Friday, November 17, 2017

The Cinder Girl and the Inventor

Began a golden fall morning with breakfast, then baking. I dove into that one-bowl cookie cookbook Lauren gave me for my birthday again and came up with Mint Chocolate Cookies. I didn't realize I was out of vanilla, so I didn't use any. Otherwise, they came out quite tasty, and very chocolaty! (I was supposed to roll them in powdered sugar, but that sounded too messy. I just left them plain.)

I was about to go up to the counter to start taking down baking powder and other items in the cabinets when I noticed something small and gray huddled against the sink. On closer inspection, I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming. It was a dead mouse, likely the one that plagued me for months. Even the good traps I bought weeks ago hadn't gotten rid of him.

At least, I thought he was dead. When I tried to scoop him up with a long-handled metal spoon, he flailed like a mad-mouse. I was finally able to use the spoon and a trap to corner him next to the sink and get him into a plastic bag. I darted into the back yard as quickly as I could and dumped him into a pile of leaves, still thrashing around. If Charlie and his men don't make short work of him, the feral cats will. The way he was acting, he may have been dying anyway.

Ran The Nutcracker while all this was going on. I have the 1977 performance featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince. This is a fairly traditional version of this story, complete with the Mouse King battle in the first act and the dancing candy in the second act. Most of the Sugar Plum Fairy's dances late in the second act are given over to the Prince and Clara, though, likely to give them more to do. This is short and sweet, not a bad starter entry to the world of ballet and one of the great dancers of the later half of the 20th century.

Switched to an episode of The Backyardigans while the cookies were coming out of the oven. "The Secret of Snow," from the second season, is the first of two holiday episodes this show did. Uniqua is determined to find out how to make the snow fall. She travels north to the land of Ice Lady Tasha and her bored assistant Austin. Tasha has no time for the pink bug-girl's queries and sends her to the Wild West, then the jungle. She returns north each time, with Cowboy Pablo and Tyrone of the Jungle by her side. Tasha tries to put the kids to work in her ice factory, but gets upset when they seem to be enjoying their work a bit too much. They all finally learn that there's really no "secret of snow"...but that making friends is a lot more important.

Was off to the Acme for this week's grocery shopping as soon as the cookies were out of the oven. And I had a ton of it! Bought more butter, this time the Acme generic brand, with one online coupon; got free organic low-sodium chicken broth with another. Picked up taco seasoning and tortillas for dinner. Found a bag of cut-up dried cranberries on the clearance shelves that'll be great for the cranberry bread next week. Restocked white and brown sugar, chicken legs, ground turkey, peanut butter, clementines, vanilla, dark cocoa, eggs, skim milk, yogurt, blue corn chips, corn starch, and two bags of chocolate chips (mint and dark chocolate and three-chip).

My schedule this week is much better than the one I had last Thanksgiving week. I asked for Thanksgiving off this time to avoid the problems last year when they tried to get me to work that day and will be taking my first personal day on Black Friday. I'll probably be doing my laundry in the morning again, but on the other hand, I do have some late morning-early afternoon work, including next Saturday.

Headed home and got everything put away, then went right back out again. Had to dodge more road work heading down Manor, this time just inches from our house. Having a bike's been a huge help with this. I was able to ride right past them on the sidewalk.

I just missed the Oaklyn Library, which closes at 2. Ended up dumping my DVDs in the book/DVD return holder and moved on. Capitol Pizza is a few blocks down on the White Horse Pike, so that's where I ended up for a late lunch. Ate a slice of cheese and a slice of broccoli while drinking a can of Coke and watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Super-smart kids are in the hot seat this week. The ones they had today were so funny. The little girl who did the Darth Vader imitation was (as the host said) the cutest Vader ever. The boy who came after her did even better, getting a few math questions I couldn't figure out and at least one geography question that involved Star Wars and Kylo Ren. (He said he loved Force Awakens - he is a smart kid.)

After a brief stop at Rite Aid to check for pads (none on a good sale), I moved on to the Haddon Township Library. Surprisingly for a late Friday afternoon, they were dead. Everyone must be starting to get ready for Thanksgiving. I shelved kids' DVDs and a cart laden with new books, both print and audio. Took out the holiday specials for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and How to Train Your Dragon, along with new sets for Strawberry Shortcake and Mickey and the Roadster Racers (the latter focuses on Minnie and Daisy).

Made a brief stop at WaWa on the way home for money, dodging rush hour traffic on the way. As soon as I got in, I went on the computer for some writing. Leia and Harold have been wondering what the kids have been up to all week, but they're in the dark until an evening a week later. Leia comes upstairs after packing to leave to find a beautiful "new" dress on her bed. The girls had made it over from one of the older dresses in the attic. They have antique jewelry and shoes for her, too, as well as clothing for them and the boys. They escort her downstairs, where Harold and the boys, as dolled up as toads and frogs can be, await them in the ballroom.

Made tacos and sauteed spinach and mushrooms for dinner around 6, with Cranberry Flummery for dessert. Watched Minnie and Daisy's Happy Helpers while I ate. For some reason, they only had the "Happy Helpers" shorts from Roadster Racers on this set. While I would have preferred full episodes, some of these are really sweet.

"Happy Hula Helpers" has the duo aiding a little Hawaiian girl who is trying to find the perfect gift for her grandpa, who seems to have everything. Minnie finally suggests a hula that can tell the story of their loving relationship. They get into a bit of "Tea Time Trouble" in London when they have to fix Big Ben and their boys need to learn how to act like gentlemen, or no one will be having tea with the queen. Clarabelle is "Bed, Breakfast, and Bungled" after she offers to help Minnie and Daisy run a local bed-and-breakfast inn. The anxious bovine tries too hard and ruins every job, but she is good at making tasty - and sticky - treats!

Took a shower, then finished the night online with Ever After. This is the late-90's version of the Cinderella tale, transferred to 16th-century France. Here, the cinder girl is Danielle (Drew Barrymore), the daughter of a nobleman who married a baroness (Anjelica Huston) with two daughters. She may have loved her once, but after he died, she became bitter towards her beautiful stepdaughter, making her more-or-less a servant. Danielle, however, is a feisty maid with some definate ideas on commoners and royalty. She almost thrashes a man she thinks is stealing his father's horse, until he turns out to be Prince Henry (Dougray Scott), who is trying to avoid an arranged marriage. She intends to use the gold he gives her to buy back one of her family's servants and dresses as a countess to make the sale. Henry thinks she's a real noblewoman and falls for her. Her stepmother and stepsisters lock her in the house on the day of a ball celebrating Leonardo DiVinci (Patrick Godfrey). He acts as a most unusual fairy godparent, giving her a pair of wings to wear with her good dress...but her stepmother exposes her and sells her. Now this Cinderella has to learn that glass slippers are all well and fine, but sometimes, a fairy-tale princess has to rescue herself.

I loved this when it came out, and while it's no masterpiece, I still think it's a lot of fun. Barrymore and Scott are all right as the lovers, and Huston's really enjoying herself as a slightly wicked stepmother. A lot of girls who grew up with this in the late 90's still love it to this day. If you have older girls who are fans of other fairy tale or fantasy retellings or love opposites-attract romances, try this one on them.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Windy Autumn

It was sunny when I rolled out of bed this morning. Began a lovely fall day with breakfast and one of the stranger Rankin-Bass holiday specials, The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold. This is the only holiday special I know of to mix Irish mythology and Christmas lore. A young sailor is told to get a Christmas tree from a misty island for his ship by his captain, but accidentally uproots a pine that had trapped a banshee. The banshee wants the gold of the leprechauns, or it'll dissolve into tears on Christmas Day. Trouble is, it must be given freely. She first tries to trick the leprechaun, then the sailor. When she puts the sailor to sleep, it takes the leprechaun clans mending bad feelings between them to revive him and save their gold.

Headed out to the laundromat around 10:30. I couldn't put off getting the laundry done anymore. The laundromat was busy, but not unbearable. I didn't have that huge of a load anyway. I worked on story notes while listening to Rachel Ray and The View.

Had a little time to write when I got home. The girls and frogs spend the next week preparing for their party to send the ladies off...and hopefully, bring Leia and the Master closer together. They have an inkling of what's going on, but the kids aren't talking, and Chewbacca isn't saying anything to Harold, either. The girls are hoping that having a new man in Leia's life - even if he's a horned toad - will make her less sad. The boys figure this is the chance their Master has been waiting for - a woman loves him enough to see past the prickles and get into bed with him.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas is one of my favorite lesser-known holiday specials. Ted E. Bear is more curious than most of his ursine brethren. While they're content to spend the winter hibernating, he wants to stay up and learn more about Christmas. After being humiliated by his fellow bears when he asks a few too many questions, he strikes out on his own to the big city. There, he learns that Christmas isn't a place or a person. It's a feeling...and one that's best shared with someone you love.

Work was a slight improvement over yesterday. I did get stuck in the register for 10 minutes early-on when a manager saw some people on the ends of a few lines and panicked. Otherwise, I was mostly either bagging, doing returns, or gathering carts or baskets. Fine by me. It was a gorgeous day to get carts, sunny, very windy, and warmer than it has been, into the upper 50's. It rained this morning, but by the time I was at work, it was partial clouds.

Did two Backyardigans episodes when I got in and had leftovers and steamed broccoli for dinner. Tyrone thinks he has to "Escape From Fairy Tale Village" when it looks like Uniqua the Witch, Austin the Wolf, and Pablo the Giant want to eat him. But is that really why they're chasing him?

Tasha, a photographer for a newspaper in Bigopolis, is ready to report some "Front Page News" when a huge robot is terrorizing downtown. Pablo sends her to get the shot for the front page...but she's too busy being superhero Super Snap and helping Bug Girl (Uniqua) and Bubble Man (Tyrone) to take the picture.

Finished the night with Mission: Impossible III as I went online. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) thinks he's ready to settle down with his fiancee Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), who has no idea what his real job is. He's called back into action one more time to try to rescue an agent (Keri Russell) who was kidnapped while investigating a case about nasty arms dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). While they do manage to rescue her and two laptops with information, they're only able to keep the laptops. Davian kills her with an explosive implanted into her brain. Even after they do succeed in grabbing Davian before he leaves Vatican City, they learn he's after a certain mysterious object called "Rabbit's Foot." He manages to escape and capture Julia, whom Ethan had married several days before. Now Ethan has only 48 hours to rescue his bride and find "Rabbit's Foot," before Davian kills his bride or his team.

A bit darker than the previous entry in this series, but not bad. (And with far fewer weird slo-mo action scenes.) Hoffman was only ok as one of the creepier bad guys in this series, and I thought the "bomb in the brain" thing was a little much. The romance was dull, too. On the other hand, the plot was still pretty interesting, and the cinematography and action scenes were breathtaking at times, especially in Rome.

Not the best of this series, but far from horrible. This pretty much confirms what I said after Rogue Nation. This is the best kind of popcorn action series. If you like one, you'll pretty much like them all, including this one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Back to the Alien Future

Kicked off a sunny, chilly fall morning with some holiday-themed Scooby Doo. "A Nutcracker Scoob" is from the late 70's-early 80's show featuring Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy, and Daphne. Fred joins in as well for this tale of the crew helping an orphanage to put on their big Christmas pageant. The show may not go on when a miser claims he's going to shut them down...and then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears, searching for a treasure hidden in the house. The kids have to find that treasure, before the ghost and the old man find a way to get rid of them all for good.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. The winter is fast becoming spring...and the end of the girls' year at the manor. Finn and Rey are working in the garden when Rey asks him why Harold wants Leia to sleep with him. Part of it is the spell...and part of it may be that he genuinely loves her. Finn has his own feelings for Rey, but he has no idea how to get the words out. They finally decide that a party would be just the thing for the boys to spend time with the girls and to bring Leia together with Harold.

A few days later, they discuss it with the other kids. It'll be a surprise for Leia and Harold. They'll make a party of it. Kaydel will trim up the fancy old clothes in the attic. The others will decorate and make the closest thing they can to a feast for Harold and Leia to enjoy while the kids dance and court each other.

Had yogurt and muffins for lunch around 1. Watched more Scooby Doo while I ate. Backtracked to the mid-70's series for "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright." This time, the whole gang heads up north when a professor calls for their aid. By the time they arrive, he's gone, and a huge dinosaur-like snow beast has destroyed the Inuit village where he was doing research. The gang has to find what became of him and the Inuit chief, and what the beast is really protecting. Meanwhile, Scooby's more interested in a flirtatious sled dog.

Moved ahead to "Alaskan King Coward" while I got ready for work. Scrappy rejoins Shaggy and Scooby as they head further into Alaska to mine their fortune. This time, a real defrosted dino-monster ends up chasing the trio across the frozen landscape. But Scrappy's not about to let this claim-jumper get a hold of their land and sets about trapping him.

Wish I'd stayed with Scooby. Work was a pain. Nothing I did this afternoon seemed to please anybody. There was a huge milk spill right after I got in. I went to get a nice, dry mop and bucket from the back, where they're all kept. They got one from the bakery. I ended up bagging and mopping the bathrooms instead of gathering carts, which is what really needed to be done. And I realize that the old ladies don't mean to be offensive when they complain about me helping them with their heavy groceries and not a boy, but...what do they think this is, 1950? Did they all sleep through the 70's? I'm perfectly capable of lifting things, thank you. And I'm tired of my condescending boss' dumb jokes about me starting his car for him. I've told him twice that I can't drive. Thank heavens I spent the rest of the evening gathering carts and shelving groceries.

Cheered myself up with more Babes In Toyland as I ate leftovers for dinner. There were at least three live TV versions in the 1950's. I did the third one from 1955 to honor the late stage and cabaret performer Barbara Cook, who passed away this summer. Here, she and Dennis Day (as Jane Piper and Tommy Tucker) are the Mother Goose lovers, genial TV comedian Wally Cox is Grumio, and the Bill Baird Marionettes are among the major stars. Nasty Barnaby owns the toy factory, which he lures the kids, then the lovers, to, hoping to eliminate Tommy. But Grumio and his marionette friends are off to the rescue!

Finished off the night after a shower with Men In Black 3. It's a decade after the last film. Agent J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still the best partnership the Men In Black organization has...at least, until K disappears mysteriously after a confrontation with an alien named Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) who claims that K was "already dead." Turns out Boris had gone back in time to 1969 and killed K before he could shoot off his arm or deploy the net around the Earth that cause the extinction of his race. Now J has to go back in time to the late 60's, an era of peace, love, and major civil rights trouble and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to find the ArcNet and get it into space, or none of them are going to have any kind of future.

This was...really, really strange. Even for this franchise. On one hand, Josh Brolin made an awesome younger Tommy Lee Jones. He had his mannerisms down perfectly and paired well with Will Smith. Clement made for a great vicious villain, too. And I give them credit for a far more original plotline this time around.

On the other hand, the time travel doesn't make much sense, the recreations of the late 60's mores and fashions are more weird than spot-on, and the story is a tad too complicated at times. The aliens themselves also have a bit less screen time, though there's a couple that are pretty interesting (notably the odd fortune teller/hippie who is crucial to the plot).

And while this wasn't bad...yeah, I'm still going to say this series didn't need to go past the first one. There's talk of a reboot or revival at the moment. Honestly, I think this is a good place to leave it. Like The Matrix, this series was made for its time and place. The first one and the third one are a lot of fun and are recommended. The second one is more-or-less a rehash of the first one and is pretty much for fans only.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Seasons of Pooh

Was up way too late last night organizing my pages on Pinterest and overslept this morning. Rushed right into Very Merry Christmas Songs and breakfast after I finished my journal. This is a DVD expansion of one of the original Disney Sing-a-Long videos released in the late 80's-early 90's. Along with the music videos of songs performed by the Disneyland Chorus, "Let It Snow" by Bing Crosby, and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Gene Autry, we have a second song by Bing ("White Christmas"), "As Long as There's Christmas" from Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" performed by Goofy and Max, and two early holiday rock standards, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock."

I barely had enough time for writing. In fact, I squeezed in some after I got home from work later as well. Time passes for Leia, Harold, and their charges. They all enjoy their Christmas together, decorating the house with greens and a tree from the property. Harold writes them poems or instructions for building new furniture, having spent the whole month working on them.

A month later, while he and Leia are watching the girls and frogs play in the snow while sitting together in the library, he once again asks Leia if she'd sleep with him. She says no. She's afraid that sleeping with him may mean betraying her husband. They haven't had the dream in weeks, and Leia's beginning to wonder if what she saw really was an illusion...

Had a really quick lunch of the last of the hoagies from Jodie's party before heading off to work. It was surprisingly quiet for mid-November. Everyone must be waiting for the weekend to do their Thanksgiving shopping. While I did gather trash shortly before my break, I was mostly either putting things away or gathering carts and baskets. It was a nice night to be out with the carts, too, partly cloudy with an amazing molten red-gold sunset.

One of the managers came to me during break and told me I had three personal days that I have to take before the end of the year. Cool. Since I already asked for Black Friday off, I made that the first one. Considering how worn out I was after dealing with my nephews last Thanksgiving, I figured I'd need the personal day. The second will be the Friday after that. We're never busy that week - in fact, my hours are usually severely cut. I could use the extra money. The third will be the Wednesday before Christmas to give me extra time to get ready for the holiday.

Had leftover shrimp, salad, and brown rice with vegetables for dinner as soon as I got home and got changed. Put on Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving while I ate. This "full-length movie" is actually two segments of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh book-ending the Pooh Thanksgiving special, tied together with a tiny bit of new material. The first involves Rabbit thinking it's Groundhog's Day and insisting that Piglet tells them if it's spring yet. The second story has Pooh and the gang coming together for a Thanksgiving feast of haycorns and honey...but Rabbit butts in and insists that's simply not how it's done. He finally learns what we're really thankful for when his "traditional" feast goes wrong. We end at Christmas, with Rabbit relating the story of how he adopted a little girl bird named Kessie, and how hard it was for him to let her go when she learned how to fly.

I'm  not sure why they even bothered with the "Groundpiglet's Day" opening segment. It comes off as mainly filler. The Thanksgiving special is actually my favorite of the Pooh holiday specials and is charming and really very funny. Rabbit and Kessie's heartbreaking relationship in the third segment makes up for it not really being related to the holidays - it's one of the sweetest and saddest things Disney ever did with the Pooh characters.

This is charming if you run into it online or find the DVD for cheap somewhere, or if you or your children are huge Pooh fans. Totally unnecessary for anyone else.

Finished out Pooh after a shower, then put on Babes In Toyland while going online. The second film version of this story was Disney's first live-action musical. Here, the Mother Goose lovers are Mary Quite Contrary (Annette Funicello) and Tom Tom (Tommy Sands). Mother Goose is a bit on the sarcastic side; her hilarious talking goose Sylvester is even more so. (I wish he was in more of the movie.) There is a fat guy and a thin guy, but they're criminals who work for Barnaby (Ray Bolger), who wants to wed Mary for her inheritance. Mary takes care of the "Babes" of the title, who wander off to the Forest of No Return so Bo Peep (a very young Ann Jillian) can find her sheep. Mary and Tom go after them, but they're all captured and sent to the eccentric Toymaker (Edd Wynn) and his forward-thinking assistant Grumio (Tommy Kirk). But Barnaby and his men aren't far behind...

A lot of people aren't overly fond of this one, but I actually think this is the best version of this story on the big screen. Adorable costumes, colorful sets, the cute kids, and Bolger having a ball playing against-type as a silent movie-style villain makes up for the stiff romantic leads and some of the more awkward re-written song lyrics.

Monday, November 13, 2017

March On a Misty Day

I awoke to a steady shower. Not a good thing, since I did want to get some local errands done today. Cheered up the gloomy day with the first Thanksgiving special of the season. Garfield's Thanksgiving is going great...until Jon invites Liz the Veterinarian over for Thanksgiving dinner! Jon can't cook a turkey to save his life, and he's really more interested in impressing Liz than what's on the menu. Not to mention, Liz put Garfield on a strict diet. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special knows how to make everything better, just in time for dinner.

Since I'd gotten up a early and the weather was still nasty, I decided to make this year's Christmas lists this morning. No, this isn't what I want for Christmas. It's what I'm giving. I wrote my lists for baking, cards, and shopping. The only people I give non-edible gifts to are Amanda, Lauren, and the kids. Amanda and Lauren come from small families and don't have a lot of people giving them stuff, and the kids will be getting cookies as part of their "family" gifts. (And they really don't need the extra sugar anyway.)

Ran The Care Bears Nutcracker as I worked on the lists. The first Christmas special of the year was originally intended as the fourth Care Bears movie, but was shortened to a syndicated hour special after Care Bears In Wonderland bombed at the box office. It actually has a little in common with the first film. Here, it's an older woman telling her ballet class the story of how the Care Bears helped a lonely young girl and an amnesiac nutcracker save the Kingdom of Sweets and the Sugar Plum Fairy from the evil Vizier.

Did the Max & Ruby'Thanksgiving episode as I got ready to leave. "Max's Thanksgiving" has Ruby setting the table for Grandma's big feast. Her brother is more interested in Grandma's nut stuffing. Ruby thinks "Max's Pretend Friend" wants to have a tea party with her imaginary playmate, but it may not be as pretend as she thinks. "Fireman Max" and his fire engines keep getting in the way of Ruby's attempts to practice jump rope...until they actually help her impress Bunny Scout Leader with her jumping skills.

The rain was down to a mist by the time I headed out around quarter after 11. I decided to give the bike a rest and go for a walk. While a few people on Manor had pumpkins and friendly scarecrows out for Thanksgiving, most settled for fall banners and wreaths or the colorful leaves in their yards. The trees do look much nicer than they did at this time last month, finally turning a rainbow of scarlets, golds, bright greens, and deep purples.

The Oaklyn Library wasn't busy at all when I arrived. It was just the librarian and one older woman on the computers keeping track of the rain on The Weather Channel. I organized DVDs and took a look at the kids' books. Decided to finish off three of the movie series I caught this year with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Mission Impossible III, and Men In Black 3.

Headed down the White Horse Pike to run in and out of a few stores. To my delight, Dollar General had my favorite Betty Crocker Limited Edition Gingerbread Cookie Mix. I love that mix, but the only other place I ever find it at around here is Target. I haven't seen it at the Acme in years. (They also had Salted Caramel. Maybe next month, when I hit one Target or the other.) I picked up birthday cards for Jodie and Anny, some small stationary items for Amanda, who is currently studying to be a veterinary technician, and more underwear and cooking spray (the latter is cheaper there) for me.

Didn't take as long at CVS. I just needed dishwashing liquid on a good sale. They also had those tasty Nature Valley oat sandwich cookies on a really good sale. Grabbed a pineapple-coconut sparkling water to drink on the way home.

Since it's only a few blocks from CVS anyway, I stopped at Dad and Jodie's house on the way home. Dad was watching endless Law & Order: Special Victims Unit reruns when I arrived. He made me shrimp salad from the leftover shrimp from Jodie's party on Saturday and told me he's going into the clinic for more treatment tomorrow. Jodie got home from work. just in time for me to give her birthday card to her in person. (It's tomorrow, but I have to work.)

Worked on writing when I got in. Shortly after Leia awakens from her nightmare, Finn comes down and reports that Master Harold is hurt and can't meet her in the library. She meets him in his room, tending to his heavy burns. She once again asks him about Han. The horned frog can only tell her that he's all right, and that she should stop looking for him. He's closer than she thinks.

Broke at 6 for dinner. Made Merlin's "Magic" (Baked) Chicken to go with leftover green salad from Jodie's party and a baked sweet potato. After I finished eating, I decided to try a variation on the hot fudge pudding cake, this one made with butter instead of vegetable oil. I don't know if I didn't cook it right or long enough or what. The sugar topping never melted and turned into a crust on top instead of pudding. It still tasted good, but it wasn't quite what I'd intended.

Did March of the Toy Soldiers while I ate and baked. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy headline the first sound version of Babes In Toyland, with Charlotte Henry (as Little Bo Peep) and Felix Knight (as Tom Tom the Piper's Son) as the lovers. Stan and Ollie live in Mother Peep's shoe and work for the grouchy toymaker. When they learn that nasty old Barnaby is going to turn them all out into the streets, they try to get the money for the mortgage from their boss. Their boss fires them instead after he learns that Stan botched an order for toy soldiers, making them a lot bigger than intended. Barnaby is obsessed with marrying Bo Peep, and he'll do anything to get her, including putting charges on Stan and Ollie for attempting to steal the mortgage and framing Tom for kidnapping one of the Three Little Pigs. Stan and Ollie have to prove Tom is innocent, then rescue him, Bo Peep, and all of Toyland from Barnaby and his Boogie Men.

Not my favorite version of this story, but Stan and Ollie have their moments, especially during the dunking, while trying to get the mortgage from Barnaby, and while waiting for him to call up from the Forbidden Forest. Cute if you have younger kids or are a big fan of theirs.

Ended the night online with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaits) is determined to free his father Will (Orlando Bloom) from the curse of the Flying Dutchman. He's spent years searching for the Trident of Poseidon, the only object that can break every curse in the sea. So has Katrina Smith (Kaya Scodelaro), an astronomer whose desire to study science has branded her a witch in the eyes of many in the Caribbean. Katrina has a map that'll lead to the Trident, but only she can read it. They seek out Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to help them find it...but in the six or so years since the last film, Sparrow has become a lush and a failure (well, more than usual), and even his crew is starting to give up on him. Katrina insists that he's the only one who can help her...and Henry insists that he has to be wary. Salazar (Jarvier Bardem), a Spanish captain who had killed pirates, only to die at the hands of a young Jack, is desperate for revenge on Sparrow. Now they all have to find the trident and avoid both the British Navy and Salazar, before they end up joining him on the bottom of the briny deep.

On one hand, this was infinitely better than On Stranger Tides. The plot at least made some sense, Scodelaro and Thwaits were fine as the lovers, and Depp enjoyed one more turn as the Caribbean's daffiest buccaneer. Bardem in particular was having a ball as the zombie-like Spanish sailor desperate to return to life and stick it to Jack. The special effects continue to be some of the best anywhere, especially when they finally do find the Trident.

While I think most critics were a little harsh on this one, I also still don't consider this one to be better than the first movie. In fact, quite of bit of it did seem rehashed from the first couple of films, including the basic structure of "Jack helps young lovers while cracking drinking jokes in the background." Their attempt at creating a young Jack strayed a little too much into uncanny valley for my liking as well.

If you're a fan of this series, this is certainly a better continuation than the ridiculous Stranger Tides and is worth checking out. If you're new to Jack's barmy nautical world, back up and see the first three films before coming within miles of here.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Babes In Musicland

It was a lovely fall morning when I rolled out of bed, sunny and far less windy. Had just enough time to do the book-and-record version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks I bought yesterday while having buttermilk pancakes and Cranberry Flummery for breakfast. I'm pretty sure I heard a female voice (not Angela Landsbury's) on "Subsitutionary Locomotion." Otherwise, most of the songs were performed by a British man (or at least one with a very convincing English accent), who was also narrating the story as Professor Brown. "The Age of Not Believing" became a chorus number. While this did mean "Beautiful Briny Sea" was now a solo, some of the songs weren't too bad. "Eglantine" was especially charming.

Headed off to work shortly after the album ended. It was crazy when I arrived, with long lines. Except for ten minutes bagging when I arrived another ten spent gathering baskets later, I spent almost the entire day rounding up carts outside. I had no problems with that. For one thing, it was too nice to be inside. It was still a bit cool for this time of year, but not nearly as much as it has been for the past few days, with a far calmer breeze. It eventually slowed down a bit, too. While it was never quiet, it wasn't nearly as busy when I left as when I arrived, or as it was at this time last year. The Eagles being off this week probably helped.

(I did watch some football today, though. Switched to the Steelers-Colts game while eating lunch during break. The Colts stampeded ahead during the first half and were up 10-0 when I was there. The Steelers apparently made a huge comeback; by the time I was off work, they were tied 17-17. The Steelers finally got one last field goal that won them the game, 20-17.)

Worked on writing as soon as I rolled in and changed. Leia and the king in the shadows meet by a stone bench in the moonlit rose garden...but they're not alone. Their young charges hide in the bushes as the king rubs Leia's back under her stays, and she kneads his shoulders. It's the way he rubs her back that gives him away to her. He's Han, her husband, who vanished years before and is presumed dead by most of Alderaan.

Unfortunately, they're disrupted twice before Leia can kiss him. Their wayward wards tumble out of the bushes, where they'd been spying on their rendezvous. Leia scolds all of them...but when she returns to Han, he has vanished. Only the withered old sorcerer in the black cloak remains. Leia uses her power to slash him with vines, but he turns his lightning on her again, taunting that, even though she has found her husband in the night, she will never free him in the daylight.

Had leftovers from Jodie's party yesterday for dinner around quarter after 7. Listened to Mickey and the Beanstalk while I ate. Though it claimed it used the original cast, actually, the only voices that were the same as in the film and TV versions were Clarence Nash as Donald and Pinto Colvig as Goofy. Jimmy McDonald, who voiced Mickey from the 50's through the early 80's, did Mick and Willie the Giant. The female narrator who sang "My, What a Happy Day" and woman who played the singing harp were actually better singers than the harp in the original short!

Moved on to my Decca Babes In Toyland/The Red Mill CD as I went online. This was a part of a series of CDs Decca put out about a decade ago that had two older operetta recordings on one disc. This one brings together a pair of Victor Herbert family favorites from the early 1900's. Kenny Baker presumably takes Tom the Piper Son's role, as he sings "Castle In Spain" and "Song of the Poet." (He also does "Floretta.")

The Red Mill is about as prototypical of a musical romance as you can get. Two normal New Yorkers help a Dutch couple fall in love while avoiding the love-minded innkeeper's daughters. Wilbur Evans gets this show's two standards, "The Sidewalks of New York" and "Every Day Is Ladies' Day With Me."

I'm now listening to another version of Babes In Toyland, this one from the early 60's. I found this album of songs from the Disney Babes at a thrift shop a few years ago. It's a bit of an oddity. Ed Wynn can be heard on "The Toymaker's Song" and Ann Jillian on "Don't Cry, Bo Peep," but it's mostly studio singers and the Disneyland Chorus. That's not always a bad thing. Thurl "Tony the Tiger" Ravenscroft makes "And We Won't Be Happy 'Til We Get It" sound a lot more menacing than the comic rendition in the film!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saluting Our Veterans

It was a gorgeous day when I rolled out of bed this morning, sunny and bright, but not nearly as windy as yesterday. In honor of Veteran's Day and the fine weather, I read a few items from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. Veteran's Day began as Armistice Day, the date when World War I ended in 1918. The name didn't change until 1954, in honor of the veterans of the two wars that followed...and all wars.

To that end, two of the three pieces in Colliers was based around the War to End All Wars. The Singing Tree is a touching, almost eerie short story set after a huge battle in France. A group of soldiers stumble around a devastated battlefield, hoping to discover some signs of life. They finally find it in an apple tree that was somehow spared the shelling and is now the home to dozens of different species of birds who had lost their homes. The poems included In Flanders Fields, written by a Canadian officer who died just months before the war ended and frequently memorized by children in North America in the mid-20th century (as my friend Linda Young relates in this essay). 

Since there wasn't much there for Veteran's Day and I had extra time, I added in the material listed for Book Week. My favorite piece there was the funny excerpt from All-of-a-Kind Family, involving middle sister Sarah getting upset over a lost book and how she and her new young librarian figure out how to pay for it. There was also a cute short story by Eleanor Estes about a little boy who wants so badly to take out a book, he works on printing is name and sneaks into the library in the middle of the night to sign his card.

Ran the Donald Duck in the army shorts while eating breakfast. Donald's star was already ascending in the late 1930's, but the war turned him into Disney's top shorts breadwinner. More than lovable Goofy or every-mouse Mickey, Don's brash, noisy persona suited wartime audiences and the propaganda material being churned out in the early 40's. 

The series kicks off with "Donald Gets Drafted." Donald jumps into the army with both webbed feet when he hopes to become a glamorous pilot in the Air Corps. His dreams of the skies evaporate quickly when he's stuck on an ant hole, trying to avoid the stinging residents while Sergeant Pete snarls orders. "Sky Trooper" picks up from where this one leaves off. After a disastrous test, Don does finally get his wish to fly...but not in the way he expects. 

My personal favorite of the Donald in the army shorts is "The Vanishing Private." Donald takes Pete's orders to make a canon "hard to see" literally when he covers it with a special invisibility paint. He finally finds a way to get back at the bossy cat officer when he lands in the paint himself and leads Pete on a merry chase around the base to find "the little man you can't see."

While "Der Fuerher's Face" isn't technically one of the army shorts, it's so brilliant, I usually run it with the others anyway. It won an Oscar for a reason - Donald's surreal Nazi nightmare features some truly imaginative and nightmarish animation. "Fall Out, Fall In" brings us back to more typical turf. All Don wants is dinner and a good night's sleep, but first he can't figure out his tent, then his fellow soldiers' snoring keeps him awake. "The Old Army Game" is more disturbing today. Pete catches Don coming home from a night off the base...but things get really ugly when their fight seems to have more violent consequences. "Commando Duck" is only slightly less scary. Donald's sent to meet with the (stereotyped) Japanese, and proceeds to wipe...no, wash...out the enemy.

It was almost 11:30 when I made it to the Collingswood Farm Market. That didn't give me a lot of time to do this week's produce shopping. Given the cold day and the late hour, I wasn't surprised to see that the crowds were a lot thinner than usual. The sudden cold snap brought the end to a lot of crops, notably tomatoes, and with the market in it's second-to-last week, there's now more craft booths than food booths. There was still some farmers doing business, though most were starting to get ready to go. I just needed small apples, green peppers, and cranberries. 

After having enjoyed yesterday's shopping trip, I thought I'd take a look around downtown Collingswood. There's quite a few new stores there. Oubliette, which sells fancy chocolates, gifts, and stationary items, replaced the Collingswood General Store. There's a new store finally going in where International Market used to be, too.

I browsed in Clutter, Oubliette, and The Candy Jar, but I only bought things from Inner Groove Records and Frugli Consignment. I never fail to find at least one interesting cast album at Inner Groove, and today was no exception. Dug Golden Boy, a 1965 Broadway vehicle for Sammy Davis Jr, out of the dollar record shelves. Also picked up the book-and-record version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a retelling of Mickey and the Beanstalk that's probably as close to having a soundtrack that short got, and Ellington Fantasies by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. 

My find at Frugli was a bit more practical. One of the few plus-sized items on the racks was a simple white long-sleeved t-shirt from Old Navy. I'd been meaning to replace my white long-sleeved tee for a while now. The one I got from JC Penney a few years ago was dingy and no longer anything resembling white. It was in such bad shape, I cut it up for dust rags a little later when I got home.

Took the long way back to Oaklyn across Newton Lake Park. Though the air remained chilly, it was otherwise a gorgeous fall day. The bottle green lake sparkled through the last of the fall foliage. The leaves have finally turned into the loveliest shades of gold, pale green, russet, and brick red. I dodged several clusters of high schools taking time off from the many practices going off at Collingswood High's athletic fields across the street.

I took that way back to Oaklyn in order to stop and Dad and Jodie's. Dad-Bruce was in Vietnam, and I wanted to wish him a Happy Veteran's Day. I arrived at a house filled with older women. Jodie had invited a bunch of her buddies over for a group birthday party for several of them, including the hostess herself. (Jodie's birthday is Tuesday.) Frankly, I found their gossip beyond boring and was happier joining Dad in the living room, watching college football. He switched back and forth between local rivalry Penn State and Rutgers and one that he started following when he lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and South Carolina. 

(Incidentally, the much-better Penn State blew Rutgers out of the Cooper River, 31 to 6. Florida just missed beating South Carolina 28 to 20.)

Rose arrived with Khai and Finley around 3. (Craig had to work at Anthony's, a popular Italian restaurant in Haddon Heights.) Khai wouldn't eat, but he had no problems snitching cookies and soda. He was happier when his buddy Chloe and her mom showed up later. Finley wasn't happy with anyone but her mother. She cried when handed off to anyone else, or when she was taken into the den full of clucking older women hens. I didn't blame her for getting upset. I'm not the biggest fan of crowds myself. She's teething now, which may be another factor. Rose did finally get her to sleep later in a beautiful wooden crib Anny gave her for when she visits the grandparents. 

There was tons and tons of food! One of the women made a delicious macaroni and cheese. Another did deviled eggs. Someone else brought a plate of mini-pumpkin cheesecakes and bags of Pepperidge Farm raspberry and dark chocolate Milanos. Jodie ordered broccoli and pepperoni Stromboli with pizza sauce dip and turkey hoagies from a local deli, along with cole slaw and potato salad. There was a huge bowl of garden salad and plates of shrimp cocktail. sliced salami and cheese, and vegetables and dip. I ended up taking home macaroni, salad, and three hoagies.

Ran a couple of Universal war shorts when I got in. Donald wasn't the only wacky bird to rise to stardom in the early 40's. Woody Woodpecker was the top star at the Walter Lanz Studios by the time "Ace In the Hole" came out in 1942. Like Donald, Woody yearns to become a pilot, but his sergeant has him shaving horses. The nasty officer is in for a big surprise when Woody does finally take to the skies.

"21 Dollars a Day (Once a Month)" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" spoof the peacetime draft. The former has a toy "army" (including cameos from Woody and Andy Panda) performing the title song. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is more-or-less the same thing, this time with black stereotypes replacing the toys as a famous trumpeter gets his barracks jitterbugging with his swinging reveille. (As offensive as the stereotypes are in this short, it does have a really awesome version of the title song, and it's one of the few cartoons to depict minorities in the military.)

"Pigeon Patrol" is the most typical of the Lanz war shorts. Homer Pigeon wants to join the carrier pigeon squadron, but he's a skinny country bumpkin who can barely fly. He gets his chance to prove his mettle when he finds a downed flyer and offers to deliver his important papers past a nasty caricatured Japanese vulture. 

Worked on writing for a while after the shorts ended. Leia once again finds herself in the dream world, dressed in an elaborate red velvet gown worthy of the French court. The King appears, also dressed in finery, but still hiding in the shadows. She knows whom he reminds her of, but wishes he could step out of the darkness. As she talks to him, telling him of how she'd once saved her husband Han from an evil magician who turned him into a statue, she hears giggles and rustling in the bushes...

I'd eaten so much at Jodie's house, I took my shower before I ate dinner. Had a little bit of salad and last week's macaroni salad, along with yogurt. Did two final animated shorts while I ate. Mickey Mouse didn't really figure into many World War II shorts, but he did do a war-related cartoon in 1929, "The Barnyard Battle." Mick may be a skinny rubber hose mouse, but he has no trouble kicking the rears of the Hun-like cats who threaten the farm.

The Pink Panther has less luck in the Vietnam War in "G.I Pink." While Donald was swayed by the glamour of war, Pink is swayed by the power. He doesn't do much better than Don did. Cranky drill sergeants, impossible obstacle courses, hard-to-find land mines, and growling company mascots make him wish he'd just stayed home. 

Finished the night with the original animated Disney Beauty and the Beast. As much as I enjoyed the live-action version of this story, the original will always have a place in my heart. A French peasant girl (Page O'Hara) finds herself the prisoner of a seemingly ferocious beast (Robby Benson) in an enchanted castle filled with talking furniture. Belle's angry with him at first, and he's a spoiled jerk who can't control his temper. As the months continue, they finally grow to respect one another, until it looks something like love. The Beast reluctantly lets Belle go when her father Maurice is accused of being crazy by the handsome-but-obnoxious Gaston, who wants to marry her. Now Belle has to race to her beloved Beast's rescue, before Gaston and the townspeople destroy the castle and all who live within.

This might be better for slightly younger kids; there's a little bit less violence than the current live-action version, and it's shorter and more colorful. It's still one of my favorite Disney movies, and one of my favorite retellings of this tale.