Friday, November 30, 2018

Tales of Fantasy

Began a cloudy, blah morning with breakfast and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yes, this is the original 1966 animated version of the tale of the furry green fellow who so hates how much his tiny neighbors get into the holidays, he vows to steal their Christmas goodies. It takes seeing how they react without them to make him understand that "Christmas doesn't come from a store. Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

Managed to squeak in a little writing after the cartoon ended. Lando and Finn meet the elder Ben Willkins (Kenobi) on their way to Han and Leia's party and offer to walk with him. They reveal that Scrooge holds the mortgage on their tavern and has threatened to throw them out. Lando wishes Ben would talk with Anakin, but Ben's certain that his former friend can't, or won't, change.

Headed out to work just twenty minutes after I got off the computer. It wasn't bad when I got in. I gathered carts and baskets and did the inside trash. It got busier as the afternoon went on. We were really short on help! I got stuck in the register several times, including once for almost an hour. Thankfully spent the rest of the day after that doing returns and bagging.

I'm not entirely happy with my schedule next week. In good news, all morning work and three days off, including Wednesday for Amanda's visit. I'll get a lot done with the holiday cleaning and decorating. In frustrating news, even fewer hours. This is why I took this week off last year. The two weeks or so following Thanksgiving are usually quiet, and our hours get severely cut.

Even so, I did have some things I needed to buy. Ground turkey was on a good sale; bought it for dinner tonight. Restocked yogurt, apples, butter, bananas, cranberries, cereal, skim milk, peanut butter, and jam. Picked up my annual advent calendar with the chocolate in it. This year's has a group of wide-eyed children watching Santa and his reindeer ride past their window. Bought a present for my friend Amanda, who will be visiting on Wednesday.

As soon as I got home and put everything away, I started dinner. Made Cincinatti Chili from Kit's Cooking Studio. Replaced the water with home-made chicken broth and added celery with the onions. Mom always put celery in her chili when we were kids, and it adds a bit of bite to it. Oh, yum. It came out beautifully, even if I probably didn't cook it for as long as I needed to.

Ran Barbie In the Nutcracker as I worked on the chili. The very first Barbie movie once again has her opening the film with a story she's relating to her little sister. This time, she tells Kelly the tale of Clara, a young girl who is chafing at the bit to see the world with her beloved Aunt, but her grandfather thinks she's still too young. She gets more adventure than she ever dreamed when she sees mice fighting her new nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. The Mouse King (Tim Curry) shrinks her to the size of a doll to keep her from interfering. The Nutcracker insists that only the Sugar Plum Princess can restore both their forms...but the Mouse King has no desire to give up the control of his kingdom that easily and dogs them at every turn.

I first saw this years ago, but I thought it was silly and badly animated and wasn't impressed. I like it a bit more nowadays. Yes, the CGI animation looks waxy and hasn't dated well, especially the rock monster, and the ending with who the Sugar Plum  Princess turns out to be is a bit of a cop-out. I do like Clara, though, who is resourceful, brave, and good-natured, and Major Mint and Captain Candy have their funny moments in the middle half. If you remember seeing this on video or TV in the 90's and early 2000's or have a Barbie fan around, this isn't her best vehicle, but it isn't bad, and it is where the movies started.

Finished the night with another fantasy, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen. We move from the Land of Sweets to the Land of Reason. A town in the late 1700's is being attacked by the Turks. Even as they bombard them outside, a theater troupe is putting on a version of the life of famous mercenary and liar Baron Munchhausen. An old man claiming to be the real Munchhausen (John Neville) arrives half-way through, saying that his adventures were real. The town's mayor (Johnathan Pryce) is aghast. This town runs on reason and nothing but.

Balderdash, says Munchhausen. Everyone needs a little fantasy in their lives. Determined to stop the Turks, he and Sally (Sarah Polley), the daughter of the head of the theater troupe, take off in a balloon made from women's undergarments to find all of his old friends. He does manage to round up the others, after encounters with the King of the Moon (Robin Williams) and Vulcan (Oliver Reed) with an enticing Venus (Uma Thurman). Even when they do take on the Turks, Munchhausen may not survive an encounter with none other than Death himself.

This has been a favorite of mine since it first started to show up on cable in the early 90's. It may have been a pain to film, but it was worth it in the end. Neville's having a blast as the dashing, charming Baron, who may not be telling the whole truth, but sure as hell knows how to make it entertaining. If you're a fan of unique fantasies or director Terry Gilliam's other work, you'll absolutely want to take a look at this one.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Welcome to the Holidays

Started the morning with breakfast and The Bernstein Bears' Christmas Tree. Papa Bear takes Brother and Sister into the mountains to find the perfect tree. He keeps picking trees that are occupied by animals who have no desire to give up their homes for the holidays. After he spares the home of a family of snowbirds, the animals have a surprise for them when they get back to their own tree house.

Headed to work even before the cartoon ended. Work was pretty much the same deal as yesterday - dead as can be. I did some returns in the morning, but I mainly alternated between gathering carts and shelving candy until another bagger came and took over the carts. It was just starting to pick up a little when I headed out.

Had a quick lunch of lemon muffins and a banana-peanut butter smoothie when I got home. Finished out the Bernstein Bears, then moved to another Christmas tale of a bear, The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas. Most bears hibernate through the holidays, but Ted E Bear wants to find out what this Christmas business is all about. The other bears laugh at him when he tries to take a plane to Christmas. He eventually stumbles to the city, where he encounters a certain jolly old man in red. It's him who finally tells Ted that Christmas isn't a place. It's really more of a feeling...and one that's best shared with those you love.

Headed out around quarter after 2 to volunteer at the Haddon Township Library. They were even less busy than the Acme had been. There were signs saying that the children's and series DVDs and the audiobooks were being saved for other people, but I was able to shelve the adult titles. Took out another holiday set for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and the Cat In the Hat Knows a Lot About That Christmas special. Movies this week are Pulp Fiction, Arthur Christmas, and The Wizard of Oz.

Took a brief look at AC Moore on my way home. I was hoping they'd have a nice dress for Ariel to wear at Christmas, but I didn't see anything I liked. It was getting fairly late anyway, and I wanted to write, so I moved on.

Went into writing as soon as I got in. The Ghost next brings Anakin to meet Lando Calarissian and his nephew Finn Finnegan. Lando owns a tavern that he owes a great deal of rent on to Scrooge. They also encounter the now-older Ben Willkens at his book shop. All are planning to attend Han and Leia's big party that night. Ben is considered to be a friend of the family.

Had a quick tomato, cheese, and mushroom omelet for dinner while watching the My Little Pony disc. "Hearth's Warming Eve" was the series' first Christmas-themed special, and it's first Hearth's Warming episode. The Mane Six appear in a pageant that tells the story of how Hearth's Warming came to be. Many years ago, the three types of ponies didn't get along. When their land and supplies are ruined by a harsh winter, the heads of state (Rainbow Dash, Pinkie, and Rarity) and their meek assistants (Fluttershy, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle) head off to find a new home. Even after they do find a beautiful land, it's again attacked by the Windegos. They freeze both the land and the angry rulers. It's up to the assistants to warm things up a little when they have fun together...and realizing just how important everyone is, no matter who they are or what they do.

Got out the door for Oaklyn's Christmas Parade and tree-lighting around 6. I opted to go on foot, strolling with the rest of the town down West Clinton. About two blocks from the City Hall and Fire House, a lady handed me a thick foam glow stick that flickered red, blue, and green in the dark night. I have no idea why she gave it to me, since I'm not a kid and don't have kids, but it did make a rather nice night light, and it was free.

As at Halloween, there was chaos when I arrived at the parking lot between City Hall and the fire house. Kids had lightsaber fights with the glow sticks, while the Girl Scouts set up cookies and hot chocolate as refreshments. (I managed to snitch two oatmeal cookies and two chocolate-striped cookies before a den mother told me the refreshments were off-limits until after the parade. Then why set them up before the parade?)

The parade was supposed to start at 6:30,  but the first fire engines didn't find their way to City Hall until nearly 7. The Oaklyn parade mostly consists of decorated firetrucks and isn't nearly as elaborate as the one at Collingswood. There were some nifty floats, though. One truck pulled a float with a large "gingerbread" house. Another was driven by firefighters wearing Lego masks and had a Lego Movie theme. Another pulled a sleigh with a stuffed Santa, and there was one that shot fake "snow" into the air.

I'm wondering what happened to the kids. The chorus from last year was reduced to four pre-teen girls singing a few carols. At least their female teacher had a rather lovely voice, and people did sing along.

I stuck around long enough for the sing-along and to see the Volunteer of the Year light the lights on the Town Tree on the grass by the West Clinton side of City Hall. While everyone else took their children into City Hall to see Santa, I went in the opposite direction and walked home. While it's not as windy as it has been, it's still a bit breezy, and quite cold. I figured I'd take a hot shower instead of waiting for the hot chocolate.

After my shower, I finished off the My Little Pony disc. The remaining two episodes are from the fifth season. Rainbow Dash is upset when she learns that her pet tortoise Tanks will be hibernating for the winter in "Tanks for the Memories." She does everything she can to stop him from sleeping, and then stop winter from coming. Pinkie Pie is "Party Pooped" when she goes to the homeland of the Yaks to try to figure out what will make them feel at home enough to enjoy her party and help Twilight become friends with them.

Moved on to The Wizard of Oz as I went online. I covered this much-loved 1939 fantasy at my Musical Dreams Reviews page.

The Wizard of Oz

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Saviors of the Universe

Kicked off the morning with a quick breakfast and Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus. This 1974 special tells the real-life story of a little girl named Virginia who sent a letter to the New York Sun, asking them if Santa really existed. Francis Church, the head of the editorial department, wrote a moving reply assuring the child that yes, Santa is as real as you and me. Many of the kids in Virginia's class say that there's no Santa, and the adults won't give them a definitive answer. Mr. Church's letter proves that faith does exist, and that you don't have to see something to believe in it.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. Luke and Temiri made Anakin a gift - a carved twin sun pendant, much like the one he'd once made Padme. Luke was hoping to give it to his father, but he's not sure he'll accept it. Mara's certain he won't accept it. She doesn't like her father-in-law at all, and refused to take her guardian Sheev Marley's blood money. The children aren't fans of their grandfather, either, especially Rey. Like his father, Temiri shows more kindness, pointing out that their grandfather might not be so bad.

Broke for lunch at noon. Finished Yes Virginia, then watched Bugs Bunny's Christmas Tales. This holiday anthology showcases three original Christmas Looney Tunes shorts. The first is a very brief retelling of A Christmas Carol, with Porky and Petunia as the Cratchits, Yosemite Sam as Scrooge, and Bugs as Nephew Fred. Wil E. Coyote and the Road Runner take their usual attics to the snow-covered mountains in the second short. The third short has Bugs and his nephew Clyde dealing with the Tazmanian Devil in a Santa Claus suit.

Work was pretty quiet the entire night. It was busy briefly once; I bagged for a manager. Otherwise, I mainly shelved candy or loose items. Even when I went outside late in the evening, I had plenty of help and not a lot to do. I helped the girl round up the few carts that were there, then did the outside trash and recycling. Grabbed an on-sale container of Baskin-Robbins Pralines and Cream ice cream on my way out.

Took out my own trash and recycling when I got home. Had leftovers for dinner, then tried something different. I had a bunch of apples, but I didn't want to make anything too heavy. Decided to test the new food processor and make applesauce. Oh, yum! Not only did it chop the apples as fine as you wish, but I tried a recipe from one of my healthy cookbooks that added honey and jam. It was delicious, so sweet and fruity!

Watched Flash Gordon while I worked. The 1980 version of the famous comic strip and serial has Earth under attack by the evil ruler of the planet Mongo, Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydrow). New York Jets quarterback Flash (Sam J. Jones) and travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) end up in a rocket with discredited scientist Zarkov (Topol), whose insistence on there being aliens who want to destroy the Earth may have lead Ming to them. Ming is definitely interested in Dale and tries to have Flash killed, but his daughter Aura (Ornella Muti) has him revived and brought to the planet Arboria. The head of the planet, Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton), is her lover, and he's not happy about sharing with Flash. Ming has turned all of the planets he rules against one another, including Barin and the head of the winged Hawkmen, Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed). Flash has to figure out how to bring them all together to stop Ming and Dale's wedding and save the Earth from total annihilation.

This is one of my favorite sci-fi films. It's probably the campiest film there is, and it's an absolute hoot. Love the wild Technicolor sets and costumes and the synthesizer score by the band Queen and Howard Blake. Von Sydrow and Topol are especially good as the elegant ruler of the universe and the not-so-mad scientist who wants to stop the aliens before they so anything worse.

If you love camp or space opera that doesn't take itself seriously for a moment, you'll want to take a rocket ship to the planet Mongo and check this one out.

Ended the night with another goofy space opera, Guardians of the Galaxy. Flash isn't the only one dealing with warring planets. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is no noble Flash Gordon hero, though. He's a criminal who steals an orb with incredible powers. Yondu, the space pirate who adopted him (Michael Rooker), wants the orb back and goes after him. Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), the head of a race of evil aliens, hires the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to go after him. Gamora tries to get it from him at the Nova Empire...and then two more bounty hunters, the guns-obsessed talking raccoon Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and his big tree buddy Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), join the fray. They all end up in prison, where they're helped to escape by Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who wants revenge on Ronan for killing his family. In the end, Yondu finally joins them to stop Ronan from getting his hands on the orb...and when one of them make a sacrifice for the others, they understand just how much of a family they've become.

I think Guardians of the Galaxy is my second-favorite Marvel sub-series after Captain America. While not as flat-out campy as Flash Gordon, it's just as much fun, with a delightfully irreverent tone and some truly unique characters. I really hope Marvel can figure out their director problems and continue this series - it's a lot of fun, one of the funniest series in the entire Marvel Universe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Winds of November

Kicked off a cloudy and very windy morning with breakfast and the Sean the Sheep holiday episodes. "We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas" has Bitzer the dog and the flock decorating the house for the farmer after they learn he's going to be alone for the holidays. The animals think it's great fun when they're "Snowed In," but the farmer has a harder time getting out. Bitzer is the "Fireside Favorite" when he gets a cold. Pidsley the cat doesn't like him snoozing in his favorite spot and tries to get him out. The farmer builds a turbine when he sees his electricity bill, but "An Ill Wind" leaves the sheep using it as their new favorite carnival ride. Sean devises a wheeled cart to haul "Shirley Whirley" around easier, but the farmer's TV remote keeps interfering with the signal.

Moved on to the 1954 version of A Christmas Carol while I scrubbed the bathroom. Fredric March is Scrooge in this semi-musical TV adaptation. In an interesting touch, Ray Middleton, who plays Nephew Fred, is also the Ghost of Christmas Present, while Sally Fraser does Scrooge's fiancee Belle and the Ghost of Christmas Past. Likely due to this being an hour telecast, the Ghost of Christmas Future is eliminated completely; Scrooge just sees his gravestone and Tiny Tim's after being lead there by a bird. While it's not great, it is history, one of the few programs of the 1950's to have survived in its entirety (though not in its original color). The copy I dubbed a few years ago even comes with the original commercials for Chrysler Cars.

Headed out around 12:30 after a quick yogurt-and-banana lunch. I wanted to stop at the Oaklyn Library before my counseling appointment and drop off the Cranberry Thanksgiving book. I looked over the DVDs while the librarian helped a family find books and the Weather Channel blared news about the snow in the Upper Midwest.

Went straight to counseling after I left the library. I made it there just as Mrs. Stahl's previous client was leaving. Between my bike being stolen, Dad's death, my being broke, and the incident with the air conditioner, it's been a long couple of weeks for me. Thankfully, things have calmed down since then. Halloween and Thanksgiving both went very well, despite the changes with the latter. I have been doing research on some local businesses on Craigslist and elsewhere that I could write for at home, and I did join Linkedin.

It helps that things have largely been going better at work, too. My new managers are an older gentleman who seems to be fairly decent and a sweet young woman who has been nothing but kind to me. I mostly work in the mornings now and avoid the afternoon managers...and one of them was actually quite helpful when my bike was stolen. (Her boyfriend is a cop in Mt. Ephram, and she put out the bulletin with him.)

Even though I'm broke, I'm still looking forward to Christmas. Amanda will visit no matter what. I have plenty of decorations, and most baking ingredients are on deep sales during December, which should help with the cookies and baked items. I'm really hoping I can make enough money to do some shopping.

(Incidentally, this was my last counseling session of the year. I have too much going on in December to run up to Haddonfield. I'll be seeing Mrs. Stahl again in mid-January.)

It was in the lower 40's today, too cold for water ice. I rode a block down to Starbucks instead for a warmer treat. The local kids had just gotten out of school, and there was a long line of tweens and young teens chattering and checking their phones when I arrived. The line moved fast enough that it didn't take that long for me to get my slice of gingerbread loaf cake and Chestnut Praline Latte. The cake was yummy - their gingerbread cake always is - but the latte didn't taste like anything but coffee.

Took the long way home down Cuthbert and across Newton Lake Park. Fall is largely done here. The leaves have been blown off the trees by all this crazy wind we've been having. The grass is still mostly green, probably thanks to all the rain, but the reeds along the river are dry and brittle. It was kind of depressing. I ended up taking the short way out over the hill and past the Haddon Township Environmental Center and Museum to the White Horse Pike.

Went right into writing when I got in. Mara and Luke's adopted daughter Rey comes home first from her job in a junk shop. The kids think it'll be funny for her to hide from her father when he comes in. He arrives with their crippled son Temiri (the little boy with the broom at the end of The Last Jedi). Rey can't stand to see him sad and emerges early. Luke tells Mara that Temiri was good, and rather thoughtful, in church. As Scrooge watches the family, it becomes obvious that he's taken with his frail but kind grandson...but the little boy may not live to see the future...

Finished the night with a shower, then scrambled eggs with cheese, mushrooms, and tomatoes while watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I go more into that beloved musical fantasy at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog:

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Monday, November 26, 2018

Stranger Than Science Fiction

I overslept and just managed to sneak in a quick Backyardigans episode as I had breakfast and got ready for work. "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" has Pablo, Uniqua, and Tasha as three of Santa's workers. When the Abominable Brothers (Tyrone and Austin) steal Santa's (Conan O'Brian) magic sack, it's up to his most superheroic elves to get it back in time for his big night ride.

It just started raining right before I left for work. I didn't have the time to call for a ride. I went to work and got wet. I stayed wet for a lot of the day. The only other bagger there until 3 had ended up in a register. Thank goodness it wasn't busy. Between the heavy showers and this being the week after the major food holiday in the US, no one was in a hurry to run to the grocery store. I alternated between doing the carts and doing returns and trash inside and out the entire afternoon. My coat was so saturated by the time I went home, it was dripping. (At least the rain had slowed down by then.)

Made a tasty dinner of baked spinach and feta chicken sausages, roasted broccoli rabe, and multi-grain pasta with butter and herbs when I got in. Finished out the remaining cartoons while I ate. In "Pablor and the Acorns," Pablor and Uniquor are two intergalactic warlords seeking a certain crystal that'll give them the power to rule the universe. It crashes on top of a mountain on Earth. Pablor recruits Acorn members Austin, Tasha, and Tyrone to help him get to the crystal. He learns that it's more fun to help out his new friends than order them around.

Confusion is on the menu at "The Big Dipper Diner" when space cops Tyrone and Tasha mistake Uniqua and Pablo's cutie-pie customer Hugs for a nasty little alien called the Blarg. The Blarg has been going around shrinking everything in his path. Uniqua and Pablo do their best to keep the cops from arresting Hugs...but Hugs has her own way of dealing with this mini-menace.

Cleaned up while finishing out the disk with "The Great Splashinis." Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone are a trio of synchronized swimmers who are attempting to perform a very difficult dive when they find a sea monster in their pool. They first try to lure him out to the sea...but when they scare him, he takes off all around the water park, and they have to chase him, before he causes major damage!

Worked on writing briefly after dinner. The Ghost takes Scrooge into the city, where he observes him sprinkling water on two men who were about to fight. They finally remember the holiday and opt to part on good terms instead. The Ghost explains that the water encourages kindness and generostiy, especially for the poor. He takes him to Scrooge's son Luke's home to demonstrate this, just as Luke's wife Mara is getting dinner ready...

Ended my night online with some classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. "Pablor and the Acorns" put me in the mood for more goofy space opera. In this Japanese sci-fi tale from the eight season, Mike and the robots make jokes about the superheroic title character, who first saves a pair of children, then their father and several other scientists, from evil aliens bent on galactic conquest. For once, the movie was as much fun as the jokes being made. The dubbing wasn't great, but it could have been worse, and it's a great example of Japanese sci-fi in the 1950's. (There was even a brief - and rather badly costumed - giant monster for the Prince to fight in the end. No, not Godzilla.)

At any rate, here's the episode on YouTube:

Prince of Space

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Feelin' Good

Began a sunny morning with Banana Pancakes for a late breakfast. Actually, they came out pretty well. I made too many - the side-opening pour spout of the pancake mix box is hard to control - and I slightly burned the side of one. Otherwise, they were fairly tasty.

Ran On Your Toes while I ate. This revival of the 30's Rogers and Hart show was a surprise hit in 1983. Former vaudevillian Junior Dolan (Lara Teeter) is a music professor at Knickerbocker University in New York. Junior has two especially promising students - Sidney (Phillip Arthur Ross) has written a jazz ballet, and Frankie (Betty Ann Grove) wrote a song she wants him to hear. She introduces him to Vera Baranova (Natalia Markarova), whose agent Peggy (Dina Merrill) promises him a role in their show. Even after he makes a laughingstock of "La Princesse Zenobia Ballet," he and Peggy still manage to talk them into producing the jazz ballet "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue." Vera's jealous lover Morrosine (George S. Irving) is determined to eliminate Junior, especially after he's promoted to the star role. When Junior finds out that a gangster will shoot him after he gets offstage, he has to find a way for the show to keep going on.

This is probably the most famous of the 30's media that compared and contrasted classical and pop media. The standards here are the bittersweet ballads "There's a Small Hotel" and "Glad to Be Unhappy," along with the upbeat title song that pits ballet against tap. I also like "It's Got to Be Love" as Frankie, Junior, and the rest of the school wonder about their romantic relationships, and Peggy explaining what love is like to Junior in "The Heart Is Quicker Than the Eye."

Spent the next few hours taking down my Thanksgiving and general fall decorations. I know fall is continuing for another month, but I already had the container there. I figured I might as well get everything. Besides, I'll need to clear stuff to do major cleaning and dusting next week in order to get ready for Christmas. Not to mention, it hasn't really felt like fall in almost two weeks. I think Mother Nature is ready for the next season.

Listened to Peter Pan while I worked. Like Once Upon a Mattress, this 1954 Broadway show is more famous for having been broadcast live on TV four times than for any of it's stage versions. It also has some things in common with Seesaw - namely, a troubled production that saw the original songwriting team replaced and the book re-written. Once again, whatever they did worked. The music, both by Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh and Jules Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green, is excellent. "I Won't Grow Up" in particular is iconic today - it was used in the commercials for Toys R' Us for years. Other standards include "Distant Melody," "I've Gotta Crow," and "Never Never Land." You'd think Mary Martin would be creepy as Peter, but she sounds great on the LP and won a Tony for the role. Cyril Ritchard is equally good as Captain Hook (and also won a Tony).

In addition to the three TV casts, this was revived four times on Broadway. Sandy Duncan was Peter in a 1980 revival that was so popular, it outran the original. Gymnast Cathy Rigby appeared in three short-lived but much-loved revivals in the 90's. The recent TV version in 2014 with Allison Williams wasn't well-received - despite having Christopher Walken as Captain Hook, many complained about additional material and updating.

I got to Dad and Jodie's around 1:30, a little later than I planned. It was just the two of them and Vanessa when I arrived. Jodie had hoagies sliced for everyone, along with hot dogs for the kids and leftover desserts from Thanksgiving. (Apparently, they were about the only things that were leftover.) Jessa came about a half-hour later, followed by Craig with Finley and Rose with a subdued Khai. The Eagles started out slow, but ultimately played much better today than they have the past few weeks. They finally beat the New York Giants 25 to 22 in a nail-biter of a game that came down to the wire.

Spent some time with an adorable Finley downstairs, playing with toys and watching Paw Patrol. A group of puppies, each themed around a different rescue or service vehicle, are trained by their young master to help people in danger, or who are even just having trouble. This comes up in "Pups Save Thanksgiving." Mayor Humdinger and his kittens (all of whom are patterned after the Paw Patrol pups) try to steal the big dinner, but they end up floating off in the turkey bounce house and destroying the food instead. Skye the pink pilot dog, Chase the police dog, and Zuma the sea-going chocolate lab have to rescue them while the others help Mayor Goodway of their town clean up the food.

Humdinger also causes trouble in "Pups Save Windy Bay." There's supposed to be a wind surfing contest, but it's hard to wind surf with no wind. Humdinger has a machine that'll create wind, but the kittens can't control it and ends up blowing the contestants off-course and stranding them. Zuma, Chase, Skye, and Rocky the recycling pup end up having to go after them.

Blaze and the Monster Machines is kind of the same deal, only with talking monster trucks instead of talking dogs, and a math and technology theme rather than a teamwork theme. In the episode I saw, Blaze has to catch Crusher, a naughty truck who is on rocket skis that just won't stop, no matter how thick the ropes are that they try to catch him with. It's his Granny who figures out that yarn, when knitted to the right thickness, can be a very strong rope.

Headed out around quarter after 4. There was a package waiting for me when I got home. Lauren sent me a new food processor to replace the old one with the corroded plug. It's huge, much larger than the old one, with a large disc-shaped blade and a plastic piece to push the food in. It's so big, it didn't fit on my counter and ended up on the shelf on the other side of the divider, next to the cookbook shelves.

Did some writing after I cleaned up the cardboard mess. Scrooge figures he's ready for anything by now...but he wasn't ready for seeing a huge white-bearded man in a green robe sitting among tons of food in his parlor room. The man looks like Captain Rex, but he's actually The Ghost of Christmas Present. He's going to take Scrooge to see how his choices are effecting what goes on in the here and now.

Broke for a quick dinner around 7. Did The Roar of Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd while I ate. This simple allegory on classicism from 1965 has "Sir" (Ritchard again) as a smart rich man, and "Cocky" (Anthony Newley) as the guy who just can't catch a break in the game of life, no matter how many chirping urchins claim something better is coming. He loses his job and his lady to Sir and his rules, before he sees a black man finally make it. He too, "wins"...and then realizes that he and Sir can't function without each other.

As simple as this production is, it has a great score, possibly better than the previous Newley-Bricusse show that turned up on Broadway, Stop the World-I Want to Get Off. The big hit was the plaintive ballad "Who Can I Turn To?" Other standards include the urchins' number with Sir "A Wonderful Day Like Today," the black man's triumphant "Feelin' Good," and Cocky's "The Joker."

Speaking of people who can't catch a break, Starting Here, Starting Now is a 1977 off-Broadway revue featuring music by Richard Maltby and David Shire. It's made up of songs from their shows that either never made Broadway, or were never produced. There's a lot of good stuff here; favorites include the title song, "The Word Is Love," "Today Is the First Day of the Rest of My Life," "Watching the Big Parade Go By," and "A New Life Coming."

Their song "I Don't Remember Christmas" is featured in the CD A Broadway Christmas, which I finished off the night with. This Varese Saraband release collects holiday songs from various musicals. Some are well-known ("We Need a Little Christmas," "Hard Candy Christmas"). Others were cut from Broadway shows before opening (the lovely "Christmas Eve") or are from shows that have yet to make it to New York ("Christmas Gifts," "I Thank You for Your Love"). "The Happy New Year's Blues" was a then-new discovery of a previously lost Irving Berlin number.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Christmas On Parade

Kicked off a cloudy morning with a few of the classic holiday Disney shorts featured on A Walt Disney Christmas, a cartoon collection I dubbed off an old clamshell video a few years ago. "Once Upon a Wintertime" is the romantic tale of two young Victorian lovers and two bunnies and their adventures while out skating. "Santa's Workshop" shows Old Saint Nick and his elf helpers building toys and checking lists twice as they prepare for that big Christmas Eve ride.

Headed out quickly around quarter of 10. I got to Collingswood just in time. I no sooner stepped onto the curb by the Collingswood City Hall between two families than the first police cars began to make their way down the street.

The Collingswood Christmas Parade is the biggest in the area. Many local schools and businesses take part in the festivities. I saw at least three Grinch-themed floats, including from Good Shepard, Collingswood's Catholic elementary school. (Makes sense, with the new movie out.) Several local small businesses banded together with a float based around the movie Elf. Parkview Apartments had a Disney theme, with an oddly costumed Mickey, Minnie, and Daisy waving to the crowds. (I suspect that one was in honor of Mickey's 90th birthday this month.)

There were four string bands, one of which was an Irish society in green kilts. There was also an Irish step group, along with two other local dance groups, one from Haddonfield and Ovations on West Clinton Avenue in Oaklyn. Two stilt walkers, an elf and a toy soldier, juggled and gave high-fives to the kids in the crowd. Another elementary school had a snow theme; two more had kids riding bikes and scooters decorated with ribbons and tinsel. A pair of present-shaped floats at either end of the parade helpfully blew out fake snow. At least four groups of mummers strutted down the street. One group had a pirate theme; another was dressed as rag dolls, including a male Raggedy Ann (with a thin beard and mustache).

The local animal shelter lead dogs wearing Christmas sweaters and plaid bandannas and collars. One big bulldog decided he wanted to sit down, right in the middle of Haddon Avenue! It took two handlers five minutes of gentle pushing to get him moving again.

Most of the area high schools sent their marching bands. Cherry Hill West's flag guard had flags with a nifty sunburst design and did a lively dance just a few blocks away from us. Collingswood's team was the first I'd ever seen to have two male flag dancers. I was just glad that it was neither very windy, nor as cold as it has been the past few days. The kids had far fewer problems than usual with their flag routines.

The lively group of kids next to me especially loved the costumed characters. They begged for Spider Man to give them high-fives and tried to get the Phillies Phanatic's attention. They were delighted to get hugs from a gingerbread man, two penguins, Doc McStuffins, Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman. They were so energetic, the leader of the one of the mummers groups invited them to dance for the crowd with him! They were so funny! They really got into it, strutting along with him and the music.

I was hoping to eat in Collingswood after the parade ended, but almost every restaurant in town was packed to capacity. I decided I'd move down Haddon Avenue to check out that Winter Market for lunch. The restaurants weren't the only places that were busy. Every road in town was flooded with families trying to get home or get to where they were going. I finally took a back road behind Haddon to Cuthbert and crossed as quickly as I could to Westmont.

My plans received their first check here. There was no one setting up at the grassy area next to the Westmont Theater Planet Fitness building. Turns out that they got worried about the rain we were supposed to have in the afternoon and postponed it until tomorrow. Darn it. Oh well. I ended up eating lunch at Franco's Place. They were crazy-busy with families looking for a hot fried panzarotti on a chilly, blah day. I ordered mine with broccoli and spinach to go along with the cheese. It wasn't bad, but the fried shell was messy, and maybe a bit too heavy.

I made up for missing the Winter Market with a peek at Phidelity Records across the street. Today was Small Business Saturday. The shops on Haddon Avenue were apparently having big sales and giving out free snacks. I munched on a donut with green and red frosting while going through his dollar record sales. I found four cubicles with nothing but dollar soundtracks and cast albums. Score! I came up with the 1983 Broadway revival of the Rogers and Hart show On Your Toes, the 1977 off-Broadway cast of the revue Starting Here, Starting Now, and the original Broadway casts of The Roar of Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd and the 1953 stage Peter Pan with Mary Martin.

My best find came from my own childhood. Disney's Buena Vista Records released albums for characters other than their own from the 60's through the 80's. They apparently put out two Rainbow Brite LPs in the mid-80's, a Christmas-themed one and Paint a Rainbow In Your Heart. I found the latter on the dollar soundtrack shelves. Surprisingly, considering how much we all loved Rainbow Brite, we never did find either of the albums or any of the books and records in the 1980s.

Stopped at The House of Fun to start my Christmas shopping when I got into Oaklyn. I didn't find anything for Amanda, but I did pick up a Playstation game for Lauren. Found three nifty Force Awakens tumblers in the dollar bin for myself.

It was just starting to shower as I rode home. I went to the bathroom, then grabbed my laundry and headed back out. I really couldn't put it off anymore...but maybe I should have. The laundromat was packed when I arrived around 3:30. I barely got a washer and a dryer. I worked on story notes and half-watched skiing on TV. Good thing I didn't really have a big load. I ended up having to hang up quite a few things to dry again anyway when they got wet on the way back.

The rain had begun to pick up as I was riding home. It poured for the rest of the night. I cheered myself up with the Rainbow Brite album. Surprisingly, unlike the somewhat similar Care Bears record I have, some of the songs here are really quite good. I especially liked the upbeat title number and "Starlite, Starbright" about Rainbow's talking horse.

Worked on my story for the next few hours. Padme argues with Anakin, giving him the carved pendant he once gave her and insisting that he's no longer the man he married. That's when Ben appears. Angry that Padme seems to have betrayed him, he hits her. This was not an especially smart thing to do. Turns out that Padme is already in labor; her being abused didn't help her condition. She does manage to give birth to two healthy children, but it takes too much of a toll on her body. She dies by her husband's side. Anakin will barely touch tiny Luke and refuses to even look at Leia. The elder Anakin finally insists on being sent back...which he does, but not after remembering his dearly beloved Padme and the pendant he once gave her.

I got so into writing, I didn't break for dinner until 7:30. Had a really fast yogurt and fruit meal while watching the remaining Disney holiday shorts. "The Night Before Christmas" is the second Santa Silly Symphony, this time showing how Santa delivers toys and a tree at one special house. "On Ice" shows what the Disney gang does while skating, from Mickey showing off for Minnie to Goofy ice fishing to Donald picking on Pluto. Donald also has winter-related problems in "Donald's Snow Fight." He and his nephews end up in a wild snow war after they destroy each other's snowmen, but the end result may leave Donald with that sinking feeling. The most famous of the Disney holiday shorts is probably "Pluto's Christmas Tree." Pluto tries to chase Chip and Dale out of the branches of his and Mickey's tree, but they end up destroying it instead.

Moved on to the Laurel & Hardy March of the Wooden Soldiers after dinner, which I cover in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews Blog:

March of the Wooden Soldiers (Babes In Toyland)

Finished the night with a couple of shorts that come with the public domain Wooden Soldiers DVD. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is the original Technicolor Max Fleischer short from 1949. Here, Rudy's just a normal baby reindeer who happens to have a big red that Santa needs on a certain foggy Christmas night. "Christmas Shop" starts out in live-action, with a mom and dad shooing their kids to bed. The kids eventually dream of Santa at the North Pole and toys coming to life.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A Hearth's Warming Day

Started off a sunny, freezing cold morning with work. I alternated between doing the carts and doing the candy during the first half of my shift. By the second half, another bagger had arrived who prefers being outside. I wanted to focus on the candy, but I kept ending up in the register. We just didn't have enough help, especially early in the morning. Too many people wanted today off. Thankfully, even with the disruptions, the manager and I still managed to get all of the candy shelved.

At any rate, I was able to get off and get my schedule. Fewer hours (which is disappointing but not entirely surprising - this is the week after a major holiday) and three days off, mainly morning and afternoon work. At least there's only one really early day this time. The early Thursday will once again give me the time to hit up the Haddon Township Library.

I really didn't need a whole lot groceries-wise this week. Found spinach and feta chicken sausages with a manager's coupon. I didn't desperately need eggs, but the 18-count container was on a really good sale. I'm probably going to be doing more baking as we get closer to the holidays. They were out of cranberries, so I grabbed two grapefruit to go with breakfast. Found Crest Gum Protection toothpaste on clearance, and I had an online coupon for Crest products. Restocked skim milk, yogurt, cheese, white sugar, apples, bananas, mushrooms, and toilet paper.

Watched an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic while I put everything away. "Applebuck Season" is the show's fourth episode. Applejack is determined to buck, or kick, all of the apples off the trees in her family's orchard and still have time to help her friends. Twilight Sparkle repeatedly asks her if she can help, but she wants to prove that she can do it all alone. She finally learns to ask for help when she's so tired, she lets Fluttershy's bunnies eat half the gardens in Ponyville and is literally kicking at a dead tree.

Worked on writing for a while after dinner. Anakin leaves Yoda's counting house...and helps Palpatine Marley to buy it out six month later when it shuts down. Yoda retires, the other apprentices are forced to leave, and Mace mysteriously "falls" out of a window. Marley begs Anakin  not to divulge the details on that one. Among Anakin's other dastardly deeds are forcing an orphanage to close by raising its rent too high. He wanted to turn the property over to the high-paying official Tarkin, but it turns out the kids ended up on the streets and died.

Meanwhile, Padme is growing increasingly worried about Anakin's greedy and angry behavior. He thinks he's doing it for her, but she knows better. They're growing apart. She wants to love him, but he's become someone she barely recognizes.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Made scrambled eggs with cheese, mushrooms, and broccoli rabe while doing the two remaining My Little Pony holiday episodes. "Hearthbreakers" from the fifth season has Applejack and her family traveling to spend their winter festival, Hearth's Warming Day, with Pinkie and her family. Applejack's family are hard-working farmers. Pinkie's austere Amish-like family, who run a quarry, seem more than a little strange to them. Apple and her family try to introduce them to their traditions, only to lose a family heirloom. Apple's angry at first, until she and Pinkie realize that the holiday is more about who you share it with than what you do.

The most recent "Christmas" episode from the actual show is "A Hearth's Warming Tail" from the sixth season. This is basically a retelling of A Christmas Carol. Twilight Sparkle reads Starlight Shimmer her favorite holiday to show her why she should celebrate the holidays. Starlight becomes Snowball Frost, a magic-obsessed unicorn who intends to create a spell that will wipe out Hearth's Warming Day forever! It takes the Spirits of Hearth's Warming Past (Applejack), Present (Pinkie), and Future (Princess Luna) to convince her to destroy her spell and celebrate with the rest of the town.

My Little Pony is hardly the first girl-oriented franchise to adapt A Christmas Carol. Barbie: A Christmas Carol came out about a decade ago. Barbie's little sister Kelly wishes they could do what they always do on Christmas Eve, instead of going to a charity ball. Barbie relates the story of Eden Starling, a spoiled diva in Victorian England who only cares about herself and refuses to allow any of her performers, including her best friend Catherine, to go home for Christmas. Eden's encounters with three familiar ghosts and her realization of what Catherine plans on doing for Christmas Day makes her change her mind about the holidays...and encourages Kelly to think better about charity and giving, too.

Oh, and I found something last night and tonight tht I haven't seen in years. In the mid-90's, Disney put out three direct-to-video half-hour specials featuring kids romping with costumed Disney characters that they called Mickey's Fun Songs. Two of them were set in various parts of Walt Disney World, while the third revolved around the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Not only do they use a wider range of songs than the average Disney Sing-a-Long video (some of which are older standards), but they give us a glimpse of Barnum and Bailey well before they were disbanded and parts of Disney World that have since shut down, including River Country and Discovery Island on the camping video.

Keefe used to love these. We watched the camping and circus specials constantly. The songs are mostly burned into my brain. We didn't see the beach party one nearly as often. I think we rented it twice from a local video store, but couldn't find it to purchase.

If you remember watching them too, they're now available on YouTube.

Beach Party at Walt Disney World
Campout at Walt Disney World
Let's Go to the Circus!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

We Gather Together

Kicked off a sunny, windy Thanksgiving morning with some holiday reading. The Harvest of Holidays anthology has a story on the first Thanksgiving, plus two holiday poems and "Over the River and Through the Woods."

The Disney anthology Storybookland features a short tale called "Pilgrim's Party." They Disney gang head to New England to celebrate Thanksgiving the old-fashioned way with the pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth. It's all fun and pilgrim cosplay...until Pluto steals the turkey! "Johnny Appleseed" is a retelling of the American folk tale of the young man who went west to plant apple trees, and how he made friends animal and human along the way.

Kit Kitteredge is having a less pleasant Thanksgiving in the last two chapters of Kit Learns a Lesson. Kit and her best friends Ruthie and Sterling are charged with taking the food from their class charity drive to a soup kitchen. Kit gets a nasty surprise there when she gives out food...and learns what it means to be truly thankful.

Spent most of the morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, including during breakfast. The CBS broadcast was streaming on YouTube. I missed the Broadway performances, but I did get to see all kinds of nifty balloons. My favorite by far was the utterly adorable Pikachu holding a snow-Pokemon! Other cool balloons included Goku from the much-loved Dragon Ball anime franchise (they had a hard time controlling him in the wind), the Grinch and Max the dog, Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid (my nephew Skylar would have loved that one - he used to read the books), the Pillsbury Dough Boy, the Trolls, and the too-cute small cloud and rainbow.

(I did try to watch the NBC broadcast, but it turns out that you need cable to stream their live feed. And ABC was only running a "fan cam" online of the Philadelphia parade.)

Called Mom while the parade was running. I wanted to catch her before my sisters arrived. She was just about to vacuum. She told me "Happy Thanksgiving!" and that she would miss me and Keefe, who couldn't make it from Virginia, either. They were eating much earlier than usual, around 2. Rose and Craig wanted to get home before dark.

Squeezed some writing in during the parade. Sheev Palpatine Marley is quick to praise Anakin...and even quicker to point out that Yoda and Mace Windu keep insisting that he's not ready to be a full partner yet. Marley will make him a partner in his new firm, if he does what he's told. Anakin's not sure he wants to change jobs...until Padme tells him he's going to be a father very soon.

Switched to cartoons while having a quick Banana-Cranberry Smoothie and gingerbread for lunch. Garfield's Thanksgiving isn't going much better than Kit's. Not only does Liz the Veterinarian put him on a diet the day before the holiday, but Jon invites her over for dinner! Trouble is, he's never cooked a turkey in his life. Good thing Grandma Arbuckle from the Christmas special knows what to do.

Ran into trouble while making the Cranberry Bread. The plug on the food processor had gotten so corroded, I couldn't use it anymore. I tried to chop the berries in the blender, but they got caught on the blade and it wouldn't chop all of them. I had to chop half by hand and made a mess.

Did the Peanuts specials while dealing with the bread. It's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving when Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for the big dinner. Problem is, Chuck is going over to his grandmother's house for dinner. He, Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock make a meal of toast, ice cream, jelly beans, and pretzels to appease them. Peppermint Patty is angry, until Linus and Marcie remind their friends of the real reason for the holiday.

Charles Schultz went further into the real reason for the holiday in "The Mayflower Voyagers," an episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown. The Peanuts and Snoopy and Woodstock play Pilgrim children and pets on their way to the New World. Even once they make it off the Mayflower, they face a terrible winter with little food and many people dying. Friendly Indians, including English-speaking Squanto and Massasoit, help them survive. They hold a great feast of Thanksgiving in honor of a bountiful harvest and their new friends.

Moved on to Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving after the bread was in the oven. This is another anthology, this time of three stories with mild seasonal themes. The first one has everyone dressing Piglet as a groundhog to find out if it's spring yet. The second story is the Thanksgiving special. Rabbit insists on having everyone gather ingredients for a "traditional" holiday. When his party goes wrong, it's Pooh who reminds them that they still have many things to be thankful for. Rabbit is also a big part of the third story. He adopts a baby bird named Kessie, but has a hard time letting her go south for the winter.

Did something I haven't done in a long time while Pooh was on. I took photos of my dolls, arranging them to look like they were doing Thanksgiving activities. Samantha "read" Cranberry Thanksgiving to my stuffed Max and Ruby. Rey and Luke had a Thanksgiving Day lightsaber tournament, while Poe and Finn cheered them on. Han decides to teach Felicity, Whitney, and Josefina how to play football the Corellian way, but falls over. Leia's the one who really shows them how to play.

Ran Molly's Pilgrim while the bread cooled. In this Oscar-winning live-action short from 1985, Molly is a little Russian Jewish girl who is having a hard time adapting to her new life in the US. Her clothes are old-fashioned, she's still learning English, her lunch is borscht rather than peanut butter and jelly, and she's much better at gymnastics than the other kids. Most of the girls in the class make fun of her. When she asks her mother to help her make a pilgrim for a class project, she makes one who looks like them, rather than the traditional Puritan. The kids are puzzled, until their teacher explains that Molly's family came to the US for religious freedom, which makes them pilgrims, too.

Put on two quick Disney shorts while I wrapped up the bread and got ready to go. Mickey is "The Grocery Boy" who brings Minnie her fixings for a big meal. Once again, Pluto snatches the turkey, leading the two mice to chase after him and their dinner. Mickey and Pluto's relationship is also at the heart of "Mickey's Good Deed." A poor Mickey during the Great Depression gives up the one thing that means the most to him to help  family that has even less than he does.

(Incidentally, while the bread came out brown and fell apart when I pulled it out, it at least looked like it was edible.)

Headed out to Dad and Jodie's around quarter of 4. It was such a nice day, I decided to walk there. Though it was bitterly cold, no more than the lower 30's, the wind had diminished somewhat since the morning, and it remained sunny and bright. The cold temperatures kept most people indoors, though I did see two guys chatting on a porch. Jesse, Jodie's younger son, saw me walking and ended up driving me the remaining two blocks.

I was the first one there. By the time we ate at 5:30, the house was packed. I didn't know most of the people there. It was mostly relatives of Dana's or Jodie's. The only people I knew (besides Jesse, Dana, Dad, and Jodie) were Jodie's Aunt Colleen, Vanessa, Jodie's parents, Jessa, Joe, and someone's girlfriend who used to work at the Acme and remembered seeing me around. There were so many people, we needed four tables set up in the den to hold them all. Dana and Jesse had been apparently tasked with setting the tables earlier. They used fancy white and pale blue tablecloths. Jesse even folded the napkins into fans.

I'd never seen so much food! The appetizers alone included mango brie, Irish cheddar, pepperoni, pepper jack cheese, Ritz and Triscuit crackers, garlic hummus, port wine cheese, olives, and extremely spicy pickles. When we all finally sat down, we passed around turkey, collard greens, asparagus with bacon, spoon bread, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, rolls (that got burnt), and cole slaw. In addition to my cranberry bread, dessert included date-nut bread, super-soft sandwich cookies, chocolate chip cookies, stewed apples, pound cake, and pumpkin and apple pies.

Football played in the background for most of the night. The Redskins tried hard, but they just couldn't out-run the Cowgirls. In the end, Dallas beat them 31-23. (The Lions didn't do much better against the Chicago Bears earlier in the day, losing 23-16.)

Jessa and Joe drove Vanessa and me home. I put on the How to Train Your Dragon holiday special Gift of the Night Fury while getting organized. The Viking citizens of Berk are preparing to celebrate their big winter holiday Snoggletog when all their dragons fly off without warning. While Hiccup tries to figure out where they went to, Astrid and the other kids create new traditions to make their holidays merrier.

Finished the night with By the Light of the Silvery Moon while online. The sequel to On Moonlight Bay has a prominent Thanksgiving sequence, which is why I wanted to review the series this week. I discuss it further at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog:

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

And here's hoping that all of you had an equally merry and full Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Against the Wind

Began a blustery day with work. Needless to say, given today was the day before Thanksgiving, we were on-and-off busy for the entire morning. They tried to get me in the register right when I came in, but I was the only bagger at that point. Someone had to gather carts. As it turned out, I would be the only bagger who got outside. I saw the other bagger who came in later maybe twice; I suspect he probably did end up in a register. At least I worked up an appetite for tomorrow, and most people were friendly and still in good moods. Not to mention, while it was gale-force windy, it was also sunny, or partly cloudy at worst, and not too cold when you could get away from the wind.

As soon as I got home, I changed, had a snack, grabbed my DVDs, and went right back out. Despite my aching knees and the traffic on Cuthbert Road, I wanted to get to the Haddon Township Library. Unlike the Acme, they were super quiet when I arrived. It looked like they must have had people shelve DVDs earlier. I put away the few that were there. Didn't take out any movies this week - I have plenty to watch for the holidays - but I did pick up the holiday episodes for Elena of Avalor, How to Train Your Dragon, Sean the Sheep, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

The clouds were gathering, even as I jumped on my bike to head home. Thankfully, they don't seem to have done much besides look menacing at press time. The wind is still howling out there, though. No wonder they say it's going to be literally freezing tomorrow.

As soon as I got home, I swept the porch. It's not that bad, but it was starting to come in the door. Besides, it's a lot easier for me to sweep it now than it used to be. There's an opening on the bottom of the new railings that allow me to push the leaves through.

Warmed things up with a little writing when I got in. Anakin arrives at his mother and stepfather's farm just in time for her to die in his arms. As the Ghost reminds him, he was never the same after that. He and Padme do end up marrying each other, and they're happy for  time...until Sheev Marley starts to look at him as partner material...

Switched to the holiday episodes of Elena of Avalor as I had leftovers for dinner. I specifically began with Elena because the first episode revolves around The Day of the Dead, which was a couple of weeks ago. "A Celebration to Remember" has Elena discovering that she can see ghosts on the Day of the Dead. She's able to help the spirit of an older woman bring together her feuding adult grandchildren and show them how to save her beloved restaurant, in time to join her own family in celebrating those loved ones who have passed on.

Everyone in town wants Elena and her family to join them for their traditional "Navidad" customs. Elena can't decide what to do and lets Dona Paloma talk her into first holding a party to show off everyone's customs, then a parade. Dona Paloma sets everyone against each other when she tries to get them to buy more at her shop. Elena, however, knows that Christmas is about a lot more than presents and customs - it's about the people we share it with.

The handsome Victor Delgado and his daughter Carmen are welcomed to the castle in time for their big Carnival celebration. Esteban badly wants to be "King of the Carnival," but thinks he's not worthy. Victor holds a major secret over Esteban and uses it to force him to help  him and Carmen steal Elena's tiara. He does make amends, though, and it's he and Elena who figure out how to use their Carnival float to stop the two wily thieves.

Moved on to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles as I went online. Ad executive Neil Page (Steve Martin) is not having a good couple of days. He bounces from plane to pickup truck to train to bus to car in an attempt to get from Wichita to Chicago for Thanksgiving. On the way, he keeps encountering Del Griffith (John Candy), a very nice shower curtain ring salesman who also happens to be a chatty mass of bad habits. As they travel across the frozen midwestern landscape, Neil learns more about why Del is on the road...and realizes how much he has to be thankful for.

Classic comedy gets a little sentimental for its britches towards the end, but is a requirement if you're a fan of Martin, Candy, or director John Hughes. It's some of their best work.

Here's some more vintage Thanksgiving specials on YouTube to tide you over while you wait for dinner tomorrow:

Animated Hero Classics: William Bradford
The Turkey Caper
Saturday Supercade: Q-Bert - Thanksgiving for the Memories
Care Bears Family: Gram Bear's Thanksgiving Surprise
Rankin-Bass: The Mouse on the Mayflower 
Calvin and the Colonel: Thanksgiving Dinner (B&W)
Looney Tunes: Tom Turk and Daffy
Tex Avery at MGM: Jerky Turkey
Nickelodeon's Thanksgiving Fest 1989
The Bernstein Bears Meet Big Paw

For those of you who won't be online tomorrow, I hope you have a safe, happy, and full Thanksgiving with all the people you love!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Nostalgic Dreamers

Began a cloudy, damp morning with Jack of All Trades. This peculiar swashbuckling spoof somehow managed to sneak a Thanksgiving episode, "One Two Three, Give Me Lady Liberty," in during it's second season. Jack and Emilia have their doubts when Emperor Napoleon insists that his giant woman-shaped statue is intended to foster peace between the US and France. When they find out he has something sinister in mind, they invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner to get the blueprints. It takes another Thanksgiving tradition to stop the mad midget's plans - football!

Headed off to work shortly after the show ended. It wasn't bad when I got in, but by noon, we'd gotten far busier. Every time I tried to get outside to help the head bagger, I'd just get called back inside to be tossed in a register. I did manage to almost finish a cart of returns, and I got outside one more time...but then, I'd wound up in a register again, including 20 minutes before I was supposed to be finished with work.

Went straight home after I got off. I finally tightened the seat on my bike, then went upstairs and did some writing. Anakin watches as his younger self courts Padme. The two are happy as can be together, especially one day on a picnic at her family's Naboo Estate. Their escapade comes to an abrupt end when Anakin's mother's servant Cedric comes over and tells him that his mother was in a carriage accident and is near death...

Broke to eat at 6:30. Had leftovers, then made gingerbread from Samantha's Cooking Studio for dessert. I love this gingerbread recipe! I replaced half a cup of regular flour with whole wheat and replaced the regular sugar with brown sugar for more flavor. (And because I don't have much white sugar left, and I want to save what I do have for the cranberry bread.) Oh, yum! It was moist and spicy and absolutely delicious. Sam's grandma's cook Mrs. Hawkins definitely knows what she's doing.

Ran The Nutcracker: A Fantasy On Ice while I ate and baked. This particular version of the Nutcracker on Ice is from 1983, and it features Dorothy Hamill as Clara and Robin Cousins as the Nutcracker Prince. Lorne Greene narrates as a grandpa trying to get his granddaughter to go to bed. This is kind of a strange version; it leaves out the party in the opening all together and begins with Clara and her dancing dolls. It also leaves out Godfather Drosselmeyer; the magic that makes the dolls come to life is never explained. There's some wonderful skating, though, especially in the second half with the dancing sweets, and the costumes are really adorable.

Not to mention, this one will always be special to me as my first exposure to The Nutcracker. This used to run on cable a lot during the early-mid 80's. I saw this version well before I knew it was a ballet.

Ended the night with the nostalgic Doris Day vehicle On Moonlight Bay, which I go into further detail on at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog:

On Moonlight Bay

Monday, November 19, 2018

Practically Perfect In (Almost) Every Way

Began a sunny morning with breakfast and Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper. Yogi and Boo-Boo have sneaked off to the city to visit the rest of the Hanna Barbara funny animal crew, even as their friends are coming to Jellystone to see them. When Yogi and Boo-Boo encounter a little rich girl who's daddy is too busy for her in the department store, they vow to find her dad and recruit the other animals to help. Meanwhile, Ranger Smith and half the city's finest think he's kidnapped the girl.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. As Anakin dances with Padme, their talk turns to matters of politics and the poor. Anakin thinks that people should be encouraged to make their own way in the world, and if someone is poor, they should go to the work houses. Padme, who was taken to see work houses by her father, a member of Parliament, knows how corrupt they are and wishes there was a better way to help them. He admits that he admires Sheev Marley, Yoda's accountant, but Padme doesn't trust him.

Broke for lunch a little early around quarter of 1. Ran Very Merry Christmas Songs while I had a Mocha Banana Smoothie and the last of the pineapple tuna salad for lunch. This is the DVD expansion of the original holiday Sing-Along Songs video that was available in the late 80's-early 90's. I kind of get the idea that this mainly exists to promote Disney's slate of direct-to-home-media movies and TV cartoons; among the films and TV shows seen in the newer music videos are Disney's House of Mouse, Mickey Mouse Works, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, A Very Pooh New Year, Seasons of Giving, Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World, and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. On the other hand, some of the additional songs are most welcome, including Brenda Lee's version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," the Bing Crosby "White Christmas," and the Disneyland Chorus' rendition of "Toyland."

Headed out to work slightly early so I could pick up a bag of dried cranberries for the bread I'll make later in the week and one more box of Belvita Gingerbread Cookies before they're completely gone from the store. (In fact, I only saw one other box today.) I did get stuck in the registers for a little while, including a half-hour before break, and I spent the last hour doing carts, but I was mostly shelving two carts of returns. We were on-and-off busy, not as bad as I figured we would be for three days before Thanksgiving. Guess everyone shopped over the weekend.

Had leftovers for dinner when I got home. Finished the night watching Saving Mr. Banks, in honor of the sequel to Mary Poppins coming out next month. Author P.L Travers (Emma Thompson) has been encouraged to sell the rights to her Mary Poppins book series to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), after Disney begged her for the rights for 20 years. Travers hates children, fantasy, illusion, and everything that Walt stands for. She has her reasons. Her father Travers (Colin Farrell) was an alcoholic who went from job to job, eventually forcing his family into a rundown house in the Australian backwoods. He adores his daughter, and he's a good man when he's sober, but she witnesses him fly into  drunken rage and get fired, then fall off the stage drunk while making a speech, and has to stop her mother (Ruth Wilson) from committing suicide. Even the arrival of her strict aunt (Rachel Griffiths) can't make her father well or end his reliance on the bottle.

Mrs. Travers gives everyone possible a hard time. Half the creative team, from her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti) to the songwriters the Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B.J Novak), are driven crazy by her incessant demands to eliminate whimsy and magic from the script. While some of her ideas do make the movie better (like toning down the sets to make the Banks look more like normal middle-class Londoners), her insults start getting on people's nerves. Walt can't figure out how to make her happy...until he hits on what they have in common.

It's interesting that Disney did this. While a lot of it is toned down from real life (for one thing, Mrs. Travers hated the resulting movie when she saw it, though she apparently warmed up to it somewhat over time - and she never got over the lie about the animation sequence), it's still pretty harsh for a company that normally guards every single thing about it. I particularly like how they portrayed Walt. Mrs. Travers sees him as a dime-store P.T Barnum, but he's a far more complex man than she gives him credit for. He's not always a nice guy, either. He deliberately doesn't invite Mrs. Travers to the premiere, fearing her reaction, hides his constant smoking (which would later kill him), and did lie about the animation sequence.

While Wilson and Ferrell are haunting as the unhappy Goff parents, this is really Thompson and Hanks' show, and they both recreate their characters with aplomb. Thompson in particular really enjoys tearing into the role of a woman who refuses to compromise for anyone...until she learns to hear other people's stories and realizes that she's not the only one with father problems.

If you're a fan of the leads or of Mary Poppins, or have an interest in the history of film, Disney, or the 60's, you'll want to grab an umbrella and fly on over to check this out.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish

I stayed up late last night chatting with Lauren and decided to celebrate my rare Sunday off by sleeping in. When I finally did get out of bed, I made Orange Butter Pancakes (added the last tangerine to the whole wheat pancake batter and replaced the oil with butter). Yum! They came out pretty well, other than I burned the side of one, nice and fluffy and sweet.

Listened to my cast album for Here's Love while I ate. This is the 1963 Broadway musical version of Miracle on 34th Street. For the most part, it pretty much follows the plot of the original movie. Macy's newest Santa (Laurence Naismith) insists he's the real deal. Macy's harried manager Doris Walker (Janis Paige), who was burned by a fairy-tale romance that didn't work out, only believes in what's real. She teaches her daughter Susan (Valerie Lee) to do the same. Lawyer Fred Gaily (Craig Stevens) is interested in Doris, but they're both afraid of getting hurt. It takes Santa being put on trial for insanity to make them realize that Christmas is the time for miracles...and that a little bit of holiday fantasy never hurt anybody.

Slightly disappointing outing from Meredith Wilson, and the least-successful of his three musicals that made Broadway. In addition to Wilson's earlier holiday standard "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," other good numbers include "Pine Cones and Holly Berries" for Kris, Doris, and Mr. Shellhammer (Fred Gwynne, of Munsters fame), the charming "My Wish" for Fred and Susan, and "Look, Little Girl" for Fred, and later, Doris.

Called Rose after breakfast. She never called me back about Thanksgiving. Apparently, she and her family will be going down to Cape May County for dinner, but only for a few hours. She said it's mostly for the little kids, so Mom won't be lonely, and because Anny is so frazzled about Dad's death and her move to that bigger house.

Got a hold of Mom right after that. Mom was cleaning her house in preparation for the visitors on Thursday. She and Rose said it was fine if I didn't come down. We all agreed that it would be a lot less complicated if I stayed up here for the holidays. I'm fine with that. I know there's a lot going on down with the family in Cape May County. Besides, it'll be nice to be able to sleep in on a Thanksgiving and not have to run off anywhere first thing on the morning of a major holiday.

Spent the rest of the afternoon writing. The Ghost of Christmas Past whisks Anakin off to Yoda Fezziwig's counting house in the early 1800's. Apprentices Anakin and Obi-Wan help set up for a big holiday party, complete with revelers, food, and music. Anakin, however, only has eyes for his beautiful Padme, who comes to the party with her politician father. Obi-Wan and a young Ahsoka push him into talking to her, but it's been years since he's seen her, and he's awkward, to say the least.

Broke at 4 to get ready to go. The Eagles-Saints game had been moved to 4:35. I made it to Dad's just as the game was starting. The house was already full. Dad watched the game with Mark and Jessa  while Jodie heated up leftover chicken piccata and shrimp scampi from a luncheon she held for some friends yesterday. Chloe played in the living room with little Finley, while Khai watched something on Jodie's iPad and Dana and their mothers watched them.

Finley was so funny! She climbed up and down the old coffee table. She crawled around the floor with Chloe and Khai. She danced along to a "Baby Shark" song that she apparently loves.

At least the food was better than the game. The Eagles just couldn't get anything going against the top-ranked Saints. They lost big to them, 48-7.

In better news, Jodie said I was more than welcome to come over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. It sounds like they'll be having at least 20 people at their house! She said that she'd provide the turkey and sides, but the guests could bring dessert. At least I know there will be people eating my cranberry bread!

Put on the original cast album for Seesaw that I picked up last month at the Collingswood Book Festival. This musical version of the play Two for the Seesaw has been turned into the very 70's romance between a kooky dancer (Michelle Lee) and an uptight lawyer (Ken Howard). Tommy Tune turns up as a wanna-be choreographer who gets to introduce one of this show's two standards, "It's Not Where You Start." Lee gets the other one, the self-depreciating "Nobody Does It Like Me."

Evidently, the show was beset by production problems from the start, and had to be completely recast and rewritten before hitting Broadway. Whatever they did was worth it. For all this show's problems, it has an engaging score by Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman. In addition to the two hits, I like Lee's "Poor Everybody Else" and her adorable duet with Howard, "In Tune." Unfortunately, the chorus numbers have more to do with New York in 1973 and giving Tune something to do than moving along the thin story, although the opener "My City" that references the gritty Times Square of the 70's and 80's may be good for some nostalgia today.

This ran for about ten months in 1973 and 1974, but failed to make it's money back. I don't think it's been seen often since. Too bad. This may be a show of it's time, but the cast album has more than a few hidden gems.

Finished the night with more Christmas records as I baked Lemon Muffins. Mickey's Christmas Carol actually began life as a book-and-record LP, Dickens' Christmas Carol, in the mid-70's. It's a full-fledged musical here, with eight numbers, including reprises. Most of the songs aren't that memorable, although I do like the delicious "Money" for Scrooge and Mickey/Cratchit. Merlin the Magician is the Ghost of Christmas Past; the hag form of the Evil Queen from Snow White is the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Scrooge is the 1969 film musical version of A Christmas Carol. Albert Finney was the title character, with Sir Alec Guinness as an especially chilling Jacob Marley. "Thank You Very Much" was the hit in Leslie Bricusse's rousing score, but I also like "December the 25th for Fezziwig and "Christmas Children" for Bob Cratchit and his kids as they do their holiday shopping.

Ended the evening with Scrooged. This modern black comedy version from 1989 is mainly a vehicle for Bill Murray. It's best-known song is Annie Lennox's version of "Put a Little Love In Your Heart," which plays during the credits. Most of the rest of the music is either modern covers of holiday standards (Natalie Cole does a nice "Christmas Song") or generic 80's pop. "The Love You Take" by Dan Hartman and Denise Lopez wasn't bad, and we got a decent gospel version of  U2's "Sweetest Thing."

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Last Harvest of the Season

Started off a glorious, sunny late fall morning with breakfast and The Care Bears' Nutcracker. Funshine and Grumpy are recruited to help Anna, a little girl who is lonely after her best friend moves away. Anna gets a far different friend than she expects when a Nutcracker walks into her room via a giant mouse hole, followed by three huge rats. She and the Care Bears have to help the Nutcracker save the Land of Sweets from the evil Vizier. Meanwhile, Baby Hugs and Tugs want to find their own ornament, while Anna's little brother Peter just wants adventure.

Headed out around 10, shortly after the cartoon ended. My first stop was Collingswood for the final Farm Market of the season. Needless to say, especially given the cold weather we've been having, there were far more craft booths than produce booths left. The place was still packed with people buying their fruit and vegetables for Thanksgiving when I arrived. I finally just ended up with cranberries, apples (larger ones than usual from another booth - the orchard booth didn't have the small ones), small tomatoes from the organic booth, and bananas from the tropical fruit wholesaler.

Rode across Oaklyn to Haddon Township after leaving the Farm Market for another church fair. This one was pretty much the same deal as the last one I went to across town, only upstairs and with a more extensive food menu that included hot dogs and coffee. They also sold sports jerseys and collectibles and yard sale items along with the crafts. I saw some wooden tops that I thought were neat, but I only had enough money for a pretzel.

Went in the opposite direction to Dollar General next. I needed eggs, and theirs are cheap at $1.35. (And they're a lot cheaper than the Acme's, which are $2.99!) Also picked up sponges, scrubbers, and treat bags for the cookies I'll give out next month.

Since it's in the area, I stopped at Dad and Jodie's to tell them I can watch the Eagles-Saints game with them tomorrow. Turns out the game had been bumped to 4:25. Oh well. I'll still go over there, but for dinner instead of lunch, and I probably won't stay as long.

Dad helped me tighten the bike seat, but we made it too high. I didn't realize how high it was until I tried to ride it. I just ended up walking it home. I thought I lost the bike tool set, but it was in my junk drawer. I did manage to get the seat to a more manageable level, but it's still a bit loose. I'll fiddle with it more tomorrow.

Had a really quick Orange Pumpkin Smoothie lunch while watching the first of two holiday Backyardigans episodes. Uniqua wants to learn "The Secret of Snow" from ice lady Tasha. Busy Tasha has no time for her questions and keeps sending her to warm places. Uniqua not only comes back, but she has Cowboy Pablo and Tyrone of the Jungle in tow. Tasha's assistant Austin does his best to help out the others.

I desperately needed to get the laundry done. I put it off for way too long. I shouldn't have put it off. The laundromat was insanely busy. I was glad I was able to get a washer and dryer for my huge load. Worked on story notes, read the September Family Circle, and half-listened to Notre Damn play William & Mary while waiting for the clothes to come out. (Notre Dame won, by the way, 73 to 64.)

Put everything away when I got home, then worked on writing. A glowing woman in a white cloak appears before Anakin. She is the Ghost of Christmas Past, come to take him to see his memories. They first arrive at his former school, which he remembers quite well. He sees his younger version, the only child who isn't going home for the holidays...until his dear friends Padme and Obi-Wan come to him and tell him that his mother has sent for him, and that he'll be home for good. Quenton Jenson, Obi-Wan's guardian and their school teacher, treats them to snacks and wine and helps Anakin into Padme's cart.

Finished the night with leftovers for dinner while watching Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World, both of which I cover at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Pocahontas & Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Day After the Storm

Began the morning with early work. The snow was already melting when I left at 8. The sky was blue, the sun was blinding, the roads were clear, and while it was windy and chilly, it was still nice to be outside. I rounded up trash inside and out early-on, but I mostly alternated between doing returns and gathering carts and baskets again. We were steady, but not overwhelmingly busy - most people may be waiting for early next week to finish up their Thanksgiving shopping. While the snow was almost totally gone by noon, clouds had moved in, leaving it windy and chilly for the rest of the day.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have the best Thanksgiving week schedule I've had in a long time. While I work early on Wednesday, it's not long or late. I did get Thanksgiving off, along with Sunday and next Saturday. Working Black Friday means I'll get extra money for Thanksgiving...and having Saturday off means I'll get to see the big Christmas parade in Collingswood for the first time in three years. (And I'll get to check out the winter festival in Westmont, too.)

Headed to the shopping center behind the Acme for lunch. My first thought was Chick Fil'A...but the line for the take-out window stretched almost all the way around the building! The one inside was almost as long. I ended up at Tu Se Bella Pizza instead. They were busy too, but not quite as much. I had a slice of mushroom pizza, a slice of tasty broccoli chicken Alfredo, and a bottle of Coke.

Did my grocery shopping when I got back to the Acme. With Thanksgiving coming, there's tons of good sales this week. I've been wanting to try the Belvita Gingerbread Cookies. I just ran out of dried basil. Not only was the Acme's organic brand on a good sale, but I had a coupon from a sample a while back. Had online coupons for peanut butter, Life Cereal (got Vanilla this time), and pancake mix. (Went with Aunt Jemima Whole Wheat Blend.) Found a pack of Crayola dry erase markers on clearance. Restocked brown sugar, ground turkey, honey, canned pineapple, yogurt, skim milk, muffin papers, and peppermint extract.

Ran a Christmas-themed Scooby Doo episode while putting everything away. Fred joins Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy or "A Nutcracker Scoob." The gang is putting on a Christmas pageant for a local orphanage. Not only does a mean old miser want to tear down the orphans' home, but the Ghost of Christmas is sabotaging the production. There's something very special hidden in the house, and the kids want to be the ones who find it first...before the ghost gets their hands on it!

Worked on writing for a while.  Anakin wonders what in the heck his dead partner is doing sitting in his parlor room. Marley has a warning for him. He's going to be visited by three spirits that night. He has to listen to him...or he could end up like Marley, or the dozens of chained ghosts who suddenly appear outside his window.

Marley disappears when Scrooge slams the window.  He's visited by his landlady, Jyn Erso Andor. Jyn basically tells him to yell softly and not bang windows, no matter how many ghosts he sees.

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. Had leftover tuna salad while watching more Scooby Doo. "A Scary Night With a Snow Beast Fright" comes from the mid-70's series. The gang has been called to the Arctic by a professor who was doing research there. When they arrive, the professor is gone and the Inuit village where he was working has been scared off by a huge dinosaur-like snow beast. After the village chief also vanishes, the gang finds a black substance around some totem poles and begin to wonder if the beast isn't after something more than scaring off villagers.

Finished out the set after a shower. "Alaskan King Coward" is one of the goofy late-70's shorts featuring Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy. Once again, a dinosaur is involved, this time a real one that breaks out of his icy prison and goes after the guys. Scooby and Shaggy would love to outrun him, but Scrappy would rather attack this scaly claim jumper!

"That's Snow Ghost" comes from the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? This time, the wintry creep is a Yeti-style monster who has been seen outside of a run-down ski resort. An elderly Tibetian man insists that the creature is after him. Velma thinks there's a far more logical explanation for it being there.

Ended my night with An American Christmas Carol as I went online. This late 70's TV movie stars Henry Winkler as Benedict Slade, a miserly old man who runs a loan company. With the Great Depression at its zenith, he's had to repossess the heirlooms of half the town. When Thatcher, his assistant, suggests he re-open the quarry to create jobs, he fires him, fearing that more jobs would mean fewer repossessions - and less money for him. Slade learns his lesson when ghosts who resemble the people he took possessions from show him  his past, his present, his chilling future, and why Thatcher and the town dearly need the jobs.

Ok, not bad, not great. I do think the setting's creative, and Winkler does fairly well under a tone of aging makeup. Always nice to see Geraud Parkes of Fraggle Rock fame as well (he's the Ghost of Christmas Present and the head of the town orphanage). Worth checking out if you're a fan of Winkler or are looking for an unusual version of A Christmas Carol.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Snow Day Surprise

Began the morning with my first Rankin-Bass special of the season as I ate breakfast and got ready for work. The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold from 1981 is their second-to-last Christmas stop-motion cartoon. A young Irish sailor is sent to a mysterious island to dig up a pine tree for Christmas. It turns out to be guarding the Banshee Mag, who had once terrorized the little people who live on the island. She needs the gold mined by an old leprechaun (Art Carney) to remain alive, or she'll vanish at the dawn of Christmas morning. He refuses to give it to her, turning it over to the sailor instead. When she plays a trick on the lad that leaves him under a spell, it takes the love of the leprechaun and his estranged wife (Peggy Cass) and their family to restore him.

It was just sleeting a bit when I headed off to work. I figured I'd be fine riding my bike. It was cold, in the upper 30's, and very windy, but I figured it wasn't cold enough for snow. I was wrong. By noon, the sleet had become much softer...and it was piling up on the sidewalks and the roadways.

Not only did the messy streets not stop customers from coming - we were steady-to-busy all afternoon - but I was the only bagger there the entire morning. The head bagger took the day off for a funeral, and the afternoon bagger never appeared or even called. I did have help from a cashier who  doubles as a bagger, but I was mostly outside all day, trying to push carts through the snow and shovel the slush. (At least the shoveling was a lot easier than it had been during those storms we had in March.)

It was sleeting hard again when I was done. There was no way anyone would pick up me and my bike in that mess. Not to mention, the streets were still pretty bad, especially in Oaklyn, and the Acme's parking lot was impossible. I half-rode, half walked home.

Hung everything up to dry when I got in. Made lemon bars while watching more Rankin-Bass. The Stingiest Man In Town was their last regular animated holiday special until 2001. This musical adaptation of a 50's TV musical of the same name has Walter Matthau as Scrooge, Dennis Day as Nephew Fred, and Robert Morse as the younger Scrooge. What I like about this one is how many songs they retained from the original musical. I'm especially fond of "An Old Fashioned Christmas" for Fred and "Yes There Is a Santa Claus" for Martha Cratchit.

Did two quick snow-related shorts from my public domain set while I cleaned up from the baking. "Snow Foolin'" is one of the Paramount Famous Studios Screen Song sing-along shorts. Animals have fun in the snow, to the tune of "Jingle Bells." "The Snow Man" is an oddity from I'm guessing the 1930's from the rubber hose designs. An Inuit and his arctic animal buddies have to get rid of a snowman when the one the build comes to life as a Yeti.

My computer finished updates in time to let me squeeze a little writing in. Anakin Scrooge is horrified when Sheev Palpatine Marley glides in, fettered by enormous chains and lock boxes. Scrooge denies him at first, until he wails enough for him to give in. While Scrooge tries to defend them, saying he was always a good man of business, Marley regrets not having done more to help others.

Did The Nutcracker while making leftovers for dinner. I have the 1977 version that stars Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince and Gelsey Kirkland as Clara. Stockton University's media center had the video of this in the early 2000's. I used to traditionally watch it every year the day before we left for Christmas break. While it's missing a few dances, likely for time (notably the Arabian coffee dancers and the Sugar Plum Fairy), it's still a favorite of mine.

Finished the night with the 1961 Disney Babes In Toyland, which I cover in more detail at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Babes In Toyland (1961)

Oh, and someone at Dinosaur Dracula mentioned this really cool site. It has a collection of vintage Christmas catalogs, ranging from the late 30s to the late 90's. It's fascinating to flip through these and see how what we bought and how they were advertised changed over the years!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Seasons of Dolls

Began a beautiful day with early work. Surprisingly, for a week before Thanksgiving, it wasn't bad. Everyone must be waiting for the weekend. I spent the entire morning alternating between gathering baskets and carts and shelving two carts filled with returns. It was also a lovely day, cold, but sunny and breezy. Even with the biting chill, it was still too nice of a day to be shopping.

It was so nice, I took the long way home down Nicholson Road. Other than a little traffic around the entrance to the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, it wasn't bad. The arrival of colder weather is heralded by the last straggling roses, dried milkweed stalks with floating seeds, and trees awash in sun-dappled golds and reds.

Dressed the dolls for the chilly weather we've been having when I got home. It took me longer than I planned. I couldn't find some of the pieces I wanted to use. Turns out I'd accidentally dropped them behind the shelf with my photo albums and keepsake videos. Oops. I'm glad I found the green wrap top for Ariel - it goes nicely with the red hair and turquoise eyes. The skirt I wanted to dress her in didn't fit around the knob on her back, so I borrowed the khakis from Molly's Aviator Outfit. Jessa is in drawstring khaki cargo pants, the long-sleeved white t-shirt with the flower on it and the white and aqua sneakers from the 2002 Ready for Fun outfit, and a navy-blue hoodie from another early 2000's modern outfit. Whitney gets Rebecca's School Outfit with the socks and white t-straps from Molly's Polka-Dot Outfit.

Samantha, Molly, Josefina, and Felicity all wear their original "meet" outfits. Sam wears hers with the black stockings and black boots from Rebecca's School Outfit. Molly's is paired with Springfield Collection socks and the black strap shoes from Samantha's current "meet" outfit. The short-sleeved camisa (shift) that comes with Josefina's meet outfit is inappropriate for November weather in New Jersey. She wears the skirt with her long-sleeved night shift instead.

Finally got some writing time in after I put everything away. Scrooge walks up to his door...and when he inspects the door knocker, he sees the face of his late partner, Sheev Marley (Palpatine)! He's startled, to say the least, but tries not to think much of it...until a bell starts ringing for no reason...

Broke at 6:30 to make a big pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Had Merlin's (Baked) Chicken legs with baked pumpkin casserole and green beans. The casserole was mashed fresh pumpkin topped with molasses, sugar (I was out of brown sugar), butter, and home-made bread crumbs. Oh, yum! The chicken and the pumpkin came out beautifully. I'm glad I had that old piece of bread for bread crumbs. It brought just the right crunch.

Watched Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving as I worked. This is a compilation of two episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, plus a holiday special. The first story has Rabbit thinking it's Groundhog's Day and insisting that Piglet act as the groundhog and tell them when spring is.

The second story is the Thanksgiving special. The crew from the Hundred Acres Woods is gearing up for a fun meal of honey, haycorns, and chocolate ice cream, at least until Rabbit tells them that tradition must be maintained. When they make a hash of his "traditional" dinner, he thinks the holiday is over. Pooh is the one who finally reminds the others why we really celebrate Thanksgiving.

In the third story, Rabbit adopts a little bird named Kessie whom he rescues from a blizzard. They come to love each other, to the point where Rabbit has a hard time letting go when she learns to fly and is ready to go south for the winter.

See this one for the Thanksgiving special and the Rabbit/Kessie story. "Groundpiglet's Day" is cute enough, but it's really filler. The Thanksgiving story is charming and a nice commentary on how we think a holiday ought to be, rather than let it be what it is. Kessie and Rabbit's story is one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever seen connected to the Winnie the Pooh franchise, and it's so touching that  I'll forgive it not really having anything to do with Christmas.

Moved on to Mickey's Christmas Carol as I cleaned up from dinner. My first classic holiday cartoon of the season is really a showcase for Uncle Scrooge as the world's most famous miser. Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Donald is Nephew Fred, and Goofy has one of his best roles as a very funny Jacob Marley.

Finished the night with the live-action version of A Christmas Carol from 1938 after a shower. Reginald Owen is Scrooge in this one, with Gene Lockhart as Cratchit. Ann Rutherford makes for a particularly pointed Ghost of Christmas Past, even if she doesn't look the part of an ethereal spirit. There's also a bit of a romance here for Fred, as his wife (here called Elizabeth) is his fiancee, and their courtship is part of the plot. (This may be why this is the only version of this story that I know of to drop Scrooge's own lost fiancee.) A few segments from the book were lightened and left out to make this more appropriate for family audiences. And yes, that is a very young June Lockheart as Belinda Cratchit, the younger Cratchit daughter.

Not the best version of this story, but you can do far worse, especially if you have younger children who may be put off by the darker aspects of some other retellings that stick closer to the book.