Monday, April 30, 2018

Life Is a Carnival

Began a cloudy, cool morning with breakfast and The Backyardigans. Tasha is a reporter looking for some "Front Page News" for her grouchy boss Pablo. She's also Super Snap, the speedy superhero. When a robot attacks Bigopolis, Super Snap ends up helping Bug Girl (Uniqua) and Bubble Man (Tyrone) take down this mechanical menace. She's too busy saving them to take the picture, to Pablo's chagrin...but when the robot demands "cheese," she's the only one who knows what it really wants.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. Leia tumbles down a mountain and finds herself in a cave. She's having a hard time focusing. Her mind keeps wandering to her failure to save Han and break the curse on Luke. Yoda tries to get her to feel the Force around her...including in the cave. She inches along in the darkness, trying to tune into the Force to guide her. A voice whispers into her ear, one that pushes her further along...

Broke for lunch at 1. Ran another Backyardigans episode while I ate.  "Cops and Robots" have intergalactic police officers Uniqua and Tyrone pursuing bad bots Tasha and Pablo. If they get into the Robot Factory, they'll turn all the robots bad!

 Headed to work shortly after the cartoon ended. Work was very busy for most of the afternoon. I got stuck in the register for a little while and never did finish doing returns, and it took me so long to do carts, my break was late. Spent the rest of the afternoon after break with the carts. By 4:30, the clouds had cleared, the sun was out, and despite the heavy winds, it had become a lovely day. It was too nice to go back inside!

When I got home, I had garlic-seasoned flounder fillets and green beans with almonds for dinner while watching The Muppet Show. Petula Clark appeared on the show towards the end of the second season. While she sings "The Girl from Ipanema" with an extremely tall Muppet monster, Kermit tries to shoo away a persistent moose who showed up in her dressing room.

Did some Wii Sports after dinner. Mostly focused on tennis tonight. I'm getting much better at hitting targets and balls...but I'm still having problems with aiming. The best I've done on the "Timing Your Swing" mini-game is five in a row. Lost the game I played because I had a hard time aiming right. Did better on bowling, my best ever, in fact.

Had even less luck with Lego Star Wars. Of the six bounty hunter missions I did tonight, I was only able to find Princess Leia in the Death Star. Couldn't find Chewbacca in Mos Eisley, Obi-Wan in the sandcrawler, or R2 on Count Dooku's ship. I'll try again next time.

Finished the night after a shower with The Last Waltz. This was the name of the final live concert of 60's-70's rock group The Band. The concert was bolstered by appearances by a star-studded line-up of classic rock, folk, and R&B favorites - Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, and Dr. John, among others. Martin Scorsese filmed the concerts and interviews with the group later. The incredible performances alone make this one of the great concert movies, despite complaints of the lack of focus on some members of the Band. Among the highlights - Waters' "Mannish Boy," The Band's "The Weight" and "Up on Cripple Creek," Young and Mitchell's "Helpless," and the two joining the Band for "Acadian Driftwood."

If you're any kind of fan of 60's-70's rock, folk, or blues, Scorsese, or any of the talent involved, this classic concert is an absolute must-see.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Music of Home

Began a really quick morning with Barbara Streisand's first Broadway-themed album and Buttermilk Pancakes for breakfast. While the pancakes were thin, they at least came out pretty well. Had them with half of a grapefruit.

Rushed out to work and got there just in time. Which was a good thing. We were busy for a lot of the day. Not only are we getting close to the beginning of the month, but the Sixers play the Celtics in the playoffs this week, the Kentucky Derby is next Saturday, and there's Cinco Del Mayo on Thursday, too. (Not to mention May Day and Star Wars Day for more minor holidays and events, and it's the height of spring high school varsity sports season.) I spent most of the first half of the day bagging and cleaning the bathrooms, though I did get stuck in the registers for a while. It slowed down enough for me to work on doing three full carts of returns during the second half.

Headed home after buying a bottle of Liquid Plumber. My tub has been running slow for a while now. After I cleaned that out, I worked on writing. Ahsoka leads Leia into the mountains to find her special crystal to make her own magic sword. As they head to the edge of the mountain, they also run into the little green man Leia had met on the road earlier. Ahsoka introduces him as Yoda, the oldest remaining Grand Master Jedi Knight.

Broke for dinner at 5:30. I made Turkey Meatloaf from a combination of a meatloaf recipe from the 1995 Southern Living cookbook and Archimedes's Meatloaf from The Mickey Mouse Cookbook. Even with uncooked oatmeal replacing the bread crumbs (which I don't have), it was still very crumbly. The broccoli and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake came out much better. (Though I did make a mess with the cake and splash it all over, including on me, when I turned it onto the pan.)

Ran a couple of movie soundtracks during dinner. Paint Your Wagon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips both came out in the late 1960's, when movie musicals were starting to falter at the box office. Paint Your Wagon, partially based after the 1952 Broadway show, is more problematic. Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin are supposed to be prospectors fighting over the same woman, but neither of them can sing a note. The one actor who can, Harve Presnell, gets the score's best song "They Call the Wind Mariah" and the ensemble number "There's a Coach Comin' In," but he really doesn't have much else to do. I do know some people who grew up in the 60's and 70's and really liked this movie and the score, so your mileage may vary on this one.

Goodbye Mr. Chips adapts a movie and novella, rather than Broadway. Peter O'Toole isn't bad as the shy title teacher, despite his lack of singing ability. Petula Clark is much better as the music hall performer he marries who finally brings him out of his shell and together with the kids. Most critics at the time also complained about it being moved from the early 1900's to the 1920's and 30's. By far the best thing is Leslie Bricusse's charming score, including the rousing "London Is London" for Clark and touching "What a Lot of Flowers" for O'Toole.

I hadn't had a good workout on Wii Sports for a while. I went right into a couple of rounds of boxing. Knocked out two guys in one round and one guy in two, then worked on baseball games. I've gotten much better at baseball; got my first bronze medal on the Home Run Derby mini-game. Posted my best-ever bowling score, too.

Moved on to Lego Star Wars next. Did a few more of the bounty hunter mini-rounds, mostly looking for Jedi, along with Commander Cody from Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith. I still can't find Qui-Gon Jinn or Mace Windu, and I had a hard time finding R2-D2 as well.

Ended the night by continuing the musical flops theme, this time with a stage show. Greenwillow was one of the big Broadway shows of 1960, but it barely made it three months that spring. Though Frank Loesser is usually associated with brassier shows like Guys and Dolls and Here's Love, here he attempted a genuine folk musical. The oldest son of the farming Briggs family has been cursed with a wanderlust that sends them packing and on the road, and leaves their womenfolk to fend for themselves. Oldest son Gideon (Anthony Perkins) is feeling that wanderlust, but he does really love his girl Dorrie (Ellen McCown). He turns to the kindly Reverend Birdsong (Cecil Kellaway) to help him break the curse. Meanwhile, Birdsong has a rival in a fire-and-brimstone priest who preaches sin while he speaks of redemption, Gideon's grandmother tries to get her former fiancee to give up a cow, and the family celebrates the birth of a calf.

This is a little too weird and whimsical for my taste...and evidently for a lot of other people, given that short run. It doesn't help that, once again, we have a lead who can't sing; Perkins lacks O'Toole's charisma and has little chemistry with McCown. (He was rehearsing Psycho at the same time as this show, which may explain a few things about his performance.) Some of the music isn't bad; "The Music of Home" and "Never Will I Marry" got some pop recordings at the time. I also liked "Summertime Love" and "Greenwillow Christmas." This is fun if you collect flop musicals, are looking for a show with a more down-home flavor, or are a fan of the cast or Loesser. Anyone else can pass on this one.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wedding in the Garden

Started off an absolutely gorgeous morning with breakfast and Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown. Snoopy meets the poodle of his dreams while guarding Peppermint Patty's house and wants to get married. He even invites his brother Spike from the desert to be his best man. While the kids prepare for the big day, Chuck wonders if his dog is ready for such a big responsibility.

Headed out shortly after the special ended. My first stop was the Logan Presbtyrian Church thrift shop in Audubon. I had a couple of bags of stuff I wanted to donate, including the Disney Princess toddler dolls. I'm trying to limit my collections to Star Wars, vintage dolls, 18-inch dolls, Sailor Moon, and teddy bears. That's more than enough right there! The Disney dolls were just taking up room on my bedroom floor. They'd be better off with little girls who can actually play with them.

Rode further down Atlantic Avenue and under King's Highway to Haddon Heights for their town-wide yard sale. Haddon Heights is the next town up from Audubon on the White Horse Pike side, and is largely even more affluent. I admired beautiful old houses and quite nice recent ones as I rode up and down the numerous hills. Didn't do nearly as well this week as I did last week, though. I just ended up with the bonus disc from the original Star Wars Original Trilogy DVD set that features the documentary Empire of Dreams, vintage Southern Living annual cookbooks from 1987 and 1995, and a pretzel and a lemonade from an enterprising young boy and his dad.

I was really more out for the ride, anyway. It was too nice to stay inside all morning. The sun was out, and it was blue and breezy and in the lower 70's, a little warm-ish for this time of year, but not outrageous. There were tons of people out and about. I dodged even more crowds this Saturday than I did in Audubon last week.

Headed back towards Oaklyn around noon. Stopped at WaWa for a snack and my favorite watermelon Perrier, then crossed the White Horse Pike to see if I could get a gift card for Jesse and Dana at Family Dollar. No luck there; I went further down and got a 25 dollar gift card for Bed Bath and Beyond at Dollar General.

It was 12:30 when I finally rolled in. Rose had apparently been calling me for almost an hour, but I'd muted my cell phone so it wouldn't annoy the guys downstairs and forgot to fix it. Rose's daughter Finley had a cold. They were still going to the wedding, but they now planned on staying in a hotel overnight instead of going right home. They'd take me there, but I'd have to find another ride back.

I had a quick lunch while running an episode of Remember WENN from the late second season. Betty almost becomes "The First Mrs. Bloom" when she discovers that Scott Sherwood has been making the sponsor of their bridal show think that they marry real couples on the air. Not only that, but the sponsor was once Mackie's fiancee, whom he left at the alter. Now they have to figure out how to say "I do" in a way that will make the sponsor happy and let them remain friends.

Switched to Happy Days as I got ready for the wedding. Other countries have their own marriage traditions, as Fonzie and the Cunninghams discover in the third season finale "Arnold's Wedding." Arnold is marrying a very traditional Japanese bride, but she's worried that she may hold back his career. Meanwhile, every time Fonzie was the best man, the marriage broke up - and now he fears it'll happen to Arnold, too. Richie and his parents have to calm everyone's nerves while figuring out how to let East meet West and prove to Fonzie that he's not jinxed.

Rose, her boyfriend Craig, and their children Khai and Finley picked me up around 2:15. I listened to my iPod and played with Finley, tickling her toes and letting her grab at my fingers. Khai focused on Super Mario Galaxy on his Nintendo Switch. His parents chatted and kept an eye on the road.

It was past 3 when we pulled into the parking lot at Home2Suites in Bordentown, NJ, about 15 minutes from the wedding venue. It was a modern, very recent three-story blocky building just off the highway. Rose and her crew had opted to get dressed at the hotel, rather than at home. We watched episodes of Team Umizoomi while Rose ironed her daughter's dress and Craig and Khai got into vests, ties, and pastel shirts. The room, like the hotel itself, was very modern, all clean lines and white and simple designs. Everything was white and beige, including the very soft comforters on the beds. There was a sink and an (empty) fridge and a rack of coffee and tea. Khai only cared that there was a pool downstairs.

We didn't get back in the car until almost 4. Khai kept messing with his sister and making her fussy, and we must have hit every red light in Bordentown and Hamilton Square. It took us a while to find where we were going, and then where to park. The Sayen House and Gardens had several other groups there that afternoon, including other weddings. By the time we'd hiked across several brick and dirt paths, the ceremony was half-over. We did get to see the "I do's," though, and the kiss. Joe and Jessa showed up right after us. Jodie gave them the wrong address - they ended up at some guy's house. (Mark and Vanessa were even later due to the address snafu.)

The wedding reception was held in the historic Sayen House. Apparently, according to the website for Hamilton Township, the Sayen House and Gardens were originally created by an avid horticulturalist in the 1910's and were now a popular spot for weddings. We had a buffet meal in the main house, including the bride and groom's first dance and the best man and maid of honor's emotional toasts. Dana looked gorgeous in her simple white lace sheath trimmed with pearls, with a pearl halter collar; Jesse was quite handsome in his tux. Jodie dressed to the nines in a navy evening gown! I'm glad I settled for the turquoise, white, and navy print skirt and white lace blouse. Everyone said I looked really nice.

After we all got our pictures taken in the gardens around the house, we settled in for dinner. The caterers provided plenty of food! Appetizers included bruschetta, a vegetable tray, and a cheese and pepperoni tray with crackers. The dinner menu had pasta with a wine-flavored cheese sauce, ham and pineapple, roasted red potatoes, Chicken Marsala, green beans, and a salad. I had everything but the ham and potatoes; I figured the rest was enough.

Jessa, Joe, and I strolled together in the park after dinner. Despite the heavy dark clouds rolling in, the park was really beautiful. I couldn't blame Khai and the other kids at the party for wanting to run outside and climb on rocks as soon as they finished eating. We walked around winding brick or dirt paths, past stunning flowering trees, beds of tulips and daffodils, and over charming wooden bridges. There was even a lovely little waterfall near the highway that we snapped photos of.

After hitting the bathrooms, we got back just in time for dessert. There was a very small cake, just big enough for the bride and groom to cut and feed each other slices. It was accompanied by chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet cupcakes, eclairs, canolli, chocolate and caramel mousse tarts, and frosted brownie bites. I had a brownie bite, a red velvet cupcake, and a canolli. Tried the cake, but I couldn't finish it. (It was a bit on the bland side anyway.) Rose and her family left right after dessert; Joe, Jessa, and I followed shortly after.

We left at exactly the right time. Less than ten minutes after we'd climbed into Joe's brand-new car that he'd gotten himself for his birthday, the clouds finally burst. It started to rain as we rolled onto the highway, blaring The Greatest Showman soundtrack on Joe's new car radio. The rain had stopped by the time we got into Oaklyn, but it started up again shortly after and has been off and on for the rest of the night.

Finished the evening after a much-needed shower with Betsy's Wedding. Contractor Eddie Hopper (Alan Alda) is determined to give his younger daughter Betsy (Molly Ringwauld) a lavish wedding, despite his family's shaky finances. Betsy, an unconventional artist, is dismayed with the traditional trappings and fancy dress her parents pick out and with her fiancee's rich and utterly conventional parents. Meanwhile, her father turns to his shady brother-in-law Oscar (Joe Pesci) to finance a loan scheme...but it gets them in hot water with loan sharks and other suspicious gangster-types. Oscar brings in a young man named Stevie Dee (Anthony LaPaglia) to make sure Eddie goes through with his part of the bargain...but Stevie has second thoughts when he falls for Eddie's policewoman daughter Connie (Ally Sheedy).

The last of four movies Alda directed in the 80's and early 90's would be a lot more fun if it actually focused more on Betsy and her wedding, rather than Eddie and his antics with gangsters and (heavily stereotyped) Italian loan sharks and con-men. The end with the wedding is actually a lot of fun...but getting there is a bit of a slog. Ok if you're a fan of the cast or sitcom-esque domestic comedies.

Friday, April 27, 2018

An Orchard of Love

It was still raining and gloomy when I got up this morning. After reading several short stories on Arbor Day in the Harvest of Holidays anthology book, I did It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown during breakfast. Sally's studying Arbor Day in school and talks Linus and the other kids into helping her plant trees and a garden for her project. Trouble is, they pick the worst possible spot to plant in - Charlie Brown's baseball field. Chuck's understandably upset, until it looks like the plants may actually help them win a game...

Worked on writing for the next few hours. Leia awakens in the cottage of Ahsoka Tano, a woman whom most of the City of the Clouds believes to be a witch. She's actually a former Jedi who trained under Anakin and Obi-Wan before she left the order due to an altercation with another member. Lando and Luke found her unconscious on the mountainside and brought her there. Kanan, Hera, and their family have taken refuge there as well. Ahsoka has stopped Leia's hand from bleeding and healed most of her external wounds, and Kanan is making the girl a new hand. Ahsoka knows that Leia needs to heal internally, too...and thinks the best way to do this would be to construct a new sword. Seems the mountain is full of the crystals the Jedi used for their blades. She just needs one that calls to her.

Broke a little early around quarter after noon. I went through things in the back, grabbing clothes to dump in the DARE boxes in back of the Acme and other things to bring to the church thrift shop tomorrow. After I brought those out, I had a quick muffin-and-yogurt lunch.

Ran two wedding-themed episodes of Get Smart as I worked and ate. Max thinks that "Diamonds are a Spy's Best Friend" when he goes shopping for a wedding ring for 99. Turns out the ring is part of a CHAOS plot to smuggle diamonds out of the US via the bald members of a bowling alley.

Max and 99 finally get married in "With Love and Twitches." Max meets up with a former CHAOS scientist who has him drink a formula that makes a map to a uranium mine appear on his chest. He can't sit down or scratch it for 48 hours, or it won't appear. He tries to explain to 99 and the Chief why he can't sit at his own wedding, but they think he's getting cold feet...until CHAOS agents grab Max, and he's almost late for the ceremony.

I headed off to work a little early to print out the payroll stubs I needed for my food stamp renewal application. It took me 20 minutes alone to find someone to help me print them out. In the end, one of the college students who work produce ended up helping me with it on the computer in the back lounge room.

Things didn't get much better from there. I spent almost an hour in the register, right before I went on break. We got insanely busy around rush hour, and we're still short on help. Thankfully, I spent the rest of the time after my break outside gathering carts and doing trash.

Not entirely happy with my schedule next week, either. While I'm back to having three days off (one of them for a dental appointment on Tuesday), I'm also back to an 8 and 1/2 hour day on Wednesday, and I lost hours. I'd rather keep the extra hours and keep them spread out.

Dodged more heavy traffic in the shopping center behind the Acme as I headed to the post office. Of course, it had been closed for an hour. I dumped the application in the mail box in the back of the building and hoped Camden County didn't mind it being a day or two late.

Cheered myself up with dinner at Sonic. It was a little chilly and damp by 6:30, though the rain was long gone at that point. I had a tasty grilled chicken sandwich with tater tots and my favorite cherry-limeade. I was the only one eating outside on a day that was still rather dark and gray.

Headed back to the Acme to get my grocery shopping done. Took advantage of coupons and sales to pick up Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, canned pineapple, buy-one-get-one-free eggs, Pillsbury cake mix, and a card for Dana and Jesse's wedding tomorrow. Restocked bananas, grapefruit, mandarin orange cups, cooking oil, ground turkey, and yogurt. Found a seasoned tilapia fillet and a lobster cake with manager's coupons.

I didn't roll in until almost 8. I never did get to working out tonight, but I did get to watch Father of the Bride. I have the original 1950 version of the tale of doting dad Stanley (Spencer Tracy) who, despite his reservations about the groom Buckley (Don Taylor), gives his daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) the most lavish ceremony and reception he possibly can. Of course, this involves having to remove almost every stick of furniture in his house to make the guests fit, hiring a snooty British wedding organizer (Leo G. Carroll) to see to the details, and even talking the bride back into the wedding when she almost calls it off when she and the groom fight over their honeymoon spot. In the end, Stanley finally realizes that his little girl is now a woman...and that growing up means making your own choices, for better or for worse.

If you're a fan of the cast or the sitcoms of the 50's and 60's, you may find a great deal to enjoy in this domestic charmer. Tracy was Oscar-nominated as the bemused father of the title; Elizabeth Taylor is equally good as the glowing bride. Director Vincent Minnelli keeps everything sparkling and fun. (The Steve Martin remake from the 90's is also really cute if you ever run into it on cable or online.)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hair Day Adventures

By the time I rolled out of bed around 8, last night's rain had been replaced by a glorious, sunny, windy spring day. I opened the windows, then enjoyed breakfast while watching two wedding-related Three Stooges shorts. They're "Three Dumb Clucks" who escape jail to rescue their father from a gold-digger. Pop just happens to look exactly like Curly without his sideburns, leading the boys to substitute him for their dad in the ceremony. Turns out the duplicitous dame is part of a gang who intends to toss Dad off a balcony and take his money...and do the same to them, if they don't fall down first!

Shemp is set to inherit money, but only if he becomes a "Brideless Groom" and gets married within a few hours. No one's interested in taking him up on the offer, until they learn about the money...and then every woman in town wants to become his wife!

First errand on the agenda was doing the laundry. Maybe I should have done it earlier than 10:30. They were really busy when I got there. I was lucky to get a washer. It had cleared out a little bit by the time my clothes went into the dryer. At any rate, I worked on story notes and half-listened to Rachel Ray and The View.

Put everything away when I got home, then made Mandarin Orange Honey Muffins from the Alton Brown Old School Muffins recipe for lunch. Did more Stooges short while I ate and baked. "Up In Daisy's Penthouse" is a Shemp-era remake of "Three Dumb Clucks." This time, Shemp plays Pop, the guys don't start out in jail, and they end up trying on their father's clothes instead of hats. The ending with the balcony remains the same, though...

Shemp also figured into "Corny Casanovas." The Stooges are thrilled that they've all gotten engaged. Turns out their fiancee is the same girl who is only interested in their rings, not them. They all fight over her, literally knocking each other out!

Headed out after lunch. My first stop was the Hair Cuttery in Collingswood. My hair very, very badly needed to be cut and styled. I put it off for almost a year again. I really need to stop doing that. My hair is long, thick, and curly, It frizzes badly, especially when it gets really long. I had Crystal again, the same nice blond lady from last year, and she once again did a great job taming my locks into a lovely shoulder-length head of curls. (I don't mind the silver strands that have been creeping in for a decade, either. Like I told Crystal, I earned every one of those silver hairs.)

After running into the Rite Aid next-door to grab creme for my curls, I headed off again, this time to the Haddon Township Library. Not only did they not have a lot going on, but they were conducting a survey, and I couldn't shelve anything anyway. I did check the DVDs to make sure they were organized and took a few out. This week's movies are Girls Trip (sounds like fun, and it got some excellent reviews last year), the late 80's comedy Betsy's Wedding, the classic 1976 concert documentary The Last Waltz, and the latest Scooby Doo direct-to-DVD movie, Scooby Doo Meets Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I also took out one of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, Fortune's Fool, and Be a Miracle, on doing the impossible.

Made another quick stop on the way home at WaWa for milk and a pretzel before heading home. I finally got around to ordering an updated modem earlier this week. It arrived today; I carried it inside before I left. Other than it's slightly lighter and has more buttons, it's pretty much the same thing as the old one and hooks up in the same way. I even got to name my network connection and set my own password this time.

Worked on writing for a while after I got the modem working. Leia attacks Palpatine the dragon angrily after he reveals that her father once worked for him before he chose his family over power. She's strong, but the dragon's stronger. He takes off her hand, and is about to knock her off the cliff when Han and Chewie burst in, riding on Falcon. Han shoots Palpatine with his mechanical bow. He gets him in his talon, but otherwise doesn't do much damage.

Palpatine grabs Han, seeing an opportunity to use him as a hostage. Boba Fett jumps on his back, and they take off into the starry night sky, the dragon still clutching the prince in his claws. Leia manages to tell Han that she loves him and get the famous "I know" reply before Palpatine puts him to sleep and she faints from pain and exhaustion.

It was almost 7 before I broke for dinner. Ended up having a tomato, cheese, and mushroom omelet while doing two animated shorts depicting what happens after the wedding. Olive Oyl dreams she finally marries Popeye in "Wimmin are a Mystery," but their four sons prove to be more than she could handle. (The kids were later switched to being Popeye's nephews and became regulars in the 40's and early 50's.) Donald has a similar nightmare in "Donald's Diary," this time about marrying Daisy. (And interestingly, his nephews do figure into it as her brothers.)

Played a few quick Wii Sports games after dinner. Baseball went very well. I ended up tying the computer 3-3. Got my best-ever bowling score, too. Lost the tennis match, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Sometimes the computer hits way too fast for me, and I still have problems aiming properly.

Finished out the night after a shower with Scooby Doo Meets Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This story, based around the same-named cartoon from the early 2010's, takes Mystery Inc to Gotham. Impressed with their skills on a previous test case, Batman may allow them to join his group the Mystery Analysts. They get the kids to choose a case to work on...which turns out to be Batman's only unsolved case, something he's a bit cagey about. The Mystery Analysts, including Plastic Man, Black Canary, and Martian Manhunter check out a chemical warehouse that's been burglarized. A mysterious man in a red cloak almost blows them and the chemicals to smithereens, claiming that Batman made him into a ghost and he's swearing revenge. It's assumed that he has something to do with that previous case Batman had trouble with. Questioning the Riddler doesn't help. Things get even worse when Batman and the kids are accused of being the ones who stole the chemicals, and the Mystery Analysts believe the cops. Now those meddling kids have to out-run super villains and heroes alike in order to clear their names and prove that they're as good as detectives as any cape-wearing crime-fighter in the Warners roster.

Uh...yeah. This was probably a bad idea for me. I'm a fan of Scooby, but I've never been into the Caped Crusader, and I never saw the show. All of this just seemed weird and a bit incomprehensible. Unless you're a big fan of Batman or The Brave and the Bold, I'd skip this one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Keep Calm and Make Movies

The rain from earlier in the morning was just ending by the time I rolled out of bed. Had breakfast while watching an episode of Wonder Woman on protecting the Earth, "Formicida." The third season had some pretty bizarre plots, but this one really takes the wooden cake. The title character is a scientist who has taken on the strength and stamina of ants. She kidnaps her own brother after he sells their pesticide formula to a major company. Problem is, it wasn't finished. If mixed with water and polluted air, it could turn deadly to animals and humans. When the head executive refuses to stop the production of the formula, she orders her ants to destroy his buildings. Wonder Woman has to show them that two wrongs don't make a right...and you can't save the Earth by harming others.

It was still showering a little bit when I headed to work. While I did do carts in the morning, before the afternoon baggers arrived, I spent most of the first half of my shift doing returns. I did get stuck in the register once before break...and of course, I had to deal with an obnoxious customer who made a fuss over not knowing where the right cheese for her WIC check was. She had the wrong one twice. By the time I returned from getting the right one, she'd already left.

The rest of the afternoon went far more pleasantly. I finally got to those two carts of candy. Spent a couple of hours shelving candy bars and Mentos. I'm pretty proud of myself. Not only did I manage to get both carts done, but I did it literally with no time to spare. Shortly after dumping the empty boxes in the baler, I was out the door and on my way home. The rain was long-gone by that time, too. The sun was in and out for the rest of the day, and it was warm and very humid for April.

The papers for the review for my food stamps were in the mail box when I arrived. To my shock, they're due on the 29th...which is a Sunday. I'm pretty sure the Camden County offices are likely closed on that day. Plus, I swear the case manager told me they were due by June, not within four days! I'll have to do it tomorrow, on top of everything else I have planned.

Calmed down with some writing. Leia challenges Palpatine to a duel. She's barely holding her own with the surprisingly nimble older man when she manages to get the table on him. Leia takes off with the others, sending Luke and Lando to retrieve the servants. She and Han get outside...just as a towering, fire-breathing black dragon smashes out of the dining hall window! Leia attacks the dragon while Han and Chewie rush to retrieve Falcon.

Palpatine, however, beats her back, finally getting her against the edge of the mountain. He sneeringly tells the girl that her beloved father had once worked for him, killing his political enemies, including children. Anakin turned away this life after he tries to stop Palpatine from murdering Sir Mace Windu, one of the Jedi Order's best knights, and Padme reveals that she's pregnant. He was banished from the kingdom after that, fleeing Palpatine's wrath with his wife and best friend. Leia's shocked, but he has no qualms telling her that he hopes she'll do what her father couldn't - work for him and be his right-hand.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had leftovers while watching an episode of Danger Mouse. "The Invasion of Colonel K" has Baron Von Greenback entering the slightly senile Colonel's mind and taking it over. He fires DM and Penfold, but Dr. Squawkencluck catches wind of his scheme and shrinks them as well. Now it's a race to the Colonel's mind to keep Greenback from accessing the highly sensitive information stored in his memories.

Did Wii Sports after dinner. Mostly focused on tennis this time around. While I'm not bad at hitting balls and I'm getting better at hitting targets, I still can't aim straight. I think the most I've gotten on the "Timing Your Swing" mini-game is 5. The actual game went better. Won the first three games; lost the second ones.

Moved on to Lego Star Wars after about a half-hour. Thanks to an online tutorial, I was finally able to get the last piece I needed for "Retake Theed Palace" and complete that round. Also did the first five bounty hunter missions. I was only able to complete three; I'll re-do the other two and play a few more another time.

Finished the night online with Their Finest. It's 1940 at a movie studio in war-torn London. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is hoping her new scenario, about two sisters who tried to take part in the Dunkirk evacuations, will allow her to make money for her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston) and stay in London. She and three other screenwriters, including Tom Buckley (Sam Clafin), are recruited to write the screenplay. As the movie goes on, they find themselves expanding the part of a drunk uncle for aging leading man Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) and tacking on an American character to appeal more to the US. The American character is played by a Norwegian-American pilot (Jake Lacy) who is useless with dialogue. Catrin develops a friendship and rivalry with Tom as the location shooting continues that eventually turns to love, to the consternation of her so-called husband. But the movie's having it's difficulties...and when tragedy strikes, Catrin will have to decide whether it's worthwhile to continue with the movie, or leave it behind.

Ok comedy-drama isn't sure what it wants to be, a romantic comedy or a moving tale of people dealing with the tragedies of war time, or both. Clafin and Arterton do come off well as the romantic leads, and Nighy's leading man-turned reluctant teacher nearly walks off with the movie. Not bad for fans of the time period, the cast, or British war history if you can find it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cold Day In the South

Cheered up a cloudy, gloomy morning with an episode of Rick Steves Europe. The episodes on Vienna are among my favorites. This is an elegant city of waltzes, Hapsburg jewels, fairy-tale palaces, and some of the most amazing apple strudel and chocolate tortes I've ever seen.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Lando takes Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie downstairs to the dining hall for a formal dinner. They're met there by Boba Fett, Chancellor Palpatine, and Palpatine's stormtroopers. Han tries to fire his arrows on Palpatine, but he brushes them off, then confiscates his mechanical bow. He also reveals that yes, he's the one who instigated the ambush on Han and tortured and cursed him to keep him away from the throne. He still intends to sell Han off to Sultan Jabba...after the Great Confluence. He also wants Leia and Luke to become his new apprentices.

Leia and Luke both refuse. Leia tries attacking Palpatine, but he throws her back. She finally challenges him to a duel, to the horror of her lover and her brother...

Broke for lunch at noon. Ran a couple of episodes of Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater while I Shrimp Pasta Salad. Since the release of Avengers: Infinity War this weekend more-or-less kicks off the summer movie season, I chose three shorts based around famous movies (and a book). Kitty is "K.T: The Kitty Terrestrial," who gets lost on Earth during a picnic with her family. Tuxedo Sam, My Melody, and Chip help her to phone home and avoid Scientists Catnip and Grinder. "The Wizard of Paws" has Hello Dorothy and her new friends the Tin Penguin, Cowardly Rabbit, and Chip the Scare-Seal heading down the Yellow Brick Road to defeat the evil Witchie Catnip. "Kitty and the Kong" has Captain Sam and his crew discovering a huge Grinder on a tropical island. Catnip brings him back to New York as a tourist attraction. Hello Kitty knows he doesn't belong in New York and helps him break loose.

Work was far easier today than yesterday. We were busy only once, around 3. I did get stuck in the registers for about 15 minutes around then. Otherwise, I spent the first half of my shift organizing the gift card kiosk and starting the candy and the second half gathering carts and baskets and doing outside trash. There were no major problems and a little more help than yesterday.

It was still cold, windy, and cloudy when I got off work. This was no day to linger. This time, I went straight home. Did an episode of The Backyardigans to cheer me up while I ate leftovers for dinner. When Tasha announces that she wants to play "High Tea," Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone complain that it'll be boring. Not the way Tasha does it! She takes them to the treetops of Borneo, the court of grumpy Chinese emperor Austin, and the geysers of the Gobi Desert, all in the search for the ingredients for the perfect cup of tea.

Played Wii Sports after dinner. Focused on baseball after doing the Fitness Test. I'm doing better at hitting home runs. I can get as many as four on some rounds, which is better than none. I can do good at the Batting Control...when I can aim the ball right. My best baseball mini-game is Batting Practice. I can hit the short, fast balls when I really get in the rhythm. I got my second silver medal on this game with a different character. Also did a pretty decent round of bowling.

Lego Star Wars went less well. I still couldn't get to that final piece on "Retake Theed Palace." In good news, though, adding in the 8X extra gave me more than enough studs to buy the final extra, the 10X brick, with plenty leftover. (And I just looked up that last piece - you have to walk around the wall to get it, not jump up to it. I'll try again next time.)

Finished the night online with This Property Is Condemned. Willie Starr (Mary Badham) explains to a guy friend why she lives alone and is wearing her older sister's clothes. During the Great Depression, her mother Hazel Starr (Kate Reid) used to run the boarding house where many of the men who worked on the railroad lived. Her beautiful sister Alva (Natalie Wood) flirted with all them, hoping to eventually find a way to get out of the small Mississippi town. Though her mother intends her for wealthy older railroad worker Johnson (John Harding), she falls for handsome Owen Legate (Robert Redford) of New Orleans. Legate is there on official railroad business. Thanks to the Depression, the railroad has fallen on hard times, and he's there to lay off most of the workers. Alva doesn't care what he does, as long as he gets her out of town. Her mother is shocked that she would throw away a rich man. Her sister just wants to hear about more of her non-existent adventures. Alva has to decide if she wants wealth, or to follow her dreams...and what she does will prove to have tragic consequences for her and for her family.

Overheated Tennessee Williams melodrama livened by Sydney Pollack's direction and great performances from all three ladies (including Badham as the inquisitive, smart kid sister). To be honest, this kind of slow-moving soap opera isn't really my thing, but if' you're more into sexy southern melodrama or the cast than I am, you may find much to enjoy in this potboiler.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sunny Spring Days

Awoke to an absolutely amazing spring morning, blue, sunny, and breezy. I opened the windows and let my apartment air out, then had breakfast. Ran more Sailor Moon as I ate. Usagi is upset when she's not invited to a ball and her best friend Naru is. She's hoping for "Romance Under the Moon: Usagi's First Kiss." Luna wants to find out if the princess holding the ball and her treasure are the Moon Princess and Silver Crystal they've been looking for. They're not the only ones after the princess. Nephrite wants her and the crystal, and will do anything to get them, including use a besotted Naru to attack the princess.

Devoted the rest of the morning and early afternoon to writing. Lando is the perfect host for Leia, Han, and when he's human, Luke, showing them around La Ville Du Nueve (City of the Clouds) and giving them the finest suites in his sprawling estate Chateau Bon Chance. Leia and Luke both suspect there's something not quite right under Lando's smiling facade, and they discover that they may be right when Luke and Artello find Cyril, who had been beaten to a pulp and left for dead in a scrap pile, near the pig pen.

Broke for lunch around noon. Rei and Usagi are hoping to enter a wedding dress sewing contest in "A Girl's Dream: Usagi Becomes a Bride," but neither are especially good at sewing. Their home economics teacher Ms. Furikawa is - she's hoping to win a lavish wedding reception for her own ceremony. When Nephrite attacks her via a piece of silk she uses to make her dress, Usagi uses the Luna Pen to enter the contest.

Work was an absolute pain today. It wasn't too bad when I arrived at 1...but by 3:30, we had long lines and no one to work them. We're painfully short on help up front right now. There's at least five cashiers and managers on leave, two more on vacation, and another man called out sick. I tried to shelve loose items and work on the gift card mall; didn't get far on either. They kept throwing me into cashiering, and I kept panicking. I wasn't prepared to deal with dozens of people at one time!

Maybe it's just as well that I spent the last hour and a half outside doing carts. It was too nice to be inside anyway. It was in the upper-60's, closer to what it should be this time of year. A stiff breeze kept the heat from getting too bad.

And of course, after I finished, I headed out...only to turn back around again. I badly needed toilet paper. I just ran out this morning.

Had dinner as soon as I got home and changed. Switched to Jack of All Trades in honor of midget actor Verne Troyer, who died yesterday. He played one of the funniest Napoleons on record in several episodes of the swashbuckler satire. He's a "Raging Bully" who swindles James Madison out of Louisiana. The Daring Dragoon challenges him to a card game to get it back. It's "One Wedding and an Execution" when British spy Emilia agrees to marry him to keep France from invading England. Jack and Napoleon's brother Governor Croque come up with a plan to sabotage the wedding.

Did some quick Wii Sports after dinner. I was worn out from all the trouble at work and didn't do as well as usual. Tennis in particular was a problem. I just couldn't get the balls going. Did a little bit better with golf and bowling.

Finished the night after a shower with the 1935 operetta Naughty Marietta. Princess Marie (Jeanette MacDonald) flees France masquerading as a bride for the homesteaders in the New World. She's trying to avoid a dull suitor from Spain and is in the hunt for someone more manly...someone like Captain Dick Warrington (Nelson Eddy), the head of the squadron that rescues her and the other brides from pirates. Warrington isn't interested in a permanent relationship, until she reveals to the Govenor (Frank Morgan) and his wife (Elsa Lanchester) that she's not as innocent as she looks. Now Warrington's ready to pursue her...until her uncle (Douglass Dumbrille) comes to take her back to France...

The first of the MacDonald-Eddy vehicles is also my favorite of theirs along with Maytime. Eddy's stiff as a board in his first major role; MacDonald comes off much better as the spirited princess who is determined to find love her way. If you love operettas, the cast, or swashbuckling romances, this isn't nearly as corny as you might have heard and is worth checking out.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Going Green

I awoke to the nicest day we've had in ages, sunny and warm. Made Chocolate Chip Pancakes for breakfast with a grapefruit slice. They ended up being a little too thin and got a hole in the first one, but they tasted all right. Celebrated Earth Day and Mother Nature's better mood with a couple of cartoons about environmental concerns.

The Lorax is a little orange fellow who speaks for the Truffula trees. The Onceler and his family have been chopping down the trees as fast as possible to make the faddish Thneeds...but while the factory employs his family and others and supports a town, it's also destroying the land around it and sending animals fleeing. When the last tree is cut down, the Lorax and the Onceler learn a terrible lesson about the damage unchecked "progress" can do.

The Sailor Guardians have their own problems with nature in "Usagi's Panic: Rei's First Date." Usagi is jealous that Rei is on a date with a bemused Mamoru, so she grabs nerdy Umino and follows them to a local park. Ami's also at the park, checking in with a gardener in the park who is a friend of hers. She's worried about his strange behavior ever since it was announced that the park was closing to build an office complex. Turns out she had every right to be concerned. Nephrite is not only controlling the man's energy, but that of every animal in the park, too...and he orders them to attack anyone who might abuse nature

Work was busy for most of the day, not surprising for a Sunday. I spent most of the first half of my shift doing carts and most of the second half bagging. Managed to gather baskets and squeeze in mopping the bathrooms right after break, before it got very busy again. The day went by quickly, and there were no major problems.

It was too nice of a day to rush straight home. I took the long way back to Oaklyn down Nicholson Road, dodging Sunday drivers and other bikers. As soon as I got in, I changed and went right back out for a walk. I thought I saw a line for the ice cream shop on West Clinton, but nope, it wasn't open yet. It was a table filled with plants and saplings being sold in front of The Square Meal. I strolled down West Clinton and back around to Goff instead. It's really spring now. The trees are all in bloom, clouds of pale green and snowy white and cherry pink and soft lavender. Bold, spicy-scented tulips have largely replaced early daffodils in gardens. The sun felt nice and warm on my back, though a stiff, chilly wind remained.

Worked on writing for the next couple of hours. Leia, Han, and the servants Cyril and Artello ride into Chateau Bonne Chance, a sprawling manor house on a hill overlooking the City of the Clouds, a few days later. They're greeted by Duke Lando Calarissian, an old friend of Han's, and one of the few who knows his true identity. He seems guarded at first, then suddenly turns friendly, flirting with Leia and reminiscing about old times with Han. Leia and Luke, remembering Yoda's warning, are less trusting. Cyril's worried too...especially after he runs across Palpatine's men in another part of the house...

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Had leftover ham and the last of the cabbage while watching an earlier Tiny Toon Adventures episode. "Pollution Solution" has three shorts revolving around different aspects of saving our Earth. "No Deposit, No Return of the Trash Bag Dispenser" brings in Plucky to show Elmyra how to recycle her mud pie cans. It's a "Jungle Bungle" when Buster and Babs have to stop a selfish executive from destroying the rain forest to build a huge front yard. Go-Go finds himself "Waste Deep In Wackyland" when Montana Max uses his home as a dump for his new factory.

Went right into Wii Sports as soon as the episode was over. Focused entirely on tennis tonight. I did win my actual game, though not after a few nail-biting moments! Didn't do as well at the mini-games. I'm still having a hard time with aiming straight, especially on the "Timing Your Swing" game. I just can't get it through the target more than once, maybe twice at the most.

Played some Lego Star Wars next. I was finally able to finish the New Hope bonus round with Darth Vader. Attempted "Jedi Destiny," but just could not get around those light-up circles fast enough to get the last piece. Played "Discovery On Kamino" just to get enough extra studs to buy the 8X extra.

Finished the night with Twister, another story about respecting Mother Nature. After witnessing the death of her father in a tornado as a child, Jo Thornton (Helen Hunt) grows up to become a storm chaser, a meteorologist who tracks and measures tornadoes. She shows off her newest computer, the DOROTHY research units, to her estranged husband Bill Harding (Bill Paxton). He's come over to get her to sign the divorce papers, and has even brought his fiancee Melissa (Jami Gertz). He ends up helping her chase down a storm to get the better of Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), a corporate-funded scientist who has developed his own advanced research unit. As the two continue to go after storms, with the help of Dusty Davis (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and other members of Jo's team, Melissa begins to realize that the two have a lot more feelings for each other than just their shared fondness for "twisters"...

I ended up surprisingly enjoying this. Critics were really harsh on this at the time, panning the generic writing and some shrill performances, but I thought it was fun. Those "twisters" are amazing to this very day - the sound and special effects got deserved Oscar nominations. (Look for the flying cows!) Hunt and Paxton weren't bad as the lovers, and Elwes was pretty decent playing against-type as the villain, but my favorite character was Lois Smith as tough-as-nails Aunt Meg (whose gravy is apparently considered to be a fifth food group among Jo and her team).

Linda Young and I aren't the only ones who loved this movie. It was the second-biggest hit of 1996, trailing only Independence Day at the box office that year, and spawned a ride at Universal Studios Florida that was around for almost 20 years. If you're a fan of the cast or disaster films, it's absolutely worth seeing and is highly recommended.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Yard Sales Up to Eleven

Began an absolutely gorgeous spring morning with corn meal mush and a half of a grapefruit. Ran an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre while I ate and got organized. "The Emperor's New Clothes" brings a pair of con-men to the court of a vain ruler. He only cares about his clothes, so much that he taxes his people to finance his outrageous wardrobe and spent so much on his army's uniform, he can only afford one man. The hucksters take advantage of the emperor and court's vanity, claiming that they have created an invisible cloth that only wise men can see. Naturally, no one in the court, including the emperor, wants to appear to be a fool. But you know what they say about "out of the mouths of babes.."

Headed out around 9:30 and spent the next three hours riding around Audubon, checking out the first town-wide yard sales of the season. My first stop was at a house on one of the side streets between Nicholson Road and Market Street. I found How to Train Your Dragon 2 on DVD (which I've been wanting to get for a while - I do have the first one) among kids' DVDs, a book of meditations for women, and dug an orange and brown floral owl holding a felt book out of a small pile of collectible stuffed animals. Evidently, Starbucks put out stuffed animals in the late 2000's, including my little fellow. His fabric is orange and brown flowers; between his colors and the book, he might be nice for fall and back-to-school.

My other major find on the White Horse Pike side of Audubon was a sale with at least six boxes of records. It took some digging, but I came up with:

Diana Ross - Diana Ross

Billy Joel - Songs from the Attic

By 11 AM, the White Horse Pike side of Audubon was a mess. I dodged tons of cars looking for sales on back roads that were never intended for heavy traffic. After I saw a woman on a bike scream at one of the cars for cutting her off and nearly running her over, I decided it was time to find another, quieter part of town. I headed down Pine to the other side of Audubon, stopping at the WaWa on the White Horse Pike to get a soft pretzel and a watermelon Perrier.

While the Cuthbert Road side of Audubon was still fairly busy, it wasn't as bad as the other side of town. One yard sale had a box of really interesting DVDs. I ended up with This Is Spinal Tap.

As I was leaving, I saw a red head peeking out of a box of stuffed animals. I pulled out an 18-inch doll - not American Girl, but Target's version, Our Generation. While the doll had the same dour and dull face as most OG dolls, it was livened by waist-length hair the color of flame done in a few little braids around her head (like AG's Julie) and stunning turquoise eyes. She wore a blue Swiss-lace dress, a narrow double "leather" belt, and a crocheted vest. Between her slightly hippie-ish looks and her hair and eyes making her resemble a certain Disney mermaid, I named her Ariel Cassandra Wilson. I was surprised at how good of shape she was in. Her Rapunzel hair was badly tangled, but her limbs were tight, and I suspected her clothes were her original ones.)

(Online research at Target and Google this evening revealed that she's an older version of the current Hair Play Peyton doll. Evidently, she has a knob in the back of her head that can be used to pull in the braids until they're the length you desire. I'll take a better look at her head tomorrow. Oh, and she's staying Ariel Cassandra. I'm not really big on "Peyton.")

I rode around for another hour after I found Ariel, but the only other thing I picked up was a new American Girl brush. The old one I picked up from AG in 2014 had thin bristles and kept falling apart every time I tried to brush the dolls' hair. This one must be slightly older - it has stiffer bristles and had no trouble with most of the snarls in Ariel's bright orange mane.

Since I was on that side of Cuthbert Road anyway, I stopped at Friendly's for lunch. Needless to say, given it was around 12:30, they were packed. I managed to get a small booth right in front. Had an apple chicken salad for the lunch combo meal, with chocolate ice cream drenched in strawberry syrup and a mountain of whipped topping for dessert.

Headed home after that. I initially went back out to bring Khai his birthday present. No one seemed to be home but the dogs by 2, so I just went back to my place. Called Rose - she'd gone out to run errands, but she did invite me to a ham dinner later.

Worked on writing for a few hours. Leia manages to evade the stormtroopers by leading them into a pond, but she ends up lost in the woods again. Yoda puts in another appearance on a branch overhead, this time warning her away from Bespin and that its charming host may not have their best intentions in mind. Leia agrees, but they really have nowhere else to go. Yoda helps her and Luke lift a tree that's blocking their path and returns them to Han, Cyril and Artello.

Rose had dinner ready around 5. We had a huge ham with brown sugar glaze, cranberry sauce, and pineapple. Khai also had carrots, which he loves. We were originally going to have asparagus as well, but Rose said they were too sandy and tossed them. Little Finley watched her mother work in her high chair while she ate blueberry puffs. She's getting so big! She watched me the whole time we were at the dinner table. Maybe she's not used to my glasses.

(Incidentally, it sounds like Rose is going to pick me up for the wedding around 3 next Saturday. Good. That will give me time to get stuff done, including checking out Haddon Heights' town-wide yard sale.)

I kept an eye on Khai for a half-hour while Rose took Finley to go get milk from WaWa. We played with his Megablocks (sturdy, thick transulcent plastic with magnets on the side to make them fit together easily) and he played with his Pokemon figures, including his new Raichu. Khai put on a couple of episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which apparently his sister loves. We did their version of A Christmas Carol, "A Hearth's Warming Tale" as well as an episode where Rarity's new clothes shop in Manehattan opens...and her friends are worried that they may have caused a journalist to give her a bad review.

After I got home, I played Wii Sports for a little while. Mainly focused on baseball, golf, and tennis. I'm getting somewhat better at hitting home runs, which means I can actually hit two, maybe three home runs on occasion. I'm better at hitting short, quick throws.

 Finished out the night with more Lego Star Wars. Completed the remaining character and minikit challenges. The only one I didn't get in under 5 minutes was Bespin - and I got that one the second time. I got some of the minikit challenges in under a minute! Started the bounty hunter challenge, but that didn't go as well. I'll try that again another time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Let Them Eat Banana Cake

Began a sunny spring morning with baking a cake. I had three bananas that were a little too ripe, so I mashed them and made Banana Cake from Kit's Cooking Studio. Experimented with halving the recipe to make one layer instead of two. I really don't need a two-layer cake! Yuuumm. It came out beautifully, perfectly moist and sweet, and it smelled amazing baking. I added nutmeg and cinnamon for even more flavor.

Watched Yogi's Great Escape while baking. Yogi, Boo Boo, and three perpetually hungry cubs go on the run after Ranger Smith reveals that Jellystone Park is being closed and they're all going to be shipped off to the zoo. The bears take off across the US in Yogi's cobbled-together vehicle. Stops on their journey include a small town in the west where Quick Draw McGraw mistakes them for outlaws, a treehouse in the woods where the local kids see them and think they're aliens, and a spooky abandoned paddle wheeler in the bayou, the home of Wally Gator. Ranger Smith's hot on their tale, with the dubious assistance of a none-too-bright tracker and his hound. The bears have their own aid in the form of groups of kids across the country who are their biggest fans.

Headed out as soon as the cake was out of the oven. First stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library. It was just me, the librarian, and one other guy sitting at a table reading. I took a quick look at the DVDs and shelved a few kids' books and left.

Nicholson Road is closer to the Library than the Black Horse Pike, so I took that way to the Acme, dodging rush hour traffic. Wanted to get my grocery shopping done today, so I can focus on Audubon's town-wide yard sale tomorrow. Found a container of cooked shrimp on sale; grabbed asparagus and cherry tomatoes and decided to have Shrimp Pasta Salad for dinner. Restocked skim milk, yogurt, tea (had a coupon for Lipton; went with English breakfast tea), grapefruit, jam, bananas, sponges, butter, and brown sugar.

My schedule next week is probably the best I've had in weeks, if not in months. Not only do I keep the increased hours from this week, but they're finally more spread out - no 7 or 8-hour days. I do wish my first day off after tomorrow wasn't Thursday, but I have that and next Saturday off (the latter for Dana and Jesse's wedding).

Put everything away after I got home, then had a quick lunch while watching Rick Steves. The French Riviera is one of the most impossibly beautiful - and impossibly glamorous - spots on Earth. While large cities like Nice and Cannes may have the celebrities and tiny Monaco has the casino and expensive living, I most liked the smaller, laid-back fishing towns. This is where artists like Pablo Picasso did some of their best work while enjoying bouillabaisse and commanding views of the Mediterranean.

As soon as the episode ended, I went back out. Took the bike across Newton Lake Park, just enjoying the sunshine. While the wind was still chilly, the sun felt warm on my back. The park was busy with runners from the high school, other bikers, parents taking their kids for a stroll, fisher-folks, and people just out for a walk on a beautiful day. The park is looking more and more springlike every day. The banks of the lake are a carpet of buttercups, scattered like little yellow jewels across green velvet. Delicate buds frame the black wire trees; the bottle-green lake sparkled against the warm sunshine.

It was late when I arrived at the Haddon Township Library, past 3:30. Most of the kids were out of school by then, which meant they were a lot busier than Oaklyn had been. Despite that, there wasn't much for me to do. I looked for items to be put on hold and shelved audio books, CDs, and the few DVDs.

Took out a few items quickly before the library closed at 5. Returned to the 60's for the romantic melodrama This Property Is Condemned, with Natalie Wood and Robert Redford. Their Finest is about a British movie studio in the 40's that hopes to make a major epic that will convince Hollywood to join the war effort. I don't normally do romantic comedies, but that at least sounds like it'll be unique. Twister was one of a wave of disaster movies that came out in the 90's. I never got around to seeing it then; after having enjoyed The Poseidon Adventure and (to a lesser degree) Earthquake, I thought I'd try this one. Also grabbed a Reader's Digest book on saving money.

Peeked at Rite Aid and Family Dollar on the way home, looking for something. Couldn't find it in either place and just hurried home, dodging rush-hour traffic. Did some writing when I got in. Maz shoos Han and Leia out as soon as they're done breakfast. Palpatine is still looking for them. Han flirts with Leia, ultimately ending with them kissing in the back door of Maz's kitchen. The sounds of stormtroopers crashing through the main tavern is enough to send them on their way and back on the main road.

Broke at quarter of 7 to make that Shrimp-Pasta Salad. Steamed asparagus and broccoli; added it to tri-color spiral pasta and cooked shrimp with off-price Old Bay. Tossed it in olive oil, apple cider vinegar, more Old Bay, and Parmesan cheese. Oooh, that was a good idea. It was a nice, savory melding of spring flavors. When I finished dinner, I whipped up a dark chocolate buttercream frosting for the banana cake.

Watched two episodes of Get Smart as I worked and ate. "The Greatest Spy on Earth" takes Max and 99 to a circus that CONTROL suspects is the front for a diamond smuggling operation. They pose as reporters to figure who is in charge of the operation and killed the midget who was going to go to them with information - the circus owner, the strongman, the half-man-half-woman, or the knife thrower. "Bronzefinger" is an art forger who has been stealing priceless art works and replacing it with his own copies. Max and 99 go undercover as an art restorer and museum guide to figure out who Bronzefinger is and what he's done with the missing art works.

Finished the night on the Wii. I'm getting much better at some of the games on Wii Sports. Won my tennis match, got a silver medal in returning balls in tennis and hitting fast balls in baseball and a bronze at controlling the ball in baseball. I've gotten better at hitting home runs, too - I can actually hit home runs.

My second go-around on Lego Star Wars is winding down. Tried something different tonight and did the bonus mini-games that involve rounding up studs. Each round has two mini-games, one character-based, one based around the minikit vehicles you built with all those pieces. The Kashyyak flying round on Revenge of the Sith was so easy, I did it in well under a minute. Got Mufasar in a little over two minutes. Had a harder time with Attack of the Clones. I had to do the Geonosis character round three times before I got it under five minutes (more like two and a half). Just barely got the Coruscant flying round under five.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Winds of Spring

Started off the morning with a quick breakfast and the Tiny Toons episode "New Class Day." In "The Just-Us League of Superheroes," Super Buster, Wonder Babs, Aqua-Byron, Beeper Flash, Pink Canary (Sweetie), Scentanna (Fifi), and Calamity Arrow invite Batduck (Plucky) and Decoy (Hamton) to join their group, then turn them away when it's revealed they have no superpowers. They regret it when they're attacked by Wex Wuthor (Montana Max) and the duck and pig are the only ones who can save the day. "Sound Off" spoofs Out of the Inkwell and other silent and early sound shorts. Buster and Babs are enjoying a picnic, until Dizzy spins through and ruins it. They find a (dialogue-free) way of getting even. Babs is Groucho, Buster is Chico, Hamton is Zeppo, and Gogo is Harpo in "A Night in Kokomo." They have to help Mrs. Rittenhouse get the money to save her hotel to Mr. Mayonnaise in time.

(This was by far my favorite episode on this set. "Sound Off" in particular was very well done. Someone at Warners did their homework - the cartoon does look very much like the silent Felix the Cat and Out of the Inkwell shorts. "A Night at Kokomo" was pretty accurate, too. Babs was born to play Groucho. And "League of Superheroes" may actually be more relevant now than it was in 1992. In the early 90's, the joke was Batman and Robin were by far the most famous of pretty much any of those characters except for Superman and maybe Wonder Woman, and they were still rejected. Now, almost every one of those characters has appeared in at least one major movie or TV show.)

Camden County called me for an interview about renewing my food stamps around 10:30. Basically, it was the same thing and the same questions as last time. They're going to send me another packet that I'll have to get off to them. I don't know how I'm going to get those pay stubs, though. I direct deposit my paychecks.

Worked on a little bit of writing. Han tells Leia that his friend Lando might be able to help get them back to Coruscant unseen. He's living in a mining town in Bespin that isn't friendly to Palpatine and his monsters. Maz reminds him that Lando may not be speaking to him after having lost his horse Falcon to him in a rigged poker game. Han waves this off, claiming he'd probably have forgotten about it by now.

Finally broke after messing around with the computer for an hour at noon. Despite the showers and blustery, cold wind, I had laundry to do. I got in just in time, and not only to avoid the weather. It wasn't too bad when I dropped my load in the washer. By the time I was pulling them out of the dryer, the place was packed. I half-listened to the news and worked on story notes.

There was an Amazon box waiting for me when I got home. Lauren's birthday present to me was a box of healthy snacks - whole wheat fig bars, fruit bars, granola bars, the Kind nut bars. Yum! That was literally very sweet of her. I was especially happy with the fig bars. The Acme used to sell the Nature's Bakery whole-wheat fig bars, but they've disappeared since the remodeling, and I haven't seen them anywhere else. 

After I put the laundry away, I considered calling it a day. While the rain showers weren't heavy, it was windy and still fairly cold for this time of year, 51 according to the digital marquee at Oaklyn's City Hall. I finally compromised and did a few small things. Had lunch at Phillies Phatties. They were surprisingly busy for 2 PM on a rainy Thursday, with another person having lunch and others coming in to order food. I had a slice of cheese pizza, a slice of broccoli, and a can of Pepsi Cherry Vanilla while watching ESPN discuss the NFL Draft next week. 

Dodged road work on the corner of Manor and West Clinton as I headed up to the White Horse Pike. I needed a few things at Dollar General, notably cooking spray (theirs is much cheaper than the Acme's), underwear, a card for Khai's 8th birthday today, and applesauce cups. They were also busy; thankfully, the line went fast.

Did a little bit more writing when I got home, then had leftovers for dinner while watching the remaining Toons episodes. "Fox Trot" has Babs and Buster being chased by two foxes they claim are "Fox Network executives." (The show moved from syndication to the then-new Fox Network for its third and final season.) Plucky thinks a tape of loud bagpipe music is "My Brilliant Revenge" for Hamton destroying his bagpipes. Hamton has a better way of handling their feud. Elmyra learns that you "Can't Buy Me Love" when her spoiled new neighbor demands her way in everything, or she won't be Elmyra's friend. But even Elmyra has her limits, and she finally turns the girl away when she demands that she give up Furball. Steven Spielburg is on the "Phone Call from the 405." He wants Babs and Buster to do their scenes with the foxes over and over. Babs and Buster finally pull him into the scene.

Got Khai's birthday present and card together and called Rose to ask her when to bring it over (she said Saturday) as the last episode on the set finished out. Buster and Calamity goes back in time to find out "What Makes Toons Tick." Dizzy has a literal "Whirlwind Romance" when he falls in love with a whirlwind that he thinks is a fellow Tasmanian Devil. "Going Up" is another adventure with toddler Plucky Duck, this time in an elevator. A monster who normally lurks in closets learns that going up against Lil' Sneezer is "Nothing to Sneeze At."

Incidentally, while this was probably my least-favorite of the four Tiny Toons sets, there's still some fun episodes to be found here. My favorites were "Toon Physics," "Acme Cable TV," "Love Disconnection," "Kon-Ducki," and "New Class Day." If you're a fan of this show, go ahead and get the entire series. There's only three seasons spread out over four sets anyway, and you can probably find all four sets for as little as ten dollars each in some stores. (My copy of Volume 3 was $9.99 at Rite Aid.)

Spent a lot of time working on Wii Sports after dinner, since I didn't really do much walking or moving around today. KO'd at least four guys in boxing, although the last took me two rounds. I also did much better at tennis, losing one set and winning another, got my best-ever bowling score, and didn't do too badly at beginner golf. Worked on a few mini-games later. I'm really getting the hang of hitting balls in tennis, to the point where I got a silver medal in that with a different character.

Switched to Lego Star Wars after about an hour. I finally found the red brick in the Pod Race round...which turned out to be the extra that helps you find the red bricks. I used it to find the few remaining red bricks I didn't have, including the 4X extra. Attempted to find the blue pieces in "Escape From Echo Base" and to do the Bespin stud-gathering extra; didn't do especially well in either.

Finished the night after a shower with Hot Shots! Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is called back to the Navy to help with a top secret mission. He immediately gets into a feud with a stuck-up fellow pilot (Cary Elwes) and is sent to the base psychologist (Valeria Golino) to deal with his father having flown in a mission that went wrong. After he's late for a flight and his wingman Dead Meat (William O'Leary) dies, he's almost thrown out, but the eccentric and slightly senile Admiral Benson (Lloyd Bridges) insists he lead the mission. Now Topper has to overcome his fears that he'll end up just like his father, save the free world, get the girl, and figure out who on the base is trying to sabotage the Navy's planes. 

While this is mainly a spoof of Top Gun, references range from Ghost to Dances With Wolves. Sheen, Golino, and Elwes are funny as the main trio, but it's Lloyd Bridges as the cheerfully impenetrable (seriously, nothing can penetrate him - he's had a part replaced in every major war) Tug Benson who really makes the movie, along with some decent gags. Also look for Jon Cryer as a sight-challenged pilot, Kristy Swanson as the only female pilot, and Bill Irwin as Topper's dad in the opening segment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tiny Toons, Big Adventures

I was glad to see a much nicer, sunnier day when I woke up this morning. Continued with Tiny Toons as I made corn meal mush and a mandarin orange cup for breakfast. It's a "Love Disconnection" when the Toons' dates don't go as expected. Montana Max is less than thrilled with "My Dinner With Elmyra." She handles Monty better than you might think, given her low IQ. Fifi, Babs, and Shirley think they're "The Amazing Three" when they go to Perfecto Prep's spring dance to meet more sophisticated guys. Not only are they too snobbish for the girls, but when one dumps a bowl of fruit punch on Shirley, it sets of a psychic reaction that parodies "Carrie"...and gives the girls a better appreciation for their own guys.

Next on the agenda was making a few phone calls. Dad was first. Didn't get him, but I left a message telling him about the changed vacation times. Lauren's still coming and going at the same time, just different dates. Also moved my counseling appointment to 2 PM on May 16, which is now the first day of my vacation.

While I was doing chores, Plucky Duck was going on a nautical adventure in "The Voyage of the Kon-Ducki." This spoof of the real-life 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition and Oscar-winning 1950 documentary has Plucky and his native servants Hamton and Sweetie building a raft from spare parts. Plucky wants to prove that his ancestors sailed across the ocean in the 1970's, but storms at sea and his constantly changing leadership may make the voyage harder than he thinks. "The Making of Kon-Ducki" pokes fun at "making of" featurettes.

Moved on to "Sepulveda Boulevard" as I got ready for work. The second episode to make fun of a 50's movie in a row turns Sunset Boulevard into the tale of a fading cartoon star (Elmyra) who hires an out-of-work screenwriter (Montana Max) to whip her comeback into shape. Monty doesn't care if she comes back or not...but he does care about getting credit and passes off her work as his. However, her director-turned-butler (an unusually chilling Hamton) is onto him, and another opportunistic writer (Plucky) is determined to steal his script. She thinks a big-time director wants to film her movie...but he's really only interested in Furball.

(Incidentally, this is one of the strangest episodes the show ever did...and given some of the bizarre plots that turned up in the second season, that's saying a lot. The movie was already weird to begin with. For all the gags and the changed ending, it's actually kind of mature for this show. This is also the only episode of the series to not feature Buster or Babs, except for a brief glimpse of Babs on a billboard.)

Headed off to work the moment the episode ended. Work was...really dead for almost the entire day. There was barely any trash or cleaning to do. I mopped the bathrooms several times, shelved the few returns, and gathered baskets or carts. It was a gorgeous day, sunny, bright, and still windy but not nearly as cold as it has been the past few days. It's also the middle of the week and the middle of a month that doesn't have a lot going on besides sports playoffs and Earth Day.

The only major event the entire day was a visit from two more preschool classes. I saw the head bagger show the kids how our baler (the machine that crushes boxes) worked. Their little faces were so amazed! She took them through our lounge area and they compared it to their own cafeteria.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. I wasn't the only one who went out to enjoy the weather. I dodged a lot of traffic, even as I made my way down Atlantic Avenue to Manor.

Had an early dinner when I got in. Did more Toons while I ate leftovers. Two crooks are saying "Take Elmyra, Please" in the second season finale when they kidnap her to get the formula for a new fuel her father created. She drives them crazy by putting on her own "TV show." (Incidentally, this is the only episode where we get to meet Elmyra's full family...and there's a reason for that. Apparently, this was supposed to have launched a spin-off about Elmyra and her eccentric clan, but it fell through. The closest we got was Elmyra turning up in the later seasons of Pinky and the Brain.)

The third season kicks off with the TV spoof "Thirteensomething." Despite the title being inspired by the adult comedy-drama Thirtysomething, the show is actually making fun of melodramatic early 90's teen dramas like Beverly Hills 90210. Babs is a huge fan of the show and would do anything to appear on it, including hiding her animal and animated attributes. Meanwhile, Buster advertises for a replacement for Babs, without success. Babs does end up on the show, but she realizes how much she misses Buster...especially after he shows up and begs for her to come back.

Worked on writing for a little while after dinner. Leia wants to know how Palpatine got his hands on Han. He explains that he was ambushed just outside Scarif while heading to a gambling tournament to earn the money to pay off Jabba. Palpatine's men managed to capture him and his horse Falcon, but Chewie got away.

Did some Wii Sports next. I can do well at boxing when I don't have to actually aim at something, as in the actual game and bag work. I just can't seem to aim my fist rights to hit the Mii trainer's targets. (I wonder if the bar for the games being on the low table I use for an entertainment center is part of the problem?) Also worked on tennis (got a silver medal on returning balls), bowling (my best-ever score), and baseball (no one scored...but no one lost, either).

Finished the night chatting with Lauren while watching Galaxy Quest. "Galaxy Quest" was a wildly popular sci-fi show in the 1970's...but the fans still expect the cast to appear together at conventions and small-time gigs over two decades after the show ended. Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) played the original captain. He's been behaving like a diva lately, showing up late for gigs and being nasty to his devoted geek fans. When he turns up with a wild story about being kidnapped by aliens, the rest of the crew doesn't believe it....until they're beamed up by the Thermians, who have seen every episode of their show and believe them to be true. They think they really are a heroic crew of galactic protectors who can save them from the evil warlord Sarris (Robin Sachs). Now this group of feuding actors have to figure out how to work as a team...and work with their adoring fans...or the "Omega 13" reactor will blow them all to the moon and back!

I saw this movie twice at the theater in 1999 (one of only two movies to date I've seen in the theater more than once). I loved it then, and I love it now. It's one of the best movies I've ever seen about fandom and the relationship between fans and the people and media they love. Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub are of particular note as the sarcastic former Shakespearean typecast as Nesmith's alien sidekick and the most laid-back science fiction star you'll ever see. If you're involved with any kind of fandom (not just sci-fi), you'll probably find this hilarious fish-out-of-galactic-water tale to be as hilarious as I do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Chilled Spring

Cheered up a cloudy, blahh day with breakfast. Made Apple-Cinnamon Muffins after I finished. Started the second disc of Tiny Toon Adventures as I ate and worked. "Playtime Toons" parodies toys and how kids play with them. "Happy Birthday Hampton" has Buster, Babs, and Plucky buying cool new toys for Hampton's big day...but they love them so much, they opt to keep them and give Hampton their old toys. They switch old for new when they remember how much they liked their old things. After he destroys his toys, Montana Max learns about the importance of the imagination when his father gives him nothing but a paddle ball to play with in "Fit to Be Toyed." Furball has a different type of toy in "Strung Along Kitty" - a ribbon he likes to chase.

Orson Whales narrates "Toon Physics," pointing out how impossible things that don't happen in nature occur in animation. Elmyra wishes her Babette doll was real in "Once Upon a Star." She instantly regrets it when Babette's attitude and vanity gets on her nerves. Furball chases Li'l Sneezer outdoors in "A Cub for Grub," but Li'l Sneezer's knowledge of camping manages to get him out of trouble. Plucky and Babs compete to be "The Year Book Star" and see who can be in the most photos in the Looniversity year book.

Buster and Babs are home sick with the flu. Instead of doing the planned show, they watch "Acme Cable TV." TV show parodies include The Adventures of Rocky and BullwinkleHollywood SquaresThe Cosby ShowRoseanneWalt Disney PresentsLassie, and the Bugle Boy jeans commercials of the early 90's, among others.

"Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian" was partially written by three teen fans of the show for a big contest. They also appear in animated cameos in the early part of the episode as Buster tries to explain that he's afraid of flying, including the airplane that'll take them to Hawaii. Things don't go much better after they arrive. They're targeted by pickpockets, Dizzy eats their luggage, and Buster's coconut tossed into an active volcano brings an explosive end to their vacation.

Headed out as soon as the episode was over and the muffins were out of the oven. We were even quieter than we were yesterday. The most that happened all day two more groups of adorable preschoolers came through, and I got frustrated when the managers kept telling me to do things I'd already done a half-hour before. Otherwise, there were no real problems. I spent the morning doing trash, cleaning the bathrooms, and putting away the very few returns and most of the afternoon outside with the carts, despite the weather being a cold, blustery, cloudy mess all day.

The worst thing that happened all day had nothing to do with work. Lauren texted me during my break. She had to move our vacation up a week. Her train going to Albany had been moved to Grand Central Station due to the ongoing remodeling and track work at Penn Station. She's never taken a taxi or a subway and is afraid to walk in New York on her own. I put in a request that explained the change. We'll now be be getting together from the 16th to the 24th. This also means that I'll have to find some new things for us to do, since some of my plans revolved around Memorial Day weekend activities.

Worked on a little bit of writing when I got home. Han - Prince Henry - explains everything the next morning. He was engaged to Princess Amilyn Holdo in the hopes that their kingdoms would unite after his father died mysteriously. Afraid of commitment and uninterested in the flighty princess, he ran away rather than marry her.

Returned to Tiny Toons while eating leftovers for dinner. A fowl caricature of Catskills comedian Henny Youngman narrates "Henny Youngman Day." He's a substitute teacher whose corny lines annoy the whole class, except Hamton. The shorts go over far better. Babs takes center stage as a stand-up comic in "Stand Up and Deliver." She's frustrated when she follows wildly popular comedian Red Robin Gilliams (a parody of Robin Williams) and almost bombs, untiil Gilliams lends a wing. "The Potty Years" has toddler Plucky flushing pretty much everything he owns down the toilet. Buster's only joke literally dies in "Lame Joke," until his friends finally get it.

Did some Wii Sports after dinner. Focused on bowling, tennis, and baseball tonight. Did my best ever on hitting short balls - got 21 and a silver medal - and actually managed to get two home runs. Got a bronze on returning tennis balls and am doing better at Target Practice. Did my best bowling game too, including three strikes in a row.

Finished the night after a shower with Octopussy. After a British agent is killed in the line of duty, James Bond (Sir Roger Moore) is brought in to bid on a Faberge egg that happens to be linked to a smuggling ring. The other bidder was Prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan), whom he follows to India. With help from a local agent (Viljay Amitraj), he manages to infiltrate Khan's hideout, thanks to listening devices in the real egg. The head of the smugglers is a woman named Octopussy (Maud Adams) who runs an all-female crime organization that uses a circus as a cover. General Orlov (Stephan Berkoff) has his own plans for the organization, using it to replace fake Russian treasures with real ones...and to plant a bomb that will destroy the circus and half the East German government. Now Bond has to stop that bomb and the smuggling, before Orlov and Khan get away with their schemes.

I believe this was the first James Bond movie I ever saw as a child. As such, I have a soft spot for it. It's overlong, with about three climaxes too many, and the East German circus trip is just ridiculous. The first half, with its Indiana Jones in India feel and broader comedy, is a lot more fun. Adams is a bit stiff as the sexy thief; Jordan is better as the prince who is determined to keep every treasure for himself...including Octopussy. Great music too, including the hit ballad sung over the credits, "All Time High." Fun for fans of Moore's Bond run if you have time on your  hands.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Galaxy of Toons and Porgs

Rain was coming down in buckets when I woke up this morning. There was even a rumble of thunder. I called Dad for a ride even before I had breakfast. Turns out, he had a hospital appointment. Everyone else had work.

Good thing the rain was slowing down, even as I made corn meal mush and a grapefruit half for breakfast. Started off the second season of Tiny Toon Adventures with "Pledge Day." The Toons parody PBS pledge season by trying to get pledges for the show. The shorts work out better than their efforts. Babs tries to amuse her grandmother in "It's All Relative." It's "Lifeguard Lunacy" when Arnold gives Calamity Coyote all the hard work at the pool, including avoiding Elmyra. "The Kite" is a touching, largely dialogue-free short about a moth who befriends a kite Hampton lost.

Started packing up for work as the Toons went on a school trip in "Going Places." They visit a fire station in "When You're Hot" and get to demonstrate what they've learned when the Looniversity is set on fire. "That's Art, Folks!" moves onto a museum. Babs is bored with art that doesn't move, until she dreams that the art tries to teach her a lesson. We finish at Montana Max's meat factory in "Slaughterhouse Jive." A meat factory probably isn't the best place for a class that features two rabbits, two ducks, and a pig, among others...and after they're nearly turned into sausage, they have to show Max why not everyone is into cutting up critters.

By the time I left, the rain had slowed to a light shower. It was almost done when I rolled into the Acme, though the clouds and gale-force winds remained for the rest of the day. Pretty much the same deal as yesterday - it was quiet when I came in, busy when I left. I spent most of the first half of my shift doing returns and gathering trash and baskets and the second half rounding up carts. There was a nervous moment when I got stuck in a register because it was so busy. I hate it when they just throw me in a register. I don't have the chance to mentally prepare to deal with all those people.

(And the toons weren't the only ones on a class trip today. We had two classes of preschoolers who came in to see what people do at a grocery store. They were even allowed to say "thank you" over the intercom. One boy waved to me when I was passing them as I did returns. They were too cute.)

As soon as I got home, I changed, then made "Merlin's Magic (Baked) Chicken," which is basically chicken in a flour coating and baked in the oven for an hour. Worked on writing while they cooked. Luke and Leia awaken in Henry's arms, just as the sun is rising in their window. Luke hugs the prince, glad that they were able to help him, then rushes downstairs before he regains his unicorn form. Maz calls him Your Highness, but while he doesn't mind Henry, he doesn't like being reminded of his titles. Leia's more annoyed at the mention of a Princess Amilyn who had been engaged to him. Han says he'll explain her and how he ended up in Palpatine's clutches over breakfast.

Had the chicken with leftover cabbage and potatoes around quarter of 7. Continued the Tiny Toons set with possibly the series' most controversial episode, "Elephant Issues." Go-Go Dodo introduces three cartoons that discuss serious issues and are meant as parodies of "issue-of-the-week" sitcom episodes of the time. (The first short even references The Facts of Life, which was notorious for its "issues" episodes.) "Why Dizzy Can't Read" is he's too busy watching television. Babs and Buster get him unplugged and show how much fun reading can be. "C.L.I.D.E and Prejudice" introduces a robot who is bullied by Montana Max, at least until he figures out his own way to deal with him. The extremely unsubtle "One Beer" has Plucky, Buster, and Hampton parodying "don't drink and drive" ads by getting so wasted over one sip of beer, they steal a cop car and go off a cliff.

(And despite showing that the trio was fine in the end, this episode was banned by the networks for 20 years due to that "One Beer" short. It's on this DVD and it apparently has turned up on Discovery Family, so I'm guessing people have softened to it somewhat. I can understand the complaints - honestly, this whole episode is kind of weird and uncomfortable, and the beer short just seals things.)

"Hog-Wild Hampton" has the Toons a bit more in-character. We meet Hampton's parents (who would later turn up in the Summer Vacation movie) for the first time when they ask him to watch over the house. Plucky smells an opportunity to have a wild party (in a parody of similar party scenes in 80's teen movies). Egghead Jr, the little chick who lives next door, doesn't like the noise and retaliates...and Hampton has to explain what happened when his parents come home to find their house blown to bits.

Moved onto Wii Sports after dinner. Had a great boxing bout - I did KO the guy, but not until the end of Round Three. Also worked on hitting balls in golf and tennis and power throws in bowling.

Finished the night with The Last Jedi. We pick up right where The Force Awakens left off, with former scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at Atch-To. Luke is more interested in hiding from the world than helping his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher), although he does finally agree to train Rey in the ways of the Jedi. Meanwhile, the First Order hasn't backed down after the loss of Starkiller Base and pound the Resistance even harder. When Leia is hurt, she's replaced by brittle General Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), to the frustration of Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac). Poe and Maz Kantana (Lupita N'yongo) sends former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and shy mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to the glittering casino city Cantino Bight to find a master code breaker who can get them into the First Order. What they find is TJ (Benicio Del Toro), a shady thief with his own agenda. He does manage to get them off the planet, but lands them right in the First Order with Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Meanwhile, Rey, who has been chatting with tormented Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) via the Force, believes there's still good in him. Angry with Luke after he reveals his part in Kylo's fall to the dark side, she goes off to prove that he can change. But as Luke says, "this is not going to go the way you think"...

I still don't understand the backlash surrounding this movie. Ok, so it's not a masterpiece. Like all Star Wars movies, it's too long. A lot of its two and a half hour run time could have been trimmed, especially in that saggy middle part. As much as I enjoyed Finn and Rose's ride through Cantino Bight, it's clearly padding and doesn't really have a lot to do with the plot in the long run. Some of the characters could have been written better, too. Holdo comes off as cold as a block of ice until she finally reveals what she's actually doing; her being more specific about her plans could have made her a tad more sympathetic. Others, like TJ and Phasma, are barely in the movie.

The positives far outweigh the negatives. Driver and Ridley come off well in their confrontations and Force chats, making Ren's refusal to change all the more heartbreaking. Hamill gives one of his best performances as a very different Luke Skywalker; Fisher's final performance is also excellent. A lot of the complaints fell on Tran as Rose, but I think she was fine and people were just pointing fingers. The special effects are incredible, especially in the opening space battle and the finale in Crait. And yes, I thought the Porgs were oddly cute and one of the funniest parts of the film. (Speaking of the humor, I don't know why people were fussing about that, either. A few jokes failed to land, but most were actually pretty funny.)

I suspect, like Empire, people will be a little bit more understanding about this one after Episode 9 comes out next year and we know where it fits in the overall story. It's more likely it was a victim of way, waaaaaaaaayyyyyy too much hype and far too many expectations. If like me, you're open to a different take on "a galaxy far, far away" and aren't a purist or expecting it to be the be-all and end-all of everything, you may enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Come Follow the Band

Started off a gloomy, cold morning with Buttermilk Whole Wheat Pancakes and a half of a grapefruit. Listened to the soundtrack album for Billy Rose's Jumbo while I ate. The Greatest Showman is hardly the first musical with a circus setting. Jumbo was a Rodgers and Hart show in 1935 that was the last one to play the massive New York Hippodrome theater. The 1962 film used the original idea of warring circuses, most of the original score, and Jimmy Durante. Durante is Pop Warner, whose circus is in dire financial straights due to his gambling habits. He can't even afford to marry his fiancee (Martha Raye). His daughter Kitty (Doris Day) brings in Sam, a new act (Stephan Boyd) and falls for him, but it turns out he's the son of a rival owner. The Warners are forced out...but Sam comes back to them in the end.

This apparently wasn't a hit in either the Broadway or the film version. It would seem that audiences do occasionally want some plot with their circus acts. Too bad, because both film and stage shows have some of Rodgers and Hart's best music. Hits from the Hippodrome show included "My Romance," "Over and Over Again," "Little Girl Blue" and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"; the film version added "This Can't Be Love" and "Why Can't I?" for Day. The movie's on the Warner Archives if you're interested; the soundtrack makes for a pleasant listen if you're a fan of Day or Rodgers and Hart.

Headed straight to work as soon as the record ended. It was cold and very windy at that point...but the rain was only a light mist. We weren't too busy when I got in. I was able to clean the bathrooms, do the inside trash, shelve cold items, and gather baskets. The trouble started after my break, when we suddenly had lines out the aisles. Everyone must have heard it's supposed to pour tomorrow. I'd start one thing, only to be asked to do five other things. I got so fed up, I eventually spent the last hour and a half outside gathering carts, wind be damned.

Grabbed The Last Jedi and a drink on the way out. I thought Jodie said she and Dad were going to get it for me for my birthday, but I guess they forgot. As it turned out, not only did I get the last DVD copy the Acme had, but with my employee discount, it was only a dollar more than Amazon - and that was with no need to buy something extra to get free shipping. The drink was a Bai Antioxidant Coconut Lime. Yum! I don't care what vitamins and mineral whatsit it has. It really tasted like a smooth coconut-lime drink, not at all harsh like I was expecting. I'll have to try that brand more often when it's on sale.

Was blown home by that raging wind and spent the rest of the afternoon inside, writing and keeping warm. Han - Prince Henry - finally confronts the cloaked figure, the specter of Palpatine's magic. He gains enough confidence from Leia and Luke's encouragement to punch him in the cloak. When the cloak drops empty to the ground, they appear in the Grand Hall at Solo Castle, Henry's family's ancestral home. Henry now wears a crown and the repaired version of the clothes Leia and Obi-Wan found him in. He thanks Luke and Leia for helping him to expel Palpatine's influence and says he can handle the remaining demons. Leia wants to stay, but Luke pulls her away. They have to wake up sometime...

Broke for burgers, home fries, and cabbage around quarter after 6 while listening to Olivia Newton-John. Played some Wii Sports after I ate. While I did so well in boxing, I KOed three guys in one match and a fourth in two, I'm still not so good at dodging on the mini-game. (The tilt of the house probably doesn't help.) I'm doing much, much better with hitting balls in tennis - got 30 and a silver medal - and with Target Practice. I'm still need to work on controlling my swing, though.

Moved on to Lego Star Wars after a good work-out. The only round left with more than one piece I hadn't found yet was "Hoth Attack" in The Empire Strikes Back. Two were in really hidden spots I missed the first time. The others were more complicated. I had to knock down ten of the smaller AT walkers to get the pieces. This wasn't so bad with the first piece...but with the second piece, the walkers kept bunching together, making them harder to knock down without blowing them up first. At any rate, I'm now done with that round and Empire in general.

Finished the night with the other major circus stage musical, Barnum, on YouTube. As you can guess from the title, this one does detail the life of P.T Barnum, the famous impresario who was also covered in Greatest Showman. Jim Dale starred in the original 1980 Broadway cast, with Glenn Close as his Charity. Michael Crawford was an even more charismatic "Prince of Humbug" on the West End. I vaguely remember seeing Crawford on a TV musical as a child; this may have well been it. I like that we see a little more of Barnum's actual life here, including more of his relationship with Charity and his later career in politics. Love the singer doing "Black and White" and General Tom Thumb's "Bigger Isn't  Better." Other popular Cy Coleman songs from this show include "Come Follow the Band" and the finale "Join the Circus."

Barnum - Michael Crawford stage version