Remembering 2016, My Eleventh Year Of Blogging

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.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016
2:16 a.m.

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Published in: on December 31, 2016 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

TWODE Turns 10: Reflections On A Decade Of Blogging

February 19, 2006.  A new website debuted on MSN Spaces.  It was not an immediate sensation.  By the end of the year, after 161 items were posted, many of them predating the site’s existence, it accumulated a measly 3200 hits, a non-scientific count that included the author’s own daily visits.  The real total was probably less than 3000.

By the end of that year, MSN Spaces became Windows Live Spaces.  And in 2007, with a shifted focus, the site started to grow.  In between more archival material being unveiled were new pieces covering the ongoing bloodletting at Sun Media.  128 postings led to roughly 10000 page views, more than tripling the first year’s count.  Encouraging.  A few professional writers began leaving comments & writing emails, most of them supportive, all of them enlightening.  A couple of new blogs noted the Sun Media coverage, one of which offered the site owner an opportunity to write, a gig that lasted nine months.

Over the next two years, fewer relics of a writing past surfaced as almost all the postings were created specifically for this platform.  Annual hit counts stayed relatively consistent, averaging more than 10000.  No big breakthrough just yet.

Then, in the fall of 2010, the big announcement.  Microsoft was phasing out Windows Live Spaces by the spring of 2011.  There were three options offered:  1. Save all your entries & comments (but not your lists, site design or guestbook) on a flash drive.  2. Relocate your site (just the entries & comments) to WordPress.  3. Delete it or let Microsoft delete it for you.

I went with 1 & 2.  And I’m glad I did.

After a slow start at the new digs, The Writings Of Dennis Earl began to grow.  Modestly.  Between mid-September and December 2010, page views were barely 1100.  In 2011, thanks to a couple of unexpectedly popular Gene Simmons Family Jewels pieces, the overall hit count was over 23000.  In 2012, they were over 26000.

After going back down to 23000 in 2013, they jumped to almost 40000 in 2014, the same total as last year.  What can be attributed to the expanded audience in the last little while?  I’m a Huffington Post Contributor and have nearly 700 Twitter followers.

But still no breakthrough.  Despite some positive developments since this site moved from Windows Live Spaces to WordPress, I’m not a household name and I’m not raking in the big bucks.  I’ve not made one cent from blogging these past ten years, though it’s not for a lack of trying.

During the Spaces era, I had an Amazon ID.  No one bought any of the books on my list despite hundreds of clicks.  And because I’ve never owned a credit card, I couldn’t participate in one of their ad programs, not that it was terribly lucrative.  As far as I know, for their part, WordPress doesn’t offer any moneymaking opportunities for bloggers.

So, why do I keep doing it?  I’m 40 now, still at home, jobless, dateless and spend most of my time doing solitary things.  It’s not what I envisioned for myself, by any means.  Have I just wasted a decade of my life?

The answer is no and I’ll tell you why.  Without this site, a number of old friends I had lost touch with for years would not be back in my life right now.  Without this site, I wouldn’t have blogged for Fading To Black.  Without this site, I wouldn’t be a Huffington Post Contributor.  Without this site, I wouldn’t have a voice, a way to relate & attempt to make sense of myself and our ever tumultuous world at large.  Without this site, I would not have an outlet for that voice.  Without this site, I wouldn’t be on Twitter.

Without this site, I’m not sure what I would be doing right now.  Finding a day job has been next to impossible.  I’m either overqualified for menial tasks or seriously underqualified for important ones.  For a time, I actually signed up with an employment agency which proved frustratingly fruitless.  I’ve pretty much given up on having a love life.  You meet plenty of cool women online (I’ve made numerous friends on Twitter, for instance) but distance, availability and reciprocation, as always, are the ultimate roadblocks.  I’m no longer confident attempting to mingle with women in my own city.

I’m eternally grateful to my ever patient parents for allowing me to stay in the family home.  It helps that we have a great relationship.  But even they are wondering if I’m ever going to get a life of my own.  I’ve been asking myself that same question for too many years now.

The irony of all of this is that this site would not exist were it not for one woman.  And not just any woman, either.

I met her through Yahoo Messenger in late 2004.  She was 18, I was 29.  We instantly hit it off and chatted online & on the phone for three weeks.  Then, she changed her profile.  It said she was in love with an American soldier.  I was pissed.  We weren’t exclusive or anything.  But she wasn’t truly single like I was led to believe and we had talked about getting together for New Year’s Eve.  An angry email was fired off (after she avoided talking to me for a day and a half; I also needed time to think about what I wanted to say) followed by an apologetic explanation & a peace offering.  But I wanted more than friendship.  A second angry email soon arrived and then another attempt to smooth things over.  Shortly thereafter, the communication stopped altogether.

Three months later, we tried again, the anger completely subsided.  The engagement with the American soldier was off.  (He was the one who insisted she change her Yahoo profile.)  Two months after numerous phone calls and online chats, we finally met in person.  She was now 19.  The chemistry we felt online was right there offline as I had my first ever make-out session in a local park.  We made love three times during our second date at her house eight days later.  After holding out for so long, it felt so right to finally let go.  Later that night on the phone, she told me she could still smell me in her sheets.

She came to my very small 30th birthday party (she got me the terrific Mystic River on DVD) and we fooled around some more.  On our fourth & final date, we went to the movies.  The whole time we were together, we talked every day on the phone.  There were a lot of laughs and a lot of love.

During the reconciliation, she suggested I blog about our relationship which she was already doing.  I politely declined.  But seven months after we broke up for good (she never stopped talking to that American soldier and when confronted, refused to choose me over him), I revisited her suggestion.

I was a 30-year-old with zero prospects.  After only consulting a couple of sites (not realizing there were many more to choose from), with some trepidation, I launched The Writings Of Dennis Earl with no fanfare on MSN Spaces.  The original plan was to focus on the outside worlds of politics, movies, music, & professional wrestling, not my own life.  Three months after it began, I broke down and wrote about being a terrible student council president in high school.  It was only supposed to be one piece.  But the bad memories I had shamefully hoarded since 1992 just poured out of me.  It ended up becoming an eight-part epic.  A 14-year guilty obsession finally laid to rest.  Over time, more personal reminiscences started appearing.  Another failed relationship (that stayed online and on the phone) with another much younger woman in 2007 led to more pieces.  The following year, I finally wrote about my one and only sexual experience with my then-19-year-old ex during a particularly depressing time.

Despite voluntarily ending the relationship in the summer of 2005, it took years to finally make peace with it.  Looking back, however, it was always meant to be short-term.  She liked country music and Adam Sandler movies.  I don’t.  She was looking for a husband.  I don’t want to be married.  She wanted kids.  I have no desire to procreate.

Whatever anger and disappointment I felt at the time for not being able to keep it all going has long since dissipated.  I’m at peace with what happened.  I’ll always be appreciative to her for first, loving me the way she did and second, for inspiring me to start this blog.  It’s funny.  My vision for this site did not in any shape or form involve posting personal stories.  TWODE was primarily conceived as a critique centre, a singular place to share my political opinions & views of various forms of entertainment.  I never anticipated revealing so much of myself in so many different ways, and not always intentionally, either.

But that’s the surprisingly welcome reality.  This site would not exist if it wasn’t for my ex, a kind, sweet, beautiful, quirky woman who I hope is doing well today.  It’s been 11 years since we’ve talked.

Speaking of the present, The Writings Of Dennis Earl currently has close to 1000 entries overall and almost 160000 hits in the WordPress era alone (roughly a third of that total represents my time on Spaces).  There have been productive periods and long stretches of inactivity.  I’ve been alternately praised and criticized by prominent folks and readers both named and anonymous.  I’ve made smart observations and offered incredibly stupid predictions that failed to come true.  I’ve been goofy and dead serious.  I’ve praised and condemned.  Through it all, I’ve strived to be as honest as I can with everything I’ve showcased here.

Now that this site is officially a decade old, the familiar questions are popping up again.  How I can make it better?  How do I reach a bigger audience?  And most importantly, how can I make money with it?  Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.  There never have been.

But despite the uncertainty of my own future, it’s reassuring and comforting to know that whenever I want to say something, whatever it is, and say it immediately without waiting for an editor’s approval, I have my own outlet.  All I have to do is type, edit and post.  That’s a wonderful privilege for a writer like me to have.  I will never take it for granted.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, February 19, 2016
2:55 a.m.

Published in: on February 19, 2016 at 2:55 am  Comments (1)  

Remembering 2015, My Tenth Year Of Blogging (Part Two)

With so much good writing in The Guardian, The Intercept, The New York Times and Vice in 2015, it was difficult to cover politics in an original way here.  But then came Earl Cowan and the Canadian federal election.

Cowan, a cranky old conservative who supported Stephen Harper (and the Ford brothers), became famous for a split second in the summer after ranting at TV journalists over the Mike Duffy fraud trial.  Once the media started playing his now infamous clip over and over again, he inspired numerous memes and parody Twitter accounts.  Someone on Twitter found his Facebook page and told me about it which inspired Angry Conservative Supporter Earl Cowan’s Facebook Postings, my most popular original piece this year.  Unbeknownst to me, Frank and Maclean’s wrote similar articles around the same time.  After his brief moment of infamy, Cowan has since dropped out of sight.  Someone should give him a talk show.

When one of Margaret Atwood’s National Post columns was suddenly removed from the web then reposted with noticeable edits, I asked why.  (I wasn’t the only one.)  And when Toronto Star columnist Michael Coren suddenly announced he was no longer Catholic nor anti-gay, I noted how he hasn’t reversed all of his awful political positions.

Politics remained a prevalent theme in my poetry this year.  Fragile Things was inspired by a prominent, thin-skinned American pundit who was stunned to find that few agree with his irrelevant views.  Activist Civil War notes the ongoing problem of political infighting, something I’ve experienced a number of times myself on Twitter.  Blind Assassins takes poetic aim at Obama’s drone assassination program while It’s Not Our Fault, National Insecurity and America’s Self-Interest Always Comes First criticizes Obama’s support for dictators and the war on Muslims.  The New Nixons references Obama and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s authoritarian impulses.  Cruel Charade knocks a certain former high profile Liberal strategist who never took a stand on the 2003 Iraq Invasion but now is all for the war on ISIS while simultaneously being a fierce, stubborn defender of Apartheid Israel (even though he doesn’t believe that term is justified), while the harsh Despicable Lie and the more resigned You’re Not Listening mark the likely end of a long standing public dispute with a certain Chicago PD actress who stopped talking to me more than two years ago.

My biggest regret this year was getting into a pointless fight with someone well known on Twitter.  It was over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  It started with a tweet:  “Why does anyone take WikiLeaks seriously?”  Unaware of the context when I saw it, I got pissed off and foolishly responded.  Because of his support for the scary and cruel GamerGate (of which this person has been a target of harassment for months), his criticism of feminists and the controversial sexual assault charges he’s been facing for almost six years now, this person understandably despises him.  In turn, I support his website’s commitment to exposing excessive government secrecy & criminal acts and deplore his persecution by President Obama and the DOJ.  (For the record, I don’t support GamerGate or harassing women online.)

At the time of the argument, I asked “where’s the proof” Assange raped anyone.  (JANUARY 7 UPDATE:  I just remembered I also tweeted that Assange was never formally charged nor imprisoned.  Totally wrong.  He did turn himself in to British authorities, was arrested and temporarily jailed before being released on bail.)  Offended by the question, she blocked me.  (Annoyed, I blocked her, as well.)  In retrospect, it was a dumb thing for me to write having now read WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy which extensively documents the accusations against him.  (Assange, who has a reputation for being an aggressive womanizer, does not come off well.)  A day or so after it ended, I went through a week of panic that turned out to be unrelated (I wasn’t eating enough and was very gassy, a problem I’ve been having off and on ever since).  But once I calmed down, I wrote Absence Of Reason as a way of documenting the incident since I’ve deleted my side of the argument.  (If I had a do-over, I would’ve either not responded at all to that tweet or acknowledged Assange’s flaws while still defending the importance of WikiLeaks as a check on government power.)

Another unfortunate incident on Twitter led to You’re Sweet.  A vaguely worded tweet from someone I was friendly with led to a carefully worded question that didn’t get a full answer.  So a carefully worded follow-up was posted and next thing I know, I’m getting reamed in a series of direct messages for asking in the first place.  I apologized (I really shouldn’t have.  I did nothing wrong.) and I got a condescending response beginning with the words “you’re sweet” which angered me so much I wrote this poem that one commenter thought was about a child.  (This person is about 10 years older than me.)  I know it was just words on a screen from someone hundreds of miles away who I’ve never met in real life but it freaked me out for a whole week and I became very uncomfortable with the idea of ever talking to this person again.  So I stopped and felt immensely better.

I Always Have To Smile and A Labyrinth Of Pain were attempts to write about street harassment and low self-esteem from a woman’s point of view, respectively.  Speaking of low self-esteem, Nobody’s Type is how I feel about myself because of my numerous physical problems, unemployment status and current living situation that I believe are all unattractive to the opposite sex in comparison to more sculpted musclemen who don’t live at home and are living their dream lives.  Prison Of Fear focuses more on personal doubts about pursuing progress.

Other autobiographical poems this year included Fearful Lens about a real-life childhood bully I haven’t seen in almost 30 years (and hope never to encounter again), An Unreasonable Man (which is really about a family member but could also apply to me) and A.F. about a seven-year childhood crush that turned out to be a total waste of time and energy.  Flames Of Resentment and A Better Way To Feel Bad, on the other hand, are self-explanatory works of fiction.

Speaking of made-up stuff, let’s move on to the world of professional wrestling.  I was saddened by the death of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, my favourite wrestler as a kid, and the retirement of AJ Brooks, the former multiple-time world champion.  I was deeply angered by Hulk Hogan’s exposed racism and Mick Foley’s stunning lack of outrage over it.  (He was remarkably silent about Jimmy Snuka’s arrest for murder.)  And I listed what I consider to be the worst WrestleMania matches of all time.  Perhaps I overstated the case against Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole at WM 27 in retrospect.  I recently rewatched the match on Lawler’s It’s Good To Be The King DVD release and there were a couple spots that worked.  Still, because Cole is more of an announcer than an athlete it remains a lousy match, just maybe not as bad as I originally assessed.

Last year, The Writings Of Dennis Earl was accessed almost 40000 times.  This year, it’s been accessed almost 40000 times.  (Hits are only up by almost 200.)  While I can’t complain about the consistent numbers (the small drop in postings didn’t make any significant difference), I was hoping for an expanded audience.

All the more reason to start rethinking the future of this place, what to keep doing, what to stop doing and what new ideas to finally pursue.  Honestly, I’m growing fed up with politics and would love to focus exclusively on entertainment, whether it’s pro wrestling, music or movies.  It sure beats getting into stupid Twitter fights with people you once admired.

Seeing all those movies and writing more reviews here than I had in years rekindled my love for the cinema even though I prefer watching everything now at home on DVD.  Having put up with a lot of crap in 2015, I’m hoping to see a lot more good stuff in 2016.  We’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I want to thank you, my readers, for visiting, for reading, for commenting, for linking, for following and engaging.  I read every message you send me, good & bad (well, except for that long-winded email), and appreciate every one of them.  I hope you’ll keep coming here to peruse the growing archives and check out my latest material.

Thanks for reading and responding.  Happy New Year.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 31, 2015
3:47 a.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 3:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2015, My Tenth Year Of Blogging (Part One)

I turned 40 in June.  This website passed the 150000 hit mark in November.  And The Huffington Post published my 10th piece that same month.

More milestones are approaching and they’re approaching quickly.  Next February, The Writings Of Dennis Earl turns 10.  And at some point, my 1000th piece will be posted in this space.  (You’re currently reading number 968.  969 will be posted shortly.)

However, before we even reach these important breakthroughs, let’s be reflective and introspective as another year, one filled with highs and lows, is on the verge of ending.

Let’s start with HuffPo.  After becoming a contributor in 2014, I was able to get six columns published (seven if you count the one translated into French) that same year.  Disappointingly, my output was down a bit in 2015.  I only managed to get four items posted on their blog this year.  (I found it difficult to come up with more good, original ideas.  Not an unusual problem for me, unfortunately.)

The biggest of the four was Why Pope Francis Was A Liberal Reformer, an updated version of 8 Reasons Pope Francis Isn’t A Liberal Reformer which was posted in this space two years ago.  It has inspired almost 90 comments, 150 likes and one weird, long-winded email from a reader who, shall we say, didn’t care for it.  (No, I didn’t read the whole thing but I did save it.)  Another two-year-old piece, 4 Controversial Movie Castings That Ultimately Resulted In Triumph, only garnered one comment and 10 likes after it too was revised for HuffPo.  Although I mentioned Renee Zellweger’s surprise success as Bridget Jones, let the record show I hated that character and that movie (and its sequel).  I included her because most people disagreed with me.

Eight Men Who ‘Retired’ At WrestleMania (14 comments, 45 likes) expanded The Five Men Who “Retired” At WrestleMania from last year while Survivor Series Trivia (15 likes) was an improved, reworked version of this original 2014 offering which required numerous updates and corrections.

It’s a shame HuffPo doesn’t keep track of page views for its contributors.  It would be great to know how much of a following I have on there.

Speaking of followers, let’s talk about Twitter.  How in the hell did I get over 600 of them in three years?  Incredible.  (A quarter of that total follows this website directly.  Wish I knew how to get the numbers up here.)  I remember 2013 when I could count on two hands the number of users who wanted me in their timelines.  It’s a nice feeling to have so many folks, famous and anonymous, interested in my tweets and writings these days.  Well, except for Wil Wheaton, Bill Cosby, Warren Kinsella and a HuffPo entertainment reporter who all blocked me this year.  At any event, you can follow me @DennisCEarl.

As for The Writings Of Dennis Earl, what stood out here in 2015?  Much to my surprise, movie reviews, which represented almost half of the overall offerings.  (Output was down a bit in this space, as well.)

After a disappointing period of only managing to successfully screen roughly 30 to 60 pictures annually between 2006 & 2014, how delighted I am to note that I watched almost 140 this year.

Granted, I only liked 11 of them but still, that’s a huge jump from the 63 flicks I saw in 2014 of which only 7 were any good.

Unsurprisingly, of the 30 reviews posted in 2015, most focused on horror films.  Whether it was older titles like The Sender, Maniac, Sleepaway Camp, Curtains, Stagefright: Aquarius and God Told Me To, or more recent fare like Unfriended, The Purge: Anarchy, House Of 1000 Corpses and The Lords Of Salem, there was no shortage of crap to humourously skewer.  (Cinematic cheese often deserves a thorough, literary roasting.)

One of my favourite pieces of the year, though, was this more serious double review of both versions of the notoriously awful I Spit On Your Grave.  I’ve suffered needlessly through many a no-star feature these past 25 years but nothing compares to the completely joyless experience I had enduring these two despicable, irresponsible, pseudo-snuff films.  Watching two women get gangraped for an extended period of time, then observing their ugly, blood-drenched acts of vengeance was so unpleasant I’m truly amazed I didn’t cancel both screenings.  Harshly denunciating both of these films in this space ultimately felt cathartic and cleansing.

After more than 30 years avoiding it, I finally sat down and watched the theatrical cut of the original Halloween.  In the early 80s, I was terrified by the slightly longer TV edit and spent the rest of the decade haunted by the memory of Michael Myers’ original killing spree.  Nothing scared me more than John Carpenter’s pitch perfect score.  (I would love to find the soundtrack on CD.)  It took me until this year to finally work up the courage to watch it again, this time from an adult perspective.

Despite some flaws, Halloween remains a potent, merciless thriller and it inspired this enthusiastic review, another of my personal favourites this year.

I wish I could say the same for all its many sequels, six of which I also critiqued in 2015.  Like its predecessor, Halloween II scared me a lot as a kid when I watched it on TV.  The theatrical cut today, though, is far from terrifying.  In fact, like all the follow-ups in this franchise, it’s wholly unnecessary.  Halloween III: Season Of The Witch & Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers are incredibly silly while Halloween 5 and Halloween Resurrection are vicious and just plain dumb.  It has its moments but Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, the seventh release, also feels like a needless retread.

As I was watching these seven films out of sequential order (7, 8, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3), based on what was available right away to speed up the process, I also checked out Rob Zombie’s two remakes.  Far bloodier and much less involving than Carpenter’s original, without question Zombie’s Halloween II is a bit more depraved than his own Halloween which is saying something.  After screening his other three features this year, I’ve yet to be impressed by the former White Zombie frontman.

While bad horror films at least offer the possibility of unintentional laughs, there’s not even the tiniest bit of consolation from subjecting yourself to miserably unfunny comedies.  In 2015, I encountered dozens of examples, a few of which I wrote about.

26 years after I first saw it with friends at my local cinema (which no longer exists), Weekend At Bernie’s has aged very poorly.  (I still think the sequel is dumber.)  Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy is just as horrendous.  And don’t get me started on the offensive I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, one of three typically lousy Adam Sandler movies I suffered through in 2015.  (Blended & Eight Crazy Nights were the others.)

Of the four Tom Hanks films I screened from his dreadful 80s period this year, The Man With One Red Shoe is the least terrible which speaks very lowly of his first decade on-screen.  (Dragnet, The Money Pit and Turner & Hooch are even worse.)  Before he raked in the dough for doing Two And A Half Men for over a decade, Jon Cryer was Maxwell Hauser in the outdated Hiding Out which I actually saw on a dubbed VHS tape.  And it took roughly two screenings to confirm that Horrible Bosses only has one genuine laugh.  (The slightly less bad sequel only manages to generate a few more.)

Blake Edwards’ “10” at least benefits from the compelling Bo Derek whose unashamedly free-spirited sexuality and intelligence temporarily distract you from her uptight, sexist, homophobic stalker, Dudley Moore.  One of my dad’s favourite films, I just can’t muster the same enthusiasm.

I was far more fascinated by the excellent documentary Comic Book Confidential.  Released in 1988, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a follow-up to cover the last couple of decades of this still vibrant industry.  Much to my surprise, I also enjoyed National Treasure, an unabashedly absurd but well crafted comic adventure that features one of Nicolas Cage’s less manic performances.

Speaking of movies, 25 Years After Seeing Back To The Future Part III In A Theatre, I’d Much Rather Watch Movies On DVD was an essay I’d been secretly wanting to write for quite some time.  Over the last decade, I’ve grown very tired of the excessively loud, very expensive cinematic experience.  And despite being invited out a few times after it was written, I’m maintaining my theatrical boycott.  I’m much happier with my neurotically drawn out home video screenings.  (I’m talking captions and multiple pee breaks.)

Let’s shift gears now to music.  My 2011 review of Breaching Vista’s Vera City became the last of my lost MonkeyBiz.ca pieces to get reposted here.  It’s one of only two critiques that actually inspired a response, in this case indirectly, from a member of a band I was evaluating.  (The other, incidentally enough, was this republished assessment of Yukon Blonde’s Tiger Talk as previously noted here.)  Although originally sent to my then-editor at the time of its original unveiling, the mostly positive comments were forwarded to me.  They were then heavily excerpted in the above link.

I’m a major supporter of David Bowie who has been remarkably busy with new projects the last couple of years after keeping a mostly low profile the last decade or so.  (Look for Blackstar, his newest album, on January 8.)  Last Christmas, I got the 3CD version of his most recent greatest hits package Nothing Has Changed from my parents.  Although generally excellent, I was disappointed it excluded some key singles which inspired the appropriately titled 12 Singles Disappointingly Omitted From David Bowie’s Nothing Has Changed.

Two days later came Five David Bowie Classics That Bombed In America.

When the alt-rock legend’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts announced the first of several career-spanning box sets in June, I reported Original Holy Holy Single Finally Makes CD Debut In New David Bowie Box Set.  (Why couldn’t it have been included on my Rykodisc copy of The Man Who Sold The World?)  In July, I listed 12 David Bowie Rarities That Have Never Been Released On CD.

Finally, 5 Rock Songs That Slyly Reference 5 Other Rock Songs was a long dormant entry that finally came together after listening to Bowie’s Queen Bitch for the first time in years.  I belatedly noticed that some of the lyrics were subtly referenced in The Killers’ Mr. Brightside.  I already knew that Bush quoted Life On Mars? in Everything Zen.

I was hoping to do more Bowie-related pieces but these were the only ones I managed to finish.  Maybe next year.

In the summer, I started watching old Degrassi Junior High episodes on MTV Canada.  (I hadn’t seen these in years and was unaware they were being aired again.)  With the song’s catchy opening theme in my head, I was walking to my local library one day when for some reason I imagined the lyrics rearranged to Live And Let Die, one of the best James Bond themes, although I was thinking more of Guns N’ Roses’ cover version.  That led to this goofy parody.  (Paging Axel.)  I wonder if Kevin Smith would be amused.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 31, 2015
1:54 a.m.

UPDATE:  After not being entirely happy with this original posting, I decided to make some alterations near the end of it.  I’ve relocated & expanded the Breaching Vista review section, moved 5 Rock Songs to the end of the Bowie paragraphs and made Degrassi Junior High the new conclusion.  I think it plays a lot better now.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
3:27 a.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 1:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2014, My Ninth Year Of Blogging (Part Two)

While 2014 was a very good year for The D-Man, the same can’t be said for a number of prominent public figures.

Take Jian Ghomeshi.  He once had it all:  a youthful appearance despite being middle-aged, a high profile gig as the popular host of CBC Radio’s Q, a ubiquitous presence in Canada’s arts & entertainment scene.  But following the death of his father, it all went downhill when he was suddenly fired by the CBC.  Shortly thereafter he posted an infamous Facebook statement on his public account (now since deleted) in an attempt to try to get ahead of a very damaging Toronto Star expose on his behaviour around women.

He claimed he liked rough sex and so did his partners.  But the women who spoke to the Star (and later Maclean’s Magazine & the CBC itself) strongly countered that assertion by claiming what he really liked to do was abuse & harass them in variously disgusting ways.  (The earliest accusations date back to the late 80s when he was a university student.)  As more and more disturbing stories surfaced, Ghomeshi started losing all his lucrative gigs.  Three of his alleged victims complained to police.  An investigation began and, much to my surprise, he was ultimately arrested.  His next court appearance happens early next year.  His lawyer publicly stated he will rigorously fight the charges.  I hope he loses.

After attempting on two occasions to write about his stunning fall from grace, I had an idea.  I decided to seek out a public library copy of 1982, Ghomeshi’s best selling teen memoir (which will no longer be published), in an committed effort to write something original about the growing scandal.

In the end, Overlooked Quotes From Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982 became a threepart series.  Collectively, it has generated close to 1400 page views.

While Woody Allen continues to make one movie a year & occasionally direct an actress to an Oscar (Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett being the latest this year), his past haunted him big time in 2014, as well.  After his estranged daughter Dylan Farrow wrote a damning, powerful piece for Nick Kristof’s New York Times blog about how Allen abused her when she was just a child, it opened up an uncomfortable but necessary public conversation about sexual assault and privileged celebrity perpetrators.

I ended up writing eight pieces about it:  Damaging Woody Allen Details From A 1997 Connecticut Magazine Article, the threepart series Damning Woody Allen Details In 1993 Child Custody Decision and the fourpart series Forgotten Woody Allen Revelations From Mia Farrow’s 1997 Autobiography.

Girls creator Lena Dunham’s inappropriate childhood behaviour towards her younger sister erupted into controversy after a conservative website printed excerpts about it from her book of essays, Not Your Kind Of Girl.  It triggered a couple of painful childhood memories of my own which led me to write Lena Dunham & The Importance Of Childhood Boundaries.  The original draft included a section on Jian Ghomeshi but was correctly taken out because it felt out of place & it made the essay way too long.  In a weird way, I’m grateful I finally had the chance to make peace with this part of my life.  I’m in a much better emotional head space now.

Then-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would love to forget all about 2013, the beginning of the end of his one term as mayor.  But that proved impossible when reports of a second crack video (along with the release of other odd videos & audio clips) caused another major ruckus in the spring of 2014.  After a controversial two-month stint in rehab, he was then diagnosed with a rare cancer just weeks before the Toronto civic elections.  (Doug filled in for him in the race for Mayor.)

I had written four times about Ford in this space last year.  Two more entries surfaced this year:  the satirical Rob Ford (a song parody (just the lyrics) of Iggy Pop’s I’m Bored) and Rob Ford’s Political Hail Mary which was later posted with a slightly different title on Huffington Post Canada.  While he recovers from his serious illness, the now bald ex-Mayor is still at City Hall as a Counsellor (the safe seat he decided to run for instead of continuing his doomed reelection campaign).  Absurdly, he’s planning to run for Mayor again in 2018.  How about focusing on getting healthy, instead?

President Barack Obama continued to flounder in 2014 as the NSA scandal continued to grow, the CIA’s ongoing history of War On Terror torture slowly went public & his Democratic Party lost the Senate in the November mid-terms.  But he still has his fans like this former aide who wrote a revealing article for Rolling Stone, another piece that ended up on HuffPo.

Speaking of politics, Israel’s savage assault of the Palestinians in Gaza inspired much outrage worldwide.  Since I’m no Max Blumenthal or Rania Khalek when it comes to covering this beat with the full honesty & integrity that it deserves, I wrote three poems about the unfolding genocide instead:  There Is No Tomorrow, Only Yesterday; Darkness Inside and Spilling The Blood Of Innocence.  Some of the explicit imagery graphically depicted in Innocence did not come from my imagination.  I saw photos of murdered Palestinian children posted on Twitter looking exactly the way I described them.  Now that the International Criminal Court is going to get involved, here’s hoping the brutal, illegal, longterm occupation of Palestine at the hands of the endlessly vindictive & unaccountable Zionist Israeli government comes to a swift end.

Politics was a recurring theme of other poetry I wrote in 2014.  12 Years A Slave is about being a detainee in the American gulag in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay.  Professor Nothing is a knock on no-nothing TV “experts” while The Truth and Waves Of Dissent are both slams on President Obama’s numerous, egregious human rights violations.

Encounters with difficult women on Twitter led to four more poems.  Self-Righteous Fury was inspired by an overheated argument regarding a controversial John Grisham interview.  I defended his remarks, she made outrageous, unfounded accusations against me and even made a bizarre threat to have my HuffPo gig taken away.  What a twit.  Thank goodness for the Block button.  After some serious online flirtations & even some sexting with a very sexy Canadian feminist, I wrote Lust Never Sleeps & Perverted Thinker as tributes.  A month later when it all went to shit (she unfollowed me after one too many sexually charged DM’s that she previously said she thoroughly enjoyed), I composed the tempestuous You Hurt Me First.  We haven’t communicated since.  I blocked her phony ass.

Speaking of difficult women, Devil’s Insight feels very reminiscent of Nobody Cares with its fictional, villainous portrayal of a callous temptress.  I wish I could remember what exactly led to its creation.

Humourless Gesture took on Suey Park’s dopey #CancelColbert campaign (as did the essay How The Real Suey Park Is Just As Ignorant As The Fake Stephen Colbert) while The True Meaning Of Indecency and, to a lesser extent, Your Courage Is In Short Supply once again took poetic aim at Barack Obama apologist Sophia Bush (as did Sophia Bush’s Revealing Buzzfeed Interview & Warmongering Human Rights Activists).

Feminism and depression are not the easiest subjects to tackle in verse.  You have to tread carefully or risk alienating large, vocal communities.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen to me personally.  While No More Depression, The Sadness Beneath (a eulogy for Robin Williams), A Life Of Deprivation & Switching Off The Darkness dealt with the sickening scourge of mental illness, I Am A Lie focused on slut shaming.  It’s a tribute to Emily Lindin of The UnSlut Project who bravely shared her middle school diaries online about being both a victim & perpetrator of shaming girls for their sexual choices.  The poem incorporates some of the darker real-life elements of her compelling writings into a fictional scenario.  (Follow her @UnSlutProject.  She’s great.)

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd knows all about slut shaming.  She did it to Monica Lewinsky for years.  When Lewinsky returned to the public eye in 2014, Dowd revisited the subject.  That inspired me to write Three Past Examples Of Maureen Dowd Slut Shaming Monica Lewinsky, which was kindly mentioned here.

Maybe it’s because I follow and am friendly with a number of feminists on Twitter that I decided to join in on the #YesAllWomen hashtag which became a top trending topic in the immediate aftermath of the Elliott Rodger massacre.  Many of the tweets I posted under that tag were compiled along with a few new ones in We Men Are The Problem, Not Women.  It led to some interesting exchanges with a couple of male readers in the comments section.

I may have stopped predicting results for their monthly, overpriced pay-per-views (I’m a terrible prognosticator) and ceased being a regular, devoted viewer of their weekly TV shows, but that didn’t stop me from writing about the WWE on multiple occasions again this year.  CM Punk’s sudden departure immediately following the Royal Rumble led to two tribute pieces:  Why I Don’t Blame CM Punk For Leaving WWE and Thank You, CM Punk.  (An earlier piece, How CM Punk’s Original “Pipe Bomb” Foreshadowed Several Key WWE Storylines, added almost 3500 hits to its current overall total of 5600.)

I also paid my respects to The Ultimate Warrior, complained about the WWE’s reliance on aging superstars of the past & missing, significant stories from The History Of WWE DVD, offered trivia about SummerSlam and the Survivor Series, and wrote about The Five Men Who “Retired” At WrestleMania.  Looking back at the retirement piece, I probably should’ve included Stone Cold Steve Austin who wrestled his final professional match in a losing effort against The Rock at WrestleMania 19 in 2003.  I forgot about it because it wasn’t billed as his last in-ring encounter.  Oh well.

In the world of legitimate athletic competition, there was plenty of excitement for sports fans.  The World Cup itself was full of stunning surprises:  defending champions Spain utterly collapsing against the Netherlands in their first match (a rematch of the 2010 final), Germany’s hilarious decimation of humiliated host nation Brazil, England & Portugal’s early exit from the tournament (like Spain, they didn’t make it past the group stage).  It was also full of doppelgangers.  A few months earlier, the Winter Olympics provided plenty of drama of its own.  When it was all over, I reflected on what I loved and hated about the event.

Back to politics for a moment.  NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave NBC an exclusive prime-time interview which was much praised.  I posed my own unanswered questions to the heroic American.  Meanwhile, explosive reports about Canada’s own surveillance state left me with even more questions for my own federal government.  Finally, the transparently pathetic Michael Coren pretended to be a new friend of the gay community.  Don’t believe he’s changed his views on homosexuality because he hasn’t.  Until he supports gay sex, gay marriage and gay adoption publicly & privately, not to mention transgender people, don’t be fooled by his bullshit.

That leaves us with the world of entertainment.  When I wasn’t reposting old MonkeyBiz CD reviews of Autobodies’ Rearranger and Dirty Penny’s Sage Against The Machine, I was honouring 6 actors who made remarkable movie comebacks and critiquing films like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, NightflyersMannequin, Movie 43, A Haunted House 2 & Edge Of Tomorrow.  When I wasn’t making poor predictions about the Oscars, praising host Ellen DeGeneres’ surprisingly funny performance, and re-examining the influence of the meaningless Golden Globes, I was honouring MuchMusic’s 30th Anniversary and lamenting its forgotten, lost influence on Canadian pop culture.

You know, it’s amazing to me.  I wrote far less this year than in 2013 yet The Writings Of Dennis Earl saw tremendous growth in hits & visibility.  In fact, this is my most successful year as a blogger to date.  You know things are going well when a piece you wrote three & a half years ago continues to be the most popular piece I’ve ever written.  What’s Really Going On With Shannon Tweed & Gene Simmons? earned an additional 5100+ hits this year bringing the overall total since its June 2011 debut to over 27000.

So, as I always like to ask this time of year, what’s next for me?  Can I carry this encouraging momentum into 2015 and beyond?  Will there be more creative opportunities to expand my reach?  Will my sex drought come to an end?  And will I finally be able to get paid on a regular basis to do what I love most?

All I can say is stay tuned.  In the meantime, Happy New Year, everyone!

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
5:31 p.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2014 at 5:32 pm  Comments (2)  

Remembering 2014, My Ninth Year Of Blogging (Part One)

“Annus horribilis” or “annus mirabilis”?

How should we remember 2014?  Was it a “horrible year” or a “wonderful year”?  Well, as always, it depends on who we’re talking about.  For Robin Thicke, Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, Shia LeBeouf, Donald Sterling, the CIA, the NSA & countless others, it was the former.  For Senate Republicans, the German soccer team, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Benedict Cumberbatch, feminists, the Canadian Olympic Team & countless others, it was the latter.

In my case, upon evaluating all the available evidence, I’ve come to one unmistakable conclusion:  my 2014 was pretty damn good.

I’ve been blogging now for almost nine years, much of it in almost total obscurity.  At the end of 2006, after being on MSN Spaces for 11 months, The Writings Of Dennis Earl had generated a measly 3200 hits.  Eight years later, the grand total of overall page views for my relocated WordPress site in 2014 is almost 40000, my biggest annual total to date.  It may be a slow process building a readership but by God, things are finally happening for me.

In 2014, there were three significant moments, three pivotal turning points that led to all this growth.

It all began in late March.  While checking my daily stats, I noticed a huge surge in interest in Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld On DVD.  Last year, this trivia piece generated less than 350 hits in 2013 altogether.  But on March 29th alone, it generated almost 550 hits.  A little investigation revealed why.

Someone had posted a link to the piece on Reddit.  That gave me an idea.  What if I started posting my work myself in various sections of the website?  Would that boost my numbers, I wondered?

So, in April, I signed up.  Although some pieces were either rejected or simply not read or commented on at all, there were a few that did attract some attention, both enthusiastic & harsh.

Unsolved Mysteries Of Seinfeld dates back to early 2008 during my Windows Live Spaces period but after I shared it on Reddit, it was seen almost 1700 times on April 14th alone.  (I set a new daily record that day:  over 1900 page views, the most single-day traffic I’ve ever had in the history of this site.)  Although, comments were decidedly mixed (hey GlottostopFTW, I like my old health card picture, so fuck you), I was incredibly surprised so many Seinfeld fans took the time to read it & write about it, even if some didn’t particularly care for it.  (It was filed under “controversial”.  That’s bad ass.)

In the WordPress era, Unsolved Mysteries Of Seinfeld was seen just under 500 times in four years.  In 2014 alone, thanks to the Reddit posting, it has generated an additional 2400 hits in 2014.  Thanks to its own Reddit posting, Interesting Things I Learned About The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld On DVD generated almost 3500 hits this year (thanks for sharing it, besst!).

Before Reddit cracked down on my excessive personal linking (I got a little carried away & didn’t know they frown on this until I took the time to read their rather restrictive policy), my 2006 review of the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven (over 800 hits), The Five Men Who “Retired” At WrestleMania (over 1350 in a single day, plus an additional 300 for the rest of the year), Royal Rumble Trivia (over 450) & 9 OMG! Moments The WWE Overlooked For Its 2011 DVD Set (almost 370) all benefited from being shared on the site.

As a result of all of this, April 2014 is currently the biggest month I’ve ever had with over 7600 hits.  Were it not for Reddit being such anti-linkites, I’m quite confident I would’ve had an even bigger year than I already did.

Two months later, my disappointment was immediately forgotten after I received a very nice email from Seamus McKiernan.  He loved my three-part blog series, 9 Public Figures Who Rightly Opposed The Second Iraq War, and asked if it would be ok to have it published on The Huffington Post.  (He’s an editor for the site.)  Despite being in considerable pain (damn you, gum disease & 18 years of unchecked tartar build-up), it didn’t take me long to give him my blessing.

Although the HuffPo version was much shorter (at the request of Seamus, it was trimmed way down so it could fit into a single condensed piece) & given a new title, this was a major breakthrough for me.  In the end, it was liked 356 times, shared almost 100 times on social media and through email & commented on 49 times.  After she read it, my Mom could not have been any prouder of me.  The outpouring of support from my friends & family on Facebook & Twitter was deeply gratifying.

Since then, five more of my pieces have been posted on The Huffington Post:  21 Things You Probably Don’t Know About ‘Hell in a Cell’, Some SummerSlam Trivia, 6 Actors Who Made the Most of Their Second Chances (which was also translated in French), A Former Obama Aide’s Revealing ‘Rolling Stone’ Article & Rob Ford Threw a Political Hail Mary That Doug Can’t Catch.

The Rolling Stone story was liked an incredible 1400 times, commented on 115 times & shared with others almost 15o times, easily making it the most popular of all my HuffPo contributions.  (I wish they kept official statistics for all my pieces posted on there but strangely, they don’t keep track of any of that.  I hope that changes soon.)  It also inspired a brief email conversation with a globally respected math professor, a fellow President Obama critic, who not only enjoyed the piece but expressed astonishment that HuffPo dared to publish it.  That meant a lot to me.  Thanks, Professor Farley!

The Rob Ford story was liked almost 500 times, inspired 34 comments and has been shared over 110 times.  A DJ from British Columbia liked it enough to request I do a 10-minute phoner about it on his morning radio show.  (I was deeply flattered but politely declined.)  That said, I have a couple of small complaints.  An error I made (Doug Ford was still serving as a Toronto City Councillor at the time of its writing.  I wrongly noted he was a former Councillor during the civic election campaign.), pointed out by a former schoolmate in the comment section, wasn’t corrected, even after I emailed Seamus about it.  I also wanted to post a clarification regarding Rob Ford’s health history (“CLARIFICATION:  During a September 17 press conference announcing Rob Ford’s rare cancer diagnosis, Dr. Zane Cohen stated that the Toronto Mayor didn’t have a benign mass in 2009.  He actually had appendicitis.”) but that was ignored, too.  Since the piece was first posted here on WordPress, like all of my HuffPo submissions, I simply made these changes in the original essay here.

President Obama’s War Crimes, my one & only attempt to write something exclusively for HuffPo, was not accepted.  Curiously, after posting it on my site, it was reprinted without any prompting on my part by Socialistnet.net.  That was cool.  They published two more of my pieces, a poem called Self-Righteous Fury & the aforementioned Rolling Stone Obama aide story, as well.  Too bad the site doesn’t exist any more, not even in cached form.

Finally, there’s Twitter.  Truthfully, there’s no one single event that stands out as a game changer but to have prominent media folks & activists, as well as non-media people, following me or interacting with me has surely led to more interest in my work.  (My account generates tens of thousands of views every week.  If only my blog could be as popular.)  As we begin to bury 2014 for good, after two years of tweeting, I’m proud to say I have over 400 followers.  That’s more than twice the amount of blog subscribers I have (116, as of this writing).  I feel like I’ve made some new friends (although I lost a few, as well) & even earned a tiny bit of respect along the way.  Here’s hoping for more good news on this front in 2015.  You can follow me @DennisCEarl.

While my Twitter account is far more read than my own site, The Writings Of Dennis Earl had a banner year nonetheless.  Since the move to WordPress from Windows Live Spaces in the fall of 2010, it’s now been accessed over 110000 times.  New stats records were set for seven individual months.  (January, February, June, July & October were the only holdouts.  Past years during those periods generated higher monthly totals.)  Only one month (February) had less than 2000 hits.  And I’ve already mentioned the new daily, monthly & annual statistical breakthroughs.

When debating whether one had a good year or a horrific one, from my perspective, based on everything I’ve just finished documenting, 2014 was, in a word, mirabilis.  May my good fortune continue in the new year.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
8:50 p.m.

Published in: on December 30, 2014 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Some Thoughts On Becoming A Huffington Post Contributor

The email came out of nowhere and it has already changed my life.

Last Friday morning, a friendly fellow had written a very complimentary message about this website.  More importantly, he made me an offer:

“I came across your blog and wondered if you’d like to repost your list of 9 figures who opposed the Iraq War on The Huffington Post.”

As you can imagine, I was stunned.  The Huffington Post?  For real?

Yes.  HuffingtonPost.com editor Seamus McKiernan was serious.  When I first read his message that same Friday afternoon, it took me a nanosecond to think, “Hell, yeah!”

A couple of days later, he asked me to supply a personal head shot and a brief bio.  Wow, I was going to have my own author page, something every contributor gets on HuffPo.  This was unbelievable.

Then came a dose of reality.  My original three-part series, 9 Public Figures Who Rightly Opposed The Second Iraq War, collectively runs more than 3600 words, far too long for HuffPo.  Would I be willing to cut some of the quoted sections so it would fit on their site?

Uncharacteristically, I was ok with that.  In fact, I had anticipated this from the start.

I say “uncharacteristically” because generally I hate to excise anything from a posted piece or even a submission, especially if I think it’s integral to the overall presentation.  But what Seamus suggested I cut wasn’t any of my own words, just some of the comments & writings of the nine principled souls who went against the conventional “wisdom” of invading Iraq.  As he noted in a subsequent email, “I think you could cut half or more of each of the quoted sections and still make those points. It’d read a little swifter, which would work well with our audience and keep their attention.”

I thought about it and realized that he was right, that the original series could be neatly condensed into a single piece of writing without losing its core essence.  But by God, how hard it was to decide what to keep and what to remove in a process that took hours.  Not helping matters was 1) my stubborn migraine (long story and unrelated to this wonderful opportunity) which meant being extra vigilant in the face of persistent pain, and 2) the distraction of the World Cup football tournament.  (I’m feeling a bit better now thanks to my pal Aleve but the ache hasn’t completed vanished yet.  I hope it does soon.  I may have to up the dosage.)

In the end, I was very happy with this new Jenny Craiged version.  After cutting more than 1500 words, it was sent back to Seamus who made some last-minute changes of his own.  (Surprisingly, some quotes were fully restored or lengthened while some others disappeared.  Everything else remained intact.)

Shortly after Noon yesterday, having not yet heard back from him (he emailed me not that long afterward), I impatiently Googled my name and Huffington Post, each in separate quotations.  In an instant, there it was, the first hit in the search.  I clicked it.  I couldn’t wait to read the final result.

Now renamed 9 Public Figures Who Were Wrongly Maligned for Opposing The Iraq War, God damn it looks great.  Seamus did a wonderful editing job.  (There was only one small mistake that needed to be corrected.  In the first Ron Paul quote, “Asia” was missing from “and Central” (I had actually cut those three words that were thankfully restored), but after bringing it to his attention, Seamus added it in.  I always appreciate when editors do that.  It shows they’re listening and they care.)

The best part was showing my Mom.  She was thrilled.  It’s been a while since I’ve heard her say to me, “I’m really proud of you.”

The day before the piece was posted, I made the announcement on Twitter and to my friends & family on Facebook.  They were really happy for me and very supportive, as well.  After it surfaced on HuffPo, I made sure they were all aware of its posting which led to more welcome support.

As of this writing, on HuffPo, the article has generated almost 50 comments (twice as many as my first Gene Simmons Family Jewels posting from 2011), it’s has been shared dozens of times through various social media sites & email, and it has been liked almost 300 times, unreal statistics for someone like me.  The only statistic I don’t know is how many times it’s been accessed.  Surely, that number, conservatively, is in the thousands.

As for the comments, well, unfortunately, there are more complaints about who I left out of the piece than its actual contents.  Regarding retired Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, another vocal opponent of the Iraq War who was endlessly ridiculed, one reader said, “It’s actually sickening that the leading voice against the war is left out of this article.”

That’s a little harsh.  The article was by no means intended to be comprehensive.  By God, how long it would be if I mentioned every single person, private citizens included, who exercised their Constitutional rights to protest the invasion?  There’s no way HuffPo would’ve encouraged me to do that, nor should they!  It was challenging enough editing down the quotes from the nine in the original 3-part series!

That said, how wonderful it is to have access to a whole new group of readers not at all familiar with the eight years I’ve been blogging, first on Windows Live Spaces and now WordPress.  It’s a huge breakthrough for me, a major break in my career, and I could not be more thankful and appreciative to Seamus and The Huffington Post for this privilege.  So far, this has been a very exciting and overwhelmingly positive experience.

Let’s hope it continues as I think about what to write next.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, July 3, 2014
8:08 p.m.

Published in: on July 3, 2014 at 8:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Remembering 2013, My Eighth Year Of Blogging (Part Three)

Last year around this time, I thought about Seinfeld.  More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Third Season Of Seinfeld On DVD was enjoying a surge of page views in the final third of 2012, an awfully strange development for a piece written and posted in 2008.  Like most of my writing in that period, it was pretty much ignored when first seen on my old Windows Live Spaces site, so to have it belatedly find an audience years later on WordPress was lovely.

And it reminded me that I had some unfinished business.

My good friend, Rob, had repeatedly warned me for months in 2007 that he was planning on loaning me his Seinfeld box sets so I could write about them.  As the year drew to a close, he insisted I take the season one & two set home with me, so I did.

Because I’ve seen these shows 800 million times on Television, doing reviews of all the episodes was not going to happen.  But as I watched this first box, I learned a lot about the show.  And that became the start of a new blog series:  Interesting Things I Learned While Watching Seinfeld On DVD.  There were also a lot of unanswered questions which led to a second:  Unsolved Mysteries Of Seinfeld.

From January to April 2008, I posted two-part trivia pieces and an unsolved mysteries item for all but one of the first three box sets (season three was the exception) that covered the first four seasons.  But by the time I got to season five, I was quite depressed and having irregular sleep over an unrelated matter.  (Long story.)  Although I finished watching everything on the box, I wasn’t up for writing about it.  As a result, the project was shelved for the next four and a half years.  Eventually, as 2008 progressed, I fully recovered but up to that point, I had moved on to other ideas.

Three days after I posted Remembering 2012, My Seventh Year Of Blogging (Part One), Rob and I got together.  In the piece I mention contemplating a return to the series because of the surprise popularity of that aforementioned third season trivia item.  He read it and decided to loan me season five again.  He even threw in season six, as well.

A week later, I decided to do what I hadn’t done all those years ago.  I would take meticulous notes throughout the screenings.  (Previously, with the exception of jotting down points during the Notes About Seinfeld features, I relied mostly on my memory, double checking where appropriate.)

It was amazing how much I had forgotten about season five.  True, some of it was familiar but a lot of it wasn’t, which, ironically, was a good thing.  Feeling so much better than in the summer of 2008, I was finally able to write about what I had learned, albeit the second time around.  Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Fifth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD and More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Fifth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD followed Unsolved Mysteries Of The Fifth Season Of Seinfeld in mid-January.

Then, after several consecutive days of screenings in late February, there was Unsolved Mysteries Of The Sixth Season Of Seinfeld, Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Sixth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD and More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Sixth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD.

Once these two box sets were returned to Rob in March, he loaned me the final three (seven, eight and nine).  Rather than take a long break between each set, I went from one right to the other.  Unsolved Mysteries Of The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld, Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld On DVD and More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Seventh Season Of Seinfeld On DVD all surfaced on April Fool’s Day.

Unsolved Mysteries Of The Eighth Season Of Seinfeld, Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Eighth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD and More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Eighth Season Of Seinfeld On DVD all popped up on April 14 while Unsolved Mysteries Of The Ninth And Final Season Of Seinfeld, Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Ninth And Final Season Of Seinfeld and More Interesting Things I Learned While Watching The Ninth And Final Season Of Seinfeld were first showcased five days later.

Season seven was returned to Rob that same month.  The next time we get together, he’ll get the rest back.  My thanks to him for suggesting doing something with all of his box sets in the first place.  It was great to finally finish these trivia pieces after all this time.  Collectively, all 15 postings generated more than 2100 hits this year.  May that total grow significantly in 2014 and beyond.

Speaking of popular pieces, What’s Really Going On With Shannon Tweed And Gene Simmons? remains the most accessible entry in this website’s entire history for the third straight year.  More than 5000 hits in 2013 have brought its overall total to almost 22000.  Nothing else comes remotely close and that includes the home page.

The second biggest piece of the year was How CM Punk’s Original “Pipe Bomb” Foreshadowed Several Key WWE Storylines from 2012.  It added over 1900 hits to last year’s total of 258.  29 Things I Love About Storage Wars (over 1500 added; over 6500 overall), my 2006 review of the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven (over 900 added; it now stands at over 1100), and Gene Simmons & Shannon Tweed Need To Get Real With Their Audience (over 500 added bringing its overall total to more than 4000) round out the Top 5.

Like any year, 2013 had its share of tragedy.  Natural disasters, shocking criminal cases, heartbreaking accidents, and, of course, celebrity deaths.  Regarding that last category, I eulogized two of my all-time favourites:  alt-rock pioneer Lou Reed and film critic Roger Ebert.  May they both rest in peace.

Speaking of shocking criminal cases, there’s the peculiar story of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, two troubled souls from British Columbia who found themselves arrested this summer for allegedly planning a terrorist act.  I find the case to be extremely problematic and wonder if I’m not alone in feeling that way.  Why The “Foiled” B.C. Plot Sounds Like A Bogus Sting lays out my argument.  The trial will be one to watch in the new year.

What will likely not be worth watching in 2014 are the weekly WWE prime time shows.  After putting up with overlong broadcasts, distracted announcers who can’t stop bickering long enough to strictly call the action in the ring and lacklustre angles for more than a year, I stopped watching Monday Night Raw in late October.  (I’ve haven’t watched much Smackdown in the last several months, either.  I’m sticking with the DVDs, though.)  Long before that, in March, I asked Why Is WWE Advertising R-Rated Movies During PG-Rated Raw?

Meanwhile, between February and August, I made predictions for every WWE pay-per-view:  Elimination Chamber, WrestleMania 29, Extreme Rules, Payback, Money In The Bank and SummerSlam.  So, why didn’t I continue on with this?  Let’s face it.  I’m a lousy prognosticator.  Just look at my Oscar picks this year, if you don’t believe me.

My pay-per-view trivia pieces (The Royal Rumble, Money In The Bank, Hell In A Cell), my two-part series on WWE superstars with the longest championship droughts (a bit out of date now), my five-part series on the 2013 Slammy Awards, Why Austin Aries Should Be Fired From TNA and 9 OMG! Moments The WWE Overlooked For Its 2011 DVD Set were less dependent on non-existent foresight and therefore, much better.  In total, there were 30 pro wrestling entries on the site this year.  Expect that total to come way down, though, in 2014.

Let’s talk about the movies.  Besides writing online essays like 4 Controversial Movie Castings That Ultimately Resulted In Triumph and the two-part series, The 5 Worst Film Franchises Of All Time, I continued to offer the occasional review.  Zero Dark Thirty, The Three Stooges remake, The Purge, Spice World, Earth, Beetlejuice, Breaking Dawn – Part Two, Texas Chainsaw, Sinister, Dredd, Flashdance, Zombieland, American Wedding and Inglourious Basterds appeared alongside previously published assessments of Paranormal Activity, Assassins, Jennifer’s Body and The Unborn.  All but one of those last four originally seen on Monkeybiz.ca.

In the end I screened slightly more than twice as many films as I did last year and eight times as many good ones.  Here’s hoping that trend continues well beyond 2014.

Speaking of previously published reviews, I also dipped into my personal archives to share some music critiques.  The very first posting of 2013 was this college-era assessment of Brian Eno and Jah Wobble’s Spinner.  That was immediately followed by MonkeyBiz reviews of Krash Karma’s Straight To The Blood, Gringo Star’s Count Yer Lucky Stars and Wilson Semiconductors by The Howling Hex.  Later on, evaluations of Morrissey’s Years Of Refusal and the When You’re Strange Soundtrack (featuring the music of The Doors) were put up here, as well.

And that brings me to this:  my favourite comment of the year.  On June 11th, a first-time reader responded most favourably to this 2012 Monkeybiz review I reposted on my site in late April:

“I play in a band called Yukon Blonde. You reviewed our record Tiger Talk, so for the very first time, I’m writing to someone who reviewed our record!

Somehow, I ended up reading some of our reviews online tonight.

[snip]

I ended up on yours which was the second review I read and I had to email you about your review of our song My Girl. You really nailed it and understood exactly what I wrote about. I’ve been interviewed time and time again and most oftentimes I get the question, ‘So why are you promoting drunk driving?’. It’s honestly really frustrating. I mean, you really nailed all of the songs, but I really started to doubt whether or not the story in the song was clear to anyone but me. Well, you got it so it might be safe to say that maybe some people out there do too.

Anyways, I’m just emailing you to thank you. It’s quite refreshing to see someone take the time and do their research before writing about something…”

Those were the kind words of Jeffrey Innes, Yukon Blonde’s frontman and chief songwriter.  Thanks, Jeff, and all the best to you and your bandmates in the new year.

By the way, expect a few more MonkeyBiz repostings of other past CD reviews in early January.

Besides reviving these old pieces, I wrote about Daniel Lanois’ early assessment of the next U2 album (which is now scheduled for a March release) and compiled silly, satirical song lists for failed New York Democratic Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and embarrassingly catfished football star Manti Te’o.  Music remains a big passion of mine and I hope to convey it here more often.

Although The Writings Of Dennis Earl didn’t quite top last year’s overall hit count, thankfully it did improve over 2011’s total, albeit slightly (a 500-hit difference, actually).  As of now, the site has generated pretty close to 24000 hits for the year, down by more than 2000 from 2012.  Followers have increased by more than half (up to 94 from 42 at the end of last December) and since the site moved from Windows Live Spaces to WordPress, it has generated just over 75000 in a little over three years.  Not bad but far from where it should be.

So after nearly eight years of doing this, what’s next?  Where do I go from here?

That’s a big question I hope to have a great answer for in 2014.

In the meantime, thanks to all who posted comments, sent emails, clicked “Like” and became followers in 2013.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
6:34 p.m.

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

Remembering 2013, My Eighth Year Of Blogging (Part Two)

As Sophia Bush refused to admit beyond the “theoretical” that I was right about President Obama (and Lance Armstrong, for that matter), I had no problem hammering away at her lying, bullying “hero”.

In May, I sarcastically suggested a list of Songs To Ease President Obama’s Worried Mind as his Presidency began to crumble in the midst of so many political earthquakes.  Then, just days later, I posted Pussy In The White House, perhaps the most critical political poem ever put in this space.  The title had been around for ages (I had long hesitated to use it) but with so much internal rage boiling inside me over Obama’s personal betrayal of his own so-called liberal beliefs, and with his plans to make an important national security speech around that same time, I went for it.  In the midst of an intense, unrelated migraine, it took about 4 days to put together.

It hasn’t been seen by many but it proved influential.  Just a couple of weeks later, The Guardian and The Washington Post started publishing shocking stories about the NSA’s secret mass surveillance programs, thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaking of official documents.  As the story began to unfold, I came to a seemingly premature conclusion:  this scandal is The End Of Obama.

But as the spring transitioned into summer (and my dreaded migraine finally went away; thank you, Aleve), it was increasingly clear that Snowden was singlehandedly incinerating the President’s already shaky credibility.  Why The Obama Administration Is Scared Of Edward Snowden, Obama’s Latin American Insult A Clear Sign Of Growing Desperation, How Edward Snowden Destroyed The Obama Presidency and Why President Obama Can’t Distance Himself From The Growing NSA Scandal each expanded upon my original argument as more and more bombshell stories exposed the lies and blatant deception of his thoroughly corrupt administration.

Just before the NSA was put in the hot seat, Rolling Stone Magazine publicized an important United Nations report on Obama’s most controversial counter-terrorism policy:  drones.  I decided to highlight some of the more stunning revelations in Shocking Quotes From June 2013 Report On Obama’s Secret Drone War, a four-part series that I wish had been more widely viewed.

As 2014 arrives, all eyes are on the President’s decision regarding all those NSA recommendations from his handpicked advisory committee.  Based on his performance this year, it would be foolish to think that the die-hard mass surveillance fan will suddenly reverse course and make overdue changes with restrictions and new regulations.  Then again, I’ve been wrong many times before, so we’ll have to wait and see.  Intense public pressure would definitely make a difference here.

We’ll also be awaiting the fate of Justin Carter, a silly teenager who made a terribly unfunny Facebook comment and is facing serious criminal charges for it.  After a recent defense motion to dismiss the case was rejected, Carter, who, thanks to the kindness of an anonymous stranger is out on bail, is not yet out of the woods.  I wrote about his unfair dilemma in July.

Speaking of unfair, there was no justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed by George Zimmerman in a maddening case full of doubts, contradictions and poor press coverage.  But imagine how much worse it would’ve been if Martin, an African American, was Muslim instead.  I speculated that the reaction of the public would be far less angry based on the way this community continues to be treated in America alone.

You can’t say there wasn’t plenty of anger directed towards Paula Deen, the controversial Southern chef.  Sued by a former employee, a white woman, over sexual and racial harassment (which was quietly dismissed), the 66-year-old Food Network star couldn’t quite escape the admission she made about using the nastiest of all racial epithets, among other questionable decisions.  Despite a series of tearful apologies, she lost all her shows, her book deal and a number of her endorsements.  She has kept a low profile ever since.  Too bad it wasn’t for her longtime advocacy for fatty, unhealthy foods, as I noted in The Forgotten Paula Deen Scandal.

Which brings us to Rob Ford.  The embattled Mayor of Toronto had already been the subject of much controversy in the early months of 2013 when Gawker and The Toronto Star reported on the now infamous crack video in May (which has yet to be released).  I wrote five pieces about his embarrassing dilemma:  Songs For Rob Ford, Unanswered Questions About The Rob Ford Crack Video Scandal, What Will Be The Last Straw For Rob Ford?, Why The Ford Brothers Won’t Save The Sun News Network and Rob Ford’s Secret iPod Playlist.  Six, if you count his inclusion in Winners & Losers Of 2012 (Part Seven), which, despite its considerable length, still managed to not mention other memorable moments of the scandal like Ford’s home parking lot freakout against the media’s presence there, his hypocritical mockery of a fellow councilman’s drunk driving issues and the time he dragged his poor wife through a supremely crowded press scrum when he could’ve taken her through a back exit.

Two questions:  could he possibly survive all this madness long enough to 1) run a re-election campaign next October and 2) actually win?  Surely, the odds are not in his favour.  Right?

Anyone?

Moving on.  What is the deal with the media’s love affair with Pope Francis?  Just because he says some atypical things doesn’t make him an atypical pontiff.  Quite the contrary as 8 Reasons Pope Francis Isn’t A Liberal Reformer fully demonstrates.  I’m hoping this bogus honeymoon comes to an immediate end in the new year.

Getting back to political poetry, President Obama and Sophia Bush weren’t the only targets of my rhyming barbs.  Bob Somerby, AKA The Daily Howler, also felt the cold steel of my literary jabs in Bitter Old Man, which employs the, at times, conspiratorial Baltimore comedian’s most annoyingly overused catchphrases in a mocking manner and thunders at his blatant hypocrisies.  Once one of the most influential bloggers in American politics, he’s become the tired, old, out-of-touch crank who thinks the barely watched Rachel Maddow is worth harping on more than the corrupt, vindictive Obama, the most powerful man in the world, who he thinks is a good and decent person.  (Ms. Bush would love that false characterization.)  Irritatingly repetitive, witless, painfully jealous of those more successful than him, culturally snobby and obsessive, I’m ready to tune him out for good now.

The Land Of Antipathy is about Amanda Marcotte and her miserably awful coverage of the bungled Duke Lacrosse rape case from several years ago (as well as her tribal hostility towards conservatives and others she doesn’t agree with).  Prejudging the defendants before the case was even tried, once the case collapsed she lashed out at her critics saying they were pro-rape.  I’m not kidding.

Look, it’s true.  In most sexual assault cases, there is a real victim and at least one real assailant.  But despite that, even those accused of sex crimes deserve their day in court.  You still have to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt to get the conviction.  I say that even as a guy who is adamantly against rape.  Interestingly, Somerby has been critical of Ms. Marcotte, as well.  (I’ll admit it.  He has had his moments.)  Public Image Ltd. fans will appreciate the recurring reference to Rise that opens each verse.  By the way, the alleged victim in the Duke case was convicted of killing her boyfriend years later.

Other political poems I wrote this year include The Sleeping Majority (about the Gitmo hunger strike), Blissful Denial and Union Of Ignorance (both knocking those who ignore the criminal actions of Obama).

Pretentious Snob is about Robert Christgau, the veteran rock critic.  Like Somerby, his work often drives me mental.  The first verse was written last year as the diatribe-in-progress sat unfinished for months.  Finally, I figured out a way to finish it in early 2013.  The line “You gave a four-star review to a shrieking groupie” is a reference to a review of a Yoko Ono compilation entitled Walking On Thin Ice.  Another line – “What’s wrong with playing more than three chords?” – refers to his deep disdain for prog rock and heavy metal, two underappreciated genres.

Always/Never is about a fictional, abusive relationship.  Stuck, The Loop and The End Of Obsession deal with the difficulties of breaking the cycle of depression while Mental Cleansing offers possible solutions.  When my aforementioned migraine was hurting me the most, I wrote Riding The Waves Of Pain to cope.

A few days later, it was gone for good.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
3:43 p.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remembering 2013, My Eighth Year Of Blogging (Part One)

For two and a half years, Sophia Bush has disappointed me.  She foolishly defended the assassination of Osama Bin Laden by parroting discredited Obama Administration talking points on her Twitter account.  She hasn’t admitted that maybe it was more than a little dumb to continue defending Lance Armstrong even when the evidence of his doping became overwhelming and undeniable.  (She’s offered no public comment about his belated confession, either.)  The “passionate environmentalist” hasn’t said anything about President Obama’s plans to drill in the melting Arctic nor his love for oil and gas exploration.  And she has long ignored his questionable record on civil liberties both here and abroad.

When 2013 began, it had been six months since I wrote You’re Not As Smart As You Think You Are, a highly critical poem that lambasted Ms. Bush for her total lack of interest in holding her “hero” accountable.  Since nothing had changed, in late January I followed up with Hot Girl Bubble which was even more scathing.

Shortly thereafter, following much contemplation and internal debating, I finally joined Twitter.  (Follow me @DennisCEarl.)  In between writing original thoughts about various subjects and linking to some of my blog postings as well as noteworthy news articles that caught my attention, I would criticize Ms. Bush.  In March, after posting two consecutive, snide tweets about her, she responded.

It was a total shock.  Ms. Bush has said she reads every tweet sent her way but naturally, she doesn’t respond to all of them.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if we were talking about thousands of messages from fans and critics every single day.)  So, I marvelled that she took the time to write me five consecutive tweets.  It meant a lot to me personally since I’ve long enjoyed her work on One Tree Hill (I’m finally caught up with all nine seasons) and have immense respect for her charitable endeavours.

Unfortunately, instead of addressing any of my criticism, she wrote, “If you dislike me and my opinions and my passions so much, why do you constantly mention me?  And how exactly do you dislike my opinions & passions so much if you don’t even follow me, to know what they are?”

Instead of directly responding on Twitter, I wrote How Sophia Bush Misses The Point Of My Criticism in this space instead.  When I posted the link on my Twitter account, I made sure Ms. Bush saw it.  The next day, she responded with eleven additional tweets.

This time, she told me to “grow up” and that I “sound[ed] like a petulant child who is upset he isn’t getting his way”, even though the great John Cusack has also criticized Obama in numerous “articles” similar to mine that, according to Ms. Bush, “have been poignant and brilliant”.  She also erroneously claimed that I knocked her charity work, a strawman argument she found “deeply insulting and offensive”.  She said that she had “many more discussions with news outlets and friends around my dinner table alike than you will ever know.”  What those alleged discussions actually entailed went unmentioned.  Maybe the NSA has the transcripts.

Ultimately, I added additional comments to the piece and decided not to inform Ms. Bush on Twitter that I did so, which was probably a mistake.  Then again, what would be the point?  She believes what she wants to believe whether it’s factual or not and nothing I will ever say is going to change her incredibly stubborn mind.  Life is too short to live in a state of constant frustration.

Not long after this brief exchange, I wrote a poem about it:  Silence Isn’t Justice.  Then, in April, still aggravated by the whole thing, I posted Sophia Bush, The Queen Of Consistency after finding numerous contradictory tweets and public comments she had made in online news articles.  One commenter took exception to it.  She claimed my “obsession” with Ms. Bush “is a little disturbing.  If I were her, I would file a restraining order.  Get a life, asshole.”  (Love is louder, lily18teen.)  My response to her speaks for itself.  Another poem, I’m Your Conscience, appeared in early May.

A month later, I was opening up a tweet on Ms. Bush’s official account when I received a message I had never seen before:  “You are not authorized to look up related results for that Tweet.”  I turned to Google to find out what this meant.

She blocked me.

Ms. Bush hadn’t tweeted me in two and a half months despite the fact that I never did stop hammering her both here and on Twitter.  Never one to back down from an Internet argument, it seemed out of character for her to completely ignore me altogether.  But ignore me she has done since those two memorable days in March.  Why Sophia Bush Blocked Me On Twitter, which surfaced days before my 38th birthday, pretty much argued that since she was completely unable to substantially refute much of anything I had written, her best option was to disengage with me altogether.  She’s so in love with her denial I’m surprised she hasn’t married it.

It was very hard not to consider this a personal triumph.  Think about it.  A major celebrity activist who prides herself on being well-versed on political issues didn’t make any serious attempt to debunk a single one of my criticisms.  Why?  Because she couldn’t.  I had all of my facts right.  And because I’ve been such a goddamn pest about all of this, hence the “petulant child” crack she made, there was no way she could ever successfully shut me up, either.  Unlike Sarah Palin, I know what I’m talking about.

Indeed, in late July, despite knowing full well that she wanted nothing to do with me, I still posted Questions For Sophia Bush, perhaps the most adversarial offering presented to her to date.  That was followed by Sophia Bush’s Lack Of Concern For Persecuted Gay Patriots in August.

Finally, in October, as her “unicorn”, President Obama, was drowning in a rising ocean of startling NSA revelations, among numerous other scandals, I couldn’t help but rub it in one last time.  What Do You Think Of Your Hero Now? is pretty much self-explanatory.

So, looking back now, was it all worth it or did I completely waste my time?  Honestly, I have decidedly mixed feelings today.  As great as it was to argue with a prominent Hollywood celebrity on matters of such importance, it saddens me that it ended in unresolved bitterness on both sides.  (Well, more me than her, it must be noted.  She got over all of this a little too quickly.  Try as I may, I can’t get over it.)

When Ms. Bush knows an issue cold, she’s the smartest person in the room; articulate, passionate and a force for positive change.  She’s someone you want as an ally.  But when she doesn’t, it’s infuriating and downright embarrassing.  She needlessly hurts her own credibility by not listening to smart, alternate points of view respectfully (regardless of how coarse it may sound) and refusing to allow herself to broaden her limited perspective.  Perhaps if she stopped viewing any forthright criticism of her thoughts and actions, or lack thereof, as personal attacks, she might learn something and grow as a human being.  I will never understand how she can willfully turn a blind eye to what her own government is doing to innocent people here and around the world.  (If George W. Bush was doing this, does anyone believe she would stay silent?)  But that is the dangerous choice she’s made and she is the one who has to live with her own ignorant indifference to the reality of the American empire.  As much as I’m loath to admit it, she’s not my problem anymore.  I can’t be her conscience if she’s long tuned me out.  (And, quite frankly, why should I be?)  It’s clear she has no shame in being an outright hypocrite.

That being said, it still bothers me that she thinks I criticized her charity work when I did no such thing.  For the 5000th time, I admire her philanthropic spirit.  Always have and always will.  What I did do was knock her inconsistency on human rights issues.  If Joseph Kony’s actions in the Congo are worth screaming about, why not the war crimes and human rights abuses of Barack Obama, her own fucking President?  Gitmo, the drones, the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, the wars on whistleblowers, the press, drug addicts, the poor and Muslims are scandals far too big now for even the most partisan supporters to completely ignore anymore.  So why doesn’t Ms. Bush ever speak out about any of them?  Oh, that’s right.  She has to be “passionate” about things that affect her “personally”.  And besides, she’s worked with him on some unspecified initiatives, so no criticism.  How ballsy.

Martin Luther King Jr. quotes are sometimes tweeted or re-tweeted on her official account from time to time.  But unlike Ms. Bush, the civil rights icon was more than willing to criticize American foreign policy when executed by a Democratic President.  One of his most famous quotes – “America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” – referring to Vietnam and LBJ, curiously is not on her account.  Neither is the one where the great man talks about how we are all extremists.  We either choose to be extremists of love or extremists of hate.

Ms. Bush once tweeted to me, “The world is a scary place,” in defense of Obama.  (That and “the man is not perfect”.)  It’s made even scarier by her complete silence on his moral failings.

To hell with her.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 30, 2013
12:32 a.m.

Published in: on December 30, 2013 at 12:32 am  Comments (1)