Friday, December 14, 2018

A Very Green Christmas

Began a cloudy, damp day with breakfast and a couple of slightly holiday-themed TV show episodes. The closest thing Get Smart had to a Christmas episode was the first season show "Our Man In Toyland." Max investigates a department store that he suspects to be a front for CHAOS. Someone has been passing information about a major government project. Max, 99, and Fang the dog have to figure out how to dodge the sinister Herr Bunny and find out how they're getting the information out, then escape themselves.

Ran some quick Good Eats while I got organized. Though the show did have several Christmas episodes, I'm afraid I don't own any of them. Alton Brown did do an episode on cranberries, a fruit frequently consumed during the holidays, in his original series. They were just being recognized as a "super food" and a nutritional powerhouse when this episode debuted. Alton discusses this as he makes cranberry sauce, cranberry granita, and cosmopolitans.

First thing on a busy agenda today was the laundry. I didn't have a huge load, but I want to focus on other things this weekend. I couldn't have picked a better time to do it. The laundromat was empty when I arrived. I think I saw maybe two or three other people the entire time I was there. I didn't have a huge load, anyway. I half-listened to the news and the last half-hour or so of Today and worked on story notes.

Went straight home and put everything away, then went right back out. Now that I had a little bit of money, there were things I wanted to do, starting with lunch at Sonic. It was gloomy and breezy, but nothing resembling as cold as it has been, probably in the lower-mid 50's. I enjoyed a nice, hot burger and tater tots with a cherry limeade on the patio. Despite it being 12:30 and the height of lunch hour, I got my food in less than five minutes.

Walked around in the shopping center after lunch. The Goodwill was crowded with lunch-hour shoppers. They'd moved the media shelves further in the back. I had to lean over a record collector looking for good finds to check out the DVDs. I made several good finds of my own. They had several out-of-print Disney DVDs. I grabbed Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Once the guy left, I was free to go through the pile of records on the bottom shelves myself. Came up with:

Bette Midler - Broken Blossoms

Al Goodman and His Orchestra - New Moon (studio cast recording)

Explored the rest of the store to see what their Christmas offerings were like. While there were Christmas items mixed in on the shelves with other holiday decorations and every other knick-knack on the planet, there were tables in the front of the store that were just devoted to Christmas decorations. I picked up a box of really pretty Hallmark Christmas cards featuring a tree with metallic balls on the front. I have maybe three cards left after doing them earlier in the week.

My next few stops were faster. I just picked up a card for my nephew Collyn's birthday (which was on Wednesday) at Five Below. (There was a Star Wars calendar there that I may go back for next week.) Wal Mart surprisingly wasn't that busy, maybe because lunch hour was over by then. Grabbed cheaper cooking spray and coconut here, along with something that Lauren had requested a while back.

Strolled back to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping. The Acme's Christmas Employee Luncheon is a week from today, and I needed to buy things to make cookies along with regular restocking. Found more of those breaded tilapia fillets with manager's coupons, this time Parmesan-crusted. Restocked apples, bananas, Mandarin oranges, cereal (went with Acme's generic Honey Nut Cheerios), skim milk, cheese (there was a good sale on Cracker Barrel), parchment paper, yogurt, butter, batteries, cake mix, brown and white sugar, and peanut butter (buy one-get one Skippy). Got free eggs from their new grocery rewards program.

Picked up my schedule for next week while I was there. It's the best schedule I've had in a while. All afternoon and early evening work this time, nothing earlier than 10 or later than 5:15. Three days off on Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday will give me plenty of time to get cracking on everything I need to do for the holidays. (Good thing the Eagles play Sunday night this week. I work in the afternoon that day.)

Went straight  home and put everything away when I got home. Watched A Pink Christmas while I organized things. In this special inspired by the O.Henry short story The Cop and the Anthem, the Pink Panther is desperate for any work that will allow him to earn money for food. He tries shoveling walks, but eats the carrot nose off a kid's snowman. He's chased out of his Santa job after trying to take a child's snack. His attempt to get a hot meal in jail only ends up with him foiling a robbery. Even when he does find food, he gives it to a hungry dog. Someone out there has seen Pink's good deed, though...and gives him and his new canine friend a wonderful surprise.

Spent the rest of the afternoon finishing my current story. Hank and Rey go into the wilderness a third time to find a tree, but Leia deems this one too short and dry. She's finally pleased with the last one they bring back to Skywalker Manor. Hank and Rey agree that she never has to know that the last tree came from a lot in the city.

This was based after a similar incident in 1985 with my stepfather and my (much younger) sister. I remember playing among the rejected trees on the porch for the rest of that December. This story is my second one that's dedicated to Dad. I hope wherever he is, he's finally found the perfect Christmas tree.

At any rate, if you need a good laugh, here's The Resistance Kids and the Christmas Tree Caper.

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Went onto to the next Pink Panther special on the disc as I made a quick Chocolate Mocha Banana Smoothie for dinner. (The coffee yogurt cup got a hole in it and made a mess in my backpack. I had to use it.) He competes in the Winter Olym-pinks as a skiier at Lake Placid. Pink keeps besting his long-nosed rival at every turn, to the little fellow's consternation...except for when he's being chased half-way across Lake Placid by a piano!

Finished the night with the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas from 2000. All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot...too much, if you ask Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen). She wishes her father Lou Who (Bill Irwin) would pay more attention to her and less to all the gift-buying and tree-decorating. She's especially fascinated by the stories of the Grinch (Jim Carrey), a nasty green creature who has lived at the top of Mount Crumpet since he was bullied out of town as a child. The Grinch does occasionally come down to the town to play tricks, and actually saves Cindy from the shredders at the post office on one occasion. She tries to invite him to the Who's big Christmas celebration, but the pompous Mayor Augustus May Who (Jeffrey Tambor) just ends up humiliating him and scolding Cindy. Angry and fed up with the Whos and their holiday noise, the Grinch dresses as Santa and decides to steal their Christmas goodies. It's the Whos, however, who finally teach the Grinch that "Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

I think they tried to do way too much with this movie. On one hand, the design is spot-on, a near-perfect recreation of the original artwork from the Seuss book and the special. The incredible makeup work on the Grinch and the Whos won a deserved Oscar. Jim Carrey actually gives one of his best performances as the infamously mean Grinch, especially when things pick up in the second half. Irwin, Tambor, and Christine Baranski have fun as the residents of Whoville, too. I also have a soft spot for Cindy's touching song "Where are You Christmas?"

The problem is that first half. Like Willy Wonka, the Grinch did not need the full tragic backstory. The entire sequence with the "Whobilation" is more mean-spirited, even for the Grinch, than funny. Pretty much everything in the first half is filler, and it drags like crazy. The commentary on the commercialization of Christmas and how caught up people (and Whos) get during the holidays has been done before and dates the film rather badly.

This is another one that I enjoyed enough that I didn't mind the rental, but not enough to make it a permanent part of my own holiday celebrations. If you're a huge fan of Carrey or director Ron Howard or have fond memories of growing up with it on cable, it runs constantly on many channels during December, including as part of Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas marathon.

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