Saturday, May 31, 2014

Glad For A Beautiful Day

"Rock N' Roll Fantasy" by Bad Company jolted me awake on a beautiful, sunny morning. This week's American Top 40 re-run took us to May 1979. Disco reigned supreme when I was a month old, joined by country, R&B, soul, and power ballads. Hits in late spring of that year included "Rock N' Roll Fantasy," "Just When I Needed You Most" by Randy Vanwarmer, "The Logical Song" by Supertramp, "Deeper Than the Night" by Olivia Newton-John, "Disco Nights" by GQ, "In the Navy" by the Village People, "She Believes In Me" by Kenny Rogers, "Heart of Glass" by Blondie, "Chuck E's In Love" by Rickie Lee Jones, "Love You Inside Out" by the Bee Gees, "We are Family" by Sister Sledge, "Goodnight Tonight" by Wings, and "Reunited" by Peaches and Herb.

That week's number one song - and the number one song for the next two weeks - was one of my favorites when I was really little. Dad loves disco. Rose and I used to dance around the house to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" all the time.

It was an absolutely glorious day. Windy, but warmer than earlier in the week, with only a few clouds in the bright blue sky. There were a bunch of people painting the outlines of trees in the four seasons on the train bridge as I passed under it.

My first stop was a yard sale on Newton Avenue in Oaklyn, a few blocks from the library. He had four boxes of records amid the dusty cartons of mostly junk. Too bad the majority of them were either singles or so wet and moldy, they were stuck together. I did finally pry three out:

John Denver - Windsong

The Temptations - Greatest Hits Vol II

Pure Gold - Another collection of mid-late 70s hits, this one on two discs.

Next headed to the Collingswood Farm Market. They were busy, though not as packed as last week, since they were now back in their usual space in the parking lot under the PATCO tracks. I didn't really need a ton. Picked up strawberries, North Caroline blueberries (it'll be a few weeks before New Jersey's blueberries debut), mushrooms, and some amazingly long organic scallions.

Made two yard sale stops in Collingwood. I found The Marx Brothers Scrapbook at one sale on Crescent Terrace for 50 cents. Rode across Collings Avenue and the White Horse Pike to one a block from Sorrento's Pizza, but all they had was clothes and designer handbags, nothing interesting.

My mouth was so dry by then, I needed something to drink badly. Since I was in the area, I hit the CVS on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn and bought one of those tall, thin sparkling waters in grapefruit. It was really tasty, like a pink Fresca. I also took advantage of a buy one, get one 50% off sale on Oral B toothbrushes to stock up on those. I didn't desperately need honey, but it was $2, which is really cheap for honey.

When I got home, I ran three Garfield cartoons on traveling while making an omelet with scallions, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese for lunch. Garfield would rather being doing anything but camping with Jon and Odie in Garfield In the Rough. Things get really hairy when the trio hear that that there may be a deadly black panther in the area and Garfield finds himself having to save his human and dog friend. The trio visit a tropical island in Garfield In Paradise. Jon's cheap vacation doesn't work out as he'd hoped....until they find themselves in the village of a group of 1950s-worshiping natives with a volcano about to go off! Garfield and Odie have a chance to be stars when they enter a pet talent contest in Garfield In Hollywood, but Jon's worried that winning may mean leaving him behind.

I next scrubbed the kitchen. This time, I focused on the refrigerator. Ugh! That mason jar beverage holder I bought a while back leaked something horrible. I think I didn't put the spigot on right...and by the time I did, there was iced tea everywhere. It was especially bad on the bottom of the fridge, until the vegetable crisper. It took me forever to clean up that tea mess. Good thing nothing else was anywhere near as bad, including the sink.

Cheered myself up with Pollyanna as I cleaned. One of Disney's best live-action films is this adaptation of the famous book about the title orphan (Hayley Mills) who goes to live with her stern Aunt Polly (Jane Wyman), a wealthy woman who practically owns a small town. Polly's proud of being able to pay for anything the town needs, but the crabby townspeople are tired of having to rely on her charity. Cheerful Pollyanna befriends everyone she meets, including a reclusive old hermit (Adolph Menjou, in his last role), a crabby woman who thinks she's dying (Agnes Moorehead), a mischievous orphan boy (Kevin Corocan), and the town's priest (Karl Malden) who can't figure out how to get in touch with his congregation. Pollyanna believes in playing "The Glad Game," or finding something to be happy about, no matter what. Her beliefs are tested after an accident sends her into depression...and she learns just how much of a mark she's left on the town.

This may sound too sticky-sweet or sentimental, but David Swift's direction and screenplay surprisingly steer clear of some of the worst of the treacle. A great cast of character actors help immensely. In addtion to those mentioned, we have Ed Platt of Get Smart as a henpecked husband and Richard Egan of A Summer Place as the kindly doctor who was once Polly's sweetheart. Mills won a special Oscar as the enthusiastic young lady who teaches everyone around her that you can find happiness in the worst of situations. A lovely film that's very much recommended for anyone, but especially for families. Give it a try; you'll be surprised how much Pollyanna can cheer you up, too.

Moved to The Rescuers as I continued cleaning the kitchen. We stayed with Disney, but went to one of my favorites of their animated films. Since I'm currently reading the original book, I thought I'd run the movie. Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Eva Gabor) are mice delegates for "The Rescue Aid Society," a kind of mouse UN based in New York. They travel by albatross (Jim Jordan) to the bayous to save Penny, an orphan who was kidnapped by greedy pawnbroker Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) to find the Devil's Eye, the world's largest diamond. One of Disney's most fun pure action films, with great characters and one of their most underrated villains in the truly nasty Madame Medusa.

It was a tad bit cloudier by 5, but still so nice, I had to get out of the house and do something. First on the list was sweeping a bit of debris off the porch, then raking up the leaves I couldn't get off the path last week when they were wet. Andrew's sister and mother were cleaning up the yard and clipping the forsythia hedge in the front yard as you enter when I headed out for a walk.

I ended up at Leo's Yum Yums, which finally seems to be open for the season. Leo's is a local ice cream parlor around the corner from me on West Clinton Avenue. Though they also have hot dogs, hard and soft ice cream, and water ice, their specialty is "Yum Yums," a creamy, slightly gritty water ice. Even at 5PM, there were mothers with several children and two teenagers ordering treats. I got my first Cotton Candy Yum Yum of the year and watched people go back and forth from the train bridge, which was still in the midst of being painted.

When I got home, I had shrimp and salad for dinner while starting Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which I'll finish tomorrow or Monday.

Friday, May 30, 2014

To the Grocery Store and Back

I was up so late last night, it was 11:30 before I got out of bed! The Acme called in and asked me if I wanted to come in an hour early, at 3PM. That was ok, but I had to have breakfast and get my grocery shopping done first.

As soon as I finished, I hurried to the Acme. Thankfully, it wasn't busy when I was there. I didn't need much, anyway. Restocked a few things I used this week - crushed pineapples, bananas, fruit cocktail, butter, yogurt, peanut butter. Raided the clearance shelves and came up with Twinings' Christmas Tea for $2.49 and Duncan Hines' "Summer Velvets" red and blue cake mix for $1.69. Bought shrimp for lunch tomorrow and a hoagie for lunch and dinner today.

I watched a couple of episodes of Tales of the Gold Monkey while I was at home. I felt like more action and less bickering today. Boragora becomes a boom town when an old man discovers platinum in a mine he's searched for years in "Boragora or Bust." Jake and the other island residents learn that popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be when the newcomers interfere with the natives and locals...and an American businessman tries to jump the old man's claim. Jake gets into hot water with the Japanese-esque island of Matuka when he flies newsreel journalist Whitney Bunting (Kim Catrall) to interview the Japanese Defense Minister in "Naka Jima Kill." Whitney will do anything to get that interview, including getting everyone in trouble with the Princess Koji. Everyone's hearing a lot more than "A Distant Shout of Thunder" when a native who wants the French to leave threatens Sarah, who has interactively picked up a bust of their fire god Pele. Animals are acting strangely, frogs are hopping all over the Monkey Bar, and a volcano is erupting. The natives want to sacrifice Sarah, but Jake thinks there's something else behind the goings-on.

I did go into work a little early, at 3:30. Turns out they only asked me because we were short on help. We were on-and-off steady during rush hour, much quieter later in the evening. I cleaned registers between customers. Other than a few annoying people, I was in and out without much fuss.

My schedule's pretty decent, too. Tuesday and next Friday off, and the latest I work is 8:30 next Saturday. That's a good thing. I'll be able to get to Collingswood's Town-Wide Yard Sale this year. I wasn't able to last year because I had to work early that day.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Around the Clubhouse In a Half-Hour

It was a chilly, gloomy day when I ate my cereal and grapefruit for breakfast. I ran two Rick Steves' episodes to warm up the cloudy morning. I didn't really know much about Greece until I watched Steves' shows on modern Athens and the Peloponnese peninsula. While most people are likely familiar with the art, architecture, mythology, and philosophers of ancient Greece, many probably don't realize that Greece's history goes back thousands of years to before the philosophers...and has been just as tumultuous in recent times, including their hard-won independence from Turkish rule in the 1820s.

I volunteered at both libraries today, starting with a quick run at Oaklyn. They had a little more to do than they have, including more in the children's section. They weren't terribly busy, but their business was being blocked by road repairs on their block of Newton Avenue. I was there for about a half-hour before moving on.

Newton Lake Park was surprisingly busy for a cold day. I dodged dog-walkers and joggers. A flock of Canadian geese looked for an early lunch. A grandmother played with her grandson at the playground behind where the remains of the stone pavilion are. (Those remains are still there, looking the same as they did last week. The demolition uncovered a block that said the pavilion was built in 1939.)

The Haddon Township Library was a little busier than Oaklyn had been. I had to sign a paper to update my information. They've had a sign-in sheet for ages, but I stopped using it after the librarian who used to be in charge of volunteering retired and no one ever asked any questions. I'm going to have to use it again and wear a volunteer badge when I'm there.

Otherwise, I did the usual things. There were a ton of DVD returns, for kids and adults. I did manage to squeeze all of the kids' titles in, including that huge pile of "S" titles. Shelved even more adult movies, and a small stack of non-fiction titles. Cleared a few foreign films and one kids' title to where they belonged. Took out two cartoons and two adult movies. The library just got the newest titles for the Barbie fantasy series, Barbie as the Pearl Princess, and the most recent Mickey Mouse Clubhouse set, Around the Clubhouse World, in. I was inspired to try My Week With Marilyn, on Marilyn Monroe and the troubled filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, after I enjoyed Bombshell. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones flopped last year, but it has an interesting premise, and I thought I'd give it a shot anyway.

Went to Friendly's for a nice, warm lunch next. I had the basic All-American Burger and fries. It surprisingly wasn't busy for 1:30, which is still lunch for many people. There was one older woman reading, and two elderly female pairs chatting. I ate quickly and was out by two.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at home. I tried a recipe for half-fat Chocolate Chip Cookies while watching Barbie as The Pearl Princess. Barbie's fourth mermaid story once again takes us under the sea, this time to the home of Lumina, a good-natured teenage mermaid who has the power to light up and manipulate pearls. Her protective Aunt Cilla forbids her from coming to the Palace with her, but when Lumina and her shy seahorse friend Kuda find her aunt's invitation, they try to bring it to her. Lumina inadvertently picks up a job doing hair in a salon near the palace, where her pearl-strewn creations become the talk of the ocean. The King and Queen's evil head captain wants his nerdy son to be king, but the boy would rather be a botanist. The King and Queen's daughter apparently disappeared years ago. When Lumina shows up at the ball, the captain begins to wonder just who this girl is, and how she has that power...

Something of a throwback to the more girlie-princess Barbie stories of the late 90s and early 2000s. It was ok, nothing really special other than some decent water animation. Not horrible if your daughter is really into Barbie or mermaid or princess stories, unnecessary for anyone else. Hopefully, this fall's Barbie and the Secret Door, which apparently involves Barbie walking into a world ruled by a princess, a mermaid, and a fairy, will be a lot more interesting.

Switched to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as I gave the bathroom a needed scrub. Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto drive around the "world," or at least see four modern wonders represented by different characters, in "Around the Clubhouse World." Donald and Daisy introduce them to the delights of France and the Eiffel Tower. They rescue Goofy and Clarabelle's runaway gondola in Venice, Italy. Pete reminds the gang that the Egyptians revered his cat ancestors when he plays pharaoh at the pyramids in Cairo. The last stop is in China, as we see Chip & Dale's adorable dragon dance at the Great Wall.

Some of the other episodes were pretty cute as well. "Donald and the Beanstalk" is something of a modern version of Mickey and the Beanstalk. Here, they're after Donald's beloved Boo-Boo Chicken. Mortimer Snerd would be happy to know that Willie has a far happier ending here! The "Handy Helpers," robotic hands that act as maids and repair-machines in the Clubhouse, break down in "Mickey's Handy Helpers." Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto try to figure out what's making the squeak and causing the gears in the main machine to jam, while Professor Ludwig Von Drake and Donald and Daisy keep an eye on the Handy Helpers.

Moved to a fourth season Moonlighting episode while making salmon with spring vegetables for dinner. "Eek! A Spouse" takes place later in the season, after Maddie has returned to LA. While Maddie tries to figure out why David won't talk to her, much less argue with her, the two work on solving the case of a wife who wants to try to buy off her husband's mistress. The husband seems to get violent, but Burt and David think there's something else going on.

By the way, those lower-fat chocolate chip cookies came out pretty well, tasty but a little dry. I think I'll take that tip in the book and add applesauce next time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Love Submarine

Began a cloudy, cool day with more Bowery Boys. Slip and Sach are Trouble Makers when they see what they think is a murder through the window of a nearby hotel. When they and their buddy Officer Gabe Marino go to find the corpse, it's gone and there's no sign of any death. They go undercover at the hotel as bellboys to figure out what's going on.

It was still just cloudy and windy when I headed to the laundromat to get a rather big load done. The laundromat was busy with people hoping to avoid the rain we were supposed to be getting later today. I read Clarice Bean Spells Trouble and listened to Rachel Ray and the view. Things had slowed a bit by the time my stuff went in the drier, but it was picking up again as I left.

When I got home, I put everything away, made leftovers for lunch, then ran Operation Petticoat as I scrubbed the bathroom and hall floors, the only non-carpeted floors in the apartment. Unlike Mister Roberts, this 1959 war film is pure comedy. Cary Grant is the admiral in charge of the Sea Tiger, a dilapidated submarine that can barely get out of the Philippines in late 1941, much less attack anything. While his crew works feverishly to try to repair the leaky tub, the admiral is assigned pretty-boy officer Lieutenant Hoban (Tony Curtis) as his assistant. Turns out Hoban has several shady methods of getting necessary parts quickly. The admiral questions this at first, but he has to admit Hoban's odd (and illegal) methods work...until Hoban brings five nurses who were stranded on an island on board ship. The admiral isn't happy to have women in such close quarters, and a lot of the crew isn't, either. When Hoban's double-dealings brings even more people aboard and the ship ends up being painted pink, the Admiral has to do some double-dealing of his own to keep them going and get everyone - men and women - working together.

Basically a seagoing romantic comedy, this is a very different look at life during the early weeks of America's involvement in World War II. I thought it was cute but not all that great, although Grant was pretty funny as the Navy officer who just wants to see action in the Pacific, not women in his bunk. Your mileage may vary if you're a bigger fan of war films or romantic comedies than I am.

It poured while I was eating lunch. Thankfully, it slowed down enough for me to ride to work and only arrive a little damp. Work was pretty normal for the time of the month and year - steady when I arrived, busy during rush hour, dead later. I filled up the quieter time late in the evening shelving candy. It wasn't raining at all when I went home, and I don't think it's rained since.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thunder In the Spring

Started a sunny, hazy morning with more Stooges. "Dizzy Detectives" has the three as cops searching for a gorilla committing robberies. They have to track this ape burglar down, before the police commissioner gets fired and the ape gets their heads! "Phoney Express" once again has them as lawmen, this time sheriffs out west. They're tracking a gang who has stolen the town's payroll. When they find the loot in their cabin, they hide it in a stove...and things get really hot under the collar.

Work was very quiet for most of the afternoon. I spent the first hour doing returns and a lot of time the rest of the day shelving candy. It did pick up during rush hour when dark clouds started gathering and it became apparent that we were going to get that storm the National Weather Service mentioned. I was a bit late getting out, thanks to a late relief. Other than some annoying customers (including one mom who kept yelling at her screaming, grabby kids), there were really no major problems.

I'm glad I got home when I did. It was humid as heck and much darker when I walked in the door at quarter after five. The storm finally started around 6-ish. I opted for one of the Bowery Boys movies as I ate romaine lettuce salad with radishes and home-made honey dressing, leftover carrots, an onion roll I bought at work, and leftover macaroni salad and barbecue chicken from yesterday. The Boys are thrilled to discover $50,000 in a rolled-up newspaper. Too bad it turns out to be "Jinx Money." A gangster who won the pile in a card game was murdered...and the rest of his gang would love to get their hands on that loot. While the boys are (literally) laundering the money, the gangsters are dropping one by one. The Boys have to find out who the "umbrella with a hand" is that's killing the gangsters, or they're not going to live to spend that money!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hot Memorial Day

First of all, I salute all of our fighting men and women on this Memorial Day! Especially my late Uncle Ken (World War II), my biological dad Bruce (Vietnam), and two who are serving in the Navy now, my friend Jen Waters and my brother Keefe Jackman.

It was hot and sunny when I finally climbed out of bed this morning, much hotter than it has been, probably in the 80s. Thankfully, it was also dry. I was able to leave my air conditioner off as I had cereal and a grapefruit for breakfast. There was a stiff wind that kept it from feeling worse.

I ran some of my random remaining wartime shorts as I got ready for work and frosted the Pineapple Cupcakes. While Mickey Mouse was largely dormant during World War II, one of his late 20s shorts did throw him behind the lines. "The Barnyard Battle" has Mickey getting humiliated during his physical, only to prove his prowess on the battlefield when he kicks the rears of every Hun cat around.

Given the patriotic tone of most superhero comics in the early and mid 40s, it was only natural that Superman would fight the Axis in the Paramount cartoons, too. Alas, like the Popeye wartime shorts from Paramount, most of these haven't worn well. "The Eleventh Hour" has some marvelous, shadowy animation and a really interesting plot about Superman sabotaging the Japanese, but is marred by some nasty racial caricatures. "Jungle Drums," on Superman rescuing Lois Lane from a Nazi plot to stir up a jungle tribe, also has racial problems, this time with very stereotypical natives. "Secret Agent," the only short in which Lois Lane is absent, has Superman rescuing a gorgeous counter-spy from an Axis spy ring that wants the papers she filched from them.

The controversy surrounding the Vietnam War, coupled with the younger audience for animation and memories of the flood of patriotic shorts during the 40s, made most studios shy away from war as a subject for shorts. The Pink Panther cartoon "G.I Pink" was an exception. Donald was swayed by the glamour of the recruiting posters; Pink was swayed by the power. He gets neither when he finds himself bumbling around Vietnam and getting in trouble with his sergeant, who would rather blow him up with land mines or send the company mascot after him!

Work was down-the-aisles busy when I came in at 12:30. It gradually slowed as more and more people went to barbecues, but it never really died down. There were still so many people when I was done at 4:30, I barely got out on time.

Rose called me when I was on my way home. I stopped on the Black Horse Pike to tell her I was on my way. When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, grabbed the cupcakes, and headed to Dad's house.

Surprisingly, the party wasn't that busy when I arrived. It was Rose, Craig, Khai, Mark and Vanessa, Dad and Jodie, and a couple of neighbors, including one with a little girl who happily played with Khai. I guess a lot of people had to work or went to the Shore. There was tons of food. Jodie and Dad grilled hot dogs, sausage, and cheeseburgers, and provided green salad, baked beans, and macaroni salad. Vanessa brought heavenly grilled chicken that literally fell off the bone. Everyone and their grandmother brought cupcakes. There were three containers of store-bought cupcakes along with mine and a huge chocolate chip cookie pizza. Rose put together two of her favorite flavors and made delicious "Key Lime Magic Bars" - Key Lime Pie cut into bars and topped with coconut. Rich and sweet and gooey goodness.

Most everyone was eating dinner when I got in, but when the kids returned to the pool, everyone else went with them. The kids were the only ones in the pool by 6:30. I stuck my feet in, and while it wasn't that bad when you got used to it, the initial shock was very cold! Poor Khai was in the pool for so long, he was shaking by the time his mother finally dragged him out. (Although that didn't stop the goofy boy from squirting me with water at one point. Maybe I should have worn my bathing suit after all.) The party finally broke up around quarter of 7. Dad and Jodie sent me home with chicken, macaroni salad, and the remaining cupcakes.

I ran a couple of Three Stooges war shorts while I got organized and settled down after I got home. They're "Boobs In Arms" when they join the Army to dodge a jealous husband...only to discover he's now their commanding officer! "They Stooge To Conga" gets violent even for these guys when they try to fix a doorbell and end up discovering a Nazi spy ring. They also get involved with the Nazis in "Back to the Front." After their boat is sunk, they're rescued by what turns out to be a Nazi war ship and have to work together to bring down the ship's crew. "Higher Than a Kite" takes them airborne when they hide in a bomb to avoid an angry general and get literally dropped into enemy territory. They also take to the air in "Dizzy Pilots." If they can't get their revolutionary Buzzard plane to work, they're going to end up on the draft list!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saluting Our Fighting Men and Ducks

I ran more wartime shorts this morning as I made Brown Sugar Pancakes and a half a grapefruit for breakfast. From 1942 to 1944, Donald Duck appeared in a series of classic cartoons that put him in the Army. He also dealt outright with the Nazis in the Oscar-winning surrealist nightmare "Der Fuhrer's Face" and did his part on the home front with Huey, Dewey, and Louie in "Home Defense." "Home Defense" has Donald taking time off from the Army to be a civilian aircraft spotter. His nephews are his gun crew, but they'd rather be playing pranks on their uncle. He's ready to forgive them when he thinks he hears an invasion...but is that what he really hears?

Work was on and off busy, a bit of a surprise given this is a holiday weekend. I figured there would be long lines all day. It was gorgeous today, sunny, breezy, and a bit warmer than it has been. I guess everyone went down to the Shore. I was in and out with no major problems.

When I got home, I finished out Donald while making Pineapple Cupcakes for Dad's Memorial Day barbecue tomorrow. "Commando Duck" was Donald's last Army short in early 1944. He becomes the only regular Disney character to see combat when he's supposed to meet the enemy in Japan. He ends up washing them out...literally! There were supposed to have been two more shorts about Donald's Army exploits, and Goofy would have joined Donald in combat, but the war was winding down by that point and audiences were looking for escape, not more reminders of fighting. 

After Donald ended, I made sauteed spinach and mushrooms, the last of the grits, and a leftover chicken leg for dinner while watching Mister Roberts. Henry Fonda played the title character on Broadway and in this film, an officer aboard a Navy cargo ship during the last year of World War II. He has to put up with horny men, goofy Ensign Frank Pulver (Jack Lemmon) who keeps claiming he's sick, and the tyrannical Captain (James Cagney) whose inane rules frustrate everyone. Doc the surgeon (William Powell, in his final role) gives him advice. He wants badly to be transferred, but the Captain won't sign his letters or even consider them. Roberts has the respect of his men and Pulver, who wants to just once show up the nasty Captain like Roberts does. When Roberts does finally get his wish, he has to decide if he really wants to leave the men who have become like friends to him or get into combat and do something "important."

There's no battle or fighting in this war movie, so if that's what you're looking for, you're in the wrong place. This comedy/drama reminds us that even those officers and soldiers who had jobs that didn't involve giving lives were as important as anyone on the battlefield. It's hysterically funny at times, especially when the crew gets leave and Pulver finally gains enough backbone to try to get on the Captain's goat, but it can also be surprisingly touching, especially the ending. Terrific cast, too. Fonda won a Tony for his role on Broadway; Lemmon got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the cowardly Pulver.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Off to the May Fair

Today's American Top 40 re-run leaped ahead almost a decade to 1982. Super groups, New Wave, R&B, and country ruled the airwaves on Memorial Day Weekend that year. Hits from that late spring included "Heat of the Moment" by Asia, "I've Never Been to Me" by Charlene, "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson, "Don't Talk to Strangers" by Rick Springfield, the theme from the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire by Vangelis, "65 Love Affair" by Paul Davis, "867-5309 (Jenny)" by Tommy Tutone, and "The Other Woman" by Ray Parker Jr. Harmony reigned at the top of the charts; the Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder duet "Ebony and Ivory" was in its third of seven weeks at number one.

I headed out around 10 after 9. The weather was the same as yesterday - sort of cloudy and blustery, but no rain, and cool for this time of the year. It was great for yard sale exploring. I found one at Oaklyn on the White Horse Pike between the defunct Taco Bell and the Little Bear Day Care. It was the same one I hit the day the Farm Market opened. No records this time, but I did pick up a copy of the Disney Pollyanna on DVD still in its wrapping. I made two more yard sale stops in Haddon Township and in Collingswood, but found nothing interesting.

Every year on the Saturday before Memorial Day, the Farm Market expands into a huge "May Fair" that covers most of Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. Since I was in that direction, I started with the classic car show. This is a huge affair, taking up several blocks in its own right. I saw quite a few nifty vehicles, from a bright red two-seater from the 1910s to a large purple 60s Challenger to a beautiful olive-green Ford from the late 40s-early 50s. A country band played their own original tunes in front of Louie's Barbecue.

The bulk of the Fair is made up of craft booths, food booths, and booths advertising local and some national businesses. Though I did take a look at four booths selling doll clothes, I bought nothing this year. I did those sales from American Girl back in March and April. I headed for the Farm Market instead. The Farm Market is folded into the May Fair for the weekend...and it was PACKED by 10:30. You literally couldn't move in some spots, it was so busy in the narrow block of Lees Road off Haddon Avenue they had it squeezed into. It was worth it in the end. The first strawberries and zucchini of the season made their debuts just in time for the holiday weekend. I also picked up grapefruit, organic romaine lettuce from one of the organic booths, carrots, and spinach.

As I strolled around the midway area where the kiddie carnival rides and pony ride and games are, I noticed a couple of signs for a yard sale on Oriental Avenue. It ended up being just two blocks from the fair. I found three records:

Frank Sinatra - That's Life

Jeanette MacDonald - Smilin' Through

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - The soundtracks to Swing Time and Shall We Dance?

The man in charge mentioned that he'd be doing it again during Collingswood's Town-Wide Yard Sale on June 7th and would have more records out. If I have the time on that day, I may have to go back there.

I made a stop at the Collingswood Library to use their bathroom, then went back on the street. The Fair was getting more and more crowded by 11:30. I took one more look at another doll booth, then returned to the Lumberyard Condos where my bike was parked and headed on my way.

There was a nice little yard sale on Collings Avenue as I headed down that way. A mom and her daughter were mostly selling toys, but they also had some nifty books. I ended up with another Clarice Bean story, Clarice Bean Spells Trouble, and two fancy Build-a-Bear tutu costumes I think might make nice Halloween and dress-up outfits for the dolls.

I figured Sorrento's Pizza, on the other side of Collings Avenue from the May Fair, would be a much quieter place for lunch than anywhere on Haddon Avenue. It was fairly quiet in there when I came in. One older man sat in a booth, watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Phillies. A few people came in later. Otherwise, I ate my white vegetable and plain cheese slices in silence. The place had gotten a paint job since I was last there, there was less junk in the hall between the main dining area and the kitchen, and they had a new widescreen flat TV. I enjoyed my pizza and watched the game before heading out. (Oh, and the Phillies went on to beat the Dodgers 5-3.)

My next stop was a quick one at CVS. They were having a buy one, get one free or half-off sale on Scunci rubber bands and hair clips. I bought two sets of rubber bands and two sets of hair clips - mine are all starting to get a little worn. New Jersey Monthly has a couple of interesting articles on the resurgence of the Wildwoods in their annual Shore edition. I picked up that, too. Also grabbed two sets of small dollar plastic storage bins for my UBS ports.

I stopped at Dad's to say "hi" next. He and Jodie were working on their computers and watching endless Law & Order re-runs, as usual. They're having a Memorial Day barbecue. It starts at 3, but there should still be plenty of food around by the time I get off work at 4:30.

I passed the rest of the afternoon at home. Ran a couple more wartime shorts as I unpacked my finds. Bugs and Daffy were the stars of my three favorite Looney Tunes war-oriented shorts. Bugs eats a carrot that turns him into a superhero in "Super Rabbit," giving him the powers to go up against a rabbit-hating cowboy and his horse. When the going gets tough, Bugs turns into a real hero....a Marine officer. Daffy is having none of this "serving" stuff and does everything possible (and many things not possible) to avoid that pesky "Little Man From the Draft Board" in "Draftee Daffy." For one of the few times in the entire Looney Tunes series, Bugs goes up against an antagonist who gives as good as they get when he tries to keep a Gremlin from sabotaging planes in "Falling Hare."

Did some more cleaning after the cartoons. I dragged the porch furniture - two ancient plastic chairs and a blue milk crate - downstairs along with the scrub bucket and brushes. I thought it might be easier to use the hose on the bike and the porch furniture this year, instead of just the bucket. It did work out better, though nothing on this planet will ever make those chairs really clean again. I did what I could and took everything back upstairs to dry.

When I got in, I read the Wildwoods articles for a while, then jumped in to a very, very long and hot bath. I hadn't had such a nice bath in ages. My legs felt sooo good. Read With the Might of Angels as I relaxed. In this Dear America story, Dawnie Rae Johnson is a tomboy in 1954 Virginia who loves Jackie Robinson, her pogo stick, and wants to become a doctor. She knows the school for African-American kids in her town won't give her that opportunity, so when she learns about the desegregation of schools in the south, her parents agree to let her go to the fancy all-white public middle school. Most of her town isn't as ready for desegregation as she and her family are. Dawnie and her family suffer humiliation, but when Martin Luther King Jr. visits their church and inspires the congregation to a boycott of a local dairy and a spunky Jewish girl befriends her, Dawnie realizes that one person can make a difference...and can prove that real strength comes from the heart.

Mom did research in the early 2000s when she helped my brother's class do a project on Ruby Bridges, an African-American girl who was the first black child in an all-white elementary school. Not to mention, Mom lived in the south when they were still integrating the schools and remembers a lot of this from her early childhood. I never forgot her talking about how brave Ruby was, which is why I wanted to read this book. As someone who has been treated differently my whole life, I can somewhat understand what Dawnie and Gertie went through. I'm so glad schools were integrated by the 80s. Cape May Elementary had several African American students, at least one Asian Coast Guard kid, one of my few childhood guy friends was Asian Indian, and more than a quarter of Cape May's population was Jewish or part-Jewish. I never saw anything strange about any of it.

When I finally dragged myself out of the tub, I watched Teen Beach Movie as I made Italian Chicken and Tomatoes and a nice romaine salad for dinner. For Mack (Maia Mitchell) and Brady (Ross Lynch), two surfers who live in a small beach town, life is one endless wave...until Mack tells Brady she's going to a private school out east because she thought that's what her mother wanted. Mack goes out to take on one last rogue wave, and a worried Brady tries to save her. When they come up for air, they find themselves in the world of Wet Side Story, a typical beach party movie of 1962. Brady, who loves musicals, is thrilled. Super-mature Mack is not. She doesn't love musicals and thinks the story of rival gangs of surfers and bikers who fight over a beach is silly. When the leads of the film fall for them instead of each other, they do everything they can think of to get the leads together so they can make another rogue wave and go home.

A very cute homage to the Frankie/Annette "beach party" movies of the early-mid 60s, there's a surprising amount of bite in this one. It actually reminds me a lot of Enchanted, another Disney movie that parodies musical conventions. Mack complains noisily about people breaking out in song for no reason and resists every time she's called on to do it. I also love the goofy subplot about the scientists who want to clear out both groups to build a resort, but end up bringing everyone together instead. It has more in common with some of the goofier James Bond films than Frankie and Annette, but the hammy villains are still pretty funny.

Obviously, this isn't for people who are musical-resistant like Mack or won't get the spoofing of beach party movie conventions. It's a tad bit corny for real teens, but for younger kids and parents who remember the Frankie/Annette films or are musical fans, it's a sweet little TV flick that might be worth catching on the Disney Channel sometime.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sunshine On a Cloudy Day

Started the morning with more wartime shorts, including the remaining three Looney Tunes military revues. "Fifth Column Mouse" depicts how the war began when a group of mice first try to pacify a cat who threatens them, then fight back. "Meet John Doughboy" spoofs the military's then-current weapons and vehicles. "Hollywood Canine Canteen" is what it sounds like - dog caricatures of popular entertainers of the time, ranging from those still familiar today (Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Laurel & Hardy) to ones only fans of the time will remember (bandleader Kay Kyser, radio comedian Ish Kabbible).

Switched to the first Woody Woodpecker set as I did the dishes and got ready to run errands. Walter Lanz only did a few war-oriented shorts, including one for Woody. "Ace In the Hole" takes Woody to an Air Force base. He shaves horses, but what he really wants to do is fly. His commanding officer is less than thrilled when he finally does make it into the air! "$21 A Day (Once A Month)" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" have fun with the pre-war peacetime draft. "$21 A Day" gives us an all-toy army. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" depicts the musician of the title, who has to get his company moving with his horn...or else! Though the African-American stereotypes run thick and heavy, there's a nice version of the title song, and this is one of the few cartoons of the time to show minorities in the military. "Pigeon Patrol" is the more typical tale of a country bumpkin pigeon who gets his chance to be a hero when he has to fly important papers and get around an evil vulture.

Headed out to the Haddon Township Library around 11. The clouds were in and out and it was windy, but the wind kept it from being too warm. It was probably in the lower 70s. All that snow we had did have some positive results. I've never seen it look so green here. The trees are already filled with soft green leaves. The grass is deep and thick. The buttercups were satiny yellow, and the dandelions were sunbursts. I wasn't surprised to dodge many joggers, walkers, and fishermen who were enjoying the beautiful day and surroundings, too.

(And I noticed that it looks like they're demolishing the round stone pavilion in front of the playground on Lakeside. I always thought that looked pretty solid. I wonder what's going to replace it, if anything?)

The Haddon Township Library was also busy with people on their lunch breaks or amusing younger children. I organized both the adult and children's DVDs. The kids' shelves weren't nearly as overflowing as usual, which means yes, I did manage to get everything on, even the S discs. Took out four movies and two books. Two of the movies were war comedies for Memorial Day Weekend - Mister Roberts and Operation Petticoat. I renewed the live Sound of Music, since I never got to it last week. I generally avoid the Disney Channel live-action TV movies, which are mostly kiddie comedies, but I liked the premise of Teen Beach Movie - two kids are knocked into a classic 60s beach flick and the leads fall for them. It sounds a little like Back To the Future at the beach, and it could be cute.

I've been eyeing the Dear America series at Haddon Township for months. They have quite a few of them (though ironically not any of the ones Linda sent me or I've found at yard sales). I ended up with two stories on the experiences of African-American girls in the early and mid 20th century, Color Me Dark and With the Might of Angels. I also found a book from American Girl's defunct Girls of Many Lands series, Minuk: Ashes In the Pathway, about an Inuit girl in 1890 Alaska whose village is visited by missionaries, in the sale racks.

I was riding across Audubon when I heard my cell phone go off. I pulled over to the side of the road to take the call. (One of the wonderful things about bikes - it's a lot easier to pull over and take a cell phone call.) It was Jodie, inviting me to hers and Dad's Memorial Day party. I told them I'd go later if I wasn't working.

My next stop was Simply Soups in Audubon. It was about the only place I could afford, given I didn't have much money left. Though it was 1PM, the only other people there were two middle-aged men finishing their soups, and they left shortly after I arrived. I had a delicious small cup of Chicken Orzo (rice-shaped noodle) Soup, a huge slab of cornbread that was so big, it came with a fork, and a can of Diet A&W. I read Color Me Dark and enjoyed the view of Pine Street and the railroad tracks.

 I rode across Audubon to the Acme after lunch. I didn't need much for groceries. I was out of cheese (went with part-skim mozzarella), mandarin oranges, bananas, and honey. I had a coupon for Silk's almond or coconut milk. Went with the almond milk, which was lower in calories and on a good sale - the coupon brought it down to $1.99. Found more Acme generic cough drops on clearance for 69 cents and grabbed those. I use cough drops to keep my throat dry leaning over the registers at work.

The Acme did put out glass tea jars again this year. They had three patterns. I went with the sunflower pattern with the red lid. Sunflowers are my very favorite flowers.

I had to wait in the back for my schedule, since it wasn't finished when I arrived. In good news, my hours have gone up, though not to an unmanageable extent, and I have Thursday and next Saturday off. I do work Memorial Day, but only 12:30 to 4:30. I'm from Cape May County; most people work literally all day Memorial Day. My only minor complaints are late days on Wednesday and Friday, but that'll allow me to get some more cleaning done here.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I've been meaning to rake the side path to my apartment for months, but the weather's either been bad, or I plain haven't had the time. I shouldn't have put it off. There were huge, heavy branches that I had to fish out and drop in a pile in the backyard. The layers of leaves were so heavy, the bottom ones were still wet! It took me a lot longer to do than usual. A job that normally takes 20 minutes to a half-hour took almost an hour. I got attacked by mosquitoes something horrible, too.

Made sauteed leeks and mushrooms with pasta and leftover chicken legs for dinner while continuing my wartime cartoon marathon. The Fleischer Brothers put Popeye in the Navy several months before America actually entered the war in "The Mighty Ensign." Although Popeye seems to have spent a lot of the war fighting Bluto over Olive in shorts like "Kicking the Conga Around," he did see some action. Unfortunately, his action tended to involve nasty Japanese stereotypes, as in "Blunder Below" and the infamous "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap" and "Scrap the Japs" that are so offensive, they've been banned from TV for decades. Shorts with Bluto ("Many Tanks") and Swee'pea ("Baby Wants a Bottleship") are a little easier to take today.

Oh, and I finished Color Me Dark. Nellie Lee Love lives in Tennessee with her family and her beloved sister Erma Jean in 1919. They're thrilled that World War I just ended, but their happiness is dashed when an uncle dies on the way home, and their older brother won't come home at all, and then Erma Jean stops speaking after their uncle relates a secret to her. When Mr. Love takes Erma Jean to Chicago for treatment, he becomes enamored of the city and its opportunities and moves the rest of the family there. While there are many opportunities in the north, there's just as much prejudice, not only against race, but against all of the new immigrants - black and white - who are moving up to the cities. When an incident at a beach sparks a huge riot, Nellie leans on her family for comfort...and her sister finally reveals her secret.

I really enjoyed this. Nellie and Erma Jean reminded me a lot of Rose and me, right down to their preferences for numbers and writing, Nellie defending Erma Jean from bullies, and them being born so close together. (Rose and I are the same age for a week every April. I was born a year before her, but she was born a week before me.) While the prejudice they encounter in Chicago isn't quite as bad as in Tennessee, where lynchings and Klu Klux Klan activities were common, they run into an equally difficult form of elitism. Even wealthy blacks tended to look down on newcomers from the south, who were often poor and uneducated, as well as on white immigrants. I love how close she is to her family, and her description of both life in rural Tennessee and her first views of the big city.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Grimm Meets Toons

Began a gloomy, cloudy day with more Once Upon a Time. One of the interesting things about this show is the wide reach it has in its fantasy crossover. In addition to the obvious Grimm's Fairy Tales, there's also characters based around Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland (a short-lived spin-off would do even more with Wonderland), King Arthur, Frankenstein, and Chinese mythology (Mulan). I've read that Robin Hood and The Wizard of Oz were tied into the third season, and it sounds like Disney's going to push Frozen/The Snow Queen into the fourth.

This is definitely one of those shows where you need to start at the beginning to have a good grasp of the characters and situations. Plus, the whole premise does smack too much of soap opera, especially the whole "six degrees of separation" thing with everyone being everyone else's kid. While I did enjoy most of what I got a chance to watch (especially the introduction of the giant and how he came to be alone when Emma and Hook found him and the plot with Mr. Gold and Belle - I will never think of Rumpelstiltskin in the same way again), I'll wait on the rest until I can rent or stream the first season.

Work was on-and-off busy. It was actually busier before rush hour, for once, as people hurried home from work to avoid the rapidly gathering clouds. By 4PM, I was doing returns, and there were plenty of people behind the registers. I did have problems with the printer on the first register I was in that caused me to have to move; otherwise, I was in and out.

I got lucky with the weather. Some customers mentioned it did rain at one point. When I went home, the rain was gone, the clouds were breaking up, and the street was damp but not wet. When only half of my porch is wet (the half that's not under trees), the rain wasn't that bad.

Started my annual marathon of wartime cartoons as I made leftover poached chicken legs, carrots with honey glaze, and grits for dinner. Started with the disc from the sixth Looney Tunes Golden Collection that's all wartime shorts. While a few of the main characters did get in on the action (Bugs takes on real-life Nazi Herman Goering in "Herr Meets Hare," Daffy gives a crew of bird Nazis the business in "Daffy and the Commando," Bosco covers the French front in "Bosco the Doughboy"), most were random revues of either life in the armed services or the home front. My favorite was "The Weakly Reporter," which depicts life in the cities and suburbs during the war. I get a kick out of the woman who manages to fix an entire factory with her one bobby pin.

Jumped into the bath after the cartoons, listening to Bombshell again before I bring it back. Ahh. That felt very nice after working or cleaning for much of the week. I kicked back and read a couple of self-help books.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fairy Tale Highs and Lows

Getting the laundry done was the big chore for today. Thankfully, when I got in around quarter after 10, it wasn't busy at all, just a few older men doing clothes. I read Quiet as Rachel Ray droned on in the background. I had a very small load and was in and out in less than an hour.

When I got home, I called Mom before I even put anything away. I haven't chatted with her in a while. We talked for almost an hour! Mom did start her new job at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. She likes it, but is currently overwhelmed with having to learn three different programs for taking reservations, taking complaints with other operators, and working the ticket booth. Being an introvert like me, she's far happier taking tickets and making reservations on her own than she is taking complaints and having to work with several other people. Though they had some problems with their computers last week, and a lot of people were angry when one of the ferries broke down, generally things seem to have gone well.

She's not as happy with Dad. He's in a lousy mood. One of the boats he was working on also broke down, which means he's working one less boat and is making less income. Dad's credit card bills are through the roof, and he's taking his problems out on everyone within firing range, including Anny and her sons. It doesn't help that Anny is still out of work and they continue to pay for some of her bills. He's alienated everyone around him, including his mother and sister in New York, Anny, her sons, and Mom. I love the family in Cape May County...but I have to admit, one of the reasons I moved up here was to get away from the drama. My transportation difficulties aren't my only reasons for not visiting more often.

Work was surprisingly busy for the middle of the week and the middle of the month, especially once we got into the 4-6 rush hour. I couldn't figure out why until I finished work. There was some kind of event going on in the front parking lot that was drawing a huge crowd. As I rode over, a local country music station was holding raffles. I could hear them calling out numbers. Kids were tossing bean bags into boards with holes in them (and playing with the bean bags). There were hot dogs on a large grill. Two of the Acme college boys were selling bottles of water. I debated getting a hot dog, but decided I didn't want to pay for it (I just bought Oatmeal Squares, which are almost never on sale) and went home.

Good thing I left when I did. I was half-way down the Black Horse Pike when it started to shower lightly. I heard it rained earlier, too. If it did, it didn't rain that hard. It wasn't that wet when I came out, and I don't think I hear rain now. I got home a little damp, but otherwise fine.

I had leftover chicken with leeks and mushrooms and pasta with herbs and butter for dinner while watching more Once Upon a Time. Maybe it's because Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies, but I'm especially enjoying Belle's subplot with Rumpelstiltskin, both in and out of the Enchanted Forest. I've always kind of had a thing for beasts myself. Loved how Belle took on Captain Hook, and how she finally got Mr. Gold to realize that yes, there may just be a little good left in him. I also enjoyed Ruby's backstory, and how she ultimately came to accept the two parts of herself.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When Good and Bad Fantasy Characters Get Together

I began the day with work. Once again, it was off and on busy, if a bit busier during rush hour. We had long lines more because we were short on help than actually being busy. Thankfully, there were no major problems, and I was in and out. Picked up shampoo on my way - Herbal Essences was on a good sale, and they had the curl formula again after it disappeared for a while.

It was such a lovely day, I went straight to Sonic for dinner. I wish I hadn't. I got there at 5:30, and they were very busy with rush hour travelers. I had to sit and listen to a family with three kids make a ton of noise. The little girl screamed that her brothers were picking on her. The mother screamed at them and sent the little girl crying to the car - you could still hear her in the car from across the patio. The mother screamed again when the waiter came out with their meals and wanted to be paid. She claimed she paid by card - it must not have gone through. She threw an absolute fit and demanded to see the manager. An apologetic young woman came with my meal at that point. I decided I wanted to save my eardrums and opted to eat at the wooden picnic table on the side of the Acme instead. Some guy was sitting there mumbling and talking to people who came out. He sounded a bit off, but if he was a nut, at least he was a quiet, polite nut.

Watched more of Once Upon a Time before and after work. I'm beginning to warm up a bit more to this show. The action has picked up a great deal, and I'm getting fond of quite a few of the characters, including thief-turned-sheriff Emma Swan, junk dealer Rumpelstiltskin, and an impossibly handsome and roguish Captain Hook. The multiple entwined plots are still a little complicated and soap-opera-ish for me, but some of the action set pieces are awesome - I loved the sequence in the giant's castle. I'll see what I can watch of the set this week...then dig around for the show from the beginning.

Oh, and American Girl just announced more historical retirements on their Facebook page. The relative failure of Marie Grace and Cecile must have put Mattel off the "Best Friend" line. Kit and Julie's "Best Friend" dolls Ruthie and Ivy are being archived, along with Marie Grace and Cecile. It's too bad. For one thing, they're removing two minority dolls, which is going to upset a lot of people who are calling for more minority characters in the historical line. Ivy's the only Asian historical character.

Marie-Grace and Cecile only debuted in 2011. They had myriad problems from the start - their interlaced stories didn't allow for much character development, their clothing was said to not be all that well-made, they were constantly on sale. This is a shame, because the dolls themselves are really beautiful, and I think AG could have done more with them if they'd expanded on their time period, made one character or the other the lead instead of having two leads, or given them better-made clothing that suited the dolls and their time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunshine On My Shoulders

It was an absolutely gorgeous day when I finally got out around 11:30-quarter of 12. It was the nicest day I've seen since last fall. The sky was a rich blue, and there were only a few fleecy clouds. The air was warm, and the breeze was cool. Everything in Oaklyn is looking absolutely gorgeous, from the gardens filled with deep purple irises to the trees with their soft green leaves. I was surprised there weren't more people out and about; they must have been eating lunch.

Oh, and I noticed that the train bridge on West Clinton had been repainted various shades of blue over the weekend. It starts out bright blue, then gradually fades into pale blue on the other side. The arches are still yellow. It looks a little strange, but it also hides the cracks the former paint job showed. The blue paint also reveals a diamond with the year "1924" etched into them. The bridge is in pretty decent shape, for something 90 years old that gets hit on top by trains and underneath by floods.

The Oaklyn Library wasn't busy, either.When I came in, there were two people using the computers, and the librarian. A mother and her toddler daughter came in a little later. I mostly organized the adult DVDs, which looked pretty bad after last week. The kids' DVDs had been moved yet again, this time to the shelves where the books for sale used to be. (The books for sale had been moved to where the new releases were. I don't know where the new releases went.) I did what I could with them, but didn't bother doing anything else. It looks like they're still in the midst of re-organizing the kids' section.

I continued around the neighborhood after that. There were a few more people out walking dogs. Clouds were beginning to drift in, but otherwise, it remained a beautiful day. When I got home, I decided to get something done that I'd been meaning to do for weeks. I needed to clean out the trash can and paper and glass/plastic recycling receptacles. I do it twice a year, in mid-May and mid-October. The trash can in particular really needed it; the glass/paper holder was pretty bad, too. I use the hose under the apartment's porch, next to the downstairs apartment's back door, to wash them. It's easier than dragging around buckets of water.

I had just enough time after that to make leftovers for lunch, pack dinner, change into my uniform, and head for work. Work was quiet when I came in, but we got really busy during lunch hour. Other than that, there were no major problems. A manager came in so I could get out on time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lullaby of Show Business

I slept in quite a bit this morning. It was quarter of 11 before I finished the Carol Higgins Clark book Burned. (Incidentally, I love her books, but they are comic mysteries and really aren't plot-heavy. If you want something with heavier plot or deeper characters, the Regan Reilly series absolutely isn't for you. Like The Pyrates, they play more as a spoof of PI mysteries than hard-boiled noir.) I had an apple with a really big brown spot, so I cut the brown spot off, chopped it into pieces, and made Apple Cinnamon Pancakes for breakfast.

Today's CD theme was musicals about show business or putting on a show. I began with Copacabana, the Barry Manilow show from England which dealt with Tony and Lola of the famous song in the 40s nightclub...and the songwriter who created them and became smitten with the fictional showgirl. Though I think Manilow did appear in a movie version on TV in the 80s, he's not in this one, a West End stage version. Some of the songs are actually quite well done, including Tony's "Sweet Heaven" and "Who Needs to Dream?" My favorite song is the vivacious ensemble number that opens the story proper, "Just Arrived," with Lola and many other hopefuls coming to New York to become stars.

I moved ahead a decade and went further north to Boston for Curtains, the last show John Kander and Fred Ebb did before Ebb's passing (with assistance from Rupert Holmes). Murder is also involved in this musical, where we see the star die during the finale of an on-the-road musical in 1959. Turns out everyone had a reason to kill her, as she was a lousy actress and really bringing the show down. The stage-smitten detective (David Hyde-Pierce, who won a Tony for this role) does what he can to find out who killed the star and help the director and producer try to make the show work. While not the absolute best thing Kander, Ebb, or Holmes ever did, there's some good music here - my favorite numbers are Hyde-Pierce's touching "Coffee Shop Nights," explaining why the detective is so crazy about show business, and his fantasy duet with the dead star's understudy, "A Tough Act To Follow."

Swept the porch as I did the 2001 revival of 42nd Street. I have the original cast on LP as well, but the revival added three excellent songs ("With Plenty Of Money and You," "Keep Young and Beautiful," and "I Only Have Eyes For You"), and the performances are equally fun. The porch was surprisingly not too bad. There were more flower petals from one of the trees on the ground than seed pods. Seed pod season must finally be winding down. Good - that means I can clean the porch furniture either this week or next week.

Work was on-and-off busy for most of the night. At one point, I even did some returns. Alas, it was starting to get busy again when I left. Some annoying customers didn't help, either. I did manage to get out on time, and there were otherwise no major problems.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Secret Agent Man

Today's American Top 40 re-run went way back into the 70s to 1973. As the US reeled from the tail end of Vietnam and the Watergate hearings, they turned to hard rock, soft ballads, R&B, and bubblegum pop to get their minds off the bad news all around them. Hits in mid-May of that year included "Little Willy" by Sweet, "The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia" by Vicki Laurence, "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, "Frankenstein" by the Edgar Winter Group, the original version of "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray, "You are the Sunshine Of My Life" by Stevie Wonder, "Pillow Talk" by Sylvia, "Sing" by the Carpenters, "Wildflower" by Skylark, and "Stuck In the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel.

The number one song of that week wound up being one of the biggest of the year. Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ol' Oak Tree" sounds a little cheesy today, but it did inspire many people to do just that in support of troops returning from Vietnam.

I went to work an hour after the show ended. Work was slightly busier than it has been all week, but otherwise no problem. The time went quickly, and it slowed down enough by 4PM that I was able to shut down without a relief.

Good thing, because I did have some grocery shopping to do. I mostly needed to replace fruit and staples used during the week - grapefruit, bananas, apples, canned pineapple, brown sugar, cooking spray, mayo, white cooking wine, butter spread. I needed a new journal and a new lock for my locker at work - the old one got so dented, I couldn't use it anymore. Took advantage of a major baking mix clearance and bought two Duncan Hines cake mixes (pineapple and orange) and Betty Crocker's Molasses Cookie mix.

Oh, and my schedule this week isn't too bad. I have fewer hours than I did last week, but that's my only complaint (and it's not surprising, given we weren't that busy last week and probably won't be until next weekend). Nothing later than 7 or earlier than 11, and Friday and Saturday off. I'm especially glad I got Saturday. I'll be able to enjoy Collingswood's May Fair without having to rush home after an hour.

When I did get home, I changed into regular clothes, then made a lamb chop with scallion-mushroom sauce and steamed asparagus for dinner while finishing Skyfall. After a mission goes wrong, Bond finds everything he's ever worked for questioned. M is in a load of trouble herself when MI6's headquarters is destroyed and her files are hacked. James works with pretty Eve and a new, rather geeky Q to stop a former agent from killing the one who set him up in the first place...M.

This was a smash hit in 2012, the biggest Bond hit to date...and I can understand why. In addition to the awesome theme song, we explore the characters of Bond and M far more than in any previous film, including learning more about Bond's parents and M's tendency to "mother" him. The villain is fairly unusual for this series, too, including the manner he acquires his "hideout." This may still be too dark for people who want their Bond goofy in the Roger Moore mode, but for those who enjoy Craig's tougher brand of Bond, this is highly recommended.

I needed to lighten up the mood a bit, so I put on The Backyardigans after Skyfall finished. The backyard dance crew has had their own spy adventure in the form of the double-length special "International Super Spy." The spy of the title is Pablo, who likes his apple juice shaken, not stirred. He has to seek three containers that may hold a recipe for disaster in the wrong hands...namely, the hands of the evil "Lady In Pink" Uniqua and her hench-moose Tyrone. His boss Miss T(asha) and fellow agent Austin lend a hand in his quest.

It was absolutely beautiful today. After spending all of yesterday and most of today inside, I needed a walk badly. I just strolled around the neighborhood. It was around 6:30. I had dinner early, so there weren't too many people out besides two boys who played catch in their front yard. There was still plenty to see. The neighborhood looks gorgeous now. The trees are filled with soft green leaves. While the tulips are gone, irises, wisteria, and beautiful flowering bushes in magnificent shades of lavender, pink, fuchsia, white, orange, and yellow bloom in every garden. I saw the very first buds on the rose bushes. The sky was a soft baby blue.

I made the Molasses Cookies after I got home. Ran one more Backyardigans episode as they baked. Wizards Tyrone and Pablo have "A Giant Problem" on their hands when enormous Tasha stomps into their kingdom. Queen Uniqua demands that they get rid of her so she can have her royal nap. Thing is, Tasha's friendly. She thinks the boys want to play. They think she wants to eat them, and uses increasingly desperate spells to get rid of her.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dust In the Rain

It poured all day long, from when I got up around quarter of 10 to nearly 6PM. I tried to go for a walk around 1:30, but the rain was coming down so hard, I got soaked just going a block down Manor. I'm tired of having to go out every time it pours. I was off today and really had no major plans. I just turned around and went home.

I spent most of the afternoon dusting my bedroom. I usually just go around all of the dolls and books, but I wanted to do a thorough dusting session while I have the time and before Lauren visits next month. I ran soundtracks as I cleaned under every doll and book and sneezed all the while. I did the James Bond 30th Anniversary CD I took out of the library first. Naturally, this features all of the theme songs from every Bond film through License to Kill. There was one song, "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," that didn't indicate which movie it came from (and most of the CD's liner notes were missing), and I didn't recognize it. Maybe the 1960s Casino Royale? I also did the soundtrack for the first Charlie's Angels movie and the cast album for the stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

I took a nice, soothing bath after I finally completed the dusting. Switched soundtracks for jazz and just leaned back in warm water with lots of bubbles. By this point, about 5:30-6PM, the rain had finally ended. I considered going out for dinner, but it was still windy and chilly and wet, and we were supposed to be hit by tidal flooding again. I figured I was safer at home.

I started Skyfall while having chicken legs poached in lemon wine herb sauce and peas and carrots for dinner. So far, one of the better recent James Bond films, with an awesome theme song (the first Bond theme to win an Oscar).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Once Upon a Time In Oaklyn

I got up a little earlier today, so I could get things done before Mother Nature unleashes her full fury. And indeed, it was cloudy and very windy when I headed out to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session there (after a short stop at WaWa to get money for the week). It was also busy there with people on the computers and taking out DVDs for their kids. They must have just brought a lot back, too - both adult and kid shelves were overloaded. I had to pull doubles from the kids' shelves just to get the originals of everything on them. I also shelved CDs, both music and books-on-CDs. Found two recent cast albums for the current hit Broadway show Kinky Boots and the musical from the TV show Smash, "Bombshell," based around the life of Marilyn Monroe, as well as a collection of songs from various James Bond movies.

I did take some DVDs out again this week. I enjoyed Quantum of Silence so much, I decided to continue with James Bond and do the most recent movie from that series, Skyfall.  I haven't heard great reviews for the live version of The Sound of Music that came out last fall...but on the other hand, I'm all for live versions of any musicals, even if the leading lady sounds like she's miscast. And while I generally try to stay away from most recent TV shows, Once Upon A Time, with its fairy tale and fantasy crossovers, did sound intriguing. I could only find the second season, so I figured I'd start there.

(I try to stay away from recent TV shows partly because I'm afraid I'll put in an emotional investment and they'll suddenly be yanked out from under me, like what AMC did to Remember WENN. I don't want to repeat that.)

Hit the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. I kept things simple and had a half of a turkey club sandwich on wheat and a small salad with Italian dressing. It was surprisingly quiet for quarter of 1, just me, a couple of workers from local offices on their lunch break, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and The Chew on TV. Afterwards, I made a short stop at Thriftway for eggs, vinegar, green tea, and peanut butter before heading home.

When I got in, I put everything away, then went right back out again to get the laundry done. By 2:30, the clouds were in and out, and it was getting much hotter and more humid. I ignored the clouds and enjoyed the air conditioned and quiet laundromat. Though a few other people would show up later, it was mostly just me and the TV. I didn't even have that much laundry to do. I was out in less than an hour.

Due to my concerns over the weather, I spent the rest of the day at home, dusting the TV area and listening to CDs. I loved both Smash and Kinky Boots. As far as I could tell, Smash was supposed to be about the making of a musical on Marilyn Monroe, complete with a real Broadway-ready score and cast. It only lasted two seasons, but it was no fault of the musical within the musical, which was excellent. Two songs towards the end on Marilyn's relationship with her mother were so powerful, I cried. Kinky Boots won several Tonys last year, including Best Musical, and I can understand why. Cyndi Lauper provided the music for the unusual story about a cross-dresser who inspires a young British man who just inherited his father's shoe factory to start a line of shoes just for men who dress as women. This is more typically upbeat musical comedy, and it's as fun as they come, especially Billy Porter's Lola.

I swept the porch next. I sweep a lot in the spring, thanks to all the fuzzy seed pods falling everywhere. They tend to bunch up like tumbleweeds. If we're going to have nasty storms tomorrow, I don't want them gunking up the drains. The clouds and wind were back at that point. I even felt a very light sprinkle. Still no storms, though.

Moved to the first episodes of Once Upon a Time's second season as I made Salmon with mustard sauce and carrots and peas for dinner. As of right now, I'm a little disappointed. The story seems to be that the population of small New England town Storybrooke were all once fairy tale characters, until cursed by evil queen-turned-mayor Regina. While Regina's daughter Snow White and her handsome prince try to reconnect with the confused child they gave up years ago, Regina wants her own little son back..and will do anything to get that, including making a deal with a definitely not-gnomish Rumpelstiltskin. Meanwhile, there's still characters living in the fantasy world they abandoned, including Sleeping Beauty and Chinese woman warrior Mulan. When Snow and her daughter end up in the fantasy world, they have to find a way back...but that may cost them a very high price...

I'm a little disappointed. I've heard so much about this show, but right now, most of what I'm seeing is soap opera with fantasy trappings. Hopefully, things will pick up once we get further into the season. Also, this is very much an ongoing storyline. I'm either going to have to press Haddon Township to get the first season, or look it up online.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dark Clouds and Daydreams

I slept in today and started off with the soundtrack for the Hairspray musical. (I have the one for the original John Waters movie, too, but we'll do that another time.) I saw this with Lauren in a movie theater in North Adams in July 2007 when I was visiting her there. That was, in fact, the last time I went to see a movie in a theater. Most buses don't seem to go near the local movie theaters. I loved it then, and it's still fun. Jessa gave me the deluxe soundtrack for Christmas that year. As much as I enjoy some of the additions, the original music is just as much fun. I bopped around to "You Can't Stop the Beat" and John Travolta and Christopher Walken's hilarious version of "You're Timeless to Me" as I had cereal and a half of grapefruit for breakfast.

Work was a bit of a pain. Despite it being fairly slow, there were a lot of cranky people. I have no idea why. Maybe they were just bored. It's the middle of the week and the middle of the month, and we're now between holidays again. It got really cloudy and windy later in the day, too, though it has yet to rain. I spent a lot of the day I wasn't dealing with rude people shelving candy or daydreaming. Though it did start picking up around rush hour, my relief was right on time.

When I got home, I listened to one of my Disney collection CDs as I had leftovers for dinner. It was the fifth one in the collection, and it's a favorite of mine. I love the eclectic selection, ranging from "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan to the sweet "Lavender Blue" by Burl Ives from the live action/animation mix So Dear To My Heart, from "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas to "The Humphrey Hop" (also known in my family as "The Bump Bump Song") from the 1955 Humphrey Bear solo short "In the Bag."

Oh, and I just heard that Helium, the publishing service I wrote those articles for in the fall of 2012, is shutting down. They won't be taking new writing as of May 21st, and they'll be gone for good by December. I never made any money writing for them, and I gave it up once I went back to work and didn't have the time for it, but it was something I could do just in case I needed it. I can only imagine how the people who actually do rely on Helium and similar publishing programs feel now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Disco and Bond

I started off a cloudy day with the second half of Xanadu, which I began last night. This very campy but fun 1980 musical features Olivia Newton-John as a muse on roller skates who inspires a painter (Michael Beck) to join with the owner of a construction company (Gene Kelly) to follow their dreams and turn a dilapidated LA auditorium into a roller disco. Yeah, it's that strange. Great soundtrack, though, including the hits "Magic," "Suddenly," and the title song. I wouldn't attempt it unless you're a major fan of Kelly or Newton-John, really love the music, or enjoy kitsch like I do.

I did some work on the computer, then moved onto something entirely less goofy. Quantum of Silence is one of the few James Bond films to pick up where the previous one left off. James (Daniel Craig) is still devastated by the death of his girlfriend Vesper in the previous film and has vowed revenge. His trail leads to Bolivia, where the head of an environmental organization is holding a precious resource to keep the locals at bay. Most people, including the US, thinks it's oil, but James discovers they're holding something even more important. Meanwhile, he encounters Camille, who also wants revenge on the evil group Q.U.A.N.T.A.M for killing her family. Both eventually learn that revenge really is a dish best served cold, even as the action - and the body count - heat up...

Not bad. I really like Daniel Craig as James; I prefer my Bonds tougher, and this guy is as tough as they come while remaining charming. I'll have to see if I can rent the most recent Craig adventure, Skyfall, later this week.

I spent most of the morning that I wasn't watching James dusting and cleaning. Spring is when I remove all the books and knick-knacks from the shelves and dust under them. There's a reason I only do this twice a year. I have tons of books, and while I have fewer knick-knacks than I used to, there's still a lot to clean. I also get easily distracted. I can spend a half-hour looking over a book I should have been dusting. I wasn't close to finishing when I realized it was time to have leftover ground turkey steaks with spinach salad and honey glazed carrots for lunch and get ready for work.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - steady off and on, never more than mildly busy. It briefly rained earlier, enough to clear out the clouds and make it much cooler than it was. By the time I finished at 8, it was so dead, and we had so much help, I was able to leave a few minutes early.

Monday, May 12, 2014

High School Musicals

First of all, it got really hot here today, probably for the first time since last August. It was sunny and into the upper 80s throughout the morning and early afternoon. I finally cleaned out and turned on the air conditioner and brought out my fan. This may be the latest I've had to turn it on in years, possibly since I moved to Oaklyn. It usually jumps into the 80s here at least once in April.

There were a few things I wanted to get done today. Heat or no heat, the porch needed to be swept badly. We're in the midst of spring pollen season here. The seed pods are making a mess, gathering in tumbleweed-like puffs everywhere. None of it is helping my allergies, either.

Spent the rest of the day inside, watching both Grease movies and washing the windows, inside and out. As I mentioned in yesterday's entry, I'm very fond of both movies, for different reasons. The first one has a terrific score, lots of energy, and a nice cast that includes, in addition to John Travolta as uber-cool Danny and Olivia Newton-John as sweet Sandy, Stockard Channing as smart-mouthed tough girl Rizzo and Didi Conn as beauty school hopeful Frenchy. The second one has some excellent ensemble numbers (including the fabulous opening number "Back to School Again") and more realistically depicts how Michael changes for Stephanie throughout the movie, rather than just having the whole thing tacked onto the end. (Not to mention, while John Travolta isn't hard on the eyes, Maxwell Caulifield is just hot in that movie.) Coming from a family where the men really do ride motorcycles, I've always loved Stephanie's song "Cool Rider." Mom used to sing it around the house in the 80s.

While Grease 2 was on, I tried something with one of the recipes in the Vintage Cakes book. The Champagne Cake sounded delicious, but I don't drink and have no liquor in the house. I replaced the white wine with the last of the tangerine-lime sparkling water, cut down the sugar, and replaced it with crushed pineapple and coconut. Champagne Cake became Hawaiian Pineapple Cake, which is equally vintage. Hawaii and all things tropical and Tiki were very popular in the late 50s and early 60s after Hawaii became a state. Other than I probably should have left the sugar content, it came out quite nicely, moist and just rich enough.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - on-and-off busy, but mostly not that bad. It was so quiet by the time I finished at 9, I was able to get off a few minutes early with no relief.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Grease" Is Still the World

First of all, Happy Mother's Day to all mommies, including those whose children are four-legged or feathered.

I decided I'd try something a little different today. I'm still a fan of the Beatles show, but I'm tired of the same old themes and more-or-less the same show. Yesterday on the American Top 40 re-run, Casey Kasem mentioned a list of singers appearing in films. Among the ones he brought up was Andy Gibb in "More Grease." I suspected Casey meant Grease 2, but that came out in 1982, not 1980...and sans Gibb. A trip to Wikipedia and the film's trivia section of the Internet Movie Database gave me at least some answers. Grease 2, like fellow early 80s camp musical Xanadu, had an infamously troubled production with a rushed script that was unfinished when filming started, a director who had never done a movie before (and never would again), and more budget than organization. (And Gibb apparently failed his screen test for the role that ultimately went to Maxwell Caulifield.)

I ate Strawberry-Coconut Pancakes and half of a grapefruit for breakfast while listening to the Grease 2 soundtrack. For all its problems, there's just as many things that work, and many of them are on the soundtrack. The opening number, "Back to School Again," is dynamic, and the song is by far the best in the movie. The Pink Ladies' "Girl For All Seasons" actually does look and sound like something a group of teenagers would throw together in 1961 for a talent show (other than Johnny was really right about Paulette's Miss June costume being too skimpy for high school). Several songs, including "Cool Rider" and "Charades," benefit from the full versions being included. They get cut off or faded out early in the movie.

Work was on-and-off busy, but otherwise not that bad. Between a nice day and the holiday, most people were in a good mood and just wanted to run off to barbecues. I suspect many people went down to the shore for the weekend. We had plenty of help, and there were no major problems. This time, I was easily able to shut down with no relief.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then made chicken cutlets in lemon sauce and spinach and mushrooms for dinner while listening to the soundtrack to the first Grease film. As much as I do enjoy the first film, the whole thing with Sandy changing herself so suddenly at the end has always bothered me. On the other hand, the score is still a heck of a lot of fun, from Sandy and Danny's opposing viewpoints in "Summer Nights" to the energetic finale "We Go Together." My favorite part was always the dance, with its toe-tapping numbers and some of the hilarious quips from the kids (love Sonny "washing his hands").

I finished out the night with mango ice cream and the cast album from the original 1972 Broadway Grease. The big difference here, other than a little more profanity, is every T-Bird and Pink Lady gets a number of their own. Songs that appear in the background in the film, like "Freddy My Love" and "Those Magic Changes," originally fleshed out the other characters besides Danny and Sandy (Marty and Doody respectively in this case). On the other hand, Danny's number when he sees the changed Sandy in the finale, "All Choked Up," sounds more Elvis but lacks the zip of its movie replacement, "You're the One That I Want." Not to mention, the cast sounds even older than the performers in the two movies look.

The Grease you end up with depends on which cast and songs you prefer. There were revivals in 1994 and 2007, and the cast of Glee evidently recorded their own versions of the songs two years ago. The first movie is the most famous, but the second isn't nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, and the Broadway show has its own charms and is where it all began.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Fling In Haddon Township

Started off a cloudy, hazy morning with this week's American Top 40 re-run. We jumped back three years to 1980, as British supergroups, New Wave, ballads, and R&B began to chase disco off the charts. Hits that early May included "Another Brick In the Wall" by Pink Floyd, "Sexy Eyes" by Dr. Hook, "I Can't Help It" by Olivia Newton-John and Andy Gibb, "Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer" by Kim Carnes and Kenny Rogers, "With You I'm Born Again" by Billy Preston and Syreeta, "You May Be Right" by Billy Joel, "You're the Biggest Part Of Me" by Ambrosia, "Lost In Love" by Air Supply (their first hit), and "Cars" by Gary Numan. That week's number #1 song eventually became the top hit of the year - "Call Me" by Blondie.

My first stop this time was the Collingswood Farm Market. Even as I rode to the parking lot behind the Haddon Avenue shopping district, the sun was breaking through the clouds. The surprisingly nice weather coupled with Mother's Day tomorrow must have brought out the crowds. It was almost as busy as last week. I did make my way through the sea of people long enough to buy an onion, leeks, scallions, mushrooms from the mushroom sellers, and grapefruit from the tropical fruit sellers.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon riding around Haddon Township, checking out their Town-Wide Yard Sale. Or really "community wide yard sale." Haddon Township is several towns, including Westmont and the Bluebird neighborhood on the edge of Collingswood. The sun got hotter and hotter as I rode. Bluebird in particular was chock full of yard sales. Unfortunately, it was also filled with cars and people jostling to get the best prices. I had an easier time getting around in Westmont, between Haddon Avenue and Cooper River Park, on the edge of Collingswood near Newton River Park, and up by the Ritz Theater.

Alas, I didn't do nearly as well this year as I did last year. I just ended up with:

Three Calvin & Hobbes comic books - Scientific Progress Goes "Boink," The Revenge of the Baby-Sat, Weirdos From Another Planet

Two records:

Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain soundtrack

Disney Alice In Wonderland book and record

And two Christmas books, The Twelve Teas of Christmas and Christmas Songs Made In America

Oaklyn was busy, too. The Oaklyn (Elementary and Middle) School was having its annual "Spring Fling," the school's fair, this afternoon on West Clinton Avenue. There were quite a few booths, a bounce ride, two midway-style rides, and a ride on a fire truck. I wanted to have lunch there, but you needed tickets to get food....and tickets cost $10 for 15! They wouldn't sell just a few of them, either. I just stopped at a man selling his own home-made water ice and bought a small Pina Colada water ice and a bottle of water instead.

It was past 1PM when I finally made it home. I ran most of The Croods while I put everything away and ate grapefruit and leftovers for lunch. The Croods are a stone-age family who live in a cave, mainly because they're desperately afraid that everything else out there will eat them. Teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) thinks there's more to life than running and hiding. She really starts to question her family's lifestyle when she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who seems a great deal more evolved than her neanderthal relatives. He can make everything from fire to traps to puppets - and isn't afraid of any of it. When an earthquake destroys the Croods' cave, they finally set out in a lush tropical paradise to find a new one. Dad Grog (Nicholas Cage) isn't happy with all these new sensations, but he soon learns that it's not so bad to try new things, and that while change can be scary, it can also be a literal lifesaver.

Not bad, but not great, either. While the animation is gorgeous (and is probably what earned this movie an Oscar nomination) and the plot is a bit more original than Dreamworks' other movie from last year, Turbo, the simplistic "change is good" storyline gets a little annoying after a while. Some mild violence makes this for older kids and families; animation fans will love the stunning backgrounds and really nifty critters the Croods encounter.

Work wasn't too bad for most of the evening. There were some cranky people, but not to the degree of yesterday. The problem was the last customer. I was supposed to get off at 7:15. Of course, my last person was one of those women who have 800 coupons for everything. She seriously bought two boxes of single M&M's - 50 each - just to use 100 coupons I shouldn't have let her get away with using, because they were over the price. I just didn't want to argue with her. It took me 20 minutes just to ring up her darn coupons! It's a good thing I had shut down. I didn't finish with her until 8. The managers didn't even send anyone in; they claimed there was no one to send and we were short-handed. She even bought four or five gift cards before and after the larger order, just so she could get the 10 dollar off coupons that came with them!

(And...please, please, try to limit your coupon use! Most people don't like standing there while an annoyed cashier rings up 200 coupons. Buy things that are on sale or can be used to make real food, like flour and fruit and vegetables and meat. Real life doesn't work like a coupon show.)

I was fit to be tied when I finally got off work. I couldn't put off the grocery shopping. I was out of bananas and strawberries, and I needed to stock up on sugar and canned fruit and chicken. Purdue chicken is 40% off - bought ground chicken, chicken breasts, and drumsticks. Treated myself to a DVD, the John Wayne/James Stewart classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and a fruit chew bar as much-needed treats. Also grabbed tangerine-lime sparkling water to make a mango ice cream float at home.

Friday, May 09, 2014

When Science and Mythology Collide

I slept in this morning; it was late before I got to eating breakfast and watching Thor: The Dark World. Thor (Chris Helmsworth) generally seems to have weathered the events of The Avengers better than Tony Stark did. When we pick up the story, he's bringing his eternally sarcastic younger half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) home to Astgard to be put in jail. Thor's tired of battle and wants to be with his girl Jane (Natalie Portman), but there's too much going on in his world. Jane and her two interns make an incredible discovery outside of London - a barn that contains portals to other worlds. When Jane accidentally finds one, she absorbs the evil artifact that the race of elves who are fighting Thor's people are looking for. Thor ends up having to partner up first with Loki, then with Jane to stop the elves from taking over every universe.

I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as Iron Man 3, but I wasn't a huge fan of the first one, either. I think the characters just don't do it for me. On one hand, Portman had more to do and was more involved in the plot, and Hiddleston's Loki had some of the best lines in the film (especially while he's in jail). On the other hand, other than Loki's quips, everything still feels stiff, including Thor. I'm afraid I just don't find him to be as interesting as some of his fellow Marvel tough guys. Your mileage may vary, especially if you're more of a fan of the cast or characters than I am. I think I'll wait on Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past instead.

I did some major vacuuming before work. In addition to doing the floors, I vacuumed all around the baseboards and around and under any furniture I could actually move. I only do this twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. It's not easy to move all this stuff when you're by yourself!

I also got something I've been hoping to find for a good price ever since I picked up Josefina last year. Unlike some of the other American Girl dolls who have been around for a while, Josefina only has two hard-to-find outfits in her collection. I finally got one of them, the Weaving Outfit, for about $38 with free shipping on eBay. This is one of her prettiest skirt and camisa combos, a maroon and white-print skirt over a white camisa (shift) with lovely maroon embroidery. It didn't come with the striped sash or the maroon print wrap, but many reviews claim the wrap is just cheap cotton anyway. She may be better off with her meet accessories rebozo. This dress can go up to $70 and more on eBay. I'll take it even in incomplete condition. Josefina doesn't really have much in the way of clothes.

It took me so long to vacuum, I had to rush my leftover chicken and noodle soup for lunch, then rush off to work! I wish I hadn't. Work was a total pain for a day that was only steady. People were cranky and rude. One man said I was being disrespectful when I was just trying to explain that the sign on the shrimp said $11.99 a pound, not two for $11, which would not happen with pricey seafood. Another woman fussed when I told her she got the wrong juice for her WIC checks. And I'm tired of everyone using their "issues" as an excuse to behave badly. I'd be more sympathetic if people would just behave better. I spent as much time as I could shelving one of the four full carts of returns we had to do.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

All of the Quiet People

I started off the morning with breakfast and more black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons. Mickey and Minnie appear in a play about "Ye Olden Days." Mickey is a wandering minstrel who has to fight Prince Goofy for Minnie's hand in marriage. He doesn't have an easier time as "The Mail Pilot," carrying the mail through wind and snow and dodging mail-snatching Air Pirate Pete.

It was past 11:30 when I finally headed out to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session there. It was fairly busy with people using computers and taking out materials during their lunch hour. There actually wasn't that much to shelve. I put away and organized the kids' DVDs as best I could (they have got to clear out the Scooby Doo DVDs - I saw two more on the media librarian's desk!), then shelved the adult titles and pulled a few foreign movies that belonged in their own section.

For the first time in a while, I took out a pile of movies this week. Ended up with new discs for Veggietales, a Star Trek spoof called Veggies In Space: The Fennel Frontier and the 2009 Angelina Ballerina, the rather appropriate Spring Fling. For longer movies, I went with two recent ones, last year's Dreamworks Oscar nominee The Croods and Thor: The Dark World, and the second Daniel Craig James Bond film, Quantum of Silence.

Made a quick stop at Thriftway on my way home. A recipe in the American Girl-based cooking blog A Peek Into the Pantry featured grits...and I've craved them ever since I read it. Since I was there, I figured I might as well get a Mother's Day card and a whole wheat turkey wrap from their small but elegant cafe area, eliminating the need for extra trips to WaWa and Dollar Tree.

Went straight home after I finished at Thriftway. In addition to the movies, I also took out a couple of books. They had the two newest Garfield comic books, Garfield: Caution Wide Load and Garfield Souped Up - I grabbed both. Saw a book of updated vintage cake recipes that sounded interesting. But the most interesting of all was Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking. Given I am an introvert, and a very shy, sensitive one, I had to take a look at that.

I ran both cartoon sets as I ate and cleaned up lunch. As mentioned, the newest Veggietales episode has fun with Star Trek in particular and sci-fi tropes in general. The crew of the S.S Applepies are good at their jobs, but not very good at sharing what they have, especially Captain Cuke (Larry the Cucumber) and his assistant Mr. Spork (Bob the Tomato). They're assigned to stop a pirate from stripping the energy from ships. The Captain and his crew are all ready to stop the pirate and keep the energy in their ship safe...until the pirate's sweet-natured nephew (Junior Asparagus) helps them understand what he's after, and why sharing is important.

I sort of have an on-and-off relationship with Veggietales. Some of their specials, like The Penniless Princess from a while back (which I have), are actually quite well-done and accurate. The trouble is, their bible messages can get preachy at times, and they don't always work well with the story being told (a problem in their Robin Hood adaptation). Thankfully, a creative story chock-full of sci-fi references (look for shout-outs to everything from Doctor Who to Star Wars to 2001:A Space Odyssey) and some fun songs keep the preachiness from getting out of hand. Well worth a look if you love science fiction and/or those Bible quote-spouting vegetables.

Angelina Ballerina twirled into the spotlight next as I made a simple dinner of grits and scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms. The title Spring Fling was a bit of a misnomer. One story was set at Halloween. Angelina, Polly, Vicki, and Alice are disappointed when their costumes don't arrive in time for trick or treating. They decide to use props and dance out their costumes instead - especially Polly, who learns grand leaps from the other girls so she can "fly" as a superheroine!

Another story sounded very much like what we went through this year. Angelina, Marco, Alice, and Gracie are stuck inside during a day in early spring that's still cold and snowy. To combat their cabin fever, the quartet do the most spring-y things they can think of - listening to Vivald's "Spring" from The Four Seasons, pretending to play baseball, eating lucky nuts from Iran, and coloring Easter eggs. The last activity makes such a mess that Mrs. Mouseling suggests one of the most "spring-y" activities of all - spring cleaning.

I spent the rest of the evening in the bath, listening to jazz and reading Quiet. I know I'm an introvert. I think I've known since I was a child. I work easier by myself, prefer to go out and explore alone, and don't handle social interaction well. It wasn't something the rest of the world accepted. I don't think a lot of people understood just how shy and sensitive I was...or that it was ok to be these things. I remember the school nurse questioning me in first or second grade because I was so freaked out watching the 1940s Disney short "Chicken Little," I got upset and wouldn't finish it. Nowadays, that wartime propaganda short is considered so disturbing, Disney put it in the "From the Vault" section on their Walt Disney Treasures DVD set On the Front Lines. In the mid-80s, the nurse simply couldn't understand why I was having the reactions I did, especially when the other kids didn't.

I have problems to this day. Part of the reason I gave up on traditional job searches were all of the jobs I kept coming up with wanted bright, chatty multi-taskers who could do everything and work well in a group. I'm quiet, reserved, and prefer to do one thing at a time and mostly on my own. I'm even beginning to wonder if I'd work well in an office setting. I don't do small talk, and I don't flatter. I'm hoping that the further I go into this, the more I'll be able to come up with what I would do well with.

Oh, and I finished that communications course tonight. I got an 86 on my final test...which means yes, I did pass. I mainly learned that I can communicate when I'm not communicating with hostile people, that my learning style is mostly visual (I see things around me), and I need to learn better stress management and try to relax while communicating.