Monday, October 27, 2014

Everything But The Book (Club)

Yet again I missed an Everything But The Book (Club) meeting; next time I am hosting though, so I will have to make an official appearance. Anyway, everyone else who attended discussed Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Personally, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to just about any female I know. Readers can find ways to relate to Strayed without ever having hiked the Pacific Coast Trail. A quest is just a quest after all, isn't it? AND THEN THERE'S THE MOVIE! AND IT STARS REESE WITHERSPOON!

When we gather at my house in early December, we will be discussing Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Says the author about her book, "My fourth novel is about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America. It's also about friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, comic books, and knife-throwing." So yeah, I am quite intrigued.

And lastly, here are the random topics as discussed by Everything But The Book (Club) that have nearly nothing to do with the book:

  • planes and Ebola
  • asking Siri what planes are flying above us 
  • getting lost and using Google to find your way
  • whether shopping at REI is actually outdoorsy or not
  • how some of us would like to hike as is done in the book, but most of us prefer "glamping" (glamorous camping... with a car and internet and showers and wine). 
  • how we learned to ride bikes

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Things I Learned From My Ex(es) Part 6

Editor's Note: By now, you should be familiar with this gimmick series. I added a page above that is dedicated specifically to these fine gentlemen. You can click on it to see the previous five posts.

The One With Whom I Rode Bikes
  • I learned that if my gut tells me that he would rather be at the Christmas Dance with the girl across the room, he would. 
  • I learned that there's no possible way to pass off a hickey as a tennis injury. 
  • I learned that cK One was (and will forever be) an excellent scent. 
  • I learned that walking to midnight mass in the snow on Christmas Eve can be magical. 
  • I learned that biking at Ohiopyle is a great date. 
  • I learned that I can fall for big blue eyes easily. 
  • I learned that taking one's boyfriend to one's summer camp isn't as easy as it sounds. 
  • I learned that saying no can be an excellent decision. 
  • I learned that gummy peach rings are perfect. 
  • I learned that I was inexperienced at breaking up. 
  • I learned to appreciate the art of layering one's clothes, especially Polo and the gone (but not forgotten) Structure. 
  • I learned what it feels like to get a diamond tennis bracelet for Christmas... and my first piece of jewelry from Tiffany & Co. "just because." 
  • I learned that cheaters are usually cheaters in more ways than one. 
  • I learned that some people cannot be helped until they learn to help themselves. 
  • I learned what it's like to tell a boy "I love you" for the first time. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Awesome Or Flawsome: Ouija

Never alone. Never in a graveyard. ... and of course, never alone while in a graveyard. That's right. If you are going to use a Ouija board, you need to follow the rules; this is the premise of the newest Universal Pictures horror film Ouija, which is being released today.

Under normal circumstances, I would never see a scary movie in a theater. But when Universal Pictures contacts you and asks if you and your students would like to attend an advance screening in a nice movie theater for free, you oblige (no matter if you cannot stand suspense in any shape or form, no matter if you know that you'll be watching the majority of the movie with your knees pulled to your chest and your face buried in your scarf). And so I figured I would do a quick review of the film. 

Ouija is rated PG-13, which is appropriate. There isn't much blood, guts, or gore; there isn't any nudity or sexual situations; and there is minimal profanity. However, there are plenty of startling moments, many of which made me scream out loud. This of course is slightly embarrassing as I was surrounded by students, thus providing them with endless material for playful harassment of their teacher.

Set in a quintessential American town during fall, Ouija follows a group of teenage friends (who have very absent parents) as they attempt to end an accidental and deadly connection made with some emotionally and psychologically disturbed local ghosts via a Ouija board. Not the most original of plots, but literally,"it is what it is." The background music is ominous at the right times; the special effects are believable and effective (no pun intended); and of course, there is potential for a sequel.

As for the cast, I believe that the talent on the big screen was surprisingly strong, playing characters who were just interesting enough, yet completely expendable (as most horror film characters should be). In particular, Olivia Cooke (who will be seen soon in the locally filmed Me & Earl & the Dying Girl) played the lead role of Laine Morris quite well. It was also good to see Douglas Smith (from an HBO favorite Big Love) on the big screen.

My official recommendation is that Ouija is an awesome and entertaining movie for this time of year, a time when we purposefully put ourselves in spooky situations. It's fun for those of us who have a fond recollection of playing with a Ouija board at grade school sleepover parties (along with "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board"). It's also good for newer audiences who might not be ready for the likes of Evil Dead, Carrie, or The Exorcist. Does Ouija have a high rewatchability factor (Bill Simmons fans understand that concept)? No, it's flawsome in the sense that once is just enough.

SPOILER ALERT: I am never flossing my teeth again. Oh, and when I get to work and there is dental floss in my mailbox? Real funny people. Real funny.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All About The Benjamins

Like excellent burgers? Like charming neighborhood venues that are within reasonable walking distance of Heinz Field? Good. Then you will like Benjamins Western Avenue Burger Bar (900 Western Avenue, 15233). They have an interesting, yet comfortable menu; good drink specials ($2 Yuengling drafts this past Monday night for instance); and an inviting atmosphere (I particularly like the small bar, the lighting, the open kitchen, and the fireplace).

Pretzels ($3.95, 3 baked soft pretzels, candied jalapeño cream cheese, truffle mustard)
Mushroom & Swiss Burger ($10.50, balsamic & basil roasted Portobello mushroom, Swiss cheese) with a side of Broccoli Salad (carrots, sesame seeds, ginger-lime-soy-wasabi dressing)
Since it was a pregame meal, I went with the Pretzels to complement my beer. The three pretzels were sizeable enough for sharing, and the dipping sauces were delicious. Had I not been in public, I would have licked the candied jalapeño cream cheese right out of its container. And since I am always following the "when in Rome" mantra, I ordered a burger, in particular the Mushroom & Swiss Burger. It was cooked to perfection (medium) and mushrooms and cheese literally melted in my mouth. The side of Broccoli Salad was light and refreshing. However, had I been throwing all of my caution waistline to the wind, I would have ordered the Bacon Fat Home Fries (poblano peppers and onions); admittedly, my one bite of JAS's portion was pretty fantastic.

Overall, Benjamins is a solid choice to gather with friends and family and it's a solid contender for the best burger in Pittsburgh. The service is consistently friendly and efficient, and I highly recommend this spot to everyone... I know I will be back sooner than later (especially if I walk by and smell the intoxicating aroma of their burgers that I swear they pump out onto Western Avenue)!

(3.25 stars, 3.25/4)

Benjamins Western Avenue Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Afternoon Commute

I am always looking for songs that have a good beat with which to pace myself when I run (or jog).

With that in mind, this song is doing the trick (despite its pop factor and its video); of course it makes a great driving song as well, especially on a nice afternoon (flashback to the first 800 million times that I jammed out to "Call Me Maybe"). Enjoy!

Song: "Shake It Off"
Artist: Taylor Swift