A Tribute To The Toronto Sun Family Blog

In three days, no more entries.

After posting nearly 2400 pieces of writing in a span of five years, The Toronto Sun Family Blog will end its successful run on November 1st.  Considering what’s been happening to the longtime tabloid in the past half-decade, this news shouldn’t surprise anyone.

That doesn’t mean the site won’t be missed.  It will.  Immensely.  Where else could you learn firsthand about the latest firings and hirings of staff members, personnel changes that were rarely, if ever, mentioned in the pages of The Sun?  Where else could readers and employees regularly vent, anonymously and on-the-record, about all the many problems plaguing the troubled paper?  Where else could former columnists, critics and reporters check in and give everyone updates on what happened to them after they were kicked to the curb by Quebecor, the tabloid’s owner since the late 90s?  And where else could you find eloquent tributes to deceased colleagues much missed by their brethren?

Besides books and Wikipedia, where else could you learn about the paper’s near 40-year history?  How it began, who the original players were and who signed up later.  In fact, that was the original focus of the blog:  “The good ol’ days.”.

But fairly quickly, The Toronto Sun Family Blog evolved into a daily news centre and public forum for the disgruntled majority of staffers, past and present, who freely offered endless criticism regarding the way Quebecor has managed the Sun over the last ten years or so.  Readers, too, would chime in with their thoughts from time to time.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, though.  TSF blogger John Cosway (who worked for the paper for nearly 20 years) has given praise for covers, stories and columns he felt worthy of singling out.  And a good number of ex-Sun workers have found new life and energy outside 333 King Street where their former colleagues, eager for positive change, reluctantly remain.  Reading their updates on TSF has likely given hope to the others that getting out or being forced out, as the case may be, isn’t the worst thing that can happen.  In fact, it can be the best thing.  Starting over is hard but it beats being depressed in a dead-end environment.

TSF began around the same time I started writing about The Sun and its many problems in this space in December 2006, back in the MSN/Windows Live Spaces era.  Over time, Cosway would very kindly mention some of these pieces which meant increased traffic and a small amount of credibility and respect for myself.  Without those postings, I’m not sure The Writings Of Dennis Earl would be where it is today.

Hearing from Sun writers like Jim Slotek, Bill Brioux, Jeff Morrison and Lydia Lovric was proof that my commentaries were actually being read by professional journalists.  In the end, I’ll always be thankful to John for covering my stuff.

But as he himself has probably learned over the years, covering this beat takes its toll to the point where you want a clean break.  Since 2008, I myself have only sporadically written about The Sun.  Editorializing from the outside was even too much for me to bear over a prolonged period of time.  Life is simply too short to subject yourself to bad news on a daily basis.  It’s no wonder journalists drink.  It’s a wonder I’m straight edge.

Without a doubt, Toronto Sun Family made an impact.  For several years, the site posted its overall hit count which you could see by scrolling down to near the bottom of the page.  I don’t know when it was removed but from what I remember, in just a short period of time, TSF was accumulating hundreds of thousands of hits.  Nature abhors a vacuum, goes the saying.  The site filled that vacuum nicely with lots of exclusive info not read, heard or seen anywhere else.

So, does all of this mean The Toronto Sun Family Blog will cease to exist?  No, actually.  Once November 1st arrives, the site will no longer be updated.  All the thousands of previous entries will still remain, freely accessible at any time, as always.

With Cosway signing off for good, is there anyone willing to take his place?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, October 29, 2011
8:23 p.m.

UPDATE:  Contrary to what I wrote a month ago, there have been a few new postings on TSF after November 1st.  One such piece, Layoff Forum, has featured revealing comments from anonymous tipsters who have noted a number of recent personnel upheavals at Quebecor’s Sun Media properties.  Edmonton Sun columnist Mindelle Jacobs (who I used to read online from time to time) and Toronto Sun crime reporter Rob Lamberti are the most prominent names mentioned.  This story, posted by a TSF commenter, announces the return of a recent annual tradition at Quebecor:  Hundreds of Christmas layoffs.  And the massacre continues.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 4, 2011
1:28 a.m.

Why Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Should Admit He Completely Overreacted

This past Monday morning, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was in his driveway.  At about 8 a.m. he was all set to get in his car and drive to City Hall to start his work day when comedian Mary Walsh and a camera crew suddenly approached him.  Dressed as Marg Delahunty: Warrior Princess, the bespectacled character she’s played for many years on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the long running CBC show she created after her five-year stint on CODCO, Walsh introduced herself in character:

“Mayor Ford! It’s me, Marg Delahunty. You know I gave up all the princess warrior stuff …”

The smiling, amused man politely rebuffed her:

“Can I go to my car please?”

Walsh replied: “Mayor Ford, I came to give you a hand, honey.”.

After repeating his earlier request, he bailed on the idea of getting into his car and decided to disappear inside his home instead.  

Normally, that would be the end of this story.  But over the years, the citizens of The Big Smoke have learned firsthand that there’s more than meets the eye with stories about the appropriately red-faced Rob Ford, the former longtime City Counsellor who was recently elected Mayor.

As numerous media outlets have since reported, the paranoid Ford went into his house to call 911.  Yes, 911.  Apparently, doing an impromptu comedy bit outside a politician’s home is cause for outright panic.

According to the invaluable CBC, the Toronto Mayor actually called the number twice.  When police didn’t drop everything on their plate to protect him from a 60-year-old Newfie comedian, he redialed the number and reportedly insulted the female dispatchers by calling them “bitches”.  He also angrily introduced himself as “Rob fucking Ford, the mayor of this city!”.

Consequently, as you can imagine, it’s not been a great week for this notorious hothead.  His pathetic attempts at damage control involve repeating talking points to reporters (after initially ignoring them) from this hard-to-swallow public statement he released and not demanding an apology from the CBC (although the big lug would appreciate a volunteered one none-the-less). 

Claiming he felt threatened (by a famous, middle-aged comedian who was nothing but friendly), it was dark (it wasn’t) and his young daughter was freaked out by the visitors (she reportedly doesn’t appear in the actual footage but this Toronto Sun report claims she was screaming indoors), he’s been on the defensive ever since the story broke. 

While his longtime fan club, The Toronto Sun, have predictably defended him, with more embarrassing details coming out every day, the number of his supporters will likely decrease significantly.  Honestly, calling local emergency services because you’re afraid of a woman in a silly costume?  How wimpy can you get?

Ford has only owned up to saying “fuck” (after originally denying ever cursing on the phone) which predictably inspired a lame, insincere “If I offended someone, I apologize” soundbite.  He’s denied everything else.  Regardless, no matter what reports you read, he doesn’t come across as a reasonable person.  He sounds like an out-of-control maniac ruled by a horrible temper.

The easily obtainable 22 Minutes footage (which has also been re-airing on CBC News Network) clearly disproves Ford’s bogus account of the incident.  But without the full release of the now infamous 911 calls, it’s another annoying case of he-said she-said regarding that integral part of the tale.  All the embattled Mayor has to do is ask for the release of the tapes and we’ll have the complete story.  I’m sure he’s in a real hurry to make that happen, too.

With Ford already caught in several lies, the way to end his dilemma is actually quite simple.  Come clean already.  Admit you completely overreacted to the 22 Minutes crew, you wasted the valuable time of emergency and law enforcement personnel with your irrational, narcissistic nonsense and agree to accept any possible punishment coming your way.  (Probably no jail time but possibly a fine for misusing 911.)  And for God’s sakes, apologize to the dispatchers for treating them so boorishly.  If the tapes confirm the CBC’s account, he should apologize to them, too, for claiming their stories have been “inaccurate”.

If he doesn’t put out this fire soon, it will continue to rage.  And when a political scandal like this refuses to go away quietly, that can only mean one thing for a damaged political leader.

Resignation.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, October 28, 2011
12:35 a.m.

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Unanswered Questions About Gene Simmons Family Jewels

Now that the sixth (or is it seventh?) season of A&E’s long running reality sitcom has concluded, there remain lingering questions.  Whether we’ll ever learn the answers to them all, I do not know.  Nonetheless, inquiring minds want to know the following:

1. How did Shannon catch Gene cheating?

2. How many times did he cheat on her?

3. Did Shannon really forgive him for all his indiscretions or was that just for the TV show?

4. Has Sophie forgiven him for being an absentee father most of her life?

5. Did Shannon ever confront any of his mistresses?

6. Where did Nick get that “Not A Bastard Anymore” T-shirt?

7. Did A&E foot the whole bill for the wedding?

8. How much did it cost?

9. How many songs did Kiss play during the reception?

10. Was the wedding ceremony legit or merely for show?

11. How much does Shannon stand to get from the prenup if she divorces Gene?

12. Does she get more money depending on how long the marriage lasts?

13. If “The Kiss Brand” is indeed worth between one and five billion dollars as recently claimed, why does Gene still need to work?

14. Were Ace Frehley and Peter Criss invited?

15. If he’s not retiring any time soon, when will Gene cut down on his work schedule?

16. Will there be more Kiss albums and world tours long after the release of Monster?

17. Why does Gene suddenly believe in marriage after decades of preaching the opposite?

18. Is he really willing to give up all those groupies to save his relationship with Shannon?

19. Can Gene truly be monogamous?

20. Despite all the joking around for decades, why did Shannon suddenly want to be married after years of not caring if it happened or not?

21. Why won’t anyone mention that damn sex tape?

22. What was the final diagnosis regarding Gene’s mom’s temporary blindness episode?

23. Did Gene really forgive his father for abandoning his family or was he simply giving in to an overly pushy marriage counsellor?

24. How could Gene not know about his half-siblings in Israel after all this time?

25. Can Shannon, Nick & Sophie all let go of their longterm resentments toward Gene and his toxic behaviour in order to start anew?

26. When did family friend Tony Roman’s wife die and why was her cancer kept secret until recently?

27. Has any troubled marriage truly survived that sometimes wacky and often brutal Dr. Phil-recommended marriage boot camp?

28. How much was Dr. Wexler paid for her services?

29. Did she meet with Gene and/or any of his family members off-camera for private sessions?

30. Is Gene still in therapy?

31. How much of this family drama was real and how much of it was scripted?

32. Will Gene be less obnoxiously arrogant now that he’s married or more so?

33. Why did Shannon cut Gene off from sex before the wedding when they’ve been getting it on for nearly 30 years?

34. How will marriage make Gene a better person?

35. With the kids grown, if he cheats again will Shannon leave for good?

36. Is this the end of Family Jewels?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 23, 2011
1:34 a.m.

UPDATE:  Gene Simmons posted this tweet on his Twitter account October 26:

“A&E picked up another 12 episodes for Season 7…or is it Season 8?”

So, the answer to question 36 is a resounding “no”.  Another round of Family Jewels is indeed on the way.  No official word yet on when it will actually return.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 30, 2011
4:48 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  According to TVshowsonDVD.com, A&E is planning to release two new box sets of Family Jewels episodes.  Season Six Part One and Season Six Part Two will be available June 12.  So it was all one season after all.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
4:33 p.m.

UPDATE 3:  Entertainment Weekly reports that the seventh season will begin airing on A&E in just a few weeks.  Expect the hour-long premiere to debut on May 28th at 9 p.m.  This means that Family Jewels will no longer be seen on Tuesday evenings (both Storage Wars series are staying put).  The show will now be broadcast on Monday evenings.  For a taste of what’s to come this season, check out the EW report here.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 4, 2012
2:49 a.m.

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 1:35 am  Comments (5)  

Sick Fantasy

I like you because you’re broken
You’re shattered beyond belief
This is why you’re so soft-spoken
And in a permanent state of grief

I like you because you’re troubled
Always on the verge of falling apart
Your anxiety is now doubled
Thanks to trauma that won’t depart

I like you because you’re livid
At all the jerks from your past
Those details are quite vivid
It’s arousing to be so aghast

I like you because you’re sad
I’m addicted to your pain
I must be completely mad
For wanting it to remain

I like you because you’re crazy
You believe in irrational things
Your mind is so hazy
From too many hurtful, verbal stings

I like you because you’re unavailable
And I can’t penetrate your barrier
Your heart was once unassailable
The new reality is much scarier

I like you because you’re foolish
And too afraid to change
Your history is so ghoulish
You find comfort in being strange

I like you because you’re bruised
And damaged beyond repair
All those years of being used
Have gotten you nowhere

I like you because you’re pale
And devoid of any hope
Oversensitive and frail
I wonder how you cope

I like you because you’re numb
From dating all those pricks
But this sick fantasy is so dumb
You’re one of many I just can’t fix

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, October 21, 2011
11:09 p.m.

Published in: on October 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Celebrating The First Year Of The WordPress Era

On October 8, 2010, I posted my final entry on Windows Live Spaces, the original home of The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  There was a very good reason for this.  Microsoft, the company that started Spaces, was shutting down the service for good by mid-March 2011.  An unexpected development, to be sure, at least to me it was.

But there was also some good news in that announcement.  Those who wanted to keep blogging could transfer some of the contents of their site (all original postings, blog photos and reader comments) to WordPress.com.  All website owners had about five months to make up their minds before Microsoft deleted all the remaining Spaces automatically.

Reading that announcement while signing into my site in early October, I felt something I hadn’t experienced in quite a while:  genuine excitement for my future as a blogger.  Like anything else you feel passion for initially, over time those feelings dim and you slowly start to lose interest.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve never regretted starting my site and have always enjoyed writing online.  It’s just that by 2010, it was becoming harder and harder to maintain the level of productivity that sustained the early years of the site’s existence.  I was having a consistently hard time finding fresh ideas to pursue and felt frequently frustrated by various distractions.

But after reading Microsoft’s announcement, I got excited again.  A change of address was an absolute necessity.  I didn’t want to lose my stuff.  More importantly, the move would make this four and a half year experience seem brand new all over again.

Indeed, the day after I switched over to the new digs, the thrill of blogging returned.  On October 10, 2010, exactly a year ago today, The WordPress Era began.  That month, my first on WordPress, would turn out to be unusually productive (10 overall pieces in three weeks), a hopeful sign.

Truthfully, despite some slow periods now and again, the number of pieces have indeed increased, but only slightly.  To be fair, the main reason I had so many posted entries in the first couple of years was because I dumped a lot of my old writing on here.  It was a great way to showcase work from throughout my life that had been unseen by a vast majority of people.  Prior to being posted online where anybody could read them, only teachers, family members, friends, fellow students, ex-girlfriends and local readers had ever laid eyes on most of this material.

Doing that bought me plenty of time to come up with original pieces written exclusively for the site which would then be sprinkled in with the old stuff.  Over time, there would be more new writings than old, the latter of which making only occasional appearances.  That’s pretty much the formula I still follow today.

After being at the new place for a year now, I can tell you it’s a much more enjoyable experience.  As proud as I was to be a longtime Windows Live Spaces user, WordPress is so much better.  When you’re working on an entry, your draft is routinely being saved automatically.  (On Windows Live, I had to manually save my work over and over so I wouldn’t lose it.)  You have an unlimited amount of categories or tags to use in order to help label your pieces which you can create from scratch.  (Windows Live only allowed a limited number of original categories amongst several generic ones they created.)  But the best part of the service, without a doubt, are the Statistics.

Windows Live never did figure out how to maintain accurate hit counts.  In fact, by 2010, they did away with their own flawed Statistics altogether which annoyed me greatly because, imperfect as it was, I still had a basic sense of how much traffic I was generating.  Yes, you couldn’t access your entire history (only recent information up to a few days at a time) but there was an overall hit count that helped you understand where you stood with your online audience.  It was a decent barometer of how I was doing.

And I was encouraged by what I saw.  After a pretty dismal first year (3200 hits generated from mid-February to late December 2006), I started averaging 10000 or more annually, thanks mostly to my Sun Media coverage.  Sadly, I have no rough numbers for much of 2010 with the exception of my first three months on WordPress.  As noted recently, from October to December that year, this website was only accessed about 1100 times.

But it’s been all uphill from there.  Since January this year, hits have steadily increased to the point now where instead of receiving hundred of hits per month, this website is generating thousands.  (There were almost 5000 in July alone.)  In fact, thanks to the return of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, there have been more than 2100 hits already in the first ten days of October 2011, a huge increase compared to the measly 363 hits generated for the entirety of October 2010 (the 10th to the 31st).

The Gene Bump has been the real revelation this year.  Almost half the hits I’ve generated in The WordPress Era (more than 16000 as of this writing) have come from the five pieces I wrote about Family Jewels (about 7600 collectively).

Even though it was written in June, What’s Really Going On With Shannon Tweed & Gene Simmons? continues to be actively sought out and remains the most popular blog posting here, by far.  Recently, I reported that it had passed the 5000 hit mark.  Today, it’s now over 6000.  With the show back for its seventh season, it continues to attract a remarkable amount of interest.  No other entry on this site has generated as many thoughtful comments and viewings as this one.  Based on what’s been happening these past four months, it will continue to rack up the hits.  I couldn’t be happier.

Being on WordPress has given me the confidence to try some ideas I didn’t think would work on Windows Live Spaces.  While I continue to prefer writing longer entries, I’ve also experimented with shorter pieces that would never have been done in the early years.  (With the exception of poetry, I always felt longer was better.)  Generally, I’ve been pleased with my 2011 output.

Even though I have yet to make a dime with this site, the growth over the last year has convinced me that a few more significant breakthroughs may lead to actual paying gigs in the future or at the very least, a steady income as a writer and hopefully, as a broadcaster as well.  (Those three years of taking TV in college and the five years I spent volunteering at its Cable FM station shouldn’t go to waste.)

In the meantime, I’ll continue to write in this space and hope more people will not only discover it but come back for return visits.  This is shaping up to be a record breaking year for The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  Let’s hope it’s just the beginning of even more great successes very soon.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 10, 2011
12:35 a.m.

CLARIFICATION & UPDATE:  Family Jewels actually returned to conclude the second half of its sixth season.  Speaking of that, A&E is releasing all of these 2011 episodes in two new DVD box sets.  Look for Season Six Part One and Season Six Part Two on June 12.  The real seventh season should start airing later this year.  No official announcement of the show’s return has been made yet.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
9:53 p.m.

Published in: on October 10, 2011 at 12:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Can Gene Simmons Really Change?

“Who would marry an asshole like you?”

It’s the million dollar question.  Who in their right mind would commit to someone who 1. isn’t naturally monogamous, 2. proudly boasts about his numbers and 3. puts work ahead of his family?

“I would.”

When last we left Gene Simmons Family Jewels this past July, there was a cliffhanger.  After realizing how desperate he was to have her in his life, the terrified Demon whisked his longtime love Shannon Tweed away to Belize for a romantic getaway.

Despite being thwarted at every opportunity he had to deliver a memorable proposal in an exotically historic location (she couldn’t hear him on a noisy, private plane overlooking The Great Blue Hole, he was out of breath on top of a Mayan temple) he finally found his moment on a pier during a particularly windy early evening.

After a heartfelt speech, he went down on one knee.  Tweed was completely freaked out and erupted into tears, clutching her face with her hand the entire time.  “Please marry me,” Simmons asked.  There was no answer.  Just stunned silence.

Three months later, we finally learn what happened next.

After posing the asshole question (“to make him sweat a little”, she later tells Dr. Wexler, the on-screen family therapist we first met in season six), followed by an uncomfortable pause, she answers her own question in the affirmative.

To Tweed’s credit, though, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly anymore.  In the surprisingly balanced and revealing hour-long seventh season premiere, we learn she has a reasonable amount of reservations about marrying Simmons.

His chronic infidelities and overbooked work schedule, as always, are the two biggest thorns in her overly patient side.  (“I just want to be first for a change,” she reasonably declares at one point.)

But then there’s the matter of why Simmons proposed in the first place.  As Shannon openly discusses all the various feelings (both good and bad) that flooded through her during the proposal, she’s honest enough to admit that maybe Gene only did it because it was what she wanted, not because he suddenly decided marriage was for him.

As a result, the whole experience is “bittersweet” from her perspective.  (It wasn’t the kind of proposal she had hoped for after all these years but she’s glad she finally got one.)  She ultimately fears he misinterpreted her desires as an ultimatum (marry me or I walk).

She has always longed to be the only lover in his life and to have that recognized legally, and she has always hoped that deep down he wanted the same thing despite his public criticism of marriage for decades.

So, her acceptance of Gene’s surprising offer is “conditional”, not “unconditional”.  Smart enough and experienced enough to know this is a big gamble for the couple, Tweed insists on not being disrespected anymore by Simmons’ constant screwing around.  This can only work if he plays ball.

And therein lies part of the problem.  As we learn firsthand from Shannon, Gene is not an open book when it comes to sex.  He deletes his voicemail and text messages constantly, arousing her already suspicious mind.  Through an answering service, he has a way of knowing if any women have tried to get in touch with him.  (He tells Wexler he cancelled it.  Right.)  He has contacts all over the States.

Does this really sound like a guy ready to settle down with one person?

If that weren’t bad enough, there’s the scene where Shannon mentions to Dr. Wexler that Gene can’t promise to be monogamous.  “I’ll do my best,” is all he can manage to offer in the form of reassurance until, like a trained seal, he repeats Shannon’s promise of fidelity as stated by the shrink.  Not exactly persuasive.

Once the word gets out to family and friends that they’re actually going to get married, however, the episode loses its familiar dramatic hostility and reverts back to the lighthearted hilarity that defined most of the episodes from the first five seasons.

From son Nick’s hilarious T-shirt (“Not A Bastard Anymore”) to Gene’s frustration with his adorable mother as he tries to make his big announcement to her, this is one of the funniest Family Jewels episodes I’ve seen in quite some time.  In a nice bit of continuity from season six, Gene’s lovely Israeli family (who he first met not too long ago never knowing he was related to them) make a surprise, touching appearance at his impromptu engagement party.

But by the end of the episode, the stress the couple has been feeling seeps right back in once talk of planning a wedding takes over.  Shannon isn’t entirely convinced, despite Gene’s continuous reassurances, that her longtime companion is willing to go through all of this.  (Even his frequent suggestion they elope is met with disdain.  She openly wonders if he’s having second thoughts.)  With Kiss making a new album and planning another tour as well as a cruise (not to mention promotion for said ventures), and Gene accepting an offer to do a series of speaking engagements, it’s still clear what Simmons’ top priority is.

As a result, the couple have a very small window to work with if they want to get married quickly.  No wonder Gene starts feeling “hazy” by the end of the show.  (The episode ends oddly with a laid out Simmons riding in the back of an ambulance.  Uh oh.)

As we all know, they actually did get married on-camera on October 1st in front of 400 invited guests.  (Look for that episode to air on A&E October 18th.)  And apparently, it all went well.

But does anyone really believe marriage will change Gene Simmons for the better?  Throughout the seventh season premiere, astute skepticism and doubt reign supreme from Shannon’s deep reservations to Gene’s lack of a convincing attitude change to Shannon’s mom’s line about determining someone’s future behaviour by examining their earlier behaviour to even Gene’s mom’s insistence that his longtime love never leave him alone for a second.  All red flags even The Who’s Tommy couldn’t miss.

Next week, A&E plans to air two one-hour episodes of Family Jewels back-to-back as we continue to learn about the backstory that led to that past weekend’s reportedly lavish wedding.  Looks like we’ll get more planning sequences, more internal tension, a health scare and scenes from a weekend couples retreat that Shannon tweeted about back in the summer.

Overall, it doesn’t look pretty, especially Shannon’s insistence that she’s not looking for an “open marriage”.  In the end, I’m not at all buying the idea that a 62-year-old rock icon, very set in his ways and acutely aware of the power of his image and legacy, can suddenly, through a little therapy and an act of painfully transparent desperation become the kind of man Tweed has always wanted to marry.

For their family’s sake, I hope I’m wrong.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
1:14 a.m.

CLARIFICATION & UPDATE:  The cliffhanger episode was actually not the end of the sixth season.  It was the end of the first half.  TVshowsonDVD.com is reporting that A&E is planning to release the entire 2011 run of Family Jewels episodes on two box sets:  Season Six Part One and Season Six Part Two.  Look for them both on June 12.  The real seventh season is expected in 2012.  However, no official announcement has been made yet about the show’s return.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
5:02 p.m.

Published in: on October 5, 2011 at 1:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Why Amanda Knox & Raffaele Sollecito Aren’t Truly Free

It was a horrendous crime.  A beautiful young woman savagely raped and murdered in her own home for reasons the rational can never truly fathom or fully understand.  What did she ever do to deserve such a cruel fate?

Meredith Kercher was a 21-year-old exchange student from Britain who was sharing a house in Perugia, Italy with three other women.  (She was enroled in a one-year university program at the time.) 

On the evening of November 1st, 2007, she was assaulted and later left for dead in her own bedroom.  (It was ultimately determined that she expired due to suffocation and loss of blood.)  She was discovered the next morning by police and her worried housemates.  Some of her personal items were stolen.

The crime scene was gruesome.  Blood splattered and smeared everywhere.  In the end, the DNA evidence pointed to one culprit:  Rudy Guede, an African-born athlete who was only 20-years-old at the time.  Once he was arrested, it didn’t take very long for the Italian courts to convict him.  (The physical evidence was overwhelming in his fast-tracked trial, which he chose over a full one.)  He’s currently serving a 16-year sentence, reduced from the original 30 after an appeal.

As we all know, the story didn’t end there.  In fact, it dragged on needlessly for another three years.  One of Kercher’s housemates, then-20-year-old American exchange student Amanda Knox, and then-23-year-old Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, a guy Knox had been dating for all of nine days at the time of the tragedy, were persons of interest to the police.

Because they supposedly found Sollecito’s DNA on Kercher’s bra clasp and Knox’s DNA on a kitchen knife (that wasn’t actually used during the attack), material collected a month and a half after the murderous assault it should be noted, the young couple were also arrested and in late 2009, also found guilty.

Despite the insistence by the irresponsible Italian media (who had it in for Knox right from the start with their sensationalistic “reporting”) that justice was served, many credible DNA experts vehemently disagreed.

CNN put together a terrific documentary that cast grave doubts on the prosecution’s case against Knox and Sollecito.  Independent DNA testing revealed the strong possibility of contamination during the crime scene collection process that made it highly unlikely that the two had anything to do with the crime.  In fact, neither were even at the residence at the time it was taking place.  (They were both at Sollecito’s apartment that night.)

But Giuliano Mignini, an overzealous prosecutor already under suspicion for another case he may have mishandled, was determined to prove his theory that Kercher was murdered because she refused to participate in an orgy, which may be the craziest, most preposterous premise for a murder motive I’ve ever heard.  (And it wasn’t the only one the desperate prosecution was going on.)

Naturally, Knox and Sollecito appealed their unjust sentence of more than 20 years in the clink.  And after nearly two years of being in custody, a judge, speaking on behalf of an eight-member appellate jury he was a part of, revealed what many have been hoping for from the beginning.  Their murder convictions have been overturned.  Knox and Sollecito are free to go.  It’s expected she’ll be leaving for America very soon.  (Despite the expiration of her passport, the BBC reported that upon leaving jail this morning (8 a.m. Italian time) she was heading straight to the local airport.  Can’t say I blame her.)

Despite the long overdue correction by the courts, Knox and Sollecito are far from truly free.  The Kercher family, devastated by losing Meredith, have never believed in their innocence.  They have consistently (and it must be said, stubbornly) stated from the beginning that the prosecution’s crackpot orgy theory was the accurate one.

One doesn’t want to criticize a grieving family who aren’t likely to have peace and closure any time soon and have shed many a tear for the loss of their beloved Meredith.  But the following must be said.  Their anger and sadness has unfortunately blinded them to the science of this case.  There has never been any proof of an attempted sex party (according to the CNN documentary, Knox hadn’t really dated much before the move to Italy) or satanic ritual (because the crime happened the day after Halloween) nor has any evidence emerged that connects definitively more than two people to that awful crime scene.  They need to stop living in stubborn denial and support Knox and Sollecito who have lost four years of their lives and a potential relationship out of this whole mess.  This story has more than one victim.

Furthermore, there’s the business of yet another prosecutorial appeal.  According to early reports, the case may go to Italy’s high court.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t.  The Kercher, Knox and Sollecito families have all suffered enough.

There are also some defamation issues to sort out.  Knox accused the police of physical and mental abuse during her interrogation which led to a defamation suit by Italian police against her divorced parents who made similiar accusations publicly in 2009.  (More on that in a moment.)  Furthermore, the Kerchers are likely to continue to pursue civil charges against Knox and Sollecito as they foolishly stand with the discredited prosecution in this case.  Neither case, as far as I know, has either been settled or resolved.  They both sound like a colossal waste of time and energy.

Even though Knox can now breathe a huge sigh of relief over reclaiming her innocence, she’s still on the hook for a substantial fine regarding a matter involving her former boss.  In 2007, Knox worked for Patrick Lumumba who ran a local pub in Perugia.  During a 14-hour interrogation on November 5, four days after the murder, a confused Knox somehow implicated Lumumba in a controversial confession that led to a defamation lawsuit.  (Lumumba was cleared of any wrongdoing after a two-week investigation.)  Later on, Knox alleged police abuses (which led to her confusion) and took back much of what she wrote claiming the stressful atmosphere and the lack of food and drink deprived her of making coherent decisions.  (The police and prosecutors have denied her allegations but they’re not exactly credible right now.)  Because that charge came with a three-year conviction, Knox doesn’t have to serve anymore time since she’s already been in jail for four years.  One wonders why it even stood any kind of serious scrutiny considering the fishiness of that whole inhumane interrogation which, if Knox is being accurate, sounds like torture.

Finally, there’s the unfair cloud of suspicion that continues to hang over these two young students.  Outside the courtroom in Italy, a good number of people booed one of the defence attorneys who had just exited the building after the decision was announced.  Others chanted, “Shame, shame!”, “Murderers!” and “They’re guilty!” in Italian.  This Australian report on the successful appeal uses a direct quote of an appalling prosecution smear of Knox in its own headline unsubtly suggesting a miscarriage of justice.

Despite an enormous worldwide network of support for Knox and Sollecito who have long believed they were innocent victims of a botched investigation and prosecution, there will always be a vocal minority who will continue to falsely condemn them on the flimsiest of evidence.  I hope they will be persuaded over time but for now, their stubbornness is inflaming their misguided outrage.  Maybe once they calm down and open their minds, they’ll realize their terrible mistake and make amends.

Whatever the future holds for Amanda Knox, it has to be better than the present Wikipedia is currently showcasing.  Instead of a page listing her remarkable accomplishments (as documented in the CNN documentary) under her own name, users are redirected to “Murder of Meredith Kercher”.  (Curiously, it’s just a link on Sollecito’s page, which is blank.)

Like that well-liked young lady wrongly violated four years ago, both Knox and Sollecito deserve a happier legacy.  Unlike Kercher, they’ve been given a second chance.  May they make the most of it.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 3, 2011
8:23 p.m.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 8:23 pm  Comments (5)