In My Life

I’m not too late, am I?

I feel like the negligent blogging sister!

It’s been four months since I have posted anything on here, and before you express concern, nothing at all is wrong. Life is good! It’s only that my time is not my own these days. Unfortunately, the blogging has taken a back seat (I surrender, I just can’t do it all!) and there has been very little gaming happening. My daily habit of reading your blogs was also put on ice to a large degree, but I pop my head in every once in awhile. What can I say, life is taking a lot of my headspace these days. Work, a rodent infestation in our garage, and a kitchen reno since my last post have been the time avengers.

As I write, my new kitchen is wrapped up in drop-cloths waiting for paint, but the worst is over, thankfully. Those of you who I’ve friended on Facebook have seen the pics – it’s looking good! All I got to say is my father-in-law and husband are great people. I chose the cabinets, countertop and flooring, and they put it together. Love them! I mean, I helped with what I could, but they did the grunt work. My kitchen is now functional, and I love it! After the kitchen is done, we’ll be back at it with a new laundry room. I’m telling you, it never ends!

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I haven’t played much game as of late… but I have been playing the DLC for Borderlands 2 with the hubs over the holidays, and it’s been fun. I just can’t keep out of the Borderlands!

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This Christmas, the hubs and I pulled out our Christmas decorations, and even trimmed a tree! I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think it is. It had been three years since we put up a tree. A lack of interest and our travel plans home over the holidays really didn’t make pulling out the decorations from under the stairs attractive. This year though really put us in the spirit. I bought a 3-ft tree at my local grocery store and went to town. Busting open the boxes of ornaments was a fun experience. I had forgotten all of the ornaments we own, including some old-timey ones from my mom, and Star Wars ones we’ve received as gifts. We even got into the Christmas spirit outside, as my husband strung some lights around our front door.

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As we close out on another year, I would be remiss if I didn’t address all my “favourites” passing away, particularly George Michael. Gosh, that one hits me. In case you didn’t read my previous post on the subject, my mom always had it in for George Michael when I was growing up, and forbade me from owning and listening to his album, Faith; something about “I Want Your Sex” and my churchy upbringing, I suppose. To this day, my sis and I laugh at how she hated him. Last night, I was watching some YouTube vids of Michael’s…what a voice he had. Arguably one of the most natural voices in the music business. He sure had some great tunes too. RIP George Michael.

Anyway, this year, contrary to my past year-end posts, I won’t make any resolutions…I think I will just be and say, here’s to another year! I hope mine is full of happiness, gaming, music, love and friendship. And I hope the same for you.

Happy New Year, friends!

That Night in Markham: My Tragically Hip Story (1993)

Group post! 

Today our community of bloggers has come together to write about the Tragically Hip. In the wake of Gord Downie’s news last week, we wanted to come together and share our experience with this household name in Canadian music. Each story is unique, but with a common theme. Hope you enjoy it!

This is the story of how I got to see the Tragically Hip live in concert.

Summer 1993 was a time of new beginnings. I had just graduated from High School, and had accepted an offer to attend the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario for Visual Arts. Going to Western was something I had worked hard to achieve, and made it. I was looking forward to the change of scene by moving away from my Northeastern Ontario town of Sudbury, and was also looking forward to moving in with my sister, who at the time was also attending Western. Some big changes were afoot – new geography, new faces…a new life! And I embraced it all.

I remember the day my sis called and asked if I would be interested in attending an all-day concert of mostly Canadian bands. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as it was two days after my 19th birthday, and I was planning a visit with my sister before I made the big move down south. My musical tastes during this time were pretty eclectic – marry Led Zeppelin and Clapton with the Smiths and Canadian radio, and you pretty much have it. Canadian rock was in my repertoire. So it should come as no surprise that I was salivating at this concert’s line-up. Called Another Roadside Attraction, it was chock full of bands I was very much familiar with: Andrew Cash, Midnight Oil, Crash Vegas, Hot House Flowers, 13 Engines, Thomas Trio and the Red Albino, Richard Seguin, Daniel Lanois and the Pursuit of Happiness. Even more exciting that it was headlined by the Tragically Hip. At this point, my exposure to the Hip was radio and MuchMusic. Having had a few albums under their belt, Fully Completely had been released in the Fall of 1992, and Locked in the Trunk of a Car, as well as Fifty Mission Cap were common songs heard on the radio. I recollect, their song, Courage (for Hugh McLennon), was scorching up the Canadian charts, and I loved it. I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan at this point, but I very much enjoyed their music. This was gonna be one fine concert!

The concert was to be held in a remote part of Markham, Ontario, located 20 minutes north of Toronto. The venue was the Markham Fairgrounds; basically a dirt field amid farmland.  The date was two days after my 19th birthday – July 24, and my Step-Dad offered to drive us to the event, and even pay for a hotel. A shuttle bus would drive us back to civilization to the Markville Mall’s parking lot where my Step-Dad would pick us up afterwards.

The day of the concert, my Step-Dad dropped us off early enough to catch the first act, Andrew Cash, on stage. The day was hot and humid, and not a cloud in sight. Hats and sunscreen were in order. At this point, it was easy to get into the venue; It wasn’t yet packed full of people, and my sis and I were able to get right up to the stage to see many of the bands play. The fairgrounds were dusty with a hard dirt floor. To be honest, everything was pretty non-descript and bare-bones. I don’t remember much about it other than there being food stands with a 200% mark-up (because we had to buy water), and a bank of smelly johnny-on-the-spots (because…well…y’know…). I have no take-away from the day – no pamphlet, or poster…I don’t remember there being CDs for sale there, but maybe there was…? And back then, they didn’t like people taking pictures during concerts – so, no pics!

The acts before the Hip were amazing, and because the venue was small, it felt intimate. It was a long day being in that heat. At one point, bouncers got out the water hoses to cool down the crowd. There wasn’t much shade, either but we persevered. The Hip were the last act of the night and we weren’t about to miss it for anything. As the time came to them coming out on-stage, the place really started to fill up, as though the Hip were all they paid money to see, and just showed up in time to see them; the Oils be damned.

And when the Hip took to the stage, it was complete pandemonium.

My sis and I stood somewhere in the back of the mostly male crowd when the Hip started, and moved a bit closer to the middle to get a better view. A mosh pit had developed almost immediately close to the stage. Meanwhile, the crowd at the back were moving their way closer to the front. Without even trying, thanks to force from the crowd my sis and I were being led forward. We weren’t noticing initially, as we paid more attention to the Hip. It wasn’t until they started in on their fourth song of the night, the Hundredth Meridian, that the crowd lost their minds, and became one large mosh pit, pushing and shoving each other. Next thing I know, I am there in the middle of this giant mosh pit! In an instant, a big guy shoved me, I lost my balance, and I hit the dirt. The scary part was when others involved in the mosh pit used me as a rug and stepped on me. I tried to pull myself up by grabbing people around me, but then I’d get stepped on and I would fall back down. Out of nowhere, this hand reached down and grabbed me by the t-shirt and pulled me to safety. It was my sis who said, ” That’s it, we are out of here!”

The incident was mere seconds, but felt a lifetime! I got away with little damage – only some cuts and bruises. I wanted to stay longer, but there was little crowd control. As it was, the crowd were almost preventing my sis and I from leaving the concert, as the whole area was now a mosh pit. I agreed – it was time to go.

Today, I live 15 minutes away from Markham Fairgrounds, and pass it by weekly. Amazing how this seemingly nondescript swath of land had a venue that hosted the Hip and a number of other bands I liked at the time. Another Roadside Attraction was one concert I won’t soon forget.

Now go read from others in the community who have shared their stories on the Tragically Hip:

Boppin from Boppin’s Blog
Aaron from Keeps Me Alive
Scott G (Guest post) from Mike Ladano
Geoff from 1001 Albums in 10 Years
Deke from Stick It In Your Ear
James from Keeps Me Alive

Thanks for reading!!

[Movie] Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Let me take you back in time…back to when I was the tender age of 12, in the seventh grade. It was an awkward time…I had a mouthful of braces, was gawky and had the remnants of a bad perm…music and movies were a means by which I could escape from the awkwardness of Teenland into a cool world of fantasy full of awesomeness. At this time, the older sis and I would frequently go to the cinema. With boredom, our proximity to downtown Sudbury, and an attempt by my Mom to get us out of her hair, we saw many movies in the theatre between 1985 and 1988. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday night.

One of my absolute favourite movies that I saw in the theatre during that time was John Hughes’ Some Kind of Wonderful, starring Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson and Lea Thompson. The movie was released in theatres in the Fall of 1987, and tells the tale of working-class high-school senior, Keith, his friendship with Tomboy, Watts, and his attraction to fellow student, Amanda, who is also from his working-class neighbourhood…but who has somehow crashed the popularity glass ceiling in high school and is part of the it crowd.

The crux of the story is Keith’s crush on Amanda, and how he plans to ask Amanda out on a date. He recruits Watts’s aid, and manages to wrangle help from the big gun skids from detention. Good thing because Keith is up against some serious shit. Amanda has just broken up with her rich, popular, and possessive asshole boyfriend, Hardy Jenns; a vindictive mec who threatens to ruin Amanda’s “rep” if she doesn’t get back with his lying cheating ass. Another strike against Amanda is having the most vile and venomous girl”friends” who abandon her when she decides to go out with grease-monkey Keith instead of reconciling with Hardy. Meanwhile, Keith is dealing with an overbearing father who is riding his ass about going to college. Then he has to put up with best friend, Watts’ opinions about his taste in girls – which is a ruse because, well, while Tomboy Watts herself dresses masculine, denounces men publicly and is accused of being a lesbian, she is secretly in love with Keith.

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“Guys are so sickening. Really, it must be a drag to be a slave to the male sex drive.” – Watts

In terms of characters, I thought Watts was the coolest chick on the block. First, I liked her sense of style that didn’t mirror anyone else. I mean, the girl was allowed to play drums at home (poorly, as my mature eye sees it now) but I only wished I could have ditched the piano for my own kit at 13*! She was also a strong and bold gal who stood up for herself when people called her names. Lastly, Watts was a faithful and altruistic friend, always there, willing to help Keith hook up with Amanda, all the while sacrificing her own tender feelings for him and dying a little on the inside. I liked Watts. There is a little of Watts in me, for sure. Especially the last part about sacrificing your feelings to help your male friend / crush hook up with other girls (ouch, that hurts…).

Amanda and Hardy – a match made in hell?

It’s not hard to know why sexually frustrated Keith chased after Amanda; she is easy on the eyes and in the bedroom. What I don’t get is why Hardy Jenns (that’s right, with two “nns”), her asshole boyfriend, would need her. The movie has him successfully chasing tail all over high school while dating Amanda, using his popularity to get his way. …And uh, why is he popular? He’s a conniving donkey! Amanda isn’t much better, really. In fact, her behavior is pretty vile, purposefully agreeing to go out with Keith to make Hardy jealous, knowing how Keith feels about her. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of Amanda’s?)

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And while we say Keith gets the stubby end, he doesn’t fare much better with me. He’s cute with gorgeous blue eyes, but makes some questionable choices. He is an amazing painter with tons of potential, and instead of studying Fine Arts after high school like he wanted to, he decides instead to blow his entire first year College tuition on a pair of diamond earrings he planned to give to Amanda on their first date. Although considered a romantic gesture in my 12-year-old mind, I remember thinking that this was a pretty stupid move. I was not surprised his Dad blew a massive gasket.

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The best character in Some Kind of Wonderful was Duncan, played by Elias Koteas. He is the leader of the detention pack who helped Keith get his date with Amanda, and uses his muscle to eliminate some of Hardy Jenns’ obstacles. Duncan has an attitude that goes against the societal grain – he has a rough skinhead exterior, counters authority, but overall he sees the good in people and is kind. I like him because he is the only one who is completely transparent – what you see is what you get.

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I know it may seem like I’m picking apart Some Kind of Wonderful’s characters and plot, but for all its faults, I have loved this movie from the first time I watched it. It has all the elements that would attract a young teen girl to its story – conflict among peer groups, the desire to fit in, and the need to break free of the rules laid out by parents…. The strongest one here is the complexities of love and relationships. Hughes took imperfect and complex characters and crafted an interesting yarn that is still watchable today.

And now, some fun facts about Some Kind of Wonderful in my life:

  • Saw it in the movie theatre, November 1987.
  • Never rented the movie on VHS – it was never available for rent!
  • Finally taped the film onto VHS off of First Choice Superchannel… it was an awful print (thanks to SLP…), and the audio was baaaad. I have since acquired a DVD copy, and was amazed the first time I took it for a spin that I could finally clearly hear what everyone was saying!

Some Kind of Wonderful
Writ/Dir: John Hughes
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*Made up for it at 28 when I had my own house and my own rec room…and my own drum kit.

Enjoying a Game Swap as an Unfocused Gamer

Last weekend, I went to the Barrie Game Exchange, in Barrie, Ontario, a venue where vendors (who are gamers themselves) sell off pieces of their retro gaming collections to other gamers. Haggling for the best price is on the table, and there are possibilities of swapping out games for other games of equal or lesser value.

I am very new to this whole swap meet experience. It being my third, it might sound unusual of me to say this, but I have not caught the game collector fever like some other people I know, and don’t really have a desire to seek out hard copy retro games from a bygone era (SNES, Sega, Atari, etc). My focus is predominantly casual adventure PC games for the most part, and not necessarily in physical form. At any rate, most boxed PC games are no longer for sale in physical format; but are available online via sites like Steam, GOG and Big Fish Games. I think nothing of thinning out my stack of games if I have played a game and don’t like it or I get tired of it. That said, I do have a stock of games that I haven’t played, including boxed PC and Nintendo DS games, but I wouldn’t say I am out to collect every game in that format.

My intention of going to a game swap was initially to keep my husband company, as cramming into a room full of strangers for an afternoon (some of which can be smelly and sweaty…) is not really my idea of a good time. But, having weathered three of these now, I can say I have found ways to survive enjoy my time while attending. The last couple of swaps have been fun, especially meeting up with other members of the Cartridge Club (of which I am a member) who have turned into friends over the past couple of years. Now, I am actually looking forward to the next swap meet.

My very first swap meet was the Barrie Game Exchange last July 2015. I was only planning to keep my husband company, but before we headed up to Barrie, he said that I should compile a list of games to look for while at the show. This would engage me in the whole swap experience. This was difficult; I was honestly blanking out on what games to look for. Along with the challenge of not collecting games, odd boxed PC games was the first thing that came to mind, and my husband said that likely no one would be selling those (Yeah, yeah, boxed PC games are dodo birds, ok, yes got the memo…). So what do I do then? I got some random games together on my list, but didn’t really find anything that time.

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It was the second gaming swap meet: the Waterloo Game Swap last September 2015, when I got my act together. Beforehand, my husband had me play some SNES and NES games in emulation to pique my interest in searching for some games in that platform. Specifically, I started getting an interest in Kirby and decided to focus on that character’s games. I went into the Waterloo Game Swap, armed with a small list of games. I didn’t leave with much, but at least that gave me games to look out for.

My list for last Sunday. I write notes on paper, then take pics of them with my phone. I do this a lot. 😉

Last Saturday, in preparation for the Barrie Game Exchange, I armed myself again with a list of the Kirby games I had (because it is A LOT shorter than what I don’t have!) and what I didn’t. Along with it, I compiled a list of desired crime and adventure Nintendo DS games. Since my experience playing Unsolved Crimes on the system, I have been chomping at the bit to find some more rare titles like it. Again, not to collect per se, but to play.

We had VIP tickets to the game exchange, which allowed the first 65 people access to the tables a half an hour ahead of the rest of the crowd. This was great, to be able to scope out the tables before the deluge. It also allows you to test out your haggling skills before the pressure of crowds  upsets your smooth haggling flow. My skills were rusty going in, to be honest. And, unfortunately for me, some vendors were not open to haggling at all. “Nope, that’s a fair price.” No, I can’t go any lower.” They wouldn’t even knock $2 off. A couple of tables didn’t have their prices at the ready and were actually checking prices online. I hate that. Come on, folks, this is not eBay, and I am standing right in front of you. That being the case, I moved on to other tables that would more reasonably accept my patronage.

A challenge I faced was knowing what was a good deal. I don’t have much of a gauge where that is concerned. Prices for games have fluctuated wildly over the years, and no two games are created equal. To that end, one game’s price at the Exchange could be $20 at one table, and $8 at another. It was wild! I would ask my husband about prices, but we weren’t always together. That said, most things I bought were going by my gut. Am I willing to pay $10 for this, $15 for that?

I had some good fortune on the Nintendo DS front. My first purchase of the day was Kirby’s Mass Attack for the DS, sold to me by a couple of dudes from my hometown of Sudbury who are also running a gaming swap in Sudbury in October, and invited us to come up. Among other DS purchases, I got the Legendary Starfy (never heard of it before), Kirby’s Canvas Curse which looks cool, Pokemon Ranger and a crime game called COP: the Recruit. The priciest game of the day was a rare DS game called Electroplankton, a game I had never seen before ($30, fetching $60 on Amazon).

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The last half an hour of the show is often a good time to get a deal on some games. I had my eye on a Mario Picross game for the GameBoy for most of the show, and decided last minute to purchase it. The very last thing I bought was Alone in the Dark for the GameBoy Color for $3 (any good?).

There was also a vendor at the Exchange selling super cool gaming mugs. I picked up one depicting a Pac-Man eating coffee beans for $10. Awesome!

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Overall, I am quite satisfied with my finds. I think for the next time I will pay attention to the going rate of some of these games, so I can go in better armed.

It also appears that this year will be quite active in terms of these game swaps – coming up:

Waterloo Game Swap in May 29, 2016, (Waterloo, Ontario)

Durham Video Game Convention June 5, 2016 (Oshawa, Ontario)

Barrie Game Exchange in August (Barrie, ON)

Northern Game Expo in October (Sudbury, Ontario)

[For the Love of ‘Fee] A Word on Instant Coffee (and a Hack)

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Let me put this out there – in my opinion, instant coffee isn’t that great. I have not been its biggest fan since… forever! To me it tastes bitter. It can do a small tapdance on my tummy. And, frankly, it is no substitute for real brewed coffee. Yet, I still drink it.

I work on a college campus, and believe me, there is no lack of places to buy coffee; there is a Tim Hortons, a Starbucks, a Williams Coffee Pub, the student-run café that sells Lavazza coffee, Roasters coffee, the Second Cup…dude, the campus ain’t that big, but holy Toledo, there are places to buy coffee. It might seem simple to just buy a fresh cup of brew and be done. Sure, I’ll buy coffee on occasion, but it can add up!

Budgets being what they are, I bought myself a 4-cup coffee maker a few years ago and would brew my own coffee for a time in my office. But going on almost a year ago now, the department I work for relocated into a new building. Where the office is situated, there is no kitchenette with a sink close by where I would be able to clean out the carafe and throw away the grinds properly. So instead, I boil some water in my little kettle to make some instant coffee. Although a sink with running water is out of the question, I am not in a complete food desert – I have a drawer in my office where I keep dry condiments: salt, pepper, sugar, as well as tea bags, Coffee Mate, and of course, instant coffee. I do have access to fresh water, by way of a filling station around the corner from my office. And even though I have Coffee Mate (because there is no milk close by) and sugar that I use in my instant coffee, these condiments don’t seem to help to lose the bitter taste.

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My usual practice: Boil water using a kettle. Place a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals in a cup. Add boiling water to crystals and stir. Then add sugar and Coffee Mate. Seems pretty common, right?

Earlier this week, I decided I had endured instant coffee as I have known it for the last time. I took to the internet to see if I could hack those crystals into a more palatable beverage. Some solutions were idiotic: “why don’t you quit instant and brew a pot of coffee?” Another site suggested I buy a higher quality instant coffee; now that solution would make sense in theory. My problem is that no matter what kind of instant coffee I have tried, they all seem to have a similar taste. Besides the fact there is nothing fancier for sale around here than Nescafe, Folgers and generic brand (Equate, Compliments, No Name…). In any case, I have resigned myself to hacking whatever crystals I have available.

So, thanks to some Googling around, the solution I came up with is as follows:

  • Boil fresh water.
  • Add a teaspoon full of crystals to your cup.
  • Add sugar and coffee mate* to the crystals.
  • THEN, add fresh water* (a little less than a quarter cup) to the dry mix in your cup and stir.
  • Add boiling water to the cup and stir.

Voila. Coffee!

Two things I noticed with this method: no strong smell and no bitter taste.

Why mix the dry ingredients first, then add liquid? Common sense: powder mixes better when you add liquid to it, not the other way around. Science!

Why add fresh water to the dry mix first? No reason, other than it works! I have read that boiling water is excellent for tea (for the steeping), but that the water in the coffee maker doesn’t quite reach the boiling point when you brew a pot of coffee. Apparently, if you have the water too hot it can marr the taste of the crystals. Adding some cold water obviously tempers the hot water, and added bonus: you can actually drink the coffee right away once it’s prepared. Makes sense to me! I have been using this method the last three mornings, and have been enjoying instant coffee for the first time in recent memory.

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Do you like instant coffee or hate it? Do you have any coffee hacks? Share in the comments!

*Cold milk would probably be a decent substitute for the Coffee Mate and fresh water. I just don’t have access to it on a regular basis.

Down the Memory Highway of Innocence and Debauchery With Archie

Lately, I have been feeling nostalgic, thinking about my love for reading comic books and graphic novels. It was a trip back home at Christmas that found my close bud, Amanda, give me some Archie Pals ‘N Gals ankle socks. To me, they’re all kinds of awesome. I was a big reader of Archies during my formative tween years. Now, every time I look at my feet, I think about my history with Archie comics, how much of a role they played in my upbringing, and how it really kick-started my love for comic books in general.

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If you are not familiar with Archie Andrews, he is a fictitious character who has been starring in his own comic series since the 1940s. A red-headed teen from Riverdale, U.S.A., he rides around town in a beater (a jalopy, to be precise) with his friend, the perpetually hungry Jughead, and his rival of sorts, the arrogant Reggie. Archie and Reggie vie for the attentions of the two main girls, Betty and Veronica, who are best friends, and seemingly polar opposites, as Veronica is wealthy, selfish and vain, and Betty is wholesome, honest and kind. Both girls want nothing more than to go steady with Archie. The stories told in the comic weren’t terribly sophisticated, but they tried to be simple and humorous.

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I wasn’t exposed to Archie until I was 9 years old. It was our housekeeper who gave me my first Archie comic as a birthday gift –  Archie Jokebook Digest #12. It was funny, graphic and easy to read – three things in my reading material that I was gravitating toward at the time. That comic digest launched an insatiable appetite for reading and collecting every Archie digest magazine that would be released from 1984 to 1987. It became particularly dangerous when I discovered Lefebvre’s, the used bookstore located down the street from my dance class had used Archies; my sis and I would speed down the street on our break and pick up 5 double digests for a $1.

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My mom wasn’t terribly happy with this new-found hobby. As a kid, I struggled with reading comprehension in a big way (I was diagnosed with dyslexia). Archies are not the sort of reading material that one would think would foster good reading habits. For me, I had hit a wall with reading, and unlike my sister who enjoyed reading everything she could get her hands on and could read a 200-page book in one day, reading for me was hard work. Archies piqued my interest; they had short stories and were funny. My mom eventually relented. Archies weren’t Treasure Island, but at least I was reading something.

I wound up with a sizeable collection of Archie digest magazines that I would often use to trade with neighbourhood friends. Somehow, my sis and I would also end up with Archies that came from friends of my Mom whose children had grown out of reading them, and this was always a trip. The Archies were usually in traditional comic book format (not digest), older publications from the 70s and early 80s, and were the same Archie, but with an older twist. Archies in the comic book format weren’t sold in any store I would frequent. An Archie digest was always available in the supermarket aisles (as it still is today) but the comic book proper was not accessible to me, so it was always fun to get something like that.

Among these Archie comic books I seem to recall some Archies that were, shall we say…not your typical Archie Comics. Allow me to preface this by saying, from the age of 3 to 19, I went to church every Sunday, and was raised in a Christian home. Even though we were raised in this environment, we didn’t have Christian literature crammed down our throat at every turn. My Mom was a firm believer of having a strong moral compass; having that, a Christian could live in a secular world. Even so, it wouldn’t be so far fetched to have Christian Archie Comics passed down to us, would it?

Christian Archies. You read that right.

I thought I dreamt it up somehow, but a Google search confirmed my memory – Christian Archies did exist. We somehow got a pile of old musty comic books that seemed a little mature in a Rex Morgan kind of way; certainly not something I would be attracted to at all at my young age. I remember a comic book in the pile, based around the story of the Prodigal Son, called Live It Up.

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I’ll never forget this cover…

In this pile of what seemed like “boring” comic books, were Archie comics. I mean, they looked like Archies, but, they weren’t your average Archie Comic.

The execution of the characters looked similar for the time, but the stories were…different. Archie and his pals were going about their lives, when all of the sudden, someone whips out a Bible, or you find Betty praying in the school cafeteria.

Christian Archie SOME ELSE BETTY PRAYING

The comics were drawn by Al Hartley, a born-again Christian who was one of Archie Comics’ artists. He convinced the president of Archie Comics to introduce a line of Christian comics that included Archie Pals ‘N Gals. There were 19 Archie titles in total. I’m not hating on these comics, in fact, I am a little fascinated by them as an oddity. However, as a kid, I secretly found them a little hoaky and definitely didactic. Consider, in a normal day Archie chasing after Betty and Veronica. Then in a parallel Christian comic book, have Archie abstain and in fact be disgusted by sex and imagery of sex. Even as an 11-year-old, you could not breeze past me that something was a little different about these Archies.

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While we are recalling Christian comics, let’s go to the dark side of Archie comics. I also seem to remember a story where Archie and Betty almost do it. You read that right – Archie and Betty almost get it on. <cue the Marvin Gaye>

I know, that must sound really weird. I mean, it’s not surprising that Betty would want to get it on with Archie considering the history they have. At any rate, I thought *for sure* my memory was playing tricks. I googled a lot, and thought I was having a Mandela effect moment, where over the years, my memory warped into thinking that it was true, when it was actually an active imagination turned into a false truth. But, if it wasn’t true, what was?

Thank goodness my reference librarian skills worked. I eventually found what I was looking for. Yep, I did.

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The story, called “Saved By the Bell” comes from Betty and Veronica Comics Digest Magazine #25 from July 1, 1987, and I totally remember owning that Digest. So it goes, Betty calls Archie sexy in a conversation with Veronica…

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Sexy? What!

Later on, Betty spends a quiet evening at home, and Archie invites himself over. And, well…

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The context of the story was burned in my memory bank. It’s so out of place with the wholesomeness of what an Archie is, and I have never read any Archie like it since.

We have the Archie comics of my youth – funny, innocent enough. We have the Christian Archies which take the moral tone. Now, we have dirty Archies where Archie and Betty almost bang. Bizarre. The end of innocence?

It was after the summer of 1987 when my interest in Archie began to wane. My tastes changed and I moved on to other things. I also craved more mature reading materials, and as I was getting a handle on my reading disability, chaptered books became more of an interest. Archie was slowly fading from memory.

About 10 years ago, my Archie Comic collection from childhood returned to me by way of a Boomerang gift from my parents. In usual fashion, my Step-Dad handed me a box on my way out the door: “Here, you’ll want to take these with you…” My comics were in terrible shape, having wintered in the garage for years, on top of the abuse they got when I was a kid. What do I do with these?? I had no time or patience to leaf through any of them to keep them as I was packing up our house to move to Stouffville. All of them wound up at a Barrie, ON recycling plant.

Today, I think about Archie comics as a novelty, and have considered buying particular ones if I come across them in my travels. If anything, it’s always fun to look back at this part of my life. I appreciate my experience and memory of reading and collecting Archies, and the memory of Archie and the gang is obviously still very strong.

[Music] Crowded House: Temple of Low Men (1988)

In 1988, Crowded House released their second album, Temple of Low Men. I was very familiar with this band, loving their hits Don’t Dream It’s Over and Something So Strong, from their eponymous first album, which both got a ton of radio play. I, of course, didn’t have the first album on cassette, and no prospect on the horizon (you can read my previous music posts on the reasons). But, Temple of Low Men on cassette entered my life as a Christmas present in December 1988. It didn’t connect with me until March 1989 when I listened to it on repeat on the road from Sudbury, Ontario to Altamonte Springs, Florida on the ol’ walkman while on a Spring Break vacation with the family. Temple of Low Men has a certain misty and mysterious air to it that connects the listener to the Australian outback, but really connected with me in terms of the imagery I was witnessing on the road – the palm trees, arid highways, and advertisements for alligator farms.

The cassette left my life long ago, and I never did replace it with another copy until a road trip almost three summers ago took me to a Beat Goes On in Cambridge, Ontario, where I swiped a copy on CD in the remainder bin for $6.99. I was like a kid on Christmas all over again! I immediately cracked ‘er open and had it play in the car stereo. Its dreamy sounds over the speakers, and the air conditioning on my legs brought me right back to the warm humid air of Florida. It also reminded me of how much in love with this album I was at 14.

Amazing how I remember every lyric and every song to Temple of Low Men, and it had been years since I took this one for a spin! Each track is completely singable! Of course, it helps to have songs that you want to sing along to, and pretty much all of them fall into that category. Also helpful is the harmonies developed by Neil Finn, Nick Seymour and Paul Hester that aid to create such full-bodied songs. It’s exciting to think that three dudes produced such fulsome material.

The track from this album that most people are familiar with is Better Be Home Soon, which was the first single released, and funny enough, appears last on the album. This sweet melody got a lot of air time in Canada, peaking at number 8 on the charts. But, none of the tracks on Temple of Low Men should be ignored, all are strong in their own right.

I Feel Possessed and Kill Eye, the first and second song on the album respectively, set the tone for a dreamy bayou feel. Back in high-school, I loved Kill Eye so much it would appear on some of my mixed tapes, just for the hell of it.

Moving down the track list, things slow right down to Crowded House’s somber Into Temptation, the album’s third track. I have to admit to really loving this song in high school and is about the only song on the album that isn’t upbeat. Listening to it today, I have to say it’s my least favourite. I remember this song playing on MuchMusic back in the day. Today, I often skip the track, moving on to the more upbeat songs on the album.

When You Come, the fifth song on the album is, hands-down my favourite song on Temple of Low Men. It never used to be (Kill Eye was), but I suppose my tastes have changed. A steel guitar strums at the start that leads the listener into an up-tempo melody. It’s a beautiful song musically and lyrically:

I’ll know you by the thunderclap
pouring like a rain of blood to my emotions
and that is why I stumble to my knees
and why underneath the heavens
with its stars burning and exploding
I know I could never let you down

It reminds me of climbing a mountain, reaching the apex to a view that is out of this world…you hear a crash and Neil Finn screaming. The best use of a ride cymbal I’ve ever heard!

Depending on whether you were listening to this on cassette or CD, Never Be the Same, the next song on the album, was the first song on the second side of the cassette version. Here, listening to it on CD, it appears immediately following When You Come. To me, the songs sound very similar, even in tempo, but I don’t hold that against it – it is still quite a good listen.

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Things mellow out with the calming Love This Life, which if you listen to the lyrics reminds us that through all of life’s problems, it’s still be good. The sweet harmonies in this one will compel you to sing along.

Sister Madly follows with its Hawaiian flare. You get a real treat in a distinct guitar solo that was fashioned by non other than guitarist Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention fame.

It amazed me back then that none of my peers listened to this Crowded House album, let alone own the album. It’s almost like they wrote the band off after the popularity of their first album. Temple of Low Men really holds some strong musical memories for me. Every song is wonderful, and I obviously still love it to this day. Take it for a spin, and you’ll see how awesome it is for yourself!