Why I Finally Broke Down And Started Tweeting

Throughout my life I’ve found it incredibly easy to resist.  A suggestion to do something fun, an invitation to attend a social event, a constructive criticism to help improve shoddy work, an idea for a creative venture.  When someone makes any of these types of pitches to me in any number of situations, more times than not my natural instinct is to resist, to express disinterest, to get upset, to completely pass.  You could say I’m like Jim Carrey’s “No Man” in Yes Man.  Sad, I know.

Now, has saying no in general prevented me from making bad decisions I’d otherwise immediately regret?  Of course it has.  But hasn’t it also prevented me from enjoying new experiences in new environments with new people I might’ve liked and befriended resulting in new, fresh perspectives on various things?  Without a doubt. 

This is one of the reasons why I love the Internet.  For someone who is not naturally outgoing and forceful (for the most part) the freedom to explore the world without having to leave my home opened me up in ways not previously possible.  Now did I do stupid things I would’ve never tried out in the real world?  Yes (minus any significant consequences, it must be said).  But the information superhighway also afforded me creative and personal opportunities well out of my reach when I didn’t possess this wonderful piece of technology.

That being said, I can still be a stubborn ass.  For two years, I ignored two open invitations to join Facebook, one from an old college friend I had reconnected with after a lost decade on separate paths and a family member.  What changed my mind about joining the controversial social network?  A lousy online break-up.  It took a while to get over but I finally moved on, with thanks, in part, to Facebook.

The first time I learned about the now-defunct Writer’s Digest Community was in 2009 through one of WD’s regular email newsletters.  After bookmarking the address, what convinced me to eventually join that particular social network two years later?  I needed the hits.  My website had been on WordPress for six months and was in desperate need of a boost.  Thankfully, it got one.

Which brings me to Twitter.   For many, many years, I’ve resisted the lure of the tweet, the temptation to imitate Larry King 140 characters at a time.  (“I think Teri Garr’s a big talent.”  “Why is apple sauce so yummy?”) Put simply, I never got it.  Why would I waste my time sending out short, insignificant messages on there when I can send out long, insignificant ones right here?

After WDC disappeared this past December I wondered about other ways I could publicize my blog for free.  Sending out press releases that no one would read was instantly nixed.  So was joining LinkedIn.  (One of my college professors, who I’m still friendly with, invited me to sign up sometime last year.  But after some investigating I didn’t feel comfortable becoming part of a community that had been hacked.  And after reading a lot of bad reviews from users I wasn’t persuaded that it would help me advance my writing career.)

For quite some time I had been checking out the official Twitter accounts of Sophia Bush, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, Howard Stern, former WWE Champion CM Punk and numerous others.  Sometimes I would laugh, sometimes I would get deeply annoyed and sometimes I would be moved by their postings. 

It must be said they have an astounding number of followers.  (The power of celebrity is more potent online than it is anywhere else.)  Despite being a mostly unknown blogger for eight years, I’ve never accumulated more than tens of followers directly through my site.  These famous folks are generating huge followings ranging as low as hundreds of thousands up to tens of millions of people.  If I joined them how could I possibly compete with those numbers?

That aside, over the weekend, I started to write down all the reasons I should stick with my “no policy” as well as the reasons why I should lighten up and give this thing a chance.  (I had eight for and seven against.)  In the end, despite my strong reservations, I had finally convinced myself that whatever I perceived to be imperfect about Twitter was worth tolerating if it meant exposing The Writings Of Dennis Earl to a whole new audience.

So, on January 28, I signed up.  (You can follow me @DennisCEarl.)  I have to admit that, so far, it’s not been a bad experience.  Tweeting is very easy to do.  You simply click a button, a small window pops up and you start typing.  A character counter in the bottom right hand corner of the screen keeps track of your limit.  When you’re done, you click again and voila, there’s your tweet for all to see. 

As expected, I don’t have many followers at the moment.  I had forgotten that Green Venture, a local non-profit environmental agency that I briefly wrote for in the fall of 2009, had actually invited me to join Twitter a year or so ago but I simply ignored the request.  Once I officially signed in to my Twitter homepage for the first time, they were my first follower (because their original invitation was not actually rejected).  Shortly thereafter, Monkeybiz.ca, another non-profit site that published numerous movie and music reviews of mine over the last few years, started following me as well.  And that’s where things stand at the moment.

Thus far, I’ve posted 16 tweets, most of which feature links to certain blog pieces I’ve written here.  (Expect a lot more of that soon.)  And I’ve slowly started finding accounts to follow (mostly celebrities).  I haven’t directly messaged anyone yet or started any silly Twitter wars but it’s early.  All I really hope for is to find some more readers through the service.

In the meantime, like I said, please follow me @DennisCEarl either through Twitter directly or by clicking the Follow button on here.  It can be seen right under my five most recent tweets underneath the search box on the upper right side of my homepage, right above “Categories”. 

As always, thanks for stopping by.  More entries and tweeting yet to come.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 31, 2013
12:45 a.m.

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 12:45 am  Comments (2)  

Songs For Manti Te’o

(A playlist in honour of the Notre Dame linebacker.)

1. Why’d You Lie (Colin James)

2. Love Bites (Def Leppard)

3. Love Hurts (Nazareth)

4. You Won’t See Me (The Beatles)

5. You Really Got Me (Van Halen)

6. She’s Not There (The Zombies)

7. Dream Baby (Roy Orbison)

8. Blind (Korn)

9. Fool For Your Loving (Whitesnake)

10. Mean (Taylor Swift)

11. She’s A Mystery To Me (Roy Orbison)

12. King Of Wishful Thinking (Go West)

13. Dude (Looks Like A Lady) (Aerosmith)

14. Cryin’ Over You (Platinum Blonde)

15. Building A Mystery (Sarah McLachlan)

16. Love Is A Stranger (Eurythmics)

17. Can’t Help Falling In Love (Elvis Presley)

18. A Shock To The System (Billy Idol)

19. Is This Love? (Whitesnake)

20. Mysterious Ways (U2)

21. Blinded By The Light (Bruce Springsteen)

22. Part-Time Lover (Stevie Wonder)

23. You Keep Me Hangin’ On (The Supremes)

24. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)

25. Miss Me Blind (Culture Club)

26. Something I Can Never Have (Nine Inch Nails)

27. Nice Dream (Radiohead)

28. Foolin’ (Def Leppard)

29. Photograph (Def Leppard)

30. The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get (Morrissey)

31. Promises, Promises (Naked Eyes)

32. Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)

33. Blind Man (Aerosmith)

34. Love Stinks (J. Geils Band)

35. The End Of The Innocence (Don Henley)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 25, 2013
3:12 p.m.

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm  Comments (1)  

From The Published Archives: Assassins

Next week, Sylvester Stallone returns to the big screen with his latest project, Bullet To The Head.  The film arrives just a couple of weeks after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand which divided critics and hasn’t attracted much enthusiasm from moviegoers.  With both men well into their 60s now the idea that they can credibly compete with the new generation of much younger action stars (Expendables and Terminator franchises aside) is hard to fathom.  Nonetheless, expect to see them stick with this genre for the foreseeable future.

Eighteen years ago, Stallone worked with Julianne Moore and Antonio Banderas in Assassins, one of several lousy features he subjected audiences to in the 1990s.  (For the record, his worst turkey during this period was Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.  In a word:  horrid.)  Released in October 1995, I was assigned the task of reviewing it for The Satellite, Mohawk College’s student newspaper.  The good news was I didn’t have to buy a ticket to see it.  Entertainment Editor Corey Martin gave me a complimentary sneak preview pass sent to him from Warner Bros., the distributor of the film, which allowed me to screen it before its official theatrical run. 

So, on the evening of October 4, I bussed it alone to the packed Jackson Square Cinemas for this one-time pre-commercial public exhibition.  As you’ll see from my review, I’m not a fan.  My assessment was published the following week in the Entertainment section on page 11 of the October 11, 1995 edition of The Satellite under the headline, “Formula Film Fails”. 

I’ve resisted posting this for the longest time because of three problems I should’ve corrected before this was even submitted for its initial publication.  In the original review, I noted that Moore and Stallone ultimately “enjoy a platonic relationship”, after a rocky start, that I predicted would turn sexual if there ever was a sequel.  (The film was a flop domestically so that never happened.)  But in the last paragraph I wrote, “Stallone and Moore have no chemistry together and I was wondering why they had to be paired romantically”, a weird assertion that completely contradicts my earlier statement.  As a result, I’ve rejigged that particular line so it makes more sense now. 

Also changed is this question I posed: “…why did Stallone waste his time with this movie when he is far more entertaining in comedies?”.  Considering how much I loathed Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, I wonder why I wrote such a sweeping, generalizing statement like that.  I did like Oscar, however, but as I recall, it was the supporting cast that generated most of the laughs, particularly Tim Curry and Chazz Palmintari.  The new edit corrects the sloppiness of that original thought.

Finally, looking back, I didn’t really make it clear what the nature of Moore’s business transaction was with those undercover Interpol agents, so after researching on the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia, I’ve added the phrase “a disc of stolen information” to that section of the review.

Other than these corrections, this is how I originally felt about Assassins nearly 20 years ago:

Formula Film Fails

Dennis Earl
Special To The Satellite 

It still astonishes me that Hollywood movie executives are continuing to give the green light to so many gifted filmmakers to make bad movies from unoriginal scripts.  Why do they do this?  Don’t they realize that we go to the movies to lose ourselves in the story and not in the intricate special effects?

George Lucas knows that.  So does Steven Spielberg.  You would think Richard Donner would be story-conscious, too.  Guess again.  In the new film, Assassins (which Donner directed to the worst of his ability), Sylvester Stallone plays Robert Rath, a fed-up assassin who wants out.  Antonio Banderas, in his worst performance ever, plays Miguel Bain, an up-and-coming contract killer who keeps stealing Robert’s “marks” (human targets, in other words).  He would love to rub out Robert before he retires.

About halfway through, the movie starts to pick up the pace a bit, but not considerably.  We are introduced to a character named Elektra (well-played by Julianne Moore) who happens to be a surveillance expert.  She is in the middle of a transaction with who she thinks are Dutch buyers (they are really Interpol agents) when suddenly, Miguel Bain, the “bad” assassin, shows up and the deal over a disc of stolen information collapses.  Elektra escapes (with her feline companion, Pearl) and later, joins forces with Robert.  First, they hate each other, then, they enjoy a platonic relationship.  (If this movie makes enough dough, they will probably battle it out in the sexual arena in the sequel.)

Meanwhile, Miguel receives the assignment of a lifetime.  He is ordered to eliminate Robert Rath, which leads us to the inevitable final confrontation in an exotic location where all is revealed.

Assassins is a boring movie.  It has poor dialogue, bad acting (especially from Banderas), and has a somewhat screwy ending.  Stallone and Moore have no chemistry together even in a non-romantic sense and I was wondering why they had to be paired in the the first place.  One also wonders why Stallone wasted his time with this movie when he was part of the far more entertaining ensemble in the underappreciated Oscar.  “The pay was good,” would probably be his response.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 24, 2013
4:54 p.m.

Published in: on January 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm  Comments (1)  

Royal Rumble Trivia

1. The first Royal Rumble match didn’t take place on January 24, 1988 in Hamilton, Ontario’s Copps Coliseum.  In fact, it’s not quite certain when the first one actually occurred.  Dave Meltzer at the Wrestling Observer says it was at a house show in St. Louis, Missouri in 1986 (which Junkyard Dog supposedly won).  This guy says it was at a much earlier WWWF house show in Bangor, Maine on July 21, 1976 (which Stan Hansen reportedly won).  18 men ultimately participated in that match.  (It’s not clear how many appeared in the St. Louis Rumble, if it actually happened.)  But Graham Cawthon, over at The History Of WWE website (on there, the 1976 Maine match is simply listed in the WWE ring results section as a battle royal), believes the first Rumble match happened at a different St. Louis house show on October 4, 1987.  The One Man Gang got the push in front of less than 2000 fans.

Interestingly, the winner of the match was guaranteed a world title shot at the next St. Louis house show on November 7.  Unfortunately, during the intermission (and before the Rumble had actually taken place in the main event that night) it was already announced that OMG was to face WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan at the November show.  As you can imagine, spoiling a brand new gimmick match well before it happened didn’t sit too well with the audience that night.  Sadly, as far as I know, no footage of the match, nor any of the non-official ones I listed, exists.  And for the record, Hogan pinned OMG in their St. Louis title match on November 7.

2. Speaking of the WWF Championship it wasn’t defended until the fourth Royal Rumble show in 1991.  Sgt. Slaughter defeated The Ultimate Warrior to win his first and only WWF title.

3. Hulk Hogan is the only man to win the Royal Rumble while being a reigning World Champion.  That happened in 1990, the first time he won it.

4. Rowdy Roddy Piper won his only singles title, the InterContinental Championship, at the 1992 Rumble show.  Bret Hart had been the title holder since SummerSlam 1991 but by early January, just two days before the fifth annual Rumble event, he had to drop the title to The Mountie during a house show because of a real-life issue with his contract.  (The kayfabe reason for the title change was Hart’s health.  His character worked the match with a high fever.)  While Hart and the WWF sorted out their issues Piper was given his long overdue push at the Rumble.  He would hold the title until WrestleMania 8 when he put over Hart in a then-rare babyface vs. babyface championship match.

5. Hulk Hogan’s Rumble win in 1991 marked the first time the winner went on to become the number one contender for the WWF title even though that didn’t become an official and permanent stipulation until 1993.  (Between 2003 & 2013, Rumble winners could go for the WWE title or the World Heavyweight Championship.  (Since the unification of those titles at the end of 2013, you can only challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship today.)  In the second half of the Aughts they also had the option of challenging for the ECW belt but no one ever did.)  Hogan went on to beat Slaughter in the main event of WrestleMania 7 that same year to win his third world championship, a company first.

6. Chris Jericho, Kane, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Kurt Angle, Rowdy Roddy Piper, CM Punk, Mr. Perfect, Mick Foley and The Big Show are the biggest WWE Superstars never to have won the Royal Rumble match during the annual pay-per-view.

7. Big John Studd is the only Rumble winner not to get some kind of a championship push (at WrestleMania or at any other event) after his victory.  Although Hacksaw Jim Duggan, the winner of the Hamilton, Ontario Rumble, was never pushed for an actual title himself he did become the King of the WWF after beating King Haku in the Spring of 1989.  Even WWE Chairman Vince McMahon Jr. became World Champion many months after winning the 1999 Rumble match.

Speaking of Studd and McMahon, they’re the only performers not to wrestle at WrestleMania in the same year they won the Rumble.  Studd had to settle for officiating the Jake Roberts/Andre The Giant match at WrestleMania V and McMahon, despite being rejected as the special guest referee in The Rock/Steve Austin title match by Commissioner Shawn Michaels, made his presence known anyway by interfering just near the end of that battle on behalf of The Corporate Champion.  (It was all for naught.  Austin won his second WWF Championship.)

8. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels are the only wrestlers to win the Rumble match as both babyfaces and heels.  Austin was a fan fave when he won in 1998 and 2001 and a villain when he was pushed in 1997.  Michaels was booed when he survived the end in 1995 and cheered when he was put over in 1996.

9. The InterContinental Championship and the Tag Team titles were both defended for the first time at the 1992 Rumble event.

10. Since the establishment of Rumble winners receiving a world title shot in the main event at WrestleMania became a permanent stipulation in 1993 there have been nine times where the number one contender didn’t wrestle in the final match of the Showcase Of The Immortals.  1995 winner Shawn Michaels wrestled the second-to-last match at WrestleMania 11.  1997 winner Stone Cold Steve Austin was booked for the fifth of seven matches at WrestleMania 13.  Furthermore, his submission match with Bret Hart wasn’t for the WWF title.  (Sycho Sid defended the belt against The Undertaker instead and lost.)

1999 winner Vince McMahon lost his title shot opportunity altogether when Austin beat him for it in a steel cage at the In Your House: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view before WrestleMania 15.  2006 winner Rey Mysterio won his first world title during the ninth of eleventh matches at WrestleMania 22.  2007 winner The Undertaker wrestled fourth on an eight-match card at WrestleMania 23.  2008 winner John Cena fought in the ninth match of the eleven-match WrestleMania 24.

2010 winner Edge was in the seventh match of ten scheduled for WrestleMania 26.  Both 2011 winner Alberto Del Rio and 2012 winner Sheamus had World Heavyweight Championship matches that actually opened WrestleMania 27 and 28, respectively.  To sum all of this up, only 55% of all Rumble winners since 1993 have actually been booked for the main event of WrestleMania.

11. The Jumping Bomb Angels’ historic defeat of The Glamour Girls for the Womens’ tag team titles at the 1988 Rumble event marks the one and only time a title has changed hands in a best two-out-of-three-falls match during this annual supercard.  (In fact, this was the only time the stipulation was used at this event.)  It was also the only championship defended at that first official Rumble show.  Not long after The Glamour Girls won back their belts at a live event in June 1988, the titles were discontinued.

12. Speaking of that first show, the 20-man Royal Rumble match was actually called a Rumble Royale (keeping with the tradition of a Battle Royale), a name that would never be used again.

13. The first Rumble event has been the only one held in Canada and the only one televised live for free on cable TV in the United States.  For almost 20 years, it was also the only Rumble show not available on home video.  All the other events have been pay-per-views that took place in American arenas.

14. According to The History Of WWE website, Demolition were supposed to face The Killer Bees at that 1988 show but the match was cancelled.  Also, Gorilla Monsoon was going to do the play-by-play with longtime broadcasting partner Jesse Ventura but suffered a heart attack not long before the event.  Vince McMahon replaced him at the broadcast booth.

15. The short-lived European Championship was only defended once at the 1999 Rumble event.  X-Pac of Degeneration X retained against Edge & Christian’s former blood-guzzling cornerman, Gangrel.  Ditto the United States Championship at the 2010 show (The Miz successfully defended against former champion MVP) and the Divas Championship in 2011 (Eve Torres won a Fatal 4-Way to win the title). (JANUARY 24, 2016 UPDATE:  The Divas title and the US title will be up for grabs at the 2016 Royal Rumble.)

16. The briefly revived ECW Championship never changed hands at a Rumble show.

17. The InterContinental title hasn’t been defended at the Rumble since the 2002 event when William Regal won the title from Edge. (JANUARY 24, 2016 UPDATE:  It will be defended at the 2016 Rumble event.)

18. The WWE Champion has never lost his belt when booked in a casket match.

19. Since the introduction of the World Heavyweight Championship in 2002 no number one contender has ever been able to win it at the Rumble.

20. The upcoming Hell No/Rhodes Scholars tag team title match will mark the first time in nine years those belts will be put up for grabs at this annual supercard.

21. Triple H has never dropped a title at a Rumble show be it the IC belt, the WWE title or the World Heavyweight Championship.  Furthermore, he’s only lost one championship encounter as a challenger.  In 2001, WWE Champion Kurt Angle beat him to retain his title.

22. Virgil was the first villain to turn ‘face at this event after attacking his former boss Ted Dibiase who constantly berated him following their loss to Dustin & Dusty Rhodes in a tag match at the 1991 Rumble.

23. Curiously, the Royal Rumble hasn’t always been the final match of the annual show.  On five different occasions (1988, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2013), it was the second-to-last match on the card.  And in 2006, it was the fourth match of six.

24. The Dudley Boyz are the only wrestlers to win more than one title at the event.  They became tag team champions in both 2001 and 2003.

25. Every member of Evolution has won the Royal Rumble match:  Ric Flair in 1992 (he won the vacant WWF title as a result), Triple H in 2002 & 2016 (his second victory meant the dethroning of then-WWE Champion Roman Reigns who failed to defend the title despite a valiant effort), Batista in 2005 & 2014 and Randy Orton in 2009 & 2017.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
3:50 p.m.

UPDATE:  Because Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble match, that fact has been added to number 25.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
4:06 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  An astute commenter notes that I neglected to mention the sixth time the Royal Rumble match wasn’t the main event.  In 2013, after John Cena outlasted 29 other superstars in that year’s Rumble match, The Rock defeated CM Punk for the WWE Championship in the main event.  This piece was written four days before it took place which is why it wasn’t mentioned.  Thanks to CactusHam for the helpful reminder.  Number 23 has now been revised to acknowledge this information.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 30, 2014
2:21 a.m.

UPDATE 3:  The bracketed section of number five has been updated and revised from the original text.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 26, 2014
2:19 a.m.

UPDATE 4:  Triple H & Randy Orton have now won the Royal Rumble match twice which has been added to number 25.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 7, 2017
4:04 a.m.

Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm  Comments (4)  

Hot Girl Bubble

You missed a big lesson way back in your youth
Absence of faith is the beginning of truth
For years you’ve believed in dishonourable men
So don’t be surprised when you’re betrayed again

Tyranny grows in the heart of your denial
Perpetuated by warmongers on both sides of the aisle
But will you ever acknowledge all this destruction and death?
I’ll put it to you bluntly:  I’m not holding my breath

You weep and you gush and you slobber and drool
Over empty-calorie pronouncements like a starstruck fool
Hero worship is dangerous and painfully dumb
Your gullible antics are making me numb

Please stop pretending he’s your devoted lover
When he spends every day running for cover
Resist the temptation to follow his lead
More hatred of the innocent is not what we need

Reject the sugar in his candy-coated lies
Don’t be taken in by his clever disguise
Note the disconnect and complete lack of shame
His words and his actions are clearly not the same

There once was a time when you had my respect
But lately I’ve been thinking it’s time to defect
You sing nothing but hosannas believing he’s a cherub
Want a differing opinion?  Go ask an Arab

You claim to have compassion for the broken and the weak
And to provide a strong voice for those who cannot speak
But like a certain disgraced athlete you once stupidly defended
Your whole concept of honesty has been completely upended

It must feel so cozy in your hot girl bubble
Being blinded by charisma while ignoring all the trouble
Mingling with the ding dongs who live to kiss your ass
Deluded and naive, you could teach a master class

You?  A “brainy broad”?  That is patently absurd
Don’t you have to be smart to be a nerd?
When you’re stripped down to your essential core
You’re a beautiful enabler and nothing more

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
3:29 a.m.

Published in: on January 22, 2013 at 3:29 am  Comments (3)  

From The Published Archives: Paranormal Activity

In ten days, Paranormal Activity 4 arrives on DVD.   From the beginning I’ve not been an enthusiastic supporter of this franchise.  Although they have their moments none of the three previous installments are terribly scary movies.  Put simply, they’re just terrible.

I screened the original Paranormal Activity on March 27, 2010.  Instead of reviewing it in this space a quick 600-word critique was sent off to Monkeybiz.ca instead.  However, four months went by without a reply (not the first time this has happened).  By the summer of 2010, I fired off an email wondering what was going on and finally got a response.  Because they didn’t have the original review (was it deleted by mistake?) but were still interested in looking it over it was re-submitted in late July that same year (along with three other assessments that were magically misplaced the first go-round, as well).

For the most part, my MonkeyBiz submissions required little-to-no revision before being posted, which I always appreciated.  Paranormal Activity was a notable exception.  After being picked apart by Larissa Cardey (a soon-to-be MonkeyBiz editor who I eventually met once and like & respect) I was deeply aggravated.  No less than eight phrases (“point of tedium”, “unwanted visitor”, “states the obvious”, “you can see a mile away”, “by-the-numbers”, “standard fare”, “all for naught”, and a reference to Casper The Friendly Ghost) were singled out as being “cliched”, the most annoying complaint of the original draft.  Admittedly, she had a point in most of these cases but not all.  Anyway, once I calmed down I looked over the review to see if it could be improved.

Of course it could.  Truthfully, the second version I submitted felt a bit stronger than the first.  All but two of the alleged “cliches” were dropped, certain sections were fleshed out a bit more (Larissa felt I should summarize the plot of The Blair Witch Project for those who hadn’t seen it as well as briefly explain what a FireFile is) along with a few other minor adjustments, one of which was made by Larissa herself during a final edit (which I didn’t care for).  This re-vamped review was posted on MonkeyBiz on July 30, 2010.  Despite being overly sensitive and protective of the original draft I was generally happy with the final piece.  Larissa did help make it better despite my grumbling.

What follows is mostly what was posted on MonkeyBiz (I’ve made three minor restorations) with the exception of the poster that accompanied the original review.  Check it out:

Paranormal Activity: A Movie Review

Posted on July 30 2010 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

Unexplained noises in the middle of the night.  A dark shadow traversing across an open bedroom door.  An ungodly scream from down the hall.

Ever since beautiful English major Katie (Katie Featherston) moved in with her goofy day trader boyfriend of three years, Micah (Micah Sloat), the couple has detected a presence in their San Diego home.  And it’s far from friendly.

It’s September 2006.  A somewhat concerned Micah has started documenting the slowly increasing antics of an invisible poltergeist, as well as the couple’s day-to-day life together, using a camcorder he’s just purchased.

At night, he rests the camera on a tripod set up in the corner of their bedroom and connected to a running FireFile program on his laptop.  As the couple sleeps, the camera sees and hears all while the computer stores the information for later viewing.

Every morning he looks at the footage, hoping to get some dependable evidence of the unwanted visitor’s existence.  Sometimes, he notices some unusual moments.

This is the setup for Paranormal Activity, a preposterous, occasionally tense yet inconsistent horror film very much in the tradition of The Blair Witch Project.  Like the small-budgeted 1999 blockbuster about a trio of documentary filmmakers seeking documented proof of a legendary, malevolent spirit, it’s an overrated, underwhelming misfire.

Early on, the presence reveals itself through loud, occasional banging noises on certain nights.  As the film progresses, the presence becomes much braver and more serious.  Somehow, it’s able to turn a bathroom light on and off.  At one point, it literally climbs into bed right next to Katie.

In one rather cool sequence, it sets a borrowed Ouija board on fire in the downstairs living room while our embattled heroes are out to dinner.  The way the film achieves all of these effects is actually quite impressive.  You’re absolutely convinced there’s a ghost in this house despite the absurdity of its remarkable abilities.

The occasional fast forwarding of the nighttime sequences is also effective, especially those odd moments when Katie is on her feet beside the bed staring at Micah for hours as the camcorder time code zooms by.  That stationary bedroom shot is so perfect you wish the whole film had taken place in there.

Then again, with lacklustre protagonists anchoring this movie, maybe not.  Like The Blair Witch Project, the lead actors essentially play onscreen versions of themselves.  Thankfully, they’re somewhat less irritating than the doomed filmmakers of the earlier film whose constant bickering made you care less about their predicament.

Unfortunately, Micah and Katie are neither interesting nor terribly charming.  Micah offers numerous remarks that aren’t funny and is way too obsessed with taping the sometimes bossy Katie, much to her frequent annoyance.  The couple lacks chemistry, too.

Mark Fredrichs does a good job playing a visiting psychic who warns them about fleeing their haunted house and attempting to antagonize or communicate with the presence.  Don’t make it any angrier, he warns.  The presence will follow them wherever they go.

When he makes some rather obvious statements, you’ll roll your eyes.  What a surprise that he’s unqualified to extract the invisible visitor himself.  How convenient that the expert he recommends for the job is “away for a few days.”

Most disappointing is the ending which you can see well ahead of time although I have to admit part of it is well executed.

Modern horror films tend to be routine bloodfests that are so unwilling to be original.  Despite its flaws, Paranormal Activity admirably refuses to be standard fare, presenting an ambitious premise on a small budget and producing some genuinely atmospheric moments.  But without lovable heroes to care about and consistent scares, it’s less than wholly satisfying.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, January 19, 2013
11:13 p.m.

Published in: on January 19, 2013 at 11:13 pm  Comments (2)  

More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Fifth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD

22. Just before Kramer gives Elaine his crappy electronic organizer from the bank (without telling her it beeps all the time for no good reason), there’s a quick scene in The Marine Biologist where he almost hits her in the head with his golf bag as she’s coming out of Jerry’s apartment.  Before it was filmed, Michael Richards told a concerned Julia Louis-Dreyfus that he’s never physically harmed anyone doing something like this.  Sure enough, as the cameras rolled he accidentally clobbered her right in the eye (causing a cut and a bruise which were quickly dealt with and covered with make-up) while doing the swing with his bag.  To make matters worse, Louis-Dreyfus was battling a bad fever that night.  (What a trooper.)  Eventually, they got a take that was far less brutal.

23. Michael Richards came very close to playing Al Bundy on Married…With Children.

24. In The Fire, an Entertainment Weekly critic comes to see Jerry’s show at the comedy club but it proves disasterous when he can’t handle Kramer’s obnoxious girlfriend, Toby, who won’t shut up while he’s doing his set.  As a result, he ends up getting a bad review. At Monk’s, he shows a copy of it to George.  If you look closely, though, what they’re both actually reading is an article about novelist Nicholson Baker entitled Now, Voyeur which was published in the March 11, 1994 edition of EW.

25. In The Puffy Shirt, Jerry and Kramer are in a waiting room at NBC.  Jerry’s about to promote a charity event on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel.  Notice the triangular artwork on the walls.  Chances are they were created by an old boyfriend of Elaine’s.  Remember the fat starving artist from the season four episode, The Junior Mint?  He had a thing for triangles.

26. In The Stall, Elaine denies dating Dan Cortese’s character purely for his “perfect face”.  During an ill-fated rock climbing excursion with George and Kramer, that denial is heavily tested when he falls right on his face after some miscommunication.  In the episode, Elaine finally admits her shallowness but tearfully hopes she will still be with Cortese despite the possibility of him looking less than perfect.  In a deleted scene that was cut because the show was running long, Cortese takes Elaine rock climbing.  He ends up dumping her over a pimple he spots on her face and ultimately leaves her there to fend for herself.

27. Writer Bruce Kirschbaum thought he made up the Latvian Orthodox religion that played a central role in The Conversion.  In that episode, George’s girlfriend Sasha claims that she can’t date him anymore because he’s not Latvian Orthodox.  Her parents don’t approve of her dating an outsider.  So, thanks to a joking suggestion from Elaine, he decides to convert.  The Latvian Orthodox church were so thrilled with the mention Kirschbaum gave them he received letters of thanks from a few high-ranking members.  However, there is no Latvius and he’s not the son of an apostle.  That part was fictional.  In the scene where George raises his hand revealing crib notes in ink (he ended up cheating on his conversion test), the old priest doesn’t notice it.  Originally, he did.

28. In The Pie, George is desperate to buy a suit that another short, stocky fellow with glasses wants as well.  In the original script, his rival was named Dumpy Guy but the actor who played him really hated the name.  So it was changed to Bob which is never said once in the episode.  There’s another scene where a guy comes up to Elaine thinking that he’s seen her before (he actually saw her mannequin).  He was originally called Sleazy Guy but in the end credits, that’s replaced with the more generic Guy In Diner.

29. The mango really does improve sexual performance when eaten beforehand.  In fact, the Kama Sutra recommends drinking mango juice before lovemaking.  The Mango Association declares it “the natural Viagra”.  For a brief time, mangos were hard to come by in Great Britain.

30. In The Lip Reader, Elaine is annoyed by her overly chatty chauffeur to the point where she lies about going deaf.  She pretends to misunderstand what he’s saying hoping he’ll give up and stick to driving, something writer Carol Leifer went through during her stand-up days.  At one point, his question, “Hey, what about a hearing aid?” is purposefully misinterpreted as, “Am I fearing AIDS?” In The Non-Fat Yogurt, when she takes that melting vanilla yogurt sample to a lab with Jerry and Kramer, you can spot a black and white poster on the wall behind them with the heading, “Heard Much About AIDS Lately?”.

31. Speaking of The Non-Fat Yogurt, there are three different versions.  Set during the final leg of the 1993 New York election campaign for Mayor, the show needed to cover all its bases before the winner was announced because it was integral to the plot. (The episode aired two days after the election.)  The official version that aired features Lloyd Braun as incumbent Mayor David Dinkins’ personal advisor.  When he takes Elaine’s suggestion of having all New Yorkers wear name tags directly to the Mayor who in turn makes the proposal a campaign promise it’s the beginning of the end.  Rudolph Giuliani ultimately wins the election (as he did in real life).  In case Dinkins was reelected, an alternate version was prepared.  In this one, Braun advises Giuliani to his downfall.  A third version (not shown on the DVD) is reportedly the same as the official one with one twist.  Instead of the real Giuliani appearing in two scenes to talk about the controversial non-fat yogurt a fake spokesman took his place instead.  Because the real Dinkins wasn’t interested in participating a fake spokesman was used for one of the alternate versions.  The actor who played him is Phil Morris, who was re-cast as attorney Jackie Childs in numerous episodes later on.

32. The Conversion had two alternate endings.  In one, Jerry agrees to take the beautiful blonde Tawni and her sick cat to the vet but they make a pit stop at Elaine’s apartment because she has the cat’s fungicide that Jerry thought was Tawni’s.  At the same time, Elaine’s boyfriend, a podiatrist played by Tom Verica, discovers the fungicide in her medicine cabinet and excuses himself.  As he leaves, Jerry and company arrive.  Tawni discovers what’s really going on with Jerry and Verica’s character is attacked by the cat.  In the other unused ending, Elaine takes the fungicide that Jerry put in her purse and directly asks the podiatrist for his opinion.  He tells her that the medicine is for cats, not humans.

33. The Mango’s working title was The Orgasm and The Hamptons was originally called The Ugly Baby.

34. In The Glasses, thanks to squinty-eyed George’s observation, Jerry is convinced that his girlfriend Amy (the one who wants him to get air conditioning in his apartment) is cheating on him with his cousin Jeffrey.  The episode leads us to believe that George screwed up and made a mistake.  But in a deleted scene, Amy is actually on a couch making out with Jeffrey who is only seen from behind.  She asks him about his favourite animal, the leopard.  In the scene where George spots a dime on the floor from across the room in Jerry’s apartment, that’s a direct homage to The Great Escape.  Donald Pleasance is worried he won’t be leaving with his fellow prisoners (he’s losing his sight) so he plants a coin on the floor so he can see it from far away in order to convince James Garner that he’s good to go.

35. Jerry Stiller made his official debut as Frank Costanza in The Puffy Shirt, the episode where a broke, desperate George moves back home until things completely turn around for him in The Opposite at the end of the season.  (Larry Charles, who remembered his Ed Sullivan appearances with his wife, Anne Meara, recommended him for the part.)  Originally, he was supposed to look and act like his son:  bald and meek.  Estelle Costanza was going to be the only one with the temper.  But this approach didn’t work which frustrated Stiller who was just following direction.  Things were going so bad he thought he was going to be fired.  While rehearsing a fight with Estelle Harris he improvised a scream and the character found his voice.  Stiller didn’t go bald and he never backed down from anybody again.

36. In a previous box set, it was revealed that Wayne Knight (Newman) moonlighted as a private investigator in between acting gigs. In the season 5 collection we get more details on that.  He did it for five years and these were his duties: surveillance; tracking down deadbeats, bond jumpers and people who owed money; insurance work and background investigations.

37. In The Glasses, Jerry has a plan to expose Amy’s alleged infidelity.  His cousin Jeffrey has agreed to get him two tickets to a Paul Simon concert which Jerry will pick up with his heat-hating galpal at Jeffrey’s apartment.  When Jeffrey opens his door, to use Jerry’s line, “It’s Howdy Doody time.”.  Kramer replies, “Right this way, Mr. Doody.”.  That’s actually a direct reference to an old Fridays sketch where Larry David plays an elevator operator who interacts with a full-size Howdy Doody.  It’s Castle Rock executive Rob Reiner’s only memory of David on that show.  In The Stand-In, Elaine tells Jerry that his friend Phil took out his penis during their one and only date.  Their “he took it out” conversation was supposed to be a bit longer.  At one point, still stunned by his friend’s odd gesture, Jerry asks incredulously, “I’m shocked.  Are you sure that’s what it was?”  To which Elaine replies, “Well, it wasn’t Howdy Doody.”.

38. Director Tom Cherones and writer Larry Charles both left the show after season five.

39. Larry David’s voice can be heard in numerous episodes, sometimes unrecognizably.  In The Raincoats when Rudy the vintage clothes store owner burns Frank Costanza’s cabana wear that’s David doing the grumbling.  (You’ll notice Rudy’s mouth is closed. David did a post-production overdub to clarify what was happening in case of audience confusion.)  In The Lip Reader, he’s one of the U.S. Open tennis commentators goofing on George eating that hot fudge sundae as well as the dispatcher for the overly chatty, Jumble-obsessed limo driver who annoys Elaine.  And in The Conversion when Elaine’s podiatrist boyfriend finds the fungicide that’s David again doing a post-production voiceover since Tom Verica wasn’t available for the session.

40. In The Sniffing Accountant, there’s a scene where Kramer drinks a full glass of beer with a cigarette in his mouth.  That was not in the script.  It was a Michael Richards improvisation.  An outtake of that bit features the K-man struggling a bit with the initial chug and after managing to down all that ale in a single guzzle he belches out his cigarette smoke.  That was considered too much and the version with Kramer just coughing afterwards was used in the final show instead.  In another scene, George foolishly feels up the fabric of a woman waiting for an elevator after having successfully been hired to be a bra salesman.  She flips out and just as quickly, he’s unemployed again.  The woman he offended is Christa Miller who reappears as a love interest for George in the sixth season episode, The Doodle.

41. In The Raincoats, look closely at the pre-recorded videotapes on Jerry’s shelf in his apartment.  One of them is Pretty Woman which starred Jason Alexander as a sleazy attorney friend of Richard Gere’s.  For some inexplicable reason, however, there’s a white sticker covering “MAN” in “WOMAN”, so that it reads “PRETTY WO”.  Weird.

42. During a transitory scene in The Cigar-Store Indian, before we see Jerry and George in that antique store pay close attention to the little dog hovering around that fire hydrant.  He’s lifting his leg to take a whiz before the scene directly cuts to inside the store.

43. In The Hamptons, there’s a scene where Kramer clowns around on the beach.  Despite what the Notes About Seinfeld claim, that really is the The Beach Boys performing the original version of Wouldn’t It Be Nice from their 1966 album, Pet Sounds.  It is not a cover version put together by a sound-a-like band.

(Special thanks to Rob Kerr)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 17, 2013
4:20 p.m.

Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm  Comments (2)  

Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Fifth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD

1. When the show started to become immensely popular, Kramer’s entrances into Jerry’s apartment would receive an enthusiastic reception from the live studio audience.  This drove co-creator Larry David bonkos because 1. it would distort the flow and reality of the scene (the actors would have to wait for the audience to stop clapping so they could continue) and 2. it would eat up a few seconds of valuable screen time.  As a result, David would have to instruct the crowd before taping began to not cheer when Kramer crossed the threshold to his next door neighbour’s abode.  Eventually, they got the message.  Starting with The Lip Reader, he would never receive a sitting ovation for visiting Jerry again.

2. In The Mango, Jerry wears a blue and white Queens College T-shirt during a scene set in his apartment.  In The Barber, he wears a Queens College ballcap to cover his botched haircut while eating with a greatly amused George and Elaine at Monk’s.  In real-life, Seinfeld is an alumnus of that school.  He graduated from the theatre and communications program in 1976.  Singer/songwriter Paul Simon, porn legend Ron Jeremy and comedians Joy Behar and Ray Romano are all fellow alumni.

3. Seinfeld also attended SUNY-Oswego where he met future Today Show weatherman Al Roker who he became friendly with.  Roker made a memorable cameo appearance playing himself in The Cigar-Store Indian.  (He steals Jerry’s hot gyro and sits down to talk to Elaine on the subway train.)  Curiously, upon seeing him on that fake TV Guide cover for the first time and before being corrected by his Native American love interest, Jerry mistakes Roker for then-CBS This Morning meterologist, Mark McEwan.  (“Well, they’re both chubby weathermen.”)

4. Shortly after an escaped mental patient commits suicide by jumping several stories to land on George’s parked car in The Bris, he visits with the hospital administrator, Mrs. Swedler, in a failed attempt to get her to pay the bill to repair the severely damaged roof.  She’s played by Debra Mooney who had a memorable role on Roseanne.  Remember the woman in the beauty parlour with the little dog who kept calling Mrs. Connor “Roxanne” instead of Roseanne?  That’s her.

5. The late Charles Durning, Ed Asner, Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin and Abe Vigoda all auditioned and failed to land the role of Frank Costanza, George’s volcanicly tempered father.

6. That’s a Marlboro cigarette George’s dinner date Karen is puffing on after thoroughly enjoying her risotto in The Mango.

7. In The Glasses, Jerry is dating a woman who hates his hot apartment, so Kramer helps him get 30% off a new Commando-8 air conditioner so she’ll feel more comfortable, a story that was given to the K-man (originally, it was scripted for Jerry) when it was determined he had nothing to do in the episode.  In a deleted scene, we learn that the discount has been rejected by the store but Kramer promises to make it up to him by offering both him and Elaine “a round of papaya smoothies”.  This explains why he comes in singing “Oh my papaya” (to the tune of Roll Out The Barrel) in the actual show.  As he enters, the air conditioner, which hasn’t been properly installed, is on the verge of falling out the window.  Michael Richards ran so fast taping that scene he hit the wall a little too hard.  Worried that he had broken his ribs, he was ordered to go to the hospital for x-rays.  Fortunately, he only suffered bruising.  As for the little rottweiler that got nailed by the falling air conditioner, he wasn’t supposed to survive.

8. In The Stand-In, Jerry is on a mission to make his hospitalized friend Fulton laugh.  During his second visit, he finally succeeds by doing a superhero routine.  That entire Justice League Of America riff he performs was originally conceived for the first very show in season one.

9. In the original script for The Fire, there was a scene near the end where George and Jerry are at the movies.  Thoroughly deflated now that his true cowardly nature has been revealed (thanks to his hilarious panic over some burning hamburgers at a birthday party for his then-girlfriend’s son), he gets a chance at redemption when a couple of fellow patrons start acting obnoxiously behind himself and Jerry at the theatre.  Annoyed by them kicking their seats, he stands up, turns around and yells at them to stop.  Dropped from The Fire, this scene was re-tooled for The Opposite during George’s movie date with Dedee Pfeiffer.  One of the lines from his rant (“And if I have to tell you again, we’re gonna take it outside and I’ll go show you what’s it like!”) was lifted pretty much verbatim from an infamous bootleg of famed drummer Buddy Rich, who reportedly had a nasty temper of his own, lashing out at his band on their tour bus. 

10. Len Lesser, who played Jerry’s Uncle Leo, almost played Ray Romano’s father, Frank Barone, on Everybody Loves Raymond.  In the end, he played Frank’s pal, Garvin (“Hey!  Ray’s here!  Ha, ha!”) in numerous episodes.

11. Larry David made a successful bet with his entertainment lawyer over a friendly game of golf.  The victory allowed him to use his lawyer’s name in an episode of Seinfeld.  That’s how Lloyd Braun became a character in The Non-Fat Yogurt.

12. In The Cigar-Store Indian, a paranoid George takes his parents’ antique coffee table in to be cleaned.  He gets hit on by a beautiful curly-haired saleswoman who is 45 minutes late for work.  It’s curious he doesn’t recognize her because she played Gucci, Kramer’s brief girlfriend in the second season episode, The Keys.  When he takes her back to his parents’ house, a song from the Ray Conniff Singers can be heard in the background.  The original plan was to have The Lonely Bull by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass playing instead but the show couldn’t secure the rights to use it.  In a later scene, his horrified mom finds a condom wrapper in her bed.  Originally, she was supposed to find the actual used condom but that was nixed because it was considered “too gross”.

13. To let viewers know the show was moving into Cheers’ old time slot (Thursdays at 9 p.m.) in its fifth season, a good number of NBC promos were put together to get the word out.  In one, Jerry dresses as Pat Riley, the androgynous character from Saturday Night Live.  He jokes that Pat is really a guy.  In another one, Jerry slyly pays tribute to Ted Danson (who played philandering ex-pitcher-turned-bartender Sam Malone) by removing a fake hair patch from the back of his head.  Danson used to wear one on Cheers to cover his bald spot.

14. After goofing around at an ATM, Jerry is recognized by an old college friend, Diane, in The Marine Biologist.  Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me, Hot In Cleveland) tried to land that part.  When she asks about George, he tells her that the short, stocky, slow-witted bald man is now a marine biologist.  (At this point, he’s still unemployed (and back living at home) but looking and getting interviews.)  The director of The Marine Biologist, Tom Cherones, has a son, Scott, who actually is a marine biologist. 

15. George’s re-counting of how he removed Kramer’s Titleist from a whale’s blowhole in that same episode was the result of a rare, late-night rewrite.  Unfortunately, there was no time to rehearse because the next day was taping day.  But because Jason Alexander can memorize lines very quickly, this wasn’t necessary.  He nailed the one-page monologue in one take.

16. Ricky, the nerdy TV Guide fan who skeeves out Elaine on the subway train and at George’s parents’ house in The Cigar-Store Indian, is played by Sam Lloyd.  His uncle is Christopher Lloyd who played Reverend Jim on Taxi and the wacky scientist in the Back To The Future Trilogy.  One of the actors Lloyd beat out for the role was Jack Black.

17. In The Hamptons, George’s girlfriend Jane takes her bikini top off in clear view of Elaine, Jerry and Kramer while the bald man is away buying tomatoes for his mother.  If you look closely during the moment when she returns to the back porch, Jane is clearly wearing flesh-coloured pasties.  She’s not actually topless.  Interestingly, Melora Walters, the actress who played her, was more than willing to not wear the pasties.  Unfortunately, NBC wouldn’t allow actual nudity during a taping.  Speaking of that back porch scene, believe it or not, that’s an indoor set.

18. In The Stand-In, Elaine goes out with Jerry’s friend, Phil Tatola, who decides during the date to take “it” out.  Although Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk auditioned unsuccessfully for that part he ended up playing Elaine’s medical intern boyfriend in the eighth season episode, The Abstinence.  In The Fire, Kramer starts dating Toby, an annoyingly cheery redhead who drives Elaine bonkos at Pendant Publishing.  Molly Shannon tried out for the role.  She would end up playing a woman who leaves Elaine angry voicemails in the eighth season episode, The Summer Of George.  In The Non-Fat Yogurt, Kramer starts seeing a beautiful scientist at the lab where Elaine’s yogurt sample is being tested.  Lisa Kudrow read for that character.  Not that long afterward, she was cast as Pheobe on Friends.  In The Conversion, Kramer tantalizes a Latvian Orthodox novice to the point where she questions her devotion to the religion.  Kristin Davis was in the running to play Sister Roberta.  She would later be a love interest for both Jerry and Kenny Banya in two separate episodes in seasons eight and nine, respectively.  In The Marine Biologist, Carol Kane plays a woman who keeps getting wacked in the head by cheap electronic equipment thrown out of windows by a tempermental Russian novelist.  Sheryl Lee (One Tree Hill, Twin Peaks) wasn’t able to land that part.

19. Steven Spielberg was such a fan of the show that he specifically requested tapes to be sent to him in Poland where he was filming Schindler’s List to cheer him up at night after a grueling day of shooting.  As a tribute to his support, the one-hour episode The Raincoats featured a storyline where Jerry and his girlfriend Rachel are caught by Newman making out during a screening of Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film.

20. In The Glasses, George needs a new pair of specs after mistakenly believing that someone at the New York Health Club stole his old ones.  As he’s trying on new frames in a store, Jerry looks at some posters of models wearing glasses and declares that they would be “pretty good looking” if they didn’t wear them.  If you look closely at the top two glass shelves you’ll notice four pictures of Sophia Loren.  When George is trying on that pair of black frames, you’ll see a much bigger poster of Loren directly behind him.

21. In The Pie, Jerry catches his girlfriend’s father, a chef who runs his own restaurant, not washing his hands after doing his business in a stall.  At the end of the episode, a health inspector comes by to take him downtown.  When Jerry’s gal Audrey wonders what’s going on, the comedian replies, “Well, Poppie’s a little sloppy.” which gave the character, first called Father, a proper name. Originally, he was supposed to say, “Poppie’s hands are poopy.” In an outtake, unlike the finished episode, the health inspector wears a hat.

(Special thanks to Rob Kerr)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 17, 2013
2:58 p.m.

Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm  Comments (4)  

Unsolved Mysteries Of The Fifth Season Of Seinfeld

1. In The Lip Reader, how did Laura the U.S. Open lineswoman get to Todd’s party when 1. Jerry had told her on their first date that he would be picking her up through Elaine’s employer’s car service which ultimately never happened and 2. she apparently doesn’t drive?

2. How much did Kramer invest (and subsequently lose) in that fraudulent yogurt joint in The Non-Fat Yogurt?

3. Did Kramer & Jerry ever pay George back for buying them 30 dollars worth of fruit at Joe’s Market in The Mango?

4. What episode of the original Twilight Zone are George and his father Frank watching that Ricky, Elaine’s subway train admirer, proclaims “is a good one”?

5. Did Jerry end up eating some mango and subsequently succeed in giving Elaine an orgasm?

6. How can George spot a dime from across the room in Jerry’s apartment but can’t tell an apple from an onion, mailboxes from raccoons nor a horse from a horse-faced man in The Glasses?

7. Why didn’t the Indian doctor in the ER give Elaine that much-needed rabies shot the first time she visited after being bitten by that little rottweiler in The Glasses?

8. Why didn’t George ask Dwayne the optometrist to do something about the blind guy’s glasses since they were pinching his nose so much?

9. What happened to Frank’s silver dollar coin collection?

10. How much did George get paid to hand model that watch in The Puffy Shirt?

11. How is Elaine able to get back on the subway train with a gyro in plenty of time before it takes off again but Jerry and Kramer both get their arms caught in the door which they can’t open resulting in fellow passengers stealing their food?

12. Why does George’s girlfriend Karen only take four puffs off of her Marlboro cigarette after eating the risotto before putting it out?

13. How did Pachyderm get his nickname?

14. Why does Kramer’s electronic organizer keep beeping?

15. What happened to the rest of the Penthouse Forum story Kramer was reading to George in The Dinner Party?

16. What happened to the Elaine mannequin after it was stolen?

17. What’s Yuri Testikov’s manuscript called and what’s it about?  Did it ever get published?

18. What happened to Olive, the cute long-nailed cashier at Monk’s who Kramer dumped after he lost his itch?

19. In The Stall, how is Elaine able to remove all those rolls of toilet paper undetected from the other stall in Monk’s before Jerry’s phone sex operator girlfriend Jane (“I can’t spare a square”) gets in the room when she only has seconds to act?

20. What’s Rimsky about?

21. What is Jerry looking at on the computer in The Stall?

22. How much was the tip Jerry gave the two old ladies to leave for their waitress at Monk’s as a thank you for answering his queries in The Pie?

23. What missed caller was Elaine referring to when, while reading Jake Jarmel’s message from said caller, she noted sarcastically, “Oh yeah.  I’ll call you back.”?

24. What does McKenzie do?

25. What did that portly, bespectacled chef, who was pissed at George for hiding that whoosing suit so he couldn’t buy it during that unadvertised sale, do to sabotage that chocolate creme pie during Costanza’s second interview with McKenzie and associates?

26. What’s wrong with Fulton and did Jerry kill him with his jokes?

27. How did Laura the lineswoman follow Jerry and George’s conversation at the restaurant when 1. it was next to impossible to read their lips and 2. she was looking elsewhere for the most part?

28. Why did Kramer lie about the origin of the coffee table book about coffee tables idea on Regis & Kathie Lee?

29. What was Kramer’s 10 o’clock in The Raincoats?

30. How does Kramer understand what his low-talking designer girlfriend is saying when Jerry and Elaine can’t comprehend anything she says?

31. What happened to George’s girlfriend Victoria and her uncle who works for the Yankees?  How come we never see them again?

(Special thanks to Rob Kerr.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
5:09 p.m.

Published in: on January 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Zero Dark Thirty

Filthy propaganda.

Is there a better way to describe Zero Dark Thirty?  No, there isn’t.  Because this isn’t a documentary.  It isn’t even journalism despite what the director and the screenwriter claim.  In fact, it’s barely a movie in any sense of the word.  It’s really a glorified CIA corporate recruitment video.

Forget about learning why Al Qaeda attacked America on that horrible September morning.  Forget about understanding the reasoning behind the follow-up attacks in places like London, England and Islamabad, Pakistan.  Forget about decades of American malfeasance in the Middle East.  Forget about the many dictators the empire has supported throughout its dark history. 

And most importantly, forget about having a conscience.  No Americans in the one-sided ZDT have one so why should you?

In fact, that’s the biggest problem with this overlong trash.  Not a single government official or military officer seems to question anything that happens or does anything to stop it.  (In one curious scene, a bunch of CIA personnel don’t respond to President Obama’s real-life denials of America’s torture policies while watching him on 60 Minutes.)  No one mentions following the law.  No one worries about irreparable harm done to civilians.  No one gives a shit about treating prisoners humanely or whether they’re actually guilty of anything or not.  And no one seems to care about the world’s response to their mostly secretive and illegal activities.  (Why would they when they face no substantial political or legal consequences for their actions?)  The psychopathic “heroes” of this story live very comfortably in their own lawless bubble.  Not even the bloody reality they’ve created can burst it. 

Consider the early interrogation scenes.  We meet Dan (the dispicable Jason Clarke), a professional sadist who would’ve enjoyed appearing in Hostel.  He’s trying to get information out of an Arab man who, understandably, won’t talk and wants to be set free.  Maybe he’s connected to Al Qaeda in some way, maybe not.  Who knows for sure?  (In this movie, we don’t question the government’s accusations, you see.)  His wrists are bound by ropes and he appears to have been in custody for quite some time.  He is effectively a prisoner of the state with no rights, no legal representation and no chance of being released.  No matter what Dan says or does, though, he refuses to cooperate.  

The man pays the price for this.  He gets brutally waterboarded during the first encounter we witness.  In another, in the presence of the singularly obsessed, recruited-from-high-school CIA operative Maya (the annoying Jessica Chastain), Dan pulls the man’s soiled pants down exposing his genitals.  If that weren’t humiliating enough, he then puts a leash on him and makes him walk around on all fours like a dog.  Not completely satisfied with these dehumanizing acts, he has him crammed into a wooden box and the poor man finally cracks.  Sadly, he’s not the only victim of torture in this movie. 

In a later scene, he gives up more information (without being further brutalized) that may or may not be useful to Maya in the presence of Dan.  In the real world, it’s been proven that torture doesn’t work.  It’s also against the Geneva Conventions and the law.  Put simply, in times of conflict it’s a war crime.  (Hell, it’s a crime in peace time, too, although we don’t have peace anymore.)  But in ZDT, torture gets results and, although it takes many years, Osama Bin Laden, an argument that is not universally agreed upon.

But in between these bookended sequences is a lot of confusion.  Because the CIA operatives in the Middle East speak their complicated spy jargon so fast and, at times, too softly, it’s not always possible to follow the dialogue closely.  (They’re also pathetic at their jobs.  It takes a decade to find Bin Laden who is hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, they think all Arabs look alike and a number of them get killed rather easily.)  There’s no context given for any of the “terrorist” attacks that follow 9/11 (including 9/11 itself) and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan other than Americans good because they love freedom, Arabs bad because they don’t.  (The truth is decidedly more complicated than that.)  And good luck remembering all the different people they’re either looking for, torturing or killing and their possible connections to Al Qaeda or what any of their issues with America are.  Some have more than one name.  None are fully fleshed characters.  They’re simply ghostly objects of unbridled American hatred.

Although we do get the gist of the CIA’s internal conversations, there’s no suspense regarding where this is all headed.  We just know they’re looking for anybody with any possible connection to Bin Laden and there’s no better method of intelligence gathering than torture which quite frankly isn’t believable.  (You’re telling me no one in the government objected to this?)  As scary as the CIA’s vast Middle Eastern surveillance operation is (in one scene, it appears they’re listening to every conversation), according to this tripe it has its limitations.

The movie makes it very clear, however, that Bin Laden is strictly a target, not a suspect.  No one ever talks about an arrest.  No one even considers a trial proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for whatever role he may have played (possibly a financial one) in the murders of thousands of people.  (The overbearing Maya, who has an irritating habit of writing numbers representative of days not spent launching the kill mission with a red marker on her new boss’ glass office wall, tells one of the Seal Team 6 members directly she wants Bin Laden dead.)  The early morning home invasion that ends the film is purely a mob hit on an unarmed man, not to mention an unarmed woman, as well.  Is it any wonder James Gandolfini is the director of the CIA?

For a film that builds itself as a thriller, it takes forever to get to that now infamous raid which, by the end, feels strangely anticlimactic but also deeply disturbing, almost as much as the earlier torture sequences.  (Why do the women get such rough treatment?  Why invade a place filled with innocent children?  Why no arrests?  Why did anybody have to die this way?)  Unfortunately, because it takes place thirty minutes after midnight, you can barely see it.  Members of the Seal Team 6 have to wear night vision goggles the entire time.  It also doesn’t help matters that our old friend, the shaky cam, makes an unwelcome appearance.  Good luck making anything out clearly.

This is an appalling movie but the many who will see it will vehemently disagree.  They will root for the torturers and never empathize with their victims.  (I had the opposite reaction.  No one deserves to be tortured, no matter who they are.)  They will laugh in appreciation at Maya’s unfunny tough guy talk even though she’s a moral coward.  (She’s complicit in the torture scam despite her supposed early reservations and eventual tears.)  And they will cheer on the military team during their illegal mission.

What they won’t do is get mad and raise hell in the streets like the Arab protestors who appear in exactly one scene in ZDT.  (They’re naturally upset over a drone attack that may have killed civilians which is mentioned very quickly in passing.)  They won’t see the longterm damage their country has done to an already broken people.  They won’t acknowledge the lack of success in “winning” this bogus and endless “war on terror”.  They won’t remember America’s long troubled history with the Arab world.  And they won’t question the absence of an adversarial press corps who should be exposing these crimes on a regular basis rather than getting chummy with their subjects at cocktail parties.

They will do what they always do.  Look the other way.

(Special thanks to Dave Scacchi.)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 13, 2013
1:22 a.m.

Published in: on January 13, 2013 at 1:22 am  Comments (4)