Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Supreme Dreams

Today was my 8 and a half hour shift. It wasn't terribly exciting. We were dead for most of the day, and never more than steady during rush hours. I got all the trash done and all the carts gathered by 11:30. I spent most of the rest of the day doing returns and occasionally helping with the carts when the afternoon and evening baggers went on break. At least it was a nice day to be doing carts. It was sunny and windless, probably in the upper 50's-lower 60's.

It was too nice for me to go straight home after work. Besides, I just wasn't up to even heating up leftovers after working for 8 and a half hours. Strolled around the corner to Tu Se Bella's at the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center (after peeking briefly at Game Stop). I had a slice of shrimp and broccoli and a slice of tomato and what I believe to be bits of fried chicken, along with a bottle of water. Yum. They may have strange toppings, but they always somehow work.

Played some Lego Star Wars when I got home. Got True Jedi on "Retake Theed Palace," but couldn't find more pieces. Was actually able to complete "Mos Eisley Spaceport," including the red brick, True Jedi, and the final piece.

Ended the night with Dreamgirls. It's 1963, and Detroit friends Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyonce), and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) have been singing in local amateur talent shows in the hopes of hitting the big time, calling themselves the Dreamettes. They're discovered by Cadillac salesman Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) who makes them the backup singers for raucous R&B star Jimmy Early (Eddie Murphy). After a disastrous opening in very white Miami Beach, Curtis now thinks the girls, rechristened the Dreams, are ready for the big time. He makes slimmer Deena the lead, which upsets Effie, who has the stronger voice. Effie's anger finally bursts out in one roof-blowing song when she's replaced by a younger, thinner girl (Sharon Leal) right before a concert in Vegas on New Year's Eve. No song will change the fact that she hasn't been acting professionally; she's out.

The Dreams are a massive success, but it's weighing heavily on the group. Curtis is determined to control every single thing Deena, who has since married him, does, and Lorrell is tired of waiting for Jimmy to leave his wife and marry her. Meanwhile, Effie turns to Jimmy's former manager to help her get back into music. It takes Jimmy's death in a drug overdose and Lorrell's brother C.C's (Keith Robinson) protests that Curtis' disco obsession is sucking the life out of his music for the Dreams to finally take matters into their own hands and beat Curtis at his own game.

This is one of my favorite musicals of the last decade or so. I've been fascinated by classic rock - including R&B and Motown - since I used to spend Saturday nights listening to the oldies show on my local radio station as a child. While the story may be familiar to anyone who also knows something about classic rock, disco, and R&B history, it's the performances that really make this film shine.

I saw this in the theater with my friend Erica when it came out. I remember how the audience went absolutely nuts when Jennifer Hudson sang her film-stopping rendition of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." She deserved every bit of her Supporting Actress Oscar. The film also won for Best Sound Mixing, and Murphy was nominated for Supporting Actor as the dynamic Early. Beyonce and Foxx are fine as well as the elegant Deena and manipulative Curtis.

If you're fans of the cast or the real-life Motown music this was inspired by, you may find that this uplifting tale is your dream, too.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Movie Squad

Began a sunny morning with breakfast, and then getting things done around the apartment. I made the bed. I baked Norsk Apple Muffins. I went through the papers on top of my printer. I tore out articles from the Last Jedi issue of Vanity Fair. Found the list of possible jobs and things I can do to make money that I wrote up a few years ago for counseling.

Watched Monster Squad while I worked. Sean (Andre Gower) is a normal kid in Louisiana who loves monster movies. He's thrilled when he's given the diary of vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim), but isn't so happy when it's in German. He and his friend Patrick (Robby Kiger), along with a plump local boy known only as "Fat Kid" (Brent Chalem), drum up enough courage to bring the diary to a spooky older German man (Leonard Cimino). He tells them of an amulet that can fling the monsters into limbo. Meanwhile, Dracula (Duncan Regeher) rounds up an army made of Unversal's finest...except for Frankenstein, who befriend's Sean's five-year-old sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank). The group manages to get their hands on the amulet, and now must have a virgin read an incantation at midnight to open Limbo. They nominate Patrick's older sister (Lisa Fuller), whom cool older kid Rudy (Ryan Lambert) has been watching undress through a window. Dracula, however, is ready for them...and in this movie, he's not messing around.

I was surprised at how much I liked this. Despite being a favorite of many guys my age who grew up with it on cable, this is the first time I ever saw it. I probably avoided it because I'm not a horror fan. It's a lot of fun, sort of like The Goonies crossed with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, or a film version of Stranger Things. The kids do pretty well as the ones caught up in the action; also liked Regeher as one of the best cinematic Draculas on record and Stephan Macht as Sean and Phoebe's cop dad. The monster makeup is excellent, especially the Werewolf and Creature From the Black Lagoon.

Major warning that, despite featuring kids and amulets and lines like "Wolfman has nards," this is still a horror movie at heart. There is some blood, a lot of shooting, and Dracula does a lot more damage than in most versions of his story, including destroying the kids' clubhouse and attacking Pheobe in the finale. Also, I don't think the movie ever quite decided what it wants to be. One minute, it's a goofy kid comedy; the next, it's in flat-out horror/supernatural turf. It was a flop in 1987, and I can kind of understand why audiences then were confused.

Not for little guys Phoebe's age, but if you have horror fans the ages of the Monster Squad (late elementary school-early teens) on up, they'll probably go "batty" for this one.

Switched to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze while cleaning up the baking mess and having lunch. When the Turtles see April O'Neal (Paige Turco) doing a story on a company that's cleaning up toxic waste, they do some research and discover that the "waste" is the mutagen, or "ooze," that created them. A revenge-minded Shredder (Francois Chou) kidnaps the professor who deleted the ooze (David Warner) and forces him to create mutants to fight for him. While the mutants he creates are stupid, they're also big enough to cause a lot of damage. With the help of pizza delivery kid and wanna-be martial artist Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) and the professor, they have to figure out how to get the monsters to eat a counter-mutagen...and fast, before they destroy the city!

Concerns about violence in the first Turtles film caused the creators to cut back on the use of the weapons in the second...which didn't do much, as the film is still fairly violent. Most people think this is a little too goofy, but I love some of the lines. If you're a fan of the Turtles, especially their earlier incarnations, this is worth checking out.

Finally made it out around 12. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were mostly quiet, with just the librarian and a mom and her adorable curly-headed daughter there. I organized DVDs, used the bathroom, and headed out.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ride up to Haddonfield, in the upper 50's, sunny, and windless. I cut through Newton Lake Park on my way, enjoying the black brush-strokes of the trees against the sparkling bottle green water.

Got into Collingswood around quarter of one. The pedals on my bike have been breaking and coming off for a while now. I left them at the bike shop to be replaced, then headed to CVS to buy cold medicine.

The kid who was working on my bike didn't have good news for me when I came back. He could replace the right one...but the left one was too bent to get off. I just let him fix the right one so I could be on my way.

I was still 5 minutes late for counseling. We mainly discussed my previous month and upcoming events. No month that began with the Eagles winning the Super Bowl could be called bad, and this has mostly been very good. I have money in the bank for the first time in a while. Work remains a pain - I'm still having problems with the managers and getting stressed.

I'm not sure how I'll do at Jesse and Dana's wedding. I haven't been to a wedding since I was 13, and I spent most of Dana's graduation messing around on my phone. I'll probably just sit there and people watch or play with my phone again.

I'd love to get out of the Acme, but I keep looking at job sites and panicking, because there's nothing listed for me. The jobs all want more experience or skills than I have. I'm not good at mulitasking or talking to people. I look them up...and I end up doing nothing. I'm so nervous, I don't even know where to begin.

At least I have some things to look forward to. There's that toy convention at the Cherry Hill Holiday Inn on Saturday. Lauren will be visiting the week before and after Memorial Day. There's the wedding too, and Easter, and several family birthdays (including my own).

It was warm enough for me to stop at Primo's Water Ice for the first time this year on the way home. A long line of kids just coming back from school gave me the chance to figure out what I wanted. I enjoyed a chocolate peanut butter water ice (that tasted faintly of cherry) outside. A lady praised my bike, which she insisted was retro. (It's actually pretty new, but I appreciated her praise.)

Riding home was hard. Part of the new pedal snapped shortly after I got on the bike! I couldn't ride too fast, for fear of damaging it further. I need to talk to the Collingswood Bike Share next Tuesday when they're open.

Went on the computer to do some writing when I got in. My next short fairy tale (and my last for a while) will be Luke and the Ginger Cat, based after the Grimm's Fairy Tale The Poor Miller's Boy and His Cat. Old Ben's three apprentices Han, Luke, and Lando set off to find a fine horse in order to win the stable. Luke gets lost in the woods and is rescued by an orange-furred tabby cat, who brings him to her castle to work as a servant.

Did another Rick Steves Europe episode as I finally made the Cincinatti Chili. I stayed in Germany, this time taking a ride down the Rhine and Mostal Rivers. While the castles that dot the rivers made great inspirations for upcoming stories, my favorite part was the charming medieval towns that dot the riverside.

Played some Lego Star Wars during dinner. Managed to finish the very long Return of the Jedi round "Speeder Showdown," including the red brick, all the pieces, and True Jedi. Didn't get too many pieces on Hoth Battle, but I did get the red brick and True Jedi.

My landlady showed up during dinner with the rent notice. What I didn't notice when I signed it was it had gone up again, to $665! Didn't we say last year that she couldn't raise the rent more than 50 dollars? Plus she wants half of the deposit money! There goes any idea of actually having tax return money leftover. Silly me. I thought I could actually save money.

Finished out the night with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Based after a French comic book, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevinge) are galactic cops who are supposed to be retrieving a creature that can transform into anything and is the last of its kind. Valerian would rather flirt with Laureline, but she just wants him to show some kind of commitment. Enroute to their mission, Valerian dreams of the princess of a dying planet sending out a message to him. That's far from the only strange thing. The "converter" supposedly died 30 years before...and it may be the key to saving the race of "Pearls" from a second genocide.

Colorful and creative space opera is also one of the most complicated films I've seen in that genre. I didn't get half of what went on here. Also, while Clive Owen was all right as the kids' commander, Valerian and Laureline themselves seemed much too young to wield the kind of authority their characters were supposed to have and had all the chemistry of two rocks.

This movie was one of the bigger flops of the disappointing 2017 summer season. It did better overseas, where the comic books it's based after are better-known. I liked it but didn't love it; if you're into the comics or awesome special effects, it's worth seeing once.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Castles and Cowboys

Started off a cloudy morning with corn meal mush, half of a grapefruit, and an episode of Garfield and Friends. I watched this one for the first short, "Polecat Flats." Jon visits the title ranch with Garfield, who dresses as a cowboy to get a decent lunch. When Cactus Jake, the ranch's owner, makes fun of Jon, Garfield plays a prank to get back at him. Orson's dream that he's the great and powerful "Hogules" gives him an idea of how to deal with his brothers. "Brain Boy" is the obnoxious genius son of Jon's dull cousin. Garfield would rather eat raisins than deal with this spoiled little inventor and his nasty creations. He finally finds a way to turn the brat's inventions on him.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon finishing off my current story. Leia also misses her adopted son Poe...especially after three kingdoms send treasure to thank Poe and his brothers for saving them from the Sultan Snoke and his First Order armies. She visits Luke and Rey and laments that she wishes she knew what happened to Poe. Rey has a way of finding out. She and Luke create a golden road with their magic that leads to the Jedi Castle. If someone rides down it, they're her true love.

Benjamin and Armitage compete with each other to get to the castle first...until they find the road. They think the road is too beautiful to ride on, so they ride beside it. Rey turns them both down. They don't care about her. They only want her money and lands. Poe, who has heard about it from the queen's lady-in-waiting Kaydel, is so excited, he rides right down the road. Rey is delighted to see him and marries him, making him the heir to both kingdoms. They make Paige, Finn, and Rose their advisers. Benjamin and Armitage flee in Armitage's ship the Finalyzer and are never seen again.

I'm really happy with how these short stories are coming out. The next one will also be based after a lesser-known Grimm's Fairy Tale. "The Poor Miller's Boy and His Cat" will feature Luke in the title role, with Mara Jade from the Extended Universe as the enchanted princess who helps him compete with his brothers for his master Obi-Wan's mill.

For right now, enjoy Poe and the Water of Life here:

Poe and the Water of Life - Archive of Our Own
Poe and the Water of Life - My Writing Blog
Poe and the Water of Life -

Had lunch at 1 while watching an episode of Rick Steves Europe. The story I'm currently reading, the Mercedes Lackey Elemental Masters fantasy From a High Tower, takes place in the Black Forest of Germany. To give me a better idea of the setting, I watched the episode where Rick takes his family to the Black Forest area, exploring the towering Gothic cathedral in Cologne, the elegant casinos and spas of Baden Baden, and the beautiful rural woods and fields of the Black Forest.

Work was steady, though not quite as busy as yesterday. Once again, while I did mop the bathrooms and gather trash and baskets, I spent most of it outside. The carts were bad when I arrived, though it wasn't that horrible later in the day.

Had leftovers for dinner at home while watching another Rick Steves episode. Remained in Germany, but moved south to Munich, Bavaria, and the Alps. Though Munich, with its beer gardens and sprawling park, was lovely, my favorite part of this was the trip into Bavaria. I loved seeing both "Mad" King Ludvig's fanciful castles of the 1800's and the ruins of two less romantic fortifications being excavated nearby.

Did some Lego Star Wars after dinner. Started off with the second "Lego City" bonus round, un-creatively titled "New Town." Same deal - break and ride everything you can to gather studs and get a gold brick. Did much better here, winning it in a little over 20 minutes. Did "Through the Jutland Wastes" in New Hope next. That round is long and complicated; I didn't get all the pieces, but I did find the red brick and a lot of studs.

Finished out the night online with Annie Get Your Gun. The 1950 movie adaptation of the Broadway show is basically the same as what I listened to yesterday, with some songs and minor characters cut out to focus more on the relationship between Annie (Betty Hutton) and Frank Butler (Howard Keel). Not my favorite MGM musical, but it does have its fun moments. Hutton tries a little too hard with the comic numbers, though I do love her and Keel's "Anything You Can Do" duet. Their "They Say It's Wonderful" is quite lovely as well. They're joined by Louis Calhern and Keenan Wynn for a fun "There's No Business Like Show Business."

Warnings that this version does retain "I'm an Indian Too." It's a big, loud number, and not the most necessary, though Hutton seems to be enjoying herself a little more in it than Judy Garland did in her original version. (On the other hand, I thought Garland's "Doin' What Comes Naturally" was more fun and relaxed than Hutton's over-the-top rendition.)

Not my favorite MGM musical, but not horrible. Worth a look if you love the cast or the Broadway version.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

They Say It's Wonderful

Slept longer than planned this morning. I had just enough time for Banana-Peanut Butter Pancakes and the original cast album of Annie Get Your Gun before writing this morning. Ethel Merman headlined the 1946 Broadway production as Annie Oakley, who can shoot just about anything you can throw at her, but discovers that "you can't get a man with a gun" when Frank Butler (Ray Middleton) prefers softer types of gals. They join competing wild west shows, then discover that both shows are going broke. They hope to make a merger...if Annie loses to Frank at one last showdown.

The book is slightly dated; "I'm an Indian Too" offended so many people, it was cut from the 1999 Broadway revival. Ironically, two numbers that were cut from the 50's movie and the 60's revival, "Who Do You Love (I Hope)" and "I'll Share It All With You," which were written for the second couple and are heard here, were restored in 1999. "Hope" is cute enough that I'm glad they brought it back. I'm also fond of Annie's "I've Got the Sun In the Morning" and "Doin' What Comes Naturally" and her two duets with Frank, the lovely "They Say It's Wonderful" and the hilarious "Anything You Can Do."

Worked on writing for an hour before work. Poe brings Leia back what he thinks is the water..but almost poisons her when it turns out to be muddy river water. Benjamin and Armitage bring the real Water of Life. They send their huntsman Finn out to kill Poe to keep him from talking. Finn isn't fond of the elder princes and helps Poe escape instead. He takes him to the far-away country of Canonica, where his friends Rose and Paige live. They help Poe get a job in a stable. Poe's happy with the horses, but he still misses his adopted mother and Rey...

Headed off to work shortly after getting off the computer. It's a good thing the rain we had this morning was long gone by the time I got in. I spent most of a busy day outside, doing carts. It was really bad early-on. We couldn't keep them filled. Things started to slow down around 4 as it became clear that the rain wasn't coming back, and we were just going to have a cloudy, damp day. When it slowed down enough for one bagger to be outside, I did all the trash and recycling and mopped the bathrooms. Also helped a family out to their car and brought an older woman a mechanical cart when hers was slowing down. She was really nice to me, too, praising me effusively for my kindness and cheerfulness.

When I got home, I had a quick dinner of leftover beef-barley soup, then finished out the night with Lego Star Wars. Did a couple of short rounds first. Got the red brick and a few more pieces on "Count Dooku" and "Darth Vader" and a few more pieces and True Jedi on "Cloud City Trap." (I just cannot get True Jedi on "Darth Vader." I fall into the lava too often.) Also did "Lego City," one of the two bonus rounds where you have to destroy, knock down, or blow up a generic Lego city set to get a million studs and earn a gold brick.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Friendship and Music are Magic

It was just cloudy when I got up this morning. Had breakfast while watching episodes of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater. Tuxedo Sam is "Robin Penguin," who takes bubble gum from rich Princess Catnip and gives it back to the poor of Knotty-Pine...but he may be in over his head when he jousts with the Sheriff Grinder for the hand of Maid Kitty!

It's not easy being "Hello Mother Goose" when famous nursery rhyme objects go missing! Kitty has to follow a trail of purloined props to find out who the real perpetrator is.

"The Ugly Quackling" has Chip the Seal as the youngest and least-attractive baby in a family of ducks. He may not be as graceful as  his sisters and his mama Fangora, but he finally proves he's a lot more than he seems when he rescues them from Fox Grinder.

"Pinocchio Penguin" is Sam's second vehicle on this disc. Here, he's the wooden puppet who learns to be a real boy, with the help of Grandpa-petto, his friend Chip, and Kitty the Blue Fairy.

"Little Red Bunny Hood" takes My Melody out west, where she has to dodge the hungry Big Bad Wolf Grinder and rescue her grandmother from Belle Catnip.

It was still cloudy when I headed out to work. The rain started about an hour after I got in and continued off and on for a couple of hours. Maybe that's why we were off-and-on busy. I did help with the carts early-on, but they weren't really bad at that point. The bathrooms weren't, either. The manager told me to clean the baskets again...which would have been a lot easier if everyone in the store hadn't kept calling me up to put this item away or find that item. There were other baggers there at that point. Thankfully, things slowed down after break, to the point where I spent the rest of the afternoon doing returns and bagging.

It wasn't really raining when I went home, but it was still cloudy, damp, and no day to be lingering. I spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Poe implores Maz to release his brothers from the pass. They're jealous that he's got the water, the magical artifacts, and the girl...and even more so when he uses those magical objects to save two kingdoms that were attacked by Sorcerer Snoke's First Order Army. Poe gets all the glory, even when Benjamin kills Snoke.

Benjamin and Armitage are more than a little put out when the three stop at an inn for the night. They finally come up with a plan to discredit their brother, stealing his cup with the Water of Life and replacing it with a cup of dirty river water. They intend to threaten him into not revealing the truth to their mother.

Had dinner around 6:30. It was too late to make chili. I decided to try Chicken-Fried Turkey Steaks. Covered Turkey Salisbury Steaks with a light cornmeal and flour batter, then cooked them in canola oil. Had it with defrosted green beans and almonds and brown rice. Oh, yum. The batter was mildly crunchy and added just the right savory flavor.

Watched DuBarry Was a Lady while I ate. Red Skelton headlines this 1943 MGM musical as Louie, a hat-check boy in a fancy nighclub who wins a million dollars in a sweepstakes. He immediately buys everything he can...including the favors of May Daly (Lucile Ball), the nighclub's singer. She claims she wants to marry for money, but she really loves Alex (Gene Kelly), the dancer and emcee. Louie convinces his friend Charlie (Rags Ragland) to drug Alex's drink. He takes it instead and dreams himself into 18th century France, where he's King Louis XV, May is Madame DuBarry, Ginny the cigarette girl (Virginia O'Brian) is her lady-in-waiting, Alex is the peasant revolutionary known as the Black Arrow, and Charlie is the Dauphan (the king's son - even Louie questions that one).

It's too bad the first half of this movie is padded rather awkwardly with unnecessary numbers, including a salute to Esquire pinups and several songs from Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra. I actually like the main idea of the compare and contrast between the 40's nightclub and the swashbuckler. In some ways, it's almost like a more adult Wizard of Oz...only in this case, rather than being glad he's home, Louie's glad to let May marry the man she really wants.

Not the most necessary movie and probably a bit of a muddle if you don't know the era. If you're a fan of the cast, the 40's, or big band music, it's worth a look.

Finished out the night with My Little Pony: The Movie. (Or if you want to separate it from the 80's film, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - The Movie.) Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) is nervous about being in charge of the Friendship Festival. She wants it to be perfect, especially since popular pony singer Songbird Serenade (Sia) is performing. The Festival becomes a moot point when Equestria is attacked by Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt), a unicorn with a broken horn, who throws crystals over the princesses and transforms them into statues. The Mane 6 flee, searching for the Hippogriffs, apparently the only creatures that can save them. Along the way, they also befriend con-artist cat Capper (Taye Diggs) and a band of parrot pirates, each of whom help them along to their goal. Even when they arrive at their destination, the Queen of the Hippogriffs (Uzo Aduba) refuses to help them, fearing the reprisal of the Storm King (Liev Schreiber). When Twilight Sparkle makes a big mistake and is abandoned by the others, she has to figure out how to gain Tempest's trust...and how to prove to everyone just how potent the magic of friendship and working together can be.

Like the original 80's film, this didn't do well, with critics or audiences, when it came out last fall. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. I liked the action-packed story, the conflicted character of Tempest Shadow, and how they eventually convinced the Hippgriffs to come out of hiding. The colorful animation is a step above the show, and especially nice in Sequestria and during the trip with the pirate parrots.

However, I will go on to say that I do like this show and have seen quite a few episodes. If you haven't seen the show at all, or aren't into cutesy girl-oriented characters (they actually poke fun at this several times), this is not going to be your cup of apple cider. If you're a fan and have seen at least the last few seasons of the show, this is absolutely worth checking out for the animation and cast alone.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Mists of Afternoon

The weather continued to be dark and dreary, even as I finally rolled out of bed late this morning. Brightened the day with breakfast and another Wonder Woman second season episode, "The Pied Piper." Here, the Piper is a popular crooner (Martin Mull) who is luring his female groupies into stealing money from his venues. Diana ends up on the case when her boss' estranged college-age daughter gets involved. She has to rescue the girl from his manipulation, and point out to him that, no matter what his reasons, what he's doing is still wrong.

It was past 1 when I finally made it out to run errands. Yesterday's showers were down to a fine mist that continued in some capacity for most of the day. It may be part of the reason I saw a few people at the Oaklyn Library when I arrived. I looked at the DVDs and organized picture and board books.

Headed down Atlantic and Nicholson to the Acme around 2. I didn't have a huge order, but there were a few things I really needed. My throat has been sore and I've had a headache and a dry throat for days. I bought some generic cold and flu medicine that I hope will help. Restocked chicken (there were a couple of good sales, and I found two packs with manager's coupons), mandarin oranges, grapefruit, yogurt, bananas, cooking oil, apricot preserves, and nuts (cashews this time). Found a bag of pearl onions for 99 cents. I love my mother's pearl onions with white sauce that she makes for Thanksgiving and thought I'd try my own version.

My schedule for next week is a bit busier than it has been for a while. In good news, more hours and still three days off, Tuesday for counseling and next Saturday for the toy convention in Cherry Hill. In annoying news, I seem to be back to 8 and 1/2 hour days on Wednesday. I hope it goes fast. We weren't that busy last Wednesday, and given it's the day before the beginning of the month, we'll probably be even less so this week.

Went straight home after I finished. The mist wasn't abating. It was just too chilly and blahh to do any more running around. Watched an episode of She-Ra while putting my groceries away and eating a quick lunch. "The Red Knight" is a mysterious man in red armor who appears suddenly just before a local fair and running race. Bow usually wins the race, and is humiliated when he loses to this new opponent. He runs off, but She-Ra points out that losing isn't always a bad thing...and that no one else but him could help her save Queen Angela from Hordak.

Worked a little bit on writing for a while after that. Luke tells Poe he can keep the sword and bread. The bread can feed whole countries. The sword will slay anything it touches, including armies. Poe and Rey go for a walk in the garden...but he's so enamored with her, he doesn't realize the gate is about to close. He's so close getting out, the gate takes off a small piece of his heel as he leaves.

Had dinner around quarter of 7. It was too late to make chili by that point. I opted for Progresso light beef and barely soup and video games. Returned to Return of the Jedi on Lego Star Wars for the Free Play versions of "The Battle of Endor" and "Jedi Destiny." "Destiny" took longer than I thought. I did manage to get a few more pieces, but no True Jedi. (Got the red brick on the first run.) "Battle of Endor" took so long, I cut off before I could finish, though I did find the red brick and got True Jedi.

Ended the night with the original 1987 Adventures In Babysitting. Kris Parker (Elizabeth Shue) is not having a good night. Her boyfriend (Bradley Whitford) canceled their big date, leaving her to babysit obsessive Marvel fan Sarah (Maia Brewton) and her brother Brad (Keith Coogan), who has a huge crush on her. She thinks it'll just be a simple run into Chicago with the kids when her best friend (Penelope Ann Miller) calls from the bus station, begging to be picked up and taken home. Things go downhill from there. They're joined by Brad's annoying friend Darryl (Anthony Rapp), who chases every girl he sees and drools over Playboy magazines. Her mother's car breaks down. The guy who picks them up (John Ford Noonan) is nice enough, but gets off the track when he hears about his wife cheating. They end up in a stolen car, then have to literally sing the blues when they escape. The men who run the car theft ring go after them when they accidentally steal their notes.  Not to mention, there's the fact that Kris' boyfriend wasn't entirely telling the truth about why he had to cancel their date in the first place...

I haven't seen the Disney Channel remake, but the original is an old favorite of mine. I'm especially fond of the outstanding soundtrack of oldies, blues, and R&B tunes, including some nice use of the Rolling Stones and the infamous "Babysitting Blues." (I read on Wikipedia that a soundtrack album was finally put out in 2015. I might have to look for that.)

Some bad language and mild violence make this iffy for young kids; for young teens on up, this is still a really fun look at just how crazy babysitting can get.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tall Tales and Legends on a Rainy Day


A series of loud banging noises awoke me around 7:30. They'd already started working on the pipes in the road down the street. I tried to go back to sleep, but got up for good around quarter of 8 and finished off The Painted Queen.

Had breakfast while listening to the rain outside and watching the Sailor Moon Super S movie Black Dream Hole. The Sailor Guardians are making cookies for Valentine's Day when they see groups of children being lured by strange winged youths with pipes. They're fairies who work for Badianu, a witch who is creating a black hole powered by the dreams of children. When Sailor Chibi-Moon is kidnapped and Tuxedo Mask injured, the youngest fairy Peruru leads the other Guardians to Badianu's outer space lair to rescue her.

Headed out to get the laundry done around 10, as soon as the rain stopped. I picked the right time. I was empty when I arrived. The only other person there was Rachel Ray on the TV. By the time more folks started arriving, I was just throwing my laundry in the dryer. Between lighter clothes than I normally wear in the winter and a smaller load, it didn't take me that long anyway.

Since I got up so early, I had extra time to bake banana cookies after I put my clothes away. I found a recipe for Caramel-Frosted Banana Drops in my Pillsbury cookie cookbook. They were simple to make, and interestingly were another egg-less recipe. The bananas replaced the eggs. I didn't bother with the frosting. I don't like frosting cookies. It's too much of a mess. Besides, between the bananas and a cup of brown sugar, these cookies were sweet enough without it.

Watched an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre while I baked. Did the rather dark version of the German legend and Robert Browning poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." A father (Eric Idle) tells his son the tale of the Piper (also Idle), who leads the rats that are plaguing the town of Hamlin to the river. The mayor and his council not only take all the credit, but refuse to pay him. But there's a reason you always have to pay the piper...because he doesn't take kindly to folks who go back on a promise.

The rain let up again around quarter of 1, long enough for me to run some errands. Started down at Phillies Phatties for lunch. Watched ESPN go on about hockey (the US women's team just won gold - awesome) and skiing and college basketball scandals. Enjoyed a can of the new Mountain Dew Ice (basically, Mountain Dew Mist Twist, a clear lemon-lime soda) with my slice of cheese and slice of broccoli pizza.

It was just damp, windy, and chilly when I went on my way across Newton Lake Park. The park was mostly empty today, except for Canadian geese, a few ducks on the river, and one or two hearty souls out jogging. It was too cold for most folks to be out and about, especially after the past few days were so nice.

The Haddon Township Library was even less busy. I mainly organized and shelved DVDs and audio books. Along with finding The Art of The Last Jedi, I took out a few movies. After Reds last night and "The Pied Piper" this morning, I decided I'd try some lighter fare. They'd just gotten last year's My Little Pony: The Movie in. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a flop last summer, but sounded interesting enough for me to try. Continued digging into the comedies of the 60's and 70's with the Oscar-winning Annie Hall.

It was showering lightly when I headed out, but even that was stopping. I had to dodge road work all the way back to Oaklyn, Along with the pipe replacement on Manor, they were also doing pipe work on Cuthbert by Genova Pizza, and a car had hit a pole across the street from the Crystal Lake Diner and the liquor store and was surrounded by fire trucks. Other than a brief peek at Tuesday Morning, I went straight home.

It's a good thing I did. It started raining almost 20 minutes after I'd settled down behind the computer to write...and this time, the shower came down far harder. It's rained off and on for the rest of the evening.

The weather made a nice backdrop for my story. Poe makes his way across a beautiful garden and into the Castle of Jakku. He finds four Jedi knights under a trance and take their rings, then picks up a finely crafted sword from the armory and a thick loaf of bread that keeps regrowing and feeding him from the kitchen.

A beautiful maiden is locked in the tower. Her name is Princess Rey, the feisty young ward of King Luke of Atch-To. A wicked sorcerer imprisoned her in the tower in the hopes of marrying her and placed her guardian under a spell that forces him to work as a slave. They find Luke in the garden, gathering well water. The two use the sword to release him from the spell.

Got off around 6:30 for dinner. Had leftovers while watching another Good Eats episode. "A Pie In Every Pocket" has Alton introducing folks to the world of bite-sized pocket pies and home-made Pop Tarts. Yum. Lauren and I tried the baked pocket pies once when she was visiting. I put strawberry jam in mine; she had cheese and pepperoni. Other than I cheated and used frozen pie dough instead of the biscuit dough Alton makes, they came out very well.

Played some Lego Star Wars after dinner. Went back to A New Hope to do "Rescue the Princess" and "Death Star Escape." Picked up all but one piece and the red brick on the former. Got everything but True Jedi on "Escape." (I kept falling off ledges.) The "Fast Build" and "Disarm Troopers" was a huge help on "Escape." I could build that mosaic without being constantly shot at.

Decided to try something different to finish out the night. Shelly Duvall's second series of fantasy tales takes us to the US for some Tall Tales and Legends. Unlike Fairie Tale Theatre, which was a Showtime exclusive, this one also turned up on The Disney Channel, which is likely how we first saw it. We taped "Annie Oakley," "Casey at the Bat," and "Johnny Appleseed" in the 1980's, and I have fond memories of "Pecos Bill" and "John Henry" as well.

Here's some of my favorite episodes of this series on YouTube:

Pecos Bill
Annie Oakley
Casey at the Bat
Johnny Appleseed
John Henry

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Warm Day In Winter

I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was this morning! Sunny, windy, and really too warm for this time of year, in the 60's by 9:30. I threw open the windows to air out my apartment, then watched The Backyardigans while eating breakfast and getting ready for work. "International Super Spy" was their first of three hour-long specials. Pablo is a Bond-style spy who likes his apple juice shaken and his battles in the form of dance-offs. He's sent on a mission by his boss Miss T (Tasha) to retrieve three canisters from exotic locations. If the evil Lady In Pink (Uniqua) and her hench-moose Tyrone get their hands on it, it could be "a recipe for disaster!"

Oh, and I did call the gynecology office in Collingswood this morning after breakfast. After trying to find all my information (my cards were in my purse), we did make an appointment. She originally said the 13th, but if I can't get that day off, I may see if I can change it.

Today was my long shift...and it was even quieter than yesterday. It got slightly steady during the noon rush hour. Otherwise, we barely had customers. I gathered baskets and carts, did the few returns that there were, cleaned up a small spill, mopped the bathrooms, and rounded up the inside trash. Not only are a lot of people likely tired after a busy month, but it was in the 70's by noon and just too nice for shopping.

I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. It was too nice of a day not to! There was a little rush hour traffic down around the Wal Mart/Marshalls entrance and the Hispanic church. Otherwise, the roads were as quiet as the Acme was. Saw quite a few bike riders and dog-walkers out in Oaklyn enjoying the day with me.

Did some writing when I got in (after taking out the trash). Unlike his brothers, Poe is kind to the old woman by the tavern, helping her get water from a well. It turns out that she's Maz, a witch. She gives him a map to the Castle of Jakku in the middle of the desert, along with a magic key and bread to feed the lions. The key's magic will only work for one day...and if Poe's left trapped inside, he'll turn to stone!

Had a quick leftover dinner around quarter of 7, then moved on to Lego Star Wars. Returned to Revenge of the Sith for "Battle of Kashyyak" and "General Grievous." Did very well, getting most of the pieces, True Jedi, and the red brick in "Kashyyak" and completing the very short "General Grievous" boss round.

Finished the night with the lengthy epic Reds. Real-life witnesses tell the tale of reporter John Reed (Warren Beatty) who married socialte Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) in 1915 after introducing her to his bohemian, anarchic lifestyle. He's all for the Communist Party and heavily believes in the rights of the working man. Meanwhile, his wife becomes an equally radical feminist. They try to make a go of a normal middle-class life, but they're both too restless to remain in the suburbs for very long. She becomes a war correspondent in Europe during World War I and he follows, despite having a rare kidney disease. They both end up in Russia together, witnessing the fall of the Czars and the beginnings of the Communist regime. On their return to the States, Jack writes a best-seller about their experiences, Ten Days That Shook the World. He tries the same type of workingman revolutions in the US, but is stymied by the split between the two Communist parties. He doesn't do much better in Europe; he's arrested in Russia and lands briefly in Finland before he's reunited in Moscow with Bryant. It's she who nurses him in his final days when the kidney disease finally overtakes him.

Tough subject matter, even now. I give Beatty credit for even getting this story made, let alone how well it came out. He and Keaton were excellent as passionate couple united in their love for words and politics; Maureen Stapleton won an Oscar as another real-life radical, Emma Goldman. The sweeping cinematography also won.

If you're a fan of the cast or are intrigued by the topic or the history of the time, this is well worth checking out if you have time on your hands.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Picnic In February

Began a late morning with breakfast and the Xanadu soundtrack. I had it on because it's one of the inspirations for my newest idea, another 80's-set Star Wars novel. This time, it uses the Sequel characters and is set right here in Camden County. In the 60's and 70's, Cherry Hill had one of the top nightclubs in South Jersey, the Latin Casino, as well as a popular race track and many luxury hotels and restaurants that catered to the rich and famous. Sadly, changing times and tastes, as well as several damaging fires, doomed the majority of those fabled buildings. The Subaru and Mercedes dealerships and Holiday Inn replaced them in the 1980's. The race track itself apparently hung on until 2000 - it's now the Market Place shopping center.

My story takes us back to 1981. Poe Damerez, with money provided by his boss, Galactic Records owner and president Leia Wallace, has just bought the former Rebel Alliance nightclub in Cherry Hill. He's hoping to reopen it as a dance club and music showplace...and that his first act will be no less than Leia and the Falcons. The Falcons started as a jazz trio after World War II, before adding two more members and moving on to becoming a pioneering rock and folk group.

Poe has several headaches from the get-go. First of all, while Leia is all for playing a one-time-only gig, none of her former band mates agree. Harry "Han Solo" Shaw, the manager and saxophonist, is now a manager for several low-level groups who is known for his shady activities. Guitarist and dancer Luke "Skywalker" Wallace is living in retirement in Philadelphia and has no desire to rejoin the music business. Laurence "Lando" Craydon has vanished all together. There's also Leia's business partner Amilyn Holdo, who is wary of the entire scheme. Not to mention, the First Order Company is after the land to build a shopping center...and their vice-president Kylo Ren has his own reasons for not wanting the Rebel Alliance Club rise again.

While I really like this idea, it's more than likely we won't see it until next year at the earliest, if not the year after. First of all, the only novel-length fanfiction I was planning on doing this year was the Original Trilogy 30's adventure, and that mostly to finish it. I spent almost eight months doing those two novels last year. I'd like to move on to other projects. Second, I think I'll wait on any novel-length Sequel Trilogy fanfics until we know more about the ninth movie and how it fits in with the others.

I did get started on the next story I'm going, which coincidentally also stars Poe. The Water of Life is based after a Grimm's Fairy Tale. Poe is the adopted son of Queen Leia of D'Qar. The queen is very sick. Her magician Lor San Tekka tells her sons that only the Water of Life can save her. Her real son Benjamin and other adopted son Armitage Hux goes out in search of the Water of Life, but they get stuck in a mountain pass after insulting a little old lady by a well. Poe insists on going out as well, despite Tekka's trepidation.

Broke at 1 for lunch. Did an episode of Good Eats while I ate and got ready for work. "Milk Made" gives us recipes involving milk, as well as explaining why milk has to go through several processes before it can be made safe for us to drink. The caramel-like Dulce de Leche is too sweet for my taste. I might try that Tres Leches Cake and the cottage cheese made from skim milk sometime, though.

Work was quiet as can be. Not only is it the day after a major holiday, but the weather was ridiculously gorgeous, sunny, breezy, and in the upper 60's-lower 70's. I mopped the bathroom when I arrived and did what few returns there were, but I was mostly outside. I definitely preferred that. It was too nice to be inside, anyway. I just wish I hadn't been late on my break again.

It was still so beautiful out at 6 PM, I had my first outdoor meal of the year on Sonic's patio. Ordered a fish sandwich with tater tots and a cherry limeade. I'm surprised the patio wasn't busier, given the nice weather and it being dinner time. I guess my co-worker was right that people are partied out right now. There was one other guy there, just sitting. I enjoyed my meal while watching the stars come out over the parking lots.

Returned briefly to the Acme after dinner. I was out of my own skim milk. Since that Bryers sale was still on (and my throat has been dry and a bit sore lately), I picked up a carton of coffee ice cream. Grabbed a two-pack of cranberry-oatmeal cookies for a snack.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away and got dressed, then played some Lego Star Wars. Returned to the Prequel Trilogy for "Invasion of Naboo" and "Darth Maul." I only got one piece and the red brick on the former, but I picked up a lot of pieces on that one the first time. Got almost all the pieces and True Jedi on the latter.

Finished the night after a shower with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Joanna "Joey" Drayton (Katherine Houghton) shocks her parents by coming home from vacation with a new doctor John Prentice (Sidney Poiter). Her father Matt (Spencer Tracy) is a newspaper publisher who prides himself on his liberal views, but he's not at all ready for this. His wife Christina (Katherine Hepburn) is more supportive. Their black maid (Isabel Sanford) is even more horrified that a black man would get "above himself" and marry outside his race. Things are the same with John's parents. His soft-spoken mother (Beah Richards) thinks the kids should do what they want; his father (Roy E Glenn) is worried that they'll get hurt by the prejudice and that they're taking this too fast. It ultimately comes down to Matt...who finally gives a rousing speech on what he's learned about love from his daughter and wife.

Touching salute to the power of love was Tracy and Hepburn's last film together, and Tracy's last movie period. (He was noticeably frail during the entire movie, and in fact died two weeks after filming ended.) Tracy and Hepburn were both Oscar-nominated for their roles; Hepburn and the screenplay won. I actually think Tracy was much better. His final speech to both families and the maid was a killer moment. Considering the shape he was in, I give him a heck of a lot of credit for being able to deliver it as powerfully as he did.

With racial strife once again in the news, this romantic comedy-drama doesn't seem quite as dated as it did a decade ago. If you're a fan of the cast or of comedies with a thoughtful streak, this is worth checking out.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Red White and Sisters

Awoke late to a cloudy day. Along with a chapter of The Painted Queen, I did the material for Lincoln and Washington's birthdays from Colliers Harvest of Holidays for President's Day. I found the essay on Lincoln and his early years to be slightly more interesting than the ones on Washington. (Not much was known about his childhood in the early 60's, evidently.)

Called Rose after I finished reading. She suggested I come over for dinner around 5:30 and do the paperwork after we eat. I had no problem with that. She was making ribs in a slow-cooker. I haven't had ribs in ages, and the last time I did have them, they were grilled.

Ran an episode of Wonder Woman while eating breakfast and digging out the folder I needed to complete the application. "Screaming Javelin" from the second season is an odd episode that has Diana searching for a series of missing athletes. The loony ruler of a tiny European country is kidnapping athletes for his own all-star Olympic team...and he wants Wonder Woman to be the top contender! Diana dodges his people, including a sharp-shooting husband-wife team, in order to find a young gymnast and save her boyfriend in time for the real Olympic Games.

Headed out around quarter of 1 for a walk. I didn't really have any major plans today, so I thought I'd just stroll around Oaklyn. It started to sprinkle lightly as I made my way down Manor Avenue. We're still very much in the throws of winter here. While I have seen green grass and the shoots of spring flowers poking up in some yards, it's still mostly old dry roots and crunchy gold lawns. A few houses have winter, Valentine's Day, or St. Patrick's Day banners up; most settle for their yellow grass and black trees.

Hit the House of Fun first. They were really busy for them, with at least two dads showing their kids the toys they loved at their age, and a couple of collectors looking over the vast piles of pop culture paraphernalia After much deliberation, I ended up with a copy of the "new canon" novel Star Wars: Aftermath, a DVD of The Monster Squad, a stuffed Artemis (Minako's white kitty in Sailor Moon), and an adorable tiny stuffed Chewbacca I fished out of a dollar toy bin. Artemis was the only expensive item at 16 dollars. Everything else was under 10.

Made a few quick stops in the neighborhood next. Picked up cooking spray and canned chicken at Dollar General - they're both cheaper there. Stopped at Dad and Jodie's house to say "hi" and pick up the cake pan I used for the marble cake for their Super Bowl party. Jodie was watching something comic with mothers - I had no idea what it was. Dad was apparently at an appointment for his treatment. I picked up my pan and a small box of chocolates from Jodie and Dad as a belated Valentine's Day gift and moved on.

Spent the rest of the afternoon finishing and posting Finn and the First Order Princess. Phasma sees Finn practicing with the staff he made and says she must have it. He tell her he'll give it to her...if she gives him a hundred kisses. She's almost done when Snoke, Hux, and Prince Ben show up, shocked that she's kissing a peasant.

Fed up with Phasma and her family, Finn reveals who he really is. He brings Rose out of the stables and says he'd rather court her. She's kind, loyal, and brave...everything Phasma, despite her attractive looks, is not. He does bring her back to Atch-To, where they court each other before finally getting married. Phasma is stripped of her rank by Snoke and sentenced to take Rose's place in the stables instead.

I think that came out pretty cute, considering the original story isn't exactly high drama to begin with. I had time to get it up on my writing blog, Archive of Our Own, and before I switched to doing job research at Pinterest.

Finn and the First Order Princess - Archive of Our Own
Finn and the First Order Princess - My Writing Blog
Finn and the First Order Princess -

Craig picked me up around 6. The ribs were still cooking when I arrived. Khai was taking a nap, but Finley was awake. She is so chubby and cute! I loved watching her play with her Little People Zoo, pushing the buttons to see what sounds they made, or gnawing on an animal to see if it would move with her touch. Rose had Moana on in the background, which looked amazing on their wide-screen TV.

Dinner was ribs, green beans, drop biscuits, canned cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. It was all absolutely delicious. I don't usually make biscuits for myself. They don't taste good cold. Rose's were tasty, though, just savory enough. Khai begged to have his with strawberry jam. (I liked mine with jam at his age, too.) I didn't have a lot of the mashed potatoes because I'm just not a fan of white mashed potatoes, but the green beans were yummy and the ribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender.

I looked over the paperwork while she did the dishes. It's for that doctor she and Jodie were talking about me seeing last year. I'll still see it, if only to get a second opinion. I honestly don't remember much about who I saw as a kid. I only talked to school therapists in college. I had enough problems without dealing with that, too. I did see a therapist in Cape May Court House near the special services schools briefly in 2005. I actually liked that lady and only ended it because I moved. Took up with another in Collingswood around 2007, but I left that about two later. I didn't think the man I was seeing there was helping me. I wouldn't go back to therapy until I started with Shelly Stahl in early 2013.

One thing Rose did insist I do now was see a gynecologist. I normally only see doctors when I feel sick. Why bother unless there's something wrong with you? I am getting older, though. It wouldn't hurt. There's a gynecology office in Collingswood I could call tomorrow.

Craig and Khai finally drove me home around 8:30. (Khai tagged along so he could find more Pokemon on Pokemon Go!)  After I got in, I had the last of the cherry vanilla ice cream, then went online while watching Dave. Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) runs a temp agency in Washington DC. He also happens to be a dead ringer for President Bill Mitchell (also Kline), who just had a stroke. Dave is brought in by Mitchell's chief of staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) and communications director Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn) to replace him while he recovers. Alexander has a devious plan to implicate the genuinely good vice president Gary Nance (Ben Kingsley) in a bank scandal and take over the presidency himself. Meanwhile, Dave is more interested in Mitchell's first lady Ellen (Sigourney Weaver). She's surprised and suspicious when her husband starts taking more of an interest in the common man, visiting schools and fighting to keep homeless shelters. After actually talking to Nance, Dave realizes they've both been set up...and what he has to do now to keep Alexander from going after the Oval Office.

I remember seeing this cute political comedy a couple of times when Dad rented it in the early 90's and enjoying it. Kline is great as the everyman suddenly thrust into the role of Commander and Chief; I also liked Ving Rhames as the devoted Secret Service agent. The breezy screenplay was nominated for an Oscar. Nice cast too, including dozens of real-life politicians and journalists in cameo roles. If you're a fan of Kline, Weaver, or gentle political satire, you'll want to take a look this charmer.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Blue Skies and Sunny Days

The sun had returned by the time I rolled out of bed this morning. Celebrated a beautiful winter day with banana chocolate chip pancakes and The Roaring 20's. The soundtrack to the 60's TV show has comedienne Dorothy Provine, joined a quartet and chorus girls, performing beloved numbers from the actual 1920's like "Don't Bring Lulu," "Charleston," and "Poor Butterfly." (There's also a really nice version of "Someone to Watch Over Me.")

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Rose manages to calm Phasma's horse and get a stone out of its shoe after the obnoxious First Order princess threatens it with a whip. She tells Phasma to be kinder to her animals. Finn realizes he's starting to get a better view of what Phasma is like under that armor and her beautiful looks...and he has a plan to teach her a lesson.

Broke for lunch at 1:30. Listened to one of my Disney CD collections while eating a quick lunch and getting ready for work. I bought this set almost a decade ago with a gift card from Lauren, and it was a decade old then. I listened to this CD mainly because it starts off with "I'll Make a Man Out of You," my favorite number from the so-so score to Mulan. Other fun songs on this set include Dr. John's version of "Cruella Di Vill" (one of the best things about the live-action 101 Dalmatians films), "Lavender Blue" from So Dear to My Heart, "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and "Seize the Day" from the film version of Newsies.

Work was mildly steady, a surprise for a Sunday. This is normally our busiest day of the week. Part of it may have been that gorgeous weather. The snow had long vanished by the time I was doing carts at work. A lot of people may have taken a day trip to the Shore or Poconos. As a cashier pointed out, others may simply be broke and burned out on partying after Valentine's Day and the Eagles' Super Bowl win happened in the space of a week and a half. Cleaned the bathrooms for the first hour, but I was otherwise outside, either with the cart or the outside trash, and I was perfectly fine with that.

When I got home, I ate leftovers for dinner, then finished out the night with more Lego Star Wars. Did "Dagobah" and "The Great Pit of Carkoon." "Dagobah" went much better; got almost all but two of the pieces and the red brick there. While I was able to pick up the red brick in "Pit of Carkoon," I missed a lot more pieces. And I still couldn't get True Jedi! Maybe next time.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Winter Surprise

Started off a sunny morning with a corn meal and grapefruit breakfast and The Backyardigans. Tyrone, Pablo, and Uniqua are explorers who have to "Follow the Feather" to the Flying Polka Dotted Pony. They take a hot air balloon to Tibet, where they dodge traps in an Asian temple and search for steps to the Pony's home. But who can save the pony? Only the Mysterious Lady (Uniqua) knows.

Switched to "Flower Power" while I got ready for work. Uniqua's in the spotlight this time. She's a flower seller in Garden City who gains the power of plant life when she sticks her finger on a thorn. After she learns to use her newfound abilities, she becomes Flower Girl, defender of the city. But the Gloom Meister (Austin) has an evil plan afoot to cover the entire city in darkness! Uniqua has to stop his plot, or there will never be another flower in Garden City.

It was still bright and windy out when I headed off to work. Checked the bathrooms to make sure they had soap and toilet paper for the first half-hour, but I was mostly outside doing carts. That was fine with me. The day remained gorgeous, windy but relatively warm, until around quarter after 1. Even after the clouds came in, it still wasn't too bad. The crowds were steady, busy but not overwhelming, a bit surprising for a holiday weekend. I guess they all went down to the Shore while the weather was behaving.

The clouds were increasing, even as I headed home at 4. By the time I was on the computer starting my next story, it had begun to shower lightly. I focused on writing and ignored the gloomy weather and Charlie cursing at dogs and deities at the top of his lungs downstairs.

My next fairy tale is the second Hans Christian Anderson story I have planned for this run. Finn and the First Order Princess is based after The Swineherd. Finn is the prince of a small, relatively poor country, Atch-To. One day, while riding through the Empire of the First Order with his adopted sister Rey and his guard Poe, he catches sight of the beautiful Princess Phasma and falls in love with her. He's determined to woo her, despite his siblings insisting that she's harsh and demanding under her attractive facade.

Finn first sends a lovely rose and a nightingale. Phasma rejects both, but not because they're real. She is the commander of her father Snoke's armies and wants weapons she can battle with, not soft things she deems useless.

The young prince dresses as a peasant in an attempt to be near her. Her stiff brother Hux assigns him to tend to the pigs. At night, Finn works on making a pretty sword for his love. During the day, he befriends Rose, a kind stable girl who is upset that her sister had to go to war. Finn thinks of Rose as a friend...until one day, when he sees Phasma abuse a horse that Rose takes care of...

Broke for dinner at 6:30. The Monkees also went on a treasure hunt in the early second season episode "Monkees Marooned." Peter trades his guitar for a map that leads to a supposedly "deserted" island. As it turns out, the island is home to a former major and his hep-cat man Thursday who are also looking for the treasure, as well as an aged jungle king abandoned from his silent movie set. The boys have to dodge the trigger-happy military man while trying to find the treasure before he does!

Went back to Lego Star Wars after having leftover chicken legs, roasted vegetables, and baked sweet potato fries for dinner. "Jabba's Palace" became the first round I found all the pieces and the red brick on, though I still need to get True Jedi. Got almost all of the pieces and the red brick from "Chancellor In Peril."

As I brought my ice cream dish and spoon to the sink, I happened to look out the window...and see snow. That was a surprise. It wasn't that cold today. There's quite a bit of it, too, probably about two or three inches. I doubt it'll last the next 24 hours - it's supposed to get warm again tomorrow - but it looks pretty now.

Finished the night with Smokey and the Bandit. "Bandit" is the CB trucking "handle" (nickname) for Bo Danville (Burt Reynolds), who is hauling illegal beer to Georgia for a rich father-son pair. His friend Cletus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed) is actually doing the hauling, while he distracts the law in a black Trans Am. Things really heat up when, while driving back with their haul, Bandit picks up runaway bride Carrie (Sally Field). The chatty dancer was about to marry the sniveling son of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), but got cold feet and exited the wedding. The trio are helped on their way by everyone from a little old lady to an undertaker with a funeral procession to a waitress and every trucker at her diner. All the while, Justice stays on their trail...but Bandit and his talkative girl are always one step ahead of him.

This was the other major hit of 1977 besides Star Wars. Unlike that movie, this noisy chase comedy is very much a product of its time. Trucker culture, CB radios, and down-home country flavor were the "in" thing in the late 70's-early 80's. Even if you pretty much have an idea of how it's going to come out, at least everyone's having a marvelous time, including Field as the dancer who would rather join the truckers than marry a guy she barely knows and Gleason as the not-so-long arm of the law.

If you're a fan of the cast, car chases, the southern-fried films of the 70's and 80's, or country music (the song "East Bound and Down" was also a hit), then you'll want to give this salute to the Great American Chase a look.

Friday, February 16, 2018

In the Year of the Dog

Began a late and very gray morning with breakfast and a couple of Max & Ruby shorts. "Ruby's Figure Eight" has Ruby and her best friend Louise practicing their skating while trying to keep new skater Max away from the older boys playing hockey. Max wants to go outside and enjoy "Max's Rainy Day," but Ruby insists that he dress for the weather first. "Ruby's Piano Practice" has her trying to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," but Max and his toys keep distracting her.

First on the agenda for today was volunteering at the Oaklyn Library. They were quiet as can be when I rolled in around 12:30. It was just me and the librarian. I looked through the DVDs and kids' books, but there wasn't a whole lot to do. I left after a half-hour.

Took the long way down Nicholson Road to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping. I wanted to make chicken stir fry for dinner in honor of Chinese New Year today. Picked up canned sliced water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (the former were on sale) and fresh green beans. They were also having a really big sale on Bryers Ice Cream. I love their cherry vanilla! Restocked apples, grapefruit, mandarin orange cups, bananas, eggs, yogurt (for lunch and for cooking), mushrooms, batteries, and cheese (another good sale). Bags of Brussels sprouts were also on a decent sale.

My schedule for next week is...exactly the same as this week. I just go in an hour earlier next Saturday. Otherwise, same hours and same days off, including President's Day.

It started showering pretty hard as I headed home. I waited out the storm while putting everything away and having lunch. Ran Fairie Tale Theatre as I ate. "The Nightingale" is a rather strange episode from the first season. Mick Jagger is the Emperor of an Asian country who is so coddled and fawned over by his courtiers, he's never allowed outside. When a kitchen maid (Barbara Hershey) discovers a nightingale that sings beautifully, she brings it back to the court. The emperor loves it at first...but it can't live inside all the time. It flies away when the court becomes enamored of a mechanical bird from Japan. But the mechanical bird eventually breaks...and it can't save the Emperor from a horrible illness that may take his life.

I got lucky. The rain ended right as as "The Nightingale" did and I finished my lunch. I was able to ride to the laundromat without getting soaked. Maybe it's a good thing I waited. There were only two other people in the room when I arrived at quarter of 4. I had plenty of time for a big load (including the towels I used to mop up the defrosting freezer last week) while working on story notes and half-listening to General Hospital and Action News.

Put everything away, then finished out Brave Rey. Rey is able to trick Snoke into thinking there's something in the sack that Luke was held in. Luke uses his own magic to seal Snoke in tightly. She gets him out through the window, fighting their way through orcs and trolls before making it back to Maz.

Rey becomes Luke's newest apprentice, and eventually a great wizard-warrior. Her sisters do court the princes, and she takes the hand of Prince Poe. Kylo Ren, Hux, and Phasma think Luke is in the bag and beat it...and nearly kill Snoke in the process. When he does die, Kylo Ren does, indeed, take over the country. He invades Naboo several times, but can never get pasty the feisty, clever girl warrior who most definitely is anything but a "nobody."

I'm mostly pretty happy with how this one came out. These fairy tales are just rolling right along. Next up will likely be another Hans Christian Anderson story, this time with Finn in the lead role, The Swineherd.

At any rate, here's Brave Rey for your reading enjoyment:

Brave Rey - Archive of Our Own
Brave Rey - My Writing Blog
Brave Rey - Fanfiction,net

Didn't get to making my chicken stir-fry until almost 7:30! Cheered up the still-gloomy weather with The Road to Bali. The only Road To... movie made in color takes Bing and Bob down under, where they're in need of cash after having to outrun several local girls and their fathers. They take a job as deep-sea divers in a remote island kingdom. It seems like paradise, especially after they meet the beautiful Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour). But all is not well in this lush tropical landscape. Lala's cousin wants the throne and the treasure the guys are supposed to be diving for, and he's not adverse to doing anything from turning natives against the guys to outright shooting them to get them out of the way. Then there's also that giant squid monster the locals are so terrified about...

The boys and the premise were starting to wear a bit thin by 1952. It doesn't help that most of the songs are bland and dull. (The exception is the comic trio "The Merry Go-Run-Around," which pretty much sums up the entire series.) On the other hand, there's still some great gags and one-liners (including some amusing surprise cameos), and this is one of the only movies in the series where you feel like the guys are in any real danger.

If you're a fan of the other movies in the series, you'll probably want to track this one down, too. If you're new to Bing and Bob's Road travels, you might want to start with one of the earlier entries, particularly Morocco or Zanzibar.

Ended the night with Mulan for Chinese New Year. The title character (Ming Na) is a mouthy, perpetually late tomboy in very patriarchal Ancient China. She brings shame on her family when she first fails her matchmaking tests, then tries to keep her aging father from joining the army. She cuts her hair and joins as a man in her father's place. With the help of a wise-cracking dragon (Eddie Murphy), she manages to befriend the rest of the troop, and even resuce her commanding officer from the invading Mongolian army. Unfortunately, her good deed reveals her true gender. Now she has to prove that a woman can kick rear just as well as a man...and save the Emperor (Pat Moriata) and all of China while doing it.

This tale of war and gender politics wasn't a favorite of mine when it came out, but it's grown on me over the years. Mulan herself is one of Disney's best non-princess female characters, feisty and brave but still awkward as she tries to fit in among the men. Her army mates are an absolute riot as well.

Once again, the problem is the music. Other than the hilarious "I'll Make a Man Out of You," it just isn't very good. This movie probably didn't need to be a musical, and likely only was one because at the time, all Disney animated movies were musicals.

If you have older girls and pre-teens who are more into action than princesses or enjoy hearing stories from other lands, they may have a lot of fun with this one.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

From Winter to Spring

Slept so long this morning, I never got to the laundromat. I did get the Valentine's Day decorations down after breakfast. Ran a few episodes of The Backyardigans while I got the decoration bags sorted. "Robot Rampage" was the third and final hour-long episode. In this tale set around disco music, Austin is a robot repairman in a futuristic city with his Robot Roscoe. The robots in town never break...until one day when Tyrone, Uniqua, and Tasha's robots go haywire! Austin and Roscoe have to rescue the other kids, then stop the evil Dr. Pablo's bugs from taking over every robot in town.

"Catch that Train!" had Conductor Uniqua and devoted servant Pablo chasing after the train when it takes off with Czar Tyrone. They have to make sure it gets to the Winter Palace station intact...and that their ruler doesn't figure out what's going on.

It was past 1 when I finally headed out. The day was cloudy and cool, though not nearly as windy as yesterday. Cut through Newton Lake Park on my way to Westmont. The park was surprisingly busy for such a blah day, with several moms and their very young charges running around the playground and quite a few people out for a stroll.

Spent the next few hours at the Haddon Township Library. There wasn't a whole lot for me to do, volunteer-wise. They wanted to save the DVDs for a senior volunteer. I did organize the adult DVDs (the head librarian was right - they were in bad shape) and the CDs and shelved audio books.

Tried a couple of different movies this week. I enjoyed Cleopatra so much last week, I thought I'd try another lengthy historical epic, Reds. Returned to the cinema of the 60's and 70's with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Smokey and the Bandit. I remember seeing Dave when Dad rented it in the early 90's, but I haven't caught it since then; thought it might be fun for President's Day.

Also took out a couple of books for the first time in a while. Haddon Township finally got the visual guide for The Last Jedi in. Decided I was never going to get to the Hannah Swenson Christmas stories during the holidays and grabbed the first one, Sugar Cookie Murder. Found the last Amelia Peabody story Elizabeth Peters began before her death a few years ago, The Painted Queen. Cobalt Squadron tells the story of the lives of Rose Tico and her sister Paige before The Last Jedi begins. Continued with the Mercedes Lackey Elemental Masters fairy tale retellings with the Rapunzel story From a High Tower.

It was nearly 3:30 when I finally made it out. Stopped at Nick's Pizza for lunch. At that point, the only people there were the employees and a couple of teenagers on their way home from school looking for a snack. I had a grilled vegetable wrap with cheese and fries. The waitress forgot the cheese. The poor girl was so apologetic, but I wasn't mad at her. Accidents happen. I will admit, I was glad I held out for the provolone. The wrap tasted much better with the extra flavor.

By this point, the sun had come out, and it was much warmer. It was also 4 PM, too late to do much else. I dodged rush hour traffic on Cuthbert Road and the White Horse Pike and headed home.

Worked on writing for a few hours. Kylo Ren tells Rey that Luke is upstairs, in Snoke's room. He tells her he'll help her rescue Luke if she stays with him. She doesn't give him a direct answer, but gets him to take her upstairs instead. She hides under Snoke's bed again while Ren distracts Phasma and her troops. Rey does manage to free Luke from the sack Snoke had him in, but they're both caught before they can flee...

Broke for a very quick yogurt-and-fruit dinner at 6:30. Played a few rounds of Lego Star Wars while I ate. Moved to The Empire Strikes Back to do the Free Play on "Escape from Echo Base" and "Betrayal at Bespin." I did very well with both. Got more than half the pieces and almost got True Jedi on "Echo Base," all but one piece on "Betrayal" and the red brick in both.

Finished out the night with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It's 1957. Indy (Harrison Ford) is still searching for lost treasures, but now it's the Russians he's battling. Ukranian officer Irrina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is determined to get Indy to help her find a crystal skull that could lead to a vast city where alien beings may dwell. Indy's turncoat friend Mac (Ray Winstone) is more interested in the gold the city holds. Indy is approached by a young man named Mutt (Shia LaBouf) to find his mom along with the skulls. He never dreams Mutt's mother would be his former flame Marion (Karen Allen), or that his friend Oxley (John Hurt) would be the key to Indy getting close to the boy...and finding out what the real "treasure" of the skulls is.

This isn't my favorite Indiana Jones movie, but I don't hate it like a lot of people do. The plot is creative, fun, and appropriate for the 50's Cold War setting. Indy and Marion's reunion was beautifully handled, and the two of them are just fun to watch. Cate Blanchett made a great evil Russian officer, too.

Other casting isn't as welcome. Shia LaBouf is totally out of place as a Marlon Brando-wannabe. Mac is given such little build-up, you don't really feel feel the supposed friendship between him and Indy. Some of the set pieces (like the monkeys and the man-eating ants) are over-the-top, even for this franchise. It also has the same problem with an over-reliance on then-cutting edge CGI as the later Star Wars prequels and many other action movies of the late 90's and 2000's.

If you're a fan of the series, this isn't anywhere near as bad as you might have heard. If you're new to Indy's swashbuckling world, back up and check out at least Raiders of the Lost Ark before coming here to get a better understanding of Indy and Marion's relationship and Indy's character.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Romancing the Cupcake

Awoke to a lovely, sunny Valentine's Day. Celebrated with a tasty breakfast of corn meal mush with peanut butter and honey and Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You. Pooh and the others see Christopher Robin writing a valentine for a girl and think he likes her better than them. Owl tells them that he's been bitten by the Smitten bug, and that they have to catch another bug to fix him. The crew chases after what they think is the bug. Pooh rethinks this plan when he sees how happy his friend is with his new crush, but Christopher Robin knows that true friends never really leave your heart.

Did Un-Valentine's Day while getting ready for work. In this episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Rabbit cancels Valentine's Day to try to stem the tide of unwanted valentines they all got from Pooh the year before. As so often happens when Rabbit attempts to put the damper on a holiday, that doesn't go well. Pooh receives an anonymous pot of honey and feels he needs to give something back. One thing leads to another, and there's suddenly cakes flying and Pooh walking around, dressed as a mail box. Rabbit finally coalesces their ideas into a romantic show for Christopher Robin. But who did give Pooh the original pot of honey?

Today was my early work day. Thankfully, it was neither as long or as boring as my previous long Wednesday shifts. We were steady the whole day, not overwhelming busy, but not dead, either. While I did a cart of returns and the outside trash and gathered baskets and bagged later, I spent a lot of the day doing carts. I was glad to. The weather was still gorgeous, sunny and relatively warm, probably in the upper 40's-lower 50's, though windier than yesterday. 

Treated myself to a Dove peanut butter heart after work. A friend of Dad and Jodie's was in line in front of me and was nice enough to buy it for me for Valentine's Day. Awww. That was really sweet.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. While traffic has been closed one way, the other way was still fairly busy. I dodged cars until I went over the hill to Atlantic Avenue. I was also glad to note at that point that the city had finished the work on the pipes they'd already started when I left. (The water had just shut off when I left. It was on when I came in.

Did some writing next. Maz points Rey towards a spell in one of Luke's books that will give her invisibility for a short time. It's enough to get her on the grounds of Snoke's castle, but not into the door of the kitchen. She arrives there to find Kylo Ren waiting for her instead of Luke. Luke is tied up in a sack in Snoke's room. He wants to exchange his uncle for her helping him get rid of his master. He'd rather rule the kingdom than continue to feed the giant's appetite...and he really does admire her spirit. She's not interested in either his lust for power or his admiration. She just wants to help his parents.

It was quarter of 7 before I broke for dinner a couple more specials, starting with Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers. A cupid that looks suspiciously like Elmer spreads love among the Toons, despite Bugs insisting that he's meddling. Even Bugs gets hit with the love bug a few times, including the finale where he's chased by a huge European female rabbit.

Cleaned up the dishes while A Charlie Brown Valentine was on, then made a quick, low-fat, egg-less chocolate cupcake recipe I have in a Hershey's cookbook. (Egg-less because I have one egg left.) This is another later Peanuts special that's basically a series of skits. Unlike the Christmas cartoons, this one does have a through-line. Charlie Brown wants to ask the Little Red-Haired Girl to the school dance, but as usual, he's too nervous. He ends up taking Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Meanwhile, Sally and Lucy would be happy if their crushes would acknowledge them at all.

Moved onto Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown as I got the cupcakes in the oven. Linus is the one with a crush in this earlier Peanuts romance tale. He's in love with his teacher and buys her a huge box of candy. Sally thinks it's for her. Chuck's hoping against hope that he'll finally get a valentine, any valentine, this year. Snoopy's just putting on messy and very interactive puppet shows.

Did Romancing the Stone while the cupcakes were baking. Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a romance novelist whose life is mostly lived in the pages of her wildly popular books. Her life takes a far more harrowing turn when her sister calls from Columbia and says she was kidnapped. The smugglers who did it want the map her late husband sent Joan in exchange for her sister. Joan heads to Columbia, only to be waylaid by a general with plans of his own for the map. She's helped by a poacher (Michael Douglas) who offers to help her to her sister...if she pays him. She agrees to it only because she's desperate...but as they move across the Columbian jungles together, they begin to realize that falling in love can be an even greater adventure. 

This is one of my favorite movies since I was a kid. Douglas and Turner played so well off each other, they'd do another movie with these characters and a third, unrelated black comedy. If you love old-fashioned adventure like I do or are looking for an action movie with a strong heroine, this is highly recommended.

Finished the night with the last Hannah Swenson movie, Plum Pudding Murder. (Actually, according to Wikipedia, it was the second movie after the currently-unreleased Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.) Hannah is all ready to celebrate the holidays with her family and her two boy friends, steady dentist Norman and tough cop Mike. Their rivalry has really been heating up of late, from both of them buying her a Christmas tree to the two getting into a bidding war over her cookie baking services at a local fund-raiser. And if Hannah didn't have enough on her plate, she and Norman go to the local tree lot to get the money the owner owed her for the plum puddings she made him...only to find the owner dead, clutching her check. Turns out that the owner was a real sleaze who stole money from unsuspecting business owners until they had nothing left. A lot of people wouldn't cry if he was gone, including his ex-wife, a popular local talk radio hostess. She's accused of the crime, but Hannah doesn't think she's guilty. She has to find who is, or her holidays are going to be put on ice for good.

First of all, I will admit that I haven't read any of the Christmas-themed Hannah books, including this one. I keep meaning to take them out around the holidays...then run out of time to do it. That said, this is pretty much the same as the other movies in the series. If you love cozy mysteries or the book series this is based after, then you'll love this. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider Kid

Began an absolutely gorgeous day with breakfast and Olym-pinks. The Pink Panther and his long-nosed rival take part in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Pink's the star, to his rival's consternation. He does everything he can to out-jump and out-ski the rose-hued cat. Meanwhile, Pink's just hoping to dodge pianos that seem to be after him and help the poor guy when all his attempts at sabotage land him with a cold.

First thing on the agenda this morning was getting the new seat on the bike. This isn't anywhere near as complicated as changing the tires or fixing the chain. All you have to do is unscrew the seat, pull it off, then secure the new one. It took me a few minutes, due to the size of the seat, but I did finally get it on.

Concentrated on writing for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Rey's second mission is to rescue the sacred texts of Luke's wizard order from Snoke's bedroom. Luke gives her his cloak to help her sneak past the guards, but Kylo Ren is sleeping right under them. This time, she manages to dodge the young knight and the giant by going out a window.

Had lunch at 1 while watching another Pink Panther winter special, Pink at First Sight. Pink's hoping to earn money to look for a lovely panther lady of his own to spend Valentine's with. He takes a job as a singing package deliverer, but has absolutely no luck anywhere. A husband thinks he's after his wife. He accidentally gives a sexy gift to a priest. Gangsters aren't too happy when his package for them turns out to be a bomb! Not to mention, he keeps imagining that every woman he sees (and even a teddy bear) is the female panther of his dreams.

Did a quick short from my public domain cartoon collection while getting ready for work. "Cupid Gets His Man" was made by the Van Beuren Studio in the mid-30's. Mountie cupids have their work cut out for them when they have to bring together a spinster and a devoted bachelor who live next-door to one another.

Other than my break was late, work was absolutely no problem. It's the middle of the month right before two major holidays, and a gorgeous day to boot. The sun was out, the wind was gone, and it was a perfectly normal upper 30's-lower 40's. I did gather trash and baskets and shelved a few items, but I was mostly outside, doing carts and enjoying the nice weather.

Had a spinach "pancake" (spinach, eggs, and cheese) for dinner when I got home. Watched more Hannah Swenson while I ate. Peach Cobbler Mystery introduces a second bakery directly across from Hannah's Cookie Jar. The two sisters who own the place seem friendly enough, especially when the one that does the baking asks Hannah for help with a peach cobbler for a wedding. Unfortunately, neither she nor the cobblers make it to the dessert table. Hannah finds her dead in her massive industrial kitchen. Not only is she the first suspect, but her cop boyfriend Mike is taken off the case as being compromised. Hannah, her sister Andrea, her mother Dolores, and Dolores' new boyfriend Douglas search for the real killer...but he turns out to be a lot closer to home than any of them suspect.

I liked this one much better than Fudge Cupcake Murder...but then I remember liking the book, too. I completely forgot that this was set at Valentine's Day. We're introduced to Hannah's cat Moishe and her cute condo as she tries to decide between Mike and Norman for her Valentine's date...but I frankly like the solution she comes up with in the end far more.

Finished the night with Spider Man: Homecoming. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back in school after the events of Captain America: Civil War. He's pleading with his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to become a full member of the Avengers. Stark doesn't think he's ready yet, even after he discovers the former owner of a salvage company (Michael Keaton) selling alien technology and bits and pieces of Avengers costuming and weapons. Stark's given him a new Spider Man suit to help him out...but a disastrous attempt to capture the Vulture in Washington DC and on the Staten Island Ferry makes Stark think Peter's not quite ready for the big time yet. Peter now has to prove to Stark that he has what it takes to be "your friendly neighborhood Spider Man" and explain to his homecoming date Liz (Laura Harrier) that her dad has become a super-villain.

This ended up being really cute for a superhero movie. I loved how the kids were portrayed as about as normal as you can get, including Peter's best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and snarky Michelle (Zendaya) on the debate team. Some of the set pieces were fun too, especially in Washington DC. Michael Keaton also did well as one of the more interesting villains in the Marvel universe films.

I'm not the biggest Spider Man fan, but I have to admit, I did have fun with this. Let's hope Peter does just as well when he rejoins the Avengers for this summer's Infinity War.

Here's some animated specials exploring the more romantic and comic side of love while all of you get ready for Valentine's Day tomorrow:

For Better or for Worse: A Valentine From the Heart
The Bernstein Bears' Comic Valentine
DTV Romancin' (Disney Music Video special)
From Disney With Love
A Special Valentine With the Family Circus 
Cathy's Valentine

Monday, February 12, 2018

When the Sun Came Out

Inspired by an article Matt wrote at Dinosaur Dracula yesterday, I began a wet morning with the original 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The pilot episode "Turtle Tracks" introduced the totally tubular pizza-eating green quartet and their mutant rat master Splinter to April O'Neal, a TV reporter in New York who has been pursuing a major crime spree. The crimes were reportedly done by ninjas...but the Turtles swear they weren't involved. The real perpetrators are a very late 80's punk thug gang lead by Splinter's old enemy Shredder.

"Shredded and Splintered" ended the five-part first season. Shredder now has a retromutagen ray gun that could restore Splinter to his human form...or the Turtles to their original ones. Meanwhile, Shredder's boss, the sarcastic alien brain Krang, now has a new robot body to help him move around. Things get really hairy when Krang's body becomes Godzilla-sized, and the Turtles have to figure out how to bring him at least a little closer to Earth.

Headed out around 10:30. I had a few things I needed at the Cherry Hill Mall, but I had trouble getting there. My bike's been acting odd for a while now. The pedals, which had been making a strange grinding sound, froze up all together on my way to the bus stop. Thankfully, I was a block from the White Horse Pike when it stopped. I locked the bike behind the former Camden Restaurant Supply Store and went across the Pike to wait for the bus.

But the bus never came. I waited 20 minutes. It didn't come. I finally gave up and hiked a couple of blocks down to Family Dollar for a can of WD-40. I do have some at my place, but the can is almost empty anyway. Yep, that helped. I gave the chain, gears, and stand a couple of good sprays with oil, and they were mostly fine.

It had started to shower lightly when I headed across the street. I thought the bus might be taking another route and opted to pick it up at Cuthbert Road instead. The little building on the corner of Cuthbert and the Pike that houses Cabana Water Ice in the summer is currently selling Eagles Super Bowl merchandise. The owner was nice enough to let me hide from the rain there and wash my oil-covered hands in his sink.

Went across the street to pick up the bus...which was late again, or at least, I thought it was. It didn't pick me up until past noon. It was supposed to be there at 11:47 on the older schedule I had.Surprisingly, the lunch traffic wasn't bad, even around Market Place. Mom called me shortly after I got on. I'd called her to say hi and thanks for the Valentine's Day card earlier in the day. She did get to see the Super Bowl and was still thrilled about the Eagles' win. I'd long let her by by the time bus finally pulled in at the Cherry Hill Mall around quarter of 1.

First stop was JC Penney. I needed bras rather badly. Two of my three underwire bras had snapped in the past month. The problem with modern bras is I don't need the extra padding most of them have. I come equipped with enough of my own, thank you. Not to mention, bras are expensive. I finally picked up a buy 1, get one 50 % off deal that came to 30 all together.

Since the food court is right next to JC Penney on the first floor, I headed there for lunch. ChickenNow is basically the same as Chick Fil'A. They don't have waffle fries, but their extra-crispy and salty fries are just as good. The sandwich wasn't bad either, even if the chicken refused to stay in the bun.

Was in and out of a few stores after my meal. Jay Street Video Games didn't have any Wii games that interested me, but I did pick up a guide book for Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures for a mere $1.99. Didn't have nearly as much luck at The Disney Store. There wasn't much Star Wars merchandise left. (I guess they cleared it all out to make room for Solo: A Star Wars Story in the spring.) They did have a very cute Elena of Avalor Animator's Collection toddler doll with the others.

I'd noticed when I was eating that the light coming through the windows and skylight seemed much brighter. Indeed, when I headed out the door near Nordstrom's around 2, the clouds had vanished, the sun was out, and it had suddenly become a beautiful, blustery winter day. It was a nice day for a stroll over the pedestrian bridge to the Hillview Shopping Center and Target.

Target was pretty busy when I headed in. I looked at toys, cake mixes, and work pants, but I mainly needed a new bike seat. The spring on the right side of my current one had broken clean off, making it difficult to sit on and very uncomfortable. I bought the least-expensive large seat I could find.

Stopped at Kohl's next after a quick peek at Lane Bryant. I was hoping to find American Girl clothes there. I didn't really see anything. I did find (after much deliberation) decent work pants for me on an ok sale. I'm not sure how long the pair I bought from Boscov's in December will last, and I've had the other pair from JC Penney for over a year now.

I wanted to pick up the 4:25 home. I literally rushed across the pedestrian bridge and through the mall. I was dismayed to notice as I made my way to the bus stop near the Lens Crafters entrance that several stores I liked were gone, including Teavana and the mall Lane Bryant. (I guess they figured having two of the latter more-or-less across from each other wasn't necessary.) Thankfully,  the bus was right on time, and there was no trouble on the way home, not even from rush hour traffic.

(I managed to snatch a new bus schedule on my way out. Boy, do I feel silly. Turns out the schedule was completely revised last month due to the ongoing repairs on the Nicholson Road train bridge. The bus wasn't late the first time. I was way too early. It was late the second time, but not nearly as much as I thought it was.)

The bike was still a little creaky on my way back to Manor Avenue, and it was getting late. I limited my stops on the way home to a quick jump into WaWa for a drink. My throat was parched. Bought their Double Mocha Cappuccino in the plastic bottle. Dodged more road work on Manor as I managed to get the bike home.

As soon as I got in, I put everything away, then went straight into writing. Rey uses her staff to wrench Luke's blue magic sword from over the Giant Snoke's bed. Unfortunately, it makes noise when it falls, alerting Kylo Ren and his black knights. Rey uses the sword and her own prowess to get past them, heading outside to Maz Kantana and her gypsy cart.

It was so late when I got off the computer, I just had yogurt and celery with peanut butter for dinner. Watched an episode of Good Eats while I ate. Cupcakes were just starting their odd vogue a decade ago when Alton Brown made "Honey, I Shrunk the Cake." Brown shows how chiffon cake and a simple buttercream frosting can make a less fussy cupcake than the ones that showed up in gourmet bakeries of the time.

Finished the night after a shower with Murder She Baked: A Deadly Recipe. Although Plum Pudding Murder was technically first on the disc, I decided to skip the Christmas movie for now. Hannah Swenson (Alison Sweeney), her sister Andrea (Lisa Durupt) and their mother Dolores (Barbara Niven) are helping Andrea's husband Bill (Toby Levins) campaign for sheriff. Hannah is also involved in the creation of a town cookbook, including a much-loved fudge cupcake recipe with a "secret" ingredient no one can figure out. Both come to an abrupt halt when Hannah and Andrea discover the sheriff dead near the rec center where they're testing the cookbook recipes, after having tried one of the cupcakes. It gets even worse when it turns out that Bill is the top suspect. Now Hannah and her two boyfriends, sweet dentist Norman (Gabriel Hogan) and tough-guy cop Mike (Cameron Matheison), have to figure out just who wanted the sheriff dead, and whether it had any connection to the car theft ring he was investigating when he died.

It's been a very long time since I've read Fudge Cupcake Murder (the book this was based after), so I couldn't tell you how much this resembles the book. I do know that soap opera star Sweeney made a warm, likable Hannah..though I do wish they'd gotten actors to play Norman and Mike who didn't resemble each other so much. I found them to be a bit interchangeable. If you like the book series or the Hallmark cozy mysteries, you'll probably enjoy this one, too.