Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pirates and Balance

Actually, I spent most of the morning watching Three Stooges shorts and puttering around online and with some stories I'd written with Lauren ages ago that were never meant to be posted. I haven't had a lot going on lately. I'm not sure what to do. I don't want to go out and do a lot of shopping...but if I'm not going shopping, I have no idea of what else to do with myself. I've been into movies and media and toys and collecting them for so long, now that I'm trying to save for other things, I have no idea what else I want. If I'm not into movies and toys, what am I? What else do I like?

Passion frightens me. I've never really dedicated myself to something besides media. I'm not even sure how. How can I get involved with real causes without looking crazy? What do I love? I'm not sure anymore. What do you do when you don't need the things you used to need, or you have them? I don't know what I want. I don't know what I'm craving. I'm craving...something, but I'm not sure what it is. Spending all that money last year - even on things I thought I needed, like those classes - just got me into trouble. I don't always have the paychecks to sustain them. And it doesn't help that so many people I know have lost jobs or shifts or have seen major work changes in the last year or so. No one else has an answer for me, either.

I finally went to the 4PM Basics Yoga class, after spending a half-hour or so browsing around in Collingswood. While the class wasn't as full as the morning one usually is, there were more people than normal, about 7 including the teacher, Lee. We emphasized balance poses and back stretches as we worked on getting the heart pumping. I'm getting much better at the Eagle pose, and I can rock Triangle and Warrior. My balance is still shaky, but it's improving.

Went straight home after class ended. When I got in, I made Julie's Tuna Noodle Casserole (with added frozen green peppers, low fat-and-salt cream of mushroom soup instead of cheddar soup, and topped with the last of the Christmas tortilla chips instead of potato chips) and watched The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

The most recent offering from Aardman Animation (the creators of Chicken Run, the Wallace and Gromit shorts, and Sean the Sheep, among others) can I say this?...very peculiar and uniquely British. The pirates of the title are a group of sea rovers in 1837 who are very bad at their job, but enjoy it just the same. The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) wants more, though. He wants to be recognized as Pirate of the Year by his fellow buccaneers. When they laugh him and his odd band of good-natured cutthroats off the stage, the Pirate Captain and his crew attempt to rob ship after ship...but only come up with struggling scientist Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin, however, recognizes the pirates' pet dodo Polly as a rare bird, one of the rarest in existence, and thinks it may get them in with his fellow scientists and Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton). When the Pirate Captain gives in to the pirate-hating Queen, it makes him lose face with his crew...and learn that while recognition may be wonderful, having friends and a job you love is even more important.

This is a really, really strange animated film. Think a (somewhat) more family-friendly version of The Pyrates, or Pirates of the Caribbean meets Monty Python by way of Chicken Run. You don't see too many animated films whose soundtracks include punk-rock and reggae hits, or that mix Claymation and CGI with abandon. Or that revere Brian Blessed (who plays the Pirate King). Or where Charles Darwin is a major character who is played as a geek who just wants a woman.

Fans of British history might want go into this one with caution, since Queen Victoria is not seen in anywhere resembling the most flattering light. (Although I do like her going into Bond villain mode at the end.) Otherwise, this is a fun film for older kids, especially boys who will enjoy the action and slightly more adult humor, and adults who enjoy English comedy or other Aardman projects.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Animated Avengers Adventures

Spent most of the day running through the rest of Volume 3 and 4 of Avengers: World's Mightiest Heroes. I wish the libraries had more of this. The last couple of episodes had the entire group dealing with the Masters of Evil, then ending up in Thor's native Asgard to save it from Loki, the main villain of the Avengers movie. If you liked the movie or are a Marvel comics fan, this is a no-brainer. If you're new to the Marvel world (like me), this is actually not a bad place to start. 

I went for a walk between cartoons. The day had started out cloudy, but the sun was coming out by 11:30. Volunteered at the Oaklyn Library for a little while. There were a few books to shelve in the kids' section, and lots of DVDs and books to organize.

After I left the Library, I went on a short stroll to enjoy the day. Most yards and Veteran's Park next-door still show the effects of a winter that was not horrible, but colder than last year. The grass remains dry and brittle, but many trees have soft, fuzzy buds, and some gardens (including Miss Ellie's next to her basement) are showing the first signs of daffodils and crocus. It was breezy, but not nearly as windy as it has been, probably in the mid to upper 40s.

When I got in, I defrosted spring peas and had them with the last of the lamb for lunch and finishing out the Avengers. I made lamb stock while doing some things online and doing a little reading. I got off just in time to watch the last of the disc, toss a container of leftover tuna salad into my lunch bag, change into my uniform, and head to work.

Work was steady for a lot of the night. We were short on help, too. A lot of the college kids and the new high school baggers they hired had been recruited to clean and paint some parts of the store. I'm lucky one of the kids finished in time to come in for me so I could go home. 

And I really need to call Andrew tomorrow. My heater is making grinding noises again. It did this during the winter of 2011. I thought Miss Ellie had it fixed then, but it doesn't seem to have worked. It was so warm here last winter, I doubt the heater ran enough to make noise! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beating the Rain to the Punch

It was just cloudy and chilly but not as cold when I got up this morning. I had a late breakfast while running the Avengers cartoon, then ran to the laundromat to get the laundry done. It was very busy, probably with people hoping to avoid the rain that was supposed to show up later in the day, but I did get a washer and a drier quickly. I  had less to do than last week and more time to do it in. I was in and out fairly fast.

I continued The Avengers when I got in and started folding my laundry. Volume 3 brings in two very different menaces. The first story revolves around the "Masters of Evil," Marvel's villain equivalent of the Avengers. Most of the remaining ones pit the group against Krang, a warlord from the distant future. Krang insists that he must destroy Captain America to save his timeline. Iron Man in particular is determined to beat this menace from another time at his own technological game...and find out what he has against the Captain, and why.

Had a simple but tasty lunch of lamb and winter vegetables sauteed in Lemon-Wine Sauce, then headed off to work. Work was busy all night, and we didn't have nearly enough help to deal with it. It was only just starting to slow down when I finally left around 8.

I discovered one reason it was busy when I headed out. Sometime between 3PM and 8PM, the rain arrived. It was lightly showering when I rode home; even as I arrived, it was down to a sprinkle. The rain picked up about a half-hour after I got in, and has been going hard ever since.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Song of the Busy Woman

I slept in today, then ran two early Three Stooges shorts during breakfast. Men In Black, a spoof of hospital dramas, was their only short that was nominated for an Oscar. Horses' Collars is the boys' first western story. The Stooges are detectives who have to find an IOU in order to save Nell's ranch. It's Curly who may end up the hero, though, thanks to his going crazy every times he sees a mouse!

Ran to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session. I really didn't feel like waiting until Thursday to do it. It was sunny and chilly but not abnormally so for this time of year when I headed out around 11:30. Newton River Park was busy with dog walkers, joggers, and friends out for a stroll before the weather gets worse later in the week. I dodged Canadian geese looking for lunch as I made my way to a busy Cuthbert Road.

The Haddon Township Library was also busy with people looking for DVDs on their lunch break. I had plenty of DVDs to shelve, both children and adult. Took out more of the animated Avengers, along with the Oscar-nominated animated movie The Pirates! Band of Misfits and the final film in the Thin Man series, Song of the Thin Man.

Stopped at the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. I decided on a simple cheeseburger and fries while watching The Chew. I was disappointed. The burger was grilled nicely, but gristly and probably not real. From now on, I'm going to stick to bagel sandwiches, soup, and small items when I stop there.

Not only did I not have any other errands in mind for today, I wouldn't have really had the time for them if I had. I went straight home after lunch. Popped Song of the Thin Man in the DVD player while making a Strawberry-Orange Coffee Cake for a snack.

Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) haven't changed much by 1947. Other than Nick Jr. (Dean Stockwell) is probably about 10 years old, they're still solving mysteries and swilling cocktails. This time, the case takes them into the world of hipster swing musicians. A bandleader (Philip Reed) is murdered on the verge of a huge tour, and one of the musicians (Bruce Cowling), who was seen fighting with him earlier, is sent to jail for the crime. The wife he just eloped with (Jayne Meadows) claims he's innocent and enlists Nick and Nora to find out who really did it. Was it the rich couple (Patricia Morison and Leon Ames) who paid the bandleader's debts? Or the chanteuse (Gloria Grahame) who knows more than she's telling? Or the father of the new bride, who didn't want her running around with musicians? Nick and Nora make friends with another musician (a young Keenan Wynn) as they try to make their way through hot jazz, weird music slang, and gunshots.

If you're a fan of the Thin Man series and have gotten this far, by all means, jump right in. The hipster argot makes it slightly more dated than most of the other movies starring the Charleses, but it's still fairly interesting, with a nifty cast and some pretty good jazz music. Most newcomers and casual fans will want to start with the first three movies and work their way through.

I just barely made it out to work in time. Work wasn't too bad. It was a bit busier than it was last week. We are getting close to the beginning of the month. I was still able to shut down without a relief at the end of the night.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Day Razzle Dazzle

I slept so late, I didn't get up until past 11! Brunch With the Beatles was saluting George Harrison, whose birthday was in February, when I finally did get out of bed. His solo hits "What Is Life?" and "My Sweet Lord" were joined by three childhood favorites, "Blow Away," "All Those Years Ago," and "Got My Mind Set On You."

I made Strawberry Ginger Pancakes, using the last of the evaporated milk leftover from the rice pudding earlier in the week. Yum! They came out moist and rich. Tastiest pancakes I've made in a while. I tried calling Mom, but my sister Anny and her son Skylar were visiting. She'd call back later.

After the show ended, I switched from my radio to the record player. My sister Rose was the first person to introduce me to Les Miserables in the early 90s, when she picked up a copy of a cassette of highlights on a school trip to New York City. I was blown away the moment I heard it. I'd never heard a musical that was so, well, musical, or as dramatic. I had that cassette for years after Rose finally turned it over to me, and I also owned the video of the "Dream Cast" concert for a while. I finally replaced the cassette with a double LP version of the original Broadway cast I found at Russakoff's in Philadelphia a few years ago; the record set has more music.

There's a reason I don't listen to Les Mis more often, even though I love the music and badly want to see the movie. It depresses the heck out of me. It's also long, and since it's more-or-less an opera, you pretty much need to hear most, if not all, of the music to have any idea of what's going on. It's rare that I have the time to run the whole thing.

Musical fans, however, should hear this at least once. Even if it was too bombastic to work as something more than a fluke, it's a wonderful fluke, with some fabulous songs and one of the most melodramatic storylines in the history of musical theater.

Mom finally called while the records were playing. She was happy that Dad is finally starting to work out (she's worried about his ballooning weight for years), but is worried about Anny. Anny lost her job at Big Lots a few weeks ago. She claims that Anny's boss from Big Lots kept her from getting unemployment. I don't know how he did that; Anny is a single mother with a child to support. Shouldn't that matter more?

Made a quick trip to CVS after my chat with Mom. I needed milk rather badly. Also wanted to replace the headband Mom gave me a few Christmases ago. It does hold my hair well....but the plastic was so thin, it was already cracking. I bought a set of three that were not only thicker and sturdier plastic, but held my hair just as well. Grabbed some Dawn dishwashing liquid, too. (For some reason, drug stores always have the best sales on dishwashing liquid.)

I cheered myself up with a switch to the soundtrack from the Oscar-winning movie version of Chicago. I was thrilled when this won in 2002. It was the first musical to win an Oscar for best picture since 1969's Oliver. Unlike Oliver, there were no complaints about Chicago not being relevant enough for the Oscars. There's a reason the Broadway revival is still running; it's probably more relevant now than it was when the stage show debuted in 1975. (Apparently, the stage show was initially overshadowed by the runaway success of A Chorus Line in the 70s.) Catherine Zeta-Jones deserved her Oscar as Velma Kelly, the murderess who is overshadowed by ambitious newcomer Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger). Queen Latifa was fabulous as the prison matron Mama Morton; Richard Gere was almost as good as the amoral attorney who represents both ladies and gets to sing the show's most famous number, "Razzle Dazzle." I also love John C. Reilly's "Mr. Cellophane."

Chicago ended just in time for me to head to work. It was much busier at the Acme tonight than it was last night, and a bit less dull. Otherwise, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Keep On Smilin'

It was gloomy and damp when I awoke this morning. This week's American Top 40 re-run cheered me up immensely. I would have been about 3 years old in late February 1983 when this episode was first run. I have fond memories of many of these numbers. We heard pop, R&B, and quite a few classic duets. Hits included "Shame On the Moon" by Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band, "Stray Cat Strut" by the Stray Cats, "Just You and I" by Crystal Gale and Eddie Rabbit, "Down Under" by Men at Work, "Goody Two-Shoes" by Adam Ant, "Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth, "You Are" by Lionel Ritchie, "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran, and the first hit for Culture Club, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" That week's top song was also a duet, the lovely "Baby Come to Me" by James Ingram and Patti Austin.

I ran two rain-themed cartoons as I finished breakfast. The Cat In the Hat is a crazy feline who turns a house upside down on a rainy day in search of what he insists is a family heirloom. The kids who were left alone for the afternoon don't know what to make of this odd fuzzy stranger. Their pet fish does - the cat and his helpers doesn't belong there, especially when their mother isn't home! The cat finally shows the kids and the fish that fun is wherever you are, whether you're outside or in.

The Tiny Toons have a better time with rainy day fun. While Buster deals with a bored Montana Max who keeps renting friends to drive crazy, Babs discovers that all it takes is a little imagination to spice up a rainy afternoon. Both rabbits flee to the South Pole when they get tired of the weather and find themselves rescuing a baby seal from a crazed female poacher who wants his fur for a hat.

I headed out to run my errands after the Toons ended. It was sprinkling lightly, nothing heavy. The temperature was probably in the lower-mid 40s, nowhere near cold enough for snow. I had no problems heading to the thrift shop at the Logan Presbyterian Church to drop off two big bags of stuffed animals, records, cassettes, and a few other knick-knacks. I found two interesting records (a studio cast recording of The Student Prince and the original cast of Flower Drum Song, the latter a cassette replacement), but bought nothing else. There wasn't enough room to buy anything else. The main room with the clothes in particular was jammed full. Evidently, they were selling all the clothes one could stuff into a plastic bag for a dollar.

Next considered a treat at Desserts By Design, but they were so busy, I just headed back to Oaklyn instead. Did a short volunteering session at the library. No Lego group today, but there were quite a few kids looking for books. I was able to organize the DVDs and take a look at the kids' section. I also made a quick stop at Doria's Deli, but the Dorias were busy, too. I bought a roast beef hoagie and Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi and went home.

I had lunch, then started a loaf of Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread while watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? George Clooney stars in this unusual tale of three convicts (Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake Nelson) who travel through rural Mississippi in 1934 looking for the gold one hid, before the area it's buried in is covered by a new dam. Their journey leads them from a blind prophet on a railroad car to a one-eyed bible salesman (John Goodman) to a group of sexy young women in wet clothes who sing like sirens to a corrupt senator (Charles Durning) and to many, many others. Along the way, they record a hit folk single, rob a bank, chase hair gel, get chased by a local sheriff who may or may not be a devil in disguise, and break up a KKK rally. In the end, it's the music - and a little watery and possibly divine intervention - that saves them all...

The world of the Coen Brothers is usually too strange (and sometimes too violent) for me, but I couldn't resist a Great Depression retelling of The Odyssey. Yeah, it's still pretty weird stuff, and while there's no major blood, there is a little adult humor (though probably not to the degree that the Coens are known for). As good as the performances were (especially Goodman's memorable Cyclops-like bible salesman), the real stand-out here is the soundtrack. The folk and blues songs were so well-done and memorable, the soundtrack was a best-seller that won a Grammy and an Oscar and spawned two follow-ups. This is worth seeing for the music alone, as well as for fans of the Coens, Clooney, mythology retellings, or comic road trip stories.

I puttered around online for a little while after the bread went in the oven. I pulled it out with no time to spare. I had just enough time to hurry off to work. I probably didn't need to rush. Work was quiet as can be all night. It got really, really boring, especially later, when all the little things up front were done, and there was nothing left to do.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Good Byes are the Hardest Words

Started out a cloudy, cold day with a late run to the Acme for my paycheck. This will probably be my last week cashing my check at work. I switched to direct deposit last week; it should be kicking in by next week or the week after. Had a lot of grocery shopping to do, too. There were a lot of great sales, some only for this weekend - strawberries, tuna, packs of fish (salmon this week), Acme generic "Essential Everyday" toasted oat cereal and shredded wheat (I had a coupon for two, and the oat cereal was on sale), brown sugar, and chicken legs. Needed to replace white cooking wine, apple cider vinegar, and evaporated milk. Restocked apples, eggs, and blood oranges. The clearance racks have been laden with leftovers from Christmas and discontinued items - I found my favorite small packs of Land O'Lakes flavored hot chocolate for a mere quarter each! I ended up with eight of them. Smart Balance put out their "blended butter" in a smaller package. It was probably a gyp to buy two butter sticks for $3.29, but I missed their original sticks and wanted to try this.

When I got home, I ran Sailor Moon episodes while putting everything away, then made "Wonderful Tuna Salad" for lunch to use up the last of the crushed pineapple. Had the pack of French Vanilla Land O'Lakes Hot Chocolate with lunch. I wish it wasn't the only pack they had left - it was really tasty.

I headed out after lunch to quickly sweep the porch and for my last bank run. The Oaklyn branch of PNC Bank closed for good at 3PM this afternoon. I just made it in. I still don't like that they're closing it to begin with. There's only one other bank in Oaklyn (TD Bank down the White Horse Pike), and at least four other banks in Collingswood. Not to mention, I discovered that most of the tellers weren't moved to other branches and are out of a job. That isn't fair. The Oaklyn PNC branch won awards for excellent customer service. They had a plate of cookies, but I wasn't that hungry. I did take a few last Jolly Ranchers from a bowl, though. I'll always think of the Oaklyn PNC branch and how nice the tellers were to me whenever I see Jolly Ranchers.

Strolled home after that, passing lines and packs of kids and parents on their way home from the Oaklyn School. I even waved to a few kids whose parents I knew. When I got in, I ran the original cast of Annie to cheer me up and packed up bags of stuffed animals I don't really need anymore. I'm getting rid of most of my WebKinz, except for the ones that are unique in design (like the Rockerz or the dragons and Pegasus) or a type of animal that isn't often seen in stuffed form (like wombats, American eagles, and possums). There's two coming in March that look interesting, including an awesome hard-rock-themed female Rockerz Fox. After that, I don't think I need more WebKinz, or stuffed animals, for that matter. The Riverside Rest now has no vacancies.

Work was a bit busier than last night, but ended the same way - so quiet, I spent an hour puttering around up front and ultimately left a few minutes early. I found out why we were busier when I walked out onto a wet parking lot. It flurried briefly and lightly right after I got in from the bank, but was doing nothing but looking gloomy when I left for work. Whatever rain or snow we got was done by 10. It was sprinkling lightly, just barely enough to get me damp. There was a dusting of snow on my porch and on the ground, but the streets were completely clear. I didn't even see any ice.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Balance On a Cold Day

It was sunny but chilly when I headed out this morning for yoga class. The class was fairly full when I just made it in, though not as bad as the last time I was there. We concentrated on Warrior poses, headstands, and balancing. I can do most of the Warrior poses just fine. I still can't balance very well, though.

Headed right back to Oaklyn after class, but made a left onto Newton Avenue instead of going straight home. I ended up at the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there. There was plenty to do. Some of the DVDs still had labels to remove, and there were lots of kids books and DVDs to shelve and organize.

When I got in, I made Whiting Fillets and Brussels Sprouts in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce with an Escarole-Citrus (escarole and a sectioned blood orange) Salad and ran some of my Classic Disney music collection CDs and the Dreamgirls soundtrack. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon quietly online, playing WebKinz World and doing job research. WebKinz World just started letting people use the "hosts" (the characters in charge of various areas) as friends to complete various challenges. That's good news for me, since I try to avoid friend-ing anyone I don't know. I can finally complete these challenges, some of which have been hanging around for months.

Work was surprisingly quiet, given how busy it's been lately. It was never more than mildly busy during rush hour. By 10PM, it was so dead, I left a few minutes early.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bad Day Rising

Arrgh! I had a very frustrating day, starting with sleeping late. I got so caught up reading Princess Academy and writing in my journal, it was almost 11 before I started breakfast, and nearly 1 before I made it to the laundromat...and I had to work at 3! Good thing the laundromat was quiet. There were only a few people there besides me and The Days of Our Lives on TV. And of course, when I got outside, I discovered that the wind had blown down my bike, despite it being chained to a pole. I had to set it up and push the basket back on the handlebars.

When I got in, I ran Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase, which I'd started earlier, while folding the laundry. A friend of Daphne's is a student in a science lab where he, a friend, and their professor have created a game revolving around Mystery Inc's adventures. Right before the kids' arrive, the computer that runs the game somehow unleashes a virus into the real world...a virus that can suck the information out of any technology. It also knows how to manipulate the game...and how to zap the kids and Scooby into the thick of the system! The kids find themselves fighting through all ten levels - and meeting what amounts to their original late 60s selves - in order to escape and find out who's behind the virus.

Definitely one of the more interesting earlier Scooby movies. This one goes into not only the changes in technology between 1969 and the 2000s, but the changes in the perception of the kids, too...except for Shaggy and Scooby, who remain hungry slackers in any decade.

I had to gulp down my lunch and throw together something for dinner. I quickly changed out of my clothes and into my work uniform...but I realized just as I locked the door to my apartment that I forgot to put the keys back in after I switched pants! I barely made it to work on time. I called Dad during my break to get my landlord Andrew's number (I forgot to put it on my cell phone), then called Andrew. He said he'd look for the key in the front apartment, then walk up to my place with me to make sure he had the right one.

Thank heavens work went perfectly fine after I got there. It was steady for most of the night, with no really huge problems. I was in and out.

I did meet Andrew in the front of the house. Yes, he did get me into my place, and yes, my keys were on my dresser, where I probably threw them this afternoon. He said he'd make me a spare set of keys to hide downstairs somewhere, since he and his wife and Dad and Jodie aren't always at home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Rainy Day In Oaklyn

I slept in this morning. It was sunny when I got up around 9:30. It started clouding up as I was running Sondheim: A Concert At Carnegie Hall and eating breakfast. Much to my annoyance, it just started to rain as I left for this week's Haddon Township Library volunteering session. It got heavier as I rolled into Westmont. I was rather wet when I arrived.

Needless to say, the library was very busy today. I once again worked on organizing the kids' DVDs and shelving adult titles. There were only a few foreign and children's titles to weed out of the adult section. I did help some kids find a few DVDs, and tried to figure out how to get more cases into the overloaded shelves. Finally took out four titles for myself - the Miss Spider volume A Cloudy Day In Sunny Patch, Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase, the comedy Julie & Julia (Mrs. Stahl recommended it, as it involves a writer who did a project on something she loved), and the comic adventure O Brother, Where Art Thou? Grabbed books on light desserts, journal writing, and simplyfying all aspects of your life, from your home to your relationships.

Despite the continuing heavy rain, I had a few errands I really couldn't skip. I needed sponges, toothbrushes, vinegar, and raspberry preserves at Dollar Tree. Rite Aid was having a sale on gel to clear out pipes. My bathroom sink has been running really slow again. I also picked up contact lens solution. In between, I stopped at Nick and Joe's Pizzeria for a late cheesesteak and fries lunch.

I was originally going to do the laundry later in the day, but not in heavy rain. I spent the rest of the afternoon at home. Looked over the books while running the rest of the Sondheim concert. The concert put me in a musical mood; I continued it with That's Entertainment Part III

Had just enough time for some Miss Spider and her crew after That's Entertainment ended. Made lamb chops with mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts, and banana-chocolate chip bread for dinner during the cartoons.

Despite the title, only one episode, the title one, had anything to do with rainy days. Shimmer is looking forward to her first hatch (birth) day party...until the planned outdoor extravaganza has to be moved inside, due to bad weather. Shimmer's devastated, but her siblings find a way to make her laugh at her troubles. When Spidercus accuses Shimmer of stripping bark off bugs' homes in "Something Stinky In Sunny Patch," Stinky the Stinkbug, Squirt, and Bounce are on the case and determined to find the real thief. Miss Spider discovers that even the best mothers have limits when she hurts herself trying to get to all the kids' events at once in "Eight Is Not Enough." Miss Spider makes the kids a "ground house" as a play house to give the adults time to themselves. When Spidercus encourages Dragon the Dragonfly to make the Ground House more exclusive, Dragon learns that there's a line between making rules and being bossy...and that it's no fun when the rules drive out your club members.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Hint of Frost In the Air

My President's Day was relatively quiet. Lauren and I took advantage of her rare Monday off and did two long nights in a row. I slept in again. By the time I got up, it was too late to do anything besides watch a couple of DVDs and go for a walk. I had breakfast and ran the That's Entertainment: Treasures From the Vault cut numbers and the half-hour documentary on the producers, musicians, directors, and composers who worked behind the scenes on the musicals at MGM.

It was such a gorgeous day, I had to go for a stroll to WaWa after the DVD ended. The air was still chilly, with that frosty nip it gets in winter, but yesterday's gale-force wind had slowed to a gentle breeze. I had a very pleasant stroll. There were several dog-walkers and packs of kids out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather. It had to be in the lower 40s, perfectly normal for this time of year. Some of the gardens are starting to show the earliest signs of spring, with a few sprouts who were confused by the few warm days we had, and a few people have even put out very early St. Patrick's Day banners. For the most part, the gardens on Manor Avenue remain elegantly bare; most houses sport leftover greenery from Christmas, Valentine's or winter banners, or nothing at all.

When I got in, I put on an episode of Wonder Woman from the World War II-set first season that did involve music. Diana goes undercover at a beauty pageant that's supposed to be a morale-booster for Army camps. The cutthroat competition among the contestants is nothing compared to the Nazi's plot to sabotage a new radar. When Steve and Etta Candy discover that the Nazis have something else up their sleeves, will they get to Diana...and Wonder time?

As you can guess on a holiday, work was far busier tonight than it was yesterday. We had tons of customers with huge orders who were using their last Monday off until May to do some major shopping, and not nearly enough people to handle them. Thankfully, it had slowed down so much by 8:30, I spent another productive half-hour doing returns. I was in and out with no problems.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Winds of Winter

Began a sunny but windy and cold Sunday with Brunch With the Beatles. The Beatles' Second Album was in the spotlight. If you've never heard of this one, you're in good company. Until I started listening to this show and doing more research on the Beatles, I hadn't, either. Apparently, Capitol chopped up their first few English albums, rearranged the cuts, and dropped a few. The Second Album mostly seemed to be covers, including "You Really Got a Hold On Me," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Devil In Her Heart," "Money," and "Shout." To make up for the fact that The Second Album is the shortest Beatles record, there was a lot of filler, including John's original demo of the song "Real Love" that would be released with his former bandmates' vocals in the 90s and several live cuts from late 64-early 65.

I went tropical with breakfast. Made Pineapple Honey Pancakes with some of the crushed pineapple leftover from baking. They were delicious, very sweet and tender. Had a blood orange and some Egg Noggin' tea. 

Called Mom as I finished my meal. Mom was on her way into the shower. She was in a good mood. Dad had just gone out for the day, and she planned on spending the rest of the day cleaning  now that he was no longer underfoot. For once, they actually saw more snow than we did this week. The clouds that produced flurries here gave them an inch of wet snow that Mom said was already disappearing. My brother Keefe got his orders; he and two Navy buddies will be moving to a base in upstate New York in early March. And my sister Anny lost her job as a manager at the North Cape May Big Lots. She applied for unemployment and is taking the time away from work to be with her sons. (She's posted many adorable pictures of them on Facebook.)

The rest of the afternoon passed quietly. Yesterday's American Top 40 inspired me to stay in the late 70s. I ran Barry Manilow, Donna Summer, Earth Wind & Fire, the Bee Gees, the Eagles, and one of my Have a Nice Day: Forgotten Hits of the 70s Rhino CDs. I cleared out a few records and DVDs. I took a good look at that Clara's Kitchen cookbook Linda Young gave me for Christmas. The Pasta With Escarole sounded tasty and a good idea at this time of year, when escarole is often one of the cheaper lettuces. I added some of the leftover Sloppy Joe sauce and made a complete skillet meal out of it.

Work was pretty quiet for most of the night. It was just starting to flurry when I came in. It briefly turned into a blizzard just as I started...for all of five minutes. There was sun on the horizon even when the snow was at its worst. Ultimately, all it did was look pretty. We were so empty after that, I spent almost the entire night doing returns.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Into the Holiday Weekend

Began a sunny morning with the American Top 40. Valentine's Day 1976 broke out the disco, R&B, novelty tunes, and some classic ballads. We heard "I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow, "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, "Evil Woman" by the Electric Light Orchestra (which would be incorporated into the 2007 stage version of Xanadu), Neil Sedaka's slower version of "Breakin' Up Is Hard to Do," "Theme from S.W.A.T" by Rhythm Heritage, "Love Roller Coaster" by the Ohio Players, "Love Machine (Part 1)" by the Miracles, "Love to Love You Baby" by Donna Summer, and the novelty tune on the then-exploding trucker culture, "Convoy." That week's #1 song was one of my favorite Paul Simon hits, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

I finished out the second Avengers: The World's Greatest Superheroes! volume while doing some crocheting. My favorite episodes on the second disc both highlighted the Hulk. "Gamma World" was a very interesting two-parter in which the Hulk's old adversary The Leader, one of the escapees from the Cube, the prison for gamma radiation villains, creates a huge dome of radiation. It eventually expands until it consumes the whole desert and Las Vegas, turning the entire city and most of the Avengers into monsters. The only Avengers who avoid this fate are Thor, who isn't from this world, Hawkeye, who managed to outrun the blast, and Hulk, who's been a gamma monster for ages. The three find themselves working together to try to contain the Leader's scheme...and prove to the Hulk that both of his alter egos have a purpose in the Avengers.

I made a quick errand run around the Oaklyn area after the DVD ended. The Oaklyn PNC branch will be closing the 22nd and consolidating with the branch in Collingswood. Next week will be my last day depositing anything there. I wish they were closing the branch in Collingswood instead. That would really make more sense. There's at least three or four other banks on Haddon Avenue alone, but only one other bank in Oaklyn (TD Bank further down the White Horse Pike). I like PNC and intend to stay with them, but I don't want to ride to Collingswood every week to deposit my paycheck.

I never made it to the Oaklyn Library last week. Made up for that with a quick stop there after leaving the bank. The library was the busiest I ever saw it. The children's area was filled with kids making LEGO kingdoms and vehicles and towers. I'd forgotten that today was the library's LEGO Building Club. Oh well, the kids were fun to watch.

I ended up working on the adult DVD section instead. It really needed the organizing. Half the boxes weren't in the right place at all. I also did something I'd been wanting to do forever. The Oaklyn Library probably can't afford to give the DVDs uniform cases and usually just leave them in the case they came in (even when the case is merely a cardboard box or slipcover). This would be all well and fine, if whomever shelved them actually bothered taking off the black and white sticky labels that hold together the tops. Many of them still had parts of the labels on their tops and sides. It looked tacky and unprofessional, not to mention made the cases hard to open. I removed as many of the labels as I could (some of them were covered with the library's scan bar stickers and couldn't be budged), then explained the situation to the librarian on duty. She said she'd leave a note for the other librarians to be more careful with the DVDs.

When I got home, I finished out "Gamma World" and ran a couple of Sailor Moon episodes from the first half the second season during a leftovers lunch, then headed to work. One of the managers had asked me to stay until 8. Having already taken a lot of hours this week, I told her I'd stay until 7, if necessary. (Getting off at 7 made more sense than getting off at 6:30, anyway.) Evidently, the father of one of the college boys had passed away, and he was going to be gone for a while. (Which also explains my late hours later this week.)

It was crazy-busy for most of the afternoon, not helped by the lack of employees. At one point, we even had to call a guy from the bakery to help out up front...and the bakery was even busier than us! February is a big birthday month. I saw at least seven or eight people buying birthday cakes and party trappings today. I thought it was quiet enough by 6:30 for me to leave at the original time, but the managers needed one of the cashiers to help with a display. I was embarrassed when they called me back to stay until the original 7. I thought the other cashier would be coming back!

I did get one important thing done at work today. One of the head managers helped me switch my paycheck from check to direct deposit. I was wary of that when it was first debuted. I would rather have the money right away, in my hand. But then, I started direct-depositing my tax refund money, and then got my temporary disability money last fall through direct deposit, and I realized how convenient it is to have the money right away and not have to run to the bank to put it in there. If nothing else, it'll save me an errand. From now on, I'll just take the money out of the bank that I need for the week on Fridays.

I finally made it to Applebee's after changing into a regular shirt. Needless to say, they were very busy on a Saturday night. My original plan for Christmas Eve was a decent dinner at Applebee's, which is in the parking lot next to the Acme, but I ended up going to Dad's party instead. I just switched it to a late Valentine's Day dinner. The hostess originally said the wait was 10 minutes, but it took less than 5 for them to seat me in a booth near the door.

I had the tasty Napa Chicken and Portobello, which was pretty much grilled chicken with roasted red peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini, topped with Swiss cheese. Some of the zucchini slices hadn't really been cooked through, but they were awfully thick. Everything else was just fine. The chicken was tender and salty. The remaining vegetables were divine. I may have to try something like that at home this week. I enjoyed my meal and watched the Flyers play the Montreal Canadians. (Alas, they ultimately lost, 4-1.)

I heard customers mention a flurry in the middle of the afternoon. It was just cloudy when I got out of work, and at press time doesn't seem to be anything but cold.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Avengers Assemble...In Animation!

I spent the morning before work taking down the Valentine's decorations and running Avengers: The World's Mightiest Heroes! While this uses some of the same characters as the movie, the main story arc is different, and there's even more superheroes around. Here, S.H.I.E.L.D's four main super villain prisons were breached, and all the bad guys escaped. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are more-or-less as they are in the film, except for that here, the Avengers, not S.H.I.E.L.D, find the Captain in the ice when they're looking for Hulk. Hulk has even more problems with joining them, thinking they'll regard him as a monster. (Considering they have a god, a Golden Age of Comics superhero who is literally a man out of time, and a playboy who can't live without a prosthetic heart among their group, I'm not sure what he's worried about.)

What really intrigues me about this cartoon is the use of characters I never even heard of before. Until I got into the X-Men in the spring of 2009, I was really more of a DC Comics girl. I never heard of Ant-Man, the Wasp, or the Black Panther before I saw this show. All three are very much quirky Silver Age characters. Ant-Man is a scientist studying in Africa who gained the power to shrink or grow, as well as control ants. The Wasp is his smart, take-charge girlfriend. Black Panther was apparently the first black superhero, an African tribesman who takes the place of his dead father and leaves his tribe to restore his father's legacy.

It was a gorgeous day, sunny and bright and breezy, when I headed to work. This was reflected in my shift. It was really dead for the first half of the day. It didn't pick up until the evening rush hour, and I once again heard rumblings of snow. It didn't help that there was a full moon today, and we had quite a few demanding or obnoxious customers. I was happy when a manager told me to just shut down, as she would move my relief to a register closer to the front of the store.

I really needed a good-sized grocery trip. Restocked blood oranges, apples, bananas, canned tomato sauce, plastic wrap, tortillas, chocolate chips, frozen stir-fry veggies, chicken cutlets, and yogurt. Found good marjoram and cinnamon sticks on clearance. I hadn't had Brussels sprouts in ages, so I decided to grab a bag of those, too, and I couldn't remember the last time I had lamb.

When I got in, I made Cornmeal-Battered Chicken Cutlets and roasted Brussels sprouts and finished out the Avengers disc.

And mixed feelings on my schedule. Lots of hours, which makes me happy...but four late days in a row late next week, which does not.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Johnny Fedora Loved Alice Blue Bonnet..."

By far my favorite segment from the Disney Channel Valentine's Special From Disney With Love was this sweet, touching short from the Disney anthology film Make Mine Music, performed by the Andrews Sisters.

Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet

Balance With Love

Spent the morning running Valentine's Day specials and romance-themed cartoons as I finished this month's dusting. Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers is another 70s-80s Looney Tunes special made of bits and pieces from shorts stuffed between a thin story. Bugs follows an Elmer-like Cupid as he tries to stir up love between the 'Toons, despite Bugs pointing out that he's really meddling. The DVD includes two additional shorts, the Tex Avery gag-a-thon "Holiday Happenings" and the Pepe Le Pew-does-the-movies tale "Past Perfumance."

The Disney Winnie the Pooh did two Valentine's stories. A Valentine for You has the 100 Acre Woods crew searching for the "Smitten" bug to try to get a romantic Christopher Robin back to normal. "Un-Valentine's Day" is an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Pooh discovers a jar of honey on his front stoop for Valentine's Day, even though Rabbit  said not to send valentines this year. When word gets around about Pooh's gift, suddenly everyone in the 100 Acre Woods is giving each other some pretty wild valentines.

I dug out a couple of shorts, too. Chip and Dale compete for the affections of cute chipmunk singer Clarice in the classic short "Two Chips and a Miss." The Pink Panther finds a magic wand that enables him to help a poor girl win the rock star of her dreams in "Pink-a-rella." Oswald the Lucky Rabbit ducks into the five-and-dime to get out of the rain, but finds true love instead in the Universal Oswald short "Five and Dime" (based around the song "I Found a Million Dollar Baby In a Five and Ten Cent Store.")

Got one Peanuts love-related special in before I left for work. Charlie Brown falls for a girl he sees for five seconds on TV in a football stadium crowd in Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown. Linus thinks he's crazy, but he becomes determined to find her anyhow.

Work was actually pretty decent for a holiday. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Almost everyone was in a really good mood. It was steady for most of the afternoon; I left just as the evening rush hour was beginning. What little snow we got last night was melting rapidly in the relatively warm weather, even as I headed to the Acme around 11. By the time I made it out, there wasn't a bit of snow left on the ground, not even in shady places.

I bought myself two Valentine's treats at work. I love York Peppermint Patties, especially when they have fun with shaped patties during holidays. I waited for the candy to go half-price at Christmas...and by the time I got to them, the Yorks were long gone. I wasn't going to repeat that mistake at Valentine's Day. I picked up the candy for $3.50, not that cheap but cheaper than they normally are. The big bags of red and green tortilla chips that the deli was selling for at least $4.50 at Christmas had been put on clearance for $1.59, cheaper than many bags of chips three times smaller. Great! I'd add spices to the Sloppy Joe mix from Tuesday night and have Burnin' Love Nachos for my Valentine's dinner.

When I got in, I put on a couple of Tom and Jerry shorts while I changed into work-out clothes. Even cats and mice can fall in love. Tom becomes smitten with a pretty girl cat, which doesn't sit well with Jerry at all. He finally encourages another cat to chase her as well in "Springtime for Thomas." Tom's jazz concert to that pretty kitty is keeping Jerry awake in "Solid Serenade."

Moved into yoga after the cartoons ended. I knew I wasn't going to have time for yoga classes this week, due to my odd schedule, so I decided I'd do some at home. I worked on the disc that concentrated on the rear and lower body. I kind of wish the DDP Yoga DVDs concentrated on the mind as much as the body, but I did get a good workout in.

After yoga, I swept the piles of sticker balls and twigs off the porch, enjoying the lovely sunset. When I went back in, I slipped on the two Peanuts Valentine's Day specials. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, is from the mid-70s. Linus buys a huge box of candy to show his teacher Miss Othmar how he feels about her. Charlie Brown would just be happy to get any kind of card, or just an acknowledgement that someone cares about him. And Snoopy is putting on very messy and melodramatic "paw-pet" shows.

Be My Valentine has always bothered me. I think it's actually a little too mean to poor Chuck. I've come to prefer the 2002 special A Charlie Brown Valentine. This one is mainly a series of gags revolving around the various unrequited Peanuts love affairs. Chuck loves the Little Red Haired Girl, but is too shy to get within a 100 miles of her. Lucy loves Schroder, who loves his piano. Sally loves Linus, who loves his blanket. Peppermint Patty and Marcie both have crushes on Chuck, who is too busy panting over his red-haired girl to notice either of them. Snoopy...just wants to write Valentine's poetry.

The students of Acme Looniversity have more luck with love in the first season Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Prom-ise Her Anything." While Buster is trying to learn the hot new dance moves and Babs is waiting not-so-patiently for him to ask her to the prom, Elmyra finally gets Montana Max to agree to take her. Monty stands her up...until the rabbits intervene on her behalf.

At any rate, I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day! : )

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Weather Games

Yes, I started out today with dusting and The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Laurence) is a young huntress living with her little sister and widowed mother in "District 12," one of the most rural outlying areas of a ruined futuristic country. Every year, a teen boy and girl from every district is chosen for "The Hunger Games," a very popular event where the kids are dropped in a controlled forest environment and left to survive on their own, against the elements and other, better-trained competitors. It's supposed to be an honor to be chosen, but Katniss' little sister is too delicate for such bloody sport. When she's chosen, Katniss offers herself in her place. She's joined by the strong baker's son Peeta (Josh Hutchinson), who has admired her from afar for years. The two do their best to come out on top, even when the corrupt president (Donald Sutherland) and the slick Seneca try to manipulate the odds to create false "hope" in the people they're brutally controlling.

No doubt about it, this was a weird one. On one hand, it's a pretty dark movie, and not for everyone. Though the shaky cinematography in the second half tries to hide it, there IS a lot of gore. These kids are quite literally playing for keeps, even tiny, cute little Rue, who briefly befriends Katniss. Some sci-fi fans who have been reading this sort of thing for years may not find it terribly original.

On the other hand, the actors are spot-on. Harrison and Sutherland were particularly good as Katniss' genuinely concerned mentor and the gruff dictator who is determined to keep his impoverished people under control, no matter what. Laurence was fine as the strong-willed hunter who is determined to protect those she loves. And I do love the fact that we have a genuinely tough, proactive heroine here, one not all that far removed from another female archer seen in theaters last year, Merida of Brave.

If nothing else, this should receive plaudits for the sets and costume design alone. The costumes are amazing, from the Kit Kitteredge-esque 30s feed-sack clothes worn by the citizens of the rural districts, to the riot of Technicolor outfits, with wild hair colors that usually can't be seen outside of anime, once the kids arrive at the out-of-touch, wealthy-run Capitol. The sets look like something out of an art deco sci-fi extravaganza of the 30s, with shining halls of curvy-lined, modern furniture.

I have to admit, for all the negatives, I did end up enjoying it. I usually don't go in for teen or sci-fi fandoms. I was largely indifferent to Harry Potter, and have absolutely no interest in Twilight whatsoever. Despite it being a gigantic hit last spring, this one does have its flaws, but intrigued me enough to want to look into the book series and await the next installment with much interest.

Work was a total pain in the rear today. It was just cloudy and relatively warm and windy when I went to work. We were on-and-off busy again for most of the afternoon, to the point where I spent a lot of the time shelving candy.

This ended by the 4PM rush hour. We were really busy, with very long lines. They asked me to stay an extra hour even before the lines got horrible; someone must have called out. It would have been less of a pain if I wasn't already tired. It was still so steady at 8PM, a manager finally came in for me, replacing a college boy who was on break.

I found out why everyone got so crazy when I headed outside. It was raining and snowing at the same time, and doing both heavily. The snow must have just started, since the ground was just wet. It has since stuck to at least my porch. I doubt it'll be around much longer than previous snow storms were. It's supposed to get warmer later in the week.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Winter Woods and Sunny Days

I had a lot planned for my only day off this week, starting with a run to the laundromat. Dad and Jodie are out of town visiting friends, and I had a huge pile of clothes to do, including towels. The laundromat wasn't bad when I came in; the TV wasn't even on. Someone put on Let's Make a Deal and The Price Is Right later. Thankfully, it was quiet enough that I had no problem getting a washer or a drier.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went right back out. This time, I started on Cuthbert Road. Had lunch at the Westmont Bagel Shop. I arrived at 12:30, just in time for the lunch crowd coming from the nearby offices and hospitals. I did find a seat and ordered a BLT on a sesame bagel and cole slaw while watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The BLT was very tasty, and HUGE, loaded with a big stack of bacon.

Next on the schedule was this week's Haddon Township Library volunteering session. Everyone must have taken DVDs out to watch during the so-called "winter storm" this weekend. There were two long rows of them, and plenty of kids' DVDs to put away, too. Pulled quite a few foreign titles, too.

I did end up taking out DVDs this week. I've wanted to see The Hunger Games for a while. I haven't read the books, but I do love the idea of a teen girl heroine who does something besides pine for vampires. After much delay, Disney finally put out the next Tinker Bell movie, The Secret of the Wings, which I've also wanted to see. And I enjoyed the live-action Avengers so much, I thought I'd take a look at Disney's animated TV show version of more-or-less the same story.

It was a gorgeous day for a ride to Haddonfield. The clouds and fog that obscured my vision on yesterday and during my last counseling appointment had been chased away by bright sunshine and relatively warm upper 40-degree temperatures. It was very windy again, which coupled with traffic, caused my trip to take a little longer than it did last time. I still arrived at Shelly Stahl's on-time.

We mainly discussed my difficult childhood and how it's still impacting me today, including getting a decent job. Shelly says I'm far from the only person who has complained to her about hating grocery store work. It doesn't at all match my personality, either. I want to help people, not be their slave. I want to write for them and make them happy, not listen to them carp and complain about how much they hate shopping. It's hard to stay positive when I'm forever hearing people fussing and giving orders and being general pains.

The trouble is, first of all, it is very hard for me to stay positive. I give up very easily. Second, I'm still overcoming a difficult childhood, specifically the period of about 1988 to 1991, when my whole world seemed to collapse on me - I entered puberty at age 9, my parents' marital problems and my problems with the kids at school came to a head, we moved to yet another house in 1990. I preferred to cling to food, Star Wars, and reading rather than deal with my crumbling reality.

I initially believed that my early puberty was caused by the stress from all my problems. While stress may have been a factor, I now suspect it was the result of hormones added to milk and other foods during this time period. I don't know why chemists can't leave well enough alone. If a food wasn't meant to sit on a shelf, it wasn't meant to sit on a shelf, and that's that. Some things aren't supposed to last forever.

Considering how busy February is in general, Mrs. Stahl and I both came to the conclusion that it would be too difficult for us to try to get together again this month. I'll be going back to her in the first week of March. Until then, she wants me to make a list of all the negative things that come up when I get angry at myself, and positive things I can counteract them with.

I made a quick stop at the tiny candy store for more of those wonderful chocolate Smarties, then went a block down to the CVS on the shopping district. I was going to stop at the Dollar Tree on the way home and buy toothbrushes and sponges. I bought them at CVS instead - the sponges were on sale. I decided to get milk, since I was there and it was a good price, and I've been meaning to buy allergy medicine anyway.

I got lost in the twisting back roads of Haddon Township riding home. When I finally made it into Westmont, I avoided the worst of Cuthbert Road at rush hour and rode home across a bustling Newton River Park. It was getting chillier and windier at that point, but I still saw lots of people out and about, strolling or walking dogs or jogging.

When I finally got home, I finished out the Popeye shorts first. The majority of the cartoons on the second disc had a wartime edge, even homefront-themed stories like "Ration for the Duration" (a wartime "Jack and the Beanstalk," with a giant hoarding things people needed to collect for their fighting men) and "A Jolly Good Furlough" (which turns out to be anything but when Olive and Popeye's nephews run him ragged). "The Hungry Goat" was just about the strangest Popeye short I'd ever seen. First of all, it featured a Warner-style wise-guy anthropomorphic goat in a series that usually shunned such characters. Second, it used self-referential humor to an even greater degree than Warners; the head of Popeye's ship discovers that the goat is eating his battle cruiser by watching the very cartoon he's appearing in!

My favorite cartoon on the second disc also made use of metaphysical humor. Popeye himself takes a shot at making a short in "Cartoons Ain't Human." Popeye's stick-figure melodrama is a hilarious spoof of the usual "Popeye rescues Olive" stories. The gags and the story here are so funny, maybe Popeye should have kept writing his own shorts.

Switched to Secret of the Wings, and more recent animation, while making Sloppy Joes and defrosted green beans and almonds for dinner. Tinker Bell is in inexplicably drawn to the Winter Woods, which is off-limits for spring fairies. Anyone who has seen the previous fairy movies knows that Tink is naturally curious. When she steps into the Winter Woods, she discovers a world very different, but very beautiful...and an equally curious frost fairy named Perriwinkle who has a lot in common with her. Can these two ever bring their two seasons...and the two sets of fairies...together?

I enjoyed the first three films in this series, and this one was worth the wait. It's fun to see Tink and Perrie frolic and play in the dazzling winter landscapes, and learn a small lesson in working together and how over-protectiveness can cause harm, even when people mean to keep others safe. If you or your daughter like the other Tinker Bell movies or the Disney Fairies book series, you'll probably want to see this one, too.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Workin' For a Livin'

It was raining hard when I got up this morning. Thankfully, by the time I headed to work, the weather had calmed down to fog and mist. I worked at 11, probably the earliest I have in months. Surprisingly, it was on-and-off busy all day, but never as crazy as over the weekend. I guess a lot of people got their groceries when they thought we were going to get a significant snowfall. I had no problems getting in or out; one of the college boys went in for me.

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner, then made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and moved on to the third and last Popeye set. World War II debuted during the time covered in this set, and it proved a breath of fresh air for the series. Prior to the wartime shorts, Popeye was barely even using his spinach anymore. While some later shorts like "Quiet, Please!" (Popeye knocks out every noise in Miami so Pappy can nurse his hangover in silence) were fun, they lacked the excitement of earlier entries. When the war hit, Popeye and Bluto found themselves in the real Navy, with a new cause to fight for along with who gets to take Olive out. (In fact, the Fleischers put Popeye in a Navy short a few months before America even got involved with the war.)

Also debuting around this time were Popeye's four nephews, who are basically around to drive him crazy...and because the Fleischers and Famous Studios were Disney's most formidable rivals in the 30s and early 40s. While some of the cartoons they turned up in were pretty cute (like "Me Musical Nephews,") it's notable that they had never appeared in the comic strips and wouldn't turn up in any other Popeye cartoons after Famous Studios shut down in the late 50s.

But the biggest problems with the shorts from this era have to do with the era itself. Popeye's naval exploits unfortunately lent themselves to cartoons filled with what we now see as some extremely nasty Japanese caricatures, more so than Disney or even some Looney Tunes. A couple of these cartoons are so offensive, they were banned from TV and probably hadn't been seen in decades before this release.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winter Interlude

I slept in so late, it was nearly 11:30 before I began Chocolate Chip Pancakes for brunch! I skipped the Beatles and opted to finish The Phantom and run more Popeye instead. By 1940, when the second set ends, the Fleischers were on a roll. They'd settled into their new, larger studio in Miami and were churning out not only more Popeye and the Superman shorts, but two feature-length films to compete with Disney, the fantasy Gulliver's Travels and the modern-set Mr. Bug Goes to Town.

Alas, the failure of Mr. Bug and a rift between the Fleischer brothers ended with Paramount forcing them out...but not before they released some fun Popeye tales. The episodes had lost some of the grit of earlier stories but were still pretty tough compared to the competition from Disney or MGM's Harmon and Ising. "Fightin' Pals" explores the contentious but somewhat friendly relationship between Bluto and Popeye. When Bluto disappears in the South Seas, Popeye is determined to rescue him..if only to give him someone to fight with! The Fleischers' show business aspirations come to the fore in "Shakespearean Spinach," in which Popeye and Bluto fight for the role of Romeo, with Olive as their Juliet. I surprisingly remember "Puttin' On An Act," in which Olive and Popeye enact their old stage routine for a delighted Sweet Pea, from occasional showings on TNT during my childhood. (Only I remember it being in color - it was probably colorized.) That short was the first time I'd ever heard of vaudeville.

I called Mom while the shorts were on. As it turned out, Cape May County got the wind from Friday's storm, but no snow, or even rain. Mom could turn her mind to other happenings. My brother Keefe got his orders; he's being relocated to a Naval base in upstate New York, along with two friends of his from his unit. His girlfriend Vicki is probably going to join them there. She and Keefe are crazy about each other, and she's apparently tired of living with her mother.

Dad also celebrated his birthday yesterday. His family took him out to dinner at the Rio Station, his long-time favorite restaurant, and gave him several good gifts. He told his wife it was the best birthday he'd had in years.

After I got off the phone, I put on the soundtrack for the 1980 Popeye musical and did chores around the apartment. I made my bed, which I only do every once in a while. Who's gonna see it? I changed my Cabbage Patch Kids dolls Carrie and Dulcie into overalls with a plaid shirt and a cute red and white Swiss-dotted dress with an embroidered strawberry on it. I vacuumed the entire apartment. The bedroom in particular was a pain. There was tons of hair all over the place; you can tell how long my hair was until last week.

The cleaning took so long, I was almost late to work! When I finally did get in, work was steady but not overwhelming, unusual for a Sunday. A lot of people must have done their shopping over the weekend. It was quiet enough when I finished to leave without a relief.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Ghost Walks...Into Oaklyn

Started out the morning with more Popeye shorts. Some of the supporting cast from the comic strip joined in for the next round of shorts as the Fleischers moved their studio from grimy New York to sunny Miami. Some of the characters, like Eugene the Jeep (a dog-like critter that can disappear and reappear at will) and the Goons, were pretty bizarre. Others, like Popeye's rough old father Poopdeck Pappy, made slightly more sense. Pappy's introductory short, "Goonland," looks a lot like the 1980 movie - Popeye is in search of his very old father, who doesn't recognize him when he does find him.

Others played with the "Popeye and Bluto fight over Olive" formula. All three try to make themselves more "refined," as per their fan club's orders, in "It's the Natural Thing to Do"...with predictable results. Popeye's fondness for animals helps to show a bull that he doesn't have to fight in the ring in "Bulldozing the Bull." He has less luck freeing pets from Olive's shop in "Leave Well Enough Alone." The third two-reeler also showed up at this point. Olive beats Warner's "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" by a decade by "penning" Popeye's next featurette, a more straightforward adaptation of "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" than Disney's version.

Finally headed out to run some errands around 11:30. Much to my surprise, despite all the fuss, we once again only got about 2 inches of snow. The day was sunny and bright, with only a few cottony clouds in the sky. Even as I strolled to the bank, the warm sun was melting a lot of the snow. Anything that was in the shade was icy, though, and the wind was fierce.

I deposited my paycheck, then decided to take a lot at the House of Fun a few doors down on the same block. I hadn't been there since Lauren visited last May. I had such a hard time choosing between the many, many items stuffed on shelves and laying on the floor. I considered a leathery Felix the Cat doll, an original Atari 2600 console (the games were really cheap), or a book on 80s toys. I had such a hard time deciding, I ultimately just walked out with a DVD copy of the 1996 movie The Phantom.

(The other thing is, I'm going to save some money for a new laptop. I've had the Compaq I'm using now for 4 years, since 2009...and my best friend Lauren owned it for 3 years before that. I don't want anything fancy. I just want something I can download music, use the internet, and write on.)

I stopped at Capitol Pizza, which is a block from The House of Fun, for lunch. I had a slice of cheese pizza and a slice of mushroom pizza with a can of Fresca. For once, they had something interesting on their widescreen TV. The usual CNN had been replaced by Comcast Sport Network's showing of today's Flyers home game. I joined them just as they scored against the Carolina Hurricanes and pulled ahead 2-1. The Hurricanes evened up the score as I was leaving. (Apparently, it went into overtime after I left; the Flyers just pulled off a 4-3 win.)

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home. For one thing, I really needed to clean. The bathroom and kitchen weren't quite as bad as when I did them last month, but they had to be done. I never did get to vacuuming  I'll have to do that tomorrow.

I ran Popeye while doing the kitchen, then switched to The Phantom while making White Chocolate Chip-Strawberry Cake and Chicken Stir-Fry for dinner. As with The Shadow and John Carter, this is a cult adaptation of a seminal, prototypical sci-fi franchise. "The Phantom" was one of the earliest superhero comics. Kit Walker is a young man who is the 21st in a line of superheroic do-gooding characters whose ancestors befriended an Asian Indian tribe. Kit (Billy Zane) has to foil the plot of the evil tycoon Xander Drax (Treat Williams), who wants to find three skulls that will grant him ultimate power. Diana (Kristy Swanson), the feisty niece of a newspaper owner who is doing a series of articles on Drax's underhanded business deals, wants to find the skulls first. Both she and the deadly female pilot Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) want to find out more about this mystery man in the purple suit...

Ultimately succumbs to the same problems as The Shadow, another 90s movie version of a 30s character - poor casting choices weaken a nifty, Indiana Jones-esque story. Zane is a bland leading man; Swanson and Jones are slightly better as the strong-willed woman Walker has fallen for and the vampy aviatrix.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Rain Into Snow

All it was doing when I got up this morning was raining hard. That didn't stop the Acme from calling me in early. They wanted me in by 10, but I hadn't had breakfast or gotten ready yet. I was in by 11:15. Surprisingly, we weren't busy all day long. In fact, the crowds were only massive during the lunch and evening rush hours. Between about 1:30 and 3:30, we were mildly steady, no more so than usual. Customers were telling me we could get anything from rain all night to 6 inches of snow, nothing like the 20 inches or so New England was supposed to get.

It was still so busy by the time I was done at 6, one of the stock people went in for me. Thankfully, it was already beginning to taper off. Weather or no weather, I had grocery shopping to do. While there were still plenty of eggs, chicken and milk had been decimated, and I bought some of the last bananas on the shelf. I stuck to carrots and escarole for fresh vegetables; they've gotten expensive, thanks to a frost in the western US. There was a good sale on strawberries and on Green Giant frozen vegetables. Needed to restock flour, cooking spray, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, vinegar, peanut butter, and chocolate chips.

Oh, and my schedule is about what I figured it would be - really busy. On one hand, my only day off is Tuesday, and that's because I asked for it for counseling. On the other hand, my only late work day this week is Sunday. The latest I work after that is 7.

By the time I was on my way home, the rain was down to barely a mist. All remained quiet as I put everything away, then made leftover chili for dinner and ran more Popeye shorts. I'd run Popeye in the morning before work, too.

Popeye was a bona-fide phenomenon by the time these cartoons came out between 1935 and 1937. Only Mickey Mouse was a bigger animated star in the 30s. Like Mickey, Popeye found his cast expanding as he grew more popular. Sweet Pea, the mischievous foundling whom Popeye and Olive took in, was introduced around this time. He saved Olive and Popeye from a factory in "Lost and Foundry," and took Popeye on a wild chase across the zoo in "Little Swee' Pea."

Some of the variations on the formula here were really fun. Wimpy and Popeye try to build Olive a house in the "The Builder-Upper"...with less-than-habitable results, even after eating spinach. Popeye isn't thrilled when he has to take Olive's pampered puppy for a walk and gets into a fight with Bluto and his bulldog. Fluffy shows him that even pooches can benefit from a can of leafy greens in "Proteck the Weakerest." Olive's elderly grandmother also benefits from spinach when she and Popeye join a New Year's Eve dance contest in "Let's Celebrake." Olive herself gets a taste of the green stuff - and learns what it's like to be on the short end of a love triangle - when a Mae West-like female boxer flirts with Popeye in "Never Kick a Woman."

By far the most famous shorts on this set were actually a pair of "two reelers" that we would probably call "featurettes" today. The Fleischers put Popeye into color and a bigger budget in the elaborate Arabian Knights tale "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad." The results were amazing. The backgrounds are full of life, and the animation far outstrips anything in the shorts. The featurette was so successful, they did a second similar one, this time with Bluto as Ali Baba, a year later.

If most people know the Fleischer Popeye at all, it's probably through these shorts. All three of the color two-reelers are in the public domain. They can be found easily online and in dozens of cheap public domain animation videos and DVD sets (including the one Jessa gave me for Christmas).

The snow didn't finally arrive until I was already out of the shower and long online. It was light at first, but now it's coming down really hard. At press time, the National Weather Service is still saying about 2 to 4 inches for us.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Balance and the Sailor Man

Started out a sunny morning with my first yoga class in a couple of weeks. Perhaps because of the storm that's been threatened for tomorrow, the class was incredibly busy. I just barely squeezed in on the end. We mainly worked on balance and warrior poses. I wish I could balance better. I need to do some kind of strength training, too. I just can't lean on my shoulders for very long.

Since Yogawood is on the same block as the Hair Cuttery, I decided to get my hair done after class. They weren't nearly as busy at quarter of 11. There was only one other person there. A lovely young woman named Danielle did my hair. I got it cut shorter than I did last time, or for a while. I think I got it done too short; I can barely put it in a ponytail. That's ok. I sometimes miss just tossing it back in a headband when it gets really long, and it's cute when it's all curly. I just wanted to de-frizz it.

Considering what happened the last time I got my hair done, I figured I'd be safer just going straight home. When I got in, I made an omelet for lunch and watched more Popeye shorts. I love how many of these shorts don't always stick to the usual "Popeye rescues Olive from Bluto" routine. In "Brotherly Love," Olive's the one who helps out when Popeye tries to break up a mob, and almost gets broken himself. Popeye and Bluto trade horseplay for competing in magic tricks in "King of the Mardi Gras." "Bridge Ahoy!" has Olive, Wimpy, and Popeye working together to build a bridge when Bluto's ferry proves too expensive. Olive and Popeye also work together in "Be Kind to 'Aminals'" when they defend a horse Bluto's abusing.

Spent the rest of the afternoon doing things on the computer before heading out to the Acme. It was getting cloudy even as I rode there, and the clouds did have the pearly sheen of snow...but it wasn't really that cold. It was probably in the upper 30s-lower 40s, normal for this time of year.

I wish someone had pointed that out to my customers. We were busy for most of the night. Everyone's convinced that we're going to get hit. No, we're not. At press time, New England is supposed to get hit - Lauren said northwestern Massachusetts could get 20 inches or more. We're supposed to get 2 to 5 inches by late tomorrow night, maybe. That's not all that much more than what we've been getting on and off all winter. Thankfully, things slowed down considerably after rush hour.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Hooray For Captain Spaulding and Assembling Avengers

Yup, I finally got to The Avengers today. Government agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) brings together six of the greatest superheroes in Marvel comics history - eternally snarking Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), sweet scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) whose alter-ego is the massively destructive Incredible Hulk (also Ruffalo), fish-out-of-time Captain America (Chris Evans), tough-minded assassin Black Widow (Scarlet Johassen), her partner Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and god of thunder Thor (Chris Helmsworth). Fury wants them all to stop Thor's half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who has stolen the Tessaract, an object that can open a door to space and bring in an army of aliens. It's going to take a lot more than even super heroics to get this disparate group working together as a team, especially when Loki starts getting to them.

Director Joss Whedon is known for writing and directing much-loved sci-fi and horror TV shows like Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the popular horror film Cabin In the Woods, and his experience in dealing with the world of fantasy comes to the fore in this many-layered action flick. Not only does everyone manage to get screen time, but they all fight and bicker believably - the Captain gets annoyed with Stark's deadpan snarking, Banner just wants to be alone, Thor pretty much thinks he's above everyone, Hawkeye and Black Widow are dealing with their destructive pasts, and Fury tries to keep the entire group from killing each other before they get to Loki.

Naturally, the special effects are amazing. Special kudos to Ruffalo for being the first man to play both the Hulk and Bruce Banner, thanks to current motion capture technology. The final fight in downtown New York is a stunner. Love them aboard their invisible flying fortress, too, which is just cool.

If you're a fan of superhero groups, the stars in question, Whedon's other horror and sci-fi projects, or any of the previous Marvel Universe movies, this is an absolute must-see. While I probably will get around to the Iron Man and Thor sequels that are supposed to come out this summer...I'm more interested in next year's Captain America sequel, The Winter Soldier. I hope they find something for Ruffalo's Incredible Hulk to do on his own soon, too. Evans and Ruffalo were by far my favorites here.

I went for a short walk after The Avengers ended. Once again, it was chilly and gray, but not quite as chilly as it has been, and there was no hint of snow in the air. Though the world is getting warmer, it wasn't warm enough to melt the thick ice on the river. When I arrived at the boat launch on the end of Goff Avenue, I saw several flocks of ducks who were walking on the heavy ice.

When I got back in, I made Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bars and ran Animal Crackers. The Marx Brothers' second film was adopted from their Broadway vehicle of the same name. (They were appearing in this show while filming their first movie, The Coconuts). Groucho is renown explorer Captain Spaulding, who is visiting the home of wealthy Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) with his secretary Jamesion (Zeppo). Chico and Harpo are musicians who arrive in time to be involved with an art-theft plot and to help Mrs. Rittenhouse's vivacious daughter Arabella (Lillian Roth) get her boyfriend's painting noticed.

One of my favorite Marx Brothers movies has a lot of references you probably won't get unless you're a fan of 20s theater and film (like Groucho's Strange Interlude asides) and is hampered by the limits of early sound technology. (The thunder at one point sounds distinctly like someone rattling aluminum foil.) On the other hand, some of the Brothers' funniest bits are here, including the card game with Dumont and Groucho's entrance to "Hooray For Captain Spaulding," which later became his theme song. Casual fans and newcomers may want to start with some of the later films, but for those familiar with the boys' brand of comedy, this is still a riot.

Work was pretty busy for most of the night. It's the beginning of a month that's jam-packed with events. We were busy until about an hour before I left. I spent a lot of that last hour doing candy. Other than a few annoying customers, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Well, Blow Me Down!

Started out today with more Popeye shorts. Wow. I don't remember Olive Oyl being quite this tough before. In the second short "I Yam What I Yam," she's knocking non-PC Indians here, there, and everywhere, and then holds off a whole lot of them on her own...and that's before Popeye appears. There are times when I'm amazed Bluto can get near her, never mind how many pounds he has on her. 

I opted to do the laundry at the laundromat today. I'm tired of how long Dad's drier takes, even on it's highest setting. It was cloudy and cold when I headed out, but not nearly as cold or as windy as it has been. The laundromat was fairly quiet except for two guys working on their own loads. I had a fairly large load of my own. I wanted to wash the new jeans I bought yesterday. I read one of the Larry Fine biographies Lauren gave me for Christmas while listening to the news, The Bold and the Beautiful, and The Young and the Restless

Finished out disc one of the Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 set when I got in. Popeye's world here is strange and gritty, filled with unusual characters and urban adventures. I wish I could have seen them like this when I was a kid. My stepfather is the one who introduced my sisters and me to Popeye. Popeye was one of the few cartoon characters he ever seemed to want to watch with us. The two have a lot in common - Dad is a sailor, loves spinach, and frequently mangles the English language (his wife has spent 25 years correcting his vocabulary). (My other introduction to Popeye's world was the underrated 1980 musical with Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall as Popeye and Olive. I actually found the soundtrack LP at a yard sale a few years ago and will probably pick up the DVD eventually.) 

Unlike the Disney and Looney Toons crew, I never really knew much about Popeye beyond Dad's interest, so I went right into the special features after the shorts ended. Unlike Mickey or the Toons, Popeye was actually a refugee from the comics. And in fact, Olive Oyl pre-dates him by a decade. He was introduced as a one-off character in 1929, when Olive and her family were appearing in a comic strip called Thimble Theater that spoofed melodramas. Popeye proved to be so popular, Olive became his girl, and the strip was reworked around his increasingly bizarre adventures.

Work was pretty much the same as it has been - busy during rush hour, quiet thereafter. Mother Nature did her part. It got very dark and started snowing yet again somewhere around 5. The snow had stopped by the time I finished at 8. Once again, there was only about an inch on the ground; this time, the street was too warm for ice and slush. I got home with no problems. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

A Visit to Philadelphia

Started off a chilly, sunny morning with The Secret World of Arrietty. In this sweet animated film from Japan, a family of tiny people called "Borrowers" live under the floorboards of an old house. They live on bits and pieces of things that are "borrowed" from the main house, like sugar cubes and sheets of paper. Feisty Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) first encounters a human boy named Shawn (David Henrie) in the meadow outside the house. Her mother (Amy Poehler) is worried that he'll hurt her. She couldn't be more wrong. Delicate Shawn has a heart condition and can barely run, much less hurt anyone. He's at the house to rest for a heart operation. The elderly housekeeper Hara (Carol Burnett) is supposed to be watching him, but she may be more interested in the stories of the little people who live under the floorboards and steal things when no one's looking. The small girl and the sickly boy develop an unlikely friendship that takes an adventurous turn when Hara gets too close to Arrietty's family for comfort.

I have a mixed track record with feature-length anime. I loved Ponyo, found Kiki's Delivery Service cute but underwhelming, and didn't get into Spirited Away. I'm now 2 for 4; this was a really sweet movie. Burnett, Poehler, and Will Arnett (as Arrietty's taciturn father) were the stand-outs of the English-language cast. Some of the animation was lovely, too, especially in the meadow and all the details of the Borrowers' diminutive home.

Headed out after Arrietty ended for this week's Haddon Township Library run. It was around 11 when I arrived, and there wasn't a whole lot going on and almost nothing to shelve. I organized the kids' DVDs (and had a much easier time of it than I have in previous weeks) and put away the few adult DVDs and picture books that were there.

Dodged the noon traffic on Cuthbert Road after leaving the library and made my way to Cafe Antonio's in Collingswood for lunch. By the time I arrived, it was 12:30, and they were very busy. Two sets of men were getting their pizza even as I came in. A family with young kids arrived shortly after I did. I ate my slice of square-shaped Sicilian Pizza and Diet Pepsi as quickly as I could.

Cafe Antonio's is only a few blocks from the PATCO train station. I hopped a fairly full car into Philadelphia for my annual February trip into the city to do some shopping. I got off just a half a block from Russakoff's Used Book Store in Washington Square. There were a couple of men replacing a burnt-out florescent light bulb in the back of the tiny room, so I really didn't get a chance to look at much of the romance or travel books. I ended up with Half-Full: Meditations on Hope, Optimism, and the Things that Matter, a hardback book on having a positive outlook.

I got lost a little bit as I made my way across Washington Square, but I finally did make it to the Avenue of the Arts and FYE. They're still having that "Buy 2 Used, Get 1 for $1" sale. It took me a long time to choose, but I finally ended up with the "4 Movie Collection" set of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, two Paramount Marx Brothers movies (Horse Feathers and Animal Crackers), and Brave. (Horse Feathers was the dollar movie.) I also splurged and bought The Avengers. I've been dying to see this since it came out last summer, and I'm tired of waiting for it to turn up at the libraries. I grabbed that WebKinz Rockerz Hippie Cow that I passed up in December, too. How could I resist when FYE dropped the price to $1.22?

It was getting late as I made my way through City Hall to Market Street. I wanted to hit Macy's and check out their jeans. My older pair of jeans is too tight for me and is starting to get holes in the back. It figures that the pair I liked was on the wrong rack and wasn't the price I thought they were; I bought them anyway. They were the only jeans in the color blue I wanted. Most of the jeans were black.

I made my way down a busy Market Street to the Gallery Mall. I couldn't resist stopping in Books-a-Million. I found an American Girl historical character mystery there that I haven't seen anywhere else offline, Kirsten Larson's one and only mystery, The Runaway Friend.

It was 5:30 when I finally squeezed into a tightly-packed PATCO car. I was very lucky to find a seat! It was like sardines in there. I'd meant to go home earlier, but I got so caught up in FYE. When the train rolled into Collingswood, I bundled up and rode home.

A box with another DVD set greeted me at the house's front porch. I won the three Warner Brothers Popeye cartoon sets in a fancy Walt Disney Treasures-style tin on eBay last week. Popeye is one of the last major theatrical characters I have any interest in. I was thrilled to get all 3 sets for about $30...especially as I've seen the first, 4-disc set go for as much as $64 at FYE. The back of the tin was really dented, but that was a bonus item. The sets themselves were just fine.

I had just enough time to make chili for dinner and watch Horse Feathers when I got in. As with Hold That Line!, this also deals with nutty comics who make a mockery of college football. Groucho is Professor Wagenstaff, who has just been made the head of Huxtley University. Zeppo is his crooning son, who would rather chase the college widow (Thelma Todd) than pay attention to academics. Chico works in a speakeasy (where the password is "Swordfish," by the way), Harpo is a dog catcher, and somehow, both end up as students. Todd tries to get the Marxes to throw Huxtley's big game, but the boys have more than one way to chase and outwit her at the same time.

Not the boys' best at Paramount, but there's some classic bits - the "swordfish" routine, Groucho singing "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It," the boys all serenading Todd with their own versions of "Everyone Says I Love You," and the hilarious football finale.

Oh, and meet Melanie, the gentle and totally groovy folk-singing bovine! I created her own eclectic room next-door to Cyndi the Punk Cat's. She'll probably be one of the last WebKinz I buy for a while; I have a ton of them.

And even as I write this, it's snowing lightly yet again. The clouds must have come in after I got home. When I was riding from Collingswood, there were not only few clouds in the sky, but a beautiful sunset.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Big Showdown In the Big Easy

Started off a sunny, snowy Super Bowl Sunday with Brunch With the Beatles. I picked it up around 10:30, when I finally awoke. The theme today was "Beatles Live Performances," including their stints on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was past 11:30 when I finally started working on Chocolate Pudding Pancakes topped with Apple-Pomegranate Flummery for breakfast. The pancakes didn't come out all that well - the batter was sticky, and they didn't cook as well as I would have liked.

I called Mom around 12:30. We mostly discussed this week's wild weather. Cape May County got a little more snow than we did, 4 inches compared to our 1-2. It was very light and fluffy snow, though, light enough for Mom to sweep it off of her wide driveway. The snow was already vanishing from my porch and steps, even as I talked to Mom. During the winter, my steps and most of my porch are in direct sunlight. Light snow vanishes quickly.

Spent the rest of the afternoon puttering around, listening to hard rock albums by the Doors, Bon Jovi, the Who, Queen, and Pink Floyd. I changed the American Girl dolls into slightly fancier winter clothes for Valentine's Day. Samantha is back in her pink and black Talent Show Dress. Jessa wears a red, white, and black Springfield Collection dress and black bolero jacket that doesn't really fit her all that well, but is the only good winter outfit she owns. I put Molly in the AG Revue Jitterbug dress, her red Hula Costume sweater, and those sparkly red tap shoes. Felicity is wearing her Laced Jacket and Brocade Petticoat again.

Work was busy for about the first hour-hour and a half after I arrived. Needless to say, once the Super Bowl started, the crowds ended. I spent two hours at the end of my shift shelving big carts stuffed full of returned items from the last two days. I did get to see a little of the game, including the 49ers' field goal that ended the first half, and the goofy Taco Bell commercial with the elderly people partying.

The Ravens were up 21-6 by the beginning of the second half. When I went in the back to retrieve my bike and coat after the store had closed, they were just barely winning, 31-29...much to my surprise, as it was 10PM, and I'd expected the game to be a lot closer to over than 9 minutes and 58 seconds.

I didn't find out why the game had run so late until I got home. It was flurrying when I got out; this time, there wasn't even enough to do much more than look pretty coming down. I switched on the radio to hear the last few minutes of the game. One of the radio announcers mentioned a black out. Seems the lights went off in the Super Dome during the third quarter, delaying the game by a half-hour...which ended up working to my advantage. The 49ers looked like they might make a comeback, but the Ravens got a hold of the ball in the last minutes, pushing them ahead to win the game 34-31.

Everyone is going to be going absolutely insane around here for the next few weeks. Joe Flacco, the Ravens' star quarterback, is a native of Audubon. He played on their high school football team. The Acme was awash in purple and black this weekend. He ended up being the game's MVP and making some big plays.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

It's (Almost) the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown

Started the day...with a phone call. Apparently, Acme's night crew neglected to leave a note for the day crew that I was working at 4. One of the managers wanted me in at 9:30...and she called me at 8:30! I was still in bed! I told her she was too late; the night crew got there first, and I had things to do in the morning anyway.

Switched on the American Top 40 as I worked on today's journal entry. I caught the last half-hour of the program for early February 1984. The 80s were in full swing, as we saw in such hits as "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes, "Talking In Your Sleep" by the Romantics, "Joanna" by Kool & the Gang, and the bouncy "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder. The energetic "Kharma Chameleon," by Culture Club, was that week's #1 song.

Spent an hour or so having multi-grain square cereal and a blood orange for breakfast and crocheting while running various football-themed cartoons and shorts. The Three Stooges are mistaken for college football heroes by three gangsters' girlfriends (including a very blond Lucile Ball) in Three Little Pigskins. Hello Kitty proves that a girl can play football, be a cheerleader, and catch the eye of the penguin prince in the Furry Tale Theater episode "Cinderkitty." Charlie Brown doesn't have nearly as much luck with the big homecoming game in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. While Peppermint Patty tries to rally her team and Lucy is determined that Chuck will miss every kick, Chuck's more worried about being the escort for the Little Red Haired Girl at the homecoming dance than the score of the game. Mickey Mouse is one of the world's most unlikely star quarterbacks in the black and white short "Touchdown Mickey"; Goofy is the team's announcer who does more laughing than relaying plays.

I headed out to run errands after Mickey ended. The morning was very cold, just barely in the 30s, and windy again, but sunny and bright. I strolled down to Dad's to tell him that Lauren and I have decided on a week for our shared vacation (mid-June) and to pick up my laundry detergent, which I left there on Monday. Jodie was at home; Dad was out running his own errands. I said "hi" and gave her the news. She mentioned that they may be having a college graduation party for my stepsister Jessa during that time. That's ok; we'll swing by for a little while.

My next stop was the bank. I was delighted to discover that my checking account was far fuller than I had expected. My tax return must have gone through! I promised myself I'd check it online when I got home.

Celebrated the good news with a trip to the Oaklyn Library. It was surprisingly busy for a cold day, with several families with children looking for books and DVDs to amuse them and a couple of people online. I was able to do the adult DVDs, but there were too many kids in the children's area to get much done there. Made a quick stop at WaWa for milk, a pretzel, and more of that Winter Spice Cappuccino after leaving the library.

I continued my football theme as I made a leftover chicken leg with sauteed winter vegetables for lunch. In Hold That Line, a bet between patrons of a blue-blooded university pushes the decidedly academia-challenged Bowery Boys into the world of college football. Sach becomes a sensation when his "vitamin" concoction brewed in the school labs gives him super strength and makes him unbeatable on the football field. His heroics makes the school's former star quarterback very jealous...and attracts the attention of gangsters who have bet on the big game between Ivy and State College. When Sach disappears, Slip and the others have to find him, then win the game, with or without chemistry.

A school rivalry is also at the heart of the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "The Acme Bowl." Though Acme Looniversity's football team hasn't won a game all season, they still intend to come out on top over the unbeaten (and perpetually cheating) Perfecto Prep. Plucky adds to their troubles when he gives Perfecto Buster's playbook in exchange for becoming a student there. Buster has more than one surprise in store for the snobs from Perfecto, including what Plucky's really up to.

I did go online briefly during the afternoon, long enough to check my account. My tax return had just gone through last night. It must have been deposited into my account this morning, right before I arrived at the bank! I had enough to transfer my paycheck into my savings account and pay my rent and my Comcast bill with plenty left over.

For all the fussing earlier, when I arrived, work was pretty much the same as yesterday - very busy in the afternoon, dead by the time I left at 9. I'm glad I did get called in. Beyond adding to my paycheck, the Acme was having its annual Chili Cook-Off in the back room. Five different people brought in crock pots of chili recipes for the other employees to try and vote on. There were other goodies, too, like pretzels and tortilla chips and butter pound cake and corn bread. The voting had ended by the time I made it in, but there was enough chili and goodies left for me to have a nice dinner on the Acme.

A few of my customers mentioned towards the end of the night that it had started snowing again. It was still coming down when I finished my shift. The snow was finer and more powdery than earlier in the week. It was like walking into someone sprinkling sugar on the ground. It was so pretty riding home. There was a about an inch on the ground at that point; most roads were clear, and there wasn't enough to impede progress. As far as I can tell, an inch or so more has fallen since then, though I think it's stopped now.

It's funny. They said this morning that the Groundhog saw his shadow, which is supposed to mean spring is coming soon. Maybe Phil needs glasses.