Thursday, February 14, 2008

Yes I Can!

When I go to my girlfriend's place, I tend to leak coins onto the couch. By the time I leave, there's usually a big pile of quarters, nickels and dimes in the corner, sometimes on the floor. It occurred to me the other day that maybe someday I could be president. I, too, have a proven track record of making change.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Today is primary day in DC, Virginia and Maryland. I offer this...just because I think its funny.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days

The first thing to say is that this movie shook me to the core. It is one of the most well made and well acted movies I've seen in a long time. The second thing to say is that I don't think I will see it again for a long time...maybe ever. That's because, in addition to all of it's well deserved accolades -- including the top prize at Cannes last year -- it is also one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.

Briefly, "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days" takes place during one harrowing day in Romania and tells the story of a woman and her friend attempting to get an illegal abortion during the last days of the Communist dictatorship there. In many ways, it echoes my favorite movie of last year, "The Lives of Others," in that it powerfully evokes the brutalization of the Communist system. But this movie, while not quite as good as "Lives," nonetheless speaks more to our political and cultural circumstances in this country, especially in an election year where abortion once again is likely to be the subject of much polarizing rhetoric, division and grandstanding.

When I said the movie was disturbing earlier, I meant that in the best possible sense, in that it is genuinely thought-provoking and that it's images and themes will haunt you and spark conversation long after you leave the theater. Director Cristian Mungiu deserves much credit for his ability to drain every ounce of tension from this situation, and I couldn't keep my eyes off of Anamaria Marinca, who was so believable and sympathetic in her portrayal of the friend whose story anchors the film.

In tone and its sense of lingering claustrophobia and doom, the movie also reminded me a lot of the Hitchcock thriller "Rear Window." But the movie's ability to disturb never rests on cheap thrills, rather from its brutal depiction of a nightmarish scenario that many of us argue about, philosophize on and sometimes even vote on, but (thankfully) seldom experience.

What makes this movie closer to art is that it eschews the easy polarities and arch rhetoric that constitute much of the abortion debate in this country ("pro-life" "pro-choice," "the lives of the unborn," "a woman's right to her own body," "partial birth," "back allies"...and so on) and instead depicts a situation in which everyone involved is brought down by a culture that devalues life in all its forms.

When my sister and I discussed the movie later, we were certain that the director, while offering fodder for all sides of the abortion question, was pro-life. It says something about the subtlety of his approach that I learned later we were wrong: He is adamantly pro-choice. And,just to prove once again that I truly have my finger on the pulse of nothing in this country, I was equally surprised to learn that many pro-life groups were highly critical of the film. There are some people in this world who can forgive anything but subtlety, I guess.

I do find it heartening that this year has brought two movies that have treated the notion of unwanted pregnancy with thoughtfulness, compassion and, yes, subtlety. I absolutely loved "Juno," which delved into roughly the same subject matter. But where "Juno" is acidly funny, light and ultimately heartwarming, "Four Months" is it's mirror opposite: brutal, unsparing and dark, dark, dark.

Anyhow, if you've thought at all about this subject, I urge you to go see this movie. Go see it, and then talk to me later. I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Question is Moot

A few of you have asked me about the whereabouts of the fifth annual Mr. Odney Holiday Mix. It's having,um, technical difficulties, as it were, but is still coming. A surge zapped my hard drive, depriving me of a home computer and (perhaps) destroying my vast encyclopedia of mp3 files. This weekend, I'm taking it up to my brother-in-law's to see if he can fix the computer and, hopefully, recover what was lost from the old hard drive.

So, it will be late obviously, but it'll get there.

If you'd like to be added to the mailing list for the mix or merely want to know what the heck I'm talking about, just e-mail me.



Friday, February 1, 2008

Trapped in Opryland: Day Three

For five days, I am staying in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville for a work conference. It is not the worst hotel I've ever stayed in on business. That label goes to the Circus Circus in Reno, Nevada. Nor is it the tackiest place I've ever been. That would be the Bugaboo Creek steakhouse Laura and I went to off I-95 in Delaware during a moment of hunger-induced desperation. The waitress introduced herself as "Baby back," which she told us was her "Bugaboo name."

"Hi," I said. "I'm Sir Loin. This is my girlfriend, Tube Steak"

No, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is none of that. It goes out of its way to exude an air of taste and convenience, and mostly succeeds. Underneath it's glassed-in nine acres are waterfalls, tropical plants and a man-made bayou filled with exotic fish. There's 2 dozen restaurants, including 3 very nice ones, 2,400 rooms, 6 pools and about 20 shops devoted to tourist hokum. There's even a country radio station that beams out from here. Opryland once laid claim to being the largest convention center in the world, and its geared for people who don't expect to be seeing much in the way of daylight. The whole place feels like an orbiting biosphere: a little bit country, a little bit Disney, with a dash of Stepford thrown in.

There are a lot of hotels like this that cater to the convention goer, but in those places you can at least take comfort in knowing that there's civilization nearby: a nice restaurant, a downtown to stroll in, or maybe even a little park.

Opryland takes the concept up to 11. We've all been talking about the overwhelming claustrophobia of the place. The closest site of interest, aside from a Shoney's, is the gargantuan Opry Mills Mall -- which is not at all a cure for claustrophobia. A free shuttle takes you there from the hotel. And if you want to splurge and head to downtown Nashville, there is a shuttle that takes you there as well. But the destination is a chain bar that advertises 3 floors of line dancing, which in my mind served only to underscore the Stepford feeling.

As I headed to my room from another fact-filled day of education policy, I noticed a tour heading down the man-made bayou in a boat. There are times like these, dark moments of the soul, where I wish I could commune with Charlton Heston and just rail to the heavens on the savagery of it all. As an aside, I should note that I've always loved those over-the-top moments from movies. One of my favorites is Al Pacino from "And Justice for All": "That man should go straight to f*ckin jail....You're out of order! My client's out of order. This trial is out of order. The whole f*ckin American justice system is out of order." I also just saw "Poltergeist" on TV, and I loved the moment towards the end, where Craig T. Nelson yells out,"YOU ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES!!!"

But few things beat the original. So, I'll leave with this: