Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Before the Rain Came

I was glad to see that it was sunny when I got up this morning. I had a few things to do, starting with breakfast. Returned to Good Eats as I enjoyed my Oatmeal Squares and half a grapefruit. Alton explores the culinary properties of a vegetable with an even worse reputation than broccoli in "A Cabbage Sprouts In Brussels." My parents didn't like them and wouldn't make them for us as kids. I didn't get a chance to try them until they started turning up at the Collingswood Farm Market. Like broccoli, if cooked properly - Alton grills them on skewers and makes them into a salad and a slightly salted side dish - they can be nutritional powerhouses and very tasty.

Headed out around 10 for this week's laundry session. I'm glad I went early. A few people were in and out, but it was mostly quiet. I listened to the Today Show and the news while working on story notes.

After I put everything away, I went online briefly to check the weather for today and tomorrow. I was originally going to go to Cherry Hill today to get my non-driver's ID done and hit the Haddon Township tomorrow. For once, both the local news and the National Weather Service agreed that we were going to get some kind of storm tomorrow. Not to mention, it was nearly 1 by the time I got off the computer. I decided to flip-flop my plans and do the Cherry Hill DMV tomorrow. If it storms, I'll have places where I can go to get out of the rain. That's harder to do on a bike.

Finished out the Good Eats vegetable disk while eating a quick lunch. Though most people still pair it with peanut butter or spreadable cheese, celery is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. I especially love the braised celery and have had it several times.

Headed out around quarter of 2. It was still sunny at that point, fairly warm and not as windy. I dodged a lot of people out for a stroll, jogging, or walking their dogs in Newton Lake Park. No wonder my nose is going crazy. I already see a lot of trees trying to sprout and dafodills coming up - on the last day of February! It was in the 60's, not quite as warm as last week, but still way too warm for the time of year.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't terribly busy. I mostly helped organize the re-arranged DVD shelves. Not only have they turned them around so that the spines can be seen, but they want them in perfect alphabetical order. All foreign movies and TV show sets were moved to the spinning racks where the non-fiction DVDs were; the non-fiction DVDs were moved behind the items on hold. While I don't think they'll stay alphabetized for very long, I otherwise think this was a good idea. It not only gives us far more room, but it looks better, and it's easier to see the title you want to find.

Took out a couple of movies this week. I did see The Crimson Pirate, a Burt Lancaster swashbuckler, in college, but not since then. I've seen bits and pieces of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but I've never seen the full movie. Found a British movie about the friendship between a drummer boy and an Asian Indian lad, The Drum. Dug up two of Disney's newest releases, Finding Dory and the Sofia the First spin-off Elena of Avalor.

Stopped at Rite Aid on the way home. I needed a new ankle wrap. The bandages are uncomfortable when I work and take forever to wrap. It cost me a bit, but I did find a wrap that actually fit this time. Also bought some scrub sponges, which I haven't in a while.

When I got home, I went straight on the computer to do story work. Leia returns to the ball, where she encounters Henry, Luke, and Henry's enormous, hairy manservant Charles. Henry invites Leia and her family on a trip down the river to see the Lothal Artists Festival on his steamboat. Leia's finally accepts...then regrets it when she and Han argue over his taking Palpatine and Baron Vader as clients. He doesn't care about the current situation in Coruscant. His only interest is in his ward and his business.

Had leftovers for dinner, then made Pineapple Cake for dessert. This is a variation on Susan's Lemon Cake from The Cake Doctor. I didn't have lemon Jello, so I used pineapple jello and crushed pineapple. Yum. Came out very sweet and fruity.

Ran the first two episodes of Elena of Avalor as I ate and baked. After she defeats an evil witch, Elena finds herself ruling the land of Avalor as it's Grand Princess. In the first episode, "Ready to Rule," Elena is determined to prove to her grandfather that she can rule Avalor all by herself. She starts to question this when ships go missing in the harbor, and she has to figure out why little purple creatures called Noblins want them.

Even after she creates her Grand Council, she still has a lot to learn about ruling, as she discovers in "Model Sister." Her little sister Isobel has entered a project in Avalor's Inventor's Fair. Elena promised she'd help her...but the fair is at the same time a dignitary from Sato is visiting. Her obnoxious cousin Esteban insists that everything must be done the Sato way to gain an alliance with them. Elena tries to be in both places at once, but she discovers as the day wears on that it isn't fair to her sister or the Emperor. In the end, she discovers that, while doing our duty is important, family is even more so...as is keeping a promise.

Incidentally, it rained pretty good while I was writing. I don't think it's rained since. I still have to go to Cherry Hill tomorrow. I'll just see if I can time it before the weather gets really bad.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Girl of the Gray Jersey Skies

Got a quick start this morning with breakfast and another Rick Steves European jaunt. Belgium may be small, but they have a lot going on in their major cities Bruges and Brussels. This is one of my favorite episodes. I love a country that celebrates chocolate, waffles, biking, French fries (called Flemish fries there), and continental peace. (Brussels is the home of the European Union.)

Work was on and off busy for most of the day. Though I did do some returns for a while and gathered baskets at a few points, I was mainly outside with the carts. No problems there. It was really nice when I arrived, sunny and windy, but neither as windy nor as chilly as yesterday. It got a bit cooler later on when the clouds rolled in. The clouds spat a few fat raindrops as I was finishing my shift, but they otherwise haven't really done much. Even so, I headed straight home just in case the weather did get bad.

Spent the next few hours writing and doing research for my story. The Crimson Hawk asks to meet Leia in the garden. He was smitten with her the moment he stole from her earlier in the day. They discuss why Vader wants the khyber crystals. He's planning something major, some kind of big military secret. The young duchess asks him who he is and why he's doing this. He could be hung if he's caught, or worse. He tells her that he's no one, and he's helping a friend get back what's rightfully his.

He and Leia kiss...just as she hears Vader and his men coming their way. The Crimson Hawk shimmies into a tree as Baron Vader arrives with his troops. Vader tells her he heard her talking to a man. Leia insists she was imitating a man's voice. Vader doesn't believe it for a second, but he still sends his boys off to find the Hawk. As soon as they leave, Leia finds a wooden pendant in the moss under the flowering cherry tree the Hawk escaped in.

Did a quick episode of Good Eats while eating leftovers for dinner. I've always loved broccoli, but they're not a favorite of everyone, as Alton Brown reminds us in Good Eats. They can be too bitter if cooked wrong. Alton shows ways of cooking them - steaming, baking, and shredding them into cole slaw - that'll retain their flavor and their many nutrients.

Ended the night with The Girl of the Golden West after a shower. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy headlined this unusual 1938 musical western. MacDonald is "the Girl," the only woman in a small California town, who runs the local saloon. She's being pursued both by the sweet blacksmith (Buddy Ebson) and the slick town sheriff (Walter Pidgeon). On a trip to Monterey to visit her padre friend (H.B Warner), she encounters a handsome man (Nelson Eddy) who claims to be a soldier. He's really a bandit who robs coaches and gives the money to the padre anonymously for the natives. When he turns up in her town looking for gold, he sparks both the sheriff's jealousy and the Girl's love...until he's caught in her home. Now she has to figure out a way to save both their hides, before the Sheriff hangs him and tries to force her into a wedding.

Not one of the better MacDonald/Eddy vehicles. These two Philadelphia natives are hardly believable in a western setting. Pidgeon and Ebson do much better as the sheriff and the good-natured blacksmith who wishes "the Girl" would notice him. For fans of these two, opera (this is based after an opera by Puccini), or musical westerns only.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Musical Winds

I got a quick start today with Banana Pancakes and music. I didn't have much of a chance to enjoy either. Got up so late, I'd just barely finished the pancakes and cleaning up after them before I had to rush out the door. (And I forgot to scrape off a burner that got batter on it - had to scrub that when I got home.)

Work was a pain. We were busy for most of the afternoon, despite a day that had turned seasonably chilly and blustery. I rounded up carts on and off, did bagging, and gathered baskets once...but I ended up in the registers more often than I would have liked. And the afternoon manager got on my nerves by insisting on staying with me and bagging the whole time, probably afraid I'd have a breakdown. Thank you, I'm an adult. Just because I hate checking (and am technically a bagger) doesn't mean I need someone holding my hand. The fact that it was much chillier and windier (and closer to normal February temperatures) than it has been didn't help.

Bought eggs (they're on sale for 99 cents this week, and I needed to make change), the dodged the wind and headed home. Spent the next few hours working on writing. Baron Vader brings in his troops to capture the Crimson Hawk and the Golden Eagle, just as someone gives Leia a message to meet them after the party. When the Hawk and the Eagle leap onto a high window, Leia does what she can to help them make good their escape.

Jodie called me while I was writing. They were having spaghetti, did I want to come over? Sure, why not. I thought they were picking me up, but I never saw them. I rode over to their house, ignoring the wind. Jodie had a big pot of spaghetti and home-made tomato sauce with hot sausage and meatballs and fresh Parmesan cheese, with creme brule from Desserts by Design afterwards. I ate it with her, Dad, and Dana while watching The Girl on the Train and The Hunt for Red October. (And Jodie said she's going to call the doctor this week.)

Rose called while I was heading out. She and Jodie were talking baby shower gifts. I don't know how she managed this, but she apparently lost her blender. She can find the top, but not the rest of it. I nearly fell over laughing. Only Rose would do something like that.

When I got home, I made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies while listening to favorite musical soundtracks and albums. The 1983 Annie has a great cast belting out some nifty songs, both from the original show and written for the film. For my money, this is worth hearing for Carol Burnett and Albert Finney going at each other in "Sign!"

Little Mary Sunshine is a 1959 off-Broadway spoof of operetta and early 20th century musical conventions featuring Eileen Brennan in one of her earliest roles as the title character, the owner of a hotel in Colorado. A group of Forest Rangers who are seeking a villainous Indian fall in love with the young finishing school ladies who are also staying there. While Mary's songs, including "Look for a Sky of Blue," are cute, my favorite numbers are the ones for the second couple, one of the younger Rangers and Mary's maid Nancy. "Mata Hari" is a great dance number for Nancy and the girls, and Nancy and her swain get the show's best number, the adorable "Once In a Blue Moon."

(Oh, and the Oscars were tonight. The musical La La Land did very well. I'm always glad to see a musical win anything, and this one's been getting some phenomenal reviews. Zootopia won a deserved Best Animated Film Oscar as well.)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Somewhere Out There

Began a windy, sunny morning with some goofy Backyardigans. Austin, Uniqua, and Pablo are "The Best Clowns In Town." Ringmaster Tyrone doesn't agree. He hates clowns and won't have them in his circus. When the trio's showing off makes him miss his train to Big City, he only ends up angrier. Can these three clowns make him crack a smile as they use every means known to clown-dom, from tiny cars to unicycles, to get him to his destination?

Just made it to work on time. This was a good thing. We were on and off busy the whole day. I spent it outside, rounding up carts. I was glad to. For most of the afternoon, it was sunny, still warm, and very windy. I had some help later in the afternoon, but I was on my own in the morning. Heavy clouds drifted in and out, but they never seemed to amount to much.

I have a rather strange schedule. Still three days off and one long day, but the hours are different, including an early day next Saturday. One less hour, for some strange reason, too. At the very least, I'll have the chance to get to Cherry Hill to update my non-driver's ID, work on the story, and start cleaning the apartment.

Didn't have as much shopping to do as in past weeks. I really needed produce. Red and golden delicious apples were on sale for 99 cents a pound. I hate red delicious apples. They're mealy and have no flavor. Got three golden delicious, along with grapefruit, broccoli, mushrooms, bananas, and an onion. Restocked baking powder, chick peas, red kidney beans, canned chicken, peanut butter (Skippy's on another 99 cent sale - I bought 2), tomato sauce, mandarin oranges, and chicken legs. Found a small container of various bits and pieces of seafood - (fake) crab rolls, pieces of fish, popcorn shrimp, mussels - with a manager's coupon for a decent price. Bought two potatoes and decided I'd have Seafood Chowder for dinner.

Tossed on some Three Stooges while I put things away and got organized. The boys are "Fuelin' Around" when Larry is mistaken for a scientist who has created a new rocket fuel by a dictatorship that wants the formula. They kidnap the boys and take them to their country. While they don't create the formula, what they do come up with has its own uses, including eating through metal!

Did some writing for a few hours. Baron Vader, the head of Coruscant, has arrived. He's a hulking brute of a man in black body armor with a grotesque mask and breathing apparatus. He's hoping to open a new factory to process khyber crystals, but it's been plagued with accidents. Leia accuses him of conscripting unwilling workers and compromising their safety.

Suddenly, the lights switch off. Leia feels a breath over her shoulders as light fingers in leather gloves remove her jewelry. A soft voice in her ear says that he's the Crimson Hawk, he's in love with her, and he wants to meet her at the cherry tree in the garden at midnight. The Golden Eagle is more apologetic for taking her parents' jewelry.

And boy, am I glad I got home when I did. Clouds, darker and less fluffy than the ones I'd seen earlier, had begun to creep across the horizon as early as 3 PM. By 5, we were in the midst of a full-fledged thunderstorm, complete with wild wind, torrential rain, and noisy thunder. While the thunderstorm is long gone, the gale-force winds remain at press time.

Broke around quarter of 8 to make that chowder. I sauteed broccoli and onion in olive oil in a pot, then water and the last of the home-made chicken broth. Sliced up the potatoes and put them in to simmer next. The seafood and seasoning came in last, long with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Yuuuummm. Oh boy, did this turn out nicely. Other than I think I overcooked it a little and the crab rolls got too soft, it came out perfectly salty and savory.

Finished the night with dinner and An American Tail. This 1986 animated drama tells the story of little Fivel Mouskawitz, a mouse immigrating from Russia with his Jewish family in the 1880's. Fivel is swept overboard in a storm and is separated from his family. He searches all over New York, encountering a cocky young street mouse, a tiger cat who doesn't eat meat, and a gangster cat who claims he's a rat in order to get the mice's confidence. Fivel gives the mice the idea to that may be able to get the cats out of Manhattan for good...but all he wants is his family.

I thought this one was a bit strange, even as a kid. I honestly wonder what audience Don Bluth intended this for. The melodramatic story is too intense for young kids and runs at least 15 minutes longer than it should, but the music and the cutesy mice lean towards it being family fare. While not masterpiece, it still has some nice music and gorgeous animation, and may be a great way to spark discussions about immigration (a subject even more in the news now) in your home.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Hot Fun In the Wintertime

I couldn't believe how warm it was when I opened the front door this morning. I ended up opening the three windows in the house that are unlocked, too. It was sunny and a bit windier than yesterday, but otherwise more like late May than late February.

Finished off the grits and had a half of a grapefruit while doing more Rick Steves. Most Americans have probably never heard of the countries he visited today, five of the smallest in the world, never mind Europe. Vatican City and San Marino are both in the middle of Italy. Vatican City is the home of the Pope. San Marino is proud of its heritage as one of the oldest known democracies. Monaco is best known for its casino, car races, and expensive living. Lichtenstein and Andorra are nestled in mountains that keep invaders out and shoppers in.

Headed out around 11:30 to the Oaklyn Library for this week's volunteering session there. The kids' DVDs were ok, but the adult ones were a mess. The kids' section wasn't much better. There was a huge pile of books dumped in the "return" bucket that hadn't been shelved. I did see a family with a tiny baby in a stroller come in and take out a stack of DVDs and one regular guy who is always there. Otherwise, it's really too nice for most people to be hanging out in libraries.

Since it's about three blocks from the library, I browsed around at the House of Fun next. Needless to say, they weren't any busier. I was the only person in there besides the guy behind the counter. I looked over DVDs and Funko Pops, but ended up with a Lando Calarissian doll to go with my Han and Leia.

(Also, as I was passing the digital sign outside of the Oaklyn City Hall, I happened to notice the time and temperature. It was 80 degrees at almost 1 PM. I didn't believe it at first. That's just crazy.)

Next stop was back to West Clinton Avenue for lunch. Phillies Phatties was just as quiet at 1. I ordered my usual slice of cheese and slice of mushroom and took them outside. I watched people and cars stroll by as I ate my wedges and downed a can of Wild Cherry Pepsi.

Did a quick Three Stooges short while I got organized when I arrived at home. The trio are "Saved By the Belle" when they almost end up in front of a firing squad in a banana republic for treason. They have to help her find a map that'll save their military, and fast, before they find themselves filled with lead.

Spent the next few hours working on my story, and a few more hours after I got home. I keep getting so distracted doing research, I don't get far writing. Mon Mothma's party is mostly for politicians, neighbors, and a few members of the nobility. This includes Lady Ashoka Tano, who now works for Mothma as an advisor, Tarkin, and the formidable Baron Vader. Vader wears full body armor, including a breathing apparatus, and a helmet after an accident left him more machine than man.

Broke to head to Studio LuLoo around 4. I'd been meaning to bring a bag of donations, mainly toys and paper I didn't need, over there for a while. I picked the right day to do it. A couple of the kids were already there, playing store. The AG pieces and dresses I'd dropped in the bag were perfect for the little girls to turn one of the tables into their own mini fashion salon. They reminded me a lot of Ruby and Louise when they played, pretending they were taking orders for big Victorian wedding gowns and fine red velvet dresses.

When I finally ended writing for the day around 7, I broke for a small dinner. They had a bowl of fries at Studio LuLoo. I'd probably noshed on a few too many and now wasn't up to a huge dinner. I settled for finishing the leftover chili.

Tried something from The Vermont Country Store Cookbook after I ate. The only recipe they had that even remotely resembled a muffin was the first one, Buttermilk Doughnut  Puffs. I wanted them for lunch for work next week, so I didn't roll them in cinnamon and sugar. Otherwise, they were similar to Nutmeg Breakfast Puffs from the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, a moist, chewy cross between a cupcake and a spice muffin.

Watched The Devil's Brother as I worked. This was the third of four operetta adaptations where Laurel and Hardy lent comic support. Here, they're two poor peasants to first take to stealing, then try to imitate the famous Devil's Brother (Dennis King), a Robin Hood-type bandit. The thief catches them easily. He eventually takes them on as his assistants in robbing a rich, bored noblewoman (Thelma Todd) of her jewels. The boys would rather catch their boss and turn him in for the reward the king has on his head.

Dennis King was a Broadway star who specialized in overstuffed operettas like The Vagabond King. He was a bit too florid for Hollywood, and proves why with all his posturing here. Though King has the lion's share of the music, Todd and the boys do better handling some decent comedy bits, including Ollie and Stan trying to be bandits in the opening.

Not their best vehicle; really only recommended for their fans or fans of Todd, operetta, or Broadway.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Little Spring In Winter

Got a quick start this morning with more Rick Steves as I ate and got ready for work. We head further inland to Switzerland to explore its lovely cities. I especially liked the charming old pedestrian bridge with artwork going back to the 1500's, and the river that you can swim down.

Work was...once again, pretty dead for most of the day. For one thing, we're now between holidays. The next holiday isn't until the middle of next month. For another, it was absolutely gorgeous today. The sun was high and warm, and the wind had gentled into a breeze. It had to be at least in the lower 70's, ridiculous for late February. I cleaned the bathroom for an hour, then spent the rest of the day gathering carts and baskets. It didn't really start picking up until around 4...by which time I was almost done. Grabbed toilet paper and shampoo (the latter on clearance) on the way out, along with a soft pretzel.

When I got in, I went online for a little while. Didn't do much with the story. I expanded the role of the khyber crystals. People of Coruscant are being conscripted to work in Lord Vader's khyber crystal mines and the factories that refine them. Luke mentions that Han is a recluse. He'd rather be working with his chemicals and new inventions for hauling goods than out at fancy parties.

Broke for a quick dinner around 7:30. Tossed together canned chicken with Mandarin oranges and McCormick spices on a bed of spinach. Added honey, red wine vinegar, and olive oil to the juice from the oranges for Orange Honey Dressing. Oh yum. Tangy and chewy and so flavorful.

Ran Cats Don't Dance while I ate and set up to go online. In Hollywood in 1939, animals can do a lot of things...all of them bit parts. They're just considered to be another pushed-aside minority. Danny, a barn cat from Indiana (Scott Bakula), wants to change that. He's determined to prove that animals are as good at song and dance as humans. Most of the animals in town have been worn down by years of being treated like second-class citizens, including the lovely cat secretary Sawyer (Jasmine Guy). When he gets a part as an extra in a Darla Dimple musical, he thinks this could be his chance to shine. But Darla Dimple is far from what she appears to be...and she has no desire to let anyone steal her spotlight, especially animals!

Unique animated tale from Warner Bros got lost in the shuffle of Disney imitations in the late 90's, but I think it's an underrated gem. Some of the songs are cute, there's an interesting commentary on Hollywood's treatment of minorities during it's Golden Era, and Darla Dimple is so over-the-top, she simply has to be seen to be believed. If you're a fan of animated musicals or the Golden Age of Hollywood, this one is worth seeking out.

Oh, and my birth certificate showed up today. I have no idea when I'm going to see a doctor, and until I see a doctor, I don't want to try signing up for anything. I do need to update my ID under any circumstances. I'll see if I can get back to Cherry Hill on maybe Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mall Madness

Bright sunshine was already filtering through the living area windows when I sat down with breakfast. I did two Good Eats episodes on desserts and candy while eating, getting organized, and recharging my iPod. Alton tried to show how the Arabic dessert baklava can be made easily. Honestly, I think it's still too fussy and takes too long for me to try. Marshmallows, on the other hand, are mostly sugar and plain gelatin, and might be worth giving a shot one day.

Finally headed out around 12:30. My first stop was the Haddon Township Library. I was mainly there to return DVDs. It's just as well. Turns out there wasn't much for me to do, anyway. They're in the midst of reorganizing their DVDs. Instead of having them face outwards on the shelves, so you riff through a bunch, then go to the next ones, they turned them horizontally in an attempt to fit more in. On one hand...this does make sense. You can see the titles of the actual movie without having to move every other one, and yeah, it does make more room. I mainly shelved audio books and new releases.

As soon as I was done, I hurried out to catch the bus...then went back in. I'd read the schedule wrong. I did finally make it on the bus to Cherry hill around 2. There was a little traffic in Westmont where they're still working on buildings. Otherwise, no problems traveling either way.

I needed to make a few quick runs to a couple of big-box stores at the Market Place...but I needed to eat first. My original thought was 1,000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza, where Lauren and I ate when she visited last June. Alas, the store was empty. They were likely a victim of way too much competition in Cherry Hill. There's not only at least ten restaurants in the mall itself, but tons of other places to eat (including local pizzerias that are much cheaper) within walking distance. I ended up enjoying a cup of French onion soup, half of a turkey-greens-apple sandwich, a green tea, and a crusty roll at Panera Bread.

Was in and out of a few stores for the next two hours. I couldn't find my usual New Balance sneakers at Dick's. I badly need new work sneakers. (I have the feeling the state the old ones are in are one reason I turned my ankle.) Had more luck at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Grabbed a new can opener (I've had mine for at least 15 years or more) and a shower curtain, along with cherry cola Tic Tacs, for $20, thanks to two of those 12 coupons I had sitting at home. Peeked at the Hallmark down the way from Panera Bread, but didn't see anything totally necessary. Browsed around Barnes and Noble. Found Bloodline, one of the latest Star Wars novels, in paperback.

Finally got a pair of Easy Spirit sneakers at DW Shoes. I really love the ones I bought for running errands a few months ago. They weren't a bad price, either. The salesgirl was really enthusiastic. Turns out she's not only a huge fan of Harry Potter, but Star Wars as well. We had a nice talk about fandoms.

It was late when I got in, past 5:30. I did some quick writing. A young maid named Sabine helps Leia prepare for Mon Mothma's ball. Her mother appears, praising the maid for the beautiful up-do that she did for Leia. Sabine explains that she's an artist and is hoping to save her paycheck to attend art classes. Leia and Breha see Sabine meet a young man out in the hall as Breha helps her daughter with her jewels. Breha says it's sweet that Sabine has a romance, but Leia thinks their faces look more concerned that romantic.

Finished out the night with leftovers and episodes of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater. Tuxedo Sam is "Robin Penguin," who robs bubble gum from rich Princess Catnip and Sheriff Grinder and gives it to the poor of Knotty-Pine. He also gets to be "Pinocchio Penguin" and learn a lesson in telling the truth when he and Chip are lured by two gypsies (Catnip and Grinder again) and end up being swallowed by a whale. Chip is the "Ugly Quackling," whose feathers are very different from his siblings. They learn to never judge a bird by its color when "Ugly" grows up to not only be beautiful, but stop the hungry fox (Grinder) from harming his family. "Hello Mother Goose" has quite a mystery on her hands when famous items go missing in Mother Goose Land. The solution to the crime may lie in the whereabouts of My Melody Bo Peep's runaway sheep. Melody is the lead of a western-themed "Little Red Bunny Hood." She has to rescue her grandmother from Belle Catnip while avoiding the Big Bad Wolf (Grinder).

(And this might be a good time to get a few things Star Wars related off my chest, given that Bloodline is about how the New Republic fell apart and at least one recent book is on Han and Leia's break-up. So many people have been whining and crying about how horrible it was that the "Golden Trio" from the original trilogy were allowed to have a child that wasn't perfect, livest that weren't perfect, and were permitted to separate and be unhappy.

As my stepfather used to say, horse marlarkey. People don't stay together for 30 years. That's not how life works. Sometimes, parents do neglect their children, even when they don't mean to. They have lives, too. Sometimes, friends do break apart, even close ones. Sometimes, bad things do happen to good people. Of course, Han would go back to smuggling. That's what he does. What he's always done. My stepfather's been doing the same job for 50 years. That's not called "character derailment." That's called "being realistic." I'm wondering if people just weren't ready for that level of realism in this franchise, especially after the knights and queens and melodrama of the Prequels.

Also, allow me to point out that we've only had one movie and a prequel that amounts to a flashback. Unless there's real Jedi out there, the average person doesn't know what's going to happen yet. We don't know why Luke is on that island. He very likely has some plan he doesn't want anyone knowing about. We don't know how he's going to react to Rey. Han's likely dead, but one never knows, especially in science fiction. There's also the matter of how they're going to deal with Leia after Carrie Fisher's death. (I say...I'm sorry, but grab a reasonable look-a-like and recast Episode 9.)

I don't think Rey and Kylo Ren are going to fall in love and become the next Twilight like many teens and young adults want, either. That's hormones (and their own parental issues) talking. The guy killed a whole school of kids and his own father, and he practically mind-raped Rey. And no, having a bad childhood doesn't excuse him. If Kylo Ren is redeemed, it's probably going to be a lot messier than Vader simply tossing his boss off a ledge and dying in Luke's arms.

And all the screaming over the Han Solo movie is a whole other can of fish. Look, Harrison Ford is a great guy. I've had a crush on him since I was four. The fact of the matter remains that he's also in his 70's. He doesn't look 74, but he is. I don't mind the recasting. I think this sounds like it's going to be a fun intergalactic crime caper, sort of like the book Scoundrels. Once again, I'm willing to give a different story and different people a chance.

I don't believe in "canon." Canon means something is set in stone. Stories aren't set in stone. Stories are flowing, organic beings. They change and evolve. Everyone has their own way of telling a story. Mine is different than yours, which is different from everyone else's. Star Wars is stories...and stories change with time. Maybe this isn't the story people would have told in the 70's, or ten years ago, but it's the one being told now. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm starting to think I'm not cut out to be involved in big fandoms. I ran into the same problem in the American Girl fandom. I'm really laid-back about most things. For me, stories are stories and dolls are dolls. They're fun...but they're toys and fiction. In the end, they're nothing to scream over.

I think we're also starting to get an inkling of the can of worms that open when studios revive franchises that are in some cases as much as 50 or 60 years old. Sure, some people want to see the story continue and are willing to give anything a shot...but most have had their own casts and their own ideas in their head for years, maybe decades. They're not only loathe to give that up, but highly offended when the studios' stories don't match the ones they've already created or that were created by others in the interim.

I'm hoping finding conventions to attend will help me meet people who are willing to enjoy all aspects of a franchise, from the very beginning to the most current offerings. I'm just glad that we're getting more dolls and more movies and cartoons and books. Just knowing that we're going to get one Star Wars movie a year until 2019 (and likely beyond that, seeing how Disney loves its franchises) is enough to make me happy.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Bare Necessities

Began another sunny and breezy day with more Rick Steves. This time, we headed west towards the Spanish peninsula and Barcelona, a city steeped in history, tapas bars, and truly amazing architecture. (Including a church so massive and intricate, it was started over 130 years ago and won't be finished for another decade or so.)

After breakfast, I tried calling Camden County. Still no luck, with either voice mail or their phone service. No one picks up. I've been calling these people for over two weeks. Don't they ever erase their voice mail box? No one called me on the day of my appointment, either, despite the two letters I got stating that someone would call me on the day of my appointment. I give up. I'll just let this lapse and try again next month when I've got my ID updated and more of this figured out. I was able to leave Rose a message telling her to get back to me about the rent agreement.

Decided I'd test my new bandages with a short trip to the laundromat. I'm glad I got it done early in the week this time. They were really quiet, with only a few people around. I didn't have much laundry to do at any rate. I worked on story ideas and listened to news and soap operas. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Put everything away, then had leftovers for lunch. Did another Rick Steves episode as I ate. We made a second trip to Vienna, this time focusing on the history of Marie Theresa, the Hapsburg empress whose 16 children and amazing business acumen allowed her empire to flourish. There was also a visit to a monastery and the Viennese Opera House.

Spent the rest of the afternoon doing various things on the computer. I looked up area psychiatrists to get a good idea of what's available. I did research on a couple of mental problems, notably General Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder, along with more on introversion and shyness. Rose called me back, told me she's working on a letter to address the rent raise as well as a few other things, and confirmed that Dad-Bruce's middle name is Charles. (Mom did get back to me, BTW - hers is Ann.) That allowed me to finish ordering my birth certificate. Called Dad and Jodie. Jodie said she's been sick (and was in the hospital for a while) and hasn't been able to talk to her friend's sister about that doctor. She'll get a hold of her this week.

I even managed to squeeze a little writing in before and after dinner. Ben explains why Han reacted so badly to Breha's comment. He was once a notorious pirate...until he had to jettison a shipment after being caught by the police. A gunshot wound in his right leg during that altercation shattered his leg and ended his career at sea.

Breha's not happy with him, but she is happy to see Luke and Leia getting on so well. She rather obviously tries to nudge Leia towards Luke. Leia protests. She barely knows him, and she only sees him as a friend. Besides, there's something...familiar...about him...

Broke for dinner around 5:30. I decided to try a tasty, simple recipe that was pretty much dark beans, light beans, and vegetables. Replaced the lemon juice with lime juice and the green peppers with celery. Used chick peas (I had a can that was almost expired) and dark red kidney beans; replaced the water with chicken broth. Oh, yum. Nice and tangy, and the chick peas gave it a chewy, nutty taste.

Did The Jungle Book as I ate, and later as I set up for going online. Pretty much the same deal as the animated version. The animals of the Indian jungles want to protect Mowgli (Neel Sethi) from a ferocious tiger that hates humans. They try to send him to the nearest village with Bagheera the black panther (Ben Kingsley), but Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle. He finds a good friend in lazy, laid-back Baloo the bear (Bill Murray)...and enemies in Kaa the python (Scarlet Johanssen) and King Louie the ape (Christopher Walken), the latter of whom is determined that Mowgli make fire for him. But it'll take a concentrated effort from all the animals in the jungle, including Mowgli and the stand-offish elephant herd, to stop Sher Khan for good.

I can see why a lot of people like this better than either the 1967 cartoon or Disney's earlier live-action Jungle Book from 1994. While still not a 100 percent accurate adaptation, it does get a little closer to the spirit of the Kipling books than the other two. Johanssan particular does well with her brief role, and even sings a rather nice "Trust In Me." Murray's "The Bare Necessities" with Sethi was fun, too. Walken does less well with an out-of-place mob boss spoof and a darker "I Wanna Be Like You." And I had no problem with them ditching the Beatles-esque vultures from the cartoon. As much as I like the song "That's What Friends are For," the British Invasion allusions date the animated film rather badly.

What people will really come for is the special effects. Wow. No wonder this got a Visual Effects nomination at this year's Oscars. Everything except for Mowgi was done with CGI...and very little of it looks fake. They even went easy on the motion capture so it wouldn't look too waxy or uncanny, like some of the motion capture animated movies from the 2000's tend to. Even the animals talking doesn't come off as fake.

While not as dark as it could be, it's still too violent for very young kids, despite the PG rating. Try them on the animated version first. For older kids who love animals or computer animation, give this one a whirl.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Swashbuckling President's Day

Began a sunny President's Day with some Colliers' Harvest of Holidays. I did a short biography on Abraham Lincoln and two on George Washington, along with poetry about their life and times. I also went back and did the one Valentine's Day story, The Valentine's Box, and the poetry, since I forgot to do it on Valentine's Day.

Did two episodes of Jack of All Trades while I made Apricot Pancakes and a grapefruit slice for breakfast. Another early American president, Thomas Jefferson, makes a cameo appearance in the series pilot, "The Return of the Dragoon." Jack is less than thrilled when Jefferson reassigns him to a small tropical island to keep an eye on the French. Worse, his contact is a very smart British woman, Emilia, whose steampunk-esque inventions keep their spying under cover. Jack finds a cover of his own when he dresses as "The Daring Dragoon," a local myth, to ward off suspicion from the French Governor Croque.

Benjamin Franklin is "The Floundering Father" when he's taken prisoner by none other than Blackbeard the Pirate. Jack and Emilia are at a loss on how to get to Blackbeard's ship, until Emilia suggests her latest invention, a ship that can float underwater.

Listened to the first few songs from the Broadway musical Hamilton while I got ready for work. I can definitely see why this has become such a smash. Start with a good script and racially diverse casting; end with genuinely good music even people who aren't normally into rap and R&B can enjoy.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - on and off busy all day. Except for a few quick rounds of gathering baskets, I did carts the whole day. This time, though, I had less help. The one woman who was with me in the morning took an hour to get outside and was out for 15 minutes when she did finally make it. The other bagger was in the register for most of the early afternoon. When they let her go, the crowds had just begun to slow down. By the time it began to get busy again, we were both done.

I had a little shopping to do on the way home. I was hoping they'd have an ankle brace. My old one is too small. It gave me a huge blister on my heel. They didn't have an ankle brace, but they did have tape bandage. That'll have to do until I can get an ankle brace. I also found these new cheese crackers shaped like actual cheese slices. They remind me of the Nabisco Swiss Cheese crackers my sisters and I ate a ton of in the 80's. (We loved the bacon ones, too.)

Spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Actually, I revised the opening, and will probably revise it further. The refugee thing was too dark. Leia and her aunt and uncle are now merely visiting Mon Mothma to celebrate the coronation of Prime Minister Palpatine as the king of a united Coruscant and Naboo and the country's Diamond Jubilee. I also updated the Crimson Hawk and his band of criminals' costumes to make them closer to the era (1877) and the steampunk aesthetic.

Made a quick meal of spinach, eggs, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese while watching another Rick Steves episode. We went back to Austria for a trip to Innsbruck and the Austrian and Italian Alps. The lovely towns, lively squares, and elaborate castles are the perfect inspirations for my story.

Finished the night with a much-needed bath. Ahhh. I can't remember the last time I had one. I read You are a Badass while listening to George Winston play music by Vince Guaraldi (including iconic pieces from the Peanuts specials) and just enjoyed the chance to relax and soothe my sore muscles.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Everyone Says "Don't"

I woke up with just enough time for grits and a half of a grapefruit and some music before I headed out. Among the songs on Barbara Streisand's Back to Broadway album are two of my favorite Stephan Sondheim numbers, "Everyone Says Don't" (cut from Anyone Can Whistle) and "Children Will Listen" (from Into the Woods). "Don't" is encouragement to try, even when you might fall, and I could certainly use that right now. "Listen" is a lovely ballad about raising children, what you learn from them and what they can teach you.

Work was, once again, very busy. It was even nicer than yesterday, probably in the upper 60's. It was so warm, despite the wind, I was outside in my long-sleeved work shirt, and I was too hot. I spent the first half of my shift running around, bagging and doing returns. It wasn't too bad when I arrived, but by noon, people were starting to come in droves. I practically had to beg to go on break at a decent time. I'm glad I did, seeing how I was on my feet the rest of the afternoon. There were two baggers out with me, and we still had a hard time rounding up all the carts.

I was so pooped, I went straight home afterwards. Opened the window, changed into a t-shirt and capris, and worked on writing. Leia and her family are taken across the River Corel to the palatial home of Senator Mon Mothma, the main representative for the district. Mon Mothma is an elegant, outspoken older woman who is much-involved in Coruscant politics.

Also visiting her home are ruthless Coruscant military leader Governor Tarkin and Luke's guardian, handsome, roguish shipping tycoon Henry "Han" Solo. Solo turning down an offer to ship steel for a "special" project of Tarkin's when they arrive. While Mothma argues with Tarkin about the state of the roads, Luke helps Han to his feet. Turns out he didn't rise for the ladies because he couldn't. His right leg is crippled. When Aunt Breha makes a careless comment, Han gets defensive. Leia defends her aunt, and they end up arguing.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. I had leftover chili while listening to my Reader's Digest collection of various operettas. The swashbuckling Naughty Marietta, with its romantic old New Orleans plot, is my favorite of the three on the disc. There was also the Northwest Canadian adventure Rose Marie, and the bittersweet tale of doomed romance in old Europe, The Student Prince.

Read for a couple of hours before going online. Went over the Rogue One material first. It's...different, I will say that. I like that it has a grittier feel than most Star Wars media. One of the major complaints about the prequels was that there was too much of the Jedi and politicians and not enough "normal" folk, like Han and Luke's aunt and uncle. The recent Star Wars films have done much to restore this, including bringing Han back (if only briefly).

Also read You are a Badass, at least the first few chapters. I don't know why I'm so afraid of breaking out of my comfort zone. I've been hedging on things I should have done ages ago, like order that birth certificate, renew my non-driver's ID, make the list of needed improvements for Willa (she's the landlady, not Charlie - he just lives here), upgrade my cell phone, and get food stamps and rental assistance. I'm proud of being able to live on my own. I'm proud of my independence. No one during my childhood ever thought I'd be able to live independently. I just get used to things.

I don't know why I'm so nervous about going forward. I don't mind seeing a doctor, or getting assistance. I know it's important. It's just such a pain to deal with. I know paperwork is a part of adulthood, but I hate doing it. Part of me wants to run and hide and keep hiding, so the pain will all go away. The other half of me craves control over my life, but is afraid of what that'll entail. I don't want to lose what I already have.

My heart's been hurt for a long time. I feel like every time I open it, it just gets kicked again. There's still that little girl in my heart who is afraid that someone will come and take everything away, because she's weird and different and that's the worst possible thing anyone can be.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ice Cream In Winter

I heard the alarm at 8 AM, closed my eyes for five minutes...and when I opened them, it was 10 after 9. Not good. I had work at 10. I hurried and scurried, eating, dressing, and getting organized as quickly as possible.

Ran an episode of the original late-80's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon while I ate. Shredder acquires "The Ninja Sword to Nowhere" when the boys try to buy it for Splinter. Turns out the sword can cut through time and space, allowing its owner to travel back and forth through dimensions. When Shredder traps Splinter between dimensions, he tries to use the sword to force the Turtles to surrender to him.

Work was very busy early on. This is a holiday weekend, and it was a gorgeous day to boot. I'm actually glad I was outside rounding up carts almost the entire time. It was too sunny to be inside, especially after I spent most of yesterday in front of a computer. It was in the lower 60's, windy but not as much as earlier in the week. It did start to slow down a little by 3, by which time I had at least two other baggers outside with me.

My schedule is...exactly the same as last week, right down to the hours and the days off. Fine by me. I'm thinking I could use at least one other day to rest and get things done at home, probably Tuesday. I may see if I can get my driver's license and if my foot is up to a short trip to the Market Place by Friday.

It's a good thing it did slow down by 3. I had a lot of shopping to do. The clearance shelves were back, and this time, they were lined with many light bulb variations. I've been meaning to get some new round button lights for the inside of the closets. Both of the old ones are long dead. Found Crest toothpaste on clearance as well. Restocked grapefruit, apples, bananas, spinach, whole wheat flour, ground turkey, 2% evaporated milk, tomato sauce and paste, canned pineapple, cake mix, and Oatmeal Squares. (Quaker cereal is still on that huge Re-Opening sale, even though the re-opening was weeks ago.)

It was such a nice day, I decided I deserved a treat. I've always wanted to try Sonic's milkshakes. It was too early for dinner, but too nice of a day to not enjoy their patio. I ordered a simple small pineapple milkshake. It was tasty, with maybe a few too many chunky pineapple pieces (they kept getting caught in the straw). Not surprisingly, since it was 4 PM and still between meals for most people, the patio was empty. I saw a few people in cars and one girl who kept hemming and hawing over what to choose, even after she started her order.

Headed home next. I changed and did a few things around the house, including putting away the groceries. Ran another Turtles episode involving swordplay as I got organized. A bump on the head has Leonardo thinking he and his brothers are "The Four Musketeturtles," April is the queen, and Shredder is the wicked Cardinal. His antics get in the way of the boys trying to rescue Irma, who found a priceless gem that Shredder's after.

Worked on my story and my Pinterest for a while next. Maz and Ben finish their conversation by the woodpile. Does Han know about Luke's history, she asks him. Yes, to a degree, Ben explains. He knows what Luke is, but not who his parents are. Ben isn't sure Han is entirely trustworthy, due to his shady past and associations with people like the grotesque crime lord Jenkins Huttman.

They take Mon Mothma's yacht across the river to Coruscant. Luke tells Leia about Mon Mothma's huge estate by the river. They're lucky they can hold onto their estate. Vader has raised taxes again, to the point where half the country is starving. Leia's incensed and wants to do something about it. Luke does, too, but Han isn't interested and would rather the boy concentrated on business.

Finished the night with a variation on "Kit's Cincinatti Chili" from Kit's Cooking Studio. I replaced the ground beef with ground turkey and added a bit of home-made chicken broth and chopped two stalks of celery. Mom always added celery to our chili when I was a kid. Yumm. Came out very rich and flavorful.

Did another Bob Hope swashbuckling spoof while I ate and after I took a shower. Casanova's Big Night has Hope as Peepo the tailor's assistant. He finds himself impersonating the Great Lover (Vincent Price) when he runs out on his bills, including that of the beautiful grocery woman (Joan Fontaine). If he can get a certain petticoat from a young woman engaged to be married, he'll be given 10,000 ducats, more than enough to cover their debits. Not only does Peebo end up liking the girl and admiring her devotion to her lover, but he uncovers a plot by the evil Doge (Douglass Dumbrille) to take over Venice! It'll take all of Peebo's skills, as a lover and a tailor, to avoid detection and help the young lady get her petticoat back.

Less swashbuckling and more comedy than The Princess and the Pirate, including a hilarious scene where Hope has to fight a duel, and another in the end when he and Fontaine end up in drag. Otherwise, if you're a fan of Hope's brand of humor or action spoofs, you may enjoy this one as well.

Oh, and it turns out there's a few local conventions that might be of interest. The big one is a sci-fi convention in the fall, Philcon. A smaller one next month for toy collectors may be better for my level of socializing and my wallet. I'll see if I can get the day off.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sunny Day at Home

Began a sunny day with one of two Remember WENN episodes to spoof popular old movies. Radio station WENN's head writer Betty Roberts is coerced to reading a new play "From the Pen of Gertrude Reece," the station's harried receptionist. The play is a take on Casablanca, with Betty as Ilsa, cheerful organist Eugenia as Sam, mercenary actor/manager Scott Sherwood as Rick, former manager Victor Comstock as Victor Lazlo, Maple LaMarsh as the cafe singer, Mackie Bloom as Major Renault, Mr. Eldridge as the German waiter, Jeff as the matre'd, his ex-wife Hilary as a bar customer, C.J the Technician as the bartender, and Mr. Foley as a Nazi. A sponsor has two letters of "transmit" that'll allow free passage from the country. Trouble is...as with the real Casablanca, Gertie can't figure out an ending for her play. She and Hilary suggest a few before Betty decides Gertie would be better off figuring out her own ending.

I ended up spending most of the day on the computer or the phone. I tried calling Camden County again. I still got either hold or voice mail. This is ridiculous. I'm going to try again on Monday, then just let it lapse. Started my birth certificate, but realized I didn't have some of the information. I e-mailed Mom; haven't heard from her yet. I'll call Dad tomorrow.

I've been organizing and adding two a few more Pinterest boards.Since the trio from the Original Trilogy and the current one had boards, I figured it made sense to give Padme, Anakin, and Obi-Wan from the Prequels their own board as well. (Especially since I'm hoping to do my first prequels-based fics sometime this year.) Also started one on children's books, and one for Disney characters spoofing various franchises (including ones from Disney).

Padme, Anakin, & Obi-Wan - The Prequels Trio
Children's Books
Disney Satire and Crossovers

Actually, the biggest news today was my tax refund finally appeared. I put some money in both savings accounts. I may put more in, depending on what I have left after I pay the rent (on time) next month.

Got so caught up working, I didn't break for lunch until around 4! Watched another episode of Rick Steves' Europe while eating. Munich and Bavaria, with its ample beer gardens, massive palaces, imposing Gothic cathedrals, towering Alpine mountains, and fanciful castles, is the perfect aesthetic for Coruscant in my story.

I finally got around to making that list of repairs that need to be done here after I finished eating. We can start with that cracked window in my bedroom (which has been cracked since I first came here) and end with Charlie's attempt at re-cauking the kitchen sink not having stopped it from leaking. Like the sink in the bathroom, I think the faucet needs to be replaced. Some of the heating grates in the living room are falling apart or falling off the wall. (The heat itself works fine.) Charlie never replaced the tiles around the toilet when he did the plumbing last spring. There's wood panels under the bathroom rug that I'm afraid are going to break. I also mentioned the wardrobe and the dresser falling apart. They're cheap pieces and it's not their fault, but they did come with the house. The sink in the bathroom wasn't entire re-attached and pulls out when I lean on it. One of the shelves in the kitchen cabinet is coming loose. Charlie never fixed the light on the porch after his attempt to attach the Christmas lights to it left it unable to work at all. The shelves in the pantry are old, uneven wood.

Began The Pirate Movie while making Ally's "Snappy" Ginger Snaps. Mabel (Kristy MacNichol) is rather nerdy young woman in Australia who's thrilled to attend a pirate festival with her more glamorous girlfriends, where she gets a crush on a hot guy giving sword fighting demonstrations. Her friends take off with him before she gets a chance to really know him. She goes after them on a pontoon...and when she falls off and hits her head, the resulting dream turns into The Pirates of Penzance. Now, while dealing with a Modern Major General of a tipsy father, archaic rules of whom can marry whom, and her love for a handsome pirate bound by duty to his fellow men, Mable discovers that, when we stand up for ourselves and take control of our own dreams, we're all heroes.

Another long-time childhood favorite of mine. This odd cross between Pirates of Penzance, Pirates of the Caribbean, Moulin Rouge, and the Mel Brooks spoof films wasn't a hit when it debuted in 1982, but it's since picked up an audience on cable. With its feisty, action-oriented heroine and ample rock mixed in with more traditional Gilbert and Sullivan, it might actually have been ahead of its time. If you love action-oriented musicals or want to see an action film with a strong female lead (and aren't a Gilbert and Sullivan purist), this one is worth looking around for.

Did some writing as well. Luke and Leia chat in Maz's small gardens and discover they have a lot in common, including having been raised by an aunt and uncle. Luke had lived with his aunt and uncle until they died and he was taken in by businessman Henry "Han" Solo. Luke has nothing but praise for his guardian, gushing about his intelligence, brilliant engineering abilities, and business prowess.

Ben and Maz finally send the two along to dine with Leia's family. Maz tells Ben about a raid on the Coruscant Armory. Spies stole the plans for some secret weapon...but they weren't the Crimson Hawk's men. They were members of a secret society that is also going against Prime Minister Palpatine and his right-hand men Lord Vader and Govenor Tarkin. Ben says they need to find out more about this society and its aims. They have their own plans to restore freedom in Coruscant, including a "secret weapon" of their own.

Had the last of the leftovers for dinner around quarter after 7. Finished out Pirate Movie, then did Mask of Zorro. This slightly more serious swashbuckler is actually something of a reboot. The original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) teaches a young thief (Antonio Bandares) how to be the dashing man in the black mask in order to regain all he lost when he was arrested, including his daughter (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The wicked Governor has been hoarding gold and keeping it from the people...but he may have something even more sinister in mind for the workers...

I enjoyed this when it came out, and I still do. I will warn you that, being a late-90's movie, this is a lot more violent than the Tyrone Power or Disney versions, including a severed head being kept in a jar. Otherwise, if you're a fan of the cast or of swashbucklers like me, this is still a lot of fun to watch.

And...I found my old ankle brace, which went far in helping it feel better. I think I'll at least be able to go grocery shopping and work tomorrow.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Cat, a Mouse, and Three Wizards In Training

The wind was still whistling across the bare black limbs of the trees when I woke up this morning. I did two episodes of Rick Steves Europe while I ate breakfast. Since the story I'm working on is set in mythical middle European countries, I thought a visit to Vienna and Saltzburg was appropriate. Vienna is the glittering capitol city, home of wiener schnitzel, massive palaces, and the waltz. Saltzburg was once the home of Mozart and was one of the filming locations for The Sound of Music.

I tried calling Camden County again while the shows were on. When I couldn't get through to them. I looked up a few things online. I can order my birth certificate, but it'll cost $14. I'll do it tomorrow, when I get my paycheck.

Ran a quick Tom & Jerry short while I got organized for work. "Johann Mouse" won an Oscar for best animated short subject in 1952. Tom and Jerry live in the home of Johann Strauss. Jerry only emerges from his hole when Strauss plays and he dances. When Strauss goes on a trip and there's no music, Tom takes it upon himself to learn how to play the waltz...and form a beautiful partnership that lasts as long as the music is playing.

Work was on-and-off steady all day. We'd have long lines, but they'd disappear pretty fast. I pretty much did everything - bagged, gathered carts and baskets, did the trash, shelved returns. I even took the register for another cashier when she went on break.

Unfortunately, while I was outside for one of my cart round-ups, I turned my ankle pretty hard. I don't think it's broken. I can walk on it. It's just sore. I went straight home after work, ignoring the chilly weather and gale-force winds.

When I got home, I changed, put my ankle on ice, and went straight on the computer to work on my story. Luke tells Leia his situation. Henry Solo, a shipping magnate, was once the notorious pirate Captain Han Solo, before he went straight. He's now Luke's guardian and one of his mentors. Leia swears she's seen Luke somewhere before, but she can't put her finger on where...

Broke at quarter after 7 for dinner. Did two more Tom & Jerry shorts while I ate. "The Two Musketeers" has Jerry and his own young apprentice as Musketeers fighting Cardinal's Guard Tom for all the cheese in a cheese shop. "Touche, Pussycat!" is a prequel to this, showing how Jerry's apprentice first came to the Musketeers.

Finished the night out with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbekstan as I threw together a Hummingbird Cake. Harry's barely survived a harrowing trip on the Night Bus (after accidentally using his powers to blow up an obnoxious aunt) when he discovers that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), the man who betrayed his parents, has escaped prison and is after him next. Dementors - wraith-like jailers who such the soul and happiness out of anyone they come in contact with - are guarding the school, trying to keep it safe from Black, but they also effect Harry badly. Meanwhile, Harry and Ron find themselves helping Hagrid defend a Hippogriff that was accused of hurting a student and wonder how Hermonie can find the time to be in so many different classes at once and why their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher keeps taking so much time off...

A less-bland director and sharper script makes all the difference here. Alfonso Curon worked wonders with the kids, turning this into one of the best entries in the series.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Winds of Winter

I didn't sleep well last night. I got off so late, I thought I'd try sleeping on the couch instead of climbing into bed and waking up Charlie. It didn't work. My couch is really a love seat. It's fine for when Lauren visits. She's barely five feet. I'm 5'4. I tried to get comfortable for a least an hour before I gave up and crawled into my bed.

It was late in the morning when I finally did roll out of bed. I ran two Pink Panther winter specials as I ate breakfast (well, really more like brunch). Olym-pinks has Pink competing in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. He'd have a lot more fun if a rival didn't try to best him at every turn...and if he didn't get occasionally chased by a piano. Pink at First Sight is his Valentine's Day show. Pink takes a job as a delivery boy in order to earn money for Valentine's candy and flowers. He spends most of the day dodging jealous husbands, angry gangsters, and upset fathers.

Continued on to a couple of Pink shorts as I took the Valentine's decorations down. (The general winter decorations will stay up for another couple of weeks to a month, until we get closer to spring and St. Patrick's Day.) Pink is "The Scarlet Pink-ernel," a caped hero who rescues dogs from pounds. Or tries to, anyway. He keeps getting chased or locked up with them. He's "The Pink of Arabee" when his vacation in Arabia gets complicated by a flight on a magic carpet.

Dashed off to do the laundry around 1:30 - quarter of 2. I'm glad I got there when I did. Barely 20 minutes after I arrived, the place was crawling with families and elderly people getting their clothes done. Thankfully, I didn't really have that much to do, anyway. I was in and out in less than an hour.

When I got home, I put my clothes away, then ate lunch really quick while listening to my Bon Jovi Greatest Hits CD. Moved on to work on my story. Leia and the Organas finally arrive at the Takodana Inn. The ancient castle-like inn is owned by the salty and equally ancient Maz Kantana, who recognizes Bail on sight. She's an old friend of his. She also recognizes Leia, insisting that her eyes are familiar.

Another old friend of Bail's is waiting for them. Sir Benjamin Kenton was once a member of the Jedi Guards, who policed the kingdom. He retired when the group was disbanded and is now the manager for a wealthy businessman. The man's ward, Luke Walker, is also with him. Luke is an eager youth with a sunny smile and a sweet disposition. Leia likes him on first meeting and wonders why she feels like she knows him...

Broke for dinner around quarter after 7. Started DuBarry Was a Lady while I ate. Louie, a hat-check boy at a popular nightclub (Red Skelton), has a huge crush on singer  May Daly (Lucile Ball). Trouble is, so does the nightclub's head dancer and songwriter Alex (Gene Kelly) and a rich customer (Douglass Dumbrille). May is determined to marry for money, despite being in love with Alex. When Louie wins the Irish sweepstakes, he uses the money to essentially buy May's favors. A mistake with a drugged drink leaves him dreaming that he's King Louie of France, May is the infamous mistress DuBarry, Alex is the revolutionary she loves, and the customer is a scheming count. Louie finally learns that money can't buy love or happiness - sometimes, you really can be happy with nothing.

Hit the shower, then finished the night with another swashbuckler from the 40's featuring a popular comedian. Bob Hope made his only film for famous independent producer Samuel Goldwyn in 1946, The Princess and the Pirate. Hope is Sylvester the Great, a terrible actor playing the circuit in the South Seas. He and the lovely Margaret (Virginia Mayo) flee when their ship is attacked by the Hook. They come aground at a very violent pirate town and run afoul of the sleazy mayor (Walter Sleazak). Turns out that Margaret is a princess, and Sylvester is hiding a treasure map for a crazy old tattoo artist (Walter Brennan) who works with the pirates. Now Sylvester has to make sure the pirates don't get the princess, the map, or his hide!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

As Time Goes By

Began a soft, sunny Valentine's Day with breakfast and holiday specials. Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers has an Elmer Fudd-like Cupid spreading love among the Toons, via segments from various classic shorts. Bugs is convinced he's meddling, until Cupid takes matters into his own hands. Also on the DVD is "Holiday Highlights," a spoof of various holidays throughout the year (along with graduation).

Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You moves to the Hundred Acre Woods. When Pooh and the others discover Christopher Robin writing a valentine for a girl, they fear he may decide he prefers her to them. Owl tells them to search for a "smitten" who will make the boy as he was. Christopher Robin knows, though, that true friends never leave your heart.

"Un-Valentine's Day" is an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Rabbit's attempts to cancel Valentine's Day in order to stem the tide of card given the year before. After someone gives Pooh a pot of honey, the day becomes a mess of cakes flying, Pooh dressing as a mail box, and everyone putting on a "romantic" play for Christopher Robin. But who did send Pooh the original pot of honey? "The Three Little Piglets" is added as a bonus short. The gang is telling "The Three Little Pigs"...but Pooh keeps inserting honey and Rabbit's not happy to be playing the villain.

Called Mom while Pooh was on. I was hoping she'd have my birth certificate. Darn it, she didn't. I can't find it here. I'll have to go to the State of Florida's website and order it. Otherwise, she's fine...and all for me going to see a doctor, or even several, and find out what's going on with me and get some  kind of help or medication.

I wish I could explain this better. I will go to the doctor's, but not because I want medication. I want a second opinion. I spent half my childhood being ferried to this doctor or that one, and none of them could tell us what was wrong with me. I want to put all that behind me.

It was past 1 when I got off with Mom and finished looking up a few things online. I tried calling Camden County again. I either end up on hold for a half-hour, or I get a full voice mail box. I'll try again. I'm probably going to cancel the appointment or let it lapse and start the application process over when I'm more ready.

Got to the Westmont Bagel Shop around 1:30. They were surprisingly quiet for just after the lunch hour on a nice day. It was me, CNN, and the lady mopping the main dining area. I ate a turkey-avocado wrap, cole slaw, and pickles in a smaller booth along the side of the front counter.

Made a quick stop at Dollar Tree next. They were also surprisingly quiet. I had no trouble picking up cards for Dad-Bill and Jessa's birthdays, counter cleaner, and a new notebook for story notes.

The Haddon Township Library was not quiet. They were the busiest I'd seen them in a while. There was some kind of kids' program going on the children's reading room. I shelved new books and audio books and CDs while the kids worked.

I ended up taking out a lot of stuff. Found The Vermont Country Store Cookbook, which I've seen mentioned in their catalog a hundred times, but haven't been able to afford. Got two books on the art and characters of Rogue One (since it's looking very iffy that I'll be able to see it in theaters as of now) and another on taking charge of your life. Found two books in the kids' section to read, a Snow White riff called Snow In Summer, and a swashbuckling steampunk adventure called Ascension. For movies, I grabbed last year's live-action Jungle Book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbekstan, and the late 90's Mask of Zorro. I've seen the last two before, but not in a very long time.

I didn't finally make it home until almost 5:30. Worked on the story a bit. The Golden Eagle is excited that they made such a huge haul from the Organas. They'll feed many hungry mouths in Naboo. The Crimson Hawk is more interested in the lovely Leia Organa and in the "secret weapon" he's working on.

Broke around 7 for dinner. Made a stovetop version of the Molasses Baked Beans from The Vermont Country Store Cookbook, with no bacon (I don't have any at home - it's too messy to cook). Ran Peanuts specials while I ate. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown introduces Linus' crush on his teacher Ms. Othmar. He wants to buy her something special for Valentine's Day, but it doesn't go anywhere near the way he planned. Meanwhile, Sally's trying to make something equally special for her "Sweet Baboo," Charlie Brown is waiting in vain for valentines, and Snoopy's putting on messy romantic puppet shows.

A Charlie Brown Valentine is a series of skits on the kids and their many crushes. Charlie Brown pursues the Little Red Haired Girl, hoping to ask her to the Valentine's Day dance, not knowing that Peppermint Patty and Marcie are pursuing him. Sally and Lucy would be happy just for their crushes to notice them. Snoopy's trying to write poetry for the kids, but it's not easy to tailor it to their specifics.

Finished off the night with one of the most romantic movies in cinema history, the Oscar-winning drama Casablanca. Everyone comes to Rick's (Humphery Bogart) Cafe American in Casablanca, Morocco, during the early days of World War II. Rick claims he "sticks his neck out for nobody"...until virtuous Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) walks back into his life. Rick would be happy renewing their affair, but it turns out that she's married to a war hero (Paul Henried). Rick tries to settle for dealing with the various characters at his cafe, including the shady Captain Renault (Claude Rains) and his long-time friend Sam (Dooley Wilson). When Rick comes into possesion of two letters of transit that could get him out of Morocco, Ilsa claims she'll do anything to get them. Rick would love for him and Ilsa to walk off into the sunset...but he's discovered that sometimes, you have to do what's right for everyone,  not just your heart.

Normally, neither World War II movies nor romantic drama are my thing...but they work so well here, you'd never know the script was more-or-less cobbled together. Bogart and Bergman are simply luminous as the ill-fated lovers, but even minor roles are perfectly cast. If you're a fan of old movies, romantic movies, or Bogart, this should be on the top of your must-see list.

Oh, and I hope you all had a very romantic Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Duel In the Wind

Began a slightly cloudy morning with Buttermilk Pancakes and an episode of Perfect Strangers. Balki and Larry become Chicago's least-likely swashbucklers in "Family Feud" from the 6th season. Balki is required to fight a duel with an old family enemy. Larry thinks the whole thing is ridiculous and tries to call him on it...but when he inadvertently insults the man, he ends up being the one who has to fight. Larry's no fighter, and he tries every way he can think of to get out of it. It ends up being Balki who saves the day and brings an end to the feud.

Did two action-oriented Mickey Mouse shorts from the early 30's while getting ready for work. "Shanghaied" is one of my personal favorite Mickey/Minnie cartoons. Mickey and Minnie have been captured by modern pirate Pete at sea. Mickey has to fight Pete (with a fish) in order to free both of them.

"Mickey In Arabia" takes us to a very stereotypical version of the Middle East. Mickey and Minnie are having fun being tourists, until once again, Pete interferes. This time, he's a Bedouin who makes off with Minnie. Mickey has to deal with a drunk camel on his way to a rescue.

Work was...well, it was really kind of boring. I rounded up carts once, shortly after I arrived. Otherwise, I was inside all day, cleaning the bathrooms, doing returns, gathering baskets, and bagging. Maybe it's just as well. It was sunny by late morning, but chilly and gale-force windy. The carts blew in every direction. They weren't easy to control.

When I got home, I worked on writing for a while. Leia and her aunt and uncle are attacked by bandits on the road. They're lead by the legendary Crimson Hawk and his young sidekick the Golden Eagle. The Hawk at first insists on stealing their money and carriage...until Bail tells them they're refugees from the recently-invaded Alderaan. The Hawk settles for taking some money for the people of Naboo and flirting with a none-too-happy Leia.

Broke for leftover chicken legs with honey-glazed carrots and grapefruit for dinner around 7:30. Watched Sailor Moon Super S: Black Dream Hole while I ate. The Guardians are enjoying their Valentine's Day preparations when they get reports of children mysteriously vanishing around the globe. An evil witch is kidnapping children and taking their dream energy to create a black hole large enough to swallow the Earth. Chibi-Usa may have enough energy for her to complete it, if Sailor Moon, the other Guardians, and a young dream fairy can't get to her first.

Took a quick shower, then finished the night with The Mark of Zorro. Fairly typical Zorro tale from 1940, featuring Tyrone Power as the Masked Avenger of old California. Don Diego comes home to Southern California, to find it take over by a new, ruthless leader...but it's really ruled by an ambitious general (Basil Rathbone). He masquerades as a dandy while secretly aiding the people as the black-clad vigilante. When the governor decides to marry his daughter off to Diego, he brings her in on the secret. But they both may have everything to lose when Diego's friend the padre is captured and Diego is caught...

Classic tale of derring-do in the Southwest, with an especially dashing Power. Look for the brief but nifty Power-Rathbone duel in the end.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Sister's Birthday

The day did not begin well. First of all, it was raining hard when I awoke. Second, I got going later than I wanted to. Third, just as I was about to get dressed for work, Charlie turned up on my doorstep, complaining about my being noisy late at night again. He said he'll blast his TV at 8 AM until I stop. Ok, first of all, that's just silly. Second, if I make noise, I don't mean it. I try not to, but I tend to move around a lot when I sleep. He's not exactly one to talk. I've spent the past two and a half years listening to his power tools in the morning and his loud TV and him cursing at his dogs because they dared to make a mess. Third, yes, the TV was loud this morning, but the joke was on him. I had to get up at 8 AM for work anyway.

I was not in the best mood when I did make it to work. Spending three hours on and off rounding up carts in a heavy shower didn't make me feel better. We were crazy today, with long lines down the aisles. My gloves got so soaked, they're still drying.

Thankfully, by the time I did make it home, the rain had ended. It was damp and chilly, but not as bad. I spent the next few hours working on writing and looking for ideas on Pinterest. I got a short start on my swashbuckler. Leia Organa and her Aunt Breha and Uncle Bail are on their way to the home of Mon Mothma, having been driven out of their original home in Alderaan by the Naboo Empire and its wicked dictator Palpatine. Breha's not thrilled with stopping at a slightly disreputable inn for the night, but it's the only place for miles.

Finally broke around 5:30 to head to Dad and Jodie's. I saw them at the Acme yesterday. They invited me over to their house for Jessa's birthday party. She wanted tacos for dinner, so tacos she got. That was fine by me. I had three soft tacos, and one hard one. There were quite a few folks celebrating with us. Along with Jodie, Dad, Joe, and Jess, I saw Rose, Khai (Craig had to work), Mark, Vanessa, Dana, and Jesse. We had Carvel ice cream cake and fruit tarts and petit fours from Desserts by Design for the birthday cake. Along with gift cards and money, Jessa got a red silicone muffin pan and two books on being Chinese and Chinese children. (Jess was adopted from China when she was a toddler.)

And...wow. It was raining earlier, but that seems to have stopped. It does sound like it's still really windy. It could have been worse, actually. Lauren said she got snow all day and was still getting it at press time.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

All For One and One for Fun

Got a quick start to a nice, sunny day with some Sailor Moon. I felt like I needed to see women kicking rear. In a later first season episode, A popular young artist asks Mamoru and Usagi to model for one of her fantasy-oriented paintings. Usagi's thrilled; Mamoru, less so. Turns out the artist is a sweet but plain lass who hides the real her behind her fantastic artwork. Usagi tries to encourage her to come out of her shell...until Zoycite of the Negaverse shows up and turns her into a monster.

Work was steady all day. I helped round up carts for about an hour after I arrived. Otherwise, I was mostly bagging or returning cold items. Helped one of the managers clean up the mess the huge pots of Valentine's Day flowers made around the front of the organic aisle.

My schedule for next week is...more or less the same as this week, with slightly later hours on Thursday. Otherwise, all 10 and 11 start days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday off again. No counseling this time, and the weather looks like it's going to be pretty decent. I should be able to fit in most, if not all, of what I have planned.

I had a ton of groceries to buy. There was a lot I needed to restock or stock up on - cream of mushroom soup, flour, brown and powdered sugar, mandarin oranges, cooking oil (got the Crisco blend), skim milk, dryer sheets, frozen green beans and peas, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. The oranges weren't on sale again, so I got pink grapefruit this time, along with bananas and apples.

When I got home, I continued Sailor Moon while putting everything away and getting organized. The next episode brings Mamoru's best friend Motoki in. Most of the girls have huge crushes on him, including Makoto and Usagi. They're both devastated when they learn that Motoki has a steady girlfriend, Reika...but she just got a fellowship in Africa and may be leaving. While they try to win his favor, Zoycite discovers that Reika may be the next Rainbow Crystal carrier.

Worked on writing after I got everything put away. Ben teaches Luke and Leia a little about the Force while Harry makes repairs and refills the Falcon's engines in Duluth. He asks Luke and Leia to open a rusty gate using their minds. They're able to open it a little bit each...but to their surprise, despite his protests that he doesn't believe in the Force, Harry's able to open it the rest of the way.

And...I'm going to stop here again. I want to see Rogue One before I go any further. I want to use the characters from that as the Underground that helps them out in Coruscant. I'll probably resume this when Rogue One comes out on DVD, likely in early April. I think I might start that Scarlet Pimpernel-esque swashbuckler instead. I'd like to stay out of the fairy tales for a while.

Ran an episode of Good Eats while I had a quick dinner of leftovers. Alton Brown creates chiffon cupcakes, both in and out of real cups, that are less fussy than similar ones from a bakery, and equally easy to make. We also get a buttercream frosting (with eggs).

Hit the shower quick, then went online. Did the 1993 Three Musketeers when I got out. This comic adaptation of the beloved Alexandre Dumas Sr. novel has young D'Arangan (Chris O'Donnell) arriving in Paris to join the Musketeers, only to discover that they've been disbanded. Only Athos (Kiefer Sutherland), Aramis (Charlie Sheen), and Porthos (Oliver Platt) have remained loyal to the king. The youth discovers a foul plot by the evil Cardinal Richeleu (Tim Curry) to murder the king on his birthday. The quartet ride to Calais to stop the Lady DeWinter (Rebecca DeMorney) from bringing a treaty that could allow England to invade across the Channel. This is an old family favorite. Not the most accurate to the book or the time period, but definitely one of the most fun.

The Corsican Brothers is another Dumas adaptation, this one from 1941. Two brothers of noble birth (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) are separated after their parents are killed. One becomes a bandit; the other, a rich dandy. They meet and become bandits together, fighting as one to regain their lands...until they both fall for the same woman (Ruth Warrick). The dandy wants to rescue her from marrying the man who killed their parents (Akim Tamiroff), but is captured. Will his brother be able to mend the bond between them in time to rescue him? Wonderful hokum, with an amazing performance by Fairbanks - you'll really believe he's two different men who share a bond.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I've Still Got a Lot of Fight Left In Me

Began a sunny, windy morning with Scooby Doo, Where are You? during breakfast.
"A Tiki Scare Is No Fair" takes us to the second half of the second season. On a trip to Hawaii, Shaggy and Scooby's most recent luau was interrupted by a witch doctor, shortly after a reporter warned them away from an ancient village. The village, however, may be the only way to find the reporter and figure out what the witch doctor is really after.

"Don't Fool With a Phantom" takes the kids backstage at a local TV station. After a wax figure disrupts a dance show and steals the station's cash, the kid go next-door to a wax museum to learn more about the spook. Seems the creepy owner insists he conjured the spirit in revenge...but there may be more to this than an act of vengeance.

Headed out around quarter of 12 for this week's session at the Oaklyn Library. It was chilly and very breezy, though not quite as bad as yesterday. The library was fairly busy, mainly with older people using the computers and looking for books and DVDs. I looked over the DVDs, then reorganized the graphic novels. (Which, at the Oaklyn Library, means "comic books, graphic novels, and anything with a superhero, cartoon character, or Star Wars in it.") Since most of them are paperback and quite a few are actually picture books, they tend to get put in the wrong place or lot in the shuffle easily.

Headed for WaWa after I finished. I wanted to use the ATM machine and get some lunch. Thought I'd do something a little different. Ordered a Roast Beef, Onion, Spinach, and Horseradish Panini. Considered getting candy, but decided I had enough junk at home and held off. Had it really quick for lunch. Whew, does WaWa use some strong horseradish! It cleared my sinuses.

Headed right back out again after I finished eating. I desperately needed to get the laundry done. I kept putting it off and putting it off, either due to the weather or work. Maybe waiting wasn't such a bad idea. It wasn't too busy when I got in, and was completely quiet by the time I left. This was a good thing. It goes without saying that I had a huge load to do, complete with towels. I worked on story notes and half-listened to Steve Harvey and Ellen.

When I got home, I put away my clothes, then once again went right back out. It was too late to hit the Haddon Township Library, but I thought I might lend a hand at Studio LuLoo. Turns out they were having a party later, but otherwise, there wasn't much going on. It was too cold for most people to send their kids to creativity sessions. I watched two little girls play puzzle games on their iPad and drew pictures with a few of the kids.

I went online to look over Pinterest and my e-mail and do some writing. I should have done the writing before the e-mail. I got a comment on my blog that, while not nasty, pretty much said I should give up on becoming a professional writer, my therapist is right and I should seek professional help, and why am I watching cartoons when the world is falling apart? I should grow up.

First, I got upset...but then, I got mad. I'm sick of this. I'm sick and tired of everyone telling me how to live my damn life. You know what? I am going to be a writer. Maybe not a journalist or a novelist, but a business writer or a technical writer or an editor or a copywriter. Or I'll be an archivist or a professional organizer, or a retail merchandiser, or I'll work in a library or doing data entry. I'm tired of everyone in the world telling me what I can and can't do and what I can and can't be. The only person who can decide that is me.

I will see the doctor, but only because it makes Jodie and Dad happy. Besides, they may have some suggestions on how to deal with my anxiety and where to look for other financial options.

And oh yeah, I'm going to keep working on my fanfiction. Maybe it's not perfect. Maybe it's not even good. But you know what? It makes me happy, and that's what matters. I'm writing for me, because I need to write. Maybe I can't sell it. Maybe I'll never be a professional. But at least I'm doing something I love.

I poured my anger into Leia's thoughts after Harry (Han) teases her yet again from the cockpit. She wants to find the Swords of Alderaan to prove that she, a woman, can be an archaeologist and make amazing finds. She wants to prove that her godfather was right...and she can go up against a big facist corporation and win.

Broke for leftovers from last night for dinner around 7:30. Ran Romancing the Stone while I ate. Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a shy romance novelist who is called to Columbia to rescue her sister, who has been kidnapped by smugglers. They want a map that leads to a fabulous emerald. She gets help along the way from a mercenary (Michael Douglas) with the sea in his heart and his own reasons for going after the treasure. This has long been one of my favorite films, a cracking good adventure with an unusually strong heroine.

Finished the night with another jungle tale. The Road to El Dorado. This time, it's two con men from Spain who have a map to fabulous riches, the golden city of the title. Turns out the city is very much a living, thriving community of natives who think they're gods. One falls for a female thief who wants out. The other grows to love El Dorado and its people and wants to stay. They finally have to decide what's right for them, their relationship, and the citizens when a jealous magician who resents their presence lures Coranado to the city in the hopes of destroying them all. One of Dreamworks' best 2-D animated films, a rousing adventure with a surprisingly touching friendship at its core and one of Elton John's best scores.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Not Quite a Winter Wonderland

I did, indeed, awaken to a snow storm. I celebrated the weather with Frosty's Winter Wonderland while I had breakfast. Frosty's glad to be back with his friends, but he feels lonely when they go inside and he can't. They make him a "snow wife" to cheer him up, but it takes a while to figure out how to make her "all livin'." Meanwhile, Jack Frost is very jealous of all the attention Frosty gets from the kids and is determined to be the only winter icon.

The snow may have been bad earlier, but by the time I headed out around 10, the roads were mostly clear, and the shower was winding down. When I headed outside to do carts, the snow was gone. In fact, the clouds broke up shortly after, and we ended up with a sunny day. The Acme wasn't busy when I arrived, probably due to the weather. I spent most of the first half of my long shift doing baskets filled with returns, as well as the trash and recycling. Spent most of the second half doing baskets and carts after the customers picked up around 12:30-1.

Went straight home and on the computer after work. I did do some writing. Ben tells Luke and Leia about a Coruscant's underground, lead by Jeanne Erson and her father. (Yes, I know I haven't seen Rogue One yet. No, I don't care. I like the idea enough to include the characters.) He also tells them that Derek Vader, the industrialist, killed their father Andrew Skylark when he was a promising young archaeologist and Vader was his pupil.

Speaking of Rogue One, I did more Star Wars Pinterest reorganizing. The Rogue One pictures now have their own page, which they share with any "Expanded Universe" material of interest to me, along with photos from the remaining "Star Wars Anthology" films when they come out.

Star Wars - Rogue One, Legends, & the Anthology Series

Broke for dinner around 7. I wanted a real dinner, something tasty but sensible. I ended up with seasoned chicken legs, steamed (bagged) vegetables, and brown rice. Yum. The chicken in particular came out nice and juicy and flavorful.

Ran a serial for current story inspiration while eating dinner and after my shower. Federal Agents Vs. Underworld Inc. is pretty much what it says on the tin. A professor found a pair of golden hands on an expedition that have ancient hierogliphics that could reveal the location of a fabulous treasure...and then disappears. One of the hands falls into the clutches of Nila, the head of the Underworld. Gordon, a gangster, has another. While they prepare to create on super-group of criminals, two FBI agents and the professor's assistant diligently track them and the golden hands down.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Too Warm for Winter

Today did not go at all like I'd planned. I awoke to a phone call. It was the Acme. They were crazy, could I come in? I finally told them I'd come from 1 to 5. I really wasn't in the mood, but I badly need the money. I'll have to do the laundry tomorrow or Friday and the Oaklyn Library on Friday. I tried calling the Camden County Services to reschedule my appointment for food stamps, but they were busy. I'll try again tomorrow.

At any rate, I did have the time for a Tales of the Gold Monkey episode while I got organized and had breakfast. In "Honor Thy Brother," Jake's been rattled by a series of attempts on his life, and by the Japanese bombers he's says he's been seeing. No one believes him but Sarah. Turns out it's a Japanese pilot out for revenge on Jake for shooting down his brother and maiming him. While Jake tries to shake him off, he (temporarily) gets Jack's eye back, and Corky gets an unwanted native bride when he helps a fisherman out.

As it turned out, the Acme had their reasons for calling me. Yes, they were that crazy. There were lines down the aisles when I arrived at one. I spent most of the first hour panicking in a register. We just started the Monopoly game again today, too. (I don't know why they bother. All our customers ever do is complain that they never win anything.) We're supposed to get anything from 3 to 10 inches of snow tomorrow. It got up to the 60's today, so I doubt it'll stick to the streets, but we'll see what happens. Ended up rounding up carts for a lot of the second half of my shift, when I wasn't trying to gather baskets, shelve cold items, retrieve more plastic bags from the storage closet, and bag for people, usually at the same time. I'd start returning cold items, then half-way through that, they'd ask me to grab plastic bags, then I'd start that, and they'd need me to bag. I wish they'd let me finish something!

I mostly puttered around online when I got home. I was too tired to do much of anything. I did manage to rearrange the Finn/Rey/Poe page, adding solo shots and ones of them with BB-8 or in twos, as well as create a page for the James Bond series.

Bond, James Bond - The Bond Movies

Finally broke for dinner around 7:30. Had crab cakes and sauteed spinach and mushrooms while watching Working Girl. Tess McGill (Melanie Griffth) is determined to move up in the business world. When her demanding boss (Sigourney Weaver) breaks her leg skiing, she discovers the woman intended to pass her idea of a company buying a radio network off as her own. She takes over her house and wardrobe in order to make sure the deal goes through, with the help of a handsome broker (Harrison Ford) with problems of his own.

Finished the night out with Brain Donors. More Proft/Zucker madness, this time spoofing the Marx Brothers and other comedy group films of the 30's and 40's. A shady shyster (John Tuturro), a jack-of-all-trades (Mel Smith), and a goofy houseboy help a wealthy widow (Nancy Marchand) start a ballet company, while helping a couple of lovers get their big break.

And...at press time, it still hasn't snowed. It's not supposed to start until early this morning. We'll see how things go.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Raining In My Heart

I started my morning with breakfast and a movie as rain ended outside. Since I did Hot Shots the other day, I figured I'd do its sequel now. Hot Shots Part Deux moves the spoofs from Top Gun to Rambo and the Gulf War. Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is recruited to rescue several teams of soldiers who were captured in Iraq, including his old captain (Richard Crenna). He's trying to escape the memories of his old girlfriend (Valerie Golino), who walked out on him. When she turns up on the mission, he has to figure out how he feels...and who in their group is trying to sabotage them. Meanwhile, President Benton (Lloyd Bridges) is working on his re-election bid. When even Topper's reported missing, he decides he has to go in there and help, too.

I'll be honest, I like this one a lot more than the original. The gags are sharper, the cracks at the bloody action movies of the 80's and 90's are hilarious, and the cast is better. Not to mention the "war is hell" gags feel a tad bit less dated than the "ace war pilot" jokes in the first.

If you can only get one Hot Shots film, make it this one. They're both fun, but this is a little bit sharper and better-written.

 Got a call from Mrs. Stahl as the movie was ending. Would I mind if we moved my counseling appointment from 2 to 3? I called Dad and Jodie. It was ok with them, so it was ok with me.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom. It wasn't too bad, but it did need to be done. The kitchen in particular was a bit grungy. I've spent a lot of time at home lately and have been eating here more often than not.

Ran The Phantom while cleaning. This is the 1996 adaptation of one of the earliest superheroes. The Phantom (Billy Zane), aka Kit Walker, just inherited his title from his late father. He's the latest in a long line of purple-clad heroes who operate off of an island in Southeast Asia. He's called into action when the ruthless Xander Drax (Treat Williams) gets his hands on three skulls that could allow him to rule the world. Thing is, he doesn't have all the skulls...and only the Phantom knows where the fourth one is...

There were a lot of stylish, 30's style superhero and action films that came out in the early-mid 90's, including Dick Tracy, The RocketeerThe Shadow, and this one. Shame none of them really caught on (though the first two eventually became cult favorites). While this one does have some problems (start with a stiff Zane, continue to some major plot holes), it also has some things I really like. Kristy Swanson as the adventurous Diana Palmer and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the head sky pirate Sala are a lot more interesting than most of the men around them. Some of the action set-pieces are a lot of fun, too, especially on the island. The movie has a nice Indiana Jones-esque feel that dovetails nicely with its mid-30's settling.

If you can find this one, it's worth a look for fans of old-style action, The Phantom comic strip, or Golden Age superheroes.

Did some Backyardigans while having a quick lunch. The kids' trip to "The Heart of the Jungle" is slightly less problematic. Uniqua is a scientist trying to find the home of a wormen (one of the Technicolor worm-like critters who appear on the show from time to time). Pablo, Austin, and Tyrone, all playing variations of Tarzan over the years, try to help her out. Uniqua, however, is a very modern scientist and has no patience for their pulp fiction nonsense...until she runs into something even science can't save her from.

Jodie and Dad picked me up at 2:30. Thankfully, by that point, the rain from earlier had long-vanished. We managed to find a parking spot a block from Mrs. Stahl's office and were there five minutes early. I really hate all of this. I know I'm supposed to think, not let my feelings take over...but what I feel like is an idiot and a failure. Yes, I know other people in the family are having problems, that Dad is a vet and gets money from the government for it, that Erica is disabled. I'll try to get the SSI, but only because I have no other options.

The trouble is...none of them understand how much this hurts. I spent a lot of my childhood being dragged to this doctor or that doctor, in the hope that someone, anyone, could tell my parents what was wrong with me. I was hoping that being an adult would mean leaving all that behind. I thought I'd be able to have a real, normal job, and live a real, normal life, and be a real, normal person, with no damn need for doctors. I want to slam the door shut on that part of my life and never open it ever again.

Of course not. Mrs. Stahl is adamant that there are no writing jobs open. Trouble is, that is what I do. I write. I don't really have too many other skills. I can't work in a bakery. I couldn't handle taking orders, and I'd eat the profits. All I wanted was to prove that I could be a real, normal person, with a good, solid job, someone who could take care of herself, with no need for all this silly fuss. I thought I could be someone who could live independently, who could actually earn a living. I'm not good enough for that. I should have known that's impossible for someone like me.

I spent the whole session crying and was miserable when we got out. Jodie and Dad took me out to the Kove Restaurant in Audubon for a snack to cheer me up. This is the huge beige stucco building about a block or so from Desserts by Design and Bob's music shop. It's a really beautiful in there, with lots of light wood (including the bar) and dark booths and a line of large windows around the front. There were four TVs over the bar. One showed Action News. Another showed a repeat of the Super Bowl. I mostly paid attention to the NHL Network.

Dad and Jodie had crab and corn chowder. Jodie also had a crab cake sandwich and fries. I'd already had lunch and wasn't that hungry. I had their mozzarella sticks...which were huge, shaped like triangles, and really more like mozzarella wedges. I also ate the shredded lettuce under it, and Jodie gave me some of her fries.

When they dropped me off, I decided I'd try to at least look over Tales of the Gold Wookie, one of the historical Star Wars AUs I started last year but never finished. The year is 1939. Leia and Luke Skylark, fresh-out-college archeologist and reporter respectively, are on their way to Coruscant, the capitol city of the fascist Empire, to reclaim the Swords of Alderaan from the nasty Govenor Tarkin. They're flying there with opportunistic pilot Harry Solomon, his hairy co-pilot Charel, their godmother's servants Artie and Clarence, and Benton Kenobi, Luke's reporter mentor. Benton tells them his boss, editor Miss Tano, has called ahead to Coruscant. Turns out she has friends in the Coruscant underground who'll be able to help them...

I was still full from the mozzarella wedges, so I settled for spinach, eggs, and cheese for dinner. Ran a couple more comedies while I ate. Troop Beverly Hills is an old childhood favorite. Phyllis Neffler (Shelly Long) joins her daughter's Wilderness Girls troop in the hope of bonding with her child while she works through a messy divorce. Shopping-obssessed Phyllis is hardly your typical den mother...but these girls, with their wide-brimmed hats and pastel clothes, aren't typical Wilderness Girls. Phyllis finally discovers how strong she can be, while teaching the girls that the most important part of being with a group is learning how to deal with your environment, whether you're living in the wilds, or the wilds of the city.

My Favorite Year takes us back to 1954, as comedy writer Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) recalls how he convinced head comedian King Kaiser (Joe Bologna) to let his long-time idol Allan Swann (Peter O'Toole) appear in a sketch he wrote. Swann, once an Errol Flynn-type swashbuckler, is now a lush who spends his time drinking and chasing women. Aware of his reputation, Kaiser assigns Benjy to keep an eye on him. This proves to be easier said than done. The young man follows Swann from Central Park to his mother's (Lainie Kazan) apartment in Brooklyn in a weekend filled with wild antics, dates with attractive young secretaries, and the realization that anyone can be a real hero...if they have people who believe they can.

Oh, and I created two more Pinterest pages tonight, for my years in college and afterwards and for another cartoon I like, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

My 2000's College Years
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles