Author: Sarca

I write, I game, I knit, I watch, I mainline coffee.

My Crazy Summer 2018

It’s taken me a while to get back to posting on here this summer, ’cause like last summer and the summer before: I am too damn busy in the summertime. There hasn’t been a whole lot of gaming, but a lot of other stuff happening…Rust never sleeps, and apparently neither are we at the House of Sim! This here is an abridged update of what I have been up to. It was monumental to say the least!

Part 1: A trip back home.

First stop, Sudbury, Ontario. This time last year, no one thought we’d be cleaning out a house that has been lived in for 42 years, with the plan to put it up for sale. Alas, that is what happened. My husband’s mother, newly widowed, recruited a team (us “kids”) to help her downsize and pack. Her hope is to move away to the Ottawa Valley this coming Fall to be closer to the grandkids. The majority of our time up north was spent on this emotional task, and mission accomplished; we were successful! The house is currently up for sale…but it was a backbreaking (and heartbreaking) haul. A lot of beer and chocolate were consumed. The ordeal was mostly unpleasant, but it emphasized the importance of family. Thankfully, the house was equiped with a pool so we would be able to cool off. Damn, I’m gonna miss that pool…

It wasn’t all a slog, however. We managed to step out and have some day trips around the city, including a stop at Dynamic Earth, Sudbury’s tourist destination on the history of mining in the region. I hadn’t been here since a class trip in grade 6…And, it appears they polished up the Big Nickel just for us!

I was also thankful to spend time with my family which I needed desperately. We planned a day trip that saw my whole fam jam loaded up into a mini van and embarked on a brief stint to Manitoulin Island, the geographic epicentre of my maternal heritage. This might sound morbid, but we spent our time visiting grave sites. Grimesthorpe cemetary in Spring Bay basically holds a large portion of my maternal lineage, including my Grandparents. It’s so peaceful there, the only thing you hear are the squirrels protesting you are around their domain. Then, my great uncle is buried in another quiet cemetary that has the cleanest outhouse. We rounded out the day with ice cream from Farquhar’s Dairy. These things might sound mundane, but this is the kind of subdued activity I needed.

Part 2: Get out get out get out of my house!

Clearing out my husband’s childhood home got us to thinking about our own “stuff.” Let me put it out there: My husband and I collect things. We love video games, books, movies, music and other sorts of pop culture memorabilia. We got stuff. But, after spending 12 days straight pitching other people’s stuff, it got us to thinking about our own cherished items. Are they really cherished?? We both conceded how anxious we were feeling about our own stuff cluttering up the house. A proposal was given from the hubs – let’s go through our stuff. Let’s decide what is important, let’s pitch what isn’t. Let’s lose the stuff meant for “one day…” If you haven’t touched it in 5 years, you don’t need it. We’ve lived in our current home for 12 years; we have STUFF.

My name is Sarca and I hoard books. Things haven’t gotten much better from this 2014 post, except I read around 5-10 books a year now, which is an accomplishment. Last summer (2017) I activated my Markham Public Library eBook account, which is another avenue to read…I just never stopped buying the physical copies. I know Mr. Books will have a heart attack (brace yourself Aaron…), but I packed up the majority of my books, and sent 10 boxes to the junk shop! Yes, 10 boxes. I have kept key ones from my favourite authors as well as graphic novels that will never be digitized…the rest went. It wasn’t easy, but I feel a weight lifted and some control over my stuff. I found myself looking around my house critically and asking, “What else can I lose?”

Part 3: Get out get out get out of my house!! (part 2)

Time to catch that guy!

But before the purging of our stuff began, imagine coming home exhausted from a trip up north only to find your house scattered with mouse scat. This happened. I noticed poop on the kitchen counter, and then in the living room. We then noticed our Ikea couch had been scratched up a little. We sprung into action immediately, cleaning and disinfecting every room. I wanted to clean under the beds while on vacation, I just didn’t want to clean them in such an emergency! We discovered through trial and error the little guy was living under our kitchen sink in the space between the cabinet and the floor. We can only suspect he got in through the door to the garage (we have had some issues in the past with mice on our property getting into our garage looking for seed). No food was ever eaten from our kitchen, and the mouse was eventually caught. Talk about the best case scenario of what could have been a disasterous situation.

Part 4: Chicago!

After spending less than 6 hours in Portland, Oregon and the ordeal behind such a short trip, I developed some adverse reaction to travel. I didn’t want to go anywhere, nor drive, nor navigate anywhere unfamiliar. An opportunity presented itself that would allow me to be a passenger on a trip to Chicago, Illinois to attend the inaugeral Cartridge Club Con, and I jumped at it. I rode in a van with my husband and 3 other guys and it was good times.

There were several highlights from the drive up:

A pit stop in Detroit, Michigan to Third Man Records was pretty cool. This is Jack White’s pressing plant and storefront. It oozed coolness.

We stopped for supper at a diner in Toledo, Ohio that had 20 different kinds of pie; I tried the Scutterbotch pie, which was a butterscotch pudding filling and whipped cream. Delish!

Along the way we stopped in to a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. Let me give you a short “For the Love of ‘Fee”…Dunkin’, your ‘fee ain’t worth the $2.50 U.S. for a medium. It tasted burnt, and what is with the price point; are you trying to be Starbucks? An interesting side-note – the coffee cups were made of styrofoam, which is not something we see in my area any more (ours are paper; styrofoam is not recycled).

Did you have any doubt there’d be coffee-drinking?

We stopped in to a Walmart in Elkhart, Indiana. Cheap liquor, weird sugery cereal and Chicken in a Biskit crackers couldn’t keep us away. I was most pleased to find Downy fabric softener balls which are no longer sold in Canada; I picked up three.

This pic doesn’t do it justice – over 600 cabinets!

It was exciting to go to Chicago. I got to meet up with some friends from the Club, try some Chicago deep dish pizza, and go to Galloping Ghost, a legit arcade. The unfortunate part was that there just wasn’t enough time to do any Chicago sight-seeing. We were only there for 2 days. We’ll have to go back…

Giordano’s stuffed crust pizza rocked!

Part 5: Montreal

Two weeks ago, we went to Montreal. Planning this trip was like, “It’s a long weekend…Let’s go to Montreal!” Alrighty then! The plan was to go record store shopping. I’d only driven past Montreal on the way to Old Quebec City (grade 8 class trip…), so this was going to be fun.

The hubs lined up the Hotel Brossard, a hotel off the island. We managed to get there with only one detour away from the toll road. It was a lovely hotel – King sized bed and terrycloth bathrobes! Our first night, we had sushi from a local joint; it was awesome!

The next day, we embarked on a full-day record store shopping spree. We just had to wait for the record stores to open! So, we went to see a Picasso exhibit at the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Picasso is my favourite, so I had a good time…

The record store pictured upper right is Beatnik’s

We then walked to three record stores. It was a hot one that day and none of these places were air conditioned; I never sweat so much! But, it was loads of fun and we picked up a good haul (pick up video to follow on the hubs’ YouTube channel).

The hubs also wanted some Montreal Smoked Meat. We tried to get into Schwartz’s deli, a world-famous joint, but the line was a mile long. We went across the street instead to the Main Deli. He had his smoked meat sandwich, and I had a chicken sandwich with fries. So good! We rounded out the day with some ice cream from a parlour close to our hotel.

I tried to practice my French a little while in Quebec, but no one in Montreal would have it and would speak to me in English (I suppose it was my mangled Anglicized accent that gave me away!). Overall the trip was successful, and we hope to go back soon.

And there you have it. It’s been a short summer, with a lot of stuff crammed in. I hope you enjoyed reading! What have you been up to this summer?


[Review] 1 Moment of Time: Silentville (PC)

I love a good deal (who doesn’t?). Try 0.59 cents for a hidden object game on Steam? Yep! 1 Moment of Time: Silentville was cheeeaaap. The accompanied video made the game look good, and it had mostly positive reviews, so I went for it!

Sometimes buying bargain basement games is risky and does not end well (see my review for Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel). Games this cheap can be totally for shite, particularly the casual gaming set: developers that were plagued with production problems on the back end try their best to stuff the dirt under the rug so no one would notice, but the cracks show in the light in confusing plots, some cheap-looking graphics and bad voiceovers. Make no mistake…1 Moment of Time: Silentville has all these blunders. Just look at the opening slate! But, the amateur bits of this game are forgivable. Ultimately, this is a fun game with a lot going for it.

The town of Silentville is a place where nothing ever happens. People go about their business quietly, leading ordinary lives. One evening, an odd storm rolls through and lightening strikes the town. One by one, residents disappear, and those that are left are living in some weird paradox where they try to leave but end up reappearing where they started. You are charged with finding the cause of this odd curse and stopping it.

Stylistically, Silentville’s graphics appear a tad dated, but the game itself holds up, with puzzles and hidden object scenes that are varied and interesting. There are at least a dozen locations at one time to explore – with a decent map that allows you to warp to each location. You are also given a book that tracks what you have done and clues to direct you to what you have to do next. With this many locales, there is a fair bit of backtracking. About the only thing I didn’t enjoy here was that once I was done for good in an area, the game kept its access open, making me think there was more to do. Thank goodness for that warp map! Really though, I got to know Silentville‘s layout pretty well and did not often get all “turned around”.

Where the cracks showed in Silentville fell on some of the hidden object scenes that would have the gamer search for an item that happened to be hidden behind the game’s static lower screen inventory banner. Not a big deal, but it seemed to be most HO scenes, and it did cost me a few achievements in the game having to use the Hint to find those items.

A few minor bellyaches: anyone else think “1 Moment of Time” is a strange title to a game? I mean, writing this post, I had to go back and correct how I wrote the title a few times. Why a numeral 1 in the title; why not ONE? This grated on me a little in a wordsmithing way. But, I suppose it’s not as bad as the rampant and obvious spelling errors throughout the game, for which there is numeral 0 excuse!

Overall, 1 Moment of Time: Silentville has staying power and variety. Most of all, it’s fun! And at 0.59 cents on Steam, it has been a pleasant surprise!

3.5 / 5

1 Moment of Time: Silentville
2 Monkeys

[Music] The Catch and Release #3

The Catch and Release showcases a choice sample of recently acquired music to my collection; some of these albums that I’ve “caught” will happily be part of my collection forever. But, there are albums that I acquired on a lark, that upon a listen or two have not resounded with me, which I have chosen to release back in the wild.

The Catch

54-40 – Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret (1994) & Since When (1998)

Winner Winner! I loved Canadian band 54-40 back in the day, and had Fight For Love on cassette; even saw them in concert in 1989! But, that was a long time ago. Since then, I had their compilation, Sweeter Things, which has all their top ten hits from the 80s. I didn’t get much more than that which was a complete oversiiiiight! Thanks to a contest I won on KeepsMeAlive, I acquired Dear Dear (a fantastic album). Since then, I found two more 54-40 albums out in the wild, and both are great. Each has a hit played on the radio, and the rest is pretty darned awesome. I am back on the 54-40 bandwagon!

Duran Duran – Astronaut (2004)

Back in 2004, DD were planning a comeback with all five members of the band back at the helm; something fans had been waiting for since 1985. I had heard their new song, “Reach Up For the Sunrise” from Astronaut, and thought it sounded pretty catchy, but never got the gumption to purchase a copy.

I found Astronaut used at my local Care and Share, and I have to say – impressive! It’s a Duran record, for sure: cleanly produced, thoughtful and professional. But, most of all, listenable! A keeper!

Letters to Cleo  – Aurora Gory Alice (1993)

I picked this one up for a song at VV…Being a frequent listener of Radio Western’s College Radio CHRW 94.9 FM back in ’93, I remember Letters to Cleo getting some love on there quite a bit with their hit “Here and Now”. I am very impressed with this album – every song is awesome! And, a female lead, for the win!

Chalk Circle – Mending Wall (1987)

In case this band breezes past you, Chalk Circle is a Canadian band best known for such hits from the 80s as “April Fool,” “Me, Myself and I,” and “This Mourning.” Mending Wall was one of those albums that my 12-year-old self could never afford to buy, but wanted to; at least my sis and I could afford the 45s of some of their hits. This album has “This Mourning” and the lesser known adult contemporary hit, “N.I.M.B.Y. (Not In My Back Yard)”; the rest in between totally brings me back to 1987. Just good rough bass, some haunting guitar and a lead singer whose voice cuts through it all. I am very happy I found this one.

Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge (1988)

I took a chance on Melissa Etheridge, and I’m glad I did! Every single song on this debut album sits well. Good rockin’ tunes, and that voice! Hits from this album include “Similar Features,” “Like the Way I Do,” and the very popular “Somebody Bring Me Some Water.” Not much else to say here – no wonder she got some attention when this was released.

The Release

Toronto – Lookin’ For Trouble (1980)

I am only familiar with this Toronto band from their one hit in Canada, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” from 1982, which earned them a Juno award for best song and best songwriting. That song is catchy, and unfortunately not on this album. “Lookin’ For Trouble” was Toronto’s first release, and I can see how they were trying to get their feet wet, but it really didn’t do anything for my ears. This album has two recognizable cover songs: “You Better Run”, a Young Rascals tune done better by Pat Benatar and “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which was better done by its creator the Rolling Stones.

Erasure – Pop! Their First 20 Hits (1992)

Erasure were well-known back in the 80s for their synth pop tunes. I don’t mean to be mean, but no way does Erasure have 20 Hits. I could have sworn they had more likeable tunes in their catalogue than just “Chains of Love,” “A Little Respect”, and “Stop!” It’s ok, I got this for $1…

Metric – Fantasies (2009)

Metric has gotten a lot of love out there – including a Juno for this album, Fantasies. This one does tick some of the new wave synth pop boxes…However, I couldn’t help but turn to the hubs whilst listening to the first track and say, “Y’know, I’ve heard this before on TV…” As I continued to listen, I recognized a lot of this album, but couldn’t quite place where.

Sure enough, the media loves Metric, using their songs in everything from commercials, to video games, to the Toronto Blue Jays, to TV shows; most namely Grey’s Anatomy, a show that has used the first song from Fantasies, “Help I’m Alive,” multiple times! I’ve spun this CD several times in an effort to get into it, and I think I’m good to let this one go. I’ll just listen to Metric’s next album on this up-coming season of Grey’s!

The Gandharvas – A Soap Bubble and Inertia (1994)

More uni stories for ya: The year was 1994. My sister got a cassette sampler from a freebie table on campus during the first week of classes. The sampler was promoting the newest affordable car for students, the Dodge Neon (remember those?) and on it was a bunch of Canadian artists. I recall I Mother Earth was on it…and so was “The First Day of Spring” by the Gandharvas, a London, Ontario band who are really only known for this one song. Pretty much, they tried their best to be Canada’s answer to Blind Melon. They are not even close to Blind Melon.

I got their album, Soap Bubble and Inertia, for free on cassette a long time ago at a summer festival in London. I remember that day vividly – it was August, it was 38 C, and probably the worst bathroom experience I have ever had with an upset stomach standing in a 30 deep lineup for an already over-full porta-potty. Man alive! Probably due to trauma, I never did listen to that Gandharvas cassette.

Recently, when I picked up Soap Bubble and Inertia for $1 at my local thrift shop, I wondered if it was worth the time. This album is terrible. Really really terrible. There really isn’t much more to say about it.

Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams (2005)

I have had this CD since June 2014, when my colleague and friend, Mary Jo Morris, was about to embark on her retirement. She was cleaning out her office and handed off two CDs to me – Dr. John’s Gumbo by Dr. John (1972) and Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams. Random, right? Where the heck had she gotten them? She said from students. She didn’t want them. They were stuffed in a drawer in my office, and I finally got around to bringing them home.

I don’t know too much about Jack Johnson, but if I were a betting woman, I’d think he had the curb on the commercial jingles market. Seriously. Music in commercials these days grate on me. Take an out of tune piano, an acoustic guitar, a ukelele, a xylophone and soft singing voices, and you have captured 95% of the music in commercials these days, and what Jack Johnson’s album In Between Dreams is about. Sorry, Mary Jo, I did not like this either. Hard pass. Dr. John is a keeper though!

More to come…Thanks for reading!

[Live Music] Sloan – The KEE to Bala, Bala, ON, 05/19/18

It’s a collaboration post for the ages! Caught Me Gaming and Buried On Mars take on Sloan! Sarca reviews the Sloan May 19, 2018 show at the KEE to Bala, and Kevin reviews Sloan’s latest album, 12! Make sure to check out his review here! But, first: Leetsa go!

For the better part of this morning, I have been wracking my brains trying to remember when I first saw Sloan in concert. I remember it was around July 1996 in London, Ontario, to promote their One Chord to Another album. I think I went with my friend Sandra and it was held at a newly opened venue on Wharncliffe Rd North (now called Cowboy’s Ranch / London Concert Theatre) whose name from back in the day escapes me. Thanks Google Maps! I have a faint hazy memory of the evening singing Underwhelmed and I am the Cancer at the top of my lungs thanks to some alky hall drinkies and the ravages of time (ha!). I remember taking the bus downtown the next day to HMV to pick up the new One Chord to Another on CD.

That’s the real ticket stub from back in the day!

In 1999 I was living with my new fiance, Buried On Mars, in Barrie, Ontario. I remember he got us tickets to see Sloan at the KEE to Bala in Bala a couple of days after my birthday, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Having thoroughly enjoyed Sloan’s most recent release at the time, Navy Blues, and being very familiar with their past efforts, I was excited to see them perform again in concert as they were promoting their soon-to-be-released album, Between the Bridges. Details are in sepia: I don’t remember too much about the venue except for really enjoying the show and scoring some rippin’ seats that gave us an excellent view of the stage.

This past winter, close to 19 years later, the hubs scored tickets to the Sheepdogs this coming August 2018 at the KEE. Planning our summer concert calendar, he also discovered Sloan is performing at the KEE to Bala in May, and lined up tix for that event too. Sloan was due to release their twelfth album in April, appropriately named 12 and were touring to promote it. It had been a long time since we last saw them, and we have since moved an extra hour away from the KEE, so this was going to be sort of a “dry run” for us for future concerts up in that area. A two hour drive to and from the late show in the pitch dark on our weary bones may be the impetus to get us a reservation for the Ho-Jo after the Show…

The KEE to Bala is located in Bala, Ontario, a small hamlet in cottage country off the shores of Lake Muskoka. The building is situated along a small strip that has a couple of eateries, including a bar that boasts the best ribs in Muskoka. The KEE itself has a long history of hosting big acts like RUSH and Snoop Dogg. The night of the show, we arrived to discover the only real parking was a full lot of 20 cars across the street from the place, so we drove further down the street to find a good spot. As we drove by the KEE, who did I recognize strolling down the street but Chris Murphy, singer and guitarist for Sloan, right there! I was star-struck, and couldn’t even remember his name to say to the hubs, hey there’s Chris Murphy! Instead, it was, “Hey, it’s that guy! From Sloan!”

The weather was not cooperative this evening. After we parked the car, we quickly headed over to the KEE as the clouds opened up and started pouring down on us. We rushed to the building and found refuge under the eaves, along with another couple; the four of us were the only ones waiting – I guess we’re early! I thought Sloan was to take the stage at 9 PM – turns out, doors open at 9! So, we were out in the elements for another 45 minutes as other Sloan fans began to appear and line up right behind us in the rain. I couldn’t help but notice our contemporaries in the crowd – those of us who remember Sloan in the formative years, saw them live in campus bars and dives, and continued to listen to them as we got degrees, worked on careers and pursued partners and families. Like Sloan, we’ve since hung up our grunge flannel, grown a little older, fatter and grayer, but we still know how to rock.

The KEE’s venue consists of a large dance floor with a stage that is raised at least 8 feet off the floor. There is seating located upstairs in the balcony section that is essentially long picnic tables. If you are quick, you can score one that provides a ripping view of the stage – and like that time in 1999, thankfully the hubs and I were quick to get one. Evidently, it pays to be early! This seating arrangement, however, also has a downside…

When a couple is seated at a long table at a communal environment like a bar, sometimes you have no choice but to be open to the possibility of allowing strangers to sit with you. Along came 4 loud and liquored up people who asked if they could sit next to us at our table. (Gulp!) Sure…They were rowdy; I foreshadowed how my evening was going to go with them next to us. But thankfully they were only with us for a minute – they knew the couple the next table over, and decided to sit with them instead. I gave the hubs the ol’ “we dodged a bullet” look. A moment later, another couple came by and asked to sit with us – Derek (?) and Andrea (?)(it was loud in there) from Barrie. Derek, a cross between Matthew Modine and Ed Begley Jr. in the appearance department, took pictures and talked a lot, but overall he was nice.

Because we had time to kill, I was able to hit the merch table early…

I also took this time to study the audience down below. Looked like there was a Bachelor party – at least 5 guys with large foam ten-gallon hats dancing, drinking and fooling around. Quite entertaining!

Giddy up!

Festivities started at 10 PM. The first act to take the stage was Taylor Knox, a guy who performed with a bassist and a drummer. I don’t know much about Knox; he has an album out and has had his music used in Canadian television, but what I heard, the man could rock! He has a similar sound to Sloan and entertained the audience for about 40 minutes.

Taylor Knox

By the time the Sloan crew got everything ready, the band took the stage close to 11 PM and started in with Spin Our Wheels, a song from their new album, 12; a ripping tune that got the crowd rocking and the night took off from there at a rapid pace. Right away though, I noticed something not quite right about the band. When my eyes scanned the left corner of the stage where Patrick Pentland usually stands court, I found a stranger in his place – a stockier balding guy!?! It was not Patrick! Immediately, I thought something happened here – where is he? Did he quit the band?

Turns out, Patrick announced via Twitter only four days ago that he is having to pull away from touring for the next little while due to a family illness. In his place is musician Gregory Macdonald who has performed with Sloan since 2006 on keyboards. I don’t think he was expecting to have to pick up extra duties, but all things considered, he did excellent work on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. There was some scrambling of the playlist on the fly, and an obvious reluctance to perform any songs that are fronted by Patrick, but with an acknowledgement of Patrick’s absence, and a hat tip with a performance of You See the Good in Everyone sung by Chris, the crowd hardly noticed and got down to the task of rocking. Of course there was the band’s signature “switching of musical instruments,” particularly between Chris and drummer Andrew Scott, as well as the band’s affable brand of humour in between songs.

Sloan dedicated play time to music on their new album (a rocking ride full of fantastic basslines) while also recognizing some main staples of their back catalogue; such hits as Coax Me, The Other Man, Who Taught You to Live Like That, The Rest of My Life and the Lines You Amend. I was also excited to hear them perform Underwhelmed from their first album, Smeared, an album that developed my taste for grunge before Nirvana was even on my radar. It was fun singing along to these tunes.

Sloan’s tight performance continues to impress. Overall it was an excellent show, and I hope not to wait another 19 years before seeing them again!

CODA: It was a late night for us after the show let out at 1…Got home after 3 AM…We’ll be thinking about that Ho-Jo reservation for next time!

Thanks for reading! Now proceed to my hubs’ blog Buried On Mars and read a complete review on Sloan’s latest album, 12!

[Review] Bottle (2016)

It’s been a couple of months since I played a game. In this time I had some upgrades installed in the ol’ PC that required a total wipe of my hard drive. Although some might find this bothersome, I always see some opportunities in starting fresh. So, I took some time to set up the computer how I like it, and this week, I felt like playing something. I decided to break ‘er in with Bottle, a very simplistic walking simulator.

You are a solitary man living in a cabin in the woods in the dead of winter. In the first scene you hear a cork pop and liquid pouring into a glass. You open your eyes, and immediately walk around collecting notes from someone presumed to be your loved one, and by the tone of the notes, you can deduce they are no longer with us. You travel through the woods, following a path and encounter apparitions of your loved one. She says nonsense and then vanishes. You also encounter deer. Sooner or later you encounter a monument, a hollowed-out church and more notes in broken English. The game then abruptly ends with confusing finality.

Bottle was created by Tonguc Bodur, a developer known for creating Drizzlepath, another walking simulator that is sitting in my Steam Library. This game was cheap – I paid a buck – and it’s also short, concluding after an hour with no save point. Bottle forces you to play the entire game in one sitting.

The controls in Bottle are simplistic, using the keyboard WASD keys to move, and the mouse for direction. I got to hand it to Bodur: the graphics are ambitious – beautiful – but, at times they were confusing. As a gamer, you are often searching for visual cues that signal an area that needs to be checked out or interacted with, and often this comes in the form of twinkling objects or areas. In Bottle, every rock and tree top shimmered, making me think every hemlock and boulder needed attention, when all it was was sunlight on snow.

Glowing Orbs

There are also similarities to Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture in golden orbs of light that appear a few times in the game; I am assuming these indicate where the dead once were, but can’t be sure. Nothing much happened for me when they appeared except a crescendo of piano music. There is also a “Bottle Dark” feature in the game that allows you to play Bottle at night; it’s the same game but you travel by the light of the moon.

Bottle Dark

The objects you interact with are few and far between in Bottle; aside from collecting notes, there was your overcoat and an axe you are allowed to touch once. The deer don’t move when you walk up to them and there isn’t much else to interact with. There are some unsettling moments in Bottle, especially when you are alone and see apparitions, or hear the noises of the wind and wildlife filling the soundtrack, but the feelings quickly pass. After 30 minutes of the same I asked myself what more there was to all of this. It’s an afternoon trek through a wintry forest where the enjoyment is supposed to be in walking around.

If you are looking for a juicy plot, Bottle is not your game. I found it mostly dry in the plot department; I couldn’t see the point to any of it. If you are looking for an hour trek through a pretty simulated forest, this is what you are looking for. Don’t expect much else though.


Tonguc Bodur

[Film] Water (2005)

The era is 1938 India. Chuyia is an eight year old girl who has just been told she is a widow.

“Do you remember the day you got married?” asks her father. “No,” she replies. Her husband was a grown man and she didn’t know him.

Now that her husband is dead, Chuyia has few alternatives: according to custom, she could throw herself onto her husband’s burning body, marry her husband’s younger brother, or live among other widows in an ashram in exile for the rest of her days. Chuyia’s choices have narrowed even more since as a widow, she is forever a marked woman. Widows are considered bad luck, and unwanted. Keeping her at home would mark the family. Her father sees no choice but to ship Chuyia to the ashram.

The ashram is situated in town, close to the river. The water itself is the lifeblood of the town where people go to bathe, and cleanse themselves spiritually. Weddings and funerals happen here. The minute she arrives, Chuyia is lead to the water to be cleansed of her identity; her long hair is shaved off and she is given the standard issue uniform of a white sari. The ashram itself is a dilapidated building devoid of beds or food. Widows sleep on the floor and beg for money. Chuyia is confused and upset by this environment and wants to go home, not realizing this is her new normal. And there is no comfort coming from the ashram’s leader, Madhumati, a cruel rotund woman, who has afforded herself the luxury of a bed and gets fed most of the food the ashram attains. Chuyia is the youngest widow among the group and has nothing in common with most of the other widows.

Soon after her arrival though, she meets and develops a close bond with Kalyani, a young widow in her late teens who was herself a child bride. Kalyani is striking, and unlike the other widows, she curiously has been permitted to keep her hair long. The reason for this though, is a dark secret that would not be understood by Chuyia: Kalyani is being forced into prostitution by Madhumati to make money for the ashram. She is the youngest woman of age and the most attractive; she is compliant and obedient, and although she hates this, she has little choice.

Despite her predicament, Kalyani holds her dreams and aspirations for her life close to her heart, with a realization she will never be able to fulfill them. That is, until one day she and Chuyia run into Narayan, a charming upper-class young man who falls for Kalyani instantly. Narayan has just graduated University and is getting pressure from his mother to marry the girl she chose for him, which he abhors. Having a progressive view of the world, and having become of a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s tenets, he feels people have a choice who they should marry. His heart is set on Kalyani – and her’s on him. He gets flack from friends and family about marrying a marked woman, but he doesn’t care what they think; Kalyani is perfect.

This is good timing for Narayan and Kalyani: a new law has been enacted that allows widows to remarry even though society hasn’t adapted to the idea. Like one character in the film says, “We ignore the laws that don’t benefit us.” This becomes a harbinger of bad fortune as young Chuyia blurts out to Madhumati the news of the impending marriage. Madhumati is none too pleased with Kalyani; the ashram’s only true source of income is getting married? Madhumati can’t have that! What happens next to the young widows is unexpected and shocking.

Water is the third film by Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta that follows her Elements trilogy series (Fire (1996), and Earth (1998) preceded it). When I was in Grade 13 (OAC) Sociology, I remember studying India’s caste system and how widows had very little affluence afforded to them. It was also at this time I learned what was a funeral pyre (thanks to Light My Fire by the Doors for the first exposure to the term). Shockingly, I also learned that these traditions still exist today, and how fervently some will protect this tradition. This is no more evident than how Water was writhe with production problems – there are people who still believe in the original traditions of widowhood in India as Mehta’s movie sets were continuously sabotaged, plagued with public protests, and insofar as to have her life under threat. Production for the film was eventually moved to secret locations in Sri Lanka.

With that said, can Mehta make a movie, or what? She is fast becoming a favourite of mine. I loved Water – all of it. The beautiful first shot of waterlilies in the water, the sublime music, the actors that are foreign to me yet gave such rich performances…The movie takes a steady unapologetic shot at life in India at a time of suppression and never shies away, but is also gentle in its execution. In an early scene, for example, Chuyia is at the edge of a wagon, and the camera lingers on her little feet, where she is wearing anklets of tiny bells; so simple, yet memorable.

If you are in Canada and happen to sub to a movie package on satellite or cable, I can tell you Hollywood Suite and the Movie Network have been airing Fire and Water periodically over the last year. SET YOUR PVR!! If you loved Fire, Water is even better. I highly recommend it!


Now to find Earth…

Dir: Deepa Mehta
Starring: Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, Jon Abraham and Sarala Kariyawasam

Don’t forget to catch my Fire (1996) review!


[Film] Satisfaction (1988)

Jennie is a rising star from a rough neighbourhood in Baltimore. Valedictorian of her high school class and accepted to all the colleges she applied for, she is ready for her life to start. But first, summer’s here and she and her friends are up for some fun. The girls like to get into shenanigans, which sometimes results in one of them getting in trouble with local gangs or law enforcement, but Jennie is a friend to the end and a real voice of reason.

For starters, she knows how to spend the next few months. You see, Jennie and her buds are in a rock ‘n roll band called The Mystery and they will get outta this town this summer if it kills them. They have big plans: head down to West Palm Beach, Florida to audition for a local dive bar owner. Hopefully, they can get the gig of a lifetime!

Obstacles get in their way, however, but nothing they can’t deal with. Jennie’s brother and caretaker refuses to let her go fearing her high ambitions for band life will trump her pursuits at College (he obviously relents). Daryle, the bassist, got engaged to her boyfriend at graduation, and now doesn’t want to leave, but quickly decides the opportunity is too good to pass up and dumps his sorry ass for Florida. The band’s keyboardist, Amy, is in the clink, so Jennie hastily recruits her neighbor, Nick, a budding classical pianist, to perform with them. Drummer, Mooch, ticks off a gang member who destroys the band’s ride. In return, Mooch and fellow guitarist, Billy, rip off the gang member’s van when he wasn’t looking. See? Problems solved! Nothing can stop the girls now! Everything is in motion as The Mystery drive into the sunset singing Iko Iko; just the girls plus one dude.

They arrive in West Palm Beach only to get to the local bar, Falcon’s, to find it shuttered and the owner, Martin Falcon, nowhere to be found. They track him down at his home drunk as a skunk and reluctant to let them audition, but eventually relents. Marty Falcon’s lingering eyes take a long look over all the pretty girls and the band gets hired for the summer. And really, The Mystery are more than pretty faces, they are the best cover band in the land! They can sing well enough, and damn, Jennie is a whip with the cowbell. …So much cowbell…

I remember seeing Satisfaction the weekend of its release in February 1988. Those were the days when my sis and I pretty much went to every movie released in the theatre in Sudbury, without much regard to what the film was about. Really, though, with a film about an all-girl rock band struggling to get their fame right out of high school; we were all over it. The film starred Justine Bateman as Jennie (Family Ties, anyone?), Scott Coffey as Nick (Some Kind of Wonderful), Julia Roberts in her first feature film role, playing Daryle, and Debbie Harry in a 2-second role as Tina, Marty’s sometimes lover. This fantasy story where parents let their teenaged daughters the freedom to drive from Maryland to Florida by themselves for summer break was foreign to us, but that plot element really stuck with me. When it recently popped up in the guide, I decided to watch it again 30 years later and see if it stood up. Thankfully, I had forgotten most of the dark themes laid bare in Satisfaction, because, this band road-trip movie could have been fun, but watching it back today, it is more of a cautionary tale.

To start, I would definitely be remiss if I failed to mention Liam Neeson was in this film as Martin Falcon, and *spoiler alert* how he quickly becomes Jennie’s love interest in the film. Before you calculate the math, Liam was 35 years old in ’88…and Justine was playing someone who was 17. Does this qualify as “it was a different time?” ‘Cause, I can tell you that watching this May-September romance made me feel squeamish – even in 1988. I remember my sis and I joked uncomfortably in the theatre how we’d never get with someone like Liam; he was OLD! And besides him not being George Michael, Neeson’s teeth were stained, and breath likely smelled of all the baccy he was chain-smoking on film. Bleh! What’s worse, Jennie fell hard for Martin, but he did not reciprocate those feelings, so when she proposed she move in with him, he balked and just wanted to keep things physical. Ouch. Not a feel-good outcome.

Then again, there are even darker themes in Satisfaction that don’t make one feel great. Aside from the socio-economic predicament the band find themselves, how about an attempted rape scene between Julia Roberts’ character and some guy she picked up at a party? Or Billy on pills because she can’t handle the pressure?

On a lighter side, the film tries too hard to back-pedal away from its themes of drugs and violence against women to a gaggy cuteness. How about the beach volleyball game that went on way too long where the band play against professionals (and you can only guess how that went)? Or when Billy befriended Martin’s guard dog, Hamlet? Or the musical cut scenes where the band starts singing acapela with each other using sticks and bottles as instruments? Blech.

Let’s talk about the music which, aside from maybe two original songs, are mostly cover tunes. On the menu are (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Mr. Big Stuff, Iko Iko, and Knock on Wood, which were pretty much rotated several times throughout the movie and heavily accompanied by so much cowbell. Justine Bateman steps in as the singer for these tracks, which pretty much comes off as very karaoke.

Satisfaction tries really hard to be something cool but its story is overworked and does way too much to try to cater to every genre. Is this a drama? Is this a romance? Is this a comedy? Because it didn’t do either very well. As a result, it really doesn’t hold a candle to the teen movie greats of the era.

2.5 / 5

Satisfaction (1988)
Starring: Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, Scott Coffey and Debbie Harry