Friday, March 31, 2017

Rain and a Mystery

I awoke to a torrential downpour. Cheered up the weather with breakfast, then getting some chores done. I vacuumed, washed the windows and the mirror in the bedroom, and dusted the entire living room (which is huge).

Finished out the final minutes of Star Trek Beyond, then ran It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. The Peanuts gang are preparing for the spring holidays with clothes shopping and looking for a new home for Woodstock. While Lucy tries to con Schroeder into giving her gifts, Peppermint Patty and Marcie attempt to color eggs (without success). Linus claims there's no need for the fuss. The Easter Beagle will do all that. Sally's skeptical after the Great Pumpkin incident at Halloween.

Switched to Wonder Woman while I finished the cleaning and got organized. Princess Diana (Kerri Russell) is an Amazon from Paradise Island, which has been cut off from contact with humans...especially men. When pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands on the island, her mother holds a contest to see which of her warriors will represent Paradise Island and take Steve back to Washington DC. Diana's the winner who gets the honor of donning their bulletproof gauntlets and using the Lasso of Truth. She's appalled when the world of humans turns out to be filled with men who underestimate and undermine women...and is even less happy when one of her fellow Amazons frees Ares, the god of war, from his prison. Ares is determined to make up for lost time and fill the planet with hatred...unless Wonder Woman can convince the Amazons to come to the world of men and help her stop him.

I put this on in honor of the live-action Wonder Woman movie coming out later this year. I believe this is Wonder Woman's origin story transposed to present-day (the first half is very much like the original pilot film for the 70's Wonder Woman TV show). As such, it's not bad. The messages about peace and feminism are sometimes pushed a little too hard. Otherwise, if you're a fan of the DC animated films or the character, this one is worth looking for.

Continued the DC superhero theme with a couple of Fleischer Brothers Superman shorts as I got ready to head out. "The Mad Scientist" is the pilot short. This quite typical story has Superman stopping the loony doctor of the title from using his secret weapon to destroy Metropolis. Lois Lane just wants her story. She takes off with "The Mechanical Monsters," aka robots who have been programmed to steal jewels. Superman has to rescue her and the loot.

The rain slowed down enough by 12:30 for me to head out. I wanted to at least get my grocery shopping done. Had lunch at Arby's, which was busy with the tail end of the lunch hour. The line at least moved fast. Since their fried fish sandwiches were cheap, I tried the Flatbread Fish Sandwich. Not bad. Basically a fried fish version of their gyros. At least the fish tasted like real fried fish (more than their beef and turkey do). Could have used at least some tomatoes and onions or cheese or something.

The rain was picking up as I headed across the parking lot to the Acme for this week's grocery trip. I needed a lot this week. Had coupons for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (grabbed the spring-themed Vanilla Cupcake graham cracker bag) and Chobani "Flip" Yogurt that has yogurt on one side and bits and pieces on the other. (Decided to try three new flavors - cinnamon bun, carrot cake, and the limited edition strawberry crisp.) Nestle's butterscotch chips were on clearance - thought I'd do something different and have Butterscotch Cookies this week. Restocked canned chicken, tomato sauce and paste, brown and white sugar, peanut butter, plain yogurt for baking, apples, bananas, the $1.99 bag of oranges, canned Mandarin oranges, and skim milk.

Since it was past 1 PM by the time I was shopping, I picked up my schedule, too. I have the best schedule I've had in weeks, only two days off this time, but all morning work except for Monday again, and more hours. Probably just as well. I have to pay my rent this week. I won't have the money to do much else. (I also lost the paper that had my schedule on it, and after searching for it through half the store, went back and wrote it down again.)

It was pouring when I got out. I tried waiting, but it just kept pouring. I rode home and got soaked. There was no way I was going to do anything else in that weather. I renewed my books and DVDs and decided I'd hit the Haddon Township Library on Tuesday instead.

Opted to spend the rest of the afternoon on Pinterest and working on my story. Luke and Ben are practicing Luke's fencing while waiting in the junk yard for Han and Chewie. Luke's working with a ball made of Khyber crystal that behaves the way the practice ball did in the Falcon in A New Hope. He first asks Ben about the Force, then his parents. He can explain the Force to the boy. Explaining his parents is...more difficult. He doesn't mind talking about his mother Queen Padme, but he's cagier about his father, Sir Anakin. Han and Chewie show up just in time to insist that "hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good pistol at your side."

Rusty and Cedric turn up in the Junk Pickers' cart a few minutes later. Rusty goes to Ben and turns the plans over to him. Ben wants to get to the Rebel Society. Luke wants to rescue Leia. Han doesn't want anything to do with either - he just wants to sell the jewels and go home.

Broke around quarter of 7 to eat leftovers for dinner and make a Snickerdoodle Cake. Since the heavy rain was continuing, I ran two shadowy comic mysteries that seemed to fit the weather. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid has Steve Martin as a typical tough-guy private detective who runs afoul of a group shady folks while helping a dame find out who murdered her father and why. Both of these all-star movies had a gimmick along with the mystery. In this case, Martin appears to interact with footage of real-life film noir stars like Veronica Lake, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardener, and Ingrid Bergman. Strange film, but a lot of fun if you like funny mysteries or the shadowy world of film noir and spy tales of the 40's.

Clue is even more unique. Inspired by the famous board game, six people are invited to a huge mansion for a dinner that turns ugly when the host is murdered...and everyone has a motive, including the unflappable butler (Tim Curry). Now they all have to find out who done it, before someone does them in, or they all end up going to jail.

The gimmick here is not one, but three very different endings. (The DVD comes with the option of playing one, or playing all at once, like the video and most cable showings.) While none of them especially make sense, they're all hilarious in their own way. Special kudos to Curry as the flustered servant who digs up more dirt than he originally planned, Michael McKean as the perpetually pushed around Mr. Green, and Leslie Ann Warren as the delightfully sarcastic madam Miss Scarlet.

The gimmick made this one a flop when it debuted in 1985, but it picked up a following on cable and has been a cult favorite ever since. This is another frequently-seen gem that my family has probably memorized in its entirety. If you love the cast, the game, comic mysteries, or find the gimmick intriguing, this is one of the best unsung comedies of the 80's and is very highly recommended.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mysterious, Very Mysterious

It was just gray and damp when I finally climbed out of bed this morning. Today was my long work day, and I knew I was going to be tired when I got home. I wanted a decent dinner...but I was working until 5, and I probably wouldn't be up for making it after being on my feet all day. Solution? Making Sloppy Joes in a slow cooker. I just tossed in ground turkey, tomato sauce, chopped onion and celery, spices, and Worcestershire sauce. (Forgot the brown sugar the recipe also called for, but oh well.)

Ran a couple of Three Stooges shorts while cooking. I enjoyed the two mystery-themed shorts I did yesterday so much, I dug around for two more tales of the Stooges solving baffling crimes. The Curly-era tale "Dizzy Detectives" has them as cops on the tail of a gorilla who seems to be behind a series of bank robberies. While the real perpetrators are very human, there is a gorilla involved...and he's awfully interested in Curly...

Shemp joins for "Crime On Their Hands." He, Larry, and Moe are novice reporters investigating another jewel robbery that involves a gorilla. This time, Shemp accidentally swallows a valuable diamond. The thieves who stole it want to get it out of him by any means necessary, including harmful ones. The oldest Stooge, however, has made friends with the thieving primate, who may not be so eager to let his new buddy go under the surgical knife...

Work was, once again, dead for most of the day. Even rush hour wasn't more than mildly steady. I spent most of the day rounding up carts and baskets. Did a few returns in the middle of the afternoon. The managers insisted their was a mess in the women's bathrooms that absolutely had to be cleaned up right away. I cleaned it, but it wasn't a huge mess, just something I got rid of with a few flushes. Mopped the floor and wiped down the stalls anyway. (And did the floor again and dried it when a manager insisted that someone complained about slipping, despite the two yellow "wet floor" signs I had standing around the room.)

Stopped to buy a roll for my Sloppy Joes before heading home. I left right on time. The first few drops of rain plopped on my nose as I was rounding the corner of Goff and Manor Avenues. I was inside well before the heavy rains started. (It's rained on and off for the rest of the evening.)

The apartment smelled delicious when I got in. Yummm. Even without the brown sugar, the Sloppy Joes were amazing, savory and rich. Sauteed some aging broccoli and stir-fry vegetables to go with it.

Ran a Backyardigans episode that also dealt with a jewel robbery while I ate. Pablo plays Sherlock and asks "Whodunnit?" when he's invited to Lady Tasha's Mystery Manor and her jewels are stolen. Could the thief be the butler Tyrone, who's found to be listening at doors? Or Austin Frothingslosh, who has to leave quickly after Tyrone is found in the closet. Or maybe Miss Uniqua Underhood, who appeared suddenly and knew all about the crime? Or even the mysterious figure who's been roaming around in the garden?

Did a little writing after dinner. Han and his valet/bodyguard Charles are on their way to the junkyard to meet Ben and Luke. Han insists that they only need to earn a few thousand more dollars, and they can pay off Jenkins Huttman, who wants his head on a silver platter. Charles wishes he'd stay and continue to help the citizens of Naboo. Han insists he's his own man, and anyway, Charles will like it in America.

Finished the night after a shower with Star Trek Beyond. Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) is bored. He's seriously considering a desk job when the Enterprise is attacked by Krall (Idris Elba), an alien warlord. He strands and separates them on an unknown planet. While the others try to get back to the ship, Scotty (Simon Pegg) befriends Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who's family was captured by Krall and who wants to leave badly. Even after they make it off, they discover that Krall is determined to destroy a Federation space station...and may take the Enterprise down with him.

I'm never going to be as big a fan of this franchise as I am of Star Wars, but I have to admit that I did enjoy this one. Jaylah was really cool, the characters were a bit more fleshed-out, and the villain was pretty decent. The awesome makeup was Oscar-nominated; the special effects and dynamic editing are worth noting as well.

If you're a fan of this franchise, you've probably already seen this, but newcomers and casual fans like me shouldn't have any problems catching what's going on, either. Recommended for hard-core sci-fi lovers or Star Trek nuts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Miss Redmer and the No Good, Terrible, Awful Day

It couldn't have been a nicer day when I finally emerged this morning after finishing Princess of the Midnight Ball. Ran The First Easter Rabbit as I ate breakfast and got organized. The second of three Rankin-Bass Easter specials (and the only one done in 2-D animation) is basically a cross between Frosty the Snowman and The Velveteen Rabbit. Stuffy was once Glinda's favorite toy, until she came down with scarlet fever and he was tossed out to be burned. A kind fairy rescued him from the fire and turned him into a real rabbit. He's now the Easter Bunny, spring symbol to kids everywhere...if he can get past Zero, who wants to keep winter going!

Headed out to get my laundry done around quarter after 11...then went right back. I'd forgotten my money. Thankfully, when I did finally get my laundry in a washer, I had no trouble. I saw maybe three people the entire hour. Good thing, because I had a fair-sized load, including towels and the bath mat. I worked on story ideas and ignored soap operas.

There was a message on my phone when I got home. It was the Acme. Could I come in from 4 to 8:30? One of the late-shift teen cashiers called out. I didn't want to. I hate cashiering. I panic...and they know it. They told me to think it over. I put the laundry away...then called them back and said I'd do it. It doesn't matter what I want. What I want is irreverent. What matters is what my wallet wants. I need money.

I decided to try to write and eat tomato rotini soup for lunch while I did so. That was a big mistake. I knocked the bowl over, spilling soup all over the carpet and all over me. And of course, I just did the damn laundry. (Thankfully, the bowl was nowhere near my laptop when it happened.) By the time I finished sopping up the mess, I was no longer in the mood for writing. I looked over Pinterest and shut down.

Tried to cheer myself up by baking Chocolate Chip Muffins for lunch. Ran two Three Stooges mystery-themed shorts as I worked. The boys are asking "Who Done It?" when a wealthy man goes missing. His niece first tries to poison them...but Shemp is the only one who gets knocked out. When Shemp awakens, they have to avoid the crazy goon the kidnappers send after them.

A kidnapping is also at the heart of "Dopey Dicks." This time, it's the beautiful blond who vanishes after she shows up in a detective's office, claiming she's being followed. The Stooges aren't detectives, but they opt to help her anyway. They seriously regret it when they discover a pair of mad scientists first want her brain for their mechanical man...then theirs.

After all that fuss, work wasn't that big of a deal. It was steady when I came in. Once rush hour ended, so did our customers. I spent a lot of that last hour and a half standing around, working on story ideas. The manager had no cause to worry about survey scores going down because I got upset (which he kept rambling about when I talked to him on the phone earlier). If anything, the customers were far more supportive and understanding than the managers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Cleaning In the Rain

CRASH! BOOM! A thunderstorm jolted me awake around 8:30. I tried sleeping, but the weather just kept making noise. It passed through quickly, though. The clouds were just down to showers by the time I was in the kitchen, making Banana Pancakes for breakfast.

Ran Fairie Tale Theatre as I ate. Since I'm currently reading a book based after The Twelve Dancing Princesses, I thought I'd do that episode. There's only six princesses in this retelling, but they still wear out their dancing slippers every night, to the frustration of their doting father (Roy Dotrice). A solider is determined to figure out how they do it, but the eldest princess (Leslie Ann Warren) distrusts him. She'd rather remain in her dream world. The soldier finally figures out what they're up to...and shows them that a real flesh-and-blood man can be every bit as dashing as the ones in their dreams.

Switched to The Princess Diarist while I cleaned the bathroom. The bathroom wasn't too bad. I mostly focused on the tiles around the tub. I really need something that'll allow me to scrub between the tiles easier without having to struggle to reach over the edge of the tub.

Part of the second half of the book focuses on the actual diaries...which were mainly love poems that revealed just how nuts Fisher was about Ford. Her twenty-something daughter Billie Lourd read this segment for even more authenticity. As late as my own early twenties, I might have agreed with Fisher's drooling over him. Nowadays, I feel sorry for both of them. Fisher was desperate for attention and to spend time with a really manly man. Ford was desperate to get away from a relationship that no longer worked and a job that wasn't what he wanted to do. It was more tragic and a bit pathetic than romantic. Anyone who's seen the movies knows they had chemistry, even as late as The Force Awakens. Sadly, it didn't translate into a real relationship, no matter what over-romantic fans wanted.

I debated all morning whether or not to volunteer at the Oaklyn Library today. The rain finally slowed down enough by 12:30 for me to head out for a walk. Needless to say on a day with such nasty weather, the Oaklyn Library was dead the whole time I was there. It was mainly me, two librarians, and the Weather Channel. I organized DVDs (the adult section was really bad) and shelved picture books.

Since I was only a few blocks away, I opted to just run to WaWa for lunch. Kept things simple and cheap with a pre-made Corned Beef and Swiss wrap in a rye tortilla. (Never saw that before.) The rain was taking a temporary leave of absence as I strolled home. It's really beautiful in the neighborhood now. Far from causing damage, the snow only seems to have made everything greener. The daffodils haven't looked this sunshine-y bright in years, and the tiny white and purple crocuses are perfect. A few people have Easter decorations out; most settle for spring banners or what's in their gardens.

I quickly ate my lunch, then scrubbed the kitchen. Ran Yogi the Easter Bear while I worked. Yogi's in a real jam after he eats all the candy intended for Jellystone Park's big Easter Jamboree. When Ranger Smith threatens to send him to the Siberian Zoo, Yogi takes off with Boo Boo to find the Easter Bunny and Easter Chicken and restock supplies. Meanwhile, a very strange pair of villains are also after the Easter Bunny. They want to replace the real eggs with their plastic imitations...and will stop at nothing to get rid of the Bunny and his actual, edible eggs.

(And I'm glad I got in when I did. The rain returned as I started eating and was on and off for the rest of the day.)

Worked on writing and Pinterest for a few hours after I finished the kitchen. As Cedric and Rusty make their way to Rusty's employers, Henry "Han" Solo and his valet Charles are waiting for Luke and Sir Benjamin at a run-down tavern on the waterfront. What they encounter is Gredono, one of Jenkins Huttman's top henchmen. Jenkins is the biggest crime lord in the kingdom. Henry once did work for him during his pirate days. He lost his last shipment...and Jenkins still wants him to pay for it. Henry shoots him rather than lets him scurry back to his boss.

Finished the night with leftovers and more Kirby's Epic Yarn. Since I didn't have much time, I went back and finally got those two extra rounds in Grass Land I hadn't earned enough beads for the first time. In fact, it took me three tries to figure out how to earn enough for the patches. Definitely preferred the first bonus round, which lets you dig through cotton batting for items as a mole, than the weird second one, where you played as a UFO. Also did the first round of Snow Land, dodging, standing on, and getting stuck in cotton ball "snow" as I made my way up the icy mountain. (Love the cute little skating move Kirby does when he turns on slippery surfaces.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Game's Afoot!

The rain was coming down in buckets when I awoke this morning. I wish I could have stayed in bed, but I had work later. I settled for reading Princess of the Midnight Ball and writing in my journal for as long as I could get away with it. When I finally got up, I had breakfast, then refilled my cookie tin with Stir-n-Drop Oatmeal Cookies from The Betty Crocker Cooky Book. They're simple to make and relatively low-fat, using oil instead of shortening or butter. (I also replaced the white flour with whole wheat.)

To my dismay, when I went to watch the first episode of Sherlock, I couldn't. Disc One was missing, and of course, it held every episode but the final one and the extras. At least I could watch the last episode. "His Last Vow" was inspired by the original Holmes story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton. A very modern Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) make their way from a crack house to the office of renown newspaper owner Charles Milverton Magnussen, who is blackmailing several high-ranked government officials. To Sherlock's shock, John's wife Mary turns up at his office with a gun, which she then turns on Sherlock. Even after he manages to survive, they still need to catch Magnussen in the act...and figure out who Mary really is and what she's up to.

I can see why these have been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, winning piles of awards. They sort of remind me of the McBride series, using a similar tactic of allowing us to see what's going on in the hero's head. Unlike laid-back McBride, this "hero" is more of an anti-hero - even Sherlock calls himself a sociopath - but Cumberbatch gives him the right amount of wit and even a bit of charm under all that deducting. My favorite character by far was Freeman's witty Watson, forever at the end of his rope, even as he follows his best friend into ever-more insane adventures.

Finished just in time to head out for work. I had a rough time bagging early this afternoon. We had the opposite problem from yesterday - we'd gone from having not enough help to there being too much. They had two other baggers rounding up carts and bagging for most of the afternoon, plus one of the cashiers didn't want anyone bagging for her. I was happy to return to the gift card "mall" peg board and get all that organized for the last couple of hours.

It did get busier in the afternoon, and that may have had to do with the improved weather. The rain stopped even before I had breakfast. By the time I was heading home, the sun was out, and the temperature had jumped into the upper 60's. I opened as many windows as I could and changed into lighter clothes.

Had leftovers for dinner and worked on a crocheting project while watching the other Sherlock episode I'd managed to find, The Abominable Bride. This technically picks up where "His Last Vow" left off...sort of. Sherlock dreams himself into the 19th century setting of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, replacing the planes and cars with hansom cabs and carriages. Holmes and Watson find themselves trying to solve the puzzling case of a bride who shot at people in the street before killing herself. Later that night, she seems to reappear to murder her husband. Holmes is intrigued by her seeming ability to come back to life. There's no such thing as ghosts, he insists. He takes another, seemingly unrelated case, about a man who whose life is threatened after receiving five orange pips. How are the two cases related...and how do they relate to the present-day Sherlock and the return from the dead of one of his most notorious archenemies?

A bit strange, but otherwise just as much fun as what I saw of the show...and if you're a fan of historical mysteries or the original Holmes stories, this semi-adaptation of The Five Orange Pips may be even better. The switching back and forth between the present and the past can get confusing, and the ending is a bit strange. Also, major warning that, like the original books, these can be fairly dark and do feature some blood, violence, and more than a few references to Holmes' drug habits. They're not for young detectives, but teen mystery, police procedural, and Holmes fans will find much to enjoy.

Finished out the night with more Kirby's Epic Yarn. Took on Water World this time. More than half the rounds were set partially or entirely underwater...which was actually a lot of fun, when you figured out how to get your fish to move with the currents. I loved being a dolphin - it's a lot more fun than trying to draw tracks for that darn train. You can leap into the air and through hoops, gathering beads and other items. The squid-like main boss wasn't much of a problem, either. I had no trouble getting the two extra levels, including more fun with the dolphin.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It's Always Something

I had barely enough time for breakfast and my Mousercise record after I did my morning reading and writing before work. This was Disney's exercise-themed album from the aerobics craze of the 1980's, and one of the first kids' records we got. I was delighted to find it again at a yard sale a few years ago. While there's a couple of cute numbers on here, my favorite has always been the hilarious "Get the Money (Uncle Scrooge's Money)," with the Beagle Boys' attempting to steal from Uncle Scrooge's money bin (at least five or six years before the debut of Duck Tales).

Work was a total pain in the rear. We were busy for most of the day, thanks to a huge four-say sale. I'd no sooner start bagging for someone than another person would want me to return something, and then someone else would want me to check a price. All I did was panic. About the only thing I got completely done was mopping the bathroom floors this morning. It got worse in the afternoon, when the other bagger who was doing carts went home. I had no help with the carts, and they kept calling me in to return cold items or gather baskets. The one other bagger ended up in a register. They even called me to do returns while I was on break! I'd bring carts to the front, and they'd vanish in seconds. I never did get caught up with them.

I couldn't get home fast enough. When I got in, I went right on the computer to cheer myself up with some writing. Leia, Cedric, and Rusty get involved in a food fight after the Crimson Hawk leaves that eventually encompasses half the fair. Leia gives Rusty the blueprints and tells him and Cedric to get them to an authority figure - her aunt and uncle, or Senator Mothma, or Sir Benjamin Kenton. Leia no sooner sends them off than she's promptly captured by Baron Vader, who knows she has some kind of involvement with one group of rebels or the other.

Meanwhile, Rusty has dragged Cedric over to a junk pile behind the old stone fortress on the edge of the park. The Junk Pickers, a group of peasants who gather cast-off items for their junk  yards and sell them, frequently round up trash from here. They stow away on their cart for a quick ride out of the fair under Vader's nose.

Broke for dinner around quarter of 6. I had leftovers while listening to Donna Summer, then played more Kirby's Epic Yarn. Finished out Treat Land. My favorite level in this land is by far the music-themed one. Walking on pianos and swinging across harps create musical notes with beads in them. Kirby gets to jump on cymbals and pound drums. I didn't do very well at it, but it was still cute. Had to do the "Squashini" boss round twice to get the extra rounds, but I did get them. I did better with the train round (when I finally figured out how to draw the tracks) than the haunted house-themed one.

Next time I play, I'll be doing the water-themed world and probably going back to the first round to check out some side games.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Little Springtime Showers

It was just cloudy and damp when I woke up this morning. Did a quick round of Max & Ruby while eating breakfast. "Ruby's Easter Bonnet" is a confection of flowers, ribbons, and a water can that it's creator hope will win the Bunny Scouts Bonnet competition. Max just wants his froggy buddy to jump for him. Ruby and Louise are having fun coloring eggs. Her brother would rather use them to lead "Max's Easter Parade." "Max the Easter Bunny" keeps hiding the eggs his sister and the Bunny Scouts find. They think they're finding a ton of eggs, but they're really finding the same eggs!

Work wasn't too bad when I came in. I spent the first half of my shift bagging and gathering trash. Ended up in the register for a manager at one point as well. I'm glad I got outside when it got busy later in the afternoon. While still cloudy, it had also gotten warm, windy, and humid, too warm to be inside! After I finished, I quickly bought a container of Breyers cherry vanilla ice cream (they were on sale, and I love their cherry vanilla) before heading home.

(Oh, and I got my schedule this morning. Slightly later hours on Thursday; slightly earlier hours next Saturday. Otherwise, everything is the same, including my days off.)

I had just gotten out of the shower and started writing when the rain began. Spent the rest of the afternoon writing as a nice, steady shower fell outside. Leia and Rusty Arlington manage to knock out several of Vader's guards before they can go after the Crimson Hawk and his mentor. It's clearly a different man insulting Vader on the top of the ancient stone fortress, not at all the Crimson Hawk who kissed Leia at the ball.

Broke for a quick Italian chicken skillet dinner (made even quicker with canned chicken) and chocolate cake with ice cream around 6:30. Finished out Max & Ruby while eating. Ruby is upset when she loses her tooth in "Ruby's Tooth." She won't let Max have his muffin until they find it! "Ruby Scores" against Roger when she and Louise practice soccer kicks with him, despite the interference of Max's toy robots. They're "Getting Crabby at the Beach" when Ruby wants to build a sandcastle...and Max would rather watch his new crab friend.

Finished out the night with last year's PBS version of Anne of Green Gables. We pretty much get a condensed version of the first half of the book. Anne (Ella Ballentine) is an orphan who is accidentally sent to sensible Marilla (Sara Botsford) and her soft-spoken brother Mathew (Martin Sheen) in place of the boy they originally wanted. They finally agree to keep the girl while finding her a better family. Anne, however, proceeds to become a staple of the community and their lives, making friends with Diana Barry (Julie Lalonde) and taking care of Matthew when he's ill. When they do finally find her a family, will they send her away...or will she really become Anne of Green Gables?

I really wish they'd at least extended this to two hours. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the 80's miniseries that was able to include far more, including seeing Anne grow up. As it is, it's all right, particularly Botsford's sensible but loving Marilla. Not the best version of this story, but far from the worst - not a bad way to introduce younger kids who couldn't sit through the entire miniseries to Anne's world.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Very Busy Spring

Started off a cloudy day with another Rankin-Bass Easter special. Here Comes Peter Cottontail was also the first of three spring specials they did, and may be the best-remembered today. Peter (Casey Kasem) is in line to become the new Easter Bunny, but he loses the job to nasty Irontail (Vincent Price) when he oversleeps and never delivers any eggs. With the help of peddler Seymour S. Sassafras (Danny Kaye), he goes back in time to try to hand out eggs. Irontail follows him, determined to remain chief Easter bunny.

Made my bed after eating breakfast, while the special was on. The blankets have a habit of sliding off during the night in the winter, probably because I usually sleep under three or four of them. I suspect that trying to organize them during the night may be part of of the "noise" people are complaining about.

Did a quick cartoon while getting organized for errands. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is enjoying a "Springtime Serenade" in a rare Universal color short. A grouchy groundhog is determined to spoil their fun with a snowy weather report. The other animals, including Oswald, don't listen...until the snow arrives and they wonder if he might be right.

Headed to the Acme around 11 to do this week's grocery shopping. Didn't really need a huge order. I've been eating out of the refrigerator all week. Mainly did some restocking - canned chicken, brown sugar, cereal (Kellogg's was on sale - went with basic Cheerios), crushed pineapple, olive oil, pads (needed those badly - I had one left), chocolate cake mix, bananas, eggs, skim milk. Found a $1.99 bag of small oranges to go with breakfast. Bought Italian chicken sausage with a manager's coupon for dinner tonight.

To my annoyance, when I got home, I discovered I had crunched one of the eggs. Most of the food in the bag seemed to be fine, but the container itself and the bottom of the bag were a soppy mess. I cut the bad part of the egg container off, then moved most of the eggs to the previous container that had two eggs left.

Did another Good Eats episode while I cleaned and got ready for more errands. Alton shows how "Milk Made" food can be downright tasty with a yummy-looking recipe for Tres Leche Cake that I may try. I'm less interested in Dulche Du Leche. I'm not a fan of caramel, and I've never been good with candy. May attempt making my own cottage cheese from skim milk sometime, though.

First stop after I went back out was a new restaurant down the street and around the corner on West Clinton Avenue. The Square Meal replaced the departed Viola's International Deli a few weeks ago. Sort of the same idea, but this time, the emphasis is on wholesome, hearty, local food that's good and good for you. I had a Roast Chicken Sandwich with cheddar and greens. The roast chicken was real sliced chicken, just over-seasoned deli chicken or bagged strips. It was on a thick, crusty Ciabatta roll and washed down with free lemon water in mason jars. Yum. Huge, filling, and tasty.

Rode across Newton River Park on my way to Westmont. By this point, the clouds were vanishing, and the sun was coming out. Despite the improving day, Newton River Park was relatively quiet. I only saw two people strolling by and a lot of Canadian geese looking for a late lunch. People were missing out. Spring is just starting to emerge. Bright green tufts of grass are poking their way through the yellow patches. Dandelions and buttercups have begun to sprout along the riverbanks.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't quite as busy as last week, as revealed in a full but not overwhelming return cart. I settled for organizing DVDs and shelving audio books and the few new returns that had come back in. Thought I'd leave the DVDs for the kids after school.

I've heard a lot about the BBC modern TV version of Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch as the famous detective and Martin Freeman as Watson, but I'd never seen it. Haddon Township had Series Three and a TV movie that put the two back in the series' original late 19th Century setting. Also took out Star Trek Beyond, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and a recent retelling of Anne of Green Gables with Martin Sheen as Matthew.

Also grabbed two books this week. I've enjoyed the East of the Sun, West of the Moon story I'm reading so much, I found a book retelling The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the same author, Princess of the Midnight Ball. Mom recommended the BBC series Miss Fisher's Mysteries to me when I called her earlier this week, and I know Linda Young likes that show too, but neither library has it. I thought I'd try the books instead, starting with Blood and Circuses.

To my surprise, Cabana's Water Ice was open on the corner of Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike. It does seem to be a bit early - Phillies Yummies probably won't open for another couple of weeks - but I was thirsty and grateful. I wasn't the only one. Two gaggles of girls and a mother with her kids on the way home from school joined me as I ordered a small orange cream water ice. Too sweet, but at least it did taste something like orange.

Made a short stop at Studio LuLoo next. Though Sarah was out of town doing another project, Roxy and another volunteer were helping kids with more crafts. I cut out stars from silvery cardboard while the little girls turned paper coffee cups into different but equally nifty starts. I helped them paint the inside of the cups gold to hang up for a "shine"-themed party.

Worked on writing for a few hours when I got home. Leia and the droids try hiding from Vader as they flee. As they're attempting to avoid him, two of his men reveal that guests have been robbed and the Wookie native slaves who were working in the cargo hold and boiler room were freed. The Crimson Hawk appears in a puff of smoke...then reappears outside to tell the citizens of Naboo that he'll continue to fight for truth, justice, and the Jedi way.

Leia's wonder just what's going on here. The Crimson Hawk is familiar...but it's not the same Crimson Hawk she saw at the ball. He's shorter and far more slender than the one who kissed her. She and the servants head down the hall to solve at least some of those mysteries.

Broke for Italian sausage with sauteed mushrooms and scallions and steamed green beans for dinner around 7. Ran Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while I ate. Events are heating up at Hogwarts following the fight in the finale of the previous film. Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has hired former Potions teacher Horace Slugworth (Jim Broadbent) back when Snape (Alan Rickman) finally gets the Defense of the Dark Arts job he's wanted for years. As it turns out, Dumbledore has his reasons for wanting Slugworth at Hogwarts. His memory has a crucial piece of information that he wants Harry (Daniel Ratcliffe) to retrieve. Harry's not so sure this is a great idea. He's having his own problems with his long-time nemesis Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), whom he believes has joined the Death Eaters, the evil jailers first seen in Prisoner of Azbekstan. Meanwhile, Hermione (Emma Watson) is having a hard time getting Ron (Rupert Grint) to see how she feels about him, especially after he's given a love potion by a fellow student and starts drooling all over her.

Slower-moving and less action-packed than the previous film...until the sad and touching finale that features the death of a beloved character at another character's hand. (What, you think Star Wars is the only franchise to do stuff like that?) Once again, you really need to know at least the last two or three books and/or films to understand what goes on here. If you've at least seen Order of the Phoenix or read the books, proceed right to this one.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Do You Believe In Magic?

Got up with enough time before work this morning for an episode of Sailor Moon during breakfast. In the early second season, a busy Rei is in charge of her school's big festival. She's even singing her own music in the talent show. The two aliens An and Ali are determined to steal the spotlight...but when they attack the songs she worked so hard on, Rei reveals her true powers.

Work was relatively quiet for most of the day, especially early on. Today was my long shift, and while I did round up carts for about an hour when I got in and another half-hour in the middle of the afternoon, I was mostly bagging and gathering baskets or trash. By the time rush hour was kicking in and it started to get busier, I was on my way out. At least it was a nice day for it. It was sunny and breezy, but not too windy, probably in the mid to upper 40's.

When I got home, I went right in the shower, then worked on a little writing. Leia, Jyn, Cassian, and the servants are caught by Vader's men in the main cabin. Jyn and Leia took out a bunch of crew members getting upstairs and in an attempt to help what Leia is sure is the Crimson Hawk's crew saving Wookies. Leia and the servants flee with the blueprints while Cassian and Jyn hold them off. Unfortunatly, she runs into an angry Vader, who just realized the Wookie slaves working in the boiler room and cargo hold have been freed...

Broke around 7 to have leftovers for dinner. Ran another episode of Sailor Moon while I ate. It's spring, and the girls and their teacher are enjoying a day beneath the cherry blossoms at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The fun and frolic turns frightening when Ali and a jealous An unleash a horrifying tree demon that devours energy, including the Sailor Guardians'. Usagi has to find a way to defeat the creature...with a little help from her original mother in the Moon Kingdom...

Put on Now You See Me 2 as I went online. It's been a year since the previous film, and the Four Horsemen, the quartet of magicians (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Lizzy Caplan) who swindled millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) in the previous film, haven't given a performance in over a year. They've been waiting for orders from the mysterious Eye. The Eye reveals himself to be Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), an FBI agent. He tells them about a corrupt businessman (Ben Case) whose new phone steals data for his usage and intrudes on privacy. When the Horsemen try to expose him, they themselves are exposed by the thought-to-be-dead twin of one (also Harrelson). They're caught by Case's ex-partner Walter (Daniel Ratcliffe), who wants them to steal the information. But what's Walter's real game? Is he the Eye...or is there someone else who wants the Horsemen dead or discredited?

Caplan and Ratcliffe prove capable additions to this fun franchise. They're both having so much fun as the rough-and-tumble street magician and the smug businessman that they elevate a story that can get too confusing for its britches at times. If you love magic, the cast, or the first film, this one is an equally twisty tale.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Once Upon a Spirit of the Forest

Started off the morning with breakfast and Moon Madness. This very peculiar French animated film from 1983 tells the tale of how Baron Munchausen and his loyal companions discovered the Selenites, the people of the moon, and rescued them from their sworn enemies the Green Means. The animation is terrible, jerky and stiff, and the story meanders and has no real plot before the Green Means invade. The saving graces are some really colorful and unique character and background designs (I love the creative creatures that live among the Selenites) and catchy synthesizer music. The theme song "The Secret of the Selenites" remained lodged in my head long after I'd forgotten the rest of the film.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing and updating Pinterest (which is now working fine after being glitchy for the past couple of days). Leia's contacts are Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andorez, both Rebel Society members. Jyn's father and three close friends from the Rebel Society were among the victims of the fire in the shipyard. The fire also claimed the life of a friend of Cedric and Rusty who had been a secretary to Tarkin before he quit and joined the Rebels. They brought Leia to the navigational room to show them the controls for the deadly cannon that can obliterate anything in a second. They just passed the pilfered blueprints to Leia when they hear soldiers coming upstairs...

Broke around 2 for lunch and errands. Finished out Moon Madness while eating pineapple muffins and celery with peanut butter. After the movie ended, I ran out to get the laundry done. Picked a good time to do it. It was dead as a doornail when I arrived. One Hispanic man...I had a hard time understanding him, but I think he expected the manager to be there to wash his load. When they weren't, I ended up helping him figure out how to use the washing machines. I didn't have a lot to do myself. Finished in less than an hour.

As soon as I put everything away, I went right back out. There's was lot I needed to ask Dad and Jodie about without the rest of the family distracting them, starting with Rose's baby shower. According to Jodie, it's going to be on May 21st, which means it'll be going on when Lauren is here. We're both invited. I volunteered to make a pudding pie. Sounds like Anny and her brood and Keefe will be there, but Dad-Bill and Mom may not.

Ran the idea of them buying my train tickets to visit Lauren in July for my birthday instead of the usual gifts. Not only did they agree to it, but they also said they'd give me spending money to go with it, so I could save at least some of the money in my accounts for my rent. Jodie said she wanted to give me new sandals, too.

Jodie did finally get in touch with the darn doctor. The doctor is apparently starting a new program and won't be able to take me until April. I think I'm just going to give Camden County a second shot and at least try to get food stamps (if I can get through to them).

I ended up having shrimp stir-fry with them while watching the news on Channel 6. That was really nice. I don't often get them completely to myself. No one else showed up this evening, not even Dana and Jesse.

Finished the night at home, making chocolate cake while watching Princess Mononoke. Ashitaka, the prince of a small village, is injured while fighting an evil demon. The demon turns out to be a forest spirit. His scratches are poisonous, and leaves the young prince cursed. He leaves the village before anything worse can happen, hoping to learn more about the boar and the spirit. The trail leads him to Irontown, whose forges make it valuable to a strong-willed noblewoman and a samurai warlord. The noblewoman is at war with the spirits of the forest, who hate her for cutting down their trees to feed her forge. Ashitaka befriends both the former prostitutes the noblewoman took in as workers and San, a girl raised by wolves who fights the humans alongside them. Now he has to do what he can to save the Great Spirit and prevent the wars and the destruction from getting any worse.

This reminded me quite a bit of a darker Nausicaa, with many of the same themes. My favorite characters by far were the women of Irontown. They may have been lowly workers, but they were funny, tough, and a heck of a lot more sensible than any of the menfolk.  Lots of blood, violence, severed limbs, and the dark tone make this absolutely not for children. Young teens on up who enjoy anime, darker "nature vs. humans" stories, or dark action may enjoy it far more.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring, Spring, Spring

Though the porch was wet when I awoke this morning and it was cloudy and cold, the rain was long gone. Did two episodes of Good Eats while making Molasses Spice Pancakes and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast. (I was going to make Banana-Spice, but I forgot to add the banana. Oh well. They still tasted pretty good.) Alton explores the properties of popular nuts in "Sometimes You Feel Like a..." and shows how versatile lentils are in "Pantry Raid IV: Lentils." (I can vouch for the latter. I ate quite a bit of them when I was out with a broken ankle in 2012. I made an amazing stew with them.)

Headed out to the Oaklyn Library around 10:30. I haven't been there for two weeks, and it showed. The DVDs were a mess, especially the kids' DVDs. I was there for an hour, caught up between the organizing and the book of vintage articles and photos from the local newspaper The Retrospect I found on a shelf. I'd called Mom earlier to wish her a happy birthday (it was yesterday). She tried calling me while I was there, but my phone died. I'd get back to her later. The Oaklyn Library was fairly busy for them, first with a father and his son, then with several older people. I never did get to looking at the kids' section before I headed out.

Browsed around the House of Fun on the White Horse Pike next, but saw nothing I couldn't live without. Thought I'd go hike down to Dad and Jodie's to find out what's going on with this doctor business without the rest of the family around. Neither they nor their cars were there when I arrived. Oh well. I'll try again tomorrow.

There was a letter for me waiting in the mail box when I got in. It was from Willa about the things I mentioned needed to be repaired. They did fix the sagging heaters in the living room (and supposedly will do the bathroom ones later in the week). It sounds like the cracked window's only going to be covered, not replaced, the wood around the toilet is going to be covered with carpet, not tile (carpet in the bathroom?) and the faucet is going to be coated with more epoxy. While she did say the aging cheap furniture in the bedroom that came with the house was not their problem (I didn't think they'd do anything about it - just thought I'd mention it), she did have a good idea about covering the pantry shelves with paper to make them more even.

Unfortunately, Charlie must have fussed to his mother about the "noise" at night. She mentioned that, too. I'm sorry, but unless you can figure out how to tear off the carpet and fix the squeaks, the floors are going to make noise, including at night. This is an old house. I try not to make too many sounds, but you know, I'm human. I cough, sneeze, and turn in bed.

(I'm starting to think Lauren's right. I have got to find a new place. It's not going to happen now, or probably within the next year, but it will as soon as I can save or earn enough money. This was a nice place when there was just a feisty old lady downstairs. While I appreciate what Willa and Richard have done for me over the years, I'm tired of dealing with their son and their hedging on repairing the porch and roof. It's no longer worth the cheap rent and nice view.)

When I got home, I finally got a hold of Mom. She was fine. Had a nice, quiet birthday yesterday with her family. We did argue a bit over my having let the Camden County food stamps lapse. I got fed up with trying to call them, and Jodie and Dad wanted me to wait until I saw the doctor and could test for SSI. I'm starting to agree with Mom. Maybe it's time I forgot the darn SSI and just focused on getting food stamps, which I should be able to pass now. It's just a matter of actually getting through to them.

Did my first Easter special of the season as I made scrambled eggs with Gouda cheese and stir-fry vegetables for lunch. The Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town is my favorite of the three Rankin-Bass springtime shows. Sunny the Bunny has been adopted by the orphaned children of Kidsville, who want to sell their eggs over the Big Rock Mountain. Bunny takes it upon himself to figure out how to get the eggs past Gadzooks the grouchy bear, and then staid Lady Longtooth. He continuously creates new traditions to sneak everything under the Dowager's watchful eye, to the delight of her henpecked nephew King Bruce.

Did writing and messing around online for a couple of hours. Just as Leia is starting to realize that flirting with the guards isn't getting her anywhere, a frantic Cedric spies smoke. As they make their way down the smoky hall, they first run into Rusty, then see the young woman who cheered on Leia at the fencing exhibition earlier. She leads them up to the off-limits captain's cabin and main cabin, where she reveals that she's Jyn Erso, the daughter of the late Galen Erso, and is Leia's contact.

Broke around 6 to eat leftovers for dinner, then make Pineapple Muffins. Watched X-Men: Apocalypse while I ate and baked. It's now 1983, and Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is doing quite well with his new school for mutants. Among his recruits and teachers are brothers Alex (Lucas Till) and Scott (Tye Sheridan) Summers, psychic Jean Gray (Sophie Turner), shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and blue Eastern European demon Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). While he's teaching mutants how to handle their powers, the original mutant, an Egyptian named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Issac) has been revived. Calling himself Apocalypse, he's disgusted with how humans have apparently taken over the Earth. He wants to take it back, destroying everything in the process. He gathers several disenchanted mutants to aid him, including Erik Lensher (Michael Fassbinder), who just lost his family in Poland, and African orphan Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp). When he kidnaps the Professor to help him with his plot, the newly reformed X-Men have to learn how to work as a team...and that when we unleash our true potential, we can be a force to be reckoned with.

I heard some pretty bad reviews of this one last summer, but I ended up liking it. I didn't love it, but it wasn't horrible, either. Some of the kids were kind of stiff as the new X-Men (particularly Sophie Tucker as Jean Gray). Issac was unrecognizable as one of the more unusual villains in Marvel history. My favorite character remains the wonderfully wisecracking Peter Maximoff, aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who gets most of the best lines.

Heavy violence, adult subject matter, and some brief but nasty language make this for older teen comic book fans on up. If you're into the X-Men, you've probably already seen this. If you haven't seen the other movies (at least Days of Future Past and X-Man 3: The Last Stand), please do so before coming here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Beginning of Spring

Celebrated the first day of spring with breakfast and a first season episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. It's "Spring In Acme Acres," and the Toons are getting ready to enjoy the great weather...when Cupid isn't going on vacation and letting Conrad the Buzzard make a mess of every couple in school. Elmyra's spring cleaning is even more terrifying, especially for one poor fish whose home and water is sucked into her vacuum cleaner. The final short has Plucky and Dizzy taking part in one of the stunt-filled game shows popular in the late 80's and early 90's. Plucky pushes Dizzy into increasingly outlandish activities to win huge cash prizes...but Plucky winds up the loser when the final "stunt" involves judging extremely strong and comely women.

Worked on writing for the next few hours. The interior of the Death Star Airship is all gleaming lacquered furniture and whitewashed metal walls. While Tarkin drones on about the size of the ship and its crew, Leia wonders how she's going to find her contacts. She grabs Cedric and breaks from the group, hoping to make some sort of a distraction. The duo run into a pair of white-clad Imperial guards. No amount of flirting from Leia can get them to leave their station.

Ran a couple of spring-related Silly Symphony shorts while eating a really quick lunch and getting ready for work. "Springtime" is the earliest of the seasonal shorts, and the most basic. It's just animals dancing and eating each other in time to classical music. "The Bears and the Bees" has two adorable bear cubs after honey they found in a stump. A big black bear doesn't want to share his treasure. The bees who really own the honey have other ideas. "Birds In the Spring" follows a family of avian creatures as their little ones prepare to leave the nest. "The Goddess of Spring" is a full-blown mini-opera, and a major preparation for Snow White. Disney retells the myth of Persephone and Hades, with a rather rubbery Persephone and a strange devil-like Hades.

Work was on-and-off steady, not surprising on a gorgeous day. It was in the 50's, sunny, and breezy for most of the afternoon. Even when it got a little cloudy later, it was never that cold. I'm glad I spent most of the day outside. I did bag for an hour when I got in, but it was really too nice to be indoors.

When I got in, I took out both paper and can recycling, then started dinner. Made simple Garlic-Lime Chicken Thighs to go with leftover cabbage and potatoes. They came out perfectly, tangy and just garlicky enough.

Did an episode of Fairy Tale Theatre while the chicken baked. "The Three Little Pigs" tells the tale of a trio of porcine brothers who are sent out into the world by their mother (Doris Roberts) to make their fortune. The first pig would rather concentrate on getting rich quick and builds a cheap house of straw. The second (Fred Willard) is more interested in courting a sassy southern belle sow (Valerie Bertanelli) than building his house of sticks. The third pig (Billy Crystal) is far more sensible. He wants his house of bricks to be the perfect place to work on his art and playing his oboe. All four pigs learn a lesson in planning ahead and working together when a henpecked wolf (Jeff Daniels) who is after a pig dinner destroys the first two houses.

Moved onto an episode of Good Eats while eating my chicken and cleaning up from dinner. Alton Brown shows how to make fast, low-fat food for one or for many - by cooking in a pouch. We see everything from a whole snapper in the oven to plums and apricots on the grill.

Finished out the night with video games. Since Lauren had her self-defense class tonight and was on late, I had a little extra time for Kirby's Epic Yarn. The third round is Treat World, a level filled with mushrooms you can bounce on and cookies that turn and try to spin you off. The mushroom round was the easiest. Once you figured out that ground-pounding into the mushrooms gives you an extra-big super jump, that one's no sweat. I had the hardest time with controlling the train in another level. You're supposed to draw tracks with the controller to lead the train to beads and treasures, but I just couldn't draw it right, or get the train to go on the tracks. I didn't have the chance to finish the world - I'll hopefully be able to do that the next time I play.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Welcome to the Sunshine

Got a slightly later start this morning. I barely had enough time for corn meal mush and a half of a grapefruit for breakfast. Listened to the second LP in the Beatles Blue Album (the 2-LP greatest hits collection) while I ate. As with the Monkees, I tend to prefer the Beatles' more mature later music to their more pop-ish earlier style. Favorites from this album include "Get Back" from Paul, "The Ballad of John and Yoko" from John, and "Octopus' Garden" from Ringo.

Work wasn't too bad when I got in. I spent the first half-hour or so doing what little cleaning needed to be done in the bathrooms. Cleaned up a very small jar of mustard that rolled off a shelf shortly before break and helped an older woman outside right before I left. Otherwise, I spent most of the day bagging. They had plenty of help, outside and in. I think I should have gone outside and helped later. It got insanely busy starting around 12:30-1 PM. People weren't in the best moods, either. One of the cashiers complained that customers had been on her case all day.

And I don't know how it happened, but someone lost the mechanism that unlocks the carts again. The bagger doing the carts asked me twice about it before I left. The last time I saw it, it was sitting in the office, where it belongs. Evidently, they weren't able to find it later, either. One of the managers called me later and asked me if I'd seen it.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road, since I was inside all day. I was far from the only one out enjoying the sunshine. Traffic was dense on Nicholson, especially around Wal Mart and the senior center. It was fine once I got into Oaklyn. No wonder it was busy. This was the nicest day we've had in weeks. It was in the lower 50's, sunny and warm despite heavy winds.

Went into writing after I made it home. A defiant Leia goes onstage to partner Luke in his fencing exhibition. She's been taking fencing lessons since childhood and easily defeats the young man. Some in the crowd are shocked; others are amused. Many women are delighted that a woman was able to best a man on his own turf. Han and Uncle Bail are both very proud of her.

Govenor Tarkin organizes a like for a by-invitation-only tour of the Death Star Airship, the new flagship of the Naboo military fleet. Leia and Bail both suspect there's more to the Death Star than transporting troops and joins the line. So do Henry and Luke and their entourage. Leia also sees a mysterious young couple who had been at the exhibition as well. She's a small young woman with light brown hair and intense blue eyes; he's a handsome, swarthy Spanish man with a mustache and wild dark hair.

Broke around 7 for a late leftover dinner. Listened to The Adventures of Marco Polo as I ate and looked over cookbooks for ideas for dinner tomorrow. I found this soundtrack LP at the Voorhees Library Sale back in October, then promptly forgot I had it until today.

Broadway stars Doretta Morrow and Alfred Drake, who had been a hit in Kistmet a few years before, headline this 1956 live TV musical. Drake is the title character, the famous explorer who brought many of the delights of Asia to Europeans who had never even heard of these faraway places before. Even as he evades tartars and a country that wants him to remain permanently (as a ghost), he can never forget the beautiful princess he left behind (Morrow). He sees her in other women, including a temptress he meets in a garden.

I'd only heard of this one through online research. Rimsky-Korsakov is the composer who's adapted this time. While this one tends to get a lot of praise online, I thought the lyrics were only fair. This one might sound better in its original broadcast. According to Amazon, both the soundtrack and the original live production are available, though out of print. Check used or online if you're a big fan of Kismet, operettas, or the more exotic side of 50's musicals.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Royal Writers and Pony Girls

Began a gray morning with breakfast and The Princess Diarist. Carrie Fisher's last book before her untimely death involves how she got involved with Star Wars...and more to the point, Harrison Ford. As I mentioned, I've had a crush on the man literally for most of my life and can certainly understand her interest. I like the story of how she finally got Harrison's attention - he rescued her from a couple of film crew members who, contrary to what she thought, probably got her drunk for far worse reasons than a "fun" kidnapping. Trouble is, she and Harrison sound good on a movie screen, but they really had nothing in common. He was (and from what I've gathered, remains) a troubled introvert; she was a mouthy extrovert. He was married and more interested in his career; she was craving love from a real "man." She knew the relationship had nowhere to go, but she needed it...and even 40 years later, I don't think she quite let it go.

Had relatively early work this morning. It wasn't that bad. I rounded up carts for an hour when I arrived and 20 minutes before I left. Otherwise, I was mostly inside bagging. We had more help than usual. Three of the teen baggers were now training to be cashiers. They were beginning their training today. (I hope the girls are better cashiers than they were baggers.) Helped the head bagger clean up a big, sticky juice spill.

My schedule is a slight improvement over the past couple of weeks. I'm back to Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday off. One long day, Thursday,  otherwise all morning shifts and relatively short ones. My hours went up slightly as well.

When I got home, I changed, then figured I might as well get my few St. Patrick's Day decorations down. Ran a Good Eats episode while I did. I did one of the "Pantry Raids" episodes on honey yesterday. Alton returns to the pantry again, this time to turn dried beans into Boston Baked Beans, black bean salad, and hummus. I'm not really fond of dried beans, which take too long to soak, but I have made the hummus recipe a few times. Delicious and nutritious.

Worked on my story for a few hours. Did a tiny bit of re-writing. Han wants to leave Naboo as soon as his company makes its last khyber crystal shipment. He knows Jenkins Huttman (Jabba) is on his trail, and he needs to pay him back. But first, he wants the Crimson Hawk to pull off one last score. Meanwhile, Luke and Ben's fencing exhibition goes off without a hitch. Luke invites audience members onstage to see if they can best him. Leia's surprised that Vader doesn't try his luck. He's said to be a champion fencer. Bail says he probably thinks he's too good for it.

After I ate leftover chick pea stew with canned chicken for dinner, I wanted to try something different. I attempted a very simple butter refridgerator cookie recipe, but I couldn't get it to come together. Added a little water to help it stick...then a little more...and then, way too much. They ended up being butter drop cookies. Oh well, at least they still taste pretty decent, if a little sweet.

Ran Equestria Girls: The Legend of Everfree as I worked. The humanized ponies are attending Camp Everfree, which is run by twins Gloriosa Daisy and Timber Spruce. They couldn't be more different. Gloriosa is determined that everyone have fun and that she appears to be in control. She wants to please everyone all the time, no matter what. Timber prefers to spend his time flirting with Twilight Sparkle. Twlight is terrified that her powers will manifest again and she'll turn back into the monster she transformed into in the previous film. Her worst fears seem justified when Timber tells the terrifying tale of Gaia Everfree, a spirit who had attacked their great-great-grandparents. Soon after, strange things begin happening, and all of Twilight's friends begin developing powers of their own. Twilight blames herself, but Sunset Shimmer is convinced that there's something else going on...

Not bad. Other than a crop of completely unmemorable songs, this one was really fun, with interesting messages about accepting your gifts and not letting bad things control you. If you loved the other movies in this franchise, this was good...but if you're a newcomer, you'll want to start with the previous Equestria Girls movies and a couple of Friendship Is Magic episodes before you come here.

Finished the night with a much-needed bath. Ahh. It's been so busy lately, I haven't really had the chance to take many baths. Listened to one of the Rod Stewart American Songbook CDs (the third one, I think) while paging through my older cake decorating magazines.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Something Sort of Grandish

It was a glorious St. Patrick's Day morning when I awoke, earlier than I have been lately. Along with a few chapters of The Darkness Knows, I did some reading on the holiday. The Colliers Harvest of Holidays book  has one long essay on St. Patrick, who he was and why he's now the patron saint of Ireland. The 60's Walt Disney Storybook has a condensed version of how Darby O'Gil first found himself making friends with the King of the Leprechauns, from Darby O'Gil and the Little People.

Ran a couple of Irish themed cartoons while eating breakfast. Woody Woodpecker is delighted to discover a woodpecker-like leprechaun of his own in "His Better Elf." His wish for money proves to be nothing but trouble when it turns out the money belongs to a bank. The wacky bird learns a lesson in earning his bread as he tries to escape a stereotypical Irish cop.

The wee folk in the Porky Pig vehicle "Wearin' of the Grin" are far less benign. Thinking he's after their pot of gold, they sentence him to "the wearin' of the green shoes." These shoes want to dance forever - and now Porky finds himself in a surreal Irish nightmare as he tries to outrun the enchanted footwear.

Did a few more classic Looney Tunes as I got ready to head out. Daffy's hoping his epic swashbuckler "The Scarlet Pumpernickel," a spoof of Scarlet Pimpernel/Zorro tales, will be his big break. What it may end up doing is breaking him as he introduces it to his boss. He almost gets broken by an animator who seems to want nothing more than to wreck havoc on his body in "Duck Amok." "Deduce, You Say" takes us back to Sherlock Holmes territory. Daffy is Holmes and Porky's Watson as the two try to solve the mystery of the Shropshire Slasher. Daffy, however, is no one's Benedict Cumberbatch and has no idea the Slasher doesn't want to run away. He has slightly better luck dealing with Marvin the Martian on Planet X in "Duck Dodgers and the 24th and a Half Century."

Since I got up early anyway, I decided to start off the day with a grocery store run. I was originally going to do it tomorrow, but it's supposed to rain and possible snow a little. I'd rather do it while it's dry and I'm not dead tired. I had a rather big order, too. Along with the cabbage, ham, and potatoes for dinner, I found cake mix, muffin papers, and two containers of Progresso soup on clearance. (One was French Onion. Maybe I'll buy or make bread or croutons and have French Onion Soup with cheese later this week.) Also restocked dried rosemary, skim milk, eggs, yogurt, grapefruit, bananas, chick peas, honey, cooking spray, raspberry jam, and canned apricots.

Went home, put everything away, then went right back out again. Had lunch at Phillies Phatties. They were running the Flyers-Devils game from the night before on Comcast Sports. (They lost big-time, 6-3. I don't know how. This was the Devils' first win in 10 games.) I watched the second half of the game and enjoyed my usual slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and can of Cherry Vanilla Pepsi.

My next stop was originally going to be the Oaklyn Library. There was a small sign on the front door when I arrived. They were having a staff meeting at noon. It was past 1 at that point, and the place was dark. I guess they all left after the meeting. Rats. I just skipped them and headed across a snow-covered Newton River Park to Westmont, after stopping briefly at the Oaklyn Post Office for stamps. At least it was a nice day for a ride. The sky was brilliant blue, the wind had diminished to a breeze, and it was at least in the upper 40's-lower 50's, not balmy but far warmer than it has been.

The Haddon Township Library was much busier. There were piles and piles of DVDs to return as people finally got out after the storm. There were so many DVDs, audio books, and CDs, it took me over an hour to shelve them all.

Found a few more DVDs while I was putting them away. The Equestria Girls, the human versions of the Friendship Is Magic characters, are back in The Legend of Everfree. Having enjoyed the last three Studio Ghilbi films I've rented, I thought I'd give Princess Monoke a shot. Last summer's X-Men: Apocalypse is one of only three current Marvel films I haven't seen. (The others are last fall's Doctor Strange and the just-released Logan.) Since I did have fun with Now You See Me a few years ago, figured I'd try the sequel as well.

After waiting for over four months, they finally had The Princess Diarist in. Well, just the audio book. The book itself continues to be on hold, and will be for the foreseeable future. Given that Carrie Fisher herself narrates as the older her and her daughter Billie Lourd plays her as a teen, this might actually be even more fun. I still want to read the book, but this will work for now.

My next stop was WaWa for a St. Patrick's Day treat. I did think about getting a Shamrock Shake, but I'm not the biggest fan of McDonald's. A Mint Cream Smoothie is the next best thing, and just as tasty. (And unlike the Shamrock Shake, is available year-round.)

My last stop of a busy day was Studio LuLoo. Poor Sarah was not happy when I arrived. She was supposed to be rehearsing the children's band for their upcoming band night and the CD she's hoping to release. Only two children, two of the girls, had arrived, despite her claiming she and the other parents had decided on Fridays weeks in advance. I did help the girls draw ideas for the CD cover as Sarah tried to get a hold of the other parents.

Got in around 4:30. Spent the next few hours writing. Leia and Han get into one of their famous tiffs as they head to the stage to watch the show. Han can't believe that a pretty, soft-skinned duchess is into things like fencing, shooting, and mechanics. Leia tells him she's never been your typical royalty. Han's determined to get him, his business, and his ward out of the country, before they're caught by Baron Vader and the crime lord Jenkins Huttman. Leia doesn't understand why he won't stay. He thinks she wants him to stay because she's falling for him. Though she flounces off in a huff, she's not entirely sure that isn't true.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. Made boiled cabbage and red potatoes, pan-fried ham, and an Irish soda bread muffin for dinner. I should have boiled the cabbage and potatoes longer. The cabbage was a bit tough and bitter. Otherwise, it came out quite nicely, especially the perfectly-cooked ham.

Ran The Quiet Man while I ate. John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara headline this 1952 comedy/drama as Sean Flannigan, a former boxer just arrived in Ireland, and his strong-willed neighbor Mary Kate Danaher. Sean has moved to Ireland to reclaim his parents' cottage and land. He's trying to forget a bout that ended in a man's death. He falls for pretty, feisty Mary Kate right away, but she needs a lot more persuading. Her brother Will (Victor McLaughlin) is a hulking brute who had wanted Sean's land for himself. He refuses to give Mary Kate her dowry when she and Sean wed. Sean doesn't see the point of the fuss, but for Mary Kate, the dowry - her things, her money - are all she has. It finally comes down to the biggest donnybrook Ireland's ever seen as Mary Kate tries to leave...and Sean gives her and Will what they wanted.

John Ford was 100% Irish-American, and it shows in this love letter to the old country. The Oscar-winning color cinematography alone is worth seeing. Ireland has never glowed like this on screen again, in colors that would make the rainbow leading to the pot of gold look pale. The cast of beloved Irish comedians are having a fine time as the locals cheering Sean on, including Barry Fitzgerald as the local matchmaker (who takes the bets on the donnybrook in the finale). O'Hara and Wayne also do well as the battling lovers. While there's some aspects, especially in the lead-in to the donnybrook and on O'Hara and Wayne's wedding night, that don't come off well today, for the most part, this is a trip to Ireland worth making.

Finished out the night online while watching Finian's Rainbow. We go from a story about Ireland to a story about Irish folk. Fred Astaire is Finian MacLongergan, an Irishman who has immigrated to America to bury his pot of gold near Fort Knox. He figures, if the American's gold can grow, why not his? His daughter Sharon (Petula Clark) just wishes he'd settle down. They find themselves in Rainbow Valley in the Deep South, where a group of mixed-race sharecroppers lead by dreamer Woody are trying to grow a mentholated tobacco. The local sheriff and bigoted Senator Rawkins (Keenan Wynn) want them to pay their back taxes and un-mix, pronto. Meanwhile, a leprechaun named Og (Tommy Steele) has followed Finian in pursuit of his gold. If he doesn't get it back to Ireland, he'll turn human!

Astaire's final turn in a non-documentary film musical is a strange adaptation of an already unusual Broadway musical from 1947. (They tried reviving it a few years ago, without success.) It's worth seeing for Astaire's "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" solo and Clark and Steele's adorable "Something Sort of Grandish."

And I hope ye lads and lasses had an equally busy and enjoyable St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Diva Who Couldn't Sing

Began the morning with early work. It was quiet when I arrived. Though the morning was cold, it gradually warmed up through out the day, probably reaching the mid-30's. I was only outside for about 20 minutes when I came in and another half-hour after break. I spent the rest of the morning doing returns, and most of the afternoon doing the trash. I did get stuck in the registers twice. Two cashiers and a bagger called out, and another cashier went home sick after having only been at work a half-hour.

Headed straight home after work...and as soon as I changed and had a snack, went right back out. I desperately needed to get laundry done. It was fairly busy, which turned out to be a good thing. For some reason, I couldn't find my last two quarters I had for the dryer. I did bring two spare quarters, but I had to borrow one more from a college student. Otherwise, I listened to Ellen and the news and worked on story notes.

When I got home, I put everything away, then worked on writing for a little while. Added more to Cedric and Rusty (R2) bringing a smoke machine to the fair grounds. Leia stops to admire Henry and Charles' new engine that runs on khyber crystal energy. Baron Vader is interested, too...but the duo may have other things on their minds besides showing off their new toy...

Broke for dinner around 7. Had leftovers while watching two second season episodes of Sailor Moon. In "For Friendship," Ami competes with Specter Sister Berthier in a chess match. Berthier is determined to win, no matter what, but Ami and her sister Koan show her a better way. Their sisters Petz and Calaveras are sent to destroy them and the Guardians. Manipulative Rubeus gives Petz a magical scepter that further drives a wedge between her and the competitive Calaveras. When she accidentally rips a hole in space with it, the Guardians prove that not all humans are uncaring.

Finished up the night after a shower with Florence Foster Jenkins. Florence (Meryl Streep) was a real person in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's. Originally a concert pianist, she switched to singing after an injury damaged her arm. Trouble is...despite her ambitions to sing opera, she was terrible. Her husband, former British actor St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), encouraged her career anyway. She involved herself in New York society in every way possible, including in many classical music groups, and gave many private and small concerts. But Florence has greater ambitions. After she makes a record that becomes popular on the radio, she's determined to sing at Carnegie Hall. Bayfield panics, and her accompanist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) is shocked. Florence is gravely ill, and all the excitement - and the bad reviews from the New York Post music critic - may make this her final performance.

This was actually really sweet. I did know something about Jenkins from my reading about radio, music, and the theater in the 1930's and 40's, but not how she died. While Streep was Oscar-nominated for her role as the (possibly) deluded diva, I thought Grant and Heldberg were even better as the two men who would do anything to keep her happy, including give up their own careers and social lives. (All three were nominated for Golden Globes.) The amazing, historically-accurate costumes got an Oscar nod as well.

(Incidentally...yes, Jenkins was a real person, and yes, she did have a cult following as a comic novelty act, though it's been debated for years whether she was actually in on the joke.)

If you have any interest in the cast, Jenkins, or classical music and are looking for something on the lighter side, this was really lovely and and gets a hearty recommendation from me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Watch Out for the Icy Patch!

Slept in, trying to stay warm. It was still cloudy when I awoke. The wind howled, breaking off icicles and ice-covered branches. I had breakfast, then made one of my favorite cakes. I got the recipe for Rosemary-Lemon Currant Cake form the Cooking Light 1998 Cookbook. It's one of my favorites. It's easy to make, uses simple ingredients, and only makes one layer - perfect for one person who is craving baked goods. I didn't have any currents, and I made the syrup you pour over it lime instead of lemon, since I only have lime juice. Under any circumstances, it came out perfectly, earthy and tangy.

Watched Follow the Fleet while I worked. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers headline this 1936 musical as a sailor and his officer buddy (Randolph Scott) who get shore leave and visit a seedy dive. The sailor's former girlfriend (Ginger Rogers) has been claiming she's a big-time singer, when she's really just escorting the Navy around a nightclub dance floor. Her sister (Harriet Hillard), a timid music teacher, arrives with frustrating news - if they can't come up with the money to save their father's ship, he'll lose it. Even after winning a dancing contest with the sailor, it's still not enough. It doesn't help that the officer is chasing a rich but dim blond, and the sailor's not happy when his girl tries to get a part on her own without him. Will they ever get the money in time?

A decent score by Irving Berlin (including "Let Yourself Go," "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket," and "Let's Face the Music and Dance") buoy a so-so Astaire/Rogers effort. While still out of place in a musical, Scott at least seems slightly less stiff here than he did in Roberta. Good numbers include Astaire and Rogers' cup-winning "Let Yourself Go" and the dramatic "Face the Music" finale. Not my favorite of theirs, but not bad, either. Worth looking around if you're a fan of Astaire, Rogers, or Harriet Hillard-Nelson (yes, that is the Harriet who would eventually marry bandleader Ozzie Nelson).

Headed to work around 1. It was just starting to snow as I made it there. We were on-and-off steady all afternoon, busier than you'd think, given the weather, but not as bad as Monday. Though I did round up carts for 20 minutes before break and for an hour before I left, I was mainly inside. I gathered trash inside and out and cleaned the break room. The break room really needed it. The cupboards over the sink were a mess. The shelves were an amalgam of condiment, sugar, and non-sugar sweetener packets, tiny plastic forks and spoons, larger plastic knives and forks, coffee stirrer straws, Sterno heaters leftover from our last few employee parties, a bag of Styrofoam bowls, four package of small party napkins, three bags of cups of various sizes (one Styrofoam, the others plastic), one bag of WaWa coffee cup lids, random extension cords, a half-used bottle of pancake syrup, and a jar of "not" peanut butter product we got to taste-test last summer. And the shelves themselves were a crusted, dirty mess.

I sorted them out as best I could. Put the extension cords on one shelf, plates in another. Tossed all the cups and lids together. The plastic utensils, sugars, one package of napkins, and straws went into cups to be used at the coffee machine. Washed any dishes that needed to be washed, grabbed a new sponge, and dried the one dishcloth. Wiped down all the shelves, counters, and tables. Took out the overflowing trash and recycling.

(I'm glad I was inside for most of the day. While the roads were entirely clear, there were icy patches in the parking lot and in the area between the front and back entrances that were fairly treacherous. The wind remained a problem too, howling like a banshee the entire day.)

Of course, the snow had begun to slow down just as I was leaving work. By the time I was at home and online, working on my story, it was gone. Left a really beautiful deep orange-red sunset, too.

Did get a little writing in. Luke insists that Leia visit Henry and Charles at their table while he prepares for the fencing exhibition. Henry is eager to show of his latest invention. He's proud that Charles, one of the few free Wookie natives in Naboo, was able to help him. He and Leia finally agree that slavery is wrong and they shouldn't force these people to work like this.

Finished out the burgers for dinner, along with sauteed green beans and pasta with herbs and butter. Watched Oklahoma! as I ate. We move from New York in the 1930's to the Sooner State around 1912. Cocky cowboy Curley (Gordon MacRae) wants to ask farmer Laurey (Shirley Jones) to the Box Social that night. He's waited too long. She's already going with menacing farm hand Judd (Rod Steiger). Meanwhile, flighty Aldo Annie (Gloria Grahame) is trying to choose between another cowboy, Will Parker (Gene Nelson), and flirtatious peddler Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert). Laurey's Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood) helps the lovers make up their mind while mediating the feuding between local ranchers and farmers as everyone prepares for Oklahoma to enter the union.

This has always been my favorite Rogers and Hammerstein musical. I especially love Grahame's wonderful, eternally lustful Aldo Annie and Charlotte Greenwood as the perfect Aunt Eller. As with most of the Rogers and Hammerstein shows, this one does have a dark current, mostly involving Steiger's hulking, damaged Jud Fry. Highly recommended for families with older kids on up, especially if they love dance. There's some wonderful numbers here, including the famous "Dream Ballet" midway through.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winter Has Returned

It was snowing pretty heavily when I finally dragged myself out of bed around 9:30. I read The Darkness Knows for a little while and wrote in my journal, then had corn meal mush and half of a grapefruit for breakfast. Watched Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall while I ate. This 1992 concert brought stars of the stage, some of whom had actually appeared in Sondheim's shows (like Bernadette Peters), to sing some of the composer and lyricist's best work as a solo writer. Numbers ranged from patter songs for neurotic comediennes Madeline Khan and Dorothy Louden to touching ballads from Patti LuPone and Peters to operatic numbers from Sweeney Todd featuring genuine opera stars. There was also dancer Karen Ziemba having fun with comic Bill Irwin in "Sooner or Later," the Follies number "Broadway Baby" sung by then-child star Daisy Egan, and a harrowing song from what was then Sondheim's most recent show, Assassins, "The Ballad of Booth."

The snow and sleet continued through the early afternoon, then on and off for the rest of the day. I spent the time inside avoiding it. Thank goodness I was already off today! I mostly puttered online and worked on writing and ideas. Rusty Arlington is Han's mechanic and handyman. He was the one selling wooden hawks to Leia. He's starting to pack up his wares when Cedric, Mon Mothma's butler, runs into him. The two are good friends...when they aren't insulting one another. Rusty's taking a mysterious machine to the Industrial area in the back of the park and literally drags Cedric along for the ride.

Meanwhile, Leia has met Luke and Bail at the fair grounds. Luke is dressed as a swashbuckler for his fencing exhibition. Vader's airship is the major attraction. It's dark and sleek, with a long projectile on the nose that resembles a slender cannon.

The snow finally ended by 4 PM, and the sun began to emerge. By that point, I was less worried about actual precipitation and more about the wind. Ice-covered branches were falling or being blown off the trees over my home. They fell hard against my bedroom windows, sometimes so roughly that I was surprised the windows didn't break. I can still occasionally hear them.

Broke briefly around 2:30-3ish for lunch and to bake Irish Soda Muffins. The recipe I used from The Beanie Baby Handbook wasn't very good. It didn't tell you what to do with the butter once  you got it in. I cut it in, and...I don't think I mixed it well enough. On a suggestion in the Vermont Country Store Cookbook, I added cheese (Gouda was all I had) and rosemary. Tasted pretty good, but it melted in the pan and made a buttery mess.

Ran two snow-themed Scooby Doo episodes while I ate and baked. "That's Snow Ghost" from the original show has the gang on vacation at a dilapidated ski resort. The area seems to be haunted by a spectral yeti that can fly, a creature from an old Tibetan man's story. The creature seems to be hiding something, something that's tied into the sawmill nearby. It's "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright" when the gang finds themselves in the Arctic. They were called their by their friend the professor, but he and the local Eskimo chief have vanished. The kids have to figure out what it was that the professor found...and where the gigantic dinosaur-like "Snow Beast" sprang from.

I got so caught up with writing and Pinterest, I didn't break for dinner until around 7:30. I enjoyed the Felix the Cat cartoons I watched yesterday so much, I put on one of the disc of the public domain animated shorts Lauren sent me and watched a bunch of random ones. Little Audrey thinks nursery rhymes are a bore, but in "Goofy Goofy Gander," a hip Mother Goose proves otherwise, at least until the gangsters from Audrey's comic leap into her rhyme book. "Tarts and Flowers" has Audrey helping her Gingerbread Man rescue his angel cake bride from the Devil's Food Cake.

Finished the night with more Three Stooges. They're "Hairbrained Barbers" who manage to make a British rock star happy, even though they've made a mess of his mane. Their boss isn't as pleased. Two little boys are "My Littlest Martian" when they dress as spacemen to play a trick on the Stooges. "Flat Heads" has a robber pulling into the Stooges' new service station, hoping for them to fix his flat tire. Their attempts at replacing the tire ends with them stuck in the tires...and the robber getting arrested.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Before the Snow Comes

Started off a sunny morning with cartoons. Among the first items I dubbed when I got my DVD recorder were a quartet of Felix the Cat shorts I'd had on video since the mid-90's. A trio of color shorts were made by the Van Beuren Studios, RKO's original in-house animation studio, in 1936. These were the only three filmed before RKO started distributing Disney shorts and Van Beuren shut down. "Bold King Cole" is the bizarre story of how Felix stops a group of ghosts from torturing the titular windbag king. "Neptune Nonsense" is more typical of the time. Here, Felix is merely seeking a friend for his pet goldfish under the sea. Needless to say, he has to do a lot of talking to get Neptune and the other citizens of the deep to buy a cat owning a fish. "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg" is my favorite of the trio, and the closest to the original Felix. Here, Felix has to save the title pet from a group of pirates.

"Astrononmeous" is from 1929, and is apparently one of Felix's few early sound titles. It's a lot closer to the silent shorts in spirit and in plot. Felix travels to the moon to see if it's ripe for colonization. The natives don't know what to make of him, until he rescues their king from a falling star. (For some reason, the copy I got off the video has a strange bright pink tint. I don't know if this copy was deteriorating, or if it's a strange attempt at colorization. I've seen copies elsewhere that were normal black and white.)

Spent the rest of the morning working on my story. I did a little re-writing. The fair is now being held in a park that's being remodeled as an airfield. Ezra takes them through the Old Town, which is grimy and crime-ridden. He explains how he was once a street urchin, before Hera and Kanan took him in. He's hoping to save money to go to school and start his own newspaper.

Broke for lunch at noon. Did a couple of Three Stooges animated shorts from the 60's I'd also dubbed while eating lunch. "Toys Will Be Toys" has them trying to catch a robber in a toy store. In "How the West Was Once," their attempts at getting a railroad line through a tunnel are thwarted by a mountain lion who doesn't want to leave his home. They're "Mummies Boys" when they end up in a pyramid and find themselves chased by spooks in bandages who don't want them there. And they're anything but the "Plumber's Friend" when their attempts at repairing a woman's pipes end in disaster.

Work was a total mess today. We're supposed to get between three and five inches of snow and sleet (at last check), and Mondays are usually busy anyway. Except for the three times I gathered baskets, I was outside almost the entire afternoon. I had at least two people out with me for most of the day...until 5 PM, the height of rush hour. Not only did the carts vanish as soon as I put them away, but I kept finding them locked on the edge of the parking lot. I actually found 11 carts clustered near the bus stop and the Black Horse Pike early in the afternoon.

I deserved a treat when I got out. I was going to buy a pretzel, but for some reason, they weren't any. I did find a very green bagel. I've never seen a green bagel before. To my disappointment, it tasted like an ordinary bagel. You'd think it would at least taste like mint or lime or pistachio or something.

When I got in, I continued the disc as I got organized and changed into regular clothes. The Muppet Babies Video Storybooks were adaptations of Muppet Babies children's books from the 1980's. We had two of them when I was a kid, including the one I watched today. Kermit the Frog introduces and narrates each story in a live-action segment between shorts. "Meet the Muppet Babies" has each kid turning Kermit's cardboard box with a hole in it into something they love, from Gonzo's space station to Fozzie's comedy cave to Piggy's royal ball. "Baby Piggy and the Giant Bubble" is what it says in the title. Piggy somehow finds herself inside a bubble and ends up floating around town, being mistaken for an egg and a soccer ball and part of a sky writing message. Gonzo goes on a quest to find out exactly what he is, with help from the community of Gonzo look-a-likes on the other side of the mirror, in "What's a Gonzo?"

Finished the night with some classic Marx Brothers madness. A Day at the Races was their second MGM movie, following the success of Night at the Opera. This time, Groucho is a veterinarian who passes himself off as a regular human doctor in order to woo the wealthy hypochondriac Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). Chico's an employee at a sanitarium near the race track. Harpo is a jockey whose crooked boss (Douglass Dumbrille) wants him to throw races. The sanitarium's owner (Maureen Sullivan) may have to sell if she can't raise the money she owes. She's upset when her boyfriend (Allan Jones) buys a race horse who doesn't seem to do well. When they finally figure out what the horse can do, they enter him in the races. Now the boys have to make sure that the race is on, and their horse comes through, or they'll all end up in jail.

A series of pointless musical numbers mid-way through keep this from being quite as much fun as Night at the Opera. There's still a lot of great bits, though, including Chico and Groucho at the race track, Harpo and Chico attempting to hide a woman in Groucho's room from Mrs. Claypool, and their attempts to stall the race, and then get the horse around the track, in the finale. Great fun for fans of the Marxes or classic comedy.

And...yes, at press time, it is snowing, fairly heavily. It's supposed to be much worse up north. Lauren may get as much as two feet in Pittfield. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Toy Stories

For once, I got up with plenty of time to have a decent breakfast. Made Buttermilk Corn Pancakes based after a recipe in The Vermont Country Store Cookbook. Listened to the Streets of Fire soundtrack while I ate that and a half of a grapefruit. Switched to the soundtrack from the 1967 version of Finian's Rainbow with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark while getting ready to head out for the day.

Picked up the bus on the White Horse Pike around noon. Surprisingly for a Sunday, there wasn't much traffic. I was in Cherry Hill in 20 minutes. No trouble figuring out where I was going this time, either. The Holiday Inn where the toy convention took place is directly across from the Market Place shopping center, where I went a few weeks ago. I got off the bus and was right there.

While it was only two rooms and a hall, those rooms were jam-packed with tables and booths laden with every type of toy, action figure, stuffed animal, game, Lego, and puzzle you can imagine, along with books, magazines, activity and coloring books, catalogs, and records and cassettes related to them. Transformers, Star Wars, Marvel and DC, Strawberry Shortcake, Pokemon, wrestling figures, Gund stuffed animals, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, She-Ra, anime, fast-food figures from the 80's and 90's. I even saw toys from lines I haven't thought about in years, like the Blackstar figures we had in the mid-80's that we adored. They were basically He-Man imitations with a gimmick - some of the figures had a lighter that, when flicked, would light up the "gem" worn by that character.

There were two big problems. A lot of these were collector's items and were very expensive. The other was most of them didn't take credit cards. I only had so much money on me, the ATM machine in the lobby was broken, and I wasn't running across a busy highway to use the one at Citizen's Bank.

I did find a few interesting things. A young man had a box of Star Wars action figures (mostly from Revenge of the Sith) mint in their packaging, 3 for 10 dollars. Good thing he was one of the few sellers who took credit cards, because I couldn't resist that price. I ended up with Mace Windu (who has the same mechanism that moves his lightsaber arm when you squeeze his legs that my Revenge Anakin and Obi-Wan do), Stass Affee (a female Jedi who was on the Jedi Council - she came with a speeder bike that comes apart), and a random Wookie warrior.

(The young man was really sweet, too. I mentioned when he ended up typing my credit card into his system that I was a grocery store cashier and have done things like that before. He said he understood - he works at Target.)

Found something for Lauren at the same table I saw the Blackstar figure at. It was mostly laden with colorful, slightly scratched older action figures. Among the wrestling figures was a small "Rowdy" Roddy Piper with an arm you could pull back and let go for a "punch" effect and a very exuberant, well-sculpted face. Roddy is Lauren's favorite classic wrestler. His iconic white "Hot Rod" shirt was a bit scratched; otherwise, he was fine. He was only five dollars, thankfully, since this seller didn't take credit cards.

Thought I'd try the hotel's bar for lunch. Red, White, and Blue was a simple, dark-paneled bar-restaurant with a barbecue and blues theme. It was nearly 2 by the time I ate, which may be why the place wasn't very busy. My Hickory Bacon Cheeseburger was simple but amazing, big and meaty, smothered in cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, thick bacon slices, and caramelized onions. Even after removing the bacon and eating it separately, I still had a hard time closing the bun. The fries were good too, crispy and golden and just salty enough.

Walked around the rooms for about a half-hour more after lunch, but the few things I saw that I liked, I either couldn't afford, or they didn't take credit cards. Besides, the place was mobbed. I could barely walk around. I figured it was time to head out around quarter of 3.

I did finally make my way across the street. I had to pick up the bus at Market Place. Since the Hallmark is right there, I ended up buying a nice card for Mom for her birthday (which is the 20th) and deciding I'd give the card I previously bought for her to T.J later that evening.

Once again, the bus was on time, and there were no problems getting home. When I got in, I put Roddy in the back room and my new action figures on the shelves with the other Star Wars figures. Managed to squeeze Mace in between Leia and the Obi-Wan figures. Stass ended up sitting on the top shelf, keeping my thin-legged Power of the Force Princess Leia company. (She didn't come with a lightsaber, for some reason. I ended up loaning her one I had in the box with the accessories I have for them in the back. It doesn't fit in her hand very well, but it'll have to do.) The huge Wookie didn't fit anywhere and towered over my 1983 Return of the Jedi Chewbacca. I just put him on the top shelf with the bounty hunters until I can figure out what to do with him.

Worked on my story a bit until it was time to head to Dad's for T.J's birthday dinner. He wanted spaghetti, so we basically had a repeat of Jodie's spaghetti dinner from a while back, with an added Caesar salad and creme brulee in place of cake. The moment I got in, Jodie gave me a huge bowl of pasta covered in her spicy tomato sauce. I added a few meatballs, a slice of bread, and salad. (There was also hot sausage.)

Khai's friends Bee and Chloe arrived shortly after dinner. I watched them throw Beanie Babies at each other in an attempt at a game. When they got bored with that, I amused them by doing voices for each Beanie Baby and having them relate a fact about the animal in question. Chloe in particular thought it was hilarious.

Finally headed home around 7:30. Dad's neighbor Sandy was on her way out. She ended up driving me and my bike back to my place.

Oh, and Rose finally found out what she's having. It's official - I'm going to have a niece in July. Rose is having a girl! I'm kind of glad. Not that I wouldn't love a boy, too, but I already have three nephews. Time to redress the balance. I also got an invitation to Dana's graduation in early June.