50 Things I Loved About 2014

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt at the Royal Rumble.  Two stellar talents putting on a clinic in the first match of a pay-per-view that easily bested the disappointing WrestleMania 30.

2. Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ WWE Hall of Fame induction speech.  Poignant, cathartic, painfully honest & even funny.  A much deserved honour for a superior ring psychologist.  Thanks for “masturbating our emotions”.

3. Coldplay’s Ghost Stories.  Who knew a “conscious uncoupling” would lead to a lovely set of tunes?

4. Rob Ford is no longer the Mayor of Toronto & Doug Ford is no longer on Toronto City Council.

5. Dylan Farrow’s powerful statement on the New York Times website against her estranged father & childhood abuser, Woody Allen.  It opened up a wide ranging public conversation about sexual assault & the celebrity assailants who often get away with it.

6. The executive summary of the CIA torture report was finally released after multiple delays.  Despite excessive redactions, its shocking revelations should inspire worldwide pressure to prosecute all guilty parties, past and present, even though the Obama Administration is very reluctant to do so themselves, the fucking depraved cowards.

7. Bruce Springsteen’s long awaited studio recording of American Skin (41 Shots).  His timing couldn’t have better.  The song of the year.

8. Germany won the World Cup for the 4th time while defending 2010 champions Spain didn’t even get out of their own group.

9. Jian Ghomeshi & Bill Cosby were finally exposed for the serial predators they’ve secretly always been for decades.  More proof that “nice guy” images are powerfully deceptive.  May their many victims finally get justice after all these decades.

10. Glenn Greenwald’s thoroughly frightening No Place To Hide.  The book of the year.

11. The ending of the final Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.  Very funny homages to The Drew Carey Show, Newhart & The Sopranos.

12. “We’ll Meet Again”, the charming, strangely moving celebrity sing-a-long from the last Colbert Report.  The fake conservative pundit character might be resting in a coffin somewhere but the lid isn’t sealed.

13. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 30.  The match of the year.  The post-match steel chair beatdown by H on Bryan’s arm was brutality at its finest.

14. Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, his 4th such title, at that same event.  Despite a slow start, the Triple Threat match with Randy Orton & Batista ultimately evolved into an entertaining main event featuring the pinnacle of the most unlikely babyface superstar of all time.  The right guy went over that night.

15. Interpol’s El Pintor.  Still plumbing the darkness for sexual release, this time without Carlos D.  Let’s not take another four years for album number six, ok guys?

16. Being asked to become a Huffington Post Contributor.  Seven posted pieces, thus far, with hopefully many more to come.  Talk about a big career break.  If only it was a paying gig.

17. Robyn Doolittle’s Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story.  Just a small, fascinating taste of the insanity that is the Ford Family, plus a revealing look at how a difficult series of stories came together at The Toronto Star.  I’d love to see a sequel.  God knows there’s more than enough material for one.

18. Canada’s performance at the Winter Olympics.  Winning 25 medals four years after winning a record-setting 26 in Vancouver is pretty god damn impressive.

19. The eruption sequence in Pompeii.  Too bad the rest of the film isn’t as fun to watch.

20. U2’s Songs Of Innocence, the two-disc version.  There’s still plenty of vitality flowing through these middle aged bodies.

21. Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End.  The record Blue Album fans have been waiting 20 years to hear.  Rivers Cuomo’s voice hasn’t aged a day & he still has a trunkful of catchy melodies to share with the world.

22. Green Day is going into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year.  Fuck you, Johnny Rotten.

23. The astonishing fall of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  What took so long?

24. Invisible Children is on the verge of extinction.  You won’t be missed, phony White Savours.  Kony 2012 was an absolute fucking failure.

25. The #BlackLivesMatter movement.  The spirit of Martin Luther King lives on in a peaceful yet rightfully pissed off community tired of systemic mistreatment & disrespect by governments & law enforcement.  May they succeed in their ongoing quest for real change.  A tip of the hat as well to protesting fast food workers, Canada’s native community for demanding an inquiry into missing women & girls as well as fighting against the construction of new gas & oil pipelines and Palestinians for fighting their evil Israeli occupiers.  Righteous, moral courage is contagious.  May we all catch it.

26. Sloan’s Commonwealth.  More melodic elegance from The Canadian Beatles.

27. Belle Knox.  Smart, honest, defiant, ballsy & incredibly sexy.  After being outed by an asshole schoolmate at Duke University, she made the absolute most of a scary situation.  An excellent writer whose young voice will only grow stronger & smarter over time.  She’s also very sweet.

28. Mr. T’s hilarious yet completely sincere WWE Hall of Fame speech, an incredible tribute to his mom.  He shouldn’t have been cut off, though.  Let the man get all his thoughts out, for Christ’s sake.

29. CNN’s explosive reports on Veteran Affairs hospitals in the US shamefully covering up long waiting lists for patients, an uncomfortable reminder that governments still don’t give a shit about the damaged people who implement their heartless & failed foreign policies.  Drew Griffin deserves much praise for his dogged work.

30. Edward Snowden’s prime time interview with NBC’s Brian Williams.  He is the strongest, living reason to impeach President Obama.

31. The continuing bombshell reports on the NSA’s illegal, immoral mass surveillance programs.  Snowden’s whistleblowing continues to reverberate around the world.  Keep sweating, President Obama.

32. Recreational marijuana became legally available for sale in Oregon & Washington State.  The beginning of the end of the war on pot.  How much longer before everyone wants a piece of this lucrative action?

33. Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL.  If only he had beaten up little kids & grown women, he’d be on a team right now.

34. The Intercept.  Finally rolling with regular updates, it’s the best new news site out there right now.  Fiercely adversarial & consistently revelatory.  Glenn Greenwald was absolutely right to leave The Guardian for this venture.

35. Kim Kardashian’s beautiful bare ass.  I like big butts & I cannot lie.

36. Damien Mizdow, The Miz’ stunt double.  Hilarious, despite being somewhat of a comedown from “The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses” gimmick.  On the plus side, however, he’s finally gotten a title push.

37. Big Wreck’s Ghosts.  Yes, Ian Thornley can scream like Chris Cornell but that’s part of the appeal.  Nearly 20 years after In Loving Memory Of…, they can still bring the rock.

38. Lana Del Rey’s inescapably dreamy West Coast.  I finally get it.

39. Police in Holland arrested a man they believed shamed & tormented Amanda Todd online to the point of suicide.  As CBC’s The Fifth Estate revealed, there are dozens more victims in multiple countries including Canada.  It is such a shame his arrest couldn’t have happened much sooner.  Todd may very well still be alive.  God knows it was possible.  But in a story full of so much tragedy, this very positive development may finally get us closer to understanding the full truth.

40. Antonio Cesaro bodyslamming The Big Show over the top rope to win the first ever Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30.  Also, the handshake at the end was classy.  The Swiss Superman should’ve turned ‘face that night, one of the many fuck-ups the WWE made in 2014.

41. Barack Obama apologist Sophia Bush is still blocking me on Twitter, 18 months and counting.  My second proudest writing achievement next to becoming a Huffington Post Contributor.

42. Edward Snowden was given permission to stay in Russia for three more years, far away from the corrupt tentacles of Obama’s evil National Security State.  Plus, his girlfriend is now living with him.  Suck on that, Michael Hayden, you lying, spying, torturing, bald piece of shit.

43. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s numerous, growing political scandals including the now infamous George Washington Bridge closing.  May his political reputation continue to take the critical beating that it deserves.

44. Eric Cantor surprisingly lost a primary and resigned from Congress.  Now he can enjoy all the Britney Spears concerts he wants.

45. Eric Holder announced his forthcoming resignation as Attorney General.  His legacy will be decidedly mixed.  His constant hounding of whistleblowers & journalists, James Risen in particular, should not be forgotten or forgiven.

46. Egypt’s sham “justice system” which punishes critics, members of the Muslim Brotherhood & journalists doing their jobs like the Al Jazeera Three, & Obama’s continued financing of it.  Disgraceful on so many levels.

47. Lenny Kravitz’ Strut, which features some of his sexiest & most soulful arrangements.  Glad he’s still rocking out.  It’s not fair that he’s better looking than me, though.

48. Rachel Nichols’ welcome, adversarial grilling of serial woman beater Floyd Mayweather on CNN.  I wish every journalist treated him like the disgusting misogynist that he is.  Iron Mike Gallego’s stinging round-up of his criminal acts on DeadSpin deserves high praise, as well.

49. Sheldon Cooper telling his girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler that he loves her for the first time, then kicking her out of his bedroom because girls aren’t allowed in there on The Big Bang Theory.  Perfect.

50. Eugenie Bouchard & Milos Raonic’s grand slam breakthroughs.  How long before either of them take home a major championship for Canada?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 29, 2014
3:06 a.m.


Overlooked Quotes From Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982 (Part Three)

35. “I was too nervous to actually be aroused by the occasional lurid activity happening onscreen.  [Ghomeshi & some high school pals snuck in to see the R-rated Cat People in a Toronto multiplex after paying tickets to see something else.]  But I saw this as an opportunity for education.  It was all about sex.  I was committed to discovering more about sex.  And I wanted to be old enough to watch Cat People [You had to be 18 & over to see it in Canada.  Ghomeshi was 15 at the time of its theatrical release.]…And I had increasingly become preoccupied with girls.”
(Chapter 11, p.234)

36. “The truth is, seeing Wendy with another guy was strangely liberating.  It sanctioned a whole new world of carnal possibilities for me.  It allowed me to follow my libido with no reservations…Wendy had been a tremendous romantic aspiration for me…But Wendy had never really been a sexual fantasy.  Not once.  I really didn’t want to have sex with Wendy.  I wanted to be with Wendy.  And in my early teens, those were two very different desires.

Sometimes you could have a dream girl and not want to have sex with her.”
(Chapter 11, p.238)

37. “If there was one thing I was definitely interested in by the time I hit Grade 9, it was sex.  And girls.  Any girls.  And now my heart had some sort of free pass.”
(Chapter 11, p.239)

38. “Kim Inglewood and I had stripped naked at her house [when we were Grade 8 students], and I had pursued a forensic fascination with her chest.  I stared at her breasts with a mixture of excitement and curiosity and then tried to caress them in a seductive way that would turn her on.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I remember looking up to see a befuddled expression on Kim Inglewood’s face as she stared at me staring at her naked breasts…I’m not really sure she really enjoyed it.  Kim Inglewood and I never really said that much to each other.  But I liked her.  Or at least, I liked her breasts…Part of the problem was that I didn’t have the benefit of pornography.  That might have helped.”
(Chapter 11, p.239)

39. “…we had pornography, it existed, but it was virtually inaccessible to kids.  This was a real liability.  Without porn, how were we supposed to learn how sex was done?  Of course, pornography was often sexist, exploitative, patriarchal, and full of the wrong messages about human relationships and intimacy.”
(Chapter 11, p.240)

40. “Benny was a thirteen-year-old reading this stuff [used Penthouse books purchased from a neighbour’s garage sale] to a bunch of eleven-year-olds [including Ghomeshi].  I never quite understood what I was supposed to be experiencing when I listened to Benny read tales from Sex Takes A Holiday, but I know it was exciting.  It was also illicit and somehow very wrong.  That made it more exciting.”
(Chapter 11, pgs.243-4)

41. “Starting in 1980, I would host sleepovers at my place on Friday nights…we would turn on our console TV with the volume very low and quietly watch the [softcore Baby Blue] movies on channel 79 [Citytv] in our sleeping bags.  Sometimes there was snickering.  Sometimes there was silence.  Sometimes there were other sounds.”
(Chapter 11, p.244)

42. “Paula Silverman helped me learn the ropes when it came to some mutual sexual exploration in Grade 9.  By ‘learn the ropes’, I mean she allowed me to grope her.  And she groped back…”
(Chapter 11, p.251)

43. “You see, the good news about high school is that, for the most part, over the course of your time there, things get better.  That is, you get older.  And as you get older and move into the higher grades, there are waves of young new recruits who enter the school and struggle to build their courage and get their bearings the way you once did.  So you can look at the younger students and laugh at them, and then you feel better about yourself.  That is what high school is ultimately designed for:  laughing at others to feel better.”
(Chapter 12, pgs.260-1)

44. “My crush on Janelle felt strangely mature.  I felt little of the nervousness and insecurity that had come with Wendy.  On one of our first occasions alone in the hallways of Thornlea, I had spontaneously kissed Janelle on the lips outside the photography room.  I remember her looking quite shocked and commenting on how I had some gall to do such a thing…soon we were seeing each other regularly.”
(Chapter 12, p.262)

45. “Janelle…was what others would see as an ideal partner.  But we didn’t actually become boyfriend and girlfriend…At least, I never fully acknowledged us that way.  She asked me on a couple of occasions if I was her boyfriend, and I changed the subject.  Maybe Janelle was just too good for what I was ready for.  She was not my sexual fantasy girl or ersatz New Wave role model.  She was solid and real.  That probably scared me.”
(Chapter 12, pgs.262-3)

46. “By early December [1982], my countdown [high school] dance event at Thornlea was set to become a reality…Voting to choose the most popular songs was held with good intentions each year, but the results would somehow end up mirroring my interests.  I accept that this looks suspicious.”
(Chapter 12, p.268)

47. “Janelle and I agreed that if we weren’t too preoccupied running the event, we should dance the final dance together…’You better save ‘In The Air Tonight’ for me,’ she said.”
(Chapter 12, p.270)

48. “As promised, we heard the opening keyboard notes and drum machine sample of ‘In The Air Tonight.’…I suddenly wasn’t sure what to do.  Wendy was standing in front of me…At the same moment I realized I had totally forgotten about Janelle…I could see Janelle approaching.  This was the song she loved.  This was the song we’d talked about dancing to.  I didn’t look at her.  I didn’t want to look at her…I turned fully towards Wendy.  She looked up at me and extended her right hand.

‘So…you want to dance to this?’

I took her hand.

Wendy and I started slow dancing.  I soon had my arms around her waist and was pulling her closer to me…This was all happening as it should.”
(Chapter 12, pgs.276-7)

49. “I was ready to take the initiative…The new confidence I felt inspired physical action.  I pulled Wendy closer to me and looked straight down into her eyes.  The look on Wendy’s face was curious.  It seemed to suggest some confusion or hesitance or excitement.  I couldn’t tell which, but I sensed it was excitement.  It must have been excitement.  I pushed my lips into Wendy’s and gave her a long kiss.  I could feel her kissing me back…The song [Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight] was over.  Wendy pulled away a little and pretended to fan herself with her right hand.  ‘Well, I didn’t really expect that!’ she said with a laugh.  She had a strange sparkle in her eye.

‘There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Wendy.’


The dance was officially over.  Wendy shifted away from me slightly, but I kept my arm around her.  She didn’t move it.


[Wendy said] ‘I just have to get my coat.  I’ll be back in a minute, okay?'”
(Chapter 12, pgs.277-8)

50. “Wendy walked towards the back of the gym and into the hallway beyond, where everyone had left their coats.  I turned and spotted Janelle by the exit.  I looked directly at her….I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.  I gave a little wave of my hand but got no response.  She had an expression on her face that I’d never seen.  It was devoid of emotion.  No familiarity, no engagement, but no sadness, either.  Nothing.  The characteristic warmth I’d grown to depend on in Janelle was absent.  There was no acknowledgement.  I’m quite sure she saw me, but she hurried towards the doors.

I turned away.  I thought about my kiss with Wendy.  I could still taste her lips.


The coat check was probably backed up.  It had been more than 10 minutes…I saw the students in charge of the coat check putting away the tables in the hallway.  The doors were now closed.

I waited.”
(Chapter 12, p.278-9)

51. “To my fluffy, dutiful traveling companion, Big Ears.”
(Acknowledgements, p.284)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 6, 2014
3:14 p.m.

Published in: on December 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Overlooked Quotes From Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982 (Part Two)

19. “After one of our performances [Ghomeshi played Tom Snout in a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream wearing make-up & “a shirt that looked like a dress”. (p.194)], Mike Farnell’s friend saw me in the communal changing area & bluntly asked me if I was gay.  I wasn’t sure if it would be a good thing or not to tell this guy I was gay.  Maybe he was gay.  Maybe he would like it if I were gay, too.  I said no.  But I wasn’t entirely sure.  And nor would I have thought it a bad thing to be gay.  Maybe the make-up and the mauve dress I had to wear as Tom Snout were a message sent from above.  I certainly liked Bowie.  He was a man who sometimes dressed like a woman.  And I was smitten with Wendy partly because she was like Bowie.  I was obsessing over a girl who reminded me of a man who dressed like a girl.  These were confusing times.”
(Chapter 9, p.195)

20. “On the subway ride home [from the 1982 Police Picnic CNE concert], Wendy and I didn’t say much to each other…After Eglinton station, the crowded subway car emptied enough for us to share seats next to each other facing the direction of home.  Wendy and I were both looking straight ahead. I was tired…I suddenly became very intimidated by the thought of doing anything that Wendy might consider uncool.”
(Chapter 9, pgs.203-4)

21. “I’d certainly deduced that girls fancied rock singers.”
(Chapter 10, p.207)

22. “The morning announcements were a thankless endeavour but a big step into prominence by my standards…Somehow, I took the place of our vice-principal…The vice-principal…had been holding down the morning announcements duty for the first few months of my Grade 9 year.  He had a temper that could spring up like burnt toast…Some students later claimed they overheard the vice-principal…curtly say ‘Oh, fuck it.’ over the PA system [Ghomeshi claims the VP was having trouble properly cuing up to the beginning of a cassette version of O Canada one fateful morning.  It “proved to be his breaking point” which is why Ghomeshi took over for him “every morning” in “early 1982″.]…It wouldn’t be something a vice-principal was supposed to say to an audience of students.”
(Chapter 10, pgs.208-9)

23. “Once [while doing the morning announcements], I used a Bowie quote from the song ‘What In The World’ on the album Low about being out of control and in the mood for love…’What in the world can you do, I’m in the mood for your love’ would later become my graduating quote in the Thornlea yearbook in 1986.”
(Chapter 10, p. 210)

24. “No popularity came from being the kid who informed everyone that schoolwork had to begin.  And it’s not as if girls would like a guy because he did the morning announcements.  Not even the nerdy girls…But I was good at it.  And one time, when Paula Silverman found out I was the voice, she told me I sounded ‘sexy.’  And she wore short shorts.  And her compliment made me feel good, because I figured I was like a broadcaster — a ‘sexy’ broadcaster.  And being a broadcaster seemed cool.”
(Chapter 10, p. 211)

25. “…I was confused in Grade 9…there were times when I couldn’t quiet the voices in my head.  The voices would remind me I was a fake.  An imposter…the voices in my head were a reminder of my ongoing life as an imposter.  The voices would also point out that I wasn’t who I was made out to be in song…It wasn’t about how I sang.  My singing didn’t really suck.  The point was, the quality of my singing was not the point if I wasn’t sure who I was.  I was confused.”
(Chapter 10, pgs.211-2)

26. “If only I could sing the lyrics [to Ebony & Ivory during a concert] like I meant them.  If only I could really believe I wasn’t a fraud.”
(Chapter 10, p. 214)

27. “It was positive being in the presence of Bob [Ghomeshi’s high school music teacher who insisted students call him by his first name.].  He seemed to exist in a perennially jovial state.  I only once saw Bob get angry and lose his temper…I could see that Bob was getting angry at the [off-beat] tapping [by a “rhythmically challenged” singer].  Midway through [Toto’s] ‘Africa’, Bob suddenly stopped playing and slammed the piano cover down over the keys.

‘If you’re going to tap along, make sure you do it in time!’

Bob was steaming mad…I’d never seen him like that.  And it didn’t make sense that a normal person would become so bothered by a rhythmic transgression.  That’s when I knew he was a real drummer.  He was badass about rhythm.  That’s when I knew Bob was one of us.”
(Chapter 10, p.217)

28. “Singers aren’t always filled with glee.  They can be quite morose.”
(Chapter 10, p.218)

29. “Kim [Richardson, daughter of singer Jackie Richardson; Ghomeshi “would later become very close friends” with her “and know her mom as Auntie Jackie.” (p.221)] was tall & had really, really big breasts.  When she wore her tight Van Halen T-shirts, her breasts were emphasized, and it was hard not to look at them, even though it was not right to be looking at them.”
(Chapter 10, p.222)

30. “Kim was one of the best singers around…She was a dear friend and had distractingly large breasts.”
(Chapter 10, p.227)

31. “Maybe this [concert where he sang Ebony & Ivory with Kim as a duet] was another colourful example of the paradox that was me in 1982 and beyond.  I was a terribly sensitive and insecure soul who wanted to be accepted.  I wanted to fade into the woodwork.  And yet I never shied away from putting myself out there in some form of potentially masochistic public adventure.  It’s like I needed to keep proving to myself as much as to others that I wouldn’t succumb to judgment.  So, as much as I feared being disliked, I created the conditions where I might polarize reaction…I would soldier on and pursue my passions–sometimes recklessly toying with the implications.  Maybe not all that much has changed as I’ve gotten older.  For most of my life, people have assumed I’m a confident guy with a Teflon exterior.  That you could say anything about me–or to me–and it will just wash away because of the strength of my ego or character.  That’s pretty much the opposite of the truth.  But criticism has never fully prevented me from pursuing my goals or what I believed in.  I somehow wouldn’t let it.”
(Chapter 10, pgs.228-9)

32. “Kim and I stood at the front, singing along and doing a tw0-step dance the way Sonny and Cher would have done, if Cher had been a tall black woman with giant breasts and Sonny had been a skinny Middle Eastern kid.”
(Chapter 10, p.230)

33. “…a confused ethnic kid with New Wave clothing and brownish skin earned applause for playing the role of Ivory at my biggest concert to date.  I started to think of it as a character that I was playing.  That’s right.  Maybe I was increasingly just a character.  That’s what Bowie had done for most of his career.  Maybe it was okay.”
(Chapter 10, p.231)

34. “There were some messed-up sides of me that I decided Wendy simply didn’t need to see.”
(Chapter 10, p.231)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 6, 2014
2:44 p.m.

Published in: on December 6, 2014 at 2:44 pm  Comments (1)  

Overlooked Quotes From Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982 (Part One)

Two years ago, then-CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi published a memoir.  Entitled 1982, it mostly focuses on his first year of high school.  It’s not a very good book.  Ok, there’s a sweet chapter about him & a friend meeting two members of Rush outside a recording studio, an amusing Gowan observation, some welcome Persian insight & occasionally charming parental anecdotes, but overall, it’s unamusingly repetitive, self-indulgent, often asskissy and remarkably patronizing.  Ghomeshi often explains things based on the faulty presumption that his readers are all complete idiots.  (We know what a tape deck is, jackass.)

But in the aftermath of damning media reports (mostly from the Toronto Star & indie journo Jesse Brown) that led to his recent arrest on multiple sexual assault charges, the book can’t help but be read in a whole different context today, particularly the following 51 quotes:

1. “Can you even remember a time before you were creeping photos of ‘hot’ people on Facebook?  Barely.”
(Prologue, p. xiv)

2. “I knew what a whorehouse was.  I knew it was a place were hookers worked.  It was probably a house full of sexy whores.  I knew this because I had seen something similar on the Friday-night Baby Blue Movies on Citytv when my parents were upstairs.”
(Chapter 1, p. 14)

3. “There were no ‘crack-whore’ streets or red-light districts…I wish I could say that Thornhill[, Ontario] has since devolved into a dangerous ‘hood filled with hookers & crime-ridden back alleys.  I wish I could tell you that my old stomping grounds have become bloodied and busted.  That would be cred.  But I can’t.”
(Chapter 1, p.19)

4. “[My mother] seemed to overlook the minor detail that my name was Jian and I was the only ethnic kid on the street, other than the Olsons.  And the Olsons were black.  And black wasn’t really ethnic.”
(Chapter 2, p.26)

5. “You probably know that song [Dan Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch] and that end part [“I wanna hold you till I die/Till we both break down and cry/I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides”].  And that sentiment would strike a very poignant chord in therapy sessions a couple of decades later.”
(Chapter 2, p.33)

6. “We didn’t have text messages or Facebook or IM-ing or DM-ing or BBM-ing in the 80s.  Communicating with someone you liked involved high-stakes exposure and risk.”
(Chapter 3, p.49)

7. “Forbes was probably about six feet tall, but he seemed even taller because he had a spiked mohawk hairdo atop his six feet.  He had army pants on & a white tank top.  In later years, this kind of shirt would be referred to as a ‘wife beater’.  But at the time it was just a tank top. Or ‘white shirt with no sleeves’.”
(Chapter 3, p.56)

8. “…I was a different kind of unique…I didn’t really fit in…My search for appropriate role models often came up empty.  And being myself didn’t seem a very appealing option.”
(Chapter 4, p.68)

9. “Mitch Toker carried a knife & had a reputation for being ‘wild’.  I had secretly hoped that Mitch would hook up with my older sister, Jila, when I was in Grade 7.  That way, he would have to like me so my sister wouldn’t break up with him.  I tried to get them together on at least 3 occasions.  But one day, when Jila came to meet me at Toke’s house on our way to the mall, Mitch made the wrong move.  Seems that as Jila was waiting outside, Mitch called down to her while hanging out of one of the upper windows with no clothing on.  Jila did not witness his whole naked body, but she could certainly see his bare chest…She [later] explained that she had not been impressed with Mitch’s insistence upon ‘dangling from the window & displaying his naked torso’… Things didn’t look too positive after that for a Mitch & Jila romance.”
(Chapter 6, pgs.121-2)

10. “John Ruttle wanted to ask Valerie Tiberius to go to the Journey concert, but he didn’t want her to feel like it was too much of a date.  He wanted her to think it wasn’t a date, even though he wanted it to be a date.  You see, if it felt too much like a date, she might say no.  I learned that this was often the case with girls.  They wanted to be taken out, but if it seemed like it was a date, it might create too much pressure and ‘expectations’.”
(Chapter 7, p.133)

11.  “Mothers are natural arbiters of people you want to date.  Or people you think you want to date.  Or people you want to take on a date but are trying to do it in a way that won’t be considered a date so they won’t say no.”
(Chapter 7, p.135)

12. “Experiencing a loss can make you forget about putting on airs.  Maybe that’s what happened after I lost my Adidas bag.  [Forbes threw it at Joan Jett during her set with The Blackhearts at the 1982 Police Picnic concert at the CNE.]  Or maybe it was a genetic predisposition to react calmly to catastrophe.  My father had a knack for bringing calm to a storm.  He could react with impressive composure when truly horrible things went down…My father could be calm when we needed him to be.  Maybe that had rubbed off on me.”
(Chapter 8, pgs.163-4)

13. “I should explain that by ‘a drink’, I mean a Coca-Cola.  Actually, I mean 2 Cokes…I know that ‘a drink’ sounds like alcohol.  That’s why I said it.  That would be cool.  But this wasn’t alcohol.  And whether it was alcohol or not, I liked the idea of taking care of Wendy and showing her I could assume control.”
(Chapter 8, p.165)

14. “…that was the image I had of goth guys in the summer of ’82.  Non-eaters.  Maybe I thought real goths would have some rule confining them to consume only cool & gross things like human blood or imitation human blood.”
(Chapter 8, p.166)

15. “[The Talking Heads] were like Bowie.  Especially David Byrne  Just like Bowie, David Byrne would have had trouble fitting in on any given day in Thornhill.  He was artsy & odd.  And Bowie was odd.  And knowing this gave me confidence.  Their existence meant I wasn’t weird.  Or rather, that I might be weird, but that it was okay.  Or that it was acceptable to want to be weird.”
(Chapter 9, p.180)

16. “One other essential tenet of the Theatre Troupe experience was sex.  That came with the territory, too.  Sexual cross-pollination seemed to be part of the burden of being a dedicated theatre student in [Room] 213 [of Ghomeshi’s Thornhill high school].  This was not mandated by the teachers, of course, but developed quite naturally amongst those enrolled in the program.  Almost all of the students dutifully obliged in the sex part.  I was a novice in this area, but eager to learn.  The truth was, I was generally too intimidated to act on anything with the older Troupe members.  Not yet.  That was all way beyond me at this point.”
(Chapter 9, p.183)

17. “My replies [to my father] were generally delivered in a patronizing tone.  That was important.  It demonstrated that I was ridiculing his mistaken ideas.”
(Chapter 9, p.184)

18. “To tell you the truth, notwithstanding some silly moments, it was in Theatre Troupe that I got much of my greatest high school education.  It was in Troupe that I truly learned to question everything.  The news.  History.  Ideas.  Traditions.  Laws.  And this questioning came in very handy.  I would later learn that questioning everything is called ‘critical thinking.'”
(Chapter 9, p.187)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 6, 2014
2:03 p.m.

Published in: on December 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm  Comments (1)  

What Rocked In 2013

1. David Bowie’s The Next Day.  Slowly recorded in secret over two years, it marked his first proper studio album in a decade.  Even in his mid-60s the British legend can still reel you in with his ageless vocal and a sharp, melodic hook.

2. Edward Snowden.  His heroic whistleblowing may finally lead to the end of the American Surveillance State and the Obama Presidency.

3. The song Howard Wolowitz performs with his friends for his beautiful wife Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory.  Very sweet and very funny.

4. I joined Twitter in January.  It’s been a lot more fun than expected.  Wouldn’t you agree, Sophia Bush?

5. Alberto Del Rio’s brutal assault on former personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez on Raw.  Way to generate heat, amigo.

6. The Rob Ford crack scandal.  Now the whole world knows what Toronto has endured for 13 years.

7. The Canadian Senate expense scandal.  The beginning of the end of the Stephen Harper era.

8. Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt.  22 years after Ten, they continue to produce fine albums.

9. The dangerous Paula Deen finally got yanked off the air.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t for her unhealthy recipes.

10. Bruno Sammartino made up with Vince McMahon and got inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame.

11. Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars book.  Essential reading, especially for you, Ms. Bush.

12. Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks.  Can’t wait for the Greatest Hits next year.

13. Matt Striker was fired from WWE.  What took so long?

14. The Shield.  Too bad they’re about to split up.

15. All the great movies I finally watched this year:  Earth, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Blade Runner, Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Citizen Kane, The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition, Return Of The Jedi: Special Edition and Inglourious Basterds.

16. Sophia Bush blocked me on Twitter.  This is what you do when you can’t win an argument.

17. The Strokes’ Comedown Machine.  Julian Casablancas channels Prince in a surprisingly convincing manner.

18. Receiving a complimentary email by a member of Yukon Blonde for my rave review of their Tiger Talk CD.  Thanks, Jeffrey Innes!

19. Kevin was named Canada’s Worst Driver Ever.  He burned his license at the end of the finale.  Now about that new car he bought…

20. Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine.  Not only is it their best album in years, Heaven is one of their all-time greatest singles.  Deeply moving.

21. Lance Armstrong finally admitted to drug cheating on Oprah’s Next Chapter.  Only took ya 20 years, asshole.

22. Stoker.  From the director of the original Old Boy and written by the star of Prison Break, it’s a smart, creepy little thriller that deserved a much bigger audience than it received during its Spring theatrical release.  The beautiful Mia Wasikowska has a bright future.

23. AJ Lee won the Divas Championship at Payback in June.  Six months later, she’s still holding the gold.

24. President Obama backed off his dumb public campaign to drop bombs on the already beleaguered Syria thanks to a strong international backlash and an olive branch from Vladimir Putin.

25. Glenn Greenwald.  A longtime critic of the American Surveillance State, the former Guardian columnist got the scoop of a lifetime when, after a long courtship, he received Edward Snowden’s secret NSA documents.  2014 will be even bigger for him, thanks to his upcoming book.

26. Batkid.

27. CM Punk vs. Ryback in a ladder match for the WWE title on the first Raw in January.  Originally scheduled for TLC 2012, it was rebooked on free TV and was one of the best matches of the year.

28. Jamie Foxx’ very funny “Channing all over your Tatum” song that he performed on the post-Oscars edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live.  I still can’t get the chorus out of my head.

29. John Oliver’s three-month summer stint substitute hosting The Daily Show.  Some nights, he was even better than Jon Stewart.

30. The Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the United States Supreme Court.  A huge victory for the LGBT community and gay bi-national couples, in particular.

31. Rand Paul’s epic filibuster protest of Obama’s immoral weaponized drones.  It put this criminally neglected issue back in the spotlight where it belongs.  (Sadly, it didn’t derail the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director.)

32. I bought a new CD player that sounds great.  (Only one minor complaint:  there’s no way to know how much time is left on a track.  The counter only counts up, unfortunately.)

33. The Score (now Sportsnet360) finally started airing Monday Night Raw live without that unnecessary 15-minute tape delay.  Too bad I stopped watching it altogether.

34. Seth McFarlane’s performance hosting the Oscars.  He was surprisingly funny and can really sing.

35. Jim Parsons won his third Emmy playing Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory.  A career-defining part if ever there was one.

36. The awesome John Cusack helped establish the Freedom Of The Press Foundation, a much-needed adversarial journalism organization.  Take notes, Ms. Bush.

37. Lady Gaga’s incredibly supportive tweet of Chelsea Manning after her unfair conviction.  Sophia Bush stayed silent.

38. Antoinette Tuff.  Her remarkably calm demeanour saved countless lives.

39. Taram Killam’s hilarious speech critic on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.  The funniest thing he’s ever done.

40. The Carlos Danger theme song for Anthony Weiner’s alter-ego on The Daily Show.

41. The fast food worker protests.  They deserve a living wage, so give it to them.

42. The end of Windows Live Messenger.  I don’t miss it.

43. Justin Bieber’s relentlessly negative press regarding all of his dumb antics in 2013.  He’s a sexist jerk whose time in the spotlight is almost done.

44. Zeb Colter & Jack Swagger’s sly YouTube video message to Glenn Beck.  It put the whiny ignoramus right in his place.  Much praise to Colter as well for his often sharp, sometimes very funny, WWE promos.

45. Mick Foley’s WWE Hall Of Fame speech.  Loved the shoutout to the underappreciated Damien Sandow.

46. Antonio Cesaro’s giant swing.  It’s more over than he is.

47. The growing world criticism of Israel’s hypocritical mistreatment of Palestinians.

48. The rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight.  May the rest of their lives be a lot happier and safer.

49. Ready To Die by Iggy & The Stooges.  A big lie.  There’s still plenty of life in the greatest frontman in rock history.

50. Franz Ferdinand’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action.  They take forever to put out new albums but they’re always worth singing along to.

51. Rob Van Dam, Goldust and Chris Jericho returned to the WWE.  (Look for Batista to come back in late January.)

52. Pussy Riot and the Arctic 30 were released from Russian prisons.

53. All the other good movies I saw this year:  Zombieland, Sinister, The Deer Hunter, Lawrence Of Arabia, True Crime, Gorky Park, Superman II, American Wedding, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Jimi Plays Berkeley, The Wild Bunch and The X-Files.

54. Atheist In The Foxhole, Joe Muto’s insightful, amusing memoir of his near-decade stint at Fox News.  (He was Gawker’s short-lived “Fox Mole” last year.)  A lot more fair and balanced than his former place of business pretends to be.

55. The final Stefon appearance on Saturday Night Live.  A fitting end for Bill Hader’s funniest original character.

56. Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni, anti-Al Qaeda journalist, was finally freed after Obama, deeply unhappy about his critical coverage of American drones two years ago, wanted him silenced.  He should never have been locked up in the first place.

57. Mechanical Bull by Kings Of Leon.  It’s as radio-friendly as Only By The Night.

58. The Chicago Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup.  Suck it, Bruins.

59. Zero Dark Thirty lost most of the Oscars it was up for.  It had to settle for a single technical gong that it had to share with Skyfall.

60. Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster over a needlessly overreaching anti-abortion law.

61. The Paul Heyman/CM Punk feud.  Great back-and-forth promos, brilliant build to the Punk/Lesnar SummerSlam match (which was terrific in its own right), compelling storytelling overall, with the exception of the ending.

62. The increasing acceptance of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana by the American public.  The death spiral of the drug war has begun.  (A special shoutout to CNN for their fascinating documentary on the remarkable powers of medical weed.  May it lead to the end of useless, heartless prohibition once and for all.)

63. Mark Henry’s fake retirement swerve on Raw.  The best promo he’s ever delivered.

64. Randy Orton powerslamming Rob Van Dam out of a Rolling Thunder during a Triple Threat number one World Heavyweight Championship contender’s match on Smackdown.  A spot so good they did it again in a later one-on-one match.

65. The stadium that looks like a vagina.  It’s actually pretty cool looking.

66. The Oscar acceptance speeches by Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Best Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway.  Both sweet and heartfelt.

67. Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 29.  The best match of the show, it was even superior to CM Punk vs. The Undertaker.

68. Bray Wyatt’s promos.  The best new character in the WWE.

69. The Rhodes Brothers won the tag team titles from The Shield.  A welcome second chance for The Bizarre One and a nice babyface reboot for Cody after his disappointing Sandow program.

70. AJ Lee’s fantastically brutal promo on the Total Divas cast on Raw.  No wonder she’s still the Divas Champion.  No one else is worthy.

71. Alberto Del Rio’s World Heavyweight title defenses against The Big Show at The Royal Rumble and Christian at SummerSlam, two seriously underrated encounters that deserved more praise.

72. The worldwide backlash against the NSA.  Long overdue.

73. The resurrection of the street protests.  International authoritarian governments should be very afraid.

74. Catfish.  The only MTV series where you actually learn something about the human condition.

75. Malala.  I wish I was as smart and compassionate when I was her age.

76. Canada’s anti-prostitution laws were struck down unanimously by the Supreme Court.

77. Stephen Colbert’s hilarious segment on the local Florida TV station that fell for an obvious prank regarding a Korean plane crash.  His fake names were even funnier.

78. Jeremy Scahill’s appearance on The Tonight Show.  His passionate, factually based outrage over Obama’s war crimes is sorely lacking in the mainstream press.

79. President Obama’s lousy approval ratings.  May they continue to plummet.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 29, 2013
7:09 p.m.

Winners & Losers Of 2012 (Part Two)

Winner:  The Artist

It had been more than 80 years since a silent film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  (Wings took the honour all the way back in 1927.)  Decades later, another (mostly) silent feature, The Artist, found itself in the hunt along with eight other talkies in the same category in 2012.

Besides snagging Best Picture, the film won Oscars for its Original Score and its Costume Design, Michel Hazanavicius won for Best Director and Jean Dujardin took home the Best Actor trophy.  That’s not all.  Continuing on from its triumph at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, all those end-of-year critics’ prizes, not to mention all its appearances on numerous 2011 Top 10 lists, The Artist received a whole slew of other awards this year including six Cesars, the French Academy Awards.

Not bad for a black and white French film filmed in full screen.

Loser:  Lance Armstrong

How was it ever possible for a man with one ball to win the most grueling road race of all time not once, not twice but seven times in a row without illegal enhancement?  The truth is it wasn’t possible.

For 20 years, this abrasive Texan managed to escape any kind of serious consequences for his chronic and deliberate cheating by the sheer force of his bullying personality, his ruthless smear campaign against whistleblowers and meddling journalists, and a couple of suspiciously timed “donations” to the toothless UCI, the international regulatory body of cycling.

From 1999 to 2005, Armstrong won every Tour De France, transforming him into a highly respected American athlete.  The cancer survivor took some of his considerable winnings and started the well-regarded foundation, Live Strong, to help patients and their families with medical expenses and moral support.

Unfortunately, how he got the cancer is an interesting story.  As later revealed by witnesses, when asked by his doctors in 1996 if he ever used performance enhancing drugs, Armstrong quickly rattled off five different types:  EPO, cortisone, testosterone, steroids and human growth hormone.  Amazingly, after fully recovering, he went back to doping as he vigourously trained for a comeback.

As his remarkable run at the Tour De France began there was already suspicion from some in the European press about whether he was racing paniqua (clean) or not.  Armstrong denied all the allegations and went out of his way to lash out at anyone who doubted his integrity, a pattern that would continue for years to come. 

As former teammates and medical personnel bravely started telling the truth about Armstrong and the United States Postal Team’s chronic dependence on doping (to be fair they weren’t the only ones guilty of this), particularly blood transfusions, lawsuits were filed, reputations were sullied and all the while, he was still able to maintain a very positive image in his own country, despite acting like a defensive jerk.  He even survived civil and criminal cases against him.

Until 2012, that is.  Four months after an American federal prosecution was dropped, the USADA announced in June that it had attained numerous evidence from witnesses not to mention suspicious blood samples to definitively declare Armstrong an outright cheater.  He sued to have the case dropped but was unsuccessful.  Later that summer former teammate and rival Tyler Hamilton released his co-authored memoir, The Secret Race.  It contained numerous damning anecdotes (some previously revealed on 60 Minutes last year) of widespread doping beyond even Armstrong and company.  A fascinating expose into how easy it was for professional cyclists to work the anti-doping system to their advantage with little to no consequence, Hamilton portrays Armstrong as a fiercely competitive, paranoid mob boss who used fear and intimidation to keep “the trolls” (nosy journalists) and “the choads” (critical cyclists) off his narcotic scent while always being several steps ahead of the drug testers and everyone else in the peloton.  Hamilton felt his wrath on numerous occasions including a memorably tense encounter in Armstrong’s favourite restaurant, Cache Cache.

Despite what he has long claimed, Armstrong did fail drug tests.  He got busted for cortisone in 1999 but thanks to a phony back-dated “prescription” hastily written by one of his medical personnel he got away with it.  Hamilton notes that his former teammate actually told him that he also got nabbed at the 2001 Tour Of Switzerland.  But he faced no punishment after forking over a couple of large payments (one in the six figures) to the UCI so they could buy better drug testing equipment.  (The word you’re looking for is chutzpah.)  And then there was the very clever journalist who deduced that Armstrong failed several more 1999 Tour De France tests during an investigation in 2005.

Meanwhile, in October, the USADA released their 202-page report documenting their findings regarding Armstrong and Team Postal.  They concluded that this was the most sophisicated doping scheme they ever encountered.  The heavily criticized UCI honoured their findings and the embattled cyclist refused to defend himself in arbitration, a telling sign.  As a result, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France victories, he lost most of his endorsements and he fully resigned from Live Strong’s board of directors after initially quitting just his chairmanship.  For their part, Live Strong removed his name completely from their organization because his association was hindering legitimate fundraising efforts. 

He also lost an honourary degree, his case was lampooned by South Park and an investigation is under way to determine if he will keep his Bronze medal from the 2000 Summer Olympics.  Tyler Hamilton lost his Gold medal he won from the 2004 games.  Chances are, Armstrong will lose his medal, too.

Meanwhile, Armstrong is facing a slew of lawsuits from numerous disgruntled parties including former teammate Floyd Landis and a company that wants the bonus money it paid out to him back for his tainted Tour De France victories.  (This will be their second attempt after losing a 2006 case against him.)

While naive fools like actress Sophia Bush remain in denial, it’s nice to know that the current UCI president is fully tuned in.  As Pat McQuaid succinctly noted in October, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling.… He deserves to be forgotten.”

Winner:  Charlize Theron

Almost a decade after winning an Academy Award, this 37-year-old South African beauty remains on the A-list thanks to a couple of heel turns in two blockbuster summer movies.  Even though critics were divided on Snow White & The Huntsman, audiences were very supportive.  The film generated almost 400 million in global ticket sales.  Theron, who plays the wicked Queen out to vanguish her top rival, might pop up in the proposed sequel which will focus more closely on Chris Hemworth’s character.

Ridley Scott’s entertaining Alien prequel, Prometheus, did roughly the same amount of business but generated far more positive reviews.  Despite a scene-stealing Oscar-worthy performance from the great Michael Fassbender, Theron holds her own as one of the numerous villains in the film.  Hard to believe we’re the same age.

Loser:  Tom Cruise

He got dumped by Katie Holmes after 6 years of marriage, Rock Of Ages was a critical and commercial bust, and then of course, there was this embarrassing Vanity Fair report.  (Tom Cruise needed Scientologists to find him a date after his divorce from Nicole Kidman?  How lame.) 

The upcoming Jack Reacher is his last chance for something positive in 2012.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 7, 2012
1:37 a.m.

A Much Needed Personal Update

It can derail your progress, reduce your motivation and take away your happiness.  It can distort your thinking, distract you from tackling important priorities and prevent you from personal advancement.  It traps you in a bubble of your own discontent resulting in increased feelings of helplessness and dread.  And you can feel so alone much of the time. 
Sometimes, your mind can be your own worst enemy and you don’t even know it.  It’s only when a significant revelation hits you squarely and undeniably that you begin to realize why your life seems permanently stuck in mental quicksand.
It happened to me this past May.  One night early that month I went to bed feeling particularly great.  As I got settled in, though, I started paying attention to my heart.  It was beating really fast.  That was odd.  I was perfectly calm just moments earlier.  It kept beating and beating at a relentless rhythm and I couldn’t ignore it. Needless to say, I barely slept that night.
The next day, I had all this energy despite a lack of significant rest.  After trying to use it up in some way, I went to bed still feeling anxious.  (You can imagine the frustration.)
This was unusual.  Apart from being ill, I don’t remember ever having two consecutive sleepless nights before, not even during my school years.  Fortunately, I figured out a way to calm down.  After showering and shaving, doing laundry and vacuuming two carpets, I settled in for a great night of sleeping.  I barely noticed my heartbeat (it had slowed down significantly due to my busy day) and was extremely tired.  I spent the next afternoon hanging with a friend still feeling great but much more relaxed.  Another long, restful slumber awaited me later that evening.  Wonderful.
But on the fifth night, the anxiety returned.  As a result, a new, troubling pattern emerged:  one or two good nights of comfortable rest followed by one or two bad nights of reduced shut-eye.  On the good nights, I slept soundly with a calm heart whose beating I barely noticed.  On the bad nights, my eyes would be closed but my heart just wouldn’t settle down.  It was baffling.  I would lay there for hours wondering what the problem was.  Sometimes, I would subject myself to FM radio hoping it would help me doze off.  Usually, it did.  But only for a few hours. 
Feeling a depression coming on (due to increased nervousness, my declining appetite reduced my weight to 112 pounds), I turned to my local library for help.  Soon thereafter, several reserved self-help books were immediately picked up.  Over the next, several weeks, I devoured their contents looking for answers to my bizarre insomnia.  Feeling so low at one point, I booked an appointment with my longtime physician.  A complete physical was requested (it had been awhile) but it wouldn’t be happening for two weeks.  (Blood work was normal and there’s nothing physically wrong with me.)  Much earlier, I emailed an old college professor who I had recently reconnected with on Facebook.  His wife (whom I ‘ve never met in person) specializes in mental health, he once wrote to me, so I reached out to him hoping for some answers from her.  It would be months until I heard from both of them.  (It turned out he was going through his own depression at the same time.  I hope he’s doing better.)
The same day I scheduled a sit-down with my doctor, my friend of 24 years sent me an email.  My birthday was coming up and he wanted to treat me to a movie.  Despite feeling underfed and miserable after a month of suffering, I accepted his invite.  The night before an afternoon screening of The Strangers, frequent trips to the bathroom and a nervous demeanour resulted in only 2 hours sleep.  It was unclear whether seeing a film in the afternoon was possible.  I forced myself to eat two apples and two sandwiches the day of the screening.  Thankfully, there was no nausea.  Despite feeling blech, I went to the movies with my buddy.  How I was able to be awake and concentrate fully on this abysmal film, I’m not sure.  At any event, it was a turning point.  My appetite increased during the next couple of weeks.  By the time I saw the doctor, I was back up to 116.5 pounds.  I even started sleeping better with fewer bad nights.
It was during my doctor’s appointment that the idea of seeing a shrink came up.  Great idea.  There would be a delay, however.  The earliest chance of securing a one-on-one session was two months away.  Six weeks later, while watching Airport and after a brief interlude of phone tag, my mental health counsellor and I settled on a day and a time.  By the time I sat down with her for the first time that August afternoon, I had finally figured out why I was experiencing occasional insomnia.  I was obsessing too much about my heart.  Instead of simply listening to it beat, I would start to worry about whether its rhythm was too fast which inevitably made it go faster.  By neither paying attention to its rhythm nor worrying about it, I was able to settle down and get some much needed rest.  Thankfully, in the last couple of months, there have been considerably more good nights of sleep than bad.  (I can count on one, maybe two hands, the number of irregular nights I’ve since suffered through.)  Furthermore, my weight is back up to 120.
All of this is a long way of explaining why there have been fewer postings this year, particularly in the last, several months.  (And yes, I wrote something remarkably similiar on May 1st.  I just checked.)  Besides this upsetting obsession with my heart, I had been dealing with other obsessions, mainly women from my past.  A couple of them led to the feelings that kept me up for several nights in the spring.  It was weird having all these endorphins floating around in my body while simultaneously brooding over my insomnia and feeling bummed out about these long ended entanglements.  It took two weeks or so for the chemicals to die out and that’s when my brief depression got worse.  At some point, I realized I was wasting my time thinking about all these broads.  After asking myself a straightforward question (why am I obssessing about women who don’t make me happy?), I snapped out of it. 
My second shrink session led me to the doorstep of Employment Hamilton.  They improved my resume and gave me some advice on how to undergo an effective job search.  This week, I’ve been submitting resumes and, where necessary, completed applications to nearly a dozen businesses hoping to land something part-time.  This is something I’ve long resisted persuing.  I’m a stubborn ass who is learning gradually to overcome personal negativity and timidity in order to get reacquainted with the workforce, something that hasn’t happened for me since the start of this decade.
While I attempt to end my Costanza period (“Hi, I’m Dennis.  I’m unemployed and live with my parents.”), I hope to continue writing on a more regular basis, a task that has proven difficult for much of the year.  I make no promises, though.
The good news is that this website has passed 21000 hits and routinely receives hundreds of visitors every week, some of whom leave comments.  There is still interest in the contents posted here which is very encouraging.  Here’s hoping that becomes one of the motivating factors for me to work on more pieces more often.
You may have noticed some additions to a couple of my lists.  Three of the self-help books I borrowed from the library – The Everything Health Guide To OCD, The OCD Answerbook and Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – have been added to my Amazon book list.  I highly recommened them for anybody going through mental health problems.  They’re both engaging and extremely helpful.  Learning that it’s possible to reassure yourself about irrational fears and negative thinking by constantly challenging them through straightforward exercises is such a relief, you have no idea.  Also worth reading is Free Ride: John McCain And The Media, an eye-opening examination of remarkably unskeptical “journalism”.  Want to know why the longtime Arizona Republican seems to get extraordinarily positive press despite being a blatantly transparent phony with shady political connections?  This book offers compelling answers.  A timely publication.
One last thing.  I’ve added a couple of new Recommended Websites.  Replacing Entertainment Weekly and Editor & Publisher are Daily Howler, Bob Somerby’s blog that tirelessly criticizes awful American journalism that has been too conservatively biased for far too long, and Glenn Greenwald’s blog on Salon.com.  The latter offers some refreshing commentary on politics and the news media rarely heard on TV or seen in print.  Both are worth checking out.  They’re updated frequently.
As I continue to turn my life around and prepare for an independent adulthood I’ve long dreamt for myself, I hope to keep things interesting on this site.  God knows there’s lots to write about.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 5, 2008
9:37 p.m.
Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 9:36 pm  Comments (1)  

More Recommended Books…Just In Time For Christmas!

With less than a month to go ’til Christmas, here are some terrific books I’ve read over the years that I’ve recently added to my Recommended Books For Sale Amazon list.  Stuck for gift ideas?  Look no further than these titles:
U2: At The End Of The World is a fantastic book about the greatest rock and roll band during one of their most fertile creative periods.  Journalist Bill Flanagan follows the band’s every move during the Achtung Baby/Zoo TV/Zooropa years.  It’s quite a read.
Too Close To Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle To Decide The 2000 Election is Jeffrey Toobin’s account of Gore V. Bush after the infamous race was declared “too close to call”, an appropriate title.  Toobin, the CNN Analyst, is also a lawyer and like a lot of lawyers, he has a way with words.  This is a good reminder of why we’ve all been suffering the last six years.
Thomas Harris’ The Silence Of The Lambs is the second Hannibal Lecter novel and the only one I’ve read.  It inspired the excellent film version of the same name and there’s a reason for that:  it’s excellent in its own right.
The Run Of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson is the definitive account of the disastrous criminal trial, yet another triumph for Jeffrey Toobin.  Covering the trial for The New Yorker at the time, Toobin managed to get some fantastic scoops which are thankfully mentioned in the narrative.  This book will remind you in gripping detail why the former football great remains a hated figure worldwide. 
Private Parts and Miss America are the literary versions of Howard Stern’s highly influential and much misunderstood radio program.  They are so entertaining I whipped through each one in less than a week.  In fact, I still look at my paperback copy of Private Parts from time to time and it’s still highly enjoyable.  Highly recommended for those just getting into Stern through Sirius, even though they are very much time capsules.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest saved my ass back in high school.  In Grade 12 Advanced English, we were all assigned a book report.  We had to pick a novel and then write about it.  I got through 3 or 4 chapters of Wuthering Heights before I realized I was not going to pass this assignment.  I switched to Cuckoo and ended up with a report so good Mrs. Hagger just had to hang onto it to show future English students how to get the job done.  I still haven’t seen the movie.  I got 97%, in case you were wondering.
Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live is a surprisingly serious oral history of one of the longest-running programs in Television history.  Edited by Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales and James A. Miller, many of the past and current cast members, along with creator Lorne Michaels and other creative staff members, dish the behind-the-scenes dirt about the creation of an influential sketch comedy show now over 30 years old.  You’ll never think of Chevy Chase in a positive light ever again.
Brain Lock: Free Yourself From Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour by Jeffrey M. Schwartz is one helpful book.  I lived in denial for many years about what was wrong with me.  This book positively changed all that and helped me start my long road to recovery which I’m still travelling on.  It will help you, too.  I still practice the 4 steps everyday.
A Vast Conspiracy is yet another Jeffrey Toobin title, this one about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  It’s very good.
Remember, every time you click on any title on my Recommended Books For Sale Amazon list and make a purchase, you’re supporting The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  At the same time, you’ll be making either yourself or a loved one appreciate the written word this holiday season.  You only have a few weeks left.  Use my book list to finish off your shopping this year.  You’ll be glad you did.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
10:19 p.m.
Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 10:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Recommended Books For Sale From Amazon.ca…Finally!

I thought this day would never arrive.  With no thanks to the Windows Live Spaces Technical Support Team (more on them in a moment), I took it upon myself, after months of frustration, to solve a nagging problem.
Visitors to my site have probably seen a list called Recommended Books For Sale.  (It’s right under my profile information on the left side of the main page.)  Back in the summer I tried unsuccessfully to link my book list to Amazon.ca several times.  I was under the impression you didn’t have to do very much in order to make everything work properly.  I was wrong.
I contacted WLS Technical Support and they had no clue what the problem was.  After not hearing from them after several weeks (there had been a few emails back and forth by then), I requested a status report.  They still didn’t know what was wrong and informed me that once they had an answer, they’d let me know immediately.  That was back in August.
Today, I solved the problem myself.  Let me explain. 
There was something that had been bothering me lately and I finally did something about it.  Back in the summer when I was putting my book list together one title at a time, I noticed there was a space beside the acronym “ISBN”.  This afternoon, I Googled “ISBN” (just like that) and found out that it stands for International Standard Book Number.  Immediately, I had an idea.
I went to Amazon.ca and started going through each title on my book list looking specifically for the appropriate ISBNs.  I started with the first title, A Red Death.  I found its ISBN, copied it and pasted it into my book list.  Wouldn’t you know it, the damn thing worked.  Problem solved.
I am happy to announce that, as of today, my book list officially links to Amazon.ca. 
Every book on my list I have read and highly recommend.  Some titles are paperback editions and others are in the original hardcover.  Here is what is for sale right now:
On the fiction side…
The first three Easy Rawlins novels:  Devil In A Blue Dress, A Red Death, and White Butterfly.  All written by Walter Mosley, all terrific mysteries. 
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton which inspired the excellent Spielberg movie.  The book is entertaining in its own right.
The Firm by John Grisham.  I like the film version as well, but I prefer the book’s superior ending. 
Stephen King’s Misery.  A fascinating book about writing and obsession.
The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells.  It’s thoroughly enjoyable.  Wonderful attention to detail.
On the non-fiction side…
Blinded By The Right by David Brock.  Formerly a right-wing “reporter”, the now-openly gay founder of Media Matters For America explains why he became a liberal after years spent defending the Republicans and trashing the Democrats.  A revealing book.
The Lesser Evil by Michael Ignatieff.  The former Harvard professor turned Liberal MP/leadership candidate has some interesting thoughts about terrorism, torture and the ethical dilemmas Western democracies find themselves in, as a result.  I thought he was a critic of the Bush Administration, the war in Iraq and torture but others say the opposite is true.  Read the book to find out for yourself.  It’s a good read.  Rich and complex.
The Politics Of Truth by Joseph Wilson.  The former American Ambassador and current husband of an outed undercover CIA agent outlines how he got into diplomacy and the initial fallout from “Plamegate”.  I love how he rips Robert Novak a new one and the chapters devoted to his experience in the first Gulf war.  John McCain was wrong to question his patriotism.
Fast Food Nation, and Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser.  The former is the scariest book I’ve ever read.  It’s all about the fast food industry, its dark secrets and its deeply revealing history.  The latter is about America’s underground economies.  The section on the evolution of adult entertainment is the best reason to pick it up.
Room Full Of Mirrors, and Heaver Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross.  Two great biographies about two legendary Seattle musicians.  The first is about Jimi Hendrix (very insightful) and the second is about Kurt Cobain.  It’s unlikely anyone will write a better biography of the Nirvana frontman.  Check out my review here.
You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again by Julia Phillips.  The now-deceased producer of Taxi Driver and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is a tough woman to love.  But this memoir of her life in Hollywood is impossible to stop reading.  She is missed.
When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden by Bill Maher.  America’s best social commentator, who might be the most intelligent and thought provoking entertainer out there right now, shares his thoughts on terrorism and how America should fight it.  Love the WWII-style posters which greatly convey his points.  His riffing on Saddam Hussein is very funny.
American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips.  An influential conservative explains why the Bush family and their politics have been bad for America.  Worth exploring.
Over The Edge, and 20th Century Rock And Roll – Alternative Music by Alan Cross.  The great Canadian radio documentarian knows way too much about underground rock and roll as he proves in these two, terrific books.  Bet you can’t just read them once.
One more comment about Over The Edge.  You may notice that above every title on my book list there is a picture of the cover.  Well, every title except Over The Edge.  For some reason, Amazon.ca doesn’t have the front of the book displayed on their website.  That’s why that one is missing here.  No worries.  Just click on the link and you’ll be taken to the right page.
With Christmas coming up and a lot of people to buy presents for, why not purchase books directly from my list?  I assure you that I have read and enjoyed them all, and I hope you do, too.  They’re affordable to buy and they would make the readers in your family very happy.
When you click on a title on my list you’ll be taken to Amazon.ca and when you purchase that book you’re supporting The Writings Of Dennis Earl, which makes me very happy.  If you want to buy more than one title from my list you need to click each title on my list.
I’m hoping this newest addition to my website will inspire me (and you) to read more books.  I’ll be adding more entries in the future.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, November 9, 2006
9:41 p.m.
Published in: on November 9, 2006 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography Of Kurt Cobain

12 years ago this week Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered in his Washington state mansion by an electrician hired by the family to do some work.  Ever since the news broke back in April 1994 some people have lived in denial about what happened.  Much like President John F. Kennedy’s assassination there are Nirvana fans who don’t accept reality.  They truly believe Cobain didn’t kill himself.  Unfortunately, they’re wrong.  I’ve not seen any evidence that the guy was murdered.  Some people just don’t want to believe in the truth because it hurts too much to accept.  President Kennedy was assassinated by a kook named Lee Harvey Oswald and Kurt Cobain shot himself to death while high on heroin.  Both cases are closed.

5 years ago, Charles Cross, the excellent rock writer who wrote an underappreciated Jimi Hendrix biography last year, tackled the Nirvana frontman’s life and times in one of the best books about music I’ve ever read.  It’s called Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography Of Kurt Cobain and if you haven’t read it, now is as good a time as any to do so.  Your local library should have it in either paperback or hardcover.  I read a library copy the year the book came out and had to write about it once I finished it.  This book is so good you don’t even have to be a fan of Nirvana to appreciate it.  It’s a great biography.

This is a very thorough review of the book and I hope you enjoy it.

HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN: A Biography Of Kurt Cobain
A Review by Dennis Earl
While I was reading Heavier Than Heaven, I couldn’t help but think about Kurt & Courtney, the controversial 1998 documentary by acclaimed BBC filmmaker Nick Broomfield. In the film, Broomfield meets a number of interesting people who used to be part of Kurt Cobain’s inner circle or at least, assert they were. (Some of them have larger roles in the book.) Although the film is interesting for the little it reveals, it never succeeded in getting to the real story of Kurt’s death or detail much of his early life which lead to his tremendous drive for success and his tremendous need to conquer his inner demons, the latter of which he never could escape. Heavier Than Heaven, thankfully, does accomplish this and the result is a book filled with interesting revelations, many of them surprising, and ultimately, leading to a profoundly sad ending. I was surprised by how moved I was by the end.

Biographer Charles R. Cross opens with a 1992 Cobain overdose, a metaphor for many of the events that happened in his life. We learn later on that he had over a dozen such overdoses, all from reckless heroin use and as we reach the end of the story, we begin to suspect that he was reckless for a very clear reason.

Cross does something remarkable here. He convinces Cobain’s long suffering family, who have up to now always maintained a policy of silence with regards to dark, family secrets, to open up to him, something no writer has been able to do before, and reveal plenty of memories of Kurt as a young child. As a result, some 100 pages are devoted to Kurt’s childhood, which painfully reveal a happy child quickly turning depressed and withdrawn, and finding interests in the most bizarre subject matter.

The real blow to Kurt’s psyche was his parents divorce when he was 9, although he memorably downplayed the event in one line of Serve The Servants. (“That legendary divorce is such a bore.”) Being the oldest of his parents’ 2 children (he has a younger sister, Kim) upon his birth he was the centre of his family’s universe. When the family split apart, he ached for that feeling of family unity again and desperately wanted to be the central focus. One of his happiest memories before the divorce, recounted twice in the book, were all the winter trips the family took to Fuzzy Top Mountain outside their native Aberdeen, Washington, which never had snow, hence the drive out of town. They went sledding down the mountain all day. Kurt was never happier than when he flew down in his Flexible Flyer over and over again. Unintentionally, it is an ironic metaphor. Kurt’s later drug use which contributed heavily to his declining health, temporarily gave him happiness, just like those family trips. He seemed happiest during temporary moments of euphoria while going down in a flash.

We learn that Kurt as a child was mesmerized by rock and rollers like Sammy Hagar, REO Speedwagon, Quarterflash and Van Halen, bands he would later grow out of and never admit to liking when he was famous. But he would always acknowledge Buzz Osborne and The Melvins who Kurt saw live in a parking lot and was forever changed as a result. Later on, he would privately discard them as heroes, although the Melvins did open many Nirvana shows when the latter band became famous.

The book reveals a constant need on the part of Cobain to mythologize himself. We learn that the “guns for a guitar” story really involved selling guns for an amp. (Kurt had plenty of guitars at the time.) And he never did live under a bridge. All those stories served a deeper purpose. They underscored the emotional truth of Kurt’s depth of pain and isolation and his constant need to build a new identity for himself.

He dropped out of high school and eventually returned there to become a janitor for a brief period, one of many odd jobs he would have before totally devoting himself to music. Before dropping out of school, he was an accomplished artist, often earning the respect of his teacher, who encouraged his talent. (Lots of artwork appeared in the liner notes of Nirvana albums.) Throughout his life, although mostly before the band took off, Kurt loved to experiment with art. He had fascinations with babies, the birthing process, dolls, death, especially suicide, bodily fluids, especially semen and excrement, Evel Knievel, and even pornography, although he would keep that last love to himself and his buddies. When he went to Olympia and fell in with the riot grrrl crowd, despite enjoying the strangest porno one could ever see (think fun with poop and pee), he kept it quiet and started believing in the movement’s feminist, non-populist ideals, which he would later discard for his own pursuit of fame. He would have an ultimately failed relationship with Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill.

Cross paints a portrait of a very confused, very intelligent, very sad, very angry, very strange, sometimes quite generous and yet very hypocritical man. As the latter chapters focus on Kurt’s gradual assembling of what would eventually become Nirvana, it is clear that Kurt would say one thing and do another. He was obsessed with Saturday Night Live as a child and dreamed of one day appearing on the show, which Nirvana did. Twice. And yet, despite the fact he openly courted fame and was driven to get closer to it, he would often appear oblivious to it, or more accurately, want to distance himself from it, as if it was the one thing about being a professional musician he couldn’t stand. It earned him legions of fans who never knew that for all his complaints about his videos being played on MTV too much, he often complained privately they weren’t played enough. Although he was gracious in signing autographs, there’s an account of him spitting on a fan while dangling out the window of a van.

There’s a story involving Kurt and bassist Krist Novoselic visiting “the bird lady”, a local woman with a good reputation for restoring the health of injured animals, to help repair a bird with a damaged wing. There’s another story of how Kurt loved watching his beloved aquarium turtles devouring some tadpoles he gave them for food.

His love affairs are also revealing. We already know Tracy Marander from Broomfield’s documentary, but here she reveals more, mainly because there’s more room for her recollections which involve a close but frustrating relationship with Kurt. She loved him and wanted to get closer, but because Kurt had abandonment issues directly resulting from his parents’ divorce and his constant moving from one relative’s house to another, plus the fact that he viewed sex as relationship intimacy, he purposely kept his distance, despite loving Tracy. They had sex but not enough to Marander’s liking. Kurt often complained she wanted more sex. Strangely enough, the roles were reversed when Kurt dated Tobi. Because of her riot grrl beliefs, she felt their relationship was casual, should be kept secret (serious romances were a no-no in Olympia’s indie circles) and preferred it that way. Kurt, like Marander, wanted something more. Much of the Nevermind album is devoted to Kurt’s feelings of rejection after being dumped by Tobi.

He was also a notorious slob, often living in the filthiest of apartments and rarely maintaining good physical hygiene. And he dreaded confrontation. The book reveals ample evidence of how not to break up with someone and how not to fire someone from your own band.

But the best parts of the book are the latter chapters involving Kurt, Nirvana and especially his often turbulent relationship with Courtney Love and his sweet relationship with their adorable child, Frances Bean. I rarely smile when I read, but you can’t help it when you read about how Kurt treated Frances. No moment made me smile more than reading about Kurt bathing his daughter and lifting her up in the air and pretending she was an airplane. You can imagine the loud giggles coming from Frances. He loved her so much and the feeling was mutual. That moment, actually captured on a family video, quickly turns dark though when Cross reports that the camera briefly picks up a disturbing image, a syringe in a spot where a toothbrush should be. That part of the book reveals volumes about Kurt and what he cared about most. Although he deeply loved his family, and they clearly loved him back, (even though he never truly felt they did) a fact that up until now has never fully been revealed, in a way, he also loved heroin which he often referred to, on purpose, as “heroine”.

Cross’s book is the result of over 400 interviews with many of the key players here (Dave Grohl and Wendy O’Connor, however, are strangely not mentioned in the acknowledgments), some 4 years of research which also involved the usual collecting of materials. It would’ve been nice to have seen among the photos in the book, some of Kurt’s artwork. Even Broomfield’s movie showed at least 1 painting.

Cross is the former editor of The Rocket, the now-defunct Seattle rock publication that early on put Nirvana on one of their covers. He has written about Nirvana in the magazine and even collaborated on a first-rate book about the making of Nevermind. Here he triumphs in a way you really didn’t expect him to. Because of the great resistance previous writers faced when wanting to do Nirvana books, some of which is documented here as it was in the movie, Kurt & Courtney, it seemed impossible for any writer to get to the real heart of Kurt Cobain. Thanks to Courtney Love’s uncharacteristic generosity, which involved unrestricted access to photos, family videos, faxes (many of which contained future famous lyrics to Hole and Nirvana songs) and, most astonishing of all, Kurt’s journals and paintings, we have a clearer picture of Kurt’s state of mind during most of his life.

This book for the first time creates as complete a portrait of Cobain as we’re ever going to read. We empathize greatly with his insecurities, his health problems, but we are angered, too, by his lack of discipline, his increasing meanness and ultimately, his family’s unwillingness to get him help early. (The family’s ongoing economic problems when he was younger and the priorities of the band later on clearly prevented that from ever happening.)

Could Kurt Cobain have been saved? The book doesn’t seem to think so, and personally, I don’t think so either. But it wasn’t as if no one tried to help him. For the first time in quite a while, I was not angry at his widow, who often comes across as hypocritical, as she did in Broomfield’s film. But here, we get a clearer perspective. I still have problems with her, her unreasonableness at times and her lack of politeness, her violence, but you can’t fault her at all for doing everything humanly possible to help her husband. She tried enabling his habit, sometimes getting high with him. That didn’t work. She tried throwing out his stash. He always bought more, usually making arrangements with dealers to drop off the drugs in the bushes in front of their Lake Washington home. When he was in rehab, she often called hoping he was okay. And on and on and on. This book, I think, finally destroys the idea that Courtney Love had a hand in her husband’s death. Although the book doesn’t attempt to answer the lingering mysteries of Broomfield’s film (the late El Duce’s claim Courtney offered him money to off Kurt, a supposed will change a week before his death, etc.), in a way, it doesn’t need to, because judging from Courtney’s actions, there doesn’t seem to be anything suspicious here. For once, her trust of a writer pays off. She is not betrayed. And I think we get a better view of what really happened. That being said, some mysteries of the documentary, for instance, Dylan Carlson helping Kurt buy the gun that ultimately killed him, could’ve been explored more.

Kurt Cobain died at age 27 for a lot of reasons. He was increasingly unhappy, he was in pain and he never could get over feeling bad about himself, no matter how much love he had from his family, his friends and of course, the respect and admiration from his many fans. From his family problems to his love affairs to his music to his art, none of them could save him. Perhaps the thing that killed him the most was the fact that his dreams of escaping his problems by becoming the biggest rock star in the world, something he predicted to his friends when he was a teenager, failed him because after he made it, he never could stop feeling empty. He also predicted he wouldn’t live to see his 30th birthday.

Heavier Than Heaven is now available in paperback.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
2:55 p.m.
Published in: on April 4, 2006 at 3:17 pm  Comments (1)