Saturday, December 20, 2003

Holly Jolly Christmas Specials

I watched Christmas specials while baking cookies today. I don't have cable, so the specials were all video copies, some recorded as far back as 1987. Since many were among my very favorites and they're still fresh in my mind, I thought this would be a great time to list my all-time favorite Christmas specials. Not Christmas movies (we'll do them later this week) - Christmas specials, usually no longer than 90 minutes.

Those of you who recall 50s and 60s specials will find some, but not all of them here - I grew up in the 80s, and many of the shows I recall could only have come from that decadant decade.

In no particular order...

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: I missed this two years in a row when I was in college, after which I broke down and bought my own copy. It's too cute to miss. Like most of the Rankin-Bass specials, it's a tad dated ("We have to get the women back to Christmastown") but a lot of fun, with a delightful score that includes the subject line song. Recent restoration (including a song and the "peppermint mines" sequence) was a big help.

Trivia: Burl Ives would narrate a second, traditionally-animated Rankin-Bass holiday special, "The First Easter Rabbit," in the 1970s. I don't know if it's on video, but I do know it ran on cable in the early 90s, as my parents have it on tape somewhere.

A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown: Of course, I couldn't leave off the classic 1966 tale of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, jazz, and that little tree. It's probably the most famous animated Christmas special ever filmed (and usually the first the networks run during December). Linus gets my vote for the best line, but not from his famous sermon. When Lucy threatens her younger brother in order to get him to memorize his lines for the pageant, Linus nervously observes "Christmas is not only getting too commercial, it's getting too dangerous." ; 0 )

You may be surprised to see the second Peanuts Christmas special on this list, since it's usually not regarded as well as the original. I don't think that's quite fair. The Media Center where I worked at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, for some reason, had a copy that I watched every Christmas I worked there. It's more fragmented than its predecessor and starts slow, but the Christmas pageant finale with Marcie, Peppermint Patty (who missed the first special), and Sally is hilarious. "Hockey Stick!"

Trivia: According to my mother, the pink alumnium Christmas trees Lucy and Violet mention weren't merely a creation of the writers. Apparently, metallic trees in odd colors were the "in thing" in the early-mid 60s.

A Garfield Christmas Special: I have no idea why the networks have ceased running the hilarious Garfield specials, including this classic tale. Jon drags an initially reluctant Garfield and Odie to his parents' farm, where we meet his younger (and only) brother Doc Boy and his awesome, rockin', down-to-earth Grandma. Granny is the savior of this special - her wisecracks keep it from getting too sugary, and her lonliness for her husband provides a touching subplot.

Trivia: David Lander, the voice of Doc Boy, was Squiggy on the 70s-80s sitcom "Laverne and Shirley."

Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas: The first Muppet Christmas outing to not use the Muppet characters (except for narrator Kermit the Frog) has my vote for best music from any holiday special, including the catchy "Barbecue" and the gorgeous folk ballad "When the River Meets the Sea." (Jim Henson Workshops, if you're reading, you've GOT to put the soundtracks for this and your other Christmas specials on CD!) This is a simple but sweet tale not far removed from "The Gift of the Magi" - a mother otter and her son sacrifice what means most to them when they enter a talent contest in a near-by town. Ma sings another showstopping ballad, "In Our World" - her son organizes the titular band.

Trivia: The special is based after the children's book of the same title by Lillian Hoban.

The Christmas Toy: Here's the other Muppet special I recall, from 1986 (though I taped it off of Nickelodeon about five years ago). It's something of an early take on "Toy Story." Rugby the egotistcal tiger cub thinks he'll be his little girl's Christmas present again this year, just like he was the year before. It takes meeting a Buzz Lightyear-like female action figure and the near-loss of his friend Mew the Cat Toy to make him realize that friendship - human and otherwise - is the most important part of the season. The music doesn't quite match the earlier special, with the exception of the bouncy "Try the Impossible" and Rugby's song to the (supposedly) lost Mew, "Old Friends, Dear Friends."

Trivia: "The Christmas Toy" and "Emmett Otter" were filmed for cable. "Emmett Otter" was made for (and run for many years on) HBO.

The Year Without a Santa Claus: I watched this one a lot on Fox (now ABC) Family Channel when I was in college and fell in love with it. I'm going to get around to buying the video one of these days. Most people watch this one just for those battling siblings of the seasons, the Heat Meister and the Snow Meister. As much as I like those two, I'm here for the whole package. Shirley Booth (one of my favorite comediannes!) is a wonderful Mrs. Claus. This one loses points for a pedestrian music score - only a nice rendition of "Blue Christmas" in the finale holds up.

Trivia: I believe this was the first Rankin-Bass holiday special to be narrated by a woman.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol: New to my favorites list. Some of my older friends recommended this version of the famous Charles Dickens novella for its delightful music. I bought a copy last year and wasn't disapointed, even though I'm not a fan of Mr. Magoo. Magoo's antics fit surprisingly well with a scaled-down, musical version of the tale of the redemption of that arch miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge. The animation is limited, but the script sticks surprisingly well to the original story and the much-talked-about music is as fantastic as my friends claimed. I was particuarly charmed by the lovely, meloncholy ballad "Winter Was Warm" and the rousing "We'll Have the Brightest Christmas." No wonder, as it was written by real-life Broadway songwriters Jule Styne and Robert Merrill, fresh off of "Funny Girl." Jim Backus (the long-time voice artist for Magoo) has able support from June Foray, Morey Amsterdam, and then-Broadway juvenile Jack Cassidy.

And what the heck is "razzleberry dressing?"

Trivia: This was the very first network Christmas special, released in 1963.

Mickey's Christmas Carol: Not a musical (though I do wish Disney would commercially release the beautiful opening song, "Oh What a Merry Christmas Day," on CD), but just as delightful as Mr. Magoo's rendition. It matches the Bill Murray "Scrooged" as the funniest Christmas Carol on record. The counter-casting of Goofy as Jacob Marley works surprisingly well, and Ferdie (one of Mickey's nephews) is too adorable as Tiny Tim! Mickey makes a beguilling Bob Cratchet as well...but, as a Donald Duck fan, I would liked to have seen more of his nephew Fred!

Trivia: Alan Young started doing the voice of Uncle Scrooge in this special, released theatrically in 1983. He also does the voice of Scrooge McDuck in the early 90s Disney cartoon "Duck Tales" and the more recent "Mickey Mouse Works" and "Mickey's House of Mouse."

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: I've never seen the Jim Carrey version of Dr. Seuss' timeless tale of an oddball burglary gone wrong, and I have no desire to. I'm afraid the animated version is too heavily implanted in my subconcious for even Jim Carrey in a green fuzzy suit to make much of an impression. One of the first specials I looked forward to seeing every year. The grouchy, noise-hating Grinch tries to remove all of his neighbors the Whos' holiday decorations, only to learn there's a lot more about the spirit of the holiday than trees, toys, and roast beast. This bitter story that turns sweet is ably assisted by the late Chuck Jones' expressive characters (especially Max the dog!) and the ghoulishly gentle narration of Boris Karloff.

Trivia: I swear I heard a version for a couple of years where Walter Matthau dubbed over the narration (if you run into it, run away from it - I like Matthau, but it can't hold a candle to the original). Thurl Ravenscroft, who sings "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," is the voice of Kelogg's Tony the Tiger.

And let's not forget nods to my two favorite TV series "special holiday episodes." American Movie Classic's (AMC) Remember WENN and ABC's Perfect Strangers may be two very different examples of the sitcom formula at its finest, but they do have one thing in common - excellent Christmas episodes. Strangers was around long enough to get two in, "A Christmas Story" from 1986 and "The Gift of the Mypiot" from 1988. "Mypiot" was cute, but I love "Christmas Story." It was actually somewhat reminicent of Charlie Brown - Larry Appleton is terribly upset when he can't get home for Christmas, so his immigrant cousin Balki Bartokomous does his best to remind his cousin of the Christmas spirit. The finale, with just the two cousins, a special gift, and a tree as forlorn as Chuck's, is one of the quietest and sweetest moments of the entire series.

Trivia: Actress Belita Moreno can be seen as two different characters in both episodes (she's Edwina Twinkicetti in "A Christmas Story" and Lydia Markham in "Gift of the Mypiot").

The 1996-1998 cult dramady Remember WENN also sported a memorable holiday episode, 1996's "Christmas in the Airwaves." It's Christmas 1940, and perpetually struggling radio station WENN is ready to celebrate - if their grieving owner and her nasty accountant will allow them to. The witty, warm script, wonderful music ("You Make It Christmas" was nominated for an Emmy in 1996), and fun cast make this one of the best WENN episodes ever.

Trivia: AMC released this and three first-season episodes on video. The set hasn't been sold in years, but there may be copies avalible on eBay.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Oh Christmas Tree

Mom brought over my Christmas boxes this afternoon while I cleaned and dusted my apartment, and I put up the tree tonight. I love decorating the tree. It's been one of my favorite parts of Christmas since I was a very small girl. My parents gave me my own tree last year as an early Christmas present. I adore that tree. It's just the right size for me - I don't need a stool to put the star on top! I thought of "A Christmas Story" as I put on the star. "That star is crooked!" "That star is perfectly straight!" (BTW, as far as I can tell, yes, my star is straight. : 0 )

I bought several boxes of balls last month, and Mom gives all of us new ornaments for our own trees every year. Last year, I got a really cute bear carrying shopping bags, and a glass gingerbread man wearing a chef's hat. Many of my ornaments have bears on them, from the big bear-topped ornament I recieved from Mom a few years ago to the Yogi Bear (with a pic-a-nic basket full of candy canes) I got at the North Cape May's After-Christmas sale in 1999.

Yes, my tree is fake, but not for the usual reasons. I don't care about the tree shedding, since my carpet is dark and thin and wouldn't retain needles. I don't trust a real tree around my ancient heater.

I'm going to try to finish decorating tomorrow before work or on Thursday. The tree and outdoor wreath are up, but I have other things that need homes - a tiny tree I put with my Sailor Moon and Pokemon toys, garlands I hang over the windows, a white garland that's wrapped around the top of the baker's rack/video shelves, my Christmas bears, various knick-knacks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Mystery and Adventure in the Old British Empire

Two of my favorite mystery book series are Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody/Emerson novels and Anne Perry's Inspector Pitt/Charlotte Pitt stories. Both are set in the Victorian era. Both revolve around an eccentric husband-and-wife detective duo who are aided by a second, younger couple. The two stories are steeped in the details of Victorian life in England and abroad. Both have sinister, terrible villians, and heroes who are not always entirely heroic.

The Amelia and Emerson books are the more action-oriented of the two series. They're wonderfully old-fashioned adventures revolving around the tough, intelligent, strong-willed Amelia, a fictional female archeologist whose adventures begin when she inherits a fortune and visits Egypt in the 1880s with her friend and companion, the delicate but sensible Evelyn. They meet the Emerson brothers there, the hot-tempered Radcliffe (who goes by his last name) and the sweet and gentle Walter. After adventures involving mummies and spurned lovers, they marry the brothers - Evelyn and Walter move to Evelyn's family home in England, while Emerson and Amelia dedicate themselves to excavation, even after the birth of their only child, Ramses.

The books are sprawling Indiana Jones-esque adventures that encompass the end of the Victorian era, the Ragtime era, and World War I. (I'm afraid to contemplate how Emerson is going to react when King Tut's tomb is discovered by someone other than him...) Long-time readers have witnessed Ramses grow from a talkative, precocious kid to a strapping young man with a wife and children of his own, and the additions of three adopted children to the Emerson clan. Even with all the changes, the books never lose sight of what made them popular in the first place - action, adventure, romance, daring escapes, fantastic discoveries of Egyptian antiquities, impossible disguises, wild chases across the desert, "monsters" who turn out to be not-so monstrous, evil villians, and daring heroics.

Rising above it all (with the aid of her steel-shafted parasol) is Amelia herself. She remains indomiable and undeniably human no matter what the situation, whether she faces Master Criminals, amnesia, lost cities, or World Wars. My favorite Amelia books are the "Master Criminal" stories The Mummy's Curse, The Lion in the Valley, and The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog. The "Master Criminal" was just what the name implies, the head of a ring of antiquities thieves. Despite his nasty habit of dying every three or four novels, he always seemed to come back with a wilder plot than ever...and, at one point, had the hots for Amelia. As much as I've enjoyed the World War I-set novels, it's just not the same since Amelia reformed Sethos and he joined the Secret Service and we found out a rather interesting secret about his and Emerson's relationship. Another favorite is The Last Camel Died at Noon, in which Amelia, Emerson, and Ramses discover a fabulous lost city in the desert.

The Inspector Thomas/Charlotte books don't get quite as wild, perhaps because they're set primarily in England and, despite being around even longer than the Amelia/Emerson series, remain in the Victoria era. What they lack in outrageous villains, action-filled plots, and exotic settings, they make up with more realistic stories, wonderful characters, and a genuine feel for everyday life in London and the surrounding areas during the Victorian era. And instead of one "Master Criminal," we have a whole gang of them. The thorn in the side of Inspector Thomas and Charlotte Pitt is "The Inner Circle," a sinister secret society of men who are supposedly doing good...while actually furthering their own lust for power.

Unlike the wealthy, eccentric Emersons, the Pitts live a respectable lower-middle-class life in nice, normal Bloomsbury. Until the most recent books, Inspector Pitt was an officer with (later the head of) the Bow Street office of the London police. Pitt questions the men in tough back streets and formal offices of London, while his former society wife Charlotte, her sister Emily, and their Great-Aunt Vespasia handle their wives, sisters, and lovers in fancy, frilly Victorian drawing rooms and tea parlors. Charlotte's loyal and perky maid Gracie takes on the servants who attend to England's elite and the ragamuffins in the slums and Thomas' equally loyal but somewhat predjuced partner Tellman makes the rounds of thugs, small-time grifters, and other society oddities.

I haven't been reading the Inspector Thomas/Charlotte books as long as the Amelia/Emerson series. My grandmother sent me the newest tale of the Pitts, Seven Dials, a few months ago, and I loved it so much I sought the rest of the series and several audio books. I'm currently reading Southhampton Row, and have also enjoyed Belgrade Square, Farrier's Lane, and Cardington Cresent, and have heard the books-on-tape for Half-Moon Street and Traitor's Gate. While the stories lack the adventure and romance of the Amelia/Emerson series, the mysteries are often far more involving, and it's not without cool characters. Aunt Vespasia, a strong, regal elderly woman who frequently aids Inspector Thomas and Charlotte, is by far my favorite. The Inner Circle is far more serious and sinister than Sethos and his minions, and not likely to be reformed anytime soon. Indeed, they recently flexed their muscles by having Inspector Thomas removed from the police and reassigned to the early version of England's Secret Service. Vespasia, Emily, Gracie, and Charlotte are still around to meddle and poke in London's drawing rooms and slums, though.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Memories, of the Way We Were...and Are...

I was reading my friend Linda Young's nostalgia essays about growing up in Rhode Island, and I realized that there are still neigborhoods like the ones she mentioned. The last time I visited my parents' house, I arrived to find my brother Keefe and a gaggle of neighborhood kids of both sexes playing a game of touch football. The houses are 60s tracts and the "suprette" is a WaWa, but kids do some of the same things their parents probably did in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The older kids walk the sidewalks with no fear, chatting and bike riding, sometimes trying to imitate their favorite "x-treme" rider in the empty lot in the back of WaWa. Middle-schoolers practice their skateboarding on the big parking lot next to WaWa. The younger ones play in their backyards, the ones my brother's age in the street. "Play Dates" are practically unknown, and many mothers work during school hours (like mine) in order to spend afternoon with their children. There's even little old ladies, like Miss Ida next door to my parents, who give out food for the kids and whom everyone knows.

Alas, although animals on a leash are sometimes seen playing with the kids, most are kept in yards - all of Cape May County has a terrible feral animal problem, and North Cape May's is worst than most.

Produce Place is closer to the suprette. It's a deli (with prices better than Acme's), but it also sells fancy sodas like Stewart's and Welch's Grape and Canada Dry Cream Soda that WaWa doesn't carry, and cheap candy (not for a penny, alas, but still pretty cheap!). It's also next door to the Rainbow Ice Cream Palace and Minature Golf, a favorite stop for Keefe and I in the summer (they don't stay open in the winter - shame, because I'd love to get a Breyers cherry vanilla cup during a blizzard! ; 0 ). Kids who are old enough go hang out at the Bayshore Mall or the Bayshore 8 or take the bus or beg a friend to drive them to the Hamilton Mall. The big Acme is NCM's A&P (there was an A&P in Cape May Courthouse, but it became a Super Fresh ages ago).

I envy Linda's trips to downtown Providence! I always wished for a downtown like that as a child, with real stores that carried real, useful merchandise. Dellas General Store in Cape May was not unlike a smaller version of a big, fancy department store once. They still carry different merchandise...but overpriced, just like everything else in Cape May now. We never had anything like Shepard's, and any Woolworth's vanished by the time I was a very small child. The only movie theater on Cape Island was (and is) the Beach Theater, now the Beach 4.

To me, big-time shopping meant a trip to the K-Mart in Rio Grande, the very one I went to today, in fact. When I was little, K-Mart was part of a big shopping mall that included a Deb Shop (Rose loved that store - I found it dull), a record store, several children's clothing stores (I remember the gorgeous frilly dresses Monkeys' had!), Thrift Drug, an arcade, a pizzaria, and a movie theater. My whole family used to go see movies together at Rick's Theater, most memorably "The Adams' Family" and "Beauty and the Beast." The whole, full theater, including my family, stood and applauded at the end of the latter - the first standing ovation I ever saw outside of TV.

Thrift Drug was the first to go, followed by the record store when CDs came in. The arcade, probably devestated by the home video game market, went next. The Deb Shop, being next to the K-Mart, was one of the last hold-outs, but Monkeys' vanished quickly. Rick's and the pizza parlor both held on as well, Rick's reduced to second-runs and B-pics, the pizza parlor continuing as a favorite place for birthday parties. Sadly, unlike your downtown Providence, there were no second chances for the Rio Mall. By the mid-90s, even Rick's was barely holding on, and the disappearance of the Deb Shop was the last straw. I hated having to run through there when Mom would come up to K-Mart. It was so bleak, especially since I remembered it as you recall the Outlet and Woolworth's, stuffed with Christmas decorations and busy shoppers. Rose and I even had our first visits with Santa at the Rio Mall, near what's now Save-a-Lot.

It was all gone by the turn of the millenium. The arrival of the Bayshore 8 sounded the death knell for Rick's. While K-Mart, the former Thrift Drug and Super Fresh buildings (now a Save-a-Lot cheap grocery store and empty, respectively), and a few small shops remain, the area of the mall that housed Rick's, the pizza parlor, the Deb Shop, and Monkeys' was demolished. They have yet to try a "real" indoor mall of that stripe in this area again. Even the new mall apparently being planned for across from K-Mart is a strip mall. (Ironically, Mom said that this plot of land was once a drive-in movie theater - she mentioned having seen the James Bond film "Live and Let Die" there.)

We don't get the kind of snow in this part of New Jersey that you guys get in New England. Last winter was downright amazing! I do have my own, somewhat similar snow memories - my sisters and I getting up early and listening to the radio for school closed reports, Mom insisting on breakfast first, going outside and running around the yard. With three (and later, four) of us, there were plenty of people for snowball fights and building snowmen and snow forts. When Daddy would come back from the dock, he'd chuck a couple of snowballs at us (he grew up in New York state and loves snow) and take all of us, even Mom, sledding on the West Cape May Bridge. There's an area of the bridge that borders a plot of farmland that remains in use as the local sledding hill to this day. It's bordered by a line of thick bushes and trees that keep vigorous sledders out of the Cape May Canal. Dad would drive us home, and while we took our wet things off, Mom would make us all hot chocolate, and we'd settle down and play games or watch a movie or (later) play video games.

I grew up around history, too, but of a different kind. My parents' tales were of growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Mom was moved from suburb to suburb (which she continues to have a healthy disdain for) and spoke of being the only kid with a working mother, her beloved kitchen playset, wrestling and playing sports with her brothers, and how she would fight her mother's efforts to make her dress like a "lady"...though she speaks longingly today of the muffs and lace dresses and fancy hats she had. My favorite picture of Mom is one when she was my age, taken in a Cape May boutique. Her hair is pure blonde Farah Fawcett fly-away, her shirt is so tight I'm surprised she can breathe, and she sports sunglasses and a tough, too-cool-for-words attitude. This is far from the warm, down-to-earth brunette I know today. Daddy's tales were of being a hoodlum and (accidentally) burning barns with his buddies and running to Cape May at 16.
Workin' Nine to Five...

I want so badly to have a nine-to-five job that's nine-to-five year-round. I want to have 40 hours in June and January. I want to have office parties and coffee breaks and my own little office, or at least cubicle. I finally did something to try to make my dream a reality today. I went to a job interview at the Current Newspapers of Cape May and Atlantic Counties in Egg Harbor. They're interested in finding someone to proofread and summarize and type items for their community calendar. They're still taking applicants, but the interview seemed to go well despite my stammering and nervousness. I hope something will come of it. I like my co-workers and my job at the Acme, but it's hardly what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Monday, November 03, 2003

80s Revival

Is everybody between the age of 20 and 35 feeling just a little old lately, or is it me? And it isn't just Perfect Strangers' recent Nick-at-Nite run, either. For one thing, my brother just entered fifth grade. I remember the first time I held him on my lap, when he was a newborn in the Burdette Tomilin Memorial Hospital! My teenage sister just moved out of my parents' house. I remember playing Barbies and stuffed animals and Legos with her when she was 6 and I was 12. My other sister now lives with her boyfriend and works long hours in a Cherry Hill restaraunt. I remember when we were the only kids in the family, and Mom was single, and the only men in our lives were Bert, Ernie, and Ken dolls.

I walked through the toy section at K-Mart today and was immediately transported more than a decade back. I saw Strawberry Shortcake rag dolls that smelled like fruit (although she doesn't sport a cute swiss-dotted dress anymore, and she doesn't smell quite as good). I saw huge stuffed Care Bears. I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and He-Man action figures I was tempted to buy my brother...and myself. It amuses me that my brother's two favorite shows are "Yu-Gi-Oh!" and "Transformers Armada." After all, didn't kids in the 80s revel in such complicated, Japanese Anime (or anime-inspired) adventures as "Robotech," "Voltron," "Spartacus," and "The Mysterious City of Gold?" And "Transformers" is one of the great 80s adventure 'toon, a dramatic, sometimes muddled tale of technology run amok.

It's strange, how some pop culture icons never really go away. Take Barbie. There's a whole eisle in K-Mart devoted to Barbie and similar fashion dolls - and Barbie's been around for 50 years. If you told me 10 years ago that half the toys I loved as a child would be making comebacks by 2003, I would have laughed and gone back to reading Sue Grafton. I can only imagine how my parents and older friends felt in the 80s, when 50s and 60s shows and toys started to make the rounds. I remember playing "The Lone Ranger" and "Superman" with my sisters in our backyard or at the beach.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Snapple Peach Iced Tea!

The surprisingly good reviews for Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl has inspired me to recall another favorite movie genre that has a poor reputation - the sea epic.

I grew up in a small New Jersey shore community, where tales of peg-leg captains, booty, weird ghosts, lost ships, and vast treasure were almost as common as fairy stories. My sisters and I used to dig under our porch when we lived in Cape May. The space under the porch was eventually blocked off, and we never found anything besides plumbing and the occasional rock, but my fascination with pirates didn't end with the end of our treasure hunting.

Two of the earliest films I recall enjoying on TV were a combination of two of my favorite genres - the pirate tale and the musical. Neither film is often seen today, which is unfortunante, as I recall both being stylish, energetic, and a great deal of fun.

The Pirates of Penzance is a wonderful version of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta of that title. How anyone could resist a cast that includes Linda Rondstat as the gentle Major General's daughter Mabel, Angela Landsbury as the pirates' cook, and Kevin Kline as the Pirate King is beyond me. The video is (I think) out of print, but I was lucky to pick up a copy from the Wildwood Blockbuster after they (sadly) discontinued their Musicals section. The movie is stagey, but that's part of the charm, and it works well with the wild plot that involves the buccaneers of the title, a British Major General and his eligeable daughters, and the ramifications of having a birthday on February 29th.

Now I loved The Pirate Movie as a kid. It's basically a parody of the above - same plot, only set in a very modern Mabel's head. In this version, Mabel is a scrawny Australian girl with a hopeless crush on a cute guy taking part in a local pirate festival. She's capsized while following the object of her affections and a group of obnoxious friends of hers, which is how we get to the Pirates of Penzance segment. From here on in, the story becomes a mix of the original (which was making fun of 19th century theatrical conventions to begin with) and a parody of just about everything else from the 70s and early 80s you can imagine. I haven't seen this movie in years and am seriously considering looking it up at or eBay. It usually gets very poor reviews, especially when compared to the original, but I think it still sounds cute (if a little cheesy and dated).

I taped two wonderful pirate tales, The Crimson Pirate and The Black Swan, when I was in college. They're delightful bits of Technicolor swashbuckling blarney with great casts (Burt Lancaster in the former, Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara in the latter).

Odd as it may seem, I don't own any of the Errol Flynn pirate movies, though I have seen The Sea Hawk. I'm also a huge fan of pirate fiction. I've read almost all of the Sabatini books, including Captain Blood, and own a delightfully cheesy romantic paperback pirate novel, The Sword and the Shadow. I read a great historical novel about real women pirates, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, a while back. One of the books I read every summer is The Pyrates, a hilarious Mel Brooks/Monty Python-esque take on pirate epics, both in print and on film.

I guess it comes from growing up by the shore, but there's something about a good old-fashioned swashbuckler that sends my heart racing. Maybe I'll never find treasure (or Johnny Depp), but I can imagine myself finding treasure, riding the seven seas with a motley crew of buccaneers and heading off into the Technicolored sunset in search of glory and booty...but mostly booty.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Some of you who have seen my other sites, like Perfect Strangers: The Ultimate Site (formerly The Perfect Strangers Chronicle at my Geocities personal site), know that I'm a fan of both musicals and Perfect Strangers' two stars, Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot. I didn't know until my friend (and co-proprietoriess of The Ultimate Website) Lauren Miller sent me a copy of the charming Broadway musical A Year With Frog & Toad a few months ago. I've loved it ever since.

Mark Linn-Baker is the rather neurotic Toad (a role not too far-removed from his rather neurotic Larry Appleton on Perfect Strangers), Jay Goade is his perkier pal Frog, and the show revolves around their friendship through the seasons - an embarrassing swimming incident in spring, kite flying and cookie baking in summer, raking leaves in the fall, sledding and spending Christmas together in the winter. I admit, the show is intended for very young children (and was based after a popular series of Frog & Toad easy reader books), but the music is sweet and charming, and the skits range from adorable (the cookies pig-out fest) to hilarious (I love Snail and his mail!) to surprisingly moving (Frog's song to Toad when his buddy thinks he's lonely, Toad's seranading his garden). I love every minute of it, and I'm neither four years old, nor do I have children.

A Year With Frog & Toad, as well as a play written by the creator of my other favorite TV show, Remember WENN, Say Goodnight, Gracie (about George Burns and his relationship with his wife, Gracie Allen), are up for Tony Awards tonight. I don't have cable TV (my own choice - there isn't enough on that interests me to justify the cost of the cable bill), so I can't watch the ceremony. Lauren promised to tape any "Frog & Toad" numbers, but I wish I could see it as it unfolds. I don't know about Gracie, but Frog & Toad already lost the first two awards it was nominated for, Best Book and Best Score, both to Hairspray.

The trouble in that department is that I saw Hairspray's finale performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last year, and I was blown away, it was so cool and exburent. If you'd asked me to choose between Frog & Toad and Hairspray in their categories, I'd have to tie them.

It's just that waiting that's killing me....

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Change the World

I've never gotten along well with changes. I'm a creature of habit who prefers things to remain as they are. It's just easier that way.

As I mentioned, my rent skyrocked from $425 to $550 this month. My landlady isn't doing it to be mean, but the neighborhood where I live in Wildwood, NJ, just had six new condoninums built, and another is being worked on as I type this. My apartment is two blocks from the boardwalk and the year-old convention center.

Is it like this everywhere? Is there a place in this world where they build houses and apartments and normal hotels, not condos? That's all anyone wants to build in Wildwood - condos. I hate condos. I hate them with a passion. I don't see what's wrong with houses and apartments and normal hotels.

I want to move, but I can't. I don't have the money. I'm only able to work full-time year-round, and I don't know anyone who can get me "in" with the radio stations and newspapers here. Yes, I've left my resumes here, there, and everywhere, including online. No one needs a film historian, a copy girl, a feature reporter, an advertisement writer, a movie critic. That's what I do. I'd make a terrible waitress (I couldn't handle the customers - I can barely handle my grocery store job - and I'd eat everything). I can't make 30 pizzas in an hour and I can't hammer a nail. What good am I to a resort?

This is a resort. It's not a place to live. It's a place that people visit, then forget about. It's not a place for someone who's starting out and just wants a nice, quiet little apartment in a nice, quiet little neighborhood and a decent job with a decent media outlet that she can walk or take the bus here.

I just don't know how I can leave.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Ok, first of all, I'm new at this. Not that I haven't been writing journals since I was 7, but I've never written one online. If I sound a little nervous, don't mind me. I usually do, anyway. Relaxing is not my strong suit.

Second of all, yes, I live near the beach and the boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ. I'm hoping to find a new place to live by the early fall, though. I love the beach, and I always will, but I'm sick of living on a resort's schedule.

What will you find here? Movie reviews ("Down With Love," anybody? - No Matrix here!), commetary on musicals (I'm a devout showtune lover), childhood stories (I've been feeling nostalgic lately), story ideas (I want to be a writer someday), and random stuff about whatever's on my mind. Be prepared for some venting, since I've been going through a lot of changes lately that I'm not thrilled with, up to and including my landlady raising my rent waaaaay beyond my means. ($550 for a 1 bedroom, 4-room apartment with a tiny bathroom and a clanking, ancient gas heater?)

Not everything is bad. The summer season is starting, which means that I'll actually have something to do in Wildwood besides read, watch my "Perfect Strangers" tapes (I don't have cable), and stare at a computer screen, and my hours at the Acme grocery store where I work will go up.

Um, hmmm. I've got my local radio station's Saturday 70s Show on, and the song is "My Ding-a-Ling." No, you don't want to know what it means...