Friday, January 31, 2014

Balance and the Year of the Horse

My original plan for this morning was going to yoga with Rose. As I was getting dressed, I heard the phone ring. Yes, it was Rose. She was running late and simply couldn't make it. Could we try for Tuesday? I shrugged. Why not? Rose has done things like this before. I decided I'd just have a leisurely breakfast and do yoga at home later instead.

Ran the 1937 film version of The Prisoner of Zenda during breakfast. Pretty much the same deal as the book - minor British nobleman Rudolf Rassendyl (Ronald Colman) has to substitute for his look-a-like cousin (also Colman) to keep the throne out of the hands of his dastardly brother Michael (Raymond Massey). His duties are complicated when he falls for Princess Flavia (Madeline Carroll), the King's fiancee. C. Aubrey Smith and David Niven are Rudolf's companions, Mary Astor is Michael's mistress, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is Michael's roguish aide Rupert. If you're going to see one version of Prisoner, make it this one. It's one of the definitive swashbucklers that's been spoofed ever since, especially Colman.

Headed out as soon as Prisoner ended. It was a great day for a ride. The sun was out, the clouds were light and fleecy, and there was still no wind. Best of all, it was much warmer, into a more normal mid-to-upper 30s. Even so, I rode on the street next to Newton River Park. Many of the paths, even on the brighter side with the playgrounds and picnic area, were still covered in snow and ice.

I arrived at the Haddon Township Library around quarter of 11. They were pretty busy, once again with piles and piles of DVDs people watched over the last few cold days being returned. I managed to get all of the kids' and adult titles on their shelves, and cleared a small pile of kids' and foreign movies out of the adult section as well. Wanting to lighten up a bit after the intense dramas I took out last week, my DVD rentals this week included the Hugh Jackman Oklahoma! London stage revival, the Mark Wahlburg football tale  Invincible, the French animated film A Monster In Paris, two sets for the original 1983 DIC Care Bears, and the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic special Equestria Girls.

Went across the street to the Westmont Plaza for lunch. In honor of the Lunar New Year (generally known as Chinese New Year in the US), I opted for the Plaza's Asian restaurant, Bamboo. It was 12:30 when I arrived at the small storefront. They were crowded with groups of middle-school-aged kids from the junior high down the street. I didn't really mind the kids being there - they were noisy but pretty funny to watch. (Especially when one of the girls grabbed a container of fried rice from one of the boys and made him chase her around the room to get it back.) What did bother me was that they all kept going in and out every two seconds, letting the heat escape and making the room cold as heck. I ate my sweet and sour chicken, pork fried rice, and steamed vegetable dumplings and chuckled at the kids' antics.

Made a quick stop at Thriftway next. I picked up bamboo shoots for my dinner and those cheap brown eggs (at $2.29, cheaper than Thriftway's white eggs!), but I was mainly there to take out money for next week.

Headed straight home after that. Despite the nice day, I really wanted to get the cleaning started. Ran the 1st Broadway original cast album for The Scarlet Pimpernel as I gave the bathroom a decent scrubbing. Evidently, this show was constantly tinkered on throughout its Broadway run, so much that there was a second CD with the new material. I only have the first one, and I'm perfectly fine with it. I'm especially fond of Chauvelain's impassioned ballad "Where's the Girl?"

I ran the two Care Bears DVDs as I cleaned the kitchen. The Care Bears started their career in animation with a pair of anime-esque specials and a subsequent series. The villains Professor Cold-Heart and his dumb lackey Frostbite carry over from the specials, along with their being the only villains in any of the TV series to outright attack the kids the Bears are helping. Here, the show seems to be split between stories with Cold Heart and stories with the Bears dealing with crises at Care-a-Lot and among each other.

Two of the most bizarre stories from this series didn't involve any regular villains. "Drab City" brings some of the regular Bears and Cousins to the title town, where everyone is being rendered gray and apathetic by a huge meteorite in a park near-by. A little girl who lives outside of town and isn't effected helps bring the Bears to the park to get rid of the meteorite, before they're stripped of their colors, too. "The Cloud Worm" has the Bears defending Care-A-Lot against a huge worm-like critter whose job is to eat holes in the clouds so sunlight can shine down on Earth.

My favorite story from these discs was another villain-less tale, "The Old Man and the Lighthouse." For once, the kids are the villains here. A bunch of children take a boat to a lighthouse to see if its keeper is really as weird as he's rumored to be. The Care Bears try to stop them, but when everyone, including the Bears, get lost in a storm, it'll take help from the old man - and the Bear's signature Stare - to prove that not every old lighthouse keeper is "weird."

Switched to my Have a Nice Day! 70s CDs as I settled down to do some yoga. I'm so much better at yoga than I used to be. I thought I might be rusty after not having done it for seven months, but I'm actually managing some moves I wasn't good at before, like bridge pose. I still can't get on my head, and my balance is still shaky, but my flexibility has improved.

After yoga, I had the last of the shrimp stir fry for dinner, then made Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Acme's Super Bowl party tomorrow while watching the first half of Oklahoma! Hugh Jackman's performance as love-struck cowboy Curly was the biggest reason for the success of this show, but far from the only one. This is a great deal grittier and more rugged than most versions tend to be, with Earth-toned sets that look like a real Oklahoma farm house and train station. Laurey's no dainty Shirley Jones blond, either. She's a tough tomboy who only shows her feminine side when Aunt Eller gives her a dress...and her dilemma over which man to attend a local social with crops up in her dreams. Also, this is the only production I've ever seen where the Laurey and Curly who perform in the dream ballet are the same ones who do the rest of the show. Recommended for fans of Jackman, stage musicals, Rogers & Hammerstein musicals in general, and Oklahoma! in particular.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Southern Wild Child

Started off this morning with Let Freedom Ring as I ate oatmeal and grapefruit for breakfast. This 1939 vehicle for a solo Nelson Eddy goes the "Scarlet Pimpernel out west" route. Eddy is lawyer Steve Logan, who comes home to discover his father's (Lionel Barrymore) land is under attack by a crooked railroad tycoon (Edward Arnold) and his henchman (Victor MacLaglen). Logan convinces everyone that he's on the tycoon's side; naturally, it's all just a cover for his guise as "The Wasp." He kidnaps the town newspaper owner and his printing press and writes newspapers about the railroad's dirty dealings and how they should allow their men to vote for the people of their choice. Matters come to a head at the local Election Day party, where Steve finds himself having to take a stand, before his issue is put to bed for good.

Ran two classic Daffy Duck Looney Tunes shorts that revolved around western and swashbuckler spoofs. "Drip Along Daffy" pokes fun at the singing cowboy B-westerns of the 40s and 50s, with Daffy as the title character and Porky as his Smiley Burnette sidekick. Porky gets a rare villainous role in "The Scarlet Pumpernickel," which has Daffy as a daring highway-duck, Porky as an evil duke, and Sylvester as his right-hand cat.

Headed to work as soon as the cartoons were over. It was a beautiful, sunny day, probably into the upper 20s-lower 30s - not crazy-warm, but warmer than it has been. We were quiet again for much of the morning, but this time, when the rush hour hit, it hit hard. One of the college boys had an emergency and left early; I ended up staying an extra hour.

When I finally got home, I ran Beasts Of the Southern Wild while making the last of the leftover tuna casserole for dinner, then working on crocheting a dish rag. This odd but touching tale takes us to the Louisiana bayou and a small community on the delta cut off from the rest of the world by levees, known to residents as "The Bathtub." Tough little Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives with her daddy (Dwight Henry), who either encourages her to fight or ignores her. When their home is flooded after a huge hurricane, they float around in a home-made boat to see if they can find the survivors. Not only is Hushpuppy's daddy dying, but there may be some strange prehistoric animals coming their way as well. Hushpuppy is determined to stay with her daddy and her beloved home, no matter how badly Mother Nature ravages it.

This unusual blend of fantasy and reality was a 2012 Oscar-nominee. Wallis and Henry were nominated as well, despite never having acted before. Having grown up by the water, I can understand the importance of it to Hushpuppy and her community (we used to eat the crabs from the swamps outside of Wildwood by breaking the shells open, too), and why she doesn't want to leave her daddy, even when he's not the world's greatest parent. A little much for young kids; for pre-teens and up, this is a really well-done tale of how one little girl survives the toughest of storms, both inside and outside herself.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Close Encounters of the Sci-Fi Kind

Started another sunny, cold morning with more Three Stooges animated shorts. I really feel sorry for the trio in these. Most of the time, as in "Deadbeat Street," where they have to get money from an old lady who won't pay, they're chased out of town for just doing their jobs. "Le Stooginaires" has them driven from the French fort they're supposed to guard by desert chieftain El Zadre the Raider...or is that really him who doesn't want the guys there?

It snowed again last night. We only got about an inch, but it was more than the dusting expected. Once again, it was dry and light. I easily swept it off my steps and the area of my porch I'd cleared yesterday. My ride didn't go as well - the snow covered the remaining ice and snow on the street, meaning I had to be extra careful going to work.

Work was, surprisingly, dead for most of the morning. Some people may have been scared off by the snow or cold temperatures. Others might be waiting for the weekend and the beginning of the month. Under any circumstances, I was in and out with no major problems; once again, a manager came in for me.

(A lot of customers mentioned having seen the havoc wrecked by the snow in the Southeast on TV, including Atlanta, Georgia, where my friends Linda and James Young live, and South Carolina, home of my brother Keefe and his girlfriend Vicki. There were kids stranded at school overnight because the buses and cars couldn't get through the snow to pick them up! Linda, James, Keefe, Vicki, and everyone else who lives in the south, please stay safe and be careful!)

I spent the rest of the evening at home, doing my taxes. This is a very simple process for me that takes less than an hour. I own no property, live in a rented apartment, have no dependents, and work one job. I didn't even need to add the extra numbers that I did last year because of the temporary disability money when I hurt my ankle and was off of work.

I spent another hour looking over eBay and American Girl's website. I'm thinking of buying my first - and last - doll straight from the site new. All of my other dolls are used. I thought I'd round out my group to six. That's enough for anyone. I don't have the room or the money for the enormous doll collections some of the women at the American Girls Playthings message board have! I'd rather spoil my six dolls with pretty clothes than buy more of them.

Right now, I'm looking at either the "Girl of the Year" Isabelle or one of the modern dolls, probably either this blond cutie or this curly-locked darling. I want a doll who can have a character I develop, rather than American Girl, and who can get away with wearing most of the historical doll clothing I have under the excuse of it being "vintage." Isabelle has an interesting story - she's a ballerina, and her hobby is scouring vintage clothes shop for outfits to make into her own dance costumes. This could give her an excuse to wear the historical clothes under the guise of them being her finds. However, Izzy is also expensive (more than usual for AG), due to her hair extensions, and when you come down to it, not that creative of a doll. (She looks like several other modern dolls, including 2012 Girl of the Year McKenna.) I have no blond AG, African-American AGs, or AGs with curls.

When I finished online, I made flounder in red wine vinegar sauce with mushrooms and a green salad with cherry tomatoes for dinner while watching Super 8. A group of middle-school kids who live in a small town in Ohio in 1979 go out to their local train depot to film a zombie horror movie they hope to send to a contest. While shooting, they inadvertantly witness and film a truck crashing into a train and the spectacular ensuing train wreck. It turns out that the train was a military vehicle that was transporting something..something that seems to be after all of the metal in the town. While the frightened citizens go to their local deputy - and the dad of one of the kids - for help, the kids try to figure out just what they saw and what the military is after.

Directed by J.J Abrams (who helmed the recent Star Trek reboots) and produced by Steven Spielburg, this is an intense but loving homage to all of the movies directed by Spielburg and his contemporaries in the late 70s and 80s that depicted kids getting into wild adventures or strange encounters of the alien kind. The violence and blood (both fake and more realistic) and some swearing makes this inappropriate for younger kids, but for older kids, teens, and adults, this is surprisingly touching ride through the tail end of a more innocent time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kings Of Wistful Thinking

Started this very cold morning with more swashbuckling cartoons and sitcoms. One of my favorite Perfect Strangers episodes is "Family Feud" from the sixth season. Larry finds himself embroiled in a feud between Balki's clan and one from the next Mediterranean island over. When Larry insults the man who has come to settle the feud with Balki, he ends up in a duel with him instead.

Duels also figure into the third-season Backyardigans episode "The Two Musketeers." Pablo and Tyrone are two Musketeers who are happy making balloon animals and getting into the occasional spars with the Empress' Guards Austin and Uniqua. When a third Musketeer wants to join their ranks, they're skeptical...until the yellow hippo girl proves to be a very loyal friend and fighter.

Work was dead for most of the day. Another bout with literally freezing weather (we never got above the 10s today) probably scared a lot of people off. It did start to pick up a bit later, around 2, but by that time, I was almost done. I was in and out with no problems; a manager came in for me, as my relief was a little late.

I hurried home on my bike. Thankfully, the wind chill factor was a non-factor. There was no wind today. It was just the biting cold, and I could handle that for 10 minutes. The sidewalks are still icy, but the roads are largely clear, even the ones that were still covered in snow yesterday.

I spent the rest of the evening crocheting and watching The King of Marven Gardens. A Philadelphia radio talk show host (Jack Nicholson) is called to Atlantic City to bail out his con-artist brother (Bruce Dern), who is looking for one last big one. He's hoping to get his boss (Scatman Crothers) to fund the purchase of an island to build a casino on. Meanwhile, he's living in a derilict ocean hotel with a former beauty queen (Ellen Burstyn) who is hoping to make her nubile stepdaughter into the next Miss America. Real-life and Atlantic City's then-down-and-out fortunes clash with their plans, making the radio host wonder if they can pull if off, or if it's just yet another of his brother's pipe dreams...

Interesting, though rather depressing, story from director Bob Raefelson (who also created The Monkees and directed Head and Five Easy Pieces, among others) gives Nicholson a rare chance to play the quiet guy for a change; Burstyn and Dern also come off well as the small-time dreamers with big-time hopes. Not the most uplifting story, though, and very, very slow moving. On the other hand, location shooting gives us a great view of Atlantic City between the end of its heyday and the coming of the casinos (as well as a brief look at Philly in the 70s) and adds a great deal to the gritty, tough feel.

Not for action junkies or those looking for Nicholson in a typical role, but if you're a fan of the cast or Rafelson's other projects or want a good look at a pre-casinos AC, this is worth a look.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Royal Slush

Started a sunny, windy morning with a couple of TV show episodes and cartoons revolving around royal doubles and swashbuckling. (I just finished re-reading one of my favorite books, The Prisoner of Zenda.) Davy Jones' double is a shy prince who is afraid of girls...which is a big problem, as he's supposed to get married within a few days, or lose his throne. The Monkees do their best to help out and avoid the evil Count who wants to keep the young man off the throne in the first season Monkees episode "The Prince and the Paupers."

Maxwell Smart runs into a similar situation when he has to impersonate a king whose evil brother wants to usurp him in the 3rd season Get Smart episode "The King Lives?" The King comes to America in a two-part sequel in the next season, "To Sire, With Love." He stays with the now-married 99 and Max while trying to keep a priceless scepter under wraps. While Max is jealous of 99 being in close quarters with a suave man who looks like him, the King is being followed by the evil Rupert of Rathskeller, who will do anything to eliminate him and his treasure.

Between the cold weather predicted for the rest of the week and my working in the morning after today, I couldn't put off the laundry this time. It was far warmer than it has been, probably in the mid 40s. All of the snow was melting rapidly as I pushed my cart to the laundromat. They were surprisingly quiet for a nice day. It got busier later, but I didn't have a huge load, anyway. By the time The View was three quarters done, I was on my way out.

It was so warm, the snow on the porch was vanishing...leaving piles of icy slush. I didn't want to slip on that when the polar vortex returned. I took out my broom and tried to do what I did on the steps with the mess on the porch. It took longer than I thought it would. By 12:30, the snow was heavy and wet, not dry and fluttery, like it was on Saturday.  I actually broke the handle on my broom getting the snow apart and soaked the bristles. I headed back in for a quick peanut butter and strawberry jam lunch when it was cleared to my satisfaction.

Went right to work after lunch. The roads were almost completely clear now, even the ones that were previously covered in ice, like Manor. The sidewalks on the Black Horse Pike were still such a slushy mess, I had to ride on the turn to Nicholson and go as slow as I could. I just made it on time.

It wasn't that bad when I got in, but it picked up even before rush hour and didn't stop. A lack of help didn't make things better. We had long lines for most of the evening. Thankfully, my relief, one of the few older women who work late, was on time, and I was able to get out with no problems.

When I made it in, I warmed up leftover tuna casserole for dinner and tried a pumpkin muffin recipe while watching one more "royal switch" episode. "April's Fool" is from the first season of the original 80s/90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. April O'Neal is determined to get a story on a European country that has discovered a new precious metal, unaware that the country's feisty, bored princess is her double. When the princess takes off, Shredder and his goons kidnap April, mistaking her for the princess. The Turtles go after April and end up chasing her down in a costume ball.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Greetings From Oaklyn, NJ

Slept in this morning and didn't get up until Brunch With the Beatles was in full-swing. The US-Only album Hey Jude was Capitol's way of collecting songs that had only been released as singles at that point. These included the title song, "Revolution," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Lady Madonna," "Paperback Writer," "Don't Let Me Down," and "I Should Have Known Better."

I made a quick breakfast of Ginger-Spiced French Toast to use up the last of the Multi-Grain Bread from the Acme. After the Beatles ended, I decided to start getting through my long list of CDs and records I haven't listened to yet. Started with one of Bruce Springsteen's more recent releases, Magic, including the hit "Radio Nowhere."

Though it was cold, it wasn't quite as bad as it has been, and the sky remained sunny and largely windless. I decided I was tired of begging for rides and rode my bike to work. This had its own pitfalls. The main streets are clear, but I did have to walk my bike on Manor, which is still clogged with frozen salt and snow. I had to dodge cars on narrow Kendall and on the turn to Nicholson as well, since I couldn't ride on the snow-covered sidewalks.

All of this resulted in me being a little late. This wasn't a good thing - we really needed the help today. We were very busy for most of the evening with people trying to get their shopping done before we're hit with the next round of freezing weather. Thankfully, they'd slowed up enough by 5 that I was able to get home without a relief.

Had a chance to talk to Mom when I got in. She'd just come from an epic, hour-and-a-half hand of Uno with Dad and Skylar, which she eventually won. She was delighted that I'd had a better week despite the wild weather and that my mood had improved, and that the papers she sent me had arrived unscathed. My brother had called her earlier in the week; he's being transferred to Norfolk, where he'll live in the barracks for 6 to 12 months. His girlfriend will stay in Charlotte and get an apartment while they figure out what they want to do with their relationship.

Listened to Bruce Springsteen's first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, while making dinner. I added the stir-fry vegetables from last night, this time sauteed in an orange sauce, to a leftover chicken leg and the tomato-avocado salad. Yum! It came out very well, especially the vegetables.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Strange Tales of Snow Days

I kicked off a cloudy, cold morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. We disco-danced our way into dance-crazy late January 1978, as bubblegum pop, R&B, soul, and hard rock competed with the newest musical fad. Hits that winter included "Stayin' Alive" and "How Deep Is Your Love" by the Bee Gees (from the massively popular soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever), "Come Sail Away" by Styx, "We Are the Champions" by Queen, "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel, "Here You Come Again" by Dolly Pardon, "Love Is Thicker Than Water" by Andy Gibb, "Serpentine Fire" by Earth, Wind, and Fire, "Hey Deanie" by Sean Cassidy, "You're In My Heart" by Rod Stewart, and "Short People" by Randy Newman. The ballad "Baby Come Back" by Player was that week's top song.

Ran a couple of episodes of Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness as I made my grocery list and got everything together for my errand run. As you can guess from the title, this offshoot of Kung Fu Panda is the further tales of lovable Po, his noodle chef father, and the warriors the Furious Five. This one kicks off with the title episode, "The Scorpion's Sting." A nasty scorpion holds the only flower that can be made into a potion that'll relieve a sick Tigress...but she's also a deadly sorceress whose bite can put the victim under her control. She nearly manages to turn buddies Po and Monkey against each other. "Love Stings" brings her back, as she romances Po's lonely adopted father. Po doesn't trust her, but she seems to really want to help...until he finds out her real reasons for being in the Valley.

I walked to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping, pushing the cart again. While Manor and a lot of the roads in Audubon Park are still sheets of ice, most major roads are perfectly clear, including Kendall and the Black Horse Pike. I didn't have any problems until I got to the Black Horse Pike. While the Pike is clear, the sidewalks are still covered in snow and ice chunks cleared from the road. I tried to cut around it in Audubon Park, which wasn't much better.

The Acme was a mess when I got there. We were supposed to get only two or three inches of snow...but after the weather we've had the past few weeks, anything short of sunshine, warm temperatures and no wind would have sent people into a frenzy. Not a good thing, since I had a fairly big order. Inspired by Kung Fu Panda and the Acme's sales on Asian food for Chinese New Year, I bought water chestnuts, stir-fry mix, and small salad shrimp to make Shrimp Stir Fry for dinner. There was also the "buck a bag" produce sale; picked up celery, an avocado, a container of grape tomatoes, and a bag of stir-fry veggies cheap. Needed to restock bananas and apples, along with canned chicken, brown sugar, cereal (went with Wheat Chex on sale), cream of mushroom soup, tuna, and batteries. Had a coupon for the Smart Balance 50/50 butter sticks.

I understood what all the commotion was about when I got outside and discovered a snow shower. I just ignored it and walked home. I did end up dragging my cart across a snow-covered field to avoid the traffic on the Black Horse Pike, but otherwise, the walk was kind of fun. I caught snowflakes on my tongue and kicked up puffs of snow as I made my way down Kendall.

When I got home, I made tomato and avocado salad for lunch with the last of the ground chicken meatballs while finishing out Kung Fu Panda. Recurring villains seem to be common on this show. The scorpion was far from the only bad guy to come back another day to finish the job. My favorite of these was a nasty owl who had once been the most powerful of the Fearsome Five, and went crazy from the strain. Po thought that as the Dragon Warrior, he'd go crazy, too...until he discovered our destinies aren't set in stone. Another fun one had Po and his dad searching for a fabled monster who was said to bite people's heads off. The monster does turn out to exist, but he values his privacy and isn't anything like the legend claims.

I looked up the weather on the computer, since the snow didn't look like it was stopping. All of the weather sites still said 1 to 3 inches. Since it didn't look like it was stopping, I decided to put two of my dolls, Josefina and Molly, into warm coats and boots and take some shots of them "playing" in the snow. After I finished, I did some playing of my own, going for a short walk in the park next-door. The snow had covered everything. You couldn't see the path anymore, and you could barely see the garden besides the fences. Even the wicker couch had been removed. It was me and the brush. The snow revealed the broad strokes of trees and brambles clearly for all of Oaklyn to see.

When I did get back in, I dubbed two cult animated films from the 80s while making that Shrimp Stir Fry for dinner and working on crocheting. Dot and the Kangaroo came out in 1977 and apparently was based after an 1899 novel. Dot, the sweet daughter of a farmer, is lost in the "Bush." A kindly mother kangaroo who has lost her own joey takes Dot in and helps her find her way home, introducing her to a variety of Australian animals, Aborigines, and folklore along the way.

This sweet tale is unique in its mix of animated characters against real-life Australian backgrounds. The relationship between Dot and her friend is very touching, especially when she saves her from the dingoes in the end. I'm not the only one who enjoyed this movie. This ran constantly on cable in the 80s and lead to a long series of Dot and...stories that set animation against live action. I fondly remember Dot and the Bunny, and there may have been a Christmas one as well. Very sweet and well worth looking for if you want to find some unusual animated movies for animal lovers, especially girls.

I wasn't nearly as impressed with The Adventures of the American Rabbit. We leap from Australia back to the US for this tale of Robert Rabbit, who turns into the title superhero to defeat the evil Jackals, a nasty motorcycle group who wants to take over cities across America. When they destroy the nightclub Robert works for, the manager, the band, and the girl singer decide to take their act on the road to raise enough money to rebuild it. The Jackals and their mysterious boss follows them, determined to stop the American Rabbit from proving that fair play, sportsmanship, and standing up for yourself can win over any bullies.

This was just really weird. There were plot holes the size of Dot's native Australia and quite a few questions that went unanswered. (Who was the old guy who kept popping up whenever Robert needed advice? Why did his village disappear after he leaves it? Did they ever raise enough money to rebuild the night club?) Despite the lousy writing and editing, this has a surprising amount of rave reviews on Amazon; I suspect most of that is nostalgia talking, along with some fairly decent animation. Not recommended unless you grew up watching it on cable or video, or your kids get a kick out of superhero tales and are young enough to overlook the script problems.

(Oh, and the snow is long-gone. It ended around 4:30, as I swept the porch for a second time, leaving a lovely sunset and the predicted 2-3 inches.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Libraries On Ice

Yup, it's still cold here, though thankfully not quite as bad as earlier in the week. I slept in and got up to a sunny, slightly breezy late morning. Watched the Sailor Moon season 3 hour-long "movie" Hearts In Ice while eating nice, warm oatmeal with peanut butter and a fruit cup for breakfast. Serena's talking cat mentor Luna falls for a handsome astronomer. Unfortunately, he already has a girlfriend, an ambitious astronaut who doesn't believe in his insistence that he's found the piece of a comet or that there was once a princess on the moon. The comet belongs to the evil Princess Snow Kaguya, who wants to freeze the Earth and keep it for herself!

I was hoping the sun would melt the snow on my porch steps; they're in direct sunlight in the winter. They had, to a degree, but not really fast enough. I finished the job for Mother Nature, sweeping what I could get off and breaking up what was frozen, then sweeping that. This snow is the powdery, dry kind that can be easily swept or blown away after it's fallen.

It took me so long to finish that, it was past 12:30 when I finally made it out on my errands run. Since I wasn't sure what the roads would be like, I walked and pushed the cart instead of taking the bike. This also allowed me to bring a big pile of books, CDs, and DVDs to the Haddon Township Library.

It was a lovely day for a walk. It was still cold, but not quite as bad as the last few days, probably in to the mid to upper 20s. The wind was gone, too...and with it, the single-digit wind chill factor. Most sidewalks were shoveled, but there were some that were still icy and snow-covered, especially on less-used roads. The side streets, including Manor, were clogged with congealed salt and snow, but the main streets were clear.

My first stop was a quick one at the Oaklyn Library to return DVDs and do some volunteering. There wasn't a lot going on there besides people doing work on the computer and one fellow going over papers. I organized the adult DVDs, gave the children's titles a look, and went over the kids' books. I was out in a little over a half-hour.

I had a harder time getting to the Westmont Plaza. Some sidewalks on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike hadn't been shoveled or treated (especially the ones around the empty plot of land that used to be the Newton Diner). It was such rough going on the Plaza side of Cuthbert Road, I crossed back over to the side with Rite Aid (and more houses and that apartment complex) until I got to Westmont.

Once I got to Westmont Plaza, things were fine. The Plaza's sidewalks and parking lot had been very heavily salted, far more than even the Acme's. I easily made my way up the hill and past Wells Fargo to Friendly's for lunch. Despite the late hour (it was almost 2 when I arrived), they were relatively busy, with kids looking for milkshakes, an elderly couple, and a large group of families who looked like they may have been having a birthday party.

I had a tasty Citrus Grilled Chicken Sandwich for lunch. It didn't taste much like citrus, and they overdid the mayo, but it otherwise wasn't bad. The elderly couple gave me a coupon for 20% off a meal. I thanked them, even though I didn't have the heart to tell them that the reason I was eating there was I had 3 similar coupons from the bag of store flyers people get on their stoops every week.

Went straight to the Haddon Township Library next. They were far busier than Oaklyn had been. For the first time in ages, the return cart was overwhelmed with DVDs. I had plenty to do while I was there. A lot of people must have taken DVDs out during the recent round of bad weather. I actually managed to fit all of the kids' DVDs on the shelves (except for the usual doubles). Shelved a lot of adult titles too, then pulled foreign and kids' discs and put them in the right places. Looked over their board books and did some organizing. Took out five discs - new episodes for The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That! and Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness and the movies Beasts of the Southern Wild, Super 8, and The King of Marven Gardens.

Oh, and I'm glad I brought those donations. I was mostly clearing out books and CDs. I gave them more than half of my children's picture books, including all of the 80s Care Bears books and all of the Strawberry Shortcake books but one, along with the Golden Books, the Pac Man maze book, the She-Ra book, and the Muppet Babies stories. One of the librarians was utterly delighted with the haul. She said her granddaughter loves reading and would enjoy the stories, especially She-Ra and the Care Bears. I'm glad. I realized that as much as I enjoy the pictures, I really don't have anyone to read these books. I kept the Disney, Paddington, and Raggedy Ann & Andy treasuries, the Rose Petal Place series (who knows when those will turn up again), the copy of Oh, the Places We'll Go! that I got from my high school newspaper's staff for my graduation (they all signed the front cover), and The Muppets Take Manhattan.

My last stop of the day was at Rite Aid across from the Westmont Plaza. I needed contact lens solution. They have the area's best prices for my usual brand. Since it was past 4PM at that point and getting late and cold, I decided to save myself a trip to WaWa and pick up milk (their skim half-gallon is only $2.19) and money for the week there, too.

Took me a while to get home. It was rush hour by that point. The traffic on Cuthbert was so bad, I turned down side streets to avoid it, ice or no ice. It turned out that most of the snow on the former Newton Diner plot had been blown away; it was easier to cross than some sidewalks. I crossed the busy White Horse Pike at the Ritz Theater and went home down Kendall to try to avoid some of the worst of the ice.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the evening at home. I ran the newest episodes of The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That while having leftover tuna casserole from dinner. I wasn't the only one indulging my sweet tooth. "The Last Chocolate" is the first episode of this series I've seen that didn't deal with animals. When the Cat eats the last chocolates in the box that the kids intended for their moms, he takes them to a Spanish candy world to show them how chocolate is made. "Marvelous Marbles" is similar, this time with the Cat introducing the kids to a kindly pirate who introduces them to the art of glassblowing and how glass is made from sand.

Switched to the first Valentine's Day specials of the year while making Snickerdoodles. This recipe from a baking recipe book I took out of the library called Sweet Chic, which likens baked goods to clothes and fashion accessories. Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers is a Looney Tunes compilation special that uses clips from various shorts to show how Cupid turns his arrows on the Toons, and how Bugs thinks he's meddling. There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown has Chuck, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Sally mistaking a grocery store for an art museum. Chuck has even less luck pursuing the Little Red Haired Girl (while Peppermint Patty and Marcie pursue him) in A Charlie Brown Valentine.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tales of Winter

It was still sunny outside when I got up this morning. Started off with breakfast and a couple of cartoons revolving around snow and winter. Jack Frost is one of the better 70s Rankin-Bass specials. The title character falls for a human girl and begs to be made human himself in order to woo her. Unfortunately, an evil Cossack king and a handsome knight are also interested in her. When the Cossack threatens her village, Jack gives up his new life to save his friends.

An earlier Rankin-Bass special gives us another version of Jack Frost. In Frosty's Winter Wonderland, the little sprite is jealous because Frosty's getting all the attention from the kids. He becomes determined to keep a mere snowman from showing up the creator of winter! Meanwhile, Frosty's lonely. The kids create a "snow wife" named Crystal to be his companion. It's good-natured Crystal who finally stops Jack Frost from disrupting the wedding and shows him that he can be their friend, too.

The Backyardigans are having their own problems in the snow. Uniqua wants to know "The Secret of Snow," but Ice Lady Tasha has no time for her queries. She keeps sending Uniqua to warm places. Uniqua keeps coming back, with Tyrone and Pablo joining in later. They show Tasha and her bored assistant Austin that there's no real "secret of snow," but friendship is even more important.

Olive chooses Popeye to accompany her on a skiing jaunt in "I-Ski-You-Ski," but Bluto doesn't want to share the lanky lass. He does his best to put their romance on thin ice!

I spent most of the day at work. I ended up there until 7; I was originally only supposed to work until 5. We were steady, busier than yesterday, but still not overwhelming. While the main roads are mostly clear, the back roads are covered in ice and congealed salted snow. They were afraid they wouldn't have enough people to help them when some stock people called out and they had to pull cashiers to help stock shelves.

There was a package waiting for me when I got home. Mom sent me all of my old school information from various Child Study Teams for me to show my counselor to explain why I ended up in Special Ed schools and classes in the first place...and to explain it to me.

I've always had trouble with my peers, going back as far as elementary school. Even in high school, I had trouble, though it wasn't as pronounced as it was in grade school. Simply put, I had emotional issues and didn't get along with my peers, thanks to my early puberty, years of being Cape May Elementary's favorite butt of every joke, the teachers' inability to admit there was a problem, and my parents' ongoing war.

Some of the emotional issues did clear up once I got away from Cape May Elementary and my parents got marital counseling. Others linger to this day - I still prefer to work alone and have trouble getting along with my peers. I'm not good at dealing with my emotions, and I just can't be "logical" like Mom and Rose can.

Mom also sent me a really interesting book called The Tao of Womanhood. I'll see if I can go over that starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marshmallow World

I awoke to a sunny, freezing cold blanket of white. Everything out side was white, from the glitter on my porch to the sparkling ice on the river. I stuck my ruler in the snow again, and once again got 9 inches. The snow must have stopped shortly after I measured the snow last night.

I spent most of the morning watching cartoons and crocheting, beginning with the remaining Phineas & Ferb episodes. Some of the episodes here have fun playing with the formula. The two part-er "Sidedtracked" focuses almost entirely on Perry and Doofensmirtz, with the title characters only showing up in the beginning and the end. Perry teams up with a Canadian agent to get a moose that's the symbol of the country across the border. Doofensmirtz and his Canuck counterpart want to get the moose off the train and derail Canada's Canada Day festivities and national pride. Perry has to work with Doof in another two-part story, "Primal Perry." A renegade bounty hunter handcuffs the two together to chase them across the town's botanical gardens.

Phin and Ferb had their own adventures away from their platypus pal. They accidentally turn their ever-tattling teenage sister Candace into a fly in "Fly On the Wall." She thinks it's a great way to get her mother to see what her brothers are up to this time and find out where her date's taking her for dinner. She tries to get her tired mother to notice the gigantic licorice rope knot ball the boys are working their way out of in "Knot My Problem," but thanks to Doof's hunger-inducing ray, eats it instead. She will occasionally help them out when they really are threatened, like when they switch their minds with aliens's, expecting a vacation and ending up in an alien jail instead, in "Mind Share."

Rose drove me to work. It's pretty much the same deal as the last time we were hit with snow and then cold weather - the salt has congealed and frozen on all but the most-traveled roads. Despite the mess, we were on-and-off busy all day at the Acme. We shelved candy during the down times. Dad drove me home.

Though Andrew or Richard seem to have shoveled the path to my apartment, they haven't gotten to my porch and steps yet. It was slow going up to my apartment. When I got in, I had a quick dinner of leftover tuna casserole while running a couple more Stooges cartoon shorts. "It's a Bad, Bad, Bad World" has their old nemesis Badman stealing candy...but every time the Stooges think they have him, someone says "good," and he returns to his original form as a crying kid. They want to find the "Abominable Snowman" for a movie director, but all the Snowman wants to do is play with them. The boys become circus animal trainers in "You Ain't Lion," but it's the lion who seems to be doing the training. And the Stooges' new assignment of taking TV footage of a rare avian mother turns out to be "Strictly For the Birds" when it seems the birds value their privacy and aren't keen on becoming small-screen stars.

I spent the rest of the evening in a nice, warm bath, reading a book on being a woman and how to enjoy simple pleasures like doing housework (which I actually do enjoy) and indulging in a few pretty things now and then. My Vaughan Monroe CD seemed appropriate; the big band conductor and singer and his orchestra introduced "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Balance In a Blizzard

Rose and I did make it to Yogawood this time. Despite it just being cloudy at 9:30, it was a very small class, just three other people besides Rose, me, and the teacher Louisa. After an interesting story about how the Hindu elephant god defined "universe," we mostly worked on balance and squatting poses. I've gotten better at balancing, but squatting and kneeling isn't always so great with my bad knees. I could barely do some of those.

It didn't help that we had a major distraction half-way through the class. The snow had started. And when it started, it wouldn't stop. It was already coming down in full force when Rose and I drove home. Despite the snow-covered sidewalks and the slushy streets, I went right upstairs to my apartment...and came right back down with my laundry. I shouldn't have put off doing the laundry yesterday.

There was already at least two or three inches on the ground when I walked to the laundromat. It was rather pretty, though, with the inky slices of trees peeping through the lacy whiteness. My reverie ended when I got to the White Horse Pike and saw the traffic. People must have been let out of work early and were rushing home. It took me 10 minutes just to get across the street.

Things went better when I made it inside. Surprisingly, there were a few other people there, which is more than I thought there would be in what was shaping up to be a major storm. Thank heavens I didn't have a huge load. I read the self-help books I took out of the Haddon Township Library last week while The View and Action News (which was entirely focused on the blizzard) droned in the background.

Channel 6 had a reason to be worried. There had to be at least two or more inches of snow on the ground when I walked home. Not to mention, it was very windy and bitterly cold. It was much harder to push the cart home than it had been going there. The traffic was still pretty bad on the White Horse Pike, too. I saw kids walking home from the Oaklyn School even as I headed back to my apartment.

Ran the very strange Phineas & Ferb/Marvel Comics crossover "Mission Marvel" as I put the laundry away and had a quick leftovers lunch. Thanks to their satellite and one of Dr. Doofenschmirtz's "Inator" rays, four major Marvel heroes - The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Spider Man - have been stripped of their powers. While the boys and their friends try to come up with a way to reverse the ray and Candace squees over having Marvel superheroes in her home, Doofenschmirtz befriends the Red Skull and several other Marvel villains...or so he thinks. While the heroes and the boys figure out how to kick rear without powers, the girls try to prove that they can help, too.

Needless to say, I didn't ride my bike to work. Dad drove me there; Rose drove me home. The snow wasn't stopping. It was still coming down hard when I started at 2:30. The traffic wasn't quite as bad by that point; we were steady at work with people who'd gotten off later in the day through about 6, after which, not surprisingly, it died very hard and very fast. I spent the last hour doing a full cart of returns.

At press time, the snow continues to fall. I stuck a ruler into the snow on my porch next to the door. As of about 10PM, there was 9 inches of snow on the porch...and it's supposed to continue until early morning.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Marvel-lous Surprise

I spent most of a sunny, breezy Martin Luther King Jr. Day watching the the disc for the new Avengers Assemble cartoon. Basically, we have the team from the film - Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow with an additional character, the flying newcomer Falcon - going up against various villains from the comics, including the Red Skull. Alas, this was a disappointment after I really liked Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The animation wasn't as good, and the characters weren't as diverse (and I missed Ant-Man and Wasp Girl). I did have fun with the bonus episode "Ghost of a Chance," where all of the Avengers are possessed by spirit-like space creatures from another dimension. Only the Falcon has avoided the beings and finds himself having to rescue his new team-mates.

Moved to more Three Stooges shorts as I ate a quick lunch of leftovers and got ready for work. The Stooges also found themselves dealing with super villains. "Bad Man" is really a little boy, but he turns into an evil guy in a black bat suit whenever someone says the word "bad." Tim Bear briefly returns in a series of snow-themed shorts, notably "Squawk Valley."

Work actually wasn't that bad, given this is not only a holiday, but we're supposed to be getting some rough winter weather starting tomorrow afternoon. I've heard anything from 1 to 8 inches of snow starting around 1 tomorrow; we'll see what happens. The long lines was more from us being short on help than from heavy crowds.

I even got quite a surprise. One of the cashiers dropped an envelope into my lap during my break and said "congratulations, you're the Employee of the Month!" Employees who get cards with compliments from customers drop them into a box in the back lounge area. A name is drawn every month to win a 100 dollar Acme gift card. I guess they drew my name. That gift card will come in very handy. My paychecks for the next few weeks won't be nearly as good as the ones I got over the holidays. This will easily cover food for at least three weeks, including the parchment paper and eggs I needed tonight.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Let It Go

I slept off and on until around 10:30, then read in bed and did my journal while listening to Brunch With the Beatles. The early album Beatles For Sale was in the spotlight today. Often described as one of their darker albums, the boys did this one while they were in the midst of touring and TV and stage performances and were very pressed for time. They'd also just met Bob Dylan; John was particularly influenced by his work, which shows up in "I'm a Loser" and "Baby's In Black." Other well-known songs from this album include "I'll Follow the Sun," "No Reply," and the singles "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" and "Eight Days a Week."

I called Mom even before I made breakfast. We talked for over an hour. While this week was generally a much better week than the previous ones, I'm still frustrated. I just do not like my job. It's hard to explain this to people. I don't belong there. I shouldn't be there. The money's nice, but it doesn't feel right. I have no support there at all and no one to talk to. My co-workers are nice, but they're all either younger than me, older than me, or in a different class bracket and don't understand what I'm going through.

Trouble is, I don't know where to go next. Mom says I put too much pressure on myself. Of course I put pressure on myself. I have to get out of this job as soon as I can. Everyone's always saying I'm so smart. Smart people don't work at grocery stores. They're supposed to be using the skills they studied at college. They're supposed to be working with their peers, at a job that they don't come home everyday from crying because they feel so wrong there. Why can't I work at a job that earns me money and health insurance and makes me happy?

Mom says "let it go." I can't. I feel so out of place. Connections are very hard for me. I can't connect with my customers. I can't connect with my co-workers. I haven't even connected with my neighbors all that well. I don't know how. It doesn't help that I'm really rather afraid of my customers and what they'll do to me and say about me. I fear people. The child within me lives in fear of adults who will hurt her and take her away and of other children who will call her names and insult her. The adult fears being hurt by people who carry chips on their shoulder a mile wide and are rude and nasty.

I wish I knew how to comfort that child and connect to others around me. Mom suggested looking at online courses from the local community colleges on connection and how to connect to people. I looked at some tonight and will look over more tomorrow. I'm wary of online courses after the business classes I took from Stockton were completely useless, but one simple one from a different company might not hurt.

After I finally ate my (very tasty) gingerbread pancakes, I spent the rest of the afternoon going through old journals and streaming the Broncos-Patriots game on CBS I have journals going back as far as 1987. Dad gave Rose and me each a fancy journal with holographic covers and keys to lock them. Rose gave up on hers eventually, but I kept writing in mine. I wrote in that first journal until 1995. I even still have the key. I wrote in journals only occasionally through October 2006. On a suggestion I read in a book on mediating, I decided to try writing in my journal for at least 15 minutes every morning. It worked so well, I've done it ever since.

I had so many journals, I didn't even get through 2007 before the game was half-over and my stomach was growling for lunch. There were a lot of memories in those early journals. Some I'd even forgotten, like the year I turned 17, and my birthday dinner was a disaster that ended up with my parents sniping at each other and the other kids all moping. Or how a couple of my friends and I went to see the re-release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1997 and almost got kicked out of the theater because we talked too loud over the important parts. Or my feelings after 9/11, while watching the all-star, money-raising special America: A Tribute to Heroes.

Incidentally, I was rooting for the Broncos. They kicked rear end all season, and the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl plenty of times recently. I called it right - the Broncos plowed through them for most of the set, and a late rally in the 4th quarter wasn't enough to prevent them losing 26-16. 

(I called the second game right, too. I didn't get to see it, but the Seahawks, after being down to the 49ers in the first half, came back to win 23-17. While I would have been happy with either team there, the 'Niners did go to the Super Bowl last year. I don't think Seattle's been there for a while, if they ever have.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Artist's Date In Collingswood

Started a cloudy morning with this week's American Top 40. Casey skips us ahead over a decade to mid-January 1987. While the rest of the world was enjoying pop, R&B, dance, and heavy metal, I was just trying to figure out how to get along in school and deal with parents who were having problems of their own. Hits that winter included "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung, "Open Your Heart" by Madonna, "Land of Confusion" by Genesis, "Control" by Janet Jackson, "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters, "Notorious" by Duran Duran, "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles, and "Is This Love?" by Survivor. One of the biggest ballads of that year hit #1 that week, "Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott.

I finished breakfast while watching the first two episodes on the second Scooby Doo disc. We first continued the 70s Scooby/Shaggy/Scrappy adventures. Some of these showed their age rather badly, notably "Scooby Doo 2000" (the guys are supposedly thrust into the future, but all they do is run into weird appliances) and "Punk Rock Scooby" (they mistake a Scrappy-like alien for the pugnacious puppy and join a punk rock contest). "When the Cicada Calls" from Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated (the gang has to figure out why a hoard of the title bugs are attacking the employees of a company known for their enviormentally-unsound practices) is a little better.

Headed out around 10:30. I need something to inspire my creative juices, and I thought a nice, long walk to Collingswood, the closest thing here to an artist's colony, would help. I've just been so angry at my artist for not being happier at work. Everyone keeps telling me I should be happy I'm making money. I  know I should be...but I'm not. I know I should try harder to get out. I'm not sure what's holding me back. I'm hoping that tapping my creativity will give me an outlet to figure it out.

By the time I arrived in Collingswood, the clouds were gone, the sun was shining, and it was windy and in the 30s, perfect for mid-January in Southern New Jersey. I took my time exploring Haddon Avenue, Collingswood's main drag. I tried a "samosa" icing top from Sweet Freedom Bakery. It was the top of a cupcake with toasted coconut icing drizzled with chocolate. Sweet and a little gritty (they make their baked goods with vegan, kosher, and gluten-free products) but not bad.

I hit Jubli Beads and Yarn, a craft shop that specializes in the afore-mentioned items and gives classes in crocheting, knitting, and jewelry-making, next. I didn't buy them anything, but I explained about my situation with the Acme and not being able to attend many classes. They offered personal classes; I don't know if or how'd I'd pull that off or afford it, but I told them I'd keep it in mind.

My next stop was Two Oaks Thrift Shop on the next block over. They're not nearly as big as the store Erica used to work at (which now sells mid-20th-century furniture), but they did have a few interesting items. I walked out with three records, for Herman's Hermits, Barbara Streisand, and a two-disc set for Danny Kaye.

After a quick stop at the Collingswood Used Book Trader (I bought a hardback copy of the Carol Higgins Clark book Burned for a dollar), I decided it was time for lunch. My first choice was The Pop Shop. I'd forgotten that today was Saturday, and they do a lot of kid-oriented activities like Pajamas Luncheons. There was a long line, and the place was full to the brim with noisy families. Tortilla Press wasn't really all that much quieter, but there were only a few families, and it wasn't quite as crowded. As the only solo diner, I even got that small table by the corner window that looks out onto the corner of Haddon and Collings. I had a delicious "Breakfast Burrito" from their brunch menu, with eggs, guacamole, beans, and Tortilla Press' hand-made salsa on the side.

When I finished lunch, I moved on to Fruigli, the little thrift shop across the street that mostly specializes in vintage clothes, but found nothing. I was getting tired at that point, and Collingswood was still busy with the Saturday afternoon lunch crowd. I made a quick stop at WaWa for a drink, then headed back towards Oaklyn.

I took the long way back across Newton River Park. By that point, it was a gorgeous day for it. You'd never know it was cloudy in the morning. The late afternoon sun sparkled against a soft blue sky; the wind ruffled the deep green water and the remaining brown leaves. I even stopped and watched a duck family preen their feathers at one point. I wasn't the only person going for a stroll in the park, either. I ran into joggers, bikers, and my sister Rose walking her dog Toby. Rose offered to go to yoga with me on Tuesday again. I'm not working until 2:30 that day and was able to accept without question this time.

I made one last stop, this one at CVS (I wanted eggs, but they were out of them, but I did get bath beads), before finally heading home. After my two long walks (a half-hour each), I spent most of the rest of the afternoon doing things online. I wasn't really up to much else.

Made a tuna casserole with leftover vegetables, frozen peas, and the last can of tuna for dinner while finishing out the Scooby Doo set. "Recipe For Disaster" is another What's New, Scooby Doo? episode, this one revolving around a monster made of Scooby Snack batter attacks the factory where they're made. "The Faces of Evil" is a real oddity, from possibly the strangest Scooby Doo show ever made, Shaggy and Scooby Doo Get a Clue! Like the 70s shows, this one is Shaggy and Scooby alone. They're living in a huge mansion and getting their mysteries from Shaggy's Uncle Albert, and Scooby Snacks gives Scooby powers. In this one, their regular villain Dr. Philbes has figured out a way to clone himself and wear the duo out by sending the clones all over the world. When Scooby overdoses on Snacks, how will the two get the energy to get rid of all of this guy?

Epic made slightly more sense. This animated fantasy tale from the creators of Ice Age take us from prehistory to a world that exists in a forest alongside our own. The Leaf People battle their eternal enemies who are in charge of rot to keep nature in balance. Their queen (Beyonce Knowles) is about to choose an heir. She's attacked just after she picks a flower pod that will choose her successor and keep balance in the forest. Ronin (Colin Farrell) is the head of her warriors; Nod (Josh Hutcherson) is a younger member who has chosen to leave the Leaf People rather than follow their rules.

Nod's not the only one who's tired of dealing with strict rules and guardians who treat him like a child. Human teenager Mary Katherine is dealing with the death of her mother and being sent to live with her eternally distracted scientist father, who is firmly convinced that there's little people living in the forest. His daughter thinks he's crazy, until she encounters the dying queen in the woods. When she takes the pod from her, it shrinks her down to the size and speed of the Leaf People. Now she finds herself caught up in their struggle against the evil King of Rot Mandrake as she, her father, and Nod learn a lesson in how we're all connected to one another, whether we want to be or not.

Beautifully done, and probably the most realistic depiction of shrinking I've ever seen. When Mary Katherine is shrunk, she's able to jump higher and move much faster than normal humans, who seem to be slow, clumsy giants to the Leaf People. The animation is incredible, too, especially the eye-popping colors and the detail in the forest. Alas, all this is at the service at an extremely cliched plot that manages to hit just about every fantasy and hero's journey trope in existence. None of the characters are all that memorable, including the villain, who really has no motivation for what he's doing and the slug and snail sidekicks who are supposed to keep the pod moist.

I liked it enough that I didn't mind the rental, but the cliches are a little too thick here for me to buy. If you're more of a fantasy fan than I am or are into animation, you may find more in this one than I did.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Attack of the Iron Men and Giant Hamburgers

Started a beautiful, sunny day with Multi-Grain Cheerios, crocheting, and Scooby Doo. The newest 13-episode set is supposed to revolve around Scooby and Shaggy's notoriously oversized appetites. Only the first four episodes on Disc 1 have anything to do with food, and all can be found elsewhere. "Wanted Cheddar Alive" is A Pup Named Scooby Doo's worst nightmare - a cheese monster is haunting the Scooby Snacks Factory, which is shut down until the kids can clear that goopy ghoul out of there! Scooby and Shaggy are feuding in the second Pup Named show "Night of the Living Burger," which isn't going to help the others solve the mystery of a gigantic burger who is trying to shut down a mall burger stand. Skipping to the early 2000s What's New, Scooby Doo?, Shaggy's "Big Appetite In Little Tokyo" gets him into trouble when he is accidentally eats a cursed pizza. Is that Shaggy who's been turned into a giant monster...or is something else going on? We move ahead a decade to Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated and return to the US for "The Devouring." The gang helps a spoof of Paula Deen figure out why a monster made of flour and dough has attacked her program.

The remaining episodes on Disc 1 are all Scooby/Shaggy/Scrappy shorts. Almost none involve the traditional monsters and mysteries; the few that do involve monsters have actual monsters, no mysteries anywhere. "Scooby's Swiss Miss" is a cute poodle whom Scoob keeps showing off to, much to the annoyance of her bulldog boyfriend. "Scooby Ghosts West" takes the trio to an abandoned hotel in a western ghost town. Scooby keeps seeing spirits eating his food and using the shower, but Shaggy and Scrappy just think he's nuts. The three run afoul of a "Swamp Witch" who wants to turn them into frogs. "Waxworld," which has the trio dodging the evil owner of a wax museum who for some reason wants to add a stoner and two dogs to his collection, is probably the most interesting of the 70s episodes.

I headed for the Oaklyn Library around 11. It was a stunning day for a walk. The day was sunny and fairly mild for January, probably in the mid-40s, and calm as could be. Despite the nice weather, there were a couple of people reading newspapers or working on the computer when I arrived at the Oaklyn Library. I was there for a little less than an hour. Pretty much just did the DVDs and took a quick look at the kids' books. The Oaklyn Library tends to get the newest releases faster and for longer than Haddon Township does; I ended up with Iron Man 3 (not my favorite Marvel character, but I did see the other two and The Avengers), Gatsby, and Epic.

Since it's a couple of blocks down, I headed to WaWa and bought milk and a s'mores cappuccino. It was past noon by then, and they were fairly busy. I got lucky - they opened a second line right as I got there.

I went the long way home down Kendall and past Rose's house to West Clinton and Manor. I couldn't believe how nice it was, especially compared to the cold weather we got last week and are supposed to get next week. Needless to say, there were quite a few people out and about, walking their dogs or running errands. There's still a surprising amount of Christmas decorations around. A few people already have Valentine's Day banners or wreaths on their houses, but most still have greenery or nothing at all.

When I got in, I watched more Scooby Doo, had a couple of slices of Banana-Carrot-Chocolate Chip Bread and an apple for lunch, then headed out to run errands in Audubon. Since it was so nice, I once again took the long way, this time down to Nicholson Road...where I was promptly reminded why I don't go down there often. Nicholson is very busy, and thanks to the train overpass, it's often hard to see where cars are coming from down by the Cuthbert light. It took me a while to cross, even where the street was narrow.

I finally made it to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, stopping at Rue 21 first. I was still interested in the backpack they had in the window during New Year's week. It wasn't in the window anymore, but they still had a blue version in stock. No wonder I couldn't find them that week. The backpacks weren't with the purses in the accessories area. They hung on hooks under the counter. I bought a nice, new mini-backpack with a pretty blue and white southwestern pattern and a heavy vinyl bottom, as well as some cozy yellow and pink sleep socks. The old sky-blue nylon backpack went in the DARE clothes donation containers.

The Acme wasn't much busier when I arrived there than it was on Wednesday afternoon. I had no problems picking up this week's grocery list. I only needed to restock fruit (apples, bananas), vegetables (carrots, more small containers of broccoli and asparagus), and ingredients for baked goods (flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda).

Got my schedule while I was there too, since I'm off tomorrow. It's a good thing I did. Seems I'm also off Sunday, much to my surprise, as we're coming up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend and I very rarely get Sundays off. I don't work again until Monday at 2:30. I have next Friday and Saturday off as well, and slightly more hours though nothing more or less than what I normally get at this time of year.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went right into sweeping the porch. Between my hours and the cold weather, I haven't had a chance to do that in ages. The porch was covered in sticker balls and bits of bark and twigs from the heavy winds we had last week, especially the half that overlooks the path, where there's more trees.

Spent the rest of the evening in the bath. I very much needed that. I put on the Frozen soundtrack and took a look at the Soul Searching book for a while. Eventually, I heeded the call of the warm water and just soaked as far as I could go. It felt soooo very, very nice. I haven't felt this relaxed in ages. Have these couple of days off was really worth it. I feel much better.

After I finally managed to drag myself out of the tub, I made scrambled eggs with cheese, broccoli, and mushrooms for dinner, then made gingerbread and crocheted while watching Iron Man 3. Unlike most franchises, what happens in one Marvel Universe movie has repercussions on others...and at the start of the movie, Tony Stark is still reeling from the events of the finale of The Avengers. He's created suit after suit in order to protect him and his sweetheart Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) from more invasions. In the process, he's neglected Pepper and his Iron Man duties. Both come to bite him in his metal rear when an evil warlord called "The Mandarin" seems to be stirring up terrorism and hijacking bases and broadcasts. When he threatens the President, Tony threatens him right back. His home and base is promptly destroyed and Pepper kidnapped. He recovers from his losses in a science-loving kid's garage, where he creates a new suit and proves that Iron Man can fight as well without technology as with it.

I'm still not a big fan of the character, but I will add that I enjoyed the third Iron Man installment far more than the previous two. There's less noise and more character, Pepper gets in on the action, and you get to know Tony Stark better as a man, and not just as a suit. If you're already into the Marvel Universe or are a comics book fan, grab a suit and join the ride. If you're new to the Marvel Universe or Tony Stark's world, check out the previous Iron Man movies or The Avengers first to get acquainted with the characters and situations.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trying to Balance Again

Started off a late morning with more New Three Stooges and a short snow shower as I baked bread for breakfast. It was supposed to be Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread, but I only had one banana, so I added a carrot, cut the sugar to 1/3 cup (I'm running low on sugar, too), and put in orange juice. The next round of Stooges shorts move them to different time periods. While they strike out as knights trying to save a princess whose father is trying to marry off, they do better playing a baseball game against hungry lions during the Roman Empire.

Switched to Broadway's Lost Treasures I as I ate a quick lunch of leftovers. This collection of performances from various Tony Awards broadcasts makes for nice background music as I get ready for one thing or another. Favorites here include the late Bonnie Franklin's amazing performance of the title number from Applause, Barbara Harris' sweet "Movie Star Gorgeous" from The Apple Tree, and the cast of the Tommy Tune/Twiggy 80s vehicle My One and Only's incredible tap number to the Gershwin tune "Kicking the Clouds Away."

Finally headed out around 1:30-2PM. Made a quick stop at Dollar Tree for sponges, then headed to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session there. I had slightly better luck organizing the kids' DVDs than I did last week. I did manage to get all of them on, even the endless versions of SpongeBob and Scooby Doo. Ironically, I ended up with a Scooby Doo set, in this case the newest 13 episode set based around Shaggy and Scooby's enormous appetites. I also grabbed three Disney/Marvel superhero riffs: a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse superhero spoof, the first release for the newest Avengers cartoon Avengers Assemble, and a bizarre-looking Phineas & Ferb/Avengers crossover I've been trying to rent for weeks.

I also took out a pile of books on boosting your self-confidence. I've been looking over Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, which I bought a couple of years ago. I found the follow-up, Walking In This World. Found another book from Don't Sweat the Small Stuff creator Richard Carlson on making small, gradual changes, rather than big ones all at once. Found a book on stress intended for teenagers that I thought might be helpful for me too, Soul Searching. I also took out a book on yoga for women.

It took me so long to do the research, I didn't leave the library until past 4:30. It was almost worth the sunset at Newton River Park. It was surprisingly quiet for a day that had turned from cloudy to nice. This morning's snow showers did nothing but look pretty. The orange sunset reflected beautifully off the sparkling half-frozen river.

My original plan for today was to try a yoga class at Yogawood, with or without Rose. Not only did I stay at the library later than I was originally going to, but I forgot my cash. (I paid for those sponges with a debit card.) I just did the yoga moves at home instead, listening to the soft rock CD I bought at a yard sale last spring and looking over the yoga book I found at the library. I'm actually glad I did. Much to my surprise, I discovered could still do all the yoga moves I learned at Yogawood as well as I ever could, and I'm even better at some of them. I still can't do a full wheel and still can't get on my head, but I can now do a tree pose almost perfectly.

Ran Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as I sauteed asparagus, carrots, and pasta in a sauce made from leftover orange juice and baked spiced chicken legs in the oven. The first, double-length episode is simply titled "Super Adventure," and it's just what it implies. Mickey and the gang temporarily gain super powers from Professor Ludwig Von Drake when it seems like Pete is going around shrinking Clubhouse landmarks. Not only do they fail to stop Pete when they can't work together, but they discover there's an even nastier villain (for this series) behind the plump cat. When "Megamort" gets not only Pete but Mickey too, can the others work together to rescue them?

Some of the remaining episodes are cute, too. Pete's also prominent in "Mickey's Mouskercize." He's not the world's biggest fan of exercise and can't do what the other characters can do. Once again, they have to work together to prove to Pete how important and fun exercise can be.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Picnic

Thankfully, it was sunny and windless when I got up this morning. I did a few things around the apartment, had breakfast, and watched The New Three Stooges. Lauren sent me the 4-disc set of the 60s cartoons that came out last fall as a late Christmas/New Year's present. They're cute in small bits (especially the live segments), but the cheap animation gets repetitive quickly if watched in succession. The first ten or so shorts on disc 1 revolve around Tim Bear, an obnoxious cave-dweller who either ruins the guys' forest, tries to run away from them, or steals their honey or food. My favorite was the one with him in the zoo - it was one of the few times the Stooges ever got the best of him - or "Bearfoot Bandit," which has the Stooges defending their refrigerator against the hungry bear.

I actually got out for work a bit early. I might as well have left late. We were quiet as can be all afternoon. It wasn't even all that busy during the 4PM-5PM rush hour. It's the middle of the month, the middle of the week, and this was the nicest day weather-wise we've had since before Christmas. I spent most of the day either shelving candy, or standing around bored after the candy was done. Needless to say, I got out on time with no relief and no need for one.

It was still relatively warm for this time of year when I got outside. Since it was dinnertime when I finished my shift, I decided I'd eat at Sonic instead of making dinner or having leftovers. Despite the hour, they were dead when I arrived. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, tater tots, and root beer. Everything arrived nice and hot - I could see the heat coming off of the food in waves. It tasted great, too, especially the perfectly crispy tater tots.

When I got home, I worked on crocheting another dish rag while watching A Very Pooh New Year. The first half of this two-part tale consists of the early 90s special Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too with new linking material. Pooh forgets to put his name on the Hundred Acre Woods crew's list to Santa, then tries to fulfill their wishes when he can't get the letter to the North Pole.

The second half is an entirely new story. Rabbit is fed up with everyone's behavior when they almost wreck his house on New Year's Eve. He threatens to leave unless they clean up their acts. Pooh says they need to make resolutions to change and be different. Their idea of "different" turns Piglet into a bouncy Tigger, Tigger into a scared Piglet, Pooh into a gloomy Eeyore, and Eeyore into a too-happy Pooh! This doesn't make Rabbit feel any better. It takes a rescue and a lot of explanations before Rabbit realizes that he likes his friends the way they are, no matter how much they drive him crazy at times.

This was surprisingly cute, better than the somewhat similar Seasons of Giving. The holiday special is integrated better, and the new story is enjoyable - it's especially funny to see gloomy old Eeyore trying to act like Pooh! Recommended for fans of Pooh and those looking for kids' or animated programming for New Year's.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Don't Tug On Superman's Cape

Actually, I started a wet day with reading The Sword and the Shadow, a 1951 pirate romance novel I found at a library book sale at least as far back as college. A handsome pirate must bring the granddaughter and grandson of a deposed nobleman to Port Royal, Jamaica, where their distant kinsman will take them into his care. When the trio do finally make it to the New World, they're greeted by the evil hunchback cousin of the two, who plots their deaths in order to take over the family fortune.

I had enough time to do a little work on the bike before work. Oiling the gears and chain does seem to have stopped the grinding I've heard for weeks. I'm having a harder time pumping the back tire. It still feels lower than the other one, even though the pump won't go all the way down. I'll have to check that again tomorrow.

It did get me to work on time. Thankfully, by 11, the rain had gentled down to sprinkles, enough that I could ride with no problems. Work was on-and-off steady for most of the afternoon as people dodged the dreary weather. There were a few annoying customers, but once again, nothing quite as bad as the previous weeks. I was in and out with no major problems.

After I got home, I put asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and tilapia in the oven as I ran Man of Steel. We get the Superman comic book origin story from a fresh perspective, especially in the opening sequence that establishes how Krypton was destroyed and Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sent his infant son to Earth to live among the beings there. In 2013, the now-grown Clark Kent is walking the Earth, trying to figure out exactly what he's supposed to do with these powers of his, while not harming anyone. When he saves reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from an extraterrestrial threat in the Arctic, she becomes determined to find out more about him and why he's rescuing all these people. Meanwhile, Clark's not the only Kryptonian on Earth. Former military leader Zod (Michael Shannon) and his people have also arrived on this planet, not to save it, but to turn it into a replacement for their lost Krypton. While Zod tries to flatten anything in his wake (including whole cities), Clark just wonders how he can help these people who seem to fear anything that's different.

Too bad this seems to have gotten a mixed reaction from the critics, because I absolutely adored it. I suspect a lot of them weren't quite ready for a movie where cities are leveled and we actually see people die, the heroine knows darn well who's under that cape, and the origin is explored in bits and pieces throughout the running time, rather than right in the beginning. This is not a lighthearted romp, and there's quite a bit of violence, to the point where this might be a little too much for very young kids. For everyone else, especially comic books fans who are willing to be open-minded about their heroes and where they came from, this is very highly recommended.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Spring Into Winter

Started a sunny, windy day with episodes of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater and a late breakfast. (After four phone calls almost in a row. I still don't know what Dad-Bill's call was about - that may have been an accident - and Rose invited me to yoga.) Tuxedo Sam, the noble blue penguin in the jaunty sailor cap, is the main character in "Robin Penguin" (a riff on Robin Hood, with Hello Kitty as Maid Marian and diva Catnip as a female Prince John) and "Pinocchio Penguin" (Grandpa Kitty is Gepetto, Hello Kitty is the Blue Fairy, Catnip is Stromboli). My favorite was the creative "Little Red Bunny Hood." Sweet My Melody is the title character in this western version of Little Red Riding Hood. Here, Grandma is being held captive by Belle Catnip and her gang, while the wolf (Grinder the bulldog) only cares about getting Bunny Hood's lunch basket. He and My Melody end up helping Marshall Sam and Deputy Chip capture the notorious bandit kitty!

Though I only had a small load of laundry, I figured I might as well get what was there washed anyway. It was a really nice day for a walk. As Fox News pointed out on the laundromat's TV, it felt more like a spring day than a winter one! It was windy and cool, but not really cold, and absolutely nothing like last Tuesday. I wasn't surprised that the place was pretty busy, given the nice day. Unlike last week, it's supposed to rain and/or snow a little tomorrow and Wednesday, then just go back to being in the 30s and 40s, where it usually is at this time of year.

When I got home, I put everything away, then quickly ate leftovers for lunch while listening to the soundtrack from the otherwise very strange musical Xanadu. I threw on my uniform and made dinner, then headed to work.

Thankfully, work was neither as busy nor as annoying as it has been the past few weeks. A combination of better weather, the last of the beginning-of-the-month people, and the first paychecks of the year seem to have brightened people's moods. It was steady through about 5, by which time it had calmed down enough that I could leave with no relief and no need for one.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Don't Let Me Down

I overslept more than usual this morning. I didn't get up until 11...and I had work at 12! I had just enough time to write in my journal, get dressed, wolf down two muffins, and throw lunch together for work. Ran a few songs from Brunch With the Beatles as I hurried around. "Songs Released during or around January" was the theme. I managed to catch "Don't Let Me Down" plus a couple of December numbers, "Penny Lane," "A Day In the Life," and "In My Life."

I rushed off to work as soon as I finished throwing together a ham sandwich for lunch. Thankfully, work wasn't nearly as much of a problem as it has been for the past couple of weeks. It was busy but not too bad, and people were in better moods. A lot of this may have had to do with the weather. By the time one of the college boys came in for my relief, the clouds that were prevalent this morning had started to break apart. The sun continued to come out as I headed home. It wasn't nearly as cold or warm as it has been, either. It was probably in the 40s, maybe a little warm for this time of year but not bad.

I called Mom when I got in. I didn't have a chance to this morning! I told her about how frustrated I've been lately, at work and at home. I just don't know where to go next. I want out of the Acme, but I don't know how. I talk down to myself because I feel like nothing is going right. Every word out of my mouth (or fingers - witness the fracas on the Thursday entry with Tina) upsets someone. I don't know if I should substitute teach, or if I really would be right in an office, or if I should write, of if I did write, how I would sell my work when I'm not good at talking to people. I don't know what to do.

All I can do right now is call Stockton and see what they say, maybe talk to the theaters and Studio LuLoo down the street for volunteering opportunities and recommendations, and do a lot of research on jobs and hobbies. It's hard to love yourself when you've spent a lot of your life more-or-less being told by almost everyone outside your family and a few other people that what you are isn't worth loving. I've tried and tried to build my confidence, only to see it shatter again when my plans don't work out and I go right back to being trapped.

My stomach is still in knots. Even a nice, long bath listening to Jamie Cullum didn't help. I made apple-cinnamon pancakes for dinner (to make up for the rushed breakfast) and listened to the Broadway cast albums Annie Get Your Gun (the original cast with Ethel Merman) and Carnival. That helped a little, but I still feel down.

It doesn't help that it's January, either. I hate January. It's after the holidays. Everyone's broke, and there's nothing going on besides the football playoffs and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I'm just so depressed. I guess it's because I had so much fun during the holidays...and then all of a sudden, I was hit with two very stressful weeks in a row. I haven't really gotten over that stress yet. The crazy weather and my customers' recent behavior hasn't helped.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gloom and Rain

It was gloomy and pouring when I turned on the American Top 40 re-run this morning. January 1976 got people up and moving with country, disco, R&B, bubblegum pop, and novelty acts. Hits that winter included "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers, "Rock and Roll All Nite," by KISS, "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, "Fly Away" by John Denver, "I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow, "Times of Your Life" by Paul Anka, "Evil Woman" by the Electric Light Orchestra, "Love to Love You Baby" by Donna Summer, "Sing A Song" by Earth, Wind, and Fire, and "Country Boy" by Glenn Campbell.

Truckers and trucker culture were all the rage in the mid and late 70s. It's popularity helped propel the novelty number "Convoy," by C.W McCall, to the #1 spot.

Since the rain was still coming down, I spent the next hour or so putting up the remaining winter decorations. Some of my general winter items go up with the Christmas decorations. I used to put my three stuffed snowmen (one was from Amanda and has spindly wooden legs; one was from Mom and has wire angel wings and a wire halo; one was from Uncle Ken and sings and dances when you move his hat) on the music area table, surrounding the big red vase, but I had to move the Nativity there when I got rid of the cheap plastic shelves. Now they have to wait to go out. I taped up cardboard scenes of snowmen playing winter sports and having fun, and glossy cardboard snowflakes. (I got rid of the larger snowflakes. I no longer put anything on the windows for over a month. Besides, the windows in my bedroom tend to get covered with condensation in the fall and winter months and ruin anything that's on them.)

Ran one of the Sailor Moon hour-long movies as I decorated. In the third and final one, based around the fourth season, children are being kidnapped from around the globe by an evil witch who wants to create a black hole made from their dreams. When Rini is among the children captured and Darien is hurt, Serena and the other Soldiers join a "dream fairy" who has befriended Rini to figure out a way to dissolve the Black Dream hole for good.

Headed out to run some errands after Sailor Moon ended. The rain was gone, but it was still gloomy and wet. It had also gone from way too cold for anyone to too warm for this time of year, probably in the lower 60s. I was sweating in my green winter jacket, no scarf, hat, or earmuffs even remotely needed. The majority of people still had their outdoor Christmas decorations up, probably because of the crazy weather we've had this week. There were a few people out running errands like me, but most were taking down their own indoor Christmas things or trying to stay dry.

CVS was pretty busy when I arrived. I wanted to stock up on Pantene's curly formula (I couldn't find Herbal Essence's de-frizz formula, which is what I was going to get originally). CVS seems to be the only store that sells the brushes for my brush pick that I got from the dentist's office in 2008. I also found a nylon tote that could fold into a smaller bag. I've been looking for a travel bag that I could use for errand runs and short trips for a while now, ever since I finally got rid of the striped bag I bought from Bath & Body Works years ago.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by Dad's on the way home to see if he was in. He was, and so was Jessa, who was watching SpongeBob SquarePants and looking up things for work on her computer. Dad was taking the ornaments off the very dry tree. He invited me to the Super Bowl party he and Jodie are having. I hope I'll be able to come. I worked late during the Super Bowl last year (which turned out to be a moot point - thanks to that black out in the Super Dome, it ran long anyway).

When I got home, I had lunch and got ready for work while watching Chicken Run. The creators of Wallace & Gromit and Sean the Sheep take us to a British chicken farm in the late 50s. Ginger is different from most hens. She's determined to really taste freedom and life on the other side of the coop with her fellow hen-mates. They're about to give up when Rocky Rhodes (voice of Mel Gibson) seems to fly in on a tricycle. The chickens think they can fly, and Ginger thinks she's found the answer to their prayers. Rocky, however, isn't what he says he is. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tweedy, the nasty head of the farm, buys a machine that'll make her bigger profits than egg-selling...and threatens the chickens' lives. They're going to literally have to fly the coop if they want to avoid ending up in Mrs. Tweedy's machine!

I've always liked this spoof of prisoner-of-war tales, from The Great Escape to Hogan's Heroes. My favorite character is the constantly-knitting Babs and her goofy insistence that chickens are just on "holiday." She gets the best lines - "Me life flashed before me eyes! It was really boring."

Work was crazy-busy early on, mostly quiet later, when the rain started up again. It had been on and off all day. Thankfully, it was off when I finished at work. I bought generic Acme whipped topping on sale and three boxes of the Jello Pumpkin Pie Spice Pudding on clearance (for $.59 each). Used two of them and the whipped topping to make Pumpkin Mousse for dessert when I got home.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rainy Day Blues

I opened my eyes at 7:30, then closed them for what I thought was a few minutes. When I reopened them, the phone was ringing, and it was almost 9:30! Mom was the caller. She wanted to tell me that her debit card was breached and the gift certificate she gave me for Christmas might not work. Good thing I used it right after I got it and put it towards a new cordless phone.

After I got off with Mom, I finished The Pyrates. This goofy swashbuckler spoof by George MacDonald Fraser is pretty much Pirates of the Caribbean crossed with The Pirate Movie by way of Monty Python. Captain Ben Avery is our designated "hero" (but really something of a gentlemanly jerk) who is supposed to be taking a priceless crown to Madagascar. On the way, he falls for the gorgeous but spoiled rotten Lady Vanity. Also on board is Colonel Tom Blood, a real-life rogue and jewel thief who doesn't care about much besides his own hide, money, and easy women (in that order). The ship is attacked by pirates, who are there to rescue their slinky queen Sheba. The pirates separate the crown into six parts, send them off with their six captains, and turn Vanity over to slavers. Avery becomes determined to recover the crown, rescue his beloved, and defeat the pirates...never mind that Blood thinks he's basically nuts. The duo literally travel from England to South America to the Spanish Main and back again, with a stop in a native jungle village, as they chase the pirates and try to save the crown and the ladies.

I've loved this one since I first encountered it in high school. I used to take it out of Cape May Courthouse's main branch of the Cape May County Library once a summer. It's not for people looking for straight action fare or who don't get the swashbuckler jokes, but if you're a fan of pirate lore like me or just want to read a Mel Brooks-esque satire, this one can be found for a decent price on (which is how I got it several years ago).

I had a quick cereal and grapefruit breakfast before going online to check my PNC accounts. I was able to get my rent together and put a little money in savings. I wasn't happy with how upset the reply to my blog last night was - I posted my response there.

Spent the rest of the afternoon dusting and washing the windows. I ran a couple of rock CDs as I cleaned. Billy Joel's Greatest Hits I & II is a little superfluous for me, as I own a lot of his albums, but it's nice for when I don't feel like digging around for specific songs. I picked up Bruce Springsteen's The Rising right after it came out. I used to listen to it a lot when I lived in Wildwood. Five For Fighting's American Town has one of my favorite (relatively) recent rock numbers, "Superman (It's Not Easy to Be Me)."

I didn't finally finish the dusting until past 3:30. It was starting to mist outside, but I really, really had grocery shopping to do. I wanted to get my schedule, too. It was busy with rush hour people trying to avoid the heavy rain and flooding. I needed a lot, especially meat and produce - grapefruit, bananas, pre-cut asparagus and the Acme's own cabbage slaw in a container, breaded and spiced chicken, shrimp. Restocked crushed pineapple, plain yogurt, butter, milk, and chocolate chips. The clearance racks are laden with Christmas leftovers. I grabbed a box of Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Tea for iced tea and four packets of that Mott's Hot Apple Cider mix, plus a box of Lipton Black Pearl pyramid tea.

I'm not entirely happy with my schedule. On one hand, while I still have a fair amount of hours for this time of year (21) and the latest I work is 7:30 on Monday, I don't have another day off after today until Thursday! On the other hand, I have three days off in a row. While I'm glad to have the extra time to get some things organized here and get a lot of work done, I wish they'd start separating my days off. I have the feeling that this is part of the reason I've been so stressed lately.

The shower was getting heavier as I rode home. I arrived very wet. When I finally got in, I put everything away, then had the shrimp and slaw from the Acme with brown rice for dinner. Ran the 1998 The Man In the Iron Mask as I ate. Louis the 14th (Leonard DiCaprio) is the new king of France, but he's also an arrogant pain and a louse with a taste for other men's women. Aramis (Jeremy Irons) and Porthos (Geraud Depardeu) feel that he's getting out of hand, especially after he gives the starving people of Paris spoiled food and sends the son of Athos (John Malcovitch) to die in battle, just so he can get the lad's fiancee in bed. They rescue Louis' look-alike brother (DiCaprio again) from the Bastille and train him to replace the wayward ruler. Their old friend D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne),  however, is devoted to the real king, and will do anything to keep him on the throne.

I saw part of this with Mom in the late 90s after it debuted on cable and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, since I'm not normally a fan of DiCaprio (especially in his early Titanic teen pretty-boy days). While DiCaprio is a bit stiff and out of place, the four lead Musketeers take their rolls with all the relish of veterans, especially French comedian Depardeu as the lovable Porthos. I liked it a lot more than the Richard Chamberlain version I dubbed a few years, especially since the ending feels like an ending and not anti-climatic. High recommended for lovers of the young DiCaprio, swashbucklers, Dumas, or the other lead gentlemen.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Are You In, Or Out?

I was up very late last night, something I haven't done in a while on a weekday. I didn't have any plans today that had to be done right away. When I did get moving, I put on some fourth-season Sailor Moon as I ate Dark Chocolate Cranberry Muffins for breakfast. Serena, Rini, and the other Inner Soldiers take a free ballet course with a handsome instructor. Their teacher is also training his girlfriend for the role of Giselle in their upcoming production of the tragic ballet, but it's not going well. Fish Eye of the Amazon Trio also joins the classes. She seems to enchant the teacher, much to the shock of his girlfriend. Serena and Rini do their best to play matchmakers...and make sure these lovers don't end up like the ones in Giselle!

I finally headed out my with my very full laundry bag in the old cart around 11:30. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, windless, and probably in the mid-30s, normal for January in southern New Jersey. Most of the ice was melting in the warmer sun; I dodged the patches that were too thick to melt fast.

 I stopped at the Oaklyn Library first. The librarian had some kind of news cast on. I hadn't had the radio on this morning and had no idea what had happened until the librarian explained it. Aids of New Jersey Governor Christie shut down lanes in the George Washington Bridge and caused a huge traffic jam that cost a life in order to get back at the Mayor of Fort Lee in North Jersey for not endorsing Christie during his campaign last year.  That's just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard a politician do. Christie was apologizing all over the place. It was really weird.

The library needed quite a bit of work. The adult DVDs weren't too bad, but the kids' titles needed a bit of organizing. The board books were a mess. I reorganized almost the entire separate board book shelf. Nothing was where it should have been.

I finally headed out around quarter of 1. I'd put off a laundry run for way too long. I wanted to get it in yesterday, but finally decided I got started too late. Christie was just finishing his speech as I came in and got my change. It was relatively busy, though not as bad as it was the week of Christmas. I was able to get a washer and a drier and even put in a little more time on the drier than I usually do, given the extra-large load I had this week (bath and kitchen towels and Christmas linen, in addition to uniforms and normal clothes).

When I got in, I first had a late lunch of leftovers as I finished out Sailor Moon's fourth season "Amazon Trio" run. Mina takes Tiger's Eye and Hawk's Eye for a ride when she dates them both at the same time. Lita falls hard for Tiger's Eye when he dances with her at a prom. Even after he abandons her, she's convinced it's love at first sight...until the others discover it's a Dead Moon Circus plot. Fish Eye tries to get Darien for fall for her, but he's crazy about Serena. When Fish Eye tries to figure out why, she discovers why she and the other Amazon Trio members don't have dreams of their own...and what Zirconia has in store for them if they keep failing.

Moved to Ocean's Eleven as I cleaned the kitchen. This remake of the 1960 "Rat Pack" vehicle takes us to a far more modern Vegas. Con Man Danny Ocean (George Clooney) still wants to pull the biggest con of all on three real Vegas casinos, here owned by a sleazy corporate raider (Andy Garcia). In truth, the real reason Ocean wants to pull the chips over the guy's eyes is he wants his smart wife Tess (Julia Roberts). Can his group manage to get 80,000 out of three of the biggest casinos in Vegas, without Garcia catching on....or catching them?

This is one of the few remakes in cinema history to far surpass the original in quality. As with the original, it's pure popcorn fun, but there's more action, it moves faster, and you actually get to see the heist as it's being pulled, instead of spending a chunk of the movie behind pianos. There's a comparable sense of style at work here - you still feel a little hipper having watched it. If you want in, this is the cast to join. I haven't seen the two sequels - I've heard they weren't quite as good, but were enjoyable in their own way.

Finished out the night with animation as I baked Pineapple Drop Cookies, then made Pasta and Meatballs with honey-glazed carrots for dinner. The Looney Tunes had their own encounters with gamblers, gambling, and hotels. A poor cat can't seem to avoid the bite of the Gambling Bug in "Early To Bet," even though he keeps losing to a dog who makes him play for nasty "penalties." Bugs is nabbed by two thugs when he inadvertently witnesses a robbery in "Bugs and Thugs," then does everything he can to alert the police to their presence. Sylvester tries to get Tweety out of his and Granny's hotel room in "Canary Row," but Granny doesn't make that easy!