Saturday, September 30, 2017

Smurfy Fall Harvest

Brr! I awoke to a morning that wasn't even cool. It was downright cold! Celebrated the more fall-like weather with a warm cornmeal mush breakfast and You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz drew from his son's real-life fondness for motocross for this special about the gang taking part in a motocross race. Peppermint Patty is so determined to beat "The Masked Marvel" (Snoopy) that neither of them pay much attention to Chuck. He ultimately proves that slow and steady - and actually paying attention to the course - really can make you a winner.

Headed to the Collingswood Farm Market around 10:30 (after a quick stop at the Collingswood WaWa for money). For a day that was cloudy and wildly windy, probably in the upper 60's, they were packed with people buying beginning-of-the-month produce. The fall harvest continues to roll out. Melons and peaches are gone, but I saw cauliflower for the first time this year and local broccoli for the first time this season. I ended up with two tomatoes, apples, grapes, and Chinese beans.

Rode around Haddon Township and Collingswood for the next two hours, checking out yard sales. I didn't have much luck. Almost all of them were just knick-knacks. I did find a copy of one of the James Howe Bunnicula books, Nighty Nightmare, at a sale on the border of Collingswood and Westmont. Think I'll save that one for Halloween next month or close to it.

Stopped at the Oaklyn WaWa to pick up a hoagie for lunch. My favorite fall sandwich, the Gobbler (turkey, cranberry, stuffing, and mayo) was available, along with Pumpkin Cream Smoothies. I grabbed both and ate them at the wooden benches on West Clinton, ignoring the wind. The Pumpkin Cream Smoothie tasted more like an eggnog smoothie than their eggnog does. The Gobbler was awesome, as always. You can't beat cranberry, turkey, and stuffing on a roll. (Even if the stuffing they used had a few really big bread chunks that hadn't been mashed properly.)

Went home, put everything away, then went back out again to the Acme. I still had a lot of other grocery shopping to do. I was lucky they were having a 40 % off all chicken (our brand and Purdue) this week. I was able to pick up boneless chicken thighs along with catfish with a manager's coupon. Took advantage of another big sale to pick up Life Cereal. I had their Pumpkin Spice last year and would love to try it again.The fancy "enhanced" eggs in the Styrofoam container were slightly less expensive than the regular eggs, for once. Restocked diced tomatoes, mandarin oranges, white and brown sugar, skim milk, yogurt (the mix-ins for lunch, plain to use for baking and cooking), blue corn chips, and honey. Thought I'd try a new Betty Crocker "galaxy" (blue/green/white/navy) sprinkle mix while baking items were on sale. The Talenti ice cream was also on sale again. I had such a hard time choosing a flavor, I ended up grabbing Vanilla Bean.

After I got in and arranged everything, I went on the computer to do some writing. Here, Leia and Luke both go back to Dagobah Creek, where Uncle Ben is visiting Yoda. They explain that their brother Adam took up a life of crime after he came home from Vietnam to discover their parents had died in a car crash. His girlfriend Patti Mae was pregnant, and he had no money for the baby. Simon Palpatine, who had been on the city council then, agreed to pay him if he did his dirty work - leaned on people who disagreed with him, burned, robbed, or harassed them out of business.

Broke around 5:30 to take a bath. Ahh, that felt so nice after running around all morning and early afternoon. I lay in the warm water, listening to Jazz for the Quiet Times and looking over Christmas craft books for holiday ideas.

It was past 7 when I finally got to dinner. My leftover chicken drumstick was accompanied by zucchini sauteed in soy sauce and chicken broth and Eggplant Parmesan. Had the Vanilla Bean ice cream for dessert.

Watched Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin while making dinner. Pooh is surprised and disappointed when Christopher Robin doesn't appear at their usual spot one day. A pot of honey with a note is in his place. Owl (mis)interprets the note, claiming that the boy is at "skull" and has been kidnapped by the dreaded Skullasaurus. The rest of the citizens of the 100 Acre Woods go after him...and learn a lot about themselves in the process.

Unusually bittersweet outing for Pooh and his friends, especially when Pooh sings the heartbreaking "Wherever You Are." Little kids will need a hand to hold during some of the sad or scary scenes...and you may need a free hand to grab a tissue for yourself.

Ended the night with Smurfs: The Lost Village. Smurfette (Demi Lovato) feels out of place at Smurf Village, and not just because she's the only girl there. Her name doesn't denote her talent, like it does with all the other smurfs. Even Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) can't figure out what to do with her. When she discovers a hat in the Forbidden Forest, she becomes determined to discover what else is out there. Unfortunately, so's Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), the nasty wizard who created Smurfette from a lump of clay. Gargamel wants to absorb all of the Smurfs' powers...but Smurfette can absorb his powers, and that of others. Hefty Smurf (Joe Manganellio), Brainy Smurf (Danny Pudi), and Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer) join her in her quest to discover a whole new breed of Smurfs, before Gargamel can get his hands on them.

This actually wasn't bad. It's basically a feature-length episode of the show with brilliant-hued computer animation. Reminded me a lot of Trolls with less music and a more focused plot. I always did like Smurfette as a kid and am glad to see them doing more with her here. The scene where the other Smurfs have to bring her back to life actually choked me up a bit.

Frankly, your interest and enjoyment on this one will depend on your memories of the original show. I haven't seen it in years, but the girls and I used to love it in the early-mid 80's. I'm a bit surprised it was a flop in the US this spring; it did better overseas, where the Smurfs have fans of long-standing, especially their native Belgium. At any rate, almost everyone said it was better than the two live-action/animation hybrids.

If you loved the original show or the comics, or have young kids who might enjoy the Smurfs' antics, this may be your cup of Smurf Berry Tea.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Finally Fall

Celebrated a glorious morning that actually felt like fall with breakfast and baking Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins. Used the recipe from the Sunset bread cookbook I picked up two weeks ago. It came out pretty well, a little bland but not too bad. (Maybe I'll add more sugar next time. Or some cinnamon to perk things up a bit.)

Ran a couple of spooky episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh while I baked to kick off my Halloween season. Piglet is "A Knight to Remember" when the others are playing chess and can't find the pieces. He imagines he's a very small knight who has to fight a very big dragon...or is it? Piglet's also having trouble with dreams in "Rock-a-Bye Pooh." After he has a nightmare about his friends disappearing, Piglet won't go to sleep at all. Pooh and the gang try to convince him that dreams are nothing to be afraid of. "The Monster Frankenpooh" is the not-so-scary horror spoof Piglet's concocted...but Tigger would rather make it a little spookier. "Things That Go Piglet In the Night" has the gang chasing ghosts that turn out to be not at all what they expect. Piglet and Pooh think they're on the "Pooh Moon" during a camping trip. Their friends think they've been snatched by the Grab-me Gotcha and have to rescue them.

Started writing around 10:30. Finished out the Jasper Hutt segment. Hank and Charlie have agreed to state evidence in return for not being tossed in the slammer for drug running. They also suggest hocking Leia's expensive diamond collar and gown to get the money for Luke and Ben's hospital bills. Hank deals with Lance's betrayal by knocking him into the fountain, telling him not to try anything like that again. It ends with them finding Chip and Arturro stuck on the trapeze, where they hid to get away from the mess in the club.

Broke at ten of 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did another mildly horror-themed kid's show episode while I ate. "It's Great to Be a Ghost" is the first of several horror-oriented Backyardigans shows. Uniqua, Tyrone, and Pablo play ghosts who try to scare Tasha. Tyrone's not too sure about it. This who scaring business makes him nervous. Tasha claims she can't be scared...but it's the least-likely kid who finally does frighten her.

Work was a tiny bit busy when I arrived. After that early spurt ended, it was dead for the entire night. In fact, it was really boring. After I gathered all the trash and mopped the bathroom floors, there really wasn't much for me to do. I bagged, then took over for another bagger doing carts for the last hour. They didn't really need to be done that badly...but neither did anything else. Besides, it was too nice to be inside all day. While it is a tad humid, a fresh wind and cooler temperatures keep things far more fall-like than earlier in the week.

Got my schedule right before I started. It's really weird this week. On one hand, I have three days off, from Wednesday to Friday. I'll be able to get a LOT done, including starting the fall cleaning. On the other hand, I have slightly fewer hours and a long day next Saturday.

Had a quick leftovers dinner when I got home, then thought I'd try something. I was originally going to make Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I already put chocolate chips in muffins this morning. That cookie cook book Lauren sent me for my birthday had a recipe for "Apples Rolled In Autumn" - basically, Apple-Oatmeal Cookies. Oh, yum. I was a little paranoid about keeping an eye on them after my last cookies burned badly, but these came out really nice. They were chewy and just sweet enough, and they smelled amazing coming out of the oven.

Finished out the evening while the cookies were in the oven with Insurgent. Tris (Shalene Woodley) and her boyfriend Four (Theo James) are on the run, all Divergents having been declared outlaws by Jeannie (Kate Winslet), the leader of a post-apocalyptic Chicago. They first stay with Amity, the farming faction, but Johanna (Octavia Spenser), the head of the group, feels they cause too much friction. After one of their group gives them away, they flee headlong into the Factionless- the underground system of homeless toughs who belong to no group. Four's not happy to discover their leader (Naomi Watts) is a little too close to him for his liking. They next head to Candor, faction of lawyers, judges, and truth-tellers, before they, too, are attacked by Jeannie's Dauntless soldiers. Meanwhile, Jeannie has been given a strange box, one with five sides that only a Divergent can open, by the Faction's founders. Tris, with her potent humanity, may be the perfect person to open the box...if she can pass a series of increasingly damaging tests.

I have to admit, I actually enjoyed this one a bit more than the previous film. Woodley's performance is better, the cast is just as good, and we see more of the Factions and how the system operates (including how it tosses out those who don't fit in it).

Nothing, however, can overcome that twice-told feeling. Even with the better performances and effects, this is still, at its core, an imitation Hunger Games. If you loved that series or tales of dark futures, you may enjoy this...but you'll need to catch Divergent first to find out more about this world and its citizens.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Till The Clouds Roll By

Began a gorgeous day at work. We were as quiet as we have been the past couple of days, which was fine by me. I loved rounding up the carts this morning. The sun was out, but it wasn't nearly as hot as over the weekend. A cool, strong wind kept it from feeling too warm. The humidity had vanished overnight, leaving a brilliant robin's-egg sky. When another bagger arrived to take over the carts, I spent most of the rest of the morning gathering baskets and doing the very few returns. The bathrooms didn't even need to be done. It wasn't even that busy when I left just after the noon rush hour

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road, just to enjoy the day for a little while longer. There was some traffic around the Wal Mart/Marshalls' entrance. Otherwise, they weren't much busier than the Acme. Admired the last of the big, creamy yellow-white roses on Nicholson and the tall gold wildflowers growing alongside the hill into Oaklyn.

Had a quick tuna salad lunch when I got home. Watched an episode of Good Eats while I ate. With the arrival of cooler weather, I can start baking again. Ginger snaps are some of my favorite cookies to make, but they're not the only baked goods that require molasses. "Pantry Raid X: Dark Side of the Cane" from season 12 demonstrates the many other uses of the thick, dark sweetener, including Amish favorite Shoo Fly Pie.

Took a short nap for about an hour after lunch. I'm not used to getting up early for work anymore! Besides, this was the nicest day we've had in ages. It felt great to not be sweating in bed.

Worked on writing after that. Hank and Charlie finally get Jasper to reveal what he planned to do to them. He was going to dunk the duo and Luke into a trap door that lead to a vat of cement, where they would be made into statues for his front lobby. He tries to force them into it, hoping to get them out of the way for good.

Leia turns up at this point, angry as hell and sporting a gun she swiped off one of his men. She's finally figured out what happened to Jasper's previous mistress - he drugged her, cut up her face, and dumped her in the cement vat. The moment he threatens to do the same to her boyfriend, her brother, and her boyfriend's best friend, she shoots him. Unlike in the movies, she's not used to guns and is too angry to aim straight anyway. She gets Jasper in the shoulder, the kickback nearly knocking her off her feet. Still raging angry, she tries to strangle him before finally knocking him into the trap door over the cement vat.

No sooner has Jasper Hutt been dispatched than the local cops and the FBI show up. Lance called them earlier in the day, telling them they had a line on one of New York's most notorious gangsters and his illegal activities. Bobby Fett takes off for the lobby, but Charlie and Hank catch up with him. Hank finally knocks him into the waterfall when he sneeringly tells him he was among the goons whom Jasper forced Leia to dress in front of.

Broke for dinner at 7. Made Italian Casserole with green and red peppers and diced tomatoes. I had some pears and peaches that were going bad, plus the last big Macintosh apple. Cut them up and made them into fruit crisp. Other than I overdid the spices, it came out very well. I liked replacing the regular sugar with brown sugar; gave it a richer, darker flavor.

Watched Till the Clouds Roll By as I baked and ate. I still wasn't in the mood for anything heavy, so I went with another composer "biography" semi-revue from MGM. Composer Jerome Kern is in the spotlight in this one. Kern (Robert Walker) had been pounding Tin Pan Alley as early as the 1910's...but in the first two decades of the 20th century (as it would be in the final decade of the 20th century), England dominates the Broadway musical scene. Encouraged by his friend James Hessler (Van Heflin), he travels to England to meet producer Charles Frohman. He also meets his future wife Eva (Dorothy Patrick) when he stops to use the piano in her house to work on a song idea. World War I finally ends Frohman's life (he went down with the Lusitania) and the importation of European shows. By the Roaring 20's, Kern's a smash hit. Hessler's daughter Sally (Lucile Bremer) has ambitions of being on the stage, but throws a fit when she loses her big song to star Marilyn Miller (Judy Garland). She runs away, and Kern spends three fruitless years searching for her. After he finds her alive and happy, he's able to focus on helping Oscar Hammerstein (Paul Langton) create his biggest triumph, Show Boat.

The first half of this movie, other than the addition of the fictional Hesslers, is relatively historically accurate. English shows really were frequently imported by producers like Frohman, who inserted songs by American talent when he brought them over to New York. Kern did just barely miss sailing on the Lusitania. He actually did meet Eva when he walked into her father's tavern and played a song on the piano. Oh Boy! and Leave It to Jane were two of the biggest hits of the late teens. Marilyn Miller was a hit in Sally and Sunny (the latter did have a circus setting), and she specialized in numbers like "Who?" with chorus boys and waving scarves.

It's the second half where things lag...because after the late teens, Kern pretty much went from success to success. The entire incident with Sally and Marilyn and Kessler is obviously manufactured and rather ridiculous. Bremer does get the film's best number later, performing a wonderful "I Won't Dance" with a relaxed Van Johnson. I'm also fond of the "Till the Clouds Roll By" ensemble number, the aforementioned "Who?", Dinah Shore's gorgeous "They Didn't Believe Me," and that fifteen minute mini-Show Boat.

This is in the public domain, but you're definately better off seeking out MGM's DVD release (which is what I have) if you're a fan of Kern's music, 40's musicals, or any of the stars.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's a Hot Night For Singing

Began another hot, hazy day with breakfast and The Backyardigans. "Robin Hood the Clean" is pretty bizarre, even for this series. The citizens of Filthingham (Uniqua, Tasha, and Tyrone) are being forced to be dirty by the town's Mayor (Austin) who loves mud. Fed up, Tyrone finally brings Robin Hood the Clean (Pablo) to help them rescue their cleaning supplies, including Pablo's beloved bath mitt Mitty.

Headed to the laundromat around 11:30. Picked the right time to do it. They were quiet as can be when I arrived. By the time more people started coming in, my clothes were in the drier. I worked on story ideas and half-listened to The View and Action News.

Did more Backyardigans while putting everything away. "The Two Musketeers" are Tyrone and Pablo, who fight the Empress' Guards (Uniqua and Austin) in 18th century France. A masked third musketeer (Tasha) wants to join them, but they insist they're fine as a duo. They start to rethink their stance when they're captured by the other two, and the mystery girl is the only one who can save them.

Started off for today's errand run around 12:30. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were relatively busy for them, with several people on the computer and a mother and her toddler daughter playing in the kids' area. I returned DVDs and looked over theirs, then headed out.

Lunch at Friendly's was next. Once again, I timed my arrival perfectly. There were only a few pairs of ladies eating lunch together when I arrived. I'd just started to bite into my "Vermonter Burger" (burger with cheddar cheese and maple-pepper bacon) when a barrage of kids from St. Paul IV Catholic School down the street stormed in, hungry for snacks, soda, and milkshakes. By the time I was enjoying my coffee ice cream with Swiss chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, the place was packed with chattering teens.

Made a quick stop at Dollar Tree after lunch. My friend Amanda's birthday is Sunday; Lauren's is in a couple of weeks. For once, they were also quiet. I was in and out.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy, either. I shelved DVDs, new releases, and two audio books. Organized the kids' DVDs; cleared TV sets and foreign movies out of the adult titles. They've finally started to get in the new Star Wars books. I took out Phasma, on the mysterious, militant female First Order captain, and four DVDs. Decided to explore the changing cinema of the late 60's with Bonnie & Clyde and The Graduate. I've avoided the live-action/animated Smurfs movies because I've heard they're terrible, and quite frankly, they look smarmy. This year's Smurfs: The Lost Village seems to be much closer to the original cartoons and comics. Also grabbed the next movie in the Divergent series, Insurgent.

Stopped at Rite Aid to buy a Sparkling Ice Raspberry Iced Tea, then dodged traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike to head home. I can't believe how humid it was today, especially for this time of year. Tropical Storm Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico, is apparently passing off-shore. (She's also going to be leaving cooler temperatures, according to the National Weather Service. It's supposed to drop back into the 70's by tomorrow.)

Worked on writing as soon as I got home. Luke is lowered by trapeze into a fabric-covered box. When the trapeze is raised, the box is empty...but the trapeze isn't. Luke never let go. He climbs the trapeze and swings to a chandelier, then onto the second floor dining area. Lance helps him escape before Jasper's boys show up or the people he landed on attack him.

Meanwhile, Leia tries to get Jasper to reveal what happened to Oola, his previous mistress who had originally lived in the Royal Suite. Jasper only says that they had an argument over him not getting her a dancing career and he put her on display.

It was past 7 when I finally broke for dinner. Made a simple Tuna Salad with red peppers, onions, pineapple, and pickle relish. Watched more Backyardigans while I ate. "The Masked Retriever" is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. Uniqua is a librarian in Vejos, California who becomes "The Masked Retriever" whenever a book goes missing. When Don Austin, the most powerful person in town, tries to abscond with a book, it's the Masked Retriever to the rescue!

Ended the night with the 1945 version of State Fair. The first telling of the only Rogers and Hammerstein musical written directly for the big screen follows the Frake family's adventures at the Iowa State Fair. Mr. Frake (Charles Winninger) is betting on his huge hog Blue Boy to win Grand Champion. Mrs. Frake (Fay Bainter) has high hopes for her pickles and (very spiked) mincemeat. Sassy Margie (Jeanne Crain) falls for dashing reporter Pat (Dana Andrews) when she meets him on the midway. Her brother Wayne (Dick Haymes) does likewise with a troubled singer (Vivian Blaine). There's surprises in store for all as the fair comes to it's conclusion, and everyone involved learns that falling in love is a lot more complicated than winning a blue ribbon.

This is a favorite of Mom's. She picked it up when it was first released on video back in the 90's, and we fell for it, too. While not Rogers and Hammerstein's best work, it is a really cute movie. "It Might as Well Be Spring" won Rogers and Hammerstein their only Oscar for Best Song. I prefer "That's For Me" and "It's a Grand Night For Singing." Bainter and Winninger are adorable as the Frake parents; Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews are having a lot of fun as the smart girl and the guy that's everything she's ever wanted. Blaine and Haymes are far stiffer as the unhappy performer with a secret she can't tell sweet Wayne.

This is actually a remake of a 1933 non-musical movie; it in turn was remade in 1962 and brought to the stage in 1997. I haven't seen the 1933 version (it's not easy to find), but the other two are only fair. Fun for fans of 40's musicals or Rogers and Hammerstein.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Of Guardians and Batmen

While it wasn't quite as hot as it was over the weekend when I got up this morning, it had returned to being hazy and humid, and not very fall-like. I perked things up a bit with breakfast and a first season Sailor Moon episode. Poor Naru gets caught in the crossfire between Nephrite and the Sailor Guardians in "Naru's Tears: Nephrite Dies for Love." She has a huge crush on Nephrite, but he can't understand her feelings. He thinks his crystal is reacting to her because she knows something about Sailor Moon. Three monsters sent by Zoycite kidnap Naru to lure him into their clutches.

Worked on writing for a few hours after that. Luke and Hank are going to be part of a magic act that'll make them disappear...for good. While the guys discuss what they have in mind, Leia and Chip try to find out from Jasper just what he intends to do to them.

Broke at 1 for lunch. Did another Sailor Moon episode while I ate yogurt and Tomato-Cucumber Salad. "Jupiter, the Powerful Girl In Love" introduces Usagi's tall, strong new classmate Makoto and the Rainbow Crystals. These seven crystals, each of which hold a monster, are hidden in seven ordinary humans. The first one found is a local guy who is exceptionally good at crane games. He's not the only one with an unknown identity. Makoto may be more useful than just as muscle...if she can stop drooling over every guy she sees...

Work was even quieter than yesterday. I really didn't have much to do during the first half of my shift. I did carts once, for about 20 minutes. They didn't really need to be done. I also mopped the bathrooms, bagged, gathered baskets, and shelved the very few returns that were laying around. By the time it started picking up around rush hour, the wind had also picked up, making doing carts a tad bit more bearable.

I was so sweaty, I went straight into the shower when I got home. After I got out, I had leftovers while doing one more episode of Sailor Moon. Usagi has something going on that's more important than even Guardian business in "Restore Naru's Smile: Usagi's Friendship." She and nerdy Umino want to cheer up Naru, who has been understandably depressed about Nephrite's death. Meanwhile, Rei and Ami are questioning whether or not Usagi is a decent leader. Makoto ends up helping out when the priest they encounter turns out to be a demon, and points out that Usagi may not be a perfect leader, but she is a really good friend.

Finished the night online while watching Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is in search of a way to fight injustice after having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child and seeing the murderer be let out of prison. He travels to Bhutan, where he's saved from prison by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). Ducard says he can train him to let go of his fears and become a member of the League of Shadows. Which would be great...if Bruce didn't find out that the League intends to destroy Gotham. Returning to the city, he becomes the fearsome crime fighter "The Batman" and takes over his parents' company, Wayne Enterprises. Archivist James Fox (Morgan Freeman) provides Bruce with much of his gadgetry, including his first suit and the Batmobile. His first case - find out more about the vicious psychologist "The Scarecrow" (Cillian Murphy), who has been adding a fear-inducing drug to Gotham's water supply. He's under orders...but unless Batman can find out from whom, all of Gotham may find themselves trapped in a never-ending nightmare.

A slower Batman tale than usual, told through flashbacks during the first half. It's confusing at first, but once we get out of the temple and back to Gotham, things pick up considerably. You really get to see how Batman ticks, even more than in the Tim Burton movies. (Which I was never the biggest fan of.) I like that they're using less-well-known villains here, too. I'd only heard of the Scarecrow once or twice, and this was my first encounter with Ra's a Ghul.

Wish the romantic aspect worked as well. Katie Holmes was out-of-place as Bruce's lawyer love interest and had no chemistry with Christian Bale. Bale had far more chemistry with Michael Cane as a wonderfully sassy and understanding Alfred than with her.

If you're a fan of Batman, the cast, or director Christopher Nolan's other work, you may be just as enthralled to find out how the "Caped Crusader" came to be.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Tale of the Girl Who Was Divergent

Whew! It was even hotter than yesterday when I awoke this morning. Cooled off with breakfast and an hour-long episode of The Backyardigans. "The Tale of the Mighty Knights" has knights Uniqua and Tyrone assigned to watch over an egg while King Pablo is away. They're dismayed at first...until the egg bounces away! Now they have to rescue it from the hands of the Grabbing Goblin (Austin) and Flighty Fairy (Tasha), before the King realizes it's gone. For extra bonus points, it's done as a rock opera, with Adam Pascal of the original cast of Rent narrating and singing one number in the finale.

Work wasn't nearly as much of a pain as it's been lately. It usually isn't in the morning shifts. While I did do trash, sweep the bathrooms, gather baskets, and help an old lady out to her car, I was mainly doing carts. Good thing we weren't really busy. It was incredibly hot here again, in the lower 90's. I spent  a lot of the day sweating.

Went on the computer as soon as I got home. I worked on my story...then decided I didn't like what I'd written at the last minute. At the very least, we're now in the Desert Nights Night Club, the most exclusive club in Atlantic City. Jasper has shoved Leia into a glittery purple and gold concoction with more beads and ruffles than on the entire cast of Dynasty in 1983. He hasn't told her what he has in mind for Luke and Hank, but she's sure she's not going to like it...

I've also worked on yet another story idea. My second short fairy-tale spotlighting Han Solo will actually be a folk tale, Robin Hood. Han is Robin, Luke is Will Scarlet, Wedge Antilles is Little John, Leia is Maid Marian, Obi-Wan is Friar Tuck, Chewie is the Moor, Vader the Sheriff of Nottingham, Palpatine Prince John, Boba Fett Guy of Gisbourne, Lando Alan-a-Dale, and the droids are servants.

Henry of Solon returns to England in disgrace, having been thrown out of his regiment in the Crusades when he rescued a Moor from being cruelly beaten. Desperate for money after he discovers his lands and treasury have been taken for taxes, he and the Moor Chewbacca agree to help Friar Benjamin and Luke Scarlet, his protege, rescue feisty Maid Leia from Sheriff Vader's dungeons. Leia was once the ward of King Bail, but he vanished in the Crusades, and his wife died mysteriously. Prince Palpatine runs the country ruthlessly in his absence.

They're all declared outlaws after the botched rescue. Henry now calls himself Han Solo, or Robin Hood. He, Luke, and Leia all take the role when they become the leaders of the Merry Men (and women). While most of their money goes to the poor, Han keeps some of it to pay off the cruel nobleman who now owns his land (Jabba the Hutt). Sheriff Vader forces Lando-a-Dale to hold an archery tournament that'll trap the handsome rogue. While the spirited maid rescues him, Luke and Benjamin's replacement Abbot Yoda deal with new revelations about Vader and Luke's true heritage.

I'm hoping to get to this one around Christmas or early winter, after I've finished Beauty & the Frogs and the Babes In Toyland sequel novella. (Other short fairy tales I'm hoping to work on soon include Thumbelina for the Original Trilogy, Rumpelstiltskin, Molly Whuppie, and Little Red Riding Hood for the Sequels, and Swan Lake as my first Prequel short story.)

Broke for dinner at quarter after 6. I was starved from work and wanted a real dinner. Poached chicken legs in a sauce of red wine vinegar, chicken stock, water, and spices. Boiled potatoes with them. Made Cucumber-Tomato Salad for color and vegetables. Yum. It didn't come out too badly. Putting the potatoes in with the chicken was a great idea. I might have to cook them in stock or partial-stock more often.

Finished out the night while I ate with Divergent. The Chicago of the future has split itself into five "factions" after a devastating war - Dauntless is the brave military, Amity is kind farmers, Abignation are selfless government leaders and social workers, Candor are truthful lawyers and judges, and Erudite are intelligent scientists and scholars. Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Shalene Woodley) lives with her family among the Abignation, but doesn't really feel like she's a part of them. She has every right to feel that way. A test reveals that she's a Divergent, someone with more than one group in them. An instructor (Maggie Q) warns her not to reveal this to anybody. She ultimately joins the Dauntless, whom she's always admired, but they're a rough-and-tumble bunch who follow orders blindly and kill without thinking. Luckily, she discovers that her teacher Four (Theo James) is also Divergent. Together, the two have to use their independent thinking abilities to find out what Erudite leader Jeannie (Kate Winslet) has in mind for the Abignation...and stop her from causing a full-scale genocide.

On one hand, this actually wasn't bad. Nice cast, including Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn as Tris' supportive parents and Jai Courtney as a vicious Dauntless leader. I love that both the main hero and the main villain are women. That's something you don't often see in sci-fi stories. And I have to admire Tris for being just so darn determined. Absolutely nothing stops her, from jumping off a train into a pit to facing her fears to taking on the head of the country.

Ironically, despite the plot hinging on independence and original thought, this movie doesn't have an original thought in it's head. It's basically a slightly more sci-fi-oriented version of The Hunger Games. It doesn't help that while I like Shalene Woodley (she was a wonderful Felicity Merriman), she's no Jennifer Lawrence and is rather out of place here. Winslet is better as the cold politician who thinks that eliminating human emotions will somehow stop full-scale war. The emphasis on Tris' relationship with Four in the second half seems to be there more because the teens want to ship people than because it's necessary. The dark story, despite some wisecracks from Tris' Candor friend Christina (Zoe Kravitz), lacks humor and just isn't all that much fun.

This comes from a series of wildly popular young adult books, so...yeah, I'm probably not the right audience for this. If you're a fan of the books or young adult "dark future" novels like The Hunger Games, you may get a lot more out of this than I did.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Heat Wave In September

Whew! It was hot for September when I awoke this morning, already in the 80's by 8:30. I finished reading The Fire Rose before switching to breakfast. Made Pear Spice Pancakes with a pear that was getting soft while listening to The Happiest Millionaire. This is another Disney live-action musical from the 60's, mostly set right in Philly. The head of the rich and eccentric Biddle family (Fred MacMurray) is mostly concerned with his boxing and Bible class and alligators...too concerned to notice his daughter Cordelia (Leslie Ann Warren) blooming into a young lady before his eyes. She falls in love with a young man (John Davidson) from a wealthy new money family while away at school. Even as he beguiles her with promises of a new start in the automobile industry, her father's wondering if he can ever let her go.

The story's not that interesting, but this does have some nice Sherman Brothers music. Tommy Steele, as the new Irish butler, gets "Fortuosity" and "I'll Always Be Irish" and joins a wonderfully catty Geraldine Page and Gladys Cooper for "There are Those." Warren's best number is the wistful "Valentine Candy," as she wonders just how much of a tomboy she wants to be.

(And I wish my pancakes had come out better. I burned both of them, the first rather badly.)

Work was a pain early on. I got in at noon, just as people were starting to get ready for the 1 PM Eagles-Giants game. Every time I tried to get something done, I'd get pulled to do something else. I started the carts...then got told to do the bathrooms. I started that, then was told to do trash. Started the trash - got told to clean up a spill that was really more like black marks on the front end of the soda and snacks aisle. Thanks to a great game, it slowed down enough by the second half of my shift that I was able to spend it shelving returns and bagging.

(And it was a really good game. From what I gathered, the Eagles dominated the first half, but the Giants came back in the second. It was tied 21-21 when I peered in the back room right after finishing work. I later found out the Eagles won by an amazing 61-yard field goal at literally the last second of the game, 27-24.)

Went straight home after work and into writing. Jasper sends a couple of his men to get Luke out of his sight, including one very big goon with really big teeth. Luke manages to dodge the man and even knocks him into the bar, then into sandcastles when they chase him onto the beach. The boy gets to the boardwalk, only to run into more of Jasper's men than he can handle. One knocks him out and brings him to his boss. Jasper spares Luke because Leia's his sister...and because he has more fiendish plans for the young man and his friends.

Broke at 7 for a really quick dinner. Listened to La Cage Aux Folles as I ate. The Broadway version of the popular French farce would have been the hottest new show on the boards during late August 1983, when the Jasper Hutt segment of my story is set. Two gay men (George Hearn and Gene Barry) run a nightclub with a chorus of (mostly) men in drag in St. Tropez. They're thrown into a tizzy when their son brings home a fiancee whose very conservative parents want to meet them.

Jerry Herman's last major show to date is actually my favorite of his shows overall along with Hello Dolly!. It's been a hit all three times it's been on Broadway, most recently with Kelsey Grammar in 2010. While Alvin's anthem "I Am What I Am" is probably the best known number, my favorites are the charming "With You On My Arm," the touching ballad "Song On the Sand," and the rousing "The Best of Times."

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Just Sing, Sing a Song..."

Started off a glorious blue and gold morning with breakfast and The Backyardigans. "Front Page News" is another Backyardigans tale of interpret journalists. Tasha is a photographer with a secret identity - she's also Super Snap, a Flash-like quick-running heroine. There's a giant robot loose in Bigopolis, and her boss Pablo wants her to get the front page photo. Trouble is, she's too busy helping Bubble Man (Tyrone) and Bug Girl (Uniqua) save the day to get the shot...but when the robot starts demanding "cheese," she's the only one who knows what he really wants.

Headed out to run errands around quarter of 10. Ran into Richard, who was getting ready to go on a trip. He was nice enough to fix the chain on my bike and pump up the tires further. I'm going to have to wait for a little while longer to get my other bike fixed. I'll probably order a tire this week, but he won't be back until next week, and the bike is in his garage to save room.

At least I was able to get to the Collingswood Farm Market and back. The lovely day brought people out of the woodwork, and so did the debuting fall produce. Watermelon's gone, replaced by hard winter squash and pumpkins. I bought apples, peaches (the pears I got last week never ripened), two small green and red peppers, mushrooms, a tomato, a zucchini, and an eggplant, along with this year's pumpkin for the house. (I never carve my pumpkin. I'd probably end up carving me along with it! I keep it on display in my living room until Thanksgiving or it goes bad, whichever comes first.)

Checked out a couple of yard sales, but they didn't have anything interesting. Headed home to change, put everything away, and have a quick lunch before riding back out to Audubon for their town-wide yard sale. It was kind of late by then, and I didn't have much chance to look around. Didn't see anything before I had to move on to work. I lingered a little too long and was almost late again, though I just made it under the gun this time.

Work was a bit of a pain in the first half. The manager kept dumping me in the registers every time there was even just one person waiting on the end of the line. I'm surprised I managed to get the baskets or the inside trash done. (Also did the bathrooms, but they really just needed to be swept.) I was late getting on my break because they were worried about that one person standing on the end of the line. It wasn't even really that busy.

Was happier spending most of the second half of my shift outside after I finally got my break. It was too nice to be inside the entire day anyway. While it was still hot, the humidity from earlier in the week had dissipated overnight, leaving a soft breeze and a sky so brilliantly blue, it hurt my eyes to look at it.

Grabbed some Turkey Hill Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream after work, then headed right home. Went right into writing as soon as I put the carton away. Luke arrives at the Oasis Bar and Grill, an exclusive restaurant on the beach that's popular with beachgoers and the rich and powerful alike. It takes the invitation - and a few carefully-placed bribes - for Luke to get in. He sits down with Jasper, reminding him of how Ahsoka and his brother Adam once helped him. Jasper considers the Jedi Knights to be dead and him to be a nonentity. Leia sits next to him, trying to look demure and like she drank the drugs Jasper gave her, but really getting angrier by the minute.

Made a tasty swordfish steak with Chinese beans cooked in a lemon wine sauce and very sweet corn on the cob for dinner. Watched Sing while I ate, and later while I worked on crocheting. Buster Moon (Matthew MacConaughey) loves show business with every fiber of his koala being, but his beloved theater, the Moon, is in such dire shape, he's stealing electricity from others and avoiding his bank creditors. Desperate, he holds a singing contest. Half the city lines up after his doddering secretary Ms. Crowley (Garth Jennings) accidentally adds a few zeroes to the $1,000 prize, making it into $100, 000. Among those auditioning are Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a housewife pig who wants to get away from the drudgery of caring for 25 piglets, Ash (Scarlet Johanssen), a porcupine who wants to get out from the shadow of her obnoxious boyfriend and perform her own punk-rock composition, Gunter (Nick Kroll), a free-wheeling pig dancer, obnoxious-but-talented Sinatra-loving mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), and Johnny (Taron Egerton), a gentle gorilla who doesn't want to follow his father into the bank robbing business. Although Buster can be insensitive, he's also encouraging, especially to a very shy elephant named Meena (Tori Kelly) with an amazing voice. When disaster strikes the theater, this disparate group learns that one should never let fear or overwhelming odds stop you from doing what you love most.

This was a pleasant surprise. I really loved it. It reminded me a bit of Zootopia, to the point where I half-expected Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde to show up when someone threatened to call the police near the end. Sensational animation, too. Very colorful and fun. Wish there had been more details on some of the animals, but the effects animation was incredible, and the details on the theater itself were really nice

I didn't mind that the story wasn't the most original. I love stories like this. I did wish we'd spent more time with characters other than Buster Moon. Frankly, I found everyone but him to be interesting. Buster, for all his charm and encouragement, was a bit of a jerk who was lucky his theater hadn't been repossessed well before this. Ash and her boyfriend problems, Johnny and his father, Meena and her encouraging family, and Rosita's brilliant method of keeping her family going in her absence were far more compelling. I also wish we'd dived a little further into this animal world. You learn very little about the actual city or universe itself.

Some of the performances were surprises, too. Egerton in particular was a revelation - who knew the kid from the Kingsman films could belt Elton John like a champ? Some people complained that Witherspoon's big number was inappropriate for her voice, but I thought it was a riot. And MacFarlane's Sinatra number in the finale would have made the Chairman of the Board himself proud.

If you're as passionate about the theater as Buster and me or are a big fan of the cast or musicals, you may find yourself cheering along with this one, too.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Trouble In the Fall

Got up earlier than I have been of late. Started the morning with breakfast and two black-and-white Silly Symphony shorts to celebrate the first day of fall. "Autumn" is one of the early music video shorts, depicting animals gathering food for the winter. "The Cat's Out" has a lot in common with the later "Pluto's Judgement Day," including some nightmarish imagery. Here, it's the feline who gets judgement from the trees, birds, and insects in the backyard after chasing a bird onto the roof.

Worked on writing through 12:30. Went back and added a scene between Leia being drugged and Leia awakening in the Royal Suite that has Hank ending up in a storage room. Charlie's tossed in with him and ends up holding him while he unloads the drugs - and whatever he last ate - from his stomach.

The next day, Arturro and Chip bring Luke the message from Leia. Chip gives Luke an invitation to a private tea luncheon at the Oasis Bar and Grill on the beach, where Jasper intends to show off Leia to his mobster buddies. Clad in his new black leather jacket with the Jedi Knights patch on the back, Luke tells the duo that he intends to crash the party.

Broke at 12:30 to do some decorating. With this being the first day of fall, it was finally time for the summer decorations to come down and the general fall items to go up. I only had enough time to put out the fabric leaf garlands, metal and wood garlands, the little "nuts and seeds" beaded wreath, the big bow wreath, and a few odds and ends like the embroidered pillow from JoAnn's and the dangling scarecrow Mom made for me when I was in college. (But the scarecrow bell broke. Boo! I'll have to fix him when I can.)

Ran an episode of Wonder Woman from the third season while I worked and had a really quick lunch. "The Deadly Sting" has been turning sure-thing football teams into losers and underdogs into winners. Diana's sent to discover just what it is that's causing this..and finds herself flung headfirst into the world of illegal sports betting and organized crime.

I was slightly late heading out, but I didn't think that would be a problem...until I realized the chain was off the bike. There was no one around to fix it, and it was too late to call for a ride or a cab. I just walked to work and got in ten minutes late.

After all that, work wasn't too bad. I did get stuck in the register for 20 minutes when we were a little busy. In fact, that was the only time we were really busy all day. I did trash and the few return that were there and helped the head bagger with baskets and carts, then did them on my own after she went home.

Not too bad of a schedule this week. Wednesday and next Saturday off and more morning hours than I have been getting lately, including an early day Thursday. Still wish I had more hours; otherwise pretty par for the course.

It's probably just as well that I didn't have a lot of grocery shopping to do this week, considering I couldn't carry as much while walking as on the bike. Took advantage of sales and online coupons to restock yogurt, skim milk, cake mix (Duncan Hines was on sale), mandarin oranges, toilet paper, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and cereal. Didn't need the dark chocolate chips or peanut butter, but they were both on really good sales.

It took me so long to get home and get everything put away, I didn't get to dinner until past 7:30. Watched an episode of The Backyardigans to cheer me up after all the trouble this afternoon. Tyrone and Pablo think their fields of exceptional corn is a "News Flash." TV reporters Tasha and Uniqua and cameraman Austin disagree. At least, until they mistake the boys' corn "decorations" for crop circles and think aliens are coming! Now the boys have to keep up the deception if they want their corn to continue to be the best thing around.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The End of the Matrix

It was still bright and sunny when I got up this morning, but not nearly as humid as it has been. It was a good time for some cleaning after breakfast. I finally got to vacuuming and washing the windows. I'll see if I can dust really fast tomorrow.

Ran a couple of episodes of The Backyardigans while I did my chores. "Samurai Pie" is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. You won't see a moose teach his purple kangaroo assistant how to make The Great Pie for a hippo Empress using moves of warriors of ancient Japan, scored to spaghetti western music, anywhere else. 

"Whodunnit?" is less creative but still pretty cute. Sherlock Pablo has to find out who stole Lady Tasha's jewels at Mystery Manor. Was it Tyrone the Butler? Austin Frothingslosh, who leaves suddenly for what seems like no reason? Or Uniqua Underhood, who knows about the robbery before it happens?

Headed out to run today's errands around 10:30. Started at the Oaklyn Library. Not surprisingly, given the nice day, it was just the librarians and me for the entire half-hour I was there. I looked over the DVDs, but mostly reorganized the picture books. Took out Batman Begins and The Matrix Revolutions (which I had out last week, but didn't get to watch before the DVD recorder died). 

Went home, put the DVDs upstairs, grabbed my iPod and coupons, and rested briefly before heading back out again. I picked up the bus at the White Horse Pike across from Merryfields Bar and Grill. It was touch and go around some road repairs in Westmont. Otherwise, there was no traffic and no problems. I was at the Market Place in Cherry Hill by 12:30. 

Pei Wei is the first restaurant you see when you get off a block from the Holiday Inn. I just went right in and was grateful that, despite the busy main room, the line wasn't too long. Had crab wontons in sweet chili sauce. The chili sauce was a little spicy, but not too horrible. The crab wontons were filled with an odd cream cheese-crab mixture. I did taste the crab, but not too much else. Washed them down with chai (lukewarm) tea.

First stop was Bed Bath and Beyond. I wanted to finally put a dent in that stack of coupons for them I've had laying around for over a year. It wasn't too hard to find a nice, plump brick red cushion for my dining area chair. (I like the kind that tie - the ones that stick on are harder to get off and make a mess when you try.) It took me a little while longer to dig up the magnetic curtain rod (which were on a rack near the back of the curtain area) or a curtain that would work and wasn't too expensive. Found a simple light brown weave on clearance that'll do for now. I noticed Miss Willa uses a suction cup hanger for her wreath; thought I'd try that.  Also grabbed conditioner. With the coupons, all of this cost $35.

Had no luck anywhere else. The only tire the had at Dick's that was close to the right size was way too expensive. I checked twice and didn't see anything. Couldn't find a box to plug in my Wii and my VCR with my TV at Best Buy, either. I may order both online. Saw a few interesting Mercedes Lackey novels at Barnes and Noble that the library doesn't have, but held off on buying them. Christmas is coming (and so's a lot of used book sales). (And they didn't have anything new on the Star Wars front besides some toys.) I did get rolls at a busy Wegman's for dinner, along with flavored water and money for the bus. Browsed briefly through Hallmark's just to kill time (and check out their Star Wars Itty Bittys). 

The bus showed up literally a second after I stepped up to the bus stop sign. Once again, there were no problems, not even around the road repair. I got to the White Horse Pike 15 minutes later, then rode straight home.

Hung the curtain and tied the pillow on the chair as soon as I got home. The curtain's a little long, but not as much as I expected. I can always crochet a rope to tie it back. Maybe I could buy lengths of fabric to make some seasonal curtains from yard sales and craft stores, or even crochet them.

Spent the next few hours writing. Leia awakens with a fuzzy head and the realization that she was drugged the night before. The maids put her shoes on and do her hair. They try to get her into frilly teddies before she vetoes that idea. When Jasper arrives, he insists on dressing her and choosing her clothes and accessories like his own private Barbie doll, including a gold and diamond choker as proof of "ownership." 

Arturro is among the waiters serving breakfast. After catching Jasper drugging her tea this time, she manages to hand it to Arturro to get rid of and hands off a note for Luke and Lance to him.

I got so into writing, it was 7:30 before I broke for dinner! The rolls became turkey meatball sandwiches. Ate them with Ratatouille made from the last of a lot of vegetables that were starting to get too soft in the fridge. 

Did The Matrix Revolutions while I ate, and later as I went online. We pick up where we left off, with Neo (Keanu Reeves) stuck in The Matrix. Or, more specifically, he's at a train station that's some kind of limbo, chatting with a strange Indian family and The Oracle (Mary Alice). The others, including his lady friend Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss), rescue him and bring him back to their ship. But Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is making clones of himself right and left, including one of the rebels. Neo and Trinity have to get back to the Machine City and stop Smith before he completely takes over both the Matrix and the "real world." Meanwhile, Morpheous and his crew hold back the metal squids in an attempt to save their own ships and bring peace to the Matrix for good.

And I...had no idea what was going on here. What the heck was this? The first half, with the Indian family and the others trying to get Neo back, was odd but not too far off from the other films. In the second half, all bets are off. Neo's barely in the second half of the movie! Did they want to make a movie about a war, or the journey of a god-like character, or what? The ending made absolutely no sense whatsoever and was both anticlimactic and boring.

I wouldn't come within a hundred miles of this one unless you've seen the other movies and/or are a huge fan of this series. 

(And now that we've come to the end of this series, I can safely say that, even more than Pirates of the Caribbean, this should not have been a series. The first movie is so much of its time, there's no way they could have replicated it in subsequent films. The original film is highly recommended for action fans, kung fu nuts, sci-fi enthusiasts, and those who just want to know what was cool in the late 90's. The other two are only if you really, really loved the first movie and can't live without more.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Golden Afternoon

I slept in a lot longer than I planned today! When I did roll out of bed, I kicked off a sunny, warm day with a quick breakfast and an episode of Sailor Moon's fourth season. "Forest of Illusion: A Beautiful Fairy's Invitation" proves to be nothing but trouble for Chibi-Usa and her new friend, the author of a book on the fairy world. He thinks he sees a real fairy in the woods, but she's far from what she appears to be!

It was past noon when I finally made it out to the laundromat to get that done. Everyone must have been at lunch. The laundromat was dead as can be when I arrived. I worked on story notes and half-listened to soap operas. Two people walked through the entire time I was there. I didn't have anywhere near as huge of a load as I did yesterday, anyway. I was in and out in less than 40 minutes.

(I noticed while I was there that they're finally starting to rebuilt the Amato Bros deli across the street after it was gutted by a fire last year. It must have been worse than I thought. They tore it down to the bare wood and are pretty much starting over. I hope they're finished soon. I miss their hoagies, especially the Mama's Turkey.)

As soon as I got home and put my clothes away, I went right back out again. First stop was Phillies Phatties for a quick lunch. It was almost 2 by this point, and they were relatively quiet, with a couple of college guys eating pizza while watching the Science channel. I took my slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and can of Pitch Black outside to one of the benches to enjoy the afternoon sunshine.

Cut across Newton Lake Park to the Haddon Township Library. It couldn't have been a nicer day for a ride. It was warm and still a bit humid, but that deliciously cool wind helped. The park looks absolutely glorious at this time of the year. The trees are still mostly green; lacy goldenrod waved in the breeze. I've seen some algae down by the ramp at Kendall Boulevard, but none here. The water sparkled like a newly-polished antique glass bottle.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy when I initially arrived. Since almost everything had been shelved that morning, I worked on organizing the adult and children's DVDs and pulling TV sets that had somehow ended up with the regular titles. Dodged the kids who came in after school let out as I worked. Took out Sing (which I never got to last week after the DVD recorder died), The LEGO Batman Movie, and Divergent, the first movie in the series of that title. Found more Mercedes Lackey Elemental fairy tale retellings; opted for the World War I-based Cinderella story, Phoenix and Ashes.

Since it was past 4 PM when I left, I took the short way home down Cuthbert Road. Stopped briefly at WaWa. They used to carry plain rolls. I couldn't find any today, but I did buy the Perrier Watermelon Sparkling Water. (It's good - really tastes like watermelon.)

Richard was working on the outlet when he got home. Turns out it wasn't the outlet. Some wire downstairs was crossed or something. He gave up intially...then came back and said he'd try something. Whatever he did worked. The outlet's been running fine since he left.

While he worked, I went on the computer and did some writing. Leia is taken to the Royal Suite, a pink, gold, and white confection of feminine frills and pseudo-Victorian furnishings. Maids wash her in a huge sunken tub, then dress her in a lacy nightgown and tuck her into a massive silk canopy bed with gold trim. Jasper's second-in-command Babe Fortuna brings her tea and muffins. The tea is drugged; it drops her into a deep sleep. He doesn't like Jasper's interest in the girl, especially given how strong-willed she is, but boss' orders.

It wasn't until after 7 that I finally broke for dinner. Made a quick scrambled eggs with tomato, onion, and cheese while watching more Sailor Moon episodes. Ami jumps to conclusions when she sees Mamoru with an attractive woman in "Drive to the Heavens: The Dream Car Fueled With Love." Turns out he's just helping the woman with a vintage car that she and her late husband had dreamed of restoring. Ami's suspicion quickly turns to enthusiasm. The other Guardians are so delighted with her dream, they help out, too. Their dreams may end up off the road when a look-a-like of her husband shows up, trying to encourage her to give up on her dream. But some dreams are too good to be true...

Finished off the disc with "Aiming for the Top: The Pretty Swordswoman's Dilemma" while having Tomato-Spice Cake for dessert. The "pretty swordswoman" is actually a little girl Chibi-Usa's age who is learning the art of samurai swordsmanship. She trains hard and lives harder in order to impress her mother, who is also an excellent swordswoman. Chibi-Usa thinks the mother is abusive, but Usagi can tell she loves her daughter and is worried about how intense she is with her training. Her mother is right to be worried. The girl is so absorbed with her desire to be a warrior, she doesn't realize she's the Black Circus' next target...

Put on The LEGO Batman Movie while going online. In this homage to all things Dark Knight, Batman (Will Arnett) is the top crime-fighter in crime-ridden Gotham City. New police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) is fed up with his brooding, his vigilante ways, and his working outside the law. She's restructured the police department to eliminate the need for him. Things get worse when all the villains in Gotham break in and surrender. Batman just wants to dump The Joker (Zack Galafinakis) in Superman's Phantom Zone. He recruits his newly-adopted ward Dick Grayson, aka Robin (Michael Cera), to help him steal the Phantom Zone Projector. Unfortunately, the Joker gets it first, forcing Barbara to arrest the boys. She changes her mind when they learn the Joker has recruited all the villains in the Phantom Zone to help him destroy Gotham! Now Batman has to learn how to work with real friends if he's going to stop this menace...whether he likes it or not.

Cute take on Batman's lone wolf image and how it's evolved over the years, from Adam West to Ben Affleck. To be honest, I'd probably get more of this movie if I were a bigger fan of Batman, but even I enjoyed seeing Barbara take the "Caped Crusader" down a peg and how adorably nerdy Robin was. The animation was amazing, too, especially in the action scenes. It's incredible how they manage to do all those crazy Gotham buildings with plastic bricks. I was less impressed with the Joker. Galafinakis just sounds pass for Gotham's nastiest villain.

Your enjoyment of this one will depend on how big of a fan of Batman you are...but even those who aren't that into the Dark Knight will probably have fun with some of the gags and the bright brick-by-brick animation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Love and Mystery are On the Air Tonight

It was still cloudy and gloomy when I got up this morning and still humid, but not nearly as hot. I ran an episode of the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? set in San Francisco's Chinatown while eating breakfast. It's a "Mystery Mask Mix-Up" when Daphne buys a jeweled mask in an antique shop that a phantom also wants. Mr. Fong, a historian, claims the relic once belonged to an ancient warlord whose ghost wants it back. Velma thinks there's someone else behind the spooky goings-on.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. In the dead of night, after even the casino has cleared out, Leia and Charlie creep into the lobby. Leia, who swiped the keys to the cage from Jasper, frees Hank. Her kiss breaks him somewhat out of his drugged state, though he can't see her well. He lost his prescription sunglasses when he fell into the tank, and his spares are in the Falcon. Charlie dreamily compares it to the tale Jasper told earlier, insisting that it's the princess, not the evil wizard, who breaks the curse over the warrior.

Jasper catches them just as they're leaving. He orders his men to wash the powder off Hank, then toss him and Charlie in the basement. Leia is shoved into his lap. He'll keep her as his mistress and personal plaything, to her disgust.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Ran the first special on one of my homemade DVDs as I ate. Rescue at Nightmare Castle was the very first My Little Pony special, from 1982. Firefly, the bravest of all the Pegasus ponies, brings Meghan, a normal human girl, to their world. Tirak, an evil demon, has been stealing ponies to transform into dragons to pull his chariot. If he gets enough, he'll create the Night That Never Ends! Meghan and the remaining ponies seek the help of the absent-minded Moochick and singing Sea Ponies to defeat the nasty creature.

Work was nowhere near as annoying as it has been lately. It began showering when I was riding to the Acme, and continued to shower off and on (sometimes heavily) for the rest of the day. It was hardly the best time to be lingering after work. We were never more than mildly steady the entire night. I mostly gathered carts and baskets; briefly did the trash later and mopped the women's bathroom (the men's didn't really need it) early on.

The rain had begun to pick up as I was riding home. I arrived quite damp. Ran Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown, the next title on the disc, as I changed into dry clothes and tossed some vegetables into the leftover beef soup for dinner. While acting as a watchdog for Peppermint Patty, Snoopy encounters the poodle of his dreams and proposes. As the kids prepare the wedding ceremony, Snoopy's brother Spike tries to earn enough money to head east for the event.

Thought I'd try something a little different tonight. I love tomato soup, and I thought the recipe for Tomato-Spice Cake in The Cake Doctor actually sounded delicious. Since I used the non-concentrated Cream of Tomato soup, I eliminated the water and added brown sugar. Oooh, it came out soooo nicely. Who knew tomato soup could compliment spice cake so well, you barely taste the tomato?

Watched Radioland Murders as I baked. Love and mystery are on the air in 1940 as radio station WBN goes coast to coast to become America's fourth network. Writer Roger Henderson (Brian Benben) is only interested in getting back into the good graces of his wife Penny (Mary Stuart Masterson) after he had an affair with the vamp-ish Claudette Kasenbach (Anita Morris). He suddenly has a lot more on his mind than his love life when people begin dying backstage, including Claudette's estranged German husband (Larry Miller), the director (Jeffrey Tambor) and the station's owner (Ned Beatty). Roger has the bad luck to be near the crime every time, making the police suspect him. Now he has to clear his name, or he might be writing his final scene in prison.

The first half of this movie is fast and funny, with some great cameos (look for George Burns in his final screen appearance, among others) and delightful parodies of real-life radio shows. The trouble is in the second half, after the murders stop and Roger realizes it wasn't just a love triangle. This is where the slapstick and farce take over, seriously bogging down the remainder of the film and taking the spotlight away from the carefully crafted radio spoofs.

If you're a fan of the cast, old-time radio, or screwball comedy, you might be willing to give this kooky mystery a try.

Finished the night online while watching another little-known comic mystery. Clue is based around the famous board game that has six people accused of killing Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving) in a spooky mansion. Here, they're joined by butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and busty French maid Yvette (Colleen Camp), both of whom may know a lot more about the murders than they reveal at first. After Boddy's death, the bodies begin to pile up, and now the entire crew - goofy Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), sassy madam Miss Scarlet (Leslie Ann Warren), prim politician's wife Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), lusty psychiatrist Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), black widow Mrs. White (Madeline Khan), and clumsy Mr. Green (Michael McKean) - have to figure out who dunnit, before someone does it to them "in the hall, with the revolver."

This has been one of my favorite movies since my family taped it off cable around 1987. Mom always called it our official "stormy evening" movie - we watched it whenever there was an especially spooky thunderstorm. Like Radioland Murders, this is a fast-paced farce with a great all-star cast at the top of its game. Unlike Murders, it doesn't overstay its welcome or lose focus on its core cast and the mystery at hand. Everyone has a moment to shine, from Curry's breathless summation of the entire film to Kahn's "breathing, breathless" speech towards the end that was apparently improvised.

A big problem - and part of why the critics may have complained - are the multiple endings. All three are included on the DVD. You can either run one at random, or all three. (I prefer all three, as it is on streaming services and the original video. It's more fun that way, and really just what I'm used to.) Audiences at movie theaters, however, only got one random ending, something that baffled people then. Between the game tie-in and the multiple endings, I suspect this movie was simply ahead of its time.

If you love a good comedy or a good mystery, or are intrigued by the multiple endings gimmick, this is one of the most underrated comedies of the 1980's and is highly recommended.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Rain and the Sun Together

Started off the day - and continued to test the new DVD player - with a first season Backyardigans episode. Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone can't decide on whether to play something fast, thrilling, or funny. Tasha suggests a "High Tea" party. This is met with groans from the others. Tea parties are boring! Not the way Tasha does them. She takes the kids off an adventure to the jungles of Borneo, the palace of the Emperor of China (Austin), and the Gobi Desert to find the right ingredients for the perfect cup of tea.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Jasper tries to ask Leia out to dinner, but she refuses. He's flabby, sweaty, and vulgar, not to mention a gangster. She wants nothing to do with him. He has distractions anyway. He's about ready to unveil his newest act. 

To Leia's horror, two men pull off a canvas tarp to reveal Hank in a cage, mostly naked and covered in white makeup to resemble a living statue. He's in a heavily drugged haze, enough to obey Jasper's commands to dance for the crowd. Jasper calls him a Grecian warrior who was enchanted by a wizard...and as the wizard's "descendant," he is now the only one who can awaken the "statue." His bodyguard Babe Fortuna holds Leia back as he returns the "statue" to his cage, setting him up in the lobby to be displayed like a decoration.

Charlie and Lance meet her in a quiet corner of the casino floor. She's more determined than ever to get Hank - and all of them - out of there. The trio make plans as people begin to move elsewhere for the evening...

Switched back to a homemade DVD when I broke for lunch. (After getting a call for Charlie that he planned on turning off the water to work on a clogged sewer pipe. Whatever. I was going to have yogurt and muffins anyway.) The Muppet Babies Video Storybooks were what they said on the tin - a series of made-for-video shorts, each based around one of the Muppet Babies picture books of the mid-80's. They were made with minimal animation and look as cheap as they probably are, but the stories are charming, and they do feature wrap-arounds and narration by the adult Kermit, and in the episode I watched, Robin.

Kermit tries to read Robin stories to get him to go to sleep, but he keeps asking for more. The first has a bored Gonzo imagining he's a pirate following a "treasure map" on the back of a cereal box, and discovers how much fun creating stories in your mind can be. In the second story, Baby Piggy's holding a ball for all her dolls. Gonzo wants to play too, but she says no. He'd ruin the party. She learns just how snobbish she was acting when her beloved clown doll acts out and ruins things anyway...and she still forgives him, because she's his friend. The third has Kermit, who refuses to sleep, dreaming he helps a knight who didn't get a good night's rest rescue a beautiful princess from a fire-breathing dragon.

I ended up spending the first half of work in the registers. A cashier had called out, and they needed extra help. It wasn't so bad when I came in, but rush hour was insane, with very long lines. Today was the end of a four-day sale, and the Giants played Monday Night Football. (Incidentally, the Detroit Lions mauled them 24-10.) It was so bad, they finally pulled me out of the registers around quarter of 5 to do carts. I also ended up doing some bagging. 

(Incidentally, the weather was really weird tonight. It was sunny for most of the day, until around 4:30, when the clouds started to build...sort of. We were showered on by one big, thick cloud for about ten minutes. By the time I finished, the clouds were gone and the sun had returned.)

While it wasn't as hot as it has been, thanks to a nice, cool breeze, it was still really humid. I went straight into the shower when I got home. I bought two cans of soup that were on clearance (along with milk and bakery chocolate chip cookies) on my way home. I settled on having Beef Vegetable Soup for dinner. 

Since the book I'm currently reading, Mercedes Lackey's version of Beauty and the Beast titled The Fire Rose, is set in San Francisco just prior to the 1906 earthquake, I thought I'd watch the 1936 movie San Francisco tonight. Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald) arrives at Blackie Norton's (Clark Gable) Barbary Coast night club without a cent to her name, looking for a singing job. He hires her, and the two eventually fall for each other. Blackie's buddy Father Tim (Spencer Tracy) thinks Mary could do better. So does Jack Burley (Jack Holt), who wants her to sing at his opera house. Mary doesn't want to break her contract, but changes her mind when Blackie tries to push their relationship too hard. Meanwhile, Blackie's trying to get onto the San Francisco Board of Directors, hoping to reform fire codes and vice in the Coast. Burley, who owns some of those firetrap tenements, doesn't like this at all and arranges to have Blackie's saloon shut down. Mary sings in his honor at a local ball and wins a prize. Blackie turns it away...and instantly regrets it when the earth rumbles beneath them, the ground splits open, and all hell literally breaks loose.

Classic early disaster film set the mold for many that came after it. While Gable, Tracy, MacDonald, and Holt aren't bad (Tracy was Oscar-nominated; the sound recording won), the real stars of this film are the still-amazing special effects in the last 20 minutes. Even today, the sequence is incredible, with all the falling debris and cracked floors. 

If you love the cast, old-fashioned romantic melodrama, or disaster movies, this is one of the earliest and best of the genre. 

Oh, and first of all, as you may have guessed from the shower, the water's back on. Second, Richard said he was going to look at the outlet. I'm guessing he did. It's now covered by duct tape. He hasn't told me exactly what happened, but my guess is the outlet is old and finally died.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Movin' Right Along

Began another warm, sunny morning with simple Buttermilk Pancakes and mandarin oranges for breakfast. Listened to a couple of kid-friendly record soundtracks while I ate and made Apple-Butterscotch Muffins. The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper both have really fun scores. "The Rainbow Connection" was the hit from Muppet Movie, but my favorite number is the jazzy instrumental version of "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along" on side 2.

While Great Muppet Caper wasn't as big of a hit, the music is almost as good. The lovely ballad "The First Time It Happens" was nominated for an Oscar. I also like the meta opening number "It's a Movie!"

In honor of the sequel due out late next year, I ran the soundtrack for Mary Poppins as I got ready to go to work. Great cast here, including Julie Andrews as "practically perfect" Mary and Dick Van Dyke as her jack-of-all-trades beau Bert, not to mention such character actors as Ed Wynn as Uncle Albert (singing "I Love to Laugh"). "Chim Chim Cheree" may have won the Oscar, but my favorite numbers are two gentle lullabies that demonstrate the Sherman Brothers' ability to write ballads for a musical without a traditional girl-meets-boy plot, the dreamy "Stay Awake" and touching "Feed the Birds."

It was crazy at work when I arrived. I was outside for most of the day. I did get stuck in a register again, this time only for about 20 minutes, and I did have to deal with some cranky customers. Otherwise, I stuck to gathering carts. Unlike yesterday, I had plenty of help from two teenagers and an older bagger who mainly works outside. Despite the Eagles game beginning a hour after I arrived, it remained fairly busy right up until I left.

(Oh, and while they actually played really well, the Eagles just couldn't out-run the Chiefs and lost to them with a respectable 27-20.)

The DVD player was waiting for me on the steps when I got home. It did prove easy to set up; just had to plug everything in the right place. I can't believe how much smaller it is than the recorder! Doesn't even take up a third of the space that the older one did.

Unfortunately, almost as soon as I did get it together...the light on the power strip died. Nothing worked in the corner where the entertainment area is. Not even the CD player, which wasn't plugged into the power strip. After spending over a half-hour trying to figure it out, I called Richard and told him that the fuse had blown.

Only got a little writing in. Lance, who is passing himself off as a gambler, comes to talk to Leia as she finishes her number. He can't find Hank...and Jasper is eyeing her. He warns her about dealing with the corpulent gangster, but Leia insists she can take care of herself.

Broke at quarter of 7 for a quick leftovers dinner. Richard showed up as I was finishing. I'd already moved the power strip to the outlet behind the shelves with the Christmas DVDs, where I keep the lamp for the entertainment area. It worked perfectly fine. Richard says there might be something wrong with the socket. He'll fix it tomorrow. Charlie can't do it - he's got a lot of other projects going on, including an out-of-town one.

Tested the new DVD player with Summer Magic, the movie I tried to watch when the DVD recorder died last week. This time, it played just fine (and a lot quieter than the previous one). Based after the novel Mother Carey's Chickens, this live-action Disney musical takes us to New England in the early 1910's. The recently-widowed Mrs. Carey (Dorothy MacGuire) takes her three children to live in a big old house in Maine after having lost all their money in a bad investment. Daughter Nancy (Haley Mills) in particular is delighted. She loves the country and the new house and especially Ossium Poppum (Burl Ives), the kindly general store owner who helps them repair the house. Even the arrival of her snooty cousin Julia (Deborah Walley) can't diminish her happiness. However, the arrival of the house's wealthy real owner may throw a crimp into her new life...

I consider all of Disney's live-action musicals to be underrated, and this one is no exception. The charming, meandering story makes it perfect to watch in late summer/early fall. (I usually put it on between late August and early October.) If you love other musical excursions into Americana like Meet Me In St. Louis and On Moonlight Bay, you may want to enjoy a little "summer magic" too.

Finished the night with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as I went online. I did it partially to see how a homemade DVD would work (this is one of the movies I dubbed), and partially because I haven't watched it in ages. (Yes, it worked just fine.) Gene Wilder is the title character, a mysterious candy maker who is opening his chocolate factory for the first time in years. He sends out five Golden Tickets to the general public, inspiring a buying frenzy. While most of the children who find them are spoiled, selfish, and bratty, Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) is a gentle boy from a poor family who is a genuinely good kid. In the end, the kids, their guardians, and even Wonka himself learn the real winners are those with a sweet heart, not just a sweet tooth.

Later versions, including the 2005 remake and the two current stage musicals, would emphasize the darker edges in the story and update most of the kids' faults. (Roald Dahl himself apparently hated this version.) I've always liked this one. It's just dark enough (with that crazy boat ride) and the music is wonderful. It's a family favorite, to the point where it was the first movie we rented when we bought a VCR around 1985.

Highly recommended to families with older grade school kids on up who love musicals and can handle the darker aspects. (Those looking for an adaptation that's closer to the book or is a little darker may want to try the 2005 Tim Burton version instead of or before this one.)

Incidentally, I moved both the VCR and the DVD recorder out to the back room for now. I may put the VCR back eventually, but the recorder's done for. That'll probably go out the next time I put out the trash.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Farm Market Before the Rain

Ugh. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't sleep last night. I was still tired even after laying in bed for a while, writing and finishing Anne of Ingleside. (Incidentally, my favorite of the Anne books is still the first story of Anne's arrival in Green Gables. While I also like Anne of the Island and Anne's House of Dreams, none of the sequels can quite surpass the original. Rilla of Ingleside was by far the best of the three books about Anne's family after she's grown and married, and possibly the most tragic book in the entire series, with its World War I setting.

The original is required reading, especially for young girls. The sequels aren't necessary for anyone but Anne fans, or those who enjoyed the first and want more.)

Listened to Alice In Wonderland while I had breakfast. The Peter Pan children's album I have from the mid-70's does have some nice music, including the dreamy title song and "The Queen Has Commanded," but the most unique thing about it is the artwork for the storybook. A very modern  Alice, complete with Malibu Barbie blond hair, cavorts through a still-Victorian Wonderland that looks more like it was drawn by Marvel Comics in the mid-70's than a children's record company.

Headed out for the Collingswood Farm Market around 9:30. At that point, it was still a nice day, sunny and bright, if a bit warmer and more humid than yesterday. The fall harvest is starting to roll out in earnest now. I saw pears, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and gourds for the first time this year, and leeks for the first time since spring. Made my way through the crowds well enough to buy Bosc pears, Chinese beans, a cucumber, and small Gala apples. 

Hunted up a couple of yard sales on the way home. First stop was Everett Avenue, a few blocks down from Collingswood High School. They had a box filled with recipe books from the 50's through the 80's. Thought I'd give Better Homes and Gardens Jiffy Cooking and Sunset Cook Book of Breads a whirl. Had less luck at a sale on Woodlawn Terrace a block from my apartment in Oaklyn. It was mostly furniture and vintage appliances, nothing I really need.

Worked on writing for a while after I got in and put everything away. Leia and one of Jabba's showgirls pass a new statue being added to the lobby as they're heading for the stage. She doesn't have much time to inspect how lifelike it is...because it's showtime! As she performs with the other dancers, she catches the arrival of corpulent mob boss Jasper "the Hutt" himself...who never takes his big yellow eyes off her. She's more interested in figuring out where Hank is...

Broke at 1 for lunch, this time running Mickey Mouse Disco. Yes, it's what the title says. The Disney gang spoofs the disco dancing phenomenon of the late 70's with original comic numbers and disco covers of songs from earlier films. My favorite of the new material is "Welcome To Rio," with it's catchy tropical rhythm. "Zip a Dee Doo Dah" is the best of the covers. 

Work was an absolute pain today. It wasn't bad when I got in. I was able to get all the trash inside and out done in the first hour. It picked up considerably after that. Every time I tried to do one of the full carts of returns or get to cleaning the bathrooms, I would be called up to take the register. Neither were ever remotely finished. One manager called me right as I was going on break. I figured it would do no good trying to explain it to her and wound up being more than 20 minutes late. I wanted to take my break on time because the other bagger was leaving early. And of course, I had no help with corrals that were bulging with carts for the rest of the evening. Thankfully, it did slow down enough by 5 that I was able to fill both sides before I headed home.

Clouds were starting to creep in, even as I was going to work. They grew darker and darker the longer I was outside. It did wait until I was long home and out of a much-needed shower to start raining. 

(Ran into Richard, one of my next-door neighbors, on the way in. He'd been tinkering with my bike this afternoon. The inner tube's shot, like I figured...but so's the tire. I have an inner tube, but not a tire. I'll see if I can get somewhere to pick up a new one this week.)

I had leftovers for dinner while listening to Introducing the Care Bears, one of several recordings featuring the colorful critters in the early-mid 80's. There's a number for each of the original Care Bears who debuted when the franchise did. Most of them were unmemorable and/or marred by the fact that several of the Bears' voice actors couldn't sing. The best of a bland lot were Wish Bear's sweet "When I Grow Up" (even if her voice sounds like it's on helium) and Funshine's appropriately peppy 50's-style dance number. By far the most interesting thing about this one is the "picture album." The LP itself has some lovely artwork of the bears against a yellow background, possibly taken from the original greeting cards or Parker Brothers picture books. 

As the record was finishing, I thought I'd try something I haven't had in ages.I had four big Macintosh apples leftover from last week. The Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book has a wonderfully simple recipe for Apple Crisp that sounded perfect. Sliced two of the apples, sprinkled them with spices, salt, and added a 1/4 cup of water. Rubbed flour, sugar, and butter together, then spread it over the apples. Oh yummm. It came out flavorful and just sweet enough, and it smelled amazing in the oven. 

Ended the night online with the soundtrack from Return of the Jedi on YouTube. I still haven't been able to find the LP for this. I've seen it twice in ten years offline, and it was expensive both times. I'm guessing this one sold far less than the other two. While the music is excellent, it lacks iconic tracks like the credits music and "The Imperial March." Given my fondness for the Ewoks, I'm partial to a lot of the numbers that involve them, including "The Ewoks Parade" and the "Battle of Endor" medleys. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

I've Got the Sun In the Morning

The sun remained when I got up this morning, to my delight. In fact, it was even nicer than yesterday, just warm enough, with a nice breeze. Celebrated (and cheered myself up after a long week) with corn meal mush, strawberries, burnt butterscotch chip cookies, and one of my K-Tel albums, the second disc from the Pure Gold collection.

Worked a little bit on writing this morning. Thought it made more sense for Leia to blend in as a showgirl. (Plus...even as a kid, I thought that infamous metal bikini was just one feathered and beaded headdress away from belonging on a stage at Bally's Wild West.) One of her fellow dancers informs her that Jasper Hutt, mob boss and owner of the casino, has his eye on her. Leia ignores her, even when she tells her what "the Hutt" did to his previous mistress when she spurned him.

Broke a little after 1 to eat a quick lunch and get ready for work. Listened to Frank Sinatra - The Duets while I ate. I remember this being a big deal in the early 90's. Sinatra was a legend by that point, and it was pretty cool just to hear some newer singers work with him. On the other hand, this was achieved by having Sinatra and the other singer record at different times, which garnered some complaints about lacking spontaneity.

My favorite numbers are the ones where the performers come closer to complimenting Sinatra's style. Among the better ones are the gorgeous "I've Got a Crush On You" with Barbara Streisand, a fun "You Make Me Feel So Young" with Frenchman Charles Aznavour, "Come Rain or Come Shine" with Gloria Estefan, and "What Now My Love" with Aretha Franklin. I can see the critics' complaints, though. Some numbers do sound like the other performer came in from some place entirely different. Particularly problematic are the bland version of "New York, New York" with Tony Bennett and "The Lady Is a Tramp" with Luther Vandross, whose laid-back velvet voice clashes with Sinatra's crooning.

After quickly sweeping the bathrooms, I spent the majority of the first half of my shift outside, gathering carts and trash. It was too nice to be inside, anyway. Yesterday's humidity had vanished, leaving blue skies and that wonderful breeze. It was still a bit warmer than it has been, but not out of line for mid-September.

It picked up considerably once rush hour started. The evening manager pulled me off returns to bag for her. Which I wouldn't have minded, if she hadn't stood behind the register and insisted on doing everything as fast as possible, even though there was already a cashier there. Neither of us could keep up to her satisfaction, and she wasn't terribly happy with me. I'm sorry, but as most of the managers have pointed out at one time or another, I am slow. I did the best I could. Not to mention, the managers are pretty much the only people who actually want to rush. Most of our customers are getting home from work or on outings. The last thing they want to do is rush through everything.

I was not up to cooking when I got out. Walked over to Arby's for a quick dinner. Despite it being the dinner hour, they were quiet inside when I arrived, with only two couples and a family with a toddler enjoying their meals. (The line was longer at the take-out windows.) I tried the Bourbon BBQ Turkey Sandwich, with curly fries and a Mountain Dew "Game Fuel" (cherry) soda. Oooh, very tasty, if a bit messy. The fried onions weren't all that crunchy, thanks to the sauce, but the sauce itself was just tangy enough, and the bacon was nice and thick.

Didn't really need a whole lot grocery-wise this week. Took advantage of a dollar for Jello boxes sale to restock gelatin and pudding mixes. Used coupons I'd gotten off a lady giving out samples earlier for the Yoplait Mix-Ins and online coupons for the generic organic blue chips and an already-on-clearance box of Puffs. Restocked tomato sauce, plain yogurt for baking, ground turkey, sugar, and actual chocolate chips (dark chocolate, in fact).

My schedule for next week is more-or-less the same as last week's, early or mid-afternoon hours and Wednesday and Thursday off. While the 12 to 4 on Sunday and next Saturday means I'll have to miss the Eagles game, it also means I'll be able to make a quick run to the Farm Market.

Listened to My One and Only while putting everything away. I have absolutely no idea what this 1983 Broadway show was about. Wikipedia mentions something about a barnstormer (Tommy Tune, who also directed) pursuing an English swimmer (Twiggy). I do know that there's some good Gershwin tunes ("Blah Blah Blah," "Funny Face," and "Little Jazz Bird" are especially fun), and that the show does lose something without its Tony-winning choreography.

Switched to Annie Get Your Gun as I went online. Did my later LP re-release of the 1946 cast album with Ethel Merman. I love her version of "Anything You Can Do" with Ray Middleton. (I give him credit for trying to hold a note as long as Merman!) Other good numbers here include Merman's versions of "I Got the Sun In the Morning" and "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun." Middleton's best moment is "My Defenses are Down" with the chorus.

And...thanks to extra money from working Labor Day, I was able to order a DVD player tonight. Went with a Sony on Amazon. It has most of the same capabilities as the top-selling Sony, but it's a bit cheaper and hooks up with a power cord rather than a port. My TV is an older model and doesn't have any fancy USB ports or anything like that.

By the way, to give you an idea of how old my DVD recorder is, the manufacturer is Toshiba. If their website is any indication, they don't make DVD and Blu-Ray players anymore. (They do still make laptops. Good. I like my Toshiba laptop. It's about five years old. I may need to replace it in a few years, but it runs fine right now.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How Can I Change My Luck?

I was so glad to be able to sleep in a bit this morning. After all the trouble I've had all week, I needed it. Started out the day with breakfast and the original Broadway cast of Half a Sixpence. Thought it was time to revisit this, with a very popular revival having just closed in the West End. Based after a novel by H.G Wells, this "local boy makes good" story has young Kipps (Tommy Steele) inheriting a fortune. He wants to climb the social ladder and marry a wealthy beauty, but he ultimately ends up with the girl (Marti Webb) who loved him all along. He loses his fortune, but though he does eventually regain it, he's also learned that money can't buy happiness or a girl who really cares about you.

Until last year, most people considered this unrevivable, due to its reliance on pop and stage star Steele's charisma (and skills with a banjo). However, it is a cute show, with some nice songs. I'm especially partial to Ann's lovely ballad "Long Ago." (There's a film version with Steele I may try to dig up somewhere along the line as well.) The revival that just closed was apparently a heavily revised version, with far more songs (and songs that didn't always feature Kipps). It was such a big hit, the limited run was apparently continued three times. This was also the last British musical imported to Broadway before Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows started to turn up in the mid-late 70's.

Cleaned the kitchen after breakfast. I really shouldn't have put off cleaning for so long. The sink in particular was really, really grungy, and the counter wasn't much better. I've just been putting more focus on the writing lately.

It was humid out, but the sun (with occasional clouds) remained. It was originally supposed to shower for most of today. I took advantage of the decent weather to hit the Oaklyn Library and test the borrowed bike. I pumped both tires...and the bike ran just fine, other than the seat was still a little high. I was even able to get my basket over the brake wires.

First stop was the Oaklyn Library, partially to return those DVDs. They were surprisingly busy for a school day with fairly decent weather. There were several people on the computers and a family with two small children who had toys scattered all over the kids' area. I concentrated on DVDs rather than trying to step over their playthings.

Wanted to hit WaWa for lunch next. Of course, I got to the counter with my roast beef hoagie and Crystal Pepsi soda before I realized I'd left my wallet in my lunch bag. It was so embarrassing, and the guy at the counter sounded so upset, I just walked out without anything.

Ate the last slice of French Bread Pizza and an apple for lunch, then hurried back out again. I desperately needed to get a huge load of laundry done, including towels and sheets. At least my luck held here. The laundromat was empty when I arrived at 2:30, other than two men who were putting in a new vent window at the back of the driers. Saw maybe two people who weren't construction workers the whole hour I was there. I worked on story notes while half-listening to Right This Minute and General Hospital.

Headed home and finally got everything put away, then worked on writing for a few hours. Chip and Arturro head into Jasper's exclusive lounge area, where they encounter Leia. She was originally going to be a tough female bounty hunter, but I think I'll re-write her into posing as a showgirl, which makes more sense.

Made that pasta and turkey meatballs I mentioned yesterday for dinner, along with green beans and tomatoes. It was too hot to bake, though. I opted for bread and butter instead of garlic bread.

Listened to my double CD cast album for two antique musicals while I ate. Leave It to Jane from 1917 is the great-grandparent of every musical that involves academia. The tale of a "college widow" who convinces a student from their rival school to join their football team, this was one of the biggest early hits for songwriter Jerome Kern. Oh Kay! is a Gershwin hit from 1926, about rum runners who take over a Long Island mansion. The sister of one of them falls for the mansion's playboy owner. Hits from this one include "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Clap Yo' Hands," and "Do, Do, Do." Both of these come from hit off-Broadway revivals in the early sixties. As such, they lack the orchestration that Kay's studio version has...but it's also a chance to hear some rare material, including new lyrics added to Kay by PG Wodehouse, the show's original book author.