Sunday, January 31, 2016

Have a Nice Sunday!

Began a sunny morning by finishing The Liveliest Art. This was one of the many, many books on the history of world cinema that popped up in the mid and late 20th century, as movies began to play first on television, then on cable and home video. I did enjoy the first half that discussed the earliest films and how different countries handled film making in the silent era. Alas, once the discussion got past the early talkies, it got far less interesting. While there are some foreign films from the 50's, 60's, and 70's I wouldn't mind checking out, the chapter on them here was dry and not overly exciting. I care even less about the "auteur theory" of the 70's - the director isn't the only person who works on a movie. They're collaborative efforts. I'm not keeping this. There are many other, more interesting books and websites I can find the same or similar information at.

I made Banana Pancakes for breakfast while diving into some of my 70's music. I felt a need for the Eagles; did their first Greatest Hits collection, the one with "Take It Easy" and "Desperado." The pancakes actually came out pretty well (though I really should have used two bananas).

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday, off-and-on steady. Given it was a Sunday and the day before the beginning of the month, it could have been far worse. There were a few annoying customers. Otherwise, no major problems. My relief was even early. I got to have more samples over in the produce/bakery/deli area as well. Tried some raisin bread from the bakery in addition to most of what was given out yesterday.

When I got home, I worked on writing for an hour. Kathleen had tried to sell her work, but the bookmakers rejected her. She doesn't feel like she's in the same league as them. She's too...different.

What's wrong with that, Darren asks? There's no real normal. Everyone is different. She's just as smart and creative as anyone else.

Decided to try something different for dinner. I baked my lobster cakes instead of pan-frying them. Had Buttermilk Rye-Wheat Bread and sauteed spinach and mushrooms with them. Listened to one of my Have a Nice Day! 70's CD's while I ate. Part of a series of forgotten (or semi-forgotten) songs from the Me Decade, I was inspired to listen to one after hearing the song "Undercover Angel" at work today. Not something I expected to hear at a grocery store! This particular volume is a favorite of mine - it also includes "Couldn't Get It Right," "I Like Dreamin'," "The Things We Do For Love," and "Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sampling an Anniversary

Started off a sunny, breezy morning with two Peanuts specials. A Charlie Brown Valentine is a series of skits on the many unrequited crushes among the kids. Charlie Brown tries to ask the Little Red Haired Girl to a dance, but just can't bring himself to. Linus isn't delighted with Sally's attempts to make a valentine for her Sweet Baboo. Peppermint Patty and Marcie think Chuck is going to ask them to the dance.

Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown is unique among Peanuts stories, one of the few times Chuck is in love with someone besides the Little Red Haired Girl. Here, he falls head over heels for a girl he sees for a few seconds on a football game on TV. He, Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock go from city to suburb to country in search of her.

Work was a little less busy than it was yesterday, steady but not overwhelming. I even had the chance to work on some ideas for the Star Wars fairy tale I'm developing, a blend of Cinderella, King ArthurRapunzel, and East of the Sun and West of the Moon. When an abused stable boy and his friend, a bold thief, sneak  into a ball held in honor of the feisty daughter of a wicked knight, they set off a chain of events that ends with the vengeful black knight cursing the thief and hiding him away, imprisoning his daughter, and disfiguring the stable boy-turned-wizard. While the stable boy struggles to find out who he is and where he really belongs, the princess seeks her beloved rogue, who may not be rich or powerful, but has far more prince in his heart than the shriveled hag of an Emperor whom her father wishes for her to marry.

There's a lot going on at work this weekend, as I discovered during break. In honor of the Acme's 125th anniversary, we're having an open house this weekend and next weekend. That mostly means samples all over the place - cake, the Acme's fancy organic Italian soda, coffee, bacon, bits of crab cake, the deli-made tortilla chips and guacamole, the new limited edition Cinnamon Bun and Red Velvet Cake Oreos. Plus, it sounds like we're going to be starting that Monopoly board game thing again on Wednesday. (Nice of them to tell us this now, five days before we're going to start it.)

I needed a few things after work. For one thing, I had to get my W-2. I kept forgetting, since my paycheck is direct deposited. I forgot to get tissues and scrub cleaner yesterday, too. I've gone through a lot of tissues lately, and I rather badly need the cleaner to get the kitchen done.

When I got home, I went right into taxes first. I always do my taxes as soon as I get my W-2. It usually takes me about 20 minutes to an hour. I own no property, have no dependents, and have one part-time job. I'll be getting over $1,020 back by next week.

Went right into writing next. Kathleen's not entirely happy about sharing her home with Darren. He's stubborn and demanding, always wanting to get up and move when his leg is in too bad of shape to consider it. Gradually, she begins to realize that she enjoys his company. It's nice to have someone to talk to and tell stories to. One day, he finds one of her newest stories on her desk and reads it. She's angry he went through her desk at first, until he praises her work. Why won't she sell it? She's too shy. She tried, but was turned down. Try again, Darren says. Your work is too good to go unnoticed.

Ran Ferris Bueller's Day Off while making a chicken salad for dinner, then while putting Chocolate-Mint Cupcakes in the oven. The title character is a Chicago teenager (Matthew Broderick), a budding Han Solo who convinces his best friend Cameron (Alan Rudyck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to join him in a day of playing hooky. While they explore the Windy City, they're pursued by school principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who is determined to catch Ferris in the act, and his sister (Jennifer Gray) who is tired of her brother getting away with everything.

On one hand, this film has some of the funniest moments of any of the 80's John Hughes films. You have to love the kids on the town, especially their appearing in the German parade. There's Rooney's bad day, too. And I'm glad Jeannie got the kid in the police station (Charlie Sheen). She deserved something after everything she went through.

My problem is still with Ferris himself. Frankly...Jeannie, and to a lesser degree Rooney, are right. He's a little jerk. While he does behave better later in the film, when it becomes clear what his day on the town did to Cameron (and Cameron's father's car), he's mostly an obnoxious brat who gets by on sheer luck. Rooney's no better. No, Ferris shouldn't have called out as often as he did, but he's lucky the cops didn't take Jeannie seriously and arrest him for breaking and entering, among other things. And nowadays, I suspect Jeannie's phone call wouldn't be treated like a prank.

This may be the most "your mileage may vary" of any of the 80's John Hughes movies. It can be hilarious just to see what Ferris gets away with, and the treatment of Cameron is surprisingly touching, but many people find Ferris to be more annoying than amusing and wish Jeannie had called him out in the end.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Sisters and the Town Treasure

Began a cloudy morning with breakfast and Barbie & Her Sisters In the Great Puppy Adventure. This awkwardly-titled tale takes Barbie and her beloved siblings to their former home town of Willows, where they were all born, for the summer. Barbie is looking forward to the big summer WillowFest and connecting with her old friend Kristy and all the places she used to hang out. Skipper, Chelsea, Stacy, and their new puppies are following clues to a huge treasure that's supposedly buried somewhere around the town. Barbie's discovering the hard way that Willows, like many real-life older small towns, is in major financial trouble. Many of her favorite businesses have shut down, and Kristy's family may have to leave. Barbie finally joins the girls in the search for the fantastic treasure that could save the town...if a pair of bumbling fair carneys don't get there first.

I was surprised with this one, especially after I wasn't crazy about the previous fantasy-oriented horse tale. It's actually a lot of fun, kind of like a girl-oriented version of The Goonies. The stories of Barbie and her sisters seem to work better the closer to reality they get. Ironically, despite getting second billing and being able to talk (though not to humans), the puppies really don't have that much to do besides look cute until the ending. It's also one of the few cartoons I've seen address the trouble many older small towns and suburbs frequently having keeping and attracting businesses.

If your girls loved the previous Barbie and Her Sisters stories or are looking for a princess-less animated adventure, they can do far worse than this one.

Went straight to work after Barbie ended. Everyone must have been waiting for the weekend and the beginning of the month. This time, we were steady to busy all afternoon. There were a lot of annoying people who wouldn't help bag, and a lot of WIC Checks, too. (I forgot to ask for the ID pamphlet for one. I hope I don't get in trouble again for that.) Thankfully, my relief was right on time.

Got my schedule during break. Thank heavens it's a lot closer to what I normally get at this time of year. They'd be crazy if they didn't raise my hours. February is probably the single busiest month of the year here. In the space of the shortest month in the calendar, we have the Super Bowl, then Valentine's Day, then President's Day Weekend. This is the height of winter high school varsity sports season. We're supposed to get warm next week, but it may not last - it is still winter. February is a big birthday month, too. (There's also the years where the Winter Olympics usually occur in February, though this isn't one of them.) Not to mention, a lot of people who don't have kids tend to take their vacation time during February.

I didn't have a really huge grocery list this week. Though I needed meat, there weren't any really good sales. I settled for two packs of salmon and lobster cakes and a pack of ground turkey. Restocked grapefruit, apples, canned pineapple, deodorant, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and cake mix. The Acme is still getting rid of its older generic brand and replacing them with the Safeway brand. I took advantage of the clearances to pick up vanilla pudding and (badly needed) pads. Mushrooms and the smaller bags of carrots continue to be on a dollar sale.

When I got home, I put everything away, then went into writing. Kathleen can see how badly Darren is hurting. She overrides his protests and calls for a doctor. He confirms her suspicions. He has a broken leg and several bruised ribs and won't be going anywhere for a while.

Moved to the "movie" for the fourth season of Sailor Moon, Black Dream Hole, while making a salmon cake and sauteed spinach and mushrooms for dinner. It's almost Valentine's Day, and the Guardians are enjoying the preparations and cooking for the most romantic day of the year. But some decidedly unromantic things are happening in Tokyo! Children are disappearing from their homes all around the globe. When Rini is among the missing, the girls go after her. They discover that a witch wants to use children's dreams to power her Black Dream Hole, which could swallow the Earth! A rogue dream fairy helps the girls go after Rini.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Musical Tales

I slept in and had just enough time for a Backyardigans episode before I headed to work. Few young kids' shows have as much fun with genre spoofs as this one does. "Blazing Paddles" parodies Lone Ranger-style oaters. Uniqua is the sheriff in peaceful Ping Pong Mesa, where the residents are crazy about ping pong. At least, they are until Pablo the Ping Pong Bandit shows up in town and trounces everyone, including Uniqua, with his amazing "Bandit Slam It" move. He wins all their paddles, and no one can play anymore but him. Uniqua leaves town, determined to learn how to out-play him...and prove to Pablo that it's no fun to play ping-pong alone.

I made it to work on time today...which proved to be a moot point. We were dead for a lot of the afternoon, and never more than steady. It was a beautiful, sunny day, well into the 40's, it's right before the beginning of the month, and we're between holidays. Other than some annoying customers, there were no really major problems, and my relief was actually a bit early.

Went straight home after work and did some more Backyardigans genre fun while eating the last of the pasta fagioli for dinner. Tasha, Uniqua, and Austin go where no trash collectors have gone before in "Garbage Trek." They're intergalactic waste managers, picking up trash on whichever planet it may lurk. The aliens Tyrone and Pablo keep sending fake distress signals in order to distract them and steal their trash...but when the two are really stuck in a black hole, will the others agree to help?

Went to a take on superheroic origin stories in "Flower Power." When flower seller Uniqua pricks her finger on a certain blossom, she becomes Flower Girl, Garden City's newest superheroine! She needs to learn how to control her powers of light and growth in order to stop the Gloom Meister (Austin) and save the other citizens of Garden City.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

All Around Oaklyn Town

Kicked off another sunny day with more winter and Valentine's Day specials. Frosty's Winter Wonderland shows what happens when Frosty's kid friends make him a wife...who helps him out with a jealous Jack Frost. Bugs' Cupid Capers is one of the many Looney Tunes specials consisting of a series of segments from shorts centered around a thin story line. An Elmer Fudd-like Cupid spreads love among the Toons, despite Bugs' insistence that he's meddling.

Headed out around noon to run a couple of local errands, starting with this week's volunteering session at the Oaklyn Library. I hadn't gotten there in a while. I'm glad I did. The kids' DVDs were a mess. Nothing was in the right place, and at least two new DVDs hadn't had their top labels removed. The adult DVDs were better, but it still took me so long to do both, it was quarter of 1 before I got out. Good thing they weren't busy; only saw one guy talking on the phone and doing something on the computer.

Browsed around in the House of Fun and the comic shop next door after that. Alas, neither had anything of interest. (Other than noticing that the Hello Kitty/Sanrio display at the House of Fun had been replaced by shelves of Funko Pop items.) Just needed conditioner at Family Dollar. I hadn't seen Vidal Sassoon in years, since I was a kid. Since I needed skim milk anyway, I stopped at WaWa on my way home. Also bought a roast beef and provolone cheese hoagie with ranch dressing (that was way too messy) and a S'mores Cream Smoothie. (The latter was very tasty, VERY chocolate-y and filled with just-crunchy-enough graham cracker crumbs.)

I listened to one of my Madonna CDs while I ate lunch. Spent the next few hours working on my story. Kathleen takes Darren in. She's shocked to see when she washes him that he looks like he's been whipped...and even more so when the morning's sunlight reveals not a handsome man, but a huge, furry creature. He tells her to close the shutters; she does so, and he becomes human again. He explains that his wicked aunt, whom he'd never even heard of until recently, beat him and tried to force him to work as a virtual slave. When he refused, she cursed him, turning him into a monster in the sun. He can only retain his human form in the darkness.

Broke around 5 to clean the bathroom and have leftover chicken meatloaf and defrosted green beans and almonds for dinner. The bathroom was a little gross, though not as bad as I few weeks ago. I figured I might as well just get it done.

Ran Jupiter Ascending for the rest of the evening. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) considers herself to be a normal young janitor with a normal big Russian family in nice, normal New York City. At least, until a strange man who has boots that ride on air (Channing Tatum) shows up, claiming she's the Queen of the Universe and he's protecting her from three other claimants who want to kill her or use her. With help from a friend of his (Sean Bean) who may or may not be loyal, they do their best to make sure she gets that claim and saves her planet.

I...actually ended up kind of liking this. Ok, so it's cliched to high heck, Kunis is completely unbelievable as a plain-Jane janitor tossed head-first into a space opera, most of it doesn't make a lick of sense, and it has at least two or three climaxes more than it needs to. It's still a fun attempt at a Star Wars-style galactic fairy tale, populated by extremely creative creatures, incredible special effects, and some interesting characters you wish got more screen time. Not for fans of hard-core or darker sci-fi, but if you enjoy more fantasy-oriented space stories, you may want to ignore the reviews and give this one a chance.

Finished the night with a wonderfully relaxing bath. Ahhh. I can't remember the last time I had a bath. I really, really needed it. It felt so good after the last couple of weeks. I listened to one of my 20's music CDs and read A Song In the Dark (about the musicals of the early talkie era) and enjoyed the quiet.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

As the Snow Melts

Began a bright, sunny winter's morning with breakfast and this year's first Valentine's Day specials. Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You is a variation on Pooh's Grand Adventure. Here, the Hundred Acre Woods gang learns that Christopher Robin is making a Valentine for a girl he likes. Afraid that she'll replace them in his heart, they chase the "Smitten" bug to "cure" the boy.

Un-Valentine's Day is an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Rabbit cancels Valentine's Day to avoid the flood of mail they got (mostly from Pooh) the year before. When someone sends Pooh a pot of honey, he feels he needs to give something in return. This eventually leads to cakes flying everywhere, Piglet flying on a huge Valentine, and a romantic play that goes comically wrong. But who did send Pooh that pot of honey?

(We also got a New Adventures quickie for good measure. Rabbit, Tigger, Pooh, and Piglet are telling the story of "The Three Little Piglets." Pooh keeps trying to insert honey, Tigger keeps changing the story, and Rabbit isn't happy about having to play the villain.)

Headed out for counseling early this time, around 11:30-quarter of noon. I didn't have counseling until 2, but I didn't want to rush this time. Much to my surprise, it was very warm when I got outside. Despite everything around me melting, the roads were still a mess. I hit the back roads to dodge as much of the snow and ice as I could.

(I passed an elementary school on my way to Haddonfield. I was glad to see the kids outside playing in the snow for recess! In Cape May Elementary in the 80's, we would not have been allowed outside in the snow. We wouldn't have had outdoor recess until the snow disappeared. They were too afraid we'd throw snowballs with rocks at each other or something similar. I could have told them even then that their worries were unfounded. From what I could see, the kids were having a fine old time, chasing each other and flying on swings. Some even had sleds and were riding down piles of snow in the schoolyard. There were plenty of teachers keeping an eye on them, too.)

I finally made it to Haddonfield in time for a nice lunch at the Bistro. It was the tail end of the lunch hour, and they were still pretty busy as I sat down. I opted for a tasty Mandarin Chicken Salad with Craisins, mandarin oranges, big chicken pieces, spring mix, chow-mein noodles and candied walnuts. It was all topped with a nicely tangy teriyaki sauce. I worked on story ideas and watched a mom and her little daughter work on drawings.

Browsed in a small book store a few blocks down the road next. They're pretty new and they don't have the world's greatest selection, but it was nice to look around anyway. The kids' area was a mess. Apparently, one of the ceiling tiles leaked after the snow storm. The manager had tried calling the owner, but he was in Florida. Books were in piles on the carpeted floor while someone looked at the tiles.

I did actually have counseling this time. Evidently, what happened on the 6th was Mrs. Stahl didn't have a new date book in late November. She'd written down two different times and assumed the earlier one was the right one. After we apologized to each other, I told her about my joyous holidays, my fun day with Jessa and Joe a few weeks ago, my reaction to The Force Awakens, getting sick, Lauren and I having chosen a date for our June vacation, all the trouble on Saturday and how that'll likely impact my paycheck, and my discovery of just how important stories are to me and to our lives. She pretty much said continue to work on stories, and consider writing some fairy tales for my nephews to leave them some stories of their own.

Made a few small stops on the way home, still dodging messy streets and sidewalks. Despite it being 51 degrees (according to the digital sign at the Westmont Fire Station), it was still too chilly for water ice. I treated myself to a very powdery cream-filled donut from MacMillan's Bakery in Westmont instead. I also made a short stop at the PNC Bank in Collingswood. They called me a while back, said it was nothing urgent, but could you call back. I never got around to it and opted to see them in person. Turned out they just wanted to do a year-end review of my accounts and see how they were doing.

Went straight home after that. I wanted to work on some writing. One dark evening, Kathleen hears something crash in the woods. She thinks an animal might be hurt or something fell on her cottage. It turns out to be a Kathleen recognizes. His name is Darren, and they'd once been in love, before he walked out on her. He's unconscious, bruised, bloodied, and battered, and his leg is broken. Kathleen happens to look up and notice something seems to have crashed through the trees...but there are no birds around...

Finished the night with honey-glazed carrots and leftover chicken meatloaf. Made a Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake while watching The Book of Life. A museum worker tells the story of how the Mexican Goddess of the Land of the Remembered Dead and God of the Land of the Forgotten Dead once made a wager. Two young boys are in love with the same girl. If the goddess' boy wins, the god will leave her alone. If the god's choice is the winner, she'll trade the Land of the Remembered with him. The god gives his choice a metal that will make him invincible in battle. He becomes the town's hero. His friend is supposed to follow his family's legacy as a bullfighter, but he doesn't want to kill anything. He'd rather be playing the guitar and singing. The girl doesn't want to follow her father's chosen path for her, either. She's smart, tough, and well-read, and wants to do something for the greater good. Even after he's humiliated in the ring, she still chooses the bullfighter...until they're bitten by snakes. Now he has to figure out how he can get back to his beloved, let the goddess win her duel, and save the town from bloodthirsty bandits before the Day of the Dead ends!

In a way, this one has a little bit in common with Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. Once again, we have stylized animation (I think it's CGI, but it kind of looks like stop motion) telling the story of a love triangle between a good boy, a bad boy, and a girl who isn't sure, populated by strange and magical creatures. However, unlike the delicate French tale, this one is as colorful and bold as its Mexican setting. Stand-up Maria, who is ultimately the one who leads the town against the bandits, is just awesome. Love some of the members of boy's family, too.

While lacking the ethereal charm of Jack, this robust Mexican tale is frankly a lot more fun, with animation that's just as unique. Give this vibrant fairy tale a whirl with older kids on up who are interested in fairy tales or cultures from around the world.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dodging the Snow and Ice

Started a sunny, glittering morning with breakfast and finishing out Blade Runner. Honestly, I didn't get a lot of this one. Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a cop searching for Replicants, extremely human robots that can kill at a moment's notice...provided they live to do so. They were originally sent off-planet, but some came back. While a couple are just trying to make a living, many have gone rogue and are killing anyone in their path. Deckard has to bring them back...while dealing with his feelings about one attractive female Replicant (Sean Young).

After enjoying my visits with the original Star Wars trilogy and Last Starfighter, I thought I'd give other sci-fi movies from my childhood a shot. While I admired the whole "40's film noir meets 80's cyber punk" look and found the story to be unique, it was just a bit too complicated and far too violent for my taste. Some good performances, though, especially Ford and Young as the central couple and Rutger Hauer as the wolf-like Replicant killer. I saw the "Final Cut," with the ambiguous ending Ridley Scott had apparently intended, but this is another one of those movies that has 800 versions floating around out there. If you enjoy cyber punk or the darker side of sci-fi a lot more than I do, pick your favorite version and enjoy the neon.

I have a ton of errands I want to do this week, many of which I've had to put off during the last couple of weeks either due to illness or extreme weather. Getting the laundry done was first on the list. I really didn't have much to do, but I wanted to get it out of the way. The laundromat was dead, possibly because the small parking lot is kind of sloped and always ends up flooded and/or clogged with snow and ice after bad weather. I worked on story ideas and listened to The View and Action News. The place was pretty quiet except me, the TV, and one or two other people. I was in and out in less than an hour.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then went right back out again. There were backhoes digging out the sides of the roads on West Clinton and men trying to make paths through the snow-covered picnic tables, even as I parked my bike in front of Phillies Phatties. I had my usual slice of cheese and slice of mushroom for lunch, along with a bottle of Diet Pepsi. (The cooler with the cans was broken.) Needless to say, given the mess on the sidewalk, I stayed inside and sort-of listened to AMC going in the background.

Headed across a snow-covered Newton River Park (or the road alongside it - the park itself wasn't shoveled) to Westmont next. The Haddon Township Library was a little busier than the laundromat had been. There were piles and piles of DVDs to shelve. For once, everything fit, even the S titles on the kids' spinning racks. I put away a nice pile of audio books and CDs, too. I guess everyone wanted something to watch or listen to during the storm.

In addition to another Star Wars visual dictionary (this one emphasizing the movies), I took out a lot of DVDs this week. They finally had The Breakfast Club in; I picked up Ferris Bueller's Day Off as well, both as inspiration for the Star Wars 80's story I have planned. Barbie and Her Sisters: A Puppy Adventure doesn't sound much more promising than the pony story from a few years ago, but I figured I'd try it. The Book of Life, a Mexican-based animated fantasy tale, sounds more interesting. I haven't heard good things about Jupiter Ascending, but it wouldn't be the first time I enjoyed a sci-fi/fantasy movie that other people didn't get (John Carter).

Made a very quick stop at Thriftway on the way home. They have cheaper prices on whole wheat flour than the Acme does, mainly because they still sell generic whole-wheat flour. They were quiet when I arrived. I guess a lot of people are still iffy about being out on the roads.

I can't say I blame them. Though I really didn't have many problems on the roads, the side of the roads are clogged with piles of snow and ice more than a foot tall. Some sidewalks haven't been shoveled, either. I had an easier time on the main roads.

Once I got home, I spent the next few hours working on my writing. I'm starting my next story, and it's my first original in a long time. A young woman lives alone on the edge of a small village. She works as a grocer, but spends most of her time creating stories. She's too shy to sell those stories, especially when town leaders turn them away. She's lonely, happier among the animals of the forest and the characters in her head than the people of the village. She wishes she could have a companion, especially since the last man she loved left her many years ago. Little does she know that her wish will be granted, sooner than she thinks...

This is intended to be a simple fairy tale, created from every fantasy and fairy tale I've written in my head and made notes for since I was in my late childhood. I'm going to try to keep it a lot simpler than my last stories - I'm hoping it'll only take a week or two.

Put on The Breakfast Club while having broccoli in Red Wine Sauce and the last of the baked chicken legs for dinner. Five seemingly stereotypical teenagers find themselves stuck in a day-long detention on a Saturday. Needless to say, none of them are happy to be there at first. They spend the first half of the day harassing each other and the teacher in charge...until they defend each other against the teacher during lunch. Drugs and their shared frustration with their parents bring them closer together, allowing them to discover that maybe they're not as typical as they think they are...and that it can be liberating to step out of the box created by family and peers once in a while.

It's amazing how so much can be drawn from so little. This is a very interesting character study of just how kids (and many adults, too) can get so caught up in their own little world, they ignore anything that's outside of it, including other people who might understand them. I actually understand it better now than I did at their age. As a teenager, I wasn't a part of any clique. I was probably closest to eccentric Allison (Ally Sheedy) without the compulsive lying (and practically hauling an entire wardrobe in my purse). Nowadays, I do know what it's like to feel boxed in by expectations and concerns, including your own.

While the central conceit still resonates, a lot of the details have dated badly. Tough kid Bender (Judd Hirsch)'s treatment of popular Claire (Molly Ringwauld) will come off as less amusing and more sexual harassment today. What nerdy Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) did to land in day-long detention would merit far worse punishment than merely a few hours writing. There's the teacher's harsh behavior to all the kids, too, especially Bender. Not to mention the drug-fueled second half and some insults that would come off as racial slurs.

For all the dated aspects, this one still discusses issues many people, teens and adults, continue to grapple with and relate to. The issues will probably fly over the heads of most young kids, even if the language doesn't. For mid-teens on up, this remains essential viewing.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

In the Aftermath of the Storm

I couldn't believe how much snow was on my porch and in the yard when I woke up this morning. Everything had been covered, except for the path to my door Miss Willa and my next-door neighbors shoveled earlier that morning and the steps to my porch, which are in direct sunlight and are usually the first things to dry out after precipitation. I had enough time to make some quick Gingerbread Pancakes for breakfast and listen to one of my 80's music CD's before rushing off to work.

Or trying to rush off to work. I took the bike. I figured most major roads had to have been cleared by quarter of 1. I underestimated just how bad this storm was. Surprisingly, Manor Avenue wasn't really that bad, and the Black Horse Pike and ramp into Oaklyn were perfectly fine. Kendall Boulevard was another story. It was a clogged mess of slush, snow, and salt that hadn't been plowed properly at all. I was not happy as I skidded and dug through the mess. Kendall is one of the major arteries into Oaklyn. If anything, this road should have had top priority. It certainly should have been plowed right by 1. I barely got to work on time.

As it turned out, I could have been indefinitely late. We were dead-to-mildly-steady for the entire afternoon. Most people weren't in the happiest moods about the condition of the roads, either. Kendall Boulevard wasn't the only place that hadn't been dug out. While the Acme's main parking lot and the one adjacent to Arby's were plowed, the one on the other side, near the liquor store, Marburn Curtains, and Applebee's, had been completely ignored. Both the lot and the entrance near Applebee's were still under a ton of snow. A lot of people complained about getting stuck at the Applebee's ramp. I have no idea why they plowed our lot and Arby's and ignored the other one.

After buying some much-needed unbleached flour and brown sugar, I opted to take Nicholson Road and Atlantic Avenue home, instead of dealing with Kendall again. While Nicholson was a mess around Audubon Park, once you got past the development and the Senior Center, it was fine. Atlantic and Manor were no problems, either, a little clogged but nothing like Kendall was.

I spent the rest of the evening eating honey-glazed carrots and leftover meatloaf for dinner and watching Blade Runner. I didn't finish it; I'll give a full report tomorrow.

And two notes. First of all, I saw the very beginning of the Broncos-Patriots championship game at work during break. I'm very happy the Broncos won. Truthfully, I'm not overfond of either team, but I'd rather see the Broncos go than the Patriots yet again. On the other hand, I do like the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers, both genuinely good teams that deserve their success. Though the Cardinals have many virtues, I wasn't surprised that they were creamed by the Panthers, 49-15. Everyone's been creamed by the Panthers this season, including the Eagles. I honestly think they have a very good chance at killing the Broncos in the Super Bowl, too.

The other note is, I just went outside briefly and stuck a ruler into the snow on my porch. It almost covered the ruler. I think it's safe to say we at least got a foot or more. And it actually could have been worse. People at the Jersey Shore, including my friend Kelly Conrad who lives in Wildwood, were reporting devastating flooding that was almost at Hurricane Sandy levels. The photo Kelly posted at Facebook showed water literally lapping at her doorstep.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow Way to Treat a Writer

If you've seen the news, you may have already guessed that I never left the apartment today. I awoke to a completely white world...and a phone call. It was Rose. The main roads were clear, but many back roads weren't, and visibility was next to nothing. I would have to call out. It didn't bother my managers when I called. The one I talked to said everyone else called out. It bothered the heck out of me. It was only four hours, but I needed them. My paycheck is going to be worthless next week. Rose said she was going to walk over to Dad's later with Khai. She invited me along, but if I couldn't get to work, there was no way I was going anywhere else.

I settled on a snow day instead. Started things off with breakfast and the rest of the live-action Disney Cinderella, which I began last night. If you know the original Disney animated film (or the Charles Perrault story that inspired both), you know the story. Cinderella (Lily James) is the put-upon servant of her selfish stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two silly and stupid stepsisters. She meets Prince Kit (Richard Madden) on a ride in the country and falls for him. She'd love to go to the ball in his honor, but her mother destroys the only good outfit she has. Enter her slightly daffy fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), whose magic will allow her to attend the ball and step into the limelight. Her stepmother's not happy about that, though, and neither is the Duke, who wants the Prince to marry a princess from another kingdom in a political alliance. But true love will find a way...and teach everyone a lesson in the importance of being yourself.

First of all, this was a vast improvement over the badly botched Maleficent. The characters felt a lot truer to both the original Disney film and the Perrault tale they're based after. Kit, while a tad shallow, is still more interesting than the cardboard prince from the animated movie. Blanchett and Carter are even better as the two very different mother figures in Cinderella's life. The cinematography is incredible. I especially love the use of color. Cinderella's famous blue ballgown pops in a rich Technicolor tapestry at the ball. It felt like an exquisite fantasy of the 1940's and 50's. I also like the allusion to the Grimm's version as well with the emphasis on Cinderella's relationship with her mother. (And no, the animals don't talk here or rescue anybody.)

Ironically, my main problem once again was with the lead protagonist...but it's sort of the opposite problem from Maleficent. Where Maleficent seemed totally out of line with her original characterization, a little too updated, Cinderella could have stood for more updating. She actually seems more passive than in the original, often standing around and being mistreated, where in the cartoon, she would have had at least a saucy remark. And the ending is just a little weird, even for a fantasy.

The quibble about Cindy aside, I still highly recommend this, especially for princess-crazy girls. (It also gives me high hopes for the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast Disney's talking about for next year.)

I thought the day was perfect for trying something I hadn't made in years. It's been ages since I've made bread, real yeast bread. I don't really eat it that often, but the day seemed to call for it. Why run to the store for it when you can make it yourself? I kept forgetting it was rising. Otherwise, my Buttermilk Rye-Whole Wheat loaf came out pretty well, nice and moist and a bit chewy.

Stuck to fairy tales while I did lunch. "The Snow Queen" episode of Fairy Tale Theatre seemed rather appropriate. Gerda and Kai are best friends, but one day, Kai gets a shard of glass in his eye, sent to Earth by a mischievous goblin. The shard makes Kai discontented and nasty. He falls off the roof and is rescued by the mysterious Snow Queen, who takes him to his kingdom to teach him about love. Meanwhile, Gerda goes to literally the ends of the Earth to find her friend. Neither snow nor a lonely summer sorceress or a spunky thief will keep Gerda from finding Kai.

Moved onto sitcoms as I decided to try something a little different. One of the chocolate chip cookie recipes in the Country Cookies cookbook Lauren gave me last year includes pudding mix in the list of ingredients. I'd never seen that before. I only had chocolate pudding mix, so I added the coffee extract and mint chocolate chips I got on clearance at work and turned Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies into Mocha Mint Chip Cookies. Yum. Could have used a tad more chocolate and coffee flavor (if I make these again, I'll up the amount used for both). Otherwise, not bad at all.

A two-parter towards the end of the second season of Perfect Strangers was Balki and Larry's first of three encounters with bad vacations. "Snow Way to Treat a Lady" has the duo joining their girlfriends Mary Anne and Jennifer on a skiing trip. Trouble is, Larry can't ski, and Balki never has before. Larry lies to Jennifer that he's a great skier. He tries to show off, but he lands them in a cabin during an avalanche. The boys try to tunnel their way out.

When the cookies were out of the oven, I set the bread to rise a second time, then worked on writing and did stuff online. I finally finished out Babes In WENNLand. Lisa and Alan get a ride home with a mysteriously familiar Santa. They try to ask him questions, but fall asleep on the way. When Lisa wakes up, they're back at WENN, and their mother has arrived for them. Scott and Betty (who are going on a date) brings them to her. Lisa tells her mother she's learned a lot...and that she doesn't mind being a kid so much anymore.

Whew! I know that took a while, but life, illness, holidays, and my renewed interest in Star Wars got in the way more often than not. The next story I have planned is something totally different - an original fairy tale about a young woman who discovers a mysterious man half-dead in the forest. When the shy young storyteller takes him home to tend to his wounds, she finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime when he turns out to be far more than just an ordinary woodsman.

This one is really intended to be short and (cross your fingers!) shouldn't take more than a week or two, tops. After that, I'll move onto the Star Wars 80's story, then either do the Star Wars fairy tale or return to Once Upon a Time In the Land of WENN, depending on how I feel.

At any rate, Babes In WENNLand is now available at my writing blog. I'm not up to posting it at my WENN site tonight - I may see if I can get it up there tomorrow.

Ran the first half of That's Entertainment Part III while having leftovers for dinner. The That's Entertainment movies make great background music when I'm either not in the mood for something with a plot, or need background music, or just can't decide on which musical I want to watch. This was the third and final That's Entertainment documentary, focusing on cut or unused numbers. Among my favorites - Lena Horne's "Ain't It the Truth" in the bubble bath from Cabin In the Sky and Judy Garland's adorable "Doin' What Comes Naturally" from Annie Get Your Gun.

And...yeah, it's been snowing for most of the day, sometimes heavily. While the winds don't sound as bad as they did earlier, they were really going this morning and afternoon. If it's snowing at all now, it's nothing like it was when Rose called this morning. My porch is a sea of white crystal dunes. Miss Willa shoveled a path on my porch around 3:30; it's half-covered again now.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Beating the Snow to the Punch

Started a gray, cold morning with Charlie's arrival. Yes, the heater was fixed, and it was working. I wanted to linger in bed, since the apartment was still chilly, but that wasn't possible. I had early work. I ate as quickly as I could, but I still left a bit late.

Not a good thing. As you can imagine, the Acme was crazy today, especially early on. As of right now, they're talking about anything from 12 inches to two feet of snow here. I really don't see the point of the fussing. Sure, it'll snow tomorrow, but it's supposed to get in the 40's by next week. It'll be at least three-fourths gone by next Friday. Thankfully, it did calm down a bit later in the afternoon. Didn't help that, thanks to those cut hours, we didn't have anything resembling enough help. I did stay a half-hour longer - the line could have been worse. Customers were cranky, too. I just think that after the weather was so ridiculously warm last month, everyone assumed it would continue...and are annoyed that no, we don't live in Florida, and yes, it is winter in New Jersey, and snow will happen.

Lines or no lines, I had shopping to do after work. No, it wasn't for bread, milk, or eggs. I have plenty of eggs, bought milk last week, and don't eat a lot of bread anyway. I mostly restocked produce - apples, carrots, grapefruit, bananas, and a bag of vegetable stir fry veggies. Needed peanut butter, jam (the Acme generic organic preserves were the cheapest brand they had with real sugar), canned no salt added tomato sauce, canned chicken, navy beans, and cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats was on sale). Treated myself to four of the small Land o' Lakes Gourmet hot chocolate packets.

My schedule for next week, much to my dismay, is almost the same as this week...with pretty much the same days off. Still not enough hours, too. I hope the W-2s come soon. These paychecks are not going to be enough to sustain me.

When I finally got home, I put everything away, then went on the computer. Babes In WENNLand is slowly but surely finishing. Santa has assigned Floretta (Eugenia) and the gypsies to take Barnaby and the trolls to the Forest of No Return and leave them there. Scott asks for his permission to marry Betty, which he grants.

Rose called while I was finishing up with writing. She was worried. She didn't want me to go to work tomorrow. I have to. I can't afford to take time off. I'll lose money. I'll walk. She fussed, saying I wouldn't be able to see and other cars wouldn't be able to see me. I wish she wouldn't worry. It's not like I haven't walked to work in the snow before. I told her I'd call her in the morning and we'd see what the snow looked like.

And speaking of the snow, it finally started around 7:30. It's been going ever since. It doesn't look bad. We do have several inches as of now - though I don't think it's a foot. I've heard the snow plows all evening. The real problem right now is less snow and more gusty winds, which I can also hear.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Listen to the Ticking Heart

Began a quick morning with two winter-themed episodes of Sailor Moon from the first season. In the first story, Usagi and Rei compete in a Miss Moon Princess skiing competition. They hit a lot more than a rough course when it turns out to be a Negaverse plot. The second story returns to Tokyo. The Guardians are excited when a new ice skating rink opens, and two Olympic champion pair skaters are offering lessons. Their delight subsides quickly when Makoto falls for the male half, making his partner jealous...and they both turn out to be working for the Negaverse.

While work wasn't too bad when I arrived at 11, by noon, we were crazy, and we stayed that way the rest of the day. The weather reports are insane, ranging anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow on Saturday. They forgot one thing, though. It's supposed to get into the upper 30's-lower 40's by next week (and not really be all that cold even on Saturday). Whatever we get Saturday will probably be almost all gone by this time next week. Nobody was in the best mood, either. This is our first real snow storm of the winter season. I'm guessing everyone was hoping it would stay in the 60's, like at Christmas. (Why? It's winter. It's supposed to do this.) I was so happy when my relief was on time and I could get out as fast as I could.

When I got home, I made ground chicken meatloaf for dinner, then threw together banana muffins for meals at work this week. Watched the very odd Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart while I worked. Jack was born with a frozen heart, on the coldest day ever in existence. A kind midwife replaced the frozen heart with a cuckoo clock heart. She warned him that he must never let the clock run down, always take care of it, and never fall in love, for that might put undue strain on the clock. Jack's able to do the first two, but on his first day in town,  he falls in love with a beautiful young singer named Miss Andelusia. When he thinks he's killed a bully at school, he flees, meeting a magician on his way across Europe. They find Miss Andelusia at a traveling carnival. Though Jack learns much about illusion, love, and freedom from his new friends, he also learns just how difficult and how complicated learning to truly love someone can be.

This was...really strange, but rather sweet, in an odd way. It was sort of like a French Tim Burton movie, up to and including the cut-out stop-motion animation style. It's weird and a little grotesque but strangely charming. I couldn't figure out the "not precisely an ending" finale, though. Not too bad if you like animation from across the ocean or want to check out a strange but charming and very unique fairy tale.

And...darn it, I'm freezing! The heater isn't working again. I'll have to get to Charlie right before I leave tomorrow and tell him to fix it pronto. This is a bad time for it to break down.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Market Place Adventures

Thankfully, it remained sunny as I started the day with breakfast and How I Spent My Vacation. It's summer, and the Tiny Toons are thrilled that they're finally let out of the confines of Acme Looniversity. The movie splits into several different, fairly bizarre story lines. Babs and Buster's ongoing water gun war eventually morphs into a ride down-river, dodging two groups of critters who want to eat them. Plucky comes to regret his begging to join Hampton on his family's trip to Happy World Land, which involves annoying card games, never opening windows, a very smelly uncle, and picking up killer hitchhikers. Elmyra wrecks havoc in a wild safari park, chasing every animal she can get her hands on. Fowlmouth tries to get Shirley the Loon to go to the movies with him (and makes nothing but trouble when she finally agrees), Fifi Le Fume is desperate to get the autograph of her favorite movie star, but discovers it's not worth the grief when he turns out to be not at all what she imagined.

This is another old favorite - we had the video for years. Like the regular show, a lot of the references and humor in this hasn't dated well. Many of the references will be obscure even to some people who were around then. Some of the segments work better than others. Fifi's story with the movie star is a bit cliched, while I just found Elmyra's to be annoying. The longer stories of Babs and Buster and especially Plucky's car ride from hell work somewhat better.

As much as I still enjoy it, I really only recommend it for fans of Tiny Toons and similar topical Warners animated shows from this era like Animaniacs.

Finally got the laundry done around quarter of noon. I worked on story ideas for my upcoming fanfiction while Action News droned on in the background about the snow we're supposed to be getting starting Friday. The one I'm working on now is the first of two Star Wars fanfictions I have in mind.

The year is 1983, and Student Council president Laura O'Gannon is in very big trouble. Galaxia High School in the Philadelphia suburbs is at war with the White Star Academy and its troublemaking Imperial Gang. The Gang gets their hands on her...but not before she leaves information about the Academy with two nerdy exchange students. They just happen to hide in the trunk of a station wagon owned by one Luke Walker, a shy newcomer. The three first get the help of Mr. Ben Kennally, a kind teacher who knows Laura's wealthy family. Luke knows there's no way his uncle's poky wagon will outrun the Imperial Gang, so he, Ben, and the nerds hire Hank "Solo" Solokowski and his big Cockney friend Charlie to drive them to White Star and find Laura.

Inspired by a series of Star Wars-80's high school art I found on DeviantArt, I'm going to dig deep into my childhood for this one. Along with the obvious John Hughes influences, I'm also going for the original The Karate Kid, as well as mildly fantasy-oriented 80's action comedies like Big Trouble In Little China and Back to the Future and slobs vs snobs comedies like Caddyshack and One Crazy Summer.

(The other Star Wars story I have planned goes in the opposite direction to pure fantasy. A very, very feisty maiden is locked in a tower by her wicked black knight guardian. The last thing she's expecting is to be rescued by a wanna-be stable boy-turned white knight and a cocky thief. She certainly never expected to fall for the thief, nor to pursue him until the almost literal ends of the kingdom when the black knight curses him and takes him away.)

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then went right back out again. I wanted to head to the Market Place shopping center. I needed ink at Best Buy (it's cheaper than at Staples) and to use some coupons for Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It was still sunny when I hit the White Horse Pike to wait for the bus. The bus was on time, and there was no traffic going there at all.

It was late, past 2:30, when I finally got to lunch at Panera Bread. They were surprisingly busy for so late in the day. There wasn't a line, but there were still a lot of people in the dining area. I had a messy turkey Pannini with thick tomato slices and lots of cheese and ranch dressing and a cup of French onion soup. I didn't like the soup as much as the one I had at Applebee's a few weeks ago. While they did have Panera's home-made croutons and nice, thick onion pieces, they didn't use nearly as much cheese as Applebee's did. It was barely floating around in there.

I was in and out of most stores. Needless to say, given the weather, Wegman's was a disaster area. (And that was just the parking lot.) I bought brown sugar and two clearance Pumpkin Spice pudding mixes (I never saw them at the Acme this Christmas) and got the heck out of there. Best Buy was better. I just grabbed my ink and checked to see if they had the Sailor Moon season 2 sets. (Nope, just season 1, and only in Blu-Ray. I think I may end up ordering those online.)

Bed, Bath, and Beyond wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I've been meaning to buy new shower curtain rings. The old plastic ones came with the apartment. Two have already broken, and a couple of the others are cracking. I bought metal rings, along with a good,  heavy shower curtain and that same chocolate macaroon cookie mix I loved last year.

Ended up spending an hour or so at Barnes and Noble. Alas, I didn't see anything I absolutely needed to have. They didn't have any of the new American Girl books in, even for the new Girl of the Year. Nothing good in the Bargain Priced shelves, either. I walked out with nothing.

Once again, the bus was on time. While there was a little traffic going back, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary at rush hour. I got off at the former Camden Restaurant Supply Company building at around 6 and was taking out the trash by 6:30.

I finished out Tiny Toons while I made the chocolate macaroon bars. Did a quick 80's cartoon special while I ate leftovers for dinner. Rescue at Midnight Castle (aka Firefly's Adventure) was the very first My Little Pony cartoon. It's a lot darker than one might think of for a franchise about rainbow-colored horses. A young girl named Megan is recruited to help a group of magical ponies rescue their comrades from an evil demon who has turned them into dragons. The dragons will pull his chariot, helping to bring around an endless night. Megan and the ponies have to find the "Rainbow of Light" that'll defeat the demon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Between the Snow Showers

Got a fast start on another very chilly, sunny day with breakfast and some snow-themed Max & Ruby. A blizzard causes Ruby to declare that it's "Max's Snow Day" and insist they stay indoors and do crafts. Max would rather play outside. "Max's Snow Bunny" is a story he and Ruby heard on the radio about the fearsome Abominable Snow Bunny. Ruby says it isn't real, but Max keeps seeing signs that seem to prove otherwise. "Max's Mix-Up" happens after he and Ruby have spent all morning sledding. Ruby wants to go inside, but Max wants to keep going. The arrival of Louise and her little brother Morris gives Max a chance to get his way.

Cold weather or no cold weather, I had a few errands to run today, especially before we get the snow that's supposed to arrive on Friday. My first stop was Rite Aid. Considering the weather reports, they were surprisingly quiet. I needed more cold medicine; just grabbed Rite Aid's generic brand this time. Picked up a pretty country-themed calendar for the main hallway and scrub sponges, the latter to save me a trip to Dollar Tree. I noticed they had the Tiny Toons movie How I Spent My Vacation. I've been wanting to find that. The girls and I loved it when we were kids.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library for my first session there in over two weeks. It looked it. The kids' section was a mess. Everything is overloaded to the gills. I organized and re-organized everything, and I still couldn't get in a lot of S titles. Had far more luck with the adult DVDs, all of which went back with no problems.

Found the new Disney live-action Cinderella in the kids' section; also picked up Blade Runner (which I've been wanting to see for ages) and a European animated movie called Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. They finally had Quiet, on introversion and how it's not a bad thing, in after it being out for more than a year. Found a massive guide to the Star Wars universe as well. If I'm going to admit to being a fan again, I might as well reacquaint myself with the basics.

Stopped at Wendy's for a very late lunch. It was so late, they were totally dead when I arrived. Everyone was in the drive-in, heading home from work. I enjoyed my Bacon Gouda Cheeseburger, fries, and Diet Coke in comparative quiet.

Cut through Newton Lake Park on my way home. The recent cold snap was literally and figuratively reflected in still waters that were (mostly) frozen for the first time since March. It was also reflected in the empty park. The only creatures I passed on my way home were a flock of Canadian geese poking around for an early dinner.

Worked on more writing when I got home. Santa Claus has arrived in Toyland, just as the kids and Mr. Eldridge explain to Mother Gloria Goose why Christmas is important. Everyone tells Santa what Barnaby has been up to. Santa banishes Barnaby to the Forest of No Return with the trolls.

Ran a couple of episodes of Tales of the Gold Monkey while I made Pasta and Bean Fagioli for a quick dinner. Jake was "Once a Tiger," but even though he's no longer a part of the flying squadron, he's still eager to help a former team mate when he's downed during a mission. "Legends are Forever," or so Jake's old buddy Gandy claims. Gandy takes him, Corky, and Louie to an island inhabited by African natives that may or may not be home to King Solomon's Mines.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A World For All

Brr! I awoke to a chilly day, no more than in the 20's. I honored Martin Luther King Jr. Day with poems and essays about peace from Collier's Book of Holidays. They're actually intended for United Nations Day, but that's seldom celebrated anymore, and I figured Dr. King did try to bring about peace, so they worked well for this holiday, too.

After I ate breakfast, I went right into dusting. It needed to be done badly. I'd put it off, but the apartment was really nasty after the holidays. The bedroom in particular was horrible. When I finished that, I put up the remaining winter decorations. A few went up with the Christmas stuff, but I usually save most of it for after the holidays. I have three stuffed snowmen whom I have no room for in December, along with a stuffed groundhog for Groundhog's Day and a lot of "snowmen playing winter sports" cardboard hangings I found at the Acme years ago, when I first moved here.

Ran An American Tail while I ate and cleaned. Returned to Don Bluth for this melodramatic 1986 animated film about a little Russian mouse in the late 19th century who immigrates with his family to New York, only to be lost overboard on the way there. When he washes up, he's first befriended by a French pigeon, then takes to the streets of New York to find his family. While he searches for them, the rest of the mice in New York try to figure out a way to get rid of the cats, including notorious Warren T. Rat, who is hiding a secret. Dark story with wonderful music; not my favorite Bluth film, but an interesting discussion on the immigrant experience for older kids (if you can get them past the mice).

Spent the next few hours working on writing. I'm finally getting close to the ending of Babes In WENNLand. Mr. Eldridge shows up with the kids and the toy soldier just as Barnaby cuts Scott's hand and knocks the sword out of it. Mr. Eldridge's toy soldier has enough firepower to knock everyone to the ground...including Barnaby! While the larger soldiers arrest him, the gypsies show up with Maple's sheep, which had been hidden near Barnaby's home Crooked Manor.

At this point, Barnaby's men Rodrigo and Gonzorgo reappear, still tied up as they were in the factor. Also turning up is Mother Gloria (Redmond) Goose herself, wondering what's going on at this Festival. While Lisa and Mr. Eldridge talk about her getting on with her life despite her husband's death, the two goons explain that they were told to steal the sheep and toys and frame Scott, and they took the papers that indicated Betty owned the factory, too. They're in the safe at Crooked Manor.

Finally let off to have Merlin's Magic (Baked) Chicken, sauteed spinach, onions, and mushrooms, and a baked sweet potato for dinner. Watched West Side Story as I ate. This Oscar-winning dramatic musical is an early 60's take on Romeo and Juliet. The Jets are a gang of kids in a New York neighborhood from various older immigrant stock. The Sharks are Puerto Rican and Hispanic kids, new arrivals in the US. They both want the same turf, and will literally fight to keep it. That doesn't stop Tony (Richard Beymer), one of the Jets, for falling for Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of the head Shark (George Chalikis). While the gangs wage war (and perform some still freakin' amazing dance numbers), the two lovers fall head over heels for one another. Will the gangs' rivalry come between them?

Let's get to the most famous part of this - those dances. Yes, they're still every bit as amazing as everyone has always talked about. Jerome Robbins' stylized choreography speaks about these kids in ways no words ever could. The gorgeous music is some of the finest work of Leonard Bernstein and Stephan Sondheim,, including the hits "Somewhere," "Tonight," "Maria," and "Something's Coming." There's some wonderful performances. Chalikis and Rita Moreno (as his girlfriend) won supporting actor Oscars. Natalie Wood may not be Puerto Rican, but she makes a heartbreaking Maria, and totally nails that final scene with the gun and the gangs.

While the musical aspects are still pretty interesting, some of this hasn't dated that well. The attitude on the cops here, especially towards the Hispanic kids, would get them arrested or start race riots today. The slang, both made-up and real, just sounds silly. And some of the adults are right - there's no reason these kids should be waging war, other than they feel like it. Also, you may have guessed by now that this is not a feel-good musical. As with its inspiration, it ends tragically, and there's several deaths and quite a bit of danced violence. This is probably one of the darkest musicals out there along with Les Miserables. It also shares the same problem as most 60's and 70's Broadway adaptations of being too long. They apparently switched around the order of some of the songs as well.

This really isn't for kids, but for young teens on up, if you like musicals that are either drama or dance-based and can handle the violence and issues, this is one of the finest musicals of the early 60's and still worth seeing.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Let It Snow (A Little Bit)

It was just a bit cloudy when I awoke this morning. I had enough time to indulge in Cocoa Mint Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast before heading off to work. Enjoyed one of my Billy Joel records while I ate. My fondness for Joel dates back to childhood. Both of my parents were huge fans of his. Mom claims she saw him perform during his real-life "Piano Man" days. Dad-Bill was a fellow Long Island native. I believe we did have The Bridge in the 80's, part of Mom's massive record collection. "A Matter of Trust" and the bittersweet ballad "This Is the Time" were the hits. I'm also fond of Joel's duet with Ray Charles, "Baby Grand," and the dynamic "Big Man On Mulberry Street."

Moved on to more 80's Joel as I got ready to head out. Our favorite Joel album during my kid years - and still my favorite album of his - was An Innocent Man. It has my favorite song of his on it, "Uptown Girl," along with "Keeping the Faith," "Tell Her About It," "Leave the Tender Moment Alone," and "Easy Money."

Work was mostly steady all afternoon. There were a few grouchy people, but nothing like yesterday. Actually, the managers were the problem this time. They were really unorganized. Everyone's break was late, and they had no relief for me and wouldn't find someone to step in for me when I had a line. I just barely got out on time.

I'd heard talk about snow from customers during the latter half of my shift, but I didn't really believe it. It was just cloudy this morning, and not that cold. Much to my surprise, it actually was snowing as I headed out. It wasn't snowing heavily, though, really more like a shower, and it was almost done by the time I got home. Though it did stick to the grass, the streets were just wet. In fact, it looked very pretty and romantic, like an old-fashioned painting.

Spent the next few hours when I got in trying to concentrate on writing. Scott realizes that Barnaby was the one who framed him. He wanted him out of the way, so he could get Betty and the factory. Barnaby makes him lose his sword, and he's about to run him through when the kids and Mr. Eldridge arrive...

Threw together vegetables, canned chicken, and leftover soup for dinner while listening to more classic rock. Did the Cat Stevens Greatest Hits LP I picked up a while back. "Wild World" is probably my favorite of his, though I'm also fond of "Morning Has Broken."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fairy Tales From the 90's

Started a sunny, warm-ish day with breakfast, tidying up around the apartment, and making the bed. I don't often make the bed. Who's gonna see it? Trouble is, all those blankets were starting to fall everywhere. Given it's supposed to get extra-cold in the coming days, I'm going to need them.

Ran most of Anastasia as I got organized. This 1997 animated extravaganza turns Russian history into a bizarre and funny fairy tale about an orphan named Anya (Meg Ryan). She's determined to get to Paris, where she may have family. Con-men Dimintri (John Cusack) and Vladmir (Kelsey Grammer) are looking for a girl to play the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who may or may not have survived the Russian Revolution. They want to take her to Paris to fool Anastasia's grandmother the Dowager Duchess (Angela Landsbury) and get the reward money. While Dimintri and Anya fight their way across Europe, there's something more sinister rising beneath the surface. Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), the former monk who had been the adviser to the royal house, died while executing his curse on the family. Now's he's determined to eliminate the last remaining member...which may just be Anya.

Major historical inaccuracies aside, I have to admit I have a soft spot for this one. I adore the music. Broadway tunesmiths Stephan Flahery and Lynn Aherns crafted a wonderful score, including the gorgeous, haunting "Once Upon a December." I asked for the CD for Christmas when the movie came out, and I've had it ever since. The animation is incredible, especially a runaway train explosion and a nightmare sequence on a boat. The characters are mostly a lot of fun, especially the spunky Anya herself. I'm less fond of Rasputin - the running gag with him losing  his body parts is unnecessary, and frankly, gross, and he gets my least-favorite number in the film.

A fair amount of violence makes this for older grade school princesses on up as they try to find their own journeys. Just be on hand to explain what's real and what isn't.

Work was on-and-off steady. It was still sunny and relatively warm when I arrived at work. Alas, the weather didn't remain. It got cloudy as early as 2. Maybe that's why people were in such bad moods. I had a lot of customers who were cranky, grouchy, grumpy, and just plain rude! You'd think people would be much happier on a holiday weekend. I was so happy when it slowed down enough by 4 for me to shut down with no relief.

Good thing, because I had a lot of grocery shopping to do. Most of it was restocking - grapefruit, sugar, apples, bananas, spinach, sponges (the generic Acme brand was buy-one-get-one for the 3-pack), I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, crushed pineapple, milk, Campbell's Hearty Chicken Soup, canned chicken. I found two seasonal boxes of Bigelow Tea on two separate clearances. One was the herbal Peppermint Bark (might be good for upset tummies - and I'll bet it'll be great iced). The other was more intriguing - Girl Scouts' Coconut and Caramel. I love the cookies. That was a no-brainer. Also grabbed more of those tasty Nestle's mint chocolate chips on clearance.

Went into writing when I got home. The kids are surprised to see Mr. Eldridge has created a toy soldier with their candy canes, and one that's much smaller than the others. They don't know how he can help...until their grandfather brings them over and sees Scott dueling with Barnaby, who has pulled a sword out of his cane.

When I got hungry, I made a spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelet for dinner. Watched The Swan Princess while I ate, and then while I vacuumed the apartment. Anastasia put me in the mood for another animated musical from the 90's about an especially strong princess. The title character is Odette (Michelle Nicastro) who has been turned into a swan by the evil Rothbart (Jack Palance) when the moon is out. At first, the handsome Prince Derek (Howard McGlinn), who has loved her since they were children, thinks she's the evil creature she's looking for. When she explains the curse, he swears he'll make a vow to her at the ball his mother is holding so he can find a bride. Odette's friends Puffin, Speed (Stephan Wright), and Jean-Bob (a frog who thinks he's a prince) do their best to help her...but thanks to Rothbart's trickery, they may be too late...

Like Anastasia, my favorite things about this one is the lovely music (I love the hilarious opening number "This Is My Idea") and the princess in question. Not only is this one of the few animated films prior to Frozen to even attempt to develop the romance naturally, but sensible Odette actually questions it when Derek wants to jump right in. I haven't seen the sequels, but this one is fine for most little princesses who love fairy tales with fairly strong heroines.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Starfighting and Cleaning

I set the alarm for 8 AM. I closed my eye for one minute...and the next thing I knew, it was 9:30. Oh well, at least I wasn't working until 1. I still had some time for breakfast and to give the kitchen a desperately-needed cleaning. It was almost as bad as the bathroom. The sink was really grimy, and the counter was a mess. I still need to vacuum.

Had just enough time to watch The Last Starfighter while I cleaned. Alex (Lance Guest) lives in a trailer park with his mother and brother. He'd rather be doing anything but fixing his neighbors' problems, but he's had a hard time getting a loan for college. His favorite thing in the world is playing the "Last Starfighter" arcade game at the trailer park's convenience store. It's a really big deal at the trailer park when he beats the high score...and they aren't the only ones who're impressed. An alien named Centauri (Robert Preston) shows up to whisk the boy into space, where he discovers the game was really a recruiting pilots to fight in an intergalactic war. Now, while he and his kind alien co-pilot does his best to help, he has to defeat the evil Xur, while his robot double on Earth (also Guest) tries to make time with his girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart).

It's too bad this one showed up just as the video/arcade game industry in the US was imploding. (In fact, there was supposed to have been a real game based after this, but it was canceled in the wake of the Great Video Game Crash.) This is actually a really fun and unique tale of what happens when one gamer's dream comes a way he never believed possible. Preston in particular is a delight as the roguish alien recruiter, and Guest does surprisingly well as both the confused everykid and the robot trying to learn to be human. While the CGI effects in space are mostly dated now, they were state-of-the-art at the time, and some still look pretty good. If you're a sci-fi fan looking for something a little different, this is a long-time favorite of mine that really deserves to be better-known.

The movie ended and I finished the kitchen just in time to rush off to work. The hurry wasn't necessary. It was a warm, partly cloudy day, and we were dead for a great deal of it. It did pick up during rush hour, thanks to the clouds moving in. I'm wondering if a lot of people went away for Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend once it started to get warm. At any rate, other than some annoying customers, there were no major problems, and I was in and out.

Oh, and I got my schedule. In bad news, same amount of hours as last week...which is to say, nothing resembling enough. In good news, three days off in a row, from Monday through Wednesday, and next Saturday is the only really late day. In fact, I have a few early days for the first time in weeks. While more hours would have been nice, this will give me a chance to catch up on things after I lost time to being sick this week.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Raiders of the Tasty Banana Cake

I was up late last night again. I didn't get up until past 10. I go through these periods when I stay up really, really late, but it doesn't always happen. I did work at noon, which meant I read my Dashiell Hammett (I'm now on The Dane Curse), wrote in my journal, and had enough time to eat before rushing off to work.

Work could have been worse. The weather is still really cold and we're now between holidays. It won't pick up until later in the weekend, when the weather gets worse and we get closer to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It did get busy during rush hour, but I spent most of the first half of my shift doing returns. My relief was right on time, and there were no major problems.

When I got home, I went into a little bit of writing. Mr. Eldridge is still forming something to distract Pruitt and help Scott...but I'm having a hard time deciding on what! It's part of why I haven't been able to continue with this story. I also went over Once Upon a Time In the Land of WENN. I do plan on continuing with that one - I really was into it - but I absolutely want to finish Babes In WENNLand, and then do a short original fairy tale and the Star Wars 80's High School story.

I started Raiders of the Lost Ark during breakfast. I finished it while eating chicken and winter vegetable salad for dinner and making a deliciously moist Banana Cake (from Kit's Cooking Studio) for dessert. Watching the Star Wars movies a few weeks ago put me in the mood for more adventure and more Harrison Ford.

Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones (Ford) is an archaeologist and teacher who travels the globe, looking for amazing lost artifacts. His newest assignment is to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis and his rival LeBeau do. Joined by his old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) he travels first to Africa, then follows the Nazis to an island where they discover just how powerful the Ark is...and how dangerous it can be to mess around with history.

Yes, I'm also a big Indiana Jones fan. (What can I say? I grew up in the 80's, in a family who collectively loved action-adventure movies, raised by a mother who was and is a huge fantasy/adventure/sci-fi geek.) Though my favorite of them is Last Crusade, they all have their virtues. Marion's fun character helps balance out things a lot here (I wish the leading ladies in the other two 80's Indy films had been as hilarious as her), and there's some nice set pieces and gags, including the infamous opening with the rolling boulder.

You can't go wrong with any of the Indy films. They're all some of the best action-adventure movies ever made. I do recommend you see this one before you check out the much-later Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Otherwise, if you're as big of a fan of Ford and/or dashing adventure as me, pick your favorite and have fun.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chocolate Chip and Pirate Dreams

I really needed to sleep, but the guys downstairs were at work and noisy. I just read in bed and wrote in my journal until I was ready to face the world again. When I did drag myself out of bed, I had breakfast and ran a couple of Laverne & Shirley third season episodes I hadn't gotten to yet. Shirley badly wants to complete "The Obstacle Course" and join the Ladies Police Auxiliary Group, but she's not very good at it. Laverne tries to help build her confidence. Lenny invites Laverne to a "Debutante Ball" when he discovers he's 89th in line for the Polish throne. The girls try to help Carmine earn the money to buy "The Dance Studio," but their attempts to aid him prove to be more of a hindrance than anything else.

Mom called as I was finishing breakfast. I called her a few days ago. She hadn't liked the way I sounded on the phone and was worried. I told her my stomach was mostly better, but my head still feels like it's stuffed with cotton. I'm not the only one who's sick. Dad-Bill has bronchitis; Mom's been taking care of him. Otherwise, everyone is fine. Thanks to the nice weather, Mom's been busy at the Ferry until recently - she only just got days off.

I'd already come to the conclusion that I wasn't up to any kind of volunteering this week, and it's been too cold to wander around at the Market Place shopping center anyway. I did have some errands that I absolutely had to get done today, starting with a run to CVS. Half the medicine in my bathroom is way beyond expired. I don't get sick that often, so I almost never use it. I bought a box of Tylenol Cold & Flu capsules that were on a good sale and a Reeces' Fast Break, and I was still able to get $1.35 back from that gift card Rose gave me for Christmas.

Rose also gave me a $5 gift card to WaWa, so I went there next. Picked up a Turkey Panini and a small bag of Go Life popcorn. (I don't like potato chips. Too greasy.) They were busy, but I got out fast enough.

Had a quick lunch at home, then headed right back out again. I really, really needed to get the laundry done. I'd put it off for over a week. Actually, thanks to not going anywhere for two days, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Thankfully, the laundromat wasn't busy. There was one couple and one other person, and I saw no one else. I worked on story ideas and half-listened to talk shows and Action News.

When I got in, I put the laundry away while finishing out The Pirate Movie, which I began during lunch. One of two versions of The Pirate of Penzance that came out in 1982, this musical tells of Mabel (Kristy MacNichol), a young Australian girl who dreams she's the Mabel of the famous Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. The boy she has a crush on is Fredrick, torn between love and duty. Her friends are the prim sisters; everyone else she met earlier that day are the pirates, the cops, and the Major General. The pirates are after the girls and the General's wealth. When matters come to a head , Mabel learns that in dreams, everyone has the power to make their own happy ending. Goofy and weird but a lot of fun if you can handle odd 80's musical cheese.

Moved to Naughty Marietta while turning chocolate cake mix into Double Fudge Mint Chip Cookies and eating scrambled eggs with winter vegetables for dinner. Mabel is far from the only young woman who dreams of falling for a swashbuckler. Princess Marie (Jeanette MacDonald) runs away to New Orleans with a group of young women who are to become brides for the local population. Their ship is captured by pirates, but the ladies are saved by a group of local mercenaries, including dashing Captain Richard Warrington (Nelson Eddy). She and Warrington don't see eye to eye, but when he discovers she's not exactly the innocent lass, he's more interested. They gradually fall for each other...but matters come crashing down when her guardians and unwanted fiancee arrive and reveal who she really is.

The first of the MacDonald/Eddy movies is my personal favorite of their vehicles along with Maytime. While this was one of Eddy's first acting jobs and he's stiff as a board, MacDonald is clearly having more fun, including getting some good lines. Their "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" duet is an iconic moment. If you love romantic musicals with a little bit of action or the MacDonald/Eddy movies, this is one of the best.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Windy Afternoon

Yeah, I'm still sick. While my stomach felt better, the rest of me feels like it's been outside in the crazy wind that came up today, battered and bombarded. I once again slept in and read Dashiell Hammett until I felt like I could cope with getting out from under five blankets.

Had breakfast, then curled up on the couch while watching Tangled, Disney's version of the fairy tale "Rapunzel." Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is still locked in a tower by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), who wants to use her very long, golden hair to retain her youth. Instead of a prince, Rapunzel's tower is invaded by snarky thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), who has just stolen the crown that belongs to the lost princess of  nearby kingdom. Rapunzel agrees to turn over the crown in return for Flynn taking her to the kingdom to see the floating lights that come out every year on her birthday. Flynn does, reluctantly. During their trip, they make unlikely friends with a group of surprisingly cuddly ruffians and Maximilian, the toughest police horse in the kingdom. Rapunzel and Flynn finally discover that some dreams are worth waiting for...especially when they're dreamed for the ones you care about.

This is one of Disney's cuter movies of the last five or six years. While I heard they changed the prince in the original story to what more-or-less amounts to a fantasy Han Solo to appeal more to boys, it's a move I applaud. I always found the prince in the original "Rapunzel" Grimm story to be especially bland anyway, and Flynn is a riot. Mother Gothel is one of Disney's best female villains, surprisingly subtle and mentally cruel. A hilarious ride with some fun characters - and you'll never look at a frying pan in the same way again.

Worked on a little bit of writing after Tangled ended. It's Alan who finally gets Lisa to admit that she wants to feel like a child...and not like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. She gives Mr. Eldridge one more candy cane, the one Scott Sherwood gave her earlier, to finish his creation.

I was on the computer so long, I barely made it out to work on time! Yes, I did go to work. I literally can't afford to call out. I'm short on hours this week as it is. Besides, it was only a late four-hour night. It wasn't bad when I came in, but by rush hour, everyone had arrived to buy tickets for that huge billion-dollar jackpot. Talk of snow and sleet in the forecast didn't help. It was only just starting to slow down when one of the college students came in for me. Thankfully, there were no really major problems, and I was in and out.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sick Day

Ugh. Yeah, I was sick. I didn't sleep well last night at all. When I went to bed, I was freezing, I had a nasty sore throat, and my head hurt. I slept fitfully until about 9 AM...then tried to go back to sleep until noon. When I finally gave up, I finished Red Harvest and wrote in my journal, at least as well as I could think to.

I didn't eat until nearly 1. I didn't really want to eat, but I figured I needed something in my stomach. Did some Backyardigans while I had vegetable-barley soup. Uniqua, Tasha, and Tyrone are pursuing "The Yeti" across the frozen north. Actually, it's just Pablo being cute, but Uniqua insists that's a Yeti making those tracks. Tasha says there's no such thing.

Since I was already awake and sprawled on the couch (and didn't really feel like moving), I put on Revenge of the Sith. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is chafing under the restraints of the Jedi Council, especially when they won't make him a Master. He's falling under the influence of the manipulative Chancellor Palapatine (Ian McDermid) as well. The Council wants him to spy on Palapatine. Anakin's decision is made easier when his wife Padme (Natalie Portman) announces she's pregnant...and he has a vision about her dying. Palapatine tells Anakin he can cheat death if he comes over to the Dark Side. Anakin's ultimate decisions have explosive and unhappy consequences for him and those he loves, including his teacher and best friend Obi-Wan (Ewan MacGregor).

While I don't love any of the prequel movies, this is by far the best of them, if only for the hilarious beginning (with Anakin and Obi-Wan rescuing the Chancellor) and that stunning duel in the lava in the end. (I've read in a few places that Christensen and MacGregor did so well and were so intense during that duel, some of the staff actually gave them a standing ovation when they finished.) Alas, what's in between is often muddled and rushed. Anakin turns way too quickly to the dark side! One minute, he's listening to opera and folk tales, and the next, he's killing everything in sight. And yes, there's still the problem of clunky dialogue to get around.

If you must see any of the prequels, see this one. There's still problems, but they're not as evident as in the other two movies. (However, be warned that this one isn't really for little kids - by it's very nature, this is one of the darker Star Wars movies. There's a lot of violence and discussions of death, kids are killed, and the ending isn't the happiest.)

I spent half of Revenge nodding off. After it finished, I decided I needed another nap. When I got up, I felt well enough to have oat bran and a half of a grapefruit for dinner and watch Can-Can. Satine Pistache (Shirley MacLaine) owns a cafe in Paris in the 1800's where the scandalous can-can dance is performed. Her boyfriend and lawyer (Frank Sinatra) and a local judge (Maurice Chevalier) don't mind, but another, more uptight, judge (Louis Jordan) has her raided and arrested. Even after he tricks her into almost giving up the list of cops she bribes, Satine still finds herself falling for the judge. Her boyfriend doesn't like that one bit! She has to decide whose world she belongs in, especially after she signs the club over to him and it's raided.

Mom used to rent this one a lot for the girls and Keefe and me in the early-mid 90's. This is fluff, and overlong fluff at that, but there's a decent cast having fun with some of Cole Porter's best songs. Fun for fans of the big 60's-70's musicals or any of the cast.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In All Kinds of Weather

I slept in a bit again. Got up at 10:30, but I read Red Harvest and wrote in my journal in bed until past 11:30. When I did get out of bed, I used a slightly wrinkled apple that had been around for a while and made Apple Cinnamon Pancakes.

As soon as I finished breakfast, I went right into changing the American Girl dolls into normal winter clothes. Samantha's wearing her gray Buster Brown Dress with the black stockings and boots from Rebecca's School Outfit. Whitney swapped with her - she's got on Rebecca's School Outfit with the white stockings and black Mary Janes from Sam's current meet outfit. Felicity wears her emerald green Riding Habit and tri-corn hat. Molly's in her After School Outfit and Springfield Collection sneakers. Jessa's mixing and matching the gray leggings and blue-violet studded Coconut shirt from the Coconut Fun Outfit with a plaid tweed-like Springfield Collection skirt and deep blue-violet clogs. Josefina is in a blue floral empire-waisted outfit I bought on eBay, complete with a lovely, flower-trimmed black velvet hat.

Ran some records while making Banana-Honey Muffins next. I did the first half of The Pirate Movie first. Yeah, this soundtrack is so 80's, but I grew up on this. I actually do like some of the music, especially the rousing "Victory" for the pirates, the hilarious re-write of "Modern Major General," and "Pumpin' and Blowin'."

I was originally going to go for a walk today, but the weather was just plain weird. It would be sunny, then all of a sudden, clouds would appear and it would pour, then the sun would return...and then there would be rain and sun at the same time! And then the sun would return. Very strange. I opted to clean the bathroom, which desperately needed it, instead. The toilet in particular was really grungy. Ugh. I shouldn't have let it go for so long.

Caught up with a couple of soundtracks and cast albums while cleaning. The 1968 version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips features Peter O'Toole as the title character, a shy schoolteacher who wonders if his students will ever like him, and Petula Clark as his wife, the free-spirited stage performer Katherine. They meet in Italy in the 1920's, where they fall in love and eventually marry. They're blissfully happy, but some of the parents at Chips' stuffy school aren't happy with this rambunctious woman among their boys.

The music is by Leslie Bricuisse, in a similar mode to Scrooge...and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I hadn't heard good things about this one until recently. A lot of people didn't like how the setting was moved up to the 20's and 30's, or how the songs were added. Other than I wish Peter O'Toole's lack of singing ability didn't preclude a duet, I thought they were lovely. I especially liked O'Toole's sweet "What a Lot of Flowers" and the two charming dance numbers for Clark, "London Is London" and "Schooldays" with the kids. If you're a fan of Bricusse's music or the stars, this is really quite endearing.

Switched to a darker musical as I finished up the bathroom. Zorba is a musical version of the book and movie Zorba the Greek. I bought it, still in its plastic, from a thrift shop at least three or four years ago. For some reason or other, I just never got around to it. I suspect a lot of it has to do with the story being about a young man who comes to open a thought-to-be-abandoned mine in Crete and gets help from the wanderer of the title. This is not the most fun musical, despite some enjoyable dance numbers like "No Boom Boom" - both leading ladies die, and things don't work out nearly as well as either leading man plans. The story was too heavy for the late 60's. It didn't even make a year. It did slightly better in a 1983 revival featuring the movie's original star, Anthony Quinn. Not one of Kander and Ebb's best shows, but there's some interesting music if you're a fan of their work.

Moved into writing next. Mr. Eldridge has a way he can help Scott defeat Barnaby...but his magic suddenly won't work. Lisa doesn't believe in it. He talks to the girl, reminding her that there's magic inside all of us, no matter what age we are.

Finished the night with salmon steak, a vegetable mix, and David Bowie's supremely weird Diamond Dogs. Alas, I didn't feel well enough to really enjoy it. Despite feeling well all day, I'd somehow picked up a very, very sore throat and a huge headache after dinner. It hasn't gone away since then, and I'm cold as heck, too. I hope to heck I'm not getting sick. At least I'm off tomorrow.

Oh, and let me announce the next American Girl...Miss Melody Ellison! This Detroit cutie is making waves with that new Motown sound in 1964, even as her family deals with the issues of the Civil Rights Era and trying to move to the suburbs. This will be the third African-American AG doll, and I'm looking forward to her. Once again, I probably won't buy her, but Jessa and Whitney may swipe her wardrobe. Her first book is already in stores (even though the doll won't be out until July), and the second one is due in a few months.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Spontaneous Winter Picnic

Today, I made sure I got up at a far more normal 8:30-ish. Staying up until 4 every night just didn't feel right. I did the winter-themed Sailor Moon movie while I ate breakfast. Sailor Moon S: Hearts In Ice focuses on Usagi's cat Luna. She's found one day by a handsome scientist who has just discovered a new comet. Turns out the "comet" actually belongs to the evil Princess Snow Kaguya, who wants to freeze the Earth and claim it for her own...but  not if the Sailor Guardians can stop her!

Spent the next couple of hours work on fanfiction and reading Star Wars fanfiction. I'm definitely going to do the high school thing, but I'm debating between fairy tales or trying for a swashbuckler like my Adventures of the Crimson Blade story. We'll see how I feel. I have an original fairy tale I want to write first, and I really, really need to finish Babes In WENNland - I keep getting distracted. And there's Once Upon a Time In the Land of WENN to finish.

Did a quick Backyardigans episode while eating leftovers for lunch. "The Snow Fort" is what Canadian Mounties Tyrone and Pablo are protecting in this first season episode. More specifically, they're guarding the giant snowball inside it. Uniqua and Tasha are ski patrollers who think the boys need to be rescued. The boys think they're after their snowball and try to keep them out, even as the girls keep figuring out ways to get in.

It was surprisingly warm when I rode to work, in the lower 50's. That wasn't the reason we were busy for most of the evening, though. Everyone was buying tickets for that $900 million jackpot...and staying to buy dinner. Thankfully, other than some mildly annoying customers and a few WIC check problems, there was no major trouble, and my relief was on time. It was slowing down by the time I was done, anyway.

It was still so warm when I finished, I decided to have dinner at Sonic. I haven't eaten there in ages. Despite it being 6 PM, I was the only one at the patio when I arrived. (I think there were a few people in the parking lot, though.) I just had a simple, tasty meal of a burger, tater tots, and my favorite cherry limeade. It was a bit chilly, but the breeze felt nice in my hair.

Though the clouds came as early as around 3PM, it didn't finally start raining (I even heard some rumbles of thunder) until about 20 minutes ago. I'm glad I'm off tomorrow. If the rain stops, I'll go for a walk or over to Dad's house. If it doesn't, I'll clean and write all day. I don't often get a Sunday off.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Late Awakening

I was up really late again downloading videos on YouTube (or trying to). When I blinked my eyes open, it was nearly noon! That wasn't something I was expecting. I barely had time to read a few chapters of the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest, write in my journal, have something to eat, and run an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre.

"The Tale of the Frog Prince" was the first episode of the series. This purely comic tale has Robin Williams as the title character, a plucky frog who retrieves a golden ball for a very spoiled and obnoxious princess (Terri Garr). He wants a night sleeping on her pillow, but she'd rather forget he was even there. When he does finally get his wish, she learns what a good companion a frog can be...and what he really is.

As soon as I changed and finished throwing things together for work, I literally raced out the door, flew down the street on the bike, and barely got in on time! While it was busy when I got in, it gradually calmed down to steady to dead. There were no really major problems, and my relief was right on time.

Mixed feelings on the schedule next week. On one hand, I have three days off, including a rare Sunday. On the other hand, I have two relatively late days and not nearly enough hours. This is pretty common in January, given that we're between holidays again, but it's not going to help my bank account. On the other hand, once we get past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, things should start going back up again, and February is almost always busy.

I needed to do a little bit of grocery shopping after work. It was mainly restocking and picking up anything I didn't get earlier in the week. The Acme has coupons for their new generic brands in their flyers this week. I used the Lucerne (dairy) coupon to try the vanilla almond milk. I'm not the biggest fan of Special K, but $1.50 was too good of a deal to resist - decided to try the Cinnamon Pecan. Restocked apples, grapefruit, bananas, yogurt, honey, powdered sugar, and mayo. Oat bran was $1.99. I don't think I've ever seen it that cheap. I love it as hot cereal in the morning.