Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adventures in Agapeland: The Music Machine - chapters thirteen through fifteen (END)

To make up for not posting the last part in any kind of timely manner, I made sure to get this, the ending of this book, up ASAP. As you recall, last time Stevie and Nancy picked up more traveling companions, and they all got captured first thing once they finally got to Aire. Also, Mr. Pimms got all spiffed up and is on his way with the Music Machine to see the prince.

Chapter XIII - Within the Proper
This chapter begins with Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians being approached by another squadron of Protium (the prince's special guard, you may recall, dressed in red and black). They are his escort into the palace, complete with a special coal black horse just for him. They set up a procession and ride into the capitol city, called The Proper, which the narrator describes as "foreboding," to a great amount of fanfare. The city is covered with stone statues, men, women, children, even animals. Mr. Pimms foreshadowingly imagines a statue of his own among the others, apparently not realizing the true nature of these figures. They reach the castle with is both dirty and ominous, and I can't help but wonder if these descriptions shouldn't be more from Mr. Pimms' perspective. I mean, yes, the castle may be dingy and dirty as opposed to Majesty's castle in Agapeland, but to anyone in Aire, I'm sure it looks quite grand. Anyway, the castle walls are topped by more sculptures, but these ones are made of marble and all of the prince.
Once they reach the castle gates, the rest of the guards fall away and only the commander goes in with Mr. Pimms' and the Pudgians. Inside the courtyard, the members of royalty gather round to watch the entrance, and as Mr. Pimms' approaches the palace's portico, Prince Nakel appears. Now, despite the similarity to his name and the term 'naked,' he is incredibly clothed. He is described as "terribly tall with a slender muscular body" with coal-black hair and a blood-red tunic. Besides his silver mask, he's also wearing many jewels. The narrator pauses to explain the legend of Prince Nakel's mask: as the story goes, the prince has no eyes, just hollow sockets, and anyone who looks into them is so mesmerized that their very soul leaves their body, and only a stone statue remains.
Mr. Pimms bows to the prince and announces to the crowd that he has brought the Music Machine from Agapeland, and calls for the Pudgians to uncover their cargo. In their haste, they make a muddle of things, so Mr. Pimms' takes over, and the thing is finally uncovered. The gathered royalty starts ooh-ing and aah-ing, but Prince Nakel shuts them up so he can crow about how he finally has Agapeland's greatest treasure. He orders the Protium to set the Music Machine up in the center of the courtyard and tells Mr. Pimms that there will be a feast in his honor. He also asks, in a low voice, only to Mr. Pimms, about the Pudgians, and Mr. Pimms insists that they're mostly harmless. The prince promises both Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians their "just reward," and bids them to the top of the portico. He sits in his sinister throne (with arms made of carved serpents and blood-red cushions) and invites Mr. Pimms to sit in the seat next to him. The Pudgians scramble to be closest to the tables with the food, which the prince ignores, instead calling for his dancing girls. Perhaps feeling his previous comment was not foreshadowy enough, he tells Mr. Pimms that he always rewards his faithful servants, all while girls with fans and scarves dance for them. While this is going on, the Pudgians talk amongst themselves about the way things have turned out.
A while later, the prince stands up and everyone halts what they're doing immediately, except for the Pudgians (fighting over food), so Mr. Pimms has to shut them up, while the prince shoots all four of them a distasteful look. Once everything is quiet, the prince addresses the court, announcing that the Music Machine will remake their land, and they have Mr. Pimms to thank for it (he also mispronounces 'pudgians,' which annoys Growdy and Boogwart, but Mr. Pimms tells them to keep quiet). The crowd cheers and applauds, and there are toasts, until Prince Nakel silences them again and tells them that the moment has finally come for Mr. Pimms to start up the Music Machine. It dawns on Mr. Pimms that he never learned how to make the Music Machine work. The prince insists that he make it work, and so Mr. Pimms begins trying anything and everything, getting more and more desperate as the machine sits silent before him. The only thing that saves Mr. Pimms (for the moment) is the arrival of the other Protium, who tell the prince about the spies from Agapeland. The prince orders them brought to him at once. While the guard goes to fetch them, Mr. Pimms goes back to trying to get the Music Machine to work, but the prince just tells him to put a sock in it.
The Protium brings in Stevie and Nancy and the others, and Mr. Pimms is relieved to be saved if only for a moment. The Pudgians just watch to see what will happen. Prince Nakel addresses the group of spies, but Stevie, spying the Music Machine, can't help pointing it out to Nancy. The Prince derives from that they are from Agapeland as the guard said, and he sneers at them, knowing that Agapeland must be dying now. But Stevie does not give him any satisfaction, instead insisting that the Music Machine belongs to Agapeland and they have come to get it. The Prince corrects him, the Music Machine belongs to him now, and asks how it works. Nancy tells him that they will not tell, even if their lives depend on it, which it very well might, as the prince orders them to tell him. Stevie then tells him that they demand it back in the name of Majesty. Hearing this, Prince Nakel shrinks back for a moment, but then he gets over it and towers over the children, shouting at them to never say that name in his presence.
With all the tension, Bundle, that strange creature that lives to lavish affection on others, decides to defuse the situation, despite Nancy's warnings, and bounds over to Prince Nakel and starts cuddling his leg. The prince, in no mood for this, grabs Bundle and flings it (can't say I blame him) all the way across the courtyard until it hits the wall on the other side with a thud. Nancy breaks through the guards and runs to it, but the little Huggit is more dead than alive. For some reason, the group has time to mourn their friend and comfort Nancy before Prince Nakel addresses them again, letting them know that he will get the information he wants. Seeing his cruelty up close, the Agapelanders have no doubt that he'll do whatever it takes to learn their secrets. The prince orders them sent to the dungeons with no food or water, and even goes as far as to warn them that "no one stands in the way of Prince Nakel and his plans!" (and lives, anyway.) He almost takes off his mask, then thinks better of it and just goes back into the castle.
In the dungeon, the Agapelanders are completely discouraged; although they know that Agapeland is done for, for the moment their attention is on Bundle. Nancy tries to comfort the little creature, but after two and a half paragraphs, it gives up the ghost. The others weep, alerting the guards, who come and take Bundle's lifeless body away, while reminding the others that they'll likely join their friend come tomorrow.

Chapter XIV - The Curse
Unlike the last chapter, this one is very short. The entire population of Aire apparently heard about what happened the night before and they're all in the courtyard to watch. Prince Nakel appears, wearing a flowing turquoise robe trimmed with white fur and puts on his crown, all to the applause of the crowd. Once the noise dies down, the prince addresses the crowd, promising to become the greatest ruler of "all the lands," meaning there's more than just Aire and Agapeland in this place, wherever it may be. The prisoners are brought in and the prince once again asks whether they'll tell him how the machine works. Stevie goes forward to answer, but before he can say anything, Prince Nakel falls off his throne. He gets back on, and Stevie tells them they will not tell him. And Prince Nakel is all "Oh yes you will!" and he falls off his throne again. And again. Finally his attendants hold him in place so he can threaten the prisoners with death without falling off his throne. All of the Agapelanders tell him they will never tell, singly, and Stevie again demands the return of the Music Machine. The prince is so outraged at being defied that he forgets all about the whole falling-off-the-throne thing and shakes of his attendants so he can raise his fist in anger at the Agapelanders. And falls off his throne again. He starts to threaten them again from the ground, but notices that he's suddenly broken out in green, itchy bumps all over his body. And so has everyone else, except the Agapelanders. Seeing this, someone in the crowd shouts that the Music Machine has cursed them all! The prince, still unable to stand, manages to drag himself over to Mr. Pimms, and blames the whole thing on him. He starts to threaten bodily harm, but Mr. Pimms takes off running before he can get more than a few words out. As he goes, the prince yells after him that he is banished. The Pudgians, seeing this, take off as well, griping about Mr. Pimms and his plans. And that is the last anyone sees of them. It seems Mr. Pimms was able to shake off the foreshadowing and did not end up a statue after all. Perhaps because he did the foreshadowing himself and not the narrator. But that's neither here nor there.
With much help and scratching, Prince Nakel makes it back to his throne and commands that the Music Machine and the prisoners from Agapeland all be burned at the stake to alleviate the curse. The Agapelanders are tied to the Music Machine in short order and the Protium goes to collect wood. There is no hope for Agapeland, since it is the last day of the festival, and even if they were magically rescued somehow, it would take too long to get back from Aire. The Protium puts the wood in place and lights the fire as the chapter ends.

Chapter XV - The Song of the Sparrow
Back in Agapeland, things are looking bleak. The forest is dead, and the festival will be over in but a few hours, yet everyone has gathered anyway, hoping for a miracle. Meanwhile, in Aire darkness falls, even though it's only noon, and the crowd makes a ton of noise as the group from Agapeland starts to burn at the stake. But over this noise, they hear the singing of three small birds, and Stevie realizes they're singing the same song from their dream back in Chapter 6! When the others hear that the dream was sent from Majesty, they urge Stevie and Nancy to remember what happened in it. It takes some doing, but the kids remember the riddle from the dream ("Remember the song of the sparrow and fly"), and hastily sing what they remember of the song. Then they sing it again and the others join in. The song mentions a breeze, and sure enough, one kicks up, quickly turning into a gusty gale, seriously freaking out all the folks in The Proper. The more the troop sings, the stronger the wind blows, and four "pinwheels of lightning" appear in the sky and start moving toward them. The ground starts shaking, The Proper is being destroyed, but the troop sings on. Suddenly the wind becomes a giant hand that loosens the ropes and sends the troop spinning into the air, toward a giant carriage made of mother-of-pearl and other precious materials (the lightning pinwheels are the wheels) pulled by six pure white, winged horses. Once everyone is safely in the carriage, the wind sends up the Music Machine, and then the carriage takes off at breakneck speed.
The carriage takes them back to Agapeland, right in the middle of the royal meadow where the Music Machine belongs. There is much congratulation and celebration from the gathered Agapelanders, and Mr. Conductor places the sacred writings in the Music Machine, beginning not only the most beautiful music ever to come from the Festival of Dosca, but the rebirth of Agapeland as everything begins to bloom again. Seeing the renewed beauty of Agapeland, Nancy is suddenly struck by the memory of her little friend, but who should be coming toward her right now? Why, it's Bundle! Nancy is grateful to see it, but wonders how it could possibly be alive. Mr. Conductor explains that it's due to a literal Deus ex Machina (i.e. Majesty did it), plus Agapeland is the "home of life." Everyone is singing and dancing to celebrate, and Stevie and Nancy dance with each other, twirling and whirling so fast that everything becomes a blur and they fall over and start rolling...
And we're back with Grandfather, who is still reading the story and reads the last few lines, revealing that the children ended up in Wiley Woods after all. With the story over, he looks down and sees that Stevie and Nancy fell asleep and apparently slept through most of it. This doesn't perturb him at all, but it makes me wonder whether Samuel Wright is doing some lampshading or something. And that's how it all went down.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SSC - Rockaberry Roll

I finally got a chance to watch Rockaberry Roll, the latest SSC DVD, featuring two stories of Strawberry and her friends attempting to be a band. The first is a typical tale of teamwork gone wrong, while the second one features Peppermint trying to shed her status as the "bad girl" from the earlier episodes. Strangely enough, most of the songs are pretty lackluster, which is too bad since this is supposed to be a couple of episodes about, y'know, music.

The disc begins with a shot of the dreaded Honey Pie Pony frolicking across a field, but thankfully for this Evalana, she doesn't say anything. Skip ahead to Strawberry Shortcake, banging on a rock with a couple of sticks. She orchestrates an impromptu jam session between herself, Pupcake, Custard on bluebells, and the hummingbirds, blithely telling the viewers that they too can make music from anything. Maybe if we also lived in a magical land where banging one rock produced a xylophone effect and bluebells actually rang this would be true.
And Strawberry starts to remember back to when it wouldn't stop raining, and she came up with the BEST IDEA EVER! Despite the rain, she rushes to Angel Cake's, where her other friends already are, apparently, and they don't quite catch Strawberry's enthusiasm. Personally, I loved how Strawberry acted like her idea (to have a talent show, by the way) was the best thing since sliced bread, and her friends were all "Whatever." Angel Cake points out that you need a performable talent to have a talent show, and Strawberry points out that their nervous drumming, twanging of a curtain cord, and blowing on a bottle obviously means they have the ability to play actual instruments! She also calls a trumpet a wind instrument, which is just wrong. It's a brass instrument. Wind instruments are things like a clarinet or flute. Despite her slight misinformation, the others go nuts for this idea and do the most awkward secret handshake ever, and go to practice.
Later (no practice montage yet), Custard laments the fact that she has no talent for the talent show, so Strawberry makes her the producer. Custard gets all gung-ho about it, and yet there's no "Wait, what's a producer" joke, or any explanation of what she's supposed to do except round up some judges. Meanwhile, Ginger Snap practices her saxophone, but is deaf to how rusty she is. Also meanwhile, Angel Cake creates a miniature earthquake with her drum playing, and Orange Blossom tunes up her guitar, hoping that she won't be drowned out by the others (foreshadowing, most likely). While Strawberry practices on her keyboard, sounding more bad than good, Custard rummages around for her hat and whistle from a previous episode, and informs Strawberry that they're having auditions for this talent show, so there'll be enough characters not in the show to be the audience, (but really so the core four can learn a lesson).
Later that day, the group practices together. They create a cacaphony as Ginger Snap tries to lead, Angel Cake tries to add in a drum solo, Orange Blossom struggles to be heard, and Strawberry just tries to follow someone, anyone! Finally, she calls them on their lack of teamwork, and makes them do the awkward secret handshake again as a show of solidarity. Sadly, this does not help them get it together. Chocolate Chipmunk (all the pets are there, by the way) mashes 'record' on a mini-tape deck, and plays back the asynchronous playing, but also the harsh remarks they all (minus Strawberry) threw out, making them all (including Strawberry) wonder how'll they'll get it by tomorrow. Well, they practice, practice, pratice, but it's all just more of the same, only now it's the next day already. Custard shows up with Huck (Ho ho! Is this the return of their relationship, not seen since the second DVD?) to pick up some supplies for the judges' table, and Ginger Snap suggests a bit of blackmail to Strawberry ("After all, you do feed that cat"), but she's having none of it. With no idea of what to do, she goes for a walk. In the rain.
While she sings a song about wanting to get together, we see some of the other denizens of Strawberryland (actually, mostly just the international friends) working on their talents as well: Crepes Suzette with magic tricks, Tea Blossom and Marzipanda doing a balancing act, Frosty Puff and her penguin ice skating, and Vanilla Icing and Chocolate Chipmunk doing some kind of double bill. The minute her song is over, Huck shows up, saying that everyone's been looking for her, since the auditions are starting. Well, what was everyone else doing out in the rain, then? Shouldn't they have been at the auditons? Anyway, over at Blueberry's place, she acts as MC, announcing the guest judges. Custard, however, is getting her face powdered by Angel Cake (a bit of bribery, perhaps?) and just barely makes her entrance. The other judges are Huck and Peppermint Fizz. So basically, we have Strawberryland Idol set up here, with Peppermint as Paula, Huck as Randy, and Custard as Simon, which is proved by their judging of the first act, Watermelon Kiss spinning plates. Ginger Snap sees how good she is and freaks out. Next is Tea Blossom, and then Strawberry Jam (the name of the core four's band) is announced. Although Strawberry urges them to play together, all we get is the same track of bad playing we've heard before. Huck and Peppermint Fizz are at a loss, not wanting to diss the main character (and Peppermint proves she is truly the Paula of this trio with her comment, "..hey, those costumes are great!"), but Custard tells it like it is: Strawberry and her friends are not moving onto the finals.
Back at Strawberry's, the core four lament over how they got kicked out of a talent show that was the main character's idea; how embarrassing! Strawberry points out that they have no one to blame but themselves, and then Huck shows up to tell them that Crepes Suzette had to leave, so there's an opening in the show. The core four are at first hestitant, remembering their humiliation, but then Strawberry's all "If we try real hard," and the others are all, "Yeah, we can do it!" and they do that awkward handshake thing again. Huck leaves to tell Custard about the change in program, and Angel Cake remembers that they already practiced and practiced and practiced, and they only ever got the really bad track, but Strawberry assures them that this time it'll work, since they're running out of time in the episode. They set up to practice again and she goes on about how teamwork in a band works, and then they start practicing again. But since there's still plenty of time in the episode, they mess it up again, and Strawberry gives up, telling the others to reconvene in the morning.
At night, when the moon shines even in the rain, Strawberry wonders how to make the others listen to the band as a whole, and wonders how to make them remember why they like making music in the first place (yes, why is that?). Apparently because they make a beautiful sound when they actually play together. Strawberry is so low that she's envying the teamwork of raindrops. At the same time, Chocolate Chipmunk is practicing his juggling and Ginger Snap blows on a bottle, somehow inspired by the sound. Angel Cake drums her fingers on her table and muses on how it sounds like the rain, how she and her friends used to sound (again, I'm wondering, when was this?), and Orange Blossom, still being a hippie despite being a teenager, has apparently gotten into her stash.
Strawberry has the feeling her band has called it quits and starts to put away her keyboard, when the others all show up for one last practice session. To convince Strawberry of their conviction to play together this time, they mention metaphors based on the weather, and whammo, they're suddenly a band!
We skip ahead to the last act of the talent show, Strawberry Jam, and this time it actually becomes the second musical number, a song about working together. And the crowd goes wild. Backstage, Strawberry assures the others that it doesn't matter to her if they win or lose (after all, she's the main character), but the judges vote them Most Improved and they come onstage to do the awkward handshake. And then everyone else joins them onstage (except Watermelon Kiss has been replaced by Rainbow Sherbet, who did some kind of Cirque du Soleil routine from the looks of it. I thought I got a screencap of that, but it appears it didn't take, and I already sent the disc back), and the story fades back to Strawberry in the present. Custard reminds Strawberry about when Peppermint Fizz decided to join Strawberry Jam, about a month after the talent show, hoping for a good train wreck story. Strawberry, however, saw it differently...
Cut to one month after the first story, when the strawberry blossoms are in bloom, meaning it's time for the Berry Blossom Festival once again. So Strawberry decides to revive Strawberry Jam, despite the almost failure in the last story. Custard is not so optimistic. Strawberry hurries to tell the others, and they all agree to play again. For some reason she feels like whispering her request to everyone. Only, Ginger Snap went to beach for two weeks, meaning there's an opening in the band. As it just so happens, Peppermint Fizz shows up, and mentions that she plays the trumpet (what happened to the tuba?), and Strawberry invites her to join the band. Peppermint tries to play hard to get, but not very hard, and they all agree to practice at Strawberry's at 3.
Alone with her pet chameleon, Peppermint, exhulting on how she now has a reason shake off her past and try to fit in with the others, dusts off her old horn. She claims to be too excited to practice...I think you can see where this is going. Later, at Strawberry's, the band practices a song that the others know, but Peppermint does not, although she doesn't admit it for reasons of her own. The others are all "Wow, it's like we never stopped playing," but Peppermint is a little off. Strawberry reassures her that she'll get better, but Peppermint just gets defensive instead. They keep practicing. Later at home, Peppermint laments her lack of skill. Strawberry shows up, and Peppermint assumes she'll be kicked out of the band, but no, Strawberry has the music they're going to play at the festival so Peppermint can practice. She extols the virtues of practicing, and goes home to practice. So Peppermint sits down to practice, too, but after not getting it right the first couple of times, she procrastinates, and it shows the next day at practice. She makes excuses, and runs home. Angel Cake and Orange Blossom are getting fed up with their less-than-stellar bandmate, but Strawberry advocates giving Peppermint some time. Later, she goes to find Peppermint, and tells her about double negatives, which leads into a song that boosts Peppermint's confidence. But at the next day's practice her playing is bad enough to summon Huckleberry Pie, and she storms out. Angel Cake lays the blame on Huck, but Strawberry reassures him that it's not him, it's Peppermint and her lack of confidence. What to do, what to do...
While on her way home, Peppermint, close to tears, realizes that her chances to be friends with the others is shot and she'll always just be "the girl who has to learn the lesson that everyone else is too nice to learn." But Strawberry catches up with her and invites her to practice one-on-one together. And she gets a little better... Meanwhile, Huck breaks into Angel Cake's house, where she and Orange Blossom are practicing, with a plan! They'll fix Peppermint Fizz's trumpet so it doesn't make any noise, and get Rainbow Sherbet (who also plays the trumpet, as Huck just learned, although he doesn't say how he learned this) to play instead so Peppermint will think she's playing well. Angel Cake insists that they can't trick her like that, but Huck misunderstands her and thinks her objection is a moral one, not a physical one, and insists that it's all in the name of boosting her confidence. The girls aren't too keen on the idea, but Huck talks them into it. Fortunately for Huck, when they go that night, Peppermint keeps her trumpet on the windowsill and he can grab it easily.
The next day, at practice, Huck convinces Peppermint Fizz to sit by the window, and when she plays, it's really Rainbow Sherbet outside the house. Somehow this works, and Peppermint is fully boosted. But then a bee flies into Rainbow's Trumpet and she can't make a sound either. In fact, she blows it out when Peppermint's trumpet isn't even near her lips, and Strawberry goes to investigate. Finding out the truth, Peppermint lashes out at Strawberry, although Angel Cake tries to set the record straight. Once Peppermint storms out again, Huck confesses, and Strawberry tells him and the others how disappointed she is in all of them and goes after Peppermint.
Peppermint apparently decides to move out of Strawberryland due to this slight, and she starts heading out at night, lugging her luggage on a handcart behind her. Huck, Angel Cake, and Orange Blossom try to stop her, but she's having none of it. She'll go back to where Raspberry Torte and Lemon Meringue came from, perhaps. As she continues on her way, she passes Strawberry's house, and her pet points out the bad playing coming from inside. Peppermint peeks in the window and sees Strawberry get discouraged, which encourages her to break in and express her amazement that a main character gets frustrated. They talk a little more about practicing and making mistakes to learn and stuff. Strawberry mentions that she's seen Peppermint work hard before, making me wonder which episode she's talking about, the one where she tried hard to cheat at the pet show or the one where she worked hard to cheat at the Strawberryland Games. Regardless, she invites Peppermint to practice with her again, and she accepts. And we get a montage of Peppermint practicing alone all over Strawberryland.
By the end of the montage, she's playing well enough to surprise Huck, Orange Blossom, and Angel Cake, although they might just be surprised that Peppermint didn't move away after all. They marvel at her new self confidence, and beg her to be in the band again. Peppermint demurs, since the others are all such good friends and she's only been the "bad girl" character in the past. The others tell her that she doesn't have to fit in to be part of the band, and she tries playing hard to get again, but still not very hard. She'll do it!
The next day, everyone gathers to watch Strawberry Jam's performance at the festival. For some reason, Huck does a rap in the middle of it. And later Strawberry raps, too. Um, okay... After the concert, Peppermint thanks the others for sticking with her, and Strawberry extols the virtues of hard work and practice again, and insists that they have more songs to play. For what, I wonder, since the festival is over now, isn't it? But that's the end of the story, so we'll never know. Unless she was talking about the bonus song in the special features.
Back in the present, Strawberry does a bunch of aesop speak about practice, and then the DVD is over, too.

Behold, the debut of Apple Dumpling's aged-up look! It's just a split second, though.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hans Conried

In the past month or so, I've come across the name Hans Conried at least three times. And each time, I thought to myself, "I know who that is, but I just can't put my finger on it." And so I checked his page on the IMDB, and of course the things I knew him from leapt out, just as they did all the other times I've looked him up. You probably know who he is, too, but nothing he's been in comes to mind. Well, you might know him as Dr. Terwilliker in The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (Dr. Seuss' only live action feature film). Or as both King Azaz and The Mathemagician in The Phantom Tollboth, Horton and Dr. Whoovey in the animated special Horton Hears a Who, or even Snidely Whiplash in Dudley Do-Right (the cartoon, not the movie), not to mention Thorin in the Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit. But I know you know Hans Conreid, because he was also Captain Hook in Disney's Peter Pan.
Of course, he's done more than that, much more. Like a million guest spots on various tv shows, seriously. So I have no idea why I never remember him until I look at his profile again (and again and again...).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Revamped SSC in CGI

While I was away, Strawberry Shortcake's revamped CGI self had an interview on Good Morning America. Fortunately, the video is on their site, so everyone can get a sneak peek at what's coming up. It's part of a story on other cartoon revamps, so you'll have to sit through some other stuff. But if, like me, you couldn't wrap your mind around how the revamped design would look in CGI, then it's worth checking out.

Personally, I think this was made as a reaction to all the negativity about the revamp, and it shows. Strawberry comes across as trying too hard, and the interview doesn't really flow that well. Plus, it ends with a shot of her with Custard and nary a cellphone in sight. Still, she looks better than I thought she would. Now, where are the pics of everyone else, hm?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mostly Clean

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Site

I'm not really surprised at this. I grew up in a pretty conservative household (also one where we routinely shouted "FEWER!" at the TV whenever someone used 'less' incorrectly), so while I have no problem watching movies or tv shows with less than pure language, I prefer not to use it myself. I'd also prefer it if my husband would refrain from using it when frustrated, but that may take a while.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Comics Conundrum

Was it somehow planned that these two comics would run on the same day? It seems ironic, especially since in my local paper, One Big Happy comes before Non Sequitur. So don't blame Mr. Foley, Ruthie, it was all thanks to Danae.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Adventures in Agapeland: The Music Machine - chapters ten through twelve

Sorry that this took so long to get out. As a refresher, last time the Music Machine was stolen by Mr. Pimms and Stevie and Nancy took off on a quest to get it back, with only a week to do it or it's curtains for Agapeland! In their journey, they met up with Herbert the snail and were caught off-guard by an unseen captor.

Chapter X - The Army Grows
The kids and Herbert banter back and forth with the mysterious voice and another voice for about half a page about who is and who isn't under arrest, but then they finally face their captor, who turns out to be a bunny pirate, complete with eyepatch and pegleg, named Cap'n Jack, of all things. The other guy is some tall dude called (not necessarily named, though) Gentle George. There are introductions all around, and Bundle jumps on Cap'n Jack's face to prove that the rabbit is really a good guy after all. Hearing Stevie and Nancy's mission, both Jack and George join their crusade, but first they all camp out for the night.
The next day, traveling is slow because of Herbert, so Cap'n Jack complains, but George pulls out a guitar and sings "Kindness" from The Music Machine album, and when that doesn't stop Jack's grousing, he starts up "Love," as well. This goes on for two whole days before they finally end up only half a day away from Aire. Stevie and Nancy can't help but worry about their mission, but there isn't much time because they're ambushed again!
This time three boys dressed in too-large Royal Guard uniforms show up and demand to know the group's business. Stevie explains once again, then asks about the boys, who inform him that they're wannabe Royal Guards; they even have a homemade flag (Agapeland's flag, by the way, is pure white with a heart in the middle). The head kid introduces himself and his brothers as the identical sons of a miner, his exact words right there. Rather than follow in their dad's footsteps, they plan to "take the tests" to become Royal Guards when they get old enough, so for now they're just practicing, apparently. And obviously they want to join the others in rescuing the Music Machine. Cap'n Jack is loathe to add more deadweight to the troupe, until the boys reveal that they know a secret path into Aire. So the boys join the group, and George sings a marching song.
After a while they reach the secret entrance, which opens out of the ground, after someone opens it from inside (one of the boys climbs up the side of a cliff to do this), and they all head in.

Chapter XI - The Preparation
And we're back with Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians, still manually pulling the cart. As they approach the city of Dod, the two Pudgians pulling the cart give up, and since they're pretty close to the city anyway, Mr. Pimms tells them to pull over. Although his clothes are torn and dirty from the past couple of days, he's still optimistic about the fate of his master plan, and besides, he has another one to implement soon. The Pudgians do not share his optimism, but keep it to themselves. Pimms takes Growdy with him into town, and the other two grouse behind his back.
By the time they get to town, it's nighttime, and some sort of festival is going on (or will be, I'm not sure). Mr. Pimms ignores all the other things and heads straight for a back alley, proving he's been there before, and ends up at a health club. I'm not entirely sure what it's supposed to be, since I'm thinking some kind of gym, but Growdy calls it a swanky place. Maybe it's a spa or something. But it doesn't really matter, since this place is either not really a health club or just the back room, as Mr. Pimms is (kinda sorta) welcomed in by a bland fellow named Sig, who gives them some bread and cheese. Mr. Pimms tells Sig of his plans to gain importance in the Proper, and how it could be worth his while to help them. Although skeptical, Sig's looking to make some coin, but he refuses to lend Mr. Pimms anything he asks for unless he can pay for it. In lieu of actual payment, though, Mr. Pimms gives Sig his ring to be pawned. Sig's offer is less than Mr. Pimms expected, but Sig reminds him that after his "last escapade here," there's no one else in town who'll even talk to him, let alone make him a better offer. So Mr. Pimms accepts it, along with the fee for getting the things he needs, and the extra fee for getting someone to deliver a message to Prince Nakel, although inside he's writhing with rage.
The next day, Sig gets a new cart, tarse, and clothes for them all, and by the time Mr. Pimms gets up, the runner has already come and gone with his message. The prince is waiting. Later, Mr. Pimms and Growdy, decked in their snazzy new clothes (Mr. Pimms has on a lavender suit, white ruffled shirt and blue tie, and a walking stick, just in case you were wondering), pick up the other two Pudgians and they head off to the Proper. As they go, Mr. Pimms has flights of fancy about the riches and fame he'll acquire, while Growdy just hopes that the plan doesn't go awry like it usually does. And the narrator closes the chapter with yet another foreshadowy warning.

Chapter XII -Aire at Last
Meanwhile, Stevie, Nancy, and the others are traveling through a forgotten tunnel used in a war from a hundred years or so ago. There's a lot of description, but basically it's long and dark. Finally they reach the other end and everyone emerges into the drab and lifeless kingdom that is Aire. One of the boys tells them that the environment was destroyed by Prince Nakel, although I 'm not sure a. how he knows this and b. how the Prince did that, anyway. Just by being evil, I suppose.
They spend the rest of the day trekking across Aire, and they make it to a town called Wranton (take away a letter and what do you get?), where they decide to get something to eat. They head for an inn, but inside it's more like a bar. Everyone in the bar is unfriendly and filthy, apparently, but Stevie, Nancy, and the others order the special (the only thing on the menu) anyway. While they wait for their food, they watch the innkeeper bully a cleaning girl, and Stevie has to stop Cap'n Jack from extracting some justice, since that would probably derail their current mission. Once the food arrives, the only thing that compels them to eat the less than savory dish is the fact that they haven't had anything in a couple of days.
As they eat, two soldiers enter, order drinks, and one of them starts harrassing the cleaning girl. This starts to get violent, and Cap'n Jack gets involved. Once the Cap'n is in, so are the three boys, although just as they start in, a whole troop of soldiers show up, and soon everyone in the bar is involved in an all-out brawl (with the exception of Nancy and Bundle, which means even Stevie is doing something). The innkeeper is not pleased by all the damage being done to his bar. Eventually the soldiers (The Protium, Prince Nakel's personal guards) win out. They line everyone up and the commander demands to know everyone's hometown and their business in Wranton. He goes down the line, but Stevie refuses to say anything. The innkeeper tells the guard that Stevie and the others were the ones who started the brawl, and the commander, assuming they're spies, has all of them arrested. The Protium tie them up and go through their things, and find the homemade flag. Seeing this, the commander arranges for his troops to march the others to the Proper to be presented to Prince Nakel.
After a long while, the Protium stops for the night, and Stevie and Nancy and the others listen to the guards talk about Prince Nakel, how the only thing he loves more than spies are spies from Agapeland. They also make foreshadowy comments about the prince's mask and "what happens to anyone who looks into his eyes." Stevie tries to comfort Nancy by telling her maybe the prince isn't as bad as he sounds, but the narrator can't resist chiming in (in parenthesis even!) to warn us that the prince is actually even worse.

I'm just curious, are Cap'n Jack and Gentle George characters from an Agapeland album? There are plenty that I never listened to, so I really don't know. Still, it seems strange to have a pirate bunny rabbit if he wasn't already an established character. Identical miner triplets are more par the course for random characters, really.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shortpacked and my life

(Click for full-sized Shortpacked!)

Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction when my fiancé decided to grow a mustache, with similar results. That's pretty much how he looked, too. I made him shave it off (the rule was, when he was back home he could have it, but not while I'm around), so maybe Amber will do the same.
Speaking of my fiancé, he flew in last night, so I'll be seeing him soon. And tomorrow he'll no longer be my fiancé, but my husband. Whoa...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Being spoiled

Normally I try to avoid spoilers--big spoilers, I mean. I don't mind little spoilers, like an image or a tiny piece of information. Usually the kind of thing you'd find in a "sneak peek" featurette. Sometimes I even rejoice for snippets of information, like the tiny, tiny clip of Vidia in the upcoming Tinkerbell movie. But I avoid summaries like the plague unless I have no plan to see/read the title in question. And I especially try to avoid finding out about episodes of shows that air in other countries before they air over here. Even if it seems like everyone and their brother is watching the episodes early. This has killed at least two messageboards for me, as I tend to stop going there to avoid being even casually spoiled. Which is what happened on a certain Codename: Kids Next Door forum, where I was hugely spoiled by someone using an image from the big twist of one episode (a rather infamous one) as part of a caption game. After that, and a few other spoilers in places that should not have had them, I had to stop going. And once the episodes did air, I just couldn't get back into the same spirit as I had there before.
Anyway, despite the fact that I try and avoid spoilers, I do give in to temptation sometimes. As I recently did, thanks to Youtube. Lured by the knowledge that Bridget Robbins sings, I watched the (very far off) upcoming episode of Strawberry Shortcake, A Princess Called Rap (A retelling of Rapunzel). Although this episode is approximately 5 DVDs away, it has already aired in the UK and on Playhouse Disney Asia, and someone posted in on Youtube. And that's not the only one, either. Youtube is rife with SSC spoiler episodes. Not that it's hard to avoid them, it's quite easy, really. I don't search for SSC stuff on youtube anyway, so most of the time I don't even come in contact with the spoiler videos. But, being spoiled once generally leads to being spoiled more. And sure enough, while watching A Princess Called Rap, I took a look at the first part of another episode, Sleeping Beauty, because one of the preview images was aged-up Apple Dumpling. I ended up watching the entire first part and part of the second before I resolved not to be spoiled anymore (I could tell where the story was going, anyway). I did see a new character, and Banana Candy being the worst messenger ever, before I left, though.
This whole post is just the intro to a three post series I'm planning on posting over the next two weeks. The first post will be spoileriffic, so if you don't mind, go ahead and read it. But if you don't want to be spoiled, better tune in later.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What I read: a discovery!

I've always felt kind of bad because I never actually read The Secret Garden in my youth. I tried many times, picking up the familiar yellow paperback, but I could never get into it. I especially felt bad because I love the musical version. Well, today at work, things were so slow that I decided to pick up one of the books from the Puffin Classics display (I'm not sure why it's there, but if you buy two books, you get a free tote), and I thought I'd give The Secret Garden another try, maybe start further in. So I read the introduction, and then I started reading from the beginning, and about halfway through the first chapter it hit me: this was not the same book I'd tried to read so many times before. That yellow paperback, probably from the Scholastic book club, was actually a dumbed-down kids' version (which really doesn't make sense, since this is supposed to be a children's book, right?)! And I thought to myself, "No wonder I couldn't get into it before."
I noted later that the back said it was unabridged, so maybe I just read an abridged version. But what I remember involved things happening slightly different from what I read today. For example, I specifically remember the yellow paperback mentioning the children of the clergyman that takes in Mary dancing around her in a ring, taunting her, which doesn't happen in the actual book.