Remembering 2011, My Sixth Year Of Blogging (Part Three)

Since this website’s inception in February 2006, there have been occasional detours into the world of rhyme.  I don’t know how others do it but I don’t stare at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to happen.  A title or a line or a complete verse will simply come to me (usually while I’m in bed) and I’ll have to write it down quickly so I don’t forget.  When I feel I have something worth fleshing out, I either write out a draft in ink or go to the computer and figure out where to go next.

In 2011, there were 28 such poems that were showcased here, the most I’ve ever completed in a twelve-month period.  (Add three song parodies and the total goes up to 31.)  Some readers enjoyed several of them enough to either leave a comment or click the “Like” button.  That never stops feeling good.  Writing verse is the most challenging type of writing you can pursue and certainly for me the most personal.  (You’re at your most vulnerable despite not trying to be too specific.)  When a complete stranger gets something out of your poetry, it’s something else.

While most of my poetry is autobiographical to some extent, it was nice to write from other points of view on occasion.  Peace In Your Time was directly inspired by Eva Marie Woywod, an American small town reporter who was viciously attacked by her ex-husband several years ago.  She very bravely recounts the harrowing tale on her entertaining blog, Thankfully Chewed Up & Spat Back Out!

An outspoken advocate for the abused, Woywod often performs the thankless task of frequently writing about these awful stories that make most of us tune out because they’re so horrifying and painful.  When she succinctly complimented my poem, I was deeply flattered and pleased that she enjoyed it so much.  I haven’t had the pleasure of conversing with her in quite a while but I do hope she’s ok.  She’s been through a lot of heavy shit.

The lovely ladies of One Tree Hill inspired The Most Beautiful Cast On Television, one of the more lighthearted poems I’ve put together.  The title was in my head for quite some time but I didn’t know what to do with it.  Once I settled on a series of verses highlighting as many actresses from the show as possible, it was simply a matter of working it all out on paper, then typing it all on the computer.

Some of the surnames were very difficult but not impossible to rhyme.  In the end, there was only one that couldn’t, which explains why Daphne Zuniga (hilariously snobby as Sophia Bush’s mom on the show) is simply referred to as Daphne Z.  Sadly, no matter how hard I tried, nothing rhymes with that name.  I briefly thought about making up a word but abandoned that approach for the finished result.

Embarrassingly, when the poem was posted, I realized I forgot to include a verse that was already written on paper.  So without drawing any attention to it, I slyly slipped in the two lines about Alison Munn right between the sections that praise Barbara Alyn Woods (who played the cougariffic Deb Scott) and Jana Kramer (who played the troubled but ultimately sweet and sexy Alex).  I also tweaked the second-to-last bit involving Elizabeth Harnois (who appeared in a few season four episodes as Shelley, the misguided but ultimately genial Clean Teen who deflowers Marvin in that year’s finale).  I was worried the original verse would be misinterpreted.  The updated version plays a lot better.

Because of the limited blogging space the poem doesn’t look exactly right.  Every verse from top to bottom is supposed to consist of just two lines.  But because some went longer than others, some sections have three lines.  I suppose I could’ve reduced the size of the font which would’ve easily solved the problem.  But who wants to squint?  Despite being annoyed by the flawed layout, I’m very satisfied with the poem itself.

Happiness was another poem inspired by the show.  I’ve been getting caught up with season eight on MuchMusic lately and was struck by one of Austin Nichols’ lines from an episode that year (“Happiness is a mood, not a destination”).  So I stole it and worked from there.

Of all the poetic projects I showcased this year, none was more popular than My Penis Doesn’t Mind.  A lot of the credit for the slight uptick in hits that it has thus far accumulated (109 to date) goes to a reader who linked to it on Reddit in its humour section.  (Thanks, betcaro!)  As a result, it’s the most viewed poem I’ve ever posted.

Sly Tribute attempted to honour Larissa Cardey, the former editor of who left the job last summer.  Mr. Thin Skin mocked stubborn, unaccountable, faux conservative pundits, particularly those in Canada, The Cozy Journalist satirized the sad state of the modern Washington reporter, and Occupation allowed me in my own way to publicly support the Occupy Wall Street movement.  (To see all my poems, past and present, just click the Poetry section on the right side of my home page.)

After four and a half years on MSN/Windows Live Spaces, I moved my blog to WordPress in October last year.  The reason for this was very simple:  Microsoft was shutting down WLS for good and I didn’t want to lose my stuff.  Thankfully, the company offered bloggers the opportunity to keep their sites going (well, just the contents of the blog itself, actually) by transferring to WP within half a year.  By mid-March 2011, all remaining Spaces that hadn’t relocated would be deleted.  (It actually took several days before the service was completely discontinued.)  On March 15, the day before the mass shutdown was to begin, I paid tribute to my former blogging home.

Also ending its run this year was The Toronto Sun Family Blog, a longtime supporter of my site.  After five years of nostalgia, opinions and exclusive reporting, John Cosway understandably decided to call it a day on November 1st.  Truthfully, there were a few more pieces offered beyond that date (just video clips of the old days and an open forum for disgruntled staffers, past and present) but no more daily rants, compliments and personnel updates from Cosway himself.  A Tribute To The Toronto Sun Family Blog speaks for itself.

2010 was a pitiful year for movie screenings.  I batted 2 for 23.  So, in 2011, I vowed to do much better.  And I did.  Of the 29 films I viewed, 13 were good, very good or excellent.  Seven of these features – The Crow: City Of Angels, Super 8, X-Men: First Class, Eclipse (the third Twilight movie), Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010), and The American – were properly reviewed in this space.  Only First Class and The American are worth seeing, by the way.

Speaking of that X-Men prequel, it also surfaced on Christina Lucas’ website by her request.  It’s essentially the same review minus the cursing (I wasn’t thrilled with the unauthorized edit) but including some nifty photos.  Generally, I was pretty happy with the added attention for the review.

I met Christina (and Eva Marie Woywod) through Writer’s Digest Community which is basically Facebook for writers.  I had been putting off joining for almost two years so what finally convinced me to join?

Desperation and impatience.  Hits for this site in its first six months on WordPress were painfully small, just a few hundred hits per month although my audience was growing slowly.  I figured at the very least a few of my fellow scribblers would check things out and maybe spread the word.  Although I do get the occasional bit of traffic from WDC, truthfully the vast majority of my readers have found me through Google.  Still, I don’t regret joining.  I’ve met and interacted with a lot of kind, supportive writers in there, several of whom have left lovely comments in this space.

Although it took nearly a year to happen (long story), continued to publish my music reviews.  Check out my takes on Keane’s Night Train EP, Breaching Vista’s Vera City, Camp Radio’s Campista Socialista and the October EP by The Consonance, all worthy editions to your own personal collections.  I’m working on three more critiques at the moment but because of how busy December has been, there’s still a lot more work to do.  I hope to have them ready for submission very soon.

For the first time in a decade, I finally upgraded my computer system.  My original hard drive was pretty much toast two years ago so, based on the recommendation of a Summit Direct technician, I settled on a used one for just a little over a hundred bucks.  Unfortunately, it didn’t come with a modem so Dave, my technically inclined friend of nearly 30 years, performed some emergency surgery by removing the modem from the old drive and placing it in the one I just purchased.  It wasn’t fast (due to age) but it got the job done for a while until it became too slow to take anymore.

Because my printer and scanner were not compatible with this replacement system, they just sat there.  Last year, while going through some Mel Gibson phone rants, the speakers blew out.  Well, kind of.  You see, after that happened, whenever I turned on my computer, sometimes the sound would come on (but you couldn’t turn it off or adjust the volume) and sometimes it would do an awesome Marcel Marceux impression.  (Truthfully, they were starting to act up as far back as the spring of 2009.  It was a long, slow decline.)

Over time, it was obvious that I needed a change.  Thanks to a very generous financial gift from my parents, although it took five months of research, browsing, and decision making, my new system has been operational since November and I couldn’t be happier.  To have a new external dial-up modem that makes no sound (unless you have the volume up on your speakers) is one of the many cool things about my new set-up.  Considering the amount of money I spent on my first PC, it’s astounding how much the price has come down in just ten years and how much sleeker and more efficient these newer models are.  So awesome.

Getting back to my site for a moment, this is the 94th and final entry for 2011.  (I haven’t been this prolific in at least three years of doing this so I’m very happy with that number.)  Longtime readers know that this annual blogging-in-review piece is saved for the final day of the year.  It’s usually an epic in terms of length.  This year’s edition was actually too long to contain in a single entry, hence this three-part series that began two days ago.

As I’ve previously noted, throughout the year I’ve offered plenty of poetry, the occasional film review as well as political and pop culture commentaries.  I’ve also reached out to the likes of Demi Moore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Olivia Wilde and Jennifer Lopez, four beautiful actors now back on the market, who clearly need to be held by an underweight Canadian.  (This website enjoyed the Lopez story citing it as “appropriately worshipful”.)

As you can tell from this series alone, it’s been a pretty terrific year for The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  Several personal page view records were broken, I have WordPress blog followers now and the initial joy I experienced during the early days of the Windows Live period has been revitalized.  Simply put, there have been a lot more positives than usual.  But what’s next?  Where do we go from here?

I’m about to find out.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2011
1:00 a.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2011, My Sixth Year Of Blogging (Part Two)

Thankfully, other pieces connected with readers this year beyond the Gene Simmons Family Jewels material.  The seventh installment of The 10 Greatest U2 Singles series that was originally put together in the summer of 2007 suddenly started becoming popular in the fall of 2011, more so than any of the other ones.  (Interestingly, several other Windows Live-era pieces like Marlon Brando’s First Appearance On Larry King Live, Zoo Station (Short Story), and a couple of the Seinfeld DVD trivia postings, among a few others, also received additional hits (they’ve all cracked triple digits) long after they debuted on the original site.)

With Achtung Baby reissued in numerous forms on Halloween, I soon understood why.  Part Seven is all about U2’s Numb, a song from 1993’s Zooropa CD that originally began life a few years earlier as Down All The Days which just happens to be a bonus track on disc five of the two box set versions of Achtung.  (Just as an aside, why is that song not on the standard two-disc Deluxe Edition?  And where’s Heaven And Hell, Oh Berlin, Near The Island, and Everybody Loves A Winner, for that matter?  Disc two of the DE is only 63 minutes long.  Couldn’t they have squeezed them all in or drop some of the remixes so whatever couldn’t fit would ultimately make the final cut?  Having just acquired a copy of the DE, I’m not terribly happy about this.  But let’s move on.)  In 2010, Part Seven was accessed ten times.  To date, it’s been seen a little over 400 times.

The same year that piece first surfaced, I received an unexpected email from Elaine Loring.  She was looking to get in touch with the ever busy Canadian Press TV Critic Bill Brioux, a friend she’s known for decades.  (She had unexpectedly found my name through Google.  I had written about him a number of times in this space.)  Once that was all sorted, Elaine and I kept messaging each other and have been friendly ever since.  It’s been a difficult couple of years for her.  She lost her mom to cancer and her beloved uncle died at the age of 96.  While still grieving for their losses, she discovered a lump in her breast.

Sadly, it turned out to be cancerous.  However, it was detected early so the former longtime entertainment reporter went to work tirelessly researching all her available treatment options.  The bad news was kept in house for a bit before a small group of friends (myself included) were informed.  She asked me to keep it quiet until she told everybody else.  In late March, she made the official announcement on Facebook and the groundswell of support from her family and friends has helped her get through this very difficult time.  But it’s been far from easy.  There’ve been a lot of tears and a lot of anxiety.

Elaine had told me she was thinking of putting together a blog but was hesitant about going through with it.  I thought it was a great idea as did a number of her oldest friends.  Emmy-winning writer Bruce Kirschbaum finally convinced her to do it and Lain’s Log became a reality.

In the beginning, the site painstakingly documented the challenging process of her recovery from cancer.  Real eye-opening, educational stuff.  But over time, it’s also served as a warm invitation for readers to get an honest sense of her daily life which is anything but calm.  The best pieces are actually the personal anecdotes involving her near 30-year career as an entertainment reporter for Global TV, Tribute Magazine and TV Guide Canada.  (The story of how her all-time fave, Jack Lemmon, snuck in a kiss after an interview is well worth reading.  Sneaky bastard.  She was not displeased.  It’s paragraph 17, by the way.)

Shortly after she publicly announced the news of her illness, to show my support for her recovery and new online venture, I wrote Elaine Loring’s Public Battle With Breast Cancer.  The next day, she wrote me a lovely email thanking me for the piece which her husband had actually spotted and passed on to her.  As of this writing, it’s been accessed nearly 300 times.  Elaine has been exceedingly kind to me since we became friends and having a link to my blog on her site is the ultimate compliment.

As for the latest on her current condition, she has noted that the same sharp pain she first experienced has returned.  Anxious to get it checked out, let’s hope it’s not round two of the cancer.  She’s hoping it’s just scar tissue related to her surgery.  I hope so, too.  After everything she’s been through lately, let’s hope she pulls through once again.  Hang in there, Elaine!

For better or worse, Reality Television is here to stay and there’s no clear way to avoid it all.  Late in the year, thanks to my dad, I became a fan of one of the more recent entries into this increasingly crowded field.  During a typical unproductive period where I was wondering what I would write next, I was walking back home one day as I was thinking about this show and all the different elements that stood out for me.  After jotting down some notes, I had the hook.  29 Things I Love About Storage Wars was the result.  I was secretly hoping for another Family Jewels blockbuster but the fact that it has been seen more than 300 times since first surfacing in mid-November has pleased me, nonetheless.  (Sadly, most of my writings are widely ignored.)  The spin-off, Storage Wars: Texas, just isn’t as good.  The bidders aren’t nearly as interesting and funny as Barry Weiss and company.

Two other entries, Why Amanda Knox & Raffaele Sollecito Aren’t Truly Free and Availability of 2011 Oscar-Nominated Films On DVD, have also hit triple digits since their public unveilings (258 and 252, respectively, as of this writing).  The former inspired a critical comment from a reader who questioned my reasoning, so naturally I felt the need to defend my viewpoint.  Another reader’s comment understandably expressed confusion as well as continued interested in the story.  Without a doubt, we haven’t heard the last of this terrible tragedy.  The latter, for a time, was the most popular piece presented in the WordPress Era until that first Family Jewels offering.  The difference in their respective page views now is startling, to say the least.

Speaking of reader comments, after years of only generating a few here and there, there were considerably more in 2011.  (This one might be my favourite.  And no, I didn’t write it.)  The Family Jewels pieces made the biggest impact on visitors here who took the time out of their own lives to write some throughly interesting views on the whole Simmons/Tweed relationship.  I was quite pleased with the thoughtful nature of these missives, most of which came from women.  (A little more than 20 comments have been posted on these Jewels entries alone, about a third of the 59 I received overall this year which doesn’t include quite a few Pingbacks and my occasional replies.)

The cool thing about all of this is that some commenters would also offer their views on other pieces completely unrelated to the Kiss frontman’s TV show.  Like my poetic “tribute” to Michael Coren which led frequent commenter Flo to leave a very flattering note.  After posting a few darkly autobiographical poems, she very sweetly expressed deep concern for my well-being on one of them.  I tried to reassure her I was ok.  I just like writing in this style because the results are often very rewarding.

Speaking of rewarding, WordPress allows devoted readers to keep up to date with its hosted sites by clicking the Follow button.  Doing so allows you to be the first to know when new entries are up.  Basically, you’ll get automatic emails letting you know about the latest postings.  This is a fabulous idea that I wish had existed during my Windows Live Spaces period.  At any event, at the start of 2011, there were no followers of The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  Now?  I have ten (nine follow the blog and one keeps track of new comments).  My thanks to all of you guys for thinking enough of this site to become followers.  I hope to have many more in 2012.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 30, 2011
1:59 a.m.

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2011, My Sixth Year Of Blogging (Part One)

In any given year, there’s a day that stands out more than any other, one that you’ll never forget.  For this website in 2011, it was June 17th.

Two pieces I had been working on were ready to be posted that day.  The first was initially worked out on paper during that same afternoon.  It was just a series of questions I felt weren’t being addressed to a very important public figure, questions that had been nagging at me for a while that no American political reporter was brave enough to pose face to face.  The other took a few days.  It was inspired by a silly TV show I had been watching for years but never felt compelled to write about in any forum before.

Questions For President Obama was posted at 6:27 p.m. and I was bracing myself for some severely negative comments from angry readers.  But they never arrived.  In the more than six months since it first surfaced, it has only been viewed 14 times.  (Corporate Stooge and Quicksand Of Indecency, two critical poems about the 44th President of the United States, haven’t fared much better.  Just 18 page views, collectively.  As Bob Dole might put it, “Where’s the outrage?”.)

The other piece, however, was a monster and I didn’t know it.   A couple of days after researching my hunch, an online draft was completed on June 17th but I needed to read it over a few times and polish it off before giving it a public showcase.  As a result, it didn’t get posted until four minutes after midnight.  It was the early morning of June 18th.

24 hours later, the story had already been seen 73 times.  That was weird and unexpected.  The next two days, 73 more hits were recorded.  Also a surprise.  Then, on day four, it was viewed 107 times.  Day five:  down a bit to 102 hits.  By the end of the month, although page views had dramatically dropped, this piece had already been accessed four hits shy of 600, making it the most popular story I had ever written for this site.  I was very happy.

Little did I know, this was just a warm-up.  Of the near 5000 hits this website received in July (at that time, a monthly record), 2907 were because of this one entry.  So, if you’re keeping track, this one bit of writing had already been seen a little over 3500 times in just six weeks.  (To put things in perspective, that was slightly more than the overall hit count I achieved for the entirety of 2006!)  What was generating all this interest many weeks after the fact?

About a week before it returned on A&E in June, curious promos started airing for this long-running reality show.  A beautiful middle-aged woman was fed up with her longtime love and appeared ready to leave him for good after nearly three decades together.  Was there anything he could do to win her back?  And furthermore, what was causing this sudden impasse?

At 10 p.m. on June 14th, the sixth season premiere of Gene Simmons Family Jewels aired for the first time.  It was a very different episode than the usually frivolous fare.  Right from the start, it was obvious this would be a much more serious season than the previous five.

As I watched the show, I was baffled by Shannon Tweed’s anger at her boyfriend.  Why did one picture of Simmons with two babes on his arms make her weep?  Hadn’t he always been photographed with the ladies?  During the first of many on-camera shrink sessions, she noted how she had been crying continuously for three years and had finally reached her breaking point.  What happened three years ago, I wondered?  And then, it came to me:  the sex tape.

That was the hook for What’s Really Going On With Shannon Tweed & Gene Simmons?.  Apparently, it was a strong one judging by all the hits it was already generating in that first month.  Within three days, a reader posted a comment.  There would be eleven more by late October, the most for a single posting on here.  All of them were thoughtful and deeply appreciated.  Some were even addressed to Simmons and Tweed directly.

As the summer wore on and with the show on hiatus for a couple of months, hits went down considerably.  But the piece kept generating interest day after day, week after week, month after month.  By October, the show returned to either finish up the season or start a new one, I’m still not sure.  (In one Twitter posting, while announcing new, future episodes, Simmons wasn’t sure, either.)  And that’s when another record was set.

Within the first two days, the piece had immediately accumulated 604 additional hits (Simmons and Tweed would tape their wedding on the first), roughly the same amount of page views for that 13-day period back in June.  Amazingly, four months after it first appeared, the story was actually getting more popular.  29 days later, the grand total of October hits was close to 6700, the new monthly record.  Almost 4400 had clicked on that Family Jewels piece.  Astounding.

In just those ten weeks alone, it had been checked out almost 7900 times.  Factor in the 2000 additional hits it received in August, November and December, when the show was off the air (although MuchMoreMusic started airing season six late in the year) and you have nearly 10000 page views altogether for one single bit of writing.  (I have no doubt about that milestone being reached within the next week or so.  Maybe even earlier.) (December 31 UPDATE:  It finally happened just before 9:30 p.m.)

On October 18, the night A&E aired the Tweeds-Simmons wedding and a mostly fluffy, repetitive interview with the family, this website set another personal benchmark.  At the time, The Writings Of Dennis Earl received 985 page views (847 of them directed to the original Jewels piece) but WordPress has since amended that to 999.  Yes, I was one measly hit away from having a thousand hit day.  Although there were numerous days this year when this website achieved a hundred or more hits in a single 24-hour period, sometimes consecutively for several straight days (we’re talking ten in a row more than once here and usually when episodes of the show were fresh in people’s minds) October 18 remains the site’s most popular day ever.  Incredible.

There would be five more Family Jewels entries in this space this year.  The second one, Gene Simmons & Shannon Tweed Need To Get Real With Their Audience was the second most popular piece in the history of this blog.  As of this writing, it’s generated exactly 1800 hits as well as several more thoughtful reader comments, only one of which was critical.  The remaining four have been considerably less popular but add up all the totals and they’ve collectively earned a bit more than 900 hits.  The most recent piece, Unanswered Questions About Gene Simmons Family Jewels, has been seen exactly 500 times.  (By the way, much of the traffic for these entries came from literally thousands of Google searches.  At one point, the original posting was linked and praised in a forum for Canadian escorts on a site called  I kid you not.)

Of the more than 23000 hits recorded this year, all the Jewels stories are collectively responsible for more than half of that overall total.  Without them, I’d be having a typical year, just a little over 10000 hits.  Who knew there was so much interest in The Demon’s personal life?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 29, 2011
1:25 a.m.

CLARIFICATION & UPDATE:  All the new Family Jewels episodes that aired in 2011 make up the entirety of the sixth season.  In fact, A&E is releasing them all in two upcoming DVD box sets:  Season Six Part One and Season Six Part Two.  Look for them both on June 12.  Season seven is expected to air sometime this year but no official announcement has been made yet.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
9:25 p.m.

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 1:25 am  Comments (2)  

What I Loathed About 2011

1. Boston beat Vancouver for The Stanley Cup.  Canada’s drought continues.

2. WWE announcer Michael Cole’s endlessly annoying heel character which audiences have to put with on Raw, Smackdown and pay-per-views now.  What happened to just describing the action inside the ring?

3. The exit of John Morrison.  He should’ve been pushed for a World title.

4. The firings of Chris Masters, Vladimir Koslov, Melina, Gail Kim and David Hart Smith from WWE.  They all deserved better.

5. Donald Trump.

6. The Penn State scandal.  Why has it taken this long to go public?

7. The Arizona and Norway shootings.  Needless tragedies.

8. The constant abuse that protestors in North America, Russia and the Middle East face every day they put their political beliefs and lives on the line.  They all deserve respect whether you agree with their message or not.  And I support them all.

9. Jack Layton died shortly after accomplishing his greatest political achievement:  becoming the Leader of the Opposition in Canada.

10. Roger Abbott died.  I was very lucky to have met him during my Royal Canadian Air Farce internship.  Lovely man and a very funny sketch comedian.  Will always miss his Leonard Cohen bits among many other comic gems.

11. Casey Anthony was acquited, which didn’t surprise me.

12. Sun TV News.  Unwatchable.

13. Kamala The Ugandan Giant had his foot amputated due to diabetes.

14. All the horrible films I subjected myself to this year:  Porky’s, A Nightmare On Elm Street (the remake), MacGruber, Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, The Grudge 2, Vampires Suck, Jackass The Movie, The Stepfather remake and The Crow: City Of Angels.

15. That miserable, anonymous old bag who kept giving me a hard time in the CFNY Facebook group because I liked posting bits of trivia (or “wiki-facts”, as he put it) which was pretty much appreciated by most everybody else.  He couldn’t take it.  Said we already have an Alan Cross.  (What?  There’s no room for two?)  Glad I left.  I’d rather be happy.  On the plus side, his embarrassing behaviour inspired this and this.

16. The unlawful murder of Osama Bin Laden.  He should’ve been arrested and brought to trial.  A lost opportunity for America to restore its once cherished concepts of law and order which don’t exist anymore.  Except for the super-connected rich.

17. The Libya invasion.  What business do we have interfering in another Middle Eastern country?  How much oil do we really need?

18. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.  The most soulless empty suits in The Republican Party.  They stand for absolutely nothing.  They just want power.  Fuck them.

19. Charlie Sheen’s self-destruction.  In the 80s, he appeared in two great Oliver Stone films:  Platoon and Wall Street, the latter of which I finally screened recently.  Now?  He’s the manic idiot who gave up a cush gig on a bad sitcom.  Good one, Sheenius.

20. Randy Orton’s on-again, off-again beard.  Not working, dude.  Stay clean shaven.

21. Robert Downey Jr. publicly urging forgiveness for Mel Gibson.  He hasn’t earned it, Sherlock.

22. Santino Marella got into a car accident.  Thankfully, he survived.

23. Mayor Rob Ford.  Haven’t you embarrassed Toronto enough?

24. The ninth season of One Tree Hill will only feature 13 episodes next January in the States.  We Canadians probably won’t get to see them on MuchMusic until fall 2012.

25. The shocking celebrations over Bin Laden’s assassination.  Sophia Bush, Eric Boehlert and Howard Stern, I was disappointed in particular with all of your public approvals.  You all know better.

26. The missing singles from R.E.M.’s latest greatest hits package.  It should’ve been a triple disc set, not a double.

27. Gene Simmons unconvincing 180 on marriage.  An act of a desperate man.  Does anyone really believe he can be monogamous?

28. All the constant title changes in WWE.  Long gone are the days when, for example, a World Champion could count on at least a year at the top.

29. Randy Savage died.

30. The phony outrage over Lars Von Trier’s confused comments about Nazis while promoting a movie at Cannes.  Hire a funny spokesman instead.

31. The constant Presidential campaign coverage.  It’s just too much.

32. The grief Chaz Bono had to face for doing Dancing With The Stars, especially from Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow.  Give the guy a break.  He’s just dancing on TV!

33. Netflix’s misguided attempts to overcharge for beloved services.  Yeah, that worked out well, didn’t it, fellas?

34. The spineless, unaccountable Washington press corps.  How do they sleep at night?

35. Edge retired from WWE due to severe injuries.  That’s a huge vacuum to fill.

36. The mighty Cee-Lo Green having to sing “Forget You” instead of “Fuck You” during live performances on award shows and at SummerSlam.  Alanis Morissette got to say “fuck” on The Grammys fifteen years ago.  Why couldn’t Green do it this year?

37. The Kardashians.  Go away.

38. America’s Got Talent.  What a joke.  But maybe Howard Stern can fix it.

39. Piers Morgan Tonight.  What a blatant asskisser.

40. Whitney.  Not funny at all.  She’s much better on those Comedy Central Roasts.

41. The no-choking-with-objects policy on Vintage Collection.  Any time it happens, you just see a series of still frames instead of real-time video.  Come on, guys.  It looks stupid and insults the intelligence of the audience.

42. Evan Bourne and R-Truth’s ridiculous 30-day Wellness Policy suspensions for smoking synthetic weed.  Is that really a performance enhancing drug?

43. Rowdy Roddy Piper’s unconvincing victory over The Miz on Raw.  No more matches, Hot Rod.  You’re sadly passed your prime.

44. Lindsay Lohan still hasn’t gotten sober and remains a blonde.

45. The phrase “WWE Universe”.  So annoying.  As CM Punk correctly pointed out, “They’re not a universe, they’re fans!”.  Too bad he ended up using the phrase himself on the December 19th and 26th editions of Raw.  Ugh.

46. President Obama.  Worse than the last guy.

47. Patrice O’Neal died.

48. Sarah Palin.

49. The natural disasters that led to that nuclear calamity in Japan.

50. The earthquake in Turkey.

51. Gordon Ramsay.

52. Oprah’s Lifeclass.  Seriously?

53. Prime Minister Harper finally got his majority.

54. The lack of outrage over President Obama’s oppressive policies.  Doesn’t anyone care about due process and civil liberties anymore?

55. I wasn’t allowed to smile when I posed for my latest health card photo.  Back to looking like a creep again.  Sigh.

56. There was yet another shooting at Virginia Tech, four years after the first one.

57. The “anonymous” General Manager on Raw.  What the hell was that about?

58. Michelle Bachmann getting apologies from NBC and Jimmy Fallon because The Roots played Lyin’ Ass Bitch by Fishbone during an appearance on Late Night.  She doesn’t deserve one.  The band got it right the first time.

59. Anthony Weiner had to resign because he likes sending pics of his bulging dong to chicks.  Good thing I’m not a Congressman.

60. The homes featured on all those Hoarders shows.  Deeply disturbing.

61. Nancy Grace.

62. Victoria Jackson.

63. That deplorable Toronto Sun story about NDP Leader Jack Layton getting a massage in a supposed “bawdy house” late in the federal election.  Who cares?

64. Telemarketers.  Why do you think we rarely answer our phone anymore?  Take a hint.

65. The overblown coverage of the Prince William/Kate Middleton wedding.  They seem like nice kids, but come on!

66. Bradley Manning’s continued mistreatment while being incarcerated by the U.S. federal government.  Free him already.  He’s a hero.

67. The bogus announcement by President Obama that the Iraq War was ending after the departure of several thousand troops.  But what about the ones that will still be there?  Ditto the private contractors?  This was just as bad as President Bush’s Mission Accomplished fiasco.  Glenn Greenwald got it right.  It’s Endless War.

68. Amy Winehouse died.

69. Facebook’s constant tinkering with its layout.  Pick one and stick with it already.

70. Soap star Farah Fath’s constant nagging of her long suffering boyfriend JP Lavoisier (another soap actor) to marry her already as depicted on Dirty Soap.  Yeah, this is a happy relationship.

71. The mother of former Days Of Our Lives actor, the transfixing Nadia Bjorlin, on the same show.  And you thought Farah was a colossal pain in the ass.

72. Dog The Bounty Hunter.  Racist swine.

73. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried getting fired from his longtime gig as the voice of the duck in those Aflac commercials because he made controversial jokes about the Japanese tsunami.  Guess they preferred his take on The Aristocrats.

74. The Score’s refusal to promote Vintage Collection on Friday nights.  Apparently, if you believe the ads, it’s only on Saturdays!

75. Vicki Guerrero’s shrill voice.  It’s enough already.  And Dolph Ziggler doesn’t need her anymore.

76. President Obama’s hypocritical war on whistleblowers.  So much for complete transparency.

77. World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan’s awful beard.  You look like a hobo.  Lose it already.

78. Domestic and international drones.  They should be outlawed.  The war on privacy continues.

79. The ad with that obnoxious bespectacled woman who dumped her boyfriend after he got her hooked on World of Warcraft.  God, what a humourless bitch.  And no, this doesn’t convince me to play the game.  Neither does Chuck Norris.

80. The relentless canonization of the American military.  Yes, it takes tremendous courage to put your life on the line for your country.  Yes, many members of the service, past and present, have honourable records of their conduct.  But ask the civilians of the Middle East how wonderful they are, especially the widows and the orphans.  It’s time to end the suffering.  We need a real troop withdrawal and a real peace process.  Endless War solves nothing.

81. “The Situation”.  On his business card, it reads “professional douche”.

82. The voiceover announcer on TMZ’s TV show.  Shut up, asshole!  You’re not funny.

83. Canada’s Worst Driver 7 runner-up Sly with his overuse of the word “freak” whenever he screwed up a challenge which was most of the time.  Just say “fuck” already.

84. CDs without lyric sheets.  Drives me crazy when I can’t understand what’s being sung.

85. Still living at home, still not earning a steady income and still not getting any.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
1:12 a.m.

What I Loved About 2011

1. Both Sun TV and Sun TV News are no longer available on my cable service.  (Good riddance, Bloaty McFatAss.)

2. Glenn Beck left Fox News and immediately became irrelevant.

3. The Strokes returned after a five-year absence with the wonderful Angles CD.  Ten killer tracks in just 34 minutes.

4. The Suburbs by The Arcade Fire unexpectedly won the Album Of The Year Grammy.  Totally deserved.  It’s an amazing record, the Pet Sounds of the 21st Century.

5. After putting it off for nearly two years, I finally joined The Writer’s Digest Community this past April.  A Facebook for scribblers, it’s mostly a welcoming, encouraging place for anyone who aspires to see their creativity in print.  Some of the nicest comments I received for my blog this year came from fellow WDC members.

6. For the first time ever, The Writings Of Dennis Earl achieved more than 20000 hits in a single year, thanks to all those Gene Simmons Family Jewels pieces.

7. Storage Wars, one of the most entertaining and fascinating reality shows I’ve ever seen.  Strangely addicting.

8. The spectacular fall of Rupert Murdoch.  Couldn’t happen to a bigger asshole.

9. The Arab Spring and The Occupy Wall Street protests.  Ordinary citizens demonstrating incredible courage and conviction in the face of so much derision, oppression and resistence.  May their movements lead to actual positive political change worldwide.

10. The inspiring recovery of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  Severely wounded by a mentally ill college student in January, despite incredible odds, she is slowly starting to speak again and gradually returning to a normal life.  Whether she actually goes back to her job, though, remains to be seen.

11. Conrad Black returned to prison.

12. The return of Beavis & Butt-Head.  It’s funnier than ever.

13. The return of Pop-Up Video.  Still the most enlightening and cheeky way to watch mostly forgettable videos.

14. The balls of The Roots to play Fishbone’s Lyin’ Ass Bitch while Republican Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann walked onto the set of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

15. CM Punk’s astoundingly believable promo in June that ended his heel run and transformed him into the most outspoken babyface since Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bret Hart.  That moment at the end of Raw Roulette made wrestling exciting again.  Temporarily.

16. CM Punk was finally pushed for the WWE title.  Twice.  Hopefully, this second run will last longer than the first.

17. The Muppets on Raw.  Hilariously nostalgic and a perfect fit for the kid-friendly WWE.

18. After seven years, I finally completed the long process of going through my magazine collection.  Clipped out the articles and ads I wanted to save as well as complete issues and recycled all the rest.  Sanity has returned.

19. Christian vs. Randy Orton.  They put on some of the best matches on pay-per-view this year.

20. Earned a couple hundred of bucks working as a poll clerk in the recent Ontario Provincial Election.

21. Jon Stewart’s pitch perfect takedown of Jerry Sandusky’s pitiful interview with Bob Costas on The Daily Show.

22. Japan upsetting the Americans in the surprisingly exciting Women’s World Cup Final.  Female soccer has finally reached prime time.

23. England redeeming themselves by qualifying for next year’s Euro.

24. R-Truth and Mark Henry’s heel turns in the WWE, both completely unexpected and long overdue.  Truth’s mic work has remarkably improved (his constant reference to the fans as “little Jimmies” always slays me) and Henry’s old-school monster character made him a worthy choice for World Heavyweight Champion.  Long live the Hall of Pain.

25. Zack Ryder’s surprising popularity.  Once just a lackey for Edge during one of his many World Title runs as a bad guy, he was once best known for sporting eccentric wrestling gear (tights that only covered one leg).  But after posting a series of short videos under the title, Z! True Long Island Story (a goof on the old E! True Hollywood Story show), on YouTube, he could no longer be a villain.  Soon, fans were chanting “We want Ryder” so loud and so often the WWE had little choice but to give Ryder a push.  Now he’s the United States Champion.  Long may he reign.

26. Glenn Greenwald’s blog on  Probably the best Obama critic and political writer in North America right now.

27. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were finally freed after being wrongly convicted of rape and murder.  Sadly, they lost four years and a budding romance out of the whole ordeal.

28. Santino Marella finally lost his unibrow.

29. Ashton Kutcher blew it with Demi Moore.  She can do better.

30. Celebrity Rehab 5.

31. The hot Chicago crowd during the main event at Money In The Bank 2011.  Even watching it on DVD made you feel like it was happening for the first time.  Amazing energy.

32. R.E.M.’s final studio album, Collapse Into Now, a cross between Accelerate and Out Of Time.

33. The eighth season of One Tree Hill finally started airing on MuchMusic.  It’s past its prime now but the show still manages to offer some funny and moving episodes.  And I still swoon for all the female characters.

34. Megan Fox didn’t appear in a commercially released movie.

35. Radiohead’s Separator, the final cut from the flawed but soulful King Of Limbs CD.  The best song I heard all year.

36. Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream CD, the standard version.  Finally heard it and now understand why it’s so popular.  Terrific stuff.  Even my Dad’s a fan.

37. All the bra infomericals.  Gripping entertainment.

38. Michael Fassbender’s star making performance as the young Magneto in X-Men: First Class.

39. Elle Fanning’s breakout performance in the disappointing Super 8.  The rehearsal scene for the kids’ amateur horror flick took me by surprise.  Hope to see her in more projects.

40. The Rock’s putdowns of John Cena.  Funny stuff.

41. All the great flicks I finally got a chance to see this year:  Inception, The Godfather, The Departed, Bad Lieutenant and Wall Street.

42. The wormy Piers Morgan getting sucked into the News Of The World scandal.  Whatever gets him off my TV for good.

43. The Cody Rhodes/Randy Orton street fight on Smackdown.  Even though it probably should’ve taken place on a pay-per-view, it was probably the best free TV wrestling match broadcast this year.

44. Rhodes brought back the Randy Savage-era Intercontinental title belt.  Cool.

45. My new computer.

46. Coldplay’s live, commercial-free concert on MuchMusic.  A solid mix of hits and new material.

47. Benjy Bronk’s antics at press conferences for Congressman Anthony Wiener and one of Herman Cain’s accusers.  He’s got balls of steel.

48.  Still the best place to find out what happened on Stern today.

49. for posting all my submissions.

50. The formidable Kharma until she had to quit because of her pregnancy.  Hurry back.

51. Alex Riley’s thoroughly enjoyable ass-kicking of The Miz on Raw which led to his ‘face turn.  Too bad he hasn’t been pushed since.

52. Gary Busey on The Celebrity Apprentice.

53. Emma Sullivan, the cute high school student who dissed Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on Twitter, was urged to apologize by her misguided principal and Brownback’s thin-skinned staff but defiantly refused.  In the end, Brownback apologized to her.  Nice.

54. Adele’s live performance of Someone Like You on The Brit Awards.  Just a piano, her moving vocals and some flurrying glitter.  Kills me every time I hear it.  Another Dad favourite.

55. Joan & Melissa:  Joan Knows Best?, the very funny reality show about Joan Rivers and her supremely foolish daughter, Melissa.

56. Oprah Winfrey stopped doing her talk show.

57. Artie Lange is sober and working again.  Stay healthy, kid.

58. Russell Brand on The Rosie Show and Dinner With The Kings.

59. Matt Striker finally stopped doing colour commentary on Smackdown and pay-per-views.  One of the most annoying broadcasters alive.  Now if he can only stop being a backstage interviewer, I’d be even happier.

60. Unfaithful: Stories Of Betrayal.  Revealing stories of affairs actually resulting in strengthened marriages.  Who knew?

61. The pilot episode of Prime Suspect.  Gritty, compelling start to a series I’ve sadly not followed since.  Features Maria Bello’s best performance.

62. Herman Cain repeatedly quoting a Donna Summer song that plays over the end credits of the second Pokemon movie during his failed campaign for President.  He finally admitted it during his final public speech.

63. Cain’s unintentionally humourous campaign ad which ends with his manager smoking a cigarette for no reason at all and an intense close-up of the former Godfather’s Pizza mogul smiling creepily.

64. Cake Boss.

65. Aaron and Shirley on Canada’s Worst Driver 7.  Perhaps the sweetest people to ever appear on a reality show.

66. CM Punk’s brutally honest comments about John Cena, Triple H and WWE Executive Vice President Of Talent Relations, John Laringytis, all said to their faces on live Television.  Astounding.  Too bad he rarely does it anymore.

67. Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory.  The love child of Lilith Sternin and Niles Crane.

68. Wasting Light by The Foo Fighters.

69. Russell Brand’s touching tribute to Amy Winehouse on his blog.

70. Hearing the voice of Fred Willard as he talked about the business with a Theatre Aquarius employee while they were both going into the theatre.  I turned around just in time to see it was really him.  Wild.

71. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was finally repealed.

72. Coldplay’s Xylo Myloto.  Stupid title but what a lovely collection of tunes.

73. CM Punk vs. John Cena.  Two tremendous talents in two worthy main events at Money In The Bank and SummerSlam.

74. Meat Loaf’s epic freakouts on The Celebrity Apprentice.  The complete opposite of the lactating wuss he played in Fight Club.

75. Michael Moore’s unequivocal condemnation of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination.  The best-selling author and award-winning filmmaker is the bravest and wisest of our public muckrakers.  Bravo, sir.

76. CM Punk’s many tributes to Randy “Macho Man” Savage.  The special tights with the stars he wore for one night on Raw, the finger twirl and “Dig it!” during his ring entrance at Over The Limit and all those flying elbows.  Classy, Phil.

77. That week-long bit on Conan where a fake Watson (the supersmart IBM computer who kicked ass on Jeopardy!) kept aggravating sidekick Andy Richter about doing naughty things to his wife.  Hilarious.

78. Metal Evolution.  The most misunderstood genre of rock gets the TV series it deserves.  Fascinating, revealing and full of colourful characters.  And we’re only halfway through the thirteen-episode run.

79. The protests in Russia over Vladimir Putin’s controversial re-election.  Fight the power, comrades.

80. Amy Schumer’s set during The Charlie Sheen Roast.  Killer and ballsy.

81. Edge giving a shout-out to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the city where he wrestled his first WWF match as Sexton Hardcastle, during his retirement speech.

82. The Undertaker vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 27.  If The Dead Man never performs again, he went out on a high note.

83. All the kind readers who left comments here, clicked the Like button or became a subscriber.  Thank you for your support.

84. The Smackdown Money In The Bank ladder match.  The right guy got pushed.

85. Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy, civil liberties and the drug war.  How I hope he gets the Republican Presidential nomination.  Despite his flaws, he’s the only candidate who makes sense on those three crucially important issues.

86. Rick Mercer came out of the closet.  I had no clue.  I hope it helps the anti-bullying cause.

87. Gay marriage became legal in New York.

88. Rick Perry’s brain farts.  How did this guy get elected as the Governor of Texas in the first place?

89. I have hope for the future.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
2:28 a.m.

Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part Six)

Winner:  Ryan Gosling

He’s been a working actor for almost 20 years, beginning with his two-year stint on The Mickey Mouse Club back in the early-to-mid 90s.  This past decade he had already garnered acclaim for his big screen performances in The Notebook, Half-Nelson (which earned him his first Oscar nomination) and Lars And The Real Girl.  But in 2011, he finally became a movie star.

In the summer romantic comedy, Crazy Stupid Love, he plays a smooth-talking lothario deeply smitten with Emma Stone who’s also trying to help his recently divorced pal Steve Carell move on with his life.  The film generated over 140 million worldwideMost critics enjoyed it.

Next came the modestly budgeted Drive which had reviewers raving with pleasure.  (Roger Ebert recently named it one of his favourite films of the year.)  The crime thriller features Gosling as a Hollywood stunt man/getaway driver on the run after a botched heist.  Made for a measly 15 million, it earned almost 70 million globally.

Finally, there was The Ides Of March where the Canadian actor plays Presidential candidiate George Clooney’s unethical press secretary.  Another critical fave, it made 55 million worldwide.  Add to these successes all those nominations for his work in last year’s Blue Valentine, the awards he’s already up for next year (with possibly more to come) for Drive and Ides Of March, and being named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainers Of The Year, and I’d say, “Not bad for a kid from Ontario”.

Loser:  News Of The World & Rupert Murdoch

It was one of the oldest tabloids in Britain with roots stretching as far back as the early 1840s.  But an astonishing revelation this summer singled the beginning of the end for this much maligned publication and the man who had owned it for more than 40 years.

In 2002, a British teenager named Milly Dowler was kidnapped on her way home from school and later murdered.  But long before her young body was discovered, there was a glimmer of hope that she might still be alive.  Messages had been accessed and deleted on her cell phone leading her parents to believe in a hopeful outcome.

Nine years later, however, The Guardian newspaper reported that Dowler wasn’t the one listening to her voicemail.  In fact, there was more than one.  It turns out a undisclosed number of reporters for the News Of The World had cleverly figured out how to hack into her phone, thereby interfering into the police investigation into her abduction.  The fallout from the story was immediate and devastating.  Milly’s parents sued for damages and later accepted a three-million pound settlement from the tabloid, a third of which went to charity.  (Beleaguered NotW owner Rupert Murdoch later apologized to them in person which they graciously accepted.)

Amazingly, News Of The World had actually managed to survive previous phone hacking allegations and even a couple of criminal convictions for five consecutive years, the perception being that only a couple of overzealous reporters had done anything illegal.  But right from the start of 2011, that turned out to be a lie.  A big one, in fact.

In January, former editor Andy Coulson was under intense media scrutiny for his possible knowledge of widespread hacking practices at the tabloid during his tenure which he denied.  At the time, he was Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director.  But during that month, he promptly resigned.  Six months later, he would be arrested.  He wouldn’t be the only one.

Also in January, Coulson’s then-assistant editor Ian Edmondson was suspended then fired for his alleged role in the scandal.  (Police picked him up three months later along with two other NotW reporters.)  In April, after denying responsibility for years, The News Of The World offered a public apology, secretly hoping they would once again survive a difficult period.

They were wrong.  As the summer rolled on, the tabloid’s already sour reputation continued to take a beating.  In June, actress Sienna Miller accepted a hundred thousand pound settlement regarding almost a dozen NotW articles that relied heavily on hacked messages from her cell.  She wouldn’t be the only one.  In July, during the Dowler firestorm, it was revealed that reporters from the tabloid hacked into the phones of the families of the victims of the July 7, 2005 terrorist attack.  Squeamish advertisers started to pull their ads from the Sunday weekly.

On July 10th, two days after Andy Coulson’s arrest, The News Of The World published its final issue on orders from James Murdoch, Rupert’s son.  (This is what’s left of their website.)  Again, like the apology three months earlier, the idea was to minimize the damage.

But there was even more devastation ahead.  The very next day, reports noted hacking allegations at two other Murdoch publications, The Sun and The Sunday Times, suggesting that the illegal practice was stretching beyond one newspaper.  As a result, the day after that particular revelation, Rupert’s twelve-billion-dollar bid to buy satellite company BSkyB, which was originally a done deal just a week earlier, was temporarily put on hold.  Two days later on July 13, thanks to the relentless onslaught of public outrage, the 80-year-old Australian media menace backed away from the deal.  (He still has almost 40% of BSkyB’s public shares.  But for how long, though?)

The day after that big story, reports surfaced that 9/11 victims and their families may have had their cell phones hacked by employees working for Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox News, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.  The FBI launched an investigation that has yet to result in any arrests.

Just a week before all of these articles came to light, publicly embattled Prime Minister Cameron, who has a long history with Andy Coulson and Murdoch, ordered a public inquiry.  (That same day, July 6, The Telegraph reported that British military personnel fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan may have had their cell phones hacked, as well.)  Despite initially refusing to testify, Murdoch and his son would eventually come forward as one of the first witnesses, but only because they were officially summoned to do so.  Proclaiming he was “humbled” by the experience of being there, he got a much deserved “pie” in the face from one of the spectators.  His home country of Australia would ultimately launch their own investigation into his newspaper practices Down Under.

Former NotW editor Rebekah Brooks (who was on duty during the Dowler tragedy and testified at the inquiry the same day as the Murdochs), the flamboyant red-head who was chief executive of News International, the company that owns numerous British papers, at the time of the tabloid’s demise, despite receiving public support from Murdoch Sr. for a brief period, ultimately resigned the same day as Les Hinton (himself, a former Chief Executive of NI) who relinquished his position as CEO of Dow Jones.  Two days later, on July 17th, Brooks was arrested.  Also, the head of Scotland Yard resigned.  The following day, another high-ranking police official quit.  Now, law enforcement was being implicated in the never-ending scandal.

Since then, there have been several more arrests, more public testimony, more resignations, more lawsuits, more settlements, more accusations and more outrage.  Near the end of July, the most explosive month in the scandal’s timeline, another crime victim was likely hacked, and another former NotW editor found himself having to defend his own tenure on numerous occasions.  After months of initial investigation, it’s been said that some 800 people, both famous and anonymous, were legitimate victims of hacking.  That number could easily go up (or down, for that matter) as time goes on.

This story has so many layers and players, it’s very easy to lose track of everything.  (To fill in the blanks, click here and here.)  Its comparisons to Watergate – the cover-ups, the slow start followed by a barrage of revealing stories day after day after day – are well-founded.  It will be quite some time before the full story is documented and justice is served.

But regardless of what will happen and when it will take place, this year, what once was not possible has become all too real.  It’s the end of the road for Rupert Murdoch and no one fears his vengeful wrath any longer.  The Conservative lion has been thoroughly declawed.

Winner:  Lady Gaga

She continues to look ridiculous with all those unnecessarily wacky outfits she wears but there’s no disputing her ongoing professional success in 2011.  Two years after The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga released Born This Way, her third set of recordings.  A monster right from the get-go, the album sold well over a million copies in just its first week in late May.  To date, it’s gone double platinum in America and has sold roughly eight million worldwide.  Despite some pans, it’s been a well-reviewed blockbuster.  (December 23 UPDATE:  Rolling Stone named it the sixth best album of 2011.)

Five Top 40 singles have already been issued from it.  The title cut became her third number one smash on Billboard; The Edge Of Glory, featuring the late Clarence Clemons on tenor sax (which she performed solely on piano to much acclaim on The Howard Stern Show), peaked at number three; You And I (produced by Mutt Lange and sounding very much like a Shania Twain outtake) hit number six; Judas climbed as high as number ten, and her current A-side, Marry The Night, has already hit the Top 30.  (It wouldn’t surprise me to see it hit the Top Ten in the near future, as well.)  A sixth single, Hair, was shipped to radio stations as a promotional teaser and because of Billboard’s much looser standards for compiling the Hot 100 these days, it went as high as twelve on that chart.

In February, the same month that the Born This Way single was issued, Gaga sang with Elton John on a song in the animated comedy, Gnomeo & Juliet.  (Curiously, this duet version of Hello, Hello isn’t on the CD soundtrack.)  She also sang with Tony Bennett on The Lady Is A Tramp for his beloved Duets II album which they also performed together on her ABC TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving.  (He compared her to Picasso during an interview segment.)  Seen by almost six million viewers, it was the most watched program of its kind in five years, according to Wikipedia.  And it was well liked by critics.  Her other TV special, Lady Gaga Presents the Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden, was seen by over a million HBO subscribers and was also a critical success.  Nominated for five Emmys, it only won for editing.

Speaking of awards, Gaga snagged a couple of MTV VMAs and four MTV Europe trophies.  She was added to the 2012 Guinness Book Of World Records for having the most Twitter followers (13 million) and the most enduring song on the US Digital Hot Songs chart (the fantastically catchy Poker Face which stayed 83 weeks).

And she received the ultimate tribute when Weird Al Yankovic released Perform This Way, a goof on Born This Way.  (The song almost didn’t get released.  Thanks to a complete misunderstanding, Yankovic was under the impression Gaga was not cool with his parody.  It turns out she didn’t even know he was doing it, thanks to her dopey manager who foolishly turned him down without keeping his client in the loop.  Once the story got out there, Gaga gave her blessing and Yankovic was able to issue the song as well as a video.)

Now if only she’d do something about her annoyingly awful fashion sense.

Loser:  Michael Ignatieff & Gilles Duceppe

He had been leader of The Liberal Party Of Canada for two years and an elected MP for five.  After he put forth a “no confidence” vote in the House of Commons, all the opposition parties jumped on board to help bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority government in the spring.  As a result, in April, the fourth federal election campaign in seven years was ready to commence.

And the former Harvard professor and best-selling author was in over his head.  With dynamic NDP Leader Jack Layton, tireless and forthright despite walking with a cane and bravely battling the cancer that would sadly kill him in the summer, stealing away a lot of his supporters, Ignatieff was captaining a sinking ship, one that will take many years to rebuild and smoothly sail the choppy political seas again.

When the votes were tallied on May 2nd, the news was horrific for the Liberals.  Before the election, they were the Loyal Opposition with 77 seats, the united, ruling Conservative Party had 143 and Layton’s New Democrats had a measly 37.  After the election, the Liberals were down to 34.  The NDP soared to 103 (making them the new Official Opposition) and the Conservatives added 23 seats, giving them their first majority since the Mulroney era.  To add insult to injury, Ignatieff lost his own seat.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, who was first elected to the House of Commons in a 1990 by-election, was hoping for a much better showing for his own party.  The Quebec Separatists advanced as high as the Official Opposition in 1997, the year he became their leader.  With almost 50 seats before the election, no one expected them to repeat that success.  But not many anticipated their utter annihilation.  Thanks to Layton’s shrewd campaigning in Quebec, the Bloc was only able to win four seats which means they’re no longer an official party in Parliament.  (You have to have at least 12.)  Like Ignatieff, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe lost his own seat.  Both men resigned as party leaders in May.

Ignatieff ended up taking a teaching position at the University Of Toronto while Duceppe has been getting involved with provincial politics in Quebec.  For now, their time on the national scene is kaput.  After the utter shellacking they both suffered from this year, no one would blame them.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 22, 2011
3:39 a.m.

Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part Five)

Winner:  CM Punk & Zack Ryder

The juiciest parts in entertainment are always the villains, nefarious characters with few boundaries and plenty of evil intentions.  But sometimes in the world of professional wrestling, even being the bad guy can limit your opportunities for advancement.  In 2011, two former heels transformed themselves into the two most talked about babyfaces in the WWE.

For the first half of the year, CM Punk was the leader of The New Nexus, a small group mostly made up of graduates from the NXT show who were making life miserable for John Cena.  At the Royal Rumble, Punk cost old nemesis Randy Orton a chance to regain the WWE Championship from The Miz by giving him the GTS while the referee was otherwise preoccupied with his minions.  (Three years earlier, Orton had punted then-World Champion Punk backstage before he was to defend the title at Unforgiven 2008 forcing him to forfeit.)

For the next several months, Punk and Orton worked a fairly decent program that culminated in three pay-per-view matches, the best of which was probably their last one at Extreme Rules where they alternated whipping each other with that nasty kendo stick.  (Orton came out on top in that one.)  During an interview at the Capitol Punishment pay-per-view prior to his match with old foe Rey Mysterio, Punk promised that the next day on Raw he would deliver the most honest promo in history.

He didn’t disappoint.  After interfering in a non-title Tables Match between WWE Champion John Cena and R-Truth (Punk moved the table before the champ could AA his opponent through it) which gave the latter a much-needed victory, he seized the microphone and proceeded to tell it like it is, running down Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley (without naming them) and WWE owner Vince McMahon in the process.  The crowd ate it all up even though Punk was still a villain and even admonished the crowd a couple of times.

Over the next several weeks, he stopped bashing the fans and focused his attention on Cena and Triple H (John Laryngitis would be waiting in the wings).  More awesome promos followed which made you think something exciting was happening to the point where reality and storytelling were beautifully blurred and therefore, indistinguishable from each other.  At Money In The Bank, in front of an extremely supportive hometown Chicago crowd, Cena and Punk took their time to put on a terrific main event which saw the latter finally elevated to the WWE Championship.  The new champion vowed not to re-sign with the company and to walk away with the title.  But a week later, after Rey Mysterio won the belt in a 2-week tournament on Raw and Cena beat him for it, the original prodigal champion returned.  Living Colour were very pleased.  (Punk started using Cult Of Personality as his entrance music.)

To determine the undisputed champion, Cena and Punk battled again at SummerSlam in another solid main event.  After winning controversially (special guest referee Triple H didn’t see Cena’s foot on the rope when he made the three count on him), Punk was ambushed by Kevin Nash (who hadn’t been seen since his brief appearance in the Royal Rumble match) and the Raw Money In The Bank winner Alberto Del Rio cashed in his briefcase to steal the title away from the dazed champion.

Punk would soon do battle with Triple H in the main event at Night Of Champions which he would lose and bizarrely, team up with him only to lose to Awesome Truth in a tag team match at Vengeance.  (Sadly, the WWE’s COO is feuding with real-life pal Kevin Nash at the moment.  I miss their verbal jousting.)  In between, he remained in the hunt for the championship securing numerous chances.  At the Survivor Series, he finally regained the title from two-time champ, Alberto Del Rio.  At the end of the year, he won two much deserved Slammys including Superstar Of The Year, which was voted on by the fans, and survived a Triple Threat TLC title match against Del Rio and The Miz.  May this second reign last a hell of a lot longer than the first and may the outspoken promos of the summer make a triumphant and permanent return.  Remember Phil, “You’ve got the power!  You’ve got the touch!”

The same year that Punk was first feeling the threat of Randy Orton, Zack Ryder was one of Edge’s goons hired to keep the World Heavyweight Championship around the waist of The Rated R Superstar.  But after that angle was dropped, Ryder changed his look and became something of a joke.  He wore tights with only one leg.  His catchphrase, “Woo woo woo, you know it!” was more annoying than endearing.  In 2010, in order to avoid having to defend his WWE title against a substantial threat on pay-per-view, Sheamus gave Ryder a shot only to beat him in seconds after levelling him with the Brogue Kick.

In the 40-man Royal Rumble match this year, when he made his way to the ring, colour commentator Matt Striker snarked, “Even The Situation finds this guy annoying!”.  Needless to say, he didn’t last long in the match.  Realizing he needed to do something to get over with the fans, in February, Ryder began a YouTube series called Z! True Long Island Story, an homage to the celebrity biography series, E! True Hollywood Story.  The videos became very popular as more episodes were filmed and posted.  Soon, on pay-per-views and the weekly TV shows, the crowds were either chanting “We want Ryder” or showing signs expressing that sentiment.

The WWE slowly started to realize that Ryder was having an effect through his social media promotions (he has almost 400,000 followers on Twitter and his 44 YouTube videos have been viewed millions of times) so gradually he was reintroduced on Raw and Smackdown, mostly through backstage sequences.  Triple H would name him an assistant to Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long.  By June, he was finally seeing action in the ring (and wearing regular trunks for a change).  In the second half of the year, Ryder, the self-proclaimed Internet Champion (Ted DiBiase would be proud), was regularly teaming up with main event superstars in TV and house show tag team matches and going over big time for the most part.  John Cena, The Big Show, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and yes, even Sheamus have all helped elevate him to a level of success he had never previously enjoyed.  At the end of the Survivor Series, even The Rock gave him a shout-out.

Ryder was doing so well with his promos and matches that he started a program with U.S. Champion Dolph Ziggler, even defeating him in a few non-title encounters on TV, one of which came about through some timely interference from actor Hugh Jackman who nailed him with a decent right cross on Raw.  Despite not being put over at The Survivor Series, The Long Island Iced Z finally got his championship push at TLC, ending Ziggler’s six-month reign.

Now wearing an officially sanctioned title, will Ryder remain popular with his broskis or will they grow tired of his Jersey Shore schtick?  As he would put it, “Are you serious, bro?”.

Either way, if there was a Slammy for Broski For The Year, Zack Ryder would be a fitting recipient (he actually won Trending Star Of The Year).  And no one was more effective in the ring and on the mic than WWE Champion CM Punk.

Loser:  Sun News Network

Did we really need a Fox News-style cable channel in Canada?  The CRTC seemed to think so when it allowed Quebecor, the parent company of Sun Media, to broadcast its right-wing nonsense on a daily basis.  Launched in April, there was much hype.  The timing was particularly slick with the federal election campaign just about to commence.

But ratings have been poor from the start.  Despite hiring ubiquitous, moronic firebrands like Ezra Levant and later, Bloaty McFatAss, the CBC and all other Canadian news outlets haven’t had much to worry about.  No matter how many times the channel complains about Canada’s public broadcaster or even The Toronto Star, few really give a damn.  Not only were TV viewers turned off, reviewers have been equally disinterested.  In particular, TV Critic John Doyle of The Globe & Mail has hammered the channel on numerous occasions.

Then came the ridiculous controversies.  With NDP Leader Jack Layton on the verge of becoming the Leader Of The Opposition, Sun News (and The Toronto Sun newspaper) put out a silly story about him getting a massage from an alleged bawdy house in the mid-90s.  Their source was a former cop who ended up being investigated for the incident.  (He wasn’t charged.)  Layton rightly condemned the story as political nonsense (he didn’t do anything illegal and was never arrested) and his party went on to have their best national showing to date.  (Tragically, his cancer would return and he would die before sitting in the House Of Commons to savour his remarkable triumph.  He was just 61.)

Then came the infamous Margie Gillis interview.  Former CBC reporter Krista Erickson, the host of Canada Live, interviewed the award-winning dancer about arts funding.  She made fun of her profession by flapping her arms in a mock-interpretative manner, condemned the wisdom of taxpayer money supporting it (a little over a million spread out over a dozen years or so; the annual federal budget for all government expenses is hundreds of billions) and shouted over her while she was trying to respond to her inane questions.

A record number of complaints found their way to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council – more than 4000 – and a official decision has yet to be made on what should be done about the widely panned interview.  Erickson’s Facebook page was loaded with criticism.  Her wall has since been completely scrubbed.  For their part, Sun News foolishly stood by her over the whole debacle.  They were the only ones.

The same couldn’t be said for afternoon anchor Theo Caldwell, the channel’s first casualty.  Like most Sun broadcasters I couldn’t take him for more than a few seconds but considering the fact that his ratings were just as bad as everybody else’s, it seems deeply unfair that he’s the only one to get 86’d thus far.  Late in the year, Sun News absurdly tried to cover up his image from an old group photo by inserting the offensive presence of McFatAss right on top.  Hey guys.  Ever hear of re-taking a photo?  That would’ve made more sense.  Guess there wasn’t room in the budget.

Then came the biggest indignity of them all.  After just seven and a half months on the air (in certain cities, the channel replaced the money-losing Sun TV, the former Toronto One), Sun News Network got booted from Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw and Bell’s basic cable line-ups.  One of the most pleasurable moments of the year for me arose unexpectedly when I clicked channel 16 and nothing came up.  (No more TV Guide Channel listings, either.)  With the Crumbling Tradition Service no longer airing repeats of his old chat show, Bloaty McFatAss is officially off of my TV.  Insert Hallelujah choir here.  The only place SNN exists now is on Digital cable through the above-mentioned companies.

With Quebecor bleeding its newspapers to keep this industry joke on the air, how long before it’s taken out behind the barn and shot to death?  I give it a year.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
1:29 a.m.

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 1:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part Four)

Winner:  Mark Henry & R-Truth

Sometimes, being a traditional good guy in professional wrestling is boring.  You can’t say anything too controversial, you can’t cheat in your matches and it’s difficult to move up the ranks when John Cena is the ‘face of your company.  So, what do you do?

Well, in the cases of Mark Henry and R-Truth, you turn heel.  In other words, you become a bad guy.  After years of being stuck in the mid-card as lacklustre babyfaces, both men enjoyed the kind of high-profile resurgence that had long eluded them.

Let’s start with Henry.  Near the end of a six-man tag match on Raw back in April, The World’s Strongest Man suddenly turned on his teammates.  He clotheslined Cena and then dropped Christian from a guerrila press position on some steel steps.  Needless to say, they lost the match.  The character change literally came out of nowhere which made it all the more compelling and convincing.

Shortly thereafter, Henry moved over to Smackdown where he started wreaking havoc on guys like Kane, The Great Khali, Sheamus, Vladimir Kozlov and The Big Show, the latter of whom he’s been feuding with since the summer.  Even members of the TV crew weren’t safe from his wrath including commentator Jerry Lawler who he put through the announce table with The World’s Strongest Slam.  (Lawler was Henry’s first rival way back when he started wrestling in 1996.)

At Night Of Champions, Henry got pushed as a singles champion for the first time in three years defeating perennial titleholder Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight belt.  He remained champion for three months until Big Show beat him in a chairs match at TLC.  (His own reign was as short as Jeff Hardy’s at Extreme Rules 2009.  Smackdown Money In The Bank 2011 winner Daniel Bryan immediately cashed in his briefcase to become the new champion.)

Meanwhile, R-Truth, the rapping, dancing tag team partner of John Morrison was stuck in his own rut.  Despite being in the Raw Elimination Chamber match in February, he was eliminated so quickly as to be a non-factor in the finish of that match.  Like Henry, he wasn’t even booked for WrestleMania 27.  After qualifying for a chance at The Miz’ WWE title at Extreme Rules in the spring, Morrison somehow convinced him to put that title shot on the line in an impromptu match on Raw.  After losing to the Shaman Of Sexy, Truth flipped out and attacked him.  During the triple threat cage match between Miz, Cena and Morrison at Extreme Rules, Truth interjected himself into the action to the detriment of his former tag team partner who spent much of the next several months recovering from a legitimate neck injury (when he wasn’t being attacked by his new rival).

Meanwhile, Truth was put over by Rey Mysterio in a decent match at Over The Limit and he finally got his chance at the WWE title when he faced new champion John Cena in the main event at Capitol Punishment.  Unfortunately, the title didn’t change hands.  But the next night on Raw Roulette, thanks to outside assistance from CM Punk, Truth got his revenge in a non-title tables match.  All the while, he started acting crazy, hilariously calling the fans “little Jimmies”, complaining that being one of their faves got him nowhere (he’s right) and crying foul about conspiracies and phobias keeping him from being champion.  His mic work had dramatically improved even if he didn’t always make sense (which was pretty much the point).

With Morrison unable to work a consistent program, Truth aligned himself with The Miz, another former partner of the Monday Night Delight.  Christening themselves Awesome Truth, it looked like they were being groomed for a tag team championship run after running ramshod on the main eventers at Hell In A Cell (which followed their brief “firing” in September after causing mayhem at Night Of Champions before they were brought back “officially” in October) and defeating Triple H and CM Punk at Vengeance, among other successes.  But after losing to The Rock and Cena in the final match of the 25th Survivor Series, the team was split up the next night on Raw thanks to not so helpful comments from Cena.  After briefly battling in the ring, Miz tricked Truth into going after the former WWE Champion and gave him a Skull-Crushing Finale on the steel rampway.  (This really happened because Truth violated the WWE’s Wellness Policy which means a 30-day suspension.  He was caught smoking synthetic weed with Evan Bourne who was also suspended.)

I hope this doesn’t mean a feud between the two.  They were better as a team.  And I also hope Truth doesn’t turn ‘face, which, according to the internet dirt sheets, is the actual plan.  (Apparently, there’s a demand for “little Jimmy” memorabilia.)  Despite not getting a title run, the new character change is working so why make him a good guy again?  It’s working for Mark Henry, as well.

The more important question is what’s next for these two in 2012?  Hopefully, even better things are in store for them.

Loser:  Charlie Sheen

He may now have nearly six million Twitter followers.  He may now have a new TV-show lined up next year.  And he may now have a better relationship with ex-wife number two these days.  But look at what this once brilliant actor sacrificed in the process.

2011 picked up right where 2010 left off.  In January, production of his longtime sitcom, Two And A Half Men, was momentarily stopped so he could finally check himself into a proper rehab facility.  (Previously, he had tried kicking coke and alcohol at home on his own.  Yeah, that was a good idea.)  According to reports, it was his third attempt to clean up in just a single year.

Then, he felt the need to vent.  The following month he called into discredited conspiracy theorist Alex Jones radio show and unleashed a torrent of criticism against his boss, Chuck Lorre, the creator of Two And A Half Men.  For some unknown reason, he referred to him by his given Jewish name which some felt was slightly anti-Semitic.  (Sheen maintained that he did that to expose him as a phony.  Whatever you say, Carlos Estevez.)

In March, authorities took away the two kids he has with his equally troubled third ex-wife, Brooke Mueller, from his home.  At the time, he was living with porn star Bree Olson and a graphic designer named Natalie Kenaly.  He referred to them as his “goddesses”, forever tarnishing the word.  The live-in relationships didn’t last although Olson did briefly return before ultimately leaving him for good.  (Curiously, long before hooking up with Sheen, she once told Howard Stern she wasn’t interested in him.  Ahem.)

Then, thanks to his foolish radio rant, he was fired from his cush gig on Two And A Half Men which stopped filming episodes for its eighth season.  (Lorre later told TV Guide that he offered to resign from the show so no one would lose their job.)  Furious, he sued CBS for 100 million.  (The suit was settled out of court in late September.)

During this whole period, Sheen made a number of bizarre media appearances where he started espousing instantly memorable catchphrases like “Winning!” and “rock star from Mars”.  The manic star looked like he hadn’t slept in a while as he rambled on about tiger blood, adonis DNA and being radical among numerous other topics.

At first, it was pretty funny and late night comedians (not to mention Stern) didn’t have to strain too hard for decent material.  But over time, it became very annoying as you realized just how far this second generation actor had fallen.  It was more sad and pathetic than anything else.  If that wasn’t clear enough, a sympathetic Alec Baldwin tried talking sense to him.  (Alec Baldwin!)  Sheen wasn’t paying any attention at the time and ignored all his public advice.  Ditto Professional busybody Dr. Drew Pinsky who hosted a VH1 special about his addictions.

Around this time, he started posting a series of online videos under the name, Sheen’s Korner.  Critically panned, they reinforced what many were already believing about him, that he was completely out of control and making his difficult situation that much worse.

Then came The My Violent Torpedo Of Truth/Death Is Not An Option tour.  A bad idea from the start, Sheen and a number of cohorts toured several cities in Canada and the U.S. to get some kind of message across.  Reportedly, all the tickets were snapped up in less than 20 minutes.  But other reports noted that thousands of those tickets were being re-sold at heavily discounted prices.

The first stop in Detroit in April was a disaster.  There were boos and a number of reported walk-outs.  And while the Chicago show was somewhat better received, by the time the tour hit New York, Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman reported that “[i]t was Detroit all over again.”.  Despite netting a reported seven million smackers, the tour didn’t exactly help Sheen’s increasingly tarnished personal and professional reputations.

In August, for some unknown reason, the actor made an appearance at the Gathering Of The Juggalos festival put on by the controversial rap duo, Insane Clown Posse.  It didn’t go so well.  And at the Emmy Awards, a resigned Sheen, invited to present an award, publicly wished everybody on Two And A Half Men “nothing but the best”.  (Yeah, that was sincere.  And a little late.)  When the show returned for its ninth season in September, 32 million tuned in as Sheen’s character was killed off.  Interestingly, the show’s ratings are now higher with Ashton Kutcher on-board than they ever with Sheen.  And then there was his Comedy Central Roast which was seen by more than 6 million viewers.  (Well, at least, he has a sense of humour about his dumbness and lifelong awful behaviour.  On second thought, should he?)

In recent months, Sheen has thankfully calmed the fuck down (he eventually admitted he deserved to lose his job) and is actually making a movie as well as preparing for his return to TV.  For his sake, they both better be incredibly brilliant.  How else to make everyone forget the insanity he unleashed in 2011.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 19, 2011
3:25 p.m.

CORRECTION: The Miz and R-Truth were actually “fired” after their actions at Night Of Champions, not Hell In A Cell.  My apologies for the error.  The correction has been inserted into the text.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 19, 2011
3:55 p.m.

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part Three)

Winner:  Katy Perry

For the third time in four years, this pop superstar makes my annual winners list and deservedly so.  In 2010, she released her very entertaining sophomore album, Teenage Dream, which had already spawned three number one hits in America.  The smashes would keep on coming in 2011.

Single number four, E.T. (which, in its remixed form, features the ubiquitous Kanye West), had actually been shipped to radio stations as early as August 2010.  But in February, it was issued commercially and inevitably topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart.  The same fate awaited the next release, Last Friday Night, which inspired a very cute video.  The idea of the buxom Perry transforming into a nerdy, awkward teen while being secretly worshipped by a fellow geek at a house party that features a soloing Kenny G (who does not play on the actual recording) playing along with the hired band must’ve greatly amused all who heard it being pitched for the first time.

As if five consecutive number one hits weren’t enough, the album’s sixth single, The One That Got Away, has managed to land in the Top 5, as well.  (As of this writing, it’s number four.  Will it also climb to the top of the hit parade?)  In that video, Perry bears a striking resemblance to Zooey Deschanel.  (Have they ever been photographed in the same room together?)

Although she went 0 for 4 at the Grammys in 2011, she gets two more opportunities next year when Firework competes for Record Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.  However, Perry did manage to win a few MTV Music Video Awards.  That same night, she set a new milestone.  No other act in the history of the awards has ever had four videos nominated in the same year.

Meanwhile, despite garnering mostly lousy reviews, The Smurfs was an enormous international blockbuster in its own right.  (Perry voiced Smurfette.)  It earned more than 560 million during its summer run.  Unsurprisingly, a sequel has been scheduled for August 2013.  (Look for the original on DVD on December 19.)  She also popped up briefly in The Muppets, another successful family film currently in theatres.

Now if only people would stop speculating about the state of her one-year marriage to Russell Brand, everything would be perfect.  (December 31 UPDATE:  Katy Perry, I’m here for you.)

Loser:  Horny Politicians

We are all sexual beings, some of us more so than others.  And there are moments in our lives where we need to pause, to take the time to reflect on the wisdom of pursuing certain actions and activities.  Long after we give in to these carnal urges, sometimes there’s a deep sense of regret for making bad choices that not only hurt ourselves but others, as well.  If we are smart, we hope never to repeat these mistakes or risk further disappointment and alienation of our loved ones.  Fortunately, when you live anonymously, few outside your social circle will ever know your dirty secrets that led to such painful periods in your life.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with the following three public figures who were all put in the uncomfortable position of having their sexuality fully exposed for all to ridicule.

In the fall of 2003, action star Arnold Schwarzenegger left a full-time career in Hollywood to replace Gray Davis as the Governor of California after winning a special recall election.  His stint lasted seven years and was rife with controversy.  Four months after his second and final term concluded in early January, it was reported in the Los Angeles Times that he had an extramarital affair with his maid (who retired the same month the Governor left office after working for his family for 20 years) back in the late 90s.  (The revelation came a week after Schwarzenegger and his wife, First Lady Maria Shriver, announced their separation.)  The tryst led to an unplanned pregnancy (to his credit, the Governor has long supported his fifth child financially, albeit discreetly) and the slow demise of the maid’s marriage.  After being separated in the summer of 1997, the divorce curiously didn’t become final until 2008. (Schwarzenegger and his family actually attended the maid’s son’s christening.)  How this was kept from his wife for more than a decade is quite remarkable.

The revelation of the Austrian-American’s teenage son ultimately doomed his 25-year marriage to Shriver who understandably filed for divorce not too long thereafter.  (Amazingly, at the same time the maid was pregnant, so was Shriver with the couple’s fourth and final child.  They were both born within the same week.)  Plans to return to Hollywood were put on indefinite hold, despite several planned projects including a cartoon called The Governator.

Later, more women came forward to admit they had alleged affairs with the actor including Brigitte Neilsen.  Needless to say, Schwarzenegger has kept a low profile for much of the year.

Meanwhile, New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner was becoming a little too fond of Twitter.  Only married about a year, he was nonetheless hitting on women through the service and snapping narcissistic photos of his body to share with them.  If only he had mastered the art of direct messaging.  Because of a typo, one such photo (which would haunt his old schoolmate, Jon Stewart, for several episodes of The Daily Show) that was sent directly to one of his female followers (who wasn’t thrilled by the gesture) was accidentally but briefly seen publicly.  Right-wing dirt merchant Andrew Breitbart caught wind of it and ran a story about the embarrassing incident on  Soon, the mass media picked up on it and it became a needlessly overcovered scandal.

Instead of just copping to being a bad boy, Weiner issued denial after denial after denial and foolishly suggested a frame-up.  Some liberal writers naively went along with this until a few days later when the tearful and quite controversial Congressman finally admitted he loves taking snaps of his bulge for the ladies and deeply regretted his actions.  I actually felt sorry for the guy.  (Imagine if you were in his shoes at that moment.  None of us are perfect.)  Despite initially resisting calls for his resignation, Weiner would inevitably cave and leave his office in late June, nearly a month after the infamous clothed erection shot was first spotted.  What a ridiculous reason to lose your job.  He’s slipped under the radar ever since.  (December 24 UPDATE:  He just became a father.)

Which brings us to Herman Cain, the former Godfathers Pizza mogul who surprised many by briefly leading the pack of Republican Presidential contenders.  Like a good number of his rivals, his lead at the top would lead to extra scrunity of his past.  Soon, several women came forward to claim he sexually harassed them.  (They all received undisclosed settlements.)  Another claimed they had a longterm extramarital affair.  She provided phone records as well as an oddly personalized autographed copy of his book as submitted evidence.

Unlike the other cases, it’s still not quite clear whether any of this is true.  But Cain’s constantly changing memory (first he didn’t remember these women, then he did), continuous explanations (his alleged mistress was just a friend he was helping out financially) and repeated denials weren’t persuading anyone he was a victim of some kind of conspiracy.  He just didn’t seem credible.  While his campaign was plagued with more substantial problems, the media focused mainly on his alleged sexual misconduct.  In the end, realizing whatever momentum he initially had in the race was fading fast, Cain made a contradictory public speech in front of a crowd of supporters that nonetheless led to him officially ending his dream of being the second Black President.

Two lessons to be learned from all of this:  One, stories about horny politicians are best left to the tabloids since they very rarely affect people’s lives (unlike legislation) and two, always double check that the boner shot you’re about to send is 1) requested and 2) not available publicly.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 18, 2011
3:19 a.m.

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 3:19 am  Comments (1)  

Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part Two)

Winner:  Michael Fassbender

Last year, he was wasting his time with Jonah Hex.  In 2011, he became the breakout star of the past twelve months.

This German-born actor’s remarkable year began in March with a supporting role in the latest big screen interpretation of Jane Eyre.  Critics loved it.  Despite only playing in a few hundred North American theatres, the film was an arthouse hit earning over ten million domestically.

Then, X-Men: First Class arrived in June.  Marginally entertaining, Fassbender’s portrayal of an angry young Magneto was clearly the best thing about it.  Intensely charismatic and even empathetic, up to a point, this ok sequel to an uneven franchise benefitted greatly from his frequent on-screen appearances.  Most reviewers agreed.  The film accumulated over 350 million worldwide.

Currently, Fassbender can be seen in two possible late-season Oscar contenders.  He plays Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method, another well-reviewed drama, and is a possible Best Actor nominee for his performance as a miserable sexual compulsive in Shame.  Roger Ebert recently named it one of his favourite films of the year.  Generally, critics have been very supportive.

With yet another film on the way next month and a couple more in the near future, Fassbender isn’t going away any time soon.

Loser:  Donald Trump

He eats pizza with a fork.  He needed proof that President Obama was born in America even though the latter released his short-form Hawaiian birth certificate during his first Presidential campaign four years ago.  Nonetheless, he felt he had something to hide.  Then, when the President released his long-form certificate this spring, he called a press conference taking credit for it.  He eats pizza with a fork.

Then, he teased a possible Presidential campaign, his third attempt at national foreplay, but ultimately decided against it.  (Good move.  After an initial bump, his poll numbers plummetted.)  Numerous times afterward, he said he might actually jump in after all as an independent.  (Yeah, right.)  Faded Republican Presidential contender Michelle Bachmann threw his name out there as a possible running mate.  He eats pizza with a fork.

The fake political posturing was all a ruse to promote the latest season of his insane reality show, The Celebrity Apprentice, which saw declining ratings despite all the hullabaloo.  At the White House Correspondents Dinner, not only did President Obama zing him, so did Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers whose hilariously brutal barbs were the highlight of the entire evening.  He was such a humourless sore loser about the whole thing that many months later he claimed that Meyers had marbles in his mouth and wasn’t funny.  (Or maybe you don’t have a sense of humour, assbag.  Or maybe a selective one.  You did get roasted on Comedy Central this year.  Never a good career move.  Ask Charlie Sheen.)

When he was hired to be the celebrity pace-car driver at the Indianapolis 500, it caused such widespread criticism that a month after the announcement was made he publicly backed out.  When the idea of him becoming a debate moderator for the Republican Presidential contenders was put out there late in the year, most of the candidates wanted nothing to do with him.  He had no choice to back out of that bad idea, as well.  He eats pizza with a fork.

CNN did a report on the possible influence a Trump endorsement for a Republican candidate would have on next year’s election.  It noted an ABC poll that revealed the following:   76% of Republican voters either didn’t care who he picked or would choose someone other than his preference.  He eats pizza with a fork.

Despite releasing three books, re-signing with NBC to do more seasons of The Apprentice (which almost didn’t happen because of his imaginary Presidential campaign) and being the 17th richest celebrity, whatever was left of The Donald’s long shaky credibility has thankfully dissipated for good.  Most Americans don’t want him as their President.

Richard Roeper was right.  He is a self-parody.  And he eats pizza with a fork.

Winner:  Adele

At the 2011 Brit Awards, there was a performance that stood out so much it’s been played endlessly on MuchMoreMusic ever since.  With just a soulful piano accompanying her, a 23-year-old redhead bears her soul about an important relationship she can’t quite let go of.  She is marvellously restrained during the verses but belts out every chorus like her life depends on it.

This particular rendition of Someone Like You was easily one of the most moving songs of the year and initially, was just an album cut on her second CD, 21.  Upon its late January release in her native UK, 21 was an immediate blockbuster debuting at number one.  It has since sold 13 million copies globally, 5 million in North America alone.  (My Dad owns one, himself.)  Following her memorable Brit Awards performance, the studio version of Someone Like You topped the charts there.  It went to number one in America after she sang it on the MTV Video Music Awards.

Rolling In The Deep, the actual first single, was another chart topper on both sides of the pond. recently selected it as the top song of the year.  The most recent single, Set Fire To The Rain, is already a Top 40 hit both here and abroad.  The editors of Billboard Magazine named 21 Album Of The Year.  (December 23 UPDATE:  It also topped Rolling Stone’s list.) (December 28 UPDATE:  And Entertainment Weekly’s list.)

Next year, Adele will be competing for six Grammys.  21 is a heavy favourite for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, Someone Like You is competing for Best Pop Solo Performance and Rolling In The Deep is contending in the Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Short Form Music Video categories.  The chances of her going for a clean sweep look very good, indeed.  (She’s also nominated for several People’s Choice Awards and NRJ Music Awards which will also be handed out in 2012.)

But even if she comes home empty-handed, she’s already won plenty of gongs this year.  She won three American Music Awards, eleven Billboard trophies, two AIM Independent Music Awards, a BT Digital Music Award, a Glamour Women Of The Year Award, an MP3 Music Award, a Mobo Award, one MTV Europe Music Award and three MTV Video Music Awards, two Q Magazine Awards, two UK Video Music Awards and an IFPI Platinum Europe Award.  (Check out her complete list of impressive accolades here.)

Somehow, she found time to release a new live CD/DVD called Live At The Royal Albert Hall.  (Yep, Dad has that one, too.)  It debuted at number one in America and is the best selling music DVD of 2011.

Adele’s only setback this year came in October when an annoying vocal cord hemorrhage prevented her from completing two tour commitments and required immediate “laser microsurgery”.  Taking a much-needed break for recovery, the singer announced that plans for album number three are on hold for the time being.

All the more reason for her to savour an incredible professional year that would never have happened if she hadn’t had her heart broken.

Loser:  Blockbuster Video Canada & Netflix

Two cautionary tales from the home video business this year.  One leading to an enormous backlash.  The other, bankruptcy.

Last year, Blockbuster Video Canada appeared to be in much better shape than Blockbuster Video.  The original American company spent much of 2010 closing stores in Europe and the States, received less than glowing reviews about its financial status from accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and would ultimately file for Chapter 11 protection in the fall.  (It was almost a billion in the hole thanks to greatly reduced revenue streams like the abolition of its late rental fees policy for customers who didn’t return their stuff on time.  The Dish Network ultimately bought it and is trying to keep several hundred stores in operation.  There used to be 4000, at its apex.)  Meanwhile, its Canadian counterpart appeared to be financially solvent with no store closings expected.  The reason?  It was independently owned.

But by the spring of 2011, Blockbuster Video Canada was also in bad shape.  On May 3rd, it went into receivership.  Almost two months later, over 130 outlets held going out of business sales with the hope that heavily discounted items would help ease its financial burdens and that it would simply continue with fewer franchises.

It didn’t work.  Just a few months later, all remaining Canadian stores (over 250) greatly reduced the prices of their own stock and closed up shop for good.  Despite the hunt for a new owner, no one was willing to take on this business.  Years of overpriced rentals and tough competition from on-demand and online retailers had finally taken their toll.  Nobody wanted to buy 900 million of debt.

Meanwhile, one of those online companies, Netflix, faced a crisis of their own and completely of their own making.

The first third of 2011 was actually fantastic.  Netflix had earned 200 million more in revenue compared to the same period in 2010.  By the summer, a single share was priced at just over 300 bucks.  Plans were underway to produce TV shows like the fourth season of Arrested Development, originally a Fox sitcom.  They had nearly 24 million subscribers.

Then, the colossal blunder.  In July, CEO Reed Hastings announced on the company blog that members would not only be charged for both renting DVDs and streaming movies through their website, which would now be separate services, but they would also be paying more.  A lot more.  60% above the original rates.  Before, you could get both at a single price.  No longer.  The doomed DVD program was renamed Qwikster.

The backlash was hard and swift.  When all was said and done, the stock plunged, going from roughly $305 a share to $130 to $66.  (As of this writing, it’s back up to $71 thanks to the possibility of a 2012 bidding war.)  Nearly a million cancelled their membership by the time third quarter numbers were issued with many more expected, Howard Stern among them (although he was more upset that he couldn’t find The Green Lantern).  The company was forced to do serious damage control but it was too late.  As the stock continued to nosedive, Netflix had lost more than 3/4 of its value.  An analyst for Wedbush Securities sounded the death knell for the company.  Standard & Poor has given it the credit rating equivalent of a junk bond.  With its ambitious plans to expand its rental services into Europe, not to mention the TV shows it wants to produce, the company has publicly noted more losses in the future if it wants to maintain the status quo.

Gordon Gekko once said, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”.  In the case of Netflix and Blockbuster Video Canada, he was dead wrong.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 17, 2011
12:50 a.m.