From The Published Archives: Star Trek VI

This was the original plan.  My friend, Dave MacGillivray and I, were going to attend a matinee weekend screening of a new movie that had just opened and then we would both write assessments for our high school newsmagazine, OMNIA. 
 
The movie was Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which opened in early December 1991.  Both Dave and I were looking forward to seeing the movie.  Dave was either a year or two younger than me but taller and bulkier.  I remember years earlier we were at AM Cunningham, a primary school, at the same time but didn’t hang out at that point, mainly because I didn’t know who he was and we weren’t in any classes together.  (My old friend, Shane Willson, who used to wear glasses as a young kid (and would later be nicknamed "Spock"), was in one of my Cunningham classes but we didn’t really become friends until later when we ended up in a number of high school classes together.)
 
I became friends with Dave during Grade 11 Drama.  For our final exam, we had to do a memorized scene in front of the whole class.  We fittingly chose The Odd Couple and did very well with that.  Got some big laughs and worked well together.  I remember we practised that thing endlessly until we got it right.  (Although, we found out later that we accidentally left out some lines during the performance.  Things were flowing so smoothly I don’t think either of us were aware of it while we were acting for the class.  I got 87% and he got 80%.)
 
Sometime during that class, we became close and chatted constantly about anything and everything, including Star Trek.  It was him who corrected me about the whole Trekkie/Trekker business.  He said that "Trekkie" was an epithet and that "Trekker" was a term of affection.  Later, in Grade 12 Drama, a fellow classmate sarcastically remarked that we carried on like a couple of girls because we never could stop yapping and arguing about so many topics.
 
It was always good to go to the movies with a buddy who liked to chat before and after the screening because it made the time go by faster and it was great fun.  I remember one time we screened Malcolm X over the 1992 Christmas holidays at the Jackson Square Cinemas.  As soon as it was over, I turned to him and said, "Best movie of the year."  It was my favourite film of 1992.  I think he liked it, too, but not as much as I did.
 
We had a good time at the Star Trek VI screening and went home to work on our reviews for OMNIA.  Unfortunately, they only published mine.  I really wanted to read what he thought about the movie.  In fact, I still do.  We both liked it, as I recall.  The good news is he wrote a nice editorial called "The True Meaning of Christmas" that made it into the issue.  One thing I’ve noticed going through my collection of published pieces from high school is how inferior my writing was back then when compared to most of the other OMNIA writers.  I am not a natural writer.  I’ve been working at this my entire life and it took me a good, long while to find my voice.
 
It took me several years to know how to write a decent movie review.  During this period (September 1989 – June 1993), I tended to focus too much on "plot summary" and not enough on my thoughts and feelings about the movie.  I usually spent just a few lines talking about what I liked or didn’t like.   I’ve come a long way since then.
 
This review of Star Trek VI was a typical example of this.  As you read it, you’ll discover that I focus quite a bit on the plot and not enough on my assessment.  Still, my writing was getting somewhere and I want you to all to see that for yourselves.
 
I gave the movie 3 stars out of 4 but the editor, Melanie Splatt, another Star Trek fan, changed it to 3 Starfleet logos out of 4, which was a nice, unexpected touch.  (In that Christmas 1991 OMNIA issue she wrote an Editorial related to Star Trek.)  I’ve reinstated the stars because I don’t know how to do the Starfleet logo which, admittedly, is much cooler.
 
This was one of 3 reviews I had published in that issue, the most pieces of my writing that ever appeared together in a single edition.  Because we published so infrequently, (every few months or so) there was always a good chance at getting at least 2 reviews in every issue, once former editor Jeremy Sharp resigned.  (He also liked to write movie reviews so it was decided that we would alternate.  He would be in one issue and I would be in the next.)
 
This Cinema Scope review originally appeared on page 13 in the Christmas 1991 edition of OMNIA.  I’ve had to make some small changes, mostly grammar, but 95% of what you read here is from that original review.  I’ve corrected the name of the character actor David Warner plays.  It’s Chancellor Gorkon, not Gordon as was erroneously written and published.  (I’ve also added Warner’s name which didn’t appear in the original review.)
 
Careful readers will note the name, Kurtwood Smith, who is probably best known now for playing Red Foreman on the recently ended That 70’s Show.  (Thanks to watching several episodes of that very funny program, my dad can’t stop staying "dumbass" to the TV all the time, especially during hockey games.)  He has an effective albeit unrecognizable supporting role in Star Trek VI.  Back then, he was a very capable character actor in the movies and his best work up to that point was in Robocop, where he played the absolutely ruthless Clarence Boddicker.  Great performance in a great movie.
 
Christian Slater popped into the movie because of nepotism.  His mom, Mary Jo Slater, was the casting director for Star Trek VI.  He appears in exactly one scene.  (For more cool trivia about the movie, click here.)
 
A couple of years ago I screened a number of Star Trek movies on DVD and now I have assessments of all of them.  The good ones are 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7.  Today, surprisingly, Star Trek Generations is the best of the 10 movies, in my view.  I still have tremendous affection for The Wrath Of Khan and also The Voyage Home.  A few years ago, when Moviepix was still an analog cable channel, I managed to catch a bit of Undiscovered Country.  It’s still a good movie. 
 
With the recent announcement that JJ Abrams (Alias, Lost, Mission: Impossible III) is hoping to revive the franchise with a film focusing on the early days of the Kirk/Spock relationship (which, believe it or not, was the original story for Star Trek VI), I wanted to showcase this old previously published piece from my high school years.  I hope you enjoy it even though it features the word "neck-wrecking".
 
 
STAR TREK VI:  THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
*** (out of 4)
Jackson Square, Fiesta Mall, Limeridge Mall, Burlington Mall
STARRING:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Plummer, Kurtwood Smith and Christian Slater.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE
Opened Friday, December 6, 1991
 
When we last saw Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, they had been taken hostage by Mr. Spock’s half-brother.  That was STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER, and contrary to popular belief, that film was not the last Star Trek voyage.  In the newly released STAR TREK VI, we discover that this will be the last voyage of the original cast of the 1960’s TV program.
 
The movie opens with Captain Sulu (George Takei) aboard the USS Excelsius.  They run into a little trouble when one of the Klingon’s energy moons explodes in a ring-like fashion and charges the ship at a neck-wrecking pace.  There is no damage to the ship, but the crew continues to explore the surrounding area.
 
In the next scene, the crew of the Enterprise has a classified conference and discovers that the Klingon Empire is on the verge of extinction.  Because their energy moons exploded, the Klingons have a maximum of 50 Earth years to live.  Captain Kirk soon discovers that he and his ship must accompany the Klingons en route to a peace conference so that the Klingons can gain some allies in order to help them rebuild their race.
 
Some tension arises when the Klingons take in some Romulan cuisine while on board the Enterprise.  At this point we are introduced to Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner) and General Chang (played by Canadian actor, Christopher Plummer).  The climax of the film occurs when the Enterprise seems to have fired photon torpedoes at the Klingon vessel, and when the Chancellor is brutally murdered.
 
All of the original crew members are back, plus two new characters – the President of the Klingons (played by Kurtwood Smith of Robocop and Oscar) and a special (unnecessary) cameo by Christian Slater, who plays one of Captain Sulu’s officers.
 
Although STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is still the best STAR TREK film, STAR TREK VI is worth the $8.00 because of the brilliant script, the special effects and the trademark humour.  Until next time, this is Dennis Earl, and I’ll see you at the movies.
 
By Dennis Earl
 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
2:12 p.m.
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Published in: on May 31, 2006 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Multiplicity

I have very strong reactions to Harold Ramis movies.  I thoroughly enjoyed his 1993 science fiction comedy, Groundhog Day (which features one of Bill Murray’s best performances) but absolutely hated his 2000 remake, Bedazzled (The original starred Dudley Moore and Peter Cook.).  I thought Analyze This had its moments but ultimately wasn’t funny enough.  As for Analyze That, its unnecessary sequel?  Well, it was terrible.  Caddyshack and National Lampoon’s Animal House, two beloved 20th Century comedies, in my view, aren’t that funny (although both do feature some funny bits) and are highly overrated.  See what I mean?   
 
That brings us to Multiplicity.  Great title.  Great premise, too.  Let’s say you’re an overworked married guy with kids and you can’t seem to be everywhere at once.  What do you do?  I’ll tell you what you do.  You get yourself cloned a few times.  That should solve the problem.  But what if you can’t control these walking photocopies? 
 
The movie, which was released in the summer of 1996, for me, was a huge disappointment.  Just not enough laughs to sustain that wonderful premise.  After seeing the movie at the Centre Mall Cinemas, I wrote a review and faxed it to The Hamilton Spectator who promptly ignored it.  It’s too bad.  It’s a pretty good review.  The more I wrote during this period, the better the material I produced.  It was a rare encouraging sign during a very difficult and depressing period of my life.
 
In the review, I mention that I think the movie will be a commercial success despite my strong reservations about its artistic merit.  I’m happy to report that the movie tanked.  (According to the Internet Movie Database, it made 20 million dollars but cost roughly 45 million to make.)
 
This previously unseen piece dates back to July 1996.  Apart from some slight corrections (spelling, etc.), this is what I wrote 10 years ago.
 
 
My Three Clones
‘Multiplicity’ is unfunny, sitcom-style simplicity and not much else
 
MULTIPLICITY
Centre Mall, Burlington Showcase and Upper James. 
Starring:  Michael Keaton, Andie MacDowell and Eugene Levy.
PG.
 
**/*****
By Dennis Earl
 
Doug Kinney needs a miracle.  He’s an overworked construction contractor who takes on far too much responsibility for one man to handle.  He’s married to Laura, a beautiful but lonely housewife who barely sees him and wants, desperately, to return to her old job as a real estate agent.  But someone has to stay home and look after the kids; Doug is too busy for that.  He’s having enough trouble trying to spare a few, free hours to attend his son’s football games and his daughter’s girl scout graduation.  But he has a lot on his mind.  He forgets about his family and becomes totally consumed by work.  He’s starting to lose his temper a lot and is about to enter the burnout phase of his current stress cycle, if he doesn’t help himself.
 
How can he possibly balance his personal life with his work life and his family life?  Can his marriage be saved with a lighter workload?  How many more absences can his kids take?  When will Doug have time for Doug?
 
Believe it or not, this is just the first act of MULTIPLICITY, a disappointing and convoluted comedy from SCTV alumnus-turned-director, Harold Ramis (GROUNDHOG DAY).  Michael Keaton plays the frantic Doug and Andie MacDowell (FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL) is his wife who grows more intolerant of his stressful ways as the movie trudges onward.  (Its 2-hour running time could’ve easily been trimmed down to 100 minutes.)
 
One day, after flipping out over some faulty water pipes, Doug finds the miracle he’s been waiting for.  He meets Dr. Leeds (Harris Yulin), a geneticist who has discovered a way to "make living copies" of animals and human beings.  (He’s even cloned himself.)  He offers Doug a chance to find balance in his life without having to enrol in a stress management class:  He wants to clone him.  It takes some convincing from Dr. Leeds’ walking Xerox copy, but eventually, Doug, thinking that he has no better course of action to pursue, accepts.  Of course, there are repercussions.
 
Doug’s clone is a lot more aggressive than he is and a ladykiller.  He represents the hidden "side" of Doug, the Doug who should’ve fired an incompetent employee named Vic (a wasted Eugene Levy who I’m sure applauds nepotism) a long time ago.  The clone handles the workload, much to Doug’s amazement, while the real Doug goes golfing.  In order to prevent his family from ever knowing, he stashes the clone in a spare room where no one, except Doug, ever goes.
 
Eventually, another clone (one who knows his way around the kitchen) is created and Doug finds that much needed lesiure time he’s treasured for years.  But it doesn’t last long.  Laura, unknowingly, makes advances towards the two clones and once Doug finds out, he makes the "no clone nookie" rule.  Then, another clone is made from the original clone (an idiot man-child who keeps calling Doug, "Steve") for the purpose of cleaning up the spare room and that’s when I lost interest (not that I was entertained in the first place).
 
The main problem with MULTIPLICITY is that it takes too long to set up the premise and then, fails to deliver big laughs.  There’s no payoff here.  This is a wonderful premise but Ramis’ treatment feels too much like an ill-fated pilot for a bad TV sitcom.
 
MULTIPLICITY is more interested in dazzling us with brilliant special effects than making us laugh and the movie’s one and only joke – clones get in trouble, Doug gets mad at them – gets repeatedly tiresome.
 
Keaton plays the 3 clones as they are written:  cardboard stereotypes.  The first clone is too macho, the second clone comes dangerously close to becoming a gay stereotype (but remains a "sensitive wuss" stereotype) and the third is an unnecessary idiot who serves no purpose but to be stupid.  Keaton is a gifted comic actor (he’s pretty good in dramatic roles, too) who deserves better writing.  He does the best he can with all 4 roles but they’re all thinly sketched types and wear out their welcome early on.
 
The amazing special effects, which finally blur the split screen barrier, or so it seems, are the only successful element in the film.
 
MULTIPLICITY is sophomoric, but not in a good sense, lame, lacking in originality and big laughs.  Even more depressing is the lack of chemistry between Keaton and MacDowell (who was much more charming in Ramis’ GROUNDHOG DAY).
 
Despite my reservations, I have a feeling that MULTIPLICITY will go over very well with a mass audience but I don’t think it will leave a lasting impression in their minds.  If you’re smart, you’ll skip this one and see THE NUTTY PROFESSOR again with a re-energized Eddie Murphy.  The creators of that movie realize that laughs come from the quirks of the characters and not necessarily from elaborate special effects.  That movie is very funny.
 
MULTIPLICITY, on the other hand, is boring simplicity.  Nothing more.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
12:01 a.m.
Published in: on May 30, 2006 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Jack

When I graduated from Mohawk College in the spring of 1996, I had completed 16 consecutive years of schooling.  I was exhausted and needed a break in the worst way.  While I continued volunteering at Mohawk’s campus radio station for the next 2 years (until a dispute with the station manager inspired me to quit on the air in September 1998) and would end up reading news and sports updates for Cable 14 later that year (that lasted until 1997 when I quit that, as well), I decided to continue to go to the movies.  I was having no luck finding a gig anywhere so I focused on improving my writing and critical thinking skills.
 
I wanted to be a movie critic so bad I started faxing my unsolicited reviews to The Hamilton Spectator who, by that time, didn’t have a local critic and instead relied on Roger Ebert’s work.  My plan was to see movies before they officially opened, write a review quickly and then send it off to The Spec hoping they would be so impressed they would have to publish it.  How did I achieve this?  By attending sneak preview screenings.
 
A week before it was to open, I saw Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack at the Jackson Square Cinemas.  This movie puzzled people, including me.  Why was the guy who gave us Apocalypse Now doing a rather routine Robin Williams rapid-aging comedy?  Reviews were brutal but the film did make money (roughly 60 million, surprisingly).
 
Personally, critics were overly rough on this one (although, I was pretty tough on it myself, I have to admit).  There are some good performances here and if they weren’t here, the movie would’ve been a hell of a lot worse than it ended up being.  After screening it, I wrote a succinct review, faxed it off to The Spec without calling ahead (the coward’s way) and never heard back.  This was the last of 4 such reviews I submitted in 1996, all of which were rejected.  After this, I pretty much gave up.  It didn’t help that my OCD was really starting to bother me (but I wouldn’t figure that all out for several years) and generally, I was in an awful place.
 
Coppola must’ve taken the criticism of his movie to heart because he quickly followed Jack with a much better film, John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, which was released in 1997.   (It’s a solid thriller.  I recommend it.)
 
I’m particularly proud of my assessment of Jennifer Lopez’s performance in this movie.  She had only made a few other films before Jack (the terrific My Family among them) and here, she makes a strong impression in a bad film.  I mention in the review that she had signed on to play the slain Latina star Selena "in an upcoming biopic".  Remember, she was not yet a star when Jack came out so it feels good to single her out before that happened.
 
This is a previously unpublished review from August 1996.
 
HIT THE ROAD, JACK!
Coppola’s latest about as fun as removing a planter’s wart
 
JACK
Jackson Square, Fiesta Mall, Burlington Mall and Limeridge Mall. 
Starring: Robin Williams, Diane Lane, Jennifer Lopez and Bill Cosby.
PG.
 
**/*****
By Dennis Earl
 
Jack Powell is a 10-year-old with a constant, nagging problem.  He has a rare aging disease, one that accelerates his growth 4 times faster than everybody else.  By the time he graduates from high school, he’ll be 18 but he’ll look and function like an unfit 72-year-old.  Right now, he looks like a 40-year-old man with a 5 o’clock shadow and a receding hairline, but as portrayed by the great Robin Williams (an underrated dramatic actor), he’s an exuberant, horny pre-pubescent with a love for Penthouse pets, smelly farts, and expensive toys.  He’s 10, alright.
 
That’s not the only obstacle he has to overcome, though.  This year, for the first time in his entire life, he’s attending public school.  Prior to this, he had been educated by Mr. Woodruff (Bill Cosby in a fine, understated performance, for a change), a private tutor who comes to his parents’ lavish home every afternoon to teach history and offer advice.  Jack has never interacted with his peers.  In fact, he’s never left the house on his own.  It’s a struggle, at first, but Jack, gradually, learns to enjoy the 5th Grade and the kids around him.  (The kids overcome their prejudices and he loses his shy persona.  What a surprise!)
 
The movie JACK is intended to be a predictable, mushy, feel-good, sentimental piece of crap and nothing more.  I’m happy to announce that the filmmakers have accomplished their goal.  It’s hard to believe that this inane and, at times, disgusting film was directed by the same man who brought us THE CONVERSATION, THE GODFATHER TRILOGY and APOCALYPSE NOW.  Yes, I’m talking about Francis Ford Coppola.  The acclaimed director has made a film that is about as fun to watch as having a planter’s wart removed.  He has taken 8 steps backward for progressive filmmaking and I’m not sure if he can return to form.  Is he past his prime?  I don’t know.
 
What makes the film somewhat watchable are the fine performances by Williams, Cosby, Jennifer Lopez, and Diane Lane.  Lopez (MONEY TRAIN), who has signed on to play the late singing sensation, Selena, in an upcoming biopic, is sweet and tender as Jack’s 5th Grade teacher.  She is a beautiful and intelligent young actress who has a lot of charm and screen presence.  She’s sweet without rotting your teeth.  There’s a scene late in the film (which is too long, by the way) where a mesmerized Jack asks her out to the school dance and even though she is one of his big supporters, she says no.  A lesser actor would’ve come across as a patronizing phony.  But not Lopez.  She tells Jack exactly why she can’t go out with him (the age difference) and despite her honest and sensitive tone, the rejection tears up the insides of our innocent hero.  But don’t worry.  His best friend’s mother (played by the always fetching Fran Drescher), who thinks he’s the principal of this school (don’t ask), is more than willing to squeeze the virginity out of him.
 
Diane Lane is warm and understanding in her role as Jack’s overprotective mother.  While his Dad is out on photo shoots, Lane is there to keep her son safe from the outside world and to love him like no other Mom can.  She is not afraid to look downright goofy in order to keep her son royally amused.  Her performance is better than the part as written.
 
JACK is a sitcom pretending to be a film that unsuccessfully recycles elements from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (a better family film than this one), THE FLY II and, of course, BIG.  Were it not for the above-mentioned performances, (especially Williams who talks in a deep, little boy voice and is at one with nature) this unfunny comedy would be an outright disaster.  As it stands, it is so-so.  Still, I think Coppola should’ve declined this offer (which I’m sure was more than generous) and given us another exquisite epic.  That is his forte.  Comedy is not.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 29, 2006
12:13 a.m.
Published in: on May 29, 2006 at 12:25 am  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Up to this point, whenever I’ve posted something that was previously published elsewhere I’ve focused exclusively on, what I call, The Satellite Era.  From September 1993 to March 1996, I submitted numerous pieces to Mohawk College’s student newspaper, The Satellite.  I started going through all these old articles and reviews a couple of months ago when I was doing some spring cleaning (and that is a never-ending job, unfortunately).  I thought it would be fun to share with you some examples of my writing from that period and so, since early April, I started selecting and posting specific pieces that I thought exemplified my writing at its best during those years.
 
Before my College period, I attended Delta Secondary.  Recently, I went into considerable detail about my last year in that dreadful institution.  (Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President, Parts 1-8)  I mentioned how throughout The Delta Years (as I like to call that period between September 1989 and June 1993) I was a part of a number of extracurricular clubs.  I read the morning announcements over the P.A. System, I played in the school bands (Jazz and Concert), and I wrote articles and reviews for Delta’s student magazine, OMNIA, and its newsletter counterpart, Om-Lette. 
 
OMNIA was not as sophisticated as The Satellite.  We just didn’t have the budget.  So, there was a lot of typing and photocopying.  We never had the money to dabble in newsprint.  Or colour, for that matter.
 
The Christmas 1992 issue of OMNIA was quite controversial as I mentioned in my special series because the change in Student Council became official and the way this announcement was made was done in poor taste.  (I’ll never forget how angry I was.)  I had contributed my final movie review for this publication and right beside the second half of it was the infamous announcement, “A New Executive Council”.  Both then and now, it made zero sense to put these two items together like that.  What was the thinking behind that, I wonder?  There was nothing wrong with making this announcement, of course.  People needed to know who was out and who was in.  But it should’ve been published elsewhere in the issue.  In other words, anywhere but beside my movie review.
 
It’s funny looking at the announcement today.  I think only half of the Executive were democratically elected.  The other half were appointed by a Council vote, without the input of the student body who probably could’ve cared less.  Also amusing:  my friend Shane’s last name was misspelled.  He spells his last name, “Willson”, not “Wilson”, as was published. 
 
In the thank you section of that issue, the Student Council was thanked for “overcoming the hurdle”.  Gee, I wonder what they meant by that.
 
Anyway, enough about that.  Let’s focus on the review I submitted for that issue.  There were a lot of expectations for Francis Ford Coppola’s direct adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.  I remember it made a lot of money in its first weekend (about 30 million smackers) and then quickly left people’s consciousness.  I saw it at the Centre Mall Cinemas during a packed Tuesday night screening in November 1992 which also included some Delta students in attendance.  (When I saw Heather, the hot VP, with her boyfriend at the time walking down the aisle, I made sure they didn’t see me.  They didn’t.)
 
By the way, I started writing movie reviews for OMNIA and Om-Lette during my second year at Delta, starting in September 1990.  I called the column Cinema Scope, not realizing at the time that such a term already existed.  (I thought I was really cool and original when I thought of it.)  CinemaScope was the term film studios used to sell their early widescreen extravaganzas.  Because TV was becoming a highly competitive medium, Hollywood needed to do something to boost ticket sales.  Expanding the size of the screen and giving that idea a cool name seemed to do the trick.  Today, most movies are widescreen with a rare few filmed using the old school 4:3 ratio (incidentally, the same ratio for your standard, pre-HD TV sets).
 
I was terrible.  I quickly scribbled things down, (the reviews were awfully brief and rarely articulate) and submitted them hoping to be published.  (For a couple of years I had to compete for space with the paper’s then-editor, Jeremy J. Sharp, who always wrote much better reviews than I did back then.)  By 1992, after a summer of really trying to become a better writer and critic, I was slowly starting to find my rhythm and voice.  This review is probably the best of all the high school reviews that I wrote.
 
I have made a couple of small changes (mainly minor spelling, spacing and grammar corrections).  Here are the significant ones:  A classmate correctly pointed out at the time, after the review surfaced, that I misspelled the name of the character Tom Waits plays.  (It’s Renfield, not Wenfield, as I erroneously stated.)  And I’ve added the name of the actor who plays the American cowboy.  I didn’t know his name so I never added it.
 
Other than that, this review is exactly as it appeared in 1992 on pages 7 and 8 in the Christmas 1992 issue of OMNIA.  I gave the movie 3 stars out of 4.
 
One more thing:  the last line in the review – “I quite liked it.” – was stolen from a hilarious classmate named Steven Powell.  He had a remarkable talent for making ordinary lines like that sound funny.  It was the way he said things that cracked me up all the time.  (I remember he used to go on and on about Ravi Shankar and, at the time, I had no idea what he was talking about.)  The last time I saw him was on October 14, 1994, at the Centre Mall Cinemas.  Before Pulp Fiction was screened that night, he saw me and we chatted for a bit.  I haven’t seen him since.
 
 
CINEMA SCOPE
 
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
***
Centre Mall, Showcase, Limeridge Mall
Adult Accompaniment
Gary Oldman – Count Dracula
Winona Ryder – Mina Murray/Elizabeth
Anthony Hopkins – Professor Van Helsing
Keanu Reeves – Jonathan Harker
Sadie Frost – Lucy
Screenplay by James V. Hart
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
 
     For nearly a century, movie directors have been altering their visions of DRACULA  in order to create a classic horror film.  From the long, stiff, black cape to the darkened hair, DRACULA became an unforgettable movie character.  The most famous vampire from Transylvania, without hesitation, was the late Bela Lugosi.  Unfortunately for him, it was the only role Hollywood remembered him by.  Now is the time to relive that memory.
     Director Francis Ford Coppola is having his say in his stylish re-telling of the Bram Stoker-based novel from 1897.  BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is a visually impressive film focusing more on the 18th Century than other films have attempted.  Underrated (but exceptional) British actor Gary Oldman takes over the role of DRACULA.  He is truly excellent and his performance should definitely earn him an Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category.
     The movie opens in the late 1400’s.  A war is raging with no signs of a cease fire.  Prince Dracula is one of the good guys.  He is fighting as a Christian for the freedom of his people.  The story soon moves to the 18th Century.  DRACULA is an immortal who is buying some real estate in the London area.  The original agent was devoured by the now-evil vampire and his three naked gurus, but another is arriving shortly.  His name is Jonathan Harker (played by Keanu Reeves; bad call!) and he is engaged to a prim and proper woman named Mina Murray (an excellent performance by Winona Ryder).  While Mr. Harker attempts to stay faithful to his fiance, DRACULA uses a disguise in order to seek out Mina.  Eventually, a romance blossoms between the two of them. 
     Other characters in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA include Professor Van Helsing, (a smart and comical performance by Anthony Hopkins who serves as narrator) an experienced and crafty vampire hunter who leads the crusade against DRACULA and company; Lucy, (a vivacious Sadie Frost) a sluttish woman who has three suitors; the Doctor (Richard E. Grant), an American cowboy (Bill Campbell) and her fiance (Cary Elwes); and Renfield (the gritty Tom Waits) is an insane mental patient who is a faithful follower of DRACULA.
     This is not an excellent movie.  The film contains major problems that are similiar to another visual extravaganza, BATMAN RETURNS. The screenplay does not contain a specific plot but rather a series of conflicting subplots that provide more entertainment than expected.  The ending is weak and inconclusive.  The music is wonderfully orchestrated and enchanting throughout the picture.  But the bottom line on BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is this – it is a very good love story haunted by tense sexuality as well as spooky innuendos of death.  I quite liked it!
 
By Dennis Earl
The Movie Critic
Omnia/Om-Lette
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 28, 2006
3:09 p.m.
Published in: on May 28, 2006 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The College Graduate: 10 Years Later

Exactly 10 years ago today I officially graduated from college.  It was an important moment for me.  I had gone from nearly flunking out in the very first semester of my program to being the only male in my graduating class to successfully complete my post-secondary education with honours.  And that was completely unexpected.
 
In the summer of 1993, after withstanding one of the worst periods of my life (as previously documented in the 8-part epic, Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President), I received some great news which was more than welcome.  I received word through the mail that Mohawk College accepted my application and that September I was to begin my 3-year study of their Television Broadcasting program.
 
In my last year of high school, I realized I wanted to be an announcer of some kind, preferably on TV.  Now I thought I would have to go to McMaster University to further explore this career option.  It turned out that Mohawk College had the best program, it was in the city (I wouldn’t have to leave home.  I don’t think I could’ve handled leaving the nest so soon.  Truth be told, I’m still not ready and I’m almost 31!) and, most appealing of all, tuition was reasonable. 
 
Since I didn’t possess a driver’s licence (I still don’t) and was not interested in carpooling, I would have to bus my way there and back again.  Not a problem.  I was just happy to go to a place that didn’t put me in the middle of bickering Student Councils and striking caretakers.
 
Much to my surprise, the program was absolutely thorough and it didn’t focus exclusively on the ins and outs of on-air announcing.  We all learned about setting up and striking (dismantling) sets, location scouting, lighting, proper camera operations (which includes white balancing, black balancing, colour correction, focusing), the difference between chip cameras and tube cameras, audio cable hook-ups, editing, and so much more. 
 
It was this technical stuff we did that really flustered me, at times.  After a couple of bad equipment exams, one of my professors said that if I didn’t book some decent time practicing on the next piece of technology we were going to be tested on there was a very good chance I was going to fail my major.  (Goodbye TV announcing career, I thought.)  One of the part-time instructors (who also worked at TSN) pulled me aside and said that the professor had no right to say that to me.  He encouraged me in a much better way to keep trying and said that I should be fine.  I got the message loud and clear from both of them.  I managed to improve my marks slightly that first semester and was able to finish the entire program.  (I made the Dean’s Honours List during my second year and, as I said, graduated with overall honours.)
 
But something happened throughout my stay at Mohawk.  I realized that I also wanted to be a writer.  Besides studying TV we had all these supplementary courses and they were right up my alley:  Media Law, Media Survey, Media Ethics, Media Issues, Social Psychology, Canadian Politics, etc.  (My great marks in these classes helped boost my overall grade significantly.)  I did a ton of writing for all those classes as well as for the student newspaper, The Satellite.  In between all that I also had a radio show on CHMR Mohawk Cable FM, Mohawk’s campus radio station.  (Since 1998, it’s been known as C101.5 FM and can be heard throughout the city.  During the Cable FM days, the only way listeners could tune in was to take their TV cable, hook it up to their stereo and find us at 91.7 or 91.9 FM.)  
 
Mohawk College made me realize that there were other creative opportunities for me to explore if I was willing to explore them.  (I even thought about training to be a journalist but was talked out of it by someone at school.)  By the time I graduated, I was confused about what I wanted to do.  I entered hoping to become an on-air broadcaster and left wanting to be a writer.  Now, I want to do both but I have no idea how to make this all happen for me.
 
And that brings me to this special anniversary.  After all that education, I never did end up working in TV.  Oh sure, I was an intern for CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce in 1996 and, for the most part, that was a lot of fun.  But after my six weeks were up, I wasn’t considered for any kind of paid employment.  (By the way, the internship was one of my requirements for graduating from TV.  My old friend, Samantha Cook (Uh Oh!), had probably the coolest internship of them all.  She worked on Late Show With David Letterman.)  And yeah, I volunteered for a year at Cable 14, Hamilton’s public access channel in the late 90s.  But again, nothing substantial followed.
 
During my college years, I tried getting gigs at TV and even radio stations across the country.  Nothing but rejections.  Being shy and not having much of a networking base, I was completely out of the loop for whatever available jobs I might’ve been qualified for.  I tried again a few years ago through this college program that tries to land you a paid internship for your specific field.  I remember trying to convince the program director of 820 CHAM (Hamilton’s AM Country station) to go along with this.  He wasn’t interested and I never did get my internship.  I even gave Career Edge a try.  No dice.
 
But there’s more to the story.  I was still rattled by my experiences on Student Council.  My mild, completely-under-control obsessive-compulsive disorder started getting more intense.  I would obsess about my doubts, I would have difficulty sometimes concentrating during movies and while listening to CDs.  (This never happened before.  I used to never get distracted.)  I noticed that I wasn’t enjoying much of anything anymore and after a long distance Internet romance ended, I fell into another depression.  My thoughts got weirder and creepier and I started to obsess about that, too.  I was thinking these thoughts and as a result, I thought they were real.  It made sense to me.  But my actions never matched my thoughts.  The OCD made me more distant, more afraid, more reluctant to act in any way.  I never confided in anybody including my parents.  It isolated me to the point where I lost touch with almost all of my friends.  I was so worried that someone would learn about what I was thinking I started having panic attacks.  My heart would just pound and beat irregularly.  It was scary and intense.  I thought I was going to die.  I had a hard time calming down. 
 
Some days were really bad and other days were manageable.  Things calmed down a bit in 2000 when I started enjoying movies and music again.  Obviously, I had gotten over that Internet romance which had been bumming me out so much.  I really felt like Scott The Engineer all the time, with a black cloud hanging over me.
 
Then, when my grandfather died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, the heart palpitations returned.  (In October that year, I once watched the 1961 movie, Judgment At Nuremberg, while completely panicked.  Amazingly, I was able to ignore how I was feeling and enjoyed the 3-hour movie.  I recommend it.  The movie, I mean.  Not the way I watched it.)
 
During this period I tried to look for work outside of TV after much prodding (and nagging) from my mother.  On two occasions I tried to get into this music store, The Beat Goes On, faithfully filling in their rather interesting music questionnaire both times.  (Sample question:  What is Yngwie Malmsteen famous for playing?) But they never hired me.  I almost became a mascot for another music chain, CD Plus, which had a store in Burlington.  The owner was also a Mohawk grad and offered me the gig with no benefits.  He was planning to pay me "under the table".  When he showed me the costume and offered me a chance to wear it, I discovered that it wreaked and was very stuffy.  Someone had just quit and he wanted me to take over their beat which was to go outside in this furry, generic monster costume in extraordinarily intense heat, wave to passing cars and try to get them to come into the store.  It wasn’t until I was on my way home that I thought more about the job and realized it was dangerous and not worth the money to suffer like that.  (I had to be out there for several hours at a time.  No thanks, Jack!)   He gave me his card and his number so I could give him an answer.  Unfortunately, it fell out of my pocket when I was walking to the bus stop and I had to look it up.  Fortunately, I got through to him and turned him down.  I have no regrets about that.
 
After a 6-month stint working in Insurance as a data entry clerk, I was ready for the shrink and that’s when I started to get back on track.  I was given free samples of happy pills like Zoloft and Paxil.  They didn’t calm me down but I did feel very sleepy.  It was decided they weren’t necessary.  I started seeing a nutritionist (who wore toe rings) and I was actually up to 134 pounds at one point, thanks to all those cans of Ensure which went right to my stomach.  (When I quit the Insurance gig, I was 111, suffering from acid reflux and unable to keep much food down.  Today I’m between 115 and 120 pounds and doing ok.  I’m supposed to be 150, though.)
 
A few years ago, I read this book Brain Lock.  It changed my life.  I discovered that the reason I was feeling the way I was was because my brain had short circuited.  They say that a traumatic event can make you nutty like this and the Student Council debacle certainly qualified as traumatic.  The weird thoughts I were having were not real, they were fake, and the book’s author advised sufferers to label such thoughts as OCD-related and to promptly ignore them.  (I was already starting to do this and was relieved this was the right thing to do.  One of my therapists foolishly told me to let them come through.  I wish I could’ve shown her this book.)  The book taught me the 4 steps to combatting OCD symptoms:  Relabel (telling yourself that what you’re thinking or feeling is related to the disorder, not you, and accepting this reality), Reattribute (reaffirming that what you’re experiencing is not real), Refocus (doing something healthy that isn’t OCD-related like reading, taking a shower, etc., which takes your mind off your bad thought) and Revalue (doing all of that lessens the impact of the OCD and with time, the feelings become less intense).
 
While I still have OCD-related problems, I am much better than I was, thanks to that book.  (It’s written by Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz.  One of the best books I ever read.)  The panic attacks have stopped (I’ve learned that what causes those is a misinterpretation of your adrenaline rushes.) and I’m having fewer and fewer negative, unreal thoughts. 
 
I don’t think I will ever have the courage to say what my OCD was telling me to think (An ex-girlfriend tried unsuccessfully to get me to open up about it.) but I’m no longer ashamed of the disorder (I fully accept that I have it.)  or of anything that has happened to me because of it.  What I am disappointed about is that 10 years after my college graduation (where I learned of my honours status the very second my turn to accept my diploma was announced) I am unemployed, mostly friendless, single and still at home.  I have come a long way from where I was.  Certainly, writing about all of this personal stuff in the last week has been very helpful, but I have much further to go.
 
What will happen to me in the next 10 years?  I don’t know but I hope it is a better period for me than the one that is close to passing and that I’m better equipped to deal with everything that comes my way this time.  As Steven Tyler would say, "I’m not 30.  I’m 18 with 12 years experience."
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 25, 2006
5:07 p.m.
Published in: on May 25, 2006 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part Eight)

I was finally free.  No more Student Council meetings for me.  I was through with all of that nonsense.  It was amazing once I announced to President Big G that I was done with his stupid organization how liberated I felt.  The proverbial weight was lifted from my skinny shoulders.  It was a long time coming. 
 
2 months after my permanent exit from Council the caretakers’ strike ended after 7 long, dreary months.  It was announced around the middle of March 1993 that the ill-timed dispute was finally resolved.  As I wrote previously, the caretakers had to settle for less than what they fought for.  I wonder if they regretted unwittingly creating the atmosphere of loathing that they did during their time off the job.  Their absense made a lot of us feel gloomy and just a tad punchy.  Surely, it all could’ve been handled a lot better.
 
I was so disgusted with the Executives that I didn’t want to associate with them in any way unless I absolutely had to.  (You couldn’t boycott your classes if they were your classmates.  I did want to graduate, after all.)  Tara, one of the secretaries who hated me (and the feeling was mutual, and still is), asked me if I was writing for the final issue of OMNIA that year, the 1993 year-end Grad issue that she was responsible for putting together.  (She was the editor.)  She asked me this while I was walking down the hallway.  As soon as she posed the question, I told her, in no uncertain terms, that I was never writing for it ever again.  As a few of my friends watched with more than a little amazement, I’m sure, I briskly walked past Tara absolutely infuriated that she would think I would want to be in the magazine any longer after what they did to me in the previous issue.  I loved writing and was slowly finding my voice as a writer, but I was in no mood to contribute anything to OMNIA.  In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve written about my year in hell.  But, then again, I was not yet ready to dig deep and shovel my emotions onto a blank page.  I didn’t feel like contributing anything and I don’t regret what I did.  For once, I stood up for myself.
 
There was an undeniable difference about the way I was treated after I resigned.  When I was President, many people went out of their way to say hello and make direct eye contact with me, especially the transparent asskissers on Council.  After I was demoted to an "honourary" position, a lot of those same people avoided me like the plague.  No greetings.  No eye contact.  They just passed me by without so much as a glance.  I felt like manure.  On the upside, my friends stuck by me and I will always appreciate that, and I remember there were a few grade 9 students who cheered me up one time by acknowledging me when they were walking past me in the hallway.  I smiled at the recognition.  A rare occurence.
 
Throughout the year, there were two things that kept me going:  music and the movies.  I listened to U2’s Achtung Baby tape every day for months.  Its bleak emotional soundscapes and stirring lyrical content matched how I was feeling.  It’s hard for me to disassociate the feelings I had during that school year whenever I listen to any of the songs on that album.  It brings back painful memories and yet I love the album dearly.  I also listened to movie soundtracks like Grand Canyon, Total Recall, Dances With Wolves and Star Trek VI.  Every one of those tapes provided a safe haven for my emotional well-being.
 
And then, there were the movies.  Incredibly, none of the screenings I attended at multiplexes within the city were affected by my Student Council problems.  I was able to let go and learn to be a better movie critic.  When I wasn’t in a movie theatre, I was renting something on tape.  I saw great pictures like Malcolm X and A River Runs Through It (one of the Student Council Faculty Advisors also loved that film).  I also saw a lot of crap like The Mighty Ducks and Dr. Giggles, but I made it a point to see everything.  I want to have opinions and I don’t want to be left out of any pop culture discussion.
 
Despite boycotting OMNIA, I never gave up doing morning announcements for Delta’s Radio Broadcasting System (D.R.B.S.).  Originally, like everybody else, I did this task one day a week.  You’d begin by asking everyone to stand for O Canada and then, you’d play a really crappy tape version of the song.  Sometimes, Heather, the hot Student Council VP, would actually sing live over the P.A., which was most impressive when you see how she accomplished this. 
 
The P.A. microphone (really, just a tiny speaker) is connected to this table which is the size of two computer tabletops.  You held this "all call" button that allowed you to be heard in every classroom and hallway.  (For private transmissions you just used a specific room number button.)  It was like a light switch, in a way.  And you had to lean over as close as you could to the mic so you could be heard.  (It doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it?  The longer the broadcast, the more uncomfortable your index finger on your left hand felt.) 
 
Anyway, Heather couldn’t sing like that.  So, when I was doing the announcements that day, she asked me to hold the mic button down and she would, I swear to God, kneel down and get real close to the mic and masterfully sing our anthem.  It was truly something to see.  (I believe she’s still singing today.  A Google search revealed that she sings for some choir in Toronto.  Good for her.  She has talent in that department.) 
 
Afterwards, you’d read all these announcements that were handed in.  Sometimes, there was a guest speaker.  I’ll never get over how the white-haired, personable Murray Kilby (who I interviewed for OMNIA back in 1989) would just talk to the students over the P.A. without any handwritten notes.  He rarely missed a beat.  He was fantastic.  (As an aside, when I was President, we were supposed to have weekly progress meetings during the year but I only remember having one and it was short, unmemorable and unproductive.  Again, shyness and lack of confidence got in the way of what could’ve been some very helpful private sessions.) 
 
All through the school year I stuck with the D.R.B.S. gig as I had done since Grade 9 but after stepping away from the Presidency I noticed that I was given more responsibility, which I loved.  Also noticeable were the gradually increasing absenses.  There were supposed to be different people doing the morning announcements everyday but often, people didn’t show up.  I was asked by Mrs. Bray (the Grade 11 Advanced English teacher who didn’t think I would be elected President who was also the faculty advisor for D.R.B.S. as well as OMNIA) to show up early in the office (where the brief broadcasts took place) to make sure somebody did the announcements.  First, I went from doing it once a week to twice a week.  Then, three times.  As the final months of the school year dragged on, I averaged between 2 to 4 D.R.B.S. morning broadcasts a week. 
 
I got tons of compliments from teachers and others.  It was fantastic.  I left the stink of my Presidency behind for good.  It was really nice to bounce back after having my self-esteem rocked out of its flimsy foundation.  It saved me big time and I have to thank Mrs. Bray for giving me the encouragement to become, essentially, the D.R.B.S. morning news director.  I was damn good.  It gave me a lot of good experience as an amateur broadcaster.
 
 
  
 
The Student Council was able to do a few things in 1993.  There was a Valentine’s Day dance, a second round of Air Head, Spirit Week and another Air Band competition.  But ultimately, without the full support of the student body, it was hard to plan activities.  Only the G.A.C. (the Girls Athletic Council) were able to make things happen.  For instance, they had a very successful Christmas Bingo in 1992.  (No old blue-haired ladies were in attendance, surprisingly.)
 
I concentrated mainly on my future.  I had applied to Mohawk College in late 1992 and would receive word of my acceptance or rejection in the summer of 1993.  My percentages started to slip a little around March and my parents imposed a no-movie rule for a month until they improved.  But by April, I was back at the cinema full-time, my second home for much of my teen years. 
 
OMNIA’s 1993 Grad Issue came out (an imitation Ren & Stimpy drawing was on the cover) in either May or June.  Big G talked about the school year from the perspective of the Student Council in his "President’s Report".  Writing in the almost-all-spin-zone, even he had to acknowledge that not everything was bad about my Presidency. 
 
"On a positive note, we had some cool activities," he wrote.  "The Grade 9 Orientation week in September was very successful."  Puzzlingly, he never acknowledged that I was the President who helped organize those activities.  (Would it kill ya to send a thank you my way, Big G?  I didn’t screw up everything, you know?) 
 
For once, there were no snide remarks.  He acknowledged in an uncharacteristically diplomatic manner the difficulties the Council faced during the school year:  "the strike, lack of spirit, leadership and dances."   He even offered support for the incoming President next year (who, I would later find out from Shane, who stayed on another year as Treasurer, had a truly nasty temper that exploded once during a meeting).
 
The Graduation ceremonies ended the dismal school year in late June.  Heather, the hot VP, won the Student Council award, voted on by the surviving members of the General Council.  She probably should’ve been the President.  (When my never-ending cold got really bad one week, I had to ask her to chair a couple of meetings.  She did very well, making me look like the clueless amateur I was.)  No one worked as hard as she did during that school year.  She saved my ass on more than one occasion.  One wonders how she would’ve found time to put together a yearbook, had enough students supported making that happen.  But I’m sure that wouldn’t have been a problem for her.  She was amazing juggling school, friendships, a boyfriend, sports, singing and being Vice President of the Student Council.  I really should’ve confided in her more.
 
After Graduation, most of the alumni went their separate ways.  A lot of us continued our education at the university and college levels while others went right into the workforce.  I encountered Big G from time to time at Mohawk.  (I was in TV, he took radio.)  I mostly glared at him and avoided conversations with him as much as possible.  It was very awkward because we both have a mutual friend and I’m sure he felt odd being in the middle of this cold war.  I think he wanted to put everything behind him but I was still seething and to this day, I don’t want anything to do with him.  My strongest memory of Big G in College was seeing him snooze all the time in the campus radio station’s music library.  Being a colossal boob is exhausting, you know?
 
 
 
My final year at Delta Secondary school (1992-3) was distinctive and bloody and alternately a failure and a success (I sucked as President but graduated with decent marks and was a great morning news director.).  When it was over, I was thoroughly exhausted both mentally and physically.  The year was a vampire that drained me completely.  That summer was the first summer in two years that I looked forward to without any sense of dread.
 
I have always wanted to write about this important period in my life.  You have to remember I was elected Student Council President when I was only 17 years old.  Just a few days before the election I had my first proper date.  When I started my term, I was 18.  This was my first foray into adulthood and I was so overwhelmed by the unrelenting onslaught that it’s no wonder I went through such a terrible depression.  Being a writer, I wanted to document everything that happened to me and preserve it so that someday in the future I could look back and remember when I got too old to remember it on my own.  I think I also did it to truly examine how I behaved that year.  I still feel I was a really bad President but in retrospect, who could’ve been good during a super-long strike?  (I should mention that during my final President’s Council meeting, the monthly get-together with all the high school leaders, several Presidents told the Faculty Advisor ("the drama fag") that they were on the verge of quitting and he addressed this during the meeting.  I didn’t feel so alone when I learned that.  I don’t remember if I told him how bad things were at Delta.  Maybe I didn’t have to.)
 
I’m glad I waited 14 years to do this because I have a clearer perspective of everything that happened.  And I’m a better writer in 2006.  It’s amazing how much I remember about that time, even specific things people said.  My mom is right.  I am a sponge.
 
When I started writing about this I had no idea how much ground I would actually cover.  After the first installment I realized that breaking up the story into more digestible chunks was the best way to go.  Soon, I realized that I had something of a serial happening and it’s been great fun reliving the good and bad of that final year of high school.  It’s very liberating getting this all down now and that was what I was hoping for.  As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I feel an intense need to be more personal on my site and there’s nothing more personal than talking about an intimate failure like this.  I feel I’ve made a personal breakthrough and I hope to continue.
 
After what I went through, I have a new and profound respect for leaders of all stripes, even the bad ones.  It takes balls to want to do something like this, even at the student level, and I realized the hard way not everybody can do this.  Truly, it is not as easy as it looks.  Try running anything during a 7-month long strike.  Only the truly great excel in a crisis.
 
I wanted to be Student Council President so I could emulate my hero, Wade Perniac.  All I wanted to do was microphone work like leading pep rallies, making speeches and being funny.  During that memorably awful school year, we had no pep rallies.  Not one.  (As an aside, I received a lot of criticism for not attending any of Delta’s high school football games.  I never went before I was elected because I didn’t care and there were usually fights in the stands at every game.  I don’t regret that decision.)   
 
Truth be told, we didn’t even have our official Inauguration Ceremony.  This is where all the elected and acclamated members of the Council officially become members of the Student Council.  It was scrapped because of the strike.  I was really pissed because I was really looking forward to doing a good speech.  I’m great at that shit.  (I still get compliments for performing the eulogy for my grandfather’s funeral in 2000.)
 
We didn’t even have our photos taken for the Student Council picture frame, not to mention the yearbook.  If you’re ever in Delta there are these frames of all the Student Councils from years past.  One is missing.  That would be our year.  (Unless, of course, things have changed since I’ve been there.  I seriously doubt that and I don’t care to find out.) 
 
I was told at the time that because of my disastrous reign as President, a new rule was to be implemented about future elections.  A student had to be elected Vice-President before running for President.  But I don’t remember the President that followed myself and Big G ever being on the Council during our final school year.  (Big G and sexy Heather were our VPs, of course.)  Anyway, I’m sure that’s all been straightened out and my experience has not been repeated.
 
All through this series, I’ve talked about how being President changed me, and not for the better.  I’ll explain this further in an upcoming piece I’m preparing about the years after my College graduation but for now, I will say this.  Feebly running the Student Council of Delta shattered my normally unflappable confidence.  I was a very driven kid who wanted to do all kinds of stuff and this story certainly reflects that.  But in the years since then, I’ve become more and more isolated from the outside world.  Ok, I’m not Howard Hughes but I do suffer from OCD which has been reduced, for the most part, to a mild annoyance.  (I still have a long way to go to finally beat it, though.  And no, I’m not agoraphobic.  I’m just a homebody who needs a kick in the ass to get busy living again.) 
 
I remain in the same house I lived in when I attended high school.  With my parents.  I’ve lost contact with almost all of my friends.  I haven’t had a full-time job in 5 years.  And here’s something truly embarrassing:  I lost my virginity when I was 29.  Yeah, I’ve got problems.  I know.
 
The point is that my life can be divided into two eras:  before I became President and after.  Before I was elected, I had confidence, friends, drive and a little OCD.  And after?  The complete opposite.  But now, having spent several consecutive days dealing with old wounds that, for the most part, have healed, I’m ready to get back on track.  (True, reliving the old stories does bring back those old emotions, as The Spoons once sang, but I’m surprised that a lot of the bitterness and anger has subsided.  In fact, I’m able to laugh about this and even smile.  Just think, if none of this had happened to me, I wouldn’t have had an interesting story to tell.)
 
Let me end on a light note with this Presidential memory.  When I was still the leader of the Student Council I had Grade 12 Drama.  One time, we had to do a solo character performance but I was stuck.  When my mom suggested I play a female film critic I thought it was a great idea.  I wrote barely an outline of what I wanted to do and mostly improvised the bit.  It went over really well.  I got high marks from Mr. Micallef. 
 
During that class, I was summoned into the office.  Keep in mind I’m in costume.  I’m wearing a dress and clip-on earrings.  I look ridiculous.  So, I go in and there’s a phone call for me.  It’s a reporter with the Hamilton Spectator.  They’re doing a story on condom machines being installed in high schools across the city.  So, the guy starts off asking what my position is.  I reply that I’m for it.  (Still am, by the way.)  Then, this creepy little perv (I don’t even remember his name now) asks me if any of my friends are sexually active.  (Hand to God.)  I behaved like a politician and tried to change the subject without directly answering the question.  (In retrospect, I should’ve ripped him a new one for being so nosey.  I might’ve gotten in the paper.  As an aside, there was no mention of our conversation in the published piece.)
 
Then he asks me if I know of anybody in the school who’s getting freaky and I declined to answer that ridiculous question.  (How the hell would I know?)  I sounded like a robot giving the same line over and over again about how there are more important issues than this, blah blah blah.  He thanked me for my time and I was off the phone.  After Drama class was over, I didn’t have time to change into my normal, more manly attire.  So, there I am, walking through the second floor hallway, the President of the Student Council, dressed as the skinniest, hairy-legged female in the school’s history.  Oh, you can just picture the mixture of puzzled looks and muffled guffaws I got, can’t you? 
 
You bastard.   
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
2:57 a.m.
Published in: on May 24, 2006 at 3:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part Seven)

The dream was dead.  After stinking up the place for 3 whole months, I was no longer the Student Council President of Delta Secondary School.  And yet, the nightmare continued.
 
After resigning in front of the Executive branch in late November 1992 I went home feeling a little better about myself.  It’s very, very hard to admit you’re a failure in front of people who came to that realization a lot quicker than you did.  But it had to be done.  And I was relieved that I wasn’t running the show anymore.  (Not that I was really running anything very well to begin with.)
 
Up to that point, we had only been allowed to plan in-school activities in the month of September.  During a President’s Council meeting (a gathering of Student Council leaders across Hamilton), which I attended while I was still President, someone suggested having a city-wide high school dance.  I thought it was a great idea but all of our Student Councils had to approve this proposal during meetings before plans could get underway.  I took it to Council and, shockingly, the majority didn’t want anything to do with this.  Here we were, 2 and a half months into the school year, and we finally had an opportunity to plan something for the students, and the idea, a perfectly good one, was nixed.  (Other Councils followed suit and the dance never happened.) Thankfully, the Council did put something together strictly for Delta students, after I resigned. 
 
For years, Delta, like a lot of high schools, put on these Air Band competitions.  You know the deal.  You get a group of teenagers up there, mime to a song and hopefully, it’s funny or at the very least, entertaining. 
 
During an afternoon in early December the Student Council managed to put together an Air Band competition in the afternoon.  Students love being taken out of class for any reason and naturally, they welcomed this.  I remember sitting in the audience with my friends when Jason Wadden (who was dating Heather, the hot VP, at the time) came on stage and did his thing for the activity-starved student body.  He started by talking about the problems the Student Council were having and that there had been a change at the top.  His manner was cryptic yet diplomatic which was a classy thing to do.  It’s tough to go up there and try not to ruffle any feathers.  (It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that he’s a lawyer now.) 
 
He didn’t mention that I had resigned, or that the other VP was now President.  The official change became public in the Christmas 1992 issue of OMNIA, Delta’s student magazine.  How this was announced disgusted me and apparently, it offended others, too.
 
On page 9, right beside the second half of my review of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was an ad for the "New Executive Council".  There was a new President, Vice-President and Secretary.  Some people were promoted and one person who came a distant third in the Presidential Election suddenly found herself in the Executive branch.  Not exactly democratic, is it?  The one bright spot:  angry guy was out.  I have no idea why and I don’t remember if he quit or was forced out.  (I’m pretty sure he quit.)  Like myself, I guess he couldn’t take it anymore.  (My last encounter with him occurred late in the school year.  He said, "Hi!" as we were passing each other and I snubbed him.  Man, was he pissed.  After all those horrible things he said about me and the appalling manner in which he criticized me, I felt that giving him the silent treatment was the perfect way to fight back.  After that brief encounter, I never had to deal with him again.  It’s been 13 years since I last saw him and I hope never to face that two-faced prick ever again.)
 
Why they felt the need to rub it in my face like that I’ll never understand.  But there was more.  In the Thank You section, the Student Council was thanked for "overcoming the hurdle".  I circled it when I saw it, it made me so angry.  But, typical me, I never addressed this to the Executives.  I’ve never been very good with confrontation and so, after telling my friends how I felt, I tried to move on.
 
I remember the first General Council meeting I attended after resigning (and before the official published announcement).  When Big G (the VP with the most votes in the election who got promoted to President) called the meeting to order, people were shocked, believe it or not.  Janet Pickup, the lovely G.A.C. representative, wanted to know what happened right then and there.  I declined discussing the matter with her and anybody else who brought it up, especially in a meeting like this.  There seemed to be a collective sense in this classroom we were gathered in that no matter how much they poked and prodded, I wasn’t going to open up to them, so they never bothered to learn more about what happened.  Looking back, I should’ve organized a private meeting and spilled my guts, but I didn’t think to do that at the time.  As always, I let my emotions (my irrational fear, in particular) rule my decision making process.  (Then again, I was too depressed to talk about this.)  The General Council members deserved a full explanation.  They never got one.
 
When Big G took over the meetings, the Executives made a change that still baffles me.  When I ran the meetings I just stood at the blackboard in front of a desk, like a teacher would, and the Council members would be sitting in desks arranged in vertical rows facing me, like students would.  With Big G in charge, the Executives decided to turn their desks around (and placed in front of the President) so they would be facing the other Council members.  Gee, that’s not intimidating.  I don’t know how long they stuck with that plan but it was stupid.  Like I’ve said many times, I was a very bad Student Council President, but even I didn’t do stupid things like this.
 
As 1992 became 1993, the biggest controversy of the year took place.  We were still in the middle of a terrible caretakers’ strike and the clueless fools in the Executive thought they knew exactly how to stop it.
 
President Big G and the Executive Council decided to contact The Hamilton Spectator to talk about a protest they were hoping to organize.  Unfortunately, they failed to inform the General Council.  As a result, all hell broke loose.  Most offended of all was Janet Pickup and she had a very good reason to be pissed with these clowns.  Her father was one of the striking caretakers.  (Oops.)  During an emergency meeting, Janet did what I should’ve done months earlier.  She ripped into the Executives with so much fiery bluster that she became my new hero.  At one point, she was so disgusted she stormed out of the meeting.  I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle to myself.  As bad as I was, I never did anything to offend the G.A.C. representative.  That would’ve been political suicide.  What they did was inexcusable and grossly out-of-line.  It was the worst political screw-up made by any Student Council President during that dreadful school year.
 
In the end, when things calmed down, Big G learned his lesson and it was during a General Council meeting that a motion was put on the floor to carry out this dopey protest.  For once, I showed some balls.  I was the only one who voted against the motion which carried easily.  (I remember getting some respect from Council members for that decision.) 
 
My feelings have not changed about this over the years.  I felt then, as I do now, that it wasn’t the Student Council’s business to mediate disputes between The Hamilton Board Of Education and the caretakers’ union.  What could we possibly do to bring both sides together?  Answer:  nothing.  My view was to stay out of it and make sure that students weren’t using this strike as an excuse to trash the school so it could be closed due to unsanitary conditions.  (Some did try but they never got very far.  Secretly, The Board had weekend cleaners come in to make sure the school never got too dirty.)  I felt the Council should be neutral on this matter and I still believe that was the right call.  One stupid public comment by a Student Council President could possibly set back negotiations. 
 
The sad thing is the Executives got their way anyway and they organized a Day Of Protest in January 1993.  It was unbelievably lame.  Their idea of protesting was to wear dust masks and gloves for an entire school day.  They looked ridiculous.  Few participated.  True, we had asbestos problems over the years but please, the living atmosphere of Delta Secondary was never so bad that fame-seeking student politicians had to resort to overwrought (and unsuccessful stunts) like this. 
 
I remember the picture of the Executives wearing dust masks in the Spectator.  I hated that picture and resented that my good friend, Shane, went along with this pathetic charade.  I remember just carving into that picture with a sharp, jagged object.  I’d known Shane for years and it offended me that he went along with this.  Fortunately, we stayed friends beyond high school and this foolish incident was left in the past.
 
Near the end of the year, Big G wrote a brief "President’s Report" column for OMNIA’s 1993 Grad Issue, where he tried to spin the failed campaign into something historians wouldn’t soon forget:  "When the [caretakers’] strike threatened to destroy every last ounce of spirit, we banded together in protest and helped bring the strike to an end."  It should be noted that the strike went on for another 2 months, proving that the protest had zero impact.  And, like I said, few people wore gloves and dust masks that day.  The vast majority of participants were Council members.  Of the roughly 1000 or so students that attended school that day, I would say maybe 20-30 people took part in this bullshit.  In other words, there was no school spirit to destroy.  It was already dead.
 
As for me, I was permanently disillusioned with Council.  I regularly attended meetings in the early part of 1993 but had little input.  I remained mostly silent and had little to do.  It was a ceremonial position that had no meaning for me or anyone on Council.  In late January, not too long after the misguided protest, I thought about boycotting the Council for good.  There was no place for me there and things weren’t getting any better. 
 
I started skipping meetings and anticipated an encounter with Big G over it.  I practised how it would go and amazingly, it went exactly as I thought. 
 
He approached me in the hallway asking, "Why haven’t you been at the meetings lately?"
 
"Oh, I’m not on the Student Council anymore," came the reply.
 
And with that, he walked away and I felt a tremendous sense of relief. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
5:40 p.m.
Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part Six)

When Mr. Simpson, one of the Student Council Faculty Advisors, told me one day in late November 1992 that he couldn’t support my Presidency anymore, I couldn’t live in denial any longer.  His words were like a knife fatally piercing the bubble of delusion that surrounded me during my 3 tumultuous months in office.  It killed me to hear that from him, but I needed to hear it.  It was clear I wasn’t going to finish my 10-month term, not without a herculean effort on my part. 
 
That night, I thought long and hard about what had gone wrong and what little had gone right.  I weighed my options.  Should I stick it out and really try to do things differently?  Could I possibly improve?  Was it worth all the aggravation just to survive?  Or should I just accept the fact that my heart was never really in this job?  I reminded myself that I only wanted to be Student Council President so I could do all the cool things Wade Perniac had done.  The caretakers (and the Council) had put a stop to that, for the most part.
 
I had to act quickly.  A movement was afoot to remove me from the head of the Council.  If I didn’t make a decision on my own, the conspirators would most certainly make that decision for me.  I was left with only one option.
 
The next day there was an after-school Executive meeting and before we began, I read a speech.  As I started, I heard Heather (the hot VP) making a very sad noise.  I learned later on that she was not one of my biggest fans when I started but, near the end of my abbreviated tenure, she staunchly supported me.  I honestly don’t know why she changed her mind but if only I had the balls to go up to her and open up about what I was going through.  Then, I would’ve gotten the whole story and maybe some much-needed, helpful advice.  It sucks being shy and stubborn.
 
It was hard not to show emotion while I read the words I wrote the previous night and anyone could see I was visibly devastated.  I felt completely deflated, emotionally spent.  And yet, it had to be done.  I gave it 3 months, did not perform to the best of my ability (although I was doing a much better job conducting meetings after my mom helped me understand what I was doing wrong) and realized that being Student Council President was no fun for me at all.  Ever.
 
It was very strange, this sad state of affairs.  Most of us had known each other and liked each other for years.  But not this year.  If only, as either one of the Council members or the Faculty Advisors had said (I can’t remember who said it now), we had locked ourselves in a room and screamed out our problems, we may have made the first step in mending not only the chemistry of the Council but also our friendships. 
 
I remember there was the odd "grievance meeting" where the Executives voiced their pointed disapproval with my leadership right to my face.  Unlike me, they were not shy about expressing their disappointment with me.  I remember one time they just kept going on and on and it was just unbearable.  At one point, I simply said, "Am I supposed to respond to that?"  To them, it sounded awfully defensive and it made them even more angry.  They talked amongst themselves while I rested my head on the desk I was sitting at using my arms as protective cover.  It didn’t seem to block out the brutality.  If only I snapped and actually tried to defend myself.  God knows I had legitimate grievances against them, too.  (Too bad I didn’t have the courage of my convictions to really go after them as hard as they went after me.)  It might’ve been the first step in ending the disrespectful nature of our disagreements.  None of us were very good at diplomacy.
 
I’ve mentioned a couple of times this angry guy who ran against me in the Presidential Election.  He was absolutely brutal to me.  I remember one time during one particularly angry meeting, he was so nasty I literally sat there and cried.  He offended me so much I had to leave the room.  I went into the bathroom and bawled.  My eyes were so red.  I was so ashamed at what I saw in the mirror.  I got a pop out of the vending machine and went back in to hear more brutal criticisms.  He was relentless.  I had never taken a mental bruising like that in my entire life.  It changed me.
 
Maybe he was over-the-top and blunt with his criticisms, but, when I think about it (and I’ve thought about it for years), it was hard to dispute much of what he said.  I was "incompetent," and a complete disaster as President.  I was a consistent screw-up from day one.  But a lot of that had to do with the fact that I made no effort in the summer to truly prepare for this gig.  Had I really researched the President’s role on Council, things might’ve been different.  Despite my occasional bouts of shyness, I normally got along with people very well (like many of the Executives he didn’t think I was a "people person"; what an insult, eh?). I just didn’t click with this particular group of people.  He had painted an extraordinarily negative picture of myself and it shattered me.  But I still believe he was very resentful I legitimately beat him in the election.  If there’s a small consolation in all of this, it’s that I was democratically elected and he wasn’t.  I can’t help but smile about that. 
 
Truth be told, I had a run-in with him years earlier.  We had a little history.  It was during a school trip and we almost came to blows in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, if my memory has held up.  We had to be separated, it got so intense.  I don’t remember what set us both off, especially the angry guy, but I’m sure it had something to do with his cross eyes.  He was very sensitive about that.  It’s one of the many things he needs to fix about himself, the resentful bastard.
 
If you’ve been following along you might be wondering, "How did that angry guy end up in the Executive when he lost?"  For reasons that are not entirely clear to me now, before the school year started, we somehow ended up with a couple of vacancies that needed to be filled.  Angry guy got one of the positions as did my friend Shane Willson who became the Treasurer, a great and welcome ally in a sea of hostility.  (Believe it or not, I was criticized for cheering this decision during an executive meeting.  As if that’s such a horrible thing to do, to show support for an incoming Council member.)  As the school year began, more people quit and those positions had to be filled as well.  Not that that mattered, in the long run.
 
I should mention that we did try, at one point, to bring in an outside source to help heal the wounds of the Executive Branch.  This guy, Dave, perfectly nice guy, approached me one morning and we had a private meeting.  He was pitching me an idea.  He had this program called "Connecting" and it was all about making dysfunctional groups of all types more functional.  (I remember during one of the classes he namedropped Gino Reda from TSN.)  He was in over his head but I welcomed his program.  I brought it to Council, we voted on it and soon, he was teaching us how to connect.  I can’t remember how long he was there but it proved ineffective.  This Council was never going to function the way it needed to.  It wasn’t as if the student body gave a damn.  The never-ending caretakers’ strike plus the low atmosphere that spread to every hallway and classroom in the school seemed to put a permanent damper on things.  Everybody just wanted to get this year over with, especially us Grade 12 students.  Especially me.
 
After I made my speech to my fellow Executives during that utterly depressing November afternoon meeting, my written resignation was accepted and filed away.  (I wish I could get it back.  I’d love to remind myself what I wrote back then.  It was a pretty good speech.)  It was decided that I should stay on both councils as an honourary member which, I have to admit, was an amazing gesture.  Unfortunately, I should’ve declined.
 
As I was about to discover, the new President was just as controversial as I was. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 22, 2006
11:45 p.m.
Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part Five)

It was September 1992 and my one-year term as Delta’s Student Council President was about to begin.  Already, there were problems with my leadership.  Back in June, I refused to organize the annual end-of-year Council barbeque which, I have no doubt, offended all who were planning to participate.  (Had I reached out to them all for assistance, we would’ve had our barbeque.  I screwed up big time on that one and I’m very sorry about that.)
 
Then, in August, there were two disastrous Executive meetings at VP Heather’s house.  It’s the President’s responsibility to chair all Council meetings, no matter who’s in attendance.  But on those two occasions, I was frozen with fear, despite having a list of topics prepared for discussion.  I didn’t know how to start a meeting, so Heather just started talking and got both meetings rolling.  Both meetings ended with the Executives privately murmuring about the capabilities of yours truly. 
 
Looking back, I’m surprised I survived as long as I did.  I should’ve done the honourable thing and quit before the school year began.  Had I had the foresight to do that, much of what I’m about to tell you would’ve never happened.
 
The first General Council meeting (which included the Executives, the Grade Reps, Faculty Advisors and the extracurricular club leaders) took place in mid-September.  It was a mess.  There was a lot of screaming, complaining and not much organization.  Andie Gallagher attended the meeting and told me afterwards (or was it Mr. Simpson who said it?) that that’s generally how the first meetings go.  (As Lord Alfred Hayes would say, "Oh my word!")  Anger permeated the air like a cancer. Only one thing was accomplished that day. 
 
The Girls Athletic Council (G.A.C.) were the most powerful club in the school.  It was said at the time that they wielded more power than the Student Council itself.  That’s how successful they were.  They were led by Ms. Sutton, who adored me.  Her nickname for me was "Dana" because she loved all those Dana Carvey character impressions I did at that time, especially the spontaneous President George H.W. Bush impersonation I did during my speech at the election assembly back in May.  It was during this first meeting that the G.A.C. wanted their activities for the year approved by the general members.  I remember she was talking quite a bit and I had to cut her off (which pissed off some Council members, I later found out) so we could get to the vote.  Ex-President Andie Gallagher put a motion on the floor to have all these G.A.C. activities approved.  The motion carried unanimously.  And Ms. Sutton continued to love me.  It’s too bad I never came to her with my difficulties on Council.  She might’ve offered some useful advice that might’ve helped me get through all of this.  Again, I was too stubborn to reach out to anyone, let alone Ms. Sutton, for some badly-needed assistance.
 
As I struggled through the early days of my job, I made mistake after mistake after mistake.  My two VPs were in the same grade as me (Grade 12) and whenever I would pass them I would, more often than not, refer to them as "Quayle".  Stupid move.  (When I did that to Heather one time she literally kicked me in the ass.)  I did it as a joke but it was cruel and just plain bad diplomacy.  I should’ve had more respect for them.
  
The main reason I wanted to be President was to do all those announcing gigs that Wade Perniac had done so well during my first year at Delta.  Whenever we were discussing activities that we were planning for the students, I always said that I would do any microphone work which infuriated the Council.  I had no idea we had to vote on everything, even that stuff.  When I asked if anyone wanted to do stuff on mic, they all passed which pissed me off.  Why complain if you don’t actually want to do it?  I understand that people like to have the opportunity to turn something down without having that decision made for them. (People like to be considered.) But it would’ve made a lot more sense to me if someone expressed an interest in doing microphone work in the first place.  In the end, ironically, I didn’t get my way on every vote.
 
Meanwhile, I was still doing morning announcements once a week on Delta’s Radio Broadcasting System (really just a fancy name for the P.A. System).  From time to time, as President, I would submit notices that were to be read to the student body on behalf of the Student Council.  (I don’t think messages like this had to be approved beforehand.)  One time, when another guy was doing the announcements that morning, I had submitted a message that said that if the Executives didn’t attend this meeting that was coming up, they would be kicked off Council.  (What balls I had to infuriate people needlessly, some of whom had been my friends for years.)   As he read it you could hear the incredulity in his voice.  He couldn’t believe it.  (I remember he chuckled a little bit as he was reading.) The reason I did this was because it was hard getting everybody to attend at the same time so I thought a little toughness would do the trick.  Man, did it backfire big time.  The angry guy who lost the Presidential election to me by some 20 votes came in all pissed off and ranted and raved.  Heather was pissed, too, as were the others.  A number of them were participating in other club-related activities at the time which they were missing out on.  I made a point not to use that tactic again.  In the end, I believe we moved the meetings to after school rather than during lunch time.  (Looking back, I have to admit, that is pretty amazing that I was able to get so many people angry at me simultaneously.  Had I possessed some sense at the time, I would’ve simply tried a more diplomatic approach.  Still, it’s cool to use your power inappropriately, even for just a second.)
 
In mid-September, as I struggled being President (and lived in denial about resigning), I was in the school library working on an assignment and talking with some classmates who were also working on school-related matters.  As we were working and talking I remember hearing car horns and some cheering.  We all went to the window and noticed a small group of people holding signs asking passing drivers to honk their horns in support of their cause.  I found out that the caretakers union was having a dispute with the Board Of Education.  They were upset that the Board was bringing in outside workers for part-time jobs and I think they were also fighting over money, benefits and pensions, all the usual things. 
 
It was the beginning of a 7-month strike and when it was over, the union settled for less than what they were asking.  It made all of our lives deeply unpleasant.  However, I’ve always maintained that that strike kept me on Council longer than it should have.  During a regular school year, I’d be lucky to last a month.
 
Delta’s student body were notoriously apathetic, never more so than in the 1992-93 school year.  For instance, it was a struggle to get people interested in buying a yearbook, of all things.  (I’ll never understand the resistance to something like that.)  For my first 3 years at Delta (1989-1992), the yearbook committee (which, in the first year, had 7 members, then 5 the following year before being reduced to 2 in the last 2 years I was attending Delta) was able to produce a proper yearbook.  But in that last school year (1992-93), morale plummetted, as if that were even possible.  Barely a tenth of the thousand or so students enrolled at the school expressed a financial interest in their yearbook.  No matter what the members of the yearbook committee did to try to get people to buy one (at that point, it was just made up of Erin, who finished 3rd in the 1992 Presidential race & Heather, the hot VP), it was all for naught.  (No wonder a very pissed off Erin ripped us all a new one in her excellent OMNIA editorial which was published before the 1992 Christmas break.)  I understand now why there was a lack of interest.  It was a miserable school year and who wanted to be reminded of it in the future?  I certainly didn’t.  It’s too bad, though.  The 3 yearbooks I have are fun to look at, from time to time.  (I just did that recently.)  Those ladies did a great job putting them together.  They never got enough credit for all those hours of hard work they put into those things.
 
The caretakers’ strike against The Hamilton Board Of Education made things exceedingly difficult not only on the students and faculty with regards to regular classes, but also on the Student Council.  Tensions between myself and members of the General and Executive Councils were visibly palpable.  They hated me and I hated them.  We were completely dysfunctional and it was all my fault.  I was a terrible, unfocused leader and it remains the greatest regret of my life.
 
But, believe it or not, some good things happened.  Before the caretakers’ strike directly affected the school year, we were able to plan some activities.  We had a weeklong series of lunchtime activities that numerous students participated in.  We had a silly race involving faculty and students on the second floor one day (Students pushed teachers around on these little scooter-type deals.  I wish I could give a better description of the vehicles we used.) and Fly On The Wall another day.  (Fly On The Wall involves literally taping people to something with masking tape.  You stand on a chair as someone tapes you to a pillar in the cafeteria.  Several people participate and after you’re completely taped up, the chair is removed and you literally hang on until the tape breaks and forces you to come down.  It was a lot of fun when I got taped.)
 
Then, there was Airhead.  I won the first competition the previous year and now I had the opportunity to run the thing.  Again, I thought I could do well being spontaneous without a lot of planning.  At first, it was awkward.  I tried to get people to come down and participate.  (Basically, you put on a Walkman or Discman, play something you want to sing and belt it out for the cafeteria audience.  The twist is only the singer hears the music in their earphones or headphones.  We just hear the singer.) 
 
No one was coming forward.  Andie Gallagher and others tried to get me to sing but I declined.  Finally, we had some participants and I can’t tell you how much of a relief that was.  I think about 4 or 5 people took part in this silly event (no one was able to get through a whole song because the crowd was a little restless despite having a good time laughing at the bad singing) and when it was over, a female student won.  I never received a prize when I won Airhead but I made sure the winner got something this time.  My mom had bought a couple of chocolate bars the day before this lunchtime happening and wrapped them with little pink and purple bows.  The winner was surprised to get a prize.  I hope she enjoyed the chocolate.  I remember Rick MacLeod complimenting me on how well the event turned out.  He said he was going to congratulate the winner which he did.
 
By early October, we weren’t allowed to do anymore activities for the students.  The caretakers’ strike had forced the school to institute a new schedule.  Normally, the school day began at 8:45 in the morning and ended some time after 3 in the afternoon with 15-minute breaks between classes and 59 minutes for lunch.  Not anymore.  Now, classes ended just after 1 with no breaks and no lunch hour.  The cafeteria was closed.  Classes went from being 76 minutes long to about 40-45 minutes in length.  Teachers re-wrote their lesson plans to adjust to the new reality.  This went on for a whole month before things went back to normal in early November. 
 
During that month, the dysfunctional Council grew ever more dysfunctional.  Meetings were short and tense.  There were resignations.  Attendance for the General meetings were dropping every week.
 
On the plus side, I finally learned how to conduct a meeting, thanks to my mom who got fed up with my stubbornness and hated to see me floundering.  I had an agenda (a listing of all the items that needed to be addressed during a meeting) and there were minutes so that there would be a record of what was discussed.  One of the faculty advisors did her best to compliment me on this ever-so-slight improvement.  "You’re getting better," she said.  I appreciated that but things were getting worse.   
 
To top things off, I was developing a really bad cold.  The stress was eating away at my immune system and looking back, I shouldn’t have been so surprised I was getting sick all the time.  At night, I literally cried myself to sleep.  I had one passing thought of suicide which was never serious but scared the hell out of me.  I kept telling myself to try to get through this but I was bombing badly.  I only made modest improvements and I use that word loosely.  I sunk into a deep, situational depression.  I felt like I let not only the students and faculty down but also my parents and, especially, myself.  Everyday I dreaded going to school and facing this horrible nightmare.  Word was spreading like wildfire that the Council were having deep personal problems.  We just weren’t getting along very well.  Amazingly, I was doing very well with my studies.  I wasn’t failing anything except Grade 12 Advanced Mathematics.  (I ended up dropping the class since I didn’t need it to graduate anyway.)  It was my tortured tenure "leading" the Student Council that was bothering me immensely.  
 
As we headed into November 1992, with the school day back to normal, the members of the Executive were secretly plotting to "overcome the hurdle" as they would later indelicately put it in the school newspaper.  They had had enough.  So did one of the Faculty Advisors, Mr. Simpson.  A bit of a close talker, he told me flat out that he couldn’t support me anymore. 
 
It was devastating.  That night, I knew what I had to do to put myself back on track.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 22, 2006
8:18 p.m.
Published in: on May 22, 2006 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part Four)

During the summer of 1992 I was a wreck.  What the hell had I just done?  I had convinced Delta’s student body to place me in a position of power and I had no idea what to do with it.  I had never won an election before.  I had never organized anything before.  I had never dealt with egos before.  I was a political neophyte in every sense of the word.
 
The biggest mistake I ever made was to not find out about the Student Council prior to running for President.  Had I known what I was in for, I would’ve had more information about what to expect.  Truth be told, I believe that had I’d been aware of the President’s role on Council and how being on the Council itself would be an absolute nightmare, I never would’ve gone through with my campaign to win the big job.  My life would be very different today if I chose to not to run.
 
That summer I went to bed every night wondering what I was going to do.  I was scared out of my wits.  Incredibly, I never bothered to spend any amount of time preparing for the hard work ahead.  I was literally frozen with fear.  Honestly, I thought I could do it all on the fly, improvisational style.  It never occurred to me to talk to ex-Presidents (or other former Council members, for that matter) and find out about their experiences.  (Tammy Walling, an embattled ex-President, always offered support if I needed it during my tenure.  I was much too stubborn to take her up on the offer.)  Even if I did think about it, I would’ve been too shy or afraid to approach them.  I made no trips to the Public Library to learn about being a politician.  (Tzu’s The Art Of War would’ve come in handy.)  In the end, I did nothing to prepare myself for the hell I was about to subject myself to.  Instead, I went to a lot of movies.  Not a good plan. 
 
In August, I got a phone call from one of my Vice Presidents.  He said the Executive Branch needed to get together to prepare for the coming school year.  I questioned why we needed to do this so soon, but he insisted and soon a couple of meetings were organized at the other Vice President’s house just before September.
 
The first meeting was a disaster.  I remember as I was walking the way there trying to get myself ready to run my first Executive meeting of the Student Council how woefully ill-equipped I felt I was.  I had wasted the summer and soon I would pay for it.  As always, I thought I could wing it.  Not a good plan.
 
I was the first to arrive.  Heather, the hot VP, let me in and while we waited for the others we watched Sally Jessy Raphael on Television.  I always had a crush on Heather.  She had blossomed during the high school years and she was particularly distracting that August afternoon.  She had no socks on (she had pretty toes), shorts that showed off her incredible gams and a tight t-shirt.  (She was incredibly stacked and it was amazing I was able to concentrate on the TV.)  Soon after, everybody arrived and it was time to get down to business.
 
I had prepared a list of items we needed to discuss that day but something odd happened.  I froze.  I sat on the floor with my arms around my legs rocking back and forth, stone silent.  Everyone looked at me as if I were a mental case.  They couldn’t believe this was their leader.  You could sense the wheels of impeachment rolling into action right that second. 
 
The truth was I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t how to start the meeting.  If it wasn’t for Heather seizing the moment we would’ve been sitting there for hours.  For some dumb reason, I expected one of the Executives to cue me, to let me know they were ready to start the meeting and they wanted me to begin.  It never happened.  Heather started talking and the discussion got underway. 
 
After the meeting, as we were all getting ready to leave, I could hear the others whispering conspiratorially.  It was clear this wasn’t working out at all.  I felt like such an ass that day.  Off all the times to have a brain freeze, to be debilitated by irrational fear.   It was the beginning of a horrible nightmare.
 
We all agreed to meet again that month at Heather’s house and we all headed home.  On the day of that second meeting, I got a phone call from one of my VPs. 
 
"Why aren’t you here for the meeting?" he said. 
 
"What do you mean?  It’s not starting for another hour," I replied firmly. 
 
"The meeting was scheduled for Noon.  Why aren’t you here?"
 
"I’m telling you.  We agreed on 1 o’clock.  I even wrote it down in my day planner."  I was getting really pissed at this point.  So, I opened up this fancy, black-skinned day planner that my mom bought for me for the year and, sure enough, he was right.  I thought I had written down 1 p.m. when in reality, I saw "12 p.m.".
 
Another brain freeze.  "I’ll be right there." I said.  And I hurried my ass down there. 
 
You could feel the love in the room as I entered Heather’s living room.  Once again, I barely spoke.  Heather ran the meeting and it would be the final get-together before the start of the school year.  The Executives were getting more restless by the minute.  How long would it take before they would try to oust me from the Council?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 22, 2006
5:20 p.m.
Published in: on May 22, 2006 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment