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 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, 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. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Rather Blustery Day

I was reading The Curse of the Pharoahs in bed, listening to the wind whistle and rattle my bedroom windows, when the phone rang. It was Charlie. Poor guy had to fix an ancient water pipe downstairs that was gunked up and had to shut down the water again. That was fine. I'd skip tea this morning. I did ask him about the heat. He said it had been on for over a week. I tried the thermostat...and found out that some idiot turned it down to 59 degrees! I have no idea how that happened. I didn't do it. At any rate, I turned it up to 66, and it's now much warmer in here.

And I didn't need to skip the tea, either. I accidentally turned the faucet in the bathroom on when I was in there, and the water ran fine. It ran fine all during breakfast. I was even able to have my chai tea after all. I'm going to guess that he either never turned it off, or did so after I left for the afternoon. 

Ran today's first round of wartime shorts for Veteran's Day while I ate. The Fleischer Brothers dropped Popeye into World War II a few months before America officially entered, in "The Mighty Navy." He may be a great sailor, but he's too used to giving orders on his own ship to follow them. He winds up peeling onions when he can't do things the Navy way....before shooting down an unknown enemy single-handed, thanks to his can of spinach.

"Blunder Below" is a variation on this. Made after the war had begun, the enemy in this one is clearly the (heavily stereotyped) Japanese Navy. This time, Popeye is banished to the boiler room, but still manages to take down a Japanese sub.

Most of the other shorts, such as "Kicking the Conga Around" and "Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix" were standard "Bluto and Popeye chase Olive" stories. "Many Tanks" gets more creative. Hoping to get a date with Olive, Army private Bluto switches uniforms with gob on leave Popeye. Popeye will do anything he can to get back to his date, including driving a tank through town while being chased by half the US Army.

Swee'Pea makes one of his last appearances in "Baby Wants a Battleship." Olive has Popeye watch the baby while she goes shopping. Popeye would be more than happy to...if they tyke wasn't obsessed with the battle cruiser he's working on. He gets loose and leads the sailor on a wild chase around the destroyer to keep him from harm. Popeye has more luck taking "Spinach fer Britain" to London and taking down the Nazis while he's at it.

Headed out to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center around 11:30. I'd been wanting to check out the new Marshalls' and Ross Dress for Less back there since they opened a few weeks ago, but I didn't have the time until today. They're both pretty much the same thing - clearance department stores that sell high-end cast offs and last year's fashions at a fraction of the price. Ross had the better (and better-organized) clothes. I almost bought a really nice orange and brown striped dress there. I preferred Marshalls' housewares department. They had a better selection, along with a section with fancy pens and notebooks. I got a notebook with donuts on the cover for me and a gift for my friend Amanda for Christmas from there.

Checked out a few more small stores on the other side of the mall, across the parking lot from the three department stores. (There's a tiny Wal Mart at the end of the lot that I'm not overly fond of. Their selection is terrible, and their customers are worse.) While teen clothing boutique Rainbow had closing signs posted, the rest of the mall was bustling. Indeed, Avenue and Game Stop were both crowded with early holiday shoppers when I went in. I didn't get anything, but it was nice to look around.

Applebee's was busy when I arrived, too. It was 1:30, nearly the end of lunch hour on a day many people probably had off or got off early. I treated myself to a much-needed hot chocolate. Yum. It was probably from a mix, but tasty enough, topped with lots of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa and sugar. Bought my lunch from the combo menu. The tomato-basil soup was amazing, thick and rich, with mozzarella shavings lots of tomato pieces. It's a good thing I only had half of the Clubhouse Grille sandwich. The half I had was dripping with lettuce, tomato, ham slices, and cheese. I added a warm slice of brownie with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and lots of hot fudge.

There was an ambulance in front of the Acme when I pulled the bike in at the rack on the end of the front patio. A small knot of cops, employees, and even a few customers were gathered around one of the baggers. He seemed ok, other than his nose was a bit bloodied and skinned. As far as I could gather, someone had run into him while he was doing carts and had knocked him over. At least he looked like he was moving fine on his own.

The rest of my trip was a lot less exciting. I didn't even really need that much in the way of groceries. Picked up more of those super-sweet clementines, olive oil, unbleached flour, butter (real butter this time - there was a good sale on Land O' Lakes), yogurt, skim milk, muffin papers, and tissues. Campbell's condensed soup was on a good sale. How could I resist the Star Wars character-pasta-shape chicken soup, with their shiny BB-8 labels? 

Next week's schedule is far better and closer to normal for this time of year than the previous two weeks were. I work 2 to 6 for most of the week, except for a 12 to 4 shift on Sunday, with Monday and Friday off. Should have plenty of time for the libraries and for writing, as well as starting to prepare for this year's holiday season. 

(I also figured out why I was pushed to afternoon hours. One of the older cashiers who had been bounced around a few departments had moved to bagging. She has a lot more experience than I do, not to mention two daughters whom I believe are in high school.)

Headed home after I finished. I didn't have any other plans for today, and it was too blustery and cold to be doing a lot of running around anyway. Not to mention, both of the libraries were closed to observe Veteran's Day. A nice, sunny day did help somewhat with the cold.

(Oh, and the water was on when I got home. Either Charlie didn't do the plumbing today, or it didn't take that long.)

Did one last Popeye short while putting everything away. Bluto claims he's "Too Weak to Work" on a Navy battle cruiser, but he's got plenty of energy to horse around in his hospital room and ogle nurses. Popeye sets him in his place by posing as a nurse.

Did some writing for the next few hours. While the girls vow to check out the basement and see if the princes of their (literal) dreams are hidden there, Leia has tea with Harold in the library. She admits that she misses her brother and her home, and that she feels guilty about her son's betrayal. He wouldn't have turned against her and her husband if they'd been there for him. Harold tries to reassure her that some people just believe bad things and make wrong choices. It's not entirely her fault. 

She finally, angrily turns on him, trying to get him to tell her what he knows about the king in the shadows in her dreams. Yes, he does know who he is, and why he can't speak. No, he can't tell her. He's under the same restrictions as the other amphibians. They're forbidden from leaving the grounds, too. Invisible dark magic pulls them back if they try to walk away.

They're about to kiss when the girls show up, disappointed and covered in cobwebs. All that their searching turned up was that the basement was filthy. Leia tells them that they can stop searching. She's begun to figure out what's going on...

Stopped for dinner around 6:30. Had salmon fillet with spinach and mushrooms in a chicken stock sauce, along with macaroni salad. Made Apple-Maple Muffins from the Basic Muffins recipe in the Sunset bread cookbook I bought a while back. Yum. I think I put in too much maple flavoring. I only wanted a hint. Otherwise, they're very good, very nice and moist.

Did the Looney Tunes World War II shorts while I ate. Most of these fell into three categories - sketch comedy revues of life on the home front or in the barracks ("Meet John Doughboy," "Wacky Blackout," "The Weakly Reporter"), allegories on how we got into the war...and how we were going to win it ("The Duckinators," "Fifth Column Mouse"), or shorts featuring either regular ("Herr Meets Hare," "Daffy the Commando") or one-off ("The Draft Horse," "Russian Rhapsody") characters. "Reporter" is my favorite of the revues. I love the lady who fixes an entire factory with her one bobby pin. "The Duckinators" is a fascinating take on how Hitler and the other Axis nations came to power, told entirely with geese, ducks, and doves. (We also had Bosco, Warner's earliest animated star, taking on World War I in an early short, "Bosco the Doughboy.")

Bugs and Daffy figured into the best of the solo character World War II shorts. "Super Rabbit" starts off spoofing Superman and other popular Golden Age comic book heroes. Bugs eats specially-formulated carrots and becomes a super-strong hero. He takes on a rabbit-hating cowboy and his horse on their own turf, but when push comes to shove, he dons the uniform of a real hero - a marine officer.

"Draftee Daffy" is less thrilled about joining the Armed Forces. He'd do anything to dodge that pesky "Little Man from the Draft Board" - including blowing both of them to smithereens!

My favorite Bugs Bunny short and Warners wartime short is "Falling Hare." This may be the only time Bugs ever takes on an antagonist that gives as good as he gets. Termite Terrace's favorite rabbit catches a gremlin destroying planes. Unlike most of the villains Bugs encounters, this little guy is no dope. He does everything he can to get Bugs out of the least until it goes into a free fall...

Finished out the night online while watching Bowery Battalion. Between 1951 and 1953, the Bowery Boys made four comedies revolving around each branch of the Armed Services. The first of them lands the group in the Army after Sach thinks an Army training exercise is an invasion and scares the others into joining and Slip is tricked into going with them. They can't seem to do anything right, accidentally "borrowing" officers' coats their first day there and perpetually getting in trouble with their superior officer. Louie's arrival with the plans for a hydrogen ray he developed during World War I gives them a chance to redeem themselves as his guards. Even that, they mess up, losing Louie to spies who want the ray formula for themselves. Despite the fear of going AWOL, they take it upon themselves to rescue their favorite soda shoppe owner. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Flower Power and Alien Lights

Began a slightly earlier morning with cartoons as I ate warm corn meal mush and clementines for breakfast. Given the tenor of the comic books in the early-mid 1940's, it was probably inevitable that Superman would eventually fight Nazis and other world terrors on the big screen as well. "Japoteurs" has the big man in red and blue saving a plane stolen by Japanese spies from crashing...and saving Lois from them. "The Eleventh Hour" has some marvelous, shadowy animation and a surprisingly mature story about Superman fighting more Japanese soldiers, this time in the heart of Tokyo. And yes, both of these are marred by nasty Japanese caricatures (though not quite as bad as the ones in the Popeye shorts made around the same time at Famous Studios).

"Jungle Drums" involves the Nazis using a weapon hidden in the tribal statues of African natives to down Lois Lane's plane. She has papers they want, and they're willing to burn her to get them. Superman has to save her from a fiery death, then give her the chance to radio the War Department. (There's stereotypes here, too, this time involving the natives.) "Secret Agent" is the only short to not feature Lois. Here, Superman must protect a female spy from the Nazi agents who want the information she stole from them.

Made my way to the laundromat after breakfast. I had to. I couldn't put off washing my work uniforms anymore. This was made easier by the road work having moved out to the West Clinton Avenue Business District. (Though I did feel sorry for the businesses on West Clinton that were probably losing customers who couldn't get around the mess.)

The laundromat was busy when I arrived, with at least four or five other people getting their washing done. Not a good thing, since I had a fairly large load. Thankfully, I had no trouble getting a washer and drier. Spent the hour working on story notes and half-listening to The View.

Worked on writing as soon as I got everything put away. Jessika and Poe are swimming in the lake during a lazy afternoon in late August. Poe is a charming and dashing fellow, frog or not. Jessika asks him about his family, and how he came to be a frog. He finally spits out that they were all cursed by the wicked sorcerer in their dreams. If they can get Leia to eat and sleep with the Master, then kiss him, they'll be free from his spell. Poe finally distracts her from talk of the curse with a race home on horseback, but the wheels are already turning in Jess' head. She's got a plan for her and the girls to find the imprisoned young men of their dreams...and maybe get a few answers about the mysteries of Deckard Manor...

Had lunch around 2 while watching a quick Backyardigans episode. Uniqua gets involved in a superhero adventure of her own in "Flower Power." A flower's thorn gives her the power of all plantlife. After practicing it for a bit, she uses her newfound abilities to brighten stony gray Garden City and rescue its residents from the Gloom Meister (Austin), who wants to turn the whole city dark and dreary.

Work proved to be even less trouble than yesterday. While I did occasionally gather baskets and got the outside trash done early-on, I was mostly either outside doing carts or inside doing returns. It got mildly busy during rush hour. Otherwise, there wasn't much going on. By the time I was almost done, I was mostly wandering around the store, shelving the few remaining items and hoping no one asked me what I was doing.

Hit the shower as soon as I got home. Put on Men In Black II as got out and went online. In the five years since the first movie, Agent J (Will Smith) has gone through a series of partners, but none are really suited for either Men In Black work or to work with him. They don't have much of a choice about calling K (Tommy Lee Jones) back when it turns out that he's the only one who has any memory of where a race of aliens hid their "Light of Zartha." Laura (Rosario Dawson), a waitress, witnessed the aliens after the Light kill another alien. J is too smitten with her to clear her memory, so he has the little guys who make the coffee in the first film keep an eye on her. But it turns out that she may be the key to finding the light, along with a series of clues K left himself to remind him of where it's hidden.

Mixed feelings on this one. I liked warm Rosario Dawson better as a love interest for Smith than the stiffer Linda Fiorentino, and Laura Flynn Boyle was having a lot of fun as the shape-shifting nemesis. The story was more interesting, too, diving further into the history of both alien encounters and the Men In Black organization...and becoming a bit more personal for both men. Loved seeing some of the more interesting aliens from the first movie in larger parts (though Frank the pug did wear out his welcome after a while).

On the other hand, I can kind of understand why critics were a little rougher on this one than they had been on the previous film. It's basically just a rehash of the first film, this time with J trying to teach K the ins and outs of chasing aliens. It's obvious they had a lower budget on this one, too. Some of the CGI isn't quite as good, noticeably during the obvious blue screen in car sequences and some of the aliens in the finale.

Not quite as original as the first movie, but far from horrible. If you liked the first movie, proceed directly to this one...but as with many of the series I've watched this year, you'll really need to see the first one to get a handle on the characters and situations.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Alien Encounters In the Big Apple

I was very glad to see the sunshine after the constant showers yesterday when I finally rolled out of bed. Trouble is, I was organizing pages on Pinterest last night and was up way too late...and consequently, slept a lot later than I'd planned. Not to mention, Charlie still hasn't turned on the heat. I have no idea what he's waiting for. It's gotten much colder since the weekend. I really didn't want to leave the four blankets and a sheet I had piled on my bed.

Went back to Rick Steves' Europe while eating nice, warm corn meal mush and Cranberry Flummery for breakfast. I did Rick's episode on Alsace in northern France in honor of Veteran's Day later this week. One of the major sites he visits is Verdun, where one of the most bloody and costly battles of World War I took place. He also checks out Epernay, the birthplace of champagne, an imposing Gothic cathedral, and several charming towns that show off Alsace's blend of German and French culture.

Didn't have enough time for the laundry, but I did squeeze writing in. Where Ray badgered Finn into revealing more about the curse, Kaydel tries being girlish for Snap. He tells her what he can - they're under a terrible spell. The Master needs to find someone who'll sleep and eat with him, then kiss him. A sorcerer has been attacking him, trying to keep him from any woman who would be interested.

A month after that, Jessika and Poe are riding their horses around the grounds. Jessika has her own methods of getting information from Poe...

Got off at 2 to have a late lunch while running an episode of Good Eats. Cranberries are one of New Jersey's major crops and have been a favorite fruit of mine for as long as I can remember. Thanks to their status as a nutritional "superfruit," the general public has recently begun to catch on to the goodness of these tart red beauties, too. "Cran Opening" demonstrates how to make several favorite cranberry recipes, including molded jelly, Cranberry Granita, and Cosmopolitans.

Had time for a quick animated short while getting ready for work. Got an early jump on the wartime shorts I usually run for Veteran's Day with "The Yankee Doodle Mouse." Tom & Jerry's only war-related short was also their first to win an Oscar. Their usual antics have an explosive conclusion when they take them to a fireworks factory!

Work was a lot easier than yesterday. While I did get the inside trash done, gathered baskets, and spent the last hour shelving loose items, I was mainly outside with the carts. Just as well. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny, breezy, and in the upper 50's. A little cool for this time of year, but not outrageously so. It wasn't really busy in there, and it probably won't be until the holiday weekend.

(And maybe it's just as well that I didn't attempt the laundromat. Manor Avenue was blocked by road work again, this time further down. I could have gone around it on West Clinton, but that would have taken much longer.)

After I took out the trash and recycling, I went straight online. Finished the night with Men In Black. The Men In Black is a secret organization that polices alien activity on Earth. Most aliens are able to blend in with humans and live normal lives, but occasionally, a human will see something they shouldn't, or the aliens get hostile. That's where Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and his fellow officers step in. They take care of the alien, then make sure humans don't realize what's happening. Agent K takes sassy New York cop James, now rechristened "J" (Will Smith), on as his newest partner. Their assignment - find a bug-like alien who has taken the skin of a hillbilly farmer (Vincent D'Onofrio) and is terrorizing the aliens of New York, before he can get to his ship and take off with a cat's collar that literally contains a miniature galaxy.

I've loved this one since it came out in 1997. My family watched it all the time in the late 90's-early 00's. Smith and Jones have a lot of chemistry and have fun with the creative premise. The Oscar-winning makeup work and early CGI on the aliens - especially D'Onofrio - is still impressive, too. Special kudos to Danny Elfman's appropriately weird score and Smith's bouncy title rap.

Might be a little on the freaky side for young ones, but if you have older kids on up who love sci-fi or slimy aliens or the leading men, they may get just as big of a kick out of this as we did.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Rainy Day Votes

I awoke to a grey, cloudy, damp Election Day. Warmed things up a bit with breakfast and a couple of Schoolhouse Rock shorts that teach kids about the US government and how it works. "Tyrannosaurus Debt" is a pointed commentary on the national debt and how it keeps growing. "Three Ring Government" compares the three branches of government to a typical circus. "I'm Just a Bill" reveals how a bill becomes law (and how long that process often takes). "The Preamble" discusses the Constitution. "Sufferin' 'Til Sufferage" recalls how women got the vote after over a century of protests. The more recent "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" uses a college fight song parody to explain the Electoral Collage.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. A few months after Leia nurses the Master back to health, Rey and Finn are in the garden, pruning roses. Rey tries to ask him more about the curse, but he's forbidden to talk about it. She gets angry with him when he continues to evade her questions, but all is forgiven after he shows obvious concern when she pricks her finger.

A month later, Kaydel and Snap avoid summer rain inside, dancing to her harpsichord playing. She loves that she can have fun with him, but she has a few things she wants to ask him, too...

Stopped for lunch shortly before 1. Did an election-themed episode of Tiny Toon Adventures while I ate. "Citizen Max" is a spoof of the classic drama Citizen Kane, right down to Hampton searching for what Montana Max meant when he said "Acme." Monty wanted desperately to beat Buster in the school presidential race, resorting to getting him kicked out of school. Buster and Babs enlist Plucky to help them get even.

Filled in a little extra time with three animated shorts. "Popeye for President" has Popeye and Bluto neck and neck in the election. Olive has to cast the deciding vote, but she needs help with her chores. She's ready to vote for Popeye after he gets the job done faster, but Bluto's not about to give up on such an attractive voter.

Betty Boop's Grampy shows what happens after an elected official takes office in "The Candid Candidate." He's the new mayor of a small town that immediately comes to him with matters serious and trivial. Grampy uses his inventions to help solve their problems.

Monty and Buster aren't the first Looney Tunes to go toe-to-paw in the political arena. Bugs is a "Ballot Box Bunny" when he and Yosemite Sam run for mayor. They both try every trick they can think of to win...but the race has a very surprising conclusion!

It started raining fifteen minutes before I left for work. That wasn't enough time to get a ride. I just rode to work. Maybe it's just as well. While we did get steady during rush hour, it was otherwise dead again. Most people were either avoiding the rain or at the polls. I wish there was more communication between managers. The night manager told me to do carts and the bathroom when the carts were full and the bathrooms didn't need to be cleaned. I did gather baskets, do the inside trash, and put away a few returns. Otherwise, I was outside with the carts getting wet.

I didn't have much of a choice. The shower had continued pretty much since I left for work. I just got more wet going  home. Dried off with leftovers for dinner while watching You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown. The votes are in at Charlie Brown's school. He doesn't have a chance of winning school president. Linus, however, looks like a lock...until he makes a speech about The Great Pumpkin.

Ran a second-season episode of Happy Days while cleaning up from dinner. "The Not-Making of the President" has Richie campaigning for 1954 Democratic nominee Adeli Stevenson to impress a politics-obsessed girl, despite Mr. Cunningham being all about Eisenhower. Mr. Cunningham thinks his son should want what he wants, but he changes his tune when he catches Richie making a pro-Democratic speech at a rally at Arnold's.

Did a Three Stooges short while getting ready to hit the shower. They're "Three Dark Horses" when a couple of guys hire them to vote for their candidate. Even the Stooges aren't that dumb. After they find out that the guy is corrupt, they change their votes.

Moved on to Remember WENN after my shower. Hilary and Jeff are "Strange Bedfellows" when they run against each other for the City Council. Scott sets them up in a debate to let Pittsburgh decide, but a last-minute entry may end up stealing their thunder.

Put on The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band as I went online. The title family are farmers who double as a brass band in the Midwest during 1888. Persuaded by oldest daughter Alice's (Leslie Ann Warren) new beau Joe Carder (John Davidson), the family moves to North Dakota. There's problems from the outset - Joe and most of the Dakota Territories are Republican, as is Calvin (Buddy Ebson), the head of the family. Outspoken Grandpa (Walter Brennan) is a dedicated Democrat. He gets Alice into trouble, with the town and with Joe, when he teaches his political opinions in the local school. Matters come to a head just in time for the infamous contested election between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. When a fight breaks out after the results come in, the family reminds everyone that there's a time for fighting and harsh words...and a time to work together, no matter which side of the political divide you're on.

This is one of the strangest live-action movies Disney ever did. A contested election is an odd subject for a musical, and yes, the music does get lost in all the political wrangling. There's some fun to be had here, though, including great ensemble numbers for the Family Band and townspeople and a charming ballad for Alice and Joe. Worth a look if you like big 60's musicals, the Sherman Brothers' other work, or the cast.

Ended the night with another sitcom episode. "Monkee Mayor" takes us out to California during the early second season of The Monkees (before the show started to get really weird). Mike Nesmith throws his green wool hat in the ring when a local developer throws their elderly neighbors out of their homes. He and the other four are ready to stand up and defend their homes...but Mike discovers just how politics are when the developer threatens him and the other guys.

Monday, November 06, 2017

A Cloudy Day On the New Frontier

Started a cloudy morning with more fairy tale spoofs, these from Max & Ruby. "Little Ruby Riding Hood" wants to take her famous no-bake crunch cookies to Grandma. She'll have to avoid the Big Max Wolf if she wants her treats to get there intact. Ruby relates the story of "Max and the Beanstalk" to get her brother to eat his green beans, but he takes the tale in a much different way than she intended. Ruby and Louise want to act out a princess tale, but Max wants his frog to join the fun. Ruby relates the tale of "The Froggy Prince," remembering another frog who was more than he seemed.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Leia storms into the Horned Toad King's room. He's hiding in bed, with the drapes pulled. Leia opens the drapes and the windows and scolds him for the broken pottery and spilled inkwells that are seem to be the remains of his previous temper tantrums. She's less critical when he finally sits up...and she sees that he's badly bruised and battered under the spikes. An evil magician had tried to hurt him and his sons the night before, but he said he'd take the beatings for all of them.

Leia tends to his wounds and asks him if he still wants to join her in the library. He says he'd love to. He starts to tell her his name, but it sticks in his throat, and he ends up saying his name is Harold. They're about to kiss when Finn and Chewie blunder in, with bandages and breakfast. Finn ignores the blistering looks from Harold and helps Leia with the bandages.

Had my lunch around 1. Watched a Three Stooges short while I ate. They're "Restless Knights" when they discover they're noblemen and offer their services to the queen. The lady's chamberlain wants her out of the way and kidnaps her while the Stooges are wrestling for the court. Now they have to find the queen, or it's their lives on the line!

Did a quick Popeye short while I got ready to go to work. "Ancient Fistory" has Popeye playing Cinderella, with Bluto as his boss who forces him to do the work. Popeye's Fairy Grand-Pappy turns him into a fine prince, so he can attend the ball and woo Princess Olive.

Work was mostly steady, really only crazy during rush hour. I did manage to get outside once, shortly after I finished mopping the bathrooms, but otherwise, I was mostly doing trash, gathering baskets, and attempting to get to the returns. There were three more carts full of loose items. I didn't really get much done with them before I finished for the day.

Had leftovers for dinner when I got in, then tried another recipe from that one-bowl cookie cookbook Lauren sent me for my birthday. Went a little simpler with ginger molasses. Not bad. I think I should have added more molasses. Otherwise, chewy and sweet, and they smelled amazing in the oven.

Did Justice League - The New Frontier in honor of the Justice League movie coming out in about two weeks. This animated film draws somewhat from the real-life difficulties superhero comics had in the conformist and paranoid world of the early-mid 1950's. Communist scares, the McCarthy hearings, and the fallout from the Korean War made most people skittish of anyone who behaves differently than them. Hal Jordan (David Boreanaz) has been bumming around since the end of the war, until his girlfriend Carol Ferris (Brooke Shields) and Special Agent King Farraday (Phil Morris) recruit him and another pilot to find out about a series of messages relayed to Mars. Meanwhile, the real Martian on Earth is J'onn (Miguel Ferrer), who changes his shape in order to adapt to his surroundings and Batman (Jeremy Sisto) is trying to tone down his dark image. Superman (Kyle MacLachlan) and Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) react differently to the US goverment's continuing persecution of superheroes. The Flash (Neil Patrick Harris) reacts by retiring.

But there's something big coming...something that wants nothing more than the total destruction of all humanity. It may take a lot more than a few superheroes to stop it...something like a whole league of them...

If you're interested in the history of the Justice League or superhero comics, in the 1950's or the history of the space race, or the graphic novel this was based after, this is actually a very thoughtful and mature story for DC and is well worth looking around for.

Finished the night with Kung Fu Panda 3. Po (Jack Black) isn't sure he's up for the next phase of his journey as the Dragon Warrior - teaching. His attempts to teach his friends the Fearless Five new moves is a disaster. He thinks he might have a way to change things when his real panda father (Bryon Cranston) shows up in town. He wants to take Po to his hidden panda village and teach him everything about being a panda. Po's all for it, but his adopted crane father (James Hong) is jealous and follows them. While Po is in the village, getting to know his fellow pandas, a greedy ox (J.K Simmons) who had once been friends with Master Ubway is stealing all the chi (Force-like magical energy) of all the masters and turning them into green zombies! Po's not sure he's ready to lead his panda army when Tigress (Angelina Jolie) shows up and tells them that the rest of the Five and their whole village has fallen. Now Po has to teach those pandas some new tricks quick, or they'll all end up falling to this nasty side of beef.

I love the Kung Fu Panda series. They're by far my favorite Dreamworks Animation movies. Who knew you could get so much out of a panda who does kung-fu? While I don't like the ox general as much as the previous villain, otherwise, this is just as good as the last film. The relationship between Po and his two very different fathers is especially touching.

If you loved the other movies in this series, this one is just as good, if not better...but you'll absolutely need to see the previous two films before you catch this one in order to understand most of the characters and situations.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Eagles Gallop Over the Broncos

Cheered up a gloomy fall morning with Pear-Peanut Butter Pancakes for breakfast. I had a pear that was going soft, so I thought I'd try something a little different. Not bad. The peanut butter actually complimented the sweetness of the pear nicely; also added a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. I burned the bottom of one, but it was still edible.

In honor of Election Day and Veteran's Day later this week, I did Yankee Doodle Mickey while I ate. This is a collection of patriotic songs performed by Disney characters, the Disneyland Chorus and Glee Club, and a kid's chorus (with solos by a very young Molly Ringwauld). This has become one of my favorite kids' records over the years. I'm especially fond of the rousing version of "The Liberty Tree" (from Disney's live-action version of Johnny Tremain) and the Armed Services Medley, with Mickey singing for the Air Force and Marines, Goofy for the Army, and Donald, of course, for the Navy.

Had an hour to work on writing after I cleaned up from breakfast. Leia comes downstairs, ready to give all four frog-men a piece of her mind. She meets Finn and Snap at the door. They say their Master is in the tower and can't be disturbed. Leia will have none of that and charges find the horned toad-king battered and bruised. She orders Jess to bring bandages and Finn to bring their breakfasts upstairs while she tends to his wounds.

Broke at noon for a quick lunch and to get ready for work. Put on the soundtrack for The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band as I got organized. This is another one that's gradually grown on me, to the point where I think it's the best of the three scores the Sherman Brothers did for Disney's purely live-action musicals. I'm especially fond of the ballad "'Bout Time" and two lively ensemble numbers, "Ten Feet Off the Ground" for the family of the title and "West O' the Wide Missouri" for the townspeople at the Election Day party.

Work was a mess all day long. I did gather some carts early on, but I was mostly doing returns. Every time I'd finish putting one cart away, I'd return to find two more filled. And I was pulled in the last ten minutes to take a customer and gather baskets. Not to mention, the other baggers who were there complained about not having enough help with the carts. I really should have been outside all day.

At least the Eagles had fun. The Broncos played badly and couldn't get anywhere near them. They eventually walloped them 51-23...which puts them at 8-1 and makes them the top team in the NFL. I think the entire Delaware Valley is probably as stunned as I am. I was hoping the Eagles would make the playoffs, given they haven't been there for a few years...but people are starting to consider them Super Bowl contenders. This is so awesome. They haven't played like this in over a decade. They're off next week too, giving them time to rest for their game on the 19th against Dallas.

I texted Jodie during break, asking her if she and Dad were doing anything at their house. Jodie invited me over for cheesesteaks. They were the only ones still there by the time I arrived. The cheesesteaks were worth it, though. Jodie used provolone cheese, real sliced beef, and lots of fried mushrooms and onions. I also had macaroni salad and a slice of deliciously moist gingerbread. Jodie had a gigantic bowl of macaroni salad left and let me take home a big container of it.

The Eagles were done by the time I got in, but there were other games on. The poor San Francisco 49ers couldn't get anything going against the Arizona Cardinals. They lost 20-10 and remain winless. The Redskins did better, managing to sneak past the Seattle Seahawks 17-14.

Went right into the bath when I got home. Ahhh. After the lunacy at work today, that felt really nice. I sat back, read obscure Grimm's Fairy Tales from the book I bought last month, listened to a jazz CD of Jerome Kern music, and just relaxed.

I'm finishing off the night with more patriotic music. America the Beautiful is a two-LP Reader's Digest collection of songs about the US, created in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. I actually found this at a thrift shop the year I moved here and have listened to it on or before patriotic holidays ever since.

I'm now listening to that most stirring of all American marches, "The Stars and Stripes Forever," on Side 2, Disc 2. The remaining songs are the themes from all of the branches of the US military - the disc just moved on to "Anchors Aweigh."

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Dolls On a Fall Morning

Started off a glorious fall day with a few stories from Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater during breakfast. Hello Kitty is "Cinderkitty," a football fan who is forbidden from attending the big game by her nasty stepmother and jealous stepsister. A fairy godmother gives her the chance to become the most popular cheerleader there...and then make the winning goal and capture the eye of the quarterback penguin prince. She learns not to go into a stranger's house in "Goldikitty and the Three Bears." A trio of hungry bears (Catnip, Grinder, and My Melody) decide she's on the menu when they first find her in the woods, then eating their pizza and breaking their chairs in her house.

Headed out for today's errand run around quarter of 11. First stop of the day was on Ridgeway Avenue in Oaklyn, a couple of streets down from Manor, for a yard sale. I didn't see anything for me, but I dug two DVDs out of a box for Lauren for Christmas. (I just hope she doesn't already have them. She could always give them to her coworkers or parents if she does.)

As I rode down Kendall and turned onto West Clinton, I encountered something I totally didn't expect to see today. There was what appeared to be a small fair or block party across from the Oaklyn School. While there were a few local booths, it was mostly people stirring great silver vats of some smoking brew. I had no idea what was going on until I noticed the signs for the new business replacing Studio LuLoo - a store selling products to make your own beer. Must have been people advertising the new store.

Didn't get to the Collingswood Farm Market until 11:30. Even at that late date, they were still packed with people buying produce for birthday and tailgating parties. Eggplant is gone, but I did see chestnuts for the first time this season. I picked up cranberries, broccoli, small Gala apples, and Brussels sprouts.

After a quick stop at WaWa for water and a treat, I headed down Leeds Avenue in Collingswood and into Haddon Township, and then to Audubon. I wanted to check out an estate sale on East Merchant. It was at a small white house that looked like it was 60's era, with a white and grey awning over the front window. There were items in the back garage and front yard as well as inside. Found a box of lovely Christmas cards, a nice wooden sunflower plaque to hang up in my living room next summer, and a metal slotted pasta spoon. The spoon was a quarter; got all three for a dollar.

Since I was on that side of the street, I decided to take a look at the House of Fun on my way home. I poked through the Star Wars items, but didn't see anything I really wanted. (Last Jedi is coming out next month anyway. There will be tons of new merchandise for that.) I did get a Playstation game for Lauren. She bought a PlayStation 1 on eBay a few days ago, but didn't get any games with it. The game was even still in its plastic.

Ended up at Phillies Phatties for a quick lunch. Thought it was 1:30 by then, they were still busy with teens and kids coming in for a late lunch or snack, not to mention hungry brewers from the block party. I took my slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and can of Cherry Vanilla Pepsi outside and watched the partygoers stroll down West Clinton.

After I got home and got organized, I did some quick vacuuming and took out the rugs to be aired. Figured I'd let the rest of the Hello Kitty disc run while I worked. "Sleeping Kitty" is cursed by a magic TV that makes her sleep for a hundred years...or until Prince Sam can kiss her. "Kitty and the Beast" takes Hello Beauty and her bratty sister Catnip to an enchanted castle, the home of a pig-penguin monster. Catnip's scared of him, but Kitty can see his heart under that snout. Grinder is Kitty's protector in "Snow Kitty and the One Dwarf," but can he save her from the schemes of the jealous Queen Catnip?

With colder weather coming next week, I figured it was time to change the American Girl dolls into warmer clothes. Samantha, Josefina, Felicity, and Molly are all in their original meet outfits. Molly wears hers with Sam's black strap shoes and the knee socks from Kit's School Outfit. Added the black stockings and boots from Rebecca's School Outfit to Sam's dress. The camisa (shift) that goes with Josefina's "meet" outfit is short-sleeved, not a good idea for November in New Jersey. I switched it out for her original long-sleeved night shift. Jessa's feeling groovy in the blue and green paisley tunic with a square collar Lauren sent me a while back, the beaded bell-bottom jeans from the 2003 "Ready for Fun" outfit, and the tan boots Whitney originally came with. Whitney wears the Our Generation pink overalls outfit I got from Lauren for Christmas last year.

Worked on writing when I was done with the dolls. Leia and her daughters have a strange dream that night. They appear in a lovely rose garden, wearing elaborate gowns and jewels. They're approached by four handsome men. Three are younger, dressed in fine velvet suits. The fourth wears a king's crown in his silver locks, but he can neither step out of the shadows, nor reveal his true name. As Prince Poe tells the women, he's mute, and his wards speak for him.

Poe tells the women that the four of them are under a curse and are prisoners in the manor. Leia tries to ask them where, but they evade that question. As she's about to kiss the king, a hideous sorcerer appears. He binds the four men and spirits them away, slamming Leia with his evil lightning on the way out.

She awakens the next morning to find herself back in the room she shares with the girls. They reveal that they all had the same dream. Leia tells them that they'll ask the frogs and horned toads about what they saw at breakfast.

I got so into writing, it was 7:30 before I broke for dinner. Just quickly roasted beef hot dogs, Brussels sprouts, and "french fries" for dinner while watching another Fairie Tale Theatre episode. "The Tale of the Frog Prince," in fact, was the pilot episode. Terri Garr is a spoiled princess who turns down every prince in the kingdom because they're not good enough for her. She finally meets her match in a cheerful frog (Robin Williams) who rescues her golden ball from a well, then insists on coming home with him. The ball is the life of the party, but she's not as amused, until he rescues her from a scorpion. But this funny amphibian is not what he appears to be...

Moved on to Treasure Planet as I cleaned up from dinner and settled down for the night. This is one of Disney's most unique movies, a fusion of the pirate novel Treasure Island and space opera. Here, Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Lovitt) skysurfs over his mother's inn, listening to stories about the mysterious Captain Flint, who left all his booty on the infamous Treasure Planet. A dying sailor leaves a golden ball with the boy and his mother Sarah (Laurie Metcalf) and dog-like Doctor Doppler (David Hyde-Pierce) that turns out to be a map to the treasure. Doppler hires no-nonsense lady cat Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) to take them across the skies find the planet. She has her doubts about the shady crew, especially a cyborg named Long John Silver (Brian Murphy). Turns out she has good reason to distrust him. Despite forming a bond with Jim, Silver kills Amelia's first mate Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne) and incites the crew to mutiny. Jim, Amelia, and Doppler flee to Treasure Planet, encountering B.E.N (Martin Short), a crazy abandoned droid. They're caught when they return for the map, leading Jim to make the biggest gambit of his that could either kill his friends for good, or make them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

On one hand, I really wish they hadn't felt the need to compress so much of the story. I never feel like I saw Jim and John Silver become a team. One minute, they hated each other. The next, they were nearly father and son. Other characters fare somewhat better, including Thompson's tough Amelia, Hyde-Pierce's clumsy, shy Doppler, and Michael Wincott as the vicious insect-like crew member Scroop.

One thing I do like - and have always liked - about this movie is the design. Space and traditional pirate stories may not mesh well, but they sure look like they do. The flying pirate ships are amazing in their detail, and the final frontier never looked more vast or beautiful. Nice score too, including one of my favorite rock songs from a Disney movie, "I'm Still Here."

For all it's problems, this didn't deserve either the scorn it got from critics when it came out in 2002 or the drubbing it got at the box office. It's one of the most unusual and creative movies Disney ever did. If you have older kids who love pirate tales or Pirates of the Caribbean, they may be willing to give this one a look.

Finished the night on YouTube with a rare Muppet special. There were two Muppet retellings of fairy tales released in the late 60's-early 70's, just as the group was starting to become popular. I did the second one from 1971, The Frog Prince. Kermit helps Robin, a little frog he meets by a well, rescue the ball of a lovely princess. Unlike the princess in Fairie Tale Theatre, this one is sweet as well as lovely...but she's under a curse of her own. The witch who transformed Robin into a frog made her talk backwards, so her father the king can't understand her. She and Robin are the only ones who know that the king's "sister" is really a witch who wants to take over the throne. While Kermit goes to get the help of the other frogs at the well, Robin tries to evade the witch's ogre Sweetums and translate the princess' instructions on how to destroy her magic for good.

This used to turn up a lot on cable in the 80's and early 90's. It's a really fun special, with several decent songs and nifty special effects. If nothing else, at least four characters created for this special would eventually appear on The Muppet Show. Robin (as Kermit's kid nephew) and Sweetums were regulars; the king and his page Featherstone were used for royal-based skits in the first few seasons.

Here's the YouTube link, for those of you who also have fond memories of this show:

Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince