Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate."

Today was my early 8-hour work day. As I figured it would was really boring. We weren't even remotely busy for most of the morning and afternoon. By the time rush hour came around, I was on my way home. Except for doing carts and returns for an hour and a half when I arrived and more returns for another hour or so before I left, I spent almost the entire day wiping down almost every glass case, cooler, and freezer in the entire store. I started cleaning around 10:30-11 and, not counting two 15-minute breaks, didn't finish until quarter after 4. My arm is so, so sore.

One of the big reasons for our quiet day was the relatively nice weather. It was chilly and a bit windy, but warm enough that most of what little snow we got yesterday was almost gone by the time I headed home. Picked up my invitation for Dana's bridal shower in March on my way in and took out the trash.

Spent the next hour and a half or so writing. Thrawn takes Leia and Pellaeon down a tunnel to see what he thinks of as a dead bird. To Leia's horror, it's Chewbacca, Luke the fairy scout's swallow friend. Thrawn and Pellaeon dismiss him as dirty and noisy and tells Leia to forget about him. She can't. He's her friend. Later that night, she brings a blanket and some food in the hope of reviving him. He is alive, just frozen, and his wing is broken. She rubs him to get his circulation going, then bandages his wing.

Broke for dinner at quarter after 7. Had leftovers, then looked over cookbooks and went online while watching Cool Hand Luke. Luke (Paul Newman) is arrested in Florida for cutting parking meters off their poles and sentenced to a chain gang for two years. His refusal to submit to any kind of authority quickly causes him to run afoul of the warden (Strother Martin), his gun-toting right hand man (Morgan Woodward), and the floorwalker Carr (Clifton James). He's even less popular with Dragline, the head of the prisoners (George Kennedy), who challenges him to a boxing match. He refuses to back down, even when it's obvious he's outmatched. That bout, and a subsequent poker game, wins him the respect of all his fellow prisoners, including Dragline. He still won't obey the wardens, encouraged by his ailing mother (Jo Ann Fleet) and his winning that famous egg-eating bet. After his mother dies and the wardens refuse to allow him to attend her funeral, he becomes determined to escape. The wardens, however, are just as determined to show their own strength...and not let the man known as "Cool Hand Luke" get out of their hands.

Tough, gritty prison drama written by a man who actually was on a chain gang for two years; his screenplay got an Academy Award nomination. Kennedy won as the hard-as-nails long-time chain gang member who eventually becomes one of Luke's bigger supporters. Some classic dialogue, too, including the famous "failure to communicate" line.

(One thing I have noticed is that the late 60's really liked sun-drenched, dusty highways. This is the third late-60's movie I've seen after Bonnie & Clyde and Easy Rider to be set on endless stretches of gorgeously-shot, rugged back roads.)

This rough-and-ready look at one man's refusal to submit to the system is one of the seminal works of the late 60's. If you're a fan of other dark prison stories or Newman, you won't fail to communicate with this one.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Monsters In the Snow

It was raining when I woke up this morning...but by the time I looked up from the last few chapters of Dark Force Rising, the rain had been joined by a light snowfall. The snow continued as I ran a quick Sailor Moon episode and ate breakfast. "Usagi Dances the Waltz" when she and the other Sailor Guardians are invited to a ball by an older English friend of Mamoru's. While the girls fight to see who'll dance with Haruka, Usagi overindulges in wine and gets a tad tipsy. She sobers up fast when a tone-deaf monster crashes the party.

As soon as breakfast was over, I called Dad to see if I could get a ride. When I got nothing on that side, I went downstairs to see if I could fix the bike. I got so close, but the back of the chain was really stuck, wedged between the wheel and the frame. Richard ended up helping me.

He also told me he'll be working on the outlet in the living room that gave me trouble last year. Unfortunately, along with this, they could possibly need to re-do the wiring in the entire apartment. Not only is it old, but it was apparently done in a strange way that may not be up to current codes. I'm really hoping they can do it without me having to move out for three days. I don't know if Dad and Jodie will be able to take me at a moment's notice.

At the very least, I was able to get to work and back on the bike with no trouble. The weather likely chased most people off. It was still snowing and raining when I headed out, but the snow wasn't doing anything but making the grass look like powdered sugar on a bunt cake. The roads and sidewalks were wet, but otherwise fine. We also had tons of help. Along with the head bagger, there was a bagger outside at all times. I spent the first half of my shift cleaning the bathroom and helping to organize newly-arrived candy, and the second half bagging, gathering baskets, and doing cold returns.

Had a quick dinner as soon as I got home. I loved my taco salad from last night so much, I made it again, this time replacing the dressing with plain old taco sauce. Next time, I think I'll do the actual dressing. I missed the sweet-sour tang.

Though both the snow and rain were gone by dinner time, I still did a couple of snow-themed cartoons as I ate. Frosty's Winter Wonderland reunites Frosty with his kid buddies from the original Frosty the Snowman special. It also has a much better villain. Jack Frost is jealous of Frosty's popularity with the kids. He'll do anything to be the only winter icon! Meanwhile, the kids make Frosty a wife he names Crystal to keep him from getting lonely...but only he knows how to make her "all livin'."

The Backyardigans hold the world's first "Cave Party" in a cute first season episode. Mountain cave kids Austin and Tasha invite valley dwellers Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone to come howl at the moon with them. Uniqua and the boys create new inventions to get them to across the snow and ice more quickly. Austin and Tasha have their own fun making musical instruments and ways to help the others figure out where they're going.

Did some writing for an hour or so after dinner. Leia joins Pellaeon and Thrawn for a far more elaborate feast. Thrawn is a wealthy mole and former admiral who lives in as much style as an underground animal can muster. He's quite interested in the story of Leia's journey, and even likes arguing with her. However, he's not a fan of the fairies or any animals who live in the light and refuses to help her find King Han and Chewbacca.

Jodie called while I was working on my story. Evidently, I caught Dad in the shower earlier. By the time he got out and got dressed, I was already on my way out the door. She wanted to know, first of all, if I'll be coming to the Super Bowl, and if I am, could I bring a dessert? The answer to both is yes. I rarely work later than 6 or 7, especially on Sundays. They have plenty of people to work in the evenings. She also reminded me that Dana and Jesse are getting married this year. Dana's bridal shower is March 28th; the wedding is a month later. I need to ask off for both.

Finished the night with Pacific Rim after a shower. Here's another really bizarre sci-fi tale. In a creative touch, the "aliens" in this story come from a portal on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, rather than space. Kaiju are destructive monsters that attack cities around the Ring of Fire area like San Francisco, Sydney, and Hong Kong. Jaegers, Transformer-like giant robots controlled by two or more mentally linked people, are created to combat the menace. After years of losing pilots and property, government official Marshal Stacker Penetecost (Idris Alba) relocates the last four Jaegers to Hong Kong and starts building a wall to try to keep the kaiju out. Meanwhile, he recruits former Jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) to navigate one of the newly remodeled Jaegers. Raleigh insists on Mako (Rino Kikuchi), Pentecost's adopted daughter, joining him, as she seems to link to his mind easily (or be "drift compatible," in Jaeger pilot speak). The four remaining Jaegers are going to fly a nuclear bomb over the portal where the kaiju are coming from...but Pentecost pulls Mako, whose parents were killed by a kaiju, out before they begin.

Hoping to find another solution, Pentecost calls in kaiju experts Newton (Charlie Day) and Herman (Bern Gorman). They end up seeking a kaiju brain to "drift" with from Hannibal, a dealer in black-market kaiju parts (Ron Perlman). Newton's well-meaning experiment ends with two more kaiju coming back out and causing fresh havoc. Now Raleigh has to convince Mako to join him in the remaining Jaeger, as they could be humanity's only hope for survival.

I give director Guillemo Del Toro and writer Travis Beecham a lot of credit. This is one of the most original sci-fi movies I've ever seen. A complicated, noisy, and sometimes hard-to-follow story was offset by excellent performances (especially from Day, Alba, and Perlman), the truly novel universe, and some of the most incredible special effects I've ever seen. The details on the kaiju and their destruction alone was outstanding.

While this did well enough here in the States, it went over far better overseas, especially in giant monster-loving China and Japan. It garnered enough fans here for a sequel to be released in late March. If you're more into stories of rampaging monsters and robots and elaborate science-fiction universes than I am, you may also enjoy this tale of creatures run amok...and how dissimilar people still manage to work together to stop them.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Taxing Afternoon

I slept in, then did a quick Three Stooges short while eating breakfast. Shemp, Moe, and Larry are "Income Tax Sappy" when their sister suggests taking a ton of loopholes on their tax forms. This nets them millions...until the IRS starts to catch wise and sends guys after them.

Managed to get some writing in before work. Pelleaon, a pale yellow fieldmouse, has taken Leia in. He provides companionship for her; she helps keep his house tidy in exchange for food. One day, he introduces her to his head officer and dear friend, Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn is a wealthy mole with exceptionally sleek blue-black fur and an air of sophistication. He's a retired commander living underground, still studying strategy,  history, and the arts. He's hoping to find a good companion in Leia...but he she has that temper...

Broke at 1 for lunch. Ran an episode of The Backyardigans to cheer me up after the trouble yesterday. What could chase your blues away more quickly than a good-natured clown? Anything, if you ask Ringmaster Tyrone in "The Best Clowns In Town." Clowns Uniqua, Pablo, and Austin have made him miss his train. They do everything they can to help him get to the city in time for the circus to start, including shoving him in a tiny car and shooting him out of a cannon!

It was just gloomy and gray when I headed out to work. Work was actually pretty busy. Though we're mainly supposed to get rain tomorrow, there's also a tiny bit of snow in the forecast. I doubt it'll do anything. Beyond most people saying it's only going to be an inch or less, it's once again too warm for it to stick to the main roads. Most people were still panicking. Today was also the end of a pretty big 4-day sale. While I did some bagging and returns, I was mostly outside doing carts. (Thankfully, with none of the problems I ran into yesterday.)

Walked to work, then walked home. (I'll mess with the bike tomorrow.) I had a good idea for dinner on the way down Manor. Instead of using the leftover taco meat in tortillas again, I decided to do my own version of Mark and Vanessa's taco salad. Replaced the bag of iceberg lettuce salad they likely used with spinach, chopped broccoli and cauliflower, shredded cheese, and cherry tomatoes. Made my own dressing by adding taco sauce, olive oil, and a tiny bit of molasses to the remaining liquid from heating up the taco meat. Oh, yum. It came out so nicely, just the perfect blend of flavors.

Did more Three Stooges while I ate. It's "A Stitch In Time" when they're furniture-makers who deliver their wares to a pretty client. They get the chance to be heroes when they discover that her house has been invaded by thieves. "Merry Mavericks" has them as vagrants who take a job guarding their boss' money. Local outlaws are determined to get that money...even if they have to dress as Native American ghosts and scare it out of the guys.

Played two more rounds of Lego Star Wars after dinner. "Dagobah" is another one of those really complicated rounds that take forever to play. I even got stuck at one point and started over. "Duel at Bespin" went even less well. Got three pieces from that one, but I kept jumping or falling off ledges as I followed Darth Vader and came up with no studs.

Finished the night online doing my taxes. Normally, this takes me about an hour. I work one job, own no property, and have no dependents. For some reason, it kept taking forever for the last e-mail with the code to send it out from TurboTax to arrive. I'd wait 20 minutes, get fed up, and get them to send another one. It did finally go out; while it was a little more than last year, it still wasn't anywhere near as much as previous years. Hopefully, it'll show up within the next two to three weeks.

Ran Forever Female while I worked. Beatrice Page (Ginger Rogers) is a popular Broadway actress whose stardom is on the wane, even as she keeps insisting she's 29. She and her producer ex-husband E.Harry Phillips (Paul Douglas) discover Stanley Crown (William Holden), a former fruit packer who writes in the wee hours, at a bar. They think his intimate play about a mother and her young adult daughter will be perfect for their next project...if he re-writes the daughter to be an older woman. He agrees to it to get it produced. Not everyone is happy with his decision. A young aspiring actress who keeps changing her name (Pat Crowley) has decided that she's perfect for the part of the daughter as it was originally written, and she won't take no for an answer. Meanwhile, she's developing a crush on Phillips, while it's quite obvious that Beatrice may have feelings for Stanley.

Basically All About Eve with a lighter, less biting tone. I like how well Holden, Douglas, and Rogers play off each other as the star who refuses to admit she's no longer an ingenue, her ex-husband who might actually still love her, and the wanna-be playwright who wants to figure out how to hold to both his vision and get the show onstage. Crawley, best known for her TV and stage work, does less well as the young woman desperate for stardom. (She would do far better on TV, where she was a mainstay in the 50's and 60's, and continues to pop up even today.)

Nothing you really need to go out of your way for, but if you're a fan of the cast, All About Eve, or stories about the theater, this is worth checking out on TCM or from made-to-order company Olive Films.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rainy Day Blues

The rain was coming down in a steady shower this morning when I rolled out of bed. Ate Corn Meal Pancakes while listening to one of my Peter Pan children's records to combat the gloomy day. Their versions of Hansel & Gretel and Thumbelina are fairly close to the originals; Thumbelina even includes the sequence with the beetles that many versions often leave out. The third story is an original, Blinky the Lighthouse Ship. Blinky is so small, most of the big ships in the harbor ignore him. He feels lonely and unwanted, until a storm at sea makes him realize just how important he is.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. Leia spends a happy summer in the woods with Chewbacca, Luke, and the other animals. When fall comes, Luke tells her he's heading south to the fairies' home, hoping to find Han and Chewbacca there. Leia tells him she'll keep an eye out for both.

As it turns out, Leia has her own problems. She's not dressed for the winter, she can barely walk in the snow, and her food sources are gone. The tiny girl finally finds a home with a little pale yellow field mouse named Pelleaon, who offers her food and shelter for the long as she can amuse his friend...

Broke for lunch at 12:30, then rushed off to work. Work was quite busy when I arrived, with long lines. They slowed down even as the rain vanished. I took a look at the bathroom and did returns for most of the first half of my shift. By the time I had break, the rain was mostly gone...and so was my help. One bagger had called out. I was alone with the carts for a while.

When I was outside pulling carts, I accidentally got a little too close to a car pulling out. I didn't mean to! I let the driver go, then went on my way. I was bringing another row of carts back from the side of the building near Arby's when an angry woman stomped over to me. She snapped at me that I never seemed to be where I should be and that I should do my job! When I was, very obviously, doing my job even as she yelled. I can understand her being upset about the near-miss with the car. Ok, I should be more careful. But why would she say that I wasn't doing my job when I was doing exactly what the managers told me to do? I couldn't think of a reply. All I could do was say that I was sorry.

I was upset for the rest of my shift, and was still frustrated when I got home. I gave a couple of stuffed animals a hug, then put on Mousercise to cheer me up as I made a fried egg wrap with spinach, cheese, and mushrooms for dinner. A kids' exercise record may seem like a strange thing to listen to during meal times, but I really needed the nostalgia. My family had that record for years in the 80's.

Did a few rounds of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga after dinner. I didn't really do very well with any of them. Probably did the best on "Escape from Echo Base," or at least got the most pieces. "Hoth Battle" and "Falcon Flight" were flying rounds, and I'm just not very good at those. I kept running into AT-ATs in the former and asteroids in the latter. Didn't get True Jedi anywhere.

Ended the night with the original 1959 cast of Once Upon a Time as I went online. Carol Burnett headlined this goofy satire of The Princess and the Pea. Burnett is Winifred, "Fred" for short. She claims she's "Shy," but she's really a boisterous girl from a swamp kingdom who swims moats and fights alligators. The prince (Joe Bova) is under the influence of his obnoxious, talkative mother Aggrivane. She won't let anyone else marry until he does...and she has no desire to let him marry. He falls head over heels for Fred after she's brought in by a local knight. The knight's lady is...expecting...and they need to get married soon. Fred does everything she can to pass the queen's absurd tests, including the one about putting a pea under a stack of mattresses.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Winds of Winter

I could hear the wind chimes going next door when I awoke this morning. It was a windy day, so windy that the draft in the back room kept blowing the door open. The front door had been blown open as well. I dealt with that, then had breakfast and got organized while finishing out the Scooby Doo disk. The kids learn "Don't Fool With a Phantom" when they're attacked by a wax spook while competing in a TV dance contest and the station's manager disappears. The owner of the wax museum next door claims he made the phantom appear...but is there a more realistic explanation for the phantom's appearance?

Finally made it out around quarter after 11. It was such a nice day, I went out in my heavy coral hoodie and was only slightly chilly. Despite the blustery winds, it was sunny and fairly warm, probably in the mid-upper 50's. I had two more bags of donations to bring to the Logan Church Thrift Shop. They were pretty busy when I got in as people looked around to make their final purchases before they closed. I just ended up with Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Don't know if I'll ever buy the rest, but I do like the first one.

My next stop was originally going to be the Oaklyn Library. I arrived there at noon...just as they closed early. Moved on to Dollar General instead, then CVS. Picked up sugar, sponges, and and mandarin orange cups at Dollar General, an electric toothbrush (thought I'd try it) and an apple-cinnamon-chia bar for a snack at CVS. Neither place was remotely busy. It was too nice to be shopping.

Had a quick lunch when I got home. Did a couple of Good Eats episode while I ate and did the dishes. Alton discusses how to make your own versions of two popular snacks, pretzels and mustard in "Pretzel Logic" and popcorn in "Pop Art."

Worked on my fanfic for the rest of the afternoon. No sooner does Leia leave Luke the Fairy Scout and Chewbacca the Swallow then she encounters a group of militaristic beetles on a long flight home. They just returned from battle with their enemies, the fairies. The head of the group, a huge, shiny black beetle, reveals that they had captured King Han and turned him over to his enemies. He sweeps Leia off to his ancient old master, thinking he find find her to be a pretty mate. He doesn't. In fact, he finds her to be ugly and too sharp-tongued. She's tossed in prison, but she escapes and makes her way into the woods.

Broke at 6:30 for dinner. Tossed together an old can of Potato-Leek Soup and the leftover Italian wedding from a couple of days ago, just to get rid of both. The potato-leek soup was salt-less and tasteless. I added the last of one of my bottles of seasoning just to make it taste like something.

Played some Lego Star Wars for a while after dinner. Finished out the New Hope rounds. I did get True Jedi on "Death Star Attack" and the first level to cover Leia's rescue (the latter thanks to playing that mini-game that lets you shoot down TIE fighters.) Didn't do well anywhere else. Those Walkers literally killed me in "Mos Eisley Spaceport," not to mention that one takes forever. At least I did a little bit better with the mosaic that you have to build to proceed in the second Leia's rescue round (even if I lost quite a bit of studs doing it).

Finished the night on YouTube with something I've been hoping to find. I dubbed the first Broadway's Lost Treasures collection of numbers from the Tonys a couple of years ago and have been hoping to pick up the other two ever since. I may still see if I can buy them somewhere. For now, finding Volumes II and III online will do.

Broadway's Lost Treasures II
Broadway's Lost Treasures III 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Getting Things Done

Once again began my day with chores and movies after breakfast. Put on An American Tail: Fivel Goes West while I was eating. Fivel dreams of becoming a great lawman like his hero, Wylie Burp (James Stewart). He gets his chance when his family heads out west on the word of smooth-tongued Cat R. Waul (John Cleese). When Fivel inadvertently discovers that Waul intends to lure the mice into a trap, he's knocked off the train and is forced to make his own way to Green River. Meanwhile, his good friend Tiger the Cat (Dom DeLouise) is also on his way out west, hoping to find his girlfriend Miss Kitty (Amy Irving), who went out to the country looking for "a new breed of cat." The duo enlist the over-the-hill Burp to help prove Waul's treachery to the towns-mice.

I like this follow-up to An American Tail much better than the original. Stylish animation, good songs, and a plot that's a lot more fun make this worth checking out. (There's also a bit of history here - this would be James Stewart's last film role.)

Did some more cleaning while the movie was on. I hadn't swept the dust and crumbs out of the pantry or under the sink in ages. (The pantry is a two-shelf storage space that's squeezed between the sink and stove.) They both really needed to be done.

Gave the LP for the 1959 musical version of Destry Rides Again a spin as I did the dishes and got organized. Destry (Andy Griffith) is the son of a famous sheriff called into Bottleneck to help create law and order. The citizens are dismayed when he arrives, wearing fancy clothes and not carrying a gun. He doesn't believe in violence. The gambler who more-or-less runs the town orders his girl Frenchy (Dolores Gray) to seduce Destry...but she ends up falling for him instead. Musical western has some ok songs, but is best known today for the Kylo Ren-level temper tantrums Dolores Gray threw during its run.

The only errand I really needed to do today was grocery shopping...and even then, I didn't have a huge list. Restocked grapefruit, apples, yogurt, skim milk, ground turkey, canola oil, soup, and canned Mandarin oranges. Thought I'd up my fiber and protein quotient with lentils, which are cheap, nutritional, and make an excellent stew. (They also don't require the overnight soaking that most dried beans do.) There was a sale on Quaker items; went with the cranberry-almond Breakfast Squares and Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares. Used an online coupon for the Acme's generic organic cheese pull-apart snacks - thought they might be a good way to get even more protein in my diet.

The Acme just got in a whole pile of new Eagles merchandise (including an amusing line of t-shirts that play on the Eagles' underdog status in the playoffs and the Super Bowl). I bought a "2017 NFC Champions" shirt. First of all, when is that going to happen again? Second, I actually do need to replace my old Eagles t-shirt. I've had it since college, and it has holes in it.

I'm not too happy with my schedule next week. Other than slightly different hours on Sunday, they're the same hours as this week...up to and including the 8-hour day on Wednesday followed by 3 days off in a row. I know we're not going to be that busy Wednesday. It's the day before the beginning of the month, and it's right before all the Super Bowl festivities are really supposed to kick in. And why give me most of next weekend off? I'm surprised they aren't going to want all hands on deck to deal with football-crazed customers.

Ran an episode of The Backyardigans as I put everything away and had a really quick lunch. Tyrone is off to a "Polka Palace Party" with Sherman the Worman, hoping to play polka at his brother's birthday celebration. On the way, he helps out Uniqua, Pablo, and Austin, each of whom play an instrument and love polka. They form a band, only to lose their instruments in the river. But the wormen have a surprise in store when they finally make it to the party...

Worked on my story for a little while. Here's where my version of the story diverges from Hans Christian Anderson's. Leia is helped off the lily pad by Luke, a kind-hearted fairy scout, and Chewbacca, a swallow. They're searching for Prince Han, the ruler of the fairies, who disappeared while trying to negotiate with the beetle army. Leia tells them she'll help them search from the ground.

Broke for a quick dinner at 6:30. Ran two episodes of the Happy Spook-day, Scooby Doo! set while I ate. "Happy Birthday, Scooby Doo!" was apparently the pilot episode for The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, the mid-80's series with Shaggy, Daphne, Scooby, and Scrappy. This has a few things in common with the Yogi Bear birthday episode, including it revolving around a This Is Your Life-style special. The whole gang is back together to find out just who has revived the ghoul from one of Scooby's scariest cases. It looks like it might be Fred...until the ghost starts attacking Scooby...

The next episode comes from Scooby Doo, Where are You? "The Backstage Rage" moves from the world of TV to puppets, as the gang goes behind the scenes at a puppet show. Scooby and Shaggy found a violin case filled with counterfeit money, but it's stolen when Scooby is distracted by a poodle puppet. Having solved the "why," the gang now has to figure out just who is running the counterfeiting operation.

Played a few more rounds of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga next. Finished out Revenge of the Sith, then did the first two rounds of New Hope. I've gotten better at jumping, but it still wasn't enough for me to get True Jedi on "Fall of the Jedi." Just barely missed it on the last round where Anakin fights Obi-Wan in the lava pits, though I did get most of the pieces there. "Secret Plans" is much easier. Got True Jedi there and several pieces. "Through the Jutland Wastes" takes forever, including a trip into the Jawas' sandcrawler to rescue the droids. Just barely got True Jedi, though not much in the way of pieces.

Finished out the night with Star! This musical biography of beloved British stage actress Gertrude Lawrence (Julie Andrews) begins with her origins as a poor child in London. Her father left the family when she was a baby. Her mother took odd performing jobs to support them and allow Gertrude to take classes in singing and dancing. This was how she met her life-long friend Noel Coward. Running away, she joined her dad and his girlfriend in music hall in South Africa, where she honed both her temper and her comedic chops. She takes chorus girl jobs on returning to England. She's happy to be reunited with Coward (Daniel Massey), but wants to really show her stuff. Her chance comes when the star of producer Andre Charlot's (Alan Oppenheimer) can't go on, and she turns her number into a tour-de-force. She gets married and has a daughter, but it doesn't last. She's too addicted to performing to be the wife her husband wants, and she's tired of his drinking.

She's now the toast of not only England but also Broadway, courting a rich nobleman (Michael Craig), a banker (Anthony Eisley), and an actor (Robert Reed). Gertie's love of parties and her lavish lifestyle catches up with her, even as she's appearing in one of her biggest hits, Private Lives. She works herself into exhaustion to fund her love of shopping, neglecting her daughter in the process. But she gets one last shot - at love and at capturing the audience - with the unusual Lady In the Dark and its big "Saga of Jenny" circus number and her eventual marriage to a producer (Richard Crenna).

This massive spectacle was a flop on first release in 1969. It may simply not have been the right time for a lavish biography of a star who still had some mild name recognition in England at that point but was barely remembered elsewhere. Elaborate, old-style Hollywood filmmaking and musicals in general were going out of fashion in the late 60's.

I saw a bit of it, mainly the "Has Anybody Seen My Ship?" number, on TCM when I was in college. I wouldn't think of it again until I found that DVD at the Haddon Township Library. I'm glad I found it again. This is an excellent musical, with Andrews in fine form and some wonderful music. Massey made such a perfect Noel Coward, he garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It's worth seeing alone just for Massey and Andrews in a scene and song cribbed from Private Lives. (It's rare that you see scenes from plays, with one small non-chorus song, recreated in a musical biography.)

If you're a fan of Andrews, Lawrence, or big old-style musicals and have time on your hands, this tale of the ups and downs of stardom is well worth looking out for.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bringing Out the Beast In Sports and Games

I was happy just to have time at home after being at work all day yesterday. I spent the morning doing little chores around the house that I've put off during the holidays and for the last few weeks. Made the bed. Cleared out old paperwork. Finally scrubbed the pot that got scorched when I attempted fudge a while back. Went through my Christmas books and the remaining donations in the back and got them packed up to be taken to the church on Saturday.

Ran a Bowery Boys semi-dramatic boxing tale, Fighting Fools, as I puttered. This one starts with tragedy, as another fighter is killed in the ring. Sach and Slip drag the fighter's old brother, a former boxer who dropped the game after dealing with racketeers, back into the limelight in order to help his mother and brother. Once the guy starts winning, the same racketeers who fixed the fight against his brother want a piece of the pie. Slip says no...until they kidnap the little brother. Now the guys have to find the kid and make sure their boy wins that fight fair and square.

Did the dishes and finished in the back room while listening to Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits. Felt like I needed the driving music. (For one thing, it drowned out Charlie and the guys working on the porch and helping Richard taking down his Christmas lights outside.)

After I finished with the dishes, I played some Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. "Droid Factory," the third round of Attack of the Clones, is long and complicated. After having to go back because I got stuck, I did eventually do better on it than I did the first time. (Including avoiding that annoying glitch on the conveyor belts) "Jedi Calvary" was much simpler. All you have to do is have Mace Windu free Anakin, Padme, and Obi Wan and fight Jango Fett.

Dodged road work on the residential side streets off Cuthbert as I rode to Westmont. First stop was Friendly's for lunch. They were still pretty busy when I arrived, including a young couple with the most adorable toddler daughter. I had a tasty turkey burger with bacon and Swiss and fries. Dessert was simple chocolate ice cream bathed in strawberry syrup, with a mountain of whipped cream and a cherry.

The Haddon Township Library was quiet as can be when I arrived. In all honesty, there wasn't that much to do. I shelved DVDs and the one CD and pulled TV show sets out of the one-disc movies. Took out a couple of movies this week. Continued exploring the films of the 60's and 70's with Cool Hand Luke. The library occasionally gets movies from made-to-order DVD company Olive Films. Went with Forever Female, apparently a comedy with Ginger Rogers and William Holden. Since the second Pacific Rim film is coming out later this year, I thought this was a good time to finally get around to checking out the first one. Also grabbed another Scooby Doo three-cartoon set, this one with a birthday theme. Found a cookbook of low-fat dishes that still looked tasty (some of which recreated restaurant dishes) and another on the psychology on how and why we eat.

Went straight home after I left, riding across the half-frozen landscape of Newton Lake Park. While it was sunny and in the mid-30's, much colder than it has been, it was really closer to what it should be at this time of year. It was the wind that made it feel that much chillier. The park was mostly empty, even as the kids were just getting out of school. I eventually took the shortcut over the hill and past the Haddon Township Environmental Center and Museum.

Went into writing when I got in. The Organas raise tiny Leia to be a feisty and intelligent young woman. She has free range of their walled garden, chasing out pests and making friends with smaller animals and birds, learning their languages. Her parents teach her everything they know, including law from lawyer Bail.

Leia loves her parents, but she really wants to find some friends her own age and size. The Organas send her on her way beyond the walled garden with their blessings. Barely out of the gate, she's promptly snatched by a blue, yellow, and green toad, who wants her to be his fat, slimy toad boss' wife. Leia's not having any of it, but the toads strand her on a lily pad to force her to agree.

Broke for a quick dinner at 6:30. Did some more Good Eats while eating leftover shrimp salad. Alton explores the fancy nut and fruit oils that were just starting to show up in most supermarkets in the mid-2000's in "There Will Be Oil." Wish I could do the nut oil ice cream in this one, but I don't have an ice cream maker. Might be able to pull off the stir-fry in the beginning, though.

Returned to Lego Star Wars after dinner. I finished Attack of the Clones, then did the first half of Revenge of the Sith. Just missed True Jedi on "Count Dooku," but did get it on the round with Anakin going after him (even though it took me a while) and on Palpatine's rescue. Also found another red brick in the "Battle of Coruscant" round and half the pieces (though I bonked into the sides so much, I came out with no studs). Also had problems with "Battle of Kashyyak," which takes forever. There's one part where you have to shoot out the lead droids, or more will just keep coming. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to get rid of them, and I lost all my studs.

Ended the night on YouTube with Animalympics. Figured it was appropriate, with the real-life Winter Olympics beginning in a couple of weeks. This 1980 animated parody of international athletics have animals from the five continents of the world (and Eurasia, aka Russia) coming together in the spirit of world understanding. Four actors (among them Billy Crystal, Gilda Radner, and Harry Shearer) voice a wide variety of characters. There's a surfing dude otter whose laid-back lifestyle helps him win big in swimming and diving, a lioness and a goat who are determined to out-run each other in the marathon, a Canadian bear ice hockey team going up against bigger boars, a European boar fencing with a sleek Russian falcon, and a Japanese penguin and Russian minx who come up with perfect scores in gymnastics.

This used to show up a lot on cable in the 80's and early 90's, and it became a favorite of my sisters and me. This is the first time I noticed that a lot of quite well-known animators worked on this film early in their careers. Brad Bird would go on to helm The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles movies, and Roger Ailiers later directed The Lion King. That would explain why the animation is pretty good for something originally intended for TV, especially the otter's diving dream sequence. I'm also a big fan of the soundtrack by Graham Gouldman and the 70's rock group 10cc, including the disco number "Go for It," the anthems "Now That We've Made It" and "With You I Could Run Forever," and the lovely ballad "Away From It All." Love how realistic the graphics that introduce each segment are, too. The really do look like they came directly from the 1980 Winter Olympics and 1984 Summer Olympics broadcasts.

If you're a fan of other animal-based animated comedies like Zootopia and Sing, love the Olympics, or have fond memories of seeing it as a child, this is currently on YouTube and is worth a look.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Long Day's Journey Into Work

Today was my 8-hour work shift. It was more boring than anything else. It's a good thing the bathrooms weren't really that bad this morning when I looked at them. They're working on repairing the leaking spigots for the mop buckets in the back storage area, which means no one up front can mop anything. I did do the carts early in the morning, but there was no need after the late morning and early afternoon baggers arrived. Otherwise, I gathered inside trash and baskets, bagged, did returns, and cleaned up that leak over by the chips display twice. (Finally told two managers about that leak. Hopefully, someone will do something about it very soon.)

Headed home as soon as I got out. Turned the last of my leftover black bean dip into Black Bean Wraps with green beans. Ran two episodes of Good Eats on winter vegetables while I ate. Brussels sprouts are a bit more common now than they were when "A Cabbage Sprouts in Brussels" debuted. People have since figured out how to use their savory bite in everything from slaw to grilled skewers. "Celeryman" shows how versatile the common rib is, with celery tonics made from its seeds and mashed celery root. I've tried the braised celery before in the winter when I didn't have too many other vegetable options, and it was delicious.

Had time to begin my next story after dinner. Since I did three Sequel Trilogy-based stories in a row, I opted to return to the Original Trilogy with Thumbe-Leia. Bail and Breha Organa long for a child more than anything else in the world, but Breha is barren. One night, a mysterious old man turns up, cold and tired. Breha offers him a cup of tea. In return, he gives them a seed that will make their fondest wish come true. Indeed, when the seed sprouts and the flower opens, it reveals a tiny young woman, no bigger than their thumbs. They name her Leia and take her into their home as their daughter.

Ended the night with Golden Boy. William Holden made his film debut as Joe Bonaparte, who gives up a promising career as a violinist to become a boxer. As in the musical, he falls in with a bad crowd and falls in love with his manager's girl Lorna (Barbara Stanwyck). Lorna originally stood by his decision, but once she realizes that Joe's no longer the man she fell in love with, she begs him to return to music. He's overwhelmed by the money and fame pouring in and ignores her, especially since she's engaged to Tom (Adolphe Menjou).His father (Lee J. Cobb) tries as well. It takes a tragedy in the ring and damage to his hands to make Joe rethink his life and what he wants to do with it.

Like Love Story, this is pure, unabashed melodrama. Unfortunately, it cut the tragic ending, which leaves things a bit ambiguous. I also think Joe switched way too quickly from "I'm devoted to music and wouldn't touch boxing" to "I'm devoted to boxing and can't go back to music." Almost every Italian in this movie but Joe is either a New York stereotype or an Italian immigrant stereotype (Cobb's rather bad accent) or both, which dates it rather badly.

Fans of boxing or romantic drama will probably get a lot more out of this than I did. Not horrible, but not something I'm going to return to, either. (Bit surprised to see this was directed by Rouben Mamoulien - I didn't catch a lot of his signature style.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Rain Odyssey

It was pouring when I started breakfast. Watched an episode of Good Eats to counter the gloom. "Pantry Raids III: Cool Beans" covers three basic recipes for one of the lowest-cost and most nutritional sources of protein out there. Most of them involve dried beans, though. I'm not a big fan of leaving them to soak overnight. I have tried Alton's hummus recipe several times, though, and it's excellent.

As soon as the rain stopped, I headed out. I really had to get the laundry done. Meant to do it yesterday, but ended up finishing off that story first. On the other hand, a wet, dreary day might have been the right time to do it. The laundromat was empty when I arrived. By the time it started getting busy, my clothes were in the dryer. I worked on story notes and half-listened to Rachel Ray and The View.

Rushed home and put everything away, then got organized and had lunch. It started pouring again as I put on an episode of The Backyardigans. Tyrone, Pablo, and Uniqua are Coast Guard members who want to "Save the Day." Tasha would rather they just left her alone to catch a "whopper"...even as her attempts to fish lead her into increasingly dangerous waters.

I left a little early to take advantage of the end of the rain and the arrival of a sunny sky. While this did give me the chance to pick up the shampoo I forgot on Saturday, it otherwise wasn't necessary. We were pin-drop quiet almost the entire afternoon. Even with one of the baggers going home sick, we still had plenty of help. I was outside once to do carts when the outside bagger went on break. Otherwise, I mainly did returns, gathered baskets and inside trash (and that barely needed to be done), bagged, and tried to look like I was doing something. By the time rush hour started. It only started to pick up around 4...and I was done at 5.

Did another Backyardigans episode while having an egg wrap with spinach, mushrooms, cheese, and tomatoes. "Catch That Butterfly" is the first of three episodes that have Tyrone, Pablo, and Uniqua chasing something. In this case, we have a comic romp in the old west as Professor Pablo hires stagecoach drivers Uniqua and Tyrone to take him after a rare butterfly. They're sure it'll be an easy drive...but that butterfly takes them across some rough terrain that makes even them wonder if they're up to this task.

Spent the next couple of hours playing more Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Finished out the rest of the rounds for The Phantom Menace and the first two for Attack of the Clones. I actually managed to get past the Pod Race round on the first try, something I've never done before. Didn't do as well on most of the other rounds. Found the most pieces on "Escape from Naboo" (five) and only got True Jedi on "Discovery On Kamino."

Finished out the night with the truly trippy 2001: A Space Odyssey. After a brief visit to the dawn of time as early man learns how to use bones as weapons, we make a very famous jump cut to an unspecified time in the future. The same black monolith seen by the apes turns up again, this time on the moon...but the scientists who were supposed to inspect it go missing. Months later, astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) are on their way on an expedition to Jupiter. Their ship is controlled by the computer HAL 9000 (voice of Douglas Rain). Supposedly upset over their decision to shut him down, HAL severs Poole's oxygen line and lets him drift, then won't let Bowman back in after he attempts to rescue him. Bowman has had doubts about his mission from the beginning...and they're even worse after a recording by one of those lost scientists (William Sylvester) explains about the monolith and why they're really going to Jupiter. Bowman enters a pod to figure it out...and that's when things get really weird (and colorful).

This was one of the strangest science-fiction movies I've ever seen. I didn't understand a word of what went on here. A lot of it seemed dry and dull, and it moves at a glacier pace. The scanimate colors in the finale are gorgeous to look at and technically amazing, but they go on for way too long, and I have no idea what was going on with the ending.

The amazing special effects still make this worth seeing. I can't believe how they did some of this. It still looks good to this day, even that colorful finale. You really feel like you're in outer space with Bowman and Poole. Even HAL doesn't seem that terribly dated. Hell, you really feel for that computer when he finally "dies." They even use early versions of what looks like tablets and videophones.

If you're into sci-fi films that are more science than fiction, this is one of the most influential films of all time and is pretty much a must-see.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Inspectors Aren't Dull

Celebrated yesterday's big Eagles win by finally finishing Heir to the Empire. Watched "Demons Aren't Dull" from the serial-style 4th season of Danger Mouse. This one, at least, certainly isn't. He's a strange creature from another dimension who steals London landmarks and drops them in his home world. Danger Mouse and Penfold have to figure out how to rescue them...and dodge an equally nefarious (if shorter) plan from Baron Greenback.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon ending BB In Toyland. All's well that ends well in Toyland. Leia makes Poe the Piper's Son head of her Factory. He and Rey Quite Contrary agree to start courting each other. Han Shaftoe tells Mother Leia Goose that he'll stay on land more often. Confused about his place in Toyland, Kylo Ren returns to the Crooked Castle with Jack Hux, Jill Phasma, Simple Simon Mitaka, and the rest of the trolls. Barnaby Snoke is arrested. Santa tells Kaydel Bo Peep that he'll buy her sheep and give them to her, as long as she actually keeps an eye on them. Santa gives a sleepy BB a ride home in his sleigh.

The little girl wakes up back in Skywalker's Department Store with Maz's words about the choices we make ringing in her ears. She's a bit surprised when the first person she sees is Santa Claus...but it's just Luke Weston in a costume. She immediately tells him and Poe about Ben's deception and his stealing from the company. Turns out Leia and Poe were also suspicious and got friends of Officer Solo to haul Ben, Hux, Phasma, and Mitaka down to the nearest police station for questioning. Phasma is fired; the deal with Alexander Snoke and the First Order Value Department Store chain is off.

Officer Harry Solo offers the entire group a ride home in his old truck the Falcon. As they're leaving, BB sees a group of dancers in colorful costumes...including one who looks like Maz Kantana. She waves as they head out, telling her brother that she's glad there's no place like home.

That should not have taken as long as it did to write. It was supposed to have been this year's Christmas story. I had a lot of major distractions in December and early January, including a couple of days around New Year's when I couldn't get to writing at all, and other days when I could only get a tiny bit of writing done. At any rate, BB In Toyland is finally up and posted at Archive of Our Own, my writing blog, and Fanfiction.Net.

BB In Toyland - Archive of Our Own
BB In Toyland - My Writing Blog
BB In Toyland -

Ran one of the Popeye 20-minute shorts as I had a quick lunch and got ready for work. Popeye is the title character in Aladdin and His Magical Lamp. Screenwriter Olive makes herself the princess he woos. Surprisingly, there's no Bluto to be found. A wicked vizier is the one who sends Popeye into the caverns to find the lamp, then steals it from him and forces the genie to take the princess' castle away. Popeye still has to use spinach to rescue her.

Work wasn't too bad, especially after yesterday. It was steady for most of the night, not as crazy as yesterday, but never really dead, either. I cleaned the bathrooms when I came in, bagged, and did the outside trash, but I mostly gathered carts. At least it was a nice day for it. It was the warmest weather we've had in weeks, mid-50's and cloudy, with no wind.

Did an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre while eating leftovers for dinner. Star Wars wasn't the last time Carrie Fisher would play a princess or appear in a fantasy story. She made a fetching "Thumbelina" in the show's second season. A tiny girl is kidnapped by a toad and befriended by a mouse and a mole, the latter of whom wants to marry her, before she ultimately finds happiness with a fairy prince who is far closer to her size and temperament.

Took a shower, then played some Wii. I hadn't played video games for a while. I used to have it hooked up through the DVD recorder. When that died, so did my way of hooking up the game. I finally bought a splicer that allows you to hook several devices at once to your TV off Amazon with that Christmas gift card Mom gave me. Decided to start Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga over rather than return to the more difficult Clone Wars. I've definately improved at this game since last time. Made it through the first two rounds easily, getting 1 piece from the first round, 7 from the second, and True Jedi from both.

Finished out the night with The Inspector General. This Danny Kaye vehicle from 1949 has some things in common with the later The Court Jester. Once again, Kaye is involved in a comic swashbuckler, this time as Georgi, a gypsy on the run from his abusive chief Yakov (Walter Sleazak). He stumbles into a small town run by a corrupt group of politicians, including the Mayor (Gene Lockhart) and his Chief of Police (Alan Hale Sr.). He's arrested at first, but is then mistaken for the Inspector General who is supposed to be coming to see if the town is run honestly. The politicians want to either kill him or get him out of town, but Yakov thinks they can use their bribes to his gain (despite claiming he's going to buy back the town's organ). Georgi just wants to court a pretty and outspoken maid (Barbara Bates) and avoid the mayor's lusty wife (Elsa Lanchester).

If you enjoyed The Court Jester, this is pretty much the same deal, only set in Yugoslavia instead of England. Kaye sings his patter songs with aplomb, avoids Lanchester's advances, and spends a lot of time stuttering over how he's supposed to be aristocratic when he can barely write. Fun for fans of Kaye or comic adventure stories.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

How Far They'll Go

Began a sort-of sunny morning late with Gingerbread Pancakes and the film soundtrack of Hairspray. As much as I like the original cast album, there's a couple of additional songs that make the movie version even better. I love Link's big number "Ladies' Choice" and the credits song "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)." Plus, you will never likely see John Travolta and Christopher Walken make such a cute couple ever again.

Had time for a tiny bit of writing before work. Santa Claus' first announcement is that Snoke is officially under arrest. He annoints Rose Grumio the new Toymaker. She's not sure she can do it, but the others back her up, including Finn.

Got off to work at 1. Work was a total zoo when I got in. This is the first time in years that the Eagles have made it to the Championship game. A lot of people wanted to see if they'd be playing the Patriots or Jaguars, too. I spent my first hour and a good part of my last hour rounding up endless carts. In between, I gathered baskets, bagged, and put away many 12-packs of Coke. (We're having a 3 packs for $8 sale on Coke that clearly says you have to buy a pack of regular Dr. Pepper with the other two Coke products to get the sale. I knew the moment I saw the ad that a lot of people weren't going to read that correctly.)

Jodie called my phone twice while I was working. I picked them up as I was heading out the door. Did I want to come over to watch the game and have pizza? Sure! Why not? I rode right over from work.

Dad, Jodie, and Jessa were watching the tail end of the Jaguars-Patriots game when I arrived. The Jaguars started well, including getting a touchdown on a perfect catch during my break. They were still ahead by quarter after 5, but just barely. Alas, the Patriots got one final touchdown to win the Championship...again...24-20.

The pizza was late. Jodie said she asked for it to be there by 6:30. It still hadn't arrived by the time the game started at 6:40. By that point, Mark and Vanessa had arrived with a bowl of taco salad (which was basically salad with taco meat and Doritos - I declined the latter). Jodie called the pizza place they ordered from twice to give them an earful. It did finally show up by 7, by which time the Eagles and Vikings were tied at 7-7.

Jodie must have seen the four slices of mushroom, cheese, and pepperoni I ate. She mentioned that I really needed to lose weight. That's hard for me. I have tried, and tried, and tried, and tried again, and tried some more. Nothing ever works. I could try the new gym behind the Acme (where Staples used to be) and attempt to walk more. Giving up baked goods is hard, though. I genuinely like making them and eating them. And I'm too nervous to do it with other people. I'm afraid of what they'll say, or that I won't be able to keep up with them, or they'll say they want to do it, then not end up doing it after all. (Like Rose all but one of the times we were supposed to go to Yogawood together.)

It was getting late and dark. I finally went home at 7:30. Got in just in time to hear the end of the second quarter. Despite Dad's worries and fussing, the Vikings never scored again after that first touchdown. They never even got close. The Eagles dominated from the second quarter onwards, going on to win the NFC Championship 38-7.

Talk about your "fantasy football!" Last season, the Eagles didn't even make the playoffs. This season, we're in the Super Bowl. It's amazing what can happen in a year.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Two for the Road

Began a gorgeous, sunny morning with breakfast and a round of baking. I was out of butter, so I just did my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that requires egg whites and oil. Ran Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit while I baked. England's favorite inventor and intelligent pooch are now in the pest business, using humane methods to rid local gardens of vegetable-eating rabbits. While this makes them the darlings of all the gardeners in their village, it also means they're constantly feeding a ton of hungry rabbits, not to mention dealing with Wallace's own fondness for cheese. Wallace creates a brainwashing machine to convince the bunnies to like other foods...but one bunny gets stuck in it, switching their brainwaves. Now there's a giant vegetable-eating bunny loose in the village! While Wallace courts animal loving gardener Lady Tottington, Gromit tries to figure out who this giant carrot eating menace is...and how to return it to normal.

Did a few episodes of another popular British cartoon, Danger Mouse, while pulling the cookies out of the oven and getting my grocery list organized. Considering I'd just done an Aardman cartoon, I couldn't resist a first-season short called "Chicken Run." In this case, DM and Penfold are tracking down a machine created by Dr. Squwakencluck that enlarges chickens to giant size. Baron Greenback stole the machine and has allowed giant fowl to trample all over London. "Ice Station Camel" has them heading to the North Pole, where Greenback has used the poles to stop the Earth's rotation. Our dynamic duo has to foil Greenback and figure out how to get it started again.

Headed out around 1 to run a few errands. It was too nice for the Oaklyn Library to be busy. I saw one other person there besides the library, a lady who came in to ask her to put the new Janet Evanovich book on hold for her. I organized DVDs in the adult and kids areas and shelved kids' books.

I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was this afternoon. The sun was out, the cloudless sky was a soft blue, and it was a windless lower-mid 50's. Since I was closer to Nicholson Road than the Black Horse Pike anyway, I took Nicholson Road down to the Acme, dodging the weekend traffic.

The Acme was pretty busy when I arrived, and had been all day. One of the reasons I put off doing my grocery shopping until today was the store was having an employee luncheon in the back room in honor of the Eagles championship game. The meatballs were gone by the time I got in, but I also saw stuffed peppers, sausages, potato salad, pasta and vegetable salad, taco dip, a moist chocolate cake, brownies with fudge centers, and chocolate cupcakes. I tried the stuffed peppers, pasta and potato salads, brownies, and chocolate cake. Yum. Loved everything but the potato salad, which was really rather bland.

After I ate, I went right into shopping. Acme's having one of their periodic "buck a back" produce sales. I was able to grab a container of cherry tomatoes and bags of spinach, celery, cut broccoli and cauliflower, oranges, and dried apple chips and baked peas along with my little apples and an onion. Picked up whole wheat tortillas to have tacos later in the week. Found a small container of shrimp for a good price in the seafood section. Restocked I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, mouthwash, stamps, pasta, cheese, honey, and cans of crushed pineapple, black beans, diced tomatoes, and mandarin oranges.

Did more Danger Mouse shorts as I put my groceries away and got organized. London has been infested by "A Plague of Pyramids" that threaten to sink the island. DM and Penfold head to the Sahara Desert to investigate the menace. Leaders around the world seem like they "Die Laughing" when hit by a certain bug. DM and Penfold go after Greenback's new hide out to find the source of the laughing gas, before the British Prime Minister is next.

Worked on writing for a couple of hours after I finished. Kylo Ren - aka Ben Boy Blue - orders Barnaby Snoke's arrest after he sees him attacking his mother. The deal is off. He's now the sole ruler of Toyland...or so he thinks. Santa's arrival puts a crimp in his plans, for Santa has bought the Toy Factory. Santa finally gets him to reveal the truth - Ben's family and Rey can't save him. The only one who can save Ben is Ben himself, but Ben isn't ready. He opts to return to Crooked Castle with the trolls, Hux, and Phasma.

Broke at 6:30-quarter of 7 for dinner. Sliced up the shrimp and added broccoli florets, green beans, and halved cherry tomatoes with a homemade vinaigrette. Oooh, it came out so nicely. Perfect blend of flavors.

Enjoyed my meal while watching Hold That Line. Though technically about college football, I thought it would still work pretty well with the game tomorrow. The Bowery Boys attend a prestigious college on a bet between older donors. The student body doesn't know what to make of them at first, until Sach creates a potion that gives him strength and stamina. His newfound abilities turns him into a hero on the football field...and makes him the target for gangsters who want Ivy to lose the big game against State.

Finished the night with Cars 3. Like the Toy Story films, this series acknowledges the passing of time. Doc Hudson may be gone, but Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) continues to race in the Piston circuit. After a horrific crash that sends him into seclusion, he worries that his days as a competitor may be numbered. There's a lot of newer, younger, faster cars out there, like cocky Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), who train with simulators and have never set tire on a dirt track. Encouraged by his new sponsor, millionaire Sterling (Nathan Fillion), McQueen joins a gym and even gains a personal trainer (Cristela Alonzo). He takes her to a demolition derby to get her out from behind her phone...and is surprised when she holds out long enough to win. Turns out she'd had ambitions to become a racer, but didn't have the confidence. After hearing stories about Doc from his longtime friend and crew member Smoky (Chris Cooper), McQueen not only thinks he has the right stuff to get back in the race...but to get Cruz on track, too.

Considering that the previous movie in this franchise is generally regarded as the worst Pixar's made to date, this is a considerable improvement. The story is actually quite touching, reminding me a bit of Luke and Rey's interaction in The Last Jedi.  Like that film, the plot about recapturing "Glory Days" and passing your joy onto the next generation won't be for everyone (and actually may fly over the heads of many in its target audience), but if you were a fan of the original film or want something lower-key in your animated movies, this is a really lovely tale of doing your any age.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Winter Sunshine

Got a late start and had just enough time to eat and clean up from breakfast and get organized before work. Ran a couple of DC Comics-based items before I headed off, starting with the 70's Wonder Woman. "The Man Who Made Volcanoes" was a slight reboot of the series mid-way through its second season. Steve Trevor is moved from Diana's partner to her boss, the opening credits are now regular clips rather than comic strip animation, and she mostly ditches the glasses for the remainder of the series. She's still solving mysteries, though, in this case trying to figure out who is making volcanoes in China and Russia blow their tops on cue.

Wonder Woman wasn't the only superhero in the DCU to deal with volcanoes. Superman also had to stop a "Volcano" from erupting and damaging a city. Lois Lane steals Clark Kent's press pass in order to get the scoop before him. She ends up in a pretty hot situation when she's almost boiled by the lava. Superman has to rescue her, then make sure the explosives to block the lava go off.

Work was on-and-off steady, and mostly pretty simple. I dodged workers in the back who were repairing a closet near the back room when I arrived. The spigots to fill our buckets are right behind that closet. Workers and their things were everywhere. After that, there were no problems. I bagged, did returns and inside trash, and gathered baskets and carts. (And it was a lovely day for the latter, sunny and windless, probably in the lower-mid 40's.)

My schedule for next week is really weird. I work from Sunday through Wednesday. The first three days are normal four-hour, afternoon shifts...but Wednesday, for some strange reason, is an 8-hour day. This was more understandable during the holidays, when there was a lot going on. The only thing going on right now is football. Other than some rain, we're not even supposed to get bad weather this week. I'm off for the remaining three days after Wednesday, though.

I was starved after a lot of moving around at work. Headed straight to Arby's after I finished. Along with a turkey club sandwich, curly fries, and Mountain Dew "Game Fuel" (cherry-citrus), I thought I'd try their new Oreo bites. Oooh yum, they were tasty! Basically soft mini chocolate donuts rolled in sugar, with a cream filling. Just sweet and rich enough.

Went home and worked on writing for a little while after dinner. The moment Luke the Toymaker disappears, Santa Claus arrives. Not only does he know a lot about BB, but she realizes that he looks awfully familiar...kind of like the Toymaker...

Ended the night with Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. The kids are safely in WKCD...but Thomas is still curious. His searching reveals that the head of the group, Ava (Patricia Clarkson), is still very much alive and has plans to use their immunity to the "Flare Virus" that threatens the outside world. Thomas finally manages to get not only his friends out, but the first Maze Runner to have arrived at WKCD (Jacob Lofland). They search the Scorch - the wastelands and remains of the city - for the "Right Arm," the local resistance group. They run across Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar), who lead another group of survivors, but ultimately decide to help them out. Thomas and Brenda seek out Marcus (Alan Tudyk), a sleazy local who may know where the Right Arm is. Even after they find them, they still have to help Brenda, who was infected by a zombie, and fend off WCKD from trying to snare the remaining survivors for the cure.

Dark, dreary, and not a lot of fun, this one feels even more like a Hunger Games/Divergent imitation than the previous film. It still has some virtues, including some intense performances from O'Brian and Salazar, Clarkson as a decent villain, and a lot of well-shot tension, especially in the first half. Once the kids get into the city, a lot of the mystery and tension dissipates, leaving a rather depressing action-horror tale.

Once again, if you're a fan of The Hunger Games or similar young adult novel adaptations based around dark futures, you'll want to take a look at this series. Anyone else can easily skip this (and the Divergent series as well).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Oaklyn Runner

I slept in a bit again this morning, this time with no need to rush off early. Watched an episode of The Backyardigans after I finally rolled out of bed. "Garbage Trek" is a funky third season spoof of Star Trek. Tasha, Uniqua, and Austin are intergalactic garbage collectors on a mission to seek out the messiest places in the universe. They keep getting distress calls from Klingons Tyrone and Pablo, who need trash to power their ship. When their ship gets stuck in a black hole, the others have to decide if they want to trust them a third time.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. Broke at 1:30 for lunch and another Backyardigans episode. Westerns and Lone Ranger-style masked mystery man oaters are the target in "Blazing Paddles." Uniqua is the sheriff of peaceful Ping Pong Mesa, where everyone is crazy about ping pong. After she and all the residents of the town lose their paddles to Pablo and his "Bandit Slam-It" move, she goes into the desert to step up her training.

Headed out after the cartoon ended. It was a lovely day, sunny, chilly, and a little windy, but not nearly as bad as New Year's week. I had a nice ride through Newton Lake Park. The trees are little more than stark outlines against the ice-blue sky now, the grass pale gold and brittle, but the ice on the river sparkled with an austere beauty. I'm surprised there was no one in the park today, not even Canadian geese. It wasn't really that cold. I guess everyone was at work or class.

The Haddon Township Library, on the other hand, was busy when I arrived. There was a project where kids would be making paper snowmen going on in the kids' play room. I shelved CDs and audio books and shelved and organized DVDs. They'd just gotten Cars 3 in. While it wasn't my favorite Pixar movie, I didn't hate Cars 2 as much as a lot of people did and was willing to give a third movie a chance. Also found the original 1939 Golden Boy with Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden and continued my exploration of the changing cinema of the 60's and 70's with the classic sci-fi tale 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Made a couple of quick stops on my way home. I badly needed to replace my dish pan. My old red one was dirty and cracked and had a broken handle. Just grabbed a new white one at Dollar Tree. Picked up milk and a soft pretzel at WaWa when I hit the White Horse Pike.

Continued writing as soon as I walked in the door and put everything away. Luke duels with Kylo Ren, letting him fight him while Rosie and Finn, once again clad as short trolls, rescue the others...and Rey Quite Contrary rescues herself. Luke finally lets Kylo Ren get one last hit on him...but he vanishes without a trace. An angry Snoke and flustered Kylo Ren order the Knights of Ren to attack the others, but they've been rounded up by the townspeople.

BB is upset by Luke's disappearance. Han and Leia are even more devastated...especially since Luke gave Leia the box with their deeds to the Factory. Snoke goes after them while Kylo Ren tries to figure out where his uncle went. But no one is ever truly BB is reminded when a certain jolly old man in a red suit comes to town...

Had leftovers for dinner around 6:30, then made Banana Muffins. Finished out the night with The Maze Runner. A young man (Dylan O'Brian) awakens in a green area called the Glade with no memory of who he is and how he got there. Turns out he was brought to "The Glade" by a group of men who are "runners" in the massive maze that surrounds them. The youth, who eventually discovers his name is Thomas, is continually curious about the world beyond the Maze. Albie (Aml Ameen) keeps telling him to not worry so much about it and abide by the rules of "The Glade," but Thomas just can't help himself. When first a runner, and then Albie are stung by a massive creature living in "the Maze," Thomas begins to wonder if there might just be a way out. His suspicions are confirmed by the arrival of Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), the first and only girl in the Glade, who has a device that can heal the creatures' stings. Thomas now has to figure out how to escape both the maze and the Glade's strict and restrictive rules...and teach the other kids lessons in identity and helping one another.

So yeah, this is another imitation Hunger Games series. While there's no getting around the deja-vu, there are some interesting ideas and intense performances, especially from O'Brian, Will Poulter as his rules-obsessed rival, and Blake Cooper as the youngest resident of the Glade who comes to admire Thomas. I also like the mystery and shadowy atmosphere surrounding the Maze and why it's there.

If you enjoyed other Hunger Games-style tales like Divergent, you'll probably like this one, too. (There's a third movie coming out on the 26th. If the second one is as good as the first, I may have to give it a look.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Snow Day Love Story

It was snowing when I rolled out of bed this morning. It was also late. I closed my eyes for five minutes at 7...then opened them at quarter after 8. I had to work at 9! Good thing the main roads were just wet. The snow was only sticking to the grass and to the Veteran's Park end of Manor Avenue. (Also, Charlie must have had to run errands early this morning. His car wasn't there when I dashed out the door, and no one got upset with me for rushing around upstairs.)

It continued to snow lightly through around 11. I did have to push some slush off the sidewalk (someone from the complex had already shoveled the front patio earlier) and take the long lines of carts that had been brought inside to keep dry back out, but I mainly did returns. By the time I finished my break, another bagger had arrived to do the carts. I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing and hanging gift cards, including the new iTunes cards. The various colors and swirly designs that reek of the 90's-early 2000's have been replaced by plain blue cards that say "App Store & iTunes." I made sure they were in perfect order in the kiosk for when they're ready to be put out.

The snow had long ended by the time I headed home. There was still plenty of snow left on the ground, which made for a cozy backdrop while reading Heir to the Empire and writing in my journal. I left in such a hurry this morning, I didn't have a chance to get to either.

Worked on my story after I finished my journal entry. Sir Kylo Ren turns BB over to Hux and Phasma, then drags Rey into the square. Leia's already there with Snoke. Ren orders his men to hold swords on Han and Poe, keeping them as hostages until their sweethearts agree to the wedding.

Leia has just told Barnaby she'll never agree to marry him or give up her deed to the factory when a lone shadow falls on the group. Luke, the Toymaker and Leia's brother, strolls out to the town square. He's totally unconcerned, even when Snoke and Sir Kylo Ren order their men to attack him...

Got so into this scene, I didn't break for dinner until 7. Did a quick episode of Good Eats while downing leftovers. "Pantry Raids IV: Lentils" discusses the versatility of this inexpensive and very nutritional and easy to cook legume. I can definitely vouch for this one. I ate a lot of lentils when I was out of work with a broken ankle four a couple of months in late 2012. Not only are they really cheap, but they make an amazing stew.

Ended the night after a shower with Love Story, one of the great romantic dramas of American cinema. Oliver Barrett (Ryan O'Neal) meets Jenny Cavalleri (Ali MacGraw) when he has to take books out of the library where she works. She's likes his good nature; he appreciates her wit and love of music. It takes a few dates, but they hit it off and want to marry. Oliver's rich parents don't like him marrying a poor Catholic girl and cut him off without a penny. They get married anyway. Other than Oliver's continuing frustration with his father (Ray Milland) and their struggling to make ends meet, they're mostly very happy and deliriously in love with each other. It all comes crashing down when Jenny is diagnosed with an incurable disease. Oliver gives her the best care he can, even reconciling with his father to get the money. Jenny's time may be up, but she has no regrets about their relationship. After all, "love means never having to say you're sorry."

This was much better than I thought it would be. It has a reputation of being mawkish and overly sentimental...and while yeah, it was melodramatic, I thought it was mostly very sweet. MacGraw and O'Neal give it just the right tone as the nice white guy and the sassy smart girl who fall in love despite their differences. It actually reminds me a bit of The Way We Were, set in modern times and with a far more tragic ending.

The ending is my only real complaint. A lot of critics have pointed out that Jenny never looks or acts like she's even a little sick. This is where the melodrama starts to boil over, and yeah, it is a little much.

If you're a fan of romantic dramas with a boy, a girl, and a lot of problems, you'll never be sorry for checking this one out.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What to Do Next

Got a quick, late start this morning with breakfast and Garfield Gets a Life. The famous fat cat tries to encourage his nerdy owner to get out more. Jon's so out of touch, he thinks disco is still the latest craze in the early 90's. He finally meets a nice girl at a class for the "socially impaired," but Garfield realizes that he's not ready for his owner to get married and tries not to let them get any closer.

Headed off to the laundromat shortly after the cartoon ended. The laundromat was very busy for quarter of noon, with at least four or five other people around. I just barely got a washer, though there were far more driers open. I worked on story notes and half-listened to Action News.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away as quickly as I could, then hurried back out again. It was quarter after 1, and I had counseling at 2:30. Not to mention, I wanted to eat first. At least it was a nice day for a ride to Haddonfield, sunny, windless, and in the lower 40's, normal for South Jersey in mid-January.

Came out a block from Amino Burrito and Juices, which was the quickest local place I could think of for lunch. Given it was past 2 by that point, they were pretty quiet. I downed a sweet and tasty "Simply Delicious" juice made of apples, lemons, carrots, and oranges, hearty blue corn chips, and a quick chicken and guacamole "petito" (ie, small burrito).

Locked my bike at the racks at CVS and walked the block to Mrs. Stahl's office. Even with the stop for lunch, I was still right on time. Though I did discuss my busy holidays, from the too-quiet Halloween to all the fun on Christmas Day, we mainly talked about the trouble I had at work over New Year's week. On one hand, no, I shouldn't have caused all that trouble with the managers...but I was at least calm when they talked to me about it. Plus, those two weeks were just crazy. The head bagger went on vacation. One bagger likely retired; another quit the day before Christmas Eve. Not to mention, there was the snowy and bitterly cold weather before and a few days after New Year's, as well as the last two Eagles games of the regular season. I've done a lot better since returning to regular hours and the weather improved.

I know something needs to change...but I have no idea where to start. I still want to find a better job, but every time I try, I get overwhelmed. I never get to the interview - I can't even get to sending my resume out. I look at the ads at sites like and see all the experience these jobs require and all the skills they want that I don't have.

Retail and the food industry are obviously not for me - but what is right for me? I don't have the money to return to college, either. I know how much it costs and how much time it takes. Amanda's being sucked dry by it. I want something that doesn't require more sitting in a classroom. I just wish I knew what that was.

Mrs. Stahl said "look up various jobs that interest you online," and of course "keep writing."

It was 3:30 by the time I got out of there. The wind had picked up, and clouds were starting to roll in. Not to mention, it was nearly rush hour. It was time for me to go home. I took the back roads through Haddonfield down to Crystal Lake Road, and then up Cuthbert to the White Horse Pike. I wanted to stop at Dollar General really quick. While their prices on butter weren't any better than the Acme's, they did have cheaper eggs, muffin papers, and cake mix. Also grabbed a birthday card for my niece Lilah (her birthday is tomorrow).

Worked on writing for a while when I got in. BB cries in disappointment when none of her begging will budge Luke the Toymaker from his office. She runs out...only to run into Kylo Ren. He grabs her and takes her under his arm. While Finn and Rosie escaped, the trolls have Poe and Han. Ren plans on bringing them to his and Snoke's wedding, even taunting Han about his giving the brides away.

Broke at 7 to make Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip with blue corn chips for dinner. Watched Colossal as I worked, and later as I went online. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is not having an easy time. Her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) threw her out when she can't get a job due to her alcohol problems. She ends up moving back to her hometown, but she has no money for furniture. She thinks things have turned around when her old guy friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) offers her a job at his bar and even gives her furniture. Then, however, they see footage of a huge monster and a giant robot attacking South Korea. To Gloria's shock, she discovers that she can control the creature and Oscar the robot when they stand at a certain spot in their local playground. Unfortunately, Oscar becomes literally and figuratively drunk with the power he has over the people of Seoul and finally reveals his true control freak nature. Now Gloria has to figure out how to get out from under his thumb, without harming anyone else in the process...including herself.

This was one of the strangest and most original sci-fi films I've seen in years. Hathaway and Sudeikis were excellent as the woman who thinks she's turning her life around...and the man who insists on being the one in charge of everything around him, whether he should or not. The odd premise alone and some harrowing scenes of abuse towards the end makes this not for everyone, but if you like black comedy or unusual sci-fi, this one is worth tracking down.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dark Tales from American History

Began a sunny Martin Luther King Jr. Day with some reading. I don't have anything on Martin Luther King Jr. himself, but Colliers Harvest of Holidays has a section on United Nations Day with essays and poems on peace that work for this holiday, too. King was an advocate for peace all his life, and actually did win the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.

Ran another Dr. Seuss special while eating breakfast. The Hoober Bloob Highway may be the most unique Seuss cartoon out there. Mr. Hoober Bloob and his walking mandolin assistant have to show a newborn child all the ins and outs of being human, from where you live to having fun to figuring out what you're going to do with your life, before they send him down to Earth.

Worked on writing for the next couple of hours. BB ducks out of the confrontation between Han Shaftoe and his son Sir Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Boy Blue. The little girl dodges trolls invading the main factory floor and rushes upstairs to the Toymaker's office. She finds him calmly painting a doll and demands he comes downstairs. Trouble is, like Luke in the current movie, he doesn't think his rushing into battle is going to solve anything. BB drags him downstairs to show him otherwise.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did another episode of She-Ra as I got organized. Bow's friend Sorrowful the cowardly dragon becomes one of "The Prisoners of Beast Island" when he's captured by Catra and the Horde. Bow feels guilty for not watching over him more closely and goes after him.

It was still sunny when I headed to work. Though clouds moved in later, it never rained, or did anything worse than look a little gloomy. It wasn't even windy. It was cold, probably in the lower 30's, which is really pretty normal for this time of year. Though we weren't that bad when we came in and were dead by the time I left, rush hour did get busy. I bagged when we were busy, but mostly did carts and the outside trash.

Did two episodes of sitcoms set during the 40's and 50's during dinner. Radio station WENN of Remember WENN gets its first black actor in the early first season episode "The Emperor Smith." Waiter and aspiring actor George Smith takes over for regular Mackie Bloom when he damages his voice as the "man of mystery" Lord Branley. However, the show is set in late 1939. People wouldn't have accepted him as the dashing leading man in a steamy soap opera. The cast has to keep his identity a secret from the press, especially obnoxious reporter Walter Snell.

Race relations in the mid-20th century are also discussed in the Happy Days third season episode "Fonzie's Friend." Fonzie's found a drummer for Richie's big Hawaiian-themed party - a black guy named Sticks. Richie doesn't mind having the guy, and even finds a date for him. Though he and Fonzie may think Sticks is cool, most of Milwaukee's teen population doesn't agree. Even Fonzie's cool can't overcome their parents' prejudice.

Ended the night with 12 Years a Slave.  Based after an 1853 memoir, this tells the story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejlofor), a free man in New York who was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Louisiana in 1841. He ends up at the plantation of a man named Epps (Michael Fassbinder), who brutally beats his slaves. Solomon endures harsh lashings from Epps, but he does make friends with favored slave Patsy (Lupita Nyong'o). After a bad season, he and Epps' other slaves are rented out to a plantation owned by Judge Turner (Bryan Batt). Turner takes a liking to him, and even lets him play the violin at a wedding. Solomon tries to get two letters out to his family after he's able to earn money with his violin playing. His first attempt is unsuccessful, but he does better when he befriends Canadian worker Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) who disagrees with Epps' treatment of his slaves. It's him who finally finds the shopkeeper who is able to return Solomon home to his family.

Wow. This story of a very dark and tragic part of American history was a surprise hit in 2013 and deservedly won Oscars for Best Picture, for Nyong'o's touching performance, and for the stark screenplay by John Ridley. I really like Hans Zimmer's score, including the period-appropriate banjo music.

This harrowing tale isn't for kids, but adults with an interest in American, African-American, or 19th-century history will find much to enjoy.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Remember Yesterday

I celebrated the start of a sunny winter day with Mandarin Orange Pancakes and the soundtrack from the 1967 Rex Harrison version of Dr. Doolittle. I haven't seen this movie since it made occasional appearances on cable and a few local independent stations when I was a kid, but I remember it being supremely weird. The plot description in the booklet attached to the record cover bears this out. The good doctor of the title prefers animals to people, despite being friends with an enthusiastic young man named Matthew (Anthony Newley). He falls for the niece of one of Doolittle's more obnoxious customers, Emma (Samantha Eggar). Doolittle is accused of murder when he steals a seal from a circus to return her to her mate and it's believed that she's a woman, thanks the bonnet he's hidden her in. When the others rescue him from jail, they all take off for the South Seas to find the rare Great Pink Sea Snail.

Uh, yeah, the story is that bizarre. No wonder this was apparently a flop in 1967. In some ways, it reminds me a lot of another odd musical fantasy from this time period that also didn't do well at the box office, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There's a period setting in Victorian/Edwardian England, with the first half set entirely in England and the second in a far-flung fantasy land. At least one scene in England takes place in a fair or circus. The lead is an eccentric older man who prefers machines, animals, and kids to adults and has a romance with a younger woman, despite the initial disapproval of her guardian. Both films end with the leads being taken home by some fantastic conveyance.

For all this movie's problems, it does have a rather nice score. "Talk to the Animals" was the hit at the time and won the Oscar, but I liked the ballads better. Too bad Matthew's "Where are the Words?" was deleted; it's very sweet. His duet with Emma, "Beautiful Things," is also quite lovely. Dolittle's "When I Look In Your Eyes" is a touching ballad...that he performs to the seal missing her mate in the film.

I don't know if this is available on CD, but the LP makes a pleasant listen if you ever run into it.

Headed off to work shortly after the record ended. While busier than it was last week, we mostly weren't quite as bad as we usually are on Sunday. The Eagles played yesterday, and a lot of people may have been taking advantage of a chilly but windless afternoon off to get other things done. I cleaned the bathroom and bagged in the morning shift, then helped the afternoon bagger do the carts, did cold returns, and for some reason, cleaned up a lot of spills after break. (Including plastic buckets of roses that were leaking all over the main entrance to the store.)

(I also got to see some of the Jaguars - Steelers game during break. The Jaguars were way ahead by the end of the first half, 28-7. Though the Steelers caught up in a big way, Jacksonsville still pulled off a win 45-42 and will hopefully knock out the Patriots next. The Vikings had an even bigger last-minute victory over the New Orleans Saints tonight 29-24 - they'll be playing the Eagles next Sunday.)

When I got home, I listened to the Johnny Mathis Swing Softly album while working on BB In Toyland. BB manages to get the door open while Rose distracts Kylo Ren and his men by throwing paint at them. Ren finally gets a hold of BB after the others make their way in. Han stops his son from dragging the girl away, confronting him about his leaving the factory and his invading Toyland. Kylo Ren takes off before he can give his father answers; BB goes after him.

Broke for dinner and to make dessert around 6:30. Turned one of the containers of ground turkey I bought on Friday into Taco Casserole with the addition of pasta, cheddar cheese, onions, carrots, taco sauce, and broccoli. Made Blackberry-Pineapple Grunt from I'm Just Here for More Food for afterwards. (I didn't have enough blackberries for just blackberry grunt.)

Listened to Golden Boy while I ate. I thought this 1964 stage musical was appropriate for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Joe Wellington (Sammy Davis Jr.) is determined to become a fighter by any means necessary, even betraying his manager when he falls in love with his white girlfriend Lorna (Paula Wayne). He does become famous...but when he learns just how empty it is when he actually takes a punch in the ring and kills his opponent.

Oddly, the music reflects very little of this heavy drama. You can hear some bitterness in "Don't Forget 127th Street," a paen to Joe's Harlem roots, and in Lorna's song "Lorna's Here." Otherwise, it's mostly ballads for Wayne and Davis and jazzy numbers for Davis like the hit "This Is the Life."

I'm pretty sure the CD is out of print, but it can likely be found online if you're a fan of Davis or prefer your musicals on the darker side.

Finished out the night with Donna Summer's greatest hits set On the Radio. I felt like I needed something a lot more fun after Golden Boy. My stepdad was a huge fan of hers. Some of my earliest memories are of dancing around the house to this and her Bad Girls LP set.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Power of the Birds and Bears

I was glad to see sunshine streaming through my windows when I awoke this morning. There was a lot that I needed to get done, starting with breakfast. Ran two episodes of She-Ra while I ate. Adora's at "A Loss for Words" when the sorceress Shadow Weaver steals her voice and that of several other peasants who are planning to rebel. She gets help from Bow in getting it back. She wants to rescue her brother Prince Adam - aka He-Man - from the Fright Zone alone in "He Ain't Heavy," but Bow goes after her when an old man tells her about the Moon Mirror that can open portals to other dimensions.

Finally got out around 11 to run errands. I've had a couple of bags of donations in the back room for a long time. Brought the one with all the odds and ends I've cleared out or didn't need and the bag of Ever After High dolls to the thrift shop at the church in Audubon. Picked up the soundtrack for the 1968 Rex Harrison version of Dr. Doolittle and the Johnny Mathis album Swing Softly on LP, the DVDs for Brother Bear and The Inspector General (I can't find the copy of the latter Lauren sent me a while back), and a stuffed manatee.

Headed back to Oaklyn next to do some quick volunteering at the library. They were quiet as can be the entire time. In fact, it was just me and the librarian. I talked to her and took a look at the DVDs. Found the Julie Andrews vehicle Star on the for sale racks. Since there's a new Maze Runner film coming out soon, I took out the two movies in that series. (The Haddon Township Library doesn't have the first one.)

The House of Fun is three blocks from the Oaklyn Library on the White Horse Pike. Headed there next. They were surprisingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon. I think I may have seen one other person there besides the guy at the counter.

I actually made some pretty good finds there. The corner where the vintage stuffed animals had been kept had been better-organized, with most of them now in a bin. A stuffed My Little Pony, like the Bow Tie I found at a yard sale last year, lay on the top. She had a  rainbow-colored mane and tail and purple embroidered parasols against her bright pink fur. Unlike Bow-Tie, she came with her original tag, and her eyes were in perfect shape...but she was also quite dirty, and said tag looked like its previous owner had used it for a teething ring. The remains of the tag indicated that her name was Parasol, and that she loved sipping pink lemonade under the umbrella that gave her her name.

Also did well in the Star Wars department. I'd hoped to find a simple 12-inch Finn to go with my Rey and Poe. Found him hanging on the bottom shelves after some digging. Uncovered a fluffy 12-inch Chewbacca still in his box on a top shelf with other 12-inch Power of the Force collector's dolls.

I didn't get as lucky at the register. The poor kid had no idea what his boss had priced them. He called him 30 times on his cell phone while I waited. Good thing I'm generally a patient person...and his boss had episodes of Count Duckula running on their TV over the counter. I haven't seen the majority of that show in 30 years. I finally told the kid I'd give him 40 bucks for the lot. Chewie was a collector's item, he and Finn were still in their boxes, and Parasol had her tag.

Headed down West Clinton to Phillies Phatties for lunch. It was past 1 by that point, and they were fairly quiet as well. I saw a couple of people come in to pick up late lunches as I ate my slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and sipped a Mountain Dew Ice (lemon-lime) soda while watching Perdue play Minnesota in college basketball. (Perdue eventually won 81-47.)

As soon as I got home, I pulled out Chewie and Finn. Finn was made out of the same stiff hard plastic as Cassian and Poe. Like Cassian, he was a fairly good representation of John Boyega, and unless I can find a better 12-inch doll along the line, I'll likely keep him. Chewie was held in with twist-ties and took a little longer to get out. Unlike the vinyl Power of the Force Luke, Lando, Leia, and Han, Chewie had wires under his thick fur that allowed him to hold poses. I had him give Han a "hug" to see what it could do. I don't know how well the wires will hold up over time, but I do know that I like his face better than the current Forces of Destiny Chewie, who looks too much like a monkey. I also like that he came with a real fabric pouch, though I wish his huge, thick vinyl bandoleer stayed on better.

Worked on writing for a little while after I got everything organized. Poe argues BB going into the factory alone. Not only is she only 8 years old, but she doesn't know the Factory well. Rose and Chewie go with her. Rose is small, strong, and knows the Factory. Just as they enter, they hear Sir Kylo Ren and his men outside. They're going to take the inventory and burn it in the incinerators! The girls know they have to do something, but they aren't sure what. Maybe the toy soldiers could help...

Headed out around 4:30 to watch the Eagles-Falcons playoffs game at Dad and Jodie's (after finally putting two of the LED lights that Linda Young sent on my bike). Jodie was stirring the ground beef for the tacos when I arrived. I also saw Mark, Vanessa, Jessa (Joe was working at Lincoln Financial Stadium), TJ and a friend of his, and Dana. (Rose couldn't come - Finley still has a cold.) We had the tacos around quarter after 5. There were mini-red velvet cupcakes and a small blue cake that said "Go Eagles!" for dessert.

The Eagles didn't play all that well during the first half. They did manage a touchdown that put them ahead 12-10 by halftime (though the kicker missed the extra score). By the 4th quarter, TJ and his friend were gone, and I was half-listening to the game and while playing a Paw Patrol game I've seen Khai play on Jodie's iPad. I finally got so tired of listening to Dad complain by the end of the 4th quarter, I left a little early. Besides, I badly needed a shower. (Dad had nothing to fuss over. The Falcons lost one last turnover that might have helped. In the end, the Eagles won 15-10 and advance to the NFC Championship game against whoever wins the Vikings-Saints game tomorrow.)

(Unfortunately, the Patriots ended up mauling the Titans 35-14 and also advanced. Yuck. Like they need to go again. I hope whomever wins the Jaguars-Steelers game flattens them.)

Finished out the night online after my shower, watching Brother Bear. This Disney action tale takes us to a native tribe in Canada shortly after the Ice Age. The middle of three brothers, Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), has just received his "totem," his necklace representing what he needs to learn to become a man. Kenai is disgusted that he got a bear, who represents love. He doesn't think much of bears...and he's even less fond of them when one accidentally gets his older brother Sitka (D.B Sweeney) killed. He kills the bear in returned...but the Great Spirits of their tribe retaliate by turning him into a bear. The healer of his tribe (Joan Copeland) tells him he won't be changed back until he goes over the mountains to find "the great lights." Trouble is, he knows nothing about how to be an animal and is easy prey for traps and other bears. A chatty cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez) ultimately agrees to take him to the lights..if he brings him to the salmon run with the other bears. Kenai doesn't want to, but he has no other way to get there. As they travel, they find themselves dodging Kenai's younger brother Denali (Jason Raize), who believes Kenai is the bear who killed his brothers. But when Kenai finally figures out who the bear was, he learns an important lesson about what it really means to be a brother and give love to others.

I actually find this Disney action comedy-drama to be underrated. I think this a very touching tale of what it means to be a sibling and have real compassion. The opening sequence in particular, as we see the brothers' daily lives, is interesting, fun, and well-handled. I'm also a big fan of the music by Phil Collins, especially "I'm On My Way" and the hit "Look Through Your Eyes." Some nice animation too, especially during the transformation sequences.

The big problems start once Kenai becomes a bear. The dialogue here is far too jokey and modern for a story set among primitive man and strains way too hard to be hip. While Koda didn't bother me (I mostly found him to be cute), many critics have sided with Kenai that he's a bit too talkative and annoying.

I love bears, so I'd probably like this under any circumstances. It's not the best movie of Disney's troubled early 2000's era, but it's not as bad as many critics claim, either. If you ever run into it, or have older kids who love action and animals and can handle the drama, it's definitely worth a look.