Survivor Series Trivia

1. The original 1987 Survivor Series event was created for three reasons:  to keep the Hulk Hogan/Andre The Giant program going, to directly compete with the original Thanksgiving Night Tradition, the NWA’s annual Starrcade event, and to showcase as many WWF wrestlers on the roster, hence the strict adherence to elimination tag team matches.  (40 men & 10 women performed that November night.  50 men worked the 1988 show.)

Hulk & Andre would feud right up until the first SummerSlam in August 1988 and the NWA would actually move Starrcade to December that same year.  It would never again be booked for American Thanksgiving.  The final Starrcade took place in late December 2000.  The Survivor Series stopped being an annual American Thanksgiving Night extravaganza in its own right after the 1990 show.  From 1991 to 1994 it was held on Thanksgiving Eve.  By 1995, it began its ongoing run as an annual Sunday night pay-per-view in November.

2. The 1988 Survivor Series marked the first time a double turn ever happened during a WWF pay-per-view, which is still a rare occurrence today.  The villainous Demolition, the then-WWF tag team champions, captained a team of 10 against their arch rivals, The Powers Of Pain, & their babyface team of 10.  (Each side was represented by five tag teams.)  Near the conclusion of the match, as Smash was being Irish whipped into the ropes, Demolition’s wily manager Mr. Fuji, pulled down the top rope which send him crashing to the floor.  Smash ended up getting counted out, thus eliminating Ax as well.  (When one man from a 2-man tag team was eliminated, his partner was gone, too.)

Both men angrily confronted Fuji.  Fuji whacked one of them with his cane.  Ax ended up body slamming him on the floor after Smash threw their terrified manager into his arms.  After a disgusted Demolition left ringside, The Powers Of Pain helped up Fuji, dusted him off and brought him over to their corner.  After disposing of The Conquistadors, the last team standing on Demolition’s side, Warlord & The Barbarian, the sole survivors, celebrated with Fuji on their shoulders.  If Fuji’s plan was to side with the team that would ultimately beat Ax & Smash for the tag belts, he should’ve aligned with Bobby Heenan’s Brain Busters instead.  They dethroned Demolition nearly a year later on a summer 1989 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event.  The Powers Of Pain would never become champions themselves and would eventually be split up to pursue uneventful solo careers with different managers.  (Heenan took on Barbarian, Slick looked after Warlord.  They would remain heels for the rest of their original WWF runs, although Barbarian would return briefly as a babyface under a different name, in order to fill in for an injured Samu, to join The Headshrinkers.)  Fuji would eventually kiss and make up with Demolition (with Crush added to the team they turned heel again during their 3rd and final title reign in 1990) who would go their separate ways shortly after WrestleMania VII in 1991.

3. Before he made his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series, The Undertaker was originally billed as Kane, The Undertaker.  As the show drew closer, “Kane” was mysteriously dropped from his name.  The name would, of course, be recycled for his masked, long haired half-brother who would wrestle his first pay-per-view match at the infamous 1997 Survivor Series.  He defeated Mankind.

Curiously, The Undertaker was accompanied by Brother Love to the ring.  (The late, great Paul Bearer wouldn’t arrive to take over until early 1991.)  After eliminating two members of Dusty Rhodes’ Dream Team (including the captain himself), The Dead Man was actually counted out.  Ted DiBiase, Undertaker’s captain of The Million Dollar Team, was the sole survivor.  A year later, with a big assist from Ric Flair, he defeated Hulk Hogan for his first WWF Championship in the first ever Survivor Series singles match.

4. The three babyface and five heel survivors of every match in the 1990 Survivor Series went on to battle in a handicap Grand Finale bonus match to determine the ultimate survivor, a concept that was never repeated at future shows.  The Ultimate Warrior & Hulk Hogan were the last men standing that night.

5. In the near 30-year history of the event, there have been two shows that didn’t feature a single traditional elimination tag team match.  Aside from a couple of title matches, the 1998 Survivor Series was all about the Deadly Games tournament which crowned a new WWF Champion.  (The Rock defeated Mankind to win the strap.)  The 2002 Survivor Series had three different kinds of elimination matches:  a six-man tag team elimination tables match (The Dudleys & Jeff Hardy went over 3-Minute Warning & Rico); a three-way elimination match for the WWE tag team titles (Los Guerreros became the new champions over former titleholders Edge & Rey Mysterio and challengers Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit); and the very first Elimination Chamber for the World Heavyweight Championship (Shawn Michaels became the new champion after outlasting five other superstars).

6. Between 1987 & 2013, there were exactly 70 traditional Survivor Series elimination tag team matches.  (November 24 UPDATE:  It’s up to 72 now, thanks to two more such matches in 2014.)  Up until 1999, with the exceptions of 1992, 1994 & 1998, there were at least four such matches booked for every show.  (1989 had five, 1990 had six, the most in a single event.)  Since then, there has been at least one elimination tag match on every Survivor Series since 2003 but no more than three.  (The last time that happened was 2009.)  After 2010 & 2011 had only one match each, there were two for both 2012 & 2013.

7. Of those 70 matches, only five featured women.  After The Jumping Bomb Angels won the first one in 1987, Aja Kong was the sole survivor in 1995.  Three more took place in 2008, 2009 and 2013.  (November 24 UPDATE:  A sixth match (4-on-4) took place in 2014, as well.)

8. Five years before their controversial world title match at the 1997 Survivor Series, Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels first battled for the WWF Championship in the main event of the 1992 Survivor Series.  The Heartbreak Kid had just won the InterContinental title from Hart’s brother-in-law, The British Bulldog, during the last Saturday Night’s Main Event of the 1990s, but that belt was not on the line.  Hart retained.

9. There was an unusual championship match at the 1993 Survivor Series.  The Heavenly Bodies challenged The Rock & Roll Express for the Smoky Mountain Wrestling tag team championships.  SMW was Jim Cornette’s short-lived independent promotion based out of Tennessee.  Thanks to an arrangement with Vince McMahon, the Bodies won the belts from the Express on a national pay-per-view.  It was the only title defended that night.  The two teams had been feuding over the titles for the better part of a year.  Originally, it was Stan Lane & Tom Prichard who were the Heavenly Bodies.  Jimmy Del Rey replaced Lane in 1993.  In the end, The Rock & Roll Express became 10-time SMW tag team champions, more than any other twosome.  When Lane was in the picture, the Bodies won it five times.  When Del Ray replaced him, they won it an additional three times.  In fact, Del Rey & Prichard were the last SMW tag team champions when the promotion went out of business in late 1995.  The Heavenly Bodies ultimately joined the WWF and even appeared at the 1994 Survivor Series.  The Rock & Roll Express signed up for a brief WWF run in 1998.

Eight years later, two World Championship Wrestling titles were merged with existing WWF championships at the 2001 Survivor Series.  That marked the last time a non-WWF belt (excluding the ECW Championship which was briefly revived in 2006 as a third brand WWE world title) was ever defended at the annual event.  Both WCW title holders were victorious.  US Champion Edge became InterContinental champ & WCW tag champs The Dudleyz became WWF tag titleholders.

10. The 1997 Survivor Series is the only one in the history of the supercard that ever happened outside the United States.  It took place at the Molson Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

11. The ECW, European and United States Championships are the only belts that never changed hands at the Survivor Series.  Curiously, the Hardcore title was never defended at the event.

12. What’s the longest match in Survivor Series history?  Team WWF vs. Team Alliance, the 5-on-5 tag team elimination main event in 2001.  It lasted nearly 45 minutes.  The shortest match?  The Rock squashing The Big Boss Man in the first round of the Deadly Games Tournament in 1998 in just 4 seconds.  In fact, this might be the quickest match in the history of professional wrestling.

13. Besides the 3-on-5 bonus match in 1990, there have been four other instances where a traditional elimination tag team match wasn’t 10-on-10, 5-on-5 or 4-on-4.  There was a 3-on-3 in 1991, a 1-on-4 in 1999 (The Big Show took out his three partners before the event), a 4-on-5 in 2007 (Matt Hardy was supposed to be on the babyface team but was ultimately taken out prior to the event) and a 7-on-7 Divas match in 2013.

14. The WWE Championship has changed hands more than any other title in the history of the Survivor Series.  10 new champions have been crowned since The Undertaker’s historic victory in 1991.  CM Punk was the last wrestler to snag the strap at the 2011 Survivor Series.  Since it was merged with the World Heavyweight Championship (which has been captured three times since its introduction in 2002) in late 2013, it has yet to be defended at the event.

15. Whether he’s entering as champion or challenger, CM Punk has never lost a title match at the Survivor Series.

16. It was a bad night for defending champions at the 2002 Survivor Series.  Five titles changed hands, the most at any individual show in the history of the event.

17. Randy Savage is the only wrestler to survive a traditional tag team elimination match in each of the first three Survivor Series shows.  He’s the only one to go undefeated at the event in the 1980s.

18. “Tiny” Lister is the only celebrity to ever participate in a traditional tag team elimination match.  He appeared at the 1989 Survivor Series as Zeus, his character from No Holds Barred.  He was quickly disqualified for refusing to let go of Hulk Hogan’s neck.  Chuck Norris is the only celebrity to officiate a match at the event.  Well, sort of.  He was booked as an outside enforcer for The Undertaker/Yokozuna Casket Match at the 1994 extravaganza.

19. Of the aforementioned 70 elimination tag matches, only one ended with no survivors.  At the 1996 Survivor Series, Farooq, Vader, Razor Ramon & Diesel fought Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Flash Funk, Savio Vega & Yokozuna to a no-contest.  After the eliminations of Vega & Ramon, all the remaining participants were disqualified when they refused to stop brawling inside the ring.

20. Randy Orton, Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior have each survived four elimination tag matches, more than all other superstars in the history of the Survivor Series.  Additionally, Hogan & Warrior are the only ones to survive two of these matches in the same night.  As mentioned previously, that happened in 1990, the only time that was ever possible.

21. The Big Show is the only performer to win an elimination tag match in at least three different decades:  1999 (he survived a 4-1 handicap bout), 2004 & 2010.  He’s also the only performer to win an elimination match and a world championship in a second encounter in the same night.  After winning his handicap Survivor Series match in 1999, he went on to win the WWF Championship in a Triple Threat match against The Rock and defending titleholder, Triple H.

22. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Kane & John Layfield all share the dubious distinction of having been eliminated from all six traditional tag matches they appeared in, more than all other wrestlers in the history of the Survivor Series.  If someone from Team Cena eliminates The Devil’s Favourite Demon in the main event of the 2014 Survivor Series, Kane will set a new record with seven.  (November 24 UPDATE:  He was pinned by Dolph Ziggler so Kane is now indeed the least successful wrestler in traditional Survivor Series matches with seven straight losses and no wins.)

23. Speaking of Layfield, he is the only performer to be eliminated under four different stage names:  Justin Hawk Bradshaw (1996), Blackjack Bradshaw (1997), Bradshaw (1999, 2003) & John Bradshaw Layfield (2005, 2008).  Jacques Rougeau was eliminated under three different names:  his own (1987-9), The Mountie (1991) and Quebecer Jacques (1993).

24. Matt Bloom is the only man to lose three elimination tag matches under three different names in three different decades.  He lost as Albert (1999), A-Train (2003) and Tensai (2012).  Like JBL & Rougeau, he is winless in traditional Survivor Series tag matches.

25. What do Demolition, Haku, The Honky Tonk Man, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Chris Jericho, Edge, Christian, Big Boss Man, Ron Simmons, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, R-Truth & Rob Van Dam all have in common?  Despite multiple attempts (five for Boss Man, three each for Edge, Truth, Snuka & Jericho, and four apiece for everybody else), they’ve also never survived an elimination tag team match.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, November 19, 2014
5:49 p.m.

UPDATE:  Regarding number two, I added some details about The Barbarian returning as a babyface after being a heel during his initial WWF run, just to clarify that part.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 23, 2014
7:46 p.m.

CORRECTIONS:  For number six, I said that both the 1989 & 1990 Survivor Series had five matches apiece.  The latter actually had six.  This has been corrected in the text.  I originally stated in number 12 that the longest match in Survivor Series history was the 10-on-10 match between Demolition’s team & The Powers Of Pain’s team in 1988 which lasted over 42 minutes.  Wrong.  Team WWF vs. Team Alliance in 2001 was longer, clocking in at roughly 45 minutes.  Also, I said that The Big Show’s 1-on-4 handicap elimination match was the shortest match in the history of the event.  It lasted less than 90 seconds.  While it is indeed the shortest all-time traditional elimination match, The Rock vs. The Big Boss Man in 1998 is the shortest Survivor Series match, period.  It was all over in just 4 seconds.  These corrections have completely replaced the original text.  My apologies for not getting all this right the first time as I should have.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 24, 2014
3:21 a.m.

Published in: on November 20, 2014 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Haunted House 2

It takes a special kind of talent to create a laughless persona, an obnoxious character so devoid of humour & humanity that every time you see him you feel nothing but complete revulsion.  Malcolm, the protagonist of A Haunted House 2, is the absolute essence of this.

Played by an increasingly desperate Marlon Wayans, Malcolm is the very definition of audience repellent.  After surviving the terribly unfunny events of A Haunted House, here he is again trying to survive not just another series of unexplained events but also another completely moronic screenplay.

Leaving behind his still possessed girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins), after surviving a car crash with his annoying gangbanger cousin, Ray Ray (Affion Crockett), in the awful opening scene, Malcolm moves on a year later with Megan (Jamie Pressley) and her 2 kids from a previous relationship.  One wonders what she sees in him.

When he’s not mocking her son Wyatt (Steele Stebbins) for being less than masculine (he has tea parties with an imaginary friend, for instance) and slut shaming her teen daughter Becky (Awkward’s sadly wasted Ashley Rickards), he’s having a strange affair with Abigail, an ugly looking children’s toy left behind by the previous owners of the home all of them have just moved into.

Abigail is obviously a goof on Annabelle, the doll from The Conjuring that also got its own spin-off movie.  In one of the most disturbing scenes ever captured on film Malcolm fools around with it so intensely you question why he’s even bothering with Megan.  He clearly needs professional help.

Following his remarkable stupidity and complete lack of impulse control, Abigail bizarrely starts sexting him.  She also keeps sending him the exact same message over and over again:  “Miss me?”  In a panic, he continually tries to get rid of the damn thing but no matter what method he uses, she always comes back.  Delightful couple.

Also left behind by the previous owners is a mysterious box discovered by Becky in the basement, a take-off of The Possession.  This leads to at least two terrible scenes involving vagina jokes.  It also leads to the inevitable moment where a swarm of insects invade her bedroom & Malcolm takes a while to figure out how to kill them all.

Meanwhile, he discovers some old home movies in the attic.  After finally figuring out how to load one in his projector (yes, he’s that stupid), he watches an inept demon fail to kill off a family on more than one occasion.  A transparently lame parody of Sinister, for some odd reason Malcolm seeks answers about this obviously harmless demon.  He repeatedly Skypes with an expert (Rick Overton), a college professor who would much rather be Walter White.  He’s just as disgusting a human being as Malcolm.

Speaking of disgusting, what is with all the misogyny in this movie?  Becky, the teen daughter, is constantly mocked for liking a lot of sex with multiple partners.  Her mother Megan, also highly sexual, is a controlling shrew.  Malcolm’s ex, Kisha, is, of course, a psycho.  And even, Abigail, the toy, is portrayed as an obsessed, vengeful sex maniac unable to let go of her fixation with Malcolm.

Add to that the constant use of the word “bitch”, horrible rape jokes (not including one set in a male prison & others referring to pedophilic priests), inappropriate touching (thankfully not seen) & an actual defense of Chris Brown, and you have one of the most hateful films about women ever made.

Then there’s the racial material.  Babyfaced comedian Gabriel Iglesias plays a next door neighbour who pretends to be upset every time Malcolm makes a stereotypical presumption about him, even though every last one of them turns out to be correct.  In turn, Iglesias makes one racist crack after another about his black heritage and yet, Malcolm still wants to hang out with him.  Both must be really hard up for friends.

A Haunted House 2 is put together very much like the first one, as a Paranormal Activity-style “found footage” horror parody.  And like its predecessor, it’s a terrible movie.  I laughed exactly twice.  Cedric The Entertainer, who plays the returning priest Father Williams (he was funnier in the original which had slightly more laughs), got me with his dig at Bruce Jenner’s scary face.  Plus, there’s another funny line near the end that involves a famous room freshener.

Beyond that, there’s nothing else here but a whole lot of gross offensiveness.  Don’t waste 86 minutes of your life on this garbage.  You have better things to do.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 16, 2014
7:14 p.m.

Published in: on November 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lena Dunham & The Importance Of Childhood Boundaries

30 years ago, I attended a birthday party.  It was for my best friend at the time who was a classmate in primary school.  We were inseparable, often going to each other’s houses to enjoy each other’s company.  We laughed & fought often as young kids our age are bound to do.

She was turning either 8 or 9 at the time.  Of the dozen or so classmates who were invited to come celebrate with her and her lovely parents, I was the only boy.

After we scarfed down some delicious pizza at a local restaurant, we went back to her family home.  Before she opened her gifts in the living room, we all ran up the stairs to her tiny bedroom to kill time.  In the middle of incessant giggling & chattering, one of the girls (not my best friend) suddenly asked a provocative question:

“Anybody wanna see my vagina?”

The specific details about what happened next are difficult to perfectly recall.  All I remember is that someone turned out the lights & when they came back on, this girl wasn’t wearing any bottoms.  All the other girls screamed as we all stared.  It was very uncomfortable for me.  And it was about to be even more so.

After she proudly put her underwear and bottoms back on, every girl in that room then demanded I give them a peek, as well.  I could feel the collective intensity of their gazes.  I started to sweat.  I said no.  They insisted.  I still said no.  For the first time in my young life, I felt immense pressure to do something I did not want to do.

Knowing full well they would not stop pushing me, I made a compromise.  I would show them my penis briefly but only with the lights out.  They accepted.  In the dark, I reluctantly pulled down my pants, my long johns and my briefs.  (It was winter time.)  I will never forget the screams.  It was one of the most mortifying experiences of my entire life, let alone my childhood.

I was only exposed for a few seconds but it felt like years.  The humiliation was palpable.  Anyone could’ve read it on my face, even in the darkness of that confining space.  I felt so dirty and ashamed.

As I immediately pulled up my underwear (which somehow got twisted backwards), my long johns and corduroy jeans, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the evening.  In fact, I don’t remember anything else that happened afterwards.  I don’t even know what I got my friend for her birthday.  (My Mom bought the gift.)

When I came home, my parents noticed how strangely I was acting.  Mom started asking questions.  I confessed the bare minimum.  She actually stifled a laugh.  She told Dad.  He laughed, too.  I was humiliated all over again.

Curiously, as the years progressed, I would start laughing as well.  I transformed a terribly traumatic event into a humourous anecdote (mainly by exaggerating the vagina flashing & completely downplaying my own emotional devastation).  Or so I thought until 20 years later when one woman I recounted the story to over the phone didn’t find it all that amusing.  In fact, she felt bad for me.  She was saddened by what I went through.

Her reaction jolted me.  How could she not find this funny?, I wondered.  But she really didn’t.  The way she talked about it made me feel like I was a victim.

All of these years later, I finally realized she was right.  The blinders are off and my denial has disappeared for good.  I didn’t “enthusiastically consent” to the idea of flashing my female classmates at that party.  I simply gave in to their relentless demands.  I submitted.  I compromised.  And I felt horrible the entire time.

So, why did I spend the next couple of decades reframing this painful story as something comedic?

Because it made it less painful.  Unfortunately, it also made it less honest, as well.  Stripped to its vulnerable core, this dark, personal trauma really wasn’t funny at all.

And it wasn’t a harmless experience, either.  It had lingering consequences.

In the years that followed, I barely dated.  How could I when I lacked true self-confidence.  At times, I was the walking definition of awkward and I wasn’t always respectful to girls, either.  (As a stupid, insecure teen, I remember grabbing or touching a couple of girls’ asses without their permission.  (They weren’t pleased.)  I haven’t done that since, thank goodness.)  Due to deep physical and mental inadequacies, I always felt less than all the other guys in my classes who were much bigger, even though I had friends, participated in a number of extracurricular activities and was a very good student.  It didn’t help matters that many of the girls I crushed on didn’t reciprocate my feelings.  Looking back, I can’t exactly blame them.  I didn’t have my shit together.

Already fearful of getting someone pregnant and/or catching some incurable STD (I’m allergic to penicillin), I didn’t end up losing my virginity until I was 29.  (My ex was the only woman I’ve ever been intimate with, as of this writing.)  I’ve always had body issues.  (I’m nearly 6 feet tall now but still only weigh about 125 pounds.  I should be 150 but with all my numerous food intolerances (and the fact that getting to that ideal weight would involve having Ryback’s appetite), I’m permanently underweight.)  Most painfully, because of what happened that cold winter night, for more than 20 years afterwards, I had always felt woefully inadequate down below.

I’ve been reflecting about all of this while following the latest Lena Dunham controversy.

The Girls creator recently put out a much anticipated collection of personal essays called Not Your Kind Of Girl.  In a recent National Review article (picked up by a conservative blog), there are passages in the book where Dunham reveals that at age 7 she touched her baby sister’s vagina when she was 1 & when they were a little older she tried to bribe her with candy so she could kiss her.

All of this has led to heated debates online & in the press between her growing detractors and stubborn supporters.  I wish those conversations focused on one key point here:  the willful, unrepentant violation of another child’s personal boundaries.

It’s hard to know exactly what happened here.  Dunham openly calls herself an “unreliable narrator” which isn’t exactly helpful.  What bothers me about what she did write is not only her creepy interactions with her younger sister but also the lack of contrition she feels today for being completely inappropriate with her when they were kids.  Like all those years I tried to make a painful childhood memory amusing to myself and others, the lighthearted tone she uses to recount these stories feels like a major disconnect from the truth.  Dunham portrays all of this as weird but innocently goofy curiosity but that’s not how it comes off to the reader, at least not to me.  Whatever her intentions, she had no right to bother her sister in the manner that she did.  Children being curious about each other’s bodies & touching them without their permission are not the same thing.  Surely, she wasn’t too young to know the difference then and she’s old enough to know better now.

At first, when the revelation of all this caught fire on social media (it was curiously not mentioned in the media prior to the National Review posting), she lashed out rather defensively in what she deemed a “rage spiral”.

Days after calming down, however, she offered this public statement to Time.  Did she apologize for violating her baby sister’s boundaries?  No.  Did she express even a sliver of regret for what she did?  No.  “…I want to be very clear that I do not condone any kind of abuse under any circumstances,” she said.  Her own misconduct not included.

Instead, she apologized for “the comic use of the term ‘child predator’” which she belatedly acknowledged was “insensitive”.  And she said “sorry…[I]f the situations described in my book have been painful or triggering for people to read…that was never my intention.”

Unbeknownst to me until recently, Dunham is a divisive figure in the feminist movement.  (The “child predator” remark wasn’t the first time she’s been accused of being “insensitive”.)  And perhaps, it’s no surprise that a number of prominent, mostly white feminists are defending her recent controversy.  (As they are so fond of saying to everybody else, “Check your privilege, ladies.”)  A certain Cosmo writer lamely dismissed it on Twitter as the result of  “Lena Derangement Syndrome” caused by “the right wing”.  Tell that to numerous minority feminists (along with a number of dissenting white ones) who are rightly angry about these revelations, as well.

As much as Dunham’s die hard sisters-in-arms want to downplay, misrepresent or outright ignore what she wrote and did, there’s no escaping two basic truths.  When she was a child, she touched her baby sister’s private parts without her permission and when she was older she tried to coerce her into being kissed by offering her candy.  Today, it’s comic fodder for a book.  How is any of that defensible?

A year or so before I was victimized at my then-best friend’s birthday party, I was in a school bathroom when a classmate, a weird boy in glasses who was always crying about something and constantly getting into trouble, suddenly groped me.  He grabbed my genitals over my cords.  It was simultaneously painful & peculiar.  I remember looking at him with a puzzled look on my face.  I can’t recall now if I shoved him off or if he let go voluntarily.  But once he did let go of his firm grip, that was it.  He left and it never happened again.  In fact, he would eventually leave the school we attended altogether.  I was 7.  He may have been a year older, I’m not sure now.

Again, this isn’t about mere childhood curiosity.  It’s about disrespecting someone else’s physical autonomy.  The young Lena Dunham didn’t care what her sister thought when she decided to do these creepy things.  She just went ahead and did them anyway.  And judging by what she wrote & how she’s reacted to the criticism, she still doesn’t care.  It’s all just fodder for punchlines in a book.  Hilarious.

But what exactly is funny about her stories or mine, for that matter?  Absolutely nothing.

In fact, they’re quite distressing.  If Dunham had written these stories with the intent of cleansing her conscience or even just to express regret for her actions, no reasonable person would have had a problem with that, including me.  Honestly, it would’ve been great if she had done that.  But her agenda was getting laughs, not making peace with childhood mistakes.

21 years after my humiliation at my friend’s birthday party, I was in the park with my then-girlfriend.  It was our first date.  There was a definite, unmistakable attraction.  After having many sexually charged conversations with her online and on the phone for months off and on, it was time for us to embrace the heat.  After some inevitable awkwardness (I was a little antsy and she wasn’t quite ready for that), we moved from a picnic table to a spot beside a giant tree.  In the midst of what turned out to be my very first French kiss (she had to teach me how to do it), she showed me one of her breasts (I think it was the one with the nipple piercing).  Hot.  I returned the favour by voluntarily unzipping my jeans, then pulling them & my underwear down slightly.

She didn’t scream.  She didn’t laugh.  Instead, she looked very pleased.  (I imagined her thinking, “I can work with this.”)  The resuming makeout session got a lot more exciting after that.

For the first time ever, I didn’t feel inadequate or ashamed.  I felt attractive and wanted.  Eight days later at her place, she deflowered me.  It was glorious.  (Too bad the relationship didn’t work out.  After many more conversations & 3 more dates, we broke up two months later.  Despite more online entanglements with several other women, I’ve not had any other real-life physical encounters since.)

I’m not that terrified 9-year-old child any more (although I am, by no means, 100% confident and secure as a man approaching 40) and now I’m far more respectful of people’s personal spaces, especially when it comes to women.  Now that she’s an adult like me, here’s hoping Lena Dunham has finally learned to respect the boundaries of others, as well.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, November 6, 2014
12:56 a.m.

Published in: on November 6, 2014 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Mannequin (1987)

Is relentless, “normalized” sexual harassment ever funny?  The creators of the irredeemable Mannequin surely think so.

In the film, there’s an annoying supporting character named Armand (Christopher Maher).  He works with Roxie (Carole Davis), an ambitious brunette, at a high-scale metropolitan department store in Philadelphia.  In scene after scene after scene, he won’t stop hitting on her.  No matter how many times she says no or insists on keeping their relationship strictly professional, he insists and persists to an agonizing degree.  Even after she shoves him down the stairs one night (don’t ask), he still won’t give up his undesired pursuit.

Realizing to her eternal horror that he’ll never drop it, she finally gives in and says she’ll go to bed with him.  The fact that she is more resigned than enthusiastic about her decision speaks volumes.  Fortunately, Armand is all talk and no action.

(Near the end of the film, she finds herself having to fend off another lonely co-worker who starts kissing her without asking and keeps going despite her repeated protestations.  Played for non-existent laughs it’s easily the most uncomfortable moment, which is saying something.)

Meanwhile, Roxie’s boyfriend, Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy), has his own problems.  He’s a little too fond of this mannequin he’s created.  Because it took him weeks rather than hours to complete, his boss cans him for his meticulousness.  An aspiring sculptor (which we never actually see him do), he goes from one crappy, dead-end job to the next before catching a break at another high-scale metropolitan department store run by Claire Timkin (a wasted Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls).  She’s a third-generation owner worried about the future.  Despite her family business turning 100, it’s on the verge of bankruptcy.  They’re not getting a whole lot of customers these days.

Their only hope appears to be that rival store where Roxie works.  Her slimy boss, B.J. Wert (Steve Vinovich), wants to buy it out and thanks to his inside mole (an uncharacteristically nerdy James Spader), he’s very close to getting it.

Unfortunately for them, there’s an incident that leads Claire to hire Jonathan as a stock boy.  He’s very happy to get the gig because his treasured mannequin is here.  (He spotted her one fateful rainy night in the store’s display window.)

About 20 minutes into the picture, the mannequin (the always lovely Kim Cattrall) suddenly, inexplicably comes to life.  An understandably freaked out Jonathan learns the ageless beauty is really an Egyptian princess, more than 4500 years old, who successfully managed to avoid being betrothed to a camel dung salesman (I wish I were kidding) by summoning a desperate plea to the gods who then allowed her to escape somehow.  I say “somehow” because I have no idea, beyond making her disappear in the film’s opening scene, what they actually did beyond that welcome gesture.

We learn she encountered famous figures like the revered painter Michelangelo who was too obsessed with his famed David to pay any attention to her.  And that’s about all we learn because she soon becomes Jonathan’s muse which trumps all other considerations.  After they screw around late at night when the store is closed (one sequence where they wear various outfits is choreographed like a lame 80s music video), Jonathan helps the store’s window dresser, Hollywood (a supremely overwrought Meshach Taylor from Designing Women), put together displays in a desperate effort to attract much needed walk-in traffic.  (Emmy, the said mannequin who curiously can only be human around the stock boy, becomes a focal point in that window.)

Amazingly, Jonathan has the magic touch.  (Rather quickly, he gets promoted and ultimately becomes a vice president.)  His window displays attract large crowds (come on, they’re not that spectacular) and the store’s once pitiful future is suddenly much brighter (even though the store is selling the exact same merchandise as before).  This doesn’t escape the attention of B.J. who erupts during a business meeting about the rather preposterously instant reversal of fortunes for his own store.  (Sales are down 89%.)  Shortly thereafter, his mole & his rival’s inept security guard (Police Academy’s permanently militarized G.W. Bailey) break into the store to steal the source of their misery.

Mannequin was released the day before Valentine’s Day in 1987 and in the almost 30 years since its modestly successful theatrical run that year, it has aged rather poorly.  Try as you may, you’d be very hard pressed to laugh very often.  (The overly generous Roger Ebert did so only once.  I didn’t laugh at all.)  As for the romantic pairing of Cattrall & McCarthy, what a mismatch.  Their relationship feels more obligatory than natural.

Furthermore, Emmy the mannequin is a peculiar, inconsistent character.  When we first meet her as a terrified runaway bride in ancient Egypt, she sounds like a feminist, eager to invent, explore her independence & refreshingly disinterested in settling down, especially with a stranger she barely knows.  But once she encounters Jonathan, it’s all about him & what he wants.  (You’d think she want to get the hell out of that goddamn store on her own.  But no.)  As they inevitably fall for each other (even though he’s also dating the hot-and-cold Roxie), there’s a ridiculous scene where he’s bursting with so much confidence, he tells her he can become a city planner!  (Oh, for fuck sakes.)

Inconsistency is a recurring theme.  When the security guard makes some anti-gay remarks about Hollywood, the overly flamboyant window dresser, Jonathan rightly calls him a bigot.  But Jonathan rarely looks comfortable around Hollywood himself.  (“Good grief,” he mutters to himself at one point.)  At least the dopey security guard (and one other employee) aren’t pretending to be tolerant.

And then there’s the business of Emmy’s parlour trick.  She’s not always a mannequin when others are around, especially during the film’s gross, completely bewildering ending.  Since it’s never quite clear how she could become a mannequin in the first place when it was build from scratch (and she had already been in existence for thousands of years) the film could care less about establishing a simple, firm & logical rule about this.  Instead, it’s far more interested in making Jonathan look like an idiotic pervert which no one at his store really cares about (beyond being secretly nosy about what he does with Emmy behind closed doors) because business is booming.  (Even Roxie’s boss wants to hire him, albeit through cheesy blackmail.)

Mannequin is so remarkably out-of-date that feminist pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian would have a field day carving it up if she hasn’t already done so.  God knows it deserves it.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 26, 2014
6:41 p.m.

Published in: on October 26, 2014 at 6:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Self-Righteous Fury

Self-righteous fury is all well and good
But not when it prevents you from being understood
Emotion can’t shatter concrete reason
Suggesting otherwise leads to false claims of treason

You’re entitled to your views, as dumb as they are
You just won’t listen, you only want to spar
I’m not at all interested in hearing you scream
Find some healthier way to blow off some steam

It’s not at all about defending obscene material
Or even misrepresenting it as something ethereal
It’s about unfair sentences given to those
Who access the kinds of images you quite rightly oppose

Contrary to what you might honestly think
These kinds of fools don’t belong in the klink
They keep to themselves, they don’t cause pain
Your paranoid worrying is completely in vain

Stuffing them in cages for years at a time
Is taking the focus off an actual crime
We lock many of them up to alleviate our fears
While actual predators cause so many tears

Accusing me of supporting what they enjoy
Is a dastardly tactic you choose to employ
Deep down you know you’re telling a lie
Is it any wonder I’m eager to say good-bye?

It’s blatantly obvious we’re never going to agree
So please let go of your misguided hostility
Take off your blinders and open your eyes
Or the number of victims will continue to rise

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 19, 2014
10:27 p.m.

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 10:27 pm  Comments (1)  


The strange things you find in your Dad’s old tape collection.  Four years before he would begin the series of novels that would provide the source material for HBO’s Game Of Thrones, George R.R. Martin was struggling to make it big in Hollywood.  After contributing scripts to shows like Max Headroom and Beauty & The Beast, he caught a bigger break.  A studio was interested in adapting one of his science fiction novellas into a feature film.  Hooray!

Unfortunately, his excitement was short-lived.  When Nightflyers was released a week before Halloween 1987, it was hammered by critics & ignored by audiences.  Having finally seen it on a dubbed VHS cassette nearly 30 years later, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised.  (Apparently, according to Martin, there were numerous changes made to his original story.  You don’t say!)

The Last Starfighter’s Catherine Mary Stewart, the film’s emotionless narrator, tags along with a group of scientific archetypes on an inevitably doomed expedition to try to decipher & connect with some unknown entity that may or may not be able to create stars in the galaxy.  Right off the bat, Stewart describes this whole endeavour as “questionable” but is up for it nonetheless because “I love a good mystery”.  Yes, she has excellent judgment.

As the group arrives at a bilingual spaceport (English & Mandarin) via subway train track in what looks like a giant snail shell, upon observing the large, unspectacular-looking spacecraft that will serve as their proper mode of transportation for the expedition, Stewart makes the unintentionally self-aware comment that the only reason they were given this “nightflyer” was because of their “limited budget”.  Do tell.

The second she says it you become very distracted by how cheap, dull and uninspired the sets look.  Instantly forgettable is as kind a phrase as I can muster.  And the special effects evoke giggles far more than awe.  Dig those poor space travelling transition scenes.  Mystery Science Theatre 3000 would have a field day with this.

It probably goes without saying that if you were expecting some kind of magical pay-off regarding this communicate-with-a-unconfirmed-mythological-starmaker dealy, you are adorably naïve and need to get out more.  The real focus of the story involves a hologram captain named Royd (Michael Praed rocking the old school Billy Ray Cyrus mullet) who says he can’t be there in person because he needs to be in 2 places at once.  This irritates most of the scientists who also wonder why there’s no crew running the ship.  (They should’ve wondered what their agents were thinking signing them up for this shit.)

The truth is Royd is being held captive by the ship itself.  He’s also a clone.  As the wonderfully hammy & at times unintentionally amusing telepath Michael Des Barres helpfully informs us, Royd was created by a lonely albeit powerful woman who hated her fellow humans because they treated her like a Salem witch.  They attempted to remove her powers because they thought she was cursed.  Somehow, she was able to retain them in repressed form despite all those mettlesome surgical procedures.  In fact, her spirit lives on in the nightflyer’s badly outdated computer system.  (Paging tech support!)

And she’s none too pleased with Catherine Mary Stewart making bedroom eyes at her infatuated “son” who actually isn’t her son.  In fact, in a truly weird scene, Royd says he was created to be her lover but she died before he was born.  Or did I remember this incorrectly?  It is all so very confusing.  (As an aside, what’s the deal with Stewart’s gymnastics routine on those makeshift uneven bars?  Talk about random.)

As the demon computer spirit’s jealousy rises, at one point she somehow infiltrates Des Barres’ body.  (Just say no, Michael.)  He makes an early, failed attempt to eliminate Stewart.  The special effect that concludes this scene is about as obvious as the screenplay.

Meanwhile, Royd tries to do a number on his mommy-or-lover-that-wasn’t so the surviving scientists can take over the ship.  However, there’s a security breach and one of the female computer wizards gets sucked into the oxygenless ethers of outer space.  (Hate when that happens.)  As our uninteresting heroes climb into their cheapo flying R2D2-style exploratory pods with fishbowls on their heads to venture outside to try to repair three holes in this enormous pile of space junk, the incredibly dopey lead scientist is somehow tricked into thinking a sudden ring of fire is the scientific breakthrough he’s been waiting 12 years for.  I can’t tell if the filmmakers love Johnny Cash or visual metaphors for hemorrhoids.

It’s bad enough Nightflyers shamelessly rips off 2001, Star Wars and Alien.  It’s even worse that it does it so poorly.  (Hey scientists, watch out for that headless special effect.  Stop laughing.  It’s going to kill you all!  I’m serious!)  My God, the film is less than 90 minutes but its sluggish, glacial pace makes it feel twice as long.  (Or maybe that was because I kept pausing and rewinding so much.  And taking so many pee breaks.  Nah.  It’s definitely the pacing.)

Of all the actors trapped in this Space Titanic, I feel most sorry for the late James Avery.  Just a few years before his starmaking performance as the lovably gruff Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, he’s shackled here with a appalling double stereotype:  a fey black chef.  Despite having some kind of scientific credentials, we learn he was actually hired to cook for everybody.

Oh, for fuck sakes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 5, 2014
2:20 p.m.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

No More Depression

No more repression
No more suppression
No more depression
Only heartfelt confession
And candid expression

No more obsession
No more needless aggression
No more concession
Only life-saving compression
And best impression

No more submission
No more permission
No more commission
Only remission
And a healthier disposition

No more infliction
No more interdiction
No more false depiction
Only true conviction
Through proper diction

No more hesitation
No more devastation
No more procrastination
Only thorough investigation
And constant insubordination

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 26, 2014
6:35 p.m.

Published in: on September 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Waves Of Dissent

You continue to expand this heartless campaign
In an already demoralized desert terrain
You claim the solution is to maintain the course
Because they only understand excessive brute force
But what you fail to see is the madness of war
And how it’s escalating beyond what it ever was before
It’s neither possible to bomb them into submission
Nor break them with torture…I’m sorry, “rendition”

People get pissed when you murder their loves
So stop being surprised when they take off the gloves
The only lesson they’re learning is “violence is the answer”
They weren’t the ones who invented this cancer
It’s laughable to see you act so noble
When the violence you’re unleashing is growing more global
Your murderous plan will not make a dent
And their numbers will keep rising through waves of dissent

This is what happens when you fuck around in places
That seduce you to embark on wild goose chases
Unfamiliar with the culture and the people who preserve it
The impeachment that’s coming? You certainly deserve it
Gone are the days when you had widespread support
It wasn’t so wise to find millions to deport
But Sophia Bush still loves you, this much is clear
How much longer before you need a new career?

The cure isn’t murder, how can it be?
Unrelenting violence only causes more misery
They’ll never stop fighting for their own sovereignty
When the alternative involves your dictators and crushing poverty
Yes, they are ruthless and not exactly kind
But neither are you, which I suspect is by design
This cycle of death will go on unabated
Unless reason chokes fear until it is asphyxiated

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
6:36 p.m.

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 6:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Hurt Me First

You were such a lovely distraction
Who gave me so much satisfaction
You convinced me to bare it all
Never once did I ever feel small

You taught me so much about expanding pleasure
How irony can lead to sensual treasure
I found strength in your history of being bold
“Looks don’t matter, we all get old”

But there were always problems right from the start
And you’ve finally decided it’s time to depart
I’m shocked and stunned and completely pissed
I can promise you now you won’t be missed

I hated it when you delayed your replies
I don’t care to compete with all the other guys
I don’t know why I’m getting all this heat
There was never a chance we would ever meet

You’re way too strange and far too wild
I talk a good game but I’m actually mild
Conversing with you used to be fun
But you lied to me, we are so fucking done

Could I ever offend you? You said there was “no chance”
But one simple question ended this dance
I thought you enjoyed all the dirty talk
I never believed I would ever make you walk

But you’ve done me a favour concluding this charade
And now I’ve constructed a brand new palisade
I’m taking the path of least resistance
I’m erasing every trace of your very existence

I thought you were sweet & incredibly kind
Regarding my nosy inquiries, I thought you didn’t mind
You should have told me when I was being a pest
Now you’re treating me like an uninvited guest

I wasted so much time trying to get close
An unhealthy addiction, I wanted more than a dose
But you’ve made your decision and I feel the worst
I hurt your feelings? You hurt me first

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
2:17 a.m.

Published in: on September 17, 2014 at 2:18 am  Comments (1)  

Rob Ford’s Political Hail Mary

Sometimes it’s the little details that reveal so much, especially when they’re captured on Television.

Former Toronto Councillor Doug Ford made an important appearance at City Hall this afternoon.  He was there to officially enter the race for Mayor.  Why?  Because his embattled brother Rob, the current Mayor, suffered a serious setback earlier this week.  After privately experiencing persistent abdominal pain for three months, things took a turn for the worst and he was hospitalized.  The early diagnosis is a tumour.  The official prognosis is expected early next week.

Shortly after Doug left City Hall, the Mayor released a written statement saying that he is physically unable to continue his reelection campaign, a campaign that saw him trailing early frontrunner & former Conservative ally John Tory by more than ten points in the polls.  Doug is replacing him on the ballot.  Today was the deadline for last-minute election sign-ups & withdrawals.

In the midst of the circus that surrounded him at City Hall, one cameraman caught a rare moment of vulnerability.  Shooting him up close from the left, one drop of sweat slowly trickled down Doug’s cheek.

He should be sweating because the Ford Legacy is in serious jeopardy.  Scandal-plagued and globally derided, Rob Ford was never guaranteed a second term running Canada’s largest city.  How could he have possibly won anyway considering all the crack videos, the drunk videos, the racism, the sexism, the drunk driving, the physical assaults, the sexual harassment, the threats of violence, the constant lying and multiple political conflicts of interest that have defined him these past two years alone?

With only six weeks to go until Toronto elects its next municipal government, Doug Ford, the obnoxious, ignorant, careless, and deeply polarizing Councillor with his own conflicts of interest and drug dealing past, is now stepping in to try to rescue his brother’s administration.  Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, there’s the puzzling matter of Rob Ford’s political future.  He is withdrawing from the race for Mayor but he’s not out of the election altogether.  Originally, it was his nephew, Michael Ford, who was running to fill his old Councillor seat in Ward 2′s Etobicoke North riding.  Now that Doug is running for Mayor, Rob is replacing Michael as a Conservative candidate in that race.

An innocent question:  if a man is too seriously ill to run for one political office, how is he healthy enough to run for another?  Granted, running for Mayor is obviously more physically demanding than vying for a lower profile City Councillor gig, but still, if your stomach pains are so bad to the point where you need constant professional care and lots of rest & relaxation, why are you running for anything?

The likely answer:  because there’s a good chance he might actually win.  For all the city-wide support he’s lost in the last year and a half, there are a considerable number of Etobicoke residents who still believe his now discredited populist “taxpayer protector” rhetoric that got him on City Council in the first place.  Rob Ford is counting on that decade-plus connection with those remarkably loyal & forgiving voters to keep him on Council without having to do too much door-to-door campaigning.

Unfortunately, this is a gamble and it depends greatly on next week’s test results.  If that mass on his abdomen is cancerous (and let’s all hope it’s not), this sneaky back-up plan to get reelected, this time as a City Councillor, will have to be abandoned.  Even if it’s like the earlier mass he had in 2009 (which turned out to be benign), he’ll still have to have surgery and may need plenty of time to rest & recover.  As of this moment, he has few good political options.

CBC News Network’s Carole MacNeil asked a number of guests about the possibility of Doug potentially winning the election, Rob winning back his seat, Doug making him the Deputy Mayor and then at some point, stepping aside to let Rob become the Mayor again.  Not one thought this was a plausible scenario, not just because of the unlikeliness of both being elected, but because of the absurd idea that the ambitious Doug (who has expressed a desire to lead the Ontario Tories) would ever relinquish power to his younger brother, especially when you consider his many health problems.

Regardless of the end result of Rob Ford’s medical situation, whether it’s manageable or not (and again let’s hope it is a solvable problem), it’s the end of a turbulent era in Toronto politics.  Doug Ford has an impossible task ahead of himself.  He has to run on his brother’s highly questionable record as well as his own, somehow make up a lot of ground between himself & John Tory while still watching out for the formidable Olivia Chow, and avoid getting swallowed up by all the scandals that have already plagued his entire family, all in just a month and a half.

He should be sweating.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 12, 2014
6:15 p.m.

UPDATE & CLARIFICATION:  Dr. Zane Cohen announced during a press conference that the Mayor has a rare form of cancer, a “malignant liposarcoma” in his stomach that has spread to another part of his body.  He will be undergoing on-again/off-again chemotherapy, a process that will take several weeks.  Despite the difficult days ahead, Dr. Cohen says he is “optimistic” but did not promise a full recovery.  As of this writing, it is not certain if Rob Ford will discontinue his campaign to win his old Ward 2 seat in Etobicoke North.  Also not clear is what Doug Ford will do with his own yet-to-be-kicked-off campaign for Mayor.  (Since announcing, he has kept a low profile.)

During the press conference, Dr. Cohen noted that the Mayor did not actually have a tumour in 2009.  He actually had appendicitis.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
6:14 p.m.

CORRECTION:  In paragraph 6, I wrote that Doug Ford was a “deeply polarizing former Councillor”.  Actually, despite not running for re-election in his Ward, until December 1st when the newly elected City Council is sworn in for the first time, he is still very much an active Councillor.  That’s why “former” has been removed from the text.  My apologies for the mistake.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
8:12 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  Judging by an audio message he recently released, Rob Ford has no intention of staying silent during Toronto’s current election campaign.  While thanking his fellow citizens for their outpouring of support as he prepares for his first round of chemotherapy, he also urged them to support Doug for Mayor.  The outgoing City Councillor is expected to finally start campaigning for the city’s top job shortly.  Meanwhile, the current Mayor is pushing forward with his own campaign for his old Ward 2 seat, despite sounding hoarse in his message and remaining in hospital.  The question is, if he wins on October 27, will he be healthy enough to be sworn in on December 1?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, September 18, 2014
8:19 p.m.

Published in: on September 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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