Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ice Queens With Broken Crowns

I awoke to a cloudy, damp morning. Started off the day with breakfast and Lost In Boston IV. Another Verase Saraband release, this is the last of four CDs that cover songs cut from shows that made Broadway or off-Broadway. My favorites here include "Thirty Weeks of Heaven," a hilarious number on traveling the vaudeville circuit that's funnier than most of the songs that made it into By the Beautiful Sea, three devastating character numbers from the 1978 show Ballroom, the lovely "A Green and Private World" from the 60's flop Drat! The Cat, and "Hots Michael at the Piano," dropped from the 70's revue Working. (Singer, musician, and writer Rupert Holmes performs the last-named.)

It was still just cloudy, windy, and humid when I headed to work this morning, and has pretty much stayed that way the rest of the day. We were extremely dead the whole time. It never got even close to steady. Almost everything that needed to be done - trash, recycling, returns, carts, bathrooms - was finished by me or the head manager within the first two hours or so of my arrival. I spent most of the rest of the day gathering baskets, bagging, and trying to look busy.

Went straight home after that, hoping to avoid bad weather that never came. Spent the next few hours writing. A jealous Harry joins Laurence and Leia as they discuss Yasmin Hutt owning the Sword of Wisdom. Harry had been the showgirl-turned-gangster's lover until a few months before. She wants him back. He'll work for her, but he's not interested in jumping into bed with her anymore, as he explains to an annoyed Leia as he pulls her out onto the dance floor.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Listened to Sugar Babies as I ate leftover tacos with sliced Jersey tomatoes and cucumbers for dinner. This 1979 revue revived the burlesque tradition of the early 20th century - basically, what we now refer to as the variety show. It's the family-friendly version of the more familiar burlesque from the 30's and 40's with the strippers and low comics. Mickey Rooney was the top banana; Ann Miller was the headlining dancer. (Ann Jillian was apparently the original soubrette, but this recording was made four years later, and she was replaced by Jane Summerhays.) Alas, my LP isn't complete and is missing a lot of the vocal routines and a few numbers, but what is there is a lot of fun, especially the Jimmy McHugh Medley towards the end.

The complete CD recording of this is out of print on Amazon as of this writing, and it doesn't seem to be on YouTube. Your best bet may be to look around for the record and cassette and piece together your own version of the nostalgic crowd-pleaser.

Went into the bath, even as the recording was ending. Ahhh. It's been a long time since I had a real bath. I had enough time to look at vintage Wilton cake decorating magazines while I relaxed.

Finished the night on a far darker note with I, Tonya. Figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) is a fighter. Raised in a broken home in a poverty-stricken town by her abusive and potty-mouthed mother LaVonda (Allison Janney), she's pushed into the rarefied world of professional figure skating at a very young age. She's one of the most technically gifted skaters of the late 80's and early 90's, but her homemade costumes, jangly rock music, and surly attitude grates on many judges who disapprove of her unladylike behavior. She marries Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) at a young age to get away from her mother's constant abuse, but he ends up abusing her as well.

Despite her troubles. she manages to become the first female skater to hit the difficult triple axel move in competition in 1991...but things quickly fall apart after that. She divorces Jeff and does poorly at the 1992 Winter Olympics, coming in fourth. Her former coach (Julianne Nicholson) convinces her to train for the 1994 Winter Olympics. She moves in with Jeff again...and becomes shaken after receiving a death threat. Hiring Jeff's dumb-as-a-post buddy Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) as her bodyguard was probably not the smartest move, especially after he and a bunch of his friends attack her rival Nancy Kerrigan (Catalin Carver). She finds herself in the center of a media circus that does more damage to her career and life than the poor placing at the Olympics ever could.

This is one of the rare historical movies I can actually claim to have been around for. I was a big figure skating fan from around 1992 to 1995, to the point where I convinced several sympathetic teachers to record most of the Lillehammer Olympics for me, as well as a few other world and US championships. I remember many of the events discussed here, up to and including the knee incident, very well.

Even as a teenager (I would have been two months shy of turning 15 in February 1994), I thought the whole thing was bizarre and a little sad, and at least some of that is reinforced here. Janney won an Oscar as the foul-mouthed, pushy, and nasty LaVonda, who only cares about her daughter's winning tournaments, not her well-being (no matter what she claims). Robbie and Stan were also excellent as the combative and angry Harding and her controlling hubby, and Hauser gave a great portrait of a basement-dwelling loser who thinks he's the smartest guy in the room.

I will add that this is not an easy movie to watch, especially if you're a survivor of real-life abuse like Harding and me. The abuse scenes are violent and harrowing, as they supposedly were in real-life. While it's hilarious to watch Shawn and his equally dopey buddies try to pull this off, the movie lets you draw your own conclusions as to what actually happened and how involved Tonya was. Some critics thought the movie made her a tad too sympathetic, especially given that she wasn't the most stable person at the time and Kerrigan was the actual victim.

If you're a figure skating fan or a fan of the cast with any memories of Harding and Kerrigan and what happened in 1994 and can handle the violence and heavy swearing, you may find this tale of talent overshadowed by notoriety as fascinating as I did.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Door Into Summer

It was cloudy and cool when I awoke this morning. Began the day with breakfast and Unsung Musicals. The Dress Circle put me in the mood for more rare Broadway tracks. This is a collection of songs taken from shows that either flopped so badly they were never recorded, or never made it to Broadway at all. My favorite number by far is the ravishing "Starfish," from a musical La Strada that debuted in 1967 and lasted all of one performance, despite introducing Bernadette Peters. Other favorites include "There are Days and There are Days" and "We Will Never Know Each Other" from The First, a musical biography of Jackie Robinison, and three lovely tunes from the short-lived beauty pageant show Smile, it's title song, the anthem "In Our Hands," and "Disneyland," sung by none other than Little Mermaid Jodi Benson.

Concentrated on writing for a while. Leia questions Laurence at the nightclub about his contact. He reveals that Yasmin Hutt, a showgirl who took over her husband's criminal empire after he died and increased it three-fold, bought the Sword of Wisdom at auction. The Sword is said to give it's chosen user the powers to control the mind and see into the future. She's also Harry's ex-lover and his former boss, neither of which Leia likes hearing.

Broke for lunch at noon. Ran an episode of The Backyardigans as I had a blueberry-tea smoothie and tried to drown out Charlie, who was cursing outside while he finished the last of the park window. Princess CleoTasha and her retainers Austin, Tyrone, and Pablo have to bring three gifts to the Spinx Uniqua in order to get "The Key to the Nile" and find out why the water is no longer flowing.

Work was busy on and off. I ended up in the register twice...and panicked both times. The lines were just so long! I mostly did carts, though I also gathered baskets, took out the trash and recycling in the back lounge area, and put away some loose items. I ended up doing the bathrooms twice. Someone had complained, even though I'd just cleaned in there twenty minutes before and it wasn't dirty. I sprayed Lysol in both bathrooms and went on my way.

Went straight home and had leftover tacos and corn on the cob for dinner while watching two Monkees episodes. "Some Like It Lukewarm" in the late second season when the boys join a mixed-gender rock contest and convince Davy to dress as a girl. Not only does Philly DJ Jerry "The Geator" Blavat fall for him, but he falls for a girl who is dressing as a boy in an all-girl band.

Davy's also at the center of "Monkees Mind Their Manor," which I did while making Blueberry Crumble Bars. He inherits an estate in England, but he and the guys have to live there for five years, or it reverts to a drunken relative. They come up with a Medieval fair to earn money...but the relative's lawyer will do everything he can to make sure he wins his best and his client gets the estate.

(Oh, and Willa called. She was worrying about me making an account for the electricity. She didn't want to pay for it anymore. Not only did I make that account over a week ago, it had been set up on July 12th, well before I called PSE&G. She claims she didn't do it. I don't know what she's fussing about. My electrical bill came to a grand total of $7.80.)

Finished the night with Battle of the Sexes. Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is the top female tennis player in the US...but she's sick and tired of women athletes not making as much money as the men or being taken seriously. She, tennis magazine publisher Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), and several other ladies break off and form their own tour, which struggles until Heldman nabs a sponsorship with Virginia Slims cigarettes. Meanwhile, former tennis great and gambling addict Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell) is having his own problems. His wife and sponsor (Elisabeth Shue) throws him out over his gambling habits. Desperate, he claims he'll challenge any woman tennis player to a match. King says no, but Riggs goes on to beat one of the women on the tour, Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee). King doesn't really want any part of the smarmy Riggs or his announcer buddy Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), but ultimately accepts the challenge...if they agree to her terms and can Kramer as an announcer. She's determined to prove that not only women, but all "marginalized" people are as good as anyone else, and that "hustling" isn't the only way to play the game.

I was born six years after all this took place and had only heard stories, so it's interesting to see how a lot of this went down. The performances are excellent across the board, particularly Carrell as the charismatic but obnoxious Riggs. This was a surprise flop last fall; you'd think that with women's issues again in the news, it would have gone over better with audiences. This one might do better on the small screen. If you're a fan of the cast or interested in tennis history, sports history, or the 70's, this is a well-acted comedy-drama about one of the seminal events of the time that's worth looking around for.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Strike Up the Band

It was about 7 when I opened my eyes this morning. That was a little too early, given I'd been up late chatting with Lauren (as I always do on Saturday nights when I work late the next day). I closed my eyes...and didn't open them again until 10:30! And I had work at noon! I was still able to make Blueberry Pancakes and listen to my ABBA Greatest Hits CD (in honor of the release of the sequel to Mamma Mia! this weekend) before hurrying off to work.

Work was really busy up through about 1:30-2 PM. I was alone from 1 to 2 and couldn't keep up with all the carts that were vanishing! Two more baggers arrived at 2, allowing me to do returns and gather baskets inside after break. I went back outside to help one of the baggers with the remaining carts around 4. It had slowed down considerably by that point, and I didn't have nearly as much trouble as I did earlier. Got money for my nephew Skylar's 14th birthday on Tuesday before heading home.

Did a little bit of writing when I got in (after reading a chapter of the cozy mystery If Books Could Kill). Charel comes in as Harry and Leia are about to kiss, carrying what's left of Clarence. Someone beat him to a pulp. The big Russian co-pilot offers to stay with him when Laurence arrived and invites Leia and Harry along to his nightclub the Paradise Club.

Moved on to Lego Clone Wars while eating leftovers for dinner. "Defenders of the Peace" had been so easy, I kept finishing the round before I could buy enough items for the minikit piece dispenser. I finally got that, which completed the round and the regular "mission" rounds. Got "Vader's Apprentice" as my last minikit character. (I believe the character is Galen Marek, aka Starkiller, from The Force Unleashed video games of the late 2000's.)

Ended the night with something I haven't thought of in a long time. I've listened to The Dress Circle, a radio show on musicals hosted by two Mercer County college professors, on and off since the late 90's. I used to barely be able to get WWFM in North Cape May as a teenager. I'd even rush through dinner just to be able to hear the show. I couldn't get it at Stockton, but it did come in when I lived at Wildwood. I'd given up on hearing it again after I moved up here...until I discovered that the show was now online.

Every Sunday at 7, the hosts choose songs from musicals, some quite obscure, that revolve around a performer or theme. This week's was "The Shows of July and August." (There aren't many Broadway openings during the summer, so these two months usually get lumped together.) This year's version isn't up yet, but you can find last year's show on their website.

The Dress Circle

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Pony and Stitch Shows

Began a sunny morning with the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic DVD set. This one revolves around Rarity, the group's fashionista, clothes designer, and drama queen. "Suited for Success" from the first season has Rarity offering to make her friends outfits for the Grand Galloping Gala, but they aren't impressed with her designs. She takes their inputs on new outfits, but their ideas are ugly and over-the-top. The fashion show they hold for big designer Hoity Toity is a disaster. Rarity's crushed...until her friends realize that they should have taken what they were given and not only finish her dress, but get Hoity Toity to give them another shot.

Headed out shortly after the episode ended. First up was checking out a few yard sales I saw on Craigslist. I couldn't find the first one on Newton Avenue, but I did notice something more interesting. I heard that the bridge next to the train tracks going into Audubon was supposed to re-open yesterday. It wasn't open, though it was mostly finished. I saw a man walking his dog over the bridge and figured it was all right to push my bike over. The bridge itself was finished, and the safety railings were done, but the railings in back of them weren't quite ready yet. I don't know why they said they'd be ready yesterday.

A yard sale in Audubon had some interesting toys, including another Play Hair Our Generation doll, this one a blond. She wasn't in nearly as good of shape as my Ariel, though. There was brown marker  on her skin, and her hair was even more tangled than Ariel's had been. I finally moved on, heading across Audubon and Haddon Township to Collingswood for their Farm Market.

They were packed when I got in around quarter of 11. The summer produce continues to roll out. Saw plums for the first time today, but there were plenty of other fruit to try. Bought blueberries, peaches, a zucchini, a grey squash, a small cantaloupe, two small tomatoes, and an odd purple and yellow pepper from one of the organic booths.

There was one last yard sale on Park Avenue on the other side of Collingswood. They turned out to be an estate sale. I peeked at a stack of records inside, but a lady said they weren't for sale. They why were they out where people could see them? They should have been packed away. Turns out it was almost entirely furniture. I left in a hurry.

While it was sunny by that point, it was also still hot and humid. I stopped at the 7-11 on Cuthbert Road to see how much a Slurpee cost. To my delight, the smallest was only $1.19 without tax. I was able to treat myself to a large mix of pina colada and Crunchberries. (Yes, you heard that right. 7-11 currently has a Slurpee flavor based on Cap'n Crunch Crunchberries cereal. It's actually pretty good if you like generic berry flavors and don't mind having a blue tongue for a while.)

The Westmont Acme is right next-door to the 7-11. I went there next. I forgot pancake mix yesterday. Grabbed Grainberry Multi-Grain Mix and got out as fast as I could, using the self-checkout line to make things even faster.

Went home through Newton Lake Park, taking the pathway through the woods and up past the Haddon Township Environmental Center and Museum. It was almost noon at that point, and the traffic was getting a little heavy. I went straight down past WaWa and into Oaklyn. I was sweating to death, and while the humidity was lessening, it was still hot.

Put my groceries away and had a Peach-Tea Smoothie for lunch while watching more Rarity. "A Dog and Pony Show" is from later in the first season. Rarity needs a pile of gems for a batch of dresses ordered by a rock star. She heads to the caves to find some, only to be attacked by a group of gem-obsessed dogs who want her to use her powers to find gemstones for them. Spike tells the others and they come to her rescue...only to discover that Rarity already has the situation well in hoof.

"Rarity Investigates!" in the fifth season when Rainbow Dash is accused of trying to take the place of another member of the Wonderbolts in an aerial show in order to fly with her idol, Wind Rider. Rarity dons a dashing fedora and takes the case. Rainbow Dash finds her imagining everything as a film noir (complete with black and white sequences) to be more annoying than useful. As a fashion designer, however, Rarity is used to paying attention to detail...and she's noticed a lot more than her friend thinks.

Spent the next few hours working on writing. Leia reflects on the past week, which was spent either trying to get Laurence to reveal who his contacts are, or exploring Bespin and enjoying the beach and the amenities of the Hotel Ville Du Neuve with Harry. She and Harry are dressing for an evening out, thanks to the tux and red and white gown that Laurence bought them. Harry brings Leia his own gift - a gold necklace with a heart-shaped filigree and crystal pendant, purchased with some of the money given to him by Ben Kenobi.

By 4 PM, I was bored and tired of sitting. Not to mention, today is Dad-Bruce's birthday. I changed into my bathing suit, signed his birthday card, grabbed my beach towel, and rode over to their house. Everyone in the neighborhood was there but them. The front door was locked. I dropped the card on their porch and enjoyed my swim with the local kids, including a nice chat with Chloe and Savannah about their Build-a-Bear collections, their pets, and their favorite animals.

We were all out by around 5:30. Most of the kids had been there for much longer than I had, as early as 1 or 2 in some cases, and were ready to play with dolls or run around. I wanted to make dinner myself. Talked to Jesse, Jodie's son, on the way out. He was carrying a few planters with flowers over to his garden. He told me that Dad and Jodie had gone to a memorial for Dad's late father's brother unexpectedly. We talked about my setting up a blog and the stigma attached to getting government assistance. I'm still not sure I like the idea. I was really hoping I could make it on my own.

Changed as soon as I got in, then made tacos with tomatoes, cheese, and the last of the taco sauce for dinner. Finished out the Rarity set with two seventh season episodes while I ate. Rarity hopes to reconnect with her little sister Sweetie Belle by spending a day with her in "Forever Filly." Sweetie, however, has long outgrown the puppet shows and dress-up games that she and Rarity used to enjoy. She'd rather help her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders learn why another filly's dog no longer wants to play with her. Sweetie finally figures out that the filly is still treating her dog like a puppy and needs to find new games to play...encouraging her sister to do likewise with her.

Rarity learns that "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You" when an accident with Pinkie Pie's silly string leaves her mane a mess. She has a big photo shoot revolving around her mane coming up and goes to zebra witch Zecora to get a special mane shampoo to get it out. Turns out she grabbed the wrong thing...and loses most of her hair. She's embarrassed, until the other ponies encourage her to make lemons out of lemonade. She discovers a new, tougher punk style, and even kicks off a new trend.

Tried Lego Clone Wars after dinner. Didn't get far. I just cannot figure out how to get the last minikit on "Defenders of the Peace!" Can't figure out  how to get all the electrical fields working to open that last red brick, either. Did pick up a character, though, one of the senators from "Hostage Crisis."

It was so nice by then, I switched off the air conditioner. The clouds were gone, replaced by sunny skies and no humidity for the first time in over a week. Threw open all the windows I could, including my new ones, to catch the fresh breezes.

Finished the night with one of Disney's most popular and unique movies, Lilo and Stitch. Lilo (Davleigh Chase) is an eccentric young miss living in Hawaii with her older sister Nani (Tia Carrere), who takes care of her after the death of their parents. Lilo loves taking photos of random people on the beach, her hula classes, and all things Elvis, but she's not dealing with the death of their parents well and is disobeying her sister. For her part, Nani's trying to keep a series of low-paying jobs and take over responsibilities she probably isn't suited for. A social worker named Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames) threatens to take Lilo away if Nani doesn't shape up soon. Lilo hopes that buying a pet will make her feel better about not getting along with her peers. Her "pet" turns out to be an alien, Experiment 626, or "Stitch" (director Chris Sanders), as his owner calls him. He's a dangerous criminal created for destruction who is being shadowed by Agent Wendell Pleakly (Kevin McDonald) and his creator Dr. Jumbaa Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers) to be brought back to the Galactic Federation for trial. The lonely little girl, the troubled older girl, and the alien created for destruction find themselves discovering the Hawaiian concept of "ohana"...or that families come in all shapes and sizes, and so do friends.

You wouldn't think a movie set in modern Hawaii that features a troubled sister relationship, a little girl who loves Elvis, a Nick Fury-like social worker, and three aliens (two of whom are bent on world conquest) would work...but it does. It can occasionally get too sentimental for its britches, especially towards the end, but that's offset by some unusually biting comedy for a Disney movie, the touching relationship between the title characters, and probably the most realistic depiction of sisterhood seen in a Disney animated film until Frozen. Watching Nani chase Lilo around the house and roughhouse with her before Cobra Bubbles arrived always cracked me up; Rose and Anny and I used to have similar fights when we'd babysit each other. Their quiet time later, when they're remembering their parents, was nicely handled, too.

This is another movie I took Keefe to see at the Bayshore 8 when it debuted in 2002. This time, we both fell in love with it. It was one of Keefe's favorite Disney movies for years. (He called Stitch "Stitchie".) Keefe's not the only kid of his generation who loved this movie. It was so popular, it's had three direct-to-home-media movies, a TV show, an anime, and a still-running Chinese cartoon based after it. While folks who have fond memories of the show may want to see if they can find that on YouTube (what very little I saw of it was actually pretty funny), most everyone else will probably be fine checking out the original.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Everybody Dance

Got a quick start today. Charlie showed up around 9, just as I was finishing a couple of carrot-chocolate chip muffins and a peach for breakfast. He and another guy, Roman, had the larger window to replace the one that overlooks the park. I don't have as much in that corner anyway. I just moved the crates with the Christmas music and pushed back the music area table before heading out.

I needed money to do the laundry later and hit the Farm Market tomorrow, so I rode my bike to WaWa. Thankfully, they weren't that busy. I got 20 dollars from the ATM machine, then bought a mocha coffee drink to break it.

Messed around in my room for a little while when I got home, then went out again. I had a small load of laundry to do. Good thing it was small. They were crazy-busy again at 10:30. I got the last washer left, and there weren't that many dryers open, either. Ignored the noise and the news on channel 3 and worked on story notes.

To my surprise, Charlie and Roman were finishing up as I got home. Charlie originally said it was going to take him five hours, but it was only about 11:30. I give him credit. Though he says he'll need to do some finishing touches later this weekend, it looks pretty good. (And he didn't curse once, at least not while I was here.) I put away my laundry as they cleaned up, then followed them out the door.

Rode over to the Acme to pick up the pan I used for the lemon icebox cake yesterday and do some grocery shopping. Picked up tortillas to make tacos next week. Cherries are long gone from the farm market, but they can still be found for a good price at the Acme. Had online coupons for yogurt, the "Scandal-less" Acme generic pint light ice cream (went with Sea Salt Caramel), the Nature's Valley nut butter cookie cups (got Almond Butter), and shampoo. Restocked tuna, skim milk, brown sugar, and peanut butter.

Picked up my schedule when I went to get my pan from the back room. Perfectly normal schedule next week, all late morning and early afternoon hours, nothing longer than 6 hours or earlier than 11, and Thursday-Friday-Saturday off. I would have liked a few more hours, but we've been so dead lately, I'm probably lucky I got these.

Headed home to put everything away and have a quick yogurt and cherry lunch. Listened to the original cast album from Steel Pier as I worked. Set in Atlantic City in 1933, this is the tale of Rita Racine (Karen Ziemba), whose conniving husband Mick (Gregory Harrison) originally set her up as "Lindy's Lovebird," the first girl to kiss Charles Lindbergh when he came back from France, then pushed her into a series of dance marathons. During the most recent, Rita encounters Bill Kelly (Daniel McDonald), a handsome pilot who becomes her partner and whom she falls for. Mick tries to promote the heck out of that too, including a fake wedding with songs from his newest girlfriend (Kristin Chenowith, in her first Broadway appearance). But Bill isn't what he appears, and he's there on borrowed time...

It's too bad the story is really strange, because there's a lot to admire here. The attention to detail is remarkable. Many of the Atlantic City landmarks referenced (including Steel Pier and Frailinger's Taffy) either existed then, or still do today. I remember when the Press of Atlantic City did a series of stories on its pre-Broadway tryouts and its arrival on the Great White Way. It was that big of a deal there. There's some great songs here, too. I'm especially fond of Rita's "Willing to Ride," "Leave the World Behind" for her, Bill, and the chorus, "Everybody Dance" which introduces the marathon, and "Everybody's Girl," a comic vamp number for Debra Monk as singer Shelby Stevens.

But oh, that book! Why did they feel the need to turn this into a ghost story? The marathon and love triangle probably would have worked fine on their own. There's also a lot of emphasis on minor characters (including Chenowith's) that goes nowhere on the recording. I'm not the only one who was annoyed with the odd plot. This lasted a little over two months in the spring and early summer of 1997. Despite it garnering 11 Tony nominations and 9 Drama Desk nods, it walked away with nothing. I've had this cast album since it was released. It's grown on me over the years...but unless you're a South Jersey musical fan like me or are a big Kander and Ebb fan, it's probably nothing you really need to go out of your way for.

Made my way out again around quarter after 2. I had to do a few things in Westmont, starting at Dollar Tree. For once, they were pretty quiet when I arrived. I got birthday cards for Dad-Bruce (tomorrow) and Skylar (Tuesday) and went right back out in less than 10 minutes.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't much busier. There wasn't really much to do there. I organized all of the DVD shelves and put away the few titles that were around. Took out a couple of recent movies I missed last fall and winter that looked interesting, the comedy Battle of the Sexes and the biographical drama I, Tonya, plus the action-drama The Lost City of Z and a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic set that was centered around Rarity.

They were just setting up for Oaklyn's Final Friday Festival when I arrived on West Clinton. There wasn't a whole lot going on yet. There were several empty spaces, despite it being almost 4:30, opening time. I suspect that the threats of rain may have scared a lot of folks off. It had been off-and-on sunny and killer humid for most of the day, but the clouds were gathering even as Sarah O'Brian set up the "Community Rocks" booth. I decided I really didn't have the money for the food trucks and went home.

Spent the next few hours writing and researching. Leia and Harry are now staying at an opulent penthouse suite in Hotel Ville Du Nueve, Laurence's luxurious Riviera hotel. She's trying to get her godfather's notes organized and has asked Laurence where the lost Sword of Wisdom might be. He says he'll talk to several people he knows, but his answers feel evasive to her...

(Incidentally, it finally started raining while I was writing. It hasn't rained since dinner, thankfully.)

Rose called just as I was looking up bus and train schedules. First of all, it's would just take too long for me to take two trains and a bus home Sunday morning before noon. I'm afraid I won't be able to go with her and her family to Dad-Bill and Mom's house tomorrow. Second, she wants to meet sometime early next week to sign the papers for that doctor and discuss the letter for Miss Willa.

Broke for a quick dinner of Tuscan Tuna Salad and leftover Chinese beans around 7. Took a shower, then finished the night with the 1953 MGM musical The Band Wagon. Tony (Fred Astaire) is washed up in Hollywood and is hoping to make a comeback on Broadway. His songwriter friends Lily (Nanette Fabray) and Lester (Oscar Levant) have written a light musical to help him get back on his feet...but they've entrusted it to hammy Broadway director and actor Jerry Cordova (legendary British performer Jack Buchanon). Cordova suddenly decides to turn it into a musical version of the Faust story, including a dark plot, far more special effects, and the addition of prima ballerina Gabby Geraud (Cyd Charisse). Tony's not at all sure of this, Gabby even more so. The duo finally connect in Central Park, remembering why they loved to dance in the first place. When it turns out that the show is a flop, Tony throws in his own money to revamp it the way they wanted it to be originally...but he and Gabby are still having a hard time getting together...

This is one of my favorite movies. I didn't even get to mention the best number, the sexy and hilarious spoof of film noir and extended ballet sequences in musicals "The Girl Hunt," with Astaire as a hard-boiled private eye pursuing loose lady Charisse. Astaire and Charisse's "Dancing In the Dark" in the park is considered to be one of the most iconic musical numbers on film. I also like "That's Entertainment," the breezy "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" for Buchanon and Astaire, and the infamous "Triplets," with Buchanon, Fabray, and Astaire on their knees as fussy babies. You'd never know how rough filming was from the finished product - Fabray and cranky Levant really did hate each other, Astaire's wife died during filming, and he really was worried that Charisse was too tall for him.

Any fan of musicals in general or the big MGM musicals of the 40's and 50's in particular will want to check this out. If you want to know what the MGM musical was all about, this and Singin' In the Rain are great places to start.

Oh, and I came up with an idea. It's just something I'm considering right now, but I may start a third, more commercial blog specifically for reviews of musical films (and occasionally other movies that float my boat). I haven't seen many, if any, blogs devoted strictly to reviewing movie musicals. I've gotten praise for my reviews from several quarters. They're something I know and already do on a regular basis. Plus, it would be far easier to set up a blog (which I already know how to do) and put a few affiliates on it and maybe mention it in a few places than it would be for me to try to sell myself as a transcriptionist or virtual assistant, things I haven't done in years. I'll be doing some research on this possibility next week.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Party Time at Work

Today was my early 8 and 1/2 hour shift. Oddly enough, despite being largely as dead as the rest of the week, it moved a lot faster than my equally quiet but shorter Sunday shift. I didn't even do that much, mainly gathering carts and baskets and bagging. Did a small cart of returns early in the day, put cold items away, and did the trash inside and out. It was cloudy when I headed out this morning, but the clouds vanished as early as 9, and it was sunny, hazy, and humid for the rest of the day.

It probably helped that there was another retirement party in the back room today. This time, the head of the scan department (pricing department) was the one on her way out. The tables groaned with chicken stuffing, sausage, meatballs, baked ziti, macaroni and cheese, ham and cheese pita pocket sandwiches, deviled eggs, roast beef hoagies, pasta salad, potato salad, cole slaw, and rolls. Along with my lemon icebox cake, there was a marble cake from the bakery with buttercream icing, a chocolate cake, a carrot cake, a huge pound cake, butter cookies with jam centers, and peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies. A bag was filled with soft pretzels, and there were baskets of crackers and thin pretzels. Someone ordered specialized retirement Hershey's Kisses. 

I had cole slaw, a roast beef hoagie, baked ziti, and chicken stuffing for lunch, with cookies and two slices of carrot cake for dessert. I attempted another slice of cake on break, but I was so full, I couldn't finish it. Took a soft pretzel home for later. I was so full when I got in, I didn't end up eating anything else. 

Ran into Charlie as I was heading upstairs. He says he's ready to put in the window for the other side that overlooks the park. On one hand, moving things here should be a lot easier...but he's understandably uneasy about going up on a scaffolding that's up that high. That window is on the hill, and it's a lot higher than the one that looks out over the path to my apartment (which is where the gorgeous view comes from). He says he'll be here after 8. 

Worked on writing instead. Yoda tells Luke that he'll be able to feel where Vader is next and what he's up to via the Force. They both get on their heads, letting the Force flow. Yoda's calm...but Luke sees Leia and Harry being tortured by Vader and Charel carrying Clarence. He knows he has to go to his sister...and this time, instead of letting his protege go off alone, Yoda decides to go with them. He can help with reading ancient Alderaanian and organizing the expedition.

I was on for so long, it was nearly 8 before I got off. Played a little Lego Clone Wars to settle down afterwards. Found the last piece in the run-from-the-zombie final segment of "Legacy of Terror" and got basic Darth Vader. I'm still not having luck anywhere else. I can't figure out where the last piece is in "Defenders of the Peace," and I can't seem to find the right combination of characters to get the last red brick. 

Did Vacation as I went online. Rusty Grizwold (Ed Helms) hopes that recreating his family's infamous trip to Wally World will rekindle his relationship with his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and his sons James (Skylar Gisando) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). Once again, nothing goes as planned. The bright blue SUV he rents is overly complicated and elaborate. Kevin is a bratty bully who does nothing but insult everyone and pick on his older brother. Their mother connects with old college friends, but can no longer handle the drinking she did then.  They end up swimming in sewage, and then the van is broken into and everything stolen. Rusty tries to get help from his sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her handsome but obnoxious cowboy husband Stone Crandall (Chris Helsmworth). Rusty can't help but compare himself to the seemingly perfect Stone, especially after the Prancer blows to smithereens. It takes a talk from his dad Clark (Chevy Chase) and the revelation of what Stone and Audrey's relationship is really like to make him realize how important his family is, and how much he wants to spend time with them, even when things don't work out the way he'd hoped.

This was...ok. It was a bit mean-spirited, especially with the interminably jerk-ish Kevin, who should have been punished well before this. There were some nice moments, especially from Helsmworth as Audrey's sexist cowboy hubby, and it was great to see Chase and DiAngelo again. 

If you're a fan of scatological humor, the Vacation series, or the cast, this is worth a rental. All others will probably be happier with the original Chase entries. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Falling Slowly

It was just cloudy and killer humid when I finally rolled out of bed after sleeping in a bit. Had breakfast while listening to the soundtrack of Hairspray. I have the original Broadway cast and the original film soundtrack, but this is the one I gravitate the most to. I like the additional songs "Ladies' Choice" and "Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)," and the cast is excellent. (Harvey Firnstein may be associated with Edna Turnblad, but let's face it. Where else are you going to hear a romantic duet performed by John Travolta and Christopher Walken?)

First stop on the agenda today after I finally headed out was the Oaklyn Library. Good thing I did opt to do them today. They're going to be closed again on Saturday. There wasn't really much to do there at any rate. The DVDs weren't that bad, and they're still in the midst of re-arranging the picture books. I did get to see how the bathroom is progressing. It's been painted yellow with white trim, but not much else seems to be different.

Headed out for lunch around quarter of 1. Genova Pizza on Cuthbert Road is selling white and tomato cheese slices for a dollar all summer. Like Phillies Phatties, they've remodeled since the last time I was in there, with new red and black counters and larger, simpler menus. Their menu remains largely the same, though, with more reasonable prices.

I'm guessing they don't have air conditioning. They were hot as heck. I took my slices of cheese pizza and can of Dr. Pepper with the goofy llama design to their outdoor patio. The patio is surrounded by a wooden fence painted bright scarlet. I ate my lunch at a simple metal table and thick plastic chair. There was one other guy outside, probably one of the workers, given that I didn't see any food on him. I listened to 80's music on a local radio station and ate my pizza quickly. I was out by 1.

As soon as I finished my lunch, I realized I was missing my plastic bag I was using to cover my notebook. It wasn't in the pizza parlor. Good thing the only other place I'd been was the Oaklyn Library. I rode back there and found it hanging on the silver knob of the bathroom door, where I left it.

Had just enough to hurry through Newton Lake Park and down to Haddonfield for this month's counseling session. Made it with five minutes to spare. I told Mrs. Stahl about my difficult month, with all the trouble at the apartment over the air conditioner and about Dad-Bill's condition. On one hand, I love Dad. He's done a lot for me. On the other hand...he's never taken very good care of himself. He drinks, he smoked until about a decade ago, he did heavy drugs in the 80's and 90's, he worked at a dangerous and stressful job until retiring about a week or so ago, eats tons of junk food, starts bar brawls at his local watering hole, and his idea of "exercising" is running his mouth. I'm just surprised he made it this long.

I'm more concerned about what his death will do to Mom and Anny. Mom's a strong woman, but she hasn't lived really alone in years. Dad's always come home. They both pay for the house and food. And Anny has always been Dad's little girl. She's close to him in ways even Keefe never was.

I want to find an online job, as a virtual assistant or transcriptionist. Trouble is, I research and research and read and read...but then I realize how much experience is required, or see how hard it is to get going, and I get scared and do nothing. Every time I try to break out, I get so nervous! Everyone says I should just "get over it" and do it, but it's not that simple.

There's the whole thing with Willa and Charlie and the air conditioner, too. I'm glad Charlie at least started the porch, but otherwise, it's been frustrating. I'm glad to let Rose deal with both of them.

I need the money. Mrs. Stahl pushed the Social Security money again after I told her that Jodie has her paperwork ready and we're just waiting on Rose. Thing is...I'd feel guilty, taking government hand-outs. I want to be independent and to truly rely on myself. I shouldn't be taking money from anybody.

Mrs. Stahl said to do research on the virtual assistant job and see what I can come up with. I'll do my best.

The clouds were gathering faster as I headed down Haddon Avenue through Haddonfield to Westmont. While it wasn't really that hot, it was still killer humid. I needed liquid refreshment..and so did everyone else in Westmont. They were busy when I arrived, with a mother and her autistic daughter getting ice cream and several teens at the counter. Saw a couple of new flavors; tried Chocolate Covered Raspberry. This was actually raspberry with chocolate bits. It was very sweet and extremely red, but it did taste like raspberry. The chocolate bits weren't big, but there were quite a lot of them. I got my treat just in time. As I sat down at the counter, a huge family of mothers and children arrived, creating a long line. They were still picking up their ice cream as I left.

It had just started to rain as I pulled in at the Westmont Acme. I needed vanilla wafers, lemon Jello, vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip to make a lemon icebox cake for another retirement party at work tomorrow. No wonder I got today off so easily. They were dead as a doornail when I was in. I was in and out in 20 minutes.

The rain picked up, even as I headed across Newton Lake Park. I stopped under a tree to avoid getting totally soaked. (Good thing I brought my blue rain coat.) At least the rain's been helping the flora around here. The trees look much perkier than they did even a week ago. The grass is still a little dry, but is showing fewer brown spots.

Went right into making the icebox cake as soon as I got home. I shouldn't have crushed all the cookies! They were way too much for the small pan I was using. And that lemon Jello was really lemony. I hope it didn't come out inedible. I dumped out some of the cookies that hadn't been broken enough anyway, layered the pudding-gelatin and Cool Whip, and hoped for the best.

Tried to work on some writing next. Luke and Yoda are now in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Yoda's telling Luke about Vader and the Force and how he'd killed off all the Jedi to get their power. Luke wants to know more about the Force's dark side and how the Force magic works, so he can get the goods on Vader. Yoda would rather he learned how to do it himself.

Finally broke at quarter of 7 for dinner. Played some Lego Clone Wars after I ate and took a shower. Finally found all five probe droids and got the last piece in "Jedi Crash," which gave me the elder Obi-Wan Kenobi. I really can't figure out where that last piece in "Defenders of the Peace" is. I finally just gave up around 8:30.

Finished the night with Once. I heard this film's big hit "Falling Slowly" at work yesterday while I was doing the gift cards, and it's been stuck in my head since. A street singer in Dublin (Glen Hansard) and a Hungarian pianist (Marketa Irglova) become friends when she meets him while he's chasing down a man who stole his music. They end up at the music store where she works, playing a song he's written called "Falling Slowly." They argue, but make up and spend a happy week recording and creating music. But he's getting over a bad relationship, and she has a husband and a child. They eventually go back to their original relationships...but they'll always have the music they made together, including "Falling Slowly."

I've had this movie on DVD for years, but I've never gotten around to watching it until now. It's a truly unique small-scale musical romance with some lovely performances from the two leads and fine songs. Along with "Falling Slowly" (which won Best Song at the Oscars in 2008), some of the best songs include the duet "When Your Mind's Made Up" and Irglova's solo "The Hill."

This was a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic in in 2007, and it deserved every accolade. If you're looking for something smaller and sweeter in your musicals, this gentle romance is highly recommended. (A Broadway version debuted in 2012 and also did very well, winning the Tony for Best Musical that year.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Little Bit of Rain

Began the morning with a phone call. Rose got back to me after I called her last night. Evidently, she'd talked to Charlie in addition to Willa and had known about the porch being remodeled. She'd also gotten an earful of Charlie's complaints about me making noise in the apartment, specifically at 7:15 AM. (Um...I'm usually reading or sleeping at 7:15. If I move, it's to use the bathroom. Besides, that's not that early. And I still don't know why Charlie won't talk to me directly about this, instead of my sister or his mother.)

She had news from the Cape May side of the family, and not good news, either. Dad-Bill is dying of cancer. They give him two to three months to live, and his cheating on his diet isn't helping. He didn't sound good when I called him on Father's Day. She's talking about going down to Erma for the weekend. If I go with them, I'll likely have to take a two buses and a train home. I doubt I'll be able to stay down there all weekend.

I called PSE&G after I got off with Rose. Turns out there was already a electricity account set up for my apartment, and had been since July 12th. That's just wonderful. I love how I'm always the last one to find out anything. Willa said in her note that I had to set up the account.

After I finished with the phone, I switched to breakfast, some online research, and The Breadwinner. Parvana is an 11-year-old girl living in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban in 2001. She's horrified when her disabled father is arrested unfairly by a young Taliban member right before her eyes. There's no other man in her family who can earn money, and under Taliban rule, women aren't allowed out on their own. She cuts her hair and dresses as a boy to earn money for the family and to pay for the bribe to get her father out of jail. She finally makes headway when she starts reading letters for an illiterate member of the Taliban whose wife was killed. She and her fellow girl who also dresses as a boy are taking increasingly dangerous jobs to make money, which frightens her mother. Her mother finally agrees to marry her daughter off to a second cousin, but has second thoughts when the man turns out to be abusive. Meanwhile, the war against Afghanistan has begun. Pavara is frightened that her father will be killed with other prisoners who are too weak to fight. She's scared, but the story about a young boy who saves his village's seeds from the Elephant King gives her courage and hope.

Sad, touching tale of a girl's determination to help her family during a terrible time in recent history. This actually reminds me of the story of an Islamic-American girl I began right after 9/11 as therapy, but never finished. I love how the story-within-the-story is incorporated, first just as a way for Pavara to distract her little brother, but eventually as a way to give her and her family hope and courage.

A deserved Oscar-nominee for Best Animated Picture this year, this is absolutely worth seeking out if you can find it and have any interest in 21st century history, Islamic culture, or storytelling.

I went to work during a heavy rain shower. Thankfully, it didn't last, but it did return off and on all day. Good thing it was even quieter today than it was yesterday. I rounded up recycling, gathered carts and baskets, hung a small box of gift carts, and shelved loose items. The off-and-on rain continued throughout the afternoon. It did get heavy, but it never lasted for more than a few minutes at the most.

The sun came out briefly as I was on my way home. Once again, it didn't last, but it did wait to cloud up again until I'd long changed and gotten on the computer for some writing. They land at a small air field just outside of Bespin, a resort town in the French Riviera. Harry's dapper buddy Laurence "Larry" Carlyle goes from seeming a bit hostile to being too friendly in 0 seconds flat. Leia's hackles are raised, especially after Clarence goes missing...

(I did my best to ignore Charlie downstairs. He was screaming curses at the top of his lungs at one of the dogs again. He hasn't done that in months.)

Did an episode of Rick Steves' Europe on the French Riviera while eating dinner and doing more research on work-at-home opportunities. Bespin is supposed to be a small glamorous resort town between Nice and Cannes. I was originally going to set it in Paris, but I thought the laid-back glitter of the Mediterranean would suit this story's Lando Calarissian character better. In addition to being the home of Europe's favorite place for sun, sand, and surf, it's also a popular spot for modern artists like Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso who came in the early and mid-20th century for the light and stayed for the laid-back, hedonistic lifestyle, for car-race and film enthusiasts, and for jet-setters to see and be seen.

Ended the night with last year's version of Murder on the Orient Express. Inspector Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) finds himself on the famous train bound for London. He's hoping for a rest, but he gets anything but when American businessman Edward Rachett (Johnny Depp) tries to hire him, and is then found dead the next day in his compartment. Chatty Mrs. Hubbard (Michelle Pffifer) claims that there was a man in her apartment; her being stabbed (not fatally) seems to back up this claim. The inspector is up to his little gray cells in suspects, including British governess Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), black medical man Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odam Jr,), the dead man's secretary Hector McQueen (Josh Gad), shy Hispanic missionary Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz), the dead man's valet (Derek Jacobi), and a Russian princess (Dame Judi Dench). Turns out that they all may have a motive when Poirot learns that Ratchett was once the criminal mastermind behind a kidnapping caper that left the victim, her parents, and a nursemaid dead. Poirot will have to do everything he can to solve this case before the Orient Express is dug out of deep snows.

There's a lot more violence in this version of the story, from a couple of shootings to Count Rudolph Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin) starting a heavy fist-fight in the beginning and Mrs. Hubbard being stabbed. Several characters are combined (such as the dated Colonel Arbuthnot and the old doctor) or have their nationalities changed (Cruz's character was originally Scandinavian). Branagh makes an excellent Poirot, though, with Pfiffer, Gad, and Odam Jr. also standing out in the all-star cast. The film is just as classy as its predecessor, with some truly stunning sets and costumes. (Though I still can't figure out why they felt the need to move the denouement outside. I guess they thought audiences would need a change of scenery by then.)

Fans of the 30's, Agatha Christie's novels, old-fashioned mysteries, or all-star movies will want to ignore the mixed reviews from late last fall and check this one out.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Welcome to the Video Game Jungle

Began the morning with breakfast and disco. I have a soft spot for disco, probably stemming from it being the music of my very early childhood. I was born in 1979, when it was still at the height of it's popularity. The Bee Gees' Greatest Hits 2-disc LP set has some of the most emblematic music of that era, including "Stayin' Alive," "How Deep Is Your Love," "Jive Talkin'," and "Night Fever."

Worked on writing for the next hour and a half or so. Leia's beginning to have feelings for Harry, especially since he seems to have softened on helping her out with her research. She's not entirely sure about their trip to Bespin on the French Mediterranean coach, especially when local traffic control gives them a hard time about landing.

Had a quick blueberry smoothie lunch while watching The Backyardigans. "The Heart of the Jungle" has scientist Uniqua trying to get Sherman the Worman (one of the bright-colored worm-like critter who appear on the show from time to time) to his home in the jungle. Pablo, Austin, and Tyrone insist on guiding her. Each of them have a specific trait based after Tarzan in various media - Tyrone can talk to animals, Pablo is strong, and Austin has a limited vocabulary. Uniqua has no time for their pulp fiction nonsense, until she runs into something even she can't handle on the jungle floor.

There was an envelope sitting outside the door to Charlie's side of the house when I started out for work. It stated that those electricians who were here yesterday had been putting in a second meter for my side of the house. I have to call PSE&G and set up an account. Oh great. I thought they were just checking the outlets in the house! So much for being able to actually save money. That's never going to happen now. I put the note aside and headed out to work. I'd deal with it later.

Work, thankfully, went a lot better than it did yesterday. Though I did end up in the register briefly once, we mostly weren't that busy. I did the trash inside and out early on, but I mostly gathered baskets and carts and shelved loose items. It showered on and off, but never heavily or for longer than a few minutes. High winds and killer humidity were more of a problem.

Had a quick leftovers dinner as soon as I got home and changed. Watched the second half of another Backyardigans adventure story, "High Tea," while I ate. Uniqua, Tyrone, and Pablo are disappointed when Tasha suggests a tea party instead of something obviously exciting. They complain a lot less when they discover that Tasha's idea of a "tea party" means going to Borneo for tea leaves, to the grumpy Emperor Austin of China for cups and dishes, and to the Gobi Desert for boiling water to brew the perfect cup of tea.

I've decided that, instead of playing video games when I get home from work or late in the afternoon after I've worked on writing, I'm going to do research and try to figure out what to do about everything that's happened. First on the list was calling Rose. I told her that Charlie's started on the porch (though it's stalled right now, thanks to the weather), and what happened with Willa and the electricity. I really need her to call me back by tomorrow to see if I have to make that account or not.

The problem is, I'll research and research and look up and list great ideas, but then I get cold feet and never actually do any of them. All the work at home ideas just don't seem right. I also have a hard time breaking a task down into smaller tasks. I just want to get everything done, and I frequently have no idea where to begin. I really need to find something. I desperately need money, and soon.

Switched to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle after a shower to cheer myself up a bit. The premise is somewhat the same as the original film and book. Four very different teenagers find themselves transported into the world of a jungle game and end up helping another player who's been trapped there for twenty years. Nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes tough-guy archaeologist Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), football player Fridge (Ser'Darius Blaine) becomes short zoologist Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart), smart and mouthy Martha (Morgan Turner) becomes martial artist Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillian), and bratty blond Bethany (Madison Iseman) is horrified to learn that she's Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon (Jack Black), a diminutive intellectual. They learn from narrator Nigel (Rhys Darby) that they have to return the Jaguar's Eye, a cursed emerald, to a jaguar statue and call "Jumanji." It was stolen by Russell Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), who has it's power to control animals. This odd group has to figure out how to work with each other and help another character who's trapped in the game (Nick Jonas) to find their way home.

What I like about this is the realistic video game dynamics. Everyone starts with three lives. When you lose them all, you're done - for good. It plays like a video game from the mid-90's, with a complicated mystery set-up and "levels" for the group to complete. It's a lot of fun, and a tad less cheesy than the original 1995 film with Robin Williams that stuck with the board game from the book.

This was a huge hit last winter, with only Last Jedi making more money around Christmas. If you've got older kids who are gaming fans or fans of jungle adventures like the Indiana Jones series, or you love the cast or the first movie, you may want to look into this one as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Where's the Rain?

Began a cloudy, humid morning with Buttermilk Whole Wheat Pancakes and half of the small cantaloupe I bought yesterday. Listened to two vocal cassettes revolving around songs from musicals. Johnny Mathis gets more obscure in The Hollywood Musicals, with songs like "Whistling In the Dark" from the 1971 flop Darling Lili and "It Could Happen to You" from And the Angels Sing. Barbara Streisand's Back to Broadway mostly sticks to more familiar material like "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods or two numbers from Guys and Dolls. (Although I suspect the two numbers from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Sunset Boulevard aren't as well-known now as they were when this tape came out in the early 90's.)

(The pancakes came out beautifully, by the way, especially the second one, very light, fluffy, and moist.)

Worked on writing for a little while after breakfast. Mostly re-wrote the scene I did yesterday. Leia calls Dr. Mothma to tell her that the Silver Falcon keeps breaking down and they're taking longer than planned to get to Bespin. The older professor suggests Leia call her old friend Admiral Ackbar when she gets there to help her with her dig.

She also states her concern about her going to Bespin. Larry Craydon is well known as a con-man and smuggler, though he hasn't done anything illegal since he won his hotel in a baccarat match. Leia's concerned herself. She can sense that there's something wrong about all this, but can't put her finger on exactly what it is.

Had a quick blueberry smoothie lunch before heading to work. Work was very busy up through around 4:30-5 PM. I spent the first half of my shift doing carts, and the second half bagging, gathering baskets, and doing returns. It apparently rained briefly at one point; the parking lot was wet when I went outside to return a cart, and the bagger who was working on them mentioned a shower. To my knowledge, that was the only time all day that it rained. The sun was back out by the time I was heading home.

Had a quick leftovers dinner and read a chapter of the cozy mystery Hooked on Ewe when I got home. Finished the night with a long Lego Clone Wars session. Completed "Weapons Factory" and the final bounty hunter mini-game; got Luke Skywalker from the former. Got three more pieces on "Legacy of Terror," but still can't figure out the final piece on "Defenders of the Peace."

The bounty hunter rounds were the last things I needed to do on the Separatist ship. Returned to the Republic ship to try to get the last red brick. No luck. I just can't seem to get all of the characters they need in one place at the same time. I'll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Harvest Before the Rain

The morning was cloudy and unusually cool for mid-July when I rolled out of bed. Brightened the gloomy day (and drowned out the cursing and power tools on the porch) with The Desert Song. This has become my favorite 20's operetta. I'm a sucker for Scarlet Pimpernel-style swashbucklers, and this tale of a French general's son who masquerades as an Arab leader has a great score that includes "One Alone," "One Flower Grows In Your Garden," "French Military Marching Song," "Romance," and "Then You Will Know."

Headed out around 10 to hit the Collingswood Farm Market. They were insanely busy with people looking for produce for a week that's supposed to be largely washed out. Local broccoli and cauliflower are gone, but I saw eggplants, apples, nectarines, and heirloom tomatoes for the first time this season. I went with Chinese beans, three little lavender eggplants, a tiny cantaloupe, a cucumber, another grey squash, small peaches, and blueberries.

Took the long way back to Oaklyn across Newton Lake Park, going by the old Collingswood High School arena that's in the midst of being demolished and the Parkview Apartments. Surprisingly, there were a couple of people out for a stroll. The wind was picking up by 10:30, and it was getting more humid by the minute.

Stopped at the CVS on the border of Collingswood and Oaklyn really quickly next. Took advantage of good sales to pick up Multi-Grain Cheerios and toilet paper. Unlike the Farm Market, they weren't busy. Everyone must have been doing their outside chores before the rain started.

I was originally going to hit the Oaklyn Library. They were closed when I arrived, despite it only being about quarter of 11. Turns out they were remodeling their bathroom today and for most of yesterday. Darn. I'll try again on Wednesday before counseling.

Went straight home after that and went nowhere else today. Since I got in earlier than expected, I decided to use up some older vegetables in my refrigerator and make Carrot-Chocolate Chip Muffins. (Half of a gray squash went in there, too.)

Watched Lovely to Look At as I baked. Tony (Howard Keel), Jerry (Gower Champion), and Al (Red Skelton) are three guys who are trying to get a Broadway show off the ground. They think they have the perfect solution when Al inherits a dress shop in Paris. They hope to offload it to get the money for their show...until they meet the co-owners and designers Clarisse (Marge Champion) and Stephanie (Kathryn Grayson). Jerry and Tony come onto them to loosen them up and get them to sell, but end up falling for them instead. But there's still that show...and not only does Al have a crush on Stephanie as well, but Tony's girlfriend Bubbles (Ann Miller) comes to Paris to see what the guys are up to...

This remake of Roberta didn't do well at the time, but it does have it's virtues, including three spectacular dance duets by the Champions, Ann Miller's "I'll Be Hard to Handle," and Red Skelton's "Go and Tell Aunt Rhodie" routine.

It was only 1 by the time I finished lunch and the muffins came out of the oven. Did some early Lego Clone Wars while the guys frantically covered the porch outside. Completed "Lair of Grievous" and picked up a Rebel fighter in Endor fatigues from Return of the Jedi...which also completes the Grievous rounds. Dooku's the only one left. Worked on "Jedi Crash" and "Defenders of the Peace," but didn't find much.

Worked on writing for a few hours after that. Artie tells Luke about his mother Padme and how close she, Ben, and Andrew were before the Great War...and how it all fell apart afterwards, when Andrew came home angry, bitter, and power-hungry. Luke vows to Yoda that he'll learn about the Force and get the goods on Vader. He's not afraid. Yoda's not so sure...

Meanwhile,  Leia calls her boss Dr. Mothma at UCLA. The Falcon had to go down near Grenoble for emergency repairs...again. She needs help finding a crew and keeping Vader and the Empire off their backs. Dr. Mothma recommends Admiral Ackbar, an old military man and former archaeologist who is a friend of hers.

Broke at quarter of 6. Did some more baking first. Made Double-Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies from the Double Chocolate Cookies recipe in The Cake Mix Doctor. Basically, I just added hazelnut flavoring. Hmm. A little bland. Maybe I'll add cocoa next time. Dinner was sauteed Chinese beans and grape tomatoes, sweet corn on the cob, and the last of the turkey hot dogs.

Finished the night as I ate and baked with Federal Agents Vs. the Underworld. This 1947 serial is really the kind of thing that most people are talking about when they mention the genre. Kirk Alyn is the head of the agents, who try to get back a pair of gold hands that were stolen from a temple by three scientists. A criminal mastermind picks off the scientists to get the hands...but she underestimates their power.

I really like this one. Republic was the master of the serial format, and this is no exception. I love that the female characters are fairly strong, both the one woman agent and the female head of the criminals, and the mystery is actually quite interesting. If you're a serial fan, you'll want to see if  you can find this online.

It didn't start raining until around 2:30 (probably to Charlie's annoyance - he fussed that it didn't start exactly at 1, like the TV stations said), but when it rained, it poured. It's been cold, windy, and pouring on and off for the rest of the day. It sounds like the whole week is going to be like that. I hope it's not too bad. We need the rain badly, but I really don't want to spend the week calling for rides to work.

Friday, July 20, 2018

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Started off another sunny day by sleeping in. By the time I was up and moving, so were the construction workers...and so was Charlie's potty mouth. I avoided both by starting the day with laundry. I didn't really have all that much to do anyway, not even a full laundry basket. I was mainly washing my work clothes. I hit it at the right time this week. There was only one person there when I came in, and after they left, I saw no one else until right before the dryer was finishing. I worked on story notes and ignored the news and Days of Our Lives.

Went home, put the laundry away, and then made a blueberry-tea smoothie for lunch. Charlie had mostly been listening to 80's and early 90's rap, but he briefly had Frank Sinatra on earlier. I continued that with Songs for Swinging Lovers, one of Sinatra's best albums. "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "You Make Me Feel So Young" are probably the best-known tracks here; other favorites include "It Happened In Monterey," "Old Devil Moon," and "You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me."

Next on the list of errands was running to the Acme for this week's grocery shopping. There's a lot of big sales this weekend, including 40 % off chicken. I picked up ground chicken that had a manager's coupon and breasts. Used online coupons for yogurt and Bryers Delights mint chocolate chip (the latter of which was part of a big ice cream pint sale). Restocked skim milk, plain yogurt for cooking, mandarin oranges, honey, chocolate chips, breakfast bars, butter, pudding mix, and laundry detergent. (I used the last of my previous bottle on this morning's load.)

My schedule is...not horrible, but not as good as this week. In good news, three days off again (Wednesday for counseling) and mostly normal hours the rest of the week...except a very early eight and a half hour day on Thursday. And I have fewer hours again, understandable given how quiet we've been, but still disappointing.

Went home and put everything away while listening to more Sinatra to drown out Charlie's mouth and the noise from the repairs. Strangers In the Night from 1966 was one of his biggest hits, reaching number one on the Billboard Pop Albums chart that year. The title song and "Summer Wind" were among his biggest hits, and remain associated with him today. Other good numbers from this album include "All or Nothing at All," "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," and "The Most Beautiful Girl In the World."

Went back out again as soon as the record ended. This time, I went in the opposite direction to the Haddon Township Library. (Got several compliments on my bike from a couple of young ladies sitting outside the nearly-completed Target.) Like the Acme and the laundromat, they were pretty quiet today. They must have been much busier in the morning. The DVD cart was overflowing. It took me over an hour to shelve almost everything, and I still didn't get to the non-fiction titles. The adult shelves badly needed to be reorganized, too.

Took out a couple of interesting titles this week. Been wanting to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle since it came out over the holiday season. I wasn't a big fan of the original film with Robin Williams, but this one got such good reviews, I thought I'd try it. The reviews of the remake of Murder on the Orient Express from last November were more mixed, but the cast is awesome, and that's my favorite Agatha Christie novel. Decided to check out the independent animated film The Breadwinner after I enjoyed another indie cartoon, The Red Turtle, a few months ago. The 2015 remake/reboot Vacation didn't do very well when it came out, but I like the original series enough to take a look at this one too.

Took the long way back to Oaklyn across Newton Lake Park. They were much busier than the last time I was there. Everyone from joggers to teens lounging on the railings to fisher folk wanted to get out and enjoy the sunshine before heavy rain moves in tomorrow. We could really use it. While it's not as dry as it has been, there's still quite a few brown patches in the grass, and the leaves are looking thin and brittle.

My last stop for the day was at Dollar General. Their eggs are $1.50, much cheaper than they are at the Acme. Their sponges are cheaper, too. They were slightly busier than most everywhere else was today, probably because it was rush hour by that point.

Worked on writing when I got in and continued to ignore the cursing and pounding from the porch. Luke admires Yoda's many artifacts from the lost Central American kingdom of Alderaan, including a full suit of armor. When Luke asks why they're not in a museum, Yoda says he intends to donate the collection to the University of California, where he once worked, when he dies. Artie shows Luke some more recent photos of Yoda's digs, pointing out the boy's mother, the beautiful senator's daughter Padme Amidala.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Cleared out the refrigerator, turning the ground chicken, some old stock, the last of the tomato sauce from when Lauren visited, and most of the vegetables in my crisper into Summer Vegetable Burger Casserole. Topped it with sharp cheddar cheese. Yum! Came out very nicely, an excellent melding of flavors. The cheese gave it just the right kick.

Continued with Lego Clone Wars after I ate. Finally completed "Shadow of Malevolence" and "Duel of the Droids"; got one more piece on "Lair of Grievous." Picked up Lando Calarissian and Han Solo respectively from the finished rounds.

Ended the night with an episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey. "Black Pearl" is an experimental bomb being worked on by the Nazis on a near-by island. One of the natives being used for slave labor escapes and is found by Jake, but is killed before he can reveal more information. Jake poses as an American scientist who was going to defect to the Nazis to get the goods on this new project.

(Oh, and the porch looks like it's coming along. It's all covered with wood now, though they haven't put the railings up yet on anything but the stairs.)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tales of a Bad Day

Started off the day with a quick breakfast and the soundtrack of Singin' In the Rain to drown out Charlie as he and Richard were arriving. I have the deluxe CD set with a second disc that includes the original versions of the songs as they were sung in the films they came from. Favorites include Jeanette MacDonald's lovely version of "Would You?" from the disaster drama San Francisco, the iconic title number from the Oscar-winning 1929 Broadway Melody, and Robert Taylor and June Knight performing a breezy "I Got the Feelin' You're Foolin'" from The Broadway Melody of 1936.

Work was pretty much the same as yesterday - boring as heck. It was dead up through around 2:30, and even when it picked up, it was never that horrible. I still ended up staying an extra hour. One of the cashiers called out, and another went home sick. (He looked fine to me. He was probably bored.) I got stuck in the cash register and panicked, when I wasn't bored myself. Not only is it the middle of the week and the middle of the month, but it was sunny and warm, too nice for most people to be shopping.

Rushed straight home after that. I no longer had the time to go to the Haddon Township Library or get the laundry done. Tried to work on writing and ignore Charlie and his potty mouth on the porch. Artie knows Yoda well. They were in the same unit in the military during World War I, Yoda as a chaplain. Yoda's Victorian home is stuffed full of the many, many things he's found on his digs. Luke's more interested in his relationship with Ben, Vader, and the Force.

Finally got so fed up with listening to Charlie's constant F-bombs, I opted for a more peaceful dinner out. Hit The Square Meal and had half of a chicken sandwich and a quinoa-beet salad at their rustic-ish metal and wood tables and chairs. The chatter of the teens eating nachos next to me was far preferable.

Took a quick stroll to WaWa for money, then returned to West Clinton. Phillies Phatties has advertised their own home-made ice cream sandwiches all summer. Oh, yum. While the one I had was fairly small, it was also very tasty, two soft chocolate cookies with a thick slab of rich chocolate ice cream rolled in chocolate syrup and chocolate sprinkles...and at $1.50, it was the cheapest treat they had. I enjoyed my dessert while watching people walk their dogs and stroll past from Tonewood Brewery on the other end of the block.

It was a lovely evening for a short walk. The weather was just stunning today, mid-80's and dry as a bone, with a wonderfully cool breeze. The neighborhood is looking slightly greener after the heavy rain earlier this week; gardens are laden with late lilies, delphiniums, and daisies. Two little boys attempted to "sweep" their walk, but they were really just pushing dirt around, much to their father's consternation.

Played Lego Clone Wars for a while after I got in. Completed "Grievous Intrigue" and "Destroy the Malevolence" and got one more piece on "Lair of Grievous." Picked up Boba Fett and Wedge Antilles from the finished rounds.

Finished the night after a shower with the pilot movie from Tales of the Gold Monkey. Jake Cutter (Stephan Collins) is having an even worse day than I am. He just lost his dog Jack's sapphire eye in a poker game, and is attacked by stranded singer Sarah White (Catalin O'Heaney) when he thinks he's saving her from what turns out to be her agent. Sarah and Jake both have worse problems. Sarah is really a spy, and her contact turns out to be very dead. Jake lost his wine shipment for bar owner Bon Chance Louie (Ron Mooney) over Boku, an island with a very active volcano. Boku becomes a lot more interesting when Jake hears about a gold monkey statue that may be found on the island. Sarah insists on joining him, his forgetful mechanic Corky (Jeff McKay), and Jack on a trip to find the Monkey and keep it out of the hands of Nazi spies.

I really regret that I was only about three years old when this show was on the air. I would have loved it later in the 80's, when I was a huge fan of Indiana Jones, the Disney cartoon Tail Spin, and other old-fashioned adventures. If you share my hankering for 30's-style action, the DVD set is in print and fairly easy to find on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Quiet Summer

Once again started off the morning with writing. Luke and Artie arrive at a slightly run-down neighborhood just outside of San Francisco's Chinatown. Luke is surprised to see that the old Victorian building is owned by a renown professor. They're about to go looking for Yoda when they encounter an tiny, ancient Asian man on the sidewalk. Artie recognizes him. Yes, this is Dr. Yoda Chiang, a leading authority on the Swords of Light and Alderaan. The older Asian scholar and the black chauffeur embrace before Yoda brings them in his home.

The electricians arrived around 9. I was writing when they came in. They unplugged the air conditioner, checked all the sockets, and turned the electricity on and off several times. I have no idea what they found, or what the verdict was. No one told me, at any rate. Charlie was up here all morning, hammering the new porch/roof into position.

Listened to my Tony Orlando and Dawn's Greatest Hits LP while having a quick lunch. Most of these songs are considered cheesy as hell today, but I still have a soft spot for a couple of them, including "Candida," "Summer Sand," and "Hey Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?"

Work was utterly, totally dead all day. I haven't seen it this quiet on a nice day since Halloween. It was never even mildly busy. I did the trash three times and cleaned the bathrooms twice, did returns, and gathered baskets. I did round up carts twice during the first half of my shift, but another guy arrived around 3 who took over what little there was to do. Spent most of the afternoon wandering around the store, putting things away and trying to look busy. It was absolutely gorgeous today, sunny and much drier than yesterday, with a nice, cool wind. Most people were likely either on vacation, or outside taking advantage of the decent weather.

Charlie and his men were long done by the time I made it home. I was able to eat leftovers for dinner and play Lego Clone Wars in peace. Didn't really get very far tonight. Got one more piece on "Weapons Factory," but had no luck with "Jedi Crash."

Finished the night with The Natural. Roy Dobbs (Robert Redford) is the title character, a one-time pitching protege who is drafted by the New York Knights in 1935 as one of the oldest "rookies" in baseball. Turns out that the only reason he was hired was because the owner of the team, the Judge (Robert Duvall), wanted the team to lose the pennant and get the share from the co-owner and manager "Pop" Fisher (Wilford Brimley). He finally proves his worth when he takes over for the team's ailing star (Michael Madson) and becomes an overnight sensation, winning game after game. He's encouraged by a former sweetheart, Iris (Glenn Close) and turns down bribes from the Judge and his cohort Gus Sands (Darrin McGavin). The men finally have him poisoned with the help of Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), Pop's niece, right before they're to clinch the pennant. Turns out that Dobbs had once been shot by a woman (Barbara Hershey) who then committed suicide, and it ruined his life and damaged his stomach. He may die if he plays...but he's too devoted to the team and to Iris to let them down now.

Standard melodrama enlivened by wonderful performances by Redford, Brimley, Duvall, and the ladies, stunning cinematography, and one of Randy Newman's best scores. Close was Oscar-nominated as Dobbs' biggest fan. Necessary if you're a fan of Redford, period drama, or the National Pastime.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Golden Days

Spent most of the morning and early afternoon writing and avoiding both Charlie and his men working on the porch/roof and a hot, sunny day. After their kiss under the hood, Leia and Harry are feeling a little more kindly to each other. Harry tells Leia that he and his navigator Charel have a friend who knows the black market for artifacts inside and out. Laurence "Larry" Carlyle now runs a hotel and nightclub in Bespin on the French Riviera. No one knows more about the comings and goings of antiques than he does. Leia is a little wary, but with the Falcon stalling and Vader on their trail, they don't really have much of a choice.

They don't see Roberto Fettara, in his garbage-covered truck, hiding in the trees under them. He calls his "boss" - Vader - and tells him that the Silver Falcon is on its way to France...and he has a pretty good idea of where in France it's heading...

Broke for a quick lunch at 1. Writing Harry and Leia's kiss yesterday put me in the mood for something romantic. The Student Prince is an operetta about the unhappy romance of a bar maid and a prince in disguise in Heidleburg in the early 1900's. He falls for her as a college student, but they're unable to marry because she's a commoner. They end up marrying people from their own social classes...but they'll never forget the "golden days" of their romance.

It was sunny when I went to work, hot, hazy, and humid. It's probably a good thing that I only did the carts twice, and not for longer than 20 minutes either time. By quarter of 4, dark clouds had begun to move in. It showered lightly on and off while I was doing carts. The monsoon didn't start until I was on break in the back room. I spent the rest of the afternoon inside. Got stuck in the register a few times. Someone called out, leaving us short on help. Between the weather and the time of year, we were mostly quiet anyway.

Luckily for me, the rain was long gone by the time I got out at 6, though it remained cloudy and humid. I went straight home. There was a message on my machine from Charlie when I got in. Something about the electrician coming tomorrow morning. Great. I'll never get any writing done.

Cheered up with leftovers for dinner and more Lego Clone Wars. Completed "Liberty at Ryloth" and got three more pieces on "Weapons Factory" and one more on "Defenders of the Peace." Completing "Liberty" gave me a standard Original Trilogy Stormtrooper.

Ended the night with Sherlock Gnomes. Garden gnomes across London have gone missing, including all of the gnomes from the garden where Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) live. Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and his assistant Watson (Chiwetel Ejofor) arrive and bring the feuding lovers along with them. Their trail takes them from a Chinese shop filled with hostile cat figurines to the park to a toy shop that's the home of Sherlock's resentful ex-lover Irene (Mary J. Bilge). While Juliet chats with Irene about the importance of love over duty, Sherlock mourns the loss of Watson, whom he believes was smashed, and Gnomeo finds the missing gnomes at the Tower Bridge. Sinster pie mascot Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou) has evil plans for the gnomes, if Sherlock, Watson, and the lovers can't get to them in time...

This is pretty much the same deal as the original film. It's not bad. The animation is colorful and cute, and there's occasionally some good lines or an interesting idea. But the "appreciate your partner" aesop is cliched and overdone, the mystery is telescoped from miles off, and some of the characters are annoying as heck (like Moriarty - and his design is ugly, too). Blunt comes off best as determined Juliet; Ejofor is also decent as Watson, who just wants his friend to give him his due.

If you have kids who may enjoy the colorful characters or really, really love the cast or the first film, this is worth seeing once. Everyone else can probably in all good faith skip it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

Began a hazy morning with instant Cream of Wheat for breakfast and some Bowery Boys to drown out Charlie cursing over the sagging porch/roof. (Hey pal, it's not my fault your idea of "good weather" for working always seems to be during a heat wave.) Jungle Gents is one of the later movies that mainly focuses on Slip and Sach's antics. Sach has been taking huge pills that somehow allow him to smell diamonds. When he stops a robbery, the millionaire owner of the diamonds he saves offers to send the guys to Africa to find a lost diamond mine. The guys are about ready to brain Sach after he loses the map, but he's the one who saves them from an angry witch doctor and figures out who doesn't want them to find that mine.

Work was absolutely no problem whatsoever. We were totally dead all day. Never got even mildly steady. I did carts and gathered trash in the morning, put toilet paper in the bathroom, rounded up more carts, and scrubbed registers in the afternoon.

When I got home, I worked on writing and continued to ignore the guys working outside. Did some re-writing to add a scene where the Silver Falcon, Harry's plane, starts smoking. He brings her down in a valley in the Swiss Alps to check her out. While his co-pilot Charel takes a look at the cockpit with the help of nervous secretary Clarence, Harry and Leia check out the engine. They end up kissing under the hood before Clarence bursts in and ends their romantic rendezvous.

 Broke at 6 to have leftover hot dogs, cucumber salad, and the last of the onion rings for dinner. Made chocolate pudding for dessert. Played Lego Clone Wars after I finished eating. It took me almost an hour and a half, but I finally completed "The Hidden Enemy" and the epilogue level "The Zillo Beast," which netted me Greedo and Chewbacca respectively. I'm going to see if I can finish the remaining levels before I move on to other bonus rounds or finish the bounty hunter levels.

Finished the night with Annie. Based after the long-running comic strip, the title character (Aileen Quinn) is a spunky orphan living in New York City during the Great Depression. She's perpetually running away from the orphanage's soused manager Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett) to find her real parents. During one such attempt, she acquires a mutt she names Sandy, whom she brings back with her. Both are taken in shortly after by Grace Farrell (Ann Renniking), the secretary for crusty British billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney). Annie loves her new life with Warbucks and his eccentric staff, but she still wants a real family and her real parents. Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster (Tim Curry), and his girlfriend Lily (Bernadette Peters) want to exploit her wish and get the reward Warbucks is offering. Annie's friends at the orphanage sound the alarm, and Warbucks' diverse household, including mystical Indian bodyguard Punjab (Geoffrey Holder), go to her rescue.

I've loved this big, bright musical for literally most of my life. According to Mom, it's one of the first live-action movies I ever saw in a theater (along with Return of the Jedi). Critics have been rough on it for years, complaining that it's too far from the stage show (though they have softened on it a bit recently, especially after the modern remake in 2014 proved to be even more polarizing). John Huston may not have been the right choice for director (the movie moves at a snail pace and the action-packed finale is completely out of place), but the numbers are fun, and there's some great performances, especially from Burnett (whose "Little Girls" is a highlight) and Renniking.

If you have little girls who are fans of musicals and can handle the period aspects, give this one a whirl. (Girls looking for a more recent flavor and cast may want to try the 2014 film first.)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

I Can See Clearly Now

I awoke to a gloomy, damp morning. Brightened the day with Blueberry Pancakes and the K-Tel collection I found yesterday, High Energy. It's pretty obvious this is from the height of the disco craze in 1979, with tracks like G.Q*'s "Disco Nights" and "Shake Your Groove Thing" by Peaches & Herb. Other favorites here include "Fire" by Bonnie Pointer, "Le Freak" by Chic, "Love Will Find a Way" by Pablo Cruise, "Renegade" by Styx, and "Knock On Wood" by Amii Stewart.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. Palpatine tells Vader that he wants the swords, and he's to get them by any means necessary...including killing those who have found them. Vader thinks the Skylark twins would make better apprentices instead and convinces his seemingly frail boss to hire them rather than kill them.

Meanwhile, the Silver Falcon is on it's way across Europe. Leia wants to find the Sword of Wisdom, which was stolen from the temple before her godfather Bail's ill-fated dig. Harry suggests they head to the South of France to talk to his friend Laurence Caryle, the owner and manager of a casino in the town of Bespin on the Mediterranean.

It had started raining while I was on the computer. There was even some thunder at one point. It continued as I broke for lunch and finished the High Energy album. Thankfully, it had slowed down somewhat by the time I left for work. I couldn't have gotten a ride. Dad and Jodie went on vacation this week, and I didn't want to drag Rose and her kids out in this. It ended all together just as I rode into the Acme's parking lot. I arrived damp but not soaked.

Work was surprisingly pretty quiet, much more than it usually is on a Sunday. Some folks may have been avoiding the weather; others are still on vacation. It got busy enough at one point for me to briefly end up in a register, and another to do some bagging. Otherwise, I helped the teenagers with the carts and rounded up baskets and trash.

A Tastycake truck parked itself on the patio as I was helping the kids with the last round of carts. They were giving away free Chocolate Juniors (cakes) and Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. I opted for the latter. I figured they'd be easier to eat on my way home than the slab of chocolate frosting and sponge cake.

Started dinner when I got in. Finally made the turkey hot dogs, with steamed broccoli and brown rice. Yum. Simple and tasty. The broccoli was especially good, given how long I'd had it around. Listened to another K-Tel collection while I ate. Superstars Greatest Hits is from 1974, probably the earliest K-Tel album I own. By far my favorite song on this set is the lovely Oscar-winning theme from The Poseidon Adventure, "The Morning After."

Finished the night with a long Lego Clone Wars session. Completed the prologue "Geonosian Arena" (after I finally figured out how to "corral" the droids in the electric pen) and the bonus missions "Hostage Crisis" and "Castle of Doom." Completing the rounds released Emperor Palpatine, a Red Imperial Guard, and a Tusken Raider respectively. Got three pieces on "Jedi Crash" and one on "Shadow of Malevolence."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Summertime Harvest

Started off an absolutely gorgeous morning with breakfast and more Scooby Doo. You can't get much more late 70's than "The Diabolical Disc Demon." Mystery Inc has come to a recording studio to make an album. The writer they were going to work with has vanished, however, leaving behind a half-finished song that a KISS-like ghost seems to be especially interested in.

Charlie appeared around 9, banging and hammering. Turns out, yes, he decided to start taking down the old porch/roof and putting up the new one today. I wish he'd given me some heads-up besides his mother mentioning in the letter I gave to Rose that he'd be starting it "when the weather was right." I'm to come and go via the steep stairs that lead through Charlie's side of the house.

Headed out around 10 to run errands. There was a big green sign for a yard sale on Woodland Terrace at the end of Goff Avenue. Yard sales are rare here in the summer. Alas, I saw nothing of interest and moved on.

Next stop was the Collingswood Farm Market. The summer harvest is in full swing now...and so are the crowds looking for produce for their barbecues and pool parties. I saw cantaloupe and spaghetti squash for the first time today, and the orchard booth finally had the little peaches I like. I also grabbed blueberries, a tomato, and two ears of corn.

I had no other major plans for today, so I decided to stroll around Collingswood for a few hours. I needed new heads for my electric toothbrush; picked them up at Rite Aid. Used the bathroom at the library, then went across the street to InnerGroove Records and checked them out. It took me 40 minutes, but I came up with:

The Story of Star Wars - Five dollars for this book-and-record kids' is cheap compared to what it usually costs elsewhere. The book's missing, but it's not like I don't already have a vintage picture book version of New Hope anyway.

High Energy - Another awesome K-Tel rock collection, this one from 1979

Linda Rondstat - For Sentimental Reasons (replacing a cassette copy I've had for years)

WIBG 30 Big Goldens - Classic rock collection, this one from what was then known as WIBG AM in Philadelphia (they're now WNTP, a conservative talk radio station)

After briefly peeking at Frugli Consignment, I decided some lunch was in order. I forgot how popular Collingswood is on Saturdays. Sabrina's Cafe had a long line; The Pop Shop was full to capacity. Ended up at Tortilla Press for their brunch. While they weren't as busy, there were enough groups there to keep the staff hopping. I watched them and the cars passing by the intersection of Collings and Haddon Avenues outside while having an egg sandwich with peppers and onions for lunch.

Took the long way home via Newton Lake Park across from the CVS, where I watched the fireworks on the 4th. I wish the park wasn't looking so dry. We so badly need rain. Most people must have been in town. I saw one woman coming back from the bus stop on the White Horse Pike and a couple of kids on bikes.

Went right into dusting when I got home. Put on the WIBG collection and turned it up to drown out Charlie's cursing. I shouldn't have put off cleaning for so long. The dust was really bad, especially in my bedroom where the window was open.

Worked on writing for a while after I finished as Charlie pulled ancient siding off the side of the house. Angry over losing his quarry, Vader strangles the officer who'd been in charge of capturing them, then gives the nearest officer, Admiral Piett, his job. He defers only to Palpatine, the dictator of Coruscant, who is also with him. He tells Palpatine that he knows who Luke and Leia are and that he wants to train them and Harry as apprentices. Palpatine thinks this is an excellent idea, especially if they want to get the Sword of Light back and find the other two.

(And I heard Charlie complain after he got the siding off that he found ants burrowing into the side of the house. While I do still on rare occasions see ants in the house, I haven't had a major infestation since that one year there were a couple of branches of old trees leaning on the roof. Charlie, of course, was more worried about them getting into his side than mine.)

Broke at quarter of 6 for a quick leftovers dinner and Lego Clone Wars. Completed "Rookies" and got the character for that round, Darth Maul. Found one more piece on "Shadow of Malevolence" and two on "Lair of Grievous." No luck with "Destroy the Malevolence," though.

Switched to the remaining episodes on the Scooby Doo disc to finish the night. "Scooby's Chinese Fortune Kooky Caper" is slightly less stereotypical than their first Chinese case, "Mystery Mask Mix-Up." A friend of the gang's who lives in China is being haunted by The Moon Monster, a creature so terrifying, it turns anyone who stands in its shadow to stone. The creature wants him to toss family's fortune into the Rampoo River or deal with a terrible curse...but Velma thinks there's more to it than that.

"A Menace In Venice" is a similar story, only this time, they're in Italy, and it's a necklace, rather than an entire treasure, the gang has to defend. A ghost haunts him, insisting that he give up the valuable jewelry.

A ghostly military commander in Puerto Rico warns them "Don't Go Near the Fortress of Fear." Shaggy and Scooby are more than happy to concede his request. The others would rather make a few inquiries as to what he really wants there.

"The Warlock of Wimbleton" frankly looks more like a super-villain from a bad 70's comic book than a warlock who tries to terrorize a young British tennis player into quitting the game. The gang hits Stonehenge to see if the warlock is the real deal.

The disc - and the series - ended in Canada with "The Beast Is Awake at Bottomless Lake." This time, they're on a fishing trip to the title destination when they discover it's going dry. A fishy Beast is driving tourists away from the town and drying up the water. The gang try to figure out what it is that the Beast really wants.

If you're a Scooby fan, these later-day Where are You episodes are just as much fun as the originals from earlier in the 70's. However, taken as a whole, they can get repetitive and a bit dull despite the changes in settings. I can almost understand why they brought in Scrappy shortly after - something different was needed.

The Scooby TV series, especially the earlier ones, are really best taken as they were originally intended to be - in small, bite-sized doses. Binge-watching reveals how formulaic they are; watching episode by episode lets you enjoy the settings and Scooby and Shaggy's antics without the feeling of sameness.