Saturday, November 17, 2018

Last Harvest of the Season

Started off a glorious, sunny late fall morning with breakfast and The Care Bears' Nutcracker. Funshine and Grumpy are recruited to help Anna, a little girl who is lonely after her best friend moves away. Anna gets a far different friend than she expects when a Nutcracker walks into her room via a giant mouse hole, followed by three huge rats. She and the Care Bears have to help the Nutcracker save the Land of Sweets from the evil Vizier. Meanwhile, Baby Hugs and Tugs want to find their own ornament, while Anna's little brother Peter just wants adventure.

Headed out around 10, shortly after the cartoon ended. My first stop was Collingswood for the final Farm Market of the season. Needless to say, especially given the cold weather we've been having, there were far more craft booths than produce booths left. The place was still packed with people buying their fruit and vegetables for Thanksgiving when I arrived. I finally just ended up with cranberries, apples (larger ones than usual from another booth - the orchard booth didn't have the small ones), small tomatoes from the organic booth, and bananas from the tropical fruit wholesaler.

Rode across Oaklyn to Haddon Township after leaving the Farm Market for another church fair. This one was pretty much the same deal as the last one I went to across town, only upstairs and with a more extensive food menu that included hot dogs and coffee. They also sold sports jerseys and collectibles and yard sale items along with the crafts. I saw some wooden tops that I thought were neat, but I only had enough money for a pretzel.

Went in the opposite direction to Dollar General next. I needed eggs, and theirs are cheap at $1.35. (And they're a lot cheaper than the Acme's, which are $2.99!) Also picked up sponges, scrubbers, and treat bags for the cookies I'll give out next month.

Since it's in the area, I stopped at Dad and Jodie's to tell them I can watch the Eagles-Saints game with them tomorrow. Turns out the game had been bumped to 4:25. Oh well. I'll still go over there, but for dinner instead of lunch, and I probably won't stay as long.

Dad helped me tighten the bike seat, but we made it too high. I didn't realize how high it was until I tried to ride it. I just ended up walking it home. I thought I lost the bike tool set, but it was in my junk drawer. I did manage to get the seat to a more manageable level, but it's still a bit loose. I'll fiddle with it more tomorrow.

Had a really quick Orange Pumpkin Smoothie lunch while watching the first of two holiday Backyardigans episodes. Uniqua wants to learn "The Secret of Snow" from ice lady Tasha. Busy Tasha has no time for her questions and keeps sending her to warm places. Uniqua not only comes back, but she has Cowboy Pablo and Tyrone of the Jungle in tow. Tasha's assistant Austin does his best to help out the others.

I desperately needed to get the laundry done. I put it off for way too long. I shouldn't have put it off. The laundromat was insanely busy. I was glad I was able to get a washer and dryer for my huge load. Worked on story notes, read the September Family Circle, and half-listened to Notre Damn play William & Mary while waiting for the clothes to come out. (Notre Dame won, by the way, 73 to 64.)

Put everything away when I got home, then worked on writing. A glowing woman in a white cloak appears before Anakin. She is the Ghost of Christmas Past, come to take him to see his memories. They first arrive at his former school, which he remembers quite well. He sees his younger version, the only child who isn't going home for the holidays...until his dear friends Padme and Obi-Wan come to him and tell him that his mother has sent for him, and that he'll be home for good. Quenton Jenson, Obi-Wan's guardian and their school teacher, treats them to snacks and wine and helps Anakin into Padme's cart.

Finished the night with leftovers for dinner while watching Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World, both of which I cover at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Pocahontas & Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Day After the Storm

Began the morning with early work. The snow was already melting when I left at 8. The sky was blue, the sun was blinding, the roads were clear, and while it was windy and chilly, it was still nice to be outside. I rounded up trash inside and out early-on, but I mostly alternated between doing returns and gathering carts and baskets again. We were steady, but not overwhelmingly busy - most people may be waiting for early next week to finish up their Thanksgiving shopping. While the snow was almost totally gone by noon, clouds had moved in, leaving it windy and chilly for the rest of the day.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have the best Thanksgiving week schedule I've had in a long time. While I work early on Wednesday, it's not long or late. I did get Thanksgiving off, along with Sunday and next Saturday. Working Black Friday means I'll get extra money for Thanksgiving...and having Saturday off means I'll get to see the big Christmas parade in Collingswood for the first time in three years. (And I'll get to check out the winter festival in Westmont, too.)

Headed to the shopping center behind the Acme for lunch. My first thought was Chick Fil'A...but the line for the take-out window stretched almost all the way around the building! The one inside was almost as long. I ended up at Tu Se Bella Pizza instead. They were busy too, but not quite as much. I had a slice of mushroom pizza, a slice of tasty broccoli chicken Alfredo, and a bottle of Coke.

Did my grocery shopping when I got back to the Acme. With Thanksgiving coming, there's tons of good sales this week. I've been wanting to try the Belvita Gingerbread Cookies. I just ran out of dried basil. Not only was the Acme's organic brand on a good sale, but I had a coupon from a sample a while back. Had online coupons for peanut butter, Life Cereal (got Vanilla this time), and pancake mix. (Went with Aunt Jemima Whole Wheat Blend.) Found a pack of Crayola dry erase markers on clearance. Restocked brown sugar, ground turkey, honey, canned pineapple, yogurt, skim milk, muffin papers, and peppermint extract.

Ran a Christmas-themed Scooby Doo episode while putting everything away. Fred joins Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy or "A Nutcracker Scoob." The gang is putting on a Christmas pageant for a local orphanage. Not only does a mean old miser want to tear down the orphans' home, but the Ghost of Christmas is sabotaging the production. There's something very special hidden in the house, and the kids want to be the ones who find it first...before the ghost gets their hands on it!

Worked on writing for a while.  Anakin wonders what in the heck his dead partner is doing sitting in his parlor room. Marley has a warning for him. He's going to be visited by three spirits that night. He has to listen to him...or he could end up like Marley, or the dozens of chained ghosts who suddenly appear outside his window.

Marley disappears when Scrooge slams the window.  He's visited by his landlady, Jyn Erso Andor. Jyn basically tells him to yell softly and not bang windows, no matter how many ghosts he sees.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had leftover tuna salad while watching more Scooby Doo. "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright" comes from the mid-70's series. The gang has been called to the Arctic by a professor who was doing research there. When they arrive, the professor is gone and the Inuit village where he was working has been scared off by a huge dinosaur-like snow beast. After the village chief also vanishes, the gang finds a black substance around some totem poles and begin to wonder if the beast isn't after something more than scaring off villagers.

Finished out the set after a shower. "Alaskan King Coward" is one of the goofy late-70's shorts featuring Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy. Once again, a dinosaur is involved, this time a real one that breaks out of his icy prison and goes after the guys. Scooby and Shaggy would love to outrun him, but Scrappy would rather attack this scaly claim jumper!

"That's Snow Ghost" comes from the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? This time, the wintry creep is a Yeti-style monster who has been seen outside of a run-down ski resort. An elderly Tibetian man insists that the creature is after him. Velma thinks there's a far more logical explanation for it being there.

Ended my night with An American Christmas Carol as I went online. This late 70's TV movie stars Henry Winkler as Benedict Slade, a miserly old man who runs a loan company. With the Great Depression at its zenith, he's had to repossess the heirlooms of half the town. When Thatcher, his assistant, suggests he re-open the quarry to create jobs, he fires him, fearing that more jobs would mean fewer repossessions - and less money for him. Slade learns his lesson when ghosts who resemble the people he took possessions from show him  his past, his present, his chilling future, and why Thatcher and the town dearly need the jobs.

Ok, not bad, not great. I do think the setting's creative, and Winkler does fairly well under a tone of aging makeup. Always nice to see Geraud Parkes of Fraggle Rock fame as well (he's the Ghost of Christmas Present and the head of the town orphanage). Worth checking out if you're a fan of Winkler or are looking for an unusual version of A Christmas Carol.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Snow Day Surprise

Began the morning with my first Rankin-Bass special of the season as I ate breakfast and got ready for work. The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold from 1981 is their second-to-last Christmas stop-motion cartoon. A young Irish sailor is sent to a mysterious island to dig up a pine tree for Christmas. It turns out to be guarding the Banshee Mag, who had once terrorized the little people who live on the island. She needs the gold mined by an old leprechaun (Art Carney) to remain alive, or she'll vanish at the dawn of Christmas morning. He refuses to give it to her, turning it over to the sailor instead. When she plays a trick on the lad that leaves him under a spell, it takes the love of the leprechaun and his estranged wife (Peggy Cass) and their family to restore him.

It was just sleeting a bit when I headed off to work. I figured I'd be fine riding my bike. It was cold, in the upper 30's, and very windy, but I figured it wasn't cold enough for snow. I was wrong. By noon, the sleet had become much softer...and it was piling up on the sidewalks and the roadways.

Not only did the messy streets not stop customers from coming - we were steady-to-busy all afternoon - but I was the only bagger there the entire morning. The head bagger took the day off for a funeral, and the afternoon bagger never appeared or even called. I did have help from a cashier who  doubles as a bagger, but I was mostly outside all day, trying to push carts through the snow and shovel the slush. (At least the shoveling was a lot easier than it had been during those storms we had in March.)

It was sleeting hard again when I was done. There was no way anyone would pick up me and my bike in that mess. Not to mention, the streets were still pretty bad, especially in Oaklyn, and the Acme's parking lot was impossible. I half-rode, half walked home.

Hung everything up to dry when I got in. Made lemon bars while watching more Rankin-Bass. The Stingiest Man In Town was their last regular animated holiday special until 2001. This musical adaptation of a 50's TV musical of the same name has Walter Matthau as Scrooge, Dennis Day as Nephew Fred, and Robert Morse as the younger Scrooge. What I like about this one is how many songs they retained from the original musical. I'm especially fond of "An Old Fashioned Christmas" for Fred and "Yes There Is a Santa Claus" for Martha Cratchit.

Did two quick snow-related shorts from my public domain set while I cleaned up from the baking. "Snow Foolin'" is one of the Paramount Famous Studios Screen Song sing-along shorts. Animals have fun in the snow, to the tune of "Jingle Bells." "The Snow Man" is an oddity from I'm guessing the 1930's from the rubber hose designs. An Inuit and his arctic animal buddies have to get rid of a snowman when the one the build comes to life as a Yeti.

My computer finished updates in time to let me squeeze a little writing in. Anakin Scrooge is horrified when Sheev Palpatine Marley glides in, fettered by enormous chains and lock boxes. Scrooge denies him at first, until he wails enough for him to give in. While Scrooge tries to defend them, saying he was always a good man of business, Marley regrets not having done more to help others.

Did The Nutcracker while making leftovers for dinner. I have the 1977 version that stars Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince and Gelsey Kirkland as Clara. Stockton University's media center had the video of this in the early 2000's. I used to traditionally watch it every year the day before we left for Christmas break. While it's missing a few dances, likely for time (notably the Arabian coffee dancers and the Sugar Plum Fairy), it's still a favorite of mine.

Finished the night with the 1961 Disney Babes In Toyland, which I cover in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Babes In Toyland (1961)

Oh, and someone at Dinosaur Dracula mentioned this really cool site. It has a collection of vintage Christmas catalogs, ranging from the late 30s to the late 90's. It's fascinating to flip through these and see how what we bought and how they were advertised changed over the years!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Seasons of Dolls

Began a beautiful day with early work. Surprisingly, for a week before Thanksgiving, it wasn't bad. Everyone must be waiting for the weekend. I spent the entire morning alternating between gathering baskets and carts and shelving two carts filled with returns. It was also a lovely day, cold, but sunny and breezy. Even with the biting chill, it was still too nice of a day to be shopping.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. Other than a little traffic around the entrance to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, it wasn't bad. The arrival of colder weather is heralded by the last straggling roses, dried milkweed stalks with floating seeds, and trees awash in sun-dappled golds and reds.

Dressed the dolls for the chilly weather we've been having when I got home. It took me longer than I planned. I couldn't find some of the pieces I wanted to use. Turns out I'd accidentally dropped them behind the shelf with my photo albums and keepsake videos. Oops. I'm glad I found the green wrap top for Ariel - it goes nicely with the red hair and turquoise eyes. The skirt I wanted to dress her in didn't fit around the knob on her back, so I borrowed the khakis from Molly's Aviator Outfit. Jessa is in drawstring khaki cargo pants, the long-sleeved white t-shirt with the flower on it and the white and aqua sneakers from the 2002 Ready for Fun outfit, and a navy-blue hoodie from another early 2000's modern outfit. Whitney gets Rebecca's School Outfit with the socks and white t-straps from Molly's Polka-Dot Outfit.

Samantha, Molly, Josefina, and Felicity all wear their original "meet" outfits. Sam wears hers with the black stockings and black boots from Rebecca's School Outfit. Molly's is paired with Springfield Collection socks and the black strap shoes from Samantha's current "meet" outfit. The short-sleeved camisa (shift) that comes with Josefina's meet outfit is inappropriate for November weather in New Jersey. She wears the skirt with her long-sleeved night shift instead.

Finally got some writing time in after I put everything away. Scrooge walks up to his door...and when he inspects the door knocker, he sees the face of his late partner, Sheev Marley (Palpatine)! He's startled, to say the least, but tries not to think much of it...until a bell starts ringing for no reason...

Broke at 6:30 to make a big pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Had Merlin's (Baked) Chicken legs with baked pumpkin casserole and green beans. The casserole was mashed fresh pumpkin topped with molasses, sugar (I was out of brown sugar), butter, and home-made bread crumbs. Oh, yum! The chicken and the pumpkin came out beautifully. I'm glad I had that old piece of bread for bread crumbs. It brought just the right crunch.

Watched Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving as I worked. This is a compilation of two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, plus a holiday special. The first story has Rabbit thinking it's Groundhog's Day and insisting that Piglet act as the groundhog and tell them when spring is.

The second story is the Thanksgiving special. The crew from the Hundred Acres Woods is gearing up for a fun meal of honey, haycorns, and chocolate ice cream, at least until Rabbit tells them that tradition must be maintained. When they make a hash of his "traditional" dinner, he thinks the holiday is over. Pooh is the one who finally reminds the others why we really celebrate Thanksgiving.

In the third story, Rabbit adopts a little bird named Kessie whom he rescues from a blizzard. They come to love each other, to the point where Rabbit has a hard time letting go when she learns to fly and is ready to go south for the winter.

See this one for the Thanksgiving special and the Rabbit/Kessie story. "Groundpiglet's Day" is cute enough, but it's really filler. The Thanksgiving story is charming and a nice commentary on how we think a holiday ought to be, rather than let it be what it is. Kessie and Rabbit's story is one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever seen connected to the Winnie the Pooh franchise, and it's so touching that  I'll forgive it not really having anything to do with Christmas.

Moved on to Mickey's Christmas Carol as I cleaned up from dinner. My first classic holiday cartoon of the season is really a showcase for Uncle Scrooge as the world's most famous miser. Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Donald is Nephew Fred, and Goofy has one of his best roles as a very funny Jacob Marley.

Finished the night with the live-action version of A Christmas Carol from 1938 after a shower. Reginald Owen is Scrooge in this one, with Gene Lockhart as Cratchit. Ann Rutherford makes for a particularly pointed Ghost of Christmas Past, even if she doesn't look the part of an ethereal spirit. There's also a bit of a romance here for Fred, as his wife (here called Elizabeth) is his fiancee, and their courtship is part of the plot. (This may be why this is the only version of this story that I know of to drop Scrooge's own lost fiancee.) A few segments from the book were lightened and left out to make this more appropriate for family audiences. And yes, that is a very young June Lockheart as Belinda Cratchit, the younger Cratchit daughter.

Not the best version of this story, but you can do far worse, especially if you have younger children who may be put off by the darker aspects of some other retellings that stick closer to the book.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Yow! I can't believe I slept until 10:30 this morning. It might have been just as well. It was still pouring when I went to bed last night. By the time I was finally eating breakfast, the rain was long gone, replaced by clouds, wind, and a cool but not too cold day.

I had enough time after I ate to do a few quick chores. First thing on the agenda was making my Christmas list. This isn't what I want. It's what I'm giving. The first list has everyone who will be getting cards and packages from me. The second is the list of the food I make - five types of cookies to give to various families and bring to the Acme's Christmas luncheon, two loaves of bread for the McHughs and Jodie's Christmas brunch, cupcakes for Dad and Charlie and his men, and candy for Jodie and Dad's Christmas Eve party.

The third list is all my shopping. I only buy gifts for my five nieces and nephews, plus my friends Amanda and Lauren. Amanda and Lauren come from small families and don't have many people giving them presents. The kids will not only be getting food with their family gifts from me, but they probably don't need the extra sugar (especially during the holidays).

Next up was vacuuming the apartment. I just did this one really fast. I intend to do more major cleaning towards the end of the month-beginning of next month, before I put up the Christmas decorations and Amanda visits. After that, I pushed a wooden crate under my bed, where a rod under the springs broke last night. (The other rod broke ages ago.) Not only do I not have the money to replace that bed right now, but after the incident with the air conditioner last month, I'm afraid to carry anything remotely heavy across the porch.

Ran the Peanuts Thanksgiving specials as I worked. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has Chuck entertaining Marcie, Peppermint Patty, and Franklin for Turkey Day. There's a slight problem. Peppermint Patty invited them without giving Charlie Brown a chance to explain that he and Sally are suppose to be going to their grandmother's for the holiday. He, Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock make a meal of toast, popcorn, and jelly beans to appease them. Peppermint Patty is disappointed, until Linus and Marcie remind their friends of the real reason behind the holiday.

The history of Thanksgiving is further investigated in "The Mayflower Voyagers," an episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown. The Peanuts are pilgrim kids heading to the New World with their parents. They must endure a rough crossing over the Atlantic, a hostile environment, and a frigid New England winter that wipes out more than half the Pilgrim population. Hope finally comes to the group in the form of Squanto, Chief Massasoit, and their friendly Indian tribe, who teach them farming techniques suitable for their new country. They're so thankful for their friends and their good harvest, they invite them to share their good crop.

Headed out to run errands around quarter after 1. First stop was Target. I wanted to buy underwear, but I decided to wait for later in the week and just opted for Starbucks. It's a good thing I did. As it turned out, all I could afford was a chai latte.

Rode to the Haddon Township Library next. They must have been a lot busier earlier in the morning. The DVD return cart was overflowing. I compromised and left the adult titles to be returned by those kid volunteers who come in on Wednesdays. I shelved and organized the children's titles, the TV sets, and the three audio books.

I mostly have other things I want to watch this week, but I did take out a few DVDs. I enjoyed Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood so much, I took out a slightly longer set, this one themed around Daniel taking over King Friday's job for a day. I've rented Saving Mr. Banks before, but never got around to watching it. With Mary Poppins Returns debuting in theaters next month, I figured now was the perfect time to finally check it out. Also grabbed the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol (which I have seen, but not in ages) and the Disney Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World to review for my Musical Dreams Reviews blog's Animation Celebration Saturday.

Went straight home after I left the library. For one thing, it was past 3:30 by then, and the traffic on Cuthbert was getting worse. The clouds, which had tried to break up earlier in the day, had gotten darker. By the time I made it home, it was just starting to rain again. (Although thankfully not enough to make me anywhere near as wet as I was when I got in on Friday!)

I finally tried to finish the application to the company Rev, which assigns people to write captions for online videos. I just could not keep up with the video, no matter how fast I went. It was nerve-wracking. My stomach was in knots. And then I accidentally signed out when I meant to send the darn thing. I don't think I'm cut out for captioning work. I need to find something where I can go at my own speed.

Managed to sneak some writing in before dinner. Anakin encounters Edgar Snoke and his grandson and Snoke's newest employee Benjamin Solo coming out of the First Order Savings and Loan as he walks home. Anakin privately thinks Snoke is a good businessman but is too extravagant in his tastes. He thinks more highly of his sober, dedicated grandson. Ben is devoted to finance and business, and both Snoke and Anakin think he'll go far in the world.

Moved to Daniel Tiger as I finished out most of the leftovers I had in my fridge. When Dan shows interest in what King Friday does, Friday makes him "King Daniel for the Day." He insists that, above all, a king must be kind. Daniel and his mom agree to run several errands for the King to show that kindness. As they walk through the neighborhood, they find several of their friends in need of help. Prince Tuesday hurt his ankle playing baseball and needs a doctor. O the Owl is upset that he dropped his ice cream cone and won't have a treat. Miss Elania is even more upset that her favorite toy got dirty and she can't play with it while it's getting washed. Daniel helps all of them, while proving how importance kindness is to being a leader.

The reason I took this specific set out was for "The Neighborhood Fall Festival," another seasonal episode. Dan, Katerina, and Elania help Music Man Stan set up a scarecrow, a pile of pumpkins, and other fall decorations for the big town fair. They're disappointed when a wind blows the decorations askew, but decide to help Stan by putting them back up while he gives Prince Wednesday his piano lesson. The kids can't set it up exactly like he had them, but Mrs. Tiger reminds them that it's equally important to do what they're able to do and do it their way.

"Daniel Takes Care of Snowball," the class pet, after school one day. Wednesday wants him to come over and play, but he shows more sense than most kids in cartoons and opts to stay with Snowball. Wednesday stays with him, and they learn how to care for a bunny.

This time, it's a grown-up who's upset in "Looking for Snowball." Teacher Harriet is very scared when she tells the kids and their parents that she accidentally opened the latch on Snowball's cage while taking him home and he got loose. They mobilize the rest of the neighborhood to find their favorite bunny.

Daniel learns how important "Sharing at the Library" is when his dad brings him there to take out a book. O wants to take out the same book he does. Instead of squabbling, Dan Sr. reads the book to them. Katerina doesn't want to share her puppets, but Daniel shows her how much more fun it is to play together.

The sharing theme is carried over to "Daniel Shares With Margaret." Daniel has a new sticker book he wants to play with, but baby Margaret wants to play, too. He tries to keep it away from her at first, then gives her a few stickers to place in the book. He thinks the weird places she puts the stickers are so funny, he makes up a silly story about them.

What I like about this series is how much I can relate to it, even as an adult. "Daniel Shares With Margaret" was by far my favorite of this round. I remember having similar fights with my siblings about sharing toys when they were really little...and how funny they could be as toddlers, too.

I never got to take care of a class pet, but my family has had many different types of pets over the years, including bunnies. I could relate all too well to poor Prince Tuesday in the "King for a Day" episode. I hurt my ankle about five years ago and had to have help going to the doctor and getting well, too. I also understood why Elaina was sad about her toy. I missed my stuffed animals when they'd have to be washed when I was a kid. And the incident with Teacher Harriet losing Snowball reminded me of how helpful my co-workers at the Acme and the Audubon and Mt. Ephram cops were when my bike was stolen two weeks ago.

Finished the night with Snow White and the Three Stooges, which I discuss further at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Snow White and the Three Stooges

Monday, November 12, 2018

Little Tigers and Strong Young Ladies

Began a sunny morning with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood as I ate breakfast. Think Mister Rogers' Neighborhood crossed with the current version of Muppet Babies and you're not far off. The Daniel here is the son of the original Daniel, who lives with his mother, dad, and baby sister Margaret in a little grass hut just outside of The Land of Make Believe. He's friends with the children and relatives of the original members of the Land of Make Believe, and the show is about their adventures as they grow and learn.

The first two episodes revolved around snow days. Daniel and Miss Elania (daughter of Lady Elaine) want to make a snow astronaut on "A Snowy Day." Daniel refuses to put on his hat and coat in favor of his astronaut helmet. He gets so cold, he finally decides that astronauts need to be warm, too.

"Daniel's Winter Adventure" takes him, his father, and his friend Prince Wednesday (younger son of King Friday) to a snowy hill, and then ice skating. Dan and Wednesday are scared of the big hill and of skating at first. Daniel Sr. suggests they take it a little at a time. They both gradually get used to both the sledding and the falling down when they learn to skate.

The reason I rented this one was for "Neighborhood Nutcracker" to kick off my holiday season. The "try new things" theme is repeated here. I can certainly relate to poor O the Owl (nephew of X the Owl) when he's nervous about the big crowd in the Enchanted Garden. Big crowds sometimes make me nervous as well. Even after O gets used to the noise, Daniel is asked to step in for Wednesday as the Nutcracker in the ballet because his friend got a cold. He's understandably scared at first, but Katerina Kittycat and her mother Henrietta Pussycat (who are Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy) help him with the steps.

I can also relate to "Baking Mistakes." I've made quite a few of my own over the years! Baker Aker, Dan, and Wednesday make trolley-shaped sugar cookies. They each make mistakes, but figure out ways to fix them.

This was too cute for words. The Flash designs of the characters are adorable, and the stories are simple but fun. There's also the "Neighborhood" segment, where Daniel shows real-life kids taking part in the activities depicted in the episode. (Loved the older brother teaching his younger brother to ice skate. That was so sweet.)

While I did enjoy it, it's probably too cutesy for anyone who isn't a fan of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, are in the toddler-pre-school age range, or are the parents of toddlers. If you're like me and have fond memories of the original show, it's worth checking out. I'm guessing it's pretty popular. It's currently in the midst of it's fourth season on PBS, and the Haddon Township Library has at least 15 episode collections. I liked the show enough to want to take out a few more of those the next time I have the chance.

Headed out to work shortly after the cartoons ended. I was tossed in the register almost as soon as I arrived. There had been another call-out. One of my first customers was an older woman who kept fussing about double-bagging in plastic because she was walking...but she threw a cloth bag at me, too. She was such a grouch! I didn't double-bag one bag because it was light and could be carried easily, and she just growled at me. I ended up in tears, though I composed myself quick enough after she left. The other customers after her were super-sweet. One very old lady gave me a hug. I had no trouble after that.

Thankfully, I was only in the register an hour this time. I spent the majority of the rest of the day outside, gathering carts, doing outside trash and recycling, and sweeping up debris on the patio. I also cleaned up two broken jar messes. One was in the soda and chips aisle. Someone must have knocked over a jar of onion dip. Yuck, that was messy! Good thing onion dip is too gloppy to go far. The other was outside. An old man's bag broke, and a jar of artichokes broke. There was so little liquid in that small jar, I just had to clean up the glass and the artichokes.

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. I finally broke down and ordered those record needles from Amazon. I got two this time, so I wouldn't suddenly have to go around searching for them the next time one breaks. It took me a few minutes to finally slide in, but it's up and running again.

I listened to Merry Christmas Songs as my first holiday album of the year while I got organized. This is a somewhat older collection of Disney holiday tunes. It's mostly instrumentals and chorus numbers this time, but we do have an unusual version of "From All Of Us to All Of You" where Willie the Giant gets a solo on a third chorus. (We also have more of that squeaky mouse choir. I know Disney likes mice, but they sound more like Chip and Dale on helium than Mickey.)

Did a little bit of writing next. Anakin grudgingly allows Luke to have all of Christmas Day off. As he points out, the only other financial business open will be the First Order Savings and Loan, and even they won't be open all day. He also doesn't want to incur the wrath of Mara, Luke's very opinionated wife. Unlike Leia, he did approve of Luke's marriage to Mara, the ward of his late partner Sheev Marley...until they refused Marley's money and Mara revealed that she's not a fan of her father-in-law.

Put on my first Thanksgiving special of the season while making Wonderful Tuna Salad (tuna salad with crushed pineapple and celery) for dinner. Garfield's Thanksgiving doesn't start out well. First Liz the Veterinarian puts him on a diet, then Jon invites her for dinner! Jon wouldn't know how to cook a turkey if one bit him in the rear. Good thing Grandma from the Christmas special knows what to do.

Finished the night after a shower with A Wrinkle In Time. Meg Murray (Storm Reid) feels like a misfit. She doesn't fit in at school. Popular girls bully her, and her principal (Andre Holland) wonders why she's lashing out and isn't trying harder. Meg's reacting badly to the disappearance of her father, renowned astrophysicist Dr. Alex Murray (Chris Pine) four years before. She is close with her mother, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and her gifted little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Her family is visited one night by chatty, white-clad Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), whom Charles Wallace seems to be friendly with. They meet up with a boy in Meg's class, Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller), before encountering Mrs. Whatsit again. She introduces them to two more witches, ever-quoting Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and the magnificent, towering Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). The witches claim they can find Meg and Charles Wallace's father, who is being held prisoner on a planet under the sway of an evil black force known only as "It." When Charles Wallace falls under the spell of this terrible being, Meg is the only one who can release him...and prove that love of all kinds is really the most powerful force in the universe.

On one hand, I can see what director Ava DuVerney was aiming for. This is a lovely girl-power tale, with Reid particularly strong as Meg. The cast is wonderfully diverse, something you don't often see in a family film of this stripe, and the special effects are just incredible. Check out the scene where Mrs. Whatsit reveals her true form. No wonder the kids are amazed.

She may have tried too hard. The movie feels preachy and a bit pushy. The "be yourself" and "love conquers all" morals are hammered home with all the force of the negative light of Camazotz. They also cut a few points from the book, likely for time, including the other two Murray boys and the sequence with Aunt Beast after Meg left Camazotz with her dad. Maybe this story really is better suited to the page, where you can use your own imagination to create what the witches, "It," and the Tesseract look like.

If you have older elementary school or middle school girls who have read the book, they may find more in this one than I did. For everyone else, I'd recommend a rental for the special effects and cast alone.

Clouds began rolling in as early as my rounding up carts at work. It did wait to start raining until I was eating dinner and watching Garfield. I hope it doesn't last all day again. I want to hit the libraries tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Saluting Our Troops

Began the morning with the Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology. Veteran's Day began as Armstice Day after World War I. It goes without saying that all the material revolves around that devastating conflict. Read the sad short story The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy, about soldiers who discover a live apple tree on an otherwise ruined battlefield filled with birds who lost their homes. There were also two poems, one of which was the famous "In Flanders Fields."

Tossed in the material from Book Week since I had a little extra time. My favorite piece here was a segment from All-Of-a-Kind-Family on what happens when one of the girls loses a library book and her kindly young librarian helps her figure out how to pay for it. There was also a cute story about a little boy who is determined to learn to write his name, so he can get his library card and take out a book.

Cleaned the kitchen after breakfast. The kitchen really needed to be scrubbed. I've been eating at home a lot more than usual, mostly because I can't afford to eat out. The sink in particular was bad. Not to mention, I'm still clearing out the last remains of that mouse I caught last month.

Ran the Donald Duck In the Army shorts while I ate and cleaned. World War II propelled Donald ahead of Mickey Mouse and Goofy to make him Disney's number one short subjects star. He made more wartime shorts than any other Disney character, starting with "Donald Gets Drafted." Swayed by recruiting poster who makes being in the Army look like a great way to meet women, Donald signs up for the Service. He wants to be a glamorous pilot, but ends up as a foot soldier standing on anthills while Sargent Pete barks orders. He's still trying to get in the air in "Sky Trooper." After he fails his test, Pete does send Donald a paratrooper! Donald not only refuses to jump, but when he does go, he ends up taking Pete with him.

My favorite of the war shorts is "The Vanishing Private." Donald is a camouflage painter charged by Pete with making a cannon "hard to see." He takes his orders literally when he finds an invisibility paint and uses it on the cannon, then himself. Pete ends up chasing "the little man you can's see" all over the base.

"Der Fuhrer's Face" isn't technically a war short, but since it's on the same disc, I usually watch it with the others. Donald has a surreal nightmare that lands him behind an assembly line at a Nazi munitions factory. The strain from their tough regime is enough to make him go crazy, and for Disney to indulge in some of the wildest images this side of The Three Cabelleros.

The remaining shorts are a tad more benign. "Fall Out-Fall In" has a weary Donald struggling with his tent after a long march, then unable to sleep, thanks to the snoring around camp. Huey, Dewey, and Louie make their only appearance in a war short in "Home Defense," as they and Donald keep an eye out for enemy aircraft. Donald scolds the boys for playing a prank, but he's the one who's embarrassed when he mistakes a bee for a bomber. "The Old Army Game" is more disturbing today. Pete chasing Donald around camp after he's gone AWOL may have more violent consequences than either planned. Donald's last Army short was "Commando Duck." He's sent to Japan, where he proceeds to, wash...out the enemy.

Did one more Disney short as I got ready for work. Mickey Mouse didn't figure heavily into World War II cartoons, but he did do one war-related short in 1929. "The Barnyard Battle" pits Mickey and the other animals of the farm against a group of Hun cats. Mick goes on to prove that he may be a rubber-hose rodent, but he has what it takes to kick those cats out of the yard for good.

Headed out to work shortly after Mickey ended. It wasn't too bad when I arrived. As it turned out, the head manager initially wanted me there to organize and straighten shelves. A district manager may or may not have been stopping at our store before or after the Eagles game, and she wanted everything to look perfect.

I'd finished Aisle 1 and got half-way down Aisle 2 when the manager came up to me and said they needed me in the registers after break. I wasn't happy about it, but it was only for a hour and a half...and she was right. Not only were we insanely busy by that point, but three cashiers called out and another never showed up for work. At least most people were in a good mood. A few customers gave me a hard time about our online coupon system and the turkey coupons, but everyone else was fine. It moved fast, at any rate.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. No wonder all those kids called out. While still chilly, likely in the upper 40's, the raging wind from yesterday had gentled to a breeze and it was bright blue and sunny. The trees have finally turned colors here, gorgeous shades of scarlet, sun yellow, lime green, and sienna brown. It's like riding through a rainbow. The traffic was pretty bad on Nicholson, but it thinned out considerably by the time I made it into Oaklyn.

Swept the porch as soon as I got home. I started doing it yesterday, but it was still too wet from the heavy showers on Friday. The railings Charlie put in are a bit taller. They have a space at the bottom wide enough to allow me to push leaves through.

Did some writing after I put the broom away and changed. Even as Leia leaves, two of the workers in her charity arrive. Turns out they're both old friends of Anakin's. Ahsoka had been his apprentice as a child, but she lost touch with him after leaving Yoda Fezziwig's shop. Captain Rex Fett was an Army officer who had known Anakin in his younger years. Anakin, however, has no desire to renew old acquaintances. He refuses to donate money, siting that he pays for the poor to go to work houses and prisons. Rex and Ahsoka are shocked and disappointed; Luke makes up for it somewhat by giving them some money of his own.

Broke around 6:30 to have leftovers for dinner. Watched one last war cartoon while I ate. While Donald was convinced to join the Army by recruiting posters offering him glamour and a way to meet ladies, The Pink Panther is swayed by the power. He lands in Vietnam without a paddle in "G.I Pink." His fed-up sergeant keeps trying to devise elaborate traps to get him out of his hair, but they always backfire on him.

Called Mom after dinner. Mom's doing all right. She's hoping to return to her much-loved job at as a receptionist and ticket-taker at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry by Monday. She has to. Dad's finances are such a mess, it may be ages before she can figure them out. She may just put the house on the market after the holidays, then see if she can get a place in Wildwood. Oh, and Anny and her family moved into their new house in North Cape May last week. Evidently, it isn't as perfect as she wants, but at least it's much bigger than their old house, which is probably all that matters at this point.

Moved on to Rampage while making Cranberry Flummery. Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is a former US Army officer who now works tracking down poachers and tending to gorillas in a sanctuary. He has a special relationship with one albino gorilla named George, whom he rescued from poachers. He and his crew are shocked when George begins changing after he's exposed to rays from a meteor that touched down in his habitat. The meteor was actually debris from a spaceship that was carrying a mutagen. It makes George grow in size and aggressiveness, until he begins harming the other animals in the preserve.

He's not the only one, either. The mutagen has also had adverse effects on a gray wolf and an alligator, both of which have quadrupled in size and are running amok, eating and smashing everything in their paths. The company that developed the mutagen is run by a spoiled and greedy young yuppie named Claire (Malin Akerman) and her idiot brother Brett (Jake Lacy). Claire wants to sell the mutagen and the three animals as biological weapons. Kate, a geneticist (Naomi Harris) had tried to call her out on this and was fired and arrested. The FBI, including Special Agent Harvey Russell (Jeffery Dean Morgan), capture George and get him on an airplane. But neither George nor the other mutated critters can be contained, especially after Claire puts out a radio signal in a Chicago skyscraper that will call them to create even more havoc.

I have to admit, I enjoyed this. It's not a masterpiece or trying to reinvent the wheel or anything, but it doesn't need to. It's just big, dumb fun, and that's all it needs to be. The special effects, especially on the animals, is absolutely incredible. I love George, before and after his transformation. Johnson and Harris are also decent as the two scientists in way over their heads...literally...dealing with the massive mutants.

This was a fairly big hit last spring as people waited for Infinity War to come out. If you're in the mood for a big, silly, macho blockbuster, you can do far worse than this one.

Wish the Eagles had a couple of mutant gorillas to get them moving. They played terrible in the first half, and while they did do much better later, it wasn't enough. The Dallas Cowboys finally out-ran them 27-20.

Oh, and I hope all of you had a wonderful Veteran's Day! I'd like to give a special shout-out to the veteran in my life - my dad Bruce was in Vietnam.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Windy Harvest

Started off a windy, sunny day with oatmeal for breakfast (which I burned) and more war-themed cartoons. The Fleischer Brothers dropped Popeye in the war even before the US officially entered it. "The Mighty Navy" has Popeye end up peeling onions when he can't follow orders. He shows he has the right stuff for the Armed Services when he takes down two (unnamed) enemy ships. "Blunder Below" is basically the same deal, only this time, Popeye is attacking a submarine filled with (stereotyped) Japanese soldiers.

Most of the Popeye war cartoons were more typical variations on the love triangle with Bluto and Olive. "Kicking the Conga Around" had them in a dance battle when Bluto escorts lovely senorita Olive into the conga, but Popeye insists he can't dance. It takes spinach to get him up and moving. "Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix" when she visits the duo on their battleship and they fight over her again, this time making a mess of the ship in the process.

Headed out to the Collingswood Farm Market around 10:30. The Farm Market is on it's last two weeks. There were more craft booths than produce booths on display, but I did still manage to pick up some things. Grabbed small Fuji apples, cranberries, and broccoli rabe. I thought I'd try the rabe at home this week after the sandwich I had at Amato Bros yesterday was so tasty.

It was cold and windy when I was out riding, barely in the 40's. At least it was also much sunnier than it has been. It was perfect for riding to the Baptist Church in Oaklyn to check out their own craft fair. Their basement was lined with rows of hand-made jewelry, knitted baby blankets, and used toys. I decided there wasn't anything there I desperately needed and just ended up with a bag of snickerdoodle cookies from the bake sale upstairs.

Went home briefly next to put my produce away and finish out the Popeye shorts. "Many Tanks" lands Popeye in the Army when Bluto throws him into his uniform in order to take over his buddy's date with Olive. Popeye drives a tank to make it to his date, leading the entire Army on a crazy chase. He wants to deliver "Spinach Fer Britain," but a Nazi submarine gives him a hard time. Bluto's the one giving him a hard time when he insists he's "Too Weak to Work." He's really just bored. Popeye disguises himself as a nurse to get his big friend back on track.

Did the Superman war shorts while I made my grocery list and got organized. Given the tenor of the comic books of the time, it was probably inevitable that the Man of Steel would go up against the Axis on the big screen as well. "Japoteurs" has Superman rescuing Lois from a bomber that's been hijacked by Japanese spies. "Eleventh Hour" features some wonderful, shadowy animation to go with the relatively mature story of Superman sabotaging Japanese planes while he and Lois are prisoners of war, and then him having to rescue her when the Japanese put her up against a firing squad. Both cartoons are marred by stereotypes that are slightly less caricatured than the ones in the Popeye shorts. "Jungle Drums" has similar problems with stereotypes, this time of the African natives who believe a Nazi is a god. "Secret Agent" is the only Superman cartoon to not feature Lois. The Man of Steel has to safely get a woman with information on a German spying ring to Washington DC.

Went out again around noon, this time in the opposite direction to the Acme. I needed a much bigger grocery trip than last week. Had an online coupon for Quaker cereals; bought Cinnamon Life. Bags of mandarin oranges were on sale; got them instead of bananas. Restocked cream of mushroom soup, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, condensed milk, butter, yogurt, canned mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, tuna, cooking spray, conditioner, deodorant, whole wheat flour, and skim milk.

Got my schedule while I was there as well. Strange but decent hours this week. All mornings this time, including two very early days and three days off. I rarely get Sundays off; I never know what to do with them. Nothing is open that day.

Ran a couple of Walter Lanz Studio shorts from Universal while put everything away and made an Orange-Pumpkin Smoothie for lunch. Woody Woodpecker's only war-themed short was "Ace In the Hole." He wants to be a pilot, but his sergeant has him shaving horses. His antics when he does get in the air makes the sergeant regret ever having seen him."21 Dollars a Day (Once a Month)" uses toys to spoof the peacetime draft. (Look for brief cameos from Woody and Andy Panda here.) The peacetime draft is also poked fun at in "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B." A black trumpeter gets his base jumping with his swinging revel. The stereotypes here run hard and fast, but this is one of the few cartoons I know of to depict minorities in the military, and it does feature a great version of the title song.

"Pigeon Patrol" is a more typical wartime outing, and the first appearance of Homer Pigeon. He wants to become a carrier pigeon, but he's too small. He gets his chance anyway when a messenger goes down, and Homer is the only one who can deliver his papers. He has to get past a (heavily stereotyped) Japanese vulture to reach his destination.

The Acme called me while I was cleaning up from lunch. Could I come in tomorrow? I agreed to go in from 12 to 4. While a Sunday off would be nice, I really need that extra money.

Switched to Scooby Doo as I put together a buttermilk bread pudding with the French bread. "Loch Ness Mess" is from The New Scooby Doo Movies and re-teams Mystery Inc with the Harlem Globetrotters. The kids are visiting Shaggy's Uncle Nat, who has a mansion outside of Boston. They invite the resting Globetrotters to join them. Uncle Nat would be happy to have them, but the ghost of Paul Revere and a sea monster in the near-by bay are keeping him awake. The kids and the basketball players have to figure out what's really going on here, so Uncle Nat can get some sleep.

Did some writing while the bread pudding and slices of pumpkin were in the oven. Leia gets to take Nephew Fred's role in this story. Anakin pretty much disapproves of everything his outspoken daughter has done with her life, starting with her taking over her mother's charity and ending with her marriage to former pirate-turned-businessman Han Solo. Leia defends Christmas to her grouchy father and attempts to invite him to dinner with her husband and son Ben. Anakin refuses to go. He gets even angrier when she brings her mother up; her death is a sore spot with him. She does greet her brother warmly before leaving her father to his work.

Finished out Scooby Doo while eating leftovers with bread pudding for dessert. The remaining two episodes are shorts from The New Scooby Doo Mysteries, one of the Shaggy/Scooby/Scrappy/Daphne shows from the early-mid 80's. "Scooby Ala Mode" is closer to the rest of the series in its format. The two kids and two dogs are invited to a prestigious French cooking school, but end up having to catch the ghost of a former chef who haunts their catering hall. "Who's Minding the Monster?" is more of a straight horror-comedy. Shaggy and Scooby agree to babysit the child of Dracula and his wife while Scrappy and Daphne look for evidence of Frankenstein being real. Shaggy and Scooby think they have the easier job, until they see what the kid really is in the moonlight...

(And...unless you're a really huge fan of the 80's Scooby cartoons, I'd avoid this set. While the 80's cartoon episodes are new releases, the Globetrotters episode isn't. It's also false advertising. There's nary a skeleton to be seen in any of the episodes. The villains are ghosts or monsters.)

Finished the night after a shower with Anchors Aweigh for Veteran's Day weekend. I go into more detail on this 40's MGM extravaganza at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Anchors Aweigh.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Rainy Day Toons

Began a dark, gloomy morning with breakfast, then a run to WaWa. I needed money from the ATM for laundry. Bought a pretzel to break the two tens I got. Thankfully, it wasn't terribly busy, especially for WaWa in the morning.

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my laundry and went back out again. I really couldn't put this off anymore. Between towels and work clothes, my laundry basket was overflowing. I picked the right time. The laundromat was empty when I arrived, and it never got really busy. I worked on story notes and half-listened to the news and The Young and the Restless.

Once again, I got home, put everything away, then went right back out. By this time, it had started showering, and would continue raining in some capacity for the rest of the day. I had no choice. I had DVDs and books that were overdue. I had to run errands, starting at the Oaklyn Library. The rain must have chased everyone away there. The only other person there besides me was the librarian. I organized DVDs and shelved children's picture books before heading on my way.

Since it's only a couple of blocks from the library anyway, I had lunch at Amato Bros on the White Horse Pike. They were a basic deli with a few chairs and tables...until they burned down about three years ago or so. They were rebuilt and reopened last year, but I never got there until now. While it does still have a deli area, they're now mainly a bar and restaurant. I ate in the dark-wood dining area. It was rather cozy, with the raining coming down outside.

I had "Cousin Angelo's Chicken Steak," chicken with sauteed bruchetta (tomato pieces), broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on a seeded role. Oh, yum! It was amazing. The bold flavors worked beautifully with the well-seasoned chicken. The price wasn't bad, either. I'll have to eat there again sometime. I did miss them when they were under repair.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. They were just as quiet as the Oaklyn Library had been. The librarians had shelved almost everything earlier, but I did take a look at the DVDs and shelved the few kid titles. They finally had A Wrinkle In Time in. Took that out, along with Rampage, the film version of the video game from my childhood about monsters smashing a city. Having seen Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, I now felt I was able to check out the current PBS cartoon Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. They also had two new Scooby Doo three-episode collections in. I already had or had seen all of the episodes on Haunted House, but the ones on And the Skeletons were less familiar.

Made a quick stop at Target on my way home. I did check their shampoo section, but the Pantene Curl Formula wasn't any more or less expensive than the Acme's. That will wait for tomorrow. I did better with a new journal. Not only did they have notebooks, but they were 50 cents, unlike the $1.99 or more they cost at the Acme! Of course I had to have a red one.

By that point, the shower had picked up into a monsoon. It couldn't be helped. I had to get home. I just rode in the rain, dodged the traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike, and got drenched. I was so dripping when I got home, I had to change out of every single piece of clothing I wore and into something dry.

My computer gave me fits after I changed, but I did manage to get some writing done. Began my next story, A Star Wars Christmas Carol. Yeah, I know, it's too early, but I think I need it. Introduced Anakin Scrooge, who inherited his home and money lending business from Sheev Palpatine Marley, and his son and browbeaten clerk Luke. Luke's freezing in his cubicle, but his miser father won't unbend enough to allow him to warm himself by the stove.

I ran wartime-themed Looney Tunes shorts all day in honor of Veteran's Day Weekend. Termite Terrance's World War II propaganda output could mainly be separated into three categories. There were the sketch comedies on life in the barracks ("Meet John Doughboy") and on the home front ("The Weekly Reporter," "Wacky Blackout"). Both regular ("Herr Meets Hare," "Daffy the Commando") and one-off ("The Draft Horse," "Russian Rhapsody") characters starred in goofy shorts that allowed them to be thorns in the enemy's side. Two ("Fifth Column Mouse," "The Ducinators") were allegories on how the US had gotten into the War, and how they planned on winning it.

My favorite Looney Tunes shorts from World War II featured Bugs and Daffy. "Super Rabbit" spoofed Superman and other popular comics from the Golden Age of Superheroes. Bugs eats a super-charged carrot and becomes an ultra-strong rabbit. He has to deal with a cowboy and his horse who hates rabbits. When push comes to shove, he dons the costume of an even greater hero - a Marines officer. Daffy tries to out-run the Little Man from the Draft Board in "Draftee Daffy." "Falling Hare" has Bugs dealing with a clever gremlin who tries to force him out of a plane, then sends it into a free-fall.

Switched to Daffy Duck's Quackbusters while making Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies after dinner. I normally run this one in October, but given how crazy things got last month, I just never got around to it. Daffy inherits 20 million dollars from an eccentric industrialist who wants him to use it to start a business that will benefit society. He opens his own paranormal investigations office, hiring Porky, Sylvester, and Bugs to check out various supernatural phenomenon.

My only complaint is Mel Blanc's voice had changed so much by 1989 (this would be his last time voicing the Toons), it was hard for the later shorts to match up to the new ones. Other than that, the framing device is actually rather clever, and we do get a few new shorts. (And Mel Torme singing "Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives" in the opening.)

Finished the night with Follow the Leader. This was one of the last movies made by the East Side Kids before they evolved into the Bowery Boys. Mugs (Leo Gorcey) is upset when he's discharged from the Army due to poor eyesight. He gets a chance to redeem himself when he and his friend Glimpy (Huntz Hall) uncover a spy ring after two of their members get in trouble with the authorities. Mugs sends his pretty older sister to find out more...but they may be in over their head when the spies catch on.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

It's a Small World After All

It was still sunny this morning when I rolled out of bed (later than I planned). It was too late to start writing, so I ate breakfast, then made Cranberry "Old School" Muffins from an Alton Brown recipe. Ran the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy version of Rose Marie while I ate and baked. I go into more detail on that one at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Rose Marie (1936)

Headed off to work even before the movie ended. I wish I hadn't. The Acme was crazy-busy for most of the afternoon. Most kids get off early today and tomorrow for the New Jersey Teachers Convention...which means their parents likely got off early, too. That coupled with the free coupons and a lack of help (everyone was fine - the computer just didn't assign us enough help) meant that while I did manage to get some carts done when I came in and the inside trash done before I left, I was mostly panicking in a register. (And we were short on bagging help, too. The head bagger had a death in the family and left early.)

Went straight home from work, but things didn't go much better there. My computer was running slow, and I didn't really get to much writing. I did manage to post a few things, though. I wrote I Dance Alone ages ago, probably around 2002-2004. It's based after a real-life incident when I went to my first boy-girl party as a kid in the late 80's and ended up dancing by myself. I also posted an essay I wrote for the Heilum Network in 2012 about what dinner was like in my family in the 80's and 90's.

I Dance Alone
Family Dinners

Watched the rest of Rose Marie while eating a quick leftovers dinner. Did Downsizing after a shower. In the near future, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristin Wiig) volunteer for a procedure that'll shrink them to five inches tall. Not only will they shrink, but they'll be able to live in a town for people who were previously shrunk...and money that would have been meager at regular size is inflated to millions in the mini-town. Paul's all for it, but Audrey panics at the last moment and backs out. Their costly divorce lands him in a much smaller apartment and a bad job. He regrets his decision to shrink his life until he meets Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a cleaning woman who works for shrunken people in the neglected slums outside his town. He tries to help her make a better prosthetic foot, but breaks it and ends up helping her distribute food to the needy people of the slums instead.

A friend of Paul's (Christoph Waltz) agrees to take him and Ngoc to Norway to meet Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen, the creator of the downsizing formula and the head of the first mini town. He insists that humanity is doomed, no matter what size they are, and will take his community deep inside the earth to avoid extinction. Paul has to decide if he agrees with Jorgen and wants to leave the world all together...or if Ngoc is right and humanity can be saved.

It starts out with the unusual premise of shrinking people to escape their problems, but it doesn't really follow through with it's intentions. The second half loses focus; the story of Ngoc and the Norwegian colony that wants to avoid tragedy probably would have played the same way whether the actors were big or small. Damon's not bad as the man who just wants to do something important with his life, but it's Chau who steals the show as the woman who, despite her amputation and the loss of her home and family, already knows how to make a difference. Not to mention, this movie has no idea what it wants to be. It starts out as an ironic comedy, swings to stark drama when Ngoc comes in, and ends up as science fiction.

This was a flop when it came out last December; it just wasn't big enough to compete with The Last Jedi or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. While it was popular with many critics, most audiences weren't as amused. I'm afraid I'm going to side with them. This is all right if you're a fan of the cast, unusual sci-fi, or of director Alexander Payne's other films. For everyone else, it's a rental at best.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Sun Came Back to the Neighborhood

I awoke to a beautiful, sunny morning. It was much-appreciated, especially after the messy weather we've had for the past two days. I had a quick breakfast, then went right into cleaning the bathroom. I'm just going to scrub the bathroom and the kitchen and vacuum. I'll save the dusting and heavier cleaning for the end of the month, when I get ready to put up the Christmas decorations.

Ran more Mister Rogers' Neighborhood while I worked and ate. Mr. Rogers may have been noticeably older by the mid-90's, but his neighborhood journeys were as fascinating as ever. My favorite of the neighborhood adventures was the kid juggler. The Land of Make Believe wondered what was in a package that could change its shape and color and tried to figure out where Prince Tuesday and Little Panda had gotten lost at.

Headed to work shortly after finishing the bathroom. While still steady, work was a lot quieter than it has been. The decent weather coupled with the end of the four-day sales probably helped. I did the trash inside and outside, returned loose items, and rounded up carts and baskets with no trouble whatsoever. It had gotten cloudy, windy, and a little cooler by the time I finished, but that's still better than what it has been.

Finished up Little Red Riding Rose when I got home. Rose and Finn find a none-too-happy Leia tied up in the downstairs closet while Poe and BB the hound stall the wolf. After they get her to a sofa, she tells them how to deal with the wolf - by cutting off its head with Finn's ax. When they do this, the wolf reverts to his human form. Kylo Ren - aka Leia's son Ben - had been ordered by his evil master the Lord Snoke to gather energy and magic. Poe takes Ben into town to talk to Magistrate Holdo, while Leia, Rose, and Finn share a pleasant lunch.

That will likely be the last of my short Star Wars fairy tales for a while. I do have a version of Robin Hood that spotlights Han planned, but not only will that one need more research, but I just did a medieval fantasy story not long ago. I likely won't get to that one until January at the earliest.

My next Star Wars fanfic will be something different - a version of A Christmas Carol featuring many different characters from across the three movies, with Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader as Scrooge. I want to start this one a little earlier and actually get it done before Christmas this time!

For now, here's Little Red Riding Rose as an appetizer:

Archive of Our Own
Writer's Desk at the Riverside

Ended the night with leftovers and the last few episodes of Mister Rogers. By far my favorite of the neighborhood trips here was the amazing guy who could spin as many as five or six hula hoops around his body at a time. I'm more like Mr. Rogers. Even as a kid, I could barely get it around me once. That young man had some insane skills. I also liked the visit to another children's book author. Eric Carle wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar, among others. He demonstrated his unique, colorful way of painting patterns, and then using them for his illustrations.

Over at The Land of Make Believe, Lady Elaine refuses to believe that a gorilla can be tame. Daniel and Lady Aberlin have to prove otherwise when a giant gorilla visits the Neighborhood. Mayor Maggie just wishes she could find her assistant mayor. Another story introduced a fortune cookie who turned into a human, and for some reason, could only speak Spanish. He befriended Vice-Mayor Ader, Lady Aberlin, and Daniel. The final story had Lady Elaine judging the Neighborhood's art show. King Friday is worried that she'll be mean after having been insulted earlier in the week, but her unusual generosity reveals that she's learned her lesson.

The show's very first national episode from 1968 was included as an extra. Some folks at Amazon mentioned that their set had the first color episode from a year later. Haddon Township must have gotten a later set, because it was most definitely in black and white. It was really, really strange to see Mr. Rogers' house without color or those ugly floral curtains that had hung there for 30 years. The curtains were shutters, Mr. McFeely talked a mile a minute, and Mr. Rogers sat on a couch bed to communicate with the Trolley. The folks over at the Land of Make Believe complain about Lady Elaine having switched around where all their homes are, and they even ask Mr. Rogers for help figuring things out. After that, he talked to a bizarre lady who collected lampshades and used them as hats.

This was one trip down memory lane I desperately needed after the difficult couple of weeks I've had. I'm glad I wasn't able to rent it earlier in the month. I learned a lot from Mr. Rogers this week...including how wonderful it is to reconnect with old friends. The set is far from perfect. I hope if PBS intends to release more of these that they release full weeks' worth of episodes, even if they can't do full seasons due to the sheer length of time this show ran. It would be nice to have their original opening and closing credits intact as well.

If you grew up with this show like I or many others did, or were intrigued by the hit documentary about Mr. Rogers that came out this summer Won't You Be My Neighbor?, you'll want to reconnect with Mr. Rogers and be his neighbor, too.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

You're Not Elected In New Jersey, Charlie Brown

It was pouring when I rolled out of bed this morning. I cheered up a gloomy day with Schoolhouse Rock shorts themed around the government and how it works. "Three Ring Government" compares how the government is organized to a typical circus. "I'm Just a Bill" introduces one of the series' most beloved characters, who explains how a bill becomes law and how long that process often takes. "The Preamble" discusses the Constitution. "Tyrannosaurus Debt" is a pointed commentary on the US debt and how it keeps growing. "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" is one of the most recent songs in the series. This spoof of college fight songs shows how the Electoral College works and how a president is elected.

Did a few more shorts as I cleaned up from my cornmeal mush breakfast. Olive is the last person who hasn't voted in "Popeye for President." She can't get to the polls until her chores are done. Popeye and Bluto race to see who can finish her chores for her faster.

We see what happens after a candidate takes office in the Betty Boop/Grampy short "The Candid Candidate." The townspeople come to Grampy with a long list of grievances. The old man uses his many inventions to help solve his problems.

Worked on writing for the rest of a rainy morning. Rose finally makes it to Leia's house, only to find that she's missing. There's a strange creature in her with a big nose, big eyes, and big teeth. The wolf tries to spring out and gobble up Rose, but unlike the original story, she knows how to defend herself. She hits him over the nose with a wrench before he chases her downstairs.

Broke a little bit early to call Dad and Jodie. The rain wasn't stopping. I was going to need a ride to work. Got Jodie; they'd be fine driving me. (And it's a good thing I didn't call them for a ride yesterday. Dad has doctor's appointments on Monday.)

Worked on a Crock Pot lentil stew with carrots, celery, and onions while watching Tiny Toon Adventures. The Toons did two episode that spoofed elections and politicians; I went with 'Citizen Max" from the first season. In this parody of Citizen Kane, Max goes up against Buster for school president. He ultimately frames him for cheating and gets him expelled. Plucky and Babs help Buster to get even. Meanwhile, Hamton just wants to find out what Monty meant when he said "Acme."

Did two more shorts as I got ready to leave. Monty and Buster were hardly the first Looney Tunes to go toe-to-paw in the political arena. "Ballot Box Bunny" has Bugs competing against Yosemite Sam to become mayor of their small town. They both try every trick in the book they can think of to win, but the race has a surprising conclusion.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit loses "Confidence" when his hens get sick. He goes to Washington DC to get help from none other than FDR himself, and finds out more about the programs he set up to help Americans find work.

Jodie picked me up around 12:40. She apparently had to go to the bank anyway. While we were off-and-on steady for most of the afternoon, we weren't nearly as busy as we were yesterday. I did get stuck in the registers for a while; my break was late when I had to wait for a relief. Otherwise, I was mostly either outside doing carts, or inside doing returns.

The rain had stopped by the time I left for work and was off-and-on all afternoon, though not usually as heavy as in the morning. It had just picked up again when Dad came around. It slowed down by the time I was home eating lentil stew and finally seems to be gone at press time.

Finished out "Confidence," then moved on to The Monkees. Frustrated and angry when their elderly neighbors are forced out of their homes, Mike Nesmith goes to City Hall to complain. When the mayor more-or-less ignores him, he tosses his green wool hat in the political ring to become a "Monkee Mayor." The corrupt businessman who is backing the mayor wants to turn the whole city into parking lots...and he's determined to get Mike under his thumb, too.

We move from Southern California to Milwaukee for the second season Happy Days episode "The Not-Making of the President." Mr. Cunningham is shocked when Richie opts to vote for Democratic nominee Adalai Stevenson after he gets a crush on a cute girl who is heavily Democrat. Mr. Cunningham is a Republican who swears by Eisenhower. Richie is nervous when he has to give a speech at a political rally, but as he discovers, no matter which party he belongs to, his dad will always support him.

Headed to Pittsburgh for the Remember WENN episode "Strange Bedfellows" after a shower. Husband-and-wife radio actors Hilary Booth and Jeff Singer have entered the race for City Council on opposing sides. Manager Scott Sherwood sets up a debate on the air for the two, but a third party member may end up stealing their thunder.

Switched to the Disney live-action musical The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band as I went online. I go into more detail on this one at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band

I realized I forgot to do Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost last week. I normally do this one right after Halloween, but I didn't get the chance. This time, Scooby and the gang are off to New England at the request of famous horror novelist Ben Ravenscroft (Tim Curry). He claims his ancestor Sarah was a Wiccan - a healer - and not a terrible witch, but the townspeople have been seeing her ghost in their new Pilgrim community. Is the ghost the real thing, or is Ben right? And what do the goth rock group the Hex Girls have to do with it all?

Ended Election night with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown. The votes are in. Charlie Brown has no chance of being nominated for school president. Linus proves to be a more viable candidate, at least until he starts talking about the Great Pumpkin during a debate.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Welcome to the Neighborhood Jungle

Began a dark and rainy morning with breakfast and more Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers and the mailman Mr. McFeely hit a bowling alley to demonstrate sports to the kids, and we see a group of kids learn how to play in a junior bowling club. Meanwhile, in the Land of Make Believe, King Friday has created a sports team, complete with orange uniforms. Trouble is, they don't know what game to play. They settle on hide and seek...but Lady Elaine uses her own magic to find them too quickly. They end up asking her to join the team.

Spent the rest of the morning working on my current story. A sleek, black wolf stops Rose as she walks along the path. Unlike Little Red in the original story, she's not a child and is wary of the creature. She suspects he's not what he claims. He suggests she take a different path and pick some wildflowers to make Leia feel better. She does do it, but she has her suspicions about that wolf...

Broke for lunch at 1. Made a delicious smoothie with a banana, coffee yogurt, skim milk, peanut butter, and dark cocoa for lunch. Did more Mister Rogers as I put everything together. This time, the theme was recycling. While Mr. Rogers made a mini-TV from a box and puppets from rubber balls and fabric, the citizens of the Land of Make Believe are trying to figure out what to do with the trash that's overflowing in their land. Lady Elaine and King Friday hope that appearing on TV will give them the solution.

It was still raining by the time I left for work, but not as hard. I really didn't want to drag anyone out in the weather, so I just rode to work and got wet. Work wasn't that busy when I got in, but I still was stuck in the register for an hour and a half. One of the cashiers went home sick. Even after it slowed down enough for me to get out, the moment rush hour started, things went insane. I spent most of the rest of the day bagging. Between the weather, this being the beginning of the month, and those huge sales, we were crazy all through rush hour. It didn't help that we had a lot of people doing WIC checks or who just simply could not figure out the online coupon programs who were in less than wonderful moods. I was so happy when it finally died around 5:30, and I was able to spend my last half-hour doing returns. Thankfully, it wasn't raining when I finally headed out.

As soon as I got home, I had leftovers for dinner while finishing out the Mister Rogers disc. By far my favorite segment of the remaining episodes was a visit with Eric Hill, who wrote the children's books about Spot the dog until his death in 2014. It was really fascinating to see his actual drawings and painting for one of the books in the series. There was an interesting segment on a sneaker factory, and another one where Mr. Rogers went to the dentist (and revealed just what has and hasn't changed about dentistry since the early 90's).

Of the Land of Make Believe segments, my favorite was the one where the others tried to help fix King Friday's portraits after one of Lady Elaine's pranks got clay on them. Daniel Tiger doesn't think his drawing of a blue king is good enough to contribute, but Robert Troll encourages him to bring it over anyway. Lady Elaine is in the spotlight in a story where she flubs a line on the play she's putting on at the museum-go-round and has to be consoled by the others that she tried her best.

Finished the night with Jumanji. In 1969, a little boy, Alan, finds a board game at a construction site. He encourages his friend Sarah to join him at the mansion where he lives to play a round. Shortly after they start playing, Alan makes an accidental roll...and is sucked into the game! Sarah runs out screaming after she's chased by mysterious bats.

Fast-forward to 1995. Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) are now living in the restored mansion with their aunt. Bored one day, they find Jumanji in the attic and decide to give it a go. When they start playing, they unleash monkeys, mosquitoes, a lion...and an adult Alan (Robin Williams). He's been trapped in the game for the last 30 years and has been waiting for someone to roll again. They eventually discover that the only way to free Alan for good is to get Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) back into the game. Having been traumatized by Alan's disappearance, she wants no part of Jumanji or him now. Even when they talk her into playing, they unleash more animals, a stampede, and Van Pelt (Johnathan Hyde), a big-game hunter who is determined to bring down Alan. Now they have to figure out how to finish the game without either getting killed by animals, Van Pelt, carnivorous plants, or a local cop (David Alan Grier) with ties to Alan.

I was a teenager when we first rented this one in 1996, and I wasn't a big fan of it then. In fact, I thought it was pretty dumb. It's held up much better than I expected. Williams and Hunt are especially fun as the man who spent most of the last 30 years battling a jungle and the woman who has tried very hard to forget the whole thing ever happened. The special effects mostly look decent...and honestly, even when they're less-than-realistic, it sort of works with it just being a fantasy-based board game. Hyde and Grier are also nice as the big game hunter out to bag himself the human variety of prize and the cop who doesn't understand what the heck is going on.

This is one of the rare times I equally recommend the original and the reboot/remake. Both films play on different versions of the same premise - kids find themselves trapped in the world of a jungle game - and do it just as well.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Pumpkin Music

Began the day with work. Even with the Eagles off this week, we were still really busy. In addition to this being the beginning of the month, we're having a lot of really big sales. The Acme just rebooted their online coupon and gas rewards program to include grocery rewards as well...and some of those rewards and online coupons include free items. I tried to help the other bagger do the carts early in the day, but we couldn't keep up with them! They kept vanishing, and neither side was ever full. I had more luck doing outside trash and recycling. At least it was a nice day for it, sunny, chilly, and breezy without being as windy as yesterday.

After a brief stint being stuck in the register and I took my break, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon shelving two full carts of returns. It had slowed down somewhat by then, but was still fairly steady. I bagged twice when the lines got really bad.

As soon as I got off, I did my own grocery shopping. Good thing I mostly ate out of cans or the fridge last week and didn't really need much. Took advantage of those big sales and got free eggs and French bread, along with free flour and a dollar off from the new grocery rewards. Sugar is 99 cents this weekend, and I had a coupon for 49 cent frozen vegetables. Restocked honey, soup, brown sugar, skim milk, and yogurt. Got bananas and pears for fruit.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then made carrot pancakes for lunch. (I left in too much of a hurry to have them this morning.) Oh yum! They came out beautifully, spicy and just sweet enough. I even cooked them perfectly.

Listened to the original Broadway cast album of Newsies while I ate and got organized. There's quite a few changes to the stage version of the Disney cult musical. Jack, the head of the Newsies, has a deeper relationship with the disabled Crutchie, which makes him feel worse when he's arrested after the first strike and put in a boys' home. The sister Jack fell in love with that had no personality was combined with the reporter to become a girl writer who is looking for her first scoop. The older Swedish singer who performs for the Newsies' rally is now an older African-American singer. There's a song for the villains ("The Bottom Line"), for the girl reporter (my favorite of the new numbers, "Watch What Happens"), the singer ("That's Rich"), for the Newsies from the Boroughs ("Brooklyn's Here"), and two love duets ("I Never Planned On You" and "Something to Believe In") for Jack and the reporter.

Honestly, if you're a fan of this show, I recommend both the Broadway cast album and digging up the film soundtrack. They're equally fun, with casts that are just as good either way.

Decided to try something different after lunch while finishing out Newsies. The pumpkins I've been using for decorations have begun to get mushy black spots. The older one from the Collingswood Farm Market in particular was really bad. It's entire upper rim around the stem and part of the back was obviously rotting. Instead of throwing it away, like I usually do with my pumpkins after the season, I cut away the bad part, then roasted the seeds and baked the rest. One of the wedges was small enough to have with dinner tonight. The remaining three will be used for meals for the rest of the week.

Did a little bit of writing after the pumpkin seeds and parts were out of the oven. Poe and Finn warn Rose that a wolf has been seen in the area. He may not even be a wolf, but an evil magician in disguise. Rose shrugs them off. She can take care of herself. She's started down the path again when she encounters a huge black wolf with shiny red eyes...

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. I wanted to make Tuna and Peas in a pan, but I put in too much water and it got too soupy. Oh well. I had cream of tuna soup with peas, baked pumpkin and seeds, and crusty bread with apricot jam.

Listened to Call Me Madam as I made my meal. This includes both the RCA Victor cast album that used the entire original cast but star Ethel Merman, replacing her with the very different Dinah Shore, and the Decca album that had Merman singing most of the score solo (though Dick Haymes does join her for "You're Just In Love"). I skipped most of the Shore versions of Merman's numbers in favor of the real thing, with the exception of a genuinely lovely duet on "Marrying For Love" with Paul Lukas. As cute as the Merman/Haymes version of that song was, I think I might have liked the British version with a brassy Billie Worth even more. (There was a nice version of "It's a Lovely Day Today" included as well.)

Finished the night with the 2000 revival of 42nd Street. This version of the story of the chorus dancer who makes good in a 30's revue and becomes a Broadway star adds two more Harry Warren/Al Dubin songs, "With Plenty of Money and You" and "Keep Young and Beautiful," along with the classic ballad "I Only Have Eyes for You." As much as I love my original cast LP for this one, the revival is a lot of fun, too, especially "With Plenty of Money."

Saturday, November 03, 2018

It's a Windy Day In the Neighborhood

I just made it to work on time at quarter of 10. It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood, sunny, but colder and incredibly windy. I tried to get the returns done during the first half of my shift, but I kept getting called to do everything else, including clean up a cracked egg mess and find several items for people. I was glad to move outside after break and spend the rest of the day helping the other bagger with the carts. Wind or no wind, it was preferable to the insanity inside.

(And incidentally, from now on, the bike stays in the Acme's employee lounge when I work. It's a pain to drag it through the store, but it's obviously not safe where it was, either.)

Got my schedule after I finished. Other than a very early day tomorrow, it's mostly late morning and early afternoon work, perfectly normal for this time of year. My only complaint is that my next day off is Friday (although I have Friday and Saturday off), and slightly more hours might have been nice.

Headed home at 2:45. Read The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy for a while, then worked on writing. Began my last Star Wars short fairy tale of the year, Little Red Riding Rose. Rose Tico is a young lady who lives with her sister Paige in a small cottage in a great wood. She's excellent at fixing things and is often called by her neighbors to repair their furniture and early appliances. One day, Paige sends her to fix the stove owned by Leia Organa. Leia has hurt her ankle and can't fix it herself. Her brother Luke, the head of the woodsmen, is busy, and her husband Han is a sailor at sea. She gives her sister bread, apples, and cheese for lunch and admonishes her to beware of the wolves and other animals who live in the woods.

Rose stops and chats with her friends the Huntsman Poe and Woodcutter Finn on her way down the path. They exchange good-natured teasing, mostly about Poe's massive ego, but the boys also warn her of the dangers in the woods...especially the sorcerers and wizards who can turn into anything...

Charlie called me just as I was finishing with my writing. Seems there was a package waiting for me downstairs. Good. A friend of mine, Rodney Walker, said he sent me an early Christmas present. Turns out it was a much heavier and thicker lock for my bike. It was a variation on one of the ones I looked at but couldn't afford when I was at Target on Thursday.

Spent the rest of the night as I had spent the morning before work, watching episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. There were some touching and even sad sequences in this round. One of the "neighborhood" sequences had all the regular neighbors/puppeteers getting together and giving Mr. Rogers a surprise party after discussing "surprises" in the Land of Make Believe. Henrietta Pussycat also got a surprise party in that episode, though she thought everyone had forgotten her birthday because they were focusing on a comet King Friday insisted was his.

One fun "neighborhood" segment showed how a chef made spaghetti from a hand-cranked pasta maker. Another took Mr. Rogers to a local landmark, Lucy the Elephant, a giant elephant-shaped museum in Margate near Atlantic City. I also liked the visit to a Pittsburgh trolley museum. Mr. Rogers talked about how he rode trolleys as a child, and even got to drive a trolley.

There was some fun in the Land of Make Believe, too. Poor Ana Platypus was upset that her parents couldn't afford a bike like Prince Tuesday's in one segment. He offered to share his bike with his best friend, once he figured out how to ride it. In another segment, the entire Kingdom was late for a bass violin festival in Westville because they got mixed up and thought it was being held in their neck of the woods. Thankfully, no one was angry with the lateness, and they all enjoyed the violin music, puppet show (within a puppet show), and even dance. A third episode had O the Owl getting ready for the arrival of his cousin Mary (a human in an owl costume). While they waited, Lady Aberlin took O and Henrietta to visit a couple in another town who had just adopted a baby. In another story, Bob the Dog had to explain to Daniel Tiger that planting vegetable soup cans had resulted in rusty cans, rather than the soup can tree he'd built to make him happy.

Finished the night with leftovers for dinner and making Carrot Chewies from that carrot cake mix. (It's a variation on the Chocolate Chewies from the Cake Doctor cook book.) Watched the 2005 TV musical Once Upon a Mattress while I worked. I cover this one more thoroughly at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Once Upon a Mattress

Friday, November 02, 2018

Remembering My Dad

I was up way too late last night and overslept. I barely had time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and round up the cookies for Anny and her crew before I heard from Dad and Jodie. I wanted to wear my black skirt, but I had no good shoes to go with them. I settled for black jeans, my dark teal long-sleeved t-shirt, and sneakers (and being warm).

It was cloudy, windy, humid, and way too warm, probably in the mid-70's, when Dad and Jodie picked me up around 10:30. Thankfully, other than a few sprinkles, the rain held off. We took the long away across the Pine Barrens, past Tuckahoe and Maurice River, onto the Garden State Parkway past Cape May Court House and Rio Grande. At least the foliage has finally started turning colors here. Some of the trees were really incredible shades of orange, rust, golden yellow, and lime green.

They dropped me off at Mom's house around noon. (Dad and Jodie spent the afternoon at the home of their friends Brian and Diane, who live in West Cape May.) Rose and her family and my brother Keefe and his girlfriend were already there, watching Trolls while Rose did Finley's hair. Keefe had come up from Norfolk, Virginia, where he currently lives. Mom didn't get in until later with cold-cuts to make wraps and sandwiches. I had a turkey-provolone wrap with spinach and pickles as Anny arrived not long after with her sons Skylar and Collyn, daughter Lilah, and boyfriend Jay.

One surprise was my Aunt Terri and her son Adam, up from the Smoky Mountains in Virginia. I haven't seen them since the late 90's, when Adam used to visit Anny regularly. (He and Anny are close in age and are good friends.) Aunt Terri is Mom's younger sister. We went to Thanksgiving at their house a couple of times in the 80's, and Rose stayed with her for a while in 2001-2002 when she was finishing school at American University in Washington DC. Aunt Terri knows I love to bake. She sent me the Betty Crocker Cooky Book that I get my Merry Christmas Molasses Cut-Outs and Cherry Coconut Bars recipes from for Christmas around 2000. I spent all of that Christmas Day looking over that book.

The memorial service was at Evoy Funeral Home on Breakwater Road in North Cape May, just five minutes from Mom's house in Erma. It's a beautiful old building with a pond and trees in front. I have fond memories of riding past it on my way to the Villas Library or to visit my friend Bridget in the 90's and early 2000's. I'd stop to get a Clearly Canadian at the Eckards across the street (now a Rite Aid) and wonder if it was just as grand inside.

It is. There was a nice, if musty, foyer with a fireplace when we entered. The brown and gold main room was filled with people. The line of people Mom, Keefe, and Rose greeted stretched all the way around the room and into the foyer. I saw Keefe's old friend Austin Carson and his mom Diane. Mrs. Carson was my teacher at Lower Cape May Regional High School in the 90's, and she became friends with Mom after Austin and Keefe got to be pals in pre-school. In fact, Austin helped Keefe with the flowers and decorations.

Grandma Ann, Dad's mom, is my last living grandparent. She's still very much alive and kicking at 91. (And she tells stories that are almost as good as her son's were.) Aunt Mary, Dad's vivacious younger sister who lives in Manhattan, was with her. They were joined by Dominique, the daughter of Dad's older brother Dennis, and her husband. Dennis and his family lived here briefly around 1990. I remember babysitting Dominique and how crazy she was about Barney the Dinosaur. I had to see a lot more of the videos than I would have preferred the winter I looked after her.

Along with several of Mom and Dad's current neighbors in Erma, I saw some of my sisters' long-time buddies. Sheila came up from Virginia; Colleen came from Harrisburg. They were Rose's best friends in high school, and they keep in touch with her via Facebook and e-mail. (And Colleen takes the train down from Harrisburg from time to time.) Joey is a teacher in Middle Township, representing him and his twin brother Jason, who just started a new job and couldn't get out of work. Anny's old friends Jenny and Rachel apparently live a few hours away, but keep in touch with Anny on Facebook and came down as soon as they heard. Dad and Mom were like parents to all of them.

The flowers were absolutely gorgeous, several of them sent by old friends of Dad's. One couple ordered a beautiful four-foot anchor made from white roses from a local florist. Another gave Mom a really lovely autumn bouquet for her living room.

It was nearly quarter of 3 by the time everyone sat down. Since it was so late, the pastor kept his speech brief. He quoted from the funeral home's obituary for Dad, talking about how Dad was a beloved "Poppy" to his grandchildren, and how he could relate because he had grandkids of his own. He spoke of Dad's 40 years as a fisherman, and how his loved ones always looked forward to when he came home.

And that's when I finally started crying...because it's true. We did look forward to Dad coming home from a fishing trip. He'd call from whatever boat he was working on, and we'd all gather around the phone, hoping to talk to him. And when he came home, in his oversized canvas work gear, he'd give us all hugs and kisses before his wife reminded him that he smelled like fish and that he needed to get in the shower.

I closed my eyes and just let the tears fall. Daddy is never going to come home again. I'll never get that fishy hug, or hear him tease Mom and call her "darlink." He'll never take me for a ride around Cape May on his motorcycle, never hug his grandchildren, or go fishing with Keefe or put Anny on his shoulders or play catch with Rose. Mom held my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, but I couldn't open my eyes. I couldn't face her, or anyone.

Daddy, I know you're in a better place, but...I miss you. And I always will.

I'd recovered by the time the pastor finished. Rose, Anny, Keefe, and I looked over the three boards filled with old photos of Dad Keefe and Mom dug out of our family collections. There were so many wonderful memories! I saw one of him and me from probably the early-mid 90's, from the giant pink-framed glasses I'm wearing. There was one of him holding Anny as a tiny infant, with a 6-year-old Rose perched on the arm of his favorite chair, I think from right after we moved to the house on Maryland Avenue in Cape May. There were a couple of him in his younger years in the 70's, complete with tube socks and a giant Afro.

Poor Anny was still crying. Rose hugged her...and I hugged them as hard as I could. Keefe looked over, said "what the hell," and threw his arms around the three of us. We stood there for a few minutes, laughing and crying and holding each other. It felt so good.

Jodie and Dad picked me up around 3:30. Almost everyone else was either going home, or back to Mom's house, including Mom and my sisters. Keefe was the only one who was moving on to the Red Brick Ale House, formerly the Bayshore Inn, Dad's favorite watering hole after we moved to North Cape May in the 90's. I think the after-party was mostly for Dad's old fishing cronies.

They dropped me off at my place around quarter after 5. I wasn't up for much more than scrambled eggs with cheese and mushrooms and Cranberry Flummery for dinner. After I ate, I pulled out my own collection of photos, looking for non-holiday pictures of Dad. Actually, along with finding pictures of Dad, I finally dug up some pictures I thought were lost, including the photo of me in my Velma costume from Halloween 2010.

I went for a walk in Wildwood Crest one day when I was bored around 2003-2004, during my time in Wildwood. Since I had extra pictures on my camera and this was the height of the hotel demolition spree there, I took photos of some of the vintage 50's-60's hotels before they were gone. Of the six or so hotels I photographed, two of them, the Three Coins and the Tahiti, were eventually victims of the wrecking ball. (I swear I took more photos, but I may have given some to Dad-Bruce, who used to work as a lifeguard in Wildwood during it's 60's-70's heyday.)

Watched episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood while I looked over the books. The show's premise was simply. Kindly Fred Rogers introduces kids to his home, his fish, and the unique residents of his neighborhood (inspired by his real-life neighborhood in Pittsburgh). My favorite of the real-life residents was the storyteller, who invented a sweet tale of a bubble that entrapped a king who thought it was bad. No one could get him out...except his daughter, who treated the bubble like the toy it was.

The second half of the show focused on the Land of Make-Believe, a world where puppets and humans interacted. This is where the piecemeal episode selection became a problem. The Land of Make Believe story-line ran throughout the week. Characters would refer to events in episodes that weren't included on the set. It was nice to see all the characters again, though, especially my old favorite Henrietta Pussycat. My favorite episodes had King Friday convince Lady Elaine to return to the Land of Make Believe with her revolving museum after he lifted a rule that banned play, and the rather sweet segment that had Lady Aberlin helping Daniel Tiger to test his new string walkie-talkie, then staying with him when it started to rain.

Finished out the night after a shower with Ant-Man and the Wasp. Why wasn't Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in Avengers: Infinity War? He was under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. With only days left until he's released, he receives a message from Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfiffer), Hope's (Evangeline Lilly) mother, the original Wasp who is now trapped in the quantum realm. He passes the message onto Hope and her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglass). Despite not being happy with Scott over the Civil War incidents, they agree to get him out and leave a decoy so the FBI won't know. Hank manages to create a tunnel into the realm, but they need a special part to make it work. Unfortunately, the black market dealer they buy it from double-crosses them when he realizes how much money he could make off the suits.

Things get even worse when a young woman with unstable molecules (Hannah John-Kamen) appears to go right through them, shrinking Hank's lab to the size of a cube and taking off with it. She's the daughter of  one of Hank's former partners, who killed himself and his wife and damaged his daughter's molecular structure with one of his experiments. Now they have to get the lab back before the tunnel to Janet closes, all while making sure the FBI doesn't know Scott's out of the house.

While the whole "quantum tunnel" thing was a little strange, this was mostly just as much fun as the first movie. Lilly and Rudd in particular were having a great time as the couple who are still figuring out how to work all this shrinking and growing. (And Michael Pena was just as much fun this time around as Scott's goofy buddy Luis.) If you need a few laughs in your superhero films after the darkness of Justice League and Infinity War, you'll want to give this one a look.

(And incidentally, we did get lucky in one way. It didn't start really raining hard here until around 7, by which time I was already watching Mr. Rogers and long at home.)