Thursday, January 31, 2019

Baby, It's Really Cold Outside!

Began a cold morning with a breakfast and a quick Valentine's Day special. Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You has Pooh and the others looking for Christopher Robin to find out if he gave Pooh a valentine. Christopher Robin's busy making a valentine for a girl he likes, to the surprise of the others. Owl tells them he's been bitten by the "smitten" bug, and that the only way to cure him is to find another bug to bite him. They search all over the Hundred Acre Woods for the "smitten" bug to bring their friend back.

Jodie, who needed to pick up some stuff for Dad, drove me to work. It could have been a lot worse. It was very cold and breezy, barely in the teens, but tolerable when you could get into the sun. I mostly alternated between hanging gift cards and shelving candy inside and doing the carts and trash and recycling outside, but I did end up in the register for a little while. We never really got that busy, but there were two call-outs.

Went straight into writing when I got home. Han's not too sure about it, but he, Luke, and Leia do rally the others to join them. They now rob every Norman noble who comes through, taking their gold and giving some to the poor, some to a fund to rescue King Bail, and some to pay for nobles who lost their lands to the Normans.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. I ate leftovers, then made Carrot-Apple Muffins while watching the other Winnie the Pooh Valentine's Day special. Actually, it's an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Rabbit insists on making it "Un-Valentine's Day," canceling the holiday to try to stem the tide of valentines given the year before. However, when someone gives Pooh a pot of honey with a note on it, he decides he has to do something in return...and soon enough, there's raspberry cakes flying all over the Hundred Acre Woods and Pooh going around dressed as a mail box. Rabbit finally decides that it's safer to put on a romantic play for Christopher Robin. But who did send Pooh the original jar of honey?

Ended the night with the two made-for-TV High School Musical films, which I go into more detail on at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

High School Musical & High School Musical 2

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Raiders of the Lost Russians

Though it was sunny when I rolled out of bed this morning, it was also gale-force windy. It was no day to be going anywhere. I had breakfast and cleaned up while watching my first Valentine's Day special of the year. Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers mashes bits and pieces of several shorts together in a thin story that has Bugs insisting that an Elmer-like Cupid is meddling. Also ran one of the two full shorts included as an extra, "Holiday Happenings," a spoof of holidays throughout the year.

Went right into trying something different next. I found a recipe for cinnamon rolls at the Acme on Monday. As it turned out, the recipe required microwaving, which I can't do. Found a simpler recipe for Basic Sweet Dough in one of my older cookbooks. I updated it with two cups of whole wheat flour in with the regular flour. Gave it a nice, nutty flavor.

After I put the dough to rise the first time, I cleaned the bathroom. Figured I might as well get to it. It wasn't terribly bad (except the sink), but it needed to be done sooner or later. Now was as good a time as any.

Checked on the dough at quarter of 3. It hadn't risen a lot, but I figured it was enough to proceed with rolling. I rolled it into as much of a square as I could, then brushed it with butter and sprinkled it with sugar. I guess I didn't make it big enough, because I had way too much butter and sugar. I added some of the addition sugar to the tops for a little crunch before letting them rise again.

Watched Doctor Zhivago while I worked. The title character is Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), who is taken in by friends of his family after his mother dies. By 1913, he's studying medicine, but really prefers poetry. He's not the only one who can't follow his heart. Lovely teenager Lara (Julie Christie) is having an affair with older nobleman Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), but she really loves Pasha (Tom Courteney), a devoted revolutionary. She tries shooting him after he rapes her, but she only gets his hand. Zhivago treats him. Eventually, Yuri married his adopted sister Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and had a son with her, and Lara marries Pasha and bears a daughter with him. The two men end up in World War I with Yuri's half-brother Yevgraf (Sir Alec Guinness). Pasha goes missing in action; Lara takes up nursing to find him. She and Yuri work together and fall for each other, but he eventually returns to Tonya.

He comes back to a much-changed Moscow. The Communists have banned his poems and subdivided his adopted father's former home. They flee Moscow in a car filled with men intended for slave labor. Yuri runs across the mysterious Revolutionary "Streinkov"...who turns out to be a very-much-alive Pasha. Pasha does let him go back to his family. They move into a cottage on a former family estate...until Yuri discovers that Lara and her daughter live near-by. He has an affair with her that he ends when he learns that Tonya is pregnant. Unfortunately, just as he's about to return to his family, the Red Army comes by and forces him to join them. The moment he can, he deserts them and flees back to Lara. His family having been sent to Paris, he's able to stay there happily with her, until the government once again catches up with them over his "counter-revolutionary" poetry. He and Lara part again, this time for good...but he never forgets her and dies trying to get out to see his Lara one more time.

While I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the more over-the-top Cleopatra, it's still a big, beautiful movie. The grand cinematography (mostly filmed in Spain - as you can imagine, Soviet Russia wasn't too happy with the story), with many wide shots of devastation and very cold winters, won an Oscar, as did the adapted screenplay and the stunning costumes and set design. Julie Christie did win an Oscar that year, but not for this movie, despite her own touching performance here. Courteney was nominated as the earnest young man who goes from idealistic youth to ardent revolutionary. It definitely deserved Best Score for its sweeping music, including "Lara's Theme."

I liked this, but didn't love it. If you're more into doomed romances and heavy melodrama in a historical setting than I am, you may find much to swoon over in this tragic tale.

Worked on writing for a while after I drizzled the rolls with icing and got them in the oven. Han arrives just in time to save Luke from being slashed by Vader. Luke manages to kill Tarkin, while Han, Leia, and the others drive his men off. Han gives Vader's horse one last parting slap, saying it's from the mythical "Robin Hood." Leia insists that they make "Robin Hood" real. They're going to rob from rich Norman nobles to pay for the poor, for the ransom for King Bail, and to get the land back for former Saxon nobles.

It was almost 7:30 before I broke for dinner. Watched a quick winter-related special while making taco salad for dinner in honor of the tiny bit of snow I'd seen earlier. Frosty's Winter Wonderland brings back everyone's favorite talking snowman, but he's feeling a bit lonely when the kids go home. They make him a "snow wife," a snowwoman, to keep him company. Trouble is, she's not "all livin'" like him. Meanwhile, Jack Frost is jealous that the kids pay more attention to Frosty than him and will do anything he can to get rid of the snowman's magic.

Finished the night with a more upbeat epic, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is searching for the lost Ark of the Covenent in 1936. He's joined by his good friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). The Nazis, including Indy's rival Belloq (Paul Freeman), are also after the Ark for the amazing power it's said to contain. Indy goes from Nepal to Egypt in search of the golden container, and though he does manage to get it first, the Nazis steal it from him. He and Marion go in pursuit, only to be captured by Belloq and his men. When Belloq insists on opening the Ark to see its power for himself, he, Indy, Marion, and everyone around them learn that some mysteries are better left undisturbed.

While not my favorite Indiana Jones movie (that's Last Crusade), this is the first and probably the most famous of them. My dad didn't buy the video for this until sometime in the early-mid 90's, and I didn't grow up with this one the way I did the other two. There's a lot of things I like about it, though, including Allen as the most feisty and interesting of Indy's love interests. If you're a fan of action, Ford, or director Steven Spielburg, this one is a no-brainer, and one of the best adventure movies of all time.

Oh, and while most of the sugar fell out of the dough when I tried to cut it, otherwise, my first try at cinnamon rolls were perfect. They tasted just sweet and moist enough and smelled incredible while baking. Though they didn't take long to bake, they did take a while to rise and put together, meaning this will be an only occasional treat.

And yes, I called Jodie for a ride to work tomorrow. I'm afraid I'm not going to avoid the 15 degree temperatures this time. And I got another bite on the American Girl bed and bedding that I'm still trying to sell. Hope it goes through this time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rhapsody In the Rain

Began a gloomy morning with work around the house. I'm still clearing a lot of stuff out. Went through my bag with the crocheting and sewing projects and the plastic container with the yarn. Decided to compromise and keep the bags of small yarn balls that I may actually use, while shoving the larger yarn balls into a plastic trash bag. The miscellaneous Christmas stuff that I put out first - the garlands, linens, nativity, bows, mistletoe, and the box with the New Year's party supplies - went in the now-empty plastic container. (The wreath still didn't fit. I'll keep it in the felt Santa bag.)

Ran Manhattan while I worked. Issac Davis (Woody Allen) is a TV comedy writer who loves the city he lives in, but has a much harder time with the women in his life. His previous wife Jill (Meryl Streep) left  him for another woman and is now writing a memoir about their unfulfilling relationship. His current girlfriend Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) is a teenager who is pretty and sweet, but can also be annoying and silly. He becomes interested in his best friend Yale's (Michael Murphy) mistress Mary (Diane Keaton), an intellectual who shares his love of New York and is much closer to his age and neurotic temperament. He breaks it off with Tracy after Yale gives up Mary and she becomes available. He thinks he's found the right woman, but love isn't always a simple thing in the Big Apple...

The music and some truly stunning black and white cinematography are the things here. I'm a Gershwin fan and really love some of the instrumental jazz numbers used in the background, including the opening montage to "Rhapsody In Blue." There's some amazing shots of the city here, notably the one of the Queensboro Bridge, with Allen and Keaton sitting and and admiring it from the street. It's just gorgeous. Hemingway was Oscar-nominated for her performance as the energetic young woman enjoying her first romance with an older man.

If you're a fan of the cast or Allen's style of quirky, talky romantic comedy, this is one trip to Manhattan you'll be wanting to make, too.

Headed out to run errands around 1. Started off at the Oaklyn Library to drop off the bag of yarn. Not really a whole lot going on there. The librarians chatted while the Weather Channel blared warnings about the snow and freezing cold we're supposed to get over the next few days. I mostly organized DVDs and looked over the kids' section.

Next stop was Genova's Pizza for lunch. Had two quick mostly-heated slices of cheese pizza and a can of Coke while the guys watched talk about the Super Bowl on ESPN. Despite the sandwich board outside, the slices were not $3.00 anymore. Between that and there's other, cheaper places in the area that have pizza that's just as good, I don't think I'll be coming here for a while.

It was starting to sprinkle as I rode over to the Haddon Township Library. They weren't much busier than Oaklyn had been. I had no trouble shelving and organizing DVDs. Along with more Daniel Tiger and renewing Cabaret, I took out E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial (which I probably haven't seen in at least two decades), High School Musical 2 (to review with the original on either Thursday or Saturday), and the British jazz drama All Night Long. Since I enjoyed the 60's epics Spartacus and Cleopatra so much last winter, I thought I'd give the Russian romance Doctor Zhivago a shot.

The rain was starting to pick up a little as I got out of the library. It wasn't really that cold, probably in the lower 40's, but the gusty wind had returned in full force. This was no day to linger. I just went straight home, dodging the beginnings of rush-hour traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike.

Worked on writing for a little while when I got in. Han and Chewbacca overhear Vader and his man Tarkin claiming that they're going to take the Rebels by surprise and capture them. Han follows them back to the bridge, arriving just in time to shoot the arrow that saves Luke from being killed by the Sheriff.

Broke for dinner at quarter after 6. Had leftovers while watching Daniel Tiger. Poor Daniel! I could so relate to "Daniel Feels Better." He's chasing his baby sister Margaret when he trips over his toy car and hurts his ankle. His mom takes him to Doctor Anna, who assures him that he should see a grown-up when he hurts himself. She takes an x-ray and tells him that he has a sprain and needs to keep it elevated. (Yeah kid, I've been there. I've broken my toe and hurt my ankle and my right knee twice. And I broke my toe in high school while goofing off with my sister, too.)

Dan goes over to Miss Elania's house to play astronaut with her and her mom Lady Elaine. "Miss Elania Gets Hurt" when she scrapes her arm and needs a cool robot band aid. Dan also hurts himself, getting a nasty bump on his knee, but he's more reluctant to tell a grown-up he doesn't know well.

"Daniel Gets a Cold" on the day of Prince Wednesday's big in-class birthday party. Despite him badly wanting to try the strawberry cake, he has to go home with his dad and rest anyway.

Kids aren't the only ones who need looking-after when they're sick. Considering both my sisters have been very sick themselves lately, I suspect they'd probably be able to really relate to "Mom Tiger Is Sick." Mrs. Tiger gets her own bad cold just as she's trying to finish up the invitations for Fruit Picking Day. Her boys not only finish the invitations, but make her toast and vegetable soup, too.

Unfortunately, this is another older DVD that was so scratched, half of it really wouldn't play. I finally gave up and switched to The Muppet Show while doing the dishes. Joel Gray, of Cabaret and Broadway's Wicked, starred in the show's third episode. He encourages Gonzo to "Razzle Dazzle" the audience, while Fozzie drives everyone crazy working on his "jokes on any subject" routine.

I ran that episode as a lead-in to tonight's Musical Dreams Movie Review, the decadent Bob Fosse film version of Cabaret featuring Gray and Liza Minnelli. I haven't seen this movie since I was a kid and thought it would great to revisit it.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Tax Woman

Got up with enough time to have breakfast and watch a couple of especially action-packed She-Ra episodes. "The Sea Hawk" is a pirate who will work for anyone who will pay him, including the Horde. Adora takes passage aboard his ship and claims that he can't be free if he's working for Hordak. The pirate is forced to turn Adora over to Catra to save his ship...then rethinks his ideas of freedom when his crew claim they've lost self-respect.

Bow is jealous when "The Red Knight" swoops in and saves him and She-Ra from the Horde. The powerful knight can seemingly do anything, including beat Bow at the racing at the Rebels' Fair. Bow's ready to pack it in, until Kowl reminds him that there's a lot he can do too, including rescuing the Great Rebellion.

Work was steady for most of the day. I did do the inside trash to warm up a bit, but otherwise spent the majority of the day outside. Gathered carts and the outside trash and recycling and swept up the front patio. The carts did disappear quite a bit, but it wasn't that hard to round them up again. At least it was a nice day to work outside. While it was a bit breezy and colder, probably in the lower-mid 30's, it was also sunny and bright.

Since my W-2 finally arrived today, I was able to go right into finishing my taxes when I got home. My taxes usually take me about 20 minutes to an hour to file. I have one job, no dependents, and own no property. Thankfully, the e-mail with the code to send them out arrived promptly, allowing me to avoid all the drama I had with e-filing last year.

Broke for dinner at 7:30 after I finished yesterday's blog entry. Had leftover tacos while watching two Three Stooges shorts. Given I just did my own taxes, I figured "Income Tax Sappy" was appropriate. Shemp joins the other two as they create fake deductions to maximize their profits and please their older sister, who wants to buy a house. They're so happy with how things turn out, they do the same for others, at least until the IRS catches up with them. "Musty Musketeers" switches to medieval swashbuckling, as the guys must rescue the princess from a magician in order to be able to wed their sweethearts.

Finished the night with Skyscraper. Will Sawyer (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) was once a US Marine and a member of the FBI Special Forces, but is forced to retire after he loses his leg in an explosion. He's now a security consultant who is married, with a loving wife named Sarah (Neve Campbell) and twin daughter and son. He temporarily moves them to the top floors of an unfinished ultra-high-rise skyscraper in Hong Kong where he's reviewing security. He has total control over security in the building...making him the target of terrorist Kores Botha (Roland Moller) and his organization. They manage to steal the tablet that controls everything and set fire to one of the upper floors of the building. While Sarah and his son do manage to escape, Botha and his people keep his daughter as a hostage. Will has to figure out how to rescue her and get the tablet, before Botha does worse things to the metal monstrosity.

This did all right last year, but it was by no means a record breaker...and despite some nice action sequences, I mostly just thought it was boring. Johnson and Campbell's decent performances can't overcome a bland script and a cliched story that's basically Die Hard redux. I say try Rampage or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle for better (and more fun) doses of The Rock. This is for hard-core fans of his only.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Maybe This Time

I awoke to a sort-of-cloudy and very windy day. It was so late, I just made quick buttermilk whole wheat pancakes while listening to two somewhat similar - and very cynical - Kander and Ebb shows. The soundtrack of Cabaret came first. I haven't seen the film version since I was a kid; I don't remember much about it, other than it being very dark and very weird. Great music, though, including Joel Gray's iconic performance of "Wilkomen" and Liza Minnelli's of the title song and "Maybe This Time." I kind of wish they'd kept the music from the subplot about the German woman w ho married a Jewish man. Some of the songs there were fun, including "It Couldn't Please Me More."

Moved on to Chicago while cleaning up after breakfast. While the tale of two murderesses who parlay their notoriety into show business careers is slightly less bleak than Cabaret, it's still pretty dark material for a musical. It's told as if it were a vaudeville show - Mama Norton's "When You're Good to Mama" is the hot Sophie Tucker number, Roxie's soliloquy about mid-way through is the headliner spot, "The Cell Block Tango" is the big chorus dance, "All I Care About" is a stripping routine, "Mr. Cellaphane" is the comic. There's a great cast here that includes Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon as the ladies craving the spotlight and Jerry Orbach as the lawyer who takes both their cases.

I'd spent a lot of the week inside. Figured I might as well go for a walk while the weather still held out. It was cloudy and chilly, but not abnormally cold for this time of year, probably in the mid-40's. It was also surprisingly quiet, despite the relative warmth. I saw two boys riding their scooters, a couple of teens out on their own walks, and not much else. There's not much to see in the neighborhood right now, anyway. A few houses either haven't gotten around to taking down their Christmas lights (including Charlie and the McHughs), or already have pink wreaths up for Valentine's Day. Most settled for winter-themed banners or just their bare brown gardens.

Strolled to Dad and Jodie's house first. I've been wanting to talk to them without the rest of the family around for a while now. They were messing around on their laptops and watching Men In Black II. Dad has been sick, which explained why he was almost passed out in his chair and why they didn't really have a whole lot to tell me. No, Jodie hasn't heard from Rose about the doctor. I need to call her and tell her to get moving. No, they don't know anyone who has an apartment for rent, and they don't know how to help me find one. And no, they're not having a Super Bowl party this year. Neither of them are up to it.

Since it's a few blocks from Dad and Jodie's house anyway, I went to Dollar General next. Needed sugar and a few things to make stove top tuna casserole tonight. They were fairly busy for a Sunday, but that gave me time to grab my favorite pecan rolls while in line.

Went straight home after that...and then went right back out as soon as I put the food away. I desperately needed to get the laundry done. So did everyone else in Oaklyn. They were busy as heck when I got in. Got the last washer. The dryers were a bit more open by the time my big load was ready. Worked on story notes and ignored the crowd.

When I got home, I chatted with Lauren (who was online early while she watched wrestling) while doing a little bit of writing. Han takes off into the woods with Chewbacca, claiming he's only interested in paying off Baron Du Hutt...but then he sees the Sheriff's men going into the woods, and hears screams from the Rebel camp...

Broke for dinner at 7. I was going to make Tuna Casserole...but I didn't realize I was out of frozen peas. Oh well. I sliced up and sauteed carrots and celery for my stove top casserole instead. Came out equally well, and very cheesy with the shredded Colby/Monterrey Jack mix I bought.

Switched from cynicism to romance with the 1925 operetta Desert Song. Listened to the Nelson Eddy/Doretta Morrow studio cast from the 1950's. The Red Shadow (Eddy) fights for the Riffs in Morocco, but he's really Pierre, the shy son of the French general. Sassy Margot Bonvalet (Morrow) has her own ideas of love, and they're a lot hotter than quiet Pierre's more courtly notions. She gets the "Romance" she wanted in spades when she's captured by The Red Shadow and the Riffs and falls in love with him and their lifestyle.

Yeah, if you're a fan of swashbucklers or ultra-romantic musicals, you'll definitely want to look for some version of this. The sprightly "Romance" is my favorite song, but I also love the gorgeous ballads "One Alone" and "One Flower (Grows In Your Garden)."

Finished the night with another swashbuckler from the same year, this time on film. Don Q, Son of Zorro is Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s 1925 follow-up to his original 1920 Mark of Zorro. Don Diego's (Fairbanks) son Cesar (also Fairbanks) is in Spain to further his education. He falls in love with the beautiful Dolores (Mary Astor), but is then accused of killing her father by the jealous military officer Don Sebastian (Donald Crisp). Cesar has to figure out how to clear his name before he winds up on the hangman's noose. Don Diego, hearing his son's plight, rushes to his aid in the guise of Zorro one last time.

Like Robin Hood, this one takes a while to get started. There's too much courtly love in Spain and not enough swashbuckling. The plot doesn't really kick in until almost an hour into the two-hour film. When it does, it's a lot of fun, with some nice duels and really nifty special effects when the two Vegas are seen side-by-side in the finale. If you love Fairbanks Sr. or old-fashioned swashbucklers as much as I do, the tales of Zorro and his son are both highly recommended.

Don Q, Son of Zorro Part 1
Don Q, Son of Zorro, Part 2

(And sorry this is late. The internet went down as I was trying to post it last night, and I got tired of waiting for it to come back on.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Pop Musicals

Started off a quick morning with breakfast and a couple of Backyardigans episodes. Mountain cave kids Austin and Tasha invite valley dwellers Pablo, Tyrone, and Uniqua to their newest invention - the "Cave Party!" The trio come up with ways to get them their across the snow. Austin is excited to take part in his first "Race Around the World." Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone have each won a race before, but it's Austin who ends up teaching them the importance of being prepared. The trio are "Castaways" on a tropical island. Austin is there, too, but he's too shy to greet them. He helps them find the things they need around the island instead.

Work was very quiet for a weekend. There just isn't much going on right now. We're between holidays, the Super Bowl is next weekend, and the weather isn't supposed to get bad until Wednesday or Thursday. There was tons of help and not really a whole lot to do. The worst that happened was I had a hard time helping out with a big milk spill. Otherwise, I bagged, gathered baskets, did the inside trash, and shelved candy and loose items.

Went straight home after work to do a little bit of writing. Luke, Leia, and Hera suggest that the Rebels rob from rich nobles passing through. Some of the money will go to the poor of Nottingham, while the rest will be kept for King Bail's ransom. Han refuses to do it at first. He really needs to pay off Baron Du Hutt. He's about to leave when they're attacked...

Broke for dinner at 7. Had leftovers and cleaned up from them while watching two episodes of Good Eats. With all the popcorn I've been eating lately, I thought "Pop Art" was appropriate. I've tried Alton's method of popping popcorn, with a metal bowl covered in aluminum foil...and while that method did pop the kernels, it also burned the bottom of my pan. I think I'll stick to drizzling popcorn from a popcorn popper with butter and salt. "Pretzel Logic" makes a lot more sense. I might actually try that sometime, especially given how close we are to Philadelphia and their huge, soft pretzels straight off the street.

Finished the night with Frozen. With the cold weather in much of the US and the sequel coming out in late November, I figured this was the right time to finally cover Disney's biggest hit at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Frozen (2013)

Friday, January 25, 2019

Swashbuckling Tales

A banging noise and cursing outside woke me up a bit earlier than I've been rolling out of bed recently. Charlie was working on finishing the small roof over my door. Wish he could have given me some heads-up about that, but at least he was getting it done. The plastic slats for the underside of the roof had been leaning against the front of the apartment under my kitchen window for weeks.

Ran Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood during breakfast to drown out  his potty mouth. The duck who hatched in the previous set has to be returned to the farm in "Duck Goes Home." Daniel and the other kids are sad that they'll miss their friend. Teacher Harriet makes sure to take lots of pictures of them together and on the farm and reassures that they'll always remember him."Daniel Feels Left Out" when he sees Katerina and O playing at their treehouse without him. His dad assures him that it's ok to feel sad when you're lonely or disappointed.

"Daniel Is Frustrated" when he can't find what he wants to play with at home. Mrs. Tiger tells him that he needs to step back and ask for help before he gets even more angry. This also works with his classmates in "Frustration at School." Dan can't find the pretend spaghetti to play restaurant with O, Katerina, and Wednesday. This time, it's Teacher Harriet who reminds him that he needs to take a step back and ask for help finding what he needs.

Granpere cat-sits Katerina and Daniel at Dan's house. The green-eyed monster rears its head when "Daniel Is Jealous" that his grandfather seems to pay more attention to his friend than him. Grandpere reassures him that he'll always be his favorite grandson. Katerina and Daniel get more than a tinge of green-eyed when "Jealousy at the Treehouse" has them coveting O's cool new science tools. O's uncle X helps them figure out how they can all use them.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon signing up for Upwork, a web site that provides online jobs for writers and other people who work exclusively on the internet or remotely. Trouble is, they wanted a profile picture...and no matter how much I tried, I just could not upload my photos from my camera, including a quick selfie I took of myself. It would load a few pictures, then stop. Then I'd start over, and it would do it again - if it loaded anything at all.

I finally gave up around 1:30. Opted to do the beginning of the next Daniel Tiger episode while having a quick banana-peanut butter smoothie lunch with the last coconut muffin. Daniel learns about "Someone Else's Feelings" when he whacks his toy hammer too loud for sensitive O the Owl. Mrs. Tiger reminds him of a time when Miss Elaina played too loud for him and how it made him feel. The boys finally agree to play more quietly.

It was past 2 when I hurried off to the Acme to do this week's grocery shopping. I was hoping to get more turkey bacon for that bacon-spinach salad. Not only is that sale over, but they were out of the turkey bacon I like. Since ground chicken was on sale, I bought that and tortillas for tacos. I enjoyed my pumpkin donuts so much, I grabbed another box of that clearance pumpkin bread mix. Took advantage of a few buy one-get-one sales to pick up two containers of oatmeal and packs of taco and spaghetti sauce seasoning. Restocked oranges, apples, bananas, carrots, skim milk, buttermilk, peanut butter, honey, yogurt, canned chicken, mandarin oranges, and brown sugar.

My schedule for next week is even better than this week. All morning hours, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off, and slightly more hours. I'll have plenty of time to look for more writing gigs and think of how I can find another apartment. Asked for February 19th off for counseling. I tried to see if my W-2 was there, but they appear to be late.

There was a box downstairs for me as I was on my way out. I brought it upstairs and opened it after I finished putting everything else away. My new robe from Amazon arrived! It's a wine-red plush velour that is soooooo soft and comfy! It reminds me a lot of my red velour blanket, only slightly lighter in color and even softer. That means it also has the same problems as my red velour blanket, namely being static-prone and likely to attract fuzzies.

Finished out Daniel Tiger while I got organized and cuddled my new robe. Daniel learns "Empathy at School" when older girl Chrissie loses her favorite charm bracelet while they're playing doctor. He wants to keep going...until he remembers how upset he was when he couldn't find his stuffed tiger when Prince Tuesday babysat him. He and Teacher Harriet finally help her look for it.

"Daniel Is Mad" when it rains on the day he and Prince Wednesday have decided to go to the beach. They make their own beach inside with sand from under the porch. Mrs. Tiger gets pretty angry herself when she sees that her son and his best friend have brought real sand in for their "beach" and ends up taking her advice about calming down to heart. "Katerina Is Mad" when she can't be first in line and Miss Elania picks the triangle she wanted to play. Stan helps Katerina calm down and encourages the girls to come up with a solution.

Worked on writing for a little while after the cartoons finished. Hera Sylendulla, the head of the rebel group, recognizes Leia, a fellow leader. They were all driven out of their homes by Sheriff Vader and Prince Palpatine and their cruel taxes. Luke and Leia have an idea of how they can get back at them, but Han's not sure he's all that crazy about it...

Broke at 6:30 to make my tacos for dinner. Experimented with cookie baking after I ate. There's a couple of recipes for cake mix cookies in my cake mix cookbook. Double-Fudge Cookies became Confetti Cookies with a box of confetti mix instead of chocolate and no chocolate chips. Not bad. I might use a bit more butter next time to make the batter less stiff.

Watched the 1937 version of The Prisoner of Zenda while I ate. Rudolf Rassendyl (Ronald Coleman) has come to the Kingdom of Ruritania for a vacation, only to discover that he's the exact double of King Rudolf (also Coleman) who will be crowned king the next day. The new king's general (C. Aubrey Smith) and best friend (David Niven) insist on Rassendyl taking the king's place at the coronation after the king is drugged. Rassendyl has his doubts at first, until he meets the ravishing Princess Flavia (Madeline Carroll). The king's dastardly brother Michael (Daniel Massey) and his roguish co-hort Rupert of Hentzau (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) also have their doubts, kidnapping the king and holding him at Michael's castle in Zenda. Rudolf finds himself having to keep up the charade of being king while getting Michael and Rupert off his back and dealing with his feelings for Flavia.

My favorite movie version of one of my very favorite novels. The cast here is absolutely perfect, especially Coleman as both Rudolfs and Carroll as a glowing Flavia. If you love swashbucklers like I do, this is an absolute must-see.

Finished out the night with a more recent swashbuckler, The Mask of Zorro. This 1998 adventure goes the Force Awakens/Last Jedi route of having the older Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) train former thief Alejandro (Antonio Bandares) the ins and outs of being the "Masked Avenger of Old California." Both men are looking for revenge, Alejandro on the Californian Calvary officer Captain Love (Matt Letscher) who murdered his brother, Diego on Love's boss, the governor of California, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson). Montero killed Diego's wife and stole his baby daughter, who has grown into the beautiful and fiery Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Alejandro goes undercover as a nobleman with Diego as his servant to find out what Montero is really up to...and discovers a fiendish plot to take over California and murder the men working the gold mines.

I fondly remember when this was one of the bigger hits of the summer of 1998. Unlike with Prince of Thieves, I can understand why it was so popular. Everyone's having a grand time with the goofy material, with Bandares and Zeta-Jones nearly combustible as the sword-swinging Latin lovers and Wilson and Letscher making especially hissable villains.

If you're a fan of the cast, Zorro stories, or love rousing action like I do, you'll want to spend time with this action-packed tale.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Trouble In the Rain

Maybe it's just as well that I slept in this morning. It was pouring cats, dogs, pigs, and chickens when I finally rolled out of bed. I cheered myself up on a gloomy day with an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. Babs and Buster hit the library for the "Weirdest Stories Ever Told." Buster is the famous outlaw "Robin Hare," who has to rescue Maid Babs from Sheriff Monty with the help of his Merry Men...but who's going to rescue the guys when they get in trouble? All the world's a stage for Babs when she desperately tries to get Shakespeare to cast her in one of his shows. Buster wishes he could go anywhere and get away from Elmyra, but has a nightmare about being chased by "Elmyras 'Round the World!"

I did have enough time to call the Colleen Manor Apartments before heading off on an errand run. No luck. Once again, they claim I just don't make enough money. I was so disappointed! I assumed they were low-income housing, but I guess not. I really thought I'd found something there.

I was feeling just as dreary as the continuing rain when I finally rushed out to run a few errands. Mainly hit the Oaklyn Library to return Christopher Robin, but I did work on organizing the adult DVD titles and took a quick look at the kids' books. They were pretty busy today, with one lady helping her son and a few folks on the computer. The librarian gave me an envelope containing papers on finding low-income housing that another librarian was nice enough to print out for me. (I still can't figure out how to get my printer working.)

The rain was finally starting to slow down a bit as I rode across Cuthbert Road to Target. I needed a small notebook for writing story notes. I tried to find one at Dollar Tree last week, but they didn't have anything I liked. Also grabbed brush head replacements for my electric toothbrush and had a quick lunch of hot chocolate and a spinach-feta-egg wrap at Starbucks.

It was almost as busy at the Haddon Township Library when I arrived. They had plenty of help and very little left for me to do. I organized the children's DVDs and shelved the few adult titles and TV sets. I did take out a few movies here, including the 1997 Mark of Zorro with Antonio Bandares, another goofy Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson action movie from last year, Skyscraper, and two landmark movies from the 70's, the Woody Allen romantic comedy Manhattan and the Bob Fosse musical Cabaret. Also grabbed another collection of episodes from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, this one a blending of two older sets.

Went straight into writing when I got home. Han and the others are blocked on their way across the bridge by another group, including a huge man who calls himself Zeb. Zeb insists on them paying a toll to get across. Han says he'll fight him for it. Zeb does manage to get the best of Han in their staff duel and tosses him into the river, but Han gets him to lay off when he brings Zeb down with him.

Broke for dinner at 7. After I had my leftovers, I thought I'd try something. The Acme sold boxes of their own generic pumpkin bread mix this holiday season. I bought one to originally make the actual bread...but then thought it would make even better donuts. Yum! They did come out very well, sweet but not too much. I remember all the ingredients this time. One did fall apart, but most of the other stayed together.

Ran episodes of Daniel Tiger while eating and baking. Ironically, considering I had to wait for the donuts to cool before I could dip them in spiced glaze, two of the episodes dealt with what to do while you wait. "Daniel Waits for Show-and-Tell" because he wants to show all the kids the book he made with his dad. Teacher Harriet distracts him by having the kids wait for their duck egg to hatch. As someone who eats out a lot - and remembers eating out at fancy restaurants as a kid - I could really relate to "A Night Out at the Restaurant." Daniel and Katerina and their parents think of ways to pass the time while waiting for their food.

Prince Tuesday, Wednesday's big brother, is "Daniel's Babysitter" when the Tigers go out dancing. Dan's nervous about them coming back, but Tuesday cheers him up by playing in his living room "jungle" and helping him find his favorite stuffed tiger. "Daniel Goes to School" has him equally nervous when his dad leaves him in the classroom for the day. He's finally distracted when Katerina asks him, Prince Wednesday, and O to help her find her special locket.

"Prince Wednesday Finds a Way to Play" when he wants to be a dinosaur, and Katerina and Daniel want to play house. Miss Elania is excited when Daniel and O come over to her house for a Backwards afternoon. Dan's having fun, but O would rather do things forwards. They still mange to "Find a Way to Play on Backwards Day" when O provides the music for their backwards dance show.

Teacher Harriet wants the kids to do "The Dragon Dance" and lets them make their very own Chinese-style paper dragon. Daniel has a hard time with the head, until the other kids help him out. They realize they have to work together to make the dragon move. They realize that it'll take teamwork to make their crepe paper rainbow come out just right for "Teacher Harriet's Birthday" and to make a rainbow layer clay cake.

I was originally going to do Cabaret tonight, but I was still a little depressed about the apartments turning me down. Opted to review the 1933 movie 42nd Street instead at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog after a shower.

42nd Street

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Busy Doing Nothing

Began a gloomy morning with Christopher Robin. The only human in the Hundred Acre Woods has barely said good-bye to Pooh and the others for the last time when he's packed off to boarding school. He does marry the lovely Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and has a daughter with her, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), but also goes through a harrowing stint in the Army in World War II. When he returns, he takes a job with Winslow Luggage that requires him to be in the office more than he's at home. He's considering packing Madeline off to boarding school, an idea she hates. His obnoxious boss Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) insists that he has to cut his department by 20 percent by the end of the weekend. Stressed, he turns down a trip with his wife and daughter to do work.

Meanwhile, Pooh is upset when he can't find any of his friends and goes to London to look for Christopher Robin. Christopher is shocked when his childhood teddy bear turns up craving honey and begging him to return. He takes him back to Sussex and to the Hundred Acre Woods, where he does find the others and convinces them that he's really their old friend. He still has that presentation to make, though. When he accidentally leaves some important papers behind, Madeline and the stuffed animals go after him, determined to prove just how important childhood and "doing nothing" is.

This was such a sweet story. Maybe it's because I love the Winnie the Pooh franchise and teddy bears, but I really enjoyed this one. While the CGI Pooh and Hundred Acre Woods characters occasionally looked too uncanny, the visual effects were mostly handled very well - this movie was just nominated for an Oscar for its visual effects. Atwell, MacGregor, and Carmichael all play off them very well. Cummings reprises his Pooh and Tigger from the cartoons beautifully, and Brad Garrett makes an especially funny Eeyore. I just wish the story wasn't so cliched. The idea of a man rediscovering his childhood and his innocence has been done dozens of times before.

(In some ways, it reminded me a bit of Mary Poppins Returns. Troubled man who was once an imaginative child living in mid-20th-century London rekindles his creativity, revives his relationship with his family, and regains his home or job with the help of a fantasy character from his youth and the elderly owner of the company/bank, complete with elaborate special effects and a big action sequence in the finale. They're both based around Disney adaptations from the 1960's that remain beloved by Baby Boomers to this day. It also brought other semi-dark re imaginings of classic fantasy tales like the 2010 Alice In Wonderland to mind.)

If you're a fan of MacGregor or the Winnie the Pooh franchise like I am, you'll want to take a trip to the Hundred Acre Woods and check this one out - whether you're an adult, a kid, or a child at heart.

Headed out to work as soon as the movie ended. I got stuck in the register on and off all day. We were more steady than busy, but we were also short on help - there were three call-outs. The baggers are now supposed to take a big, wide broom and sweep around the store every hour on the hour, and log it in on the check-in system. I did it once, but when I tried to do it again, I was told they wanted someone else to do it. That was fine. I had no problems spending the rest of the day outside. While the carts weren't that bad, the trash and recycling were. At least it was much warmer than it has been, a far more normal-for-January lower-mid 40's.

Worked on some writing when I got home. As Han takes the carriage through Sherwood Forest, he finally asks Leia why Vader's willing to kill for the message on Artoo's collar. Turns out he delivered a note indicating that King Bail has been captured in Austria and Prince Palpatine refuses to pay a ransom. Han says that he won't get involved with any of it...just as they come across a group of people who won't let them pass over a bridge...

Ran two episodes of The Muppet Show as I made chicken stir-fry for dinner, both from the first season. The first was in honor of comedienne Kaye Ballard, who passed away today. She joined the giant Muppet monster Thog for a song and dance (in a ridiculous pink ruffled dress that was almost as big as Thog), but didn't appreciate Piggy's scene-stealing during her musical instrument number in the finale or that the Electric Mayhem walk out because they don't think the theme song is hip enough. Another famous stage star, Ethel Merman, appeared just a few episodes earlier. The Muppets may belong to a "Mutual Admiration Society," but Merman's more worried about dealing with Animal. She does help cheer up Fozzie after his short agent proves to be no help in negotiating his non-existent contract.

Finished the night with the story of another type of Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro. Tyrone Power is the famous Masked Avenger of California in this 1940 retelling, with Basil Rathbone and Eugene Pallatte once again playing the evil lawman and the jolly friar respectively. Montagu Love is Don Diego's father, who is disgusted with his son's seemingly foppish behavior. Linda Darnell is Power's love interest, gentle Lolita Quintaro; Gale Sondergaard plays her flirtatious mother. Power and Rathbone have a brief but exciting sword fight in the finale.

As much as I like Power's version, I'm even fonder of the silent Mark of Zorro from 1920. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the dashing Masked Avenger maquerading as a courtly fop in his first of many swashbucklers he made in the 20's. Though it's shorter and less elaborate than his Robin Hood, it also moves faster and has far more action. Check out the sequence in the beginning where he fights a whole group of men at once!

The Mark of Zorro (1920 silent)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sunshine On a Winter's Day

I got up so late, I didn't have the chance to do much more than have breakfast, get organized, and watch a few episodes of Good Eats on winter vegetables, two of which I currently have in my own refrigerator. "Celeryman" turns one of the most versatile vegetables in existence into everything from celery tonic to mashed celery root and braised celery. (I've tried the latter when celery is a part of that "buck a bag" sale. It actually came out really well, just tangy enough.) Alton says "If It Ain't Broccoli, Don't Fix It" when he makes use of the infamously bold floret in a cole slaw and as a steamed side dish.

Work was steady to dead for pretty much the entire day. It's the middle of the week and the middle of a month where most people don't usually have a lot of money, plus we're between holidays. Not to mention, while it was still a bit cold, in the lower 30's, it was far less cold and windy than it had been yesterday. I did get stuck in the register for about an hour, but I mostly alternated between doing returns and gathering carts and baskets.

Returned to Alton when I got home and made "spinach pancakes" for dinner. Brussels sprouts have a somewhat better reputation nowadays than they did when "A Cabbage Sprouts In Brussels" first debuted. People have since found ways to use their funky flavors on the grill and in cole slaw and salads.

(Incidentally, I first got the recipe for spinach pancakes from a magazine of tips and recipes that Kraft used to send out about a decade ago. It's pretty much just eggs mixed with spinach and cheese - I also added mushrooms - and pan-fried. It's been one of my go-to quick after-work meals for years.)

Worked on writing for a little while after dinner. Luke's horrified when he sees Vader stab Friar Ben. Han manages to get them out of the castle and into the woods before the nasty Sheriff does the same to them. But there's other thieves in the woods, and they may not be willing to let them and their carriage, alone...

Moved on to Dreamgirls after a shower in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day yesterday. I go more into this dynamic all-black musical at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Dreams of Musical Memories

Slept in this morning. When I awoke, the sun was shining...and the wind continued to howl. This was no day to go anywhere. I snuggled under the covers and read essays and poems from Colliers Harvest of Holidays. Despite the book having been released while Martin Luther King Jr. was still alive, I thought the pieces covering United Nations Day worked for his holiday as well. After all, he too tried to bring peace, and in fact won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1964.

Went right into breakfast after I finished writing in my journal. I had the time to make Lemon Pancakes today. Yum! They were just lemon juice with the usual things, but they came out nice and fluffy.

Ate them while watching the last episode of Broadway: The American Musical. "Putting It Together: 1980-2004" may be the most personal episode for me, as it's the only one I actually lived through. I remember seeing those "I Love NY" commercials and the spots for individual shows like Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and City of Angels on the independent TV stations WPIX and WWOR and remembering how wonderful and glamorous they all seemed.

I wouldn't actually get to hear any of them until Phantom of the Opera became one of the biggest phenomenons of the late 80's. Rose, who already had a fondness for Gothic spookiness, bought the original cast album on cassette. Truth be told, the show was a little dark for me then; I preferred lighter musicals like Grease, Annie, or Little Shop of Horrors. I did finally fall in love with it when I actually listened to it and would go on to buy or dub the cast albums for Miss Saigon and Sunset Boulevard. Inspired by the musical films my mother loved so much, I had begun to study not only musicals, but older movies in general by the early 90's.

It was interesting to learn about some things I was too young to remember or understand in the 80's, like the damage the AIDS crisis did to the Broadway community, the impact of La Cage Aux Follies, with its loving gay couple, or the mega-success of Cats. I was focusing on high school and the beginning of college (not to mention Remember WENN) when Rent came out. I heard about it and Johnathan Larson's death, but I never heard the full score until I rented the film version last year. By the time Ragtime and The Producers came out in the late 90's and early 2000's, I was paying more attention to both the stage and the Broadway musical, picking up many cast albums from the old Borders that used to be next to the Hamilton Mall. Making friends in college who actually appreciated musicals the way I did helped a lot, too.

The show ends with Wicked, the then-newest Broadway blockbuster. Despite the mixed reviews Julie Andrews mentioned, it went on to become a smash hit and has become a touchstone with young women in particular. It's still running on Broadway to this day. I'd actually like to see them do a more recent follow-up to this that goes into details on the stage musical's continued revival in the 2010's, including discussions of Hamilton, Billy Elliot, Matilda, Fun House, Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, Come From Away, Into the Heights, The Drowsy Chaperone, and the Disney shows Newsies and Mary Poppins.

Spent most of the day working on writing. They all manage to escape in a hay cart that the super-strong Chewbacca pulls to the stables. Luke's horrified when he sees Friar Ben cut down by the evil Sheriff Vader of Nottingham, but the distraction does give them the chance to get over the bridge and into Sherwood Forest.

Broke around 2 for a late lunch, and then to try making donuts again. Did carrot donuts this time to get rid of two old carrots from the Farm Market. This time, I forgot the egg and overcooked one batch. They're once again dry but taste pretty decent.

Ran a couple of sports-related Peanuts specials while eating and baking. You're In the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown has the kids taking part in a Punt n' Pass contest with the prize of a new bike and a trip to the Super Bowl. Chuck and Linus both admire a lovely young lady named Melody who seems to be cheering them on...but it turns out she has quite a football arm! Meanwhile, Snoopy coaches Woodstock and his buddies (in Philadelphia Eagles uniforms, no less) to victory over the larger teams in the Animal League.

(Incidentally, this is currently the only Peanuts special that's not on DVD or online. To my knowledge, it's only available on video from Shell I found the other day. The kids wear helmets with symbols of then-NFL teams during the Punt n' Pass contest, and the NFL symbol is seen prominently elsewhere. It would likely be too expensive for Warners or Paramount to license them.)

Baseball and football aren't the only sports the kids get involved in. Chuck and Marcie join the decathlon in You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown. They show far better sportsmanship than their fellow competitors Freddy from Fremont and the Masked Marvel. Charlie Brown is hoping he has a chance to win...if he can stay on-course. Chuck does somewhat better in the motocross race in You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. He's determined to win no matter what...and proves to everyone, including the Masked Marvel, that slow and steady really does win the race.

Since I had a late lunch, I didn't break for dinner until past 7. Finished out the night with leftovers and a spinach salad while watching Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Cary Elwes plays Robin in Mel Brooks' spoof of mainly Prince of Thieves (though other movies are referred to as well, including The Adventures of Robin Hood). If you're a fan of those movies, satire, or Brooks' other work, you'll probably have just as much fun with some of the jokes here.

Oh, and I found something I hadn't seen in years on YouTube tonight. Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego is a game show that used to run on PBS in the early-mid 90's. Kids would use their knowledge of geography and history to track a kooky criminal who made off with a huge landmark, like the Empire States Building. As someone who loves both geography and history, I was a big fan of this show. Heck, I still think of the late stage actress Lynne Thigpen as "The Chief" even now.

This episode is from the final season in 1995; if you're interested, it looks like there might be quite a few others on YouTube as well.

Haul of the Roamin' Empire 

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Began the morning with my first day back at work. It was...fine. Actually, it was really boring, especially for a Sunday. Everyone must have gotten the hint that we're only getting freezing temperatures tomorrow (and for one day, at that), not snow. Either that, or they all went away for the weekend, or were waiting to shop before the football games began. I did briefly gather baskets and helped bag a few times, but we mostly had so much help, I spent the morning pulling items on shelves to make sure they all looked even.

Went straight home as soon as I got out. It wasn't easy. The clouds that had lingered this morning were long gone by quarter 2. The sun was out, but so was the wind. The raging gusts made it hard to get anywhere, especially on the wide-open Black Horse Pike. I just kept pushing as hard as I could.

When I got in, I went straight to bed for a nap. I had no other plans for the day, and I was tired from being up later than I should have last night. Slept as well as I could with Charlie and his buddies chattering downstairs for about an hour and a half, then read a chapter of The Adventures of Robin Hood and wrote in my journal. I left in too much of a hurry to do it this morning.

Spent the rest of the evening writing. Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and Thomas and his dog Artoo do manage to get Leia out of the Sheriff's rooms at Nottingham Castle. Han's smitten...for all of five minutes, before she starts demanding to know who he is and how do they plan on getting out of there? And that's before more guards start attacking...

Broke for dinner at quarter of 7. I made a warmer variation on last night's dinner. Once again, I crumbled bacon into spinach. This time, after I fried the bacon, I sauteed spinach and mushrooms in the drippings, along with a bit of lemon juice, then added the bacon. Oh yum. Smoky and earthy and just tangy enough.

Listened to the 1960 original cast of Bye Bye Birdie as I ate. Dick Van Dyke and Broadway star Chita Rivera headline this tale of a songwriter and manager whose most famous client, Conrad Birdie (an obvious spoof of Elvis Prestley), was just drafted. He devises a contest that will end with a typical teenage girl kissing Conrad on the Ed Sullivan Show right before he leaves. Said teenager ends up being Kim McAfee (Susan Watson), a huge fan of Conrad's who is over the moon about being chosen. Her nerdy boyfriend Hugo (Michael J. Pollard) and dad (Paul Lynde) are less amused. After the Ed Sullivan episode turns into a disaster, Conrad takes off with Kim and most of the kids in town to look for excitement, while the songwriter's girl Rosie (Rivera) goes off to have some fun on her own.

Between the satire of the early rock scene, the Ed Sullivan subplot (including a whole song about him and his show and how important it was to middle-class families at the time), Rosie's insistence that her man should be in a secure job like teaching English, and Mr. McAfee's lament about the growing generation gap "Kids," this couldn't be more early 60's if it tried. It's been turned into a movie both on the big and small screens; I'm not a fan of the so-so film version with Ann-Margaret (haven't seen the TV movie with Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams). A 2009 revival with John Stamos and Gina Gershon only lasted a few months.

Moved to Oklahoma! after Bye Bye Birdie ended. Watching Broadway: The American Musical inspired me to check out the historic original 1943 cast. I know the show was a huge hit at the time, but it's...just ok. Celeste Holm has fun as Aldo Annie, and long-time Broadway leading man Alfred Drake does make an especially robust Curly. Pretty much everything else is kind of bland. There would be much better versions of this show in subsequent years.

Finished the night with the Lena Horne 2-disc set. It's kind of strange. She sings a mish-mash of songs from the late 60's and early 70's, many of them covers of Beatles or Harry Nilsson tunes. That said, I did enjoy her renditions of "In My Life" and "Everybody's Talkin'," along with "Nightwind" and "Watch What Happens."

Oh, and in good news, the Los Angeles Rams beat the New Orleans Saints to become the NFC Champions and go on to the Super Bowl. In bad news, the Patriots beat the Chiefs and also go on to the Super Bowl. Again. Like they need to go. I hope the Rams kick the Patriots to heck and gone in Atlanta.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Last Day of Vacation

Started off a blah, cloudy day with cartoons during breakfast. Mickey Mouse gets the spotlight this time in a few color shorts I haven't been able to find offline. "Mickey's Circus" is mainly dominated by Donald Duck and his seal least until Mick's nephews Morty and Ferdie and their buddies decide to try to shoot their uncle and his anger-prone pal out of a cannon! "Mickey's Garden," the first Mickey cartoon in color, gets a little freakier when Mick dreams that he and Pluto shrink to ant-size and are attacked by the very critters he tried to clear out of his vegetable patch. While Mick shows off "On Ice" for a delighted Minnie, Donald teases Pluto by putting him on skates, and Goofy attempts ice fishing.

Headed out to run some quick errands as soon as the cartoons ended. My first stop was the Oaklyn Library. Despite the blah weather, there wasn't much going on there. I dropped three of the four DVDs off (I'll do Christopher Robin on Monday), looked over the DVD shelves, and moved on.

Dodged noon traffic next to return DVDs to the Haddon Township Library. I don't think I'll be able to get over there until late next week. While I didn't take out anything else, I did find the rare video of the only Peanuts special that has yet to see a DVD release, You're In the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown.

Made a quick stop at Dollar Tree next for a new scrub brush and a shower curtain. I actually found a very pretty shower curtain in a nice autumn print of red, green, and yellow leaves on a cream-colored background. It took longer in there than I'd planned. The line was literally half-way across the store. Thank goodness a young man opened a register shortly after I got in line.

I hadn't eaten at the Westmont Bagel Shop in a while, so I went there next. They've gone through their second major remodeling in two years since the last time I was there. I'm disappointed. The walls are now dull white and festooned with stock photos of landscapes and bagels rather than the Philly sports articles and photos they used to have. There's a few left, but not nearly as many. The TVs are gone, too. At least my hot roast beef wrap with lettuce, provolone cheese, and horseradish mayo was tasty.

Took a peek at the House of Fun on the way home. They were also fairly busy with collectors checking out various action figures. I considered Star Wars 12-inch dolls, Funko Pops, and Sailor Moon figures, but finally decided I've spent enough money this week and just went home.

Things didn't go much better once I got in. I tried to make Mint Chocolate Chip Donuts, but even with the oil, the donuts were too dry and fell apart when I pulled them out. I made the glaze way too watery, too. It just sunk in the donut.

Cheered myself up with two winter-themed episodes of Perfect Strangers from the second season. Larry learns that it's "Snow Way to Treat a Lady" when he lies to his girlfriend Jennifer about being an expert skier to impress her. Balki keeps shoving his lying in his face, and even he finally regrets it when the trio are stranded in a cabin after an avalanche and he and Balki have to tunnel out.

Finished out the Mickey Mouse set while cleaning up the donut mess. Mickey and Donald take Morty, Ferdie, and their buddies out for an "Orphan's Picnic." Morty and Ferdie proceed to play the same kind of pranks on Donald that his own nephews would in about three years or so. It's "Moving Day" for Donald, Mick, and Goofy when Sheriff Pete repossesses their house. They have to get the furniture out before Pete can sell it at auction. (Skipped "Hawaiian Holiday" and "The Little Whirlwind," both of which I have in full elsewhere.)

Worked on writing for a while as the donuts cooled. They do manage to sneak past the guards and into Nottingham Castle. While Friar Ben goes to release the drawbridge, Han, Luke, Chewbacca, and Thomas head off into the castle itself to free Maid Leia.

It was nearly 7 before I broke for dinner. Ate roasted potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower and baked coconut-crusted tilapia while watching Broadway: The American Musical. I go further into this documentary miniseries on the history of the stage musical at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Broadway: The American Musical 

Incidentally, it started pouring around 8 PM and has been going ever since. I'll still take a deluge over the two feet of snow Lauren's supposed to get up north.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Goofs and Deadpools

It had been snowing when I finally went to bed last night. By the time I got up, the snow had stopped. There was a little bit on the porch, once again about an inch. I still celebrated our wintry weather with two snow-based specials. Frosty Returns in an odd tale from the early 90's. It kind of plays like a cross between a Rankin-Bass special and a Peanuts special. A far more sarcastic Frosty (John Goodman) helps a little girl who loves magic and her science-obsessed guy friend save their winter carnival from a nasty executive (Brian Doyle Murphy) who has created a chemical that instantly dissolves snow.

The Pink Panther finds himself in the Olym-pinks when he joins the 1980 Lake Placid ski team. His long-nosed rival just can't seem to beat him. He cheats at everything from the ski jump to bobsledding, but usually just ends up freezing his rear off in the icy waters. Meanwhile, Pink just wants to out-ski a piano that's determined to keep sliding after him.

Headed out to run errands around 11. My original plan was to check out the Gloucester Outlets, but between my finances, the weather, and the bus only stopping at Audubon and the Outlets at certain times of the day, I decided to save that trip for later in the winter or early spring. Opted to just explore some of the stores in the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center, starting with Goodwill. They were busy as heck when I arrived. I ducked around a woman dropping DVDs into a pile next to her to grab a few myself. Found collections of Goofy and Mickey Mouse cartoons from the long-out-of-print Classic Cartoon Favorites DVD series. (They also had Donald and Chip and Dale, but I already have the latter DVD and all of Don's shorts on my Treasures sets.) Also picked up Dumbo: Big Top Edition to review eventually and the British action film The Sword of Sherwood Forest, the latter still in its original plastic. 

My best find was something I've been hoping to pick up for a long time. The Haddon Township Library had the PBS documentary miniseries Broadway: The American Musical in its non-fiction collection, but the set has vanished from the shelves within the last year or so, and it could cost up to 50 dollars even when new. I found it for $5.99. It's totally intact, complete with the flyer from PBS advertising other sets and giving an introduction to the episodes. 

Was in and out of a few stores next. I'm still hoping to find a new bathrobe and a new pair of winter boots. I never did find a bathrobe. (I probably will end up getting that online.) I did see a few pairs of boots I liked at Marshalls and Ross, but I didn't buy them. I'm glad I waited. I found just the right pair at The Shoe Depot, black Totes boots with non-slip rubber bottoms and warm fur lining - and they were on sale for $17. 

By this point, it was almost 2, and my stomach was grumbling. I was originally going to eat at Chick Fil'A, but even then, the line for the take-out window was still half-way around the building. I went with Arby's instead. Had a tasty if messy turkey gyro with curly fries and Mello Yello. There was only one other guy there besides the people behind the counter. I enjoyed the quiet and my meal as I sat by the front window and watched cars go by on the Black Horse Pike.

Next stop was a far busier Acme to get my schedule and do my grocery shopping. Given I spent a lot of the week eating at home, there was a lot that I needed. This week is one of our occasional "buck a bag" produce sales. I grabbed bagged spinach, celery, oranges, a container of cherry tomatoes, and a bag of those tasty baked pea snacks. Had online coupons for Belvita breakfast cookies (treated myself to the chocolate sandwich cookies), butter, Celestial Seasonings herbal tea, and Pantene conditioner - they finally had the curl formula. Restocked apples, bananas, skim milk, yogurt, chocolate chips, canned pineapple, cake mix, powdered sugar, regular black tea, eggs, turkey bacon, and blueberry preserves. 

My schedule is much better than it was before vacation, and in fact is probably the best schedule I've had since Christmas week. More hours, all in the mid-afternoon except for an early Sunday. I'm so glad I have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off. The high that day is supposed to be in the teens. I'll just have to do everything next Thursday and Friday.

Went straight home after I left. Put on the Goofy DVD while I got organized. With the Walt Disney Treasures sets out of print and nearly impossible to find, I figured these were the next best thing. One of the reasons I bought it was to have the full "Art of Skiing," which is the very first cartoon on the set. "Father's Day Off" was also pretty funny. Poor Goof! If he thought being a single dad in the 90's was tough, being a married dad whose wife went off for the day in the 50's was even harder. He has to iron a dress that's shrunk, keep his son out of trouble, wonder why the heck the milkman kissed him, take care of a neighbor's baby, save his wash from birds, and explain to the cops why they heard the radio and thought it was a real murder. 

Worked on writing for the next few hours. Han, Chewie, and Luke knock out three guards who try to attack them and steal their black and white armor. They pass themselves as guards and Ben and Chewie as monks on their way to Nottingham Castle. Luke's hoping to save Maid Leia, but Han just wants his money.

Broke for a late dinner at 7. I was still full from my late lunch and opted for something lighter than the crusted fish I originally had planned. Fried up the turkey bacon and crumbled it into spinach, thinly sliced onion, chopped broccoli and cauliflower florets, and cherry tomatoes. Added my own home-made mayo-red wine vinegar dressing. Oh, yum! It came out really tasty and filling, a nice blending of flavors.

Finished out the remaining Goofy shorts as I ate. "The Big Wash" introduces Dolores the Elephant. Goofy is her caretaker and has to give her a bath, but she absolutely refuses to get clean and does her best to hide from his hose. He's a "Baggage Buster" when a magician's trunk that he's trying to load onto a train gives him nothing but trouble. Goofy tries to get an equally reluctant bear to "Hold That Pose" after he's taken up photography. A big cat refuses to take the loss of his home "Lion Down" when Goofy plants his tree on the top of his apartment building. He decides he likes Goof's hammock and tries to throw him out. Goofy tries to learn "How to Dance," but he's not prepared for how aggressive people can be when they're jitterbugging.

Moved on to The Sword of Sherwood Forest as I cleaned up from dinner. This British version of the Robin Hood legends from 1960 picks up with Robin (Richard Greene) and his men already outlaws. They vow to aid the Archbishop of Canterbury (Jack Gwillim) when he speaks out against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter Cushing) confiscating the lands of a lord who died in the Crusades. There's also Maid Marian (Sarah Branch), who wants the Archbishop to help her provide for the family of a man who was killed by the Sheriff's men. She thinks Robin's a selfish jerk at first, but she starts to fall for him when she realizes that he intends to help the Archbishop and give the Sheriff's money to the poor.

I never heard of this Robin Hood before...and now I'm wondering why. Maybe it's because this came from Hammer Studios, which normally specialized in horror. To my surprise, I actually quite enjoyed it. Cushing made an especially hissable Sheriff of Nottingham, and Nial MacGinnis and Nigel Green were fun as Friar Tuck and Little John respectively. Greene was a bit stiff as Robin, but he wasn't bad, and he certainly looked dashing enough in the action scenes. Loved the gorgeous widescreen color cinematography, too. Evidently, I'm not the only one who liked it - it was a surprise hit in 1960 in England. 

If you want a Robin Hood that's more Errol Flynn and less Kevin Costner, you could do far worse than to look around for this one.

Finished the night with Deadpool 2. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is looking forward to starting a new life with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) when she announces that she's pregnant, but that's tabled when one of his targets shows up and kills her. After he tries to commit suicide, he recovers at the X-Mansion with Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Teenage Sonic Nuclear Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), and her girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsana). They want him to join the X-Men, which he does only after much persuasion and because he thinks Vanessa would want him to. Their first job is to subdue Russell (Julian Dennison), a young fire-based mutant being raised in an abusive orphanage. 

He and Deadpool both end up in prison after Deadpool attacks some of the orphanage leaders who hurt the kid, but Deadpool's broken out by tough guy time-traveler Cable (Josh Brolin). Cable wants to kill the kid before he can murder anyone, including his family. Deadpool gets together a group of semi-mutants and just plain strange folk he calls X-Force, but the only survivor of the initial parachute drop is lucky Domino (Zazzie Beetz). Collins does get out, with the help of massive Juggernaut (voice of Reynolds). Now Deadpool and one of the strangest groups of superheroes ever have to stop Collins from killing the heads of the orphanage...even if they have to manipulate time itself to do it

Wow. Yeah, if you loved the first movie, you'll probably enjoy this one just as much. The gags are just as funny this time around, especially if you know anything about the X-Men and Marvel films or recent pop culture. Yes, it's still violent and there's still a lot of cursing and blood. This isn't a superhero movie for kids or people who aren't into heavy action. I also wish they'd made more use of a lot of characters, including Vanessa and the other members of the X-Force. Not to mention, as with Teen Titans Go to the Movies, those who aren't into recent superhero films or pop culture probably won't get a lot of the jokes, and many of the gags will likely become dated in a few years. 

Those caveats aside, if you're into meta-jokes or loved the first Deadpool movie, you'll probably have just as much fun with the second verse as you did with the first. 

(And incidentally, most of the snow - including the snow that had been around all week - had vanished by the time I went home from the grocery store. It wasn't warm so much as it was damp and chilly. While we're not supposed to get the two feet of snow that Lauren says is predicted for Western Massachusetts, we are supposed to get at least another two inches, plus freezing rain. We'll see what happens. I'm more concerned about the freezing temperatures on Monday and Tuesday.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Love Among the Ponies

Took advantage of my lack of plans this morning to sleep in. Watched a few episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic while eating breakfast (and cleaning up after I dropped the container of bran flakes on the kitchen floor), starting with an older one from the fourth season. Rarity's thrilled when she's elected as the head of the Ponyville Days Festival. She's hoping the elegant events will catch the eye of Trenderhoof, a sophisticated big-city pony she's smitten with. To her annoyance, he's more interested in Applejack's "Simple Ways" when he arrives. She tries to become more countrified to catch his eye, including switching the festival to a country theme. Applejack finally imitates her in an attempt to show her friend just how silly she's acting over a guy.

The remaining episodes are from the recent seventh and eighth seasons. Big MacIntosh, Apple's brother, has a crush on Sugar Belle from Starlight Shimmer's village, but it's "Hard to Say Anything" when you're a quiet and shy guy who prefers hard work to romantic gestures. The Cutie Mark Crusaders, including Mac's younger sister Apple Bloom, try their best to help, even after the more handsome Feather Bangs also admits his interest in Sugar.

Went out to finally get my laundry done around 12:30. While it wasn't bad when I arrived - a co-worker was just on her way out - it did get busy later. Good thing I didn't have much in the way of laundry anyway. I worked on notes and ignored talk shows, soap opera, and news reports blaring warnings about the next round of snow we're supposed to get tomorrow.

Put everything away when I got in, then had a quick peanut butter-banana smoothie lunch while watching more Friendship Is Magic. "The Perfect Pear" may be one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. Apple Bloom receives a free jar of pear butter from a kindly older fruit seller. Applejack and Big MacIntosh are shocked at first. The fruit seller was Grandpear, the head of the Pear family who has been feuding with the Apples for years. They go to various family members and friends of the family to find out why...and learn that their mother Pear Butter and father Bright Mac were involved in a star-crossed Romeo and Juliet romance that ended up with Buttercup cutting ties with her family. It takes bringing Grandpear together with their Granny Smith to patch up hurt feelings and realize how much sorrow they caused between their families.

Pinkie Pie's elegant older sister Maud has met her match in "The Maud Couple." She's fallen for Mudbriar, an understated gentleman who's fondness for sticks is matched only by Maud's love of rocks. They are happy together, but Pinkie thinks he's boring and doesn't understand Maud's interest in him. She thinks that Maud no longer loves her. It takes a trip back to her family's rock quarry and a chat with her other siblings to understand how much her sister loves the guy and how much she wants her to be happy.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders help Big Mac out with his love life again in "The Break Up Breakdown." He thinks he overhears Sugar Belle talking about ending their relationship after never getting his romantic gift in the mail. Discord insists that he break up with her before she can break up with him, but that only makes things worse. It takes an intervention from the girls and Discord to get Big Mac and Sugar Belle talking again.

The first thing I did when I went online was check out a few apartments. The Colleen Manor Apartments in Sicklerville sound interesting...but I didn't realize how short their office hours were. By the time I got online and was looking them up, they'd already closed for the day. I e-mailed them instead, along with a duplex in Mt. Ephraim that sounded like they were available and a larger apartment complex in Barrington.

Worked on writing for a while after I sent out all the e-mails. Ben realizes that Vader is behind the destruction of King Bail's regent Lady Breha's home and her death, and that they've taken Maid Leia, Bail's ward. Han's reluctant to follow them to Nottingham Castle, until Ben and Luke insist there will be a reward for her rescue.

Broke for dinner at 6. Finished My Little Pony, then watched Thoroughly Modern Millie in honor of Carol Channing, who died on Tuesday. I go into further detail on this madcap Roaring 20's musical at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

Thoroughly Modern Millie 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mission: Atlantis

Began a gloomy morning with breakfast and more Fancy Nancy. She's looking forward to "Nancy's Divine Sleepover" when her parents go out for the night and leave her and JoJo with her older friend Mrs. Divine (Christine Baranski). JoJo's nervous about it at first, but Nancy ends up being the one who misses her parents and can't sleep. She's not happy when her cousin Johnny comes over for "Nancy's Sacre Blu Fondue." Turns out he's even fancier than she is...and she's not used to having to share the title of fanciest person around.

She wants to enter her big poodle Frenchy in her friends' mini-dog-show, but Frenchy won't do tricks. It turns into "Nancy's Dog Show Disaster" when she borrows Mrs. Divine's smaller and more talented pooch, but misses her own dog. Detectives Nancy and Bree find themselves on "The Case of the Missing Doll" when Nancy can't find her beloved Mirabelle before a tea party.

Headed out around 10 to pick up the bus to Somerdale at the Oaklyn City Hall; they were right on time. Unfortunately, the bus took longer to get there than they should have. One of the riders stopped the driver in Audubon. Turns out that not only had a guy overslept and missed his stop, but I think he may have been carrying a few things he shouldn't have been. They had to get a cop to come and take him off. (At least he looked more groggy than anything.) A ride that was supposed to take 10-15 minutes at the most took nearly a half-hour. I got into the Cinemark Theater to see Aquaman with barely a minute to spare before the previews began. Good thing I think there were maybe three other people in the theater with me who were catching the first showing of the day.

I'm not going to go heavily into the plot because of spoilers,, Aquaman was fun. When DC focuses on the backstory of one character, instead of trying to throw a bunch together, they can knock it out of the water park. I thought Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry/Aquaman was one of the best things about Justice League, and he's even better here as the reluctant King of Atlantis; also liked Amber Heard as his feisty and tough sweetheart Princess Mara. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was excellent as Aquaman's most famous villain from the comics, Black Manta.

The best thing about this movie are the special effects. Atlantis is just amazing. If it looks even a quarter as cool in the comics as it does in the movie, no wonder the character's been popular for 70 years. The shining spires and glassy green buildings glow with colors that would make the comics pale. The giant creatures of the deep are pretty nifty too, including the Brine (crustacean) people and the huge monster Karathen. (And no, I'm not going to reveal who does her voice here. That's too good of a tidbit to spoil.)

My biggest complaints are that the movie is way too long and takes forever to get going...and once it does, the story, as enjoyable as it is, is a mass of cliches that feels like Black Panther and the first two Thor movies crossed with Indiana Jones. I will say that, while I don't feel this is quite in the league of either Black Panther or the Indy films, it certainly surpasses the dull original Thor movies. I'll also add that Aquaman has long been one of my favorite DC characters, along with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl, so I'm probably a bit biased. (I grew up by the beach. Where I'm from, Aquaman's powers are not a joke.)

If you have any love for the characters or the DC Universe, or loved Black Panther or the Thor movies, you'll want to swim on over to the movie theater and check out the adventures of the King of Atlantis for yourself. (Incidentally, I'm really hoping that the success of this movie and Black Panther early last year will bring even more lesser-known or not as well-regarded superheroes out of the woodwork. I've loved learning more about characters I either never heard of at all, like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and Teen Titans, or ones I'd only vaguely heard about elsewhere, like Harley Quinn, Deadpool, or Dr. Strange.)

(Oh, and by far the most interesting trailer in the beginning was Men In Black International. Liam Neeson teaches half the cast of Thor: Ragnorok how to kick alien rear? Take my money now. I'm also really looking forward to The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. If nothing else, the title's funny.)

I opted not to bother with the concession stand and saved my appetite for lunch. There's an Applebee's right next door to the movie theater, and I had some money left on that gift card Mark gave me for Christmas. I must have just missed the lunch crowd. They were dead quiet when I arrived. I enjoyed a bowl of delicious tomato-basil soup with croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese and half of a Clubhouse Grille sandwich in peace.

It must have rained while I was in the movie. The sidewalks were a little wet when I emerged. By the time I was strolling over to the massive warehouse-sized Super Wal Mart, the rain was long gone, and it was just cloudy and cold. I didn't really need much at Wal Mart anyway. While I peeked at their toy aisles, I was mainly there for pads. Also bought sugar and more of the large containers of cooking spray. Ended up going back for sparkling water when I had to take out money for the bus...and I didn't realize they only gave it out in 20 dollar increments.

Once again, the bus was on time. Though it did take a minute for the driver to strap in a passenger in a wheelchair, it was nothing like the delay on the earlier ride. (I even tried to help her when she couldn't pull one of the straps out all the way.) Thankfully, the major traffic was going in the opposite direction. I got off across from the 7-11 in Oaklyn, picked up my bike at City Hall, and rode straight home.

Worked on writing for a while when I got in. Han admonishes Friar Ben not to fill Luke's mind with his nonsense about absorbing natural forces. He'd be better off teaching him how to shoot a bow and arrow than to mess around with swords.

Ben is the first to smell the smoke coming from Alden Manor. Turns out the Sheriff got there first and burned the place to the ground, along with Lord Bail and Lady Breha. Luke weeps at the sight, remembering how his aunt and uncle died under similar circumstances. Han worries that Sheriff Vader may still be nearby...

Broke for a quick Chocolate Banana Smoothie at quarter of 7. Made brownies and finished the night watching Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Ethan Hunt's (Tom Cruise) latest mission, should he choose to accept it, is to rescue three plutonium cores from the hands of rogue extremist John Lark and the terrorist group he hired to steal it, the Apostles. New CIA director Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett) is furious and assigns agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) to keep an eye on the team and make sure they don't fail again. Ethan and his regular team members Benji (Simon Flagg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) head to Paris, where they track down "The White Widow" (Vanessa Kirby), an arms dealer who may be the one who is selling the plutonium. When they get close to what they think is John Lark, he's killed by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a British agent. Ethan takes on the role of Lark and has to convince the terrorists he's what he claims he is, then capture Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the head of the terrorists from the previous film Rogue Nation. But John Lark isn't who they think he is...and the real John Lark is not only all too close by, but is ready to blow everything sky high, including the team.

The Mission: Impossible series is the most consistently entertaining action series ever made. I've now seen all six films in the series, and there's not a dud in the lot. Cruise, Cavill, Harris, and Ferguson are all having a blast as the main figures involved in the twisty arms plot. Some of the chases and action set pieces, especially in the finale, are downright heart-stopping.

Like I said, you can't go wrong with any of the Mission: Impossible movies, especially if you love Cruise, the cast, or action films with better scripts than most. I will add that you should probably see the previous film in the series, Rogue Nation, to get a better idea of the characters and situations before coming here. If you're already a fan, jump on this helicopter and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hair Day Adventures

Got an earlier start today, around 10:30 - quarter of 11. There was quite a bit that I wanted to get done, starting with getting my hair cut. I needed it badly. It was a mass of split ends that were frizzing like crazy. It always gets crazy when it gets too long. A young woman, likely college-age, washed and styled my hair. I told her it shoulder-length and in a style that would control the frizz. Drying my hair took about three times longer than actually cutting it! She said she would smooth it down, which seemed to involve a lot of brushing and drying very close to the head with a furnace-hot hair drier.

It turned out that she straightened it, which I wasn't sure I liked. It was much smoother, and the actual cut was cute. It even had a little flip on the ends, like Marlo Thomas in That Girl!. At any rate, it felt a lot better and the frizz was gone, which was a major improvement. Besides, I've never gone straight before. I figured it wouldn't hurt to try it for a day.

Next stop was a quick lunch at Cafe Antonio on the other side of Haddon Avenue. Like most of the other local pizza parlors, they seem to have remodeled in the last few months. The main counter was done in a different style, and they were down to only one seat in the room with the counter. I had a slice of cheese and a slice of spinach, ricotta, and tomatoes, along with a self-service 15-oz cup of Pepsi. Sat by the window and enjoyed my meal while watching the antics of a dad and his adorable toddler daughter, who quite enjoyed tearing into her own cheese slice.

Since I had a little extra time, I thought I'd check out Phidelity Records in Westmont. I hadn't been there since the day of the Collingswood Christmas Parade in late November. They still had that 5 items from the dollar bins for three dollars deal. I ended up with another WFIL classic rock collection, a two-disc Lena Horne set, the original Broadway cast of Bye Bye Birdie with Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke (which I came very close to buying the last time I was there), and the original soundtrack album for the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz. Picked up High School Musical to review eventually - the Haddon Township Library has the second and third movie, but not the first one.

I dodged the traffic on Haddon Avenue quick enough to make to to counseling just in time. I had a lot to relate to Mrs. Stahl. On one hand, my holidays were a lot of fun, and while New Year's wasn't perfect, it did largely go better than it did last year. Work is also going better. My current head managers are generally easier to get along with, and I don't see enough of the night managers anymore for them to be a huge problem. The weather being a lot better than it was this time last year - cold but not overwhelmingly so, with only a little snow - has also helped. (Oh, and she seemed to like my new, straighter haircut. She said it made me look younger.)

I'm still pretty broke, however. I also have no idea what I'm going to do about the apartment. I can't stay where I am, but I can't afford to go anywhere else. Truth be told, I don't really want to stay where I am, and Mrs. Stahl agreed with me that, no matter what Rose thinks, returning to Cape May County wouldn't be practical. I don't care if Rose is convinced that it's safer. The public transportation is impossible, there's even less low-cost housing, the internet hook-ups are archaic, it would take me forever to get anywhere on my bike, I'd need two buses to get to a mall, and Lauren would need an extra train and bus ride just to get down there. Not to mention, transferring my job from there to here was a pain in 2006 because the Shore Acmes have a different union. Yes, I can live anywhere...provided it's near decent transportation, internet, and services. I lived in Wildwood for four years and hated it. Rose hasn't actually lived down there since 2002.

Mrs. Stahl is probably right that I am going to have to look further afield, but not to the Shore. There are other parts of Camden County, as well as the eastern and western portions of Gloucester and Burlington Counties, that might be worth exploring. I know Jessa and Joe live in Deptford in Gloucester County. I could talk to them, to my customers and co-workers at the Acme and the libraries, and to Dana and Jesse, whom Jodie has mentioned are also in the hunt for a new apartment. I'll let Rose deal with Willa and see if she can fight that increased rent long enough for me to move.

Although it was in the lower 40's by 3 PM (according to the digital sign outside the Westmont Fire Department), that was still too cold for a water ice. I opted for a hot chocolate at Starbucks about a block from Mrs. Stahl's office instead. I literally just missed the crowd. Less than a minute after I ordered my drink, there was a long line of high school and middle school students getting warm drinks of their own after classes.

Went straight home after that, taking the back roads in Haddonfield, Westmont, and Oaklyn to avoid the rush hour traffic. Watched the first episode of Fancy Nancy while getting organized after got in. As someone who also loved being "fancy" as a child, I've always enjoyed the book series and decided I'd give the show a try, too. In the first episode, "Chez Nancy," Nancy's (Mia Sinclair Jenness) new playhouse, is too plain for her taste, especially since she just bragged to obnoxious Grace that it had niceties like a chandelier and butterfly doors. She and her equally fancy best friend Bree (Dana Heath) fix it up to suit their rarified taste. When Grace arrives and insists Nancy's little sister JoJo (Spencer Moss) is too little to play with them, Nancy has to decide if it's worth pleasing Grace...or spending time with her sister. She opens the "School de Fancy" to teach her friends how to be fancy like her. She's frustrated when they goof off, but they eventually show her that everyone has their own way of being fancy.

Worked on writing for a while after the episode ended. Han ends up having to out-run Sheriff Vader's men. He manages to lose them in Sherwood Forest, which he knows quite well. He's the only one who's impressed. Luke is more concerned about learning about Friar Kenobi's order and how it was destroyed by the Sheriff and Prince Palpatine.

Did more Fancy Nancy during dinner and before and right after I took a shower. Nancy has "Tea Party Trouble" when she borrows a tea pot that's a family heirloom from her mom Claire (Allyson Hannigan) and breaks it, then tries to hide what she did. She's thrilled to say "Bonjour Butterfly" when she and Bree nurse a butterfly with a hurt wing back to health, but not so much when it tries to fly away.

"Nancy's Ooh La La Spa" is her big Mother's Day present for Claire, but nothing seems to go right. First she knocks the beauty products she was originally going to use into the toilet, then her father Doug (Rob Riggle) and JoJo eat their naturally-made replacements. Claire reassures her that she appreciates the gesture anyway, inspiring her daughter to find another way to give her mother a relaxing spa day. "Nancy Goes to Work" with her father when he's at home. She even offers him her playhouse to work out of. He's not as happy with her when she uses her fancy play stickers for stamps instead of real ones to mail his tax forms...but she manages to find a stealthy (that's fancy for "sneaky") way to get them back. (And I love her little fuchsia suit here! She makes an adorable secretary.)

Nancy needs JoJo's help to keep her Eiffel Tower upright, but JoJo seems more interested in her new imaginary friend Dudley. It's "Nancy Versus Dudley" to see who can get her attention. "Nancy Makes Her Mark" when Doug fixes a crack in the sidewalk and she insists on everyone putting hand and footprints in the wet concrete...and she just has to fix hers when they aren't "parfait" (perfect)...

Oh, and the curls returned in my hair after I washed it again. On one hand, it was nice to have smooth hair, and I always wanted to try one of those 60's flips. I was so tempted to find a headband with a bow in the middle, just like women in the mid-60's wore in their flip dos. On the other hand, it took forever to dry it enough to straighten it...and I like my curls.

Nancy's not the only one who learned something about being fancy today. It's kind of fun to experiment with your look once in a while. I may not want to straighten it all the time, but I now know it works and looks good if I do ever want to try it again. The actual cut itself still looks pretty good, too, whether it's straight or curly. I may try experimenting with cuts and styles more often. (As long as it's something I can grow out or easily change.)

Finished the night with The Toast of New Orleans. I go into further detail on this 1950 operetta vehicle for Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

The Toast of New Orleans