From The Published Archives: The Consonance’s October EP

On June 29, 2012, The Consonance announced they were breaking up on their official Facebook page.  Just six months earlier, Monkeybiz.ca posted my review of what would turn out to be their final studio release:  a four-song EP entitled October.  As you’re about to discover, I loved it.

Originally published on December 3, 2011, the same day as my evaluation of Camp Radio’s Campista Socialista, it’s a shame that October never catapulted these six talented musicians into the spotlight, even just for a short time.  The EP is that good.

One last thing.  I’ve made one significant change from the MonkeyBiz posting.  In my original submission to the site, the line, “Running just 16 minutes, October is one of the best independent recordings I’ve heard in years,” appeared at the start of the final paragraph.  It was then relocated to the end of the first paragraph in the MonkeyBiz version.  I never understood this change.  Therefore, the line has been put back in its original location.

THE CONSONANCE: OCTOBER EP: An Album Review

Posted on December 03 2011 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

Are you tired of the current state of music?  Had your fill of empty dance pop?  Looking for something a little different?  Check out October, the latest release from The Consonance.

Based out of Edmonton, this sextet (four women and two men) seamlessly mix large doses of jazz and cocktail pop together with just a hint of rock to form a deeply appealing sound far removed from the usual indie fare.

October is their third batch of studio recordings following their debut album, Come The Day, and their first EP, More Alive.  Like the latter, October only has four songs on it.  But every single one of them is compelling.

The CD gets off to a beautiful start with Jar The Sea which threw me initially with its slightly off-kilter time signature.  But from the second listen onward, I found myself swept up in its deeply moving, atypical rhythm.

Nich Davies’ drumming provides much needed energy here, as he does on every track, while keyboardist Vicky Berg offers a cinematic piano lick worthy of an opening title sequence.  Her tinkling style throughout the EP nicely sets the mood.

Jesse Dollimont’s silky smooth vocals (ably backed by a harmonizing Berg) are wonderfully restrained.  Her sexy voice blends in nicely with the goose-pimply arrangement, a common occurrence for much of this release.

Jar The Sea is about giving love another chance (“My skin will shed the weighted fears, and empty hollow sighs/Left to you is all of me/Loves brilliant reprise”).

But then lines like “I’ll tie the wind and jar the sea/And leave the words out of your misery” suggest complications.

Next up is the supremely weird Surprise Reprise, which appears to continue the story of the earlier song by focusing solely on the woman’s point of view.  Dollimont rifles through the sometimes rambling words so quickly, you’re quite thankful to have a lyric sheet to follow along with her.

The relationship has completely deteriorated (“no one ever made me act so unstable/you couldn’t say that we didn’t try”) and at times you question her sanity (“Built on books now, I can see them/Headstrong heretics cleaning up their semen”).

When you hear Dollimont whipping through these lines, as the band wisely backs her with a spare, uncluttered jazz-rock rhythm, it makes perfect sense.  This character is literally falling apart and deeply resentful.

That said, the song slips in some sly, universal social commentary about the everyday pressures of being a woman.

Song For My City gets inside the head of her miserable husband.  When he’s not plotting the deaths of innocent birds whose only crime is making too much noise (“If the poison doesn’t work/we’ll take the whole nest down”), he’s planning to annoy his “awful quiet” neighbourhood (“my trucks and tools will fix all that”).

Deeply thrilled about where he lives (“Oh it’s such a pretty town/Buildings all grey and the rivers brown”) and his life in general, like his wife in Surprise Reprise, this is one unhappy camper.

Appropriately, the music is cheerfully ironic.  After two listens, I was already whistling the chorus.

The EP (and the marriage) ends with the darkly beautiful title song.  With lyrics straight out of 90s alt-rock (“Drop me/see if I will break…Bury me/see if I decay”), the heartbreaking arrangement matches the despair conveyed in Dollimont’s always absorbing vocals.

Running just 16 minutes, October is one of the best independent recordings I’ve heard in years. And it does what any good EP should do:  leave you hungry for more.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 31, 2013
11:56 p.m.

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Published in: on August 31, 2013 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Camp Radio’s Campista Socialista

Here’s another lost review from the MonkeyBiz era.  Originally posted on December 3, 2011, this assessment of Camp Radio’s second album, Campista Socialista, was one of two critiques I had published on MonkeyBiz.ca that day.

In the piece, I complained that it was sometimes difficult to make out the lyrics.  In fact, before I even wrote my final assessment, I actually emailed the band to see if they would send me a complete lyric sheet since there wasn’t one included in the CD packaging.  (I could only find sample lines on their official Band Camp site.)

Unfortunately, there was no response.  However, two days after my review was posted, Camp Radio did make a public comment about it on their official Facebook page:

“Behold some fine guess work regarding the lyrics on Campista Socialista. Are they correct? You be the judge!”

They even linked to the original review.  I didn’t realize they did all of this until many months later.  Sadly, the review link is dead now.  (As mentioned previously, all my MonkeyBiz reviews have since been removed from the site but thankfully,  I was able to find cache copies on the Internet Wayback Archive Machine.)  You know I’m pretty sure that I posted an alternate link in a comment on that December 5, 2011 Facebook entry but today, I don’t see it.  Weird.

Anyway, it was nice to know the band had read the review and liked it.  Despite not being sure that I made out all of the lyrics correctly, I heard enough clear ones to get the basic gist.  In fact, I enjoyed the album so much I added my review copy to my personal CD collection.

CAMP RADIO: CAMPISTA SOCIALISTA: An Album Review

Posted on December 03 2011 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

A punk rock sound with a strong political agenda, similar to late 70s offerings from The Clash and Gang Of Four.  That’s what I was expecting to hear based on the title alone.

But Campista Socialista, the second album from Camp Radio, has nothing in common with London Calling or Entertainment!  In fact, the content is purely about the terminal pleasures and frustrations of love and sex.

Led by long time indie vet Chris Page (The Stand GT), like The Ramones, this power pop trio from Ottawa waste little time here (10 songs in 32 minutes) offering one overly loud but ultimately engaging rocker after another.  Imagine R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills fronting a tighter mid-90s Wilco.

While it would’ve been helpful to include a lyric sheet in the packaging (some lines get annoyingly buried in the relentlessly abrasive mix), the words that can be heard are memorable and match the intensity of the surprisingly hooky arrangements.

Lines like “hold me close so I can smell you in my clothes” (from the sweetly mid-tempo I’ve Got You Up My Sleeves) and “I can feel you on my tongue/so dance for me my little one” (from the ultimately forlorn My Halo’d Speak).

“Everyone’s a crack authority only lately” (from Suffocating City which suggests a more melodic Raw Power-era Stooges ), “trajectory says things are fatally flawed” (from the fuzzy Cosmic Fair) and “accessibility’s a tingle down her spine” (from the biting Turn Up The Radio, the best track on the album).

It’s a testament to the musicianship of guitarist/vocalist Page, bassist Dave Draves and drummer Scott Terry that because the music is so good you want to keep coming back to it again and again hoping this time you’ll finally solve the mystery of those maddeningly elusive lyrics, somewhat similar to R.E.M. during their early I.R.S. period.

Some songs are more clearly defined than others.  The nervous protagonist of I Have Designs is so overwhelmed by the idea of pouring his heart out to a special someone he literally feels nauseous (“And I wonder why I’m sick to face tomorrow”).

Page is “bored out of my mind” by the safe, mainstream mentality of an amorous female singer in Turn Up The Radio (“Turn up the radio/I think she’s breaking ground/Empty promises of distant, killer sounds”) and having regrets about all the sacrifices made for another relationship in Reinventing The Laugh Track (“I’ve already ruined dreams to be with you”).

In the pretty Murder On My Skin, Page exudes extreme confidence in winning over another lady (“I belong with you to star in dreams you’re tending to”) while in The Girl Who Stole My Motorbike, he sounds distant (“I’ll hold you when I need to/That’s for sure”).

Less clear is the source of tension in Slack (“Before you wake up and get hostile, it’s not what you think”).  Essentially, this couple’s in crisis (“we’re just out of sync”) and Page doesn’t want to be blamed for it (“I think I deserve some slack this time”).  Because a number of lines get lost in the mix, the song is more mysterious than it should be.

Ditto Cosmic Fair with its surreal image of another couple in crisis encountering buzz-cutting astronauts at an outer space-inspired festival.

But for the most part, you sense the basic thrust of these songs.  Besides, the more you listen to them, the more you want to sing along.

Campista Socialista arrives five years after Camp Radio’s self-titled debut.  Here’s hoping the next release will come sooner than that.  And includes a lyric sheet.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 31, 2013
6:34 p.m.

Published in: on August 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm  Comments (1)  

From The Published Archives: Jordan Klassen’s Kindness EP

It’s time to do a bit of housekeeping on this Labour Day Weekend.  Between 2009 and 2012, I was a volunteer reviewer for MonkeyBiz.ca.  It was a fun, challenging experience writing much tighter assessments of movies and CDs for this Hamilton, Ontario-based website than for my own space on the web.  (My natural tendency is to be long-winded here.)

But after my two final critiques were posted on there more than a year ago there have been no further requests for submissions (despite the editor declaring in her last email to me that she would let me know when new CDs had come in).  It’s not certain why they stopped contacting me altogether but nonetheless, I’ve since moved on.  So has the site, for that matter.  These days, it’s been restructured as a blog and all of my previously posted offerings have now been removed.  Truthfully, despite all of this, there are no ill feelings on my part whatsoever.  I’m mostly happy with my brief stint there.

Back in April, I posted my MonkeyBiz review of Yukon Blonde’s breakthrough CD, Tiger Talk, as part of my ongoing Published Archives series.  It first surfaced on April 9, 2012, the last time you would see my byline on that website.  Now it’s time to share with you the other critique posted that same day.  Here’s my take on Jordan Klassen’s Kindness EP:

JORDAN KLASSEN: KINDNESS EP: An album review

Posted on April 09 2012 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

The recently departed One Tree Hill was a ray of hope for musicians, particularly those who couldn’t get their singles on the radio.  The CW series found compelling uses for songs by well-established legends like Led Zeppelin and The Who as well as contemporary soft-rockers like Keane and Coldplay.

But in the end, OTH depended far more on the contributions of various lesser-known performers, some of whom achieved their first taste of success directly through the show.

One artist who might’ve benefitted greatly from the program’s exposure before it signed off after a nine-year run is Jordan Klassen, a marvellous folkie from Vancouver.

Any of the four songs from his latest EP, Kindness (the digital version features a fifth track not found on the CD), could’ve easily (and quietly) added to the show’s dramatic narratives.

For those completely disinterested in the noisy inclinations of hard rock, Kindness is a welcome alternative.  In 15 minutes, Klassen leaves a strong impression.

Kindness opens with Go To Me, a tender, finely penned love song that stands out amongst an otherwise melancholic collection.  As morning breaks for a happy couple, a perfectly content Klassen paints a sweet scene of inner and outer peace.

Although seemingly possessive (“And you breathe/and your breath/it is mine/And your heart/when it stops/when it starts/when it’s fast/it’s mine”), he’s really just calmly in sync with the woman lying beside him.

The song fades in with a ukulele before adding tambourine, drums, vibes and an old-fashioned organ.  Later on, a background chorus, whistling and even a horn section get added to the mix.  It could’ve been too much but thankfully, the song never feels overstuffed with all this instrumentation.  None of the feeling is taken away.

Klassen’s vocals on Go To Me are necessarily restrained except for the belted-out chorus.  It’s quite a lovely tune.

Also beautiful is the next track, I Am A Collector.  Featuring some exquisite open-picked acoustic guitar work and a rather nice string arrangement, the contemplative bliss of the earlier track has suddenly faded away.

Klassen clings to whatever romantic memorabilia he has left of his ex while simultaneously worrying about an empty future (“I am a collector of the fear/that everything I’m biding for is not here/and losing all this sleep to think that nothing’s mine to keep/and there are none for me”)  Who can’t relate to that heartbreaking verse?

Threads, track three, pointedly details a helpless man’s debilitating depression (“My mind is broke and I’m not a handyman”).  This sad situation is not completely bleak, however.  He does have a kind caregiver.  (“You are not a fallen angel/you are not far away from my side and/ breathing soft in the morning/ blowing off all the scales of nighttime”)

Thanks to a very sympathetic arrangement led by a typically lively open-picked acoustic guitar and backed by those moving strings, Threads is far from a depressing experience.  There is hope buried beneath this mental rubble.

Kindness concludes with Call And Answer which is not a Barenaked Ladies cover.  Rather, it’s yet another pretty ballad with lots of energy and a bit more vocal volume.

Beginning with just an acoustic guitar and light piano touches, like Go To Me it successfully adds various other instruments and sounds as it goes along, never once killing the song’s momentum.  Featuring the strongest lyrics of all the songs in this collection, its vivid depiction of a natural disaster appears to be a metaphor for another severed relationship.

While Klassen prepares for his next album, show him some Kindness by getting this CD.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 31, 2013
4:36 p.m.

Published in: on August 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

4 Controversial Movie Castings That Ultimately Resulted In Triumph

In two years time, Ben Affleck will become the sixth man to play Batman in a movie.  For the first time ever, the comic book legend will be appearing with Superman in the follow-up to this year’s Man Of Steel remake which is due in 2015.  Kudos to the two-time Academy Award winner for snagging this iconic role.  He’s part of an elite group now.

Unfortunately, there are many who are so appalled by this, a petition is underway to have Warner Bros., the distributor of the movie, to force him off the project.  Why are people so upset about Affleck playing Batman?  One word:  Daredevil.

While I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t judge a casting until you see the performance, I can understand why fans would rather see someone else play The Dark Knight.  (Daredevil did suck, after all.)  And I wouldn’t be surprised, as I noted on Twitter, if Affleck ultimately walks away from the project because of all the grumbling.  (You can just imagine him saying that he’s become a “distraction” and therefore can no longer comfortably participate.  Then again, maybe he’ll ride the wave of hatred all the way through production.  I’ve been wrong many times before.)

Now before Batmaniacs lose their shit over all of this, a history lesson is in order.  Over the years, there have been numerous movie casting controversies leading to a lot of public, premature anxiety and disappointment.  But, in some cases, when the finished films were released, curiously, a lot of the criticism for those same “miscast” actors was replaced with effusive praise.  Here are four such examples:

Michael Keaton as Batman (1989)

Long before the Affleck controversy, there was the Keaton backlash.  Tim Burton had just finished directing the Mr. Mom star in Beetlejuice and wanted him to play The Caped Crusader in the first Batman movie in more than 30 years.  Fans at the time were so deeply angered by this, they waged an old-school letter-writing campaign hoping to persuade Warner Bros. executives to change their minds.  They didn’t.

Although much darker visually and in tone than its 1966 Adam West predecessor, the film still maintained the franchise’s campy sense of humour in places and went on to become the biggest commercial hit of 1989, earning over 400 million globally.  With the notable exception of Roger Ebert, critics liked the film, especially Keaton’s dual role as Batman and alter ego Bruce Wayne, as well.

Keaton reprised the role three years later in Batman Returns which made almost 270 million worldwide and also received positive critical notices (except from Ebert).  Many even thought it was better than the first one.  Although Val Kilmer and George Clooney would take over for him in Batman Forever and Batman And Robin, respectively, Keaton would continue to earn praise in high-profile studio pictures like The Paper, Jackie Brown and Out Of Sight during the rest of the 1990s.

Recently, after taking it easy for a few years following his voice-over work in the Cars movies and Toy Story 3, the 61-year-old actor is slated to have a busy 2014.  Look for him in the Robocop reboot, one of three upcoming releases he’ll be appearing in.

Tom Cruise as Lestat in Interview With The Vampire (1994)

After nearly two decades of delays, this adaptation of the 1976 novel of the same name was finally going into production.  Coming off the success of The Crying Game, director Neil Jordan was ready to get this long dormant project completed for a fall 1994 release.  There was one big problem.  Anne Rice, the author of the original novel, wasn’t happy about the actor who was playing the lead:

“I was particularly stunned by the casting of [Tom] Cruise, who is no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler,” she told The Los Angeles Times in August 1993, speaking for many of her fans who were also upset.

Later, during an interview in the January/February 1994 edition of Movieline Magazine, she went further:

“The Tom Cruise casting is so bizarre, it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work…I have one question: Does Tom Cruise have any idea of what he’s getting into? I’m not sure he does. I’m not sure he’s read any of the [Vampire Chronicles] books other than the first one…”

However, after seeing the finished film on VHS in late September 1994, Rice took out an $8000 ad in Daily Variety to say this about Cruise:

“The charm, the humor and the invincible innocence which I cherish in my beloved hero Lestat are all alive in Tom Cruise’s courageous performance…”

She later offered this assessment of his performance in another Daily Variety ad (which was also published in an Anne Rice fan club newsletter) in early January 1995:

“From the moment he appeared Tom was Lestat for me…The sheer beauty of Tom was dazzling, but the polish of his acting, his flawless plunge into the Lestat persona, his ability to speak rather boldly poetic lines, and speak them with seeming ease and conviction were exhilarating and uplifting.  The guy is great…That Tom DID make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal ball.  It’s to his credit that he proved me wrong.”

Audiences and most critics agreed.  The film went on to make just over 100 million domestically, plus another 120 million internationally.  Cruise would end the 90s with 2 more Oscar nominations (Jerry Maguire, Magnolia) and thanks mostly to his Mission Impossible franchise, the 51-year-old remains just as popular today as he was 30 years ago.

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

After breaking through as the single mom with the super smart son who falls for Cruise in Maguire, and later playing Meryl Streep’s reporter daughter in One True Thing and an obsessed soap opera fan in Nurse Betty, this Texas native was eager for a bigger challenge.  She got one when she landed the role of Bridget Jones.

Unfortunately, her casting was not universally loved.  Because the character in the original Bridget Jones’s Diary novel is British, there were complaints that Zellweger was too American.  And because on paper she was chubby, Zellweger was knocked for being too thin.

Determined to prove her critics wrong, she adjusted her diet to put on an extra 20 pounds and worked with a dialect coach to nail the accent.  (She even went so far as to work for three weeks in a UK publishing house just to make sure it was believable.)

When the movie was released in mid-April 2001, Zellweger won over her critics.  The film won rave reviews and made nearly 300 million worldwide, the vast majority of it overseas.  Even better, she received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress the following year.

A supporting nomination for Chicago followed in 2003 as did an actual Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in Cold Mountain in 2004.  Although the Bridget Jones sequel was far less loved than the original, Zellweger continued to work steadily in respected, high profile pictures like Cinderella Man and Monsters Vs. Aliens throughout the rest of the Aughts.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale (2006)

Like Batman, only a select few have played the dashing, slutty British superspy.  After Pierce Brosnan’s successful seven-year run as 007 came to an end in 2002, it was time to relaunch the franchise with a new actor for the new millennium.  With plans to remake Casino Royale for a 2006 release (the 1967 original was more of a comedy and is not considered part of the official series), all eyes were on Brosnan’s replacement.

When relatively unknown British actor Daniel Craig was selected, the response was fiercely negative.  Like Michael Keaton some twenty-five years earlier, the Layer Cake star was not considered an appropriate choice.  For one thing, he was blond.  (All the other Bonds had dark hair.)  For another, some felt he was too short.  (He’s 5 foot 10.)  With protests and even threats of a potential boycott, the actor had his work cut out for him.

Thankfully, he had the full support of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and even Brosnan himself (even though he was hoping to return for a fifth time).  Unlike many in the world, the five surviving movie Bonds were standing by him.

After Casino Royale was released, the skeptics were silenced.  Craig won universal praise from reviewers as the new Bond and the film went on to become a massive hit worldwide.  Two years later, Craig returned as Bond in Quantum Of Solace, another big global hit that earned mostly positive reviews.

Then came Skyfall in 2012.  When all was said and done, Craig’s third venture as Bond was not only his most commercially successful picture to date, it’s also the biggest 007 movie ever madeCritics loved it, as well.  Adele shared an Oscar for writing its theme song.  With at least four more Bond films in the works, despite all that initial grief he received from antsy moviegoers and the prickly media (Britain’s Daily Mirror prematurely knocked him as “James Bland” back in 2005), he’s having the last laugh.

Take notes, Mr. Affleck.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 24, 2013
8:52 p.m.

CORRECTION:  I originally stated that Quantum Of Solace was released three years after Casino Royale.  Wrong.  It was actually two.  Solace was released in 2008, not 2009.  The correction has now been made to the original text.  My apologies for the mistake.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
2:01 a.m.

Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm  Comments (2)  

Sophia Bush’s Lack Of Concern For Persecuted Gay Patriots

For years now, actress/activist Sophia Bush has been a major champion of the LGBT community.  Need proof?  Just look at her official Twitter account.  When she’s not sparring with opponents of gay marriage or gay rights in general, she’s voicing her full-throated support for LGBT victims of crime & injustice and celebrating many moments of triumph they achieve on the long road to full equality.  When she lectures people about being on the right side of history, in this case, she’s right.

So, why hasn’t she said a word about Bradley Manning?  The former American army analyst was officially sentenced today to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents (plus a video) to WikiLeaks, the adversarial website dedicated to holding global governments accountable since much of the media can’t be bothered.  The heroic whistleblower’s tragic farce of a court-martial (he also loses all future pay & benefits and is now dishonourably discharged from the military) got scant coverage on cable news channels and not nearly enough in mainstream newspapers (although journalists like Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gozstola and the Freedom Of The Press Foundation relentlessly documented the proceedings online).

Manning was deeply troubled by what he experienced in Iraq, particularly the lack of concern for civilians harmed and killed by the American military.  When he tried to speak up about it to his superiors and fellow soldiers, no one cared.  Before he made his decision to leak to WikiLeaks, he initially tried getting The New York Times and The Washington Post to listen.  They didn’t care, either.

And, judging by her complete silence on the matter, neither does Sophia Bush.  Which is odd because Manning is gay/transgendered.  You would think that fact alone would warrant Ms. Bush’s interest.  You would be wrong.  You would also think that because Manning was psychologically tortured for much of the first year he spent in custody (which only stopped because of a public outcry), this blatant violation of the Eighth Amendment would also inspire some kind of a public comment from her.  Again, you would be wrong.

So why the lack of outrage?  Only Ms. Bush knows for sure but my guess would be that defending Manning would strongly conflict with her undying love and support for her hero, the “unicorn” President Obama.  (In this recent interview, she says she’s worked with him and the First Lady “on a few [unspecified] things.”  I bet none of them involved transparency.) Despite claiming that she’s been disappointed with his first term (she put most of the blame on Republican obstructionism, however, as if he has no other way to work around that) and even admitting to me on Twitter that he isn’t perfect (so harsh), when has she ever uttered a single, substantial criticism about the 44th President of The United States?  Has there ever been a peep of protest about drones, Gitmo, the drug war, secret mass surveillance, the war on whistleblowers, the war on the press, his plan to drill in the melting Arctic and the dirty wars being fought far away from Congressional oversight in numerous countries in Africa and The Middle East?  If there is, I’ve haven’t seen it, read it or heard it.

But back to my point.  For all the kindness and warmth she freely shows for the LGBT community generally, where is the kindness and warmth for Bradley Manning specifically?  Is it because he exposed the lies of this administration (and the previous one), not to mention countless war crimes, that she is indifferent to his cause?  Is stubbornly supporting a disappointingly heartless, gutless, lying Obama preferable to her than the humble, courageous decency and honesty of Manning?  Put simply, is a man who exposes war crimes less worthy of support than a man who commits them and covers them up?

Also curious is her lack of comment on Glenn Greenwald, the openly gay journalist who has led the way in reporting the shocking secrets of the American surveillance state, a subject he’s been writing about for years.  Earlier this week, Greenwald’s husband, Brazilian David Miranda, who often assists him in his work, was on his way back home from a trip to Germany to visit filmmaker Laura Poitras, a fellow collaborator on the NSA beat, when he made a pit stop in Britain.  (He was in Berlin to retrieve materials for The Guardian journalist.)  Unfortunately, he was flagged and not allowed to board his connecting flight.  Then, he was grilled by the Heathrow Airport police for nearly nine hours about his association with Greenwald and the NSA stories he’s been writing.  He also had all his electronics confiscated and had to give up passwords or be thrown in jail.

How were they able to do this?  Easy.  Through a section of The 2000 British Terrorism Act, a supremely broad law which allows them to detain and question “suspicious” passengers who have very little due process rights.  Anyway, after Greenwald wrote about it on The Guardian website, it has become a major worldwide scandal, most notably in Britain where a injunction has been filed on Miranda’s behalf to retrieve the confiscated items and prevent any public official from retrieving the data contained within (which probably can’t happen away because much of it is encrypted).  As the world hopes to get answers from David Cameron’s increasingly authoritarian government on the embarrassing episode, there’s also a growing British political movement to re-examine the BTA.

But does Sophia Bush say a word about any of this?  Does she show any concern for an innocent gay man detained and interrogated by the British authorities for reasons not at all to do with terrorism in order to send a sinister message to another innocent gay man, a respected journalist highly critical of both the American and British federal governments?  Keep dreaming.  Honestly, is she not taken aback by the fact that the Obama administration was well aware of what was going on and apparently approved?  Is that the kind of President you support, Ms. Bush?  One who intimidates and persecutes whistleblowers & journalists (gay or straight) and their loved ones because they care about criminal actions committed by your hero’s administration and want justice for them?  Then again, you defended Lance Armstrong up until last summer, so the answer must be yes.

You know what, carry on fighting the good fight against Vladimir Putin’s ruthless anti-gay campaign in Russia and keep defending gay marriage and the LGBT community in general.  I wholeheartedly support you in doing all of that.  But at the same time, maybe you should think about defending Bradley Manning, David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald, as well.  Otherwise, you look awfully selective about which gay folks you stand by.

I mean, if Lady Gaga can voice her welcome concern for Manning, why can’t you?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, August 22, 2013
2:17 a.m.

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 2:17 am  Comments (3)  

SummerSlam 2013 Predictions (Part Two)

World Heavyweight Championship:  Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian

Since his unexpected heel turn at Payback after regaining the WHC from Dolph Ziggler, this Mexican superstar has never been more viciously compelling.  After finally splitting with longtime personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez (who he brutally beat down on Raw last week after an accidental screw-up cost his boss a match), he can finally shine all on his own.  Captain Charisma won a very good triple threat number one contender’s match against Randy Orton and Rob Van Dam on Smackdown to earn this long sought after opportunity.

Oddly, Del Rio and Christian have already squared off in a 20-minute non-title match on last week’s Smackdown with the challenger cleanly pinning the belt holder.  And lest we forget, Christian won this title in a ladder match against the second generation superstar at Extreme Rules 2011 with a little help from Edge (who had just retired as champion after being told he would never be cleared to wrestle again due to severe injuries.)

Also, on the most recent edition of Raw, a career retrospective video package was shown of Christian’s entire time in WWE which ties in with the whole “one more match” theme that is now two years old.  Does this mean Edge’s best friend is thinking of hanging up the boots regardless of what happens on Sunday?  And then there’s the Ricardo factor.  What role will he play in this encounter?

This is a hard one to predict because there are so many plausible finishes, one of which involves the possibility of Damien Sandow cashing in his WHC MITB contract on whoever is the champion.  Del Rio is generating far more interest as a heel right now than he ever did as a babyface which isn’t entirely his fault.  (He was atrociously booked at the start of it and never fully recovered.)  However, this is his second WHC run this year and it might be time to drop the title already.  (I suspect he’ll be wrestling his former ring announcer for a while.)

Meanwhile, I’m wondering what the bookers have planned for Christian short-term.  Is this an unbilled retirement match, win, lose or draw, hence that aforementioned video package?  Or is this leading to a longer title push which would make up for his two extremely short title runs two years ago?

Here’s what I think will happen.  Rodriguez will screw his former boss, costing him the title.  But then Del Rio will take out his frustrations on the new champion leaving him quite vulnerable.  Out comes Damien Sandow with the briefcase.  He cashes in.  But out of nowhere, Cody Rhodes interferes costing him his surefire opportunity to win the title, setting up a possible Triple Threat or even Fatal 4-Way for Night Of Champions.

Prediction:  Christian wins the World Heavyweight Championship by pinfall and survives a cash-in from Damien Sandow to retain.


CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar

He was on the verge of making history.  During the all-star MITB match last month, CM Punk was about to grab his unprecedented third suitcase guaranteeing him another crack at the WWE title.  But his longtime friend and adviser Paul Heyman put a quick stop to that.  The result?  Oh, about a dozen staples in Punk’s head and a seriously wounded pride.  Now out for revenge, especially after the former ECW founder sent out his no-necked goon Brock Lesnar to deliver an F5 to him on Raw, the stage is set for The Straight Edge Superstar to prove to Heyman that The Best can slay The Beast.

Hands down, this has been the most entertaining storyline heading into Sunday night.  Superb mic work by all three, tremendously exhilarating physical interactions and most importantly, solid logic.  When Punk returned to face Chris Jericho at Payback in June, Heyman almost cost him the match.  The next night on Raw he told him they were still friends but he would handle business on his own.  Clearly hurt, Heyman ordered Lesnar to do his dirty work.  Then, after lying about it, he screwed him at Money In The Bank.

I’m actually surprised this one doesn’t have some kind of a stipulation like a No DQ or a Falls Count Anywhere deal.  (Brutality should be the only item on this menu.)  That said, even in this sometimes stifling PG environment, both men are more than capable of telling a good story within those limitations.

Unless a follow-up booking is in the works, expect The Best In The World to get his revenge.

Prediction:  CM Punk wins by pinfall.

WWE Championship:  John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan with Special Guest Referee Triple H

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you.  WWE Champion John Cena steps in the ring with the hottest babyface in the company to defend his title in front of a potentially hostile crowd in the second biggest pay-per-view of the year.  Officiating the match is a former foe.  Watching in the background hoping to take advantage of any potential vulnerability is the holder of the red Money In The Bank briefcase.

It sounds like I’m describing the main event of this year’s SummerSlam but I’m actually talking about SummerSlam 2011.  At the time, CM Punk was also the WWE Champion who had temporarily left the company after winning the title from Cena at MITB.  After Rey Mysterio won a tournament to become the new champion on Raw, he granted Cena a rematch that same night which led to another title change.  Punk returned right after that victory with his belt and a unification bout was soon set.

Who was the special guest referee for their rematch?  Triple H.

Alberto Del Rio would find an opportunity after the controversial finish, thanks to Kevin Nash’s sneak attack on Punk, to cash in his red MITB briefcase to become the new undisputed WWE Champion.

This year, it’s Daniel Bryan replacing Punk and Randy Orton replacing Del Rio, but all the other elements remain the same which makes one wonder if we’re in for a repeat performance.

Here’s why I don’t think it will actually happen.  One, it’s too obvious.  Two, Bryan is ready to be the champion for more than just a few seconds.  Three, it’s too soon for Orton to cash in.  (He hasn’t fully transitioned into a heel just yet.)  There may be a tease like we saw on Raw recently but…anyway, think about this.  While putting the belt on Orton right after Cena loses would no doubt earn him incredible heat it would also remind fans of Bryan’s shockingly quick loss to Sheamus for the WHC at WrestleMania 28.  That moment officially began the “Yes!” chant mania that remains to this day.  Put simply, it meant that the audience was rejecting the WWE’s decision to book Bryan so weakly.  Thankfully, the loss didn’t affect his standing one iota.  In fact, thanks to his program with Punk and his tag title run with Kane, he became an even bigger star.

Smart promoters listen to the people.  Certainly, the LA crowd will be red hot for this match (the champion and challenger have performed brilliantly on the microphone to hype it) and it will be a golden opportunity for Bryan to achieve the same dream his friend CM Punk realized two years ago at Money In The Bank.

The question is how will he win?  Three words:  The Yes Lock.

Prediction:  Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship by submission.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, August 15, 2013
1:07 a.m.

UPDATE:  First, the good news.  I correctly predicted that Bray Wyatt would beat Kane, that Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn would triumph over Big E. Langston & AJ Lee and that Daniel Bryan would win the WWE title (although I wrongly said The Beard would do it by submission rather than the actual pinfall that happened).  Pretty much everything else I got completely wrong.  Alberto Del Rio retained his World Heavyweight Championship, Brock Lesnar beat CM Punk in a No Disqualification match (which means this feud will continue which I foolishly didn’t anticipate; I thought this was a one-and-out deal), Cody Rhodes defeated his former friend Damien Sandow, and Natalya went over Brie Bella (I was expecting a Double DQ).  Now, even though Rob Van Dam won by Disqualification against Dean Ambrose (which I didn’t predict), The Shield leader did retain the United States title (which I did), so I’m counting that one.  Also dead wrong was my assertion that Randy Orton wouldn’t cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase on Daniel Bryan because I felt it was too obvious.  Thanks to Bryan being screwed by Triple H, he did.  Once again, the WWE fucks over a shining star in his deserved moment of triumph and for what?  Yet another Orton title run?  Blech.  Anyway, all in all, I went 4 for 8.  This is such an awful score for me, it might be time to consider quitting making another prediction ever again.  And that includes the Oscars.  What a shameful performance on my part.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, August 18, 2013
11:10 p.m.

Published in: on August 15, 2013 at 1:07 am  Comments (1)  

SummerSlam 2013 Predictions (Part One)

Pre-show match:  United States Championship – Dean Ambrose vs. Rob Van Dam

On the August 12th edition of Raw, Mr. Monday Night won a 20-man battle royal to become the number one contender to this once important B-title.  Despite being held by The Shield leader, it’s still rarely defended on free TV.  The temperature has cooled a bit for The Hounds Of Justice overall which explains their recently lowered profiles.  In fact, this is the second consecutive pay-per-view where a Shield member is wrestling on the Internet pre-show.  Nevertheless, this is a pretty good match-up that would’ve probably generated a lot more interest if it wasn’t so belatedly booked.

Since his return at Money In The Bank, Van Dam has been a frequent performer on the WWE’s weekly prime-time shows and he remains an electrifying babyface performing the same kinds of moves that garnered him so much respect in the first place.  But because his return isn’t full-time and he really doesn’t need a championship push at this stage of his career, his placement here is likely to keep Dean Ambrose relevant in the eyes of the fans.  I can’t imagine a screwy finish so expect the champion to go over cleanly (probably with his front DDT finisher) without the help of his teammates.

Prediction:  Dean Ambrose retains the United States Championship by pinfall.


Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow

At last month’s Money In The Bank, this second generation mid-carder was on the verge of snatching the blue suitcase when he was mercilessly thrown off the ladder by his best friend, The Duke Of Decency, who went on to retrieve it for himself.  Feeling betrayed, he has since dissolved their tag team and attacked his former partner on a number of occasions.  Then on Smackdown, he actually stole the briefcase and threw it in The Gulf Of Mexico.  Despite giving back the damaged reward to The Emperor Of Enlightenment on Raw, a new briefcase was commissioned with a brand new contract for The Intellectual Saviour Of The Masses to cash in for a future World Heavyweight Championship opportunity.  One attempt on Smackdown has already been thwarted by his former best friend.

Even before this split, there were signs that Team Rhodes Scholars were not going to last.  Rhodes and Sandow at one point had agreed to go their separate ways amicably before being unceremoniously put back together again.  And there were a couple of subtle miscues in some TV matches that led to losses both as a team and individually.  When I made my MITB predictions last month, I even suggested the idea of Sandow winning the blue briefcase by screwing over his partner despite picking Wade Barrett as the winner (which, of course, turned out to be wrong).

But more important is the lack of logic in this storyline.  Cody Rhodes did a guest commentary stint on Raw recently where he admitted that if the roles were reversed at MITB, he would’ve done the same thing Damien Sandow did to him.  So, why is he acting like a sore loser and why should anyone root for him?

To think, all of this could have been avoided if the writers had come up with a better hook like this one:  Book the two men in a backstage segment or an in-ring promo exchange.  Have Sandow suggest that if one of them is close to getting the briefcase, the other will not interfere and let him retrieve it.  They shake on it.  Then, when Sandow tosses Rhodes during the actual match, he has a legitimate reason to be pissed.  His best friend broke his word to him.  And Sandow can call him a sucker for believing his offer was ever serious to begin with.

Or how about this scenario?  Rhodes graciously congratulates Sandow on his MITB victory.  But Sandow turns into a sore winner, ruthlessly mocks his friend for not getting the job done and tells him he doesn’t need him anymore.  Either of these two approaches is better than what the writers actually came up with on their own.

At any event, how will this one play out?  Curiously, this isn’t a ladder match for the briefcase.  It’s just a regular one-on-one encounter which makes absolutely no sense.  (Rhodes wants the briefcase, so why doesn’t he get a shot at it?)  Nonetheless, it’s hard to want to see Rhodes get his revenge when he hasn’t been resonating as a babyface, which is a shame because he’s a good worker and one of the better talkers in the company, and my sympathies lie with Sandow who is a hilariously snotty villain.  I suspect shenanigans here and a follow-up match or two so let’s go with the villain, which is my preference, anyway.

Prediction:  Damien Sandow wins by pinfall with shenanigans.

Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E. Langston & AJ Lee

In a booking that is more suitable for free TV than pay-per-view, the tired aftermath of the Dolph Ziggler/AJ Lee split drags on in this mixed tag team match.  Neither The Show-Off (who needs a new gimmick) and Langston (who doesn’t need AJ) really benefit in any way from this.  And considering the number of times the Divas Champion has already bested her former tag team partner in title matches, I’m not sure anyone really cares or believes that Kaitlyn can win it back.  Nevertheless, surely this encounter will mark the end of this program.  Since I have to pick a winner, I’ll go with the ‘faces.

Prediction:  Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn win by pinfall.


Natalya vs. Brie Bella

The least anticipated match of the show.  Yet another belated booking during the final week of building, this only exists because of Total Divas, the phony E! show I’m happy not to watch.  While I always appreciate Natalya slapping the hell out of one of the most annoying people in wrestling today, this is a lousy story to be saddled with.  Jim Neidhart’s daughter is a tremendous worker and deserves an angle worthy of her talents.  In fact, one wonders why she’s not facing AJ for the Divas title.  At least it would be different.

At any event, I don’t see a winner here.  Because The Funkadactyls will be in the babyface’s corner and Nikki Bella and newcomer Eva Marie will be supporting the heel, and because all roads lead to a six-woman tag match on the very next Raw, expect a quick match that ends in a useless brawl.

Prediction:  Double disqualification.


Ring Of Fire Match:  Kane vs. Bray Wyatt

The repackaged Husky Harris has done stellar mic work since moving from NXT to Raw just a short while ago.  Now a bearded, messianic, Southern cult leader, as opposed to just being Nexus muscle a few years ago, with two bearded followers under his demented tutelage, the third generation star (he’s the son of Mike Rotundo and the grandson of Blackjack Mulligan) has already been given a decent feud with The Devil’s Favourite Demon.

After his protégés, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, attacked Kane after a match he had on Raw, the Big Red Monster was pulled from the all-star Money In The Bank match.  Now fully recovered, he’s challenged the Eater Of Worlds to a Ring Of Fire match which, incidentally, is not the same as an Inferno Match.  No one will need to be burned in order to lose.  Instead, the two combatants will step in the ring while surrounded by fire which will keep them inside the squared circle while simultaneously keeping Harper and Rowan away from the action.

Wyatt has yet to have a proper match since returning to the main roster so, barring some unforeseen circumstances, it’s not likely he’ll lose his pay-per-view debut.

Prediction:  Bray Wyatt wins by pinfall.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, August 15, 2013
12:43 a.m.

Published in: on August 15, 2013 at 12:43 am  Comments (1)  

Sinister

Ellison Oswalt is a desperate man.  He once topped the New York Times Bestseller list with his acclaimed true crime novel, Kentucky Blood.  But that was a decade ago.  Since then, his follow-up efforts have completely tanked, one of which hurt his credibility.  Now a married man with two kids, he needs a big hit more than ever.  Otherwise, it’s back to editing college textbooks.

So, on a hunch, he decides to move his family into a dirt cheap residence.  Why?  It’s the sight of an unsolved massacre.  The trail has gone cold and he wants to know why.

That’s the intriguing premise of Sinister, a surprisingly effective thriller released just before Halloween last year.  Ethan Hawke is very good as the singularly driven Ellison, a man so hungry for another shot at mainstream accolades he’s willing to put both himself and his devoted loved ones in an incredibly dangerous situation, one he does not fully comprehend.

On moving day, Ellison finds a box filled with Super 8 movies and a projector up in the attic of his new place.  (The family is keeping their old one for the time being since they can’t sell it just yet.) After setting up his private work space on the ground floor, he turns out the lights and starts watching them one by one on a white sheet against a wall.

Each one has an innocuous-sounding title like  “Pool Party ’86”, “Sleepy Time ’98” or “Barbeque ’79”, so screening them sounds like a complete waste of time.  Sure enough, each one starts off with a different, ordinary family doing typically ordinary things.  Not terribly inspiring to a hungry writer hoping for a return to glory.

But as Ellison lets each of these films roll on, something disturbing happens every time.  These exact same families are also seen being murdered in a variety of ways.  Drownings, arson, throat slashings.  No matter the method of execution, the startled author is appalled by what he sees.  (So are we.  These are well-directed sequences thankfully light on gore.)  No wonder he’s reaching for that whiskey bottle so early.

The backyard of his new residence is the only reason he’s now living here.  In one of the Super 8 movies, we watch in horror as four family members are hanged on a large tree branch found in that exact same backyard.  As is the case with all the other documented murders he witnesses, one child from each vanquished family is curiously missing from the footage.  Law enforcement has long given up trying to locate them as well as any possible suspects.

Speaking of the cops, Ellison doesn’t exactly have a great relationship with them as demonstrated in one crucial scene early on.  On moving day, he has a tense conversation with the local sheriff (the always sharp Fred Dalton Thompson) who lets him know in no uncertain terms that he won’t be helping him out with his new book.  Even though he admits admiring Kentucky Blood, he’s still pretty upset about the pummelling his profession took in Cold Denver Morning and Ellison’s botched theory in Blood Diner that negatively affected a murder investigation.  Perhaps it’s poetic justice that both titles flopped.

The sheriff is also offended that Ellison is in town living in this infamous house in the first place.  He’s concerned the ambitious author will reopen old wounds with his independent investigation.  But the determined author isn’t threatened by the strong criticism.  In fact, after seeing those home movies, he knows he’s on to something big and he can’t let go of it.

When he was planning to tell his family about all of this is another story altogether.  Meanwhile, his beautiful homemaker wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) is losing her patience, his 7-year-old artistic daughter, Ashley (Clare Foley), is homesick and his long-haired 12-year-old son, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario), continues to suffer from extremely frightening night terrors.  In one of the creepiest scenes in the movie, Ellison finds him contorted and screaming out of a cardboard box late one night.

What’s wrong with Trevor?  The kids at school have always teased him about his father’s writing.  The gory details of these real-life crime stories literally haunt him in his sleep.  (Poor kid.)  But that doesn’t deter Ellison in the slightest, especially since he’s made some unusual discoveries.  (He can just taste another bestseller here and he’s salivating over the crossover possibilities.)  In each Super 8 movie, he sees connections:  an odd symbol and a mysterious thing, not exactly human, that may be responsible for all this carnage.

But as he gets closer and closer to the truth, weird things start to happen.  He encounters a scorpion and a snake on separate trips to the attic.  Where did they come from?  He hears unexplained noises.  Who’s making them?  And how does that Super 8 projector keep playing that same backyard snuff film when he didn’t load it and his office door was locked at the time?

Clocking in at just under two hours, Sinister freaks you out right from the opening frame but never once rushes the narrative.  Unlike most modern horror films, it actually cares about its characters and is willing to put in the time to develop them in an interesting, relatable way.  (We really like Ellison’s wife and kids and feel for their situation.)  As a result, we are far more invested in their gradually intensifying dilemma.  Trust me, this movie earns its scares, the last one being the biggest (even if it is a bit of a cheat, when you really think about it).

The late Gene Siskel often complained that the movies could never make the process of writing entertaining.  It’s a reasonable criticism considering how so much of it goes unseen.  How exciting is it to see someone stare at a blank screen and then suddenly start typing when you don’t know what they’re thinking and why?

But because Ellison Oswalt is a true crime author, his process is more external.  In a routine he is more than used to by now, he becomes an amateur detective as he posts maps, photos and printed stills from the Super 8 movies, along with other pertinent information, on a bulletin board in his office.  He writes down questions, ponders others out loud to himself.  He consults Google, follows leads hoping they get him closer to the complete picture.  And he relies on a couple of helpful outsiders:  the sheriff’s deputy (a well cast James Ransone in a sometimes funny performance), a superfan of Kentucky Blood who isn’t always so swift but dutifully and secretly retrieves and passes on important information to him without his boss’ knowledge, and Professor Jonas (the easily convincing Vincent D’Onofrio in an unbilled appearance), an expert on the occult the author consults via Skype.

I’m sure there are those who will watch this film and wonder why Ellison & his family take forever to get out of that house.  It’s simple.  This man misses the spotlight his first book gave him more than anything else.  (Notice how many copies of his only hit he displays in his office and how in one scene he makes a point of staring at them to remind himself of where he used to be in the publishing food chain.)  He’s absolutely thirsting for the kind of acclaim that eluded him during the release of his less loved follow-ups.  (There are a couple of good scenes where he watches old TV interviews of himself during the Kentucky Blood publicity tour on VHS.)   So consumed is Ellison, he is more than willing to risk the health and safety of his own family just so he can relive the best time of his career.  Even when he does finally throw in the towel and they all move back to the old mansion, like a stubborn junkie at the end of his rope, he gets sucked right back in again hoping to catch the high from ten years before.

That stubborn, selfish insecurity is the reason he’s not so quick to walk away.  (He has too much to lose professionally.)  It’s why Ellison is so tolerant of increasingly intolerable things, why he fights with his wife about the true meaning of his legacy (he argues for his work, she argues for his family), why he’s willing to pay two mortgages simultaneously and why, despite finding it really difficult at times to watch those family snuff films, he soldiers on with his independent investigation of these depraved crimes.  Maybe he really cares about finding justice for the victims but the resurrection of his career is absolutely paramount.

No other genre is as dependent on a strong musical score as the horror genre and it’s clear that without Christopher Young’s off-kilter, eccentric mood pieces, Sinister would not live up to its title.  This is never more true then during the Super 8 scenes.  Young’s unorthodox compositions ramp up the creep factor of the overall film quite nicely.

If you’re looking for a smart, subtle, well-acted and genuinely disturbing horror film, forget The Purge.  Check out Sinister instead.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
6:37 p.m.

Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 6:37 pm  Comments (2)  

How Edward Snowden Destroyed The Obama Presidency

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama held a rare, hour-long news conference in the East Room of the White House.  Topics varied from the Republicans’ bizarre, unrelenting fixation with repealing the Affordable Care Act (40 unsuccessful attempts thus far) to the Administration’s strained relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps the most crucial moment came when Chuck Todd of NBC News rose to speak:

“Given that you just announced a whole bunch of reforms based on essentially the leaks that Edward Snowden made on all of these surveillance programs, does that change — is your mindset changed about him? Is he now more a whistle-blower than he is a hacker, as you called him at one point, or somebody that shouldn’t be filed charges? And should he be provided more protection? Is he a patriot? You just used those words.”

Obama’s lengthy answer was very revealing:

“I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot. As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks. My preference — and I think the American people’s preference — would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws; a thoughtful, fact-based debate that would then lead us to a better place, because I never made claims that all the surveillance technologies that have developed since the time some of these laws had been put in place somehow didn’t require, potentially, some additional reforms. That’s exactly what I called for.

So the fact is, is that Mr. Snowden’s been charged with three felonies. If in fact he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case.

If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time.

So there were other avenues available for somebody’s whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions. But having said that, once the leaks have happened, what we’ve seen is information come out in drips and in drabs, sometimes coming out sideways. Once the information is out, the administration comes in, tries to correct the record. But by that time, it’s too late or we’ve moved on.

And a general impression has, I think, taken hold, not only among the American public but also around the world, that somehow we’re out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody and doing what we please with it. Now, that’s not the case. Our laws specifically prohibit us from surveilling U.S. persons without a warrant. And there are whole range of safeguards that have been put in place to make sure that that basic principle is abided by.

But — but what is clear is that, whether because of the instinctive bias of the intelligence community to keep everything very close and probably what’s a fair criticism is my assumption that if we had checks and balances from the courts and Congress, that that traditional system of checks and balances would be enough to give people assurance that these programs were run properly. You know, that assumption I think proved to be undermined by what happened after the leaks.

I think people have questions about this program.

And so — so as a consequence, I think it is important for us to go ahead and answer these questions — what I’m going to be pushing the IC to do is rather than have a trunk come out here and a leg come out there and a tail come out there, let’s just put the whole elephant out there so people know exactly what they’re looking at, let’s examine what is working, what’s not, are there additional protections that can be put in place and let’s move forward.

And there’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board to go through — and I’d sat down with Congress and we had worked this thing through — it would have been less exciting and it would not have generated as much press — I actually think we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.”

Notice how he didn’t use the word “traitor” to describe NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.  Also notice how he eventually admitted, despite all his whining about the leaks, that Snowden’s actions allowed this public debate about mass surveillance to happen in the first place.  “[T]here’s no doubt,” he said.

Two months ago, when The Guardian first reported on what the NSA was actually doing, I declared that it was The End Of Obama.  Now, we have confirmation.  Unlike poor Bradley Manning, who is looking at the end of his freedom for also being a conscientious whistleblower, Snowden has outsmarted the National Security State.  He’s landed temporary political asylum in Russia despite having his passport revoked.  (He’s got up to a year to plot his next move.)  The Guardian and other news outlets continue to reveal astonishing details about the NSA’s never ending assault on the Fourth Amendment which continues to outrage many worldwide.  And despite initially vicious, unfair criticism by numerous media commentators and authoritarian government officials, most citizens support Snowden’s uncommon courage.  At this point, it’s hard to imagine a successful Espionage Act prosecution for someone many consider to be an honourable man.

But back to the press conference.  How has the media reacted to Obama’s latest comments?  Glenn Greenwald, one of a small number of Guardian journalists who has written original stories based on Snowden’s leaked documents, has helpfully collected a small sample of the response here.  Check out those headlines:  “Whistleblower Wins”, “Somewhere In Russia, Edward Snowden Is Smiling”, “Edward Snowden, Patriot”.

Let all of that sink in for a moment.  President Obama had just spent a considerable amount of time defending the actions of the intelligence community, offering possible legal reforms to limit its reach and even credited Snowden, albeit begrudgingly, for making it all possible.  The result:  more criticism.

For the first time that I can remember, the master orator has failed to dazzle with his words alone.  It’s not hard to see why.  We now have proof that he’s been lying about these secret surveillance programs and what they actually do.  And once you’re caught in a lie, it’s very difficult to regain trust.  Furthermore, this idea that Obama was going to bring up Prism and Boundless Informant and all these other needless, disturbingly named programs in an open environment to inspire a democratic debate amongst the citizenry and Congress before Snowden acted is so laughable even the constitutional lawyer, desperate to repair the permanent damage to his Presidency, can’t possibly believe what he’s saying.  There’s no way he’d pass a polygraph.

Also ridiculous is his assertion that if Snowden believes wholeheartedly in what he did he should come home to face the music.  Well, Bradley Manning didn’t run and looked what happened to him.  In fact, shortly after his arrest, Obama pretty much declared him guilty three years before military judge Col. Denise Lind did in a secretive sham of a court-martial.  Now he’s facing a possible maximum sentence of 90 years for exposing war crimes.  (Originally, it was 136 years.)  That doesn’t even include the nine months he was psychologically tortured while in military custody which only stopped because of a public outcry.  (Manning’s sentence hearing wraps up sometime next week.  He’s expected to make a statement.)

And what about these NSA “reforms” Obama proposed?  A transparency website?  A public advocate to argue against the government in the still-secret FISA court?   A civil liberties board?  As the Associated Press correctly noted, it’s all smoke and mirrors to try to appease an angry nation.  No matter what, Obama continues to give full-throated support to the NSA’s unconstitutional activities.  And he wants you to support them, too, so stop complaining about your privacy being violated!

Keep dreaming, Mr. President.  No matter what you say and what you pretend you’re going to do, you are not at all interested in changing the status quo.  (It’s not in your nature.)  And the public is increasingly not interested in having it maintained.  So you face a considerable dilemma:  continue to defend the indefensible while hounding whistleblowers like Snowden & Manning which will create even more critics or just walk away.

If I were you, I’d choose the latter.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 10, 2013
3:30 p.m.

Published in: on August 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Anthony Weiner’s Secret iPod Playlist

1. Big Ten-Inch Record (Aerosmith)

2. My Ding-A-Ling (Chuck Berry)

3. Spanked (Van Halen)

4. Cock In My Pocket (Iggy & The Stooges)

5. Pump It Up (Elvis Costello & The Attractions)

6. Slide It In (Whitesnake)

7. Me So Horny (2 Live Crew)

8. Pussy Power (Iggy Pop)

9. Great Balls Of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis)

10. You’re So Vain (Carly Simon)

11. Dick Opportunity (Dirty Penny)

12. Turning Japanese (The Vapors)

13. Mirror In The Bathroom (The Beat)

14. Walk On The Wild Side (Lou Reed)

15. The Streak (Ray Stevens)

16. Cream (Prince)

17. I Can’t Quit You Baby (Led Zeppelin)

18. Mirror Man (The Human League)

19. Emale (Prince)

20. Hangin’ On The Telephone (Blondie)

21. Infatuation (Rod Stewart)

22. Take A Picture (Filter)

23. Pictures Of You (The Cure)

24. I Touch Myself (Divinyls)

25. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (Billy Joel)

26. My Wife (The Who)

27. The Stroke (Billy Squier)

28. American Idiot (Green Day)

29. I Wanna Sex You Up (Color Me Badd)

30. Out Of Control (U2)

31. Gimme Danger (Iggy & The Stooges)

32. It’s Getting Better (The Beatles)

33. Delusional (Quicksand)

34. Lust For Life (Iggy Pop)

35. Here I Go Again (Whitesnake)

36. Yesterday Once More (The Carpenters)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, August 1, 2013
3:28 a.m.

UPDATE:  Two more just-discovered songs:

37. Can’t Stop (The Red Hot Chili Peppers)

38. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, August 1, 2013
6:08 p.m.

Published in: on August 1, 2013 at 3:28 am  Comments (1)