Sun Employees Quietly Protest Quebecor Cutbacks

It’s getting uglier.  The Toronto Sun Family Blog has been reporting some interesting developments in the latest battle between Sun employees and Sun Media’s parent company, Quebecor.  According to a January 26 posting, reporters and photographers in various departments of The Toronto Sun all did something unusual that same day.  If you read that particular edition of the newspaper, you may have noticed it.
 
What am I talking about?  The lack of personal bylines.
 
Reporters in the news, sports and entertainment departments all agreed to remove their names from their published articles for that day.  (Their individual email addresses, however, were clearly seen at the bottom of most of the pieces, so readers still knew who wrote the articles.)  In their place was this generic credit:  “Toronto Sun Staff”.  Photographers went the anonymous route, as well.  Whenever a photo from a Sun photographer was seen in the paper, it was credited simply as “Sun Photo”.
 
How many Friday readers noticed this, of course, is hard to know for sure.  One wonders if any of them realized that it was a union protest.  According to remarks posted on The Toronto Sun Family Blog by former Toronto Sun City Desk Editor (and union representative) Brad Honywill, “The purpose of the byline strike was to protest the continuing downsizing of the newsroom by Quebecor and to honour those people who worked their last day on Thursday.”  Essentially, these actions were taken in order to convey solidarity and support for the most recent Sun staffers who’ve had their livelihoods stripped away from them for no good reason, which includes former TV Critic Bill Brioux and ex-Assistant Money Editor (and union representative), Maryanna Lewyckyj.
 
To me, reading these bland credits looked like mistakes, like something was not quite right.  I’m not sure it succeeded.  It may have been too subtle.  As John Cosway of Toronto Sun Family noted, “[T]here were no words in the paper to explain the protest and SONG [Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild] didn’t explain the withdrawal of bylines and photo credits in a press release. (Not that we could find.)”
 
It’s a sad state of affairs when this is the way the newsroom publicly reacts to the latest round of job cuts.  Where are the angry columns from longtime pundits?  Why no special comment from the editors?  Where are those brave souls willing to spill their guts online?  In other newspapers?  On Television?  On the radio?  They are nowhere to be found.
 
Besides removing bylines for a day, according to an anonymous source who was quoted on The Toronto Sun Family Blog, “reporters, photographers, and columnists wore black as a further demonstration of their support for those possibly fortunate enough to be forced out of a company that has shown no loyalty to them.”  This took place on Thursday, January 25th.  Not one photograph of the event was seen in that Friday edition of The Sun.  It was like it never happened.
 
In another piece posted on The Toronto Sun Family Blog, Honywill noted, “Twelve people were laid off on Thursday at the end of their eight-week notice period. Another four people took buyouts to save four jobs. We said good-bye to all of them at a party at Betty’s [a local Toronto bar and restaurant] on Thursday evening.”
 
According to an article in the Spring 2004 edition of The Ryerson Review Of Journalism, Betty’s is “a popular reporter’s hangout down the street from the Sun building” on King Street East.  When 86 Sun workers were axed by Quebecor on May 14, 2001, “[d]isheartened employees” put together a fake Sun cover featuring pictures of those sacked employees with the appropriate headline, “Black Monday”.  At the time, it was still posted on one of the walls in the restaurant (I’m not sure which) and served as “a reminder that what the Sun once was – a warm, friendly and fun place to work – had become a dismal place where staffers feared for their jobs.”  I have a feeling it’s never been taken down.
 
Cosway referred to this past week’s official layoffs as “Blue Friday”, awful but not nearly as brutal as that one spring day 6 years ago.
 
Honywill further observed on Toronto Sun Family, “We are now down to about 120 people in the newsroom, from 200 at the peak prior to Quebecor’s purchase in 1998. Staff is horribly demoralized, both because of the loss of fellow workers and because of what most of us see as a mindless drive toward the destruction of the paper we love and helped to build.”
 
Despite the best efforts of the union to fight back with publicity campaigns (that aren’t getting to the readership), ongoing unionization drives at other Sun Media papers (that aren’t protecting many jobs), the attempt to have one collective bargaining unit, and the continuous filing of employee grievances, Quebecor is still getting its way.  This is a quagmire impossible to win. 
  
For the first time in a while, I didn’t bother reading a print edition of The Toronto Sun.  In this case, it was the Saturday, January 27th edition.  I did read today’s paper but spend most of the time perusing instead of reading.  I haven’t made an official decision yet but I’m leaning towards never reading the print version ever again.  Sticking with the online version is the current plan.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if, at some point, reading The Toronto Sun becomes a thing of the past.
 
Quebecor should be very worried about what it’s doing.  Is it 1971 all over again?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 29, 2007
2:07 a.m.
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Published in: on January 29, 2007 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Brioux’s Final Sun Column

It’s yet another dark day for Sun Media.  Another batch of loyal employees are officially out of work today.
 
Late last year, Quebecor announced 31 more layoffs at Sun Media’s flagship newspaper, The Toronto Sun.  Readers of the longtime tabloid remain in the dark about the turbulent atmosphere within the newsroom.  For instance, many will be perplexed by the tone of TV Critic Bill Brioux’s final column which appeared in today’s paper.
 
Brioux has been in California the last little while covering the annual American TV winter press tour where critics from across the continent spend much of their time firing off questions to various stars and network weasels hoping to capture some juicy quotes and inform their readers back home about what’s to come on Television this season. 
 
In a piece entitled “Standing Together”, the normally acerbic Brioux opens with this uncharacteristically wistful observation:
 
“Solidarity and hope can sneak up on you just as fast as abandonment and despair. Sometimes it arrives in the strangest of places, like a crowded room in the middle of a press tour.”
 
Brioux (pronounced “bree-o”) goes on to describe an unusual scene.  Imagine a room full of North American TV Critics being convinced to rise from their seats and accompany soul singers Solomon Burke & Ben E. King, and songwriters Jerry Stoller & Mike Lieber in an impromptu singing of the golden oldie, Stand By Me.  The performance was unexpected, according to Brioux, coming on the heels of “a very cool press conference” where the foursome were in attendance to plug the upcoming PBS special on recently deceased Atlantic Records co-founder, Ahmet Ertegun.
 
“In over 20 years of covering press tours, I can’t recall anyone cracking through our crusty critics’ shield,” Brioux remarked of the spontaneous moment.
 
The final 3 paragraphs of the piece are the most noteworthy:
 
“Many [critics] in the room had been coming to press tour for years. Friends, rivals, colleagues. Tour tenure measured not in years or seasons but in network presidents. Some dating back to Bud Grant and Brandon Tartikoff, others to [NBC President Jeff] Zucker and [CBS President Leslie] Moonves. Add it all up and some had spent a year, even two, in this Pasadena hotel.
 
Many knew, or sensed, they would never be back. It has been a tough year in the newspaper business. Each month brings more layoffs as traditional dailies struggle in the face of Internet and free competition. Last week it was Time, before that, the New York Times, a little farther back, TV Guide Canada. Toronto hasn’t been immune. You may have already read about it — on-line.
 
So it was a scared room that got to its feet at the urging of King and Burke, Stoller and Lieber. These grand old men brought courage, but they also brought a sense of urgency. You want to use your voice while you still can. You want to sing before you are silenced. You want to be heard, even if all you are saying can be summed up in three little words: Stand By Me.”
 
Without remarking directly on his unjustified dismissal, Brioux lets his readers know in his own surprising way that his decade-long tenure with The Sun is over.  He correctly observes that a number of these exits have not been mentioned in The Sun.  The Internet has been an invaluable resource for learning the truth about this startling trend in news media, a trend that is more than likely to continue to wreak havoc on a once proud business in the many months to come.
 
According to the Toronto Sun Family blog, a special “sendoff party” took place last night for those recently excised from the newspaper, a nice gesture that I’m sure was highly appreciated.
 
It never occurred to Quebecor to do something that classy.  Then again, for them, it’s all about money, hence all these unnecessary layoffs.  I guess annual revenues exceeding 200 million is just not good enough.  What a disgrace.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 26, 2007
4:56 p.m.
 
CORRECTION:  This piece originally claimed that Bill Brioux’s last name is pronounced “bricks”.  That is wrong.  Bill informed me by email that it’s actually “brio”.  Just so there’s no confusion, I’ve changed that to “bree-o” in the article.  My apologies to Bill for the mistake.  I also apologize to blogger Fading To Black who told me the correct pronunciation which I didn’t believe at the time.  FTB was indeed correct and I was wrong.  Special thanks to Bill for clearing it all up. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
11:10 p.m.
Published in: on January 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Final Destination 3

Joe Queenan once conducted an unusual experiment.  In the May 1993 edition of Movieline Magazine, he decided to write about his experiences viewing movie three-quels.  Instead of focusing on entire franchises, he just screened the third installments.  One of the things he wanted to know was this:  is it possible to fully comprehend "Part III" movies without having previously seen Parts I and II? 
 
"The answer to this question," he wrote on page 83, "is a qualified yes.  While it is generally true that Part IIIs are unbelievably stupid movies that boggle the mind, they are usually not all that hard to follow, even if you haven’t seen the unbelievably stupid movies that inspired them."
 
Final Destination 3 proves Queenan’s point.  Released 4 days before Valentine’s Day last year, it’s far from brilliant.  There is no need to see the earlier chapters in the series in order to understand the inane storyline.  Why?  Because it’s the exact same storyline from those earlier films, with one slight difference.
 
The first film, released in 2000, is about a high school student (Devon Sawa) who has a terrible premonition about a plane exploding shortly after take-off.  The plane is loaded with his fellow classmates who are en route to Paris.  His prescient warnings freak out the passengers but only 6 of them follow him off the plane.  After witnessing the terrible tragedy safely in the airport terminal, the Lucky Seven are simultaneously relieved and guilt-ridden.  Soon, one by one, death catches up with them, knocking them off in the order they originally sat on the plane.
 
The sequel, which arrived 3 years later, is about a high school student (played by the lovely Ali Larter) who has a terrible premonition about another tragedy, this one involving a series of vehicles crashing into each other on a highway.  She’s able to save a number of lives by refusing to budge her vehicle which is ahead of a number of other cars.  Soon after, like the first movie, death comes calling and the people who didn’t die in that horrendous highway tragedy bite the bullet in equally gruesome ways.
 
And now we have the third film where yet another high school student (played by the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – a control freak, no less – has a terrible premonition about a roller coaster she’s about to ride.  And what do you know?  Something horrible goes wrong and we have a lot of dead teenagers on our hands.
 
But Winstead wisely gets off the ride before it begins and causes a scene with her massive freak-out.  Her best friend’s boyfriend (Ryan Merriman) gets into an altercation with an extraordinarily obnoxious football player (the ridiculously named Texas Battle) which gets them ejected from the ride.  A smarmy perv named Frankie Cheeks (isn’t that a character on The Sopranos?) and the 2 blondes he’s been harassing all night are also spared when they leave.  A few others exit the scene safely, as well.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Winstead’s boyfriend and Merriman’s girlfriend who perish during the accident.
 
What follows is unsurprising and, at times, unbearably grotesque.  Like the Friday The 13th franchise, the creators of the Final Destination trilogy have an unhealthy fascination with gory deaths.  FD3 is easily the most disturbing chapter in the series.  The human body has never endured so much punishment.  Skin gets overcooked, a face get punctured with nails…from behind, a head is sliced like bologna, another gets squished, and in one brutal scene, a body is crushed so badly the aftermath resembles human soup with large chunks of severed body parts.
 
But what’s worse are the implausible actions that lead to all those deaths, a significant credibility problem that’s affected the two previous entries in the trilogy.  It’s impossible at times to keep a straight face, especially during the foreshadowing sequences where a light bulb mysteriously flickers, trees dance ominously with the wind and singers warn our beautiful hero about danger on the horizon. 
 
Sometimes, the dialogue itself is unintentionally silly, like this line, spoken after an outdoor funeral:  "…if there’s any place that makes me feel like there’s no life after death, it’s a cemetery."  As Keanu Reeves would say, "Whoa."
 
When the characters are given one-liners, usually they fall flat with one notable exception.
 
When the Ryan Merriman character discovers a possible clue to his impending death – something involving a blinding light – he becomes understandably paranoid.  During a special tri-centennial civic celebration in Pennsylvania, where Merriman is working security detail, a costumed actor with a kite tells the gathering crowd, "Now, let us hope for some lightning." 
 
In response, Merriman quietly and angrily mutters to himself, "Fuck you, Ben Franklin."  That might be the most original one-liner in movie history. 
 
Will there be a fourth film in this series?  It wouldn’t be a surprise considering how much money FD3 made during its 2006 theatrical run (54 million on a 34 million budget, according to the Internet Movie Database.)  But, come on.  How many times can you make the same movie?  This idea didn’t work in Final Destination and it most certainly didn’t fly in numbers two and three.
 
FD3 is disturbing for all the wrong reasons and it’s far too silly to take seriously as a scary movie.  Here’s hoping common sense overrides greed when serious talk of another sequel comes up. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
3:12 p.m.
Published in: on January 24, 2007 at 3:16 pm  Comments (2)  

Lindsay Lohan’s Real Problem

Recently, I mentioned that I was going to attempt the delicate art of freelancing, thanks to the encouragement of a fellow blogger.  It’s been 4 years since I’ve had an article published in The Hamilton Spectator so I’m a little rusty when it comes to understanding what types of pieces tickle the fancies of editors.
 
Yesterday, I made my first proper pitch.  I tried to sell my idea of doing a piece on the deeply troubled Lindsay Lohan.  I even started writing it before firing off that email to the Go Editor of The Spec.  Even before I got a response, I already had a workable draft.  Unfortunately, when I checked my email today, I received bad news.  The idea was turned down.  On the plus side, I was encouraged to keep trying and already, I’ve made my second pitch.  Here’s hoping this particular idea gets accepted.
 
In the meantime, I’ve decided to present my Lindsay Lohan commentary.  Enjoy.
 
 
LINDSAY LOHAN’S REAL PROBLEM
By Dennis Earl

There’s a scene in Ed Wood that I’ve never forgotten. The infamous director goes to visit his troubled friend, legendary actor Bela Lugosi, at a mental institution. Wood is deeply perturbed by what he sees. There’s a pack of reporters and photographers swarming the bed-ridden former Dracula and Wood shoos them all away, calling them “vultures” in the process. What he doesn’t realize is that Lugosi personally contacted those people. Wood is incredulous that his fallen pal wanted the world to know about his morphine addiction.

I was reminded of that scene again when reading about the latest bad news about Lindsay Lohan. Like Lugosi, she has a terrible addiction, in fact, the same addiction: fame.

Although she’s back in rehab for her alcohol abuse, she can’t stay out of the glare of the public eye for more than two seconds, usually for all the wrong reasons. While staying at the Wonderland Center in L.A., she has already reassured a nosy reporter who contacted the facility that she is “doing so great…” She further noted, “I’m fine. Nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for checking in, I do appreciate it.”

It’s that last line that’s noteworthy. She’s actually happy a member of the press, a complete stranger no less, called to check on her. I find that very troubling.

Also disconcerting is her cheery tone. Going to rehab to beat a terrible addiction is supposed to be a humbling and embarrassing experience. It’s where you go when you finally realize you can’t keep travelling down the road of self-destruction. It’s an admission of defeat, an acknowledgment of complete and utter powerlessness to a harmful substance. Other drug-addicted celebrities, ever careful of their public image, would be ashamed if we knew about their trips to rehab. Lindsay Lohan, clearly in denial, thinks her personal problems are worth publicizing. Thanks to her many ill-advised interviews, we know she’s battled bulimia, addictions to cigarettes and alcohol, and that she’s not the monogamous type.

In recent years, Lohan’s chronic immaturity has garnered more attention than her movie and music careers. She’s been in numerous car accidents. She’s been caught out in public without wearing underwear. She’s an underage alcoholic. She’s looked sickly thin from time to time. She’s been missing work because of her excessive partying. Her error-riddled text messages were a godsend to comedians. Since her break-up with actor Wilmer Valderrama she’s gone from one unstable fling to the next. Not a day goes by that she isn’t in the news for doing something stupid. To her, privacy is an alien concept.  Ditto common sense.

It doesn’t help that she’s the product of a dysfunctional family. It also doesn’t help that this painful subject has been fodder for her music.

Her father, Michael, has been in and out of jail for years. Her mother/manager, Dina, behaves more like a free-spirited big sister than a responsible parent. When you spend more time dancing on tables in clubs with your kid instead of being the voice of reason, you set an awful precedent that is difficult to break.

And when you blab about your daughter’s latest stint in rehab to Ryan Seacrest, is it any wonder that Lindsay can’t keep quiet about it, either? Sometimes bad publicity really is just bad publicity.

Recently, on the Howard Stern Show, sidekick Robin Quivers noted how old Lindsay looked in a recent photo. The young star is only 20 years old but Quivers thought she looked twice her age. I hope Lindsay looks at that same photo and realizes that it’s time to take a break from being a public laughing stock. It’s just not worth it.

God knows people have tried to reason with her. There have been interventions and a movie executive wrote a very angry letter to her hoping that she would clean up her act and stop delaying the production of his company’s film.

Unfortunately, Dina defended her daughter instead of agreeing with the executive. As a result, her daughter’s problems continue to accumulate and she can’t stop telling us about them in her impossibly cheerful manner.

As comedian Bill Maher has said many, many times over the years, fame is the worst addiction of all. Why? Because once you get a taste of it, you want more and more, regardless of how it may one day ruin your life. And there’s no rehab for it.

I’ve been watching this show, Child Star Confidential, on Star TV and I marvel at the number of former child stars who can’t give up show business. Despite physical and sexual abuse, stalkers, drug addictions, endless rejection and financial hardships, they keep coming back for more auditions hoping for lightning to strike twice.

Lindsay Lohan is a former child star, too. She started modelling at age 3. Then, she did commercials for many years. She got her first soap opera at age 10, her first movie before she was a teenager and has been a major star since 2003. She has not yet turned 21, the legal drinking age in America.

She has never had an ordinary life free of public scrutiny. Maybe it’s time for her to consider that alternative.

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 22, 2007
6:35 p.m.
Published in: on January 22, 2007 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

TV Ad-Scam

Let’s go back to August 2005.  This is another previously unseen piece that remains one of my personal favourites.  I’ve decided to post it because it reminds me of something I had recently blogged about.
 
A little while ago, I talked about TorStar’s foolhardy and deceptive plan to recruit readers for its newly established advisory groups.  (The Toronto Star version is called The Star Advisers and The Hamilton Spectator incarnation is dubbed The Spec Advisers.)  Apparently, I’ve been the only person online to write about it which speaks volumes.
 
Anyway, TorStar’s chicanery reminds me of a story I tried to get into The Hamilton Spectator 2 years ago.  After writing the story, I contacted the paper hoping to get it printed in the Forum section, the page opposite the signed editorials.  They weren’t interested in using it.  When that failed, I tried to convince them to do a proper news story about the subject of my piece.  They told me they’d look into it but apparently, they didn’t feel it was worthy of any attention so that tactic failed, as well.
 
It’s too bad because I thought this was an important story to cover. 
 
While parts of the piece are now dated, I still believe it’s an entertaining and informative look at a company that deserves more scrunity.
 
 

TV AD-SCAM
By Dennis Earl

My family received an interesting letter in the mail recently. You probably got the same one. It begins, "You have been selected to participate in a survey whose findings will directly influence what you see on television in the future. You have been selected to evaluate not-yet released television material that is being considered for nationwide broadcast. You have been selected to help represent the television viewing preferences of the entire country."

Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

The letter was sent by a company called Television Preview. Based out of Hollywood, California, they exist "for the purpose of providing independent, impartial testing of broadcast material", and they "sell neither products nor services to the general public."

They showcase 2 never-before-seen shows "to groups of people across the country. The groups evaluate what they see, and Television Preview tabulates and analyzes these evaluations. Then, they "pass them along to the people who decide whether the material will be televised."

You won’t just be watching Television; you’ll also be competing for "$250.00 in attendance prizes".

On August 25th, Television Preview is coming to downtown Hamilton to visit The Ramada Plaza Hotel and to give us lucky citizens a chance to play TV critics for a night. My family received 4 free tickets for this upcoming opportunity and if, for some reason, we can’t make it, it’s recommended we give our tickets "to friends or relatives whom" we "feel could contribute worthwhile input."

At least, that’s what they want you to believe.

If you still have this invitation from Television Preview, take a closer look at the envelope. In the upper left-hand corner you’ll notice that their address in Hollywood is simply a Post Office Box number. If you look across the top towards the upper right portion of the envelope, the truth reveals itself. The letter is postmarked "Evansville, Indiana", the real home of Television Preview.

It gets worse.

A quick search of the words "Television Preview" (with quotation marks) on Google.ca and any hope of actually screening new TV shows is shattered in a matter of seconds.

Despite their proclamations of only wanting your views on Television programming, the truth is they’re only interested in how you respond to commercials. You see, the shows they’re presenting have commercial breaks. Oh, and what about those shows? Surely, that’s not a crock, right?

Wrong.

According to numerous accounts on the web, you won’t be seeing a brand new pilot. You’ll be seeing old shows and in one case, one program that actually made it onto the air.

One of the shows they will present has been shown in presentations like this for years. It’s called City and guess when it aired: 1990. That’s right. Television Preview wants your opinion on a show that’s come and gone from the Television airwaves. The show debuted in late January 1990 and lasted but a season. According to accounts online, the show is presented because Television Preview wants you to decide whether Valerie Harper deserves another show or not. Uh huh. 

Surely, by now, considering the number of people who have seen this show in Television Preview presentations across Canada and the United States, this Indiana company would have more than enough audience information to pass on to Hollywood Television studios to decide if Ms. Harper is worthy of a return to prime time. You would think but you would be wrong.

The other show they will present on the 25th will either be Soulmates, a never-aired "one-hour paranormal drama", according to one account, or Blind Men, a rejected NBC sitcom from the late 90s which starred Patrick Warburton as a vertical blinds salesman. Then again, maybe they’ll show different programs. But judging from my research, it’s doubtful.

Most of the time you’ll be asked to fill out questionnaires related to the advertisements you’ll be seeing in between these old shows. You’ll go through page after page of products marking what you use, what you prefer, what you would like to use and what you will never use or are uninterested in using. (Oh yeah and they’ll ask you how you rated the 2 shows you just finished watching. But it’s a red herring.) During the night, 2 draws will be held. All of the completed questionnaires will go in a box and several will be selected. If you filled out one of the chosen questionnaires you win all the advertised products you selected. Whoopee, right?

According to a revealing article in Now Magazine in September 2000, the company’s real name isn’t even Television Preview, it’s RSC The Quality Measuring Company or The ARS Group of RSC The Quality Measuring Company as it states on its official website. (Personally, I love their "Corporate Philosophy": "to be an honest, positive and significant influence…as a service organization, as empiricists, as professionals, as individuals, and finally, as a business.")

Zach Dubinsky, the author of the Now article, managed to convince the company’s manager of marketing communications, Wade Holmes, to go on-the-record to explain the real purpose behind these Television Preview presentations. According to Mr. Holmes, the unsuspecting audience is "going to view television programming into which we’ve embedded videos — commercial breaks — just like they’d be seeing at home." The audience is asked to fill out two advertising-related questionnaires before and after the presentation, which I mentioned earlier. This is done so the company "can tell whether or not exposure to a particular brand message or advertising caused more people to prefer that brand."

This method is apparently called a "persuasion test" and has been used throughout the company’s history, which dates back to the early 70s. "The whole set-up," according to Mr. Holmes, "is that" the audience is "there to evaluate the programming. We try not to cue them to the advertising, because we like it to be an incidental exposure."

He added, "You’d be amazed at how few people figure it out."

Oh, and if you decide to attend August 25th, be aware of something else: telemarketers. According to a couple of accounts online, a few days or so after they attended the presentation they were contacted by phone by someone wanting to sell them something that was advertised during those pesky commercial breaks. Resist, or do what my mom does: hang up while they’re still talking.

You know that old adage, "If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t"? Whoever said it the first time must have been thinking of this deceptive company.

So do yourself a favour. Spread the word. Television Preview isn’t looking for the next Tom Shales. It’s working for the advertising industry. Don’t waste 2 precious hours of your life watching old shows on 4 tiny monitors without having anything to drink or eat. Rent The Upside Of Anger instead and eat all the popcorn you want.

 
Dennis Earl is a writer from Hamilton.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 19, 2007
10:05 p.m.
Published in: on January 19, 2007 at 10:07 pm  Comments (2)  

More Content On The Way

On February 19, this website will be celebrating its first anniversary.  From the very beginning, it’s been great fun writing for an Internet audience and I hope that doesn’t change any time soon.
 
I’m happy to report that I’ve had over 4000 hits thus far.  Not bad for an unknown writer.  I never expected to have a blockbuster right out of the gates.  I always felt that it would be best to slowly build momentum in order to gradually attract more and more readers.  Thanks to fellow bloggers like John Cosway and Fading To Black, that strategy is starting to slowly pay off.  I’m attracting more and more readers through links to my writing posted on their terrific sites.
 
A lot of that has to do with the increasing interest shown in the ongoing troubles at Sun Media.  A quick perusal of my Statistics reveals that whenever I write about that beleaguered company, traffic to the site increases.  Long after I post detailed entries about layoffs and labour disputes, those particular pieces continue to be accessed and read.  Now if only the company would come clean and inform its readers exactly why things have deteriorated so badly.  In the meantime, The Writings Of Dennis Earl, Toronto Sun Family, and Fading To Black (along with The Sun’s competitors) will continue to watch what happens and offer relevant information that Sun Media is unwilling to share with its own readers.
 
I mentioned in an earlier piece how this site has managed to pop up in a number of web searches.  That’s also contributed to the bump in website traffic.  I hope that continues and that new visitors to the site will find unlimited reasons to stay.
 
The site has also helped me get back in touch with a couple of old friends who I hadn’t seen or heard from in over a decade.  Through Google searches, they found the site and it’s been nice emailing them back and forth.  I hope more of my long lost pals find me this way.  I also hope to attract really hot blogging groupies.  Any takers?
 
Every once in a while, I like to preview what’s to come on this website.  It’s not always a wise decision because things happen and you’re not always able to do what you set out to do.  But for the most part, I’ve been able to live up to my promises. 
 
Last year, I mentioned that I was going to post another old Hamilton Spectator article on here.  It’s a Valentine’s Day piece and you should see it in this space sometime before February 14. 
 
Speaking of The Spec, thanks to a tip (and strong encouragement) from a blogging pal, I’m going to try freelancing with them this year, something I haven’t attempted in 4 years.  (I get bummed out way too easily.)  That will be a little tricky because I still want to blog full-time.  I will try to avoid posting anything on here they might be interested in securing for their newspaper.  I’m sure I will figure it all out as the year progresses.
 
Also on the way are some more old, previously unseen movie reviews.  Back in the summer of 1992, I started to write a book of movie reviews I called The Movie Critic: Book One.  By the time I stopped working on it sometime in the spring of 1993, I had over 150 reviews.  Surely, there’s something there worth going over and posting on here.  I hope to share some of these pieces throughout the year.
 
I haven’t ruled out writing about my internship with The Royal Canadian Air Farce.  I was really hoping to have that ready last year but I still don’t know how to work that all out.  The show is still going strong after all these years and I have some fond, lingering memories of my experiences there.  Whenever I figure out how to write that piece, you will see it here as soon as it’s ready.  But at this point, I’m not sure if that will happen this year.
 
It’s been over 2 months since I last screened a movie (Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives was just horrendous), but once I get back into regular screenings I hope to write the occasional review and share it with you.  I didn’t see many movies last year (none from the year 2006, unfortunately) but it was nice to write some strong critiques specifically for this website immediately after a number of viewings.  I still stubbornly cling to the idea of someday being paid to write about the movies in some way.  This website keeps that foolish wish alive.
 
There will be another round of Oscar Predictions.  I won’t predict the nominations, just the winners, like I did last year.  Anything else in the news I think is worth blogging about is also on the agenda.
 
I want to get back into book reading.  I’ve been focusing a lot lately on my out of control magazine collection so I just haven’t given myself enough time to settle down and delve deep into longform writing.  I realize now that I hung onto all these damn things because I was too lazy to read them right away.  I am paying for that mistake right now.  But, as was the case last year, sometimes, you feel inspired to write about what you learn in these old entertainment publications.  (I got 3 pieces out of my Inside Hollywood collection.)
 
I’d love to write more about one-hit wonders and other aspects of entertainment history.  It all depends how things go with The Spec. 
 
There are other ideas kicking around in my cranium but I will remain silent about those for now.  In the meantime, I thank all of you for visiting The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  I’m very proud of my site and will continue to add interesting content to keep you coming back for more.  Spread the word about the quality of the writing here.  You won’t be disappointed.
 
Also, please check out my Amazon book list and buy the titles that interest you the most.  Your purchases help support this website.  I will continue to add titles whenever I feel the need.  Once I get back into reading books, like I used to, I hope to add even more entries.
 
That’s all for now.  Keep looking for new content.  I’m constantly updating.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
9:16 p.m.
Published in: on January 17, 2007 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

2007 Golden Globes Observations

The Golden Globes are easily the most pointless awards ever created.  I’ve had bowling trophies that were more prestigious.
 
And that’s exactly what it is.  A glorified bowling banquet where the beautiful people gather together to ignore presentations & uncomfortably long-winded speeches, and revel in their collective drunkenness.
 
I remember a time when it was so disrespected you couldn’t see the annual broadcast on network television.  (For years, the program aired on TBS, Ted Turner’s “Superstation” based out of his native Atlanta.)
 
But in recent times, the show has been aired on NBC (like tonight’s broadcast) and therefore, its profile has been unjustifiably raised.  People are absolutely serious when they say these particular awards foreshadow the next Oscar winners.  If that were true, how come Jim Carrey hasn’t won an Oscar or even earned a nomination?  (He’s won 3 Golden Globes.)   
 
In the 1990s, I remember being incredibly annoyed that I couldn’t see the show live here in Canada.  Now I wish it would simply go away.
 
But, as always, there are memorable moments, usually comedic ones, from the annual telecast. 
 
Justin Timberlake presented the second award of the evening for Best Original Song.  Prince won for the track he wrote and performed for the popular Happy Feet movie.  He wasn’t in attendance at the time the award was being handed out.  After an awkward moment where he waited patiently for the winner to come up on stage in order to accept his prize and make a forgettable speech, Timberlake accepted the award on Prince’s behalf by squatting a little (beautifully mocking the Minnesota native’s diminutive stature) so it looked like he could barely reach the mic.  Here’s hoping he doesn’t pussy out again and apologize.  Be a man, Justin.  It was a funny bit.  Stand by it.
 
It turned out Prince wasn’t snubbing the Golden Globes.  He was stuck in traffic.  Later on in the broadcast, Hugh Grant pointed him out just before he co-presented an award but thankfully Prince didn’t have to say anything.  He’s a better musician than he is public speaker.
 
When Sacha Baron Cohen, who curiously didn’t appear as Borat, won the Best Actor In A Comedy Or Musical award he singled out his enormous co-star from the movie of the same name.  I haven’t seen the movie but apparently there’s a naked wrestling match that occurs between these two and Cohen made some humourous remarks about how unpleasant it was to be subjected to the big man’s “golden globes” and how he couldn’t help but catch a whiff of something all of us have been lucky not to experience for ourselves.  The director constantly cut between shots of Cohen, his Coke drinking co-star and lots of amused celebrities.  It’s a moment not likely to be repeated at the forthcoming Academy Awards.  It’s too bad because the show could use a funny moment like that.
 
When he accepted his award for Best Actor In A Drama, Forest Whitaker made some of the weirdest wheezing noises I’ve ever heard.  I admire him greatly as an actor but his acceptance speech was so painful to watch.  It just went on and on.  If he wins the Oscar for Best Actor, here’s hoping he’s better prepared next time.  If he thought winning a bowling trophy was overwhelming, well, if he does win the Oscar, let’s hope he keeps it together and gets his thank yous out a lot quicker.
 
Dustin Hoffman may need walking lessons after a bizarre stumble just before doing his bit at the awards show.  He quickly recovered and noted that, during the montage of Warren Beatty film moments, the Ishtar clip lasted “0.5 seconds”.  He then quipped that Ishtar II was a go.
 
Tom Hanks had some funny moments during his tribute to Beatty who won the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.  He was obsessed with Beatty’s “balls” which he explained repeatedly meant his “artistic vision”.  He goofed on how old he is and his slutty reputation.  He marvelled at how Beatty was able to get a capitalist movie company to bankroll a film about Soviet Communism (the Oscar-winning Reds).
 
During all that, I couldn’t help but think about Julia Phillips’ book, You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again.  She was no fan of Beatty.  I remember she called him a “rammer” which refers to his sexual technique, that he appeared to be making the moves on Molly Ringwald before she was legal and that he openly proposed a threesome with Phillips and her very young teenage daughter.  Phillips marvelously refused him thusly:  “We’re both too old for you…”  How I wish she were still alive to put him in his place some more.
 
It was nice to see Tony Shalhoub get a couple shoutouts from the stage.  When Tim Allen co-presented an award with Vanessa Williams, he made a reference to Galaxy Quest which they both appeared in back in 1999.  He must be a well-liked actor to work with.  He’s great on Monk.  No wonder he keeps winning all those Emmys.
 
America Ferrara has never looked better but she took her win for Best Actress In A TV Comedy way too seriously.  So did Jennifer Hudson who won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls.  I have a feeling that we’ll never hear from her again after the Oscars.
 
When I saw the luminous Penelope Cruz, I had only one thought:  Tom Cruise should’ve never left her.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
2:00 a.m.
Published in: on January 16, 2007 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

TorStar Wants You

Late last night, I received an interesting email.  Blogger Fading To Black informed me that TorStar, the parent company of flagship newspaper, The Toronto Star, was about to make a major push for “reader input” in a number of its newspapers. 
 
On the one hand, FTB thought it might be a cynical campaign to increase advertising revenue (the establishment of “buying patterns”, for instance).  But then again, it might be a worthwhile venture worth looking into.
 
Sure enough, in today’s Toronto Star, there’s an article asking for readers to participate in something called The Star Advisers.  In the bottom right hand corner of page A16 of today’s Hamilton Spectator, there’s a similiar piece requesting reader participation for its own “new readership advisory panel” which they call The Spec Advisers.
 
I’m very cynical about this.  If you visit thestaradvisers.com and/or thespecadvisers.com, you’ll notice this in the bottom right hand corner of that informational rectangle:  “Powered By VisionCritical”. 
 
What is VisionCritical?  It’s an online marketing research company that’s been around for 7 years.  When you check out their history, your cynicism grows.  On the “Our Story” page, if you look to the left of your screen and scroll down a smidgen, you’ll notice something disturbing.  VisionCritical is associated with organizations like The National Retail Federation and The American Marketing Association, among a few others.
 
Essentially, TorStar thinks that recruiting readers for focus groups is the key to getting their newspapers, particular the struggling Star, back on track.  I don’t know about you but I hate focus groups.  I hate groupthink in general, particularly when it is espoused by editorial boards.  I value individual opinions more because they tend to be more accurate and persuasive than anything an editorial army could offer.
 
It’s nice that the company is realizing that it needs to make some changes.  But is this the solution? 
 
For me, it doesn’t take a focus group to realize that the number one concern of any newspaper reader is accountability.  That means reporting stories as accurately as possible within a very tight deadline.  That also means printing opinions that are free of libel and slander.  Furthermore, accountability means correcting the record when you screw up.  Far too often, most especially in The Toronto Sun, glaring errors that are brought to the attention of the paper go uncorrected.  (As a recent example, I emailed Bill Harris, one of The Sun’s Entertainment Critics, to inform him that there was a mistake in a photo caption that accompanied his story on a new Rolling Stone reality show.  The caption said that the bearded guy standing in the middle of a small group of contestants was Executive Editor Joe Levy.  It wasn’t.  It was Jann Wenner, the founder of the magazine.  I never heard a reply.  And, as far as I know, it hasn’t been corrected in the print version of the paper.  The Sun still doesn’t have a Corrections section on its website.)
 
The next big concerns of readers are accessibility and subjects of interest.  Whether you prefer the tabloid format to broadsheets (and I certainly do), readers want to be able to find their favourite sections immediately.  Pullouts are popular which is one of the reasons readers love broadsheets.  If you want to read about sports, pull out that section and there it is.  Very convenient.  Even tabloids offer them on certain days of the week. 
 
Sun readers are big on well-written crime stories which is one of the reasons Max Haines is much missed.  (He wrote all those popular crime flashback articles.)  What they don’t want, as ex-Sun reporter John Cosway noted on his Toronto Sun Family blog not too long ago, are more stories about that evil bimbo, Paris Hilton.  (When has The Sun, or any newspaper for that matter, not reported on her chronic stupidity?)
 
But what readers truly loathe are big, noticeable changes that inconvenience them.  Moving The Sunshine Girl from Page 3 to the back of the newspaper.  Relocating the Entertainment section to the back instead of offering a daily pullout.  Cutting down the workload of popular columnists (or firing them altogether) and offering mediocre replacements.  Not always printing email addresses of reporters, critics and columnists.  Secretly terminating Readership and Public Editors.  These are the types of changes people hate.
 
TorStar doesn’t need to pay a company to survey readers who sign up for their advisory groups.  They’re unnecessary since those same readers already offer their opinions freely through phone calls, emails, letters and faxes.  When the people speak, shouldn’t newspapers listen?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, January 13, 2007
4:32 p.m.
Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The History Of The One-Hit Wonder (Side Projects & Supergroups) – Part Three

"Go!" by Tones On Tail
 
There’s a very good chance that you’ve never heard of this band, but I bet you’ve heard this song many, many times without even realizing it.  It’s been heard in hockey arenas and on retro radio for years.  Still not ringing a bell?  Keep reading.
 
When he was still in Bauhaus, Daniel Ash started an experimental side project in order to showcase his own material.  He joined forces with bassist Glenn Campling who normally hauled Bauhaus’ gear during their tours and also designed some of the artwork for their albums.  
 
While Tones On Tail released a number of ignored singles, Bauhaus broke up.  Ash recruited his former bandmate, Kevin Haskins, to play drums for his new outfit turning the duo into a trio.
 
There was only one proper Tones On Tail album.  It was called Pop and it was released in 1984.  (Yes, they used that title long before U2.)  Performance was the first single.  It flopped.  Lions, the follow-up, didn’t fare much better.  However, the B-side to that second single, Go!, unexpectedly became an enormous hit in dance clubs and on radio.  Too bad it wasn’t on Pop.  The commercial success of that single might’ve helped the band move some records.  According to their official label biography, they were considered too depressing to get into.  As a result, this 2-year-old side project "semi-acrimoniously" called it a day the same year they released Pop. 
 
After a failed attempt to lure singer Peter Murphy back to Bauhaus, Ash, Haskins and David J started the highly successful Love & Rockets which lasted until 1999.  Meanwhile, Go! became one of those songs you couldn’t escape.  It was used in movies like Career Opportunities, Grosse Pointe Blank and Party Monster.  It’s been featured in an ad campaign for gum.  You can hear it on numerous retro compilations and sometimes, when you’re watching a hockey game, usually one involving The Edmonton Oilers, just before the puck is dropped, you’ll hear its familiar refrain:   "Ya ya ya ya ya ya yaya ya!" 
 
Not bad for a song relegated to the flip side of a unpopular single after being rejected for album consideration. 
 
"Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2" by The Class Of ’99
 
Layne Staley was no stranger to side projects.  In 1995, he sang for the Seattle supergroup, Mad Season, which also featured Mike McCready of Pearl Jam among his bandmates.  (Remember "River Of Deceit"?)  After only making one album with this lineup, Staley went back to Alice In Chains and his increasingly dangerous heroin habit.
 
While AIC was struggling to get back on track near the end of the decade, Staley would form another supergroup called The Class Of ’99.   Among the members:  guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine & Audioslave, and drummer Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction.  They would never make a proper album.  But 2 of their songs would be recorded for the 1998 horror film, The Faculty, writer Kevin Williamson’s awful reworking of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.  (The twist is that the aliens are disguised as high school teachers.) 
 
The band would do cover versions of both parts of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall.  Part Two was issued as a single and would become a Top 20 hit on Mainstream Rock Radio and a Top 40 hit on Alternative stations. 
 
3 years later, Layne Staley’s dead body would be found decomposing in his condo.  What a waste of great talent.
 
"Honestly" by Zwan
 
Billy Corgan is best known for leading The Smashing Pumpkins to greatness for 12 years.  After the band broke up in 2000, Billy decided to form a new group called Zwan.  Among the members he recruited were Pumpkins drummer, Jimmy Chamberlain, and A Perfect Circle bassist, Paz Lenchantin.  What began as a trio turned into a fivesome.  (Lenchantin was the last to join.)
 
Their one and only album, Mary Star Of The Sea, was released in January 2003.  It spawned one hit single:  Honestly, which peaked at #7 on the Modern Rock chart and #21 on the Mainstream Rock chart. 
 
So, what happened?  After an auspicious beginning, why did Zwan die so young?  According to Corgan, "Sex and drugs and junk."  He elaborated more specifically on his accusations in interviews which some of his ex-bandmates have denied.  (The rest have stayed silent.) Also, he later revealed that his heart was never really in this new project.  Is it any wonder he’s reuniting The Pumpkins?
 
"Layla" by Derek & The Dominos
 
Eric Clapton had it bad for Pattie Boyd.  Unfortunately, she was taken.  By a Beatle.
 
George Harrison met the beautiful model while shooting A Hard Day’s Night.  2 years later, Pattie would become his first wife in 1966. 
 
Meanwhile, Clapton was an easily bored but highly successful guitarist.  After stints with Jon Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds, Clapton formed the power trio, Cream, in the mid-60s.  After four albums, they parted company.  Clapton then went on to start and stop numerous supergroups and side projects.  Blind Faith was one.  Derek & The Dominos was another.
 
According to Wikipedia, there are two stories for the establishment of the latter’s name.  In the entry for Eric Clapton, credit is given to musician Tony Ashton, who, for some unexplained reason, called Eric "Derek".  Clapton had taken three members of Delaney & Bonnie And Friends to start a new group.  Wikipedia says Ashton renamed them "Derek & The Dominos".
 
But another Wikipedia entry, this one for Derek & The Dominos, claims that the band was originally called Eric & The Dynamos.  However, that name didn’t stick because of an accidental screw-up.  As the story goes, before they went onstage for their very first gig, the announcer called them "Derek & The Dominos" by mistake.  For some reason, the band decided to make the change.
 
Clapton met Pattie through her husband, George Harrison, who also happened to be one of Clapton’s closest pals.  He fell madly in love with her and the feeling was mutual which created a sticky situation.  He became so tormented by his attraction to her he made a double album of original material devoted completely to this startling development in his life.  It didn’t help that he was also stupidly addicted to smack.
 
The most notable song from the only Dominos album was Layla, the record’s sole hit.  After 2 years in release, it finally became an enormous success in 1972 thanks to the enduringly great guitar work by the late Duane Allman.  Reaching the Top 10 in America, it did better in Clapton’s home country.  (It peaked at #7 in the UK and, in 1982, it returned to the Top 5 there.)  20 years after it originally charted, Clapton issued an unplugged, solo version of the song which also enjoyed tremendous success.  (It hit #12 in America and won a Grammy for Best Rock Song.)  Tragedy and drugs prevented the band from continuing beyond that debut album.
 
Inevitably, Clapton was able to pull Boyd away from Harrison and incredibly, despite all this drama, they remained friends until George’s untimely death from lung cancer in late 2001.  Harrison officially divorced Boyd in 1977 and would find love again with his second wife, Olivia, later that same decade.  Clapton married Pattie in 1979 but the marriage was tumultuous.  Despite beating his heroin addiction, he became a violent alcoholic (he would solve that problem, too) and the marriage dissolved in 1988.
 
Perhaps Layla’s greatest legacy is its inclusion in the final moments of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.  Whenever I think of the song’s 2 killer licks (Allman’s familiar riff and that cool piano bit in the final act), I see blood red spaghetti sauce and the closing credits.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
9:30 p.m.
Published in: on January 9, 2007 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The History Of The One-Hit Wonder (Side Projects & Supergroups) – Part Two

"Pineapple Face" by Revenge, "What Do You Want From Me?" by Monaco
 
When Ian Curtis killed himself in 1980, it spelled the end of the burgeoning post-punk British quartet, Joy Division.  The surviving members recruited a new member and were reborn as New Order.  Throughout the years, the members have worked on side projects.  Bernard Sumner collaborated with former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to form Electronic which enjoyed some success in the 1990s.  Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, who fell in love and remain married to this day (even though Gillian has left the band), established a project of their own called The Other Two, a cute reference to their low profile in the band.
 
And then, there’s Peter Hook.  He’s been the frontman for two side projects, both of whom became one-hit wonders in the same decade.
 
Let’s start with Revenge.  The group was established during one of the lowest points in New Order’s career.  In 1989, despite being one of the most important and successful alternative bands of that time, the mood was grim.  Factory Records, the band’s longtime label, was going through a financial crisis.  Their famous club, The Hacienda, had seen better days.  And there was tremendous friction within the band itself.  Before an American concert on June 16th, Bernard Sumner told his bandmates he was starting another group.  Afterwards, each of the band members travelled to their afternoon gig in separate cars. 
 
Lost and extremely angry, Hook, who wanted to keep New Order going, decided to follow Bernard’s lead and form his own side project. According to Wikipedia, he named it Revenge because of Bernard’s decision to form Electronic at the height of New Order’s fame.
 
The trio would only record one full-length album:  One True Passion in 1990.  It spawned the Top 10 Modern Rock Hit, Pineapple Face, whose tormented lyrics are not nearly as dark as Joy Division’s were a decade earlier.  After New Order got their act together in 1993 in order to make the Republic album, Hook hoped to bring back Revenge during another N.O. hiatus.  Things didn’t quite work out so he started another group called Monaco.  Their first release was the 1997 album, Music For Pleasure.  The only hit from the CD was What Do You Want From Me?, which was a Top 30 Modern Rock hit in America.
 
New Order’s hiatus in the 1990s would last until the new millennium.  In the meantime, Monaco recorded their second album which was rejected by their UK label, Polydor Records, but eventually distributed in 1999 by Papillon Records.  (Good luck finding a copy.)  The single from that sophomore release, I’ve Got A Feeling (not The Beatles song), was removed from record stores because of "sample clearance issues", according to Wikipedia.  By 2000, the bottom fell out and Monaco was no more.  Good thing New Order reunited.
 
"I Believe" by Booth And The Bad Angel
 
In 1991, Tim Booth, the lead singer of James, was asked a question by a TV interviewer:  who would he like to make music with?  His answer:  Angelo Badalamenti, David Lynch’s longtime composer.  After getting the go-ahead from his label, it would take 5 years for the results of their collaboration to surface in record stores.
 
They called their one-time project, Booth And The Bad Angel.  They would only release one studio album in 1996 which was self-titled.  Two singles were issued but only one was a hit.  That would be "I Believe" which received heavy airplay on alternative rock stations.   (For some odd reason, the word "Believe" was misspelled on the label side of the CD.  It looks like this:  "Beleive".)
 
The year after the album’s release, Booth would return to James.  The band would release 3 more studio records before Booth’s official departure in 2001.  They haven’t been heard from since.  (Their website was last updated in 2002.)  Booth has since gone solo.
 
As for Badalalmenti, who turns 70 in March, he continues to be busy composing music for a variety of projects including, believe it or not, video games. 
 
"Natural One" by Folk Implosion
 
Lou Barlow is a longtime lo-fi indie musician from Ohio who has been in numerous bands over the years.  He was one of the founding members of Dinosaur Jr. but had a serious falling out with J. Mascis in the late 1980s.  Fortunately, Barlow had his side project, Sebadoh, to fall back on and that ended up being his main group.  (Check out The Freed Pig on Sebadoh III to discover how Barlow felt about Mascis at the time.  It’s also on This Is Fort Apache.  One of my favourite all-time songs.)
 
Throughout the years, he’s led many other side projects.  In 1995, he was commissioned to do the soundtrack for a small independent feature film called Kids.  (The movie marked the debut of a beautiful young actress named Rosario Dawson.)  The CD featured contributions from several Barlow outfits.  There was material from Sebadoh, Deluxx Folk Implosion and Folk Implosion.
 
Folk Implosion is a duo that formed the year before the release of the movie.  (John Davis is the other member.)  To the surprise of many, their song, Natural One, became a popular radio single.  It was a Top 5 Modern Rock smash, a Top 20 Mainstream Rock hit and even cracked the upper echelons of The Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.  (It peaked at #29.)
 
Sebadoh broke up in 1999 but Barlow still leads Folk Implosion and other side projects.  Incredibly, he made up with J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. have been touring steadily since 2005. 
 
"Friends Of P" by The Rentals
 
In between the first two Weezer albums, bassist Matt Sharp put out the debut album of his side project, The Rentals.  This new venture became a surprise success after the first single, Friends Of P, became a Top 10 smash on Alternative Radio in 1995.  (Saturday Night Live’s Maya Rudolph was once a member.)
 
After the commercial failure of the Pinkerton album, Sharp temporarily left Weezer in order to put together a new lineup for the second Rentals album.  The year before the release of the Seven More Minutes CD, Sharp officially left Weezer and I wonder now if he regrets that decision.  After a 5-year absence, Rivers Cuomo and company returned with a vengeance and have since released three successful albums. (Maladroit went Gold and the rest were certified Platinum.)  Beverly Hills was a number one hit on Modern Rock Radio and was even nominated for a Grammy.
 
Meanwhile, Sharp has once again put together another lineup of musicians for his next Rentals CD which is supposed to be out this year.  Will he prove that The Rentals are more than one-hit wonders?  We shall see.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
4:40 p.m.
Published in: on January 9, 2007 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment