Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quiet Summer

Once again started off the morning with writing. Luke and Artie arrive at a slightly run-down neighborhood just outside of San Francisco's Chinatown. Luke is surprised to see that the old Victorian building is owned by a renown professor. They're about to go looking for Yoda when they encounter an tiny, ancient Asian man on the sidewalk. Artie recognizes him. Yes, this is Dr. Yoda Chiang, a leading authority on the Swords of Light and Alderaan. The older Asian scholar and the black chauffeur embrace before Yoda brings them in his home.

The electricians arrived around 9. I was writing when they came in. They unplugged the air conditioner, checked all the sockets, and turned the electricity on and off several times. I have no idea what they found, or what the verdict was. No one told me, at any rate. Charlie was up here all morning, hammering the new porch/roof into position.

Listened to my Tony Orlando and Dawn's Greatest Hits LP while having a quick lunch. Most of these songs are considered cheesy as hell today, but I still have a soft spot for a couple of them, including "Candida," "Summer Sand," and "Hey Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?"

Work was utterly, totally dead all day. I haven't seen it this quiet on a nice day since Halloween. It was never even mildly busy. I did the trash three times and cleaned the bathrooms twice, did returns, and gathered baskets. I did round up carts twice during the first half of my shift, but another guy arrived around 3 who took over what little there was to do. Spent most of the afternoon wandering around the store, putting things away and trying to look busy. It was absolutely gorgeous today, sunny and much drier than yesterday, with a nice, cool wind. Most people were likely either on vacation, or outside taking advantage of the decent weather.

Charlie and his men were long done by the time I made it home. I was able to eat leftovers for dinner and play Lego Clone Wars in peace. Didn't really get very far tonight. Got one more piece on "Weapons Factory," but had no luck with "Jedi Crash."

Finished the night with The Natural. Roy Dobbs (Robert Redford) is the title character, a one-time pitching protege who is drafted by the New York Knights in 1935 as one of the oldest "rookies" in baseball. Turns out that the only reason he was hired was because the owner of the team, the Judge (Robert Duvall), wanted the team to lose the pennant and get the share from the co-owner and manager "Pop" Fisher (Wilford Brimley). He finally proves his worth when he takes over for the team's ailing star (Michael Madson) and becomes an overnight sensation, winning game after game. He's encouraged by a former sweetheart, Iris (Glenn Close) and turns down bribes from the Judge and his cohort Gus Sands (Darrin McGavin). The men finally have him poisoned with the help of Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), Pop's niece, right before they're to clinch the pennant. Turns out that Dobbs had once been shot by a woman (Barbara Hershey) who then committed suicide, and it ruined his life and damaged his stomach. He may die if he plays...but he's too devoted to the team and to Iris to let them down now.

Standard melodrama enlivened by wonderful performances by Redford, Brimley, Duvall, and the ladies, stunning cinematography, and one of Randy Newman's best scores. Close was Oscar-nominated as Dobbs' biggest fan. Necessary if you're a fan of Redford, period drama, or the National Pastime.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Golden Days

Spent most of the morning and early afternoon writing and avoiding both Charlie and his men working on the porch/roof and a hot, sunny day. After their kiss under the hood, Leia and Harry are feeling a little more kindly to each other. Harry tells Leia that he and his navigator Charel have a friend who knows the black market for artifacts inside and out. Laurence "Larry" Carlyle now runs a hotel and nightclub in Bespin on the French Riviera. No one knows more about the comings and goings of antiques than he does. Leia is a little wary, but with the Falcon stalling and Vader on their trail, they don't really have much of a choice.

They don't see Roberto Fettara, in his garbage-covered truck, hiding in the trees under them. He calls his "boss" - Vader - and tells him that the Silver Falcon is on its way to France...and he has a pretty good idea of where in France it's heading...

Broke for a quick lunch at 1. Writing Harry and Leia's kiss yesterday put me in the mood for something romantic. The Student Prince is an operetta about the unhappy romance of a bar maid and a prince in disguise in Heidleburg in the early 1900's. He falls for her as a college student, but they're unable to marry because she's a commoner. They end up marrying people from their own social classes...but they'll never forget the "golden days" of their romance.

It was sunny when I went to work, hot, hazy, and humid. It's probably a good thing that I only did the carts twice, and not for longer than 20 minutes either time. By quarter of 4, dark clouds had begun to move in. It showered lightly on and off while I was doing carts. The monsoon didn't start until I was on break in the back room. I spent the rest of the afternoon inside. Got stuck in the register a few times. Someone called out, leaving us short on help. Between the weather and the time of year, we were mostly quiet anyway.

Luckily for me, the rain was long gone by the time I got out at 6, though it remained cloudy and humid. I went straight home. There was a message on my machine from Charlie when I got in. Something about the electrician coming tomorrow morning. Great. I'll never get any writing done.

Cheered up with leftovers for dinner and more Lego Clone Wars. Completed "Liberty at Ryloth" and got three more pieces on "Weapons Factory" and one more on "Defenders of the Peace." Completing "Liberty" gave me a standard Original Trilogy Stormtrooper.

Ended the night with Sherlock Gnomes. Garden gnomes across London have gone missing, including all of the gnomes from the garden where Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) live. Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and his assistant Watson (Chiwetel Ejofor) arrive and bring the feuding lovers along with them. Their trail takes them from a Chinese shop filled with hostile cat figurines to the park to a toy shop that's the home of Sherlock's resentful ex-lover Irene (Mary J. Bilge). While Juliet chats with Irene about the importance of love over duty, Sherlock mourns the loss of Watson, whom he believes was smashed, and Gnomeo finds the missing gnomes at the Tower Bridge. Sinster pie mascot Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou) has evil plans for the gnomes, if Sherlock, Watson, and the lovers can't get to them in time...

This is pretty much the same deal as the original film. It's not bad. The animation is colorful and cute, and there's occasionally some good lines or an interesting idea. But the "appreciate your partner" aesop is cliched and overdone, the mystery is telescoped from miles off, and some of the characters are annoying as heck (like Moriarty - and his design is ugly, too). Blunt comes off best as determined Juliet; Ejofor is also decent as Watson, who just wants his friend to give him his due.

If you have kids who may enjoy the colorful characters or really, really love the cast or the first film, this is worth seeing once. Everyone else can probably in all good faith skip it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

Began a hazy morning with instant Cream of Wheat for breakfast and some Bowery Boys to drown out Charlie cursing over the sagging porch/roof. (Hey pal, it's not my fault your idea of "good weather" for working always seems to be during a heat wave.) Jungle Gents is one of the later movies that mainly focuses on Slip and Sach's antics. Sach has been taking huge pills that somehow allow him to smell diamonds. When he stops a robbery, the millionaire owner of the diamonds he saves offers to send the guys to Africa to find a lost diamond mine. The guys are about ready to brain Sach after he loses the map, but he's the one who saves them from an angry witch doctor and figures out who doesn't want them to find that mine.

Work was absolutely no problem whatsoever. We were totally dead all day. Never got even mildly steady. I did carts and gathered trash in the morning, put toilet paper in the bathroom, rounded up more carts, and scrubbed registers in the afternoon.

When I got home, I worked on writing and continued to ignore the guys working outside. Did some re-writing to add a scene where the Silver Falcon, Harry's plane, starts smoking. He brings her down in a valley in the Swiss Alps to check her out. While his co-pilot Charel takes a look at the cockpit with the help of nervous secretary Clarence, Harry and Leia check out the engine. They end up kissing under the hood before Clarence bursts in and ends their romantic rendezvous.

 Broke at 6 to have leftover hot dogs, cucumber salad, and the last of the onion rings for dinner. Made chocolate pudding for dessert. Played Lego Clone Wars after I finished eating. It took me almost an hour and a half, but I finally completed "The Hidden Enemy" and the epilogue level "The Zillo Beast," which netted me Greedo and Chewbacca respectively. I'm going to see if I can finish the remaining levels before I move on to other bonus rounds or finish the bounty hunter levels.

Finished the night with Annie. Based after the long-running comic strip, the title character (Aileen Quinn) is a spunky orphan living in New York City during the Great Depression. She's perpetually running away from the orphanage's soused manager Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett) to find her real parents. During one such attempt, she acquires a mutt she names Sandy, whom she brings back with her. Both are taken in shortly after by Grace Farrell (Ann Renniking), the secretary for crusty British billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney). Annie loves her new life with Warbucks and his eccentric staff, but she still wants a real family and her real parents. Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster (Tim Curry), and his girlfriend Lily (Bernadette Peters) want to exploit her wish and get the reward Warbucks is offering. Annie's friends at the orphanage sound the alarm, and Warbucks' diverse household, including mystical Indian bodyguard Punjab (Geoffrey Holder), go to her rescue.

I've loved this big, bright musical for literally most of my life. According to Mom, it's one of the first live-action movies I ever saw in a theater (along with Return of the Jedi). Critics have been rough on it for years, complaining that it's too far from the stage show (though they have softened on it a bit recently, especially after the modern remake in 2014 proved to be even more polarizing). John Huston may not have been the right choice for director (the movie moves at a snail pace and the action-packed finale is completely out of place), but the numbers are fun, and there's some great performances, especially from Burnett (whose "Little Girls" is a highlight) and Renniking.

If you have little girls who are fans of musicals and can handle the period aspects, give this one a whirl. (Girls looking for a more recent flavor and cast may want to try the 2014 film first.)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

I Can See Clearly Now

I awoke to a gloomy, damp morning. Brightened the day with Blueberry Pancakes and the K-Tel collection I found yesterday, High Energy. It's pretty obvious this is from the height of the disco craze in 1979, with tracks like G.Q*'s "Disco Nights" and "Shake Your Groove Thing" by Peaches & Herb. Other favorites here include "Fire" by Bonnie Pointer, "Le Freak" by Chic, "Love Will Find a Way" by Pablo Cruise, "Renegade" by Styx, and "Knock On Wood" by Amii Stewart.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. Palpatine tells Vader that he wants the swords, and he's to get them by any means necessary...including killing those who have found them. Vader thinks the Skylark twins would make better apprentices instead and convinces his seemingly frail boss to hire them rather than kill them.

Meanwhile, the Silver Falcon is on it's way across Europe. Leia wants to find the Sword of Wisdom, which was stolen from the temple before her godfather Bail's ill-fated dig. Harry suggests they head to the South of France to talk to his friend Laurence Caryle, the owner and manager of a casino in the town of Bespin on the Mediterranean.

It had started raining while I was on the computer. There was even some thunder at one point. It continued as I broke for lunch and finished the High Energy album. Thankfully, it had slowed down somewhat by the time I left for work. I couldn't have gotten a ride. Dad and Jodie went on vacation this week, and I didn't want to drag Rose and her kids out in this. It ended all together just as I rode into the Acme's parking lot. I arrived damp but not soaked.

Work was surprisingly pretty quiet, much more than it usually is on a Sunday. Some folks may have been avoiding the weather; others are still on vacation. It got busy enough at one point for me to briefly end up in a register, and another to do some bagging. Otherwise, I helped the teenagers with the carts and rounded up baskets and trash.

A Tastycake truck parked itself on the patio as I was helping the kids with the last round of carts. They were giving away free Chocolate Juniors (cakes) and Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. I opted for the latter. I figured they'd be easier to eat on my way home than the slab of chocolate frosting and sponge cake.

Started dinner when I got in. Finally made the turkey hot dogs, with steamed broccoli and brown rice. Yum. Simple and tasty. The broccoli was especially good, given how long I'd had it around. Listened to another K-Tel collection while I ate. Superstars Greatest Hits is from 1974, probably the earliest K-Tel album I own. By far my favorite song on this set is the lovely Oscar-winning theme from The Poseidon Adventure, "The Morning After."

Finished the night with a long Lego Clone Wars session. Completed the prologue "Geonosian Arena" (after I finally figured out how to "corral" the droids in the electric pen) and the bonus missions "Hostage Crisis" and "Castle of Doom." Completing the rounds released Emperor Palpatine, a Red Imperial Guard, and a Tusken Raider respectively. Got three pieces on "Jedi Crash" and one on "Shadow of Malevolence."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Summertime Harvest

Started off an absolutely gorgeous morning with breakfast and more Scooby Doo. You can't get much more late 70's than "The Diabolical Disc Demon." Mystery Inc has come to a recording studio to make an album. The writer they were going to work with has vanished, however, leaving behind a half-finished song that a KISS-like ghost seems to be especially interested in.

Charlie appeared around 9, banging and hammering. Turns out, yes, he decided to start taking down the old porch/roof and putting up the new one today. I wish he'd given me some heads-up besides his mother mentioning in the letter I gave to Rose that he'd be starting it "when the weather was right." I'm to come and go via the steep stairs that lead through Charlie's side of the house.

Headed out around 10 to run errands. There was a big green sign for a yard sale on Woodland Terrace at the end of Goff Avenue. Yard sales are rare here in the summer. Alas, I saw nothing of interest and moved on.

Next stop was the Collingswood Farm Market. The summer harvest is in full swing now...and so are the crowds looking for produce for their barbecues and pool parties. I saw cantaloupe and spaghetti squash for the first time today, and the orchard booth finally had the little peaches I like. I also grabbed blueberries, a tomato, and two ears of corn.

I had no other major plans for today, so I decided to stroll around Collingswood for a few hours. I needed new heads for my electric toothbrush; picked them up at Rite Aid. Used the bathroom at the library, then went across the street to InnerGroove Records and checked them out. It took me 40 minutes, but I came up with:

The Story of Star Wars - Five dollars for this book-and-record kids' is cheap compared to what it usually costs elsewhere. The book's missing, but it's not like I don't already have a vintage picture book version of New Hope anyway.

High Energy - Another awesome K-Tel rock collection, this one from 1979

Linda Rondstat - For Sentimental Reasons (replacing a cassette copy I've had for years)

WIBG 30 Big Goldens - Classic rock collection, this one from what was then known as WIBG AM in Philadelphia (they're now WNTP, a conservative talk radio station)

After briefly peeking at Frugli Consignment, I decided some lunch was in order. I forgot how popular Collingswood is on Saturdays. Sabrina's Cafe had a long line; The Pop Shop was full to capacity. Ended up at Tortilla Press for their brunch. While they weren't as busy, there were enough groups there to keep the staff hopping. I watched them and the cars passing by the intersection of Collings and Haddon Avenues outside while having an egg sandwich with peppers and onions for lunch.

Took the long way home via Newton Lake Park across from the CVS, where I watched the fireworks on the 4th. I wish the park wasn't looking so dry. We so badly need rain. Most people must have been in town. I saw one woman coming back from the bus stop on the White Horse Pike and a couple of kids on bikes.

Went right into dusting when I got home. Put on the WIBG collection and turned it up to drown out Charlie's cursing. I shouldn't have put off cleaning for so long. The dust was really bad, especially in my bedroom where the window was open.

Worked on writing for a while after I finished as Charlie pulled ancient siding off the side of the house. Angry over losing his quarry, Vader strangles the officer who'd been in charge of capturing them, then gives the nearest officer, Admiral Piett, his job. He defers only to Palpatine, the dictator of Coruscant, who is also with him. He tells Palpatine that he knows who Luke and Leia are and that he wants to train them and Harry as apprentices. Palpatine thinks this is an excellent idea, especially if they want to get the Sword of Light back and find the other two.

(And I heard Charlie complain after he got the siding off that he found ants burrowing into the side of the house. While I do still on rare occasions see ants in the house, I haven't had a major infestation since that one year there were a couple of branches of old trees leaning on the roof. Charlie, of course, was more worried about them getting into his side than mine.)

Broke at quarter of 6 for a quick leftovers dinner and Lego Clone Wars. Completed "Rookies" and got the character for that round, Darth Maul. Found one more piece on "Shadow of Malevolence" and two on "Lair of Grievous." No luck with "Destroy the Malevolence," though.

Switched to the remaining episodes on the Scooby Doo disc to finish the night. "Scooby's Chinese Fortune Kooky Caper" is slightly less stereotypical than their first Chinese case, "Mystery Mask Mix-Up." A friend of the gang's who lives in China is being haunted by The Moon Monster, a creature so terrifying, it turns anyone who stands in its shadow to stone. The creature wants him to toss family's fortune into the Rampoo River or deal with a terrible curse...but Velma thinks there's more to it than that.

"A Menace In Venice" is a similar story, only this time, they're in Italy, and it's a necklace, rather than an entire treasure, the gang has to defend. A ghost haunts him, insisting that he give up the valuable jewelry.

A ghostly military commander in Puerto Rico warns them "Don't Go Near the Fortress of Fear." Shaggy and Scooby are more than happy to concede his request. The others would rather make a few inquiries as to what he really wants there.

"The Warlock of Wimbleton" frankly looks more like a super-villain from a bad 70's comic book than a warlock who tries to terrorize a young British tennis player into quitting the game. The gang hits Stonehenge to see if the warlock is the real deal.

The disc - and the series - ended in Canada with "The Beast Is Awake at Bottomless Lake." This time, they're on a fishing trip to the title destination when they discover it's going dry. A fishy Beast is driving tourists away from the town and drying up the water. The gang try to figure out what it is that the Beast really wants.

If you're a Scooby fan, these later-day Where are You episodes are just as much fun as the originals from earlier in the 70's. However, taken as a whole, they can get repetitive and a bit dull despite the changes in settings. I can almost understand why they brought in Scrappy shortly after - something different was needed.

The Scooby TV series, especially the earlier ones, are really best taken as they were originally intended to be - in small, bite-sized doses. Binge-watching reveals how formulaic they are; watching episode by episode lets you enjoy the settings and Scooby and Shaggy's antics without the feeling of sameness.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Meddling Kids on Friday the 13th

Began a gorgeous Friday the 13th morning with another Scooby Doo mystery. Skipping the oft-seen "The Creepy Case of Old Iron Face," we moved on to "Jeepers, It's the Jaguaro!" The members of Mystery Inc are on their way to Rio De Janaro for their Carnival when their private plane makes an unexpected stop in the Amazon jungles. They discover that the Jaguaro, a giant half-ape, half-jaguar creature, has been scaring the natives away from the river...and that the natives are head-hunters who are more interested in their noggins than in helping them solve the mystery.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. Vader gets out of his majestic Duseberg just in time to see the Silver Falcon and Wedge's plane the Rogue fly off in different directions. He strangles one of the Imperials to death for not being able to stop him or to stop the fire from consuming an entire wing of the Armory, including Tarkin and their original blueprints for the laser guns.

Broke for a peach-brown sugar smoothie and more Scooby Doo at 12:30. Shaggy and Scooby would love nothing more than to "Make a Beeline Away from that Feline" when they discover that a strange green cat-like monster is robbing jewelry stores in New York City. Daphne's aunt is convinced that a medallion she got in the mail is transforming her into the creature. Velma and Fred think there's more to it than a fairy-tale spell, starting with her rather creepy doctor.

Headed to the Acme after lunch to get my schedule and do some grocery shopping. This week's schedule is once again...actually pretty darn good. Only two days off, next Friday and Saturday, but more hours, and nothing out of line for this time of year.

While I didn't need a whole lot more this week than I did last week, I did need a few pricey things. Ground turkey and turkey hot dogs were the cheapest meats I could buy. Picked up cherries on a good sale. The Acme's also having a big sale this week on ice cream in pints; went with Ben & Jerry's new "Moolatta" PB Dough ice cream, which I had an extra online coupon for. Several healthy instant hot breakfast cereals were on the clearance shelves. I grabbed Cream of Wheat's Mixed Berry with Almonds. Restocked butter, cheese, skim milk, yogurt, canned black beans, and canned chicken.

Ran more Scooby Doo while I put everything away. "The Creepy Creature of Vulture's Claw" is a giant bug-man who's terrorizing a historic garden. There seems to be too many suspects in this case, including a bumbling professor who wants to buy the place, a developer who wants to tear it down, a nerdy assistant, and the gatekeeper, who just doesn't want anyone on his land. Even Velma is confused...until she and the others figure out why the bug is really after the gardens.

Went right back out to do the laundry as soon as the episode ended. Maybe I should have done this earlier in the day. It was mobbed when I arrived. I grabbed one of the last two washers open, and there weren't that many dryers, either. I focused on my story notes and tried not to bump into too many people.

Once again, I put everything away, then went out again as soon as I was finished. I wanted to have a nice swim and talk to Dad and Jodie. One of the neighbors and their 4-year-old daughter Savannah were already in when I arrived. I swam around them and laughed as they chased each other and dove underwater and played tag and hit each other with foam noodles. The water was just perfect, warm but not bathwater-warm like it was on the 4th. A cool wind blew ripples across the water's aqua-blue surface.

I offered to pay half of my train tickets for my vacation now and pay Dad and Jodie back for the rest in the fall. The bike was a birthday gift, but they did mostly pay for the air conditioner. I felt pretty bad about that. They said they were fine with the tickets, and that I should save for my rent and for spending money on my trip.

Found out from Jodie that, after having lived together and having two kids (and two dogs) together for at least a decade, Rose and Craig got officially married in the winter. TJ even married them. Something about insurance purposes. I don't care that they didn't do a wedding, but it would have been nice if they'd told me.

After we all got out of the pool and the neighbors went home for dinner, Jodie ordered us all hoagies, onion rings, and hot wings from Amato Bros on the White Horse Pike. She was fit to be tied when she finally came in with the food. Evidently, they made her wait for it, and they forgot Jesse's hot peppers. (Good thing he didn't really care at that point.) I was just happy to enjoy my enormous roast beef and provolone hoagie and crispy and oily onion rings. There was so much of both, I took half the hoagie and part of the order of onion rings home with me.

Went straight in the shower when I got in, then did two quick rounds of Lego Clone Wars. I'm finally starting to wind down most of the main missions. Picked up three pieces on "Grevious Intrigue" and one on "Rookies."

Finished the night with a horror-oriented Bowery Boys movie for Friday the 13th. They think they're Master Minds when Sach gets a toothache that allows him to predict the future, and they set him up as a carnival swami. They're not the only ones who are after his amazing powers. A mad scientist kidnaps him and actually manages to switch his brain with that of his hulking monster. Now a giant hairy man is talking like goofy Sach, and Sach is acting like a brute. Gabe, Slip, and the other guys follow the monster to a spooky mansion to switch them back.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Busy Library Day

I awoke to a sunny, windy day. Spent the morning finally getting to this month's cleaning after breakfast. Scrubbed the kitchen, then made the bed and vacuumed the apartment. Did some dusting in the kitchen, but I'll likely save most of that for tomorrow or Saturday.

I also figured out how to program the air conditioner, which really isn't that hard. Just push the "Delay" button and set it to however many hours delay you want. As it turned out, I didn't really need it at all. When I opened the door to hang my rugs, there was a wonderfully cool wind. Ended up turning the air conditioner off and opening the windows instead.

Tried something for lunch around quarter after 12. I've really been enjoying the smoothies I've made lately. My lunch today was a Banana-Pineapple Smoothie, made with vanilla yogurt, honey, peanut butter, crushed pineapple, and a too-ripe banana that was in the fridge. Yum. Filling and just sweet enough. I appropriately had my good-for-you treat while listening to my Disney Mousercise record from the 80's.

Headed out for an errand and library run after I finished lunch. The Oaklyn Library was actually pretty busy for them. Along with people on the computers, there was a mom and child who were volunteering, wiping the chalk board on one wall of the kids' area. I settled for organizing DVDs and just took a cursory glance at the kids' books.

Hit Dollar Tree next. I'd been able to dig up enough quarters to buy a new shower curtain. I realized while cleaning the bathroom yesterday that the old one was disgusting. The mini-Target at the Westmont Plaza is very close to being done. The sign is up and everything. AC Moore is open; I'll check that one out the next time I actually have money.

The Haddon Township Library was also incredibly busy, especially in the kids' area. I heard something going on in the meeting room, a lot of adults talking. They must have all left their kids with the computers. I dodged them and shelved kids' DVDs. Despite the crowd, there wasn't really much else to do or shelve. I did take out the newly-arrived Sherlock Gnomes and the third season of Scooby Doo, Where are You?, plus the classic Robert Redford baseball drama The Natural, a book on feminism, and a book by JK Rowling on failure and creativity.

Took Newton Lake Park home to avoid the traffic on Cuthbert. Despite the still-nice day, there weren't that many people around. I mainly dodged Canadian geese. Their loss. The park, despite looking a bit withered thanks to our lack of rain, is still lovely. The light sparkled on the green lake, and the trees are at least still pretty green.

Went right on the computer as soon as I got home. Clarence finally says good-bye to Artie, who is joining Luke on his way to San Francisco. Artie knows Yoda well; he figures he might be able to help the kid. Everyone else who's leaving takes off in the Falcon...to the frustration of Vader...

Broke for dinner and a Lego Clone Wars session at quarter of 7. Completed "Ambush!" and "Gungan General." Got four more pieces on "The Hidden Enemy" and one more on "Liberty at Ryloth." I just can't figure out where that final piece on "Liberty" is. I'll look it up tonight.

Finished the night with a couple of Scooby Doo episodes. The gang says "Watch Out! The Willawaw!" when they see a strange wraith-like monster on their way to visit Velma's Uncle Dave. He's a ranger who normally lives in a cabin in the woods, but he's vanished. Shaggy and Scooby suspect that the two giant owl-men they've seen prowling around and the expensive items they found may have something to do with it.

Mystery Inc floats a bit into sci-fi territory for "A Creepy Tangle in the Bermuda Triangle." They're on a boat trip in the Caribbean when they see what looks like a UFO beaming up airplanes. Velma thinks there may be something more to this mystery than aliens and mother ships, especially when someone tries to scare them away from the island they end up marooned on.

They're visiting a friend in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, only to discover that she and the town are being hounded by the ghost of a witch who looks just like her in "To Switch a Witch." The townspeople are convinced that the witch has returned for her revenge...and almost string up Shaggy and Scooby, whose trick-or-treat costumes look a lot like the real thing. (Skipped "A Scary Night With a Snow Beat Fright," which I have elsewhere.)

"The Tar Monster" is driving all the workers away from an archaeological dig in Turkey. Everyone says it's cursed, but Velma and Fred think there's another reason for the creature to want the workers away from the inner sanctum of the city they're unearthing.

"A Highland Fling With a Monstrous Thing" has a few things in common with "To Switch a Witch." Once again, the group is called upon to help a friend save her home from a ghost. This time, the friend has been renting her castle to tourists, but another ancestor's ghost can use bagpipes to call the Loch Ness Monster to drive them away. The gang look for a more realistic reason for the ghost to not want tourists snooping around.

Dark clouds had begun to build as early as my ride through the Park. By the time I was writing, we were in the midst of a soft shower. The rain cleared out the heat. It was cool after it left, enough that I've left the air conditioner off for the remainder of the night.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Living In Interesting Times

Began a sunny, bright morning with a quick breakfast and Alice In Wonderland. This Peter Pan LP from the 70's is a condensed musical version of the classic fantasy novel. Alice is a normal kid who gets caught up in some pretty wild adventures, from playing croquet with a flamingo for a mallet and a hedgehog for a ball to listening to a Mock Turtle tell her about his school days. Some of the songs here are rather well-done for a children's album. My favorites are the dreamy title number and "The Queen Has Commanded" during the croquet game, as Alice tries to figure out how to deal with the Queen of Hearts' bouts of temper.

Work was...interesting. While I mostly spent the first half of the day outside doing carts and the second half doing returns and and emptying trash cans, what happened in between was a little more exciting. I found a dead beaver on the parking lot. Don't ask me how he managed to drag himself from the creek on the other side of Audubon Park and across several streets. One of the morning cashiers helped me get rid of him. I also cleaned up after a flood in the men's bathroom.

Read a chapter of The Wizard of London when I got home to cool off, then went into today's writing session. Luke heads off to Wally "Wedge" Antilles, a British pilot working for the rebels who'll take him and Artie to San Francisco. Harry takes Leia, Clarence, and Charel on his plane, escaping at the last minute as the Rogue One rebels take on the Imperial troops.

Broke a bit earlier than usual, at 5:30. I wanted to finally start cleaning. I put it off for way too long. The bathroom was gross, especially the sink and bathtub. Finished that, then made that black bean dip for dinner. Used the tomato sauce that's been around for a while in place of diced or sliced tomatoes. Yum! It actually came out really well, melding nicely with the vegetables, Monterrey Jack cheese, and taco sauce.

Ran The Rescuers as I worked and ate my meal. We're introduced to Bianca (Eva Gabor), the Hungarian agent for the Rescue Aid Society, a kind of mouse United Nations, as the organization reveals a message in a bottle. An orphaned girl (Michelle Stacy) was kidnapped by a pair of greedy pawn shop owners, Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) and Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn), who want her to crawl into a cave and find a huge diamond. Bianca selects Bernard (Bob Newhart), the Society's nervous janitor, as her partner in finding the girl. Bernard's not too sure about this, especially when getting down south requires riding an albatross (Jim Jordan) with dubious flying ability. Bianca's more optimistic, but even she has her doubts when they're faced with the nasty Medusa and her mouse-chasing alligators. It'll take all their wits and resources, as well as the help of several local bayou critters, to chase Medusa out of the swamp and rescue Penny and the diamond.

Moved on to Lego Clone Wars as soon as I finished eating. Did "Ambush!" and "Duel of the Droids" again. Found one more piece in the former and three more in the latter. I'm still having problems with the final bounty hunter mini-round. I just can't get Cad and Jango to fly high enough to throw the last thermal detonator.

Finished the night after a shower with the second Rescuers film, The Rescuers Down Under. This time, Bernard and Bianca fly with Wilbur the Albatross (John Candy), brother of Orville, to Australia to investigate the disappearance of Cody (Adam Ryen), a boy who is especially close to a rare golden eagle. The boy was captured by Percival C. McLeach (George C. Scott) and his pet goanna lizard Joanna (Frank Welker), who hope to use him as bait to trap the beautiful bird. The Rescuers are aided by Australian agent Jake (Tristan Rogers), a rugged kangaroo mouse who helps them find their way across the outback. He also flirts with Bianca, to the frustration of Bernard, who wants to ask her to marry him. The trio have to figure out how to get past McLeach without revealing where the golden eagle is, while Wilbur deals with a group of medical mice whose idea of back surgery would look more appropriate in a horror film.

Both Rescuers films are among the most underrated Disney ever made, and are high on my list of all-time favorite Disney movies. The first film was a huge hit in 1977; the second was a surprise flop in 1990. Both have excellent casts having a great time with the material, some enjoyable action sequences, and two of the darkest and most hissable villains in the entire Disney line-up in McLeach and Medusa. While the animation hasn't dated that well in the first film, it looks magnificent in the second. Rescuers Down Under was the first film to be shot entirely digital, without the use of a regular camera. The artwork is downright glowing, especially in the amazing flight sequences.

I suspect the second film ran into the same problem as Treasure Planet over a decade later; audiences were too conditioned to expect a typical light-hearted musical in the early 90's, especially after the runaway success of The Little Mermaid a year earlier. It also ran into stiff competition from a far more beloved family film, Home Alone.

Many critics at the time questioned the plot, complaining that it was too dark or convoluted, and that the Rescuers themselves don't appear until a third of the way in, and Disney itself pulled its marketing when it became obvious it was going to bomb. Nowadays, it's seen as something of a minor cult favorite among people who grew up in the early and mid-90's and got to catch it on home video. If you have older kids who enjoy animal stories ala Zootopia or action tales, they may want to sign up with Bernard, Bianca, and the Rescue Aid Society, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Star Collector

Started the day with breakfast and A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. After yesterday's somewhat depressing Follies, I thought some less dire Sondheim was in order. This was, in fact, his first solo show. Pseudolous (Zero Mostel) is a scheming slave in ancient Rome. He gets his young master Hero (Brian Davies) to promise to set him free if he can bring the boy the courtesan he's lusting after. Turns out that she's promised to the brutal warrior Miles Gloriosous (Ronald Holgate), and the proprietor of the House of Courtesans, Marcus Lycus (John Carradine) has no intention of letting her go to someone else. Pseudolous does everything he can think of, including dressing fellow slave Hysterium (Jack Gilford) in drag, to get him to change his mind.

Another favorite of mine from Sondheim makes me wish he did comedy more often. Some of the songs are really fun, including the lesser-known ones like Gilford's "I'm Calm" (he's not) and Davies and Mostel singing about how the latter will be "Free." Probably the most famous number from this is the opener "Comedy Tonight"...which ironically was a last-minute addition when the ballad that originally began the show didn't seem to be setting the right tone.

Spent most of the morning writing, this time without interruption. Jeanne and Cassian are already at the hangar when the others arrive. Chirrut, a kindly monk from the desert country Jedha, offers his consolation at Ben's loss. There isn't much time to mourn the older man's death, though. Vader and his boys are hot on their trail. Luke gets ready to ride with Wally "Wedge" Antilles to San Francisco in his small plane the Rogue. Artie insists on going with him as a chaperone.

Broke for lunch at noon. Listened to some Monkees as I ate. Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones LTD is from around the time of the early-mid 2nd season. The lone top-10 hit was "Pleasant Valley Sunday," but some of the other songs are among their best as well, including two Mike favorites "Salesman" and "What am I Doin' Hangin' 'Round," "Star Collector" from Davy, and "Words" from Mickey.

While I did clean the bathroom, do inside and outside trash and recycling, shelved candy, and got some returns done later, I spent most of the afternoon in a register. We're short-handed again. A lot of people went on vacation for part or all of this week, and most of the just-hired teen and college cashiers only work at certain times. There was no one to relieve the kids during their breaks. Thankfully, we weren't that busy. I took customers when it got mildly steady once. It was fairly quiet for the rest of the day.

As soon as I got in, I had leftovers while playing Lego Clone Wars. Got one more piece each on "Legacy of Terror" and "Ambush!" Finally found Anakin Skywalker and Bail Organa in the bounty hunter mini-games. I just have to figure out how to get that last clone officer, and I'll be done with those.

Finished the night with The Post. It's 1971. Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) just took over The Washington Post from her late husband, but she's having a hard time getting the men who work for her, including editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), to listen to her. The Post isn't as well-respected as The New York Times, which is publishing a hard-hitting expose on the government. When the Times is forced to stop their investigation by the government, Bradlee and his assistant editor Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) see this as an opportunity to step in. After the Pentagon Papers - government documents detailing how badly the US was doing in Vietnam - were leaked to both papers, Bradlee wants to go forward with the story. Almost no one is pleased with his scoop, especially Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), an old friend of Katherine's, and Post chairman Fritz Beebee (Tracy Letts). Katherine decides that the truth must get out, no matter what...and winds up turning the Post into one of the country's leading newspapers as a result.

Streep got the Oscar nomination, but this is really more of an ensemble movie, and everyone gets a turn to shine as we see how important getting major news to the public can be, even if it's news that the government might deem damaging or harmful. Sometimes, the truth does will out. Steven Spielburg actually filmed and edited this in less than five months. The movie can be talky and a bit slow, and it's not as flashy as some of Spielburg's better-known films, but that puts the emphasis right on the all-star cast where it should be.

If you're a fan of Streep, Hanks, anyone in the cast, US history, or journalism, you'll want to check this one out.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Waiting for the Sister Upstairs

It was so nice in my apartment when I woke up this morning, I decided it was the perfect day to make Ally's "Snappy" Ginger Snaps from The Beanie Baby Handbook. It's a hearty, simple drop cookie recipe that doesn't require much in the way of time or ingredients and uses oil in place of butter or shortening. (I might use less oil next time. The batter is fairly oily, and the cookies taste a bit oily as well.)

Listened to Follies while I baked. My favorite Stephan Sondheim musical is an original story about two couples, one rich and living in Manhattan, one middle-class and living in Phoenix, at a party for former performers in the Weisman Follies. Delicate Sally still has feelings for dashing diplomat Ben. Frigid Phyllis wishes Ben would pay more attention to her than to his work. Buddy does love Sally, but he also has a girl he's seeing on the side. While they try to figure everything out, the other guests recreate their old Follies routines. Passions ultimately explode into a real Follies show, complete with showgirls and boys in tuxes with canes. All the while, ghosts of the past wander through, visually commenting on the action.

I listened to the 1971 original cast with Dorothy Collins as Sally, Gene Nelson as Buddy, John McMartin as Ben, Alexis Smith as Phyllis, and Yvonne DiCarlo as Carlotta, who performs my favorite song from this, "I'm Still Here." I generally prefer my more complete Paper Mill Playhouse recording from 1998, but there's some good performances here, too. DiCarlo's "I'm Still Here" is fun, and Collins knocks "Losing My Mind" out of the park.

Headed out to work as soon as the cookies were out of the oven and I'd gotten organized. It was pretty quiet for most of the day. I helped with the carts once, for about 40 minutes early on. Spent most of the rest of the day doing returns, gathering baskets, and cleaning the bathrooms. I did end up spending part of the last hour on the registers. I literally got thrown in mid-way through an order on one. (Thankfully, it was a short express order.)

Worked on writing when I got home. Leia's not happy when Luke tells her he's going to talk to Yoda Chiang in San Francisco. He appeases her somewhat by revealing that he's a foremost expert on the Jedi and Alderaanian culture and that he's hoping to get him to join the expedition.

My writing session ended early when Rose arrived with the new air conditioner. It took us a while to adjust, thanks to the older windows in this house, but it is in. It looks a lot like the one that originally came with the house, only with more buttons. It shuts off when it's cool enough, and you can program when it turns on. I'll figure that part out tomorrow.

Miss Willa gave me another letter today. Once again, she mentioned the rent (even though I paid it on the 4th of July). She did mention having talked to Rose...but also said that she didn't believe Rose when she said I was just walking up here and that footfalls are magnified. I can't help it if Charlie goes to bed early and I stay up late. I try not to make a lot of noise. I've already moved my nightly chats into the living room because he complained when I did them in the bedroom. I really have no idea what these people want. And why didn't Charlie come to me directly, instead of to his mother?

I gave Rose the letter even before we finished with the air conditioner. She isn't thrilled, either. She said she's going to do some research and talk to Miss Willa in a few days, and that I'm to avoid talking to her or Charlie before then. Fine by me. That's pretty much what I have been doing. The only member of that family I would prefer to discuss anything with is Richard, who is the only one who has always been helpful, shown up when he said he would, and has never given me any problems.

Gave up on writing after Rose left and moved on to leftovers for dinner and Lego Clone Wars. Picked up another piece on "Innocents of Ryloth," then returned to the Separtist ship to work on the Bounty Hunter mini games. Buying Bail Organa opens up the last mini-round. I had no more luck finding him than Anakin. Even three minutes isn't long enough to get through that "Hostage Crisis" round.

Finished the night with Quest for Camelot. Kayley (Jessalyn Gilsig) is the daughter of a knight of Camelot who was killed by the exiled Ruber (Gary Oldman) while defending King Arthur (Pierce Bronsonan). Kayley dreams of becoming a knight who is as brave and valliant as her father was. She gets her chance when Ruber attacks her family, and she learns that the sword Excaliber was lost in the Forbidden Forest. Fleeing into the Forest, she meets Garrett (Cary Elwes), a blind youth who lives by his wits, and Devon (Eric Idle) and Cornwall (Don Rickles), a two-headed dragon who really wish they weren't so stuck together. This strange group must find the sword and get it to Camelot, before Ruber and his army of half-metal, half-human henchmen (and odd ax hench-chicken) take over the land.

This is another troubled production that took several wrong turns on the way to the theater. It was originally began as a more serious Arthurian tale, based after the book The King's Damosel. The tale of a young woman who fights an evil lord and an ogre to save King Arthur might have made for an interesting fantasy film...if, like every other animation studio in Hollywood in the late 90's, Warners Feature Animation wasn't so darn determined to imitate Disney. Rickles and Idle are funny enough, but their characters are mostly unnecessary. Bladebeak the ax-chicken is even more annoying. (Him being played by Jaleel White in Urkel mode did not help.) Kayley is bland and forgettable, the knights even more so. Gary Oldman's Ruber seems to have walked in from another movie entirely, in both design and acting.

Like Paint Your Wagon, the movie has no idea what it wants to be. Kayley and Garrett are playing Beauty and the Beast, the dragons fall somewhere between Timon and Pumbaa and the gargoyles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Gary Oldman thinks he's in Air Force One. It does have a genuinely good soundtrack, including the Oscar-nominated "The Prayer" and the top-10 hit "Looking Through Your Eyes," but the numbers are undercut by poor placement (the lullaby "The Prayer" is set during an action scene) or an overabundance of gags (which makes a hash of "Looking Through Your Eyes").

This was Warners' first actual feature film that didn't involve the Looney Tunes...and they really just tried too hard to make something that was "in" at the time. That said, a lot of people who grew up in the late 90's-early 2000's, especially young women, seem to have fond memories of this one. I actually went to see it in the theater shortly after it came out...and was very disappointed. Of the many movies I saw in the theater in the 90's and early 2000's, this is one of only two I flat-out did not like. (Batman & Robin was the other.)

Nowadays, I'm afraid my opinion largely remains the same. Unless you have girls who are really, really big fantasy or Disney fans, I say look up the soundtrack online and skip the rest.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

By the Beautiful Creek

Slept in a bit and finished The Gates of Sleep. I didn't really roll out of bed until quarter of 10. Made Blueberry Pancakes while listening to By the Beautiful Sea. Shirley Booth stars in this 1954 Broadway musical as a vaudevillian in the early 1900's visiting her father's boarding house on Coney Island. She falls for a charming singer, but runs up against opposition when she meets his daughter, a teen performer who has been forced into child roles by her stage mother. She's about to give up, but giving the girl one of her dresses gives her a new perspective...and changes her mind about her relationship with her father.

I've had this CD for over 20 years, since I picked it up at a long-defunct music store in North Cape May in the late 90's as a teenager. According to the extensive liner notes, the show had quite a bit of book trouble leading up to Broadway. I don't think they ever really figured out what to do with the Baby Betsy story line. She doesn't even have a song. While I like some of the chorus numbers, especially when Booth joins in for "The Sea Song" and "Coney Island Boat," most of them have little or nothing to do with the actual story.

Other characters fare much better. Booth's best solo number is her comic lament "I'd Rather Wake Up By Myself." Wilber Evens gets the lovely ballad "Alone Too Long." Cabaret singer Mae Barnes, as Booth's maid, has the fun "Happy Habit." My Angel CD is long out of print, but this is currently on YouTube if you're interested.

Moved on to Hello Dolly! as I got ready for work. My favorite recording of this show is the one Pearl Bailey made with an all-black cast in the late 60's. There's a lot of vim and verve in the numbers. Bailey has a great time with "Before the Parade Passes By" and "I Put My Hand In" in particular. "Ribbons Down My Back" is also well-done. Cab Calloway is her Horace Vandergelder. From what I've gathered, he didn't last long in the stage show, but he did manage to do a decent "It Takes a Woman" on the cast album.

Work was absolutely no problem at all. They were steady but not overwhelmingly so when I arrived, and dead quiet when I left. With the high schoolers and college kids out for the summer, we had plenty of help. I only needed to be outside doing carts for a half-hour, despite the continuing gorgeous weather. A teen boy and girl and another guy later who likes to work outside were more than happy to do that. I bagged, did the trash, gathered baskets, and shelved loose items. I suspect most people probably took advantage of Mother Nature's generosity by heading for the Shore or the Poconos.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. It was too nice of a day not to! They surprisingly weren't that busy. Lots of people out and about today, though, including kids on bikes and playing in yards.

Went into writing when I got home. Luke tells Leia that he's going to Yoda Chiang's to see if he can secure his help and get an interview. Leia's upset. Not only is her brother leaving her in the lurch, but so's Harry...and she might have a few feelings for him that she won't admit to.

Broke for dinner at quarter after 7. Continued Lego Clone Wars as I ate leftovers and breakfast bar sandwiches. Found Obi-Wan, Aayla Secura, and Luminara Unduli in the bounty hunter rounds. Headed back to the Republic ship after that to pick up a few more characters, both wandering around in the ship (Bail Organa) and from the rounds I'd finished (Captain Antilles from New Hope and Qui-Gon Jinn from Phantom Menace, along with a clone trooper in black armor). Also finally completed "Innocents of Ryloth."

Finished the night with the Beatles Blue Album. I generally prefer their later music to their poppier early songs. Some of my favorites that were hard to find over here for years are on this LP, including "Revolution" and "The Ballad of John and Yoko."

Oh, and Jodie called when I was writing. They bought the air conditioner, but by that point, it was too late to install it. I'll have to call Rose and Craig about that tomorrow.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

In the Good Old Summertime

A gentle breeze blew through my windows this morning, ruffling my bed sheets and my curls. The sun was shining, the wind was cool and fresh, and the haze had vanished with the rain. I celebrated after a long reading and journal writing session with breakfast and the soundtrack from The Roaring 20's. This was a TV show in the early 60's with comedienne Dorothy Provine as a singer involved with two ambitious reporters. Too bad it doesn't seem to have lasted long. The music is a lot of fun, including some songs I'd never heard of before like "Ooh Ernest," "Whisper Song," and "A Cup of Coffee, A Sandwich, and You."

Headed out to the Collingswood Farm Market around quarter of 10, after stopping at the WaWa across the street for money. The summer harvest is in full swing now with the arrival of the corn truck that's the first thing you see when you come in from the Collings Avenue side. Cherries and peas seem to be gone, but I did see the first Chinese beans and peaches of the year. I bought blackberries, a spring onion with its top still on, a grey squash (really more a very pale green), a cucumber, and a larger tub of blueberries than usual.

Rode down Atlantic Avenue and across Collingswood to the Westmont Acme. I forgot cereal and relish yesterday. Grabbed the Acme's generic version of Honey Bunches of Oats and Almonds and a jar of dill relish, along with an iced tea for the ride home.

It was such a beautiful day, I rode the entire length of Newton Lake Park, from Cuthbert Road to the White Horse Pike. Stopped once in the park on the little stone bridge and again on the bridge between Collingswood and Oaklyn to take pictures of the spectacular views. It was like a pastoral setting from a rural romance,with the sparkling lake and lush green trees. I dodged many bikers, dog walkers, fisher-folk, and people taking their kids out in strollers.

When I did get home, I replaced The Roaring 20's with another bit of Provine nostalgia, Oh You Kid! Most of the songs here were actually ones I was familiar with. The only ones I didn't know before I bought this were "Take Me Up With You Dearie," "My Pony Boy," and "Wait 'Till the Sun Shines Nellie."

I decided I wanted a half-way decent lunch on my day off. Made a simple but delicious Cucumber-Tomato Salad and Egg Salad. Used the dill relish in the salad; whew, it was salty! I think I'll go sparingly on that stuff from now on.

Switched to my Song of Our Times studio music collection for 1925 as I made Poohberry Muffins. This is a modified version of the muffin recipe in The Pooh Cook Book. I upped the sugar slightly, added cinnamon, and replaced the blueberries with blackberries. They came out perfectly, sweet and chewy.

Went out again quickly around 1:30 to sneak in volunteering at the Oaklyn Library before it closed for the afternoon. (The library closes at 2, though it does have 3 to 7 hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.) Needless to say on a gorgeous afternoon, it was just me, the librarian, and one other man who wanted a computer with Microsoft Word on it. (Apparently, most of the library's computers are on the fritz. People have to take what they can get.)

I did have the time to take out four movies. Three were animated films from the 90's and 2000's. I've seen Quest for Camelot and The Rescuers Down Under before, but not within the last decade. Clone Wars was the theatrically-released pilot for the TV series. I've been wanting to see The Post for a while now. This tale of journalists at the Washington Post in the early 70's has a great cast that includes Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and was nominated for Best Picture.

I was home just long enough to grab my laundry before heading back out. I'd put it off for too long, partially because there wasn't that much of it. I got lucky. It was busy when I came in, but most customers vanished well before I was putting my clothes in the dryer. Speaking of, it only took me two quarters to get to 18 minutes, rather than 3. Considering their last change in pricing was to raise the prices on the washers, I hope this sticks. I worked on story notes and barely paid attention to a skateboarding contest on TV.

Jodie called while I was folding my laundry. She and Dad have been deciding on a good air conditioner for me. Since neither of them are up to lifting it, Rose and Craig are going to bring it over sometime tomorrow.

Spent the next few hours writing. Harry tells Bodhi to drive around a garbage truck, then leans out the door and shoots the truck's tires. It stops...and Roberto Fettara runs right into it, sending garbage all over him and his armored car. Harry figures it'll hold him long enough for them to get back to the hangar.

Broke at 6:30 to make another salad. The grape tomatoes I bought yesterday were perfect for Chicken Pasta Salad. I tossed canned chicken with whole-wheat penne pasta and sliced grape tomatoes and broccoli florets with a light balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Not bad. I probably should have used more vinegar for a tad bit more bite.

Moved on to Lego Clone Wars after I ate. Finally got through a bunch of the bounty hunter missions. Found clone commanders Cody and Ponds and Jedi Plo Koon, Eeth Toth, and Kit Fisto. Tried Lumiara Unduli, Anakin Skywalker, and the clone Waxer, but didn't get far. Completed "Blue Shadow Virus" and got the Regenerating Hearts red brick, the last red brick on the Separatist ship.

Finished the night after a shower with Clone Wars. This 2008 animated film is Lucasfilm's only venture into feature animation. Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) has come to Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) to tell them that Yoda (Tom Kane) has assigned her to be Anakin's new padawan. Anakin is adamant about remaining a lone wolf at first, until she helps him shut down the Separatist's energy field and he sees how well they work together. Good thing he changed his mind. Their first assignment as teacher and student is to rescue Jabba the Hutt's (Kevin Michael Richardson) son Rotta (David Acord) and convince Jabba to allow the Republic to use his smuggling lanes to transport clones. Trouble is, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) has already gotten there first. He claims that the Jedi kidnapped Rotta and are holding him for ransom. Senator Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber) catches wind of the scheme via Jabba's uncle Ziro (Corey Burton), but is captured herself and may not get to her husband and his padawan in time.

While this apparently did make it's low budget back, critics at the time absolutely roasted it, and it remains the worst-received Star Wars film to date. On one hand, I loved seeing the beginning of Anakin and Ahsoka's mentor/student relationship. Ahsoka has become one of my favorite female Star Wars characters, and she gets a good showing here, especially in the opening and closing sequences. And I thought the scene where Obi-Wan sits a Separatist commander down and tries to discuss a treaty over tea was one of the funniest things in any Star Wars movie. (And so very Obi-Wan!)

However, I can definitely understand the critics' complaints. It feels like three episodes of the series strung together, and it's not nearly as good as what little I've seen of the show. The dialogue is clunky (and has the habit of repeating itself constantly), the animation is waxy, and several characters (including Yoda and Mace Windu) are underused.

While not quite as horrible as the critics claimed at the time, it's not great, either. Fine for major fans of Star Wars or The Clone Wars cartoon. Anyone else can skip this and move on to the far-better TV series.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Winds of Change

I overslept and had barely opened my eyes when I heard the phone ring. It was Rose, calling to tell me she was almost ready to come over. That didn't give me a lot of time to get ready. I rushed around, dressing and eating a quick breakfast. I'd just finished eating and was reading when my sister knocked on the door.

Basically, what Rose said is she and the family are going to chip in for an air conditioner with an Energy Star rating that will shut off when it gets cool enough in here or when I leave the house. It'll save the McHughs money and keep the place cooler than my current unit can. My air conditioner is about thirteen years old. It has knobs and dials, and I have no idea what the Energy Star on it is, if it even has it. Plus, while it was fine for my tiny Wildwood apartment, it's really too small for this one. (I'll still buy a second fan to help with air circulation when I have the money. I live in an attic apartment with no ventilation. Air does not circulate well, especially in my bedroom.)

We also discussed what the McHughs have and haven't done for repairs. Everything they've done up here, they only did because it effected Charlie too. While things like the aging windows aren't life-or-death situations (I can move them up or down - they're just old), the porch/roof is sagging and has insufficient and splintering railings, and the path to my side of the house is uneven and doesn't go all the way to the street.

For every two things Charlie's actually done up here (like replaced the roof and door and fixed the plumbing), he's done five things to the apartment downstairs and front yard. I have no doubt the apartment downstairs and the porch needed copious work and tons of things replaced...but Charlie did not need to add all the extra landscaping, the dogs' enclosure with the fountain and the toys, or the fencing in the side yard. For all his fussing about the trees in the back, he'd be better off clearing out all the junk he has back there, including piles of bricks, a kayak I've never seen used once in the two years it's been here, and those weird cowboy and horse silhouettes. He could put a really nice larger shed for the bikes, bricks, and his tools in the place where the boat and bricks are now.

And while he hasn't complained to me about the noise in over a year, he must have complained about it to his mother. I'm sorry, but this house is old, and the carpet Miss Ellie and her family laid before I moved in is cheap and thin. Footsteps are going to magnify no matter what you do. It's not like I make a lot of other noise. I'm usually sitting down at midnight on a laptop, not doing calisthenics, and I hate loud parties. It works both ways; I can hear him when he curses his brains out and does his own stomping in his place. I understand he's getting his stress out in the best way he knows how, but must he go on and on about it? (He has yelled at the dogs less in the past few months. I think another woman who owns dogs moved down there and may have called him on it.)

Also...while I was able to pay my rent and bills this month, it drained me financially. I'm broke again. Rose said that while they don't mind helping me with vacation this year, I should either find another way to finance my trip next year, or just not take one. I wish I could make her understand how important this is to me. I don't really go anywhere else or do much of anything. Lauren and her parents really look forward to having me.

As it turned out, Miss Willa wasn't home. We both called her, but she must have been at work. Rose said she'd call her later and write her a letter detailing our solution to the air conditioner problem and my complaints about Charlie's potty mouth.

I went on the computer after Rose left and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. A freaked out Bodhi takes a hard right turn, landing everyone in each other's laps...including Harry and Leia. Harry's thrilled. Leia, not so much. Charrel and Luke tell them to quit flirting (even if they hotly deny it).

(Miss Willa did finally call back while I was on the computer. I told her about Rose's visit and directed her to call her, as Rose told me to do.)

Had a quick lunch, then headed to work. Of course, a light shower started just as I was leaving. It slowed down even as I arrived, and I walked in damp but not soaked. Spent the first half of my shift mostly organizing candy and the second cleaning the bathrooms, doing the inside trash, bagging, and gathering carts. It was off-and-on busy and the lines did get long a few times, but they'd vanish a few minutes later. With one of the managers' help, I even managed to finish not only all the new candy in the carts, but put out even more candy that there hadn't been room for before.

My schedule next week is actually pretty decent. Only complaint is my hours went down slightly, but that's probably to be expected the week after a major holiday. Otherwise, I have three days off and one early day on Wednesday (but not an eight and a half hour day, thank goodness).

It's just as well that I really didn't need much at work. Skim milk was the big thing. They're having a lot of good produce sales this week - picked up grape tomatoes and just-in-season peaches. Restocked yogurt, breakfast bars, and chocolate pudding. (Forgot relish - I'll have to pick that up tomorrow or Sunday.)

There was a message on my answering machine when I got home. Rose had finally gotten through to Miss Willa. Both women had agreed to replacing the air conditioner; other demands would be discussed later. They also agreed that any problems with noise were going to have to be worked out between Charlie and me.

Relaxed with leftovers and Lego Clone Wars. Finally got through two more of the bounty hunter mini-games - found Padme and Yoda. Picked up two more pieces on "Storm Over Ryloth" and completed "Liberty on Ryloth."

Finished the night with one of my 20's CDs while I was online to pick up the mood. My favorite number from the 1920 CD was the Eddie Cantor classic "You'd Be Surprised." I also liked Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra's rendition of "Japanese Sandman" and a couple of the Billy Murray novelty tuns, including "Marion, Will You Be Marrying Me?"

And I can't believe how nice the wind feels. I turned the air conditioner on briefly while I was at home because of the humidity, then turned it off when I went to work...and just left it off when I got home. While still a bit humid, it's much cooler. The cool wind feels great coming in through the one window on the porch I can get open.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Irish and the Texans

I overslept this morning and had just enough time to take down the patriotic decorations after breakfast. Listened to Starflight while I worked. I had this K-Tel LP from 1979 on for "Makin' It," one of the songs from Meatballs. Figured that was appropriate for the lead-in to the post-holiday weekend.

Work was a bit less of a problem than it was earlier in the week. It's still hot and humid, but not to the degree that it was. Besides, I only did carts for an hour, and the head bagger helped out. I spent the rest of the day doing returns, bagging, cleaning up a spill, and shelving candy. Bought a much-needed Gatorade on the way home.

After cooling off in front of the fan in my bedroom with The Gates of Sleep, I did some writing. Han identifies Roberto Fettara as one of the top bounty hunters and assassins in the US. He suspects his former boss and lover Yasmin Hutt probably hired him to make sure he pays that debt to her...

Rose called around quarter after 6. (Actually, she called earlier when I was at work. I called her back.) She wants to talk to Miss Willa about the trouble with the air conditioner. I wish she wouldn't. It's not that I don't think she knows what she's doing. I think she's a great lawyer. I just don't want to upset anyone. She also suggested buying a new air conditioner that turns off when the room is the appropriate temperature, saving money and electricity. (I'll still likely get that second fan, though.)

That killed my mood for writing. Had leftovers while playing Lego Clone Wars instead. Didn't do that well tonight. The "bounty hunter missions" are short mini-games that let you search for a character in a given level. Out of ten missions I tried, I only completed two. I did manage to get another piece on "The Zillo Beast," though.

Finished the night with two Broadway cast albums, a rare flop from the early 60's and a major hit from the late 70's. The flop was Donnybrook!, a musical version of The Quiet Man that barely lasted two months in the late spring and early summer of 1961. I kind of wish they'd tried for more of an Irish flavor and less of a Broadway one. The only song that sounds remotely Irish is the opening ensemble number "Sez I." While there were some decent ballads (including "Ellen Roe" and "He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely"), the stand-out was a really cute number for the second leads, "I Wouldn't Bet One Penny."

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas is about as far as you can get from Donnybrook!, in setting and tone. The Chicken Ranch is the title bordello, and it's one of the most popular in the Lone Star State. Many a Texas fella considers having his first time at the Chicken Ranch to be a rite of passage. Not everyone looks on the Chicken Ranch and it's occupants so kindly, though. A TV evangelist is shocked at the idea of there being a whorehouse in Texas and becomes determined to shut it down. The current owner Miss Mona tries to fight this menace, with the occasional help and hindrance of her ex-lover the town sheriff and his waitress girlfriend.

There's more emphasis on Miss Mona's girls and other incidental characters than there is in the film. Several of the girls and the waitress Doatsy Mae get songs that expand their characters...but they're really incidental to the plot about the ranch shutting down. It was interesting to hear what was cut from the film, including "Good Old Girl," the Sheriff's take on his and Mona's relationship, and Mona's two numbers with her girls, "Girl, You're a Woman" and "No Lies."

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Star Spangled Holiday

Began a hazy, sunny 4th of July with breakfast and my Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology. Along with Paul Revere's Ride and a few shorter poems, we have an excerpt from from Little House on the Prairie that has Pa taking Laura and Mary to town to enjoy the lemonade from a barrel and horse races. Also did the last chapter of the Kirsten summer story Kirsten Saves the Day (another tale of pioneer 4th of July festivities) and the short story version of Paul Revere and Ben and Me, about a mouse who helps Ben Franklin create some of his most famous inventions, from the anthology Walt Disney's America.

Ben's not the only mouse who claims to have made significant contributions to American history. In Yankee Doodle Cricket, Tucker the Mouse tells Harry the Cat that their ancestors helped Paul Revere spread the word about the British invasion, wrote the original version of the Declaration of Independence, and created the "Don't Tread On Me" flag. Chester the Cricket's ancestor created the folk tune "Yankee Doodle" to spread the word about the American Revolution.

Ran a couple of quick shorts as I finished breakfast and got organized. "Patriotic Popeye" tries to encourage his nephews to play it safe on the 4th and not use fireworks. They evade him at every turn, until setting off a massive rocket sends them sky-high and their uncle needs spinach to retrieve them. Donald Duck isn't doing much better in "Donald's Failed Fourth." Daisy requests that he set up a picnic dinner to watch the fireworks, but first the blanket, then the chairs, won't cooperate.

West Clinton Avenue was already packed with parade-watchers by the time I made it down there. As usual, the parade was late. Oaklyn's 4th of July Parade is NEVER on time. It was supposed to start at 10, but it was closer to quarter of 11 when the first decorated trucks were seen. (Although a group of motorcyclists in decorated vehicles did pass through about 20 minutes before that.)

While not as hot as it has been the past few days, it wasn't exactly cool, either, and it was still killer humid. The Oaklyn Manor Bar had refreshment and souvenir (mostly Phillies t-shirts) tables set up in their parking lot. I picked up a bottle of water and a small bag of popcorn. (Finished the latter well before the parade started.)

The theme this year was "Oaklyn (Elemenatary/Middle) School: Celebrating 90 years." Disappointingly, only one float actually did anything with that theme, and I believe it was the School's entry. Granted, it was pretty neat. I want to know how they made the giant "art brushes." Most of the "floats" were trucks and cars filled with the local softball teams.

I walked around the downtown district for a bit, but ultimately ended up sitting in front of Common Grounds Coffee House with a group of families who live near Dad and Jodie on Hillcrest. Two families had kids on the softball teams. Sandy and Mary were likely just there to enjoy the day, as I was. Those softball teams threw bucketfuls of chocolate and fruit Tootsie Rolls, Dum-Dum lollipops, Starlight mints, Brachs cinnamon and butterscotch discs, Dubble Bubble gum, and Jolly Ranchers. Mary and Savannah scrambled for everything that was thrown to them. Even I had a full pocket as I followed everyone down the block to the school.

After one of the local kids sang "The Star Spangled Banner" (she did all right, a little quavery on the ending), the mayor handed out prizes for the best-decorated house (one of them was a block down from me on Manor) and for the best floats. The line to get a free hot dog was half-way across the lawn by the time he finished, but at least it was mostly under shady trees and went fast. The town gave away chips, water, and soda along with the hot dogs. Grabbed a bottle of water and ate my hot dog quickly (there was no seating - most people were relaxing under those trees on the school lawn) before heading home.

The hot dog hadn't really filled me up much, and I wanted some fruit in there. I made a blueberry-banana smoothie while returning to animated shorts. Bugs is a "Bunker Hill Bunny" when he defends his fort against Hessian soldier Sam. The Walter Lanz studios gives us some "Hysterical Highspots In American History," with spoofs of everything from Columbus discovering America to Depression breadlines. Tom and Jerry spend their July 4th making a few explosions of their own in a fireworks factory in the Oscar-winning "The Yankee Doodle Mouse."

I'd forgotten to bring my rent next door before the parade. Fixed that before I even saw the message Miss Willa left on my phone. Unfortunately, she left a letter at my door indicating that she still wasn't happy. I'd left the air conditioner on while I was at work during the worst of the heat wave. I'm on the second floor. It can get as high as the 90's in this apartment when the heat is bad. I didn't want to come home to a killer hot apartment after having worked in the sun all day. I think I'll just finally get around to buying a second fan (maybe online, so I don't have to carry it home) and only use the air conditioner in extreme need, and that when I'm home.

Tried to work on writing for a little while after that. Luke is still in shock over Ben's death when Han and Leia shove him into the car driven by Jeanne and Cassian's North African buddy Bodhi. Harry leans out of the car to shoot at the Imperials...only to learn that the man following them is Roberto Fettara, one of the most notorious bounty hunters and assassins in the US. He's determined to get them off the road...

Broke around 3:30 to change into my bathing suit, grab the icebox pudding cake, and head to Dad and Jodie's. The neighbors were just leaving as I was arriving. I chatted with Mary for the first hour I was there while Jessa talked to our parents, then swam on my own for a while when her mother took her home for dinner. I was in and out of the pool all evening. Jodie finally started the grill around 5:30-6. I had two cheeseburgers, two succulent ribs, macaroni salad, potato salad, and a small bag of Fritos.

Rose and her family finally arrived shortly before Jodie started the burgers and hot dogs. They'd only been home from Maine for a few hours, and they were all tired. They were apparently visiting Craig's brother, who was now running a bakery in Maine with his girlfriend. Rose donated a sample of their wares on a fish-shaped tray. While the brownies and fruit-oatmeal bars were yummy, my favorites were the extra-soft molasses crinkles sprinkled with sugar.

They came back full of stories. Rose told me that the first day, Khai released a frog in the house and laughed himself silly watching the adults chase after it. Finley took her first steps the day before her birthday.

Khai initially just wanted to play video games on Jodie's iPad. The adults finally coaxed him into the pool by pointing out that his neighborhood buddies were finished with dinner and were out in their yards. We were eventually joined by Chloe and her mom. I talked to Chloe while Rose swam with Finley, watching her little legs kick out, and Craig tossed Khai around in the pool.

Headed home around 7:30. Ran two more cartoons while changing into dry clothes and rounding up a towel and a bottle of water for the fireworks. The Pink Panther is charged with delivering messages to the people of Philadelphia encouraging them to pick up arms in "Pinky Doodle," but the Redcoat horse he's riding does everything he can to get rid of him. "Yankee Doodle Bugs" is similar to "Hysterical Highspots," this time with Bugs telling parodies of American Revolution history to his nephew Clyde.

I was worried about the weather when I headed out at quarter after 8, especially given that we've had rain at night during the last two Independence Days. It had gotten cloudy, breezy, and cooler while I was at Dad and Jodie's. Brought an umbrella with me, just in case.

The umbrella turned out to be unnecessary. The clouds remained dark, but haven't burst yet. Newton Lake Park was already so busy when I got there, I had to make my way around a gaggle of cops on the sidewalk across from CVS who were probably trying to figure out where to put all the cars. I lay my coral-striped towel down on the lawn across from the Parkview Apartments. I had a perfect view of the fireworks in front of me and the lake behind me.

The fireworks were gorgeous, as they always are. Collingswood always does its fireworks up right. My favorites are the ones that explode in shapes. I saw red hearts, stars, ovals, and even a triangle. I also like the multi-colored ones that go up in the air, then explode into little bursts of glittery light. They look like Christmas lights.

Left even before the booming rocket-laden finale to beat the traffic. I managed to find a break in the cars near the former Taco Bell building and crossed there. Other than a dad and his son setting off small spinning fireworks on their front walk, Manor was far more peaceful. Walking home from the fireworks is one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Most people are either getting back from the fireworks, still setting off their own fireworks, asleep in front of the Boston Pops, or spending the holiday at the Shore. It's just me, the crickets, the fireflies, and the hum of air conditioners.

Finished the evening with Yankee Doodle Dandy after I got in. James Cagney won an Oscar as George M. Cohan, the Broadway sensation who changed musical comedy in the early 20th century. He wrote, directed, produced, starred in, and wrote the music for his own plays. He starts in vaudeville in his parents' act, the Four Cohans. The variety stage isn't enough for the eternally restless Cohan, who wants to conquer New York. He does finally get the hit Little Johnny Jones on the boards, with the help of producer and writer Sam Harris (Richard Whorf). He even manages to bring his family back and get skeptical comedienne Fay Templeton (Irene Manning) to star in his shows. Though he manages a hit during World War I with the stirring "Over There," his shows become increasingly old-fashioned during the very modern 1920's. He makes a brief comeback in 1938 in the Rogers and Hart show I'd Rather Be Right...ironically on the eve of an even more damaging war.

I've watched this salute to one of America's most patriotic songwriters almost every year on or around the 4th of July since I was a kid. Mom used to run the video after the fireworks on the 4th during the 80's and 90's. Granted, the movie isn't much of a biography. It doesn't mention his fight with the Actor's Equity during their union strike of 1919 that soured him on directing and producing later in life, or that his wife "Mary" (Joan Leslie) is a composite of his two real-life wives. It does feature some marvelous performances (especially from Cagney and Walter Huston and Rosemary DeCamp as Cohan's parents) and gives you a nice view of the performing styles of the 1900's through the late 30's. Little Johnny Jones seems pretty realistic for the era; apparently, the "Off the Record" number from I'd Rather Be Right was spot-on as well.

Come here for the cast and the delightful numbers, not the biography. Perfect for those looking for a patriotic, yet fun movie for the afternoon of the 4th of July or after the fireworks.

And here's hoping you also had an enjoyable Independence Day (and that our neighbors to the north enjoyed their Canada Day on the 1st).

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Thunder and the Revolution

I awoke to yet another sizzling sunny day. Cooled off after breakfast with Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Summer Vacation while I made Pudding Icebox Cake with a blueberry and strawberry "flag" on top for Dad and Jodie's barbecue tomorrow. Babs and Buster spend their holiday on a raft down river after an epic water fight gets out of hand. Plucky joins Hamton and his family on their trip to Happy World Land, but their smiley-happy obnoxiousness drives him crazy. Fifi chases her favorite movie star, while Loudmouth chases Shirley the Loon and Elmyra terrorizes the animals in a safari park. Enjoyable enough if you're a fan of the Toons or the cartoons of the 90's.

Charlie left a message last night saying that an electrician would be coming around this morning. I made the bed, tidied up, and got ready for work while watching Garfield In Paradise. Jon and his pets pass the holiday at Paradise World, an island resort where the hotel owners spout Jack Benny jokes and the natives worship 50's cars. Garfield's beginning to think that this trip might actually be fun...until the island's volcano threatens to blow them all sky high!

(And of course, it turns out the electrician couldn't come today after all. Charlie says he'll "keep me posted." We'll see how that works out.)

While it remains incredibly hot, it was also murderously humid today as well, with very little breeze. Thankfully, I wasn't out for quite as long as yesterday. One of the managers wanted me to organize and hang gift cards, which occupied a lot of time during the first half of my shift. Had a few things to pick up when I arrived and on my way out, including a roll for lunch on Thursday, Gatorade for the ride home (it was on sale), and a stuffed Beanie Baby puppy intended for infants for my niece Finley's first birthday (which was today).

Rested when I got home with a chapter of The Gates of Sleep, then took a much-needed shower. After I got out, I worked on writing. To Luke's horror, Vader's red light blasts through Ben, turning him to ashes. He tries to attack Vader in anger, but Harry and Leia whisk him off before he can get to him.

Dark clouds had been building up as early as the middle of my shift, around 1. By 5:30, we were in the middle of a series of massive thunderstorms. They were so noisy, I lost my internet twice while I was writing. I gave up around 6 and opted for an early dinner and Lego Clone Wars instead.

I got really far tonight. Did the final story-based bonus round, "Hostage Crisis." A group of bounty hunters storm into Coruscant to hold a group of senators hostage in exchange for the gangster Ziro the Hutt. Completing that round gave me most of the remaining bounty hunters, including sniper Aura Sing. I swung her back to the Republic ship to use her shooting skills to pick up the Super Saber Cut red brick. Bought a truckload of characters that had popped up after finishing "Hostage Crisis." My favorite of newcomers along with Aura was Hondo Ohnaka, the old pirate and con-man who was also a prominent character in the Rebels animated series.

Finished the night with 1776. John Adams (William Daniels) is determined to see that the US is free from the tyranny of England, but he can't get the Continental Congress to discuss the matter, let alone agree on anything. The New Jersey delegation is late, New York won't vote on anything, the southerners want to keep slavery going, and most of Pennsylvania except snarky Benjamin Frankin (Howard DaSilva) would prefer to stay a colony. Adams and Franklin recruit Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) to write a Declaration of Independence and bring around his wife Martha (Blythe Danner) to make sure he does it. Even after it's written, they need a unanimous vote to pass it. It'll take all of their skills and know-how - and a little help from Adams' sensible wife Abigail (Virginia Westoff) in Massachusetts - to convince Congress that they're ready to make history.

I give this one (and the more recent Hamilton) credit for making the American Revolution come off as a lot more interesting than it ever did in history books. You really feel the tension in this one, especially in the end, when the southern delegates walk out and the whole project is in jeopardy. Some of the musical numbers are amazing; special kudos to Broadway star John Cullum for his stirring "Molasses to Rum" (on how both the south and the north profit from slavery) and to Stephan Nathan as the young courier who performs the heartbreaking "Momma Look Sharp."

Once again, length and pacing are the major complaints. This one is super-slow and very talky. It's the last of the major epic musicals of the 60's and early 70's, and you definitely feel the length. At any rate, if you're looking for an interesting movie on American history or for something new for older kids to watch on the 4th of July, this is an underrated gem that gets a major recommendation from me.

Here's some more tales of the 4th of July and the American Revolution, along with two Disney parades from the late 80's, to help you get in the mood for the real-life fireworks tomorrow.

Ben and Me
Liberty's Kids - The First Fourth of July
Dennis the Menace (Animated) - Yankee Doodle Dennis/Dennis the Barnstormer/Trial and Error
The Unsung Hero - Classic Terrytoons
Walt Disney World 4th of July Parade 1988 1989

And for those of you who won't be around tomorrow, I hope you all have an explosive 4th of July! Everyone else, enjoy your summer vacations.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Sizzling Summer

Began a sizzling hot day with a faintly patriotic episode of Wonder Woman from the World War II-themed first season. Diana goes undercover as a contestant in a beauty pageant making the rounds at various bases in "Beauty on Parade." Not only is the competition cutthroat, but the US government is convinced that someone in the show is intent on sabotaging a high-stakes project. Diana has to find out which member of the crew is actually a Nazi, without getting torn apart by the real contestants who are determined to win at any cost.

Headed out to work shortly after the episode ended. I spent most of a 100-degree day outside doing carts. I'd go inside and get a drink every once in a while, but it takes a lot longer than the 10 minutes one of the managers said I should be out there to get things done. Thankfully, we were steady, but not busy to the degree that we were yesterday. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people fled to the Poconos or the Shore for the 4th of July holiday in search of cooler breezes. After I finished, I switched out my C batteries for a D pack (turns out my flashlight takes D batteries), then headed home as quickly as I could on a dry, hazy day.

Read The Gates of Sleep for a while, then worked on writing. When Vader threatens her brother, Leia is the one who shoots him down. They flee for the exit, only to be cut off by Vader and his men before Benton Kenobi shows up at the entrance. Ben confronts Vader, distracting him long enough for the others to escape. But Luke's afraid that Ben won't make it out alive...

Broke around 6 to try something different for dinner. I was going to make burgers, but I forgot the buns. Turned my burgers into Burger Stove Top Casserole. Sauteed mushrooms, onions, red and orange peppers, a yellow squash, and tomatoes with ground turkey and sweet relish. Topped it with Monterrey Jack cheese. Oh yum. It came out pretty well, a nice melding of flavors. I might try it again later in the summer when green peppers are in season. Threw in the second ear of corn that Jodie gave me on Sunday.

Played some Lego Clone Wars again after dinner and chocolate pudding for dessert. I did manage to get one more piece each on "Defenders of Peace" and "Weapons Factory." Otherwise, had no luck. I only have three more red bricks left to get, but the one in the holding cells for the villains is really complicated and requires lot of characters to get. Finally gave up and went back to the Separatist ship. I bought a few more characters there and am hoping to get to the second bonus round tomorrow.

Finished the night with The Music Man. Professor Harold Hill (Robert Preston) breezes into River City, Iowa in the early 1910's, hoping to sell the stubborn locals on a fake boy's band. He has it all planned, including how he'll deal with Marion (Shirley Jones), the smart local librarian, and her mother (Pert Kelton). As the children of the town become more and more involved in the band, including Marion's mentally troubled younger brother Winthrop (Ron Howard), she begins to soften to the professor...and he realizes how much Marion and the townspeople have come to mean to him.

This long-time favorite of mine remains a delight, with Preston repeating his Tony-award-winning role as Hill and Jones matching him perfectly. Great cast too, including Hermione Gingold as the mayor's snobbish wife and Buddy Hackett as Hill's best friend. Main problem is that, like many of the huge Broadway adaptations of the 1960's and early 70's, this is way too long and too slow in parts. Still, if you're a fan of the cast or the musicals of this era and have time on your hands, it's worth checking out.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Dolls In a Heat Wave

Started a hot, sunny morning with Blueberry Pancakes and Yankee Doodle Mickey. This LP from presumably the early 80's has a kid's chorus, the Disneyland Chorus, and Mickey and the gang performing mostly patriotic standards such as "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "Yankee Doodle." A very young Molly Ringwauld performs with the kids' chorus on "This Is My Country." Other good songs include the Disneyland Glee Club's rousing version of "The Liberty Tree" from the Disney live-action film Johnny Tremain, Mickey and the gang's medley saluting the Armed Services, and Donald Duck joining the Disneyland Chorus for "The Battle of New Orleans."

Headed off to work shortly after the album ended. While they weren't that busy when I arrived, the crowds picked up around noon. Yes, I did end up outside doing carts for part of the day, despite the haze and near-100-degree heat. For one thing, the teenage boys they had out there are still learning what goes where and needed the help. Not to mention, we were just that busy. I also did returns, bagged, and gathered baskets.

Changed the dolls into red, white, and blue or patriotic-themed outfits for the 4th of July. Ariel gets the peasant blouse made from "rustic" patriotic fabric Lauren sent a few years ago, the dark blue jean shorts from a doll clothes booth at a craft show, and the white Springfield Collection espadrilles this year. I rolled her waist-length red hair into a huge bun in the back of her head, which took me nearly 20 minutes. Switched Jessa to a simple red t-shirt and jean shortalls that are part of outfits from the mid-90's modern collection and Springfield Collection sneakers. Samantha's wearing her sailor-themed Middy Dress and the black stockings and black and white boots from her Flower-Picking Outfit. Whitney's ready to join Oaklyn's 4th of July Parade in her white dance dress with the red and blue sequin trim and glittery red tap shoes. (It was originally sold at American Girl stores when they had a revue and dance show in the early and mid 2000's.) Molly's heading off to camp in her Camp Gowanigan Uniform. Josefina's sporting her Indigo Skirt and Camisa that's usually sold as her school outfit. Left Felicity in the white dress with the blue cabbage roses; I don't have much else that's appropriate for her and for the holiday.

Worked on writing for a little while after that. Harry's idea of attacking the soldiers Tarkin's brought in is "run after them screaming until they're afraid of you." Leia admires his spirit, but Luke thinks he's crazy. Meanwhile, Vader's begun to sense another familiar presence in the building, one he hasn't felt in a long time...

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Made myself Scrambled Eggs with vegetables while listening to Take Me Along. This is the Broadway adaptation of Ah, Wilderness!, with music by Robert Merrill. Jackie Gleason won a Tony as Uncle Sid, Walter Pidgeon is Nat, and Robert Morse is Richard. Gleason may have been the big star, but Pidgeon and Morse have the better material, including "Staying Young" for Nat and the hilarious duet "I Could Die" for Morse and Susan Luckey as Muriel.

Did some Lego Clone Wars after dinner. I still can't figure out "Defenders of the Peace" or the separate Separtist and Republic Assault missions, so I tried looking for more red bricks instead. Finally got the Super Speeder (expensive, but worth it) and Stud Magnet (always useful) extras.

Finished the night with more patriotic musicals and records. George M! is a slightly more honest stage biography of the life of George M. Cohan than the film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cohan died in 1942, shortly after the release of Dandy. By 1968, people were ready for a slightly darker look at the man, including his two wives and his dust-ups with Equity during the actor's strike of 1919 that soured him on directing and producing for the rest of his life. The real attractions here are the less-well known Cohan tunes, such as "Twentieth Century Love" or "Push Me Along In My Push Cart," that are rarely heard today.

America the Beautiful is a collection of folk songs, symphonic pieces, and vocal numbers related to the US and the Armed Services, released in honor of the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. A George M. Cohan medley ends side 2 of the first disc; if you listen carefully, you can hear the audience singing along with some of the more well-known numbers. I also like the Boston Pops' versions of "On the Trail" and "American Patrol," The Robert Shaw Chorale performing "Shenadoah," and the New Freedom Singers' energetic "This Land Is Your Land."