Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Of Damsels and Daring Rescues

It was still a little cloudy this morning when I got up, but not as bad as yesterday. There was still a tiny bit of snow on the ground, but it was melting even as I made my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast. Ran A Charlie Brown Valentine while I ate. The second Peanuts Valentine's Day special is a series of skits about the kids and their various failed crushes. Charlie Brown tries to ask the Little Red Haired Girl to a dance, but somehow ends up taking Marcie and Peppermint Patty instead. Lucy and Sally pester their crushes for valentines, to no avail. Snoopy writes love poetry for the gang.

I did end up walking to work. It was still cold and a bit cloudy when I got there. Once again, it wasn't bad. Maybe a little bit busier than yesterday, but some of that may have been a lack of help. There wasn't really much to do. I rounded up carts and baskets, bagged, and returned the very few items that were laying around.

My walk home was a bit more pleasant. By that time, the clouds had vanished, and the worst of the wind went with it. The sun felt nice on my face as I strolled down the Black Horse Pike. There wasn't even much traffic.

When I got in, I went right online to work on The Resistance Kids Go Camping. Leia tells the girls a bit about her adopted parents while they clean. To cheer herself up, she suggests they tell ghost stories and roast marshmallows after dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I had leftovers and made Fudgy Brownies (a different recipe than usual) while watching swashbucklers. The Scarlet Pimpernel is based after my favorite novel. Sir Percy Blakney (Anthony Andrews), a wealthy English nobleman, risks his life and the lives of his men rescuing innocent nobles from the guillotine in Revolutionary France. He falls for the charming actress Margurite St. Just (Jane Seymour), whom he marries. The marriage turns sour quickly when he learn that she may have been a spy for Chauvelain (Ian McKellen) and sent a friend of his to his death. Believing he can't trust her, he hides his identity behind a foppish mask. But there's treachery afoot in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and even as Percy is preparing to rescue the little Dauphan, someone may be giving him away to his worst enemy.

Enjoyable, rousing version of my favorite novel. Andrews in particular is the definitive Percy Blakney.

Finished out the night with another tale of derring-do in merry old England. I went from the 1700's to medieval times for The Adventures of Robin Hood. This is the beloved Technicolor Errol Flynn version of another aristocrat who goes out of his way to aid the poor and innocent. Olivia DeHaviland is a spirited Maid Marion, Claude Rains is Prince John, and Basil Rathbone is an especially hissable Guy of Gisbourne.

I also added two more Pinterest pages. Three of my favorite Original Trilogy Star Wars characters, Han, Lando, and Chewie, got a page to themselves. I also did one for swashbucklers in general to generate ideas for my upcoming swashbuckler and 30's Star Wars fanfics.

Han, Lando, & Chewbacca - The Scoundrels
Swashbucklers! - Pirates, Musketeers, and Other Tales of Derring-Do

Monday, January 30, 2017

Taxed Out

Had a quick start today with some more Schoolhouse Rock. Science Rock is one of the segments that came out later in the 70's, and I believe was the final round to come out before the Money Rock revival. This one discusses basic science concepts like how electricity, the body, and gravity work, the planets and space in general, and energy conservation. Favorites from this segment include "Interplanet Janet" (the memorable tale of a galactic baseball team traveling in the Milky Way galaxy) and "The Body Machine" (on how your body creates energy).

Work was fairly quiet for most of the day, up through about 1...and even then, it was more busy because we didn't have enough help than because of lots of customers. I returned baskets and items and helped the other bagger with the carts.

To my frustration, when I came outside, I discovered the back tire on my bike had gone flat. I do have a spare inner tube, but it was at home. I had to walk, which was not a good thing. Dark clouds had been building up since about an hour or so after I got to work. I'd just gotten in the door and had changed when it started to snow. It snowed heavily for ten minutes or so...and then the sun came out. To my knowledge, it hasn't snowed again.

I finally got my W-2 and was able to do my taxes. This takes me 20 minutes to an hour. I have one job, own no property, and have no dependents. I was disappointed that I'm getting a far smaller return than usual, barely 900. I really need that money. I was counting on a lot more.

Also got started on my next story. The second Resistance Kids tale, The Resistance Kids Go Camping, has been in the queue since I wrote the last one. Leia has taken Jess, Rey, and Kaydel to her family's cabin in the lightly snowed-on Adirondack Mountains for a girl-bonding weekend. Things begin well...until they start to tell ghost stories...

Made Tuna Casserole for dinner while watching the Lego Star Wars New Yoda Chronicles specials. In these tales set directly after New Hope, Luke is in search of a cache of holocrons that could teach him how to become a great Jedi. When the mission starts to go sour, Yoda calls on an old friend to help out.

For all my love of Star Wars, I'm not sold on these. They're cute, but I don't think the writing is all that great, and some of the jokes don't land. Not to mention, you really need to know at least a little about Star Wars and its fandom to get some of those jokes.

Finished out the night with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry's second year at Hogwarts starts off with a bang when a worried house-elf interferes with his aunt and uncle's luncheon and Harry's picked up by Ron and his brothers in their flying car. Things get hairy from there when it becomes obvious that someone doesn't want Harry to return to the school...or anyone with "mudblood" (half witch, half non-witch) at the school. Shortly after hearing about a "Chamber of Secrets," animals and students are being turned into stone right and left. Harry and his friends become determined to find out who knows the Chamber's secrets...before one of them becomes its next victim.

This is a bit more like it. Slightly better CGI (especially on the Whomping Willow) and a more interesting story make this an improvement on its predecessor.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Finishing the Fantasy

Today was one of my two early work shifts this week. We may be getting a little bit of snow tomorrow, which likely brought out the crowds. We were busy all morning. I spent almost the entire time outside, doing carts. That was fine by me. It was too nice to be inside, anyway. The sun was finally out, the wind was down to a breeze, and it was probably in the lower-mid 40's, perfectly normal weather for this time of year.

When I got home, I had a really quick chicken soup lunch while listening to my ABBA Greatest Hits CD, then finally finished off Cinder-Han. Leia and Han come in just as Jabba and his men threaten Luke and Obi-Wan. Ahsoka and Chewie help them get Boba Fett down. Leia herself kills Jabba. Wedge arrives, with Commander Kes Dameron and the king's guards. Han and Leia and Wedge and Luke are wed. Jabba dies in prison, where Fett remains for the rest of his days.

Whew! That one took a while, a lot longer than I'd planned. First of all, the story got a bit more complicated than my previous short fairy tales. Second, I ended up doing those two Carrie Fisher tribute stories as therapy shortly after starting this one. Third, I've had a lot of distractions, with Pinterest and my financial problems.

At any rate, Cinder-Han is now available at Archive of Our Own, Fanfiction.net, and my writing blog.

Cinder-Han at Archive of Our Own
Cinder-Han at Fanfiction.net
Cinder-Han at My Writing Blog

Next up, I finish out the short stories that got backlogged during the holiday season with The Resistance Kids Go Camping. This is meant to be a goofy short story, nothing elaborate or too crazy. After that, I'm probably going to go back to the 30's adventure story I started last year and never finished. (Either that, the Original Trilogy Snow Queen, or the swashbuckler.)

I ran into Jodie in the parking lot this morning. She invited me over to her and Dad's house for fondue. She was getting things ready when I arrived. Joe, Jessa, and Dad were watching Deepwater Horizon. This tale of people working on an oil rig who get caught in a massive explosion and fire was just nominated for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects at the Oscars this week. I'm surprised it didn't get some cast nominations as well, especially for Kurt Russell's grizzled commander.

The fondue was fun and tasty, as always. We dipped broccoli and bread chunks into melted cheese, and small red potatoes, chicken, and beef into hot oil. Yum. We chatted and lost chunks of meat and potatoes in the oil and just generally enjoyed one another's company. Jodie and Dad even gave me small pints of apple butter afterwards.

Oh, and my newest project at Pinterest is another fairly personal page. This one is for everything I loved and remembered about my 80's childhood.

My 80's Childhood

Saturday, January 28, 2017

In My Hometowns

Began another cloudy day with breakfast and decorating. I usually put up the Valentine's Day items in late January-early February. I figured I needed the splash of pink and red, what with all the gloom lately. Most of what I have are cardboard hangings, notably two vintage 70's-early 80's ones I picked up at a yard sale. One is a Holly Hobbie-type girl in a bonnet, giving flowers to her puppy. The other is a teddy bear with a heart headband. I also have plain heart cut-outs and fancier ones covered in mylar, along with a cute pink teddy bear tin, a heart-shaped candy box covered in ruffles and lace that was too fancy to throw away, and shiny mylar heart I actually found in the street. The smaller heart hanging on the bottom was broken, but the larger one is fine.

Ran a couple of episodes of The Backyardigans as I worked. Uniqua is a "Fly Girl" who goes to dangerous locations with singing telegrams. She's discouraged when she thinks cleaning-obsessed Captain Pablo, quiet-loving Maharajah Tasha, and grumpy Abominable Snow-Moose Tyrone don't like her song and dance. They have a special surprise for her too, though...

"Who Goes There?" is a flamenco-fueled riff on the Night at the Museum films. Security guard Tyrone finds  himself chasing after wayward moving artworks Austin, Uniqua, and Pablo when they come out to play for the night. He's worried what'll happen when Curator Tasha sees the mess they leave, especially in one display room she insisted must not be touched.

I headed out even before "Who Goes There?" ended. First stop on the list was the Oaklyn Library. Other than one old man snoring on a couch and a few folks on the computer, there was nothing going on there. It was getting kind of late by that point as well. I was there at quarter after 1, and the library closes at 2. I organized DVDs and took a quick look at the children's section before moving on.

Dodged a few small flurries on my way to Westmont for lunch. I treated myself to Friendly's. They were busy for almost 2, with families having ice cream and old couples enjoying companionship. The Comb-Ohh $9.99 for sandwiches, fries, and ice cream sale is still going on. The Honey BBQ burger i had was amazing. It was their basic burger slathered with barbecue sauce and fried onion rings. There was also bacon, but I ate that before I attempted to close the bun. I didn't think I'd get the bun closed otherwise! Yum. Crunchy and tangy. The cherry chocolate chunk ice cream with hot fudge sauce and a mountain of whipped cream was just as good.

The Haddon Township Library was much busier. I organized and shelved the children's DVDs...then was promptly told not to do that anymore. They now have volunteers who come in on Wednesdays from other branches to shelve DVDs. Uhh...why? Why bring volunteers from elsewhere when there's plenty right in Haddon Township? I did manage to shelve a pile of audio books with no problems.

Took out a few DVDs this time. The Haddon Township Library has every Harry Potter movie but the first one, including the second, Chamber of Secrets.  I never did get to The Hunt for Red October a few weeks ago. I'm not normally fond of romantic comedies, but Morning Glory, about bickering anchors on a morning TV show, at least has a nice cast that includes Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford. Also grabbed some more Lego Star Wars, The New Yoda Chronicles.

Took the long way home across Newton Lake Park. It wasn't that bad, despite the continuing clouds. At least by 4 PM, the winds had diminished, the flurries were gone, and it wasn't quite as cold, in the lower 40's. There were several people out and about today, including a fisherman father whose two daughters chased each other down the hill, the younger tumbling after her older sister.

Worked on writing when I got in. Ahsoka and Leia follow Chewbacca around back. They use the handle of the bucket of ashes Han held earlier to lead Chewie to the basement. Leia cuts the barrel holding Han open. After the women untie him, Han tells them about Jabba's plot. He and Leia form a plan that has Ahsoka dressing as a maid to distract Jabba and his boys while they make their way in.

Made a quick meal of scrambled eggs for a late dinner while doing one more Backyardigans episode. "Who's Bugging You?" A wormen, one of the Technicolor worm critters that appear on the show from time to time. They've invaded Tasha's house, to her dismay. She wants to show it off to Mr. Spiffy (Pablo) and join his Spiffy Club. It's Tyrone and Uniqua's job to chase them out.

In honor of Chinese New Year today (it's the Year of the Rooster), I did two animated films set in Asia tonight. Mulan is one of Disney's more unique tales. Mulan is a cheerful tomboy in very patriarchal ancient China. She may be a washout as a traditional bride, but she's determined to show she still has a lot to offer her family. The young woman gets her chance when the Huns invade China. She dresses as a boy and takes her father's place in the Army. She doesn't do well at first...until she proves that brains and guts are as crucial to a warrior as brute force.

I've always liked this one. Mulan herself is a fun character, and her fellow soldiers in the army are a riot. The fact that war is brutal is not glossed over. There's quite a bit of violence, and one rather dark sequence where Mulan and the army discover a destroyed village and a ruined child's doll.

This is one of the few times I wish a Disney musical had concentrated on the war and left the music out. Other than the hilarious "I'll Make a Man Out of You," none of the songs are particularly memorable, nor do they add much to the proceedings. Though Eddie Murphy as Mushu, the dragon who accompanies Mulan in the army, has some funny moments, his wisecracks and character really do not belong in ancient China and take one out of the story.

Not one of the best of the Disney Renaissance movies of the 90's, but one of the more interesting. If you're interested in Asian artwork or folktales, or if you have a daughter who prefers action to princesses, this one is well worth your time.

Finished the night with Kung Fu Panda 2. Po is ready for the next step in his journey - to master balance and meditation. Trouble is, fidgety, ever-eating Po can't really do either. During a battle, he has a vision of his family...his real one. He's determined to find out more about them, to the consternation of his adopted goose father. Meanwhile, Po and his fellow Furious Five members discover the wicked peacock Shen's plot to create a cannon that is so efficient, it'll eliminate the need for kung-fu forever. The group go to Shen's home town to get rid of him...and in the process, help Po find his family.

Still the best of the Kung Fu Panda movies. Po's attempts to find out who he is and where he came from are touching and funny, and the final showdown with Shen is amazing.

I spent most of the night working on another Pinterest page. This one is a little personal for me. I did a page especially for South Jersey and the Jersey Shore - the towns I grew up in, and the ones I live in and around now. I wish there were more images for some of the smaller municipalities, like Oaklyn, North Cape May, and Haddonfield. There was nothing for Rio Grande - everything that came up when I typed that in the search bar was related to Cape May, which is 15 minutes down Route 9. I found exactly one image for Audubon, what I believe to be a vintage postcard of what's now the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. So, if it seems a little too oriented towards Collingswood, Cape May, and Wildwood, that's what I had to work with. The page is sprinkled with lots of Jersey jokes and things only South Jersey natives will know. (And I felt that it was mandatory to add a few "Jersey Girls Don't Pump Gas" jokes, even though I don't drive.)

My Hometowns - Southern New Jersey and the Jersey Shore

Friday, January 27, 2017

Online Collage

It was cloudy and blah when I awoke late this morning. I needed some serious cartoon therapy. Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers is one of the holiday specials Warners did between the late 70's and the late 80's that was basically a collection of bits of shorts revolving around a thin story. In this case, we have an Elmer Fudd-like Cupid spreading love among the Tunes. Bugs thinks he's meddling, until he gets hit and sees how some of the other characters react.

My big project for today was reorganizing my Pinterest pages and adding a few new ones. The Star Wars folder had gotten too big. That one page became five. The original page now features photos from the Original Trilogy, Rogue One (which is set directly before the Original Trilogy), and anything that crosses movies or pertains to the series or Star Wars fandom in general. One page is devoted to the sequels, another to the prequels and the cartoon series Clone Wars and Rebels. There's a page for Han & Leia and Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford, and another for Luke & Leia (and non-Star Wars shots of Mark Hamill). I also added more to other pages and attempted to make a page for Remember WENN, but there just isn't much there.

At any rate, here are the reorganized Star Wars pages:

Star Wars - Originals, Rogue One, and General Saga
Star Wars - Prequels and Cartoons
Star Wars - Sequels
Han & Leia/Carrie & Harrison
Luke & Leia - The Skywalker Twins (plus Mark Hamill)

I got so involved and had so many photos, I didn't break until past 2:30! Ran a quick episode of Max & Ruby while I got organized. "Ruby's Figure Eight" is something she's never tried before. While she and Louise work on their skating, she gives Max a chair so he can work on his. Max just wants to play hockey with the big boys. Ruby tries to practice while keeping her brother from ending up underfoot.

To my surprise, the Acme wasn't busy at all when I arrived. The big "Open House" was a big disappointment. Evidently, there had been a ribbon-cutting earlier in the morning and some raffles, but there was nothing going on in the afternoon. Thankfully, the one sample table had delicious eggplant Parmesan and this amazing spinach/mushroom/sauce concoction that somewhat made up for me not having gotten around to lunch. There being food in the back room - bagels, cream cheese, butter, fruit and vegetable trays, two large sheet cakes - helped too.

My schedule is a bit more normal than last week's. I'm back to short shifts with two days, Wednesday and next Friday, off. Short and early - I work at 9 on Sunday and Thursday. (I suspected I only had the long hours I did this week because of the cleaning.)

I didn't have a huge grocery order at any rate. Bananas and eggs were on good sales, and I needed them anyway. The fresh cranberries are gone - I replaced them with apples. Restocked onions, mushrooms, skim milk, canned coconut milk and apricots, and honey. Treated myself to a can of Toasted Coconut Blue Diamond Almonds as a treat for getting through all that cleaning.

(And...yeah, they weren't busy all day, according to the cashier I went through. All that fussing, and they apparently didn't really advertise or spread the word around until two weeks ago.)

Fiddled with Pinterest a bit more after I got in, then put on a Bowery Boys movie while having chicken soup for dinner. It's No Holds Barred when Slip discovers Sach's unusually thick skull can be used in the wrestling ring to take down opponents. Trouble is, the "traveling muscles" keep moving to different parts of his body...and a group of gangsters in charge of a wrestling racket want to know how he keeps winning.

Finished the night with Captain America: Civil War. Lord, did this one get complicated. After a mission gets out of hand, the government creates a company to regulate the movements of superheroes. Still remorseful. over what his creation did in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is fine with this. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who doesn't want any other superheroes to become pawns the way his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), The Winter Soldier, did, is not. Their feud becomes a rift that separates the entire Avengers squad, including newcomers Ant-Man (Scott Rudd), T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider Man (Tom Holland). But it turns out that there's someone manipulating events behind the scenes...someone who doesn't want the Avengers working together...

You absolutely cannot come into this one with no prior knowledge of at least the previous Avengers and Captain America movies. I was confused, and I've seen all of the Marvel Universe films but the still-in-theaters Doctor Strange. There were too many characters with too many motivations and way too much going on! All the bickering just got annoying after a while.

That said, some of the new characters were fun. I especially liked the super-cute Spider Man (who behaves like a more realistic teen than he ever did in previous film incarnations) and Boseman's noble Black Panther. The villain was interesting, too, with far more motivation than most villains who turn up in super hero movies. There were a lot of nice action setpieces, too.

If you're a fan of the Marvel Universe, this is a must-see. If  you're not, back up and see either the Avengers films or the Captain America films before coming anywhere near here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How the Other Half Lives

It was showering when I headed to work this morning. As long as the rain continued, we continued to be quiet. Well, relatively speaking. There were still tons of workers here, there, and everywhere, putting up massive displays that reached the high ceiling and seeing to last-minute details. I did a lot of cleaning, scrubbing grease off the freezer and the magazine racks and wiping down the registers yet again. I ended up taking customers when it got busy around 12:30 and we were short on help. I helped one of the baggers round up carts for a half-hour before break.

If nothing else, I did get something out of all this. One of the managers in charge of the remodeling gave me a five-dollar gift card for all the cleaning I did. (That'll be useful for groceries tomorrow.) There was food in the back later in the day for everyone, too. I saw platters of fried chicken and hoagies, containers of egg salad, two kinds of potato salad, and something strange made with sauerkraut, cupcakes, containers of mini-cookies, iced tea, tons of soda and water, and bowls of candy. I had a turkey hoagie, Diet Coke, the sauerkraut salad (not bad, surprisingly), two cupcakes, cookies, and lots of dark chocolate mini Milky Way Midnights. 

After I finally had my fill, I grabbed more of those sweet dollar oranges while they were still on sale and headed home. The rain was long gone by 2:30, leaving behind mostly sunny skies and upper 40's-lower 50's temperatures. It remained really windy, though. I had a tough ride.

When I got in, I went right into bed for a nap. I was up kind of late last night. I only slept for about an hour. I didn't go down until nearly 3, and I did want to get some writing in.

Went on the computer when I awoke. Jabba greets Obi-Wan and Luke as warmly as a troll knows how. Luke stalls with the men, trying the jacket on each one of them. Meanwhile, Leia and Ashoka follows Chewie and Falcon into the back yard. Chewie knows his master is nearby. He leads them to the basement entrance...

Ran two episodes of Good Eats while improvising a stir-fry with bagged vegetables, celery, and the last of the hot dogs. "There Will Be Oil" provides uses for all those fancy nut oils that have been popping up on store shelves in the last decade, from frying potato chips to making ice cream. "Dark Side of the Cane" shows how rich, tangy, and versatile molasses can be used from everything from marinade to shoo-fly pie.

Ended the night with Thoroughly Modern Millie. I forgot Mary Tyler Moore was in this. She's the sweet, slightly ditzy Miss Dorothy, who becomes best friends with ambitious flapper Millie (Julie Andrews). She becomes a stenographer in order to marry her handsome boss...but finds more lasting love in the arms of a cheeky paper clip salesman (James Fox). Meanwhile, the girls' evil housemother (Beatrice Lille) is running a kidnapping ring in their boarding house and is after Miss Dorothy. When she does finally get her hands on the lass, it'll take all the thoroughly modern know-how of Millie, the two men in her life, and eccentric Muzzy (Carol Channing) to save her from a melodramatic fate.

Overlong but enjoyable salute to the fads, fashions, and melodramatic plots of the Roaring 20's. The ladies are the thing here. Andrews and Moore have fun with their numbers. Channing, in a rare film appearance, is so over-the-top, she's on the other side and still going. If you really love this, it inspired a hit Broadway musical as well. (But beware of many Asian stereotypes, especially towards the end. It's part of the era, but what would have been merely uncomfortable to many in 1967 may come off as downright offensive today.) 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You're Gonna Make It After All

Started a gorgeous, sunny day with a later Three Stooges shorts. "Musty Musketeers" is a remake of the earlier Shemp short "Fiddlers Three," and one of the few times I like a remake of a short better than the original. The tale of three minstrels who rescue a princess from the Black Knight in order to wed their sweethearts has been tightened up and trimmed, and has a far better ending.

Work was pretty much the same deal as yesterday. I spent most of the day cleaning. I used a magic eraser on the ice bag freezer, scrubbed the wood trim around the offices as well as I could, organized candy, and dusted around the registers. I also bagged and helped two older women outside. There were plenty of baggers to do carts...but not enough carts to do. There were a ton workers running around, doing last-minute organizing and details, and using our carts to hold their supplies. I really wish they'd bring their own darn carts. We need ours for our customers.

Went straight home after work and straight back out again. I needed to get the laundry done. I'm kind of glad I waited. I was originally going to do it Monday, but the weather got crazy. The laundromat was pin-drop quiet when I arrived. I think I saw three people the whole time I was there. I worked on story notes and listened to the news. Maybe it's just as well that I didn't have that big of a load anyway. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Called Willa about Rose and the lease after I got home (I haven't heard back yet), then worked on fanfic. Chewie and Falcon escape when Jabba's boys capture Han. They're able to waylay the royal carriage on the road. Leia, Obi-Wan, and Luke recognize the animals. Obi-Wan can sense their nervousness and realizes something wrong. Ashoka, who remains in the carriage, says she senses a trap. The magician and the royal twins decide it's time to plan a trap of their own...

Oh, and I revised my Sequel Trilogy Beauty and the Beast idea. I decided the historical thing was too complicated and decided to set it in the same fantasy universe as my other fairy tale stories. Leia Organa and her brother Luke were driven from their fine mansion in Alderaan by a wicked magician and her own son. Believing her husband dead, Leia and Luke raise three orphan girls - Jess, Rey, and Kaydel - in a school in the city. When the school fails, they find themselves forced into the country.

Luke thinks he may have prospects in the city and returns there. The women all ask for gifts. Leia wants books, Jess tools, and Kaydel ribbon trim. Rey, who loves plants, only asks for one perfect rose, for none grow around their cottage. The former teacher is stranded by a blizzard in a seemingly abandoned mansion. He hears voices and knows someone is bringing him food, but he can't see who. The mansion has extensive gardens, including stunning roses. But Luke barely picks one when he's attacked by a hideous monster with a familiar gravely voice. The monster says  he'll let him go - if he sends Leia in his place.

Her brother refuses at first, but Leia is determined to go...and the girls won't let her go alone. All four women are eventually detained at the mansion. Turns out there's four beasts here, for the monster is accompanied by three younger animals, all of whom are far more positive that one day things will get better. The youths are the Beast's apprentices, changed spitefully by the wicked magician Snoke and Leia's own son Ben.

Leia and the girls have mysterious dreams their first night there. They imagine themselves in stunning gowns in the garden, accompanied by four handsome men. The eldest, rugged and silver-haired, is familiar to Leia...but he can't tell her the truth, for in the dream world, he's mute. His three wards speak for him. They're all taken away by a shadowy figure who seems to hold a terrible power over them all. Leia and her three adopted daughters become determined to solve the mystery of the decaying mansion and find out who's the real monster...and who's the prince.

Had leftovers for dinner and made Cranberry-Triple Chip Muffins while watching my first Valentine's Day specials of the year. Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You is somewhat similar to Pooh's Grand Adventure. Pooh and the gang see Christopher Robin making a valentine for a girl and think he doesn't love them anymore. They go on a journey through the Hundred Acre Woods in order to capture a "Smitten" bug and cure the boy.

"Un-Valentine's Day" is an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Rabbit once again tries canceling a holiday because things didn't go as he wanted. Evidently, Pooh had flooded the area with Valentines the year before. What the yellow bunny forgets is that Valentines don't always have to be made out of paper. When Pooh finds a jar of honey with a heart on it on his doorstep, it sets off a chain of events that begins with a flying cake and ends with a "valentine" play for Christopher Robin gone comically wrong. But just who did send the original jar of honey?

Finished out the night - and honored the late Mary Tyler Moore - with four episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I'm glad I remembered Lauren sent me her dubbed copies of this show a couple of years ago. I no longer have any Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes. Dick Van Dyke is a bit more domestic. Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) has to balance his home life with a son and his attractive, smart wife Laura (Moore) with his unusual job as head writer for a comedy show. His co-workers include goofy Buddy (Morey Amsterdam), man-hunting Sally (Rose Marie), and humorless manager Mel (Richard Deacon).

These episodes from the first season mainly revolve around Rob trying to balance his home life and his unusual career. "The Sick Boy and the Sitter" is the first aired pilot. Laura is worried when their son Richard comes home with a slight fever. Rob talks her into leaving him with a sitter and attending an important event with him, but she constantly calls anyway.

"Jealousy" has Laura upset because Rob's been working late with an attractive movie star. Everyone assumes the worst, until Laura checks up on him herself.

Laura tries to play matchmaker with Sally in "Sally and the Lab Technician." She and nerdy Thomas Edson don't seem to hit it off...but it turns out Sally's wisecracks made a far more positive impression than Rob and Laura's constant fussing.

Rob has a bout of jealousy of his own in "The Meershatz Pipe." Buddy makes Rob think Alan Brady gave him a fancy pipe. Rob is so insecure, he comes into work sick...but it's Alan Brady who has the biggest surprise for him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Got a quick start on a windy, gloomy morning with an episode of The Backyardigans. Princess CleoTasha wants to find "The Key to the Nile." The Nile has gone dry, and in order to ask Spinx Uniqua how to refill it. she must find three precious gifts. Thing is, Tasha takes being a princess very seriously. She's bossy and rude to her pages Austin, Tyrone, and Pablo. It's Uniqua who teaches Tasha that the greatest treasure is being kind and polite to others.

Today was my long day. I spent five of the six hours scrubbing the registers and around the registers. Our big open house is Friday. There were people all over the place, rearranging things, adding more displays, and seeing to last-minute details. I also gathered baskets and bagged for the last hour. There were at least three other baggers besides me, and no need to go outside.

When I got home, I went online and did a little bit of writing and a lot of messing around with Pinterest. I revised what Jabba plans to do to Han. He now simply wants to tie a rock to his ankles and let him drown in the river. The royal arrival puts a crimp on those plans, and Han is imprisoned in a large empty wine barrel.

Had dinner while watching an episode of Moonlighting. Since I'm still reading the Star Wars Shakespeare books (I'm now on The Jedi Doth Returneth), I thought I'd dig through my collection for other riffs on the Bard. "Atomic Shakespeare" from the third season is one of the most famous and creative episodes of the entire show. A young boy, disappointed he has to read The Taming of the Shrew instead of watching the show, imagines the Moonlighting characters in Elizabethan times. Dave is Petrucchio, who courts a wild Maddie Kate...but unlike the original play, these two do eventually learn that husbands and wives work best when they work together.

"Atomic Shakespeare" isn't the only version of Taming of the Shrew I own. Kiss Me Kate switches the milieu to backstage at a musical retelling of Shrew. Egotistical actor/director Fred (Howard Keel) has persuaded his ex-wife Lili (Kathryn Grayson) to join the cast as Katherine to his Petrucchio. Meanwhile, his current girlfriend (Ann Miller) is really stringing him along in order to help her gambler boyfriend (Tommy Rall). He owes a gangster a ton of money and signed Fred's name on the IOUs. The gangster sends two goofy lackeys (Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore) to collect the payment. Desperate to keep Lili from leaving the show with her new cowboy fiancee, he tells the mooks he can't pay up unless the show goes on.

Spectacular dance numbers are the thing here, including Miller's "Too Darn Hot" solo in the opening sequence, her "Tom Dick or Harry" with the boys, and the Bob Fosse-choreographed ensemble routine to "From This Moment On." Whitmore and Wynn's "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" is hilarious, and Grayson and Keel have fun with "Wunderbar." If you love Shakespeare, the cast, or MGM musicals, the dance sequences alone makes it well worth your time.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Day of the Storm

It wasn't raining when I got up this morning. It was cloudy and very windy. I drowned out the wind with Schoolhouse Rock. Having enjoyed the Best of CD yesterday, I thought I'd run some of the actual cartoons. Multiplication Rock is the very first segment from 1973. It features one of the biggest hit numbers from the entire series, the ballad "Three Is a Magic Number." "Figure Eight," "Elementary" (times two), and "Ready or Not, Here I Come" (times five) are also fun.

Money Rock debuted much later, in the mid-90's. It's not generally that well-regarded, but some of the shorts are fairly catchy. Along with the pointed "Tyrannosaurus Debt," I like "Dollars and Sense" (on banks and loans) and "This for That" (on bartering and the history of money).

Went on the computer for a little while. I did sign up for taxi service Uber...but I should have read further on the site. First of all, you do have to pay a fee to get where you're going, sometimes as much as 10 dollars or more to get a half-hour. Second, you need an app to call them when you need them. I have a very old cell phone that doesn't support apps. They may be useful for short rides to work when all else fails, but when I want to go further than a few minutes, I think I'll stick to the bus and train.

I also did a little research on NJ services. I don't think I can get Social Security, but there are other programs I could look into, including Food Stamps. I may try applying online, though I do want to talk to the family first. I'll need a ride to get to Camden for interviews.

Broke around 2 for a late lunch. Made Cranberry Flummery while watching Good Eats. The storm was in full swing by this time, with gale-force winds and heavy showers. I thought "Going Dutch" was appropriate. While I don't have a grill, a Dutch oven, or the patience to bake on the grill, that didn't stop some of Alton's recipes from sounding delicious (especially the cherry clafouti). "Going Crackers" proves that yes, you can make your favorite cracker recipes, from graham to seeded, without ever opening a box.

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on stories. Leia asks Commander Kes Dameron and two of his men if he saw Han and his carriage on the road. Nope, all they saw was a dirty servant in an broken-down hay cart pulled by an old horse. Obi-Wan explains about the time limit on his magic. Leia and Luke want him to take them to Han right away, but the old magician insists that they wait for morning.

The next day, Han is on cloud nine. Even if he never sees Leia again, at least he got to spend one night with her. Unfortunately, his behavior has been noticed by a suspicious Boba Fett. He's even more suspicious when he overhears two of Jabba's men talking about holding Obi-Wan and Luke for ransom and forcing Leia to marry one of them. He takes off on Falcon, but Boba Fett and the bandits he attacked a few days before capture him.

He's brought back to Jabba's cellar bound and gagged. Jabba has no desire for him to win his princess, or for her to recognize him. Fett gleefully cuts his face and chops off his shaggy red-brown hair. They're going to coat him in metal and make him into a statue when the royal carriage arrives. Jabba has him locked in an empty wine barrel instead.

I made a quick "spinach pancake" (spinach, eggs, cheese, and mushrooms) for dinner while watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. We skip ahead to 1957. Indy is still searching for treasures and still fighting bad guys, but otherwise, many things have changed. It's the Russians who are after him now, especially Lieutenant Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). She wants him to find a certain crystal skull that may lead to a lost temple where a vast treasure - including more skulls - is said to be hidden. Indy has to battle his way out of Russian jeeps, man-eating ants, and a temple that may be more out-of-this-world that he's ready for. Meanwhile, a greaser named Mutt (Shia LaBouf) is also after the skull...and he leads Indy to his long-lost former flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen).

I don't hate this as much as a lot of people do, but it does have its problems. LaBouf does feel out of place as Mutt. I have no idea why they even had the character of Mac, Indy's friend. This was his first appearance, and it feels hard to care about what he does or what he means to Indy the way we're supposed to. And yes, some of the action is a little over the top, especially the whole thing with the monkeys. As with the Star Wars prequels, the obvious CGI in places tends to take one out of the serial atmosphere, rather than add to it.

On the other hand, I actually like the sci-fi oriented plot. It's creative, it suits the era, and it's no stranger than any of the other stories in the series. Indy's reunion with Marion is beautifully handled, too, and I thought Cate Blanchett made a nice, hissable villain.

Is it the worst of the series? No. (I still think that's Temple of Doom.)  Is it the best? In all honesty...not really. It is an enjoyable sci-fi action tale with some really nifty fight sequences. If you're a fan of the other Indiana Jones movies, swing on over...but I'd recommend at least seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark before coming here to understand Indy's relationship with Marion a bit better.

Finished out the night with another campy sci-fi tale, the 1980 Flash Gordon. This one is a tad bit more straightforward. New York Jets quarterback Flash (Sam Jones) finds himself thrust into space with the lovely travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and the crazy scientist Zarkov (Topol). It seems the evil dictator Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydrow) is using a ray that's causing the major weather disturbances on Earth. Flash will literally fight to the death in order to win his lady love and bring together the Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton) and his people of the forests and King Vultan and his hawk men (Brian Blessed).

Candy colored lunacy is now a cult favorite, with an awesome Queen score. If you love unabashedly wacky space opera that doesn't take itself seriously for a second, you'll want to look up this one.

And...yeah. The rain and wind has continued all day. I never left the house. I work until 4 tomorrow. I'll have to put off the laundry until Wednesday again.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I am the Model of a Writer Individual

I didn't mean to stay up as late as I did last night! I barely had enough time for some music and cereal. Continued last night's girl-power theme with the soundtrack to the 2000 version of Charlie's Angels. I actually saw this in the theater in college and loved it, although I wouldn't acquire the soundtrack until nearly a decade later. Destiny Child's "Independent Woman" is my favorite of the new songs written directly for this recording.

Work wasn't bad when I arrived. In fact, it was downright quiet. I spent the first half of my shift mostly bagging. This changed around 12:30. People must have heard the weather reports. We're supposed to get rain and wind all day tomorrow. We were mobbed from then on. I rounded up carts for most of the second half, even when we had at least two or three baggers outside with me.

I headed straight home after work. Changed and relaxed while reading books on current job hunting tips. Enjoyed some jazz while I read.

It was lightly misting when I went to and from work. Thankfully, all it did at work was look gloomy. By quarter after 3, the mist had returned, heavier this time. I walked to Dad's. It's a lot easier to hold an umbrella when you walk.

Jessa and Joe were already there with Dad and Jodie when I arrived. Jodie had her heavenly lasagna for an early dinner, along with Caesar Salad and French bread and butter. It was absolutely amazing. Really hit the spot on such a dreary day.

Wish I could say the same thing about the game. The Packers were absolutely awful today. I'm glad my cousin Mark, a long-time Packers fan, had to work. They couldn't keep their hands on the ball. I lost count of how many times a Packer dropped the ball at a crucial moment, or it went through their fingers, or they just plain lost the darn thing. I finally gave up and left in the 3rd quarter when it was 38-7. The Packers did get on the board a little more after that, but it wasn't enough to win. The Falcons won 44-21 and will be going to the Super Bowl in two weeks.

(The Steelers didn't do much better against the Patriots later in the evening. The Patriots crushed them. 36-17. Like they need to go to the Super Bowl again.)

I needed money for doing the laundry tomorrow. I was originally going to go to WaWa, but CVS is closer to Dad's. It wasn't even misting by the time I headed down the hill to the border between Oaklyn and Collingswood, just damp and chilly. I was really only there for money, but you can't take out money without buying something. I've been meaning to replace my rubber bands, anyway.

Finished the night at home, listening to CDs and working on things online. I thought two kids' titles I'd put off listening to would cheer me up and get my mind off the nasty weather. Animaniacs is music from the much-loved 90's Warners anthology show. My favorites are the educational numbers performed by Yakko Warner. I'll bet many 90's kids learned their US states and capitals from "Wakko's America," the countries on Earth from "Wakko's World," and the planets and galaxies from "Wakko's Universe" and "The Planets." For some reason, they were also very fond of Gilbert and Sullivan spoofs. "I am the Model of a Cartoon Individual" is the stand-out here.

The Best of Schoolhouse Rock features cherry-picked numbers from the four original Schoolhouse Rock segments (and the later Money Rock). Favorites here include "Figure Eight," "Three Is a Magic Number," "Unpack Your Adjectives," "Interplanet Janet," and "Tyrannosaurus Debt."

And thank goodness I have off tomorrow! It sounds like the weather's supposed to get really nasty. I won't have to be out in it, unless it lets up enough for me to do the laundry.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

All Kinds of Girl Power

I got a fast start this morning. Barely had time for breakfast and an episode of The Backyardigans. Uniqua is a librarian in Vejos, California, who really loves her work...but when a book is overdue, she becomes the Zorro-like "Masked Retriever" to get it back. The Masked Retriever has her greatest challenge yet in Don Austin, who will take his book over the border in order to keep it!

Work was a lot busier than it has been. The weather may have contributed. It was dark, gloomy, and slightly foggy all day. Thankfully, I only had to round up carts once, for a half-hour. There was plenty of help. I mostly bagged, gathered baskets, and brought out plastic bags.

My schedule next week is...odd. I work the same amount of hours, but I have three days off (Monday and next Friday and Saturday) and long hours when I do work. And even stranger, I'm off for the big open house on Friday! Which isn't entirely a bad thing. I won't need to buy the black pants they were requiring all employees to wear that day (it's more "professional," supposedly), and I'll get to see what the samples are like without having to rush.

I had a ton of grocery shopping to do today. And of course, one of the things I needed to restock was meat...which was not on a good sale. I ended up with the cheapest hot dogs they had. Also restocked white and brown sugar, canned pineapple and apricots, skim milk, yogurt, cereal (went with shredded wheat this time - the Acme generic cereal is still really cheap), cheese, peanut butter, mouthwash (buy one-get one on the Acme generic), bananas, and cranberries. Took advantage of a lot of dollar sales to grab soap, a bag of cut up vegetables, a bag of oranges, celery, and a bag of spinach.

Worked on a new story idea when I got home. I really wanted to do a straight "Beauty and the Beast" Star Wars story, but there's a bunch of ones out there, mainly for Anakin/Padme or Rey/Ben Solo. (Though I've seen at least one that was Han/Luke.) I considered doing it with Han and Leia...but I'd like to do more stories that have the Original Trilogy and Sequel Trilogy casts working together. I'm sick and tired of all the whining that one is inferior to the other, just because Luke, Leia, and Han's lives didn't work out perfectly.

The year is 1903. Social worker Leia Organya is seeking her brother Luke, along with her trio of wards, Rey, Jessica, and Kaydel. The four take shelter from a terrible blizzard in a run-down manor house in the Connecticut countryside outside of New York. To Leia's surprise, the snow doesn't extend into the lush, flower-filled grounds. Luke reveals that he was forced to stay by a hideous beast and three younger animals, merely because he took a rose for sweet little Rey. Leia insists that she should be the one to take Luke's place, but the girls won't leave their adoptive mother. In the end, the Beast insists that all the women remain.

As Leia and her wards further explore the manor house and discover its secrets, they learn that not everything in the manor is what it seems to be. The four creatures are under the evil spell of a nasty mayor who may or may not have evil powers of his own...and the oldest is familiar to Leia. Leia and her wards discover that they must look beyond the surface, of the manor and its occupants, to truly break the spell and reveal their hearts' desires.

Oh, and I've been working on a new project these last few nights. I joined Pinterest. Right now, it's mainly for story inspiration, ideas for fun with my dolls, recipes, and much-needed positive quotes. Here's my very full Star Wars Story Inspiration page, filled with photos that are either intended to give me ideas (or "feels" as fans say) for stories, or just ones that I like (humor and fan jokes included).

My Star Wars Story Inspiration Pinterest page

I continued the inspiration with some Girl Power during dinner and afterwards tonight, in honor of today's Women's March. (Which I support. I love seeing women come together, and I don't like politics and/or politicians, period.) Wonder Woman teaches the next generation, aka her teen sister Wonder Girl, to kick ass in the first season finale, "Wonder Woman In Hollywood." Diana is in Hollywood with Steve Trevor to film a morale-lifting move about the exploits of four military heroes, including Steve. Dru shows up to ask Diana to come home, but she sticks around when her older sister decides the youngest of the four heroes (Robert Hayes) bears watching. Someone has been kidnapping these heroes right off the set...and if the Wonder ladies don't act soon, their boys will be next.

Did last year's version of Ghostbusters after my shower. This time, it's four smart women (Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones) who get to kick ghost rear. Instead of all of them working at the same place, Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is the one working at Columbia. Instead of getting the tenure she wants, she's fired when she and her friend Abby (McCarthy) and Abby's partner Jillian (McKinnon) discover a genuine ghost in an old mansion. Trouble is, in this time of Internet hoaxes and easily doctored everything, no one believes them...except for subway worker Patty (Jones), who actually witnessed a haunting, and their hot receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). It takes a plot by a nut who wants to destroy humanity to bring these five together...and show them that your friends always have your back, even when the rest of the world doesn't.

Oooh, this was fun. While McCarthy and Wiig were the headliners, my favorites were brazen gizmo queen McKinnon and down-to-Earth Jones. Helmsworth is having a blast playing against type as a dim-witted hunk, too. The special effects are just as good as the original, allowing the Ghostbusters to interest more with the actual ghosts and to widen the scope of the action sequences. (And Slimer even returns briefly.) Look for a couple of actors from the previous movies in cameos as well (including Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson).

Biggest complaint? Some of the scatological humor doesn't always land, and the commentary on Internet hoaxes and what is real and what isn't seems a bit preachy and annoying after a while. Otherwise, I absolutely loved this. I may have to pick this one up after it's been out for a while and the price has come down. If you're looking for a fresh take on one of the 80's biggest franchises and can accept some changes, this is hilarious and fun and well worth your time.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Magic In the Rain

It was raining when I awoke this morning...and that rain would continue in some capacity for most of the day. I cheered myself up with more Bowery Boys while I made the bed and did a few small chores around the apartment. Jungle Gents is one of the goofy mid-50's movies with Sach and Slip. Here, a larger-than-usual sinus pill somehow gives Sach the ability to smell diamonds. Slip senses an opportunity when a man offers to take them to a fabulous diamond mind in Africa. Things don't go well from there. Sach loses the map, they have a run-in with a lion and a hostile tribe, and there some members of their group are plotting sabotage. Meanwhile, Sach is more thrilled with the jungle maiden who has fallen in love with him.

Headed out to run a few errands around 12:30. The rain and the inauguration must have scared off most folks. The librarian was the only person at the Oaklyn Library the entire time I was there besides me. She didn't even have the TV on. I organized DVDs, shelved kids' books, and moved on.

Oh, and I took out a few movies. While the Oaklyn Library doesn't have the selection of indies and British movies that Haddon Township does, they not only get more new releases, they get them faster and usually have them around longer. I took out Captain America: Civil War and last year's all-female Ghostbusters, neither of which have turned up at Haddon Township yet. They also have the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which I haven't seen in years. (For some reason, Haddon Township has every Harry Potter movie but the first one.) Grabbed a Star Wars reference book as well.

Had a quick lunch at Phillies Phatties while I figured out my next move. I wanted to go to the grocery store, but not only was it coming down a bit harder, but the zipper had broken off my green L.L Bean jacket. Ordered my usual slice of mushroom and slice of cheese pizza with a can of Mountain Dew Pitch Black. The inauguration was just ending on PBS as I arrived. I heard part of it at home. I don't have cable and didn't technically watch it, but Charlie had it turned up so damn loud, they probably heard it half-way across Oaklyn.

The rain was not abating. I finally gave up and just headed home. Finished an episode of Get Smart I started before I left while I got organized. I ran "Run, Robot, Run" from the third season in honor of Dick Gautier, aka Hymie the Robot, who just recently passed away. Hymie is recruited to replace the "Free World" team in a major track meet when CHAOS drugs all the regular athletes.

Spent the rest of the evening writing. Han can't dance and keeps stepping on Leia's feet, but that doesn't matter to either of them. Han's happy to be there, with a girl who doesn't see him as a servant. Leia's happy to have met a man who doesn't see her as a prize. She even introduces him to her parents and her Aunt Ashoka. Han, in turn, introduces her to Lando. Jabba tries to interfere, but Ashoka and Obi-Wan head him off.

Han and Leia are kissing on a moonlit balcony when the clock tower strikes midnight. To Leia's surprise, Han leaps over the balcony railing and takes off, vanishing into the night. Unlike the original story, Obi-Wan does know where he lives. He promises to take the twins there the next morning. For one thing, Leia still has Han's navy jacket, the only clue he left behind to his real identity. He draped it on her shoulders when she got cold and forgot to take it with him.

Moved to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone while eating fish cakes and leftover green beans for dinner, and later while making Chocolate Chip Muffins. (Which I forgot the eggs for.) Harry Potter (Daniel Ratcliffe) is a fairly normal kid, living with his resentful and unloving aunt, uncle, and cousin...until one day, he gets a letter, and then another. It seems he's a wizard, the last remaining member of a beloved wizard family. Hagrid, a friendly giant (Robbie Coultrane), takes Harry to Hogwarts, a school of magic where young wizards train for their futures. Harry and his new friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) inadvertently stumble onto a mystery when they find a huge three-headed dog guarding something major on the forbidden third floor. The trio have to navigate through the mystery...and figure out their first year at Hogwarts...before they find themselves in major trouble.

On one hand, it's the details that's the thing here. Harry's colorful world, even while not being as detailed as the books, still stands out with little things like the floating candles or Ron's wizard chess. The kids had great chemistry from the get-go, and they're working with an outstanding cast of British character actors. Richard Harris is beloved old headmaster Dumbledore. Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are among the professors.

However, this is not one of the series' better entries. The CGI hasn't dated well in spots (especially in the troll sequence), and the story had plot hole problems, even in the book. Those of you who are new to the series will want to see it anyway. This is one series you really have to watch in progression to understand anything about what's going on...but rest assured, it does get better later, as the kids get older and the stories become more complex.

Ended the night with The Naked Gun. Having enjoyed Airplane! the other day, I decided to hit the other half of the 80's and stick with the Zucker Brothers. Nielson is back, this time playing cop Lieutenant Frank Drebin. Drebin returns from a major case to discover that his partner (O.J Simpson) was brutally assaulted while checking out a major narcotics ring. Meanwhile, the mayor would prefer Drebin devoted his time to the visit of Queen Elizabeth to LA. Drebin finds himself falling in love with the secretary (Priscilla Prestley) of an industrialist (Ricardo Montalban) who may have connections with both the drug ring and a plot to eliminate the queen at a California Angels game.

A hilarious parody of cop movies and thrillers. My favorite sequence is at the ball game. You've never lived until you've heard Leslie Nielson (try to) sing. If you love spoofs, Nielson, or the Zuckers' joke-a-minute style, this one is a no-brainer. (And the two sequels, both of which I have, aren't bad either.)

(And the rain did finally end...around 5:30, too late for me to go anywhere else. I'll have to hold off on grocery shopping until tomorrow after work.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Look for the Silver Lining

Began the day with work. Work was...really boring. We were pin-drop quiet for almost the entire morning. I rounded up carts once, when I first arrived. It took me 10 minutes. After that, we had plenty of baggers and not enough for anyone to do. I gathered baskets, did returns, and bagged when there were people around to bag for.

Went straight home after that. The sunny morning had become a gloomy, on-and-off-cloudy afternoon. It was no day for hanging out. I watched an episode of The Monkees to brighten the day while eating lunch and getting organized. The boys were swashbuckling in the very first episode of the series, "Royal Flush." Davy rescues the lovely princess of Harmonica from drowning. The other guys get involved when he suspects that her uncle is out to kill her, and they try to save her and her throne.

Went through several file folders after I ate. I was looking for the list of jobs I made a few years ago. I did find it. The trouble is...I have no idea how to get started. It all seems so big, so much. Other than calling Food Stamps, I have no idea what my first move should be. I  have no idea what company I want to join, or what job I really want to do that I'm suited for and would make me enough money to live. I just want to write and have a better job than what I have currently.

Gave up and finally did some writing. Leia dances with her brother for a while before Anakin insists she has to greet her guests. Among the new arrivals are Jabba and his "sons." Boba Fett dances with Leia, but he's rude and aggressive and tries to hard to force himself on her. Han arrives just as she stomps on his foot. Unlike the prince in the original story, Leia recognizes him right away, despite the family's butler announcing him as "Prince Harron." Han evades her questions about what he's doing there and just leads her into the dance.

Broke for dinner (finished out the "Baked Ziti Soup") while watching Sally. We jump way back to 1929 and the dawn of the talkies for this adorable Cinderella tale. Sally (Marilyn Miller) is currently a bus girl at a New York restaurant, but she'd give anything to become a great dancing star. Blair, the rich boy who's been flirting with her (Alexander Gray), recommends her dancing to her boss...which leads an agent (T. Roy Barnes) to encourage her to portray a Russian dancer who canceled out of a huge garden party. The party goes well at first...until her guy friend Connie (Joe. E Brown), a former duke, almost blows her cover, and then she discovers Blair is engaged. But true love - and true talent.- has a way of winning out in the end...

Miller had been the darling of Broadway for nearly a decade when she appeared in this film version of her 1920 stage hit. While most of it is static-y and stiff, as per the early talkie era, two delightful sequences would pave the way for movie musicals to come. Miller and Brown do a hilarious duet to this show's best-known number, "Look for the Silver Lining." They really throw themselves into the comic dance, and it's obvious they're having a wonderful time.

Sally was originally filmed in Two-Strip Technicolor. Unfortunately, the original color prints have disappeared...except for part of the movie's best ensemble number, "Wild Rose." The color gives Miller's dance with the chorus boys a Wizard of Oz-like sense of fantasy that the rest of the movie lacks, and Miller looks especially pretty here.

If you're a fan of early talkie musicals or of Broadway history, you'll want to "Look for the Silver Lining" and get to know Sally, too.

Stayed in the 20's with Ken Russell's pastiche The Boy Friend. The wrap around is basically Sally crossed with 42nd Street. Stage manager Polly (Twiggy) has to go on at the last minute when the star (Glenda Jackson) breaks her ankle. She's only interested in the handsome male lead (Christopher Gable), who may or may not have eyes for her, too. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast of a small-time touring musical about shenanigans in a girl's finishing school in France are bent on impressing a movie director who is in the audience, including an amnesiac tap dancer with a melodramatic back story (Tommy Tune).

Russell want to out-do Busby Berkley in this homage to the musicals of the late 20's and 30's. He went too big. The numbers (most of which are fantasy sequences in various character's minds) are a bit too overblown for such a simple tale. On the other hand, the music is fun, and the cast is really cute, including the first pairing of Twiggy and Tune. (They'd pair again on Broadway in the 1980's in another pastiche, this one directed by Tune, My One and Only.) This is currently on the Warner Archives if you're a fan of the music or the 30's Berkley-style musicals.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flight To Adventure

Ugh. It was cloudy and gray when I awoke this morning. I chased off the gloom with two Three Stooges shorts during breakfast. Even the Stooges get the Cinderella treatment in two shorts about their attempts to enter high society. "Hoi Polloi" from 1936 has two professors making a bet that they can't turn three garbage men into gentlemen. Needless to say, given we're talking about the Three Stooges here, their introduction into society is disastrous..and quite memorable. We get more-or-less the same story in "Half-Wits Holiday," Curly's final short from 1947, only this time, the boys are house painters, and it ends with a hilarious pie fight.

Didn't get to heading out for a laundry run until around noon. Thankfully, I picked the right time to do so. They were quiet as can be. I only saw two other people the entire time I was there. I worked on story notes and listened to talk shows. Didn't have a big load, anyway. I was in and out in an hour.

When I got home, I put my laundry away fast, then ran a random Garfield special while eating a quick lunch. Garfield's Feline Fantasies take us into the depths of the fat cat's vast imagination and includes spoofs of everything from submarine movies to western showdowns. The second half of the film focuses on a James Bond/Indiana Jones riff, as Garfield and Odie imagine themselves seeking the fabled Banana of Bombay while dodging some extremely shady characters. But don't worry, Jon will be there to get them out of it in the end...they hope.

Started out to run errands around 2. First stop was a quick one at the CVS on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn. I've been meaning to pick up brush picks for a while, but they're expensive and don't turn up everywhere. I also bought dish washing liquid on sale.

Despite the chilly and gloomy weather, Newton River Park was bustling when I made my way across. I must have hit the kids coming home from school. I dodged a lot of people out for strolls, fellow bike riders, and fisher-folk. The park itself wasn't exactly inspiring. It's all brown now, with brown brush-stroke trees leaning over dried sepia grass. At least the river's no longer frozen over.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy at all. I was a bit surprised, given the weather. There wasn't even much to do. I shelved the few DVDs, one CD, and a few audio books. They had teenagers doing the holds. I didn't take out movies this week - I have other things I need to focus on - but I did take out three books on job hunting in the current market, and one on finding your passion. (In my case, I'm pretty sure I know what my passions are. I just need help expressing them off-line and figuring out how they can lead to a real job.)

I got out so late, I just went straight home. When I arrived, I spent the next hour or so working on writing. Leia's not happy to be at the ball. First of all, she had to get Ashoka to make over her ball gown to be fancier and less kid-ish. Second, she's sure all the boys only care about her money, not her. She also envies Luke, who is already engaged to - and very much in love with - Duke Wedge of Corellia. She wonders if she'll ever find someone whom she'll be able to fall in love with and consider her equal.

When I got off, I realized I was craving cake. After dinner, I went through many recipes for chocolate cake, but none seemed right...until I looked at the back of the Hershey's Extra Dark Cocoa container. I ran Airplane while working on Extra Dark Chocolate Cake. This wacky parody of disaster films has ex-pilot Ted Stryker (Robert Hayes) pursuing his girlfriend Elaine (Julie Haggarty) onto the plane where she works. Then the entire crew gets sick with food poisoning, and ex-pilot Stryker finds himself having to land it with only the help of Elaine and the advice of a very dubious doctor (Leslie Nielson). Meanwhile, Stryker's ex-boss (Robert Stack) is helping the extremely agitated Mission Control (including Lloyd Bridges) talk Stryker down. And of course, there's the always entertaining Johnny (Stephan Stucker) who is...er, quite unique.

I was inspired to do this one after seeing the spoof in Garfield's Feline Fantasies. I figured I needed the laughs, and I was right. This was the first real Zucker Brothers hit and solidified their laugh-a-minute style. It also gave Bridges and Nielson second careers as unlikely but much-loved deadpan comedians. I will add that a lot of the jokes are very much of their time, while others are scatological and don't always hit the mark, Also, a lot of people might not get the "comically serious" vibe this movie is going for.

I've always gotten a kick out of this one, even when I was a kid and didn't get three-fourths of the jokes. I don't know how kids would react to it nowadays, but for young teens on up (especially if they have any familiarity with disaster films or Nielson), this is one of the most popular spoofs ever and is still a lot of fun to watch.

Finished out the night with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We jump to the other half of the 80's for the last of the three original Indy films. After introducing Indy as a kid (River Phoenix), we skip ahead to 1939. The adult Indy (Harrison Ford) is convinced to pursue the Holy Grail after learning that his father (Sean Connery), a notable Grail scholar, has disappeared while seeking it. The Nazis are also now searching for the grail, as is the treacherous beauty Dr. Elsa Schnider (Alison Janney). Indy finds himself reconnecting with his father - and learning a bit about faith - when the duo pursue the Nazis into the Grail's final resting place.

This remains my personal favorite Indiana Jones film, if only because Connery and Ford play so beautifully off each other. They're so much fun to watch, they really make the movie. There's also some great action set pieces (including the tank chase and Indy and Professor Jones' escape from Germany) and an interesting, thoughtful plot.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Rainy Day Tale

Began a gloomy, damp morning with princess-themed Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater episodes while eating breakfast and getting ready for work. Hello Kitty is "Cinderkitty," who would rather be catching forward passes than being a cheerleader or slaving away for her stepmother and stepsister. She gets her chance to impress the quarterback prince (Tuxedo Sam) when a fairy godmother turns her into the most popular kitty at the big game. Hello Kitty discovers why you should never go into a stranger's home when she has a close encounter with woodland creatures in "Kittylocks and the Three Bears." She becomes "Sleeping Kitty" when a cursed TV puts her under a spell. Once again, Sam plays prince and awakens her. "Kitty and the Beast" teaches Hello Kitty and Catnip not to judge by appearances when they find themselves in a castle owned by a fearsome monster. Grinder is a mostly unlikely protector when Queen Catnip becomes jealous of her adorable white-furred ward in "Snow Kitty and the One Dwarf."

(Oh, and I called Mrs. Stahl while the cartoons were on and told her about Dad and Jodie coming to my session. I haven't heard back from her yet, but I doubt she'll have a problem.)

Work was pretty much the same as the last few days, on-and-off steady. Once again, the lines were only long because we were short on cashiers, not because we were that busy. I did briefly do returns, trash, and took boxes to the paper baler. Otherwise, I bagged almost the entire day. Never went outside. We had a lot more help bagging than cashiering, and plenty of people to do carts. By the time rush hour arrived and it did start getting really busy, I was done.

Oh, and I got really lucky today weather-wise. It must have rained earlier this morning. The porch was wet when I got up, but it wasn't raining. I don't think it ever really rained while I was at work, either. It didn't start raining hard until nearly a half-hour after I got in. It's been raining on and off ever since.

Spent the next few hours writing. Jabba has left Han a huge pile of hay to sort into good and spoiled. A bit of magic releases the horses, allowing them to do Han's job for him. Han stops his brothers from accosting an old man and stealing his money as they leave.

The old man turns out to be Obi-Wan Kenobi, King Anakin's court magician. He saw Han sparring with Leia earlier and think they had a real spark going. The Force transforms an old hay cart into a magnificent carriage. Falcon the horse, Chewbacca the dog, six mice from the house, and two lizards from the garden become Han's driver, horses, and servants. Han's own ruined outfit is turned into a gold-trimmed navy suit worthy of the finest prince, complete with crown. Ben gives him the warning about his powers not working past midnight and sends him on his way.

I had leftovers for dinner, then finished out the night making Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies while watching Winter's Tale. Peter Lake (Collin Farrell) is a thief in early 20th century New York who falls in love with the beautiful Beverly (Jessica Brown Findley) while stealing from her father's house. Problem is, she's dying of consumption, and he's being pursued by his evil gangster former boss, who actually raised him (Russell Crowe). He's head-over-heels in love with her, to the point where, even after she dies and he's knocked into the Hudson, he returns a century later to make sure a child who may be her reincarnated survives.

Strange but touching and quite beautiful fantasy tale. I can kind of understand why this didn't do well at the box office in 2014. Lovely though it is, it's hard to follow, and a lot of the fairy tale elements may be lost on non-fantasy fans. If you love fairy tales or early 20th century history like I do, are a fan of the cast, or have a romantic streak, you'll want to give this one a second chance and a second look.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Man Who Had a Dream

Started off a sunny Martin Luther King Jr. Day with reading. Along with Verily, A New Hope (the Star Wars Shakespeare version of New Hope), I read several essays and poems on peace from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. I usually read the pieces listed for United Nations Day (which I don't think is often celebrated anymore outside of New York) for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, since he tried to bring about peace (and won a Nobel Peace prize for doing so).

Ran the "Cinderella" Faerie Tale Theatre episode while making Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip pancakes for a special holiday breakfast. Jennifer Beals is the put-upon lass in this very straightforward retelling of one of the world's most famous fairy tales.Cinderella's fairy godmother (Jean Stapleton) helps her attend two balls held by the shy Prince Henry (Matthew Broderick). Eve Arden is her stepmother; Edie McClurg is one of the stepsisters.

Headed off to work just moments after the show ended. Work was almost exactly the same as yesterday, to my surprise - on-and-off steady. I thought it would be much worse on a holiday. I mainly bagged and mopped the bathrooms. The few times I gathered carts, there wasn't much to gather. While there were plenty of baggers around, we were short on cashiers. The lines were long not because we were busy, but because there wasn't enough help to deal with the customers that were around. (A cashier later told me he was asked to come in early because one of the cashiers called out, which explains a lot.)

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road after work. By this point, the sun had disappeared behind thick gray clouds. Despite the warnings of a co-worker walking to the Acme, Nicholson really wasn't that bad. The roads in Oaklyn were even quieter. I wonder if a lot of people took advantage of the decent weather this weekend to go away or work on getting the remaining outdoor holiday decorations down?

Spent the next few hours after I got home writing. Jabba is about to leave with his men when Han appears, dressed in his newly-repaired suit. Jabba, however, really has no intention of allowing a servant to attend the ball. He wants his sons to capture Leia's eye, so he can use her dowry to expand his criminal empire and eventually take over the kingdom.

His adopted sons, including Boba Fett, beat Han black and blue and tear his suit to ribbons. Jabba leaves him in the stable, ordering him to separate an enormous pile of hay into good and spoiled bits. Han has no idea how he can...until Chewbacca and the horses in the stable help him out.

Did an episode of Moonlighting while making pan-fried fish fillets and green beans and almonds for dinner. Frustrated with David's continually childish behavior after she finds the office having a random limbo party, Maddie bets David he can't behave like an adult for an entire week in "My Fair David." While David tries to keep his end of the bargain, the two negotiate a payment for a concert pianist who's been kidnapped...then search for the culprit when it happens again.

Finished the night on a sober note after a shower with Selma. This gripping tale from 2014 tells how Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) came to organize not one, but two marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. He wanted President Linden B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to pass the Voting Rights Act that would end the practices that limited black voting in the south, but Johnson was afraid of losing the support of bigoted Alabama senator George Wallace and other politicians in the south and dragged his feet on the matter. (Not to mention, he was just beginning his famous "War on Poverty.") Meanwhile, King, for all his good intentions, was having his own problems, as the FBI was spying on his relationship with his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), and his attempts to open up black voting in the south had already lead to several beatings and deaths.

A harrowing depiction of a subject that's begun to come back into the limelight as people realize just how far we have and haven't come from King's day. If you have any interest in US history, the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., or the 60's, this is a must-see.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Another One Bites the Dust

I got a faster start today than I would have preferred. I didn't even have the time for pancakes this morning! I read Verily, A New Hope and wrote in my journal, ate Rice Chex and a grapefruit, and listened to one of my Unsung Musicals CDs (collection of songs from musicals that were either short-lived on Broadway or never made it there) before dashing off to work.

Ironically, for all the rush, work wasn't that busy. This was especially surprising for a Sunday. We're usually crazy on Sundays regardless of the time of year. It was steady on and off, but it could have been a lot worse. I ended up outside for carts at least three times...only to go back in after twenty minutes to a half-hour because it wasn't really that bad and they had other help. I also gathered trash at the front register and rounded up baskets.

Worked on writing when I got home. Han spends the next few days mostly doing chores for Jabba and his boys and tending to the animals in the stables. He stays up late at night to work on repairing his new suit. When the time comes, Jabba and his "sons" are ready to go to the ball, resplendent in fine clothes and freshly-polished armor. They think Han is remaining behind...and get quite a surprise when he's able to join them.

Jodie called me at quarter of 5. The Packers-Cowboys game had just started. Did I want to join her and Dad for beef stew, bread and butter, and apple pie? Sure, why not? Turns out she and Dad had originally planned on visiting a winery this afternoon, but they got a surprise visit from some of our cousins and stayed at home. Jodie's beef stew was delicious, with lots of big meat and vegetable pieces. Her sweet apple pie was even better. Joe and Jessa arrived later, after a concert.

(Oh, and Jodie says she and Dad are going to take Rose's place with Mrs. Stahl to discuss alternate options for programs I can join to get extra money.)

For once, the game was as good as the food. Though the Packers dominated the first half and were up 21-10 at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, the Cowboys came back hard. The two were tied 31-31 by the last minute of the 4th quarter. It took a 51-yard field goal from the Packers literally in the last three seconds to win the game and send them to the divisional championship against the Atlanta Falcons. (In other news, the Steelers beat the Chiefs tonight as well in an equally close game, 18-16.)

I spent the rest of the night online after I got home, celebrating with Queen's Greatest Hits. And at least it was a nice day for all of this! Another possible reason for us being relatively slow today may have been the beautiful weather. It was in the lower-mid 40's, windy but sunny and nice.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Shape of Ducks to Come

A phone call awoke me around 9:30. It was Rose. In good news, she'd finally gotten the law firm job she'd been aiming for. In annoying news, she would not be able to join me at counseling like we'd previously discussed. She didn't want to take the time off work. I may see if I can get Jodie to come tomorrow. She also mentioned a possibility of snow or ice later in the day. I said we'd wait and see what Mother Nature did.

After I finished The Best Bear In the World (which was really a lot of fun, especially the story about Pooh meeting a Penguin and the one about Piglet and the "dragon") and writing in my journal, I checked my schedule. I don't know why I thought I was working at 10 today! Tomorrow's 10. Today, I worked at noon. That gave me the time to eat breakfast and make Pineapple-Rum Muffins (the rum being rum extract) for lunch.

Ran a couple of Scooby Doo winter-related episodes as I ate and worked. It's "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright" in the mid-70's Scooby Doo Show. The gang is in Alaska, responding to a distress call from a professor. When they arrive, the professor is gone. The native village he was studying appears to have been destroyed by a massive dinosaur-like snow creature. While the kids figure out what happened to the professor and how the black puddles they keep finding tie into it, Scooby flirts with a pretty female sled-pulling dog.

"Alaskan King Coward" skips us ahead to Scooby and Scrappy Doo. We stay in Alaska, but this time, Shaggy and the dogs are out panning for gold in the Klondike. He and Scooby find and inadvertently defrost another lizard-like creature. Scrappy just thinks the monster is after their gold and sets up every trap he can think of to catch this scaly claim-jumper!

It was just cloudy and damp when I rode to work. Work was on-and-off busy. A lot of people must have heard the weather reports. We were only supposed to get a dusting of snow, if we got anything besides rain and a little ice, but it was enough to send folks scrambling for supplies anyway. 

I was mostly inside bagging, but they did send me out for a half-hour around 2:30 to help one of the college kids with the carts. It started snowing while I was out there. The shower lasted no more than ten minutes and did nothing besides look pretty. By the time I was buying skim milk and heading home, it was back to just being cloudy again.

The last of my Christmas orders greeted me when I arrived at home. I've wanted the Star Wars Shakespeare books ever since I saw them while on vacation in New England last summer. Basically, they're the original Star Wars movies, written in the language of Shakespearean plays. What I read of them is awesome. I can't wait for Han and Leia to bicker in iambic pentameter. (And they give Artoo these really hilarious asides. This could be your best chance to find out what the little blue and silver droid was really thinking throughout these movies.) There's books for the prequels, too, but those may have to wait until I can pick up more money.

Tried something different for dinner. I saw a recipe for Lasagna Soup that uses small lasagna noodles and ground beef on the side of a carton of chicken broth while I was bagging. I was originally going to make chili tonight, but why not try something different? I turned ground turkey, onions and mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, spices, a can of Tomato-Basil Soup I've had around for a while, a half-cup of whole-wheat penne pasta, and Parmesan and shredded Monterrey Jack cheese  into Baked Ziti Soup. Yumm. It came out very well, zesty and flavorful.

I also tried something a little different with animation. Donald Duck's final appearances on the big screen until Fantasia 2000 were a series of edutainment featurettes about mathematics concepts and the wheel's contribution to progress. Donald in Mathmagic Land takes him to a world where math is everywhere, from music to nature to architecture to sports. (I loved the geometry/nature segment and Donald's attempts at billiards. I don't have the problems with geometry that I do with other math disciplines. I like shapes and volumes and ratios. They make sense.) 

Donald and the Wheel expands on the importance of geometry - specifically, the wheel - in everyday life. Donald is a cave duck who learns about how the wheel has aided mankind's progress through the centuries via two "Spirits of Progress." (The elder is voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft!) My favorite part of this short is the bouncy music, especially the Spirits' delightful duet "The Principal of the Thing."

Don's last regular shorts were two cartoons detailing how accidents occur in daily life and how to avoid them. To be honest, "How to Have an Accident at Home" feels more like a Goofy short re-written for Donald than a typical Donald short. That said, there's some very funny moments as weary narrator J.J Fate uses Donald's behavior to prove how carelessness can cause everything from overloaded electrical sockets to falling down stairs. 

And at press time, we have yet to see any more snow. I hasn't even rained. I was perfectly dry going home. It's not even that cold out there, probably in the mid-30's. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Spooky Tales on Friday the 13th

Began the morning with breakfast, then more cleaning. I really shouldn't have put off cleaning as long as I did. The kitchen in particular was really bad, which was not a surprise, I use it quite a bit in December, between Christmas baking and regular cooking. Needed to vacuum, air my rag rug in the bedroom and the mat in the kitchen, and do the windows, too.

Watched more Bowery Boys as I worked. I did Ghost Chasers in honor of Friday the 13th. (What, you thought I was going to watch Jason Voorhees? Sorry, I can't handle that level of gore.) After Whitey takes an interest in the spirit world, the Boys find themselves sniffing out a phony medium who's been bilking women in their neighborhood. She leads them to the leader of the ring, a prominent medium who uses recordings and illusion to take people's money. They talk Louie into distracting her, so they can break in and expose her. When the other Boys are captured by her goons, Sach befriends a kindly ghost who helps them escape and find out how she's getting away with her charade.

Switched to The Backyardigans while eating a very quick lunch. "It's Great to Be a Ghost" says Uniqua and Pablo when they imagine themselves as spirits happily inhabiting a haunted house. Nervous Tyrone has a far harder time scaring people. Tasha shows up, claiming she can't be scared...but it's the least-likely kid who finally gets to her.

Headed out to run a few errands around quarter after 1. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. I arrived at the same time as a big group of kids. The Oaklyn (Middle/Elementary) School seems to have let out early today, likely for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend. A huge group of elementary schoolers arrived at the same time I did. The librarian put on The Secret Life of Pets for them. I settled for organizing DVDs before finally heading out 20 minutes later.

The Acme was a lot less busy. I had no problems picking up the few things I needed. Restocked grapefruit, bananas, soup (Campbell's was buy one-get one), toilet paper, eggs, yogurt, canned apricots, sugar, shampoo, and peanut butter. Found breaded fish fillets and fish cakes with manager's coupons on them in the seafood cases.

My schedule next week isn't bad. They've finally figured out that I have enough seniority for 20 hours a week. It isn't nearly enough, but it's better than 12. At any rate, all morning and early afternoon work again, Wednesday and Friday off. I do work Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but only 11 to 3.

I started a Laurel and Hardy horror-themed short before I left. Finished "The Live Ghost" when I got in. The boys are shanghaied on a ship that may be genuinely haunted. When they get leave, they opt to stay on board and watch over a drunk shipmate, then mistake that shipmate for a ghost when he gets covered in whitewash.

Moved right onto another while I got organized. Ollie has taken up with an attractive widow...but that widow has killed seven men named Oliver right before their wedding night, and intends to make Hardy "Oliver the Eighth," unless Stan can save his pal!

Continued the cleaning. Went right into doing the dusting. I mainly dusted around things. I only do really thorough dusting in the spring and fall. Besides, I wanted to have the time to put up the few remaining winter decorations, including the cardboard cut-outs of snowmen taking part in various winter sports and the three stuffed snowmen who stand on the table in the music area.

Since I'm in the midst of reading Winnie the Pooh stories, I did a few mildly spooky episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Piglet is "A Knight to Remember" when the others convince him to dress as a knight for their chess game. He imagines himself in a kingdom where he has to fight a fearsome dragon! But the dragon turns out to be not nearly as fierce or as scary as he thinks. (One of the stories in the new Pooh anthology does have Piglet thinking he has to fight a dragon.)

Piglet and his fears are also in the spotlight in "Rock-a-Bye Pooh Bear." Piglet has a nightmare about losing all his friends. He stays awake all night, so he won't lose them. The others have to prove to Piglet that dreams are just that - they don't always come true.

Worked on writing for a little while after I finally finished. Leia is angry that her parents, especially her father, are forcing her to choose a groom at her own birthday ball. Her father points out that if she'd picked a suitor from one of the men they'd provided, she wouldn't be going through this. She insists than when she marries, it'll be for a man who loves and challenges her, not for someone who only cares about her titles or dowry.

I'd started Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before I began writing it. Finished it while having fish cakes and steamed broccoli for dinner. We jump back a year to 1935, as Indy flies from Shanghai to India with a loyal Chinese kid and a spoiled singer. The destitute citizens of an Indian village recruit Indy and the others to rescue their rock and their children from a strange palace. It turns out this rock is sacred to more than just the villagers. It's one of the legendary Shankara stones, which is also desired by an evil cult out to drive out the British and rule the world. Indy has to rescue the kids and the rocks, while making sure he and his friends escape with their hearts and minds intact.

Heavy-handed stereotypes, fair-sized plot holes, and Kate Capshaw's annoying performance as Willie makes this my least-favorite Indiana Jones movie. It has its moments, though, especially in some nicely done action set pieces like the mine train ride.

I tried to look up writing and secretarial jobs tonight, but...as usual, no luck. I haven't used Microsoft Office in years. Everyone wants someone who uses Office, or is outgoing or a multi-tasker, or they need more experience than I have. This is why I have a hard time looking for a job. I read wanted ads. I get overwhelmed and frustrated when I see nothing for quiet people and very little in this area for writers. I finally give up, too frustrated and disappointed to bother.

And I told Lauren I'm probably not going to be able to visit her this year. We've already set up for her to visit me in May, but we'll have to limit it to one or two malls and a lot of walking around the area. Going on vacation is what got me into trouble in the first place.  She says she's disappointed, and her parents will be even more so. It can't be helped.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Life and Death of Superman

Began a half-cloudy, very warm day with work. It wasn't too bad. I did round up carts right after I arrived, but I spent the rest of the day dusting and wiping down the registers and magazine racks. It never got more than mildly steady. By the time it was picking up, I was heading home.

The weather was so warm, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. Surprisingly, despite the nice day, the traffic wasn't bad. Either the earlier clouds scared people off, or they'd all had early lunches. I got home down Atlantic and Manor with no problems.

Did a quick Three Stooges short while I ate lunch after I got in. They're "Squareheads of the Round Table" when they aid Cedric the Blacksmith in rescuing his beloved, a fair princess, from the Black Knight. They try wooing her with music before they're saved from the dungeon and discover a foul plot to kill the king.

I was up way too late last night and had to work early this morning. I finally said "the heck with it" and settled in for a nap for about an hour and a half around 2. I don't know how much it did. I slept until 4, and I'm still a bit tired.

Tired or not, I wanted to get some writing in. Maz gives Han a suit of clothes that once belonged to his wayward father. He'd sold his entire wardrobe to her to make money for his debts. The suit is worn and dated, but Han and ever-dapper Lando figure it might be able to work.

Just as Han's pushed the suit behind him, Greedo, one of Jabba's men, turns up looking for him. He lost the "shipment" aiding the trio on the road, and now Jabba expects payment. When Greedo threaten the two things that mean the most to Han, his dog Chewbacca and his horse Falcon, the lizard-like man winds up with an arrow through his chest.

As soon as Han leaves, Obi-Wan Kenobi arrives. He and Maz are old friends. The duo are playing matchmaker, hoping to pair the disgraced nobleman's son and the feisty princess. Maz tells Obi-Wan about the suit; Obi-Wan says he'll check on Han later, to make sure all is well and he makes it to the ball.

I improvised a nice meal for dinner from leftovers. Cut up the last of the meatballs with some of the broccoli, mayo, and cheese. It ended up being very tasty and filling.

Finished out the night with Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Superman (Henry Cavill) is riding high after saving Metropolis in the last movie...but that doesn't last long after a mission with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) goes wrong and he's accused of killing innocents. Playboy Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), aka Batman, is inclined to agree and does everything he can to bring Superman down to Earth level. Obnoxious young businessman Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) gleefully does what he can to play the two off of one another. When a monster Luthor released gets too hot to handle, Batman and Superman call in Wonder Woman (Gail Godot) to help bring it down. But the cost of the creature's destruction may be higher than Bruce, Diana, and the citizens of Metropolis are willing to accept...

A lot of people had problems with this when it came out last spring, complaining about the heavy violence and dark themes. I'm wondering if many folks just aren't up for very dark action right now. While I didn't enjoy this as much as I did Man of Steel, I didn't hate it, either. My main complaints are an overly complicated and confusing plot and the overlong running time. Some good performances, especially from Eisenberg and the underused Godot, were more helpful. At least the special effects are something else, especially in that heartbreaking finale.

If you're a fan of any of these superheroes, darker action films, or the DC Comics Universe, this isn't nearly as bad as you may have heard. At the very least, I'm now looking forward to this year's Justice League and especially Wonder Woman.