Basic Instinct 2

It begins with a murder.  A silver Spider is cruising down the empty streets of London late at night.  The passenger is a man unable to say or do much.  The driver is a woman in complete control.  She’s horny.  He’s not in any condition to resist.
 
While in the middle of a rather unconvincing fingerbang, the car runs out of road and dives headfirst into a nearby river.  Only one person survives.  Guess which one.
 
This is how Basic Instinct 2 opens and it’s all downhill from there, literally.
 
Once again, Sharon Stone plays Catherine Tramell, the ice cold blonde seductress who writes best-selling novels about the murders she commits.  How she continues to get away with these crimes despite the overwhelming evidence against her remains both ridiculous and insulting.  She’s not as clever as she thinks she is.
 
The only suspect in the murder of her soccer player boyfriend, she’s taken into custody by the police and agrees to be evaluated by the prosecution’s shrink (played by David Morrissey who looks and sounds uncannily like Liam Neeson) without the presence of her attorney.  She plays him like a fiddle, laying the groundwork for a plot that is as confused as it is stupid. 
 
Morrissey wrongly assesses her in court as a risk addict with a unhealthy, delusional sense of omnipotence.  Basically, he believes that her extreme sexual and violent behaviour is her way of constantly proving her invincibility.  If you ask me, she’s a manipulative hack with a poor imagination who pushes herself to do "interesting" things in her real life so she’ll have something to sell to gullable readers.  Note the quotation marks.  She’s actually quite boring and she has a lot to learn about being sexy, as well.
 
Like the first movie, one of the worst of the 1990s, Tramell lays on her deep-voiced come-ons so thick and so often that the shrink, like Michael Douglas’ San Francisco cop, ultimately cannot resist her.  It’s hard to believe considering how unsexy Stone is in this movie.  She looks like a 50-year-old pretending to be 30, something the movie never has the balls to acknowledge.  It just doesn’t work.  And when did she get that boob job?  I’d sue, if I was her.
 
Despite initially refusing to take her on as a client, the shrink breaks with his profession’s ethical guidelines rather easily and grows increasingly obsessive with her in the movie’s first hour.  In an unusual twist, he has casual encounters with a couple of younger women (one, a colleague, the other, a waitress at a local restaurant) where he transfers his lust for Tramell, who is much older, onto each of them.  When has that ever happened before?  At one point, he actually stares at a book jacket shot of her while in the middle of doing it with a much lovelier blonde druggist.
 
Meanwhile, more people are murdered.  A reporter working on a story involving a notorious, former client of the shrink which could kill the increasingly desperate man’s chances for a major promotion.  The shrink’s ex-wife who was having a fling with the reporter.  Suddenly, Tramell isn’t the only one arousing suspicion.  Besides the dimwitted shrink, a cop (David Thewlis) who may or may not have a shady past of his own and is determined to nab the author, is also on the short list.
 
All of this leading to a finale that will leave you scratching your head in complete bewilderment.  Unlike Basic Instinct, which gave away its supposed mystery in the first scene and didn’t deny it in the last, number two completely undermines what you think happened in a most unpersuasive manner.  We know who killed the British footballer.  That’s never in dispute.  But as for the other deaths, I’m not sure who the real murderer is, despite what is revealed in the final act.  One thing I am sure of:  I don’t care.
 
Basic Instinct 2 is slow-moving, deadly dull, preposterous, silly and remarkably unscintillating.  It knows little about turn-ons and erotic gestures.  It knows even less about plot construction and interesting characters, although, to be fair, Thewlis, Morrissey and Charlotte Rampling (who plays a fellow shrink) do the best they can with a terrible screenplay.  This film, believe it or not, is only slightly better than the original.  (The first movie annoyed me just that bit more because after seeing its fantastic trailer I felt more betrayed by its manipulative storyline.) 
 
I couldn’t help but think about The Last Seduction while watching this rightfully drubbed disaster.  It has a far more appealing anti-hero and tells a far better story.  It’s what this movie and its predecessor wanted to be but couldn’t.
 
What’s most hard to swallow is that this overlong mess was directed by Michael Caton-Jones, the same man who helmed Memphis Belle, Doc Hollywood, and This Boy’s Life, all good films worth catching on DVD.  Seeing the beautiful Julie Warner naked and wet in that middle feature is sexier than both Basic Instinct films combined.
 
One last thing.  Not that it matters but what happened to Michael Douglas’ character?  He’s mentioned in passing a couple of times and the shrink reads the book that Tramell wrote about him ("Shooter").  Did he get killed off?  Did he dump Tramell?  Did she dump him?  And when and why did she move to London?  The movie is too disinterested to care.
 
Come to think of it, me too.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
5:28 p.m.
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Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Upcoming Sherri Woodstock Concert

It’s a reality.  After several months of planning, Sherri Woodstock is all set to go.
 
On October 5th, several Canadian acts will take to the stage at Toronto’s Opera House in tribute to Sherri Wood, the Toronto Sun club reporter and concert critic who died of brain cancer at the age of 28.  (I previously wrote about her death here and about the show here.)  The idea for a public, artistic eulogy for Wood, who enthusiastically championed local talent during her short but respected stint at The Sun, arose the day of her funeral when her colleague and close friend, Bill Brioux (then-TV Critic of the longtime tabloid, now freelancing with The Canadian Press), openly suggested it to Wood’s family, friends and co-workers.  Later that day, he wrote about the possibility on his blog here.    
 
On April 8th, Brioux started a Sherri Woodstock Facebook Group which currently has 255 members.  It has provided a place for people to suggest ideas, offer support and post tributes.  Throughout the spring and summer, occasional updates on the planning of the concert were posted on the group’s homepage.  On August 5th, Sherri’s mom, Debbie, announced to members the immediate availability of tickets for the one-day event.  They’re still available for purchase through Ticket Pro.  (Click here for more information.)  Soon thereafter, Brioux and The Toronto Sun Family Blog plugged the gig as have others.
 
The 19+ show will feature all locally-based Canadian acts.  First up will be The Overtones.  The Brampton, Ontario trio will play a half-hour set beginning at 5:15 p.m., 45 minutes after the doors to The Opera House will be open to ticketholders.
 
Next to take the stage will be Franky Moonlight.  Expect a half-hour set to begin at 6.
 
Third on the bill is Toronto’s Dani Strong who advanced as far as the regional finals during her ultimately unsuccessful audition in 2006 for Nashville Star, the country music version of American Idol.  The independent pianist, who performs a mix of Christian and acoustic pop, leads her all-male backing group (drummer Grant Taylor, bassist Dave Sumerfeldt, and guitarists Mike Bowell & Adam Coe) in a 45-minute set that begins at quarter to 7.
 
Classic Albums Live is next.  Best known for taking famous rock albums and covering them from start to finish (“note for note, cut for cut”) during their gigs, they’re planning on honouring Led Zeppelin.  According to their official website, this Toronto-based outfit, with a rotating roster of about 45 musicians, have previously covered Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IIUntitled, Houses Of The Holy and Physical Grafitti this yearHowever, Bill Brioux has noted in his latest report of the concert that the band will be doing “a best of set of Led Zeppelin standards”.  Which classic Page/Plant epics are they planning to showcase?  Find out October 5th when their hour-long homage commences at 7:50 p.m.
 
Fifth on the bill is Five Blank Pages.  Established five years ago in Brampton, Ontario, this four-piece will play for 45 minutes once 9:15 rolls around.  They’ll most likely play cuts from their critically acclaimed album from last year, Last Blush.
 
Finally, there’s The Little Millionaires, a punk band from Toronto.  One of its members, Aaron Sawyer, a close friend of Sherri’s, helped organize the concert.  They commence their 45-minute set at 10:15.
 
Brioux further notes that a video tribute to Sherri will be shown at some point during the concert.  He’s also launched a Sherri Woodstock Blog which you can check out here.  As we get closer to the actual date, more information about the bands and the gig itself will be posted on that site.
 
Once again, tickets are still available for Sherri Woodstock here but, according to Brioux, many have already been sold so don’t wait a second longer to buy them.  Here’s hoping the concert is a great success.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 19, 2008
8:44 p.m.
Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Zerbisias & Daily News Wrong About Howard Stern

Toronto Star Lifestyles Columnist Antonia Zerbisias, much to my surprise, has been blogging since the start of the year.  It’s a surprise because in December 2006, when she was The Star’s Media Critic, she was contemplating a permanent break from posting frequent entries on Azerbic, her original blog.  As she commented on Fading To Black at the time, “…my blog is on hiatus until I decide what to do with the rest of my life.  For one thing, I would actually like to have a life.”.  She published her last item on the site on December 20th that year. 
 
Her new blog, Broadsides (pun intended, by the way), which officially began on January 3rd this year, focuses more on feminism and sexism rather than general commentary on journalism.  Yesterday, she wrote scathingly and unfairly about Howard Stern. 
 
The Sirius Satellite Radio host was the lead item in The Rush & Molloy gossip column in the September 9th edition of The New York Daily News.  According to both Mark Mercer, the blogger who writes up detailed overviews of the popular morning program on Marksfriggin.com, and Howardstern.com (the official site), Stern was understandably furious about how an upcoming segment on the September 9th show was promoted in the article.
 
“Look for Howard Stern to shock again on Tuesday morning when he’s due to kick off the auction of a 22-year-old beauty’s virginity,” it began.  “Expected to step on the block, so to speak, of Stern’s Sirius radio studio is a San Diego woman who says she wants to sell her maidenhood to pay her college tuition.”
 
In a piece posted on her Broadsides blog in relation to that article, Zerbisias opined thusly:
 
“Howard Stern is a pimp.”
 
Firstly, the bidding for “Natalie Dylan’s” chastity began before her appearance on the show.  The longtime New York talk radio phenomenon is unaffiliated with the auction.  (“Howard said he would never auction off a virgin on his show,” Mercer reported.)  Dennis Hof, a frequent guest and the 51-year-old owner of The Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada, is the one running it.  As Hof noted during the interview, “Dylan” (not her real name) has already received an offer of $50000 from an unnamed businessman.  No actual bidding took place during the program, including that one.
 
Secondly, Dennis Hof is the pimp, not Stern.  As Mercer reported on his website, the comedian felt violated by the article and urged his producer, Gary Dell’Abate, to cancel the segment.  “Howard said that it’s not something that he would do himself and he was just interested in finding out what it’s all about,” he wrote.  Howardstern.com noted, “After hearing that Dennis and the girls [Dylan & her sister, Aiva] had already flown in and were on their way, Howard begrudgingly allowed Gary to keep the segment on the schedule.”  Stern confronted Hof on the air who denied saying to The Daily News that the auction was to officially begin on the New York-based comedian’s program.  He also shifted the blame to Judith Regan, the publisher of Stern’s two best-selling autobiographies, who he claims urged him to get publicity for the stunt in the daily tabloid.
 
As with any media outlet, be it radio show, TV program, newspaper, magazine or website, nefarious characters from all walks of life from around the world are highly sought after for interviews.  The Stern Show is no exception.  It doesn’t mean any of them endorse the people they’re querying nor whatever it is they’re promoting.  The idea of a woman wanting a man to pay to win the privilege of deflowering her, while unoriginal, is interesting and newsworthy.  Who wouldn’t want to ask questions about this in a public forum?  And, by the way, how come Rush & Molloy, as well as The Daily News, were spared the “pimp” smear?  They were the first media outlet to report this story.  Talk about an unfair double standard.
 
Back to Zerbisias.  After her slanderous opening line (which is unconscionable and should be retracted), she follows with this:
 
“Boosting your ratings on a woman’s body is no different from living off the avails of prostitution.”
 
As Warren Kinsella has helpfully pointed out for years, Zerbisias’ professional home, The Toronto Star, whose parent company, TorStar, owns Eye Weekly, has benefited financially for years from thinly disguised “hooker ads”, to use his phrase, routinely published in the free publication.  (On her Azerbic blog in 2006, in response to Kinsella’s National Post column about the ads, she actually defended the practice.) 
 
So, let me get this straight.  Ads for sexual workers in Eye Weekly are ok “[a]s long as the women are consenting adults and working of their own free will in clean and safe environments, free of exploitative bosses…” which, in turn, keeps money rolling in for your employers but Howard Stern can’t talk to one woman wanting to auction off her virginity even though he won’t be earning a cent from it?  That’s some strange logic right there.
 
Thanks to the Daily News, the misrepresentation in the Rush & Molloy column was not only mentioned in Broadsides but all over the Internet.  No wonder Stern was pissed.  The guy has three daughters.  He doesn’t need to defend who he is to them because of bad reporting like this.  They already know.  He’s no pimp and contrary to Zerbisias’ unproven assertion that Stern “has always exploited women to get listeners,” (the show would’ve been cancelled a long time ago if sex was the only topic of discussion), let’s make this perfectly clear.  Every woman that’s ever been on the show to get naked, ride the Sybian sex machine, participate in game show segments or sit down for a chat has done so of her own free will.  They’ve always had the right to say yes or no to any requests that come up before, during and after the segments.  And if Zerbisias ever bothered to listen to Stern or even read the write-ups on Marksfriggin.com and Howardstern.com, the comedian has a lot of respect for the women he interviews on his program.
 
In fact, as Mark Mercer reported yesterday, “Howard asked Natalie why she would want to do that [sell her virginity] and not meet someone nice and lose it to him instead.”  He also noted, “Howard said that Natalie is looking for a great guy and he’s not sure she’ll find that this way.”
 
Does that sound like a “pimp” who “has always exploited women to get listeners”?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
2:28 a.m.
 
UPDATE:  Zerbisias has linked to an article by Weird News blogger Buck Wolf which contains these comments from Stern:
 
“I have three daughters, a fiancé and a mother. This is not my thing. We don’t even know if it is true.
 
I’m only interviewing the girl about WHY she is doing this, the same way ANY show – or ANY newspaper – interviews people about what they do.”
 
Exactly, but that wasn’t good enough for The Star columnist who stubbornly refuses to admit that she was wrong to call him a “pimp”.  She also stands by her initial, unproven assertion that Stern is “profiting” from the auction.  Would she say the same thing if Natalie appeared on The View?
 
As for her remark, “Stern didn’t become the shock jock by hosting sobre political debates,” the comedian has led discussions on politics constantly throughout his decades in broadcasting.  (He’s also not a “shock jock”.  If you’re “shocked” by things he says on the program, you must not be an adult who can handle different opinions, particularly those coming from a man.)  One wonders if she has ever actually listened to the program or even read the show write-ups on Marksfriggin.com and/or Howardstern.com.  It certainly doesn’t sound like it.  At any event, this example proves Stern is a lot more in tune with reality than Zerbisias thinks he is.  (He was absolutely right about Joe Lieberman.)
 
I’ve always had problems with the longtime Star employee even though she can be one of the best critical writers in the country.  (Her media criticism gig is much missed.)  But she has become very difficult to read, thanks to her increasing misandry and hypocrisy.  One gets very angry at her general, unfair stereotyping of our gender.  Routinely, we are collectively dismissed as being “clueless” because we’re not very good at understanding “what drives women on a primal level”, as if their needs and wants are so radically different than ours.  (So, women don’t want fulfilling relationships, careers and general happiness or am I being clueless?)  We’re genetically inferior, too dumb to know we’re being exploited by the adult entertainment business (getting off on naked pictures and videos of hot women isn’t what we want?) and we “fear” assertive women.  Plus, we’re just less intelligent than women. 
 
You know, there are 3 billion of us on this planet.  We are world leaders, business moguls, world class athletes, inventors, scientists, attorneys, environmentalists, police officers, fire fighters, volunteers, caregivers, performers, fathers, sons, grandsons, uncles, brothers, etc., etc.  To continually denigrade us as a whole because some men are a disgrace to our gender says more about Zerbisias than it does about us.  We deserve the same respect women do, not more, not less.  Can you imagine if a man had referred to women in the exact, same manner as she does about us?  She would be the first to call us out on our bullshit.  But because it’s a woman bashing men, that’s ok.
 
Well, it’s not ok.  I used to have respect for her as a writer.  I don’t any longer.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 13, 2008
3:03 p.m.
Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 2:27 am  Comments (1)  

The Very Vulnerable Republican Party

Something is very wrong in America.  It’s an unmistakable feeling.  We have a news media that is completely incapable of asking politicians tough, pointed questions that demand sincere answers on a consistent basis.  Dishonest, defamatory rhetoric has infected the body politic like a debilitating cancer.  The national debt has hit ten trillion.  Illegal invasions of two Middle Eastern countries have brought nothing but pain, misery and hopelessness, not democracy, peace and prosperity, as promised.  We have an opposition party that refuses to hold the ruling party accountable for all its criminal activities.  And we have a ruling party so utterly corrupt, dangerous and hypocritical that the country’s international reputation has taken a huge nosedive.
 
The last eight years have been awful for the United States, thanks to the tragic election and re-election of George W. Bush’s Republican Party.  It’s taken a while but, on the plus side, the public is now overwhelmingly against their policies and chronic deceitfulness.  Had the media not simply been right-wing stenographers but actual journalists fact checking on a routine basis, perhaps this whole ongoing nightmare could’ve been avoided.  But that would be asking too much of this crowd.
 
If we’ve learned anything about bullies over the years, it’s this.  The more they demonize their opponents, the more vulnerable they tend to be.  The Republicans are an excellent case in point.
 
Take, for instance, the sad, ridiculous story of The Flag Pin.  Throughout his political career, Senator Barack Obama has alternated between wearing one and not wearing one.  (Yeah, that’s a huge news story.)  When he decided to not wear one, “because I didn’t want to be perceived as wearing my patriotism on my chest…”, Republicans pounced on him for not being patriotic enough to their liking, as if not wearing a decorative item on your clothing makes you a traitor in some way.  The fact that Senator John McCain doesn’t always wear one makes this a typically dumb argument.  (Who’s questioning his loyalty to America?) 
 
The worst hypocrite of the bunch is Representative Jack Kingston.  While appearing on Dan Abrams’ MSNBC program, he lamely criticized Obama for not wearing a pin even though, as the host helpfully pointed out (and any viewer could plainly see), Kingston himself wasn’t wearing one during the segment!  When he appeared on Real Time With Bill Maher to espouse the exact, same nonsense, once again there wasn’t a flag pin to be seen anywhere on his person.  To shut up these lunatics, Obama has been wearing the pin more often.  Personally, it was better when he didn’t wear one.  His initial reasoning made perfect sense.  Nevertheless, this is a typical Republican tactic.  Suggest something ridiculous about a Democrat that a compliant media will pounce on and report ad nauseum even though, upon closer inspection, it has no merit and no relevance to people’s lives while it simultaneously exposes the hypocritical tendencies of a truly desperate political party.  Do you think it’s an accident that Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin wore a huge flag pin the day Senator McCain introduced her as his running mate?  Republicans think empty symbolism is super important, more so than good governance.  Too bad they’re not consistent.  Palin delivered her Republican National Convention speech minus the pin.   
 
Speaking of Palin and McCain, could there be a more perfectly matched ticket?  Both have false maverick images.  Both have shady ethics.  Both get away with huge whoppers the mainstream media could care less about exposing.  Both oppose abortion.  Both are indifferent to gay rights.  Both whine when they get bad press which, in McCain’s case, is a rarity.  (The media are too in love with him to hold his feet to the fire on a regular basis.)  Both can be petty.  Both can be painfully ignorant.  Both enjoy mocking opponents for cheap laughs.  And both are vulnerable hypocrites.  As The Daily Show pointed out in a devastating taped piece recently, Senator McCain has flip flopped on so many issues he’s gone from being a “Maverick Reformer” to a “Reformed Maverick”.  In truth, as Paul Waldman and David Brock pointed out in their excellent book, Free Ride: John McCain And The Media, he was never really a reformer or a maverick to begin with.  Not that this is widely disseminated in the mainstream media.
 
Were it not for excellent bloggers like Bob Somerby, Glenn Greenwald, and the hardworking folks at Crooks & Liars and Media Matters For America, not to mention responsible news outlets like McClatchy, The Washington Post (who exposed the Walter Reed scandal) and The New York Times (who brought to light the warrentless wiretapping debacle), The Republicans would be getting away with a whole lot more than they already are, the Hurricane Katrina mess notwithstanding.  Is it any wonder why Vice President Dick Cheney was a notable no-show at the RNC?  Ditto Governor Schwarzenegger?  Notice how President Bush was far away from Minnesota when he delivered his brief remarks via satellite?  And didn’t you find it odd how often the word “change” was uttered by a vastly unpopular ruling party?  It works when Barack Obama says it, not so much for incompetent Republicans responsible for so many fuck-ups this decade.  Running your campaign as though you haven’t been ruining the country all this time is the very height of chutzpah.   
 
It doesn’t help matters that The Republican Party routinely criticizes the media for having a “liberal bias” any time honest reporting exposes their shortcomings.  Instead of standing firm with their reports and commentaries, our press corps routinely pussy out by backing down and dutifully reporting variations of the same phony complaint without shooting it down.  It’s disgraceful.  But The Republicans don’t run campaigns on issues that affect Americans, they run campaigns on personality and character, two qualities many of their members are sorely lacking.  Sadly, this dishonourable strategy has routinely been a successful one, thanks to a cowardly news media.
 
The good news is their fearmongering isn’t working anymore.  Otherwise, the overrated Rudy Guliani would be their presidential nominee, The Iraq Invasion would remain popular and they’d still be controlling Congress and The Senate (although, as Greenwald as repeatedly pointed out on his Salon blog, The Democrats haven’t changed a damn thing since winning both houses two years ago, unfortunately).  The bad news is because The Democrats refuse to attack The Republicans on their lawbreaking and emptyheaded, entirely predictable personal attacks, the latter is able to remain competitive in what will likely prove, again, to be a close finish. 
 
The truth is it shouldn’t be this close.  It should be a blow-out.  When you purposefully misrepresent your values and your positions without much consequence again and again and again, why should any eligible voter trust you?  Why should they even give you the time of day especially when you’re illegally spying on their phone calls and committing egregious acts in the name of their country?  Why should a party that heartily endorses torture, military invasions, hateful rhetoric, disturbed hunting practices, and rank dishonesty (not to mention outting an undercover CIA agent and illegally detaining peaceful protestors) be given another term to continue a series of policies that cause nothing but harm and worldwide resentment?
 
If you bother to do the research, you’ll learn that The Republican Party has so many problems you’ll wonder why the media don’t hammer these guys into submission and why The Democrats don’t fixate on them constantly.  Why are they so afraid of these vulnerable crooks?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 7, 2008
7:55 p.m.
Published in: on September 7, 2008 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Much Needed Personal Update

It can derail your progress, reduce your motivation and take away your happiness.  It can distort your thinking, distract you from tackling important priorities and prevent you from personal advancement.  It traps you in a bubble of your own discontent resulting in increased feelings of helplessness and dread.  And you can feel so alone much of the time. 
 
Sometimes, your mind can be your own worst enemy and you don’t even know it.  It’s only when a significant revelation hits you squarely and undeniably that you begin to realize why your life seems permanently stuck in mental quicksand.
 
It happened to me this past May.  One night early that month I went to bed feeling particularly great.  As I got settled in, though, I started paying attention to my heart.  It was beating really fast.  That was odd.  I was perfectly calm just moments earlier.  It kept beating and beating at a relentless rhythm and I couldn’t ignore it. Needless to say, I barely slept that night.
 
The next day, I had all this energy despite a lack of significant rest.  After trying to use it up in some way, I went to bed still feeling anxious.  (You can imagine the frustration.)
 
This was unusual.  Apart from being ill, I don’t remember ever having two consecutive sleepless nights before, not even during my school years.  Fortunately, I figured out a way to calm down.  After showering and shaving, doing laundry and vacuuming two carpets, I settled in for a great night of sleeping.  I barely noticed my heartbeat (it had slowed down significantly due to my busy day) and was extremely tired.  I spent the next afternoon hanging with a friend still feeling great but much more relaxed.  Another long, restful slumber awaited me later that evening.  Wonderful.
 
But on the fifth night, the anxiety returned.  As a result, a new, troubling pattern emerged:  one or two good nights of comfortable rest followed by one or two bad nights of reduced shut-eye.  On the good nights, I slept soundly with a calm heart whose beating I barely noticed.  On the bad nights, my eyes would be closed but my heart just wouldn’t settle down.  It was baffling.  I would lay there for hours wondering what the problem was.  Sometimes, I would subject myself to FM radio hoping it would help me doze off.  Usually, it did.  But only for a few hours. 
 
Feeling a depression coming on (due to increased nervousness, my declining appetite reduced my weight to 112 pounds), I turned to my local library for help.  Soon thereafter, several reserved self-help books were immediately picked up.  Over the next, several weeks, I devoured their contents looking for answers to my bizarre insomnia.  Feeling so low at one point, I booked an appointment with my longtime physician.  A complete physical was requested (it had been awhile) but it wouldn’t be happening for two weeks.  (Blood work was normal and there’s nothing physically wrong with me.)  Much earlier, I emailed an old college professor who I had recently reconnected with on Facebook.  His wife (whom I ‘ve never met in person) specializes in mental health, he once wrote to me, so I reached out to him hoping for some answers from her.  It would be months until I heard from both of them.  (It turned out he was going through his own depression at the same time.  I hope he’s doing better.)
 
The same day I scheduled a sit-down with my doctor, my friend of 24 years sent me an email.  My birthday was coming up and he wanted to treat me to a movie.  Despite feeling underfed and miserable after a month of suffering, I accepted his invite.  The night before an afternoon screening of The Strangers, frequent trips to the bathroom and a nervous demeanour resulted in only 2 hours sleep.  It was unclear whether seeing a film in the afternoon was possible.  I forced myself to eat two apples and two sandwiches the day of the screening.  Thankfully, there was no nausea.  Despite feeling blech, I went to the movies with my buddy.  How I was able to be awake and concentrate fully on this abysmal film, I’m not sure.  At any event, it was a turning point.  My appetite increased during the next couple of weeks.  By the time I saw the doctor, I was back up to 116.5 pounds.  I even started sleeping better with fewer bad nights.
 
It was during my doctor’s appointment that the idea of seeing a shrink came up.  Great idea.  There would be a delay, however.  The earliest chance of securing a one-on-one session was two months away.  Six weeks later, while watching Airport and after a brief interlude of phone tag, my mental health counsellor and I settled on a day and a time.  By the time I sat down with her for the first time that August afternoon, I had finally figured out why I was experiencing occasional insomnia.  I was obsessing too much about my heart.  Instead of simply listening to it beat, I would start to worry about whether its rhythm was too fast which inevitably made it go faster.  By neither paying attention to its rhythm nor worrying about it, I was able to settle down and get some much needed rest.  Thankfully, in the last couple of months, there have been considerably more good nights of sleep than bad.  (I can count on one, maybe two hands, the number of irregular nights I’ve since suffered through.)  Furthermore, my weight is back up to 120.
 
All of this is a long way of explaining why there have been fewer postings this year, particularly in the last, several months.  (And yes, I wrote something remarkably similiar on May 1st.  I just checked.)  Besides this upsetting obsession with my heart, I had been dealing with other obsessions, mainly women from my past.  A couple of them led to the feelings that kept me up for several nights in the spring.  It was weird having all these endorphins floating around in my body while simultaneously brooding over my insomnia and feeling bummed out about these long ended entanglements.  It took two weeks or so for the chemicals to die out and that’s when my brief depression got worse.  At some point, I realized I was wasting my time thinking about all these broads.  After asking myself a straightforward question (why am I obssessing about women who don’t make me happy?), I snapped out of it. 
 
My second shrink session led me to the doorstep of Employment Hamilton.  They improved my resume and gave me some advice on how to undergo an effective job search.  This week, I’ve been submitting resumes and, where necessary, completed applications to nearly a dozen businesses hoping to land something part-time.  This is something I’ve long resisted persuing.  I’m a stubborn ass who is learning gradually to overcome personal negativity and timidity in order to get reacquainted with the workforce, something that hasn’t happened for me since the start of this decade.
 
While I attempt to end my Costanza period (“Hi, I’m Dennis.  I’m unemployed and live with my parents.”), I hope to continue writing on a more regular basis, a task that has proven difficult for much of the year.  I make no promises, though.
 
The good news is that this website has passed 21000 hits and routinely receives hundreds of visitors every week, some of whom leave comments.  There is still interest in the contents posted here which is very encouraging.  Here’s hoping that becomes one of the motivating factors for me to work on more pieces more often.
 
You may have noticed some additions to a couple of my lists.  Three of the self-help books I borrowed from the library – The Everything Health Guide To OCD, The OCD Answerbook and Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – have been added to my Amazon book list.  I highly recommened them for anybody going through mental health problems.  They’re both engaging and extremely helpful.  Learning that it’s possible to reassure yourself about irrational fears and negative thinking by constantly challenging them through straightforward exercises is such a relief, you have no idea.  Also worth reading is Free Ride: John McCain And The Media, an eye-opening examination of remarkably unskeptical “journalism”.  Want to know why the longtime Arizona Republican seems to get extraordinarily positive press despite being a blatantly transparent phony with shady political connections?  This book offers compelling answers.  A timely publication.
 
One last thing.  I’ve added a couple of new Recommended Websites.  Replacing Entertainment Weekly and Editor & Publisher are Daily Howler, Bob Somerby’s blog that tirelessly criticizes awful American journalism that has been too conservatively biased for far too long, and Glenn Greenwald’s blog on Salon.com.  The latter offers some refreshing commentary on politics and the news media rarely heard on TV or seen in print.  Both are worth checking out.  They’re updated frequently.
 
As I continue to turn my life around and prepare for an independent adulthood I’ve long dreamt for myself, I hope to keep things interesting on this site.  God knows there’s lots to write about.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 5, 2008
9:37 p.m.
Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 9:36 pm  Comments (1)