Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cold Cartoons

I awoke to the sound of a chainsaw cutting into wood. I have no idea what Charlie was doing on the porch this morning, other than cutting a long rectangle into it. (He did have it covered by the time I got home.) I ran a Backyardigans episode to drown out the noise. "Cops and Robots" gives us Tyrone and Uniqua as intergalactic police officers in pursuit of "bad 'bots" Tasha and Pablo. If they succeed in getting into the robot factory and flipping the switch, they'll turn all the robots in the galaxy bad!

Work was on-and-off busy, but absolutely nothing like the weekend. It was so quiet early on, I spent most of the morning either working on story ideas or doing returns. It did pick up a little bit later...but by that time, I was getting ready to go. The weather may have scared people off. Despite the sunshine, it was freezing cold today, and is supposed to remain so throughout the weekend.

When I got home, I went right into writing. Kathleen confronts the evil Lady Sylvia. All she wants is Darren back. Lady Sylvia wants the stories she's been writing...and her own "story" and memories. She'll trade Darren, still in his demon form, for them. Kathleen won't do anything until she sees Darren. Sylvia orders him dragged in, bound and still in his demon form. She'll restore him and let him go if Kathleen gives up the stories.

Did a quick Looney Tunes compilation movie while eating leftovers for dinner and making Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread. 1001 Rabbit Tales (mostly) showcases shorts that spoof fairy tales, like the Speedy Gonzoles vehicle "The Pied Piper of Guadaloupe" and the Sylvester short "Goldilocks and the Three Cats," but it may be most famous for using "One Froggy Evening" as its finale. Bugs and Daffy are book sales-toons competing to see who can sell the most kids' books. While Daffy's trying to get north, Bugs ends up getting waylaid by Sultan Sam and his spoiled son, who insist Bugs play Scheherazade and read them some stories. One of the cuter Looney Tunes "movies" of the late 70's and 80's has no full cartoons, but it does showcase bits from some of Termite Terrace's best, including "Gorilla My Dreams" and "Froggy Evening."

Oh, and my tax return showed up last night. I'm not going to do nearly as much with it as I have in previous years. Most of it will be going into savings or my rent. I do want to take another writing class, and I'd like to pick up the Sailor Moon Season 2 DVD sets somewhere along the line.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

That's Galactic Entertainment

I was even more surprised to see that it was sunny when I got up this morning, and a bit windy. It looked like it may have snowed a tiny bit overnight, but it was barely a dusting, and nothing on the street. I was able to run the errands I had planned after breakfast with no problems.

The big one was the Oaklyn Library (after peeking at Studio LuLoo to see if they were open - they were not). I returned the DVDs I took out last week and worked on organizing other ones. Maybe the talk of the weather scared people off? I was the only one there the entire half-hour besides the librarian and the Weather Channel.

Hit WaWa for lunch. I opted for a simple turkey hoagie with spinach, pickles, and tomatoes. Tossed in a Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie as well. This was pretty much a strawberry milkshake with chocolate chips and bits mixed in. The strawberry part was tasty enough. The chocolate bits...were a good idea in theory, but in actuality, they kept getting jammed in my straw. It ended up being yummy, but a bit hard to drink.

When I got home, I ate my sandwich while continuing That's Entertainment, which I began during breakfast. This is the original documentary compiling clips from many, many popular MGM musicals of the late 20's through the late 50's. While many of the clips are familiar - Judy Garland in sepia wishing she could go over the rainbow, Gene Kelly singin' in the rain - others are from smaller musicals or ones you might not have heard of, like Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter's charming "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" from the early 20th-century-set Two Weeks With Love and part of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the Mouse in "The Worry Song" from Anchors Aweigh.

Did writing next. Kathleen does make it into the villa. Darren described the villa as a beautiful place, but to her, it radiates coldness and evil. She's lead to an enormous library where she encounters the stunning, red-headed Lady Sylvia, who claims to own the villa. Sylvia taunts the young woman, calling her plain and wondering how she could ever have a story of any importance. Kathleen stands her ground. She just wants Darren back, and will do anything to get him.

Finally got to finishing the cleaning while Entertainment ended and afterwards. I've been meaning to vacuum and dust for over a week, but I've kept putting it off. Put up the Valentine's Day decorations as well.

Switched to throwing together leftovers for dinner and making Mandarin Orange Muffins while watching Galaxy Quest. Galaxy Quest was a popular Star Trek-style sci-fi show in the early 80's. It's been canceled for decades, but loyal fans keep packing conventions to see the show's original stars. Not that the original stars are happy about it. They feel trapped in their roles, especially the cocky, me-first actor who played the ship captain (Tim Allen) and his alien assistant (the late Alan Rickman). They get a huge surprise when they're recruited by an alien race who thinks their show is a "historical document" and wants them to fight an evil galactic overlord. The crew discovers just how important their relationships with each other and their fans are when it turns out they need some crucial information to save the ship that only their tech-obsessed fans would know...

This love letter to fandom in general and sci-fi fandoms in particular has been a favorite of mine since I saw it twice in the theater back in 1999. Everyone's having a great time, including Tony Shalhoub as the most laid-back sci-fi star you'll ever see, Signorney Weaver as the show's only female star, and Sam Rockwell as a guy along for the ride who keeps worrying about getting killed. If you've ever been involved with a fandom, any fandom, you'll probably get as big a kick out of this one as I do.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Almost a Winter Wonderland

To my surprise, it was merely wet when I finally got up this morning. No snow, no rain, no anything. Even so, after I finished Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I honored the weather anyway with Frosty Returns. This odd 90's special isn't a follow-up to the original Rankin-Bass Frosty the Snowman. Frosty helps two kids whose town winter carnival may not go on after a nasty executive creates an aerosol quick-snow-removal spray.

I didn't get out to do the laundry until past 12:30. Thankfully, the weather must have scared people off. Other than one or two people, it was mostly quiet. I listened to the news and The Chew and read the Star Wars FAQ. I'm glad it was quiet. I had a ton of laundry to do today, including my new pants and work shirts.

It was just starting to snow when I rode home. As soon as I put everything away, I went right back out. Snow or no snow, I had errands to run. Besides, though it was coming down as big, wet flakes, it wasn't sticking to anything, not even the ground. I had lunch at a Friendly's. They were surprisingly busy for 2:30 in the afternoon on a day with some fairly bad weather. I had a simple grilled chicken sandwich and fries, along with the Vienna Mocha Chunk ice cream (my favorite Friendly's flavor) topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. 

The snow was slowing down, even as I headed to the Haddon Township Library for this week's session there. I decided to leave the DVDs to the kids and helped the librarians find titles on the racks they'd been searching for. After I found everything but a bunch of new release books, I shelved a big stack of items on hold. (And I didn't take anything out again. In fact, I returned books. I don't know when I'll have the time to watch anything.)

The snow was down to sprinkles when I headed over to the Westmont Plaza. I didn't really need much there anyway. I rushed in Thriftway to grab milk - they were dead. Picked up a new notebook to write story ideas in at Dollar Tree. Neither place was busy.

(Also, I noticed the Westmont Game Stop seems to have vanished. That's odd. They seemed to be doing fine at Christmas, when I bought a Bowser Amiibo figure for Lauren from there. They were always kind of quiet, though.)

It started raining and snowing again shortly after I got home. It's been raining and snowing on and off the rest of the night. I worked on my story for a while. The old woman who tells Kathleen that the evil Lady Sylvia is stealing stories tells her she won't get into the villa dressed as a peasant. She gives her a beautiful gown, and she passes herself off as a noblewoman to get past the stuffy butler at the door.

Finished the night with an episode of Wonder Woman from the third season. With my own re-entry into the Star Wars fandom, I thought "Spaced Out" was rather appropriate. Diana Prince finds herself among people who are even stranger than some of her Justice League buddies - late 70's sci-fi fans at a convention. She has to dodge the cosplayers and save jewels that can make lasers from a wily thief and the men who intend to buy the jewels from him. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

In the Year of the Monkey

Started a sort-of-sunny, chilly day with a few remaining football-themed shorts I didn't get to on Saturday. Hello Kitty is "Cinderkitty" in Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater. This little kitten would rather be catching footballs than doing chores. She gets a chance to prove girls can do anything, even be a penguin prince's wide receiver, when magic allows her to attend the big game.

The Fleischers did two football cartoons featuring Popeye. The first, "You've Gotta Be a Football Hero," is more typical. Popeye gets on the field to take down Bluto's team in order to impress Olive. "The Football Toucher-Downer" has Popeye telling Swee'Pea the story of how he first started eating spinach - during a football game when he was younger. I also snuck in "King of the Mardi Gras," since Mardi Gras is on Wednesday. Popeye and Bluto are once again competing for Olive's affections, this time on the Mardi Gras midway.

Headed out to King's Highway around 10. I wanted to be on time for the bus to Moorestown without rushing for once. Everything went fine. I made it with time to buy a pineapple-coconut sparkling water and get change at CVS and still got across the busy street well before the bus arrived. The bus was surprisingly busy for the Moorestown run. A couple of folks actually went all the way with me.

Explored the mall itself when I arrived. The FYE was a disorganized mess. I didn't see anything I absolutely needed. After a quick bathroom break at the movie theater (and dodging the Starbucks that somehow sprung up across from FYE in the Food Court hallway), I took a quick peek at a toy store, then hit Boscov's. Though I looked at toys, I was mainly there for pants, the only clothes I really need right now. I replaced a pair of work pants with Lee twill trousers, and picked up a pair of brown corduroys as well.

My next stop was the gigantic Barnes and Noble in one of the shopping centers surrounding the Moorestown Mall. I was there for over an hour. I just couldn't decide! I did see a coffee table book on musicals that looked interesting, but in addition to not wanting to haul it home, it was forty bucks. I ended up spending $25 on the Star Wars FAQ (or really more Star Wars Original Trilogy FAQ - it just briefly discusses the Prequels in the last chapters).

Had a very quick lunch next. It was past 2, and I was starving. In honor of today's Chinese New Year (it's the Year of the Monkey), I ate at Pei Wei. Needless to say on an Asian holiday, they were fairly busy, with a long-ish line that thankfully moved fast. I had sweet and sour chicken with brown rice and chai iced tea.

Went in and out of a few stores next. I wanted to get Dad-Bill a birthday card at Hallmark (it's tomorrow). Ended up getting myself three "Itty Bitties," tiny, adorable versions of popular characters. To my amusement, their versions of Han and Leia were packaged together, on cardboard printed to resemble the Millennium Falcon. And of course, since I got Han, I had to get Chewie, too. And yes, I got Dad his card.

(Star Wars isn't the only popular franchise from my childhood that's turned up at Hallmark recently. I was surprised to see Rainbow Brite merchandise there, too, including books. I thought they gave up on her after the last two or three times their attempts at resuscitating the character didn't work out. At the very least, what I saw of toys and books they had looked pretty close to the original. We'll see how this goes.)

A stop at Best Buy took even less time. I wanted to see if they had the Sailor Moon Season 2 sets. After spending 10 minutes just finding the DVDs and Blue Ray section (it was shoved in a corner in the back), I discovered they did have the first Season 2 set...but only on Blu-Ray. I think I'll probably just pick these up on

I was hot from all that hiking around. A chocolate-covered strawberry water ice from Rita's really hit the spot. I got to enjoy it at the now-completely remodeled food court at the main Mall. The industrial white color scheme had been replaced by slightly mellower hues of dark brown and tan. Charley's was replaced by Bassett's; the sushi place and pizzeria were different, too. The only holdovers from the original Food Court were Subway and Saladworks. A small sit-down restaurant replaced one of the booths. I sat at the island/counter in the very center of the court and watched people go by as I ate.

I took the 4:07 home. It was right on time, and encountered no problems whatsoever getting in. The traffic was pretty heavy in Audubon when I arrived. I had to do a lot of dodging cars riding home, especially on King's Highway and down by Cuthbert.

When I got in, I put on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while having leftovers from the party yesterday for dinner. Everyone's favorite swashbuckling archaeologist (Harrison Ford) is now in India (after a stop in Shanghai), accompanied by a Chinese kid and a fussy singer who would rather be anywhere but outside. They discover that a stone that may have magical powers has been stolen from a starving village...along with the village's children. Indiana and his friends travel to the depths of the Temple of Doom, where they encounter a cult that pulls hearts from chests, a wild mine-train ride, a child ruler, and a lot of Asian Indian stereotypes.

So...yeah, we'll start by talking about the stereotypes. There's a lot of them, and they can get a bit ugly after a while, especially during the dinner and the sequence with the cult. There's also the fact that this is all pure fantasy and has very little to do with real Indian religion. This can also get really, well, gross. Willie's not the only person disgusted by that infamous dinner with bugs and eels on the menu, and that doesn't even go into the whole "ripping the heart out of the chest" thing. And while I do like Short Round, Willie is just annoying as heck and more of a load than anything.

On the other hand, there's some set pieces here that's as famous as anything in the other movies. The opening is Shanghai is a lot of fun, "Anything Goes" musical number and all. So's the intense finale on the bridge. And the mine train ride is probably one of the most imitated and beloved sequences from any of the Indiana Jones movies.

This was my favorite of the Indiana movies when I was a kid. Nowadays, though I like some sequences, it's not even close. (That would be Last Crusade, by the way.) I'd be iffy on showing this one to very young kids, due to the violence and icky imagery. (There's a reason this movie lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating.) This one is for older kids and young teens on up who can handle the violence and understand that the stereotypes date from the time this was set.

Ended the night with a much-needed bath. My feet felt so sore after trooping around Moorestown all day! I read Quiet, a book on introversion and why it's not a bad thing, and listened to one of my Unsung Musicals CDs.

It's been cloudy since mid-afternoon, but it didn't start snowing until just a few hours ago. It's not heavy right now, just an inch or two. It stopped some time ago. We'll see how things look tomorrow.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Journey to Super Bowls Past

For once, I got up with enough time to not only have a decent breakfast of Banana Pancakes and half a grapefruit, but to work on writing, too. Kathleen follows Darren in his demon form to the tangled Technicolor garden surrounding the villa. There, she encounters a strange old woman who may know what the evil Lady Sylvia is after and why Darren took off...and a way to get in the villa.

Work was, once again, busy as heck and not much fun. I don't know what got into people this weekend. Our customers remained rude, obnoxious, and demanding. One man fussed noisily over not getting his cereal on sale, despite the fact that the sign clearly stated that you needed to buy four boxes of cereal to get the sale. People were in a hurry. People didn't want to bag or really do much of anything. I was ready to tear out my hair - or tear them all to shreds - by the time my relief arrived.

At least we were still doing samples. I had a rather nice little lunch. In addition to the roast beef, Italian organic soda, mini chocolate chip cookies, and French bread and salsa from yesterday, this time, they added bits of crab cake and rolled up deli meat and cheese.

I couldn't wait to get out of there. When I got home, I changed into regular clothes and my Eagles jersey and rested for about a half-hour before heading to Dad's. Jessa said yesterday that Dad and Jodie invited Rose and her boys and Mark and Vanessa over for some food and a quiet little get-together to watch the game.

Nothing is ever quiet on either side of my family. Mark and Vanessa were there when I arrived, but so were Jesse, Dana, Erica, and several neighbors, including one couple with an adorable baby son. Rose, Craig, and Khai arrived just before the game started. Another set of neighbors came over during the beginning of the first quarter, these with Khai's buddies Mary and Emily. Jessa and Joe arrived later. Jesse and Dana announced their engagement (after dating seriously for five years). They won't be getting married for another year or two, until Dana is out of college.

I also got to admire all the remodeling Dad and Jodie have done. The living room looks great. The faded, dated stenciled paint job was replaced by deep brown wooden walls, a fireplace, more of Pop Pop's (Dad-Bruce's dad) artwork, and a really cool book-themed wallpaper on the doors to the walk-in supply closet. The kitchen was basically left alone except for to paint over the stenciling.

There was tons and tons of food. I lost count of everything I had. I saw black bean dip, shrimp scampi, a broiled version of Jodie's amazing ribs, buffalo chicken dip, tortilla chips, two meat and cheese trays (one with grapes), mini cupcakes from the Acme, a Dutch apple pie, Craig's tasty tomato mac & cheese, a delicious lasagna, Caesar salad, French bread with butter, and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, among other things. I probably tried a little bit of just about everything. Which was likely a mistake. I'm full as heck now. Jodie even gave me a plate of leftovers to take home.

I mostly played in the den with the kids while the game ran in the background. They chased each other around. We drew pictures first on Dad's dry-erase board, then on actual paper with markers and crayons. (They drew someone called Freddy the Fox pirate from some video game. I drew Han and Leia arguing in the beginning of Empire Strikes Back. I always thought those two were hilarious.) We built houses and more Freddy the Foxes with Legos.

When the amazing half-time came on, we danced to Coldplay and Beyonce and Bruno Mars, along with Craig and Mary and Emily's mom. We talked about our favorite Star Wars characters and what music we liked. (Emily was shocked when I told her Harrison Ford had played Indiana Jones as well as Han Solo. Her mind was so blown, she had to tell every adult within earshot this new tidbit of information.)

I left just as the second half was starting. It was getting late, and I did have to take the bike home. Besides, most of the families and several other folks were going as well. Oh, and incidentally, while the Panthers tried, Cam Newton just couldn't get past the Broncos' defense. The Broncos finally won Super Bowl 50 24-10.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Football Fairy Tales

Began a sunny, breezy morning with football-themed cartoons in honor of the Super Bowl tomorrow. It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown has the Peanuts hitting the field to play in the big homecoming game. Snoopy's filming the game and is cheering up a storm. Lucy refuses to let Charlie Brown kick anything. Chuck's more interested in the dance afterwards - he's the escort for the Little Red Haired Girl.

"Touchdown Mickey" is a black-and-white Disney short that has Mickey's scrappy mouse as the world's least-likely Cam Newton. He's determined to get past those big cats on the opposing side and win this one for Minnie and Clarabelle! (Goofy's a pretty unlikely Al Michaels, too.)

Work was steady when I came in, but it picked up around noon and stayed crazy the rest of the night. It was a total pain in the rear. You'd think people getting ready for the Super Bowl would be in better moods. People were rude. They were obnoxious. They were demanding. They handed me six thousand coupons for everything and wouldn't help bag. I spent the entire afternoon wishing I could Force-choke half my clientele. I did see Jessa on her way out. Dad and Jodie are inviting family over for the game tomorrow. I'll probably join them.

(And I was able to work on yet another Star Wars idea in my head. Heavens only knows when this one will come to fruition. It's the lawless 20's in Los Angeles. Luke is an orphaned newsboy who is aiming to become a great crime reporter. Leia is the adopted flapper daughter of a senator and a movie star looking to stamp out crime in the City of Angels. Ben Kenobi was a star reporter, but he stepped down when his old partner got involved in the very corruption he was writing about. Derek Veder, the corrupt owner and editor of the Los Angeles Daily Empire, catches Leia, but she's turned the plans with his criminal activities over to two perpetually bickering comic actors who are looking for a break. They in turn run into Luke and his mentor Ben. The quartet hire low-level rum-runners Han and Chewie to first get them to Leia's parents, and then when it's discovered they've been murdered, to rescue Leia from Veder's stronghold.)

Not all was horrible at work. We're having our second Open House weekend. This pretty much translates to "more samples." I tried the bakery's brownies (ooh, nice and yummy and chewy) and mini chocolate chip cookies, bacon, French bread slices with store-made salsa, the Italian organic soda again, and slices of deli roast beef. Picked up grapefruit (which I forgot yesterday), sugar (Domino's was on a really good sale), and a roll for a meatball sandwich for dinner after work.

When I got home, I put everything away, then worked on writing. Kathleen, now realizing what Lady Sylvia has done to her nephew, hurries home. She's too late. All the shutters and curtains have been torn down, allowing the last rays of the setting sun to transform Darren into his demon form. Smaller demons, sent by the Lady Sylvia, try to take him away and steal Kathleen's stories. She frees Darren, then helps him get rid of the demons. He's still worked up when they finish, though, and takes off. She follows him.

Finished out the night with a meatball sandwich with Colby cheese and escarole and the last of the frozen green beans. Ran Happily Ever After while I ate. The last project of TV animation studio Filmation was this odd sequel to Snow White. Snow White is attacked by the evil Lord Maliss, the Queen's brother. The Prince is kidnapped, but she flees. Looking for the Seven Dwarves, she instead finds the Dwarfelles, who control nature, and Mother Nature herself. The unlikely group goes in search of Maliss, helped along the way by a strange little man who seems to have a connection to Snow White. An interesting plot, stronger Snow White than usual for this fairy tale, the funny Dwarfelles, and fairly frightening villain make up for so-so animation, useless comic relief animals, and lousy songs.

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Caring Bowl

Actually, I slept in today more than I'd anticipated. I got up pretty late. Had enough time to listen to the soundtrack from The Muppet Movie while having breakfast. Though I love the music from this one, I think my favorite number is that jazzy instrumental version of "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along" that plays while Kermit and Piggy are reconciling in the car after she's reappeared on the road.

I was surprised to see about an inch of messy snow on the ground when I awoke this morning. No one said anything about snow last night. As it turned out, it was melting even as I made my way carefully downstairs. The roads were wet but clear.

Work was once again quiet when I arrived and quiet when I finished, but very busy in between. In addition to the Super Bowl and beginning of the month people, they're talking about more snow on Monday and Tuesday. It doesn't sound like much more than what we got last night, but that's still enough to make people go crazy. I panicked a lot, too. I hate it when the crowds get crazy.

I'm not overly happy with my schedule next week. On one hand, I have all morning and early afternoon work, and three days off in a row again. On the other hand, once again, I don't have enough hours. Considering we're now into the single busiest month of the year and coming up on Valentine's Day and President's Day Weekend, this doesn't seem too sensible.

Had quite a bit of shopping I needed to do. The big one was restocking apples and bananas (and I still forgot grapefruit). Got escarole, which I occasionally buy in the winter when there's nothing else fresh at a good price. There were a lot of good sales this weekend - I picked up mayo, cereal (Quaker Cinnamon Squares were still $1.99, one of the many sales carried over from last week), canned pineapple, peanut butter, ground turkey, two packs of crab cakes with manager's special coupons on them, two cans of canned chicken, the Campbell's Chunky Italian Wedding Soup, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and the Acme generic brand whole wheat rotini pasta.

Ran an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures that revolves around football as I put everything away. It's "The Acme Bowl" when Acme Looniversity plays rival school Perfecto Prep. Plucky's defection to Perfecto may set the team up for a fumble, but Buster has a few tricks up his uniform sleeve...

Switched to The Care Bears Movie while I ate a crab cake with leftover pasta and green beans and almonds for dinner. The title bears try to use their new "rescue beam" to first help a pair of orphans see that they're not alone, then come to aid of a magician's assistant who finds a book haunted by an evil spirit. While they are able to help the sister and brother duo Kim and Jason, the spirit in the book that Nicholas finds proves to be too strong to handle alone. Good thing they inadvertently run into a second crew of colorful critters based around other types of animals that help them out, and Kim and Jason are more than willing to do their share.

The first of three Care Bears films in the 1980's is a bit darker than you might expect. The spirit in the book is a genuinely frightening villain who actually comes rather close to winning in the end. Alas, other elements don't wear as well, including so-so songs and the animation with its many continuity mistakes. I kind of like the second one better, but this is far from horrible. Recommended for Care Bears fans and younger kids...but have a hand to hold when the spirit in the book is on.