In My Life

[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.
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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!

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Sarca’s Got a Brand New Bag

I was raised in an environment where you hang on to something until it breaks or wears out, or it no longer has a useful purpose. My Mom had the same living room furniture for 30 years until she decided to reupholster it. She never felt the need to replace it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Mom is an extreme example of preservation, and here I find myself living by her example. I have used the same backpack for the last 24 years and until recently, never saw any reason to replace it. It has seen me through all my degrees, diplomas and certificates, it has seen me navigate jobs, and trips…and up until last week, it carried my lunch, work shoes, sweater and anything else I needed to take to make my workday more comfortable.

Backpack from 2013

I remember the day in April 1994 when I bought this bag. I had just finished up my last painting studio class of the Winter semester at the University of Western Ontario, and what I would often do is reward myself with a jaunt to downtown London to decompress and do some browsing. I hit up City Lights Bookshop on Richmond St. I then rounded the corner down King St to Novacks, known as London’s most interesting store back then. It was an army surplus camping store that was indeed a very interesting place to shop. That day, they had a Spring sale on day packs – 40% off. I wasn’t on the market for a bag, really. The one I was using was fine, if a little small…Call it an impulse buy, but one of the day packs on the rack caught my eye, and that was it – I bought it. $60.

 

The make of the bag was Pine Ridge, a London, Ontario company that gave a lifelong guarantee on their bags. If something broke like a zipper, they would fix it. Unfortunately, Pine Ridge no longer exists, much like Novacks. A damn shame.

No matter, that bag and I were inseparable, and I never had a problem with it. I loved it! This was the first hiking type backpack I ever owned. It had two large openings, travel mug holders, a sernum strap, a waist strap and enough room to accommodate everything from a week’s worth of stuff for a trip on the bus to Sudbury to all my big heavy art supplies.

As the years went by, my bag took a beating, but a little run in the washer would fix it right up. Like anything, however, it wasn’t getting any younger. In February 2013, I brought my famous* chili to work for lunch and carried the container in my bag. What is now known as the Chili Lunch Explosion of ’13, I arrived at work to find most of the lock top container that housed my food unsealed and leaking all over the interior. It was bad. Having a 19-year-old bag at this stage, I thought for sure this incident would have been its demise and I’d end up pulling the dead pieces of my bag from around the agitator in the washing machine. Nope! To my surprise, the bag cleaned up nicely. Aside from some fraying around the straps – which I fixed – the bag was good to go for another round of trips and adventures.

The bag today, and the material I am left with

Nothing lasts forever. As the years went by, the bag started to look its age and people were beginning to notice. The straps I fixed were slowly fraying more and pulling away. The left strap had less than an inch of material holding it to the rest of the bag. It was time to face it: I needed to locate a replacement.

The search for a new bag actually started a couple of years ago, but I struggled to find anything comparable. Speed it up to six months ago, I was very actively searching for a new bag. I aimed high, budgeted realistically, and looked for similar features as my present bag. Still, I could not find anything. I went more expensive, and aside from paying a ridiculous ransom for a bag, I still failed to find anything. The trouble was I got used to having a bag with both a sternum and a waist strap. These features are important to me to better distribute the weight of the bag on my shoulders. Sure, I could find both these features in a bag, but the bag would be too big, or there would be no cup holders, or the inside was too small, or I’d be spending $400 for a bag. I’d give up the search, pick it up again, and give up again. I was a veritable Goldilocks of backpacks! The Hubs finally said that I need to just decide on something. It would be alright. “You may not get what you’re looking for, but that will be okay. Just make a decision. It will be the right one.”

*SIGH.* “O-kayyyy.” *Pout*

In the light of day, it occured to me: you know who says that about decision-making? Sarca.

…Jesus, I need to start listening to ME!

Two weeks ago I took a weekend and pounded it out. I finally purchased a bag. I honed in on one from Mountain Equipment Co-op, a Canadian company that sells outside gear. A Patagonia Refugio 26 Litre backpack. It ticked all the boxes except for there having no waist strap. Meh, what are you gonna do. It has the sternum strap and the cup holders. Quite a generous-sized body, with a place inside to put a laptop, and inner pockets for other junk. The Refugio has a slender fit for women, and a lot of padding on the straps and back. And, unlike my old bag, it sits upright on the floor. This bag has been in my life for over a week, and it’s turned out to be pretty damn good. I made a decision; it ended up being the right one.

The sad remnants of my old bag currently lie on the floor of my living room. I am not sure what to do with it now. It seems sad to throw it away. Maybe I’ll burn it ceremoniously in a funeral pyre? It had a lovely life, saw me through my shit while carrying my shit. Now this ol bag gets to make new adventures with a new bag.

*Famous in four Ontario cities. #truth

Hanging On to More Hopeful Lists

I have a habit of holding on to things – sometimes on purpose, other times due to forgetting I still had them. Sometimes finding forgotten things is like a Eureka! moment.

A prime example is this past Christmas when I went to put the decorations away. Every year that I have put decorations up, I end the holiday by hastily packing up decorations and throwing them into storage – sort of like to say that the Holidays are over – thank God! – let’s clean this crap up and move on. It’s been at least 10 years since I took the time to take inventory of what I have. This year was different, though. This New Year’s Day, in the quietness of the day, I took the time to go through some Christmas stuff – organize it, lovingly pack it up, and be ruthless to the point of purging pretty much a whole container’s worth of it. It felt great going through it all.

Sometimes though, finding stuff can trigger some no-so-great memories.

In one of these serendipitous clean-ups, I came upon an old spiral notebook that originated from my first “grown-up” office job out of college and it dredged up a feeling or two… In this job going back a long time ago, I was an electronic media intern for a company funded by the provincial government that was responsible for creating and distributing curricula online to high schools. It was new technology that was slow to gain traction (hard to believe that online education is pretty prevalent now). The gig was my first taste of office politics and micro-management. The notebook reflected this, as it was filled with lists upon lists of tasks to complete, weekly accountability sheets, instructions on office rules, and personal pep-talks to curb my daily rising anxiety with working under what one would consider an authoritative environment.

The head of the company was a tenured high-school teacher seconded to CEO of this company, and his ego was way too big for his britches. He would breeze in and out in Bermudas, change up some rules just in time to take his mandated nine weeks off in the summer to go sailing, and then whisk away to leave the minions (me) under the thumbs of 9 other people who should never be managers… in an office of 16. Being the leader really seemed to go to this guy’s head. Protocols he created were severe and unfriendly. It was tough, because I was a Yes Ma’am, yet everything I seemed to do was wrong, and I’d get pulled in for a talking down weekly. I was trying to be a good and attentive employee, but their instructions were constantly confusing and unreasonable. They were very hard to please.

We worked in an open office environment – basically an open room full of desks without partitions. One of the protocols the Boss established was insisting that employees call each other on the phone instead of conversing in person, even though we were sitting across from each other. Having central auditory processing problems, I often have a hard time understanding people on the phone as it is. Being able to converse face-to-face was important to overcome this hurdle, so I was living in Hell.

I lasted at this company short of six months, and felt free when I quit. As I happily moved on with my life, I wasn’t surprised to learn from an ex-colleague, the funding ran dry and the company closed down a couple of years later. Having a taste of what I consider the worst job allowed me to appreciate and put into perspective the good things in my challenging career today.

I still have my old notebook from my days working at my most hellish job; the remaining paper now used to keep track of Dominoes scores and scribbling hasty errand lists. A more hopeful list comes from 2010 when I had a voracious thirst for Hidden Object games and needed to keep track of the titles to ensure I didn’t play the same game twice (because, let’s be honest…the titles start to sound the same, the plotlines are similar…). I have replayed and reviewed several of these games for this blog! Not only is this page important to me to recall what I played back then, but if you turn the page around, you’ll find something else equally nostalgic…

The page represents a typical day working for the Hell company. It lists accountability tasks of the day as well as instructions on how to answer the phone if we received a call for the CEO…

The note says, “Boss is VERY particular. If Boss is here OR not, get person’s name, phone number and reason for the call. Give Boss the option of taking the call. You may disturb him in a meeting, but be patient with him.”

How can one live up to those instructions?

What I think is important to remember is this page represents discovery on two fronts – while on the job side, I was trying to wade my way through a challenging business culture, preparing me for the future, while on the gaming side, I was trying to dig my way through this gaming thing. I can say I am still learning – on both fronts! But, I am certainly having a better times navigating it all! It’s a good reminder that life’s journey is for learning – in good and bad – and it shapes you. I appreciate what I have now, in my life and career, and continue to find pleasure in a good video game.

Good Grief

I’ve been away from the blogs for a while, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever come back. Although I was planning on a small hiatus as my husband and I embarked on the first vacation we would take in 7 years to Portland, Oregon, little did we realize our 4-day trip would end up being a soul-crushing months-long journey through hell.

October 20, 2017 was the day my family’s world came crashing down when my father-in-law, Chris, died from a brain aneurysm. Late on the 19th, my husband and I received word from my mother-in-law that he was on life support; we had just parked our rental car at the hotel in Portland. Trying to process the news after having just spent a 5 hour flight from Toronto, with a three-hour time change and having to orientate ourselves around Portland in darkness during a torrential rain storm will remain a very dark memory for me. Talking to a distraught wife and mother brought it to a whole other level. She called us home to Sudbury, Ontario, to say good-bye, but seeing as how we were in Portland 3800 kms away, we were the furthest away we could have possibly been – we might as well have been on the moon! Immediately, a plan was underway to take the next available flight home to Toronto, which wasn’t happening until the next morning. We spent an agonizing 4 hours trying to get some shut-eye in between weeping. Chris died early the next morning. We were not able to say goodbye to him in time, and that remains the worst feeling.

We got up at 4 in the morning Pacific time, and headed to the airport. The direct flight to Toronto we hoped to take was packed, but we managed to get a flight that connected in Vancouver, B.C. With some time while we waited to board, I got us some terrible coffee and weird salty pastries for us to eat, while I made the sombre call to my own parents about the awful news. Through the grief we somehow managed to compose ourselves as we navigated customer service lines, security and even as we boarded the plane. How weird grief can be. I had brought six tissue compacts on this trip, thinking the hubs’ sinuses might act up. Never had I thought we’d be using them to wipe away tears.

We spent a miserable 4.5 hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto in middle seats one row apart. Two flights, two stints through security and many hours later, we landed in Toronto at 5 PM EST time. We grabbed our car from the lot, drove the 40 minutes to our house to pack up dark clothes, ensure our large goldfish would have enough food for over a week and grab whatever food we had in the fridge for the 4.5 hour ride north to Sudbury. Aside from the coffee served in-flight, the hubs and I hadn’t eaten, nor slept. Our pack was what one could call a hobo lunch – sliced bread, lunch meat, apples, bag of chips; everything separate, none of it put together. We were barely out of our little town when we busted open a pack of nacho flavoured Paqui chips; organic, gluten-free and very tasty. As we ate, we began to think about Chris and his love for junk food. He would have loved these chips! The trip up north was dark and lonely…much like how we were feeling.

Chris was a very special person who touched a lot of lives. A loving and supportive father, I saw through my husband and sister-in-law what it meant to have a father in the true sense, having lost my own when I was under 4 years old. Together, Chris and I had some fun things between us that meant the world to me. We both shared a love for Crossword and Sudoku puzzles, Maynard’s wine gums, and running for takeout. Whenever we’d have a reno project to work on, it would always begin with Chris and I writing a list for the lumber yard in a Tim Hortons parking lot. “But, first, coffee!” he would say. I cherish the times we had together.

Retired from Inco, he was still always busy working. He was a handyman: a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber…he loved to fix electronics, from old computers, to the local church’s bells, to building and repairing robotics. Chris had a genius mind; the guy could build from vision and have it come to life. But more than that, he knew exactly what tools and equipment he needed to make his ideas happen. Everything he did was for his family, friends and community, and that will never get lost on me. My house is filled with his handiwork from our gazebo out back to our bathroom reno, to our new kitchen, to that hallway closet light he installed during his last visit this past August. He taught me how to hammer a nail and shingle a roof…and to never fear getting your hands dirty.

I wanted to share the last text my father-in-law sent me that links my WordPress life to my private one in a real way:

“Dear Sarca,

Your mother in law has been getting emails from a Sarca at WordPress…I had no idea who “Sarca” was until now!!! I have just started reading, and am very impressed with your Caught Me Gaming blog! I will now read every post. I can’t promise to know everything you are talking about, but just know, dear daughter, I have now subscribed and I am reading.

Love Dad. oxoxox”

Friends, I can’t promise I’ll be writing consistently for the next bit. These days, life is moving pretty fast: there is a lot of travel and family time in the mix which is pulling me away from doing the things that I write about here. Grief also takes its time releasing its clutches. I am pretty sure we’re in for a difficult Christmas this year, but I am thankful for the closeness and warmth of family.

Thank you all for keeping me in your subs through my absences…I’ll return slowly, but surely. A special thank you to my blogging friends who reached out in the dark hours to send condolences, prayers, gifts of coffee, and offers of help – you are close to my heart. Thank you.

I’ll see you all soon!

Just When I Thought I Was Out, The Music Pulls Me Back In…

I have had a hankering to listen to some tunes from my collection of CDs for a long while now. I never realized it would be such a big deal, but when you store your collection in large Rubbermaid containers, it can become a pain. To pull out the ol’ bin from the dark corner of the basement seemed like a very daunting task. Overwhelming, in fact:

So much good music in this bin, but it weighs a ton…and…oh man, forget it. I’ll just listen to music on YouTube…

When my iPod went belly-up two years ago, at the time I said to myself I was going to do something with those CDs once and for all. Rip ’em onto the terabyte so I could reacquaint myself with them. Well, it hasn’t happened, folks. For years, we have been concentrating on gaming and house renos – putting the CDs away, favouring instead other avenues to get music – Sirius Satellite radio, online streaming services like Google, Groove Music and Accuradio – and plain ol’ .mp3s fulfilled the need. Whenever I’d think of reacquainting myself with the CDs, the thought of moving around furniture again to make room to display them seemed impossible.

It was one Sunday in August when the hubs and I were at the mall on the hunt for the game Spot It (highly recommend!) when he said he wanted to go into Sunrise Records. Understand, we don’t do the mall. The last time we stepped foot in a mall was back in March when coincidentally, HMV, the only record store for miles was closing its doors. Sunrise has since opened in its place, and this August was the first time we checked it out. I haven’t bought physical music in a long while (I purchased Man Machine Poem by the Tragically Hip last fall).

Honestly, I have been out of the CD-buying game for a LONG TIME! I have been gleefully watching from the sidelines as Mike, Bop, Aaron, Geoff, Deke, 1537, J., JHubner73 (see blogroll for a who’s who), and the rest of you great music bloggers search, buy and review music. I haven’t bought music on a regular basis in years, partly because of my own self-imposed austerity, partly because of gaming, partly because of the wave of digital media, and well, I seem to get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that accumulates versus the lack of time and energy to enjoy it. I have written on this blog how music changes my mood; it inspires, it entertains! And I have been feeling like I need to connect with my music again! So when we set foot into Sunrise, I found myself perusing the racks. And you wouldn’t believe what I found:

What?! U2’s The Joshua Tree, remastered!?!

I was in awe. The hubs said, “Well, that’s it, I don’t care what you say, we’re buying it.” Boy, am I glad we did.

The reissue was crisp-sounding, and since I hadn’t heard the Joshua Tree album in a long while, it was fun getting reacquainted with all of those songs. It brought me back to 1987 when Where The Streets Have No Name was hitting the charts. The first half of the album is well known to radio, while it’s also the last half – Trip Through Your Wires, In God’s Country, One Tree Hill, Mothers of the Disappeared – that I love the most. Yes, this is good! Yes, it inspired me.

Following that trip, the hubs and I have since pulled out our three bins of CDs, alphabetized them, and catalogued them using Discogs. Now, I am looking at my current collection more critically.

Lotsa CD-Rs…

Not so amazingly, when we went through the collection, we discovered at least 1/3 of it is burned CDs created from downloading! Looking back, I can’t believe how much effort went into downloading, printing covers and burning the CDs – a whole large Rubbermaid container full! Granted, some of the music were bootlegs or hard-to-find collections, but certainly not all of it! I couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt.

I have started to legitimize my collection by acquiring the actual physical media of my favourite albums. My preference in media is for the CD (more accessible to me – I can listen to it in the car!), while the hubs is getting the vinyl fever (natch!). Regardless, if there is a remaster available on an album of interest, I will certainly consider that purchase. The ones I have purchased lately have been worth it.

The Majesty!

This newfound interest in my music collection has led me to explore some albums that eluded me back in the day. While I can freely peruse the stacks at Sunrise, the thriftin’ bug also catches my attention. What with CDs as little as $0.50 to $2.99 at the junk shops and used media stores, I have managed to gain some headway on this front, quite cheaply. Many people are dumping out of their physical media, which works out great for me. I’ve been using my two-hour daily commute to my advantage too, by taking my music spoils for a spin in the car and have discovered some really awesome new-to-me albums…and I have also found some no-so-great albums…which I can cast aside, guilt free!

I hope to talk more about my love for the tunes here on the blog. For now, I am just really enjoying this experience.

[Film] On an Endless Loop: Heavenly Bodies (1985)

Have you ever had one of those memory flashes triggered by something – music…a film…even a commercial where you see it or hear it and all of the sudden you recall a film from a long time ago…but the name eludes you…It’s driving you crazy…until the answer arrives when you least expect it?

In 1985 I loved nothing more than to dance around to music (the hubs would say I still do – ha!). My sis and I would come up with faux dance routines, and sing along like we were rock stars on MTV. My mom had decided that September 1985 was time to put this energy and interest to use. Aside from having our necessary weekly piano lessons, we took dance classes – Jazz to be precise. I took dance consistently for years well into high school until school work and jobs competed for my time and energy. I really did enjoy that time I took jazz and learned a lot about physical balance, coordination and timing – big things for me as I can be unsteady on my feet. I always wished I was good at team sports, but I just…am not. Dancing, however, was fun and physical, and in my own way, I was being sporty…with jazz hands.

Back in the 80s, Jazzercise as a theme was a big thing in films (see Flashdance, Staying Alive, Perfect, Dirty Dancing…). There was a succession of dance-themed films, and I knew about all of them. If there was dancing in a movie, I was watching it. Time has faded the memory of these films to a certain extent, however…until one of them caught my eye in my satellite guide recently… and those memories came flooding back.

Anyone remember a little Canadian movie called Heavenly Bodies from 1985? This gem used to air on Canadian TV so often from ’85 to ’88 that the dialogue, music and scenes of this film were burned into my brain. I couldn’t tell you if it was a movie channel I originally watched this on, or just plain old Canadian network TV Can Con fare, but regardless there was a time it seemed to be on every month, and I would catch it every time.

Samantha and her friends are dance fanatics working the day-job grind in gritty 1985 downtown Toronto. They have met their limit with their secretarial jobs and decide to quit. They find an old warehouse to rent, and open their own Jazzercise studio they name Heavenly Bodies. The place gains media attention as the hot new “it” aerobics studio; everyone is going, and Sam and her pals are watching the cheques come rolling in. Business is great, which is drawing ire from the big boss of the big hot-shot fitness club in town that used to have the curb on the workout market. Now his patrons are choosing to spend their dollars at Heavenly Bodies instead.

Sam, the main instructor in the studio, is a lifelong dancer, and has endless energy to jazzercise all day. Believing in her abilities, her friends encourage her to audition for the top spot on a new TV fitness program pilot. She is soon picked as host above a number of contenders, including the hot shot fitness club owner’s girlfriend. Her success irritates him and his jealous girl enough to threaten Sam to shut down Heavenly Bodies…and he can do it because he owns the property on which Sam’s studio sits! In typical fashion, no 80s dance movie would be complete without duelling fitness clubs having a danceathon, and Heavenly Bodies does not disappoint.

Heavenly Bodies is true 80s in style and soundtrack. Plenty of flammable leotard and leg warmers here! Some might say Heavenly Bodies is for mature audiences…for sure, when we are talking about people barely dressed, you will have the camera panning a little too long on some areas of the human anatomy, and no one sex was spared. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention other social factors addressed in this film, such as Sam being a single mom, and there being some surprising violent scenes that were impressionable on me as a kid. Being raised by a single parent, I could easily connect with Sam’s struggles raising a young boy alone. Thankfully, the violence bit never came into play at my house growing up.

Aside from the themes of sexuality and violence, there is something sweet and hopeful about Heavenly Bodies‘ story. The “dream come true” shallow easiness of the plot is appealing. With so many dance-themed movies at the time, it’s easy to draw comparisons between this film and Flashdance (another great film). But, what sets Heavenly Bodies apart from Flashdance is Canadian actress Cynthia Dale who played Samantha. Unlike Jennifer Beals who in Flashdance, had a double for most of her dance scenes (using cut shots of moving legs and her sweaty face to make it appear like it was her dancing…). Dale is a trained dancer who did ALL of her own dance scenes and stunts, and did them WELL, might I add. That girl worked her ass off for this film and gets kudos from me today. Even at age 11, she earned my respect: She could grand jeté, plié and spot turn anyone under the table – and I wanted to dance just like her.

The music is something that I definitely remember from my childhood. It’s not all good, let’s be honest. One song by the Sparks called, “Breaking Out of Prison, Baby” is pretty bad, and is unfortunately played several times in the film. Other artists, such as the Tubes (known for “She’s a Beauty”) and Gary Wright (“Dreamweaver” fame), also make an appearance. Of note is a song by Toronto New Wave band, Boys Brigade, whose song “Into the Flow” is probably the best song on the soundtrack. A little known fact about this song: it was produced by non other than Geddy Lee! You can sample the soundtrack here.

Heavenly Bodies is quite a rarity. I haven’t been successful in finding it anywhere for sale on DVD, to download or to stream (at least in Canada). Hollywood Suite (a Canadian movie network) seems to have an old VHS copy they must have pulled out of the dumpster somewhere as that print they aired is pretty darned gnarly. I’d love to find this cleaned up for sale somewhere. For now, I’ll have to settle for the recording of Heavenly Bodies on my PVR. Heavenly Bodies is for sure a hidden gem that brought up some great memories in me. If you are Canadian and subscribe to Hollywood Suite on Satellite or cable, be sure to check this blast from the past!

Heavenly Bodies
Starring Cynthia Dale
1985

[For the Love of ‘Fee] (PART 2) If a Percolator Dies in a Kitchen, Does Sarca Make a Sound?

…Not only does she make a sound, Sarca’s whole family makes a sound!

If you’ve been reading this blog and remember the last time my percolator died (Sept. 2014), you’ll understand the struggles I faced finding a replacement.

Its successor was a Hamilton Beach electronic percolator. My household used it lovingly until last Sunday when it stopped drawing power after it brewed a pot, and it never came back. I have to say it was on borrowed time, as it would periodically lose power mid brew, and then repeatedly try to percolate about 3 times before it was satisfied the coffee was hot enough. It’s been doing that behavior for a better part of a year.

Why not just replace it with any old coffee maker? Because, I’m stubborn, and enjoy a perked cup. And honestly, as I have previously opined on the subject, there aren’t much in the way of choices here in Ontario for electronic percolators. My research shows, not much has changed since 2014: people still love their Kuerigs, Starbucks and Timmy Ho-Hos. Few seem to brew at home any more, and percolating is obviously a dead technology, relegated to manual campfire percolators and catering coffee urns. I got the memo, people, loud and clear! No more perc!

But, I still buck that hive-mind mentality. I am forever on the lookout for a decent percolator, even when my perc is working. On Amazon and coffee fan sites, I read reviews like they are the Bible on Sunday. I’ve even taken to Value Village to see if I can find another gently used percolator; my first electronic perc being a Proctor-Silex from VV that introduced me to this way of electronic brewing in the first place.

Last winter, I found a DeLonghi percolator that didn’t look like it had ever been used. This model came with an adjustable setting, giving you the ability to perc a light or dark brew! SCORE! I kept it in storage for situations like this week when my Hamilton Beach would bite the big one. I took it out of the cupboard, and got it running. And welllll…..

I can see why the DeLonghi was barely used, and given away to Value Village…franky, it brews a TERRIBLE cup of coffee. I took this week to try to work out the bugs that come with having a new perc – finding the right grind, using the right amount of grounds, etc. But, unfortunately, after trying for five days to get a decent cuppa out of it, it didn’t work out. There was no aroma…there was no taste…the coffee was practically hot water, even after adjusting the settings to perc a dark brew! The hubs didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. And now my visiting in-laws didn’t like it! Time to fix this – FAST!

The solution is, of course, to buy another percolator. But which? Because of a lack of percolator popularity, there are STILL only TWO main electronic percs on the market that are readily available around here at stores accessible to me: Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach. You look online, and the top two 5-starred percs happen to be from Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach (and no surprise why…those are the only ones being made right now! Of course they are highly revered!)

From past experience, I concluded the Cuisinart percolator isn’t great; a little less than a year and it was giving us problems. At least we had more longevity with Hamilton Beach! The hubs encouraged me (out of practicality or caffeine withdrawal) to stop the search, and just buy the next option…the low-hanging fruit…the Hamilton Beach.

What? Buy another one?

Yup, I went to my local Walmart Friday night and bought another Hamilton Beach percolator. There isn’t much choice out there, and for what it’s worth, for all the whining I have done on how cheaply they manufacture these things, the Hamilton Beach percolator does make a good home perked coffee. Who knows, maybe I’ll get another 2.5 years out of this one too. Fingers crossed. I think in terms of coffee makers, this is number 7 in 20 years. Obsolescence is alive and well!

Enjoy your ‘fee today! I know finally I am!