3 Weeks Of Total Frustration

When I started this website back in February I wanted to concentrate exclusively on my writing.  I wanted my very own online outlet to showcase my pieces, past and present.  As the months went on, I added a profile and numerous lists.  As a result, I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished in half a year.
 
Unfortunately, I’ve haven’t been very pleased with what’s happened in the past 3 weeks.  Let me explain.
 
On July 2nd, I posted an entry called Coming Soon To The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  In that piece, I laid out what I hoped to accomplish throughout the summer.  I followed up with a similiar-themed effort on July 13 entitled New Stuff (Part One).  It listed some of the changes I had already implemented.  If you’ve been to my site and have read that piece, you might be wondering, “Where’s New Stuff (Part Two)?”.  Good question.  I was hoping to have it written and posted relatively quickly.  Reality got in the way of that plan.
 
At the end of New Stuff (Part One), I teased the reader with a mysterious message:
 
“As soon as I sort out some things behind the scenes, I will make another announcement which I hope will find a receptive audience.  It’s something I’ve resisted doing since the beginning of this website’s existence but as I get more comfortable with each passing day I feel that now is the time to make it happen.

What the hell am I talking about?  Stay tuned.”

So, what was the big secret?  What was I planning to announce on this site? 
 
In a word:  advertising.
 
So far, there are two ways to make money on MSN Spaces.  You can have Sponsored Links posted and you can link your book list to Amazon. 
 
You may have noticed a list called Recommended Books For Sale.  (You’ll find it right under my Profile.) It replaced an earlier list called, simply, Recommended Books.  Apart from new entries on the second list, the lists were pretty much identical. 
 
There’s one big problem having a list with the title Recommended Books For Sale.  Say you’re curious about one of the books I mention.  Maybe you’d like to buy it directly from my website.  You can’t.  Why?
 
Because my book list can’t link to Amazon.
 
Here’s how this is all supposed to work.  You sign up with Amazon’s Associates Program.  Basically, you fill out an application and afterwards, you receive an automated email message from Amazon informing you that you’ll be officially welcomed to the program once they check out your site and make sure everything’s kosher, so to speak.   In the meantime, you get your ID and you can learn about the Associates Program through their special site.  Then, if you’re approved, you get a second automated message which officially confirms your acceptance into the program. 
 
Through the Help section on MSN Spaces (namely, the “Earn money with your book list” topic), there’s a link that takes you directly to Amazon’s Associates site.  I clicked on that link and filled out the application.  I thought nothing of it until I went into my Settings.  Once you have a book list posted on your site, there’s a space for your Amazon Associates ID.  You type it in, click “save” and then, when you go into edit mode on your book list, you can add Amazon links to your book titles one click at a time. 
 
I couldn’t do that.  Why?  Because I signed up with Amazon.com, the American website.  You see, I’m a Canadian.  I should’ve signed up with Amazon.ca, the company’s Canadian affiliate.   On the Settings page, there’s this question:  “Don’t have an associate’s ID?”  Right beside it are the words “Get one here.”  You click on “Get one here.” and it takes you to the Canadian Amazon Associate’s home page.  Oops. 
 
Feeling rather stupid, I got in touch with the American Amazon and they told me to just sign up for the Canadian Associates program.  They also said I can have has many Affiliate IDs as I want so I can still hang on to the American ID I had just been approved for.  Unfortunately, MSN Spaces doesn’t have the same policy.  You’re only allowed one ID here.  If you’re American, you sign up with Amazon.com.  If you’re Canadian, it’s Amazon.ca you need to sign up with. 
 
After filling out my second Associate application, I got my Canadian ID.  It quickly replaced the American one in my Settings.  Once that was done, I set out to link my books to Amazon.ca so I could start making a few bucks.  It wouldn’t work.  I tried again.  And again.  And again.  And yet again.  Still wouldn’t work.  I deleted my initial list, Recommended Books, and replaced it with Recommended Books For Sale.  The same result.  Nothing.
 
While all this nonsense was going on, I was emailing back and forth with The MSN Spaces Technical Support Team trying to solve the linking problem.  On July 20th, they informed me that they “need[ed] to do further investigation” and that they couldn’t provide “a definite time frame as to when this will be resolved”.  Furthermore, they added:  “As soon as we have evaluated the situation, we will notify you as soon as possible.”  It’s been 9 days since I received that message.  I’m still waiting.
 
Meanwhile, I was dealing with another advertising problem.  The other way you can make money on MSN Spaces is through Sponsored Links.  Basically, visitors to the site will see a small box that features a couple of links to other websites.  They’re supposed to be tailored to the content on your site.  So, if I post something related to movies, there should be a couple of movie-related advertisers in that box.  A visitor clicks it and I get paid a percentage.  The more clicks by my readers, the more money I get.  Fairly straightforward.
 
The company that provides the Sponsored Links is an American-based business called Kanoodle.com.  They have this program called BrightAds which MSN Spaces website owners can sign up for and once their online applications are approved, they can have Sponsored Links posted on their sites and start making a little bit of money. 
 
So, I think this is a sweet deal and decide to fill out an application.  I get close to the end when I reach a question I don’t know how to answer.  They want to know your Tax ID and Social Security Number.  Again, I’m a Canadian citizen and we don’t have either of those things here.  So, I’m stumped.  I decide to email the company and ask for support on this.  I throw in another question about possible set-up fees.  Do I, or anyone else who signs up for this, have to pay anything before the Sponsored Links go up on my site?
 
No immediate reply.  So, I fire off another email.  No reply.  (This is sounding like a Beatles song.)  I write them again.  Nothing.  After the fourth email, I finally get a response (after about a week or so of dead silence).  I am told to put “all ones” in the Tax ID/SSN space.  With regards to possible set-up fees, I am informed that “[t]here is only a one time $1 minimal fee at set up, this has been implemented to help validate publishers serious about using our service.”  Funny how MSN Spaces never mentioned anything about that.
 
This leads to a follow-up email.  (I should’ve been a private investigator.)  I ask how the money is collected and how many ones do I type in that Tax ID/SSN space.  After a few days of nothing, I get not one, but two, emails on the same day, both addressing two different emails I sent them.     
 
In the first message (which was a response to my third email to the company) they give me the same response about the Tax ID thing (“just enter all ones”) but the answer to my other question is completely different from before.  Instead of repeating the “one time $1 minimal fee” bit, I get this instead:  “There is no charge to run your Bright Ads campaign.”  Huh?
 
The other message they sent me (which was a response to my fourth email) satisfactorily answered my question about the Tax ID space.  (If you’re a Canadian MSN Spaces website owner and want to know the answer, email me at dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com and I’ll save you the aggravation of dealing with Kanoodle by telling you.) With regards to my follow-up question about how they collect the buck (presumably American) to launch BrightAds on my site, I am told “[w]hen you sign up, you will be asked for your credit card info.” 
 
Talk about confusion.  First, I’m told it will cost a dollar to sign up with this company to run Sponsored Links on my site.  After thinking about it, I didn’t think that was such a big deal.  Then, I’m told I don’t need to pay anything at all.  It’s free to sign up.  O….k.  The latest answer is that I’ll “be asked for” my “credit card info”.  Really.  I can’t figure this out.
 
So, I wrote them back.  I told them I don’t have a credit card and I’m completely confused about their answers regarding my sign-up fee questions.  I ask them flat-out:  Do I have to pay this dollar sign-up fee or not?  If I do, since I’m not a credit card user, is there another way to pay this fee?   5 days later, no response.
 
As you can tell, I’m quite fed up with all of this.  My book list won’t link to Amazon, I have two Associate IDs that I can’t do anything with and Kanoodle is giving me contradictory answers to some of my concerns.  Neither Spaces nor Kanoodle seem to be in any hurry to help me out here.  After sending numerous emails to both companies, all I can do is wait.  And I hate waiting.  I also hate biting my tongue when things are pissing me off, hence this rant. 
 
I wanted people to buy books directly from my list.  I also wanted them to help out my Sponsored Link advertisers by clicking on their sites and checking them out.  It appears this will not happen any time soon. 
 
Anyway, that was the special announcement I alluded to on July 13.  As soon as I get more information about these problems, I will share with you what’s going on.  In the meantime, I continue to stew.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 29, 2006
12:48 a.m.

UPDATE: Please note my email address has been changed.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, October 29, 2010
7:13 p.m.

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Published in: on July 29, 2006 at 1:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Jersey Girl

Liv Tyler is a lot like Neve Campbell.  The minute you see her you want to know everything about her.  She has a smile that is so incandescent and inviting you can’t concentrate on anything else.  Her sexuality is barely contained and she couldn’t be happier.  (I’m happy, too.)  Campbell had this effect on me in Three To Tango which, despite her warm, sexy presence, was a terrible movie.  Tyler works her magic on me in Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl, easily his worst movie.
 
The movie stars Ben Affleck as a highly successful New York publicist at the peak of his powers.  Not yet 30, in the mid-1990s he commands a staff of 100 underlings to help promote various musicians like George Michael (which inspires a funny moment during the opening credits).  He falls in love with a New York book editor (Jennifer Lopez) and soon they are engaged.  After a drunken night of wild sex and pizza, Lopez gets knocked up.  While in labour, she strains herself to the point of an aneurysm and dies after her little girl is successfully delivered. 
 
Shortly thereafter, Affleck’s world quickly unravels.  He goes back to work way too soon hoping his highly demanding job will distract his grief.  He takes out his frustrations on fellow employee Jason Biggs.  He neglects his daughter much to the consternation of his crusty father (George Carlin in a wasted supporting role) who wonders aloud when his son is going to start acting like a father.  Living at home with his dad in New Jersey while commuting to NYC greatly adds to his stress.
 
Affleck very quickly becomes cranky and abrasive, and he eventually completely loses it during a press conference that’s been scheduled for a very absent Will Smith.  Holding his crying daughter and staring at an impatient press corps that, I kid you not, are chanting "Fresh Prince" over and over again, he blows his top, insults the media and worst of all, bashes The Fresh Prince so badly that after an uncomfortable moment of silence, one reporter correctly notes that his career in publicity is over.
 
Skip ahead 7 years to the year 2003.  Affleck’s daughter is in the first grade (shouldn’t she be in the second?) and they both continue to live with Carlin whom Affleck works with on such glamourous projects as street sweeping and putting in new water mains. 
 
Affleck has been so devoted to his deceased wife that he hasn’t had a date (or even sex) since her untimely death in 1996.  We learn this after an encounter with the aforementioned Liv Tyler who, quite honestly, isn’t on-screen nearly enough for my liking.  She’s a free spirited video clerk who has an immediate attraction to Affleck who still doesn’t seem ready to move on with his personal life.  But Tyler persists.  Not taking no for an answer she convinces a reluctant Affleck to go to lunch with her and then she wears him down for a potential mercy hump that never gets past the disrobing stage because his daughter comes home from school and finds them hiding in the shower.
 
Let me stop right there.  The problem with this movie is the way Ben Affleck’s character is written and how he plays him.  He’s really 3 characters in one.  He’s the unconvincing crybaby one moment (time to hire an acting coach, Ben), the jerky, self-absorbed publicist in the next moment and then, incredibly, he’s father of the year.  At any time during the movie, one of these personalities announces itself and then is taken over by another personality and it really wrecks the movie. 
 
It also doesn’t help that Affleck has zilcho chemistry with his former real-life fiance and his co-star from Armageddon.  (He didn’t have any chemistry with Uma Thurman in Paycheck, either, but at least that was an entertaining action picture which didn’t really depend so much on romance.)  We don’t miss Jennifer Lopez when she, rather unconvincingly, croaks in the delivery room (that seems convenient) and we can’t quite understand what attracts the adorable Liv Tyler to the grieving widow.  (There is so much joy and sweetness in her performance that I couldn’t catch her acting.  It’s an underappreciated role for her.)
 
It’s pretty sad when the young girl playing your daughter outshines you in every scene you have together.  Raquel Castro, making her debut here, is wonderful and does something particularly well.  She’s a sweetheart who doesn’t get on your nerves or make you want to brush your teeth.  I’d like to see her in more films.  She has a sweet, innocent presence onscreen and you wish she had a stronger actor playing her dad. 
 
The big climax of the film involves Affleck having to make a big decision.  His old pal, Jason Biggs, secures him a big interview with the fastest-growing PR firm in NYC.  He has never given up trying to get back into the publicity business and finally, he may be given a second chance after his Will Smith screw-up.
 
Unfortunately, it’s scheduled an hour before his daughter’s Fall Pageant, where students and some of their family members perform show tunes for the audience.  (Is it really believable that almost everybody would get to do "Memory" from Cats?) Affleck’s interview is at 4 p.m. and the school assembly starts at 5.  Can he do both?  Should he let his father sub for him at the Pageant while he tries to get his once-bright career shining again?  Should he skip the interview altogether in order to be there for his daughter? 
 
It doesn’t take a genius to figure it all out.   And, yes, a couple of Affleck’s personalities come to the forefront during this sometimes amusing, mostly predictable third act.  Let’s just say that About A Boy this isn’t.
 
Kevin Smith is a talented guy.  I liked Dogma (except for parts of the ending) and even though Chasing Amy didn’t quite make it for me there was some strong writing there.  (He writes remarkably strong female characters, I’m noticing.) When you see one of his movies (and I’m slowly getting caught up) there’s going to be something to like no matter the overall quality.  Jersey Girl is no exception.  And yet, you can’t help but think he’s slumming here.  He’s made, essentially, a predictable, unmoving formula film about a jerk who comes crashing down to Earth to discover the life he never would’ve experienced had his wife survived her traumatic ordeal in the delivery room.  The overuse of music to convey feeling when the story and the characters can’t do the job gets old very quickly.  The sudden personality shifts that Affleck goes through are annoying.  And the lack of a consistent comedic rhythm is very disappointing despite the few, amusing, isolated moments.
 
Jersey Girl is a formulaic mess that hopefully will teach Smith an important lesson about filmmaking.  Stick to what you know.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 23, 2006
2:19 a.m.
Published in: on July 23, 2006 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  

New Stuff (Part One)

On July 2nd, I wrote about the forthcoming changes that will be happening to my website during this blazingly hot summer season.  I’m happy to report a few changes have already taken place.
 
If you click on my profile, you’ll see that I’ve added some more information.  For instance, you’ll find some additional interests.  Also, I finally settled on the perfect description of my sense of humour.  Of all the people who’ve known me throughout the years, I seriously doubt that any of them would disagree with the one-word summation I’ve chosen.  As for my fashion sense, it’s quite appalling.  I’m still wearing clothes from my childhood.  It’s sad, really.  Shouldn’t they be too small for me?  Sadly, they’re not.  They still fit.  Since "appalling" was not among the choices for this profile category, I settled on "unique".  If you’re the kind of woman who digs a guy who, in the past, wore pocketless fishbone shorts (and whose sense of fashion has not improved much since) then you’re my kind of gal.  You’re also a saint.
 
I’m a big fan of lists and you may have noticed that there are now 11 of them on my website.  (More are coming so stay tuned.)  One of the earliest to be posted was My Favourite Musicians which is self-explanatory.  Before, there was just a list of acts on there.  Now, you can directly link from this site to other websites devoted to the artists on my list.  Most of the links are official band sites but in the instances where an official address doesn’t exist I’ve decided to add either a fan site, a VH1-related link or the band’s record company site, whatever I felt was appropriate in those cases.  If you want to learn more about my favourite melody makers, these links will get you started.
 
There have been many ways to search for my blog entries since I started The Writings Of Dennis Earl on February 19.  You can click on Blog and start reading my most recent posting at the top, work your way through 24 more pieces ’til you reach the bottom and then continue on for the next few pages.  Or, you can click on a category (like Movie Reviews or Website Announcements) and find properly organized writings that interest you.  Another method involves going through the monthly archives and having a looksy at what I’ve been writing each month since February 2006.
 
Well, now there’s another way to find my Blog entries.  After much contemplation, I have a blog list.  Entitled The Writings Of Dennis Earl, you’ll locate it right under the Categories and Archives boxes.  Everything that I’ve posted on my blog since I began this site nearly 6 months ago is on that list and in chronological order.  (The newest posting will always be the last entry in the list.)  When I reach 100 entries, I’ll add a second list and continue on from there.  So, if there’s a specific piece you want to read, just peruse the list until you find what you’re looking for, and click.  A new window will open up so you won’t lose your place on my site.   
 
Feel free to comment after reading an entry.  I love getting comments even though I’ve had only 1, so far.  Looking out for number 2!  Come on!  Who’s going to post it?   
 
Anyone? 
 
I’ve also added some more Recommended Websites and will continue to update that list (and others) when I feel the need.
 
But that’s not all.  With MSN Spaces set to morph into Windows Live Spaces, the look of my site (along with everybody else’s) is going to change rather dramatically.  I’ve seen a preview on The Spacecraft Blog and I hope my site looks as good (if not better) than the example provided on that site.  With the name change also comes yet another address change.  This site has already had 2 https and it’s about to get a third.  No idea what the new address will be but I’m sure the mystery will be unravelled before the end of the summer.
 
Finally, as previously indicated in that July 2nd entry, I will be posting more writing examples from my past including stuff that appeared in The Hamilton Spectator.  I’m also hoping to write more new stuff than usual so I can get into the rhythm of writing more regularly.  There are so many things to write about and I feel left out when I don’t add my two cents.
 
As soon as I sort out some things behind the scenes, I will make another announcement which I hope will find a receptive audience.  It’s something I’ve resisted doing since the beginning of this website’s existence but as I get more comfortable with each passing day I feel that now is the time to make it happen.
 
What the hell am I talking about?  Stay tuned.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, July 13, 2006
9:08 p.m.
Published in: on July 13, 2006 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

World Cup Predictions (Final Round)

We’re down to the final two.  After nearly a month of watching some 60-odd games live, the World Cup Final match is only 4 days away.  As expected, France defeated Portugal in the second semi-final encounter.  (They’re now 5 and 0 against the Portugese in International competitions.)  The only surprise for me was how low the final score was.  Zizou, who’s looking as sharp as he did 8 years ago, scored the only goal of the contest:  a penalty kick in the 34th minute.  After their dismal performance in 2002, France are poised to make a dramatic comeback Sunday afternoon.
 
In the other semi-final, Germany were defeated soundly by Italy right near the end of extra time.  It was deadlocked for nearly two hours.  It looked like the game was going to go the way I foresaw it.  However, with just a minute or so away from reaching the penalty kick phase, Italy crushed the hopes of the home team with a beautiful goal in the 119th minute.  2 minutes later, during time added on, another nice goal by the Italians put an exclamation point on the game for them.
 
For the second time in their long history, Portugal could not get out of the semi-final stage.  They’ll be facing Germany in the consolation final (which will determine the 3rd place winner).  Here’s what I predict for the final two matches of the 2006 World Cup.
 
Italy Vs. France (World Cup Final) 
 
So, here we have two very strong former champions battling it out in a return engagement from the Euro 2000 Final (which saw the French prevail).  Both teams are undefeated.  (Italy has the better overall record with one less tie than the French.)  After struggling during the group stage, France has grown in confidence to the point where they’re looking more and more like the dominant nation they were in their home country 8 years ago.  Italy has only conceded one goal in the entire tournament and it wasn’t even scored by the opposition.  (During the group match against the higher-ranked American squad, they conceded an own-goal.)  They have yet to cough up a legitimate goal.  France, on the other hand, have given up 2.  (One from the Koreans and the other from Spain.)  Both Barthez and Buffon have been good when they needed to be.  That will continue in this final match-up.
 
Italy and France have faced each other 7 times since 1938.  (This will be their 5th encounter during the World Cup Finals.)  France have won a healthy majority of their matches (4), Italy have been victorious twice and there has been only one draw.  The last time these two teams faced each other in the World Cup, it was 1998.  It was the quarter-finals and after nobody scored during the 2 hours they played, France won 4-3 during the penalty shoot-out. 
 
Although Italy are a determined bunch and can score in the most timely and dramatic of fashions (their 2 most recent victories came after securing last-minute goals) France are looking deadlier by the second.  They might not have been able to destroy their opponents with endless goalscoring in the last couple of games but they might not need more than one come Sunday afternoon.  I have to go with history.  Italy are the underdogs here and they need to hammer France early and often.  However, if France takes the lead early it will be excruciatingly difficult for the Italians to level the score.  France is going to win the World Cup for the second time.
 
Germany Vs. Portugal (Consolation Final)
 
Both of these teams should be commended for getting as far as they did during a very tough tournament.  No nation goes into these World Cup Finals hoping to finish third.  They want to win that ugly-ass trophy and be forever remembered as champions.  But when you lose your semi-final match, the best you can hope for is bronze.  Regardless, I want to see a good game here.
 
Germany and Portugal have a history that only goes back to 1985.   Most of the games have been played in Portugal, 2 others took place in Germany and then there was that Euro 2000 thrashing that Portugal gave the Germans in Holland.  This series is dead even.  Both squads are 2-3-2.  With the exception of Euro 2000, every game has been close with few goals scored.  Being the home team hasn’t really been an advantage for either country.  Germany have managed 2 road victories while Portugal have won once on German soil.  Germany have never beated the Portugese at home.
 
Once again I’m faced with a difficult dilemma.  Who will win this encounter?  Again, like previous match-ups in this tournament it’s a flip of the coin, really.  Any one of these nations can pull off a victory.  Both go into this match with identical 2006 World Cup records (5 wins, 1 loss).   Both have strong goalkeeping, defensive and offensive power.  Also, both squads have proven their worth during penalty kicks.  But then there’s this.  Germany have not beaten the Portugese since a 1996 Friendly in Portugal.  They haven’t played against each other since the 2000 European Championship and Germany didn’t score a goal in that match.  I think the Germans will have to settle for fourth place.  Portugal will win.
 
After going 1 for 2 during the semi-finals, is it possible to end the World Cup with 2 correct predictions?  I’ll have my answer this weekend.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
6:31 p.m.
Published in: on July 5, 2006 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

What’s In A Name

Have you ever Googled your name?  I have.  I wrote about my findings in this previously unseen piece, completed in 2001, which was rejected by The Hamilton Spectator. 
 
When I was starting to put together this website back in February, my initial thought was to be particular about what I posted.  I’m trying to maintain a consistent level of excellence on here so visitors will keep coming back to read my stuff.  Also, I was concerned about dated material.  It’s always best, in my view, to post things that are timeless.  That’s why this piece, What’s In A Name, hasn’t been posted until now.  It’s a little out of date.
 
But after reading it again I realize it’s quite interesting if self-indulgent.  At one point, I talk about how the names “Earl” and “Dennis” are on a list of names for severe storms.  I don’t think there was a Cyclone Earl in 2004 but there was most definitely a Hurricane Dennis last year.  (It was the storm before the infamous Hurricane Katrina.)  Mark Farrell, a stand-up comedian and writer for CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, has this bit about rooting for severe weather that bears your name.  I can’t help but admit that I rooted for Hurricane Dennis in 2005.  (I know.  It’s terrible.)  Thankfully, that storm wasn’t nearly as destructive as Katrina and Wilma but it left its mark nonetheless.  Hurricane Dennis was considered so bad at the time that it’s been officially retired from the list of storm names.  It was a good run while it lasted.
 
If you’re ever bored at work or are curious about the originality of your name, Google it.  (Be sure to put quotation marks around your name.)  You might be surprised at the results.

 WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Searching for other Dennis Earls on-line
By Dennis Earl

All my life, I thought I had a unique name. Mom told me so on countless occasions. I tested this lifelong belief out of sheer boredom one day on my computer.

It turns out I don’t have a unique name after all.

On Google.ca, my name (typed “Dennis Earl”) returned over 1,800 hits, although as I went through each page, the grand total increased to 2,400. (A search on MSN.com’s search engine resulted in almost 1,500 hits, although oddly, I could only browse through about 200.) And what did I find? Here are the highlights:

  • I have a school named after me. Dennis Earl Elementary (really named after Dennis G. Earl, a business executive and school board trustee) in Turlock, California which covers grades 1-6. (I also have my own PTA!) Established in August 1998, it’s one of 9 schools in the area that send graduates to the local junior high. The air-conditioned school (lucky kids) enrolls over 700 students a year. Some 200 of them learn English as a second language. Unfortunately, the site is incomplete and hasn’t been updated since 2000. Many features are still under construction. But I did read the lyrics to the school song which refers to its students as “Earl Explorers”. The Campus Tour section has this amusing heading, “Take A Tour Of Dennis Earl.” Best part of the site? Dennis Earl swag. T-shirts, sweatshirts, backpacks.
  • President Bush wanted Dennis Earl Dollar to be the new chairman of the National Credit Union Administration 3 days after Sept. 11. Did he get the job? Yes.
  • American citizens Dennis Earl Dillon, who resided from Jamestown, Pennsylvania, Dennis Earl Koch, a Center Valley, PA resident, Dennis Earl Joy, a native of Imperial, California, Aircraft Commander Dennis Earl Painter from Chicago, Illinois, and Corporal Dennis Earl Ijams, who hailed from Schell City, Missouri, all sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. All their names are on the Vietnam Memorial.
  • A quick glance at the University of Guelph website and I find this caption underneath a picture of a guy at a lectern with a piece of paper covering his face. It reads: “The most shy lecturer, Dennis Earl!”
  • Dennis Earl is the VP of Academic Affairs at universalclass.com, an on-line educational site. He handles Investor Relations.
  • Dennis Earl Baker, an independent, finished 7th out of 8 candidates vying for the Okanagan-Coquihalla, BC seat in the House of Commons in the 2000 Federal Elections. Who won the riding? Stockwell Day with 70% of the vote. Mr. Baker had 0.8%.
  • Both Dennis and Earl are tropical cyclone names for the Atlantic region of the world. Dennis would have been used in 1999 if a storm had occurred at the applicable moment but it gets a second chance in 2005. Earl was a 1998 possibility and will be used, if a cyclone happens at the right time, in 2004. And yes, names are recycled every 6 years. Thankfully, there was a Hurricane Dennis in 1999. And I was so proud.
  • A guy by the name of Dennis Earl Charles was baptized at the St. John United Church of Christ in Smithton, Illinois. By the way, my full name is Dennis Charles Earl.

There are many more sites featuring political candidates (from all sides of the political fence and most of them losers), criminals, volunteers, preachers, neighbours, dead guys, writers, husbands, and university professors, all of whom share my name. Isn’t it bizarre how your first and last name can be so commonly used as a first and middle name for so many people both living and dead? In fact, there were more Dennis’ who have Earl for a middle name than a surname.

After sifting through all of this stuff, I wondered if it was ever possible to have an original name, one that no other human being, past or present, would have. I could only think of one: Arnold Schwarzenegger. In case you’re wondering, on Google, his name garnered 142,000 hits. Good luck finding his clone.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, July 3, 2006
4:15 p.m.
Published in: on July 3, 2006 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Far And Away

Back to The Delta Years.  Here’s a review from the June 1992 Graduation Edition of OMNIA, Delta Secondary’s student newsmagazine.  I had just been elected Student Council President which was both exhilarating and scary at the same time.  (For more on that part of my life, check out the 8-part series Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President.  Look for it in the Personal History section.)  Movies were my safe haven and they would continue to be during their horrendous period.
 
Who would’ve predicted the great success of director Ron Howard?  The young child actor who seemed doomed to be forever tarnished with the name "Opie" incredibly has proven to people that there was a burning desire to be something greater than a sidekick on a TV show.  When I was a toddler, I loved Happy Days (because of The Fonz) which was yet another hit show Howard was associated with.  Then came the movies.  By the 1990s, Howard was an established filmmaker and it was only a matter of time before Oscar came calling.  To see the proof I recommend you screen the following:  The Paper, Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (see my review in the Movie Reviews section) and Cocoon.
 
Also worth checking out is Far And Away, Howard’s much underrated 1992 Irish epic which just happens to be the subject of this previously published film review.  I screened the movie about a week or so before its proper release during a special public sneak preview.  Filmed in 70mm (like a David Lean movie) I was really quite taken with it.  Sure, there’s familiar elements here but I thought it was a beautifully made picture.  I’ve seen it twice (once in the theatre and once on tape) and liked it the same both times.  But the first screening was the best one, if I were to choose.  After the screening we all got to fill out these feedback cards which would essentially tell the studio that released the movie whether or not they had a stinker on their hands.  I thought they had a hit in the making but I was in the minority.  As a result, the film did ok but not spectacularly.  I think it deserves another chance.
 
My review of Far And Away originally appeared in the Entertainment section of the June 1992 edition of OMNIA (released just before the summer break) on page 18.
 
One more thing.  The "DAT MOVIE WAS HANDICAPPED" bit at the end was stolen from another funny classmate of mine.  Jeff Barry, who used to bully me (and once, accidentally, cut me with an exacto blade in science class) and later became a bad but funny influence, (oh, the stories I could tell) came up with that line.  He used to goof on me in math class by saying that I wanted to be the guy who put the star ratings beside every movie in the TV Guide every week.  (That actually sounds pretty good to me still.)  The line was inspired by our math teacher, Mr. Brunetti, an Italian who sounded black.  Instead of saying "this" and "that", he would say "dis" and "dat".  I used to write down all the silly things he would say and it made the time go by quickly.  Jeff and I liked imitating him all the time (I even wrote Brunetti-style rap songs which were unbelievably cheesy) and it was him who came up with that "dat was handicapped" line.  (I think I may have added the movie part.)
 
I write much better movie reviews today but this was one of the better ones from my high school period.  Enjoy.
 
 
FAR AND AWAY
***1/2 (out of 4)
Centre Mall, Showcase.
Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
Parental Guidance.
Opened Friday, May 22, 1992.
 
I had the distinct pleasure of viewing another terrific Ron Howard movie a week before its initial release in theatres.  During the sneak preview of FAR AND AWAY, director Ron Howard (Backdraft, Splash, Parenthood and Cocoon) once again impressed me with his visionary approach to this tremendously moving epic.  FAR AND AWAY is the story of Joseph Donnelly (an amazing performance by Tom Cruise), an Irish farmer who is one of the many poor residents who are fed up with the selfishness of the upper class.  In 1892, the "drinking-class" are not exactly the cleanest people or perfectionists of etiquette, but they do work hard to raise their families.  In the beginning of the movie, the height of this conflict is at the climactic stage.  Lower class and upper class citizens are found fighting each other with meaningless, yet brutal violence.  While these events are occurring, we are introduced to Joseph’s father who is a hopeless drunk and is ready to die.  Before his drinking catches up to him, he tells his ambitious son to work hard and not to bow out to oppression.  Soon after, Joseph seeks the oppressors by hiding out in the barn of the Christy family.  They have a marvellous mansion in which the site of it infuriates the fiery Joseph.  While he is hiding out, the Christys’ young daughter Shannon (a pleasantly surprising performance by Nicole Kidman of Dead Calm, Days Of Thunder and Billy Bathgate) comes home after doing some horseback riding and is frightened when she discovers the fighting young man on her property.  When he tries to escape, surprisingly, she stabs him in the leg with her piercing pitchfork.  However, this doesn’t stop Joseph from his original mission: to kill Mr. Christy to avenge his father’s demise.  When Joseph points the gun and aims at Shannon’s father, something unexpected happens.  It turns out that Joseph has never used a gun before and it shows when the inexperienced Irish man gets covered in gun powder and noticeably misses Mr. Christy.  In the next few scenes, Shannon becomes curious about the size of Joseph’s…(never mind!) and wants to leave Ireland for the freedom and greater opportunity in America.  Joseph, after much debate and a duel with Shannon’s arranged fiance, agrees to go with her to the promised land.  When in America, Joseph finds a talent for fighting the local contenders while Shannon finds it difficult to be alongside the working class.  For a 2-hour plus movie, this is very exciting with wonderful performances, dramatic orchestration by John Williams (composer of many Steven Spielberg movies and the STAR WARS trilogy) and beautiful cinematography.  Except for some continuity errors in the opening sequences, this is a daring and terrific movie.  Until next time, this is Dennis Earl, saying later and I hope you don’t come out of the cinemas saying, "DAT MOVIE WAS HANDICAPPED!"
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, July 3, 2006
12:26 p.m.
Published in: on July 3, 2006 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coming Soon To The Writings Of Dennis Earl

In 17 days, this website will have been online for exactly 6 months.  I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far:  80 pieces of writing (and counting), my first profile (with a recent pic, no less), 9 lists (and counting), one comment (thanks Paul) and over 1200 hits.  That’s a pretty good start in my book but there’s more on the way.
 
As the summer season heats up, I’m planning some more additions to the site.  Firstly, expect more sexy women to be added to The Sexiest Women Alive lists.  With a limit of 100 entries per list, you’ll see more than one list devoted to this.  I’m already up to two and expect to eventually get up to four.  I’m also planning to add more Recommended Websites.  (On a side note regarding that particular list, I’ve changed the Rolling Stone entry slightly.  I’ve decided to drop the reference to the magazine’s 1000th issue being circulated.  I’m trying to keep certain things timeless on here.)  I’m hoping to add more funny people, as well.  If there are changes made to the 10 Best and Worst Movies Of The Decade So Far lists, it’s because I’ve seen something better or worse than what’s already on those lists and I made the necessary change(s).  If I think of any more things I’m allergic to, I’ll add those items as well.
 
Speaking of lists, I’m going to add several more.  I’m thinking of adding my old Top 10 and Worst 10 Movies Of The Year lists.  These date back to the early 1990s when I just started to figure out how to be a movie critic in high school.  I’m pretty proud of them.  They deserve to be showcased.  Also, I want to make a list of my favourite CDs (the ones I’m always playing) and a Top 10 CDs Of The Decade So Far list, too.  There might also be a favourite band name list, possibly others.  These are just off the top of my head.  I’m hoping to cram this site with as many interesting lists as possible.  They’ll be added from time to time during the summer.
 
As for my blog entries, I will continue to post old pieces from my past (expect more high school writing and rejected movie reviews) and new material written specifically for this website.  I’m contemplating going back 10 years to write about my time as an intern on The Royal Canadian Air Farce on CBC.  (I have a college report I wrote back then that I might quote from.) Not sure how that’s going to work but I’ll see what I can do.  I make no promises but it’s something I’m thinking about working on.
 
From time to time, I post something under the title "From The Published Archives".  So far, I’ve focused mainly on stuff I did in college for Mohawk College’s student newspaper, The Satellite, and featured the odd movie review from my high school days at Delta Secondary.  I’ve been emailing back and forth lately with an old college friend I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years and as I was responding to his query about whether I’ve ever been paid for my writing, I started thinking.  When I initiated this site, I tried to be as picky as possible about what I would show to all of you.  At the time, I didn’t want to showcase anything too sexual or racy in case I run into problems with MSN Spaces which I do not want to happen.  (I’m not a confrontational person.)  I haven’t changed my mind about that but I have changed my mind about something else.
 
Besides being published in student publications, I’ve also seen my work laid out in daily newspapers like The Toronto Sun and The Hamilton Spectator.  In the case of The Sun, I’ve mainly had a number of letters to the editor published.  No guest columns or feature articles, unfortunately.  Maybe in the future if I catch a break with them.  However, a few years ago, I did manage to convince The Spec to publish several examples of my writing.  I didn’t want to post anything on here like that in case there was a copyright problem.  But it’s been 3 years since my last submission was accepted and considering that, with the exception of 3 articles, all my writing for them was done for free, I’m pretty sure posting some of my Spec stuff now won’t pose a problem.  (If it does, Hamilton Spectator, write me at dennischarlesearl@hotmail.com and let me know.  I’ll take it down, if that’s the case.)  I believe I own the copyrights for all the writing I did for them so, for the first time since their original publication, you’ll get to read more recent examples of my published writing.  In some cases, you will probably see the original versions I sent them and not the edited ones that appeared in the paper.  I wasn’t always happy with the published versions.
 
My wish this summer is to somehow think of a way to direct more traffic to the site.  (I’m open to suggestions.) I’ve tried telling friends and family about The Writings Of Dennis Earl and I know for a fact that they’ve been checking things out which I’m very happy about (as have complete strangers).  But I’d like to get some more feedback from people who have taken the time to read anything or everything on here.  I’m thinking about putting on a guestbook that people can sign so I know who’s been reading what and how they felt about it.  I have no idea how to do that.  Once I do, I’ll decide whether or not I should put it on here for visitors.  Chances are I will.  No idea when this will all happen but it’s coming soon, hopefully. 
 
I also want to write about the decline of The Toronto Sun.  Toronto Star columnist and blogger Antonia Zerbisias has written periodically about the ongoing troubles at the newspaper and its sister TV station, Sun TV.  She prints and posts a lot of interesting inside information that I’m sure the bigwigs at the paper aren’t too happy about. (I say, "You go, girl.")  I probably won’t be doing that.  Instead, I’d like to write about its declining quality and focus on some of its questionable views and hiring decisions.  I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while.  All that remains is how to put my thoughts together in a coherent matter.  It won’t be completely negative, thankfully.  I’ll single out some writers and views I think are worthy of praise.  But the paper is going downhil for me and I want to address that somehow.
 
Well, that’s what you can all look forward to during this season.  I thank everybody who’s visited the site and hope you enjoyed your stay.  I will be posting more content whenever I feel the need so I hope you’ll return to see the latest material.  There may be long gaps between new updates but hey, even I need a break, eh?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 2, 2006
11:08 p.m.
Published in: on July 2, 2006 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Gladiator (1992)

Time to dip into the vault once again for this next previously published piece.  Back in the spring of 1992, I was a student at Delta Secondary School.  In between hanging with friends, attending classes, studying, preparing for my campaign to become Student Council President and participating in numerous extracurricular activities, I was screening a lot of movies and writing reviews for the school’s student newsmagazine, OMNIA, and its supplementary newsletter, Om-Lette. 

In the April 1992 edition (the spring issue) of OMNIA, I had two reviews published.  Gladiator was one of them.  8 years before Russell Crowe would win an Academy Award in another film with that name, there was this film.  Released in March 1992, the film was, for me, a disappointment.

Despite a couple of strong supporting performances by Brian Dennehy and Robert Loggia, the film isn’t very surprising or effective.  This is one of my better reviews during this period that I like to call The Delta Years.

In the review, I single out Cuba Gooding Jr. who has frequently disappointed me over the years after starting off so strongly in Boyz N The Hood which remains his best movie.  (I’ve also liked him in Jerry Maguire which is probably his most famous movie and Men Of Honor, an overlooked gem from 2000.)  I don’t know if I can take any more stinkers like Pearl Harbor, Lightning Jack (which co-starred Paul Hogan), Snow Dogs and Boat Trip (easily his worst movie) but I hold out hope that Cuba will make better choices in the future.

There were numerous editing errors in the review that were not caught before publication.  Here are a couple of examples.  In the original published piece, the word “Tommy” was curiously misspelled “Tommmy” 3 times.  (Yes, I counted.)  Also, “$12,500” was accidentally read as “$1250” by mistake.  The number has been corrected for this reappearance of the article. 

One more thing.  About the last line in the review.  There was this guy in some of my classes named Ian Warrick.  Really funny guy who cracked me up constantly.  (It wasn’t always like that.  In Grade 9 Geography he threw fake sand at me and it took forever to get it all out of my hair.  After that, everything was fine.  Up until a few years ago, I frequently bumped into him and had a nice chat with him.  I can’t remember the last time I talked to him or saw him around.)  Whenever he voiced his disapproval about something, he would say it was “kibe”, a word I had never heard before.  He used it all the time and it was hilarious.  Soon, I found myself throwing it in at the end of some of my movie reviews.  (As an aside, “kibe” is an actual word but it doesn’t mean what Ian willed it to mean.  According to The Free Dictionary, it means “[a] chapped or inflamed area on the skin, especially on the heel, resulting from exposure to cold; an ulcerated chillblain.”  Interesting.)

GLADIATOR
**/****
Centre Mall, Showcase.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert Loggia, Brian Dennehy and James Marshall.
Adult Accompaniment.
Opened Friday, March 6th, 1992.
 
Cuba Gooding Jr. is one of the best new actors to hit Hollywood in the past couple of years.  His first performance in Oscar nominee John Singleton’s excellent movie, Boyz N The Hood, proved to be something special.  Now, he’s starring in an average action flick entitled “Gladiator” in which Gooding plays Lincoln, a fighter surviving to feed his teen wife and “Black Beauty” (his nickname for his little baby).  The main plot surrounds Tommy Riley (an uninspiring performance by James Marshall of Twin Peaks), a tough kid who is new to Southside Chicago and is constantly being bothered by a black gang of illegal boxers.  Not only does Tommy have people after him because he’s new, his father (a cameo role by John Heard of Home Alone, Awakenings and Deceived) forgot to pay $12,500 in gambling debts.  The only way Tommy can pay back the money is if he fights in an illegal boxing federation owned by Horn (a great performance by Brian Dennehy of FX 2 fame).  Horn tells Tommy that his dad owes over $10,000 in gambling debts and Tommy must fight in order to be square with Horn, who now owns the debts.  Tommy only has five friends in Chicago.  They are Lincoln, his girlfriend, his cornerman, a Cuban fighter, and his father.  Another major character in the movie is Peppy Jack (a brilliant performance by Robert Loggia of Necessary Roughness fame).  He’s a scouting agent and a promoter who spots Tommy and gets him interested fairly quickly in the world of boxing.  Despite some great acting, James Marshall is too stoney as Tommy and the script seems to be predictable in certain spots.  All in all, Gladiator is not the great action flick it bills itself to be!  Until next time, this is Dennis Earl, the movie critic for OMNIA/OM-LETTE, saying later and I hope your next movie isn’t kibe.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 2, 2006
5:19 p.m.

Published in: on July 2, 2006 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

World Cup Semi-Final Predictions

2 for 4.  50%.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.
 
I correctly predicted that France and Italy would move on to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup Finals.  Italy handily beat the Ukraine (the 28th ranked team in the tournament) by a score of 3-0.  Thierry Henry, Mr. Offside, scored the best goal of the finals when he perfectly tipped (or "toe poked", as the commentator John Helm described it) Zinedine Zidane’s perfect free kick from outside the box in the 57th minute during the game against defending champs Brazil. 
 
Incredibly, Argentina, my pick to win the whole thing, gave up their 1-goal lead against Germany in the 80th minute of that match and then blew it during the penalty kick stage, thereby ensuring the home nation would be one step closer to winning another World Cup.  And what the hell happened to England?  Beckham gets hurt and leaves the game against Portugal early in the second half, Rooney gets rightfully red-carded for cracking some nuts with his boot and after 2 hours without a single goal, they manage one successful penalty kick during that phase of the match.  (The Portugese keeper, Ricardo, was magnificent.)  It was a dreadful result. 
 
After witnessing all the dull quarter-final matches, here’s hoping the semi-finals provide all of us with some much-needed excitement.  Here’s what I think will happen:
 
Germany Vs. Italy
 
This is one of the great rivalries in soccer.  The Germans and the Italians have faced each other 13 times since the 1962 World Cup in Chile.  The most famous Italian victory was in 1982 when they defeated the then-West German national team in the Final match that year.  Italy has won 5 encounters while their Teutonic rivals have managed to beat them on 3 occasions.  The other matches all ended in ties.
 
This is yet another extremely difficult one to call.  Like the match between Argentina and Germany, both of these great soccer nations are capable of winning big matches like this at any time.  However, the Germans haven’t defeated the Italians in 11 years.  The most recent encounter took place earlier this year during a friendly in Florence.  (Italy thrashed Germany 4-1.)  You would think that Germany have a great advantage playing on home turf this time around.  But when facing Italy at home, Germany’s record is 1 win, 1 loss and 2 ties. 
 
Both teams have scored plenty of goals.  Both have solid goalkeeping.  What will be the difference?  2 words:  penalty kicks.  3 of the 4 quarterfinal matches got to that level after 2 hours of game play.  Germany are unbeatable during the penalty kick phase of a match in the World Cup.  (They’re 4 and 0.)  The Italians, on the other hand, are very shaky.  (They’ve lost more than they’ve won.)  If the game remains tied after 2 hours, which I’m counting on, I have no doubt who will come out on top.  Germany will win.
 
Portugal Vs. France
 
My beloved England is out.  The defending champions are also eliminated.  In their place are Portugal (who should form their own diving team) and France, the 1998 Champions.  They’ve played against each other 4 times since 1996.    France won every match.  There have been at least two goals scored in each of these encounters, so I’m predicting a rare high-scoring game in the semi-finals.  (I’m thinking we’ll see at least 3 goals.) 
 
Although Portugal will see the return of all their suspended players (like Deco), it won’t matter.  Much like Brazil, Portugal will struggle against a very determined French team.  The French are looking so good right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win their second championship.  If Argentina had gotten past Germany, I might not have noticed their improved play and therefore would’ve disregarded them as a potential repeat winner.  Portugal remains the only nation in the tournament who has never gone all the way.  This will be as far as they go this year.  France will win.
 
I’ll be back again for 2 last predictions:  the consolation game to determine 3rd place and the World Cup Final match.  Until then, let’s see some exciting soccer for a change. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 1, 2006
5:58 p.m.
Published in: on July 1, 2006 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment