Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Droid and War Tales

It was thankfully sunny when I got up this morning. I had a lot to do, since I put off so much last week. Ran the last of the wartime shorts as I ate breakfast. Despite his popularity during the war years, "Ace In the Hole" was Woody Woodpecker's only war-oriented short during the 40's. Like Donald, Woody wants to fly. His sergeant has him clipping horses instead. He's not a happy camper when Woody finds himself in a plane and does make it into the air.

Universal mostly dealt with war-related matters in non-character shorts. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" involves the new bugler of an all-black military camp who gets the troops jumping with his swinging reveille. It's awash in stereotypes, but it's also one of the few shorts I've ever seen depict minorities in the military and features a really swinging version of the title tune. 

"Pigeon Patrol" is more typical. A country bumpkin pigeon wants to prove to his girl that he can be a hero, but he's rejected from active duty. A downed carrier pigeon gives him important papers to deliver. He gets the chance to prove he can be a hero when he has to get past a (very stereotyped) Japanese vulture.

Genial Mickey Mouse was largely dormant during the mid-40's, but he did do one war-related short in 1929, "The Barnyard Battle." The early scrappy, rubber-hose Mickey defends his farm against a battalion of Hun-like cats.

"G.I Pink" moves us forward to the Vietnam War. The Pink Panther has been swayed by the army posters offering power to join up for active duty. He instantly regrets it when he finds himself dealing with cranky sergeants, angry camp mascots, and forgetting where the land mines are.

Cleaned the bathroom while the cartoons were on, and later while listening to Billy Joel CDs. I've put off the spring cleaning for much too long. It's time I started getting it done. Lauren will arrive two weeks from today. Thankfully, it wasn't really that bad in there. The sink was the worst. I also wiped down the tile, both in and outside of the shower.

When the bathroom was done, I packed up my laundry and headed out to the laundromat. I had a really big load, including the towels I just changed. Good thing it was busy, but not so much that I couldn't get a washer and a dryer right away. I worked on story notes while half-listening to Action News on Channel 6.

As soon as I got in, I put everything away, then went right back out. I had some errands to run today, starting with lunch at Friendly's. Surprisingly, they were dead by 1:30, with only one other customer there the whole time I was. My Apple Walnut Salad came quickly, and was nice and piping hot. The chicken was moist and juicy, and the blue cheese crumbles were huge! Had Hunka Chunka PB Fudge with peanut butter sauce for dessert.

The Haddon Township Library was much busier. I had piles of DVDs to return that were literally overflowing in the cart. Lots of audio books and CDs, too. I guess a lot of people took out stuff to watch and listen to over the weekend. 

For the first time in a while, I took out a couple of DVDs. Lego has been doing a series of Star Wars-based specials that largely seem to be parodies of the movies. I grabbed one of them, The Empire Strikes Out, plus the brand-new Lego-Star Wars series Droid Tales.  I haven't seen Witness since I was a child. And they had the Frank Sinatra/Ethel Merman TV version of Anything Goes that came out on DVD a while back. I couldn't resist. 

Stopped at Thriftway on the way home. They were also pretty quiet. I just needed cake mix (their generic brand is $1.59, as cheap as cake mix will probably get at this time of year) and their cheap tea (went with green lemon). They had Skippy Peanut Butter on sale for $1.99. I didn't need it, but that's not a bad price.

As soon as I got home, I went on the computer. The dragons land, letting Wedge and the other members of Rogue Squadron ride them. Their wings can generate enough magic to get the entire Rebel group through the now-opened drawbridge and into the castle.

Meanwhile, Vader has brought Luke to King Palapatine. Luke notices that Palapatine doesn't seem to be moving too well. He insists Luke's friends are walking into a trap and that the dragons will take them out. 

Had leftovers for dinner and watched the first couple of episodes of Droid Tales while eating. These are, indeed, largely satirical Lego retellings of not only the movies, but the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons as well. As you can guess from the title, all are told from the point of view of Threepio and/or Artoo. The first episode is Threepio's versions of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, told to the Original Trilogy crew after the destruction of the second Death Star. The second has Threepio and Ackbar following a mysterious figure that has stolen Ackbar's new X-Wing and Artoo, retelling incidents from Revenge of the Sith on the way. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

An Animated Memorial Day

Began a cloudy Memorial Day with breakfast and more wartime shorts. Donald Duck starred in a series of cartoons from 1942 to 1944 that mainly had him dealing with daily life in the army. "Donald Gets Drafted" and "Sky Trooper" show how Don ends up in the army, how he drives Sargent Pete crazy with his desire to become a pilot, and what happens when Pete does get him on a plane. "The Vanishing Private" has Donald using a new invisibility paint first on a new cannon, then on himself. Pete goes crazy trying to find "the little man you can't see."

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on my story. I did more later in the evening, after dinner. Leia is being seduced by what she thinks is Han Solo...or is he? Han reveals the truth when he arrives in time to shatter the magic mirror. The moment the mirror's broken, so's the illusion. Palapatine returns to his original skeletal form. Leia and Han try to find out what his plans are for Luke and the Rebels, but he shoots Leia in the shoulder with his magic and vanishes before they can get far. Leia feels well enough to go after him.

Meanwhile, Wedge is just hoping he'll survive the battle at the foot of the Black Crystal Mountain when he hears wings flapping. Luke's friends the Sith Dragons from the first story have arrived! They acknowledge their fellow magic-sensitive beings, the remaining Wookie stallions, before helping the Rebel army get to the drawbridge.

I had enough time to eat and pack after getting off before heading to work. Despite the clouds and the somewhat cooler temperatures, it was killer humid. The clouds did look like they were trying to break up at one point, but they finally returned for good. Though I did end up in the registers for a half-hour when we were overwhelmed with customers, I was mostly outside. There were just as many carts that needed to be gathered. I was actually surprised they didn't put me in the registers more, given how busy they were, but I guess they figured the one other bagger couldn't do it all on his own. At any rate, it went pretty fast, and I was in and out.

When I got home, I watched more wartime shorts, first while having leftovers for dinner, then as I ate the last of the pumpkin bars for dessert. "Der Fuher's Face" is probably the strangest and the most creative of the World War II Donald cartoons. Donald dreams himself into a surreal Nazi Germany, where he has to make more shells for the Third Reich...or else! "Fall Out, Fall In" is more typical. All the poor duck wants after a very long march is dinner. But he can't eat until he sets up his tent...and then he can't sleep because his fellow privates make too much noise. "Commando Duck" has Donald sent to Japan to "wash out" the enemy (and encounter quite a few stereotypes).

Did the last few Looney Tunes wartime shorts I had during dessert. Bugs becomes a "Super Rabbit" when he eats a genetically enhanced carrot. He uses his powers to stop a cowboy from attacking his fellow bunnies. When push comes to shove, he changes into the uniform of a real hero...a Marines officer. Daffy, on the other hand, is having none of this "draft" business in "Draftee Daffy." He does everything he can think of to avoid that annoying Little Man From the Draft Board.

My personal favorite of the Looney Tunes wartime shorts is "Falling Hare." This is one of the rare times Bugs goes up against an antagonist who gives as good as they get. He discovers a gremlin sabotaging planes at an air field. That gremlin may be small, but he has a battery of tricks at his disposal, including sending a plane into a freefall!

And speaking of, we honor all those who fought and died for our country on this Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Party With the Family

It was still sunny when I woke up this morning, and hot, but not quite as bad as yesterday. A nice wind helped. I made Blueberry Pancakes while listening to patriotic records in honor of Memorial Day Weekend, starting with Yankee Doodle Mickey. This cute record from I'm guessing the late 70's-early 80's features a young Molly Ringwauld joining the Disney characters and the Disneyland Chorus to perform folk songs, hymns, and a rousing original, "The Liberty Tree." I love the Armed Services Medley, with Mickey representing the Air Force and Marines, Goofy taking the Army, and Donald, of course, representing the Navy.

Worked on my story for a little while after breakfast. Leia is starting to awaken. Her head is pounding, she's in an unfamiliar room, and she's dressed like a vampire's fantasy. She sees Han there, but she can tell something isn't right...especially since he's trying to shut her out of his mind...

Headed to work after a very quick lunch. Work was...surprisingly dead for both a Sunday and the day before a major holiday. I did work on rounding up carts for the first half of my shift. That nice wind really helped. By 3:30, it was so dead, I spent the remaining hour and a half shelving as much of the three carts filled with returns as I could. There were no major problems anywhere, and I was in and out.

Went straight home, changed into regular clothes, then went right to Dad's. The clouds had started to come out as early as half-way through my shift. They were growing rapidly darker as I pulled in. I came right on time. Jodie had just pulled out the first round of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and ribs. There was macaroni salad, Italian pasta salad with vegetables, that really vinegary cucumber salad Jodie likes, deviled eggs, and (later, when they remembered it was in the oven), asparagus. Dessert included Rose's tangy key lime bars (with spray whipped cream, for those interested), strawberries dipped in white chocolate and toasted coconut, chunks of watermelon, and blueberry pie. I had a little of everything but the macaroni salad (the Italian pasta salad was enough) and the blueberry pie.

Khai and Chloe, for once, gobbled their dinner. Chloe's brother Blake ate even faster. They all wanted to get back in the pool. I followed them out after they ate. Khai took it upon himself to shoot me with his Super Soaker the moment I arrived. I wish he hadn't done that. I hadn't stopped to put on my bathing suit when I came home. Thankfully, there were lots of grown-ups around to set rules - Rose and Craig, Jodie's sons, Dana, Erica, Mark and Vanessa, several neighbors. (Dad stayed inside. He's in the midst of chemotherapy and isn't feeling anywhere near his best.)

I finally opted to sit down and stick my feet in. Ahh, that felt nice. The water was much warmer than it usually is in May, probably due to the really hot weather we've been having. I watched Khai and another boy shoot each other and had an animated chat with Chloe about what toys we liked, which Star Wars movie was our favorite (mine is The Empire Strikes Back), and what the pool was like when Rose and I used to go swimming when we visited during our childhood.

It showered lightly on and off while I was talking to the kids. The rain started picking up by around 7:30. It was time for me to head home. Thankfully, it waited until over an hour after I got in to start pouring. It's been pouring ever since. This is supposed to be the remnants of a tropical storm. Surprisingly no thunder or lighting yet, but lots and lots of rain. It's supposed to continue tomorrow. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Good Day Sunshine

It was sunny when I got up this morning, warm but not overly so yet. I wanted to make Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies before it got too hot to do so. I had volunteered them to the Acme's Memorial Day Party almost a week and a half ago, when it was still cool out.

Ran Warner Bros wartime shorts while I baked. Other than one Bosco short saluting World War I, most of these cartoons were propaganda from the early 40's. Some of the more unique ones include "Russian Rhapsody" ("gremlins from the Kremlin" sabotage Hitler's plane), "The Duckinators" (an allegory set in a barnyard, featuring ducks, geese, and doves as the Axis and the US), "Wacky Blackout" (skits on life on the homefront in the country), "The Weakly Reporter" (same idea, but set in the city), and "Hollywood Canine Canteen" (spoof of the Hollywood Canteen with dog caricatures of popular celebrities of the period).

I headed out as soon as the cookies were done, around quarter after 10. Every year on the Saturday before Memorial Day, Collingswood holds a huge fair on the part of Haddon Avenue that runs through town. It was already busy when I arrived, and very hot! I sweat bullets as I admired the classic car show, looked over doll outfits at the craft fair booths (didn't see anything I liked), and watched delighted kids ride ponies and mini-versions of carnival rides in the midway area. There was lots of musical acts, mostly local alternative rock groups, but one group played Beatles covers.

The Farm Market is absorbed into the May Fair for this weekend, held on a side street. Spring lettuce and North Carolina blueberries are now out. I bought a small head of red lettuce from the organic booth and treated myself to their smallest bag of popcorn (the cheapest treat I could get at the Fair). Also picked up an onion, blueberries, and some juicy, jewel-like strawberries.

Walked around for a little while after that, but despite a nice breeze, it was getting very, very hot. The Coke Zero I bought from the Philly Pretzel Factory only helped a little. It was probably just as well that I had to work later, anyway. I headed home around noon.

When I got in, I worked on my story. I worked on it later tonight as well, after work and taking a shower. Lando, Wedge, and Admiral Ackbar are waiting for the drawbridge to open when they're ambushed by the Imperial army and Sith Dragons. It's a trap! While they try to hold off the Imperials, Luke calls his Sith Dragons from the first story in his mind. The head dragon still owes him a debt; Luke tells him he can repay that debt by helping his friends.

Meanwhile, Han's in despair. He can't finish opening the drawbridge, and Luke and Leia both seem to be lost to the villainous Vader and Palapatine. It's the Ewoks, Cecil, Arthur, and Chewie to the rescue, thanks to little Wicket sounding the alarm. They'd run off to get their fellow Ewoks and the horses in the stables. Han grabs Chewie and goes after Boba Fett and Leia while the Ewoks and servants help the Rebels get back to the drawbridge.

Ran a few cartoons while getting ready for work. The Fleischer Brothers actually put Popeye in "The Mighty Navy" three months before the war came to the US. (It's the only Popeye war short where the enemy isn't named.) Popeye mostly alternated between kicking the Axis' rear and more typical fights with Bluto for Olive's hand, as in "Kicking the Conga Around." Popeye wants to impress fair Hispanic senorita Olive, but he can't dance the conga like Bluto...until spinach turns him into a dancing machine!

I left for work a little early. I wanted to enjoy the goodies before I had to start. And there were goodies! It was mostly salad variations. I saw a spaghetti salad with shrimp, a classic macaroni salad, a pasta salad with vegetables and olives, a potato salad with real bacon, and a fruit tray. Protein included hot dogs, thickly glazed chicken legs, and shredded barbecue chicken. My chocolate chip cookies were joined by a carrot cake, a chocolate cake, a very decadent tiramisu cake, apricot-filled thumbprint cookies, a tropical rum cake, and a cheesecake. There was also baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and deviled eggs.

I had the potato salad and the spaghetti-shrimp salad for lunch, and the vegetable pasta salad (I picked out the olives) and fruit for dinner. Also had fruit for a snack during break. Tried the tiramisu cake with lunch. The chocolate-coffee flavor was nice, but I wasn't a big fan of the custard-y icing and filling. Also tried the carrot cake and the buttery, flaky apricot-filled thumbprint cookies. Had shredded chicken sandwiches for lunch and dinner. (The sauce on the chicken legs was spicy, and I'm not a hot dog fan.) I'm not normally a fan of potato salad, but this one was really good, flavorful and with plenty of smoky real bacon pieces.

Though the lines were only steady through most of the afternoon (most people probably went to the Shore), the carts were in perpetual need of gathering. I did get to do a full cart of returns right before break, but otherwise, I was mostly outside. I got dead tired very quickly. It was hot, and despite everything I drank at the party, I was moving slow and sweating bullets. I tried to do more returns later, only to get sent right back outside again. I came home sore and badly sunburned.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Stories and Supermen

I awoke to a phone call. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in at noon? They'd had call-outs and were busy. Not at noon, but I'd go in at 1. I wanted some time to write.

And as soon as I finished breakfast, I was on the computer and working on my story. Han and Leia lead a battalion of Ewoks to the drawbridge. They almost have it open when they're cornered by the Imperial soldiers. The Ewoks have fled, but Han and Leia have nowhere to run. The soldiers take Han away, while Boba Fett knocks Leia out and brings her to the King himself.

Palapatine, delighted to finally have his bride, has his own plans for the feisty young woman. While she's unconscious, he makes a black wedding gown (inspired by this gown on Pinterest) appear on her and reads her mind. He's incensed that Leia has become affianced to another at first...but then decides he can use her love to his advantage, thanks to a certain magic mirror he owns...

I got off just in time to eat a quick lunch before heading to work. After I finished Willow, I started my annual Memorial Day marathon of wartime shorts with the 40's Paramount Superman cartoons. Despite some Japanese stereotypes, "Eleventh Hour" is my favorite of these. The story, about Superman sabotaging the Japanese, is surprisingly mature for an animated short, and there's some wonderful, shadowy animation.

As it turned out, I was in the register all day. They'd had call-outs, and they were just busy. I still don't like cashiering, but at least they had a good reason. There really were long lines for most of the afternoon, up until people started going to their parties and barbecues around 5. At least my day went fast. Thankfully, they were able to get one of the college kids in for me when my shift was done. (Honestly, I don't know why I had the Friday before Memorial Day off in the first place.)

Walked to Tu Se Bella's for dinner as soon as I finished. They're an Italian restaurant and gourmet pizza parlor in the shopping center behind the Acme. They always have the Camden County area's most creative pizza toppings on display, and tonight was no exception. I had a slice of cheese, a slice of spinach and tomatoes with chicken on white, and a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper. Yum. The chicken slice was messy and hard to pick up. I eventually ate the chicken off most of it. It still tasted really good, though. Surprisingly for dinnertime, they weren't that busy. I was easily able to snag the table in the front window by the counter and watch all the shoppers stroll by.

I didn't have that big of a grocery order this week. I wanted to restock chicken, but those buy-one, get-one-and-two deals were too much for me. I settled on ground chicken. Bought bananas and peaches for fruit this week. (I'll get strawberries and vegetables tomorrow at the farm market.) Restocked canned chicken, diced tomatoes, mandarin oranges, peanut butter, brown sugar, buttermilk, and trash bags. Treated myself to the Acme's natural brand Caramel Butter Pecan ice cream for a treat.

When I got home, I put everything away, then ate butter pecan ice cream while watching two more Superman wartime shorts. Superman's hearing "Jungle Drums" when he has to rescue Lois from the Nazis, who are inciting stereotypical natives to burn her to death. In the last short made (and the only one not to feature Lois Lane), a beautiful "Secret Agent" has to get to Washington with paper that could incriminate a top spy ring. Superman does everything he can to protect her.

Oh, and I got my schedule for this week as well. Pretty much exactly the same as last week, only with two early days. Same days off, Tuesday and Friday. Hopefully, this time, I'll actually be able to keep both my days off. I really want to get my story finished, and I must get the cleaning done before Lauren visits in mid-June.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Heat Is Finally On

Started the day with an early work shift. Whew, was it hot! It had to be in the 70's and climbing already by 9 AM. I have the feeling this is not what everyone had in mind when they were complaining about the 50 degree temperatures last week. It's probably just as well I only did carts for about an hour when I arrived. I spent a lot of the day in the register. I wasn't happy about it, but we were a lot busier than I thought we'd be. I guess anyone who's sticking around for the weekend wanted to get their barbecue and party supplies now. Thankfully, I was just bagging when I finished. I grabbed a quart of skim milk and hurried home.

It was so hot when I got in, I had no choice. I had to turn on the air conditioners. I was hoping to hold off on it, since it's not humid, but it had to be in the lower 80's in my apartment alone. As it turned out the cord on the unit in my bedroom didn't reach the nearest outlet (the one I plug my laptop into). I had to get the extension cord Miss Ellie gave me for the original air conditioner years ago.

When it was sufficiently cool, I ate muffins and a pear for lunch. Watched a couple of episodes of Max & Ruby while I finished. "Max's Froggy Friend" wants to follow him home. Ruby says tea parties are no place for froggies, but Max always finds a way. "Max's Music" doesn't sound so harmonious to Ruby, Valerie, and Louise, who are practicing for the Bunny Scout Concert. When the girls can't play together, it's Max who finds a way to help them keep the beat. "Max Gets Wet," much to his sister's chagrin. She wants him to water her garden, but he'd rather water himself. For once, it's Ruby who figures out how to compromise.

Spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Vader lets the group in. He knows his children are there, and that they'll come to him. He's right, at least about one of them. Luke tells Leia he's going to give himself up to Vader. Leia tries to discourage him, but he's determined. He tries to talk his father out of taking him to Palapatine. Vader knows better. He has to obey his master.

As soon as Luke leaves, Boba Fett arrives. He tells him both his kids are there, and Leia's with Han. Vader once again orders Fett to bring him Leia and get rid of Han...or this time, he may consider tossing him to a sand monster, or worse.

Broke for dinner around 5:30. I put on Willow as I threw together ground turkey, sweet pickle relish, a can of diced tomatoes, mushrooms, chicken stock, whole-wheat pasta, and the last of the chopped onion flakes that have been around forever (I was out of real onion) to make my version of Hamburger Helper. Willow (Warwick Davis) is part of a race of diminutive Hobbit-esque beings who live peacefully in a small village. Willow is determined to become a great sorcerer, even if everyone else in the village thinks he's just a goof. When his children discover a lost baby by the river, it sets off a chain of events that end with him discovering that the baby is a princess who needs to be returned to her rightful kingdom. With the help of a cynical warrior (Val Kilmer) and two very nutty brownies, he learns that size really matters not, and that magic can be found in the most unlikely of hearts.

An old favorite of mine. Davis and Kilmer are especially having fun as the knight and the short farmer who don't know what to make of each other, and the brownies are a riot. If you're a fan of Games of Thrones-esque high fantasy or the cast, this is a no-brainer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spring Into Summer

I was up so late last night, I had just enough time to work on a little bit of writing after I ate breakfast. Went back and added a scene where Lando and Han deal with what Lando did to his buddy in the Kingdom of the Clouds in the, er, proper fashion. Then moved ahead to reveal that Han now has his "command crew," which includes Leia, the servants, Wicket the Ewok, all their horses, and a nervous Luke. Luke knows he's going to have to deal with his father. He's not looking forward to it. Leia's even less thrilled with the idea.

Finished out Radioland Murders and had a really quick lunch before heading to work. Work was dead as can be It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day, the first we've had in weeks. Not to mention, it's the middle of the week before a major holiday and the beginning of the month. I spent the first half of my shift doing returns, and the second half rounding up carts. There were no major problems, and I was in and out.

When I got in, I did two episodes of Rick Steves' Europe while eating leftovers for dinner. Sliced up a very soft peach and ate peaches drizzled with honey for dessert. I thought Cologne, Germany, and the famous Black Forest would provide inspiration for the Gothic Bast Castle and the Enchanted Woods. (And it made me crave Black Forest Cake.)

Let it continue on to Berlin while I cleaned up from dinner.  The Berlin of today is very different from the city I remember seeing when the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989. While it does have many reminders of its tumultuous past (including a segment of the Wall made over into an outdoor art gallery), it's equally proud of its modern and restored buildings, including its main building for its elected body, with its beautiful glass rotunda.

Finished the night with a much-needed bath. Ahh. It felt absolutely wonderful to relax in the tepid water, looking at cake decorating books and listening to one of the Rod Stewart standards CDs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Almost Sunshine

I slept until I heard Charlie cursing under the porch outside. When I did finally get up, I put on one of Scooby Doo, Where are You? while eating breakfast. Scooby and the Mystery Inc. kids wrote the book on running around in gloomy Gothic castles. Their first such encounter was in the third episode of the series, "A Hassle In the Castle." When the kids are marooned on a spooky island, they end up trying to figure out why a ghost wants to scare them away from the scary old fortress there.

Headed out to do the laundry around 11:30. The laundromat was totally dead at that point. It was still relatively sunny and warm then. It did get a little busier, but was never crowded. I didn't have a ton to do at any rate. I was out in less than an hour.

After I put my laundry away, I went right back out again. It had begun to cloud up a bit, but it remained warm, nothing like the past few weeks. I had lunch at a very busy Westmont Bagel Shop. Opted for their lunch box special, a turkey club with chipotle mayo on whole wheat bread and a tiny cup of cole slaw. The sandwich was messy but surprisingly tasty - the mayo added the right tang without being too spicy.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy when I arrived. There was a sign on the DVDs not to put them away, so I didn't. I concentrated on returning CDs, audio books, and new releases. (It turns out I could have. The librarian had intended to save the DVDs for a person who never appeared.) Once again, I didn't take anything out - I'm still concentrating on writing.

Made quick stops at Thriftway and Dollar Tree on the way home. Thriftway was quiet. I was able to pick up my whole wheat flour and blended cooking oil (the later on sale) with no problems. Dollar Tree didn't have the plastic scrubbers I was looking for, and it's probably just as well. The line was crazy long anyway.

It had gotten cloudier and a little windier at that point. It never rained as hard as it did yesterday (though it did spit a little), but I thought I'd be safer making for home. I did noticed that Cabana's Water Ice had replaced Kayla's on the corner of Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike. I tried their Double Chocolate Marshmallow Water Ice. No real marshmallow, but yum, was it chocolate-y! The seating area itself isn't nearly as fun as it used to be. The chrome tables and pink and yellow picnic tables are nice, but the wooden swings and goofy cow and Batman statues must have vanished with the previous owners.

Despite the fact that the sun had come out, I still spent the rest of the afternoon working on my story. The Rebels return to Endor to split into groups. The Wookie stallions, called by the Force, arrive, as do the Ewoks. We split into Lando taking Wedge, the Wookie horses, and his friend Niem Numb to attack the Imperials and get into the vault, while Han takes Luke, Leia, the servants, and Wicket the Ewok in the castle itself to open the drawbridge. Han offers Lando the Falcon, which he gratefully accepts. But Luke and Leia both feel something very wrong with the whole scenario...

Broke around 5:30 to eat leftovers for dinner and make Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins. Since it was still a bit cloudy at that point, I watched Radioland Murders while I ate. George Lucas produced this 1994 farce about a series of deaths at a newly-launched radio network in 1940. The station's writer (Brian Benben) has to solve the murders, while the cops consider him to be their number one suspect.

This is one of those movies people either love or hate. I actually think it's kind of fun, especially in the first half, where you get to meet most of the cool characters and get a better idea of the kind of shows they would have had on the air in 1940. It loses momentum badly in the second half, where the farce takes over. I get a kick out of it - if you're a fan of farce, old-time radio, or the cast, this is at the very least worth a look.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Starting With Sun, Ending With Rain

Began a humid and sunny day with an episode of Rick Steves' Europe. I couldn't have told you much about the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, as a kid in the 80's. Most of the countries behind the Iron Curtain were "communist," and thus, bad...at least until the Berlin Wall fell. Despite its often tragic history, there is much beauty to be found in this area. I was actually watching this as inspiration for the next part of my story, which is set in a dark, gloomy Gothic castle. I found the lovely little towns, with their sprightly gypsy bands and smelly cheese, even more interesting.

Spent the rest of the morning (and about an hour or so later tonight, after dinner) working on my story. Han has asked Leia to marry him. She says yes, but they can neither hold their wedding, nor claim his inheritance in Corellia, until they help the others get rid of the Empire. Meanwhile, Lando fought Boba Fett, but the crafty bounty hunter escapes. (No, I am not feeding him to a Sarlacc monster here. That's just a waste of a character. He'll still be useful later.)

While the Rebels are preparing to strike, Vader meets with his master. All of the tax money has been collected and is ready to be used. Palaptine says it's part of a trap to capture the Rebels...and bring Leia and Luke to him. He wants to train Luke to be his apprentice and Leia to be a black sorceress.

Vader's beginning to understand how badly Palapatine's used him. For one thing, he wanted to be the one to train Luke and Leia, and he never planned on them replacing him. All he can think of are the memories of how he'd lost his beloved Padme...and how sad and ashamed she'd be of him now.

Ran some unusual Dr. Seuss cartoons while eating a quick lunch. Two of Seuss' most beloved characters collide in The Grinch Grinches the Cat In the Hat. When the cheery Cat gets on the Grinch's nerves one sunny day, the Grinch first messes with the light around him, then the sound. The Cat is determined to find out what makes the Grinch such a grouch and cure him of it, pronto!

The lesser-known Looney Tunes short "Horton Hatches the Egg" was the first appearance of a Dr. Seuss book on the big screen. Maisie the lazy bird leaves her nest in the care of kind-hearted Horton the Elephant. No matter what happens, from bad weather to hunters selling him to the circus, Horton will not leave that nest ever. "An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent."

Headed off to work as soon as the short ended. It remained sunny and warm, probably into the upper 70's, for most of the afternoon. I spent the first hour and most of the last hour rounding up carts. In between, I did returns, cleaned up a broken jar of gravy, and took customers.

The dark clouds finally rolled in around quarter of 6, as I was doing another cart-gathering round. I rushed as fast as I could to gather all the carts and get them on the patio. I still wasn't finished when I heard rumbles of thunder and one of the head managers sent me inside.

I made it in just in time. It was already starting to rain when I was doing the carts. By the time I was gathering baskets, the shower had become a wild monsoon, complete with thunder and lightning. It was still going strong when I got off of work. Thankfully, it was one of those fast-moving storms. I spent ten minutes watching the show. The moment it slowed down, I left

When I got home, I changed into dry clothes, then put on an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre as I made scrambled eggs with spinach, cheese, and mushrooms for dinner. "Hansel and Gretel" is one of the more straightforward retellings in the series. After they're abandoned by their parents, two children have to find their way home. They make it the first time, but the second time, the birds eat the bread crumbs Hansel dropped. Lost in the woods, the duo find a tasty gingerbread cottage. But the cottage belongs to a wicked witch...one who turns little boys and girls into gingerbread and eats them for her supper. This brother and sister pair have to think fast to save each other from becoming the witch's next meal.

And I got lucky. The rain ended as I arrived home...but there were still dark clouds on the horizon. It didn't start raining again until about an hour or so ago, and I haven't heard any thunder this time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stranger In the Parking Lot

Began the morning with Banana Pancakes. Listened to the original cast album for Kismet as I ate. Wright and Forest adapted the music of Borodin for this enjoyably exotic adaptation of the ancient play. Alfred Drake is the beggar who starts out selling rhymes in the streets of Bagdad and ends up with the Wazir's bored wife (Joan Diener). Doretta Morrow is his daughter Marsinah, who eventually falls for and marries the Caliph (Richard Kiley). "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" and "Strangers In Paradise" were the hit songs; my favorite number is the lovely "Night of My Nights" for the Caliph.

Worked a little bit on writing after breakfast. Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando are called to Jabba's treasure vaults. Turns out Jabba hoarded enough gold to make every farmer in the Kingdom of Tatoon wealthy. While most of the money will go into making Tatoon a better place to live, some of it is reserved for the Rebels' campaign against the Kingdom of the Empire, who has tripled taxes and attacked whole villages that couldn't pay. Lady Mothma, the head of the Rebels, decides it's time to strike Bast Castle.

Listened to another K-Tel record while getting ready for work. The weather was still pretty decent, cloudy and cool, but not nearly as cold as it has been. I opted to ride to work. (Besides, I don't know if there's anyone around to drive me these days.)

Work was pretty much the same as it has been. I spent the entire first half of my shift and the last hour doing returns. We were so busy, at one point, I got stuck in the register for a little while. I also gathered carts and did a small cart of returns, mainly cold or frozen items that had to go back quickly. It showered lightly on and off all throughout the afternoon, but never long enough or hard enough to do much besides get my glasses a little wet.

When I got home, I made macaroni and cheese for dinner. I've attempted white sauce a few times, but it always came out burned or lumpy. This time, it was just perfect, smooth and cheesy enough. I tossed tuna in with the sauce for protein.

 Wish my game came out that well. I'd barely gotten a few minutes into the next round of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga when the Wii let out a horrible noise and the screen got stuck. Turns out the used copy I bought at GameStop was badly scratched. After it did it a second time, I just put it aside and played Kirby Dream Land 3 on the Kirby Dream Collection instead. Unfortunately, thanks to all that drama, my mac and cheese did get a bit burned, but it still tasted pretty good. Added a spinach salad with oil and vinegar for vegetables.

Switched to the original cast album for Dreamgirls while I ate. I actually prefer the movie soundtrack, as I like the cast and some of the additional songs, but this is good too. If nothing else, we get to hear two numbers that were cut from the film, including one for Lorrell when she's realizing just how fed up she is with her relationship with Jimmy, "Ain't No Party."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rain Dazed

It's probably just as well I had early work today. It was humid but not raining when I arrived at the Acme. The rain didn't start until around 11. By that point, I'd been doing carts for nearly two hours. It did shower while I was working, but it wasn't heavy, just enough to make everyone damp. Thankfully, I spent a lot of the second half of my shift doing returns. By the time I was done, so was the rain. I got home dry.

As soon as I got home, I went on the computer. Spent the next few hours working on my story. Luke shows up at the party in his new Force Knight robes and armor and tries to bargain for his friends. Jabba's unimpressed and sends him into his pit, where he fights a two-headed half-snake, half-tiger. Luke does manage to kill the beast. Jabba's not thrilled and calls a firing squad to shoot the young knight. Luke has a few surprises of his own to dish out. The squad is really the Rebels in disguise...and so are many of the other servants. The cavalry has arrived!

While the Rebels handle Jabba's boys, Luke, Lando, and the servants go after Jabba, his daughters, Leia, and Han. Leia finally uses her knife to stab Jabba. She and Luke put their heads together and use their powers to turn Jabba's daughters into common garden slugs. Leia also discovers she has some healing power left after all when her tears heal Han's blindness.

Broke for dinner around 5:30. Watched Aladdin while eating leftovers for dinner and making Pumpkin Bars for dessert. The third big movie of the 90's Disney Renaissance moves into something a tad more exotic - a goofy retelling of a popular Arabian Nights tale. The title character is a street urchin with a good heart who dreams of better things. He falls in love with the Princess Jasmine after he helps her when she runs away. He thinks he won't have a chance with her, until he finds a genie in a seemingly tarnished lamp. The genie grants him his greatest wish, but it doesn't seem to impress Jasmine as much as him being himself. Meanwhile, the sultan's evil adviser and his very annoying talking parrot are after the magic lamp, too.

Robin Williams' stream-of-consciousness riffs as the Genie were what everyone talked about in the 90's, but most of the references seem dated and more than a little strange now. The gorgeous animation and Oscar-winning music (including the hit ballad "A Whole New World") have worn far better.

Finished out my evening with more LEGO Star Wars: The Original Saga. I had a rough time with the first round of Attack of the Clones, a car chase through the all-city planet Coruscant. I just could not get that car to drive straight! The next round, Obi-Wan's encounter with Jango Fett at the clone factory, was a bit easier. (Even if I had a hard time getting Arfour across that bridge in the beginning and kept losing beads.)

And I'm glad I got home when I did. It started raining again somewhere between 4 and 6 PM and has been coming down in a steady downpour ever since.

Friday, May 20, 2016

It's a Lovely Day Today

Thankfully, the weather remained gorgeous when I awoke this morning. I celebrated with breakfast and more Popeye featurettes. This time, Olive is writing the tale of Aladdin and His Magic Lamp for the movie studios. Popeye is the title character, who finds a genie in a cave and wishes to become a prince. Olive is the princess he woos. (And this is one of the very few Popeye cartoons in which Bluto is not the villain.)

Spent the rest of the morning working on fanfiction. Leia once again goes into the ogress' room to see Han...but he's still blinded, and she can no longer speak to him. Grishane, Jabba's eldest daughter, has taken Leia's voice and human form to trick him. She orders her sisters to throw Leia out and tries to climb on Han. He knows something is wrong, though...

Meanwhile, Cecil knows what's going on and needs to tell someone. He conveniently runs into Arthur, who has taken a job as a waiter for Jabba's banquet. Arthur assures him that Luke is going to arrive and save them all. Cecil's not so sure.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday. I spent almost the entire day doing carts (though I did end up in the register briefly during rush hour). At least it was a nice day for it. It was sunny and warm, without even a wind to stir up things. When it got busier during rush hour, the carts got worse, too. I was dead tired by the time I was done.

I still had a schedule to get and groceries to pick up, though. My schedule next week is more-or-less the same as this week's, only with Friday off and slightly few hours. Otherwise, only one very early day, four-hour shifts, mostly afternoon work, nothing horrible or out-of-the-ordinary for the time of year. It hasn't been that busy, but it should pick up next week as we come up on Memorial Day Weekend and the beginning of the month.

Didn't need a really big order this week groceries-wise. I won't make it to the farm market tomorrow, so I picked up strawberries, peaches, and bananas. Restocked milk, chocolate chips, baking cocoa, cereal (the generic shredded wheat), diced tomatoes, and muffin papers. Used coupons from the (finally just ended) Monopoly game to grab mixed fruit cups and Dannon Activa yogurt.

A day this nice practically begged for dinner at Sonic. I wasn't the only one thinking that way, either. The patio was the busiest I ever saw it when I rode in. I ordered my cheeseburger, tater tots, and cherry limeade while watching older couples order hot fudge sundaes and burgers minus pretty much everything but the meat and bun and families laughing and joking over their slushes.

Finished out the night resting and putting away my groceries at home. The Backyardigans twice dove into Arabian Knights cliches. Uniqua and Pablo are "Movers of Arabia," movers who have been asked to transfer Sultan Tyrone's magical objects to a larger storage area. Will Genie Austin's wishes be more of a help, or a hindrance?

"Sinbad Sails Alone" in one of my favorite episodes (with some amazingly catchy mambo numbers). Tyrone thinks he doesn't need anyone's help on a voyage to the end of the rainbow. Pablo insists on coming along, and while he causes a lot of trouble, he's equally helpful in rescuing them from Siren Uniqua and Medusa Tasha's games.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Adventures In the Desert

It was so nice to see the sun today! I started a beautiful morning with breakfast and one of the classic Popeye color featurettes. Popeye Meets Ali Baba has the famous sailor, his girl, and their hamburger-loving pal heading for North Africa to take on the infamous title thief (Bluto). When the thieves pretty much strip the town they're supposed to be asking questions in, including taking Olive and Wimpy prisoner, it's Popeye to the rescue!

Spent the rest of the morning working on my story. Cecil manages to hide himself when Jabba calls his oldest daughter to talk to her. He turns her into the spitting image of Leia and gives her Leia's voice in order to trick Han into thinking she's his sweetheart. Cecil sees the whole thing and sneaks off to warn Lando...

I had a quick lunch when I finally got off the computer, then headed to work. Work was pretty much the same as yesterday with nicer weather. I was outside for most of it. The manager kept insisting there were carts that needed to be gathered. It was never really that bad, and from what I saw, it wasn't busy inside, either. I did it because I'd been inside all morning writing, and it really was too nice of a day to be inside.

When I got home, I had leftovers for dinner while finishing the 1953 version of The Desert Song, which I began before leaving for work. As in the 1943 film, a young man named Paul (Gordon MacRae) is El Khobar, the mysterious head of the Riffs, who are causing trouble for the French in North Africa. Here, Paul's other identity is a shy anthropologist who preaches harmony among the desert clans. He's engaged as the tutor to the spirited Margot (Kathryn Grayson), the daughter of the captain who just arrived in North Africa. El Khobar is hoping to make the general listen to reason and help the Riffs, but a local sheikh, who is supposedly in league with the French, dresses his men as Riffs to cause trouble. Now, Paul has to convince Margot and the general to aid his cause and the people of the desert he's come to love.

While I generally prefer the more action-packed wartime version, this one is not without its charms. For one thing, most of the music has been returned to its original context, and there's two additional songs for Margot. Grayson is having tons of fun as the spirited and intelligent general's daughter. Too bad MacRae isn't at her level - he's stiff and unconvincing as Paul. There's some nice color cinematography too, especially out in the desert.  If you love old-fashioned operetta adventure or the two stars, this one is available in the Warner Archives.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Swashbucklers and Romance (and Legos)

Started a cloudy day with early work. It was pretty dead for most of it. There weren't even that many carts to gather. I spent the majority of the morning doing returns, and even that was winding down by the end. I was in and out with no problems whatsoever.

Headed home and had lunch, then spent the rest of the afternoon writing. After being dressed in the filmy garments of a female slave, Leia is now considered to be Jabba's favorite. She uses her position to bargain with the ugly ogre. She first gives up her armor, then her knife to see Han. She brings a basket of goodies that distracts Jabba's daughters, then talks to him and plans with him as much as she can. He's being forced to choose between Jabba's daughters and marry one, or they'll hurt Chewie and Leia. Jabba's holding an engagement party to honor his announcement the next day.

Leia bargains with Jabba for one last time to see Han. Jabba, however, has gotten craftier. He insists on taking her lovely voice this time. She agrees to it, thinking it's the only way she'll get to see Han, even if she can't talk to him. Jabba has a reason for wanting her voice, though...

It was around 6 PM when I finally got off the computer. I finished out The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I started during lunch, while eating Merlin's Magic (Baked) Chicken, asparagus, and brown rice for dinner. This is the 1982 TV version of the wildly popular adventure novel. Sir Percy Blakney (Anthony Andrews) may seem like a dandy, but he's really the dashing Scarlet Pimpernel, who with his trusted band of gentlemen, sneak doomed aristocrats out from under the nose of dour Chauvelain (Ian McKellen) during the French Revolution. He falls in love with actress Marguerite St. Just (Jane Seymour), but decides against telling her his secret when she's accused of being a spy. As his wife tries to figure out the truth, Percy and his men plan for the ultimate grand escape - rescuing the young son of the deposed king and queen of France.

Possibly my favorite film version of one of my most beloved books. Andrews in particular does well with Blakney.

Ended the night with more LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. I finally got through "Retake Theed Palace," after much leaping and cursing (and watching a few tutorials on YouTube). Taking on Darth Maul proved to be much easier. You basically just toss things at him, slash at droids, and follow him until you can actually fight him. Next time I play, I'll be starting Attack of the Clones, probably with a driving level based around that movie's opening sequence in Coruscant.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Riding In the Rain

It was just starting to rain again as I headed out for today's long errand run. Started at the Oaklyn Library. (I forgot to do them last week!) For some reason, the DVDs were a mess. There were a lot of titles out of order, several new ones still had the security stickers on them, and some of the new releases had been dumped with the older ones. It took me 40 minutes to get things sorted out and give the children's area a look.

It was nearly 12:30 when I finally headed off to Haddonfield. Between the steady shower and the noon traffic, it was a bit of a haul. I didn't pull in at the bike racks next to CVS until quarter after 1. That still gave me enough time for a decent lunch at Amino Juice. Though their main dining area was busy, there was thankfully no line. I had the "petito" (small) Chicken and Guacamole Burrito and the Simply Delicious Juice. The juice was a frothy, bright orange combination of apple, carrot, orange, and lemon juices, and it was quite tasty, tart without being too tart and just sweet enough. The burrito was messy but very flavorful, with lots of guacamole and vinaigrette.

After a quick look at CVS, I headed to counseling, the main reason I was all the way up in Haddonfield on such a lousy weather day. I told her about my quiet month, the week I only had one day off at work, all the writing I've been doing. We talked about Star Wars (she saw Force Awakens and wasn't impressed - apparently, she'd been expecting more CGI effects, as in the prequels) and how I'd been effected by Han Solo's death and the enjoyable new heroes and the poorly-written villains. (Honestly, I've more-or-less accepted Han's death by now. And unlike a lot of fans online, I really don't think they're going to bring him back. No Force ghost shenanigans. Sometimes, dead is dead, even in space opera.)

Though so many of the things I've loved, in some cases since childhood - Star Wars, musicals, sitcoms, pre-70's movies, records - have seen resurgences of popularity lately, I still have a hard time admitting that it's ok to be a fan of any of these things. I've gotten so used to being tormented and teased for being "different," it's very hard for me to accept myself for what I am. I never understood all those "be yourself" messages the cartoons of the 80's dished out. If I was supposed to be myself, why did everyone around me tell me to be anything else? I never understood why they couldn't all just let me be.

The rain was slowing down a bit when I got out, but it still wasn't a pleasant day. I was thirsty, so despite the fact that the digital sign outside the Westmont Fire Department said it was 57 degrees, I opted for a treat at Primo's Water Ice. I ate my strawberry cheesecake water ice (which tasted oddly of mint) inside at the metal counter, watching the last of the rain fall.

Went straight home the way I came, across the park. Needless to say, Newton Lake Park wasn't busy today, either going to or coming from Haddonfield. In fact, pretty much the only creatures I saw besides me were a couple of Canadian geese. The park looks gorgeous right now, though. All that rain has been good for something. Every time I ride through there, I feel like Rey taking her first glimpse of Takodana - "I didn't know there was this much green in the galaxy." The trees are a shade of lime usually reserved for commercial key lime pies. The irises are a vibrant purple. The buttercups sparkle like little yellow suns.

When I got in, I went right on the computer and into writing. The group separates the next morning. Lando returns to Jabba's Palace as a guard. Cecil and Arthur go on ahead with a message from Luke, getting jobs with Jabba as a translator and repairman. Leia dresses in her mother's armor and passes herself off as a hunter, selling Chewbacca the Wookie horse to Jabba.

Late at night, after Jabba and his court is asleep, Leia creeps into his garden, where the crystal coffin containing Han is kept. She hacks through thorny desert roses to get to her beloved rogue. She's able to use her magic to open the coffin before giving him the most passionate kiss possible. It does awaken him...but first of all, it didn't end the blindness spell Vader cast. Han still can't see and is very weak. Second, Jabba catches them as they try to leave. His ugly daughters still want to marry Han, and Jabba himself finds Leia very intriguing...

Finished out An American Tail: Fivel Goes West while eating leftovers for dinner. (I started it during breakfast.) Fivel and his family leave the crowded streets of New York for the wide open spaces of the American West. They're lured there by a cat who wants the mice to build up his town before he traps them all as a meal for his goons. Fivel discovers his plan, but first he gets lost, then no one will believe him. He finally turns to his friend Tiger the cat and the legendary law dog Wylie Burp to rid the west of these feline lawbreakers once and for all. My favorite of the American Tail movies; an enjoyable western musical, with far more fun and less melodrama than the original.

Ended the evening with Chocolate-Almond Cake and an episode of Rick Steve's Europe. We got to the edge of the continent for a trip to Istanbul, Turkey. I watched this to get ideas for the Jabba's Palace sequence in my current story. I want to go for an "Arabian Knights-meets-American Southwest" aesthetic here, especially in the palace itself and some of the costumes.

Monday, May 16, 2016

It's Temporarily Sunny In Philadelphia

I slept in this morning, finishing off the novelization of The Force Awakens. (Which wasn't bad, by the way. I really wish they'd kept the scene that details how Poe got back to the Resistance. Considering in the movie he's suddenly dead, then suddenly not, that would have been nice.) When I did get up, I had a quick breakfast while listening to another K-Tel late 70's collection. Those are so fun. They're like the original Rhino Have a Nice Day albums.

Didn't make it to the laundromat until nearly 12:30. They were busy as heck when I got in. Thankfully, they gradually cleared out as I worked on my story notes. By the time I was loading my clothes into a dryer, it was still a little busy, but not nearly as much as before.

I guess everyone wanted to get out before the next round of bad weather hit. It was beautiful today, sunny and in the mid-60's when you could escape the constant and chilly wind. I had a couple of errands to run after I put away the clothes. Started with lunch at Capitol Pizza. Since it was 2 by then, it was just me, the pizza guys, and talk shows on the TV. I had my usual slice of cheese and slice of mushroom with a can of Diet Pepsi. I thought about eating outside, but I was afraid my pizza would end up blowing away.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session there. They were training a couple of new volunteers, so there wasn't much for me to do. I organized the kids' DVDs and shelved new releases, an audio book, and two CDs.

I want to concentrate on writing this week, so I skipped taking out movies. I did grab a pile of books, though. I thought I'd give the kids' section a whirl, given how hard it often is for me to find anything I like in the adult fiction shelves. They just got the newest American Girl historical story in, about 60's-era Detroit lass Melody Ellison, No Ordinary Sound. A trio of comic kid-oriented retellings of the original Star Wars trilogy came out last year. I found the one for Return of the Jedi, Beware the Power of the Dark Side. I really enjoyed Princess Academy when I read it two years ago and was delighted to discover it has sequels. I took out the first, Palace of Stone. Also found an interesting modern version of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Ice.

Made a really quick stop at Dollar Tree for sponges on the way home. Surprisingly, despite it being rush hour, they weren't busy at all. They didn't even have a line. I was in and out.

Worked on writing for the next couple of hours. As Wicket and Leia return to the village, they discover that the Ewoks have brought home something for dinner...namely Lando, Luke, Chewie, and Arthur. Luke and Leia try to get Cecil to use his newly-discovered god status to get the Ewoks to let them go. The Skywalker siblings work together to get Cecil in the air and gain the Ewoks' aid.

Spent the rest of the evening playing LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga while I ate leftovers for dinner. I don't know why everyone online says this is so easy. It must have taken me a half-hour alone just to come in first in the pod race, and even then, I barely won. (But that's actually kind of true to the movie.) I can't seem to manage the Jedi double jump. I'll either jump over the object, or jump and then fall off. I guess my poor hand-eye coordination just isn't up to it. I did "Retake Theed Palace" so poorly, I'm just going to start over the next time I play.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Blown Away

It was sunny when I awoke this morning. I read the novelization of The Force Awakens, then finally got up to make breakfast. In honor of the first farm market strawberries of the season, I made Strawberry-Almond Pancakes. Yum. They came out pretty well. (And probably would have come out even better if I hadn't burnt one.) Listened to the Disco House double LP set I bought yesterday while I ate. Although there were a few familiar songs, like Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" and the original version of "Turn the Beat Around," I didn't recognize most of the tunes. That was ok. It was nice to just have an album (or 2 - this was a 2-disc set) to get up and dance to.

Thankfully, and despite the best efforts of some wild wind and fat and thick clouds, it remained sunny for most of the afternoon. This was a good thing. I spent most of the first half of my work shift outside, helping with carts. Today is a Sunday, and Sundays are always busy, even outside of football season. This is the only day of the week a lot of people can go grocery shopping. Surprisingly, I ended up spending most of the last hour and a half inside, either behind a register (maybe someone called out?) or doing returns.

When I got home, I went right on the computer to do a little writing. The Ewoks use methods similar to the ones the utilized in the original Return of the Jedi - throwing rocks, using logs to knock over people and vehicles, bow and arrows, spears - to get rid of the Imperial troops who are cutting down their trees. Leia uses her mind powers to convince their head officer to return to the Kingdom of the Empire empty-handed.

I had leftovers for dinner, then made Pumpkin Muffins. The Acme is still clearing out its original generic brands and replacing them with Safeway brands. I found pumpkin on the clearance rack for 69 cents, so I thought, why not have a little taste of fall in the spring? They came out pretty well, too, moist and just sweet enough. (I also grabbed cranberry sauce for 49 cents - maybe I'll do something with cranberry next?)

Listened to more 70's hits while I worked. I love all the K-Tel collections I've found all over the area, from the FYE in Philly to Haddon Heights. It's like having an oldies station on a record. The one I listened to tonight was from 1977 and included favorites like "Right Back Where We Started From," "Let Your Love Flow," and two hit theme songs from popular sitcoms of the time period, "Welcome Back" (from Welcome Back Kotter) and "Happy Days."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

To my surprise and delight, I awoke to an absolutely gorgeous morning, sunny, warm, and breezy. It was the perfect day for a nice, long errand run, starting with my weekly trip to the Collingswood Farm Market. They were even busier than last week, not surprising given the nice weather. While most booths were still selling seedlings, more of the spring harvest had started to emerge. I picked up my first strawberries and spinach of the year, along with bananas, radishes, and cheddar cheese.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon wandering around Haddon Township and Westmont, checking out yard sales. Evidently, despite the fact that it was just damp last Saturday, not rainy, a lot of people had opted to hold off on their yard sales until this week. I made some great finds, the best being a beautiful, heavy soup pot that had belonged to the mother of a woman in Haddon Township. Wish I'd had that thing yesterday when I made chili.

Other finds included:

Two Star Wars Golden Book paperback kids' books for New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, both from the marketing blitz surrounding the late 90's re-releases. Keefe had both of these. They were in excellent condition for 20-year-old kids' books. They even still came with the original advertised tattoos. The photos will make great fanfiction inspiration.

One heart-shaped cookie cutter. I have tons of cookie cutters, but not a ruffled heart that could cut to make a heart look like a heart-shaped flower.

The Effanbee Miss Spain International doll, the early 80's release in the ruffly, bright red lace gown with the simple black fringed mantilla and white plastic fan. (I named her Isabella, after Queen Isabella of Spain.)

Two small rag dolls, one of Holly Hobbie, the other of a friend of hers (don't know her name - she wears tan calico)

Two CDs:

The Allman Brothers - Legendary Hits

U2 - The Best of 1980-1990

And two records:

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - Anthology

Disco House, a collection of disco songs and dance mixes.

Stopped at the Westmont Acme quickly on the way home. I forgot brown sugar yesterday. I also picked up the new Minute Maid fruit punch sparkling juice - this was past noon, and I was thirsty as heck. Got to say hi to Angie, a really sweet manager who used to work at the Audubon Acme but was transferred a few years ago.

It was just starting to get cloudy and windy when I arrived home around quarter of 1. I put everything away, then had a quick lunch while finishing out the Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater episodes I began during breakfast. "Cinderkitty" would rather be catching forward passes than playing cheerleader. With a little help from her fairy god-kitty, she may be able to do both...and win Prince Tuxedo Sam's heart. "Kittylocks and the Three Bears" learns it isn't a good idea to trespass when she enters the house of a family of bears who think she's on the afternoon menu. Hello Kitty becomes "Sleeping Kitty" when a the evil fairy Fangora puts a spell on her. Sam has to blow her a kiss awake. "Kitty and the Beast" has Hello Kitty and Catnip trapped in the castle of a pig-like creature with a good heart (Sam). Can they get past the wicked witch Fangora and return him to his penguin form? And Grinder is the not-so-small protector in "Snow Kitty and the One Dwarf."

I ignored the increasing wind and dark clouds and did my writing. Leia and Cecil are now walking through the peaceful, green Kingdom of Endor. Seeking shelter, they find themselves in a series of treetop cottages. A hungry Cecil leads them into one, slurping soup and accidentally breaking a chair. They both fall asleep in the beds in the loft room.

It turns out the bears who own this cottage are Ewoks, seven small, bear-like warriors. They're not happy to find these intruders until Leia uses her powers to "talk" to them, and then they see Cecil and think he's a god, thanks to his gold uniform. Turns out they could use their help. The Imperials have been hounding them for taxes. Since they have no money, they've been hurting them and cutting down their sacred trees. Leia agrees to help if they take her to Jabba's Palace on the border of the Kingdoms of Tatoon and Endor.

Had dinner while doing Daffy Duck's Quackbusters, which I began earlier in the day. Daffy inherits a fortune from an eccentric millionaire...as long as he goes into business and provides a service. Tired of his ghostly patron trying to take his money with him, he rounds up Bugs, Porky, and Sylvester to become ghost chasers. With Bugs trying to avoid abominable snowmen and vampires, Sylvester being freaked out by an oversized Tweety Bird, and Porky completely missing the spooks in a ghost town, Daffy learns just how hard it can be to run a business...and that it's not nice to mess with ghosts. Especially ones with a strange sense of humor. The last and one of the best of the Looney Tunes movies of the late 70's and 80's, and the only one to feature two all-new shorts.

Moved to the Disney Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs while experimenting with a Double Chocolate Almond Cake for dessert. Since this is one of the major inspirations for my current story, I thought I'd watch this one, too. Not my favorite Disney movie, but it does have some nice moments, mainly with the dwarfs, and it is film and animation history.

(Oh, and it did finally start raining around 4:30-5 PM. It's rained on and off the rest of the night.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rain, Rain, Go Away...and Stay Away

Began with early work for the second day in a row. This time, I only spent about a hour rounding up carts, and another one doing returns. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon in the register. One of the cashiers called out, and we were busy on and off. Maybe it's just as well. It was just cloudy when I rode in, but by half-way through my shift, it had started showering. The rain was coming down at a pretty good clip when I was finished.

My schedule isn't too bad this week. Fewer hours, but they're all either morning or mid-afternoon. Monday and Tuesday off this time, Tuesday for counseling. While a few more hours would be nice, and an early day on Saturday means I'll have to miss the Collingswood Farm Market, this is otherwise perfectly normal for this time of the year.

Didn't have a really big grocery order this week. I was mostly taking advantage of one of the Acme's occasional Mega Mix Sales that let you buy six of a wide variety of items and get three dollars off. I stocked up on tuna, cooking oil, an 18-pack of eggs, yogurt, and ground turkey that way. Needed grapefruit and pears; any other vegetables, I'll grab tomorrow. Also restocked canned pineapple, skim milk, thin pads, and peanut butter. The Acme is still getting rid of its older generic brands. I picked up spatulas and a small strainer on huge clearances.

When I got home, I put everything away, then worked on writing for a while. That night, Leia's having a hard time sleeping. Her mind is still on Han, the Rebels, and what happened in Bespin. When she does finally drift off, she has a nightmare about Han being blind and trapped by Jabba's ugly daughters, and her being unable to call out to him. She's dragged away, first by a wrinkly hand, then by a familiar demon figure..

She wakes up screaming the next morning. Luke, Cecil, and Arthur are all by her side, concerned. She can't stay any longer. She knows Jabba must be doing something to Han. Luke stays to forge a sword, but the two do take the time to make a plan before she leaves. After she and Cecil head on their way, Arthur sees some metal cups and figure out how to fix Luke's hand.

(Incidentally, the rain finally ended and the sun came out around 5. Hopefully, it'll stay like that for a while. I want to hit the Farm Market and check around for yard sales tomorrow.)

Finished the night with Cincinatti Chili for dinner. After Silk Stockings ended, I ran Garfield's Feline Fantasies while cleaning up from dinner. Garfield's day is filled with wild daydreams, from awakening Jon with a magic act to parodying Airport on a hutch. No matter how crazy things get, Jon's always there to save the day...but can he get them out of a spy spoof that has Odie and Garfield searching for the Banana of Bombay?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Little Bit of Sunshine

Today was my first of two early work days in a row. Though I did briefly end up in a register and put away a few things, I spent most of the morning outside, rounding up carts and sweeping. Apparently, a regional manager was visiting later, and the front end managers wanted the store to look its best. Good thing it finally got sunny, at least for a little while, today, and much warmer. It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road just to be able to enjoy the day a little longer.

When I got in, I called Mom. I hadn't gotten her on Mother's Day, and I wanted to say "hi." I did catch her this time. She's been busy with work and taking care of Dad. She didn't have time to celebrate her birthday back in March, much less Mother's Day. Dad just had his first round of chemotherapy the other day. I told her about my fun birthday, my week off, and how busy I've been since then.

I worked on writing for a while after getting off with Mom.. Leia finds a suit of armor in the same chest in Ben's cottage he retrieved Luke's armor from. It fits her perfectly, and it turns out there's a reason for that. It once belonged to her mother Padme, the Queen of Naboo, before she died. Leia calls Ben's ghost out for lying to Luke about their father. Ben explains...and says the twins are going to have to confront Vader again and probably kill him. Neither is eager to do that. Luke doesn't want to kill anybody. Leia doesn't want to get within a hundred mile radius of her father after he did to Han and to her.

The two try to heal Luke, using their remaining powers. They just aren't strong enough. Leia no longer has healing powers - they were cut off when Vader cut her hair. They get bones, but not much else. Leia's frustrated and wants to leave. She feels like she'll be more of a help elsewhere. Luke says no. He can try to heal the hand further, and he needs to get Arthur to forge his sword.

When I did break for dinner, I made leftovers while watching Silk Stockings. Mom mentioned she and Dad caught this on TCM a few days ago and enjoyed it. I completely forgot I dubbed it a while back. This is the 1957 film musical version of the 1939 romantic comedy Ninotchka. The title character is a severe Russian general (Cyd Charisse) who has been called to Paris to stop a composer from defecting. The composer is supposed to be writing songs for a big musical. The director (Fred Astaire) tries to seduce Nina to keep the show going on, but ends up falling for this very determined woman. Meanwhile, the star of the movie (Janis Page) is having somewhat more luck with the composer and the three commissars who were originally charged with bringing him back.

The last movie musical for director Rouben Mamoulien and composer Cole Porter has some nice songs for Fred Astaire, notably the standards "All of You" and "Paris Loves Lovers." Otherwise, it's flat and badly dated. Page was a stage star who never caught on in Hollywood - she shows why here with her rather abrasive performance. Charisse is a bit too stiff as Nina; Peter Lorre and Jules Munshin are having a bit more fun as the commissars who are having too much fun to go back to Cold War-era Russia. Fun for fans of Astaire, Porter, or the big MGM musicals of the 40's and 50's...but you'll need to know a little Cold War history to understand a lot of why Nina and her director have such a hard time getting together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Cloudy Menace

I was jolted awake this morning by hard rock music blaring downstairs at quarter of 9. It got so noisy, I ended up Charlie to turn it down. I also reminded him that it was Wednesday. He said he'd bring the new air conditioner up on Monday. I had not yet seen him or an air conditioner.

Ran The Backyardigans when I finally got up for breakfast. Tyrone and Pablo are going "In the Deep" to capture mermaids...on film, that is. Mermaids Tasha and Uniqua think they're after their garden and do everything they can think of to get rid of them.

Spent the rest of the morning working on my story. After leaving the Enchanted Woods, Vader returns to Bast Castle and his master. The wicked King Palapatine has his own plans for the Black Knight's children. He orders Vader to triple taxes in the Kingdom of the Empire and take everything they can, including treasure and precious jewels. He wants to use the money to lure the Rebels...and in turn, bring Leia and Luke with them.

Vader has more than a few reservations. His encounter with Arthur reawakened a lot of old memories...especially those of his beloved late wife Padme. He remembers how much she loved him, how she wanted to raise their children free of tyranny. He let his lust for power override his feelings for her and desire to be a father...but now he's wondering if there might be some hope left for him after all...

Meanwhile, Luke, Leia, Cecil, and Arthur have come to Ben Kenobi's old hut to forge Luke's sword. Leia's getting restless. She wants to get back to the Rebels...but even more, she misses Han something horrible and wants to go after him. Luke wants to reforge his sword first...but they find something in Ben's old trunks that may be helpful...

Charlie and his boys finally showed up with the air conditioner around quarter of 1. I was shocked at how small the thing was. It didn't take up anything resembling the room the old one did. Even my old air conditioner was smaller than the one that came with the house. Now I'm wondering just how old that thing was. Miss Ellie said it was fairly new when I moved in, but that was ten years ago. (This is also my first air conditioner to come with a remote control. I've never seen that before.)

Ate quick, then headed to work. It's probably just as well that I was bagging today. Work was dead for most of the afternoon. I gathered the indoor trash and did returns when I came in. After break, I rounded up carts, bagged, and cleaned out the woman's bathroom. There were no really major problems (besides some grouchy evening managers), and I was in and out.

When I got home, I made Thin Chicken Cutlets Poached in Lemon Sauce with roasted broccoli and cauliflower and fingerling potatoes for dinner, then whipped up some Mint-Mini-Chocolate-Chip Meringue Cookies for dessert. Watched The Phantom Menace while I ate and baked. Yeah, since I've done all of the other Star Wars movies (and the Rebels cartoon) in the past five months or so, I figured I'd do this one, too.

 Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) are a Jedi master and pupil (padawan) who think they're just being sent to the planet Naboo for a routine matter. They discover on arrival that the Trade Federation has blockaded the planet, and the people are starving. They do manage to escape with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), but their ship is stranded in Tatoonie. There, they meet 9-year-old slave Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who turns out to be an expert podracer. Despite his youth, he manages to win them the money to get them off the planet and set him free. Qui-Gon wants to train him as a Jedi, but the Council, including Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) sense something very dark in the kid. Meanwhile, the Trade Federation's blockade is still causing trouble. The Queen, the kid, and the Jedi have seek the help of the frog-like Gungans, including one especially clumsy one, to help them defeat the droids that have invaded Naboo. And then, there's the scary guy with the black and red face paint who seems to have a score to settle with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan...

So, yeah, overall, I'm not real fond of this one. There's a reason this is the first time I've watched this since I found it about five or so years ago. (I bought it at a yard sale, still in its plastic, for a quarter.) It's by far my least-favorite Star Wars movie. My problem isn't the things most people usually point fingers at - the kid and Jar Jar, the overly clumsy and obvious Gungan. Jar Jar doesn't bother me, and I thought Lloyd was fine, given the circumstances. The plot is overly complicated and really very dull. I know a lot of people like the podrace, but I'm not a racing fan, and it doesn't do much for me. The heavy reliance on then-cutting-edge CGI means that many of the effects look dated now. The dialogue is the series' worst, stilted and wooden, and it does no one any favors.

There's only three reasons this is even watchable today, and two of them are Neeson and MacGregor. Neeson brings such a wonderful gravity to his role as the maverick Jedi master who discovers Anakin and has so much chemistry with MacGregor that I really wish he was in more of the series. Darth Maul may not be much of a character (you learn absolutely nothing about him here), but that "Duel of the Fates" in the finale is still a wonder to behold. The third reason is some of John Williams' best music, including the aforementioned "Duel of the Fates."

Unless you're a huge fan of Star Wars or the cast, there really is no reason to come here. You're probably better off digging around for the soundtrack online, watching the lightsaber duels on YouTube, and skipping the rest.

Finished the night with more Backyardigans. The Gungans aren't the only ones who learn about the importance of helping others. In "Pablor and the Acorns," Tasha, Tyrone, and Austin are Acorn Scouts trying to earn their badges. Pablo and Uniqua are galactic war lords who want to find the Crystal of Power. When the crystal lands on Buttercup Mountain, Pablo has to rely on the Acorns to get him there...and discovers just how nice it can be to help others and learn new things.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Daughters of the Crystal Future

The clouds continued to linger this morning when I got up late for breakfast. After I ate, I washed the windows, made Pineapple Muffins, and watched more Sailor Moon. Much like Ben Solo, Chibi-Usa is fed lies about her family and friends by an evil dark entity, in this case the Death Phantom. She eventually turns into Black Lady, a nasty adult version of herself. The Guardians can sense the change. What they can't do is fight someone they still see as a friend.

Sapphir, younger brother of Prince Dimand of the Black Moon Clan, has no such problems. He overhears the Death Phantom's true plans for the Earth and just barely escapes his wrath. Despite his love for Petz, one of the Sisters who became human, he still feels the need to confront his brother about how far gone he's gotten.

What happens to Sapphir finally leads Dimand to question the Death Phantom. He's still trying to kidnap Sailor Moon, but this time, she's having none of it and tries to convince him to live in harmony with the Earth instead. When a huge black crystal appears in downtown Tokyo, the Guardians know it's time for the final showdown.

Headed to work as soon as the episode was over. I once again spent most of the afternoon and early evening returning carts. We weren't quite as busy as over the weekend, but it was steady enough that the carts constantly needed to be returned. I did some returns and cleaned up a broken bottle of cooking sherry as well. It sprinkled on and off all afternoon, but at press time, hasn't flat-out rained. Grabbed some much-needed pads on the way home.

When I got in, I finished out the second season of Sailor Moon while eating leftovers for dinner. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask use the power of the Silver Crystal - and reminders that they love her dearly - to restore Black Lady back to her child form. Taking care of the Death Phantom and his Dark Gate isn't as easy. It gets so hard that Chibi-Usa eventually joins in, having figured out what happened to the Silver Crystal of the future.

Ran Sons of the Desert for a couple of laughs while dusting my bedroom after dinner. Laurel and Hardy trick their wives into letting them go to their club's convention by saying Ollie's gone on a cruise to Hawaii for his health and took Stan with him. This works well enough, letting the guys enjoy all the shenanigans that the convention has to offer...at least until the ship they were supposed to have been on goes down and their wives get worried. Not my favorite of their features, but has some great gags, especially at the actual convention.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Busy Day at the Library

Began a cloudy and windy morning with breakfast and Sailor Moon. Esmeraude continues to attack the Guardians, beginning with Ami. The Black Moon Clan turns her cram school class against her when she gets the best grade in the class. The other girls reassure her that no matter what people say about her, they're still her friends.

It gets worse with Chib-Usa. The kid has finally made a best pal her own age, but when Esmeraude attacks her elementary school, the students start hating her. She gets so upset, she actually opens up a portal to her time...

Which takes us into the next episode. Chibi-Usa can now take Tuxedo Mask and the Guardians forward to her time, the 30th century. Though Sailor Pluto helps get them through, they still end up lost in the space-time continuum, thanks to one of Esmeraude's monsters.

Headed out to do laundry around 12:30. They weren't too bad when I arrived, but more people showed up as we got further into the lunch hour. I worked on story notes and listened to the news and The Chew. I had a ton of laundry, including towels, so it took a while, too.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then headed right back out. It was nearly 2:30 when I arrived at Friendly's. I was surprised there were a few people there at that hour, including a family that showed up later. I had a basic All American Burger and very hot, salty fries for dinner. I've been craving nuts, so I had butter pecan ice cream with peanut butter sauce for dessert.

The Haddon Township Library was bustling when I arrived. The DVD rack was almost literally overflowing, and there were huge piles of audio and paper books to shelve. I left the adult DVDs and audio books to the kids and concentrated on the piles of kids' DVDs (surprisingly, they all fit, even the S titles) and the non-fiction titles. Didn't take anything out this week - I really want to focus on writing.

Headed straight home across Newton Lake Park. I've never seen it look so green. All this rain has given the flora the kind of color only seen in old Technicolor movies of the 40's and 50's. The flowers are blooming. The leaves on the trees are getting fatter every day. I dodged many joggers, bikers, and kids on their way home from school.

Spent the evening working on my story. Leia and Luke are in despair when Yoda dies...but another Force Ghost appears to help them. Qui-Gon Jinn was once Ben Kenobi's master, but he died in a duel with a Black Knight. He can't heal Luke's hand, but he can lead the young man to enough Khyber Crystals to make a new sword, give Leia a sharp, fancy long knife that once belonged to her mother, and point them in the direction of what had been Ben's hut in the Kingdom of Aldran.

Returned to Sailor Moon while eating leftovers for dinner. The Guardians arrive in the future, only to find that it's a bleak, cold world. King Endymion, the ruler of this land and Chibi-Usa's father, explains that Neo-Queen Serenity has been trapped in crystal to keep her safe from the Black Moon Clan. The head of the Clan, Dimond, shows why he's worried when he kidnaps Sailor Moon, believing her to be the Queen. Tuxedo Mask goes after her...but when they return, Chibi-Usa has disappeared...

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mothers of Emotion

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

Second, I kind of wish I hadn't started the day by oversleeping. I barely had the time to make Mini Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast and listen to Gypsy. This musical about the ultimate show business mother is based after the real-life tale of "Mama" Rose, who was determined that her daughters Louise and especially June become vaudeville headliners. She couldn't have picked a worse time to push and shove them into it. This story takes place during the late 20's-early 30's, when vaudeville was dying. June and Louise do eventually become stars...as stage comedienne June Hovick and stripper and author Gypsy Rose Lee. Rose is devastated when her daughters don't make it in vaudeville, but she's even more angry when she realizes just how much of her life she gave up for them.

I barely made it to work on time. As it was, I ended up spending most of the day, including the first two and a half hours of my shift, outside rounding up carts. (I also did a few returns, including cleaning up after a broken jar of pickled hot peppers that fell out of one of the carts.) At least it was a nice day for it. The clouds were vanishing, even as I was riding to the Acme. By the time I was on my last hour (and my second go-around with the carts), the sun was out and it was windy as all heck. Despite the bedlam in the parking lot, it didn't seem all that busy inside until the noon rush hour and people started getting out of church. Thankfully, it seemed to be slowing down a bit as I bought skim milk (the only thing I forgot yesterday) and headed home.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at my place, working on my story and other ideas. Luke and Leia do get Yoda back to his place, with Cecil and Arthur's help. Luke does get Yoda to admit that yes, Vader is their father, and no, he didn't want them to know. Leia calls him out on this. Neither Skywalker likes the idea of Luke going after Vader. Luke doesn't want to kill anyone. Leia doesn't want him getting killed. Luke genuinely mourns Yoda when he passes. Leia's more upset for him (she only knew Yoda through what Luke told her).

And...yeah, I came up with yet another "I don't know when I'll get to it, but I like it" idea, and once again, it's Han/Leia based. (They've been on my mind lately - see also the "Little Merman" outline at the Story Ideas page on my blog.) It's going to be a grittier high fantasy tale, inspired by this Tumblr post. Leia is in search of her missing brother Luke, who was in training to be a wizard before their parents were killed and he was kidnapped. He's not the only one who has disappeared. The queen is dying. Her spoiled, vain younger son is taking over the throne. There was once an older son, Prince Hannel, but he vanished and is presumed dead. It's rumored that the younger prince is in league with a dark sorcerer who worked some enchantment on his lost elder sibling.

Leia finds a man imprisoned in a dungeon in a remote corner of the kingdom. The bedraggled man with the auburn hair had once worn fine robes, but now can neither speak, nor remember who he is. All Leia knows is he's insufferably stubborn, an excellent shot with a bow and arrow, and is always accompanied by one of the enormous Wookie wolves that never leaves his side. The two are eventually joined by an eccentric old wizard and a mysterious golden unicorn with sad blue eyes as they try to find out who the man is and restore order to the land.

Finished out my night with leftovers and Inside Out. In one of Pixar's most unique films, we meet the emotions of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. Up until now, Riley, a hockey-loving Minnesota native, has always been a pretty happy kid, mostly controlled by Joy (voice of Amy Pohelr). A move to San Francisco upends Riley's world and that of her emotions. Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) has always been on the back burner with little to do. When Joy tells her not to turn Riley's memories sad, she accidentally loses three of them. Joy and Sadness, with the help of Riley's former imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), have to return the memories to the main brain headquarters, before Riley's world crumbles...and she shuts out her emotions all together.

This was one of last year's biggest hits and Pixar's biggest hit and best-reviewed movie in years, and I can certainly see why. Pixar has personified everything from fish to toys, but this takes things to a whole other level, giving everyone at least one thing they can relate to. It's also one of the few full-length animated films I've seen that has no real antagonist. Riley's troubles, and her emotions' troubles in dealing with the changes around her, is the focus. I also like seeing the film acknowledge that not only can negative emotions be as useful as positive ones, they're even more so at times. It's those negative emotions that finally convince us to talk about our troubles, instead of keeping them in.

Like Wreck It Ralph from a few years ago, this is one movie that everyone in the family should be able to enjoy and relate to on some level. It's very highly recommended, especially for animation fans and for families with kids Riley's age who are just starting to learn how to deal with their own real-life emotions.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Farm Market Is Back In Town

It was gloomy and gray but not raining when I had breakfast this morning. Ran the Care Bears DVD while I ate. The crew searches for "Bearied Treasure" when they find a map that leads to a lost sea-bear's chest. It supposedly gives a bear their fondest wish...but the Bears learn that there's no more important wish than friendship. Tenderheart goes on vacation, but "When the Bear's Away" the Beastlys will make mischief. He convinces the Bears to invite a kid to Care-a-Lot, after Tenderheart said not to. The kid turns out to be an unruly brat who joins Beastly in wrecking havoc and stealing everyone's things. The Bears have to catch him without their leader's help.

(The remaining two episodes on the set were, oddly, episodes from the previous 2-D animated Care Bears incarnation, Adventures In Care-a-Lot. I'd already seen them both, so I skipped them.)

Today was the first day of the season for the Collingswood Farm Market, which takes place in the parking lot behind the block with Serena's Cafe on Haddon Avenue every Saturday from the first weekend in May through the weekend before Thanksgiving. Despite them being very busy, it was still too early in the season for anyone to really be selling much. Almost everyone was selling plant seedlings and flowers. Asparagus was the only going vegetable I saw besides what came from elsewhere on the East Coast. I didn't really need much, anyway. I just came out to celebrate the opening. I bought asparagus and three bananas from the tropical fruit sellers and went home. (It was still kind of wet for yard sales.)

Spent the rest of the morning dusting the living room and watching the 1991 Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a very smart cookie, too smart for the likes of obnoxious local idiots like Gaston. She wants out of town and into adventure in the worst way...and gets a lot more than she bargained for when she has to rescue her father from a nasty beast. It turns out that this beast wasn't always a grouchy furry guy, and there's a lot more to his castle than meets the eye. Gaston, however, is jealous. After all, when you look like the hero, you're supposed to get the girl - even when you don't really act like one...

This was one of my family's favorite Disney movies when it came out in the early 90's. It's still a favorite of mine. I think it's my mom's favorite movie, period. We went to see this in the theater when it came out, and I remember it was the first time I'd ever seen a standing ovation outside of concerts on PBS. That's how big this was in 1991. It still holds up really well today, especially wonderful, snarky Belle herself and the gorgeous animation. If you love well-told fairy tales, sweet romances, or Disney princess stories, this is one of the best.

Headed to work after the movie ended and I ate lunch. Work was busy on and off through most of the afternoon. This is a really crazy weekend. Today was the Kentucky Derby. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Many colleges will be graduating soon, and prom season is coming up, too. Though I did spend a lot of time doing returns, I also ended up cashiering a lot. (I don't know why the manager wanted me to round up carts for the last ten minutes I was there. I did maybe five carts before I was done.)

I had dinner at Arby's. They weren't too busy, despite it being the dinner hour. They're currently selling "gyros," and they're surprisingly cheap for a small meal, too. I had the turkey gyro. Not bad. The bread was a little doughy, and the turkey was sliced too thin, but it was at least fairly flavorful. Watched the Saturday traffic go by on the Black Horse Pike as I ate.

Went back to do what little grocery shopping needed to be done this week after dinner. The Acme is having a 50% off Purdue and their generic brand chicken this week. I picked up drumsticks and thin-sliced breasts. Also needed tomato sauce, grapefruit, pears, plastic bags, trash bags, honey, tissues, and cereal. (The Acme's generic brand was the only one on a good sale - went simple with bran flakes.)

Mostly decent schedule next week. While I have some really early hours (including tomorrow), it's all bagging, and I have more hours than I have had. Two days off, Monday and next Saturday. All pretty normal for this time of year.

When I got home, I got organized and put everything away. The neighbors were having a rather noisy party downstairs (in the unfinished apartment) and next-door. I ran cartoons to try to drown them out until I hit the shower.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Things To Do In the Rain

I had just barely opened my eyes when the phone rang. It was Charlie. He would be up by 10 to take a look at my old air conditioner and haul the new one inside. I nodded, shrugged, and went back to sleep for another hour.

Charlie didn't show up by 10. He and his men were still making noise downstairs when I was eating breakfast and watching Speedy Gonzales shorts. Though many people still regard him as a stereotype, really, the most offensive thing about his starring vehicles is how formulaic some of them got in later years. I stuck to the earlier ones like "Tortilla Flaps" and "Tabasco Road" that had him going against local cats and crows and two good ones that pit him against Sylvester, "The Pied Piper of Guadalupe" and "Mexican Borders."

Charlie finally put in an appearance around 11:30. I'd just finished vacuuming and was making the bed when I heard the knock on the door. The new air conditioner is as big as the old one, but a lot newer, and hopefully will use far less energy. I have an air conditioner I brought from Wildwood that I only used for one summer before I moved up here. That one will go in my bedroom. Charlie claims he'll put them both in on Monday. We'll see if he actually sticks to that this time.

It had been raining all morning, sometimes hard. It slowed down enough by 12:30 for me to run some quick errands. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. The weather and the late hour had likely scared everyone off. It was just me, the librarian, one other person, and CNN when I arrived. I only had time to organize DVDs and take a quick look at the kids' area before they got close to closing time and I moved on.

After a fast stop at WaWa to use the ATM machine, I headed down to West Clinton Avenue for lunch and to see if Studio LuLoo was open. Between the weather and it being almost 2 PM, Phillies Phatties was quiet when I was eating my slice of cheese and slice of mushroom pizza and drinking my can of Mountain Dew Pitch Black soda. (And yes, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula, Pitch Black is on the shelves now. I know he loved that stuff when it was originally out a few years ago.) It was so quiet in Phillies Phatties, the TV wasn't even on. Studio LuLoo wasn't any busier. The woman there couldn't stay - she had to bring food for a school party for her daughter.

I was originally going to go to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping, but the rain was just coming down too hard. I just spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Vader swoops down on Luke, Leia, and the cart, blocking their way to the Dagobah Swamps. An angry Leia and hopeful Luke go up against him, but he easily defeats both, turning the Enchanted Woods itself against them.

Yoda appears in search of his apprentice. He goes up against Vader in a lightsaber duel, but he's weak from the darkness in the Woods. Vader manages to defeat him, too. The evil demon war lord is about to carry off Luke and Leia when he sees Arthur the Blacksmith...and old memories come flooding back. Arthur had once been his good friend, during the days when he was the blacksmith for the Force Knights during the Seven Kingdoms' War. Arthur even taught him his sign language. Torn between old friendships and his master's wishes, Vader finally flies away. Luke and Leia help Yoda into their carriage to get him to the Dagobah Swamps to heal.

I broke for dinner and baking around 5. Made an absolutely delicious dinner of Shrimp In Tomato Sauce with Pasta (replaced the fresh parsley with spinach, since I didn't have any, and the scallions with chopped onion; added mushrooms for more flavor). Tried Chewy Chocolate Cookies from my British cookie baking book for dessert. It's a very simple recipe, just egg whites, cocoa, confectioner's sugar, a little flour, and a little water. Oh yuuuummm. These were the most chocolate-y cookies I ever tasted. They're so rich, you'd never know they're three-fourths egg froth, sugar, and cocoa.

Ran The Three Amigos while I cooked. Martin Short, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin are the title characters, three silent movie actors in 1913 Hollywood who play Spanish landowners-turned Mexican Robin Hoods on the big screen. After they're fired from their studio, they get a chance to be heroes for real when a small town in Mexico begs for their help with a bandit and his gang who is plaguing their families.

This is an old favorite of mine, another 80's comedy my family fell in love with thanks to constant cable showings. Short, Martin, and Chase are just having so much fun with this love letter to old Western melodramas, it's hard not to enjoy it along with them. Randy Newman's two songs are really cute, too. Highly recommended for fans of the stars, comic Robin Hood tales, or western comedies.