Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Winds of Halloween

Awoke early to a beautiful blue-and-gold Halloween morning, windy and cool...and utterly perfect for the time of year. Ran the first special of the day while eating Pumpkin Spice Life and the last of the grapes for breakfast. "Spook-a-Nanny" was the only original cartoon made for the 60's Woody Woodpecker Show. Most of the episode has Woody blowing up balloons for his boss Walter Lanz' Halloween party. By the time he finishes, other Lanz creations like Chilly Willy and Andy Panda have arrived. They play tricks to keep him out of the party. Woody tries to get in with the Beatles-esque ghost band, but he can't walk through the walls like they can.

Did two more Lanz shorts as I cleaned up from breakfast. As Universal's earliest animated star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit had a few go-arounds with their beloved horror icons. "Spooks" is Lanz' take on The Phantom of the Opera. Oswald's girlfriend Kitty is the chorus girl who is groomed to be a star by a deformed ghoul. He has to go after her when the spurned "Phantom" spirits her away to the caves below the theater.

"Wax Works" is slightly less spooky. A baby dropped on Oswald's doorstep finds himself wandering through the annoyed bunny's wax museum. He has fun when the figures start to move...at least until he finds himself in the horror room, and Universal's finest attempt to cover him in wax!

Spent the rest of the morning working on my story. The ladies spot something brown and slimy in the bushes. It turns out to be an enormous half-toad, half-man. His upper half looks like a toad that plays football, but he walks on two legs like a man and talks like a normal human. He tells Jessika to take the horses to his brother, who is in charge of the stables, then leads the others to their room. He explains that his Master wants them to be comfortable. Leia tries to ask him who his Master is and how they came to look like monsters, but Finn insists he can't answer those questions.

Broke at noon to have leftover chili for lunch. Ran Garfield's Halloween Adventure while I ate. Garfield and Odie dress as pirates to go trick-or-treating for some candy booty. Garfield snares a boat to take them further downriver and find more houses, but they end up stranded on an abandoned island instead. Turns out that pirates buried their treasure there a hundred years before on Halloween night. Now Garfield and Odie have to avoid the pirates and get home, or they may not live to enjoy their candy haul!

Did a Three Stooges short while getting my costume together. They also have an encounter with "Spooks" when they have to rescue a beautiful young girl from a haunted mansion. A mad doctor wants to put her mind into that of a gorilla. The guys now have to avoid both in order to save the maiden and their own brains!

Headed out around quarter after 1 to hit the Oaklyn Library really quickly. Wanted to do this week's volunteering there and show off my costume. I was a cowgirl this year. Tied on my red foam hat from Dollar Tree with yellow yarn. Crocheted a yarn belt and a lariat. Used the white bands Jen Waters sent me to hold the cuffs on my jeans for bike riding to hold on the plastic spurs on my Bearclaw boots. (Which didn't work very well. They kept sticking out. I had to mess with them all day to make them lay flat.) Stuck the plastic star on my yellow button-down shirt and blue vest. (I lost the star later at work.) Put on blusher, lip gloss, and a little neutral eye shadow, all the makeup a cowgirl really needs.

There wasn't much going on there. The librarian on duty was dressed as a witch. She and one older woman were chatting about the political blather on CNN. I think I saw one other person working on the computers. I organized the DVDs, ignored them, and moved on.

Did the reverse of my normal habits and took the long way down Nicholson Road to work. It was closer to the library than the Black Horse Pike. Nicholson is only open to traffic going one way, making it much easier to cross than usual. By 2 PM, most people were probably just starting to take their children trick-or-treating.

The Acme was even quieter. Pardon the pun, but it was dead all day. It never even got close to steady. We're never busy on Halloween unless the weather's terrible, Halloween is on a weekend, or the Phillies are in the playoffs. Today was none of the above. The weather was gorgeous, blustery but sunny and cool, it was Tuesday, and the Phils got nowhere near the playoffs. I briefly went outside for carts around 5, did what little trash there was, gathered baskets, and mopped the floors of the men's bathroom. Otherwise, I mostly wandered around and tried to look like I was returning things. They had no less than four baggers around by the end of the night, too. Way too much help for a night when we don't traditionally have much going on.

Rushed straight home after work, this time taking the White Horse Pike. Had barely enough time for soup and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when I got in. Linus Van Pelt intends to spend his Halloween waiting in a "sincere" pumpkin patch for his idol, the Great Pumpkin, to arrive and bring him treats. Sally joins him, against her better judgement. Charlie Brown is having his own problems with trick-or-treating. Snoopy spends his Halloween as a World War I flying ace fighting the Red Baron.

Grabbed the green and sage poncho my mother knitted for me years ago (I figured it looked vaguely Clint Eastwood-ish) and the plastic gun that came with the cowboy set, then headed out to West Clinton Avenue for this year's Oaklyn Halloween Parade. As usual, despite it being 7 when I arrived, they were nowhere near ready. Kids chased each other across the empty lot next to Tonewood Brewery, while their parents chatted in clusters by the sidewalk. Lights flashed from the two fire trucks leading the group.

I love how creative people get with costumes around here. I saw a pretty Cleopatra in lots of gold beads, a toddler chicken, a bunny in a fluffy tutu, several ghouls, a 70's hipster with a huge Afro, a Denver Broncos player, Princess Leia, two Snow Whites (a toddler and an adult), Belle, a mom rock star, a boy in a milk carton sandwich board, a Transformer, bikers (including a girl), Pikachu and dragon body suits, Mal from Descendants, Pennywise from It, Captain America, a police officer, Clark Kent ready to become Superman, a teenager in a teddy bear costume, a cute little badger, a "baby" in a giant diaper, Jason Voorhees, a mini-Chuckie from the Child's Play horror series, a wolf man, a teen sorceress, a dead harlequin, a vampire, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Batman, Rapunzel, and a princess in a pink velvet gown. One family had a Star Wars theme, with a mom Leia, a stormtrooper, and a tiny Rey. Another was all Ghostbusters, with a newborn Slimer in a stroller with Ecto-1 sides.

With such stiff competition, I was surprised to win third place in the 15 and over division this year. Clark Kent deservedly got first. (I forget who got second. Might have been the mom rock star.) I appreciate the five dollars. I might be able to celebrate with a decent lunch later this week.

Put on a spooky episode of Remember WENN while I was putting away my costume accessories and wiping off my makeup. In "The Ghost of WENN," Betty announces that they'll be doing a spooky horror tale during a stormy night. Diva actress Hilary Booth is only upset that she doesn't appear until later...until it becomes clear that something is stalking her through the station halls. Meanwhile, cowardly announcer and actor Mackie Bloom is spooked by an urban legend that the last actor who worked on the script died of a heart attack mid-way through the show.

Finished the night with Arsenic and Old Lace, which is actually set during Halloween. Stage critic Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) has just gotten married to the pastor's daughter (Priscilla Lane) who lives next-door to his kindly maiden aunts in Brooklyn. He's all ready to celebrate his nuptials with the family...until he finds out that his aunts have been poisoning lonely old men with no family. Their crazy brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt (John Alexander) buries the bodies in the basement, thinking he's digging the Panama Canal. Even as Mortimer tries to figure that out, his gruesome criminal brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) comes home, with his dubious facial surgeon (Peter Lorre) in tow. He's got his own bodies to hide...and he's not happy to see the brother he spent years tormenting. Mortimer has to try to get his aunts and uncle committed to a decent sanitarium, get his brother out of the house, and let the dim beat cop (Jack Carson) in on the madness, not to mention keep his new bride from figuring out what's going on.

Pitch-black comedy benefits from Grant's expert timing and Massey and Lorre as a pair of especially ghoulish criminals...but Alexander's totally hilarious turn as the delusional "Teddy" charges off with the picture.

If you're looking for a Halloween movie that's spooky but not bloody or gross, this hilarious dark farce is highly recommended.

And here's hoping that all of you had just as much fun as I did this Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Festival of Frights

After yesterday's torrential downpour, it was wonderful to look outside and see blue skies and blustery fall winds! Kicked off a spooky week with breakfast and Bugs Bunny's Howl-Oween Special. This is another collection of bits and pieces of Looney Tunes shorts, here revolving around Witch Hazel's pursuit of Bugs. Bugs does his best to avoid the cackling biddy and ending up on the short end of her broomstick, like Daffy and Speedy Gonzoles. Meanwhile, Sylvester deals with Tweety going back and forth between a tiny bird and a big, scary monster!

Did Raggedy Ann & Andy and the Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile while cleaning the bathroom. This rare 1979 special is the second of two cartoons featuring the two dolls directed by Chuck Jones. The duo round up an unhappy pumpkin that's been abandoned and bring him to a lonely boy. The child has been forbidden to go trick-or-treating by his grumpy aunt. Having gotten the pumpkin to his new owners, Ann and Andy remind the aunt what Halloween was like during her childhood.

Had mid-afternoon work again today. It was on-and-off steady, but nothing worse than that. I did carts when I first arrived and gathered the outside trash at one point, but I once again spent most of the afternoon doing returns. (Though I did get stuck in the registers at a few points when a cashier needed to go to the bathroom, and later when another's relief was late.)

It was such a nice afternoon, I took the long way home down Nicholson. Fortunately, the repairs seem to be confined to the train bridge at the moment. Despite the heavy winds, the sun was warm, and the sky was a rich blue. Dodged rush hour traffic until I got to the hill into Oaklyn, where I admired the late-season sunflowers and brilliant gold and green leaves on the foliage.

Worked on my story when I got home. Rey instantly says that she'll go to the frog's home and stay with him in Luke's place. Leia insists on coming along. Luke felt dark magic around the lake and manor - not evil, but definitely dark. The queen wants to know more about these talking half-men, half-frogs. Jessika and Kaydel, hoping for a grand adventure, join them. Leia finally tells Kylo Ren she loves him, but won't have anything to do with him while he's involved with Snoke, before taking the girls to get ready for their journey.

Kylo Ren and his two friends complain to Snoke about Leia's refusal to allow her daughters to marry them. Kylo's worried that Leia may recognize the frog-men. Snoke's not as concerned. Their spells were strong...strong enough to get past Leia's own powers and keep their victims hidden from her.

Had a quick dinner of leftover chili, then tried a no-bake cocoa-peanut butter-oatmeal cookie recipe from a Hershey's baking cook book I found at a yard sale a while back. It ended up very thick and goopy, more like fudge, but still very tasty! Watched Halloween Is Grinch Night while eating dinner. When a sour sweet wind stirs up the local animal population and a lake, the noise sends the Grinch on the prowl with his cart filled of psychedelic scares to Whoville. After he gets lost in the mountains, little Eukeriah Who takes it on himself to make sure that the Grinch never gets down that path.

Did another horror episode of The Monkees while cleaning up from the candy. It's a "Monstrous Monkee Mash" during the mid-second season when a vampire and his daughter lure Davy to their castle. The other three go after him, but Micky and Peter are also trapped by the spooky duo. It's up to Mike Nesmith to make sure they all get out of the castle alive.

Switched to Young Frankenstein before and after my shower. Professor Fredrick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the grandson of the famous mad scientist, but he's not terribly proud of his family's weird heritage. It isn't until he inherits his grandfather's castle and laboratory and finds his diary that he considers creating a monster of his own. His assistant Igor (Marty Feldman) brings him an abnormal brain, making the creature (Peter Boyle) more of a fright than a friend. Fredrick has to teach the monster how to live in regular society, while dodging the hook-handed head of the local town (Kenneth Mars) and his prim fiancee (Madeline Khan).

One of Mel Brooks' best works gentles down the satire in favor of a hilarious homage to classic Universal horror movies. The evocative, spooky atmosphere is spot-on, including the use of the sets from the original Frankenstein movies. Wilder and Feldman are having a lot of fun as the only slightly mad scientists; Glenn Close is great as the imperturbable housekeeper Frou Bluker (whinny).

If you prefer your horror more atmospheric than bloody or are a fan of Mel Brooks' other movies, this is a personal favorite of mine and is highly recommended.

Finished the night with another gentle horror tale. The crew in the Hundred Acre Woods is gearing up for Halloween night in Boo to You Too, Winnie the Pooh! While Pooh's hoping to trick-or-treat for honey and Rabbit wishes everyone would stay out of his pumpkin patch, Piglet's scared to death of the very idea of Halloween. Pooh says they just won't do the holiday, but Tigger, Gopher, and Eeyore cry foul. Everyone finally bands together to prove to Piglet that Halloween is really nothing to be afraid of.

If you enjoyed Boo to You, here's some other vintage Halloween specials and shorts I've dug up on YouTube:

Boo To You, Winnie the Pooh!
The Halloween That Almost Wasn't
The Wickedest Witch
Buttons and Rusty In Which Witch is Which?
The Littles' Halloween
Disney's Silly Symphonies: The Skeleton Dance
Disney's Haunted Halloween (Educational Short) 
Jack O' Lantern (Rankin Bass Festival of Family Classics)
Ub Iwerks at Columbia: Skeleton Frolic

Sunday, October 29, 2017

One Rainy Evening

Ugh. It was rainy and dreary when I got up this morning...and unlike last Tuesday, it didn't go away after a few hours. Brightened my morning with Dark Chocolate Chip Pancakes and my Monster Mash Party Music cassette. I bought it from the CVS in Wildwood around 2002, when I was no longer able to borrow the cassette of spooky sounds and rock covers Dad and Mom had owned since the mid-80's. No sound effects, but we do get decent covers of, among others, "Monster Mash," "Ghostbusters," "Spooky," "Abracadabra," "Bad Moon Rising," and for some reason, "Batdance" and "Macho Man."

Spent an hour working on writing, and another hour after I got in later. Luke arrives home, with gifts for all his ladies. Prince Ben and Snoke aren't as happy to see him. He brings Rey a beautiful rose made from gold an enamel...one that cost him more than just a few coins. He'd dropped it in a certain lake, and it was retrieved by a huge frog who walked and spoke like a man. The frog said he'd give it back...if Luke sent one of his daughters to live and eat with him for a year. Otherwise, Luke would have to go back and remain as a prisoner. Rey says instantly that she'll go, but Leia won't let her go alone...

Broke at 1 to get ready for work and listen to another Halloween party collection. Halloween Party Music is basically the same thing as my cassette, only in CD form and with different songs. Along with "Ghostbusters," "Spooky," and "Monster Mash," there's "Purple People Eater," "Rock Lobster," "Werewolves of London," "Disco Inferno," and "Love Potion #9," among others.

It was still raining by the time I finished breakfast. I ended up getting a ride to work with Dad, who needed a few things at the Acme anyway. It was insane when I got in, with long lines down the aisles. I got stuck in the register briefly before they ended up sending me outside. Thankfully, by the time I was helping two other baggers round up carts, the rain slowed down, then ended temporarily.

Once the Eagles - 49ers game began, that was the end of our customers. While it was never empty, it slowed down enough for me to come inside and avoid the rain starting up again. I spent the rest of the afternoon shelving three carts bulging with loose items and gathering baskets.

(The Eagles, despite the rain, did pretty well. From what I gathered, they once again started out badly, but the 49ers are even worse. They were up 17-0 by the end of the first half and went on to win 33-10.)

Jessa picked me up at the Acme and took me over to Dad's. Mark and Vanessa were just walking out as we were coming in. Rose showed up with Khai and Finley just minutes later. Poor Craig apparently has pneumonia, and Rose has had to take care of him and two young children and her job. She wanted to get the kids out of the house while Craig rested. (Oh, and Khai is apparently being a character from the Lego Ninjago series called Khai for Halloween. Little miss Finley is gong to be a unicorn.)

Chloe, Bree, and their mother arrived as I was finishing my lasagna and slice of Italian bread. After I ate, I followed the kids downstairs. Khai dumped out his Pokemon card collection. I watched the kids sort them out as I ate a slice of apple pie for dessert. We all had the Brach's autumn mix candy (including those candy pumpkins I love) from the candy bowl with the electronic hand.

After the kids got bored with Pokemon, they went looking for games in the shelves behind the bar. Chloe and Khai decided they'd rather throw Beanie Babies around, but Bree and I settled in for a fun game of Scrabble. I won, but he put in a really good showing for an 11-year-old and didn't lose by that much. It was actually really cozy, playing board games with the younger kids tossing toys around in the background, as the rain poured even harder outside.

Rose and her brood took me home after the games ended. I spent the rest of the evening writing, looking for my shaped cake pans (I'm hoping to make a pumpkin-shaped cake tomorrow), and listening to more scary music. In high school, it was my tradition to listen to my Broadway cast album for The Phantom of the Opera on Halloween night, after trick-or-treating. While I usually watch other things that night nowadays, I do still like to listen to my CD set around Halloween.

Chorus singer Christine (Sarah Brightman) is coached by what she thinks is an "angel of music" to sing the lead role at the Paris Opera in the late 1800's. He's really a disfigured man who lives under the Opera and calls himself "The Phantom" (Michael Crawford). Not only does the local diva refuse to give up her role, but the new managers of the Opera think the Phantom is all a hoax and won't give in to his demands. Meanwhile, Christine is being pursued by her old friend Raoul, a kind and handsome nobleman who does truly love her. It leads to a memorable climax in the catacombs under the Paris Opera...after the Phantom has brought down the chandelier on those who defied him!

If you have a taste for high melodrama or dark musicals, you'll love this. While one of the major reasons for this show's long-standing success - the spectacle of the Paris Opera in all its splendor - obviously can't come across on a recording, you do get the entire score in all it's grand glory, including the legendary performances of Brightman and Crawford as the leads. Not for those who like their musicals lighter or more subtle, but if you're a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music or the original book and you have a taste for campy romantic drama, this is well worth your time.

Finished out the night with two quieter jazz LPs as the rain continued to pour down. Witchcraft...!, by Ray Martin and His Orchestra, features instrument covers of numbers that involve witches and magic, including the title song, "Old Devil Moon," "Kiss of Fire," and "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." One Stormy Evening is a unique collection of sounds associate with rain storms and soothing songs for rainy nights. Most of the music are original numbers, but there is a cover of "Autumn Leaves."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Monster Cartoon Party

Rolled out of bed for Multi-Grain Cheerios and a couple of Max & Ruby shorts, starting with "Max's Halloween." Horror-phobic Ruby wants her brother to dress as a prince, but he'd rather be a scary vampire. "Ruby's Leaf Collection" will be the best in class...if Max stops burying the leaves his sister finds in his pile. Max insists that Ruby read the spooky story "The Blue Tarantula" before bedtime. It ends up giving both of them a pretty good scare. Max wants to hear the story of "Ghost Bunny" during the Bunny Scout Camp Out, but his sister would rather he went to bed.

It was almost 11 when I headed out to the Collingswood Farm Market. They're down to their last four weeks. There's now almost as many craft and service booths as produce tables. Even so, they were still busy with people buying food for their Halloween and birthday parties. I settled for cranberries, small apples, carrots, a tomato, and a red onion. 

Went straight home after that. Had just enough time for a quick writing session. Snoke wants to marry his apprentices, including Prince Ben, off to Leia's wards, and take Leia as his companion. Leia knows that what he really wants is the rich, fertile resources of Alderaan and refuses to agree to his demands. He's about to throttle Leia with his black magic when Leia's servant Clarence appears, telling her Luke's arrived. Snoke lets her go as the boys follow him, complaining that the girls aren't paying attention to them.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did more seasonal Max & Ruby as I ate the last few pieces of last night's pizza. "Max and Ruby's Perfect Pumpkin" will be the best in Mr. Piazza's grocery store, if Ruby can get her brother to stop trying to get the candy decorations off the grocer's scarecrow display. Ruby wants "Max's Jack-o-Lantern" to be a happy pumpkin. Her brother has other ideas. He's hoping "Max's Big Boo" will scare her sister, but she finds a way to turn the tables and give him the scare.

Work was on-and-off busy...but when it was on, the lines were down the aisles. I spent the first half of my shift doing carts and trash. Had trouble doing returns again. I tried to take a full cart of returns, like I was told to do...and of course, the manager on duty said to organize the cart, because the head manager likes it that way. I really wish there was one list of rules as to how to do these things that ALL the managers had to follow, regardless of whether they like it or not. I hate following six different sets of rules! That's part of why I live alone. The only person whose rules I'm following are mine. And I briefly got stuck in the register when we were really busy.

Hurried out of the store as soon as I possibly could. Switched to The Backyardigans while making dinner. In "Scared of You," Austin, the assistant to Tasha the mad scientist, must summon three monsters for a special party at her laboratory. Not only is Austin upset that he has to work on his birthday, but Tyrone the Mummy King, Uniqua the Werewolf, and Pablo the Vampire are scared to death of everything, including each other! Austin has to figure out how to get them to Tasha without frightening them away.

Runaway Brain may be the strangest Mickey Mouse short Disney ever did. Ran this one while having roasted broccoli, the last orange chicken leg, Cranberry Flummery, and Spicy Cranapple Muffins for dinner. This 1995 horror tale has Mickey heading to another spooky laboratory to make money for his and Minnie's anniversary vacation. Turns out that the mad scientist Dr. Frankenollie (Kelsey Grammer) meant the "mindless work" mentioned in his want ad literally. He ends up switching Mickey's brain with that of a monster that bears a very close resemblance to Big Pete. Now Mickey has to get the brains back in the right bodies and then dispatch the monster, before he decides to play King Kong with Minnie!

Began Mad Monster Party while cleaning up from dinner; finished it after my shower. One of Rankin-Bass' few full-length stop-motion movies takes us to the laboratory of a far more famous mad scientist. Dr. Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) is planning to retire, and has invited all the famous monsters of literature and film to hear him make his announcement. He's planning on leaving his secrets, including a new potion for destroying matter, to his nerdy nephew Felix Flankin (Allan Swift). His assistant Franchesca (Gale Garnett) and creation the Monster and his Bride (Phyllis Diller) are angry that he didn't leave his secrets to them and vow to eliminate Felix. Francesca gets help from Dracula (Swift), at least before she realizes that Felix isn't such a bad fellow. Now they both have to escape the wrath of the monsters, before an even bigger creature-feature celebrity crashes the party.

This is one of the most bizarre things Rankin-Bass ever did...and given what some of their later holiday specials and movies are like, that's saying a lot. When Phyllis Diller is one of the least-weird things on the screen, you know a movie is strange. Jokes about the bizarre plot aside, some of the stop-motion work here is first-rate. There's so much detail in the Baron's castle and on the island, you can spend a viewing alone checking those out. I'm also partial to a couple of the songs, notably Francesca's "It's Our Time To Shine" and "There's Never Been a Love Like Mine." 

If you've got fans of old-time horror or the Rankin-Bass holiday specials around, try this one on them. Like Nightmare Before Christmas, it's a unique take on vintage horror cliches that deserves more than the second-feature grind it got on its original release.

Disney had a couple of Halloween specials bouncing around TV from the 70's through the early 90's, Halloween Hall of Fame being one of them. Disney's Halloween Treat, The Disney Channel's fall holiday special from 1983, is another. A pumpkin narrator introduces segments from various Disney shorts and films focusing on spooky elements or villains, with four cartoons ('The Old Mill," "Donald and the Gorilla," "Lonesome Ghosts," and "Trick or Treat") seen nearly in full. We also get two sequences from old Disneyland/Walt Disney Presents episodes. One is on cats and the spooky legends surrounding them. The other has Hans Conried as the Magic Mirror telling us about favorite Disney villains, from Madame Medusa to Malificent to Captain Hook (whom he originally voiced). 

While not on DVD at press time, it is currently available on YouTube under it's original syndicated title A Disney Halloween if you're interested. 

Finished out the night with a quick Pink Panther short. "Pink Plasma" was the super-cool kitty's only foray into genuine scares. He finds himself at a spooky castle in Tranyslvania, the home of a vampire who really wants to nibble on furry pink necks. Pink has to find ways to dodge him if he wants to get out of his house alive. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Weekend Before Halloween

Finished out The House of the Seven Gables after sleeping in this morning, then went right into an equally spooky Tiny Toon Adventures episode from its final season, "The Horror of Slumber Party Mountain." Babs, Fifi, and Shirley are having a slumber party in a cabin when they're seemingly attacked by a hideous creature. It turns out to be their boyfriends Buster, Hampton, and Plucky teasing them. Buster tells a ghost story to creep the guys out...but when it turns out to be true, they all have to run for their lives!

Didn't get out to running errands until around quarter after noon. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. Not only was it lunchtime, but it was too nice out for most people to want to hang around the library for long. The only other person there besides me was the librarian. I looked over the DVDs, organized a few books in the kids' area, and headed out.

I'm beginning to think that what I told Lauren back in July was true. Road work does spread like mushrooms. I had to dodge digging going on at Nicholson Road near the Wal Mart/Marshalls' entrance, and that on top of the train bridge repairs! Not to mention all the work on Kendall Boulevard. It's like no one wants anybody to get into or out of Oaklyn.

I did finally make it to the Acme long enough to get some grocery shopping done. Found two employees-only free online coupons for the generic frozen pizza and sandwich bags. I actually needed sandwich bags anyway, and the pizza would work great for dinner. Found good sponges and a container of cinnamon decorator's sugar on the clearance shelves. Restocked canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, a small salmon fillet and a package of ground turkey with manager's coupons, mandarin oranges, peanut butter, brown sugar, yogurt, parchment paper, skim milk, and hot dogs. Grabbed a package of larger multi-colored hair bands. The sale wasn't great, but the ones I got off the clearance rack last week were too small for my thick hair. I'll use them for the American Girl dolls.

I'm not thrilled with my schedule at all. Seems a lot of people either took their vacation time or just needed time off this week. While working 2 to 6 on Halloween means I'll have just enough time for Oaklyn's Halloween Parade....it also means I'll miss giving out candy. My next day off isn't until next Friday (though I do have Friday and Saturday off). And I'll have to miss the Eagles game, too. Lord only knows when I'll get to laundry this week. Same hours I have been getting, too...which is to say,  not enough.

Cheered myself up with a couple of animated horror or Halloween-themed shorts when I got home. Started as I put things away with the later Popeye Famous Studios shorts. It's a "Fright to the Finish" when Bluto spends his Halloween night scaring Olive out of going on a date with Popeye. Popeye proves that you don't need spinach to make a few tricks of your own. Olive's very superstitious, but her sailor man sweetheart claims "I Don't Scare"...until all those superstitions keep coming true. Popeye finally turns the tables on Bluto by giving him a scare. Olive and Popeye are "Spooky Swabs" who find themselves stranded on an ancient boat filled with ghosts who want to toss them overboard! They have to figure out how to set sail for home and get around these supernatural sailors!

Did a few more during lunch. Tom the cat is tired of being scolded for all the messes he and Jerry make. He thinks hiring himself out to "The Flying Sorceress" is a great idea...until he tries to take off on her broom.

Tom's not the only one having problems with witches and their brooms. In "Witch Crafty," Woody Woodpecker finds himself fixing the handle of a witch's magic broom. He refuses to return it to her until she pays him 50 cents for the repair. She tries very hard to retrieve it, from digging holes to going in through windows, but she still won't pay.

Mickey has a far scarier encounter with "The Mad Doctor" in the classic black-and-white short. This evil quack has dog-napped Pluto and intends to turn him into a Franken-pup! It's Mickey to the rescue...if he can survive the doctor's house of horrors.

It was past 2:30 when I hopped back on the bike and made my way back out, this time cutting across Newton Lake Park. It was an absolutely perfect day for it. The sun was out. The sky was rich and deep blue. It was warm, but not as warm as last week, probably in the lower 60's. A soft breeze ruffled the glassy green water. I made my way around few people understandably out for walks or bike rides and watched ducks play on the water. The trees are finally starting to turn colors here, soft golds and greens.

Haddon Township Library was a lot busier than the Oaklyn Library had been, probably because it was past 2:30 when I got in. I organized the kids' DVDs and searched for holds for the head librarian. Found all but two of the DVDs and all of the adult titles, but only one of the kids' books. They really need to give the kids' section more of a look. It was hard to find things over there.

I did take out a few movies this week. They didn't have either Rocky Horror Picture Show or the 1931 Dracula in, so I opted for another Tim Burton movie I hadn't seen, Nightmare Before Christmas, for Halloween weekend. Figured I'd finish off the Mission: Impossible series with Rogue Nation. (At least until I can find the third movie and the sixth comes out next year.) Heard good things about the comic mystery The Nice Guys, with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as tough-guy detectives who have to solve a crime together. Also grabbed the spooky-sounding Mercedes Lackey Elemental Masters story Blood Red (Little Red Riding Hood in Transylvania, basically).

Stopped at Dollar Tree after leaving the library. My original plan for Halloween was to dress as a fairy. First of all, I needed a skirt. Second, while it may warm up a little over the weekend, it's just supposed to go right back to the lower 60's by Tuesday. I saw a stack of felt cowboy hats and decided I'd wear my old corduroy vest and go as a cowgirl instead. Bought a red hat and a pack of the usual plastic cowboy accessories - spurs, a badge, a gun, a holster.

Today was the last day of Oaklyn's Final Friday Festival. Made a quick stop on West Clinton Avenue to have a look around. The lone farm stand now sold pumpkins and decorative gourds. Sarah O'Brian had kids decorating inside-out helium balloons cut to look like Pac-Man ghosts at Studio LuLoo's tables. She's shutting down Studio LuLoo in the hopes of eventually moving them to larger quarters in Gloucester County, closer to where she actually lives. I'm disappointed. I liked volunteering for them, and Gloucester is too far up the Black Horse Pike for me to ride on my bike often.

The food trucks remain too expensive for my budget.  I ended up at Common Grounds Coffee House instead. Grabbed a quick chocolate peanut butter cake pop and my favorite spicy-sweet iced tea. Gulped the ice tea as I headed around the corner and finally made my way home.

Ignored Charlie cursing outside about the trees in the back yard daring to make a mess  as I worked on my story. Snoke's boys do not get along with the girls in the slightest. While Kylo Ren does like reminiscing about growing up in the Palace with Rey, he doesn't understand how she can be so patient with learning magic, or why she doesn't want automatic power and attention. Hux is more interested in military strategy and ruling the kingdom than in Jessika's mechanics and clockworks. Shy, toadying Mitaka is baffled by Kaydel's wit and love of performing.

Broke at 7 to slide that frozen Five-Cheese Pizza in the oven for dinner. Yum. I always did like Acme's generic frozen pizza. I bought it under a previous brand name back in the early 2000's, when I was living in Wildwood. Got one to feed Keefe when he visited me once. He just about ate the whole thing himself, and that was at age 12. It made a nice meal with a spinach salad with homemade honey-apple cider vinegar dressing.

Since I was working on a Beauty and the Beast story, I did the Fairie Tale Theatre version during dinner. Here, the beauty is Susan Sarandon, who works keeping house for her father and her two spoiled, flirtatious sisters (one is Anjelica Huston). Their father comes home from meeting a ship, revealing that a Beast captured him and only let him go if he sends one of his daughters. He doesn't want any of them to leave, but Beauty does anyway. The Beast (Klaus Kinski) is kind and gentle to Beauty, but she's repulsed by attempts to propose to her every day. It takes a trip home to her family to make her realize how much he means to her...and that she's the only one who can save him when she discovers he's dying.

Tossed on The Nightmare Before Christmas as I cleaned up from dinner and went online. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is the undisputed head of Halloween Town, a bizzarre, dark land filled with strange and spooky folks who love a good scare. Jack may be in charge, but he's bored with his job and looking for a change. He finds it after tumbling through a door into its antitheses, Christmas Town. He's so delighted with all the snow and presents and reindeer, he decides he wants to give it a shot and let Santa have a holiday. Turns out he really should have thought this through. As his stitched-together girlfriend Sally (Catherine O'Hara) points out, the citizens of Halloween Town have no idea what Christmas is all about, and he doesn't really know how to handle it. Meanwhile, Santa has fallen into the clutches of Ooogie Boogie (Ken Page), the resident Boogie Man who wants to take over both holidays. Now Jack's going to have to reclaim his throne...and discover that, while it can be nice to step out of the box every once in a while, it's also not a bad thing to know where our talents really lay.

I can certainly understand why this is by far Disney's most popular non-canon animated film. It's one of the most creative and unusual movies I've ever seen. The design of Halloween Town alone, with all its spirals and jagged edges and creepy creatures, is incredible. I really love the music, too. This is basically a horror operetta, with far more music than speech. Danny Elfman composed the music, including the signature favorites "What's This?" and "This Is Halloween," and performed Jack's songs. (Incidentally, while Tim Burton is usually associated with this, he only produced it, though he did develop the original idea.)

Way too spooky for little kids, but if you have older elementary schoolers on up who are horror nuts or enjoyed Burton's other work, this is one of the most original animated films out there and is a must-see around the fall and early winter holidays.

Since Nightmare is pretty short, I finished out the night with a Halloween episode of Happy Days. Ralph is having his annual Halloween party in a "Haunted" house in order to avoid an obnoxious gang. Joanie thinks they're crazy. According to local rumor, if you go in that house, you'll lose you head! Richie does go to the party in order to prove there's nothing to be scared of. When the tricks start outnumbering the treats, he's the one who finally figures out who's behind the frightening goings-on.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Something Strange In the Neighborhood

It was cloudy, windy, and chilly when I woke up this morning. Perfect Halloween weather! I celebrated the arrival of cooler temperatures with a spooky Laurel & Hardy short. Ollie is thrilled when a wealthy widow proposes to him. His romantic hopes vaporize when he and Stan discover that, after the woman was jilted by a man named Oliver, she's killed seven other men by that name...and "Oliver the Eighth" is next!

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. Leia is shocked when her son Benjamin - now Kylo Ren - is among the apprentices Snoke is offering as grooms for her daughter. He's cold to her, insisting that he's gained more power from studying the dark arts with Snoke than he ever did learning about light magic with his uncle.

With Ren are two pale young men, the other two apprentices. Armitage Hux is a stiff, ambitious youth from a very rich and powerful family. Dopheld Mitaka is smaller and eager to please. None of them are impressed by Leia's daughters in their shabby finery. The girls are even less impressed with their stuck-up and cold attitudes.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did more Laurel & Hardy while I ate. Ollie and Stan arrive at the home of Stan's late uncle. It turns out that the uncle died under mysterious circumstances...and the late-arriving duo are the prime suspects in "The Laurel & Hardy Murder Case." Now they have to find out who's behind the spooky goings-on, before they disappear along with the rest of the household!

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - quiet for most of the afternoon, and never more than mildly steady. Though I cleaned the bathrooms and briefly rounded up what little outside trash there was, I mostly either gathered carts and baskets or did returns. I did accidentally spill a bucket of water in the back storage area, but it was only a quarter of the way full. I mopped it quickly.

As soon as I got in, I steamed broccoli and made pasta with butter to go with my leftover orange chicken legs for dinner. Watched a couple of horror-themed episodes of Perfect Strangers while I ate. It's a "Fright Night" in the 7th season when Balki discovers their new house is haunted. Larry doesn't believe it, until strange things start happening, including them and the girls finding themselves in mid-air. Now Balki and Larry have to get rid of a ghost who is mad as heck with them and determined to throw them around for fun.

"The Horn Blows at Midnight" from the 3rd season also plays with the supernatural. Balki is convinced that a psychic's prediction of Larry's death at midnight is going to come true. Larry and the girls think he's being silly...until a sudden storm arrives, and the predictions seem to come true.

Hit the shower, then ended the night with the original Ghostbusters. After being fired by Columbia University for their dubious supernatural theories, three paranormal scientists (Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Harold Ramis) go into business for themselves as professional ghost-chasers. They have a hard time finding clients, until a classical musician (Signorney Weaver) calls them after finding a nasty monster in her refrigerator. As the Ghostbusters try to figure out what to make of this, they're suddenly swamped with work, including a little green ghost in a hotel who is their first major catch. But there's more to that monster dog in the freezer than they think...and it turns out the musician, her nerdy neighbor (Rick Moranis), and the Art Deco apartment building they live in are about to be taken over by an ancient god who wants to bring about the end of the world!

This is a long-time favorite of mine, with an awesome cast, hilarious script, and special effects that, for the most part, still hold up today. While the sequel's not bad and the remake is better than most critics gave it credit for, the original is still the one you want to see.

And...Charlie's home. I can hear him, his parents, and the dogs downstairs as I type this. Hopefully, he's in too good of a mood to fuss over anything.

Oh, and inspired by watching the Disney "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" yesterday, I found this live-action TV movie from 1980 on YouTube, with a young Jeff Golblum perfectly cast as Ichabod Crane. This is the full broadcast from Atlanta's NBC station, including the commercial breaks in their entirety.

The Legend of Sleep Hollow (1980)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tales of Toads and Headless Horsemen

Began a cloudy, cool morning with breakfast while watching "Dead Woman Walking," a spooky episode of the swashbuckler spoof Jack of All Trades. A thief has been desecrating sacred cemeteries in the name of Jack's alter ego, the Daring Dragoon. Emilia takes a potion that'll put her in a very deep coma, allowing her to be interred in the cemetery to keep an eye on things. What she didn't plan on was Jack climbing in with her...or for Governor Croque to attempt to cremate her out of respect!

Spent most of the day working on writing, both in the late morning and early afternoon and after work. While Han is searching for princes to aid them, Leia and Luke have adopted three young ladies to keep them company and help them care for the palace. Rey is hot-tempered and feisty. Jessika is sensible and vivacious. Kaydel is girlish and witty. Though they look nothing alike, the trio become as close as sisters and think of Leia and Luke as their parents.

One day, Luke learns that three supply wagons may have made it past the First Order Clan's blockades. He goes to meet them, promising to find his ladies gifts in town. Leia asks for a new book. Kaydel wants ribbon trim for a dress she's working on. Jess wants tools. Rey only wants a rose, as they've replaced the rose bushes with a more practical vegetable garden.

A few weeks after Luke leaves, Rey finds Leia wistfully looking over a painting of her missing husband and runaway son. Han was said to have been killed by brigands, but Leia doesn't believe it. She has no idea what happened to her son, and in fact is very worried about him.

Meanwhile, Leia reveals that Snoke has finally agreed to discuss removing the blockades. He also wishes to see her daughters, hoping they'll wed his three apprentices and join their kingdom. He eyes Leia, but she still considers herself married.

Broke for lunch at 1:30. Made honey-glazed carrots to go with my leftover fish cake from the other day. Ran The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad while I ate. The last Disney anthology film of the 40's limits the shorts to two stories based on classic literature. Basil Rathbone narrates the "Mr. Toad" segment, which retells the last couple of chapters of Wind In the Willows. Mr. Toad's series of obsessions has left his beautiful old estate on the river Toad Hall on the brink of financial ruin. His friends Ratty and Mole are ready to stand up for him, until he's accused of stealing his latest craze, a motor car. Toad's horse helps him escape jail in time to save Toad Hall from the real thieves.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow takes us from Rathbone and Victorian England to Bing Crosby and Colonial America. Ichabod Crane is the new schoolteacher in a small town. Despite being poor and skinny, he's charming and popular with the ladies. He has his eyes on the fair Katrina Van Tassel, the flirtatious daughter of a rich farmer...but so does Brom Bones, the biggest and most popular man in town. His scary ghost tales at Van Tassel's Halloween party spooks the superstitious Crane, especially his tale of the Headless Horseman. Ichabod's heading home when he hears terrifying sounds. He thinks it's only the wind and reeds...until he comes face-to-pumpkin with the Headless Horseman himself!

While the "Mr. Toad" segment has its virtues, including some fun songs, Toad's escape from prison, and the wild finale in Toad Hall, the winner here is "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Not only is it one of the most accurate adaptations of literature Disney ever did, it's also one of the scariest. That final ride with Ichabod and the Headless Horseman may be the most frightening sequence to show up in a Disney animated feature until the 1980's. No wonder this turned up in Halloween Hall of Fame. I love Bing Crosby's narration, too. This was probably my first encounter with him as a child after hearing "White Christmas" on the radio.

The best of the Disney package films along with The Three Caballeros is definitely worth a look, especially around Halloween.

Work ended up being even quieter than it was on Monday. I gathered carts once, for about 40 minutes when I first got in, then for another 20 minutes a bit later. Did returns, cleaned the bathroom, and gathered baskets for the rest of the night. Though it was cloudy, it was also at least much cooler, into the mid-60's. It actually felt like Halloween for the first time in a while.

Though it was relatively late and the sun was gone when I got home, Richard was still raking leaves in the front yard. He told me as I was heading down the path to my apartment that Charlie's due to be home tomorrow or the next day. Oh, darn. I was hoping he'd be gone much, much longer, at least through the holidays. Maybe he'll head back out in a week or two if I'm lucky.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Here Comes the Sun

Began the day with a heavy shower, which didn't bode well for my plans. I was in luck. By the time I was eating lunch and watching an episode of The Muppet Show, the rain was gone, though it remained windy and damp. The show Alice Cooper starred in was tailor-made for this weather. Cooper was one of the earliest shock jocks, whose spooky style was reflected in hard rock hits like "School's Out" and "Welcome to My Nightmare." Backstage, Cooper claims he wants the Muppets to sell their souls to his "boss"...but Gonzo is the only taker.

Hurried out to the laundromat around 11:30 to get this week's load done. I didn't have a ton to do, but I wanted to get it out of the way early. I picked the right time. I saw a few other people, but otherwise, there were no problems. I spent the time working on story notes and half-listening to The View and Action News.

As soon as I got home, I folded everything, put them away or hung them to dry, and rushed back out. I had counseling in Haddonfield this afternoon. The weather was unexpectedly cooperating with me. As Action News had said, the worst of the rain had gone east to the Shore. By the time I pulled in at Mrs. Stahl's office, the sun was just starting to break through the clouds.

Not a whole lot to report here, anyway. Other than my ongoing financial problems and problems with my mangers, this month's been going much better than last month did. I finished my second fanfiction novel, which isn't something I could have claimed just two years ago. My bike's back on the road; I was able to replace the DVD player. While I wish I could have taken part in more fall activities, such as Haddon Township's Block Party or Haddonfield's library book sale and flea market, I've enjoyed the ones I have gotten to. This is the best the Eagles have done in over a decade; they are now officially the NFL's top team.

Not to mention, the holidays are coming. For the most part, this is my favorite time of year. While some of the more family-oriented traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas occasionally make me feel a bit left out, I do genuinely enjoy the festive atmosphere. I'll be taking the first week of December off again for my final vacation of the year, since that worked out very well last year, with my good friend Amanda visiting on the first day.

We came to the conclusion towards the end of my shift that the last two months of the year are busy enough for me without having to run up to Haddonfield and spend twenty bucks on counseling. I'm better off using the money and time for other things. I'll be calling her sometime in early-mid December (probably during my vacation) to set up my first appointment of 2018 for early January.

I stepped out of Mrs. Stahl's office...and into a gorgeous fall day. While it remained warm for this time of year (76, according to the digital marquee at the Westmont Fire Hall), the sun was out, the breeze was cool, and the humidity had vanished with the clouds. Since I hadn't had lunch yet, I decided to stop at the Westmont Diner, on the border of Haddonfield and Westmont, and get something for a quick meal. Needless to say, they were quiet at 3 PM, with only a few couples and a family having  a late lunch. I opted for a juicy, messy Popeye Burger with spinach, mushrooms, onions, and a ton of Swiss cheese, French fries, and pumpkin ice cream.

Headed straight home after that. Lucky for me, rush hour traffic wasn't nearly as bad as usual, allowing me to easily cross Cuthbert and Haddon without the usual fuss. Newton Lake Park wasn't busy, either, despite it being really pretty over there. While the flowers are vanishing, the leaves are finally starting to turn colors here, golds and lime greens and mottled reds. The grass looks far less brittle than it did earlier this month. I ended up taking the short way over the hillside trails past the Haddon Township Museum and Nature Center and up to the White Horse Pike.

Went on the computer as soon as I got in. Among Snoke's men are King Han's own son Prince Benjamin. He's calling himself Kylo Ren now. He left his father's kingdom because his uncle wouldn't teach him the dark arts, and he became impatient with the magic he did learn. Ren's convinced that his father wanted to replace him with Poe, Snap, and especially Finn. Han tries to insist that this isn't so, but neither Snoke nor Ren want to listen. Snoke first enchants Han's voice, making his gruff tones sound like a frog's bellowed croak, before insisting that he'll find a way for no one to love him...or recognize him or the other princes...

Had a quick dinner of chili, then made Spicy Cranapple Muffins for lunch this week. Ran a spooky story from Fairie Tale Theatre as I worked. The lesser-known Grimm's Fairy Tale "The Boy Who Left Home to Learn About the Shivers" is this series' horror entry. Marvin (Peter MacNichol) is the boy of the title, who goes out into the world to discover what fear is. He agrees with King Vlad of Transylvania (Christopher Lee) to spend three nights in a haunted castle. If he survives, he'll get the king's greatest treasure. The innkeeper's daughter Amanda (Dana Hill) is worried about his safety, but he's more interesting in bowling with the ghouls than being afraid of them. It's not until he finds out what the king's treasure is that he learns what he's really scared of.

Ended the night after a shower with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. This 2011 outing brought back Tom Cruise after the third film failed to match the first two in popularity with critics or audiences. No sooner does Ethan Hunt (Cruise) break out of a prison in Russia than he finds himself with a new mission to accept - break into the Kremlin to learn more about Cobalt, an agent who has stolen codes that could set off a nuclear bomb. When half the Kremlin is blown to bits, Hunt and the IMF are blamed. While Hunt and his crew are technically disavowed by the government, their boss encourages them to continue to pursue Cobalt anyway. Their search takes them from a luxury hotel in Dubai dust storm to a fancy party in India, as they pursue the rogue agent (Michael Nyqvist) and the assassin who killed the original agent who was supposed to get the codes (Lea Seydoux).

Ooh, this was fun. It matches its two earlier predecessors with some truly breathtaking action, including the dust storm in Dubai, Hunt scaling the glass hotel, and the finale in the car park. The cast is even better, featuring Jeremy Renner as mysterious former analyst William Brandt (a year before his breakout role in The Avengers) and Simon Pegg as jumpy electronics wiz Benji Dunn. If you enjoyed the previous films in this series, by all means, move right to this one. This one's just as good as the earlier entries, if not better.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Beauty and the Peanuts

It was cloudy and cool when I rolled out of bed this morning. I decided it was the perfect day to make Chocolate Chip Cookies after breakfast. Decided to try the "Perfectly Chocolate" recipe from the Hershey's cookie cookbook Lauren sent me a few years ago. Yum. Very chewy and just sweet enough.

Watched Beastly while I worked. Kyle Kingston (Alex Pettyfer) seems to have it all. He's the class president, incredibly wealthy, and most handsome and popular boy in his school. He's also a vain and selfish jerk who stands up an odd young woman named Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen) because he can. As it turns out, she's a witch who doesn't appreciate being treated like a joke. She turns him into an ugly, tattooed creature whose own equally vain TV reporter father (Peter Krause) can't stand to look at him. Kyle has a year to get a girl to love him as he is, or he'll remain a freak. His father hires Will, a good-natured blind man (Neil-Patrick Harris) to be his tutor and companion. Kyle's horrified at first, avoiding school and all his old friends, until he rescues Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) and her druggie father from two dealers who were attacking them. When he offers his home to Lindy for protection, he thinks it's the perfect way to get to know her. Lindy resents being almost a prisoner at first, and Kyle is still angry over his transformation and afraid to let her see him as he is now. It takes his gift of a rose garden and a few trips into New York to make Lindy see her new friend in a different light...and for Kyle to understand that real love means more than what you are on the surface.

I was pleasantly surprised here. This was a very sweet little fantasy-romance. Yes, it's cliched as hell, but it works. Harris and LisaGay Hamilton as Zola, the Kingston's kindly housekeeper, are especially fun. Olsen is appropriately eerie as the witch, too.

Too corny for older teens, but if you have young teenagers or tweens with a romantic streak who love fairy tale retellings, they may enjoyed swooning over this one as much as I did.

The movie ended and the cookies came out of the oven with just ten minutes to spare before I dashed off to work. We were busy when I came in, to the point where I once again spent most of  the first half of my shift outside. This wasn't as much fun as it has been the past few days. It was cloudy, windy, and incredibly humid all day. It showered briefly about a half-hour after I got to work, but the rain subsided after about 20 minutes and hasn't been seen since. Gathered trash and baskets and cleaned the bathrooms during the second half of the day.

Headed home and went straight on the computer to do some writing. King Han stops the group at a lake near an old mansion to let their horses drink. Finn's nervous, and has been since they arrived. He can sense a dark presence in the woods. He turns out to be right. The five are attacked by the First Order Clan's mindless demon army. King Snoke himself, an evil wizard and the head of the First Order, is right on their furry heels.

Broke at 7 for dinner. Made Cincinatti Chili while watching The Peanuts Movie. Poor Charlie Brown can't catch a break. From kites that won't fly to the dubious "advice" he gets from obnoxious Lucy Van Pelt, the entire world always seems to conspire against him. The arrival of a Little Red Haired Girl gives Charlie Brown his first crush...and what he sees as the perfect chance to redeem himself. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, Chuck comes to realize that the important thing is to just keep trying, no matter what. Meanwhile, his eccentric beagle Snoopy and his yellow bird buddy Woodstock are writing a novel with Snoopy as a World War I flying ace who is rescuing his poodle girlfriend from the Red Baron.

Other franchises, especially animated ones, with an eye for a revival or reboot should take a few notes from this. This is exactly how you revive a series. The animation is colorful and cute, mixing 2-D and 3-D animation (and animated "dream bubbles" from Charlie Brown that resemble the comics). While slightly faster-paced than the specials, the movie is otherwise a perfect reflection of Charlie Brown's never-say-die universe. In fact, this is probably truer to the source material than the last two Peanuts films made in the 70's and early 80's.

If you or your family are Peanuts fans, you've probably already seen this. If you're hedging because it's a more recent project, or are new to the Peanuts franchise, come on over anyway. This is actually a pretty good introduction to the series.

Finished out the night listening to the Eagles-Redskins Monday night game. The Eagles started out badly, with the Redskins scoring within the first five minutes of the game. That changed quickly. The Eagles took control during the second quarter and never let go, even when they lost one of their top stars, Jason Peters, to a nasty injury. They ultimately won for the second time this year against Washington, 34-24.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Way Down In Oaklyn

Started off another lovely fall morning with Apple Cinnamon Pancakes, made from an apple that had a huge brown spot. Paired it with grapes and chai tea. The pancakes came out perfectly, for once. Maybe slightly too brown on one side, but otherwise very tasty.

Listened to the soundtrack from The Princess and the Frog while I ate and cleaned up after my meal. This inventive Disney retelling of The Frog Prince as a tale of a waitress determined to own her own restaurant and a spoiled prince who learns that money isn't everything is an underrated favorite of mine. The jazzy music reflects the New Orleans in the Roaring 20's setting, written by real-life Big Easy native Randy Newman. My favorite numbers are Tiana's driving declaration "Almost There" after she's found the perfect place for her eatery and the touching ballad "Evangeline" for Rufus, the love-sick Cajun firefly.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon starting my next story. I have a long list of Star Wars fairy tales and fantasy novellas I put off doing while writing those two historical novels. Began with Beauties and the Frogs, a Star Wars Sequel Trilogy retelling of Beauty and the Beast and The Frog Prince.

Queen Leia and King Han lived happily in the Kingdom of Alderaan, until their son Prince Benjamin ran away from home to learn more about the dark magic his uncle, Sir Luke of the Jedi Guards, wouldn't teach him. His parents search for him, but he's disappeared without a trace. Sir Luke disappears into his tower to find the right spell to bring him home, while his parents mourn his loss.

Several years later, the Kingdom of Alderaan is invaded by the evil clan of the First Order. Their leader, King Snoke, is a powerful black magician whose Knights of Ren destroy all that they come in contact with. King Han swears to his wife that he will seek help from the outlying kingdoms.

Many years later, he finally comes home with three hearty princes who are traveling back with him, all from lands that have agreed to help. Prince Temmin, or "Snap," is a hearty fellow from Wexley, strong-willed Prince Poe is from the jungle land Yavin, and gentle Prince Finn is from the mountain kingdom Bespin, home of Han's good friend King Lando. The quartet are traveling through a dark forest with Han's faithful manservant Chewbacca when they start to hear noises in the shadows...

Broke for lunch at 1:30. Put on the soundtrack to the original 1984 Ghostbusters while I ate and got ready for work. The title song is the most famous number from this one; it was a smash hit, one of the biggest  hit songs of that year, and continues to be associated with Halloween and horror to this day. Most of the other vocal numbers, except for the fun 50's-inspired "Cleanin' Up the Town" and the genuinely eerie "I Believe It's Magic," are generic 80's pop songs. I love the two cuts included from Elmer Berntstein's score, though. "Dana's Theme" is especially haunting. (Appropriate, given what happens to her.)

Work was pretty much the same deal as yesterday - busy when I came in, steady but not too horrible when I left. I spent the first half of my shift doing carts and enjoying another gorgeous, sunny fall day. Returned two carts of loose items and mopped the bathroom floors during the second half.

(And while the Eagles play tomorrow night, I did get to catch a bit of the Bengals - Steelers game in the back room during break. The Steelers were up 7 - 0 when I was watching it. They ultimately went on to out-run Cincinatti 29-14.)

Did another spooky soundtrack when I got home and had sauteed spinach and mushrooms and leftover orange chicken legs for dinner. The album for Young Frankenstein includes not only the musical score, but a lot of the dialogue from Mel Brooks' 1974 horror homage, up to and including the infamous "Puttin' On the Ritz" tap dance number in it's entirety. If nothing else, I realized how dialogue-heavy this movie is. There actually isn't much score, though the lilting violin tune that calls the creature back is quite lovely.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sweet Fall Harvest

It was another beautiful morning when I rolled out of bed. Watched some Backyardigans as I had breakfast. Uniqua and Pablo proclaim "It's Great to Be a Ghost" when they pretend to haunt a spooky old house. Tyrone's nervous about the whole paranormal thing. They get their chance to show their stuff when Tasha shows up, claiming she can't be scared. Everyone tries, but it's the least-likely kid who finally gets to her.

Went right into the next episode on the disc while getting ready to head out. "Monster Detectives" has Uniqua and Detective Tyrone searching for her missing pink soccer ball. They have to rescue her ball from the spooky home of Pablo, the soccer monster. They have to be careful. If someone plays soccer with him, they'll turn into a soccer monster, too!

This time, I did make it to the Collingswood Farm Market. I actually did need to restock my fruit and vegetables. Not to mention, they're only going to be around for another month. They close the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It was late when I arrived, around quarter after 11, but still pretty busy. Tomatoes are mostly gone, replaced by leeks, broccoli, greens, and the first cranberries of the season. I grabbed cranberries, pears, broccoli, three small sweet potatoes, and tiny Empire apples.

It was such a nice day, I took the long way home across Newton Lake Park. It was the perfect day for it. The sun sparkled over the green water. The last of the flowers bloomed along the shore. Teens between practices at the Collingswood High School across the street chatted and strolled together.

Stopped at CVS on the way home for a drink. They were surprisingly busy for a nice day. I guess everyone else wanted to stop quick on the way home, too. I looked over a few magazines, but I eventually just bought my Pink Grapefruit sparkling soda and headed home.

Barely had enough time for lunch and to finish "Soccer Monster" and start "The Key to the Nile" when I got in. Tasha is the Princess of Egypt in this show tune-filled desert tale. She's also a spoiled brat who expects her pages Pablo, Austin, and Tyrone to wait on her hand and foot. When the Nile dries up, the boys reveal that only presents for the Sphinx Uniqua will convince her to reveal how to refill it again. The boys help her find the gifts, but she never gives them credit. It's Uniqua who finally points out to her best friend that the way to get anyone to do what you want is a simple "please" and "thank you."

Work was steady when I arrived, and the carts were empty. While I gathered the trash briefly early-on and did some returns, I was mostly outside in the parking lot. That was fine by me. It was still a nice day, a little warmer and slightly more humid, but still breezy and beautiful. There were plenty of baggers, too, especially once it slowed down later in the day. Spent the last ten minutes helping one of the evening baggers mop of a stream of bright red liquid (fruit punch?) that someone spread through half the store.

Treated myself to a cream doughnut, then headed home. When I got in, I made a tasty dinner of fish cakes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and roasted potatoes. Ran Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while I ate, and later while finally getting around to dusting my bedroom quickly.

The basic plot is more-or-less the same as in the original 1971 film and the book. Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), a sweet boy from a poor family, finds the golden ticket that'll allow him to enter the fabulous factory of famous chocolatier Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp). He's joined by his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), who worked for Wonka before he closed his factory due to spies stealing his ideas. They're also joined by four other very spoiled, aggressive children from families that have encouraged their worst natures. Wonka himself has his own problems with his overprotective dentist father (Christopher Lee). Ultimately, as four of the kids wind up getting in trouble due to their own nasty attitudes, Wonka and Charlie come to understand that, while chocolate can be sweet, having a family who truly cares about you is the sweetest love of all.

I'm actually rather impressed. I wasn't expecting much from it, but this was really fun. It might help if you've read the original book of the same title. They used a lot more from the book than the first movie did, including the episode about the Indian prince who wanted a palace made of chocolate, Charlie's dad and his toothpaste factory job, slightly larger roles for the other three grandparents, and Veruca wanting to take home squirrels sorting nuts, rather than geese. The special effects are incredible, from Charlie's tiny dilapidated home to the Technicolor lunacy once the kids make it into the factory. Special kudos to Highmore's wide-eyed Charlie and Annasophia Robb's sassy Violet Beauregaurde.

Actually, the biggest problem with this movie is Willy Wonka himself. Johnny Depp is trying waaaayy too hard to make Wonka a child-like genius who never learned how to deal with adults, much less kids. He just comes off as an annoying jerk. The unnecessary backstory with Wonka's father doesn't help, though Lee does give Wilbur Wonka the right menacing note. And using the same guy for all the Oompa Loompas just looks creepy, rather than funny or cute. (Although, given this is Tim Burton directing, that may have been the intention.)

Don't bother comparing it to the 1971 version. They're two entirely different movies. This one is faster-paced and much closer to the original source material, and it's just as enjoyable in its own way. If you're a fan of the books or Depp, you may want to hop on the pink hard candy boat and enjoy this ride, too.

Finished out the night online with Scooby Doo on Zombie Island. Daphne and Fred, now the hosts of a TV show that scouts out paranormal activity, joins back together with Shaggy, Scoob, and Velma to seek out real spooks, not just people in masks. They get more than they bargained for when a pretty young southern belle invites them to Moonscar Island, home of her employer's haunted pepper plantation. While Scooby chases the many cats on the island and Fred gets jealous of Daphne ogling the handsome, if grumpy, new gardener, Velma wonders about the island's many disappearances. But when Shaggy runs into a group of gruesome pirate zombies, it becomes clear that the kids have gotten their wishes. These ghouls are real...and they and the two women who brought them there may not let the kids off the island alive!

The first of the Scooby Doo direct-to-home-media movies was so popular, it revived the franchise. This is one of the very rare times in this series that not only are the ghosts real, but they have a genuinely tragic backstory and aren't played for laughs. The animation's pretty decent for a home media offering, too, especially on the island. If you have older kids who are fans of Scooby and horror, they might be willing to give this one a chance.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Rest of the Story

Got a quick, early start this morning with breakfast and an episode of Perfect Strangers from the fourth season. Larry and Balki hold a Halloween party to watch a 12-hour horror movie marathon, but Larry's the only one who stays up for the whole show. He ends up having a nightmare about Balki being an alien who's bent on conquering the planet!

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon finally finishing out my current fanfic. The summer ends with Vader - now calling himself Adam Walker again - turning himself in to Officer Madine and the Ocean View Police. Even if he saved Luke, he still killed people, including his boss, not to mention took part in Palpatine's wave of arson. He knows everything about his boss' dirty dealings and is willing to state evidence.

Everyone else returns to the Cottages to watch the Labor Day fireworks. Hank tells Leia he and Charlie will take her to Drexel to catch up with classes. Luke will remain with his uncle until his hand's healed and he's able to join the Coast Guard. Lance and Nino will return to Bespin Island to sell the Cloud City Club. All of the kids are going back to school the next day. The money from the surfing contest, the Boat Pageant, and hocking the trophy and Leia's fancy Atlantic City outfit was more than enough to pay for the Cottages.

We fade in on Luke Walker in June of 2015 relating the story to his adopted daughter Rey, Rey's friend Finn, and a now-adult Poe Dameron. Luke inherited the cottages and Ben Kenobi's surfboard collection after his uncle passed away and he left the Coast Guard. Leia is now the Governor of Pennsylvania. She and Hank married, but broke up after their son Ben turned to robbery and arson. Luke and the kids are hoping to hold a dinner for the two of them to talk their problems over and rekindle their marriage.

Poe's working in his father's boardwalk surf store with his friend Snap. Yoda passed away of old age in the mid-80's. Davy Wicket writes sci-fi novels; Lance Callahan manages the Cantino Bright Club, the new incarnation of the Desert Sun Casino. Hank and Hera are still fishing with their respective crews. Adam Walker got out of prison early for good behavior. He briefly told his siblings he was moving to the West Coast, then vanished without a trace. No one's seen or heard from him since.

The story ends with Luke bequeathing Twilight, Adam's original blue surfboard from the 1960's, to Rey. She immediately wants Luke to show her all the moves that Ben and Yoda taught him. He races her and the three boys to the water, giving his beloved Cottages one final look before hurrying after them.

Whew! At over 95,000 words, that was my second novel, and my first really adult piece of work. Needless to say, after two very long fics in a row, it'll be a while before I write anything this daunting again! I'll be catching up on novellas (short chapter stories), fairy tales, and short stories for the rest of this year and likely through the winter.

At any rate, here's The Summer Strikes Back, currently available at my writing blog and Archive of Our Own:

The Summer Strikes Back at Writer's Desk By the Riverside
The Summer Strikes Back at Archive of Our Own

It took me so long to finish the story, I barely had enough time to eat lunch, change, and rush out the door to work. As it turned out, the rush probably wasn't necessary. We were only slightly busier than yesterday. I did have some trouble early-on. I tried to do the bathrooms when I arrived, only to be constantly interrupted with helping customers or doing returns. After that, I had no problems. We were so dead, I was mainly either shelving the few remaining returns or doing carts. Once again, it was much too nice to be shopping, warm, breezy, and dry, probably in the mid-70's.

After I got off work, I thought I deserved a treat. Headed to the shopping center behind the Acme to have dinner at Tu Se Bella's, creators of South Jersey's most creative pizza. It was just past 6 when I strolled up to their counter. There was a line of people picking up pies, hoagies, and pasta dishes. I opted for a slice of shrimp-spinach-tomato, a slice with ricotta and sweet potato fries, and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. I settled down at the table by the front window to wait for dinner.

While the shrimp and vegetable slice wasn't bad, the sweet potato fries pizza was amazing. Who knew strips of sweet potato, blobs of ricotta, enough mozzarella to start a dairy farm, and what I believe to be a cream-based sauce would work so well together? It was decadent, but utterly delicious.

Headed back to work after I ate to do a little grocery shopping. Needed to restock sugar, buttermilk, peanut butter, pasta, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (had an online coupon for that), skim milk, and yogurt. Didn't desperately need cereal, but Quaker's brands were on a good sale, and I wanted to get the Pumpkin Spice Life again before that season ends. They were having one of their occasional "buck a bag" produce sale. The price was too good to resist; grabbed celery, a bag of spinach, mushrooms, those tasty rice-pea snacks I had a few months ago, and a bag of Seneca cinnamon dried apple chips. Found a new brush, hair bands, and a bottle of Acme's generic allergy medicine for great prices on the clearance racks.

My schedule next week is pretty much par for the course for the time of year. Slightly fewer hours, and all in the afternoon this time. Tuesday and next Friday off, Tuesday for counseling.

Went straight in the shower as soon as I got home and put everything away. Oh, and incidentally, at press time, Charlie still isn't around. Haven't seen him for almost a month. Someone did take out the air conditioner a few days ago, though, probably his father.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Frightening Fantasy

Began the day with a spooky Three Stooges short during breakfast. "The Ghost Walks" when Moe, Larry, and Shemp discover a talking suit of armor in an old castle. Turns out the armor is haunted by a man who was beheaded for peeking out at Lady Godiva. Now he won't leave until she's ridden through again.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on my story. I'm just about finished with it. Hank gets a brilliant idea after Officer Madine and the Ocean View Police Department arrive. He poses as Jerrod on his walkie-talkie, telling Piett that the pier is burning and the others are gone. They should bring the Death Star back to Ackbar's Restaurant. He's hoping to lure them right into the waiting arms of Madine and his cops.

Meanwhile, Luke's wrestling with Vader. Palpatine's downright elated to see them at odds. Vader manages to push the boy away...but Luke attacks even more violently after his brother threatens to bring Leia to his boss. He finally breaks his hand, just like Vader had broken his. That and Palpatine's encouraging him to kill his brother finally makes him realize what the head of Empire Industries wants. He finally tells him that he's not his brother, he's a Jedi Knight, and he's not going to join him, thank you.

Palpatine is livid at Luke's refusal. He gets his bony fingers around the boy's neck and throttles him...until Vader slams his boss in the head with a heavy metal vase, killing him instantly. Needless to say, they're both in bad shape, shaky, weak, and in shock. Not to mention, something's rocking the boat...and it's not waves. Vader helps his brother onto the deck, just in time to see the Falcon and Ghost pull up on either side, shooting harpoons and throwing balloons filled with oil.

Broke for lunch at 1. Ran most of Halloween Hall of Fame while I ate. Johnathan Winters headlines this Wonderful World of Disney special from I believe the 1970's, from Winters' references to the Minnesota Vikings during his monologue with the props. Winters is a security guard for the Disney Studio who's working late on Halloween night. While goofing around in the prop room, he runs into a jack o' lantern (also Winters) in a glass ball. Jack's hiding because he doesn't think Halloween is scary enough anymore. Winters uses the shorts "Trick or Treat" and "Pluto's Judgement Day" and the featurette "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" to prove otherwise.

Work was...well, it was quiet all afternoon, and didn't seem to have been much busier earlier. Even rush hour was quiet. Beyond it being the day before our new sales flier begins, it was really too nice of a day to be inside shopping. The weather was even nicer today than yesterday, breezy, dry, and just warm enough, probably in the mid 70's. The sky was the most brilliant shade of blue I'd ever seen, without a cloud in it. I gathered baskets and inside trash and did a few returns, but I was mostly outside rounding up what few carts needed to be done.

As soon as I got home, I changed clothes, signed and put birthday cards for Lauren (today) and Amanda (a few weeks ago) in envelopes, and headed back out. I'd been meaning to send out the cards and return the bike I borrowed for a while now. I was tired of putting things off that should have been done ages ago. I get so caught up with writing, I neglect other chores.

It's just as well that I was returning the Schwinn. The chain had come off again, for the second time since I've had that bike. Thankfully, the lady I borrowed it from was outside with her kids when I came by. She offered it to me to keep. It was a nice thought, but first of all, I don't have the room for two bikes. Second, I don't really need two bikes. Third, the Schwinn is a two-speed bike. Changing gears gets annoying after a while, and I really prefer my brakes on the wheels, not the handlebars. I suggested that she donate it to the Collingswood Bike Share (she apparently has a friend who works there), Goodwill, or another organization that takes bikes for the less fortunate.

Finished off the night with a quick scrambled eggs dinner while finishing Halloween Hall of Fame, then while watching The Black Cauldron. This was Disney's entry into the sword-and-sorcery craze of the early-mid 80's. Taran, an assistant pig-keeper in medieval land, is told to keep his future-seeing pig Hen-Wen safe from the Horned King (John Hurt) by his guardian Daulben. If the Horned King gets his hands on the pig, he'll use her to find the Black Cauldron, an object of immense power that can bring creatures back from the dead. Taran does save Hen-Wen, only to end up a prisoner himself with magic-bearing Princess Ellonwy and Fflefldor Flam, a troubadour with a truth-telling harp. This trio of misfits, along with cowardly critter Gurgi, have to find the Black Cauldron before the Horned King can use it to create an army of the undead that'll destroy the kingdom!

This was a monumental flop on first release in 1984. Audiences didn't know what to make of it at the time...and neither did Disney. While the animation is still top-notch, especially the Horned King and his creepy undead army, the story has plot holes galore, and neither Taran nor Ellonwy are very interesting characters. Fflewfedor, Gurgi, and the witches whom they seek come off slightly better.

The fantasy violence and general creepy atmosphere definitely puts this out of the reach of the really little guys. If you have older kids and young teens who think they've seen every Disney movie and are fans of other fantasy tales like Lord of the Rings, try this on them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Treasures at the Library

Began an absolutely glorious morning with Laverne & Shirley as I ate breakfast. After their couch breaks, Laverne and Shirley head to Ramsdale Manor, which is being condemned, to get one cheap. Shirley insists that the property is a "Haunted House." Laverne is just as sure that an old house is an old house, and they need a couch...until they and Squiggy and Lenny see strange things happening, and the boys and the little man who had been showing them the couch disappear.

Got an earlier start today around quarter after 10 with a stop at the Oaklyn Library. I was mainly there to return the two DVDs I took out last week. I looked at the DVDs and organized picture books and novels in the kids' area. A few people tapped away on the computers. Otherwise, they were pretty quiet.

Headed out to catch the bus to Voorhees around 11. It was only slightly late when it arrived at the stop in front of Oaklyn's City Hall on the White Horse Pike, and fairly full. It started emptying out as early as the first stop in Audubon. By the time I pushed the button to indicate that I wanted to get off at the Voorhees Library, I was the only one still riding. There was no traffic at that point, and no major problems.

Twice a year, in June and in October, the Camden County Library System has their county-wide book sale at the Voorhees Library...and I was lucky that they started a day earlier this year. I searched through tables and tables filled with paperbacks, hardbacks, non-fiction, older collectible titles, coffee table books, and boxes of records. Two shelves held DVDs and CDs. Kids' books were in their own special room. It was just before noon when I got there, and they were packed. It took me a while to wedge between people and find anything interesting.

No luck with kids' books this time around or records (those boxes mostly held opera collections), but I did come up with a few gems:

Ex-library copies of Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Peanuts Movie, recent animated films I really enjoyed and have been hoping to pick up somewhere along the line. (I already have the other two Kung Fu Panda movies.)

The last early Amelia Peabody book I didn't have, the second book in the series, Curse of the Pharoahs.

One of the most recent Mercedes Lackey Elemental Wizard Fairy Tale novels, Home From the Sea, a riff on East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I actually saw this at Barnes and Noble on my trip to Market Place in Cherry Hill last month, but held off on buying it...and now I'm glad I did! The copy I found looks like it's brand-new, with only a few pages creased. It's one of the books in the series that the Haddon Township Library doesn't have.

A Celebration of Christmas, edited by Gilliam Cooke - This is a British collection of holiday traditions, recipes, party ideas, games, stories, and music, all illustrated with old-fashioned Victorian prints and cut-outs. It even includes the script for a simple pantomime version of Cinderella for the family to perform. I remember taking this out of some library or the other (maybe my high school library?) in the 90's and being fascinated by the fairy-tale script and by the differences between English and American holiday traditions, not to mention the odd illustrations.

It was such a glorious day, I walked around the Voorhees Town Center mall and headed for the Boulevard, aka their Restaurant Row. Today was the most stunning weather we've had in weeks. The sky was perfectly blue, without a hint of a cloud, and the breeze was soft and cool. By 1:30, it had gotten into a dry and pleasant lower 70's.

I didn't get as lucky with my choice for lunch. My first idea, the bakery and cafe Victorian Savories, and second, the high-end fast food place Burgers 21, had shut down. I ended up at an enormous Friendly's, the biggest I'd ever seen. The goldenrod-yellow wallpaper and matted carpets of the narrow Westmont Friendly's had been replaced by a wide counter and streamlined, art deco-inspired red, black, and silver booths and tables. I wish they'd put more bacon on my Bacon and Swiss Turkey Burger. Otherwise, it was very tasty, nice and juicy for ground turkey. Had Hunka Chunka PB Fudge ice cream with hot fudge sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry for dessert.

Strolled around in the Voorhees Town Center after I ate to walk off my lunch. Despite their Macy's having closed last winter, they were in slightly better shape than they were on my previous visit. The food court was almost full again, and a Verizon store had replaced the shuttered Hallmark. There were still quite a few empty stores, though, including the Macy's, and it remains dark and fairly dreary in there.

The Boscov's, as usual, was busy with bargain shoppers. I was hoping to find a few bargains of my own. Nope, no luck here, either. Didn't see any clothes sales I liked. No dolls I didn't have, either. I'm going to hold off on buying Christmas decor until we get closer to that holiday.

Picked up a right-on-time 3:15 bus back to Oaklyn. They were relatively full, but at least the trip went fast. The rush hour traffic was going in the opposite direction.

Went straight home after the bus dropped me off at the White Horse Pike, across from the Oaklyn 7-11. Put my finds away, then did some writing. Chip, Kris, and Arturro manage to put out the fire before it spreads with a fire extinguisher and a bucket of lemonade. They lure the Imperials to Ed's Funcade, where they reveal that Palpatine intends to destroy the pier and force Maz to sell in the hope that other boardwalk merchants will follow her. When Arturro's extinguisher runs out of foam, Charlie calls out the Ewok kids, who kick the Imperials' shins into submission. As the others help them tie the bikers up with twine, Maz reveals that she and Charlie caught the Imperials' admitting Palpatine's guilt on a tape recorder.

Broke at 7 for dinner. Before I left for my errands run, I threw chicken legs into my Crock Pot with orange juice, chicken stock, soy sauce, and water. Had it with roasted Brussels sprouts and leftover mashed potatoes. Not bad. A little dry. I think I had the chicken in the pot for too long.

Finished the night with Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation while I ate. The Japanese detective (Peter Lorre) is taking a well-deserved rest in San Francisco when he's asked to help guard the recently-discovered crown of Sheba from an infamous thief. Moto soon discovers that there's not one, but several groups of crooks who would love to get their hands on the priceless bauble. Moto and his bumbling British reporter friend Arthur Featherstone (G.P Huntley) have to dodge all three groups, one of whom are gangsters who want Moto out of the way, while helping the archaeologist who found the crown (John King) keep the security system working and the crown out of criminal hands.

Not a bad entry. I thought the archaeological mystery would go along well with my Amelia Peabody find today. I do wish we'd seen more of Moto (this would be Lorre's last film in the series) and less of the very annoying and goofy Featherstone, though.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Cold Day In Autumn

Awoke to an absolutely gorgeous - if rather chilly - fall morning. Ran an episode of The Monkees while eating corn meal mush and red grapes for a nice, warming breakfast. The early first season show "Monkee See, Monkee Die" has the boys heading to a spooky mansion to gain their inheritance from a late millionaire. Davy falls for the girl who inherits the mansion itself, to the disgust of the millionaire's other hangers-on. The hangers-on seem to vanish overnight after they're all stranded on the island...but the boys know there's something else going on here..

It was 11:30 before I finally made it out to the laundromat to get this week's load done. Good thing I didn't have a big one. It was fairly busy today, with a couple of other people getting comforters clean for the winter. I worked on story notes and half-listened to The View and Action News.

Went home, put everything away, had a really quick lunch, then went back out. I enjoyed my ride down the White Horse Pike and Cuthbert to the Westmont Plaza. I'm so glad I have the next two days off. It suddenly feels like fall, all blue and gold and sunny, barely in the 60's. While we've had too dry of a fall for the leaves to be beautiful, I'll take what I can get.

Stopped at Dollar Tree first. I needed sponges, which is pretty much one of the few things I buy from there anymore. There's now places around here where you can get nicer stuff that's almost as cheap, but sponges are still a good price, and they don't need to be fancy. Surprisingly for quarter of 2, they weren't busy at all. I was in and out. Everyone must be enjoying the weather. (I also noticed that the door to the former Thriftway was open. Looks like they're starting to work on the interior of the new Target.)

The Haddon Township Library was even less busy. It was too nice of a day to be hanging around libraries. There were no audio books or CDs or new releases to shelve, and barely any DVDs. I organized the adult DVD titles, pulled TV sets and put them where they belong, and pulled out hold items for one of the librarians.

Opted to rent lighter fare than I have been lately. They don't have Mission Impossible 3, so I went with the next one after that, Ghost Protocol. Never did get around to seeing the Tim Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when it came out. While I've heard good and bad things about it, I did hear that this one is closer to the book (which I also enjoy). Since the next story I have planned after Summer Strikes Back is a Beauty and the Beast/Frog Prince fusion, I thought I'd try the teen Beauty story Beastly. The also had another movie in the Peter Lorre Mr. Moto series, Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation.

Made a quick stop at WaWa on the way home. I wanted a snack and to pick up orange juice for a cake I was going to bake later. Grabbed a soft pretzel and was glad to see that they still had Crystal Pepsi. I haven't run into that anywhere else besides WaWa and a few times at work.

Worked on writing for a few hours after I got home. Vader finally presents Luke to Palpatine aboard  his luxury yacht The Death Star. Here, Palpatine is a slick corporate monster in an expensive summer suit, offering Luke champagne and a chance to join the Imperial Gang. He rejects both, at least until Palpatine starts gloating about how he's sent some of the Imperials to burn the Marine Adventure Pier down, and have others stationed on the back deck of the yacht to shoot out his friends on the water. After that announcement, Luke tries to jump on him, but Vader grabs him back.

The folks on the water aren't doing much better. The Ghost and the Falcon are about to turn around and chase Palpatine's yacht when gunfire opens over their vehicles. Everyone hits the deck in a hurry. While Kanan angrily reminds the men that there's young teens on his boat, Lance and Wedge make their own plans for retaliation.

Had the last of of the chicken casserole for dinner, then made Zesty Cranberry Cake. This is what I bought that orange juice for. One of the lighter and simpler cakes in The Cake Doctor cookbook adds canned cranberry into a regular cake batter in lieu of oil or butter, with a little leftover for a cranberry glaze. I had a can of jellied cranberry sauce that was about to expire, so I thought I'd try it. Oh yum, it came out very well. A little too sweet, but not bad...though oddly, not as much cranberry flavor as I thought, with the sauce. Maybe next time, I'll use Cranberry Flummery instead.

Ran Mission: Impossible 2 while I ate and baked. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on vacation when he's called into work by his new boss (Anthony Hopkins). He's sent out to find a deadly virus that could destroy the world if it falls into the wrong hands. Rogue agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) forced a Russian chemist (Rade Sherbedgia) to create a biological weapon that would cause a pandemic...and create desperate need for the cure, which only Ambrose's company can provide. With the help of Ambrose's thief girlfriend Nyah (Thandie Newton), Ethan and his team (Ving Rhames and John Poison) have to break into the lab and steal the samples that could save the world. But when Ambrose figures out and injects it into Nyah, it may take all of Ethan's cunning - and spy gadgets - to save her, before the virus in her gets out of hand.

In some ways, I enjoyed this one more than the previous movie. First of all, the cast is mostly an improvement, including Newton as a far more interesting and proactive heroine. The story is a tad darker and a lot more involving. It's not just Hunt and the Impossible agents' necks on the line this time. It's the whole world. Charming Scott makes for a wonderfully nasty villain, too.

The success of The Matrix the year before is definitely felt here. The wild, colorful slow-mo stunts and action sequences felt innovative and daring at the turn of the 21st Century. Now, they just look dated. Some of them still work, though, especially towards the beginning, when they're initially stealing the samples.

This was a huge hit in 2000, in fact the top hit of that year, over even Oscar-winner Gladiator.  Despite the slightly dated feel, it's hard to disagree. If you enjoyed the first movie, the rest of the series, or Tom Cruise's other action films, you'll want to give this one a look, too.

Finished the night online while watching Daffy Duck's Quackbusters. Daffy's set to inherit the full estate of an eccentric millionaire - as long as he can provide a service to the community. Fed up with the ghost of the rich geezer taking his money with him, Daffy starts a paranormal elimination services to get rid of all ghost. He hires Porky and Bugs to help him out...but with possessed duck dames, haunted houses, and elephants in birdbaths as clients, Daffy may not stay in business long enough to keep his benefactor from laughing all the way to the bank.

The last of the Looney Tunes "movies" of the 70's and 80's that were mostly collections of bits and pieces of other shorts. This one does have some new material, including the Exorcist riff "The Duxorcist" and the opening with Daffy singing to a crowd of Universal's finest, "Night of the Living Duck." (Incidentally, this would be Mel Blanc's last time voicing the Looney Tunes. He died less than a year after this movie was released.)

This is my personal favorite of the Looney Tunes movies along with The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, and frankly a far more interesting celebration of Termite Terrace's occasional ventures into the macabre than Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special. If you're a fan of Daffy and can get past how different the voices are in the old and new shorts, you'll have a lot of fun with this.