Moneyball (and the best crackerjacks you will find at a baseball game)

Rating: Orange

Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane – with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) – develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.
~Amazon

When I was very little, my grandpa took me on his knee and said, “Lauren, I will love you forever. You could make any mistake in the world and I would still love you. The only thing that I will not forgive you for is if you root for any other baseball team, but the Yankees.”

Therefore, you find me today a Yankees fan.

The problem is that I am not a big fan of actually watching the games. They take a long time. I am a fidgeter. I can hardly sit still long enough to watch a TV show, let alone a 3-hour long game. I can only manage if I have my computer, a book, or my knitting with me, so that I have something to do as well.

While I have some issues sitting still for an entire game, I am completely glued to my seat when that game takes movie form. Some of my favorite movies are sports-related. Who doesn’t love Rookie of the Year, Rocky IV, Rudy (Special Edition), or Miracle?  What is your favorite sports movie?

Moneyball is another member of this class of movies.  I became attached to characters, rooted for the Oakland As (sorry Grandpa), and held my breath in the final game.  Not only is it based on a true story, it is also concerned with the idea of changing the game of baseball.  Beane (Brad Pitt’s character) decides to play a different game than the Yankees play and use his lack of funding to his advantage.  He does not focus on buying all-stars.  Instead, he patches together a team of misfits and uses strategy to make each of them perform in their roles.  This was cool.

One part of the movie that I would change would be the last 20 minutes.  It drives me crazy when the movie is actionactionaction and then the last part of it is people talking, basically explaining what happened.  We are smart people.  We don’t need them to tell us what the point is, especially if they do a good job at SHOWING US!  Grrrrrrrr.

Good movie?  Yes.  Oscar-winning movie?  I don’t think so.

The Grade

Visuals: 3.5/5

Plot: 4/5

Acting:4/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.

Read on to hear about my crackerjacks 🙂

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Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes

The chocolate centre flows like dark lava onto the whiteness of the plate. The last ounce of stress drains from my body…. I have discovered the French version of Death by Chocolate.’ Part love story, part wine-splattered cookbook, Lunch in Paris is a deliciously tart, forthright and funny story of falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to the world’s most romantic city – not the Hollywood version, but the real Paris, a heady mix of blood sausage and irregular verbs. From gutting her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen) and battling bad-tempered butchers to discovering heavenly chocolate shops, Elizabeth Bard finds that learning to cook and building a new life as a stranger in an even stranger land have a lot in common. Along the way she learns the true meaning of home – and the real reason French women don’t get fat … Peppered with recipes to die for, this mouth-watering love story is the perfect treat for any woman who has ever suspected that lunch in Paris could change her life.

– Back Cover

Now, if you have been reading at all lately, you will have noticed two important things.

  1. My posting speed is slowing to a trickle.  I suppose the reason for that is this pesky problem called “life.”  I have started taking night classes so I now officially work full time, take night classes, maintain my blog (meaning that I have to continue reading and cooking), and keep up some sort of social life so that I don’t go completely insane.  I decided I would rather have fewer posts of quality that I can be proud of, rather than many icky posts.
  2. I have already posted about my dining experiences in Paris.  What do I have to talk about now?

Well, I’m going to tell you. Continue reading

Embracing The Imperfectionists: What Does Your Food Say About You?

Rating:  Orange

I managed to read a lot when I was in Paris.

Yeah, I know.  I’m in Paris!  Why am I spending time there reading a book that I could read in my own apartment?

Well, it turns out that reading is a great pastime in Paris.  People read at cafes, on the metro, waiting in the hour-long lines at the bank.

Fortunately for me, I packed a hand-dandy purse that I absolutely adore because it has a compartment that perfectly holds a normal-sized book.

My book of choice was The Imperfectionistsby Tom Rachman.  I picked it up because the title intrigued me and a great many important people seemed to think that it was brilliant.  When I found out that it was a story told in short vignettes, I was sold.  Like Olive Kitteridge (see my post here), it is a story long enough to satisfy my need for detail, but told in increments short enough to satisfy my hectic lifestyle and distracted mind.

Basically, The Imperfectionists centers on the people who create and work at an international, English-speaking newspaper based in Rome.

Each major player has a story devoted to his/her work, family life, and ultimately, flaws.  These are the people of the journalism world who seem to be completely put-together, but whose lives are not as perfect as they seem.

This is by no means a depressing book, so much as an insightful text about the intricacies of life.

One major way that Rachman characterizes each figure is through the food that they consume throughout the story.  In almost every vignette, food acts as a gateways for the reader to better understand the character’s psyche.

One woman makes copious amounts of rich food to serve to her boyfriend and friends. but never eats it herself.  Instead, she limits herself to hot water and lettuce.

A journalist whose career is on the decline spoons chickpeas out of a can because that is all he can afford.

A writer of obituaries focuses on peanut butter sandwiches to deal with a significant loss.

While this book is more about journalism and the people who are a part of it, the food element is a striking way for us to relate to the characters.  I found myself wondering, “What does my food say about me?”

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The School of Essential Ingredients: How Food Teaches You To Take Care of Yourself

Rating: Orange

The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives.

One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.

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On my first day of teacher school, the dean of my college asked us to spend a few minutes thinking about what restores us.  He argued that if we didn’t take time to do something for ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of our students.

My list included yoga, reading (surprise surprise!), and cooking. 

Lately, I haven’t taken the time to do anything for myself aside from sleeping.  The reading has slowed down (except for mandatory school stuff), the yoga has been nonexistent for months, and cooking…as far as cooking goes, I have been eyeing the local diner or Moe’s more and more frequently. 

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Your *Worst* Worst Case Scenario Guide and a Banana Cream Pi Lassi to Make it All Better

Rating: Orange

“Meet Pi Patel, a young man on the cusp of adulthood when fate steps in and hastens his lessons in maturity. En route with his family from their home in India to Canada, their cargo ship sinks, and Pi finds himself adrift in a lifeboat — alone, save for a few surviving animals, some of the very same animals Pi’s zookeeper father warned him would tear him to pieces if they got a chance. But Pi’s seafaring journey is about much more than a struggle for survival. It becomes a test of everything he’s learned — about both man and beast, their creator, and the nature of truth itself.” -Goodreads.com

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Last week was a rough week.  The week after a vacation always seems particularly long and, to top it off, I wasn’t feeling well at all. 

After I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi this weekend, I suddenly realize how little I have to complain about.  I live on solid land, eat three regular meals a day, don’t generally worry about becoming lunch for carnivorous animals, have a full and wonderful family, and interact with a number of people daily.

When I look at Pi, stuck out on a lifeboat with a tiger for 226 days, I wonder how long I would last.  As he finds a way to survive aboard this nightmarish raft, he ponders on his will to survive, coming to the conclusion that he has an exceptionally strong life force.

I wonder how long the average person would survive in the same situation.  Many of us would be quick to claim, “I would be tiger meat in 2 hours or less!”  Is that really true?  Would we, like Pi, find a way to deal?  I suppose we will never know the strength of our spirit until put to a similar test.

Without further ado, I brainstormed and came up with the four worst case scenarios for me.  They are present in the poll below.  Which one would be the test that tells you what you are made of?  OR can you think of something worse?  If so, put it in the comments!

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Pyrophiles Will One Day Rule The World. I Will Be There With These.

Rating: Orange

“Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.”

 

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As a child, I was entranced by fire.  Watch it, licking its way through dry timber or simmering away a candle’s protective wax.  Human, it inhales oxygen and is ever hungry.  Animal, it rages and destroyes, unaware of the order that it is upsetting.  Chemical, it transforms sugar into candy, sand into glass, fabric into ash.  It can clean as it can dirty.  It can warm as it can burn.  It flickers and adopts different colors- orange, blue, yellow, and red. 

When put this way, you must understand that a small child is a ready victim.  I would sit at restaurants, fighting over the small candle in the center of the table.  My brother and I would hold our silverware in the flame in an effort to sterilize them.  I would dip my fingers in the puddle of wax to make a small mold of my finger.  Perhaps we were little pyrophiles in the making.

Years have passed and I no longer fight over the restaurant tea lights.  That is not to say that I pass up opportunities to be near fire.  I will happily toast a marshmallow over a bonfire or be in charge of lighting the birthday candles. 

Suzanne Collins’ second installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy is appropriated entitled Catching Fire.  Like fire’s hold on my imagination, this book gripped me and would not let me go.  As I explained in my first post dedicated to the Hunger Games Trilogy, I urgently needed to find out would happened next in Katniss and Peeta’s tumultuous journey. 

Let’s just say that this book does not disappoint.

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Riddle Me This

Rating: Orange

Sometimes, you meet a character that you can’t get out of your head.  Even after the book has closed, that character’s distinct voice shows up, acting as some sort of invisible commentary on your thoughts.

One such character is Blaine the Mono, a highly intelligent and sadistic train that shows up in the third installment of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series, The Waste Lands.

In order for our heroes to get through the Waste Lands, a treacherous and poisonous segment on their journey to the Dark Tower, they must take the train.  Only once they’re on-board, they realize how insane this mechanical voice is.  It has decided that is is prepared to commit suicide…and take its passengers along with it (insert scary cackle here).

Along with the highly irrational suicidal need, Blaine has one other human trait- he loves riddles.  His passengers take advantage of this and strike a deal with him.  If they can tell him a riddle that he cannot answer, he has to free them before he runs himself off of a cliff.

Without further ado, I will share with you some of my favorite riddles (some of which are from the riddling contest).  The answers will be at the bottom 🙂 

Share your own riddles in the comments (It may be good to share the answers as well, considering I am not as good at “thinking around corners” as our heroes are)!

  1. If you feed me I grow, but give me water and I’ll die. What am I ? 
  2. I am the black child of a white father, a wingless bird, flying even to the clouds of heaven. I give birth to tears of mourning in pupils that meet me, even though there is no cause for grief, and at once on my birth I am dissolved into air. Who am I?
  3. What’s the difference between a cat and a complex sentence?
  4. I pass before the sun but make no shadow.  What am I?
  5. We are all very little creatures; all of us have different features.  One of us in glass is set; one of us you’ll find in jet.  Another you may see in tin, and a fourth is boxed within.  If the fifth you should pursue, it can never fly from you.  What are we?
  6. This thing runs but cannot walk, sometimes sings but never talks.  Lacks arms, has hands; lacks a head, but has a face.
  7. 

Read on for the answers to the riddles as well as the third course of my Dark Tower feast!

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