked at me as if asking "what just happened?" I shrugged.

Sitting here at home later this evening, I had an epiphany. "Odie, you JACKASS!" yelled my epiphany. "The theater is full of overheating women swooning for Edward. Didn't you see how that woman reacted? If you had only said you loved Edward too, that you wanted to give the kind of love Edward gives, you would be nailing that woman right now! Your penis hates you."

"I hate you," said a voice behind my zipper.

Shit, I thought. I gotta get back in good with the equipment. I knew what I had to do.

I went to Target. 
After my brief shopping shopping excursion, I showed up at the theater. Looking at my watch, I calculated that the New Moon screening would end in 15 minutes. I adjusted my newly bought attire in my car mirror and waited. "Don't mess this up, Odie!" I said to myself.

As women started pouring out of the theater, I got out of my car and started walking toward the theater doors. As I got closer, I could see some of the women had been crying. And not just the tweeners, but the 20-somethings as well. I approached one of the 20-somethings dressed like Kristen Stewart and said the only line I remember from the book.  "Bella, I don't have the strength to stay away from you."

She looked at me, not sure what to do. She was dressed like Bella...

...and I was dressed like Edward.

I had the Halloween clearance rack vampire cape I got from Target on, plus some fake teeth I'd also retrieved from the clearance table. "Be mine, Bella," I said, sounding like Bela Lugosi's brother from Paterson, New Jersey.

It wasn't working. She was in love with Edward, a pasty, anorexic looking White boy, not Blacula! She started to back away slowly.

Suddenly, I remembered--the vampires SPARKLE in the book. Immediately, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the big tube of glitter I bought. "Sparkle sparkle sparkle!" I said as I threw a huge handful of glitter in the air.

"My eyes!!" Bella yelled.

"My ass!" I yelled when I saw the police officer briskly walking over to where I was. My fake Bella chose this opportunity to make her escape. "Edward wouldn't do that," I swore I heard her say.

"You need to go home, Edward," said the cop.

I looked at him incredulously. He thought I was delusional. "Officer, I don't think I'm Edward," I said. "This was a ploy to get laid gone awry."

"I understand, Edward," he said. "Go home."

"My name's not Edward! It's O--"

Common Sense held my tongue. "You're gonna tell him your name, asshole?!!" snapped Common Sense. "Why not just jump on his police car?!"

"Edward going home," I said to the cop. "Good," he said.

"I hate you," said a voice behind my zipper.

"I hate you, too." said I.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hollywood's January Jones

by Odienator

This January is the dumping ground for all the movies Hollywood was ashamed it made in 2010. I suppose the conventional wisdom is that audiences, still flying high from the holidays, will be more forgiving when fed leftovers. With awards season in full swing, Hollywood focuses on Oscar jockeying while leaving no one to mind the store. Whenever Oscar is mentioned in regard to a January movie, it usually sounds like this:

"Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, star of The Wicker Man, kicks ass as Behmen in the January release, Season of The Witch. Based on the hit song by Donovan and the 1983 release, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Nine more months 'til Halloween, Silver Shamrock!"


"Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow teams up with Sandra Bullock's husband from The Blind Side in Country Strong. Paltrow reminds us that, not only can she sing, but she can be more auto-tuned than T-Pain! See Gwyneth prove that all country singers are alkies! You've seen her mama in Little Fockers, now see her in Country Strong!"

I have this superstition that judges my movie year by the first movie I saw in January (it has to be a new release). If I liked the movie, my year would be filled with bad cinema. If I disliked the movie, then it would be a good year. This sounds like I'm stacking the deck--January is filled with bad moviemaking--until you factor in my love of trashy movies (henceforth known as trash movie humping). You never know what I'm going to enjoy, and therein lies the element of surprise. Sometimes the studios surprise too, by dumping what seems like a major hit into the scheduling slums of the saddest cinematic season. Witness The Green Hornet, which I'm saving for my first official movie of 2011. Honestly, I think I'll hate it.

As Fats Waller used to say: One never knows, do one?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Get To Know Your Odienator

By Odienator

Hell has frozen over! And not just from this blog’s punny title.

After years of resistance, I have finally decided to toss my hat into the ring of blog ownership. This may come as a surprise, as I’ve been very vocal about my avoidance. For a computer programmer, I am shockingly analog about many things. In the time I’ve had a twitter feed, I have not sent one single tweet nor have I followed anyone who has. (Maybe that'll change.) Grad school was the only reason I got a Facebook page, and while it’s been helpful in reconnecting with high school classmates, I rarely use it as a social device. I have been on Facebook since 2005, and I have 51 friends. People have attempted to friend me, but in the past two years I’ve said no more times than the Republican Party. Pictures of me—at least ones that I have put out—are few and far between on the Internet. Outside of E-mail, which I love, I don’t have much use for computer mediated communication. If you sat on a machine writing programming code all day, and your vision sucked as mine does, you probably wouldn’t either.

Until now, I have been content to appear at other venues in the blogosphere, gracious places like Slant Magazine’s House Next Door and my second home, Big Media Vandalism. This new venture saves my Big Media Vandalism partner in crime, Steven Boone, from waking up in an alley with a big ass Pete Puma knot on his head, the victim of blog-jacking. Said nefarious plot was jettisoned early in its planning stages because I’d rather guilt Boone into doing more on his blog than robbing it from him altogether. Still, despite the Odienator blog, the fourth year of the Black History Mumf series will begin January 31, 2011 at Big Media Vandalism. I may consider doing BHM Behind the Scenes posts here, as an extra feature.

In fact, I shall continue appearing at any blog I currently do, for as long as they will have me. So the big question, as Pia Zadora famously scripted in The Lonely Lady, is “Why?! Why?!!!” Why am I doing this when I am happy to continue being a blog whore offering his services to whomever will be my john? The short answer is that every year since 2004, I have committed to doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone. This year, it’s running a blog. Granted, I code my own pieces at BMV, but outside of February, I don’t have to be consistent.  Here, I shall try to post often, which means more time on the computer AND that I eventually have to do something to make this site look presentable. I’m a back-end programmer who hates web design, so that, along with the extra computer time, makes me uncomfortable. But it was either this or go back to stripping. Considering the physical shape I am currently in, this blog was the right call. Next year, however, don’t be surprised if I show up at your bachelorette party. Make it rain $10’s and $20’s only, please.

I shall not be presumptuous and assume you know who I am and what to expect from me. This blog will primarily feature articles on film and the occasional rant about current events. Since I am on the road 70% of the year, and I travel all over the world, I’ll also chime in with travelogues and adventures in whatever city I am programming. This last one may sound boring—there are no dirty jokes about traveling programmers for a reason—but trust me, I can never have a normal experience.  For example, I was once bitten in an Irish pub by a drunk guy dressed in a Dan Marino football outfit. Another time, I got cussed out by an angry hooker who looked like Fran Drescher in Amsterdam. See? If it’s messed up and absurd, I guarantee you it will find me.

Those familiar with my writing will know what they are in for here; for the uninitiated, consider this fair warning: I am not politically correct. I use profanity AND Ebonics, both on purpose. I talk about sex, religion, race and politics, none of which are polite topics. No one and nothing is safe nor sacred here, least of all me. If I can talk shit about myself, and I do quite often, nothing else is exempt.  Most importantly, while I love debate, if all you have to bring to the table is your being offended, don’t come into my dining room.

Outside of that issue of programmers hating people, the biggest reason I never wanted a blog is because I’ve read the comments sections on other blogs. People are really fucking stewpit when they hide behind anonymous postings. (By the way, the IT technologist in me tells you you’re not as anonymous as you think, but I digress.) I’ve turned on comment moderation, and I won’t put up with abusiveness toward others nor any bullshit that looks like “U R STOOPID. GO BACK 2 THE GHETTO.” If you want to be treated like an adult, act like one.

Regarding the reviews and film pieces that will appear, I try to judge every movie on its own merits, even if it’s in a genre for which I have little tolerance. Cinema snobbery is not my strong suit, so I am not against chick flicks, cartoons, or comedies. I’m not going to piss on mainstream movies, nor am I going to blow indie directors just to make you feel I have credentials. Your opinion may be valuable to you, but no matter what you think of me, my ass will still be Black tomorrow. In other words, the world will continue to spin.

While I will watch just about anything, I am a huge fan of classic movies, film noir, Billy Wilder, Barbara Stanwyck, and of course, trash. I love trash like Oscar the Grouch does. I used to run the Shameful Movies of Odie’s Past film festival, for Pete’s sake.

Politically, I am a liberal, but I’m also not blind (I’m only half-blind), so I’m willing to give credit where it is due no matter who does it. I am sure this will get me in trouble on both sides of the aisle, though on one side more than the other because I love messing with people whose beliefs are occasionally as absurd as my travel adventures tend to be.

Religiously, despite being the son of a Baptist minister, I am a very lapsed Baptist who doesn’t give a damn about saving your soul (or even mine, for that matter. Hell is going to be DA BOMB!).

Party. Party. Par-tay!!
I’ve no use for organized religion, but I do believe there’s some form of higher power, and that higher power likes fucking with me. I don’t believe that higher power hates gay people, so if that’s your schtick, keep on walking. If you plan to convince me that you can save my soul by forcing me to believe what you do, gets ta steppin’. If you’re going to tell me I’m burning in Hell, you won’t get any arguments here, but you still gotta go.

Gee, Odie, there’s nobody left to read this blog.

In all seriousness, welcome to the party, and I hope to see you around and interact intelligently with you.