Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hopping Down the Country Roads

Started off a sunny, cool day with Here Comes Peter Cottontail as I ate breakfast. Peter (Casey Kasem) is supposed to be the new Chief Easter Bunny, but he oversleeps on Easter morning and loses the job to nasty Irontail (Vincent Price). Egg dye peddler Seymour S. Sassafras (Danny Kaye) gives Peter a time machine driven by Antoine the caterpillar (Kaye) that'll take him back to Easter. Irontail is determined to keep his current gig and sabotages the time machine...leading Peter to travel through a year's worth of holidays to get back to Easter and become the true Easter Bunny.

Though it was fairly quiet when I got into work, it picked up quite a bit around noon and was off and on the rest of the day. I cleaned the bathrooms right after I arrived, swept the onion skins and bits of herbs off the floor in the produce area, and gathered baskets, but once again I mostly bagged. No problems whatsoever.

It was such a nice day by 4 PM, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. Everyone must have already left for late church or family festivities or the Shore. It wasn't really that busy, even around the mall entrance. Atlantic Avenue was a little busier with people heading home to get ready for the holiday. It's really starting to look like spring now. The trees are laden with reddish or fuzzy silver buds. Bright yellow daffodils, purple crocus, and little bursts of forsythia sunshine can be see in every garden.

There were two packages waiting for me when I got home. My order had arrived! My watch died a few days ago. I decided I couldn't wait to replace it until I can get to a mall. It's a black unisex watch with shiny red trim, made by Amitron. I love it. It's a little bigger than my old Shark watch, with a thicker strap and larger numbers on the face.

The other item I bought were new walking sandals for summer. I picked up a pair of sandals for walking when I visited Lauren last year, but they gave me blisters badly. The bright turquoise pair fit me much better, thanks to the Velcro straps, and they only cost $9.99 on a major clearance.

Got dressed and cleared out a few things next. None of my good shoes close to fit me anymore. I really need a new pair of good shoes for the wedding next month. Pulled a few DVDs, one American Girl outfit I didn't want...and the Disney Princess Toddler dolls. They're cute, but they'd be better off with little girls who would actually play with them, rather than sitting on a doll bed collecting dust. The doll bed went in the back room until I can figure out what to do with it. For now, I stick to collecting Star Wars, American Girl, and maybe a few vintage Effanbee and older dolls.

Worked on writing next. The little elf-like creature can't warn Leia away from Alderaan Manor. He does admit that he knew Obi-Wan, that he knows something about the Force...and that Leia needs to look beyond appearances. After all, she can't tell who is really a monster, and who is a prince. The elf also knows Luke is a unicorn; he refers to him by name after he pokes the creature in the rear with his horn for insulting his sister. He finally turns into a green light that leads Leia and Luke back to the road and the others.

Had leftovers for dinner around quarter of 7, then made Coconut-Lemon Macaroons. Watched Max & Ruby Easter episodes as I baked. Ruby may find all the eggs the Easter Bunny hid, but that doesn't mean she finds "Max's Chocolate Chicken." "Ruby's Beauty Shop" is open for business, with Max as her and Louise's reluctant first customer. "Max Drives Away" to find a better breakfast at Grandma's. Ruby goes after him. "Ruby's Easter Bonnet" is laden with flowers and ribbons...and something extra-special, courtesy of Max's frog buddy. Ruby and Louise love decorating eggs, but Ruby's brother would rather use them for "Max's Easter Parade." The Bunny Scouts think they're finding the same eggs over and over, but "Max the Easter Bunny" keeps hiding the ones they've found.

Did a little bit of Wii Sports around 7:30. After the fitness test, I went right into boxing. I'm getting better. I didn't even need three rounds to KO the guy this time. I barely needed a round and a half. Also worked on Putting on the Green in golf and played some tennis.

Ran Logan Lucky after I got off the Wii. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) doesn't feel so lucky. His ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) just moved their daughter further away, and his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) lost a hand in the Iraq War and now runs a local dive bar. He's hoping that one big heist will turn everything around. He and Clyde recruite their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) and tough bombs expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. After they start a riot to break Joe out of prison, they realize they have to move up the plan to the Coca-Cola 600 race on Memorial of the busiest days of the year. It'll take a lot more than luck for the brothers to get away with the money and avoid the sharp FBI investigator (Hilary Swank) working on the heist case.

This one has a few things in common with Speed Racer, including the racing setting, the emphasis on family and estranged brothers...and the fact that this was a surprise flop late last summer that really should have done better. An awesome cast has a great time with the material - Craig and Driver are particularly fun. It's almost like a down-home version of the Ocean's movies, which Steven Soderbergh also directed.

If you're a fan of the cast, Soderbergh's other work, or heist films, you're going to want to take this country road, too.

And here's some lesser-known springtime tales to enjoy while waiting for the Easter Bunny's arrival tomorrow:

The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise
Buttons and Rusty Meet the Easter Bunny (A Chucklewood Easter)
Thumpkin and the Easter Bunnies
Disney Silly Symphony: Funny Little Bunnies
A Family Circus Easter
PJ Funnybunny's Very Cool Easter
Easter Is
The Fat Albert Easter Special
The Jack Rabbit Story: Easter Fever
Follow That Bunny

Friday, March 30, 2018

Go Speed Racer Go!

Got a quick start this morning with some writing. Leia rides Luke to head off the Naboo soldiers while the rest of the rebels take Han and Chewie further ahead to Alderaan Manor, where her Uncle Bail and Aunt Breha live. Leia and Luke do get rid of them, but they get lost in the woods in the process. As they're trying to find their way back, they encounter a little green elf by a tree. He talks in riddles, but avoids saying much besides they shouldn't go to Alderaan Manor. Something dark has already taken over there...

Finished out an episode of The Yogi Bear Show that I started earlier in the morning during breakfast as I got ready for work. Yogi is "A Wooin' Bruin" when he competes with a bigger bear for Cindy's affections by stealing gifts from around Jellystone Park. Snagglepuss doesn't have nearly as much luck with a whiny lioness who hides from hunters in his home in "Spring Has Hit a Snag." Yakky Doodle has to deal with an Alfred Hitchcock-imitating alligator who thinks he's on he Easter menu in "Duck Seasoning."

Work was crazy when I got in, off-and-on busy all day. I spent most of it bagging, though I also did the inside trash, mopped the bathroom floors, and mopped up the leaky flower displays. It's probably just as well that they had plenty of help outside. It rained for most of the afternoon (which explains why it did slow down a bit around 2).

Got my schedule during my break. In good news, I have Easter off for the first time in four years, three days off again, and mostly early morning hours. In fact, the latest I work is until 4:30 next Friday. In annoying news, I also have another 8 and 1/2 hour day, this time on Thursday.

My original thought for Easter dinner was salmon, but I couldn't find any cheap. Found turkey bacon and frozen pie crust and decided I'd make a bacon-asparagus quiche instead. I did find shrimp for dinner tonight. Bought coconut to make Lemon Coconut Rolls. Restocked yogurt, honey, chicken (there was a really good chicken sale this weekend), cereal (Quaker was on sale - went with Life Vanilla), brown sugar, yeast, bananas, oranges, and pudding.

(And I got lucky with the weather again. By the time I finally got out of there, the clouds were breaking up and the rain was long gone. It remained windy, though, and it was much colder. The sun did come out a little later, when I was eating dinner.)

Watched Yogi the Easter Bear while putting everything away and eating shrimp and steamed asparagus for dinner. Yogi's really in trouble after he eats all the candy for Jellystone Park's big Easter Jamboree. He and Boo Boo have to rescue the Easter Bunny from a pair of strange plastic-obsessed villains who want to be the only ones delivering eggs.

Played some Wii Sports after dinner. This time, I started out with boxing after the fitness test. Whew, you do get a workout from that! Played a game and ran through all three mini-games a few times. Also did Target Practice and Hitting on the Green for golf, hitting balls in baseball and tennis, and a round of bowling and one of the mini-games.

Finished the night after a shower with Speed Racer. Speed (Emile Hirsch) is obsessed with racing and redeeming the tarnished name of his older brother, who died in the grueling cross-country Casa Cristo 5000 race. E.P Royalton (Roger Allum), a smarmy British executive, tries to get him into his stable of corrupt racers, but Speed wants to stay with his family. Royalton is incensed and tries to damage the Racer family's reputation. Speed and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) join a Japanese racing firm that's trying to avoid a Royalton buyout and give proof of Royalton's activities to Inspector Detector (Benno Fuurmann). Pops (John Goodman) and Mom (Susan Sarandon) Racer aren't happy that another son has signed up for the Casa Cristo 5000, but Speed and his girl Trixie (Christina Ricci) are more least until Speed finds out what the Japanese family is really after and who Racer X is. Now he has to show everyone that he has what it takes to be a real winner...and that no matter what they do or where they land, family is still family.

I have no idea why this did so badly back in 2008. I thought it was a heck of a lot of fun. Maybe the goofy story (which included an ape as the best friend of Speed's brother Spirtle) was a little too ridiculous for a lot of people, or they just weren't ready for what is essentially a live-action cartoon. The special effects are amazing. Everything is bright, wacky, candy-colored, and over-the-top. The Wachowskis (directors of The Matrix, among others) really went to town with this one. Special mention to Fox as the mystery racer and Allum as the nasty villain.

If you're into racing, the cast, or the popular 1960's anime this was based after, this deserved far better than it got when it came out and gets a recommendation from me.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Yahoo, It's Spring!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day when I rolled out of bed this morning (too late). Threw on Strawberry Shortcake In Big Apple City as I ate oatmeal and a mandarin orange cup. Strawberry's off to the title fruit-based metropolis to compete in The Big Bake-Off on TV. The Peculiar Purple Pie Man is the other contestant, and he'll stop at nothing to make sure he wins the gazebo prize. Good thing Strawberry has a lot of new friends helping her out, including eventual series regulars Orange Blossom and Lemon Meringue.

Rushed out to the laundromat as soon as I was finished breakfast. I'm not going to have the time the rest of the weekend to get it done, and there wasn't really much to do anyway. I worked on story notes while half-listening to The View and Action News and watching several families start their own loads.

The mail box was filled with stuff for me, for once, when I got home. Along with a cute Easter card from Mom and Dad-Bill, there were envelopes from the gynecologists' office. Seems they have no further need at me at this time and, at least with this, I have a clean bill of health.

Put on some Good Eats as I put everything away and had a quick lunch before work. I thought the episode about making marshmallows was appropriate. This is something I might actually be able to try, since it's mostly just sugar, water, and corn syrup. Among the recipes Alton uses it for are his own Peeps and Moon Pies. (The former is why I thought this would be appropriate for Easter.)

I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. By the time I made it to work, it was in the upper 60's, breezy but not windy, and stunning as can be. We were busy when I came in, but the crowds thinned out as early as 2:30, and it was off-and-on steady for the rest of the night. I spent the entire four hours outside, gathering carts and outside trash, and had no problems whatsoever.

Did another Alton episode when I got in. Ate leftovers while watching "Orange Aid." Alton shows how oranges can be used to make several popular desserts and condiments, including orange sherbet, Orange Julius, and my favorite, orange marmalade.

Did a quick session on Wii Sports next. My work has paid off - my workout session went much better, and my "workout age" was far lower. Also did some more golf Target Practice and got a bronze medal on hitting balls in baseball.

Finished the night changing the American Girl dolls into their formal spring and Easter outfits. Once again, I'm not going to have the time this weekend. This year, Samantha is in Rebecca's Lace Dress and tights. Molly wears her Polka-Dot Outfit. I love Kit's Springtime Outfit on Whitney, who looks cute in pink. Jessa goes extremely 90's in the 1997 Birthday Outfit with Josefina's mules (it's still too chilly for the purple jellies that go with that jumper). Felicity also wears her Birthday Gown and Floral Pinner (apron), and Josefina is in her Feast Day Outfit.

One of the traditions of the 80's that most people don't remember today are the half-hour animated specials that usually came out during the spring on syndicated stations. Often advertising whatever toy they were selling that year, most of these cartoons can come off as a tad cutesy or overly whimsical today. Some, like Strawberry and Rainbow Brite, are still pretty well-remembered; others, like Peppermint Rose and Rose Petal Place, are actually pretty interesting and a little darker than you might think. All are worth looking into if you grew up when I did or are a fan of the animation and dolls of the time.

The Magic of Herself the Elf
Strawberry Shortcake and the Baby Without a Name
The Charmkins
Rose Petal Place
Rainbow Brite: The Beginning of Rainbow Land Part 1 Part 2
Star Fairies
The Yum-Yums: The Day Things Went Sour
Peppermint Rose
PJ Sparkles

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Springtime Showers

Started off a gloomy morning with breakfast and some Good Eats. I've never done the "Tofuworld" episode before because I'm not a fan of tofu. I tried it in college, and it was really tasteless and weird. It's also good for you, which is why I finally ran this today. The firm type that comes in blocks can be used in place of some meats and baked or pan-fried; Alton soaked his in marinade. The softer silken type can be exchanged with milk or fattier liquids in smoothies and salad dressings.

Finally headed off around quarter after 11. Of course, as soon as I left, it started showering lightly. I still had errands to run, starting with a stop at the Oaklyn Library. The only other people there besides me and the librarian were a mother and her adorable baby daughter playing with the toys. Organized DVDs and looked at the picture books.

The showers finally sputtered out when I arrived in Haddonfield. Had lunch at the Bistro, one of my favorite restaurants there. The food is excellent and relatively low-fat, and the service is some of the fastest anywhere. The lunch crowd was so big, I ended up in the way back in the second room, and I still got my California wrap (grilled chicken in balsamic vinaigrette with chopped asparagus and roasted red peppers) in less than 10 minutes. (I even heard one of the waitresses say they're in the midst of remodeling their kitchen, and they still got the orders out fast.)

Got to counseling with two minutes to spare. I told her about my long and often frustrating month that began with a cold and ended with an impacted tooth. Some of the problems this month were things I really had no control over, like those three snow storms in a row. I did get lucky with the weather; was off for the first storm and was able to get to work before the snow got bad during the remaining two.

If there's one thing I've learned from the past few weeks, it's that while I still want to find a better apartment and a better job, I also need to learn to take better care of myself. I don't drink or smoke...but I also overeat, have few hobbies that encourage movement or being outside, and hate seeing doctors. I'm just so afraid of everything! I'm afraid of what people will say and do. I'm afraid of what will happen after those teeth are removed. I'm afraid of the pain. I'm afraid of being sick. I'm afraid there's something wrong with me. And I'm not really good at dealing with all that fear.

Constantly being around negative people doesn't help. I work at a very negative job. No one wants to work at a grocery store. As one of the employees reminded me a few months ago, people work there to make money, not because they want to or it's something they enjoy doing. People only shop at grocery stores because they need to eat, not because they enjoy it. If I had a dime for every customer who complained about how much they hated grocery shopping but had to do it to feed their families, I wouldn't be having the financial problems I am now. I spend most of my work day berating myself for not being normal enough to get out of this job in the first place. And then, when I'm at home, I end up listening to Charlie curse his brains out at his dogs.

I don't know too many people to discuss this with or who can make me feel better. My family all have their own problems and agendas. My best friend lives thousands of miles away. I can chat with her at night, but not all the time. My other two best friends live closer, but are dealing with their own financial problems, along with deaths of loved ones and pets and finding better jobs themselves. Most of them really don't know what to say to me anymore or how to help me handle my fears.

Mrs. Stahl suggested I find self-help CDs or podcasts that I can play at home that will give me positive support while I get back on my feet. I really like that idea. It's just a matter of finding something that doesn't sound too cheesy or come from someone who's more interested in shilling a product than other people's happiness.

At the very least, there's a lot going on this spring that should brighten my spirits a bit. Along with my birthday next month (and Rose's and Khai's), there's Easter this weekend, Jesse and Dana's wedding at the end of April (and all the preparations required for that), and my first vacation of the year with Lauren on Memorial Day week. I'm really looking forward to taking Lauren to the big May Fair in Collingswood that weekend. She'll love the classic car show.

Speaking of April, we decided that there's just too much going on next month for me to run up to Haddonfield for counseling. I scheduled my next appointment for the first day of my vacation. Lauren doesn't usually arrive until around 7:30, giving me plenty of time to get other things done.

The mild showers had resumed as I headed down Haddon Avenue after counseling. At the very least, while it was still a bit on the chilly side, it was no longer windy or nearly as cold as it has been. The digital sign at the Westmont Fire Station listed the temperature as 53 at around 2.

Stopped at Primo's Water Ice for a treat. I'd never seen them so quiet. There wasn't even anyone in the big rec room in the back they call "the Ice Box." Not only was it chilly, but it was around quarter after 2, before most kids let out of school. I bought a small cup of eggnog water ice. Oh yuuum. It tasted just like the real thing, maybe with a hint of mint. Creamy and amazing. I ate it outside on the black metal bench under the green-and-white striped awning.

Stopped briefly at the Acme and CVS in Westmont on the way home. I couldn't find the bristles for my electric toothbrush at the Acme. Grabbed them at the CVS next-door, along with brush pick refills, milk, and dish washing liquid.

Took the long way across Newton Lake Park coming to and from Haddonfield. Needless to say, they weren't really busy. Spring is just barely sprouting here; you can see the buds on the trees and tufts of new green grass amid the brittle yellow waves...when they aren't immersed in an ankle-deep puddle of water. Thanks to silt from run-off and animal excretion, the lake tends to flood whenever the snow or rain is really bad, turning most of the park into a heavy layer of mud.

The kids were finally getting out of school as I got into Oaklyn. I was just starting down West Clinton near the fire house when I passed a gaggle of Oaklyn School kids being shepherded home by teachers and aides. Among those kids was my nephew Khai. I waved to him, but I also wonder what he was doing there. His home is on the other side of Oaklyn from the White Horse Pike, which is the direction the group was going. Maybe he was walking home with a friend to hang out at their house.

Worked on writing for a few hours after I got in. Leia does manage to get Han away from Palpatine...but he attacks her with his magic. Just as he's going to try to corrupt her, Obi-Wan interrupts and challenges him to a duel, giving Leia the chance to get away with Luke the unicorn and the others.

Leia and Luke just can't bring themselves to leave their uncle. They return to the square...just in time to see Obi-Wan become one with the Force as his clothes fall to the ground before Palpatine can deliver one more round of purple lightning. Leia and Luke manage to injure his shoulder before they finally take off after the others.

(Oh, and Willa called while I was on the computer. She wanted me and one of Charlie's men who also just got a new bike to clear out our old bikes unless we were going to do something with them. She says she doesn't have room for the old one and the new one. I was thinking of donating it to the Collingswood Bike Share, but I decided not to wait. I removed the still-good seat I bought a few weeks ago and just left it on the curb.)

Broke for dinner at quarter after 6.  Made lentil stew while watching one of the episodes from the World War II-set first season of Wonder Woman. "Wonder Woman vs Gargantua" pits Diana against a gigantic gorilla that's been trained by a female Nazi scientist to kill at a moment's notice, as well as steal a spy before he can spill more information to the Allies. Diana knows that's not the gorilla's real nature and does everything she can to get him out of a cage and back into the wild, where he belongs.

Finished the night with Wii Sports. Did some more baseball this time. Just being able to manage two home runs on the home run derby round made me happy. At least I could hit something. I did better with the speed pitch round, hitting continuous balls short distances rather than trying to hit them out of the park. I also did some Target Practice on golf, worked with training on boxing and won a match (no KO, but I did win decisively), practiced my tennis swing and aim, and cooled down with a round of bowling. Also bowled to pick up spares and hit increasing pins. I did so well with picking up spares, it netted me my first silver medal.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tooth and Consequences

Began a cloudy morning with some needed comedy. Minako "Sailor Venus" Aino has taken up with two different guys in the fourth season episode "Storm of Love: Minako's Grand Two-Timing Plan." It may be a "storm of love," but it's also hard work to keep up with the deception when she accidentally schedules both of them for a date at the same time. Even when she finally comes clean, it turns out it was all a Dead Moon Circus plot...and they're both after her dream mirror.

Headed out to the dentist office in Westmont around 8:20. Got there with enough time to update my paperwork for them before I was called in. It only took one x-ray to reveal the cause of my toothache. The wisdom tooth on the bottom left jaw never grew in properly and had impacted on the others. Yes, they had to remove it. No, it wasn't fun. I also need three more extractions (two broken teeth and a broken wisdom tooth), major cleaning, and despite my brushing and flossing and using mouthwash and doing everything I can to stem the tide, my gum disease has gotten worse. And while the extractions (including today's) and cleaning should be covered by my insurance, seeing a gum doctor about my condition is not. It's just as well that he was so booked, I can't get in until June 11th. I'll actually have the money saved by then.

It's just as well that I didn't have too many other plans for today. My mouth was still numb and filled with cotton when I went over to the Haddon Township Library for this week's volunteering session there. I normally do it in the afternoon, but since the dentist's office is right across from the library and I had no other morning plans, I figured I might as well get it done. Besides, you don't need to do much talking in a library. I shelved and organized DVDs and tried not to talk much.

I did take a few movies out this time. The live-action Speed Racer came out about a decade ago. It was a flop then, but it's become something of a cult favorite in recent years. I thought it sounded like fun. After having enjoyed the last two historical epics from the 1960's I took out of the library, I thought I'd give A Man for All Seasons a try. I heard good things about Logan Lucky, a comedy about a family pulling a big heist, last year and have been wanting to check it out for a while.

Though my tooth was still numb when I left around 11:30, it wasn't going to stay that way forever. I dodged early lunch traffic and headed over to the Audubon Acme to pick up my prescription for antibiotics to help my sore tooth. Since I was there, I picked up a birthday card for Rose (she's April 7th), a combination Easter/birthday card for Mom (hers was March 20th), and yellow cake mix (which I forgot on Friday).

As soon as I got home, I took the antibiotics, then had lunch. (At least as much as I could, given I can't eat solid foods today.) Ran Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies while I got organized. The Easter Bunny is sick and can't deliver eggs, so he calls Granny to help him find a replacement. Her first choice is understandably Bugs, but he's swamped with work. They try to find a suitable Easter Bunny among the Toons regulars, including Daffy, Foghorn Legohorn, Pepe LePew, and Sylvester. Truth be told, this is really more of an excuse to highlight some of the best shorts Termite Terrace ever made; the special includes bits of "The Rabbit of Seville," "Hillbilly Hare," "Sahara Hare," "Robin Hood Daffy," "Bully for Bugs," and three Oscar winners, "Birds Anonymous," "For Scent-imental Reasons," and "Knighty-Knight Bugs," among others.

Went out for a walk after lunch, around 1:30. It may have been cloudy and blah, but I really needed to get out (and send out Mom's card). It's still a little chilly, though not quite as bad as it has been. It's still mostly a cold wind. That snow did more good for the plants than you might think. Brilliant yellow daffodils and velvety purple crocus have finally blossomed in every garden, bringing color to the drab straw yellow and faded browns. Some folks have Easter decorations, pastel eggs and bunnies lined up on their lawns. Most have settled for flower-strewn wreaths and banners.

Went right on the computer when I got in. Han, Leia, and Jyn are able to get rid of the bounty hunters, but they're surrounded by soldiers. Palpatine, the chancellor and an evil sorcerer, also appears, having flown there in the form of a crow. He throws out lightning at Leia, then binds Han with his magic and tries to bury his slowly re-emerging memories.

Jyn manages to help Leia to her feet, but the soldiers are advancing on them. Good thing they get help from Jyn's fiancee Cassian and his friend, the tall, black-clad scholar Kayton Twomby, as well as former soldier Bodhi Rook.

Broke for dinner at 5. Ran the short movie Sailor Moon R: The Promise of the Rose while I ate tomato soup and an Italian cheese wrap for dinner and had chocolate pudding for dessert. Usagi, Mamoru, Chibi-Usa, and the girls have an unpleasant encounter with a young man who claims to be a former friend of Mamoru's. Fiore is actually an alien who befriended Mamoru when he was orphaned as a child...but now, his mind has been taken over by an evil flower who wants to drain all the energy from the Earth. When he kidnaps Mamoru, the girls follow him to an asteroid covered in energy draining flowers...seeds that are ready to cover the Earth!

Played video games for a couple of hours after dinner. Started off with Wii Sports. I didn't do boxing today, since I got a walk in earlier. A vigorous game of tennis and some target practice on golf, along with another Wii Fitness examination, were almost as good.

Moved on to Lego Star Wars after a 40-minute workout. Was able to get the last pieces on "Secret Plans" and "Bounty Hunter Pursuit" and True Jedi on the latter and "Ruin of the Jedi." Found the red brick and the remaining pieces in "Death Star Attack." Didn't have as much luck with "Invasion of Kashyyak" ; I still haven't figured out how to get the last piece there.

Finished the night with The Shape of Water. It's 1962, and mute cleaning woman Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works day and night helping fellow cleaner Zelda (Octavia Spencer) scrub the halls of a top secret laboratory in Maryland. The government's latest discovery is more than a little fantastic - a fish-man who was found in South America and was considered a god by the locals (Doug Jones). Nasty Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) is supposed to be studying it, but he's really more abusing it. He plans on cutting the creature open to learn more about it. Ignoring his commands, Sally makes friends with it. When their relationship evolves into something deeper, her friend and neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) helps her and Zelda break it out and bring it to her home. She wants to release it into their local canal. A Russian spy posing as a doctor (Michael Stuhalberg) wants to kill it to keep the Americans from getting it. Strickland just wants to know which strike team stole the damn thing. There's a lot more to this little fish-man than meets the eye, as Giles discovers. Will Sally be able to help him, or will Strickland get there first?

This unique "Beauty and the Beast" story was one of the most romantic movies I have ever seen. The relationship between Sally and the fish-man despite all the ugliness around them is truly touching. Hawkins and Jones stood out as the improbable lovers; Jenkins and Shannon were also excellent as the kindly neighbor who faces another type of prejudice and the mean bully of a military man who thinks anyone in the world who doesn't walk, talk, and think like him isn't worth bothering with. The special effects, especially on the fish-man, were incredible, too. And the lovely score by Alexandre Desplat won the movie one of its four Oscars. (The others were for Best Picture, Best Director for Gulliermo Del Toro, and Best Production Design.)

If you're interested in unusual romances or modern fairy tales, this strange but sweet tale of two of the oddest lovers to ever grace the silver screen is a must-see.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Worlds of Yesterday and Tomorrow

Since I finally started reading the historical novel The World of Tomorrow, set around the 1939-1940 World's Fair, I thought I'd do a few bits I have set around the World's Fair. The first season finale of the late-90's sitcom Remember WENN was set during the end of the Fair. Station manager Scott Sherwood and writer Betty Roberts have high hopes for their big radio show that will be coordinated with the fair's finale. The cast isn't thrilled with the less-than-glamorous Wizard of Oz imitation Betty concocted. They think this is their chance at the big-time. Diva Hilary Booth has her own problems. Her husband Jeff left to join original manager Victor Comstock to broadcast from war-torn London. Jeff manages to give more of a lift to their show than he knows when Scott broadcasts his stirring bombs-backed speech as part of their show...but Jeff and Victor may not live to ever find out about it...

"All's Fair at the Fair" is a cute 1938 animated short from the Fleischer Brothers likely released to capitalize on the fair's advance popularity. A couple from the country comes to the city to see the sights of the "World of Tomorrow" for themselves. They encounter cool art deco designs at every turn, along with robots who update their looks and their vehicle and teach them how to dance.

Stuck with the Fleischers for a couple of classic early Superman shorts. The series kicked off with "Superman (The Mad Scientist)." Superman's introduced when he has to rescue Lois from the title character, who intends to destroy Metropolis with a death ray. "The Bulleteers" are more creative in their destruction. They use a bullet-shaped vehicle to demolish buildings, including Metropolis' treasury. Superman has to stop this metal marvel and make sure Lois doesn't end up going down with the criminals. "Terror on the Midway" has Lois and Clark reviewing a circus. Lois thinks it'll be a boring assignment, until a giant ape gets loose! Superman has to stop him from bringing the big top down on Lois.

Work was on-and-off busy, still more than usual but not quite as bad as yesterday. It was so quiet this morning, I actually did manage to get the candy done. Otherwise, I mostly did the trash and carts. At least it was a nice day for it. While the chilly wind remains, the sun was out, and it felt much warmer than it has.

Went straight home to do some writing. Jyn and Leia find Han in the rough tavern. He's dealing with a little fellow in green named Greedo, who says he owes his boss Jabba, the Sultan of Tatoonie, 20,000 ducats. The men shoot too fast to catch who shot whom, only that Greedo's dead. Han reveals that he's been playing cards for the morning and doing quite well at it, enough to pay for his new clothes.

On their way out, they encounter three more bounty hunters, all of whom want to collect the reward on Han. Leia and Jyn help take them down, but there's too many of their goons to handle on their own...

Broke at 6:30 for a quick leftovers dinner. Did a random episode of Sailor Moon from the fourth season while I ate. "We Love Fashion: The Stylish Guardians" has the girls attracted to a certain fashion designer's dreamy new outfits. Trouble is, the designer feels like he's in a slump and needs new inspiration. Fish Eye thinks he can provide it, but he drives most of the designer's crew away. Usagi's request that he make her a wedding dress proves to be far more helpful. Fish Eye, however, isn't about to give up this artist and his dream that easily.

Did more Wii Sports after dinner. This time, I started out with golf. I've never been much of a golfer, but I think I have more of an appreciation for the game now. I didn't do so well on the actual game. Hitting targets and ball driving proved to be more my speed.

Returned to boxing for a cardio workout. Whew, was it ever! I practiced dodging and hitting targets along with the bag work. I wasn't great at dodging, but it was fun, moving all over the place. Did somewhat better with hitting the mitts on the trainer.

Cooled down with a few rounds of bowling and tennis. I did one actual bowling game and practiced my fast throw by knocking down tons of pins a few times. Got my first "bronze medals" on the Target Practice golf game and tennis swing practice.

Finished the night with Midnight Lace. Kit Preston (Doris Day) is an American heiress living in London who just married financier Tony Preston (Rex Harrison). On her way home in a thick fog, she hears a strange, high-pitched voice that threatens to kill her. Kit's unnerved, but her husband thinks it's a practical joke. The voice keeps threatening Kit over the phone, but no one believes her at first, including her Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy) and Inspector Byrnes (John Williams) of Scotland Yard. The threats to Kit's life just keep coming, including being pushed in front of a bus and extortion threats by her maid's son Malcom (Roddy MacDowell). Kit eventually begins questioning her life and her sanity. Tony thinks it's someone from his company, but the real menace is closer to home than Kit could ever imagine...

Ok thriller benefits from a stylish Eastmancolor production and the interesting cast, including a rare later-day glimpse of Loy. Day feels a little out of place - she comes off more whiny than scared, especially towards the middle - but Harrison's much better as the husband who isn't as concerned as he probably should be about the threats to his wife. There's also the sumptuous production and costume design to marvel over. The elaborate wardrobe was nominated for an Oscar.

Fine if you're a fan of Day, Harrison, Loy, or the style-over-substance thrillers of the early 60's. Probably unnecessary for anyone else.

Oh, and I called for a dental appointment this morning. I'll be going early tomorrow. I might as well admit it. I have a sore tooth that's been bothering me for almost a week, along with at least two broken teeth and one broken wisdom tooth. I've been terrified to go to the dentist because of the cost and time involved, not to mention the pain...but it looks like I have to now. This just isn't going away.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Wide World of Wii Sports

I awoke to clouds that were sort-of broken up, like they didn't know what to do. Cheered myself up with Lemon Ginger Pancakes. I added a little too much lemon juice and not enough ginger. Put in some more sugar to balance out the tartness. Burned them a bit, too. Ran the Bee Gees' Greatest set while I ate. I needed some "get up and go" music, and disco is about as "go" as you can get.

Work wasn't too bad when I came in, but it got insane during lunch time. While I did get the bathrooms and a cart of returns down and rounded up the trash, I was never able to get to the candy. We're short on help right now, too. Two of the older managers are on leave due to surgery; several college kids took the week off too. I think I also saw someone on military leave. At least there was enough help that I didn't end up doing carts until a half-hour before I left. By that time, it had slowed down so much, they didn't really need me out there.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road. By 3, the clouds from the morning were vanishing quickly. (It sprinkled a teeny tiny bit while I was doing carts, but that was it. We never got any snow showers.) While it remained a bit chilly and very windy, it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been earlier. I might have been better off taking the Black Horse Pike, though. Nicholson and Atlantic Avenue were busy with Sunday drivers enjoying the sudden change in weather. West Clinton was busy with people enjoying the music and libations at Tonewood Brewery and the Oaklyn Manor Bar and with kids riding around and chatting with their friends.

Worked on writing when I got home. Leia, Obi-Wan, and Jyn pick up Chirrut and Baze at a decommissioned temple on their way to the wharf area. Three friends of theirs are seeking information on Palpatine's arrival and the missing prince. Leia knows that's the direction Han went in, too. They finally find Han in a decrepit tavern among nasty people...including one green fellow who may or may not have shot first...

Broke for a quick dinner of leftover fish tacos at 6:30. After I ate, I went on the Wii...but I decided I wanted to try something different tonight. One of the first games I got for the console was Wii Sports, mainly because it came with the console. Thought I'd try playing the games and getting a little workout in.

There's five different sports to try - tennis, bowling, baseball, boxing, and golf. You can either play actual games with other avatars (Miis) or players, or play one-on-one "training" and "fitness" mini-games. Played three rounds of tennis. I didn't win, but I actually hit the ball and got into the swing of things, so to speak. That's more than can be said for baseball. I have a mean fastball - I struck a few Miis out - but I can't hit for beans. I never seem to time the bat right. I pretty much did the same at bowling as I usually do in real-life - not bad, not great. (Didn't do golf tonight. I thought it might take too long, so I concentrated on shorter games.)

Did by far the best at boxing. Got the best workout from that, too. Whew - no wonder boxers are so buff! I was sweating a bit after I finished doing a few rounds on the "bags." I actually managed to KO the guy in the regular game after three rounds. I guess I have been building up all my muscles, dragging around those carts.

Finished the night with a few soundtracks. Ran the score of Superman: the Movie in honor of Justice League yesterday. One of John Williams' most iconic scores features the famous Superman title intro and the lovely "flight" theme. (Which later became the hit "Can You Read My Mind?" for Maureen McGovern.) Went to YouTube for another iconic Williams score, the four soundtracks for the Indiana Jones films, including "Raiders March."

Here's all four Indiana Jones soundtracks on YouTube:

The Indiana Jones Collection

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Town Easter Egg Hunt

Began my day with Yogi the Easter Bear while eating breakfast and getting my laundry together. Yogi's in big trouble after he eats all the candy intended for Jellystone's Easter Jamboree. Hoping to avoid being sent to the Siberian Zoo, he and Boo-Boo search for the real Easter Bunny to replace the candy. Two extremely strange men who are obsessed with plastic are also after the Easter Bunny and the magical Easter Chicken. They want their plastic eggs to be the only ones kids find in their baskets! Yogi and Boo-Boo have to out-run them and get to Jellystone, before the Park Commissioner fires Ranger Smith.

Finally got the laundry done after Yogi ended. At least it wasn't busy when I got in this morning. By the time people started to show up, my load was almost done. Maybe it's just as well I waited. I didn't have a huge load anyway. I was in and out in less than an hour. Mostly spent the time working on story notes and half-listening to fishing shows.

As soon as I finished organizing the clothes, I went right back out again. I wanted to return those movies to the Oaklyn Library and do a little more volunteering. I wasn't going to take anything else out...but they'd just gotten in Justice League and The Shape of Water. Also found Midnight Lace, a thriller from the 60's with Doris Day and Rex Harrison.

I saw a sign for Oaklyn's town Easter egg hunt on my way to and from the laundromat. The local egg hunt takes place at Veteran's Memorial Park next-door. Since I was already there, I joined the crowds. The kids were so funny! Jumping up and down, chasing each other, wrestling with each other. Two little girls stomped in the remaining snow next to Charlie's driveway. Others showed off egg-holders that ranged from plastic buckets to soft character-shaped containers to bright-colored tote bags to wicker baskets trimmed with tulle and ribbons.

In all honesty, the actual hunt didn't take that long. Four areas of hay were roped off in the front end of the park for four groups - toddlers, 6-8, 9-10, 11-12. The kids were so hyped, it took them less than ten minutes - for the older kids, maybe less than five - to find all the eggs. They were so cute, especially the really little guys. I went between hay patches, checking out all the action.

I was feeling a bit hyped up myself after all that. Besides, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny and a little chilly, once again probably in the upper 40's-lower 50's. It was too nice to spend the whole day inside, as I originally planned. I followed the crowds who weren't jumping into their cars back down to West Clinton Avenue. Had a quick lunch of cheese and mushroom pizza and a can of Pepsi with the retro 80's label outside at the picnic tables. (I had to get that Pepsi. That was the label I remember seeing for most of my childhood.)

Waved "hi" to the kid who is the grandson of my late Uncle Ken's girlfriend. He's getting so big! He has to be a teenager now. He was talking to a couple other young teens at the bench behind me.

Went for a short stroll around the neighborhood to walk off the pizza and soda. More than three-quarters of the snow is gone, especially from areas that get a lot of sun. It doesn't seem to have effected the local plant life. Flowers are still on the verge of blooming; new green grass is popping up even faster now. Trees show tiny brown buds, waiting for the warm weather next week to sprout. Most houses have either decorated for Easter, with pastel wooden or plastic eggs and bunnies and wreaths awash in fabric flowers, or at least put up banners representing spring.

Decided to try something a little different when I got home. There's recipes on the back of the bag of corn meal I bought yesterday for variations on corn bread and muffins. I decided to try the honey corn muffins. Basically, sweeter corn muffins, with more sugar and honey. I can't remember the last time I had corn muffins. Yum. Actually, the next time I do these, I might even cut down on the sugar slightly. The honey may have been sweet enough.

Ran the Max & Ruby Easter episodes as I worked. "Max's Chocolate Chicken" is the prize for gathering the most eggs. Ruby may have found the eggs, but that doesn't mean she gets the chicken. "Ruby's Beauty Shop" has Ruby and Louise using Max as a client in their new "salon." Max prefers their hair dye in wild colors to wigs and makeup. "Max Drives Away" when he wants ice cream for breakfast. Ruby follows him to Grandma's and back.

"Ruby's Easter Bonnet" may be the most creative at the Bunny Scouts Bonnet Competition, but Max's jumping frog gives it that something extra. Ruby and Louise just want Max to put their Easter eggs into a basket, but he'd rather use them for "Max's Easter Parade." "Max and the Easter Bunny" takes him to the Bunny Scouts' own Easter egg hunt. They think they're finding a lot of the same eggs...but it's really just Max hiding them after they find them.

Worked on my story for a few hours after the muffins came out of the oven. The soldiers of Palpatine's army, dressed in white and black armor, find Leia, Saw, and Obi-Wan together and arrest them for conspiracy against the crown and for breaking Han out of the tower. Jyn brings down one of those circular chandeliers on them and helps Leia escape while Obi-Wan gets the cart together and Saw holds them off. Jyn has friends near the wharf who might be able to help them...

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had baked chicken legs with herbs (which I started earlier) with spinach salad and cucumber slices and home-made honey dressing. This came out pretty well, too. You can never go wrong with simple chicken.

Did one more Easter special while I ate. It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown has the gang getting ready for one of the major holidays of the spring. Sally wants new shoes, while Snoopy looks for a bird house for Woodstock. Peppermint Patty attempts to teach Marcie to color eggs, but she does everything you can do to an egg but hard-boil them. Lucy's more interested in finding her own eggs. Don't bother with all that fuss, says Linus. The Easter Beagle will do that. Sally is skeptical after the Great Pumpkin incident at Halloween, but Snoopy knows how to help prove Linus right, and get a dig in on his sister, too.

Finished the night after a shower with Justice League. Diana "Wonder Woman" Prince (Gail Godot) and Bruce "Batman" Wayne (Ben Affleck) are still fighting crime in and around Gotham and Metropolis. They both get a big shake-up when Diana's mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) reveals that the wave of mourning over Superman's (Henry Cavill) death has released Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), an alien soldier, and his bug army once the "Mother Box" is reactivated. There's three such boxes at the Amazon's island, the underwater home of the Atlanteans, and a secret location. While Arthur "Aquaman" Curry (Jason Momoa) joins the fight after Atlantis is attacked, others prove harder sells. Bruce does manage to convince lightning-fast college student Barry "The Flash" Allen (Ezra Miller) to join pretty quickly. Diana has a harder time with former athlete Victor "Cyborg" Stone (Ray Fisher), who is still getting used to his cybernetic body. He finally comes around when his father (Joe Morton) is kidnapped. After rescuing the trapped scientists, Bruce is convinced they need even more power and uses the Mother Box to resurrect Superman. After reuniting with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) restores his memories, he's ready to help the others stop Steppenwolf from destroying all the Earth and rebuilding it in his image.

I'm still wondering what all the fuss was about. I thought this was a lot of fun. Ok, so we don't really get to see that much of Cyborg, and the Flash is mostly used for comic relief. (But he always was in the cartoons.) Steppenwolf could have been a little better developed, too. (He wants to reshape the Earth in his image?) And yeah, the tons and tons of CGI in the action sequences is still a bit much. On the other hand, Godot and Cavill may have been even better here than in their individual films, and Affleck's Batman is an improvement over Batman vs Superman. And I absolutely loved Momoa as the hard-drinking Aquaman, one of my favorite superheroes when I was a kid.

It's too bad this is currently bombing at the box office and DC has already called off a sequel. While not perfect, it's leaps and bounds over DC's previous group movies Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad. If nothing else, I'm now really looking forward to that Aquaman movie that's supposed to come out around Christmas. If you're a fan of the DC Universe or the characters, you might want to give this one a look.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Our Boy in the Land of the Dead

Began another beautiful, sunny day with Rick Steves. We jumped northward from France to Belgium for one of my favorite episodes. Brussels and Bruges, the two largest cities in Belgium, also have some of its most attractive medieval architecture. How could you hate a country that loves bikes, French fries (here called Flemish fries), waffles, chocolate, lace, and peace? (Brussels is the home of the headquarters of the European Union.) We also get to see man play a carillon (big bell tower) concert and check out artwork by Belgian masters.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. After leaving Han and Chewie in the marketplace to find someone who knows them, Leia takes their supplies back to the inn. When she comes downstairs, her Uncle Obi-Wan introduces her to Saw Gerrera, the head of the local rebels. They want to keep Palpatine off the throne. Saw's people intercepted proof that Prince Henry, who was previously thought to be dead, is alive and may have been hidden somewhere. He also suspects that Palpatine intends to use the magic he's gathering from other magicians and magical creatures to dominate the Alliance Kingdoms into submission.

Had lunch at 1. Did an episode of Get Smart while I ate and got ready for work. Max is "Our Man In Leotards" when he dons tights in order to join 99 in a ballet troupe. The head of the troupe has stolen a formula for a drug that can paralyze anyone for a few minutes. He intends to use it on the head of his country to stop him from signing a treaty.

Work was a bit more of a pain than yesterday. People and employees weren't in the best moods. I have no idea why. It was another absolutely gorgeous day, sunny and probably in the upper 40's, lower 50's. The snow is more than half-gone. I gathered carts and baskets, bagged, cleaned the bathrooms and under the dairy cases, and tried to avoid most people.

My schedule next week is actually pretty good, probably the best I've had in months. Tuesday and Wednesday off (Wednesday for counseling), with two six-hour days on Friday and Saturday and only one late day. I'll take those two six-hour days that'll probably be busy with Easter shoppers over one 8 1/2-hour day with nothing going on.

Didn't really need a ton of groceries, which is why I wanted to pick them up after work. Found fish fillets for a decent price; grabbed tortillas and decided to have fish tacos for dinner. Restocked sugar (on a good four-day sale), grapefruit, mandarin orange cups, bananas, mushrooms, milk, yogurt, baking powder, baking soda, corn meal, and oatmeal.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then made those fish tacos. The were the perfect accompaniment to Coco. The most recent Pixar film takes us to Mexico, as Miguel (Anthony Gonzolez) is preparing to celebrate the Day of the Dead with his family. Their great-great grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach) started a shoemaking business after her musician husband left home and never came back. Thanks to his abandoning her, she banished music from the family. Miguel, however, feels the call of the guitar and wants to be as famous a musician as his late idol Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) someday. When his grandmother (Renee Victor) breaks his guitar, he steals Ernesto's from his tomb to join a local talent show. He's cursed for stealing from a dead man to Land of the Dead, where those who were loved and remembered after death live. Even his dead family members refuse to let him play, and won't give their blessing for his return to the living if he continues to pursue music.

After fleeing them, he encounters Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), a goofy skeleton who is flickering out existence because no one remembers him. All he has to prove he lived is part of a photograph. Miguel agrees to hang the picture of Hector on his family's Day of the Dead shrine if he helps him find Ernesto, whom he believes to be his great-grandfather. But Ernesto is not the sterling hero he makes himself out to be, and Hector is far less foolish than he looks. Miguel has to get both the living and the dead sides of his family to understand how important music is to him...and make sure his Great-Grandma Coco (Ana Ofella Murguia) remembers how much it meant to her.

This was such a lovely movie. It probably would have won Best Animated Picture even in a year when the competition was stronger. They got Mexican culture so right, this was the top-grossing animated feature ever in Mexico. The artwork was stunning, especially the glowing flower-petal bridge and Miguel's first look at the Land of the Dead. Some nice performances too, especially from Gonzolez as the budding musician who wants to prove to his family that music is in his blood, and Bernal as Hector, who just wants to be remembered for something. Great music, too; the theme song "Remember Me" also won an Oscar.

Dark themes and fairly frank discussions of death, murder, and abandonment make this iffy for very young kids. For late elementary-schoolers onward who enjoy learning about other cultures, Coco is a gorgeous, unique film that's highly recommended.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Little Bit of Spring

By the time I rolled out of bed, the sun was out and the snow was sparkling like millions of tiny crystals on my porch. I celebrated with breakfast and another episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. "Music Day" gives us three tales that touch on different aspects of music and performing it. Buster goes up against an obnoxious children's singer in "Ruffled Ruffee." Lil' Sneezer wants to practice his trumpet, but ends up spreading the smell of the Limburger cheese he ate beforehand into the school cafeteria in "The Horn Blows at Lunchtime." Shirley's looking forward to dancing in "Loon Lake," but the snobby swans in her ballet class make fun at her. Babs sticks up for her best friend by humiliating them during the show.

As soon as I finished eating, I went outside. While the snow was melting fast, it still wasn't fast enough for me to get to work with dry feet. Someone (possibly Richard) did come up here and shovel last night...but that was well before the storm ended. I shoveled again, at least what needed to be shoveled. The steps are in direct sunlight and actually weren't that bad. The sun itself felt nice and warm, and it had to be in at least the upper 40's.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Obi-Wan goes off into town, leaving Han and Leia to do their own shopping. Leia asks a seamstress to make Han some new clothes, since his are in tatters. Once they're done, they head to the main market at the wharf to pick up supplies, arguing all the way over girls looking at him and whether or not he's really royalty.

Broke for lunch at 1. Did an episode of Rick Steves Europe while I ate. Rick makes a visit to Paris in the springtime, checking out its quaint neighborhoods, with their fromager (cheese shop) and boulangeries (bakeries). He strolls in a church with a huge pipe organ and checks out the old masters at the Louvre.

By the time I headed off to work, almost everywhere I shoveled earlier was dry, or at least the snow was gone from it. The Acme wasn't bad, either. The parking lot was being shoveled and plowed even as I arrived, and really there wasn't much left. I did carts when I came in and before I left, cleaned up a spilled bottle of Gatorade, bagged, and gathered baskets, but I mostly spent the afternoon finally finishing the candy. I think the head bagger may have done some earlier, but there was plenty left for me to do. We were off and on busy; I bagged when I wasn't doing candy. The afternoon bagger called out again, and this time, I don't think we really needed him.

Finished up the second Paris Rick Steves episode while heating up leftovers for dinner. This time, Rick heads for the Eiffel Tower, taking the elevator as far up it as he dares. After he returns to the ground, he checks out the masterpieces of Belle Epoque artists at the Orsay Museum, then explores several mansions owned by the titled and wealthy of the period. He also checks out the Latin Quarter, aka Paris' college area, the home of its cafe scene.

Played some Lego Star Wars after dinner. Finished up "Darth Vader" and "Through the Jutland Wastes" and got all but one piece on "Bounty Hunter Pursuit." (Just missed it on the last named - next time!)

Ended the night online while watching Thor: Ragnorok. Thor (Chris Helsmworth) is still looking for the Infinity Stones. After defeating a fire demon who threatened to bring around Ragnorok, the destruction of Ashgard, he and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) search for their missing father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). With a little help from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbach), they find him in Norway. Not only is he dying, but with his death, his daughter, the goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett) has escaped her imprisonment. She proceeds to destroy Thor's hammer and sends they both out to space. They end up on the junk planet Sakaar, where Thor is forced to fight The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) by Scrapper, a former Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). He and Bruce do manage to escape, with the help of a team of underground rebels...but now they have to figure out how to get back to Asgard and save their home from both Helsa's scheming and the End of the World.

This was absolutely hysterical, by far the funniest of the Marvel movies and the best of the three Thor films. Both Helsmsworth and Hiddleston are having far more fun here than they did in the previous movies in this sub-series. My favorite character was Scrapper, who could out-toss both gods and probably drink them under the table, too. And the ending, with Thor bringing all the powers of lightning to bear on his nasty sister, was flat-out amazing.

If you're a fan of Marvel or any of these characters or actors or prefer your superheroes on the comic side, the final trip to Asguard is definitely one worth taking.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Return of the Snow

It was still just cloudy when I got up this morning. By quarter of 9, it had started to rain and sleet slightly. I figured I would be fine to go into work. Even took the bike, with no problems other than getting a little wet.

I was one of the only people who did so. Several people had already called out when I arrived. More and more did as the afternoon wore on, especially once the snow finally started around 10. Unlike the previous snowstorm, this was heavy, slushy spring snow. This meant that it was easier for me to get carts out of the parking lot (which was just slush, rather than built-up snow), but a literal pain to shovel. Once again, my coat and my boots were so wet, they were saturated and dripping. I had no help, either. The other three baggers had all called out. I barely got any of the candy done. The only other things I got to were the inside trash and gathering baskets. (In fact, so few people actually came in, they gave five-dollar gift cards to the ones who did, including me.)

Once again got lucky. By 5:30, the roads had been cleared and the snow, while continuing, wasn't as heavy as it had been earlier in the day. I was able to ride home normally.

As soon as I got in, I changed into dry clothes, hung up my wet things, and heated up leftover chicken stew for dinner. Watched an episode of Sailor Moon while I ate. Usagi, Chib-Usa, and the girls enter the world of the stage in "Become the Prima: Usagi's Ballet." While the girls are struggling with the basic moves, villain Fish Eye seems to have them down cold...literally. His fine, if frigid, moves have attracted the eye of the class' teacher, who is hoping to put on a world-class performance of Giselle. However, he has a girlfriend who believes she may have been the production and in his heart. Usagi and Chibi-Usa do their best to bring the two together, and then rescue them when it turns out to be a Dark Moon Circus trap.

Worked on writing for an hour after dinner. After Leia and Obi-Wan suspect they're being watched, they pull in at a clean but nondescript inn. Han's hoping to find out who he really is. Leia's more interested in finding out how to get back at Palpatine for murdering her parents and finding out what really happened to the missing Prince Henry.

Hit the shower at quarter after 8; put on Leap! after I got out. Felicie (Elle Fanning) wants desperately to become a great dancer. She and her good friend Victor (Nat Wolff) escape an orphanage in the countryside for Paris, where they both hope to realize their dreams. He becomes a worker in the office of famed sculptor Gustave Eiffel (creator of the Eiffel Tower, among others); she befriends Odette (Carly Rae Jepson), the crippled janitor for the Paris Opera and the haughty and obnoxious Regine De Haut (Kate McKinnson). After Regine's equally spoiled daughter Camille (Maddie Zigler) breaks the beloved music box that had been her mother's, Felicie gets back at her by taking her place in a prestigious ballet school. Felicie, however, is not an instant talent. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, with help from former prima ballerina Odette, for her to pass her classes. After she fluffs an audition and the orphanage figures out what she's doing, it looks like she may have to give up her dream for good...until several people realize just how passionate she is about dancing, and how much she truly wants to realize her dream.

Cliched to the max, but also kind of fun, especially if you're a budding ballerina yourself. It's weighed down by bland pop songs, unoriginal characters, and an overdone message. The big action piece in the finale with Regine chasing Felicie felt like it came from another movie entirely. If you're a dance fan, though, you might enjoy some of the dance sequences, especially Felicie and Camille's dance-off towards the end of the film.

If you're into ballet or have kids who are, this is worth checking out once for the cast and the dancing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Snow In the Springtime

It was still just cloudy when I finally rolled out of bed this morning. Despite the weather, I opted to honor the first day of spring during breakfast with a couple of cartoons. It's "Spring In Acme Acres" during the first season of Tiny Toon Adventures. Babs and Buster introduce three cartoons with (very) mild spring themes. "Love Among the Tunes" has the Elmer Fudd Cupid turning his arrows over to Conrad so he can go on vacation. The none-too-bright vulture proceeds to create some odd matches, including Babs and Montana Max. "Elmyra's Spring Cleaning" proves to be hazardous to all of Acme Acres, especially one poor fish whose bowl she sucks into her vacuum cleaner. "That's Incredibly Stupid" is a parody of the goofy stunt-based game shows that were wildly popular in the late 80's-early 90's. Plucky keeps making Dizzy do all the stunts, but the last one proves to be more than even Plucky can handle.

Did a few shorts while getting ready to run errands. "Springtime Serenade" seemed very appropriate, given it had started to snow by the time I put it on. This later Walter Lanz Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon is one the few the character did during his starring years in color. He and Fanny are proprietors of a summer resort who, along with the other animals of the farm and woods, are delighted that spring is here and they can get their cleaning done. A grouchy old groundhog is determined to spoil their fun with predictions of bad weather. They don't believe him at first, until the snow actually begins to fall.

"Springtime" is the second of the seasonal-themed Disney Silly Symphony shorts (and the third Silly Symphony period), and as such, is the one of the most basic. It's pretty much just animals dancing and eating each other in time to classical music.

The snow was just coming down as a light squall when I headed out. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. Considering the weather, I was surprised there was even just one other person there besides the librarian and me. I organized DVDs and half-listened to the blather on CNN. I did end up taking out some movies here. They get new releases quicker than the Haddon Township Library. Found Coco and Thor: Ragnorok, along with the French ballet-themed animated film Leap!

The snow and wind were both picking up by the time I left the library, around quarter of 1. I was going to go home, but I really wanted to return the Haddon Township Library DVDs. My next day off is Saturday, and they usually have plenty of help that day. Thankfully, the traffic wasn't too bad at that point, though the snow was just starting to mix with ice and sting my face.

Needless to say, the Haddon Township Library wasn't busy, either. I didn't have nearly as much to do this week as I had last week. Just shelved the children's DVDs and CDs and audio books. Didn't take anything out here; I don't know when I'll be able to get here again.

By 2:30, the snow was quickly turning into sleet. Beyond really hurting when it hit my face, it was making the sidewalks and back roads more than a little slippery. I went straight home, dodging early traffic that may have been let out early due to the weather.

Made some calls when I got in. Today is Mom's birthday. She was spending it buying a new car after the old one was totaled in a crash. They got luckier than we did weather-wise; at press time, all they've gotten has been rain.

I called Dad before that, hoping for a ride to work tomorrow. Jodie called me back while I was talking to Mom. When I did get through to her, she told me what I'd suspected all along. The roads are a sheet of ice...and if they continue to be messy, she and Dad won't be going anywhere tomorrow. I don't want to call out and lose my 8 and 1/2 hour day, but if no one can get out, I may have to consider that.

Did two more spring-related Silly Symphonies while I got organized. "Birds In the Spring" is what the title implies. We follow a family of birds in the late spring, particularly one cheeky little fledgling who gets into big trouble when he leaves the nest for the first time. "The Goddess of Spring" is the myth of Persephone and Hades retold as a full-blown mini-opera. This was one of several Symphonies Disney made as a test for Snow White. While some of it is lovely (the dancing in the "Mighty Hades" number is pretty nifty), other bits show that Walt's animators had a long way to go (Persephone dances like she has no bones).

Spent the rest of the afternoon inside, working on my story. Han continues to be fussy after Obi-Wan and Luke go off to work on spells, insisting on sleeping in the cart and turning it into a tent. Leia helps him. She finally decides it's time to bury the hatchet with this man, especially given he's not in great shape. He agrees. He finally thanks her for having saved him earlier and asks her if she'll teach him how to handle a sword. Only if he shows her how to handle a mechanical bow; she's never seen one before.

They finally make it to Scarif, a dusty port city. Obi-Wan tells them they'll look for people to help them get to Coruscant and deal with Palpatine and who know about Han's real identity there. Leia points out that unicorns are rare, and Luke might attract unwanted attention. He makes his horn invisible and the rest of him look more like an ordinary horse.

Got so into writing, I didn't break for dinner until quarter of 7. Used up the last of the spaghetti sauce, along with spinach, mushrooms, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, to make Italian Scrambled Eggs for dinner.

Played more Lego Star Wars as I ate. There's one piece in "Retake Theed Palace" I just cannot get to! I'll have to look that one up online. Had a much easier time finally finding the red brick in "Darth Maul."

Finished the night with Can-Can. The 1960 film version of the Cole Porter show keeps most of the original show intact, but eliminates the artist subplot. Satine Pistache (Shirley MacLaine) runs a nightclub in Paris that's notorious for performing the scandalous, leg-baring can-can dance. Her lawyer boyfriend Francois (Frank Sinatra) and a laid-back judge (Maurice Chevalier) are more than happy to look the other way. A newly-arriving judge (Louis Jordan) is less willing to play Satine's game. He tries twice to get her arrested and actually succeeds the second time. She tries to seduce him into changing his mind, but ends up falling for him. Francois doesn't like that one bit! Satine has been trying to get him to marry her, with no success. Now she has a judge who is more than willing to comply. Francois responds by getting her drunk at a high-society party, where she embarrasses herself. But Satine has her own way of getting back at him...and proving that the can-can is really good, clean fun for all.

Overlong fluff, but it does have some good numbers, notably "It's All Right With Me" for Sinatra and an attentive Juliet Prowse (in her first role), "Live and Let Live" for Chevalier and Jordan, MacLane's "Adam and Eve Ballet," and the full version of the can-can with Prowse and MacLane in the finale. I'm especially fond of the colorful and evocative costumes, which gained a deserved Oscar nomination (along with the score).

This is still a favorite of Mom's. She saw it as a kid and introduced it to us when it came out on video in the early 90's. If you're a fan of the cast, Porter's music, or like your musicals on the lighter side, this musical might be all right with you, too.

I'm really crossing my fingers. It snowed and sleeted on and off all afternoon. The snow stopped around quarter of 5, and it hasn't really done anything since then. Right now, they're saying anything from 5 to 10 inches. Yikes! If it's going to do that, I may be stuck here. We'll see what happens.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Two Lost Souls

Got a late start on a sunny day with breakfast and Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement. In this special from 1980, Daffy introduces three all-original shorts with a spring or Easter theme. My favorite is the first, which has him and Sylvester chasing after a gold egg. He's bedeviled by an animator with a weird sense of humor in between cartoons in a spring-themed riff on "Duck Amuck."

Spent about an hour after breakfast doing research on jobs. I'm beginning to wonder if people are right about my not being up to office work. I may be organized, but I'm not good with people. I want to write and organize and edit...but I'm not so good at selling my work or promoting myself. Book packaging was out - too much interaction. Proofreading and editing were more my speed. I might be able to do journalism if I keep it online and/or local.

Broke at quarter after 11 to get ready for work. Ran two older Daffy shorts as he did. He's most definitely not "My Favorite Duck" when he tries to steal Porky's picnic lunch by driving him crazy. His attempts to avoid Elmer Fudd's gun turns into a boxing match in "To Duck or Not to Duck"...but with the help of the referee, the match may be over before it's begun.

Work was pretty much the same off-and-on busy as yesterday. While the next major holiday isn't for two weeks, not only was today the end of a four-day sale, but we may be getting some snow and ice tomorrow. We're also a bit short-handed. Several college students are on their spring break. I heard one of the high school cashiers mention he went on his senior trip starting today. One of the older women is on leave for surgery; another will be going out on Friday. I spent most of the day outside, doing carts and trash, and avoiding the crowds. (Though I did end up bagging at a few points.)

It was a nice day to do carts. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, sunny and warmer than it has been, in the lower 50's. Went straight home after work, changed, and went right back out again. I took a bike ride around Oaklyn, then went up to the Kove Restaurant in Audubon for dinner. They're the huge beige stucco building on the hill just off Nicholson Road, before you get to the train bridge. I went out for a snack with Dad and Jodie there once; thought I'd try them on my own.

It was only just 5 at that point. The bar was the only place that was busy. A waitress took me to one of the incredibly tall purplish booths on the side. The tables were so big, you practically needed a map just to find the other side. I ordered a Turkey BLT. It was almost as big as the fruit and cream cheese sandwich from Saturday. I enjoyed the thick, real turkey slices with cheddar and lettuce on toasted sourdough bread.

By the time I got out, it was starting to get much colder. Not to mention, that sandwich really made me full. I rode home and spent the next few hours writing. Obi-Wan announces that the next town they'll be visiting is Scarif. They'll likely sell the cart there. It's too conspicuous. Leia asks Han if he can remember how to ride; he boasts that he's the best rider anywhere, no matter what shape he's currently in. Luke explains that he's not sure if there's a way to lift the spell on him. He and Obi-Wan will do research to find out how to break the spell.

Got off at 8 for a shower. As soon as I finished, I put on Marty. This sweet little movie tells the story of the title character (Ernest Borganine), a gentle butcher who lives in the Bronx with his mother (Esther Minciotti). He's shy, and as he's not the most gorgeous guy around, he figures he's doomed to lonliness. One night, while attending a local dance, Marty meets a plain schoolteacher named Clara (Betsy Blair) who was abandoned by her date. She feels just as lonely and awkward as he does. Trouble is, his mother is afraid he'll abandon her, and all his buddies expect him to pick some gorgeous dame. They harass him into forgetting her...until he realizes that if he loves Clara and she loves him, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

Awww. This was one of the most honest and simple depictions of falling in love I've ever seen. I loved how intimate and gentle it was. Marty and Clara may not be the the most beautiful or dramatic couple, but they're so lonely and kind-hearted, you just root for them. (It apparently started out as a TV play, which actually does explain a lot about the intimacy.)  I'm not the only one who loved this, either. This was a surprise hit in 1955 and won Best Picture, best director for Delbert Mann, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Borganine. (Blair and Joe Mantell, as Marty's best friend, were nominated.)

If you're looking for something different in your screen romances, or want to try a lower-key love story than usual, this tale of lost souls finding each other despite the derision of others is highly recommended and really lovely.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

It's De-Lovely

Started off a beautiful morning with Anything Goes as I had buttermilk pancakes with dried cranberries for breakfast. The 1963 off-Broadway version of this show was it's first major New York revival. Like all subsequent versions, it adds songs not heard in the original show. "It's De-Lovely" and "Friendship" have been retained for later revivals, but we do get a few gems that turn up in this version alone, notably "Let's Misbehave," "Let's Step Out," and "Take Me Back to Manhattan."

Headed off to work as soon as the record ended. Work was no trouble at all. We were on-and-off busy, but never overwhelmingly so. It did get busy enough for me to help the guys outside with the carts later on. Spent most of the morning bagging and doing returns.

Took the long way home down Nicholson Road and Atlantic Avenue. It was too nice not to! The sun was out, the sky was bright blue and cloudless, and while it remained windy, it didn't feel quite as cold as it has for the past few weeks. In fact, I took an even longer route down Kendall Boulevard, past Rose's house and back around West Clinton to Manor, just to enjoy the day (and avoid traffic on Atlantic from the Nicholson Road bridge repairs).

When I got in, I changed, then pulled down the St. Patrick's Day decorations and put up what I have for Easter. A few items went in different places this year. The smaller DVD player freed up room on that shelf for my big resin statue Patchy Bunny. A big wicker basket of plastic eggs (that used to be my Easter basket as a kid) is now on the coffee table in the music area where Patchy used to go. The cute little porcelain girl bunny in the purple dress is in front of the CD player; the porcelain bunny candy holder is between the TV and cassette player.

Ran The Music of Spring as I put the St. Patrick's Day decorations away. This Columbia Special Products LP release from the early 60's features songs performed by vocalists and orchestras of the day that were either related to spring ("April In Paris," "Younger Than Springtime"), or more likely were just popular at that point ("Camelot," "Never on a Sunday," "I Could Have Danced All Night.")

Since I did a show with Cole Porter music this morning, I thought I'd try another after Music of Spring ended. High Society was a musical version of the film and play The Philadelphia Story, with Bing Crosby a singer hoping to win back his frigid socialite wife (Grace Kelly). Celeste Holm and Frank Sinatra are the reporters looking for a good story. While the ballad "True Love," performed by Crosby and Kelly, is probably the best-known number from this movie, I like the comic songs better. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" is a fun ditty for Sinatra and Holm as they admire the wedding gifts, and Sinatra and Crosby have a blast at a party with "Well, Did You Evah?"

Did some writing for the next few hours. Han shows up at the stream after having washed the grime off. He's a bit surprised to see Luke, to say the least. Luke and Leia explain what happened and why he hadn't seen the boy before. Obi-Wan calls them to dinner, where they discuss their next move. They're going to pass through Scarif, a lawless seaside town, to pick up supplies and see if they can find out more about Han's identity and what, exactly, he did to end up in a high-security prison.

Didn't break for dinner until 7. Ate leftover chicken stew while playing Lego Star Wars. Finished up "Escape from Naboo" and "Into the Death Star," pieces and True Jedi. Got all the pieces on "Ruin of the Jedi," but not True Jedi.

Finished the night with two more Cole Porter shows. Kiss Me Kate was his major comeback after hitting a slump in the early and mid 40's. Stage stars Patricia Morrison and Alfred Drake headline this 1948 retelling of The Taming of the Shrew as a backstage musical about a bickering husband and wife team on the verge of divorce. He'd do anything to keep her in the show...including claiming two IOUs written by a dancer are his, so the gangsters who came to claim them will stick around. This version includes the dynamic opening number "Another Openin', Another Show" that didn't make it into the film. (Revivals usually include the uptempo ballad "From This Moment On," which was added to the film version.)

Can-Can debuted in 1953. All though it did well enough at the time and the movie version isn't bad, this tale of a can-can dancer who tries to bribe a virtuous judge to keep her dance hall open, then falls for him, is far from Porter's best show. The cast album does feature a few gems, including "I Love Paris," "It's All Right With Me," "C'est Magnifique," and the duet "If You Loved Me Truly" for a hilarious Hans Conried and Gwen Verdon. (The latter won a Best Supporting Actress Tony for only her second starring role in a Broadway show.)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tea and Records

Began a bright, sunny St. Patrick's Day with some holiday reading. The Colliers Harvest of Holidays anthology Linda Young sent me a few years ago only has one piece for St. Patrick's Day, but it's a lengthy and interesting biography of Patrick himself. Did a short story from the Disney Storybookland based around Darby O'Gill and the Little People (about how Darby escaped from the King of the Leprechauns) and a few chapters of Nellie's Promise, about the problems Samantha's Irish-American friend has after she and her sisters move in with Sam's wealthy family.

Moved to two animated shorts about mischievous wee folk during breakfast. In "Wearin' of the Grin," two leprechauns think Porky Pig is after their pot of gold and sentence him to the wearing of the green shoes. Porky doesn't think much of it, until the shoes want to dance forever. He finds himself trapped in a surreal Irish nightmare as he tries to dodge the prancing footwear. Even after he wakes up, things aren't quite as they seem...

"His Better Elf" finds Woody Woodpecker getting three wishes from a slightly more benign leprechaun. He wishes for gold...but it comes from a bank. Now he outrun an Irish cop who is convinced he's a thief.

Ran an episode of Moonlighting from its second season while preparing a stew of cubed chicken, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage for dinner. "Somewhere Under the Rainbow" gives us an even stranger leprechaun. Kathleen is a perfectly normal-looking young Irish woman who comes to David and Maddie for protection. Only problem is, she insists she's a leprechaun. Neither partner believes her, but David takes her case because they need money. Turns out that, while her powers may not be real, the men who are chasing her are...and so is the pot of gold her father has hidden.

Headed out as soon as the episode ended. I really had no plans for today, so I thought I'd go for a stroll in Collingswood. The day was actually quite nice, sunny and relatively warm when you were out of the wind. I saw a sign for an estate sale on Fern when I was heading up to the corner of Collings and Haddon Avenue. Strolled a few blocks down to make that my first stop.

The estate sale was incredibly busy when I arrived. You were supposed to take a number to get in, but by the time I got there, they were out of numbers. It was so full, they shooed people up to the second and third level because they couldn't fit anyone else on the first! Disappointingly, there wasn't much there. Usual glassware and random books on England and old movie stars. I saw a lovely old vintage Effanbee doll, but while I might have been able to afford her, I couldn't carry her or some fine Art Deco furniture home on the bike.

As I strolled down Haddon Avenue, I noticed a nice little tea shop in the same building that once housed the book store. I'd never had afternoon tea before. Evidently, I wasn't the only one in the mood for tea. They were very busy, with several friends and large groups enjoying their lunch. I had a pot of chocolate mint tea in a real flower-painted porcelain tea set and a thick, hearty sandwich filled with a cream cheese-apple salad and walnuts on thick slices of cinnamon swirl bread. It was accompanied by grapes and a slice of orange. The sandwich was so thick, I ate it with a fork. The chocolate mint tea was very strong - it did taste heavily of chocolate and mint. The waitresses were really nice, too. I had a thoroughly elegant and enjoyable lunch.

The Nutty Duchess Tea Shop is right across the street from InnerGroove Records. Spent over an hour checking out their wares. I love that place. I never fail to walk out with at least one or two interesting Broadway cast albums and soundtracks I never thought I'd find. I finally came up with the original casts of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the 1962 off-Broadway revival of Anything Goes, the soundtrack for Scrooged, and The Who: Live at Leeds concert album. I've had Live at Leeds for a while, but my copy came from a yard sale and was a scratched mess. This one was in near-perfect shape.

My next stops were much faster. I didn't see anything at Frugli Consignment I couldn't live without. Grabbed a soft pretzel and a berry Propel water at a crowded WaWa before heading home. Took the short way this time down Collings Avenue, across the White Horse Pike, and past Newton Lake Park and CVS to Newton Avenue.

Worked on writing for about an hour and a half when I got in. Leia leads the unicorn to get a drink of water by the stream in the woods. As the moonlight hits it's horn, it transforms into her brother Luke. Palpatine turned the innocent youth into a unicorn to make it easier to remove his magic. When Luke is in his unicorn form, all his magic is concentrated in his horn. He can only be human at night, when the moon shines on his horn.

Broke at quarter of 7 to enjoy my dinner. Yum. It came out quite flavorful, despite having to use chicken instead of the fattier and more expensive beef or corned beef. After I ate, I made Stir n' Drop Oatmeal Cookies from The Betty Crocker Cooky Book, with dried cranberries instead of the peanuts called for in the book. It's a very simple one-bowl recipe, and fairly low-fat compared to some others in the book. They came out soft and chewy, but a little too sweet. (Next time, I think I'll cut the sugar down to 3/4 of a cup, instead of the full cup called for.)

Watched The Quiet Man during dinner, finishing it after a shower. Sean Thompson (John Wayne) is a former boxer who has returned to his mother's former cottage in Inisfree, Ireland to settle down. He falls for Katie Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), the fiery sister of landowner Will Danaher (Victor MacLaglan), but Will is upset because he couldn't buy the farm and won't let them court. It takes a trick from the local matchmaker (Barry Fitgerald) and priest (Ward Bond) that makes Will think the Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) wants to court him to relent and allow Sean to marry his sister. When the widow says she's not interested, he refuses to give up Katie's things, and then her dowry. Sean doesn't get why the money is so important, but Katie wants her things and her money with her. For her, it means finally being free of her brother. Sean only knows he loves her no matter what. It comes to a head when Will finally starts a brawl with Sean that gets so wild, most of the town (and half of Ireland) comes to see them duke it out!

Director John Ford's love letter to Ireland is an affectionate culture-clash tale with some of the most gorgeous Technicolor cinematography I've ever seen. Ireland has never glowed like this before, in colors that would make Oz turn pale. Ford and the cinematography both one deserved Oscars. Wayne and O'Hara are fine as the lovers, backed by a terrific cast of Ford regulars and beloved Irish comedians. If you're a fan of Wayne and O'Hara or Ford's work, this is one trip to Ireland worth checking out.

Finished the night online after the cookies came out of the oven with Finian's Rainbow. This time, the Irish head to America as Finian (Fred Astaire) comes to Rainbow Valley in the south with his daughter Sharon (Petula Clark). Knowing that Fort Knox and it's gold is nearby, he's hoping to bury his gold and let it grow like the Americans' seems to have. The gold originally belonged to a leprechaun named Og (Tommy Steele) who is becoming more and more mortal without it...and more and more horny. They end up in a little sharecropper's union, where blacks and whites live in harmony. Their leader, Woody (Don Francks) is trying to grow a new metholated tobacco to make them all rich. He and Sharon fall for each other, but their relationship is threatened when Sharon, not realizing the pot of gold is nearby, accidentally wishes that racist Senator Rawkins (Keenan Wynn) was black. Now Finian and Og have to find that gold and the senator, with the help of Woody's sister Susan the Silent (Barbara Hancock), or Sharon will be burned as a witch!

This has always been a strange show, even in it's 1947 original Broadway cast, and updating it didn't make the fantasy any less odd. Then-newcomer Francis Ford Coppola couldn't figure out what to do with it. Fred Astaire didn't get it, either, though his solo routine for "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" is a highlight of the film. Clark comes off even better as his exasperated but loving daughter. Steele, on the other hand, is annoying and way too over the top, even for a leprechaun. He's more tolerable in his charming duet with Clark "Something Sort of Grandish."

If you're a fan of the leads or the original show, this is worth a look (it's currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray on the Warner Archives).

Friday, March 16, 2018

Getting Ready for Spring

Got a late start this morning, finishing Star Wars: Aftermath before going into breakfast. After I finished, I put up the St. Patrick's Day and general spring decorations. I put them off because it's been so cold, but I'm tired of looking at the winter stuff. Besides, it won't be winter forever. The sun is already warm. It's just that darn wind that's cold.

Had The First Easter Rabbit on while I worked. This is another Rankin-Bass Easter Bunny origin story, this time in 2D animation. It's basically Frosty the Snowman crossed with The Velveteen Rabbit. Stuffy was once the beloved toy of a little girl named Glinda. He's rescued from the scrap pile after she gets scarlet fever by a fairy who anoints him the Easter Bunny, guardian of springtime.

Ran an episode of Sailor Moon while I finished up with the St. Patrick's things. Spring is the season of cherry blossoms in Japan. Usagi and her friends and teacher join the local cherry blossom festival to celebrate their arrival. The fun ends abruptly when they're attacked by an especially strong monster. It's so strong, Usagi can't defeat it with her tiara! Her original mother Queen Serenity gives her a new broach with the Silver Crystal to create "A New Transformation! Usagi's Power-Up."

Went into another episode while getting my clothes and money together for the laundromat. Minako, aka Sailor Venus, makes a new friend when she defends a little girl against bullies in "The Targeted Kindergartners: Venus to the Rescue." Meanwhile, the Guardians learn that kindergarteners across the city have been targeted by a monster for their energy. Usagi (disguised as a teacher) joins Minako and the kids on the bus to make sure they stay safe.

It was well past 1 when I finally made it to the laundromat. It might have been the right time. They were almost totally dead when I got in. By the time it became a little busier, my laundry was almost out of the dryer. I worked on story notes and listened to The Chew.

Went home, put everything away, had a quick lunch, and went right back out. I wanted to get to the Acme and pick up some groceries. Ran into a lot of good sales today. Bought chicken, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes to turn into Irish Chicken Stew tomorrow. Restocked tomato paste, cereal, eggs, butter (real butter this time - Land O' Lakes is on a 4-day sale), yogurt, cocoa, bananas, grapefruit, mandarin orange cups, parchment paper, and skim milk.

Got my schedule while I was there. In good news - more hours. I'm less happy with the earlier hours on Sunday, another 8 and a 1/2 hour day on Wednesday, and having to wait until Saturday for my second day off.

When I got home, I put everything away and finished the Sailor Moon episode, then did some writing. I mostly re-wrote the scene between Han and Leia, adding a conversation between her and Obi-Wan. They both think there's something odd about Han. They were told he was a criminal, but the remains of his clothes are made from the kind of fabrics only afforded by nobility. His memory seems to have been totally wiped by some kind of dark magic. Leia's just fed up with being ordered around by him. She storms off into the woods to get berries for dessert.

Played a little more Lego Star Wars during dinner. Did a second run-through of "Secret Plans" and "Battle of Endor." Completed the latter; got all but one piece on the former.

Finished the night with My Cousin Rachel. Phillip (Sam Clafin) is certain that Rachel (Rachel Weisz) has murdered his guardian, whom she married in Italy. He has inherited the estate and his guardian's fortune. He returns to England, only to learn that Rachel has followed. She moves into the estate, where Phillip becomes infatuated with her, to the point of wanting to give her part of his fortune. She appreciates it...but not his insistence that they're engaged. She won't be bought, no matter how much she enjoys their lovemaking. When Phillip falls ill, he begins to suspect Rachel has an ulterior motive for not wanting to become his bride. Is she really a murderess in disguise, or is she innocent of anything besides extravagance and bad taste in men?

Weisz gets top honors in this moody Gothic romance as the mysterious title character. Clafin comes off far less well as the young man who may or may not have been driven to madness by the haunting Rachel. The sweeping cinematography and handsome production design and costumes are also excellent. If you're into the cast or period romances that are a little darker and sexier than Jane Austen, you might was to look up this one.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Back on the Road

Began my day with dusting the apartment after breakfast. I should have done it earlier this week or even last week, but I just never got there. Just did a really fast once-over. I'll do it more thoroughly next month and in May before Lauren visits.

Ran The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town while I worked. This is Rankin-Bass' third and last Easter special. Sunny the Bunny is the official mascot of the youthful citizens of isolated, kids-only Kidsville. He takes their eggs over the mountain to Town, where grouchy Lady Longtooth and her put-upon young nephew King Bruce preside. Sunny constantly invents new Easter customs to get around her overly strict laws...proving that the delights of Easter will outlast any attempts to curb it.

Dad picked me up around 10. We dodged trash trucks picking up garbage cans on Manor and headed for Cherry Hill. There's a nice bike shop just a few blocks down the road from Market Place, near a residential area. He'd taken me there before to fix the wheel on an earlier bike, but not in a long time. It's bigger than the one in Haddonfield, with a much better bike selection. 

I looked over several bikes before settling on a beautiful Liv cruiser. Basically, it's the same as this one...only the design is a lovely bright magenta with white and turquoise trim and stitching on the handlebar pads. As Dad said, it's South Florida colors. (I guess I'm more of a southern belle than I thought.) The white-walled tires had matching turquoise trim. Even the bell matches. I also picked up a new bike lock. The owner offered to put fenders on the tires to keep the rain off them. We decided to go out to eat and run errands while he did the work.

We drove a few more blocks down the highway to Ponzio's Diner, on the former circle across from Whole Foods and near CVS. This is a local institution that has apparently been around for years. It certainly seemed popular when Dad and I were there! They were busy as heck, even around 11:30, mostly with old folks, office executives in fancy suits, and college students. I liked their huge bakery selection. The St. Patrick's Day leprechaun cupcakes were adorable. 

We got a big booth next to the windows. I had a spinach and feta cheese omelet with hash browns, whole wheat toast, and Orange Blossom (pekoe) tea. Dad had fried eggs with mini potato pancakes (that he spread with raspberry jam - that actually looked kind of tasty) and coffee. We had a nice chat about work and the bike and the family.

Doubled back to the Market Place to hit the Home Depot there really quick after brunch. That place is gigantic. We stepped into rows and rows of paint, tools, siding, doorknobs, keys, and probably everything else you can fix inside or outside a house. Dad looked at a new track for the sliding door in the living room, but he just ended up buying a balm that can repair cracked nails. His are apparently cracking and splitting from his cancer treatments.

As we were on our way back to the bike shop, we got a call on the phone in Dad's car that allows you to talk without handling a phone or a lot of buttons. We timed things right. The bike was ready to go. The gentleman even loaned us a rack to get it home. (Dad's current car is smaller than his previous van.) 

I got off at Dad's house. After we failed to figure out how to work my new lock (I'll just use the old one until I can get that together), I rode the bike home. It's wonderful. Handles like a dream. The rustproof chain rides beautifully. And I can't stop ringing that cute bell! (The man did tell me not to use WD 40 on the chain. Actually removes lubricant. Great to get grease out, not so much for chains. I'll see if I can find some oil actually intended for bikes. Maybe Amazon or Dick's Sporting Goods has it.) 

Ran another cartoon while getting ready for work. Dr. Seuss on the Loose gives us not one, but three short Seuss tales. "The Sneeches" are yellow creatures who live on the beaches. Sneeches with green stars on their stomachs snub those who lack them, until an enterprising monkey teaches both groups a lesson in equality. "The Zax" refuse to move to let each other pass, even as the world continues around them. Sam I Am tries to interest one poor fellow in his favorite dish, "Green Eggs and Ham." The guy goes to increasingly wild lengths to avoid the persistent little fellow!

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - mildly busy around rush hour, otherwise quiet. One of the cashiers did say it was crazy earlier. Must have been the lunch crowd. I spent the first half of my shift mopping the bathrooms and bagging, and the second half rounding up carts and baskets and doing out the outside trash, with no problems whatsoever.

Dad invited me to dinner at his house when we were at Ponzio's. I went straight over there after work. Jodie made corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes in a Crock Pot as an early St. Patrick's Day meal. Yum! I haven't had corned beef and cabbage in years. Corned beef is too big, fatty, and expensive for me to buy, but Jodie's came out just right, nice and flavorful. (She added vinegar to hers. I've never heard of that. I settled for butter.) Showed Jodie and her friend my new bike, letting them ooh and ah over the print and the big comfy seat and the stitching on the handlebar pads.

Finished the night at home with Earthquake. The mammoth success of Airport and The Poseidon Adventure in the early 70's inspired many similar extravaganzas about an all-star cast surviving some catastrophe or the other, including this one. A young seismologist named Walter Russell (Kip Niven) has discovered that a devastating quake could hit Los Angeles within a day or two. His superiors don't believe him at least until the first quake hits, and they realize that he might actually be right. Among those effected are Denise (Genvieve Bujold), a single mom and actress, who is having an affair with executive Stewart (Charlton Heston). His father-in-law (Lorne Greene) just offered him a major promotion, but he thinks it's because he's married to his daughter Remy (Ava Gardner). Rosa (Victoria Principal), a roadie for a motorcycle stuntman (Richard Roundtree), is caught looting by a National Guard member (Marjoe Gortner) with a dubious hold on his sanity. Cop Lou Slade (George Kennedy) corrals Stewart to help him find the survivors, before the Muholland Dam comes crashing down on all of them.

This was one of the biggest hits of 1974, but it hasn't aged well, to say the least. From Rosa's massive Afro to the Technicolor pimp clothes on the drunk at the bar (Walter Matthau in a cameo), this movie couldn't be more of its time if it tried. Even at the time, most critics apparently thought it was pretty bad, and yeah, all the soap opera theatrics are really cheesy. 

There are some things to like. While some of the Oscar-winning special effects are a tad dated (the animated blood on the screen after an elevator plunges down a shaft looks flat-out ridiculous), others remain amazingly effective. Gortner comes off best in a chilling performance as the soldier who is constantly taunted by his housemates and is fed up with his customers at a local grocery store. (And I thought I hated my job.) Kennedy as the burnt-out cop and Heston as the heroic executive are also fairly memorable. 

If you're a fan of the cast or disaster movies and don't mind sitting through the slow-moving first half, this is worth a look for the effects alone.