Remembering my summers of ’61 and ’62 with music

Tonight I came across a box of about 150 old 45 RPM records that I had not listened to for a very long time.  I ended out picking out several that were songs I listened to in my early teen years – pre-Beatles – from the summers of 1960 to 1962.

They reminded me of warm summer nights at our cottage at Bluewater Beach on the outskirts of Goderich, Ontario.   My friends and I would gather in the evening on a piece of dirt behind the Nothof family cottage and set a record player in the window so we could hear. We would dance to the same few records over and over. And over.

There was a restaurant on the highway that had a Juke Box and every month some guy would come and change the records.  We would find out when he was coming and ride our bikes out to the restaurant and he would sell us the records he was replacing for a quarter.  Treasures.

Tonight when I listened to Elvis singing I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You I could close my eyes and sway and sing the words and re-live dancing huddled over Ruth Ann Nothof.   Where is she now?

The music brought back such vivid memories. Almost sixty years ago and the recollection is as clear as a bell.  I still know all the words and even know where each little scratch is on the record.  Several of the records have little pieces of adhesive tape with my name written on them.  My writing has not changed that much in all those years.

What a treat (on the eve of my 71st birthday) to spend an hour or two with this music.  And to remember these moments from my youth.  Could be yesterday.

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Here are just a few of the songs I listened to.  Do you remember any of these?

Check them out below.

Roy Orbison – Crying – July 1961

Elvis Presley – I Can’t Help Falling In Love with You – October 1961

Freddy Cannon – Palisades Park – April 1962

Don Gibson – Sea of Heartbreak – July 1961

Beach Boys – Surfin’ Safari – October 1962

Ricky Nelson – Today’s Teardrops – March 1962

Everly Brothers – Til I Kissed You – January 1960

Del Shannon – Runaway – January 1962

 

“Dedo*, what are savages?”

I spent a day this week with my 7 year old granddaughter and out of the blue she asked me what a savage was.   I was a bit taken aback.  I had not heard that word used for some time.  

It turns out that she had seen the word “Salvage” written on a truck but obviously had been exposed to the word “savage” somewhere else and though it was the same thing.

I realized that this was a word that I would have heard quite a bit when I was younger but it is not used any more (as a noun**) or if it is, it has to be used cautiously and with some tact.

I tried to explain that it used to refer to people who were uneducated or uncultured or had some wild tendencies, who lived in societies where there was not the same education or sophistication as one that we are used to. (Try putting that into words for a 7 year old).  I also added that I don’t think anyone these days is seen as being that way because even if people live remotely or away from what we call civilization they are not necessarily “savage” in that they have their own cultures and habits which might be different from ours but not inferior.   

“So are they called homeless people now?” she asked. 

This was getting complicated. And over the week I have been thinking about this word.

Sir JohnThis morning I walked past the statue in City Park of Sir John A MacDonald,  Canada’s first Prime Minister  and wondered if there would be a move to have it taken out of the park, given his involvement with the establishment of Residential Schools in Canada.   I reflected on how times and attitudes have changed (for most) and how back in those days, our Canadian Aboriginal population would have been though of as “savages”. Uneducated. Not British.  No sophistication. Our settler ancestors actually saw this as an opportunity to educate them and make them less “savage”.  Totally wrong but coming from a place that we can not fathom today.

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A portion of Kent Monkman’s painting “The Scream”.  Canadian indigenous children being wrenched from their families to be taken to a residential school. A horrendous page of Canadian history that we must acknowledge.

“When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.”   Canada’s Prime Minister, John A MacDonald  May 1883

I remember having a midnight conversation a few years back with my close Maasai friend, Stephen.  He had just described to me several Maasai customs that were quite different from ours but that all had definite  significance and meaning and reason behind them to preserve longstanding customs that gave order to their society and even preserved it.  I recall him saying that white people may have thought of African cultures as being “savage” – the Dark Continent – but these cultures do have laws and rules and customs that have developed over the years to keep them functioning.  Those customs may be different from ours.  Not worse or primitive.  Just different.  The same comment might apply to our Canadian indigenous people.

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Maasai men drawing blood from a cow to drink (mixed with milk) at a celebration.  Not something we would do.  It didn’t hurt the cow at all (like you getting your blood taken) and makes perfect sense since they have no refrigeration, and so only slaughter their cattle occasionally when the meat can all be cooked and eaten in one day. This gives them some iron and protein without sacrificing the cow and if they rotate through the herd, the cow does not miss the blood at all.   Probably over time, the warriors who drank the blood were healthier so the custom persists in some rural Maasai communities.

Western literature sometimes portrayed  the image of the “Noble Savage” –uncorrupted by civilization and pure but unsophisticated and uneducated.  Both North American aboriginal people and native Africans were seen as a bit of a novelty by some. Charles Dickens, however, was in disagreement with this image and wrote this in his journal in 1853.

“TO come to the point at once, I beg to say that I have not the least belief in the Noble Savage. I consider him a prodigious nuisance, and an enormous superstition. His calling rum fire-water, and me a pale face, wholly fail to reconcile me to him. I don’t care what he calls me. I call him a savage, and I call a savage a something highly desirable to be civilised off the face of the earth. I think a mere gent (which I take to be the lowest form of civilisation) better than a howling, whistling, clucking, stamping, jumping, tearing savage. It is all one to me, whether he sticks a fish-bone through his visage, or bits of trees through the lobes of his ears, or bird’s feathers in his head; whether he flattens his hair between two boards, or spreads his nose over the breadth of his face, or drags his lower lip down by great weights, or blackens his teeth, or knocks them out, or paints one cheek red and the other blue, or tattoos himself, or oils himself, or rubs his body with fat, or crimps it with knives. Yielding to whichsoever of these agreeable eccentricities, he is a savage — cruel, false, thievish, murderous; addicted more or less to grease, entrails, and beastly customs; a wild animal with the questionable gift of boasting; a conceited, tiresome, bloodthirsty, monotonous humbug.”  Charles Dickens – June 1853.

To write something like this today would be considered racist and inflammatory.

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Times change.  We don’t use the word “savage”** much any more (as a noun to describe people) and if we do, we have to be pretty careful about it.  There are lots of other “ethnic” terms that seemed quite common when I was a kid that are deemed totally racist and inappropriate today.    Most of us ( in my circle at any rate)  are respectful of other cultures and aware that although we are different in our beliefs and customs and language and skin colour and history, we are neither inferior or superior to one another.  And that is a very good thing.

 

*When my first granddaughter was born I was working in Bosnia and Herzegovina, didn’t relish being called grandpa so took the Bosnian name for grandfather,  Dedo.   Now I am Dedo to five grandkids and this is what the whole family call me – and other kids too.

** Savage can be a noun, an adjective or a verb.  As an adjective it can be used to mean uncultured, boorish, or wild. ( a savage beast)  As a verb it can mean to attack brutally.   (The tornado savaged the neighbourhood).  As a noun it generally refers to a primitive, uncivilized person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baltic cruise

In May of this year, I took a 12 night Holland America Baltic cruise on the 1600-passenger ship Rotterdam and it was a great opportunity to visit several cities that have been on my bucket list. The cruise left from Rotterdam, Holland and visited Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin, St Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm. I took hundreds of photos and it has taken me this long to whittle them down to one per stop for this blog article.

I will post one representative photo and a short comment about each city.

Copenhagen, Denmark was clean and bright and one thing that struck me as unusual was that people just left their bicycles (and they use them a lot) unlocked without fear of having them stolen. This says a lot about the people who live there, don’t you think?

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Tallinn, Estonia was a delightful small city to roam in or climb the streets up to the top of the hill for a great view. It would be an ideal place just to hang out for a week, soaking up the ambiance, reading books and drinking coffee.

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Tallin, Estonia

Berlin, Germany was a 2 hour drive from where we docked but well worth the effort. A vibrant city with lots of parks and trees and recent history. The city is very open about acknowledging with a certain amount of shame, but more determination not to have it ever happen there again, the horrors and trauma of WW2 and the Nazi regime.

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Berlin, Germany

St Petersburg, Russia was certainly interesting visually but the glitz became almost too much. Much of St Petersburg (previously Leningrad) was destroyed during WW2 so, although the buildings like the Palaces and the Hermitage were impressive, they really were reconstructions, not the originals. Ostentatious comes to mind.

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St Petersburg, Russia

Helsinki, Finland seemed a bit drab after St Petersburg. Russians go there to shop. I spent the day there taking a ferry to a nearby island where there were no cars and lots of opportunity to walk near the sea. A refreshing change and I actually walked over 20 kilometres that day, not something you might expect on a cruise vacation.

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Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm, Sweden was a photographer’s delight. The old town on the island was very wanderable with colorful alleyways and streets at every turn. The city also has a lot of canals and waterways that made a hop-on-hop-off boat trip a must.

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Stockholm, Sweden

Rotterdam, Holland, where the cruise both started and ended, strikes me as a city with a shipping port/industrial past that is gradually gentrifying and becoming an interesting destination, not far from Delft and The Hague as well.

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Rotterdam, Holland

Taking a cruise like this is an excellent way of seeing these spots. It is so good to have all your things in one place for the trip and have a “hotel” room that moves with you.

Where would I return? I would gladly go back to spend a few days in Berlin. Lots of culture, history, museums, parks, restaurants, coffee shops. And Stockholm was also somewhere I could hang out for a few days.

 

Celebrating diversity in K-town

As I was heading over to Food Basics to buy some Harvest Crunch (on sale at 2 boxes for $5 this week) I was halted for a few minutes by the Pride parade heading up Brock Street past the market.

The kiss

This photo of a same-sex kiss on the front page of the Kingston Whig Standard in August 1969 provoked outrage. Times have changed for the better in K-town.

 

I had a flashback to 1985, the first year I moved to Kingston, and the uproar that happened when two young men staged a “kiss-in” on the steps of City Hall on August 8.

 
I understand that the LGBT community had been appealing to the Kingston City Council to be able to hold pride celebrations of some sort for a couple of years and were being rebuked.  In order to draw some attention, this kiss-in,  in a kind of make-love-not-war theme,  was organized on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in a kind of combination effort to promote some tolerance of sexual diversity and remind people that love is better than war.

 

 

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Enlarge this photo to see some of the letters to the Whig decrying the obscenity of “the kiss”.

The “ceremony” drew about 400 onlookers and the next day there was a photo on the front page of the Whig Standard.  What followed was outrage.  People threatened to cancel their paper for showing this “excessive and offensive” behaviour.   “ It just made me feel like throwing up.” said one.  “We were disgusted to see those two homosexuals in a loving embrace.” wrote another.

It took several years of requesting but finally in 1992, Mayor Helen Cooper proclaimed a Pride Day in Kingston.   

This year, the walkway in front of City Hall has been painted in rainbow colours and the parade had hundreds of folks who believe that there is strength in diversity walking together through the streets – Businesses, Church groups, Military, police, friends and even our  federal Member of Parliament (who happens to be the son of the mayor of the city in 1985).

diversityWatching the cheerful and colourful parade pass by, it made me happy to know that our society has grown much more tolerant and accepting of diversity.  I was also delighted last week to see this sign on a few lawns in Kingston and around the university.  I am glad that my grandchildren will grow up in a society that acknowledges diversity as a strength, not a threat.

One would hope that we can continue to celebrate our differences – religious, sexual orientation, political, cultural, – rather than see them as divisive.  Who knows, eventually, I may even become accepting of Toronto Maple Leafs fans.

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Just part of the Kingston Pride parade celebration in 2018.

Playing with some of my vacation photos

I may have had a bit too much time on the plane to fiddle with my phone. I came across a photography app that I had never used there called “Warmlight” and started fiddling with it and some of my photos from my recent trip to Europe.

I do prefer my photos to be clear and bright and honest but some of these treatments are appealing as well, just for a change. What do you think?

Street crossing, St.Petersburg, Russia.

Seagull,Tallin, Estonia

Photo shoot in front of the Reichstag, Berlin, Germany.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen Denmark

Nyhavn Copenhagen, Denmark.  Looking the other way from the bridge.

Rooftop at the Citadel, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Grabbing s beer in Tallinn, Estonia.

Some of the Peterhof Fountains in St Petersburg, Russia.

Cranes along the docks at Helsinki, Finland.

Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland.

Windmill, Rotterdam, Holland.

Canal in Delfshaven district of Rotterdam, Holland.

Street in Gamla Stan – old town, Stockholm, Sweden.

Across the tracks in the new Rotterdam Central Station.

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Escalator up from the bowels of the St Petersburg, Russia subway.

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Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium.

A stroll through Mbita town

I really enjoy strolling through Mbita town on the shore of Lake Victoria.  I have visited Mbita, Kenya about a dozen times in as many years.  As you can see from the photos, I am the only muzungu for miles around.  I get many greetings and stop to talk with vendors or pikipiki drivers.  I feel very safe and welcomed.  I love the vibrant color that surrounds me there.  The town also has special signficance for me which I will note at the end of this post.

The photos can speak for themselves.

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Below is one other reminder of my special connection to this town. In the middle of the local hospital grounds, now behind some trees, is a water tank bearing my name.  It was the first infrastructure project that I tackled in Kenya in 2005 and the benefits it gave to this clinic led me to establish the CanAssist African Relief Trust in 2008.  Since that time, CanAssist has provided more than a million dollars of infrastructure support to communities throughout East Africa.  Little did I know, in 2005, what a profound effect that water tank in Mbita town would have on my life for the next several years.

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Ramula Shopping Centre – photo gallery

 

Situated right on the Equator, Ramula is a colorful, little, rural Kenyan trading centre that  I love to wander around and take photos.  So much character. Friendly people living what appears to be simple lives but that are really quite complex given the challenges they face getting from day to day.

Here some photos of some of the shops that operate in this rural Kenyan “shopping centre.

 

This dilapidated van has been sitting here for the last five years, looking like this. In front of the “Palace” kinyozi (barber) hardware and beauty salon.

This fellow makes wooden tables, doors and cabinets using all hand tools. I contracted him to make a crib out of cyoress wood for little Heather Maddie at a cost of 6000KES ( $80 Can)

I asked these guys who were the other nine of the top ten.  There were no others.  Guess that makes this one number one.

The fellow hidden in this kiosk cage also can make deposits and give money from your Equity Bank account.  In his spare time he does construction and cuts hair.

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This is where the fellow above gives haircuts.  The little sticker in the upper corner says “Trust in God”.  Advice for clients who may not feel his skills are up to par?

And for the ladies…

 

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The Place Pub, complete with smoking zone outside.

Here’s what Facebook knows about me.

I have been reading a lot of paranoid articles about Facebook’s intrusion into our privacy so I decided that I would see exactly what they had on me.  Following simple instructions I was able to download everything that Facebook knows about me, all my posts and messages, all the photos and videos that I had posted and also see what advertisers know about me.

It is all pretty boring.

There were no real surprises. It was kind of nice to be able to have all my facebook photos in a file or see every post that I had made since I signed up in 2009.  If nothing else, it allowed me to have a copy of all these photos just in case Facebook folds or somehow my file gets closed.

What about advertisers?  Well there is a list of ads that I have clicked on to view more.  No surprises there as they obviously had some item that actually interested me – or that I may have even bought online.

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And there was a long list of items that I was supposedly interested in so advertisers could aim their merchandise at me.  But this seemed bland and innocuous and even had a few weird things like skunks and rings of Saturn and Catholic Schools in the mix.   Go ahead, advertisers and send me things about skunks.  What do I care? The only advertiser that has my contact info is Airbnb and it is one that I use. They have my information elsewhere as well.

I was surprised to see a list of many of my
“friends” phone numbers in a file.  Not all of them but many.  Not sure where that came from.  But it gives me a good phone directory for friends!  I can also see a list of friends that I have “removed”.  But don’t worry, I can’t see if you have removed me!

The bottom line is that Facebook seems not to know anything about me that I have not been open about in my posts or interested in following  up on by clicking on a link or “Liking” it.

I came away from this exercise thinking that there was nothing there that I had not posted myself and that the advertisers knew nothing about me that I had not openly declared.  Basically I have not posted anything that I consider to be “private” so what Facebook knows about me is what I have chosen to reveal. I think that is the key.  Whatever you post is public and will remain. So taking some care not to post anything that you don’t want to persist in cyberspace is probably the best strategy.

I also have to be aware that what is showing up on my news feed is selected by Facebook and geared to what I have posted or liked in the past. So it is not an unbiased reporting of  events or opinion.  Suffice to say that I have not seen any pro-Trump posts.

Actually what bugs me more is those Facebook “friends” who lurk and are entertained by  reading my posts and but are not open enough to share anything themselves or even post a “like” or a comment from time to time.  Facebook is a social medium.  To me, Social means interactive.  If someone is not willing to share anything about themselves, but is happy to read all about someone else’s life events and opinions,  perhaps Facebook is not the medium for them.  Or perhaps they might eventually find themselves on my “removed” list.

Should I cancel my Facebook page because of privacy concerns? If this is all they know about me then I see no need.  Do I wish I could spend a bit less time checking my Facebook feed?  Yes.  But that is not their fault but my being hooked on this 21st century communication with online friends.

 

Chop Chop

It’s true.

One of my blood relations, my seventh great grandfather, Dominicus Jordan, was slaughtered in 1703 by blows to the head with a hatchet.

This month, in the King’s Town Players production of Blood Relations, I am playing the role of Andrew Borden who, in real life, suffered the same fate.

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Andrew Jackson Borden,  Lizzie’s father.

Andrew is the more famous of the two, having been found dead, along with his wife Abby, in their Fall River, Massachusetts home on the morning of August 4, 1892. The only people who had been in the house that morning were the maid who was out washing windows and the Borden’s daughter Lizzie. Lizzie’s was charged with the murder and her trial drew the same kind of widespread attention that O.J. Simpson got in 1995 and the out come of “Not Guilty” was received with the same skepticism. Lizzie Borden has become a bit of a legend since that time with the assumption being that she was the one who viciously murdered her parents despite the fact that there was and is no concrete evidence to prove her guilt. borden_4She got off on the “reasonable doubt” claim and to this day that verdict would have to hold. As a gruesome piece of evidence, the coroner had decapitated both Abby and Andrew and their skulls were submitted as evidence at the trial.

I remember skipping to the rhyme “Lizzie Borden took an axe. Gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41” when I was a youngster. Her notoriety is of epic proportion.

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Photos of Dominicus Jordan’s musket – Maine Historical Society

My seventh great grandfather’s death is well documented too.  Dominicus Jordan was born in Spurwink, Cape Elizabeth, Maine in about 1655.  In 1675 his family had to leave the district because at the beginning of “King Phillip’s War” their family home was destroyed by the Indians. Dominicus became known during that time as the “Indian-killer” and he fiercely defended his family and property. He was known for carrying a six-foot long rifle slung over his back wherever he went.
That rifle, with some of the barrel later sawn off, is now in the Maine Historical Society Museum in Portland. Gradually peace returned and Dominicus and his wife, Hanna Tristram, returned to Spurwink. Dominicus’ reputation with his native adversaries, however, remained with him. On August 10, 1703, under the guise of wanting to buy some goods, a small band of Indians fell on Dominicus, one of them striking his head with a hatchet and killing him. With Domincus murdered, his wife and six children were all “led through the wilderness to Canada” and kept as prisoners in what is now Quebec. After several years all but one made their way back to Maine.

There are no skipping rhymes about Dominicus but lots of legend.  And I do actually carry some of his DNA. I know from DNA testing on Ancestry that my brother, my kids and I all share some segments of DNA with other Dominicus Jordan progeny.  I am wondering if my DNA will help me to live the role of the unfortunate Andrew Borden.

So…did Lizzie do it? Come out to Blood Relations to see what. you think. The show will be at the Domino Theatre and runs Wednesday to Saturday for two weeks – March 21-24 and 28-31. Tickets will be available online and at the door. I hope my friends will be supportive of this production. And my enemies?  Well they might be excited to see me get hacked.

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Gosia Rutkowska and Anne Marie Bergman rehearse for Blood Relations.

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KCFF18 – three more movies – two comedies and one that was unsettling.

Let’s get the unsettling movie out of the way first.

Black Cop has certainly been the talk of this Kingston Canadian Film Festival in 2018.  It played to two sold out screenings to audiences that found it somewhat unnerving.  We were warned when the creator/director, Cory Bowles (Trailer Park Boys) introduced the film, ending with  “Enjoy the film” then corrected it to “Enjoy the experience”.

Black-Cop-movie--623x350The movie, all shot in Halifax, is about a black policeman who is finding his work as a policeman to be challenging when people of color are in trouble with the law, or accused unfairly of being lawbreakers.  At one point when he is off duty, he is “carded” by another cop and treated badly, simply because he is a person of color.  He snaps and starts to turn the tables, stopping white people and being abusive and hostile in his interactions with them. This gave our predominantly white audience a feeling for what it would be like to have the shoe on the other foot, to be suspected and abused simply because of your skin color.  It was startling to experience and a provocative but very effective way of creating understanding of movements like Black Lives Matter.

Both Bowles and the film’s star, Ronnie Rowe, were at a Q&A after the screening.  It was clear that the audience was a bit stunned and needing some time to take it all in and the frank discussion about racial profiling and being a person of color in Canada was both welcome and complimented the film.   Everyone should see this film. Don’t watch it alone. You will need a chance to debrief afterward as there is a lot of overwhelming content to process.

MV5BZTNmOTliNjItMmE2MC00NjFiLTlhODgtZTQ4MTIyZjA5ODA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU1MDYyMDE@._V1_UY1200_CR85,0,630,1200_AL_The two comedies were both fun but paled in comparison to Black Cop.

Room for Rent, shot in Winnipeg,  is about a young man, Mitch Baldwin (played by Mark Little), who won a lottery, blew all the money (and in the process a lot of relationships) and who is now living at home with his parents.   When his father (Mark McKinney) loses his job and they think they will have to sell the house the family decides to rent a room to make some money. Enter Carl Lemay (Brett Gellman), an assertive loose canon of a guy who complicates Iife for everyone, particularly Mitch.

 

Unknown-5Another Kind of Wedding was filmed in Montreal.  I loved the familiar locations including the bagel shop where Tara Foods gets their bagels.  Kingston was also mentioned by none other than Kathleen Turner.   Even though the line was a bit negative “Who would want to spend a week in Kingston?”, the audience loved to be acknowledged on film by this superstar.

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William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981) one of my favourite films.

 

Body Heat (1981) is one of my all-time favourite movies and I have always found Kathleen Turner to be “hot”.  She is now in her mid-sixties and has put on 50 pounds but she still exudes a sultry, classy, confidence that is oh so sexy.    And she is great in this movie as one of the mothers of the groom.

I think the title of this film is unfortunate and not appealing but it has already been changed from Someone Else’s Wedding so I guess the producers are struggling to find a wedding title that has not been taken.

I realized that it takes more to make me like a comedy than a drama.  They tend to be shallow and often work too hard to make us laugh. Wedding movie comedies usually follow a pattern – introduction, complications, affairs, family feuds, disruption, and then a sudden turn around where everyone comes out OK in the end.  This movie also follows that formula but the characters were all interesting and varied and I think that saved the film for me. I liked it better than Room for Rent and it was a light and pleasant way to spend my Sunday morning.

For each of the films that I mentioned today, I have naturally started with where they were filmed.  This is part of the fun of seeing Canadian movies where Canadian cities are presented as themselves, not as a substitute for some American town or New York.   It adds a sort of familiarity to the film that increases the appeal for a Canadian audience.  Canadian locations do look like home to Canadians.  Like our accent or “eh” or “sorry”, we do have a look to our cities and towns that a Canadian can indentify.  What fun to spend the weekend watching films that embrace that.  Thanks to the KCFF18 for providing this treat.