The view from my bedroom window exposed a peculiar scene. Just moments earlier on that warm late afternoon an alarm had gone off and initially, I ignored it. (It’s not an uncommon sound around here.) Inevitably, though, it disrupted my reading. As it rang through the neighbourhood continuously for several seconds, a quick investigation was in order so I put down my magazine and looked outside.
A dishevelled-looking caucasian wearing a ball cap over his long, apparently unwashed curly, graying hair was taking something from a parked silver Saturn in a nearby lot. It looked like a pillow or a mini mattress. I couldn’t quite tell. Once this wiry guy had the object of desire in his hands, he quickly fled on his bike. Soon thereafter, the shrill noise of protection subsided.
Had I witnessed a petty theft? It sure looked that way. I stayed by the window for a few minutes or so then went back to reading. Serenity had returned.
Less than an hour later, however, the shrillness once again punctured the silence. This time, I raced to see what was happening. He was back, hoping to pilfer something else that didn’t belong to him. He was rummaging through the glove compartment, the front seat and the back seat. Not caring at all about the possibility of getting caught he took his sweet time bargain hunting. Finally, he settled on what looked like a large hardcover but it was hard to know for sure from my vantage point. Once again, with stolen object in hand, he fled on his trusty bike. The car alarm stopped crying for help soon thereafter.
Roughly a minute or so later, a woman came out to investigate. After a quick perusal of the vehicle she ran to get her co-worker, the unfortunate owner.
Not too long after that, I left my house and spoke with her. I learned that the thief had used a big rock to break the glass adjacent to the right passenger side door window which allowed him to get inside. It was right where he left it, on the ground next to the scattered shards. The owner, a chubby female who apparently loved her fast food (there were lots of burger wrappers and empty paper soda containers strewn all over the place inside), was more puzzled than anything. Why did he take her orthopedic something-or-other? (It was either a pillow or a mattress. I can’t remember now.) Ditto her ashtray? (She didn’t have any reading material in the car so that wasn’t a book I saw him take.)
After giving her a basic description (besides the ball cap, he wore faded jeans, an open jacket that exposed a t-shirt and sneakers), she thanked me and I went back home. I have no idea whether she got her stuff back or whether the mysterious thief was ever apprehended. I’ve not seen him since.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t bother to write about this immediately after it happened. It’s a very good question. In fact, it taps into something that’s been bothering me for much of the last couple of years.
As this website approaches its 5th Anniversary this coming February, I’m in a much different place than I was four years ago. Back in 2006 and even in 2007, I was much more prolific, much braver when it came to writing and posting blunt opinions. In truth, I still try to be as honest as I can on here but looking back, there was a lot more passion and forcefulness in what I was trying to achieve. (Just look at all the Sun Media and Sun TV items from that period.) Back then, I didn’t second guess myself or hesitate to post a strong viewpoint. The whole process was much easier at that time. But by 2008, I started to slow down considerably.
Part of the problem involved my old PC. Imagine trying to write while your cursor constantly lags. I know. Many, many people have far greater difficulties in their lives that put my miniscule ones to shame but writing for me is a very musical experience that requires concentration and few distractions. For me, it’s all about rhythm and making the words flow in a way that is engaging with the reader and emits some kind of interesting truth. That’s very hard to do with a dying computer that constantly frustrates you.
After needlessly putting up with that for far too long, I started writing less and less, a problem that remains current even though I replaced the PC and the lagging has long since subsided. Regular visitors will note that several weeks can go by without anything new to offer.
It also hasn’t helped that I’ve been focusing less on writing and more on downsizing. For years, I collected Entertainment Weeklys without always reading them (what was I thinking?) and since 2004, I started making up for lost time. By 2008, I went from reading every page of every issue (several piles worth which included other titles like Premiere and Rolling Stone) to just focusing on the articles and kinda skimming through the critical review sections. With 3 piles left to go through I’m doing a lot more overall skimming and only a little reading, hoping to speed things up considerably. I was hoping to be done with all of this by the end of this year but hopefully this will all come to an end in early 2011.
All this magazine reading and page flipping has annoyingly reduced the number of movies I’ve screened since 2006 which has meant fewer movie reviews. (Being easily distracted and deeply neurotic about my focus has also been an ongoing issue.)
Basically, the initial excitement of working on material for this site was dampened over a long stretch of time by several factors I didn’t adequately prepare for. Inevitably, I went from being frustrated and disappointed to lazy and resigned. And as a result, the car theft story, among many other possible ideas I could’ve pursued to completion this year, were set aside.
Thankfully, that dwindling sense of ambition didn’t keep me from writing entirely in 2010. Of all the pieces I worked on this year, none were more satisfying than my 14-part series devoted to The Beatles re-issues.
The idea was born in September last year. I was checking out the public library’s CD catalogue and noticed that they were all on order. Even better, few patrons had reserved copies. After placing holds on every one of them, they all arrived at my local branch several consecutive days before Christmas 2009. I listened to them in chronological order from Please Please Me to Past Masters. By early January, I enjoyed repeated listenings, watched the CD-ROM documentaries, read the liner notes and jotted down thoughts and facts.
By the end of that month most of the reviews were ready to go. I decided to post one review a day (in chronological order, of course) starting on February 1st and ending on Valentine’s Day. It was a lot of work but richly satisfying. By the same token, I also enjoyed reviewing Madonna’s Celebration collection.
Then came the Vancouver Olympics which completely took over my life for the rest of the month. (I watched as much coverage as humanly possible.) I ended up summing up the games in a fun, little piece entitled Unofficial 2010 Winter Olympic Awards.
As usual, there were new movie reviews to offer this year. Predators, Jonah Hex, I Love You Beth Cooper, My One And Only, New Moon (the Twilight sequel), and He’s Just Not That Into You, all stinkers. Fried Green Tomatoes was the last assessment reworked from my unpublished early ’90s manuscript, The Movie Critic: Book One. Overall, there were about a dozen or so of these critiques “rescued” and properly finished for this website over the years. I wish there had been more but most of them were too poorly written to be restored. In the end, I only screened 23 films this year, a pitiful total. Something needs to be done about that.
Speaking of movie reviews, three of them found a home on MonkeyBiz. Although it took a while to happen (long story), the site started publishing a good number of my pieces this year including assessments of Jennifer’s Body, The Unborn and Paranormal Activity.
They also posted several of my music reviews. I was pretty harsh on CDs made by Autobodies and Dirty Penny, both Canadian indies, but was far more enthusiastic about the When You’re Strange Soundtrack (wrongly listed as a review of The Doors documentary) and Morrissey’s Years Of Refusal. A special thanks to Larissa Cardey and Sarah Glen for their kindness, feedback and enthusiasm for my work. (I hope to continue writing for their site.) And thanks to Employment Hamilton’s Wally Stadnicki for suggesting the idea during one of our many meetings and making it happen.
In May, this website made a couple of notable changes. The Amazon Book List was dropped (not one title was ever sold in the four years it existed on here despite hundreds of clicks) and the layout was changed. Just five months later, The Writings Of Dennis Earl left Windows Live Spaces, my home since February 19, 2006, and began The WordPress Era. Naturally, the layout changed yet again.
The new address inspired a bit more activity in the month of October. As a number of famous beautiful women found themselves suddenly single, I reached out to them. And when others became unavailable, I mourned their unavailability. I could’ve written so many more similiarly themed pieces but I didn’t want to spread myself too thin. Like Regis, I’m only one man.
Having finally finished Eric Clapton’s Autobiography (a 2007 Christmas gift that was mostly read this year), I wrote about 5 standout moments. Despite its flaws (no comment on whether he dated Sheryl Crow, not a word about his Babyface collaboration in 1996, and few specifics about his fling with Ronnie Spector, among other exclusions), it’s an entertaining read. If you’re one of the few who still believe in the supposed glamour of alcoholism and heroin addiction, this book will convince you otherwise. (Just read lesson 5 from my piece.)
For the first time in a long while, my From The Published Archives series made a welcome return. On my old site, I had a couple of lists that contained every entry I ever made on the Fading To Black blog, a site I wrote for from April 2007 to January 2008. Rather than restore them for WordPress, I decided to simply repost a few of the original items here. A commentary on citizen journalism and a two-fer on The New York Times’ TimesSelect online service surfaced in October and November, respectively. There may be more such postings in 2011.
In 2009, I had written several new poems including Nobody Cares and Looking For A Muse. This year, there were two more offered in November. Distortions was written during a thankfully short period of gloominess while Determination, the most recent one, hopefully is a sign of the future.
Other standout pieces this year included criticisms of the maddening Ezra Levant and his continuing feud with the truth, the obnoxious Laura Schlessinger, another One Hit Wonder entry (this one about FM Legends with one Top 40 AM hit) and three items about the sad decline of Mel Gibson. Thanks to his scary rants, my speakers have never been the same. Sometimes they come on, sometimes they don’t. Thanks a lot, jackhole.
Despite the continuing trend of fewer annual entries, I did manage to offer roughly 60 pieces in 2010. Granted, that’s quite a comedown from the hundreds of pieces put together in the first two years of this website but despite all my distractions, at least I’m still writing.
I can’t remember now when this happened but at some point this year, Windows Live dropped the Statistics program from all of its sites, which made little sense. As a result, I don’t have an official tally of hits for this entire year. However, when I moved to WordPress in October, keeping track of website visits was possible again.
That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: hits are way down. Since October 9, The Writings Of Dennis Earl has generated a deflating 1100 hits. The highest daily total was 32 (October 15). Without a lot of coverage on the ongoing Sun Media travesty, interest has dramatically waned. (Normally, this site achieves 10000 hits or more annually.) That’s very discouraging. I’ve long lost interest in covering that beat (too depressing) and fellow blogger John Cosway is starting to feel the same way. He recently announced that the popular Toronto Sun Family site will be shelved sometime next year. Can’t say I blame him.
Having said all that, the most popular pieces accessed on this site in the last couple of months have not been the Sun Media/Sun TV stuff (with the exception of Merry Christmas, You’re Fired). In fact, it’s mostly entertainment stuff like the Seinfeld box set trivia series (I’ve been thinking about going back to that idea), Brando’s appearance on Larry King Live, and reviews of My Boss’ Daughter and Look Who’s Talking Too. A good number of entertainment history pieces are in the Top 20, as well. As someone who has been thinking of focusing more on writing about the past than the present, this is a positive development.
At any event, I need to re-commit myself to making this site great and more successful. (I crave more readers and need to offer them more material to peruse.) Quite frankly, I also need to get paid for my work. (I can’t be the gentile Costanza forever.) If this site could somehow lead to a life of writing that allows me to make a living as the independent adult I’m certainly capable of being, that would be sensational. Throw in a return to broadcasting and I’d be doubly happy.
Add to those professional goals a resurrected love life and maybe, just maybe I might find fulfillment sooner than later.
In the meantime, thanks for visiting. Happy New Year and see you in 2011.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 31, 2010