Maybe it’s the 11-year itch. Maybe it was a lack of enthusiasm and creativity. Maybe I was tweeting too much. Maybe I watched too many bad movies. Maybe I felt too bummed out about all those celebrity deaths and the endless wars on activists, Muslims, Black people, Indigenous people, journalists and whistleblowers. Or maybe I couldn’t think of anything original to say on a more prolific basis.
Whatever the reason, blogging in this space wasn’t a top priority for me in 2016. (I didn’t write anything for The Huffington Post.) As this depressing year of growing uncertainty and violent turmoil dragged on and on, postings became fewer and fewer. Weeks and weeks would go by without anything new to say. If not for Twitter, I wouldn’t have said anything at all.
But since The Writings Of Dennis Earl began in 2006, it has been a tradition to end the year with deep reflection and remembrance of everything that happened in this space. So here we are again looking back, only this time there’s very little to recap.
Like 2015, movie reviews were the dominant feature here. Despite screening more than 160 films, most of them lousy and not from 2016, I only wrote about 21 of them. As always, horror was a priority. In January, I finally watched the 2006 version of Black Christmas. I wasn’t impressed. (I later screened the original which was a huge disappointment.) During Easter weekend in late March, there were posted assessments of Orphan and the original Omen. I tried writing a review of the laughable Damien: Omen II but completely gave up after drafting only a few hundred words. In the end, I just couldn’t finish it so to the trash bin it went.
In April, I checked out the needlessly gory WWE production No One Lives, which is even worse than See No Evil. In May, after pretty much giving up on him after The Village, I was absolutely delighted by M. Night Shymalan’s The Visit, one of the better found footage entries. Genuinely scary and surprisingly funny, it’s his best film since Signs.
With the arrival of a new TV and my first Blu-ray player in June (thanks Mom and Dad!), it was on to The Prowler, one of the many slasher films from the early 1980s. Despite screening it on the best possible digital format to date, after its intriguing first two minutes, it quickly devolves into rather routine grisly business. That was quickly followed by Dolls which was worse. The month ended with critiques of the laughless, mostly unscary Zombie High and the depressing Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed which at least allowed me the opportunity to properly praise the cleverly satirical original which features a terrific performance by Emily Perkins.
In August, I subjected myself to the deliberately offensive Silent Night Deadly Night and its unintentionally hilarious sequel, which shamelessly recycles so much footage from its predecessor it takes up half its running time. The month ended with an evaluation of The Boy, a peculiar thriller from earlier this year with a weak twist. At least it tried to be different.
I enjoy a good comedy just as much as a good scarefest but as usual, I tortured myself with dreck this year. In March, I slammed The Wedding Ringer, Born In East LA and Identity Thief. Then, in April, I hammered the little-seen WWE production Bending The Rules featuring the retired Edge and the decidedly unsexy horndog fiasco The Last American Virgin which, to its credit, does have a decent soundtrack, one of its few redeeming qualities. Curiously, there were more laughs to be found in the Silent Night Deadly Night films and the Jean-Claude Van Damme breakthrough Bloodsport, even if they were unintentional.
Sometimes a film is so bad you have to write about it, even if it’s old. Five years after enjoying the original Death Wish, I finally sat down to watch all four sequels. There was something particularly egregious about Death Wish 3 that I just couldn’t keep my thoughts about it to myself. Death Wish: The Face Of Death, the fifth and final chapter, was a more typical sequel, bad but not extraordinarily so. Sadly, it was the last Charles Bronson film.
Movies you treasured as a child don’t always age well when you watch them as a mature adult. Such was the case with the badly outdated Tron and Masters Of The Universe. I suspect there’ll be more such disappointments in the near future. That said, I’m hoping to focus more on quality than quantity in 2017.
Speaking of disappointments, good Lord, is it just me or did a lot of famous people die in 2016, seemingly more so than usual? In an unproductive year, I only managed to eulogize two in this space. In January, like many around the world, I was genuinely jolted by the death of David Bowie. Few knew he was even dying of cancer, so when the news was announced late one night in the second week of the year on social media there was temporary disbelief. But when his son, the filmmaker Duncan Jones, confirmed the news, there was no more denial.
In recent years, I had been buying a good number of his CDs and thoroughly savouring them. When he released The Next Day in 2013, I was thrilled. It was his first album of new material in a decade, a tremendous return to form. While collecting some of his back catalogue I was missing, I got the 3-disc version of Nothing Has Changed, his most expansive greatest hits collection, for Christmas in 2014. This year, we got Blackstar and the soundtrack to his stage musical, Lazarus. Call me greedy but I want more Bowie. The only hope now is a whole slew of unreleased offerings in the coming years.
Prince was notorious for recording far more material than he ever released and when he died in April, besides wondering how he died, there was much speculation about what was being stored in his famous vault for all these years. Unlike Bowie, whose music I was continually gathering and absorbing, I hadn’t kept up with The Purple One’s latest output. I still pull out my copies of the Batman soundtrack and The Hits/The B-Sides and I’m still looking for The Gold Experience. But unlike Bowie, I wasn’t interested in catching up with his most recent ventures. The collective outpouring of grief for his sudden, unexpected passing is a testament to just how much of an impact he had on popular music in the 70s, 80s & 90s. Bowie and Prince will both be severely missed. History will regard them as titanic influences in their time and rightly so.
When Daniel Bryan retired from in-ring action in April, it was another sad moment for wrestling which is in a bit of a creative slump right now. But because he’s a decent talker and super over as a babyface he was able to become an on-air authority figure for Smackdown. He also co-hosts Talking Smack, the show that follows Smackdown that sometimes allows performers to break kayfabe. During one such broadcast, Bryan got into it with the InterContinental Champion The Miz who went ballistic over The Yes Man’s criticisms. When Bryan foolishly walked off the set as an infuriated Miz ranted, I wrote about what he should’ve said if he had decided to fight back. He should’ve listened to me. He would’ve won the argument.
The WWE Hall of Fame has honoured numerous iconic figures over the years but never the enhancement guys, the men paid to lose to make those same iconic figures look that much better. So, back in April, I recommended five possible inductees. I hope to make more recommendations in the new year.
Sometimes the best storylines in pro wrestling are accidents because the original plans fell through. That led to When Plan “A” Goes Awry: 5 Times WWE Got Lucky With Plan “B” Storylines.
For Hillary Clinton, her long coveted dream to become the first female President of the United States crashed and burned in the most eye-opening federal election of my lifetime. Convinced she could easily beat a highly unpopular brander with deeply held racist and sexist views and a history of sexual harassment and assault, she then proceeded to run an abysmal campaign that turned off a number of voters who supported Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders, she wasn’t.
As a result, starting January 20, 2017, we get President Stupid. Donald Trump’s Secret “Inspirational” Playlist was posted just before the election with the expectation that he was going to lose even though, as I noted to a friend on Twitter, there was a small part of me that still felt he could win. Curiously, at the start of the year, I wrote Donald Trump’s Secret Song Choices To Replace Hail To The Chief. I hope he goes with November Spawned A Monster.
As the election drew to a close, I thought about Trump’s longtime association with Howard Stern which became a major focal point throughout the campaign. That spawned Did Donald Trump Get His Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric From Howard Stern?, the only essay I wrote for this annoying election. In the satirical spirit of the above-mentioned playlist pieces came Rejected Donald Trump Brand Endorsements written mostly with a bad stomach ache while laying in bed.
As per usual around here, politics was a frequent theme for my poetry. The Answer Is Never was written from the point of view of an Apartheid Israel military official. American Gulag rails against Gitmo, an ongoing stain on America. Choke On Your Legacy levels President Obama’s heartless drone policy. The Arrogance Of Certainty takes aim at delusional political pundits, especially the ones who appear on CNN, who don’t know anything and pay no price for their stupidity.
Meanwhile, Fragile Entanglements is a sarcastic reference to being blocked by a young woman I was chatting with for a couple of years on Twitter. She had mentioned wanting to get her nipples pierced and I noted how brave that was and that my ex had one such piercing. I never heard from her again and can’t see her tweets without signing out. Honestly, I’m not missing anything. As you can tell from the poem, it totally broke me.
11 years ago, I met an older woman on Yahoo Messenger I almost met for casual sex but I had significant doubts and insecurities about her and so after much back and forth (I ghosted her three times), I eventually realized it was a bad idea and never talked to her again. (We never actually made firm plans to hook up, thankfully. We just talked about the possibility.) Having not thought about her for a while, I once again wondered if I made the right call. I’d already written a couple of poems about her in the past like Forever Haunted, for instance. Dancing On The Edge Of Desire resurrected my conflicting feelings about the whole matter. We haven’t spoken in 10 years. As I write this, though, I’m inclined to believe I was justified in my final decision. Why? Because I was never fully comfortable with the idea of being with someone I didn’t know very well who I had nothing in common with, who wasn’t sober, still mad at her ex-husband and didn’t seem to know what she actually wanted. When in doubt, go without, as the saying goes. The drought continues, unfortunately.
This idea of being seduced, especially by a more experienced lover like the one I almost met in real life, is very appealing to me which led to fictional works like The Antidote and Out Of The Ruins Of Endless Despair, the latter of which views a lustful glare as a way of restoring one’s humanity. Wheels On The Road uses the metaphor of car travel (with a Canada’s Worst Driver reference thrown in) as a means of escaping depression. No Invitation For Peace is about being trapped by your own dark thoughts even when you’re feeling positive and content. The first two lines in verse one had been sitting around for a long time before I finally figured out how to finish it. All I had to do was think about myself.
This past February, The Writings Of Dennis Earl reached a milestone. On the 19th, this website turned 10. In honour of this occasion, I reflected on a decade of blogging. Since the move from Windows Lives Spaces to WordPress in 2010, TWODE has been accessed over 180000 times. This year, for the first time since 2013, annual hits are down significantly. When 2016 ends, there should be barely 30000 hits. The last two years, thanks to a number of Huffington Post pieces, annual page views were closer to 40000.
I shouldn’t be too surprised. I didn’t write nearly as much this year, unfortunately, and I had nothing new to showcase on HuffPo. I’m hoping to make up for that in the new year.
Twitter is a completely different story. I have almost 800 followers and tweeted thousands of times. (By comparison, a little over a hundred readers directly follow this site.) Certain tweets can generate thousands of hits. If only my blog entries were as popular.
Speaking of that, it was older pieces that generated the most interest in 2016. 12 of the top 20 entries were Seinfeld trivia pieces, which were first unveiled in 2008 and 2013. Collectively, all the old Seinfeld postings generated more than 10000 hits, more than a third of the overall hit count this year.
The Gene Simmons Family Jewels essays continue to be well read as well. What’s Really Going On With Gene Simmons & Shannon Tweed? earned another 2000 hits bringing its overall total since 2011 to over 32000. It remains the most popular blog entry in this site’s entire history. Before 2016, it was the only piece to reach the 10000-hit plateau. Now, two more postings have done so, as well.
A 2012 anniversary entry on CM Punk’s famous 2011 “pipe bomb” promo on Raw earned over 3300 hits in 2016. Its overall total to date is just over 11000. And Interesting Things I Learned About The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld is just over 10300, thanks to an additional 2300 page views this year.
I don’t get a lot of feedback here for my work but when I do, it’s generally quite positive. The nicest comment of the year came from Vanilla Midget Pride who thoroughly enjoyed my CM Punk tribute from two years ago. A close second: fellow blogger Janna Michelle who enjoyed the conclusion of No Invitation For Peace. The best-named commenter: hands down, Bobby Butthole. You didn’t see the worst comment I received because I refused to allow its publication. Someone called Hillary Clinton a very nasty word (based on the wrong presumption that she would win) and I thought that was over the line.
So, once again, as another year fades into history, I find myself asking the same questions as always. Where do I go from here? Will I ever make a living as a writer? Am I doomed to be sexless forever? And is there a life for me outside my parents’ home?
Again, I don’t have any good answers. But what I do have is hope. God knows we’ll all need it when Trump becomes the President.
In the meantime, keep watching this space for new entries. I will try to write more in 2017.
Happy New Year, everybody.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016