John B. McLemore lives in S-Town, Alabama

By Molly K. Lichtner, 5/10/17

Warning: If you haven’t listened to S-Town, please stop immediately and listen to all 7 parts in one sitting.  This blog is full of spoilers.

John B. McLemore lives in Shittown, Alabama.  I’m sorry; John B. McLemore lived in Shittown, Alabama.  He’s dead now.

A few years ago John contacted Brian Reed, a producer and presenter from This American Life, and asked him to leave New York and visit Woodstock, Alabama to investigate police corruption and a murder cover-up.  Instead, Brian ended up recording and releasing an in-depth profile of a multifaceted and complex man.  That man was John B. McLemore.

When John talks, it’s impossible to tell if he’s 36 or 66; he sounds timeless, which is fitting because his main source of income was to work on antique clocks.  John was a horologist: someone that studies time.  His personality was full of quirks and inconsistencies: he hated tattoos but was covered in them, he detested the government but was instrumental in founding his hometown, and he was lonely but pushed people away.

There is no denying that John is a genius.  In his backyard he created a hedge maze with over sixty possible solutions.  At the time of his death, it was about knee height, and there’s something poetic about that.  The hedge maze was never completely finished, and neither was John.  The story of his life is also a cautionary tale of being defeated by one’s own hubris; John had people that loved and cared about him, and now through the podcast, that number has grown exponentially.  Should this podcast have been made?  Maybe, maybe not.  Is it an exposé of the horrors of small town police corruption?  At times.  Is it about a man that felt like he was stuck in a shit town?  Yeah, partly.

But why couldn’t—or wouldn’t—John leave Woodstock?  Throughout the podcast, we hear different excuses: he can’t leave the dogs, he can’t leave his Momma, and he can’t leave his land.  But I think the real reason he didn’t leave was because he didn’t think he could fit in or be accepted anywhere else.  Where else would a queer redheaded manic hypocritical genius that preaches about the dangers of climate change and the uselessness of tattoos fit in?  Well, S-Town shows us that John could have—would have—fit in anywhere he met someone that would listen.

A Review and Analysis of Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” That Literally Nobody Asked For

By: Alyssa Murphree, May 9, 2017

I’ll cut to the chase. This is a completely unwarranted review and analysis of a song that was released in 2010. You may be wondering how or why I’m going to write a review of a just one single song. But this is no ordinary tune. This is the nearly 25-minute spectacular that is Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” and I’ve only now just garnered a mature enough attention span to listen to it in its entirety and ponder its meaning.

“Impossible Soul” is the final track on folk-rock, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 album The Age of Adz. The song is a five-part musical epic chock full of deep, as well as catchy lyrics, wild guitar solos, the harmonizing of male and female vocalists, and some questionable, yet intriguing autotune usage. Much of Stevens’ music is autobiographical, and “Impossible Soul” is no exception. However, this song happens to provide a different experience for each listener, as each individual may have their own favorite part of the song and their own interpretation of its meaning. Music is, a very personal medium after all. Given the lyrical content though, the majority can agree that this song is Stevens’ way of reflecting on and coming to closure with a past relationship, a lover to whom he had bared his impossible soul to.

Each of the five parts have their own distinctive sound and are unique from each other, however leaving any one out could potentially alter the context of the song. They all carry each other and bring something beautiful of their own to the table. Based on my interpretation, these parts symbolize the five stages of grief, the grief Stevens experienced following the end of this intimate relationship. Grieving does not occur in linear progression, and the sequence in which they occur varies between each individual. In fact, some people may not experience every single stage. But here on “Impossible Soul”, we can observe the run of Stevens’ emotions through the different parts of the song

The first part is when Stevens and his partner are actually in the process of breaking up, the very beginning of this personal journey. We can gather that this was an unhealthy relationship for Stevens by the lyrical content that occurs in this section and throughout the song. The rhythm to this part is slow and cautious, as if Stevens is trying to gently tread his way out of this relationship. In the first few verses of the song, Stevens sings “oh woman, tell me what you want, and I’ll calm down without bleeding out, with a broken heart that you stabbed for an hour,” before stating “my beloved, you are the lover of my impossible soul.” It appears that Stevens is defensive and somewhat apologetic through this breakup, and that he feels the need to assure her of the love he did feel for her, despite how he was treated. But unfortunately, the damage was done and we can get a sense of denial, the first stage of Stevens’ grief in this part, as well as the next. “Don’t be distracted,” are the words that Stevens sings repeatedly throughout this second part, as he appears to be hyping himself up for the rocky road that is yet to come in the aftermath of this breakup.

In the third part, we garner the self-loathing that Stevens is experiencing at the very beginning of his newly single life. “Stupid man in the window, I couldn’t be at rest. All my delight, all that mattered, I couldn’t be at rest,” sings Stevens, although it is not entirely clear if the “stupid man” he is referring to is himself, or rather that he is angry at God, as he is a highly spiritual individual and many of his songs allude to that aspect of his life. This section displays the anger and depression he is experiencing in his grief. In the background of this part, we hear frantic, muffled, what seems to be yelling, which elevates the unrest that is felt in Stevens and that the listener can feel as well. The lyrics “oh I know it wasn’t safe, it wasn’t safe to breathe at all” add depth to the unsettling and emotional downward spiral he is experiencing before slowly calming down at the end of this part. “Hold on Suf, hold on Suf,” he sings to himself over and over before enthusiastically clattering into the next part.

With no time to spare, we move from the melodramatic lyrics and instrumentals right into my favorite part of “Impossible Soul”, the rousing and self-motivating part four. “It’s a long life, better pinch yourself! Put your face together, better get it right,” chants Stevens and the background vocalists in what is seriously a bonafide jam. It’s hard to imagine somebody’s emotions shifting into self-love, perseverance, and acceptance this quickly following the brutal breakup we just spent nearly half of the song listening to. From there, the remaining majority of this part is Stevens repeating the catchy mantra “it’s not so impossible!” to himself over and over with a trumpeting, infectious beat scattered between.

Just as quickly as the transition from part three to four occurred, we move into the slow, acoustic final part of “Impossible Soul”. Because this part has the ability to stand alone from the rest, it can sometimes be found individually with the title “Pleasure Principle”. Stevens tinkers on the strings of an acoustic guitar as he sings “I never meant to cause you pain, my burden is the weight of a feather. I never meant to lead you on, I only meant to please me however.” Stevens is coming to terms with the circumstances of the breakup and accepting that he played a role that led to it as well. He acknowledges that a significant factor of him remaining in the relationship for so long was for his own pleasure, his selfishness, stating that “girl, I want nothing less than pleasure” and even questioning his partner in believing that he would stay for so long with “and did you think I’d stay the night? And did you think I’d love you forever?” In this part, we hear Stevens finally accepting the course the relationship took, the final stage of grief. “Boy, we made such a mess together,” he admits to himself, as the 25 minute tale ends and softly fades away.

A Review of Disney Pixar’s Inside Out

By: Johanna Marano April 30, 2017

Disney Pixar’s Inside Out is such a beautiful, yet conceptual, and highly ambitious depiction of emotions. When it comes to previous films, I do not think anything can compare to it and the way it conveys the emotions we all experience on the daily. This movie is so powerful, not only for its intended younger audience, but for people of all ages. It is so wonderfully crafted that you become invested and it hits you with all the feels.

I remember taking two of the children I babysit to go see this movie when it first opened in the theaters. I was nineteen at the time and I recall it as clear as day being on an emotional roller coaster throughout the movie. The part with Bing Bong had to be the worst part; I admit to sitting in the theater and letting out a good cry. There were so many other feelings throughout, but in a good way. I recently re-watched this movie for my Young Adult Literature class and I was once again hit with all the emotions. It also made me more aware of how complicated emotions are, especially for our younger coming of age children.

Emotions are complicated on a good day to say the least. I, personally, do not even want to go back and try to remember how complicated they were around the age of eleven, the same age as Riley (our protagonist in the film). Or even the time when I first entered the world of being a teenager. It is usually no fun trying to figure out what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way, especially when these feelings are new. Sometimes you do not even have the words to describe what you feel, making it even harder to comprehend.

This is why I find this movie so innovating. Inside Out does not depict the emotions to simplify them because, as we learn in the film, they are very complex. What the film is capable of doing, is presenting emotions in a simplified format to make it more understandable for their target audience – children (and even the young adults and parents that take the kids to the movies). One of the key aspects of this format is in the presentation of the characters.

The lovable emotions from Inside Out – Disgust (green), Joy (yellow), Anger (red), Sadness (blue), and Fear (purple).

The five major emotions are personified into these very lovable characters. The design of each character is so brilliant because they are not only aesthetically pleasing but very informative. For example, Anger is red and brick-like correlating to his character emotion, where Disgust is green and almost broccoli-like in a weird kind of way (a vegetable that most kids find gross!) to symbolize her emotion. In addition, if you look closely at the emotions, they are not drawn with clear and distinct lines. This is very unlike the characters in the outside world. Instead, they seem to be fuzzy around the edges with a sort of mental energy emanating from them. I find it to be a visual representation of how the emotions are not always constant.

One of the biggest things I picked up on is how all the emotions need to work together in order to make Riley successful in life. Although Joy wants her to be happy and shield her form all things sad and bad, it is not possible. She wants Riley to be happy all the time; keeping Sadness away from Riley’s control panel for her personality and memory bank. However, this is not healthy for Riley, no person can be happy all the time. Without allowing her to feel and express these other emotions, she cannot truly appreciate the good moments in her life. Everyone needs the bad to understand and appreciate the good.

Joy realizes this when she ends up down in the memory dump. She comes across a forgotten memory that was initially sad but turned happy; one that she only recalled the happy portion from. She has this epiphany about her and her fellow emotions – they need to work together because no memory or event ever involves just one emotion. Together they help each other to create balance, complexity, and context within Riley. They are there to emphasize and embrace each other’s role. For example, Sadness was not there to bring Riley down on purpose but to act as a warning sign that something is troubling her. When Riley is able to recognize this, she can learn to talk about it or get help, instead of suppressing what she feels. If she did, this would be even more damaging to her overall personality and lead to a miserable life.

This is so important because it shows viewers, especially the target audience, that it is normal and important to feel and express these emotions. By doing so, it leads someone to have a much healthier life. I have realized this over the years and know how important it is to have this wide range of emotions. I have always been the type of person who tries to make others happy, similar to Joy. But like I mentioned before, you cannot be happy all the time. That is impossible.

I often tend to keep my emotions bottled up, which is not good. I try not to get angry in front of people; although I admit I can get a little sassy. I am also not one to be upset and cry when others are around. However, bottling emotions up is not good because there eventually comes a time when you cannot take anymore and explode. And sometimes you just need to have a good cry – it’s healthy! Usually this happens in private, but if I am with a really close friend then maybe I will show that side of myself.

But I have at least learned that I need to be able to talk about what is going on and bothering me. I admit that this can still be difficult to do. But by doing so, I can clear my head and work through what I am experiencing. Inside Out is such a beautiful depiction of all this and clearly showcases how important every emotion is not only the individual but to each other. I strongly recommended people of all ages to watch this movie.

Alice Through The Looking Glass: A Movie Review

By: Rachel Lyle, April 21st, 2017

My two  favorite books have always been Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. So when I found out that Tim Burton was making Alice Through The Looking Glass I freaked out. I loved Tim Burton’s Version of Alice in Wonderland so I thought I might enjoy this one as well. When I watched this movie, I more than loved it, I was enchanted and enthralled by it. If I had to pick only one movie that I could watch for the rest of my life it would be this one

The story line was changed from the bookBecause the first movie had the storyline of Through The Looking Glass they had to come up with a whole new storyline. Instead of the journey across a giant chess board while meeting lots of strange creatures and having strange experiences, Alice has to travel through time.

The mad hatter, Tarrant, is dying because he believes that his family is being held captive somewhere in Wonderland by the Red Queen, Iracebeth, and not dead as previously thought. So Alice has to go to the Palace of Time who is personified as a man to get the Chronosphere in order to travel back into the past to save the Tarrant’s family. In the process she ends up being chased by time and also attempts to keep Iracebeth from hitting her head as a child and thus saving her from becoming the evil Red Queen. She fails in her attempt to keep this from happening to the Iracebeth because she finds out she cannot change the past but she does find and save Tarrant’s family in the present.

My favorite part about this movie wasn’t anything about the storyline. It was the costumes and the sets. I loved the costumes especially because they were all brightly colored, silly, out of this world, and extremely exaggerated. I loved the sets because all of the flowers and plants were strange and exotic and in beautiful bright colors as were the buildings. The buildings were strangely shaped with mismatching doors and windows and all in vibrant, bright, contrasting colors. Even in the darkness of the Palace of Time, all of the colors seemed to stand out because they were bold, vibrant and beautiful. The colors were bold blues and golds, bright pinks, yellows, greens, and oranges, and deep reds, and purples. I have always loved bright and bold colors and all things kooky and crazy so I loved the sets and costumes of this movie.

I enjoyed the awesome upbeat soundtrack of the movie. It was suspenseful at times and just plain silly and entertaining at others. It was all done by Danny Elfman, who in my humble opinion knows how to produce very lovely music of all kinds. All of the soundtrack was done by him except for one song which was sung by the lovely P!nk, called “Just Like Fire”, which has become one of my favorite songs since the first time I watched the movie.

I loved watching this movie and want to watch it over and over again. I think it is a perfect family movie, perfect for people of any age. I would recommend that you watch this movie if you haven’t yet because it is awesome. One thing I didn’t like about this movie was the fact that at one point, Alice comes back home from Wonderland and finds herself in a psych ward and has to go back to Wonderland. I also didn’t like the fact that, I didn’t like this in the first movie either, the hatter, Tarrant, is portrayed as being part of the High Top clan and as having an actual family. Despite these things I give it two thumbs up and five stars. 10 out of 10, I would watch it again.

The Giver: A Review

By Taylor Blasko

Lois Lowry’s young adult novel The Giver is one worth taking a look at again. Apparently, for people of my generation this was a common book that was both assigned in school or read for entertainment alike when we were all in middle school. I am actually one of the few that didn’t read it when I was younger. My first encounter with this book was with my Young Adult Literature class this semester. But I really wish I would have read it sooner. All of my friends that loved to read would always tell me it was a book I would like, I just never got around to taking their advice and cracking it open. But I’m glad this class in my last semester of undgrad forced me to read it.

For those who haven’t read it, it’s a dystopian novel where the main character, Jonas, is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory. It’s basically a very regimented society where when the kids turn 12 years of age the government decides what their occupations will be. This is obviously a problem in and of itself, but The Giver engages in so much more.

The main thing that I came away from the novel with was the question of is pain necessary? My biggest struggle with this question is that I know on a fundamental level that nobody wants to experience pain and to assert that someone else’s suffering is necessary is a very inhumane statement. If you have a friend that was abused as a child the number one thing you don’t say is, “everything happens for a reason” or “pain is part of life” or “now that you experienced that pain you can be even more happy then the rest of us!” Like no, those things are not encouraging. At. All. And so I always fall back on my sentiment that pain “in the world” is necessary I think because we need to be able to recognize bad things in order to recognize the good we have. And not that we can’t recognize good when we can’t see the bad, we just appreciate it more. But like I said before, you can’t tell someone that is suffering that pain is just a natural part of life and that they should get over it. And so I see myself as saying there should be pain “in the world” but not pain “for me” specifically. Which is selfish, I know. And I don’t know what to do with that. Because a part of me is still really uncomfortable saying that nobody needs pain. Because as we see in The Giver, a life without pain is a life lived brainwashed.

So that’s what this book grapples with. In this book the Giver, whom is the one that gives all of the memories of the world to the Receiver, Jonas, says to him, “I have great honor…so will you. But you will find that is not the same as power.” In this set up, everyone in the world is set up to live ignorant, brainwashed lives —except the Giver and Receiver. This gives them honor but no power over the system. The problem with our society is that we feel sympathy and pity for those that have suffered, but as a society I think we struggle with empathy, which is really the level of understanding we should be striving for in order to keep everyone’s humanity.

The ending of the book grapples with some of these ideas and maybe, in my opinion attempts to turn them on their head. Overall, it’s a fantastic book  and I would suggest reading it if you haven’t already.

Review: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness @ The Fillmore, Philadelphia

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 19, 2017

On Friday April 7, I had the pleasure of seeing Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform at The Fillmore on the Philadelphia stop of their Zombies in America tour. Having purchased my ticket in November, and writing a review of their latest album, you could say this was a highly-anticipated event for myself. I had the right to anticipate it so highly, as I can confidently say that this was undoubtedly my favorite concert I’ve attended thus far.

The night began with two opening acts, Night Riots and Atlas Genius. Night Riots, a band originating from San Luis Obispo, California, enchanted the crowd with their deep, haunting melodies, dark lyrics, and light up drumsticks. Atlas Genius, hailing from Australia, was invited on the tour, according to Andrew McMahon, because of lead singer Keith Jeffrey’s involvement in writing his song “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me”. Based on the text conversation of the guy next to me, one may find Atlas Genius to be reminiscent of Coldplay, but to each their own. Another fun fact about Atlas Genius is that three of the band members are brothers. I found this out upon further research in order to answer my question of “why does most of this band have the exact same face?”

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the solo project of Andrew McMahon, who is known for his previous punk bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon is the principle songwriter of this project and his touring band has been coined “The Wilderness”. This show was part of the Zombies in America tour following the February release of his latest album, Zombies on Broadway.

The collective enthusiasm for McMahon once he ran on stage was nothing like I had ever experienced. The sold-out crowd of 2,500 was comprised of fans who had been along for the ride since his 2005 Something Corporate days, to younger fans like myself, who have been fans for only a few years, but devoured his entire discography and knew every word as if we’d been there forever. The aforementioned texting guy was telling the people around him that this was the first of FOUR shows he was seeing on this tour, all within the next few days. “It’s an Andrew weekend!” he yelled across the rows to a fellow diehard. Intimidating.

McMahon immediately burst into “Fire Escape”, a single from the new album which has received frequent radio airplay. The entire set consisted of him either sitting to play at the piano or jumping around stage, crowd surfing, or running in front of the barricade. He played a variety of songs that originated from every point in his career, from old Jack’s Mannequin favorites to his newer hits.

Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

There was never a dull moment during McMahon’s set, as he is truly the master of audience interaction. I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a better show to have a spot at the barricade for, and I consider my left-center barricade position one of my highest life achievements. This first time McMahon crowd surfed (yes there was more than one time), he set sail in an inflatable rubber duck. Duck in hand and venue security in tow, he walked over to where I was standing and discussed his game plan with us. We were the ones responsible for the launch of him and his duck on their grand voyage around The Fillmore. No pressure. How anybody can manage to crowd surf and sing perfectly in tune is a mystery to me, but McMahon managed to do it while singing one of his latest songs “Don’t Speak for Me (True)”.

Some highlights throughout the set included his stripped-down cover of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream”, a rousing throwback to the Something Corporate song “I Woke Up in a Car”, and emotional renditions of the popular Jack’s Mannequin tracks “Dark Blue” and “Swim”. Of course, we can’t forget McMahon’s newer music, even when nostalgia gets the best of us. Some of the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness songs played included “Walking in My Sleep”, “High Dive”, “Shot Out of a Cannon”, and “Canyon Moon”.

Now, back to the audience interaction I will never stop speaking so highly about. For the song “Synesthesia”, McMahon took us back to our elementary school gym class days and brought out a gigantic rainbow parachute. The parachute, which spanned across almost half of the floor, was held up by fans who danced with McMahon as he meandered his way through the crowd who sang along with him.

Unfortunately, all amazing and fantastic things must end. McMahon goes out with a bang with one more crowd surf during his three-song encore. He tells us about his Amazon browse for obscure pool floats for this very purpose and surprises us with a golden dragon, which he takes for a spin during an instrumental reprise of the Jack’s Mannequin song “La La Lie”. At long last, the final song of the night is the highly-anticipated Billboard charting hit, “Cecilia and the Satellite”.

Andrew McMahon and his golden dragon on their maiden voyage

To those who may be familiar with only a small fraction of McMahon’s work, I recommend you go see him. To those who might have never heard a single song by him but know that he’s coming to your city, I recommend you go see him. Two girls who were near me during the show were actually there to see Night Riots, and told a couple that they didn’t really know any Andrew McMahon songs. They ended up having as much of a ball as the rest of us. I cannot possibly speak higher of such an artist. If you want to experience the most intimate show and the biggest party at once, go see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

“Galavant” Review

By: Anna Merezhko, April 7, 2017

I recently stumbled upon a hidden gem on Netflix called “Galavant.” It was very well-reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes. Within seconds of the pilot, I knew that I was embarking on a journey that was very very different than what I was accustomed to.

To my horror, the pilot started out with 13th century villagers bursting into song. My first impression was that this was going to be a corny musical (are there any other kind?) and I was right. This could have been an epic fail of a show had it not been so brilliantly written. The writers created a beautiful concoction of witty humor and catchy songs and dropped it into the least expected time period- the Middle Ages.

It starts with a story about a brave and valiant knight named Galavant who was in love with Madalena. They had an epic love until King Richard “asked her for her hand… well, more like a demand…well, more like had his henchman snatch her.” Throughout the catchy introductory song, we learn that Galavant goes to save Madalena out of this forced marriage only to learn upon his arrival that Madalena did not want to be saved. When Galavant professed his undying love, she turned him down because she preferred the promise of living in luxury alongside a king.

Galavant, broken-hearted, became the town drunkard. A year later, a princess came to him seeking his help to save her kingdom only to find Galavant out of shape and unemployed. Galavant was completely uninterested until the mention of Prince Richard. The princess insinuated that Madalena regretted her marriage to King Richard. Full of hope, Galavant goes on a quest to help the princess and rescue his ex.

In the midst of that, we are familiarized with the other characters- the push-over king (King Richard), the cold, psychopathic queen (Madalena), the squire who is humorously ignored (Sidney), the sweet (but traitorous) princess (Isabella), and other eccentric characters.

The thing that makes this show is the songs. The song writers, Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, brilliantly mix humor into catchy songs that simply cannot go unmemorized. Ironic, sarcastic, and filled with sexual puns, the 20-minute episodes are hilarious from start to finish. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or thrilled they’re so short. They don’t feel dragged out and their jokes don’t feel overused. Unfortunately the first season only has eight episodes. The second season has 10 and is more brilliant than the first.

The essence of the show is visible in the episode names. My favorite is the first episode of the second season: “A New Season aka Suck It Cancellation Bear.” Throughout that season there was a lot of instances where the show “broke the fourth wall”- brilliantly, I might add. They mentioned ratings, plot lines, and not reusing songs. They even kind of dissed on other shows (like “The Bachelorette.”) All in all, I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.



A Review of Tasty’s One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta

By: Johanna Marano April 2, 2017

If you are familiar with Facebook, or even Buzzfeed, I am sure the name Tasty will ring a bell. I hope I am not alone when I tell you how much I love and appreciate Tasty. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, let me express my sincere condolences to you because you are missing out. I highly suggest you look up Tasty and discover all the deliciousness you have been denying yourself.

So for those who do not know, Tasty is a brilliant company that provides incredible recipes for “food that’ll make you close your eyes, lean back, and whisper ‘yessss’”. I am always looking to see what exciting recipes have been posted. If it is something I find interesting, I typically share the post and tag my sister in it. See, my family is really big in trying new recipes. And by new, I mean containing things we typically eat that are just presented in a new and exciting way.

We typically go for dishes that contain ingredients like chicken, pasta, buffalo sauce, cheese, onions, or corn. We wouldn’t go for some dinner containing seafood for example. Also when we decide on a recipe, we sometimes tweak it to fit our liking. For example, we may not use the full amount of buffalo sauce or spices – some people in my family are a little more sensitive to hot and spicy foods than others.

A few days ago, Tasty posted a recipe for a One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta. From the looks of the video, it seemed as though the whole family would enjoy it. The ingredient list consisted of the following:

  • 3 Tbsp. oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 5 cups milk
  • 4 cups penne pasta
  • 1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

It had many of the ingredients we all loved – chicken, pasta, cheese, and onions. We often make fajitas, where we each build our own with the ingredients of our choice, so this seemed as though it would just be a twist on the meal we love. Instead of using tortillas as our starch, we would be using pasta. The only questionable ingredients were the spices.

So while cooking, I decided to not use the full amount of each spice in case it was too hot for those who are sensitive. I initially went for 1 tsp. of the chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. However, as I continued to cook, I added a few more sprinkles of the chili powder and cumin. I did not add anymore garlic powder because I was out and did not feel like searching for a new container within the cupboard. Also, we failed to have penne pasta in the house; instead, I decided to use rotini, which is a spiral shaped. No biggie, for the shape of the pasta had no bearing on the taste of the dinner.

Overall, the dinner was absolutely fantastic! And will definitely be added to our recipe book to be made again in the future. Personally, I think that the full amount of spices could have been used to just enhance the taste a little bit more. The dinner was not tasteless by any means, but it was certainly not as flavorful as it should’ve been. The fam also agreed that next time the full measurement could be used because there was clearly enough food for the flavors to get evenly distributed to without being over spicy.

The other really great aspect of this dinner was that it was all made in one pot. With that said, you hit all the major food groups in one dish. There was protein, vegetables, dairy, and carbohydrates all in one. But do you want to know my favorite part of a one-pot meal? It means less dishes to wash later!! That’s one of the great features of most of Tasty’s dishes. They are typically not overly complicated or time consuming to make, in addition to not dirtying too many dishes.

This dinner was simple enough, especially if you are busy and do not have an extensive amount of time to spend in the kitchen. Cook the chicken in a pot. Remove the chicken, to then cook the peppers and onions – in the same pot. Once that is cooked, put the chicken back in to the pot, with all the spices. After that is all combined, the milk and pasta were added. This cooked until the pasta was done and the sauce thickened. Then the cheese was stirred in and it was ready to serve. *This was very much an abridged version of the recipe. Please see the link below for the full recipe.*

I would for sure recommend this recipe to anyone who enjoys fajitas but is looking for a twist on this classic item. It is also ideal for someone who wants a simple and not overly time consuming meal to fix up.

My take on Tasty’s One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta. It was absolutely delicious – the whole family went back for more.

To view the full recipe on Buzzfeed, click the following link:

Soul Surfer, a Movie Worth the Watch

by: Alyssa Ruffolo


The movie Soul Surfer (2011),directed by Sean McNamara, is based on a true story about a young surfer named Bethany Hamilton whose arm was completely bitten off by a shark when she was only thirteen years old. Having already began to make a name for herself in the surfing community, Bethany survives the traumatic event and eventually picks up where she left off in her surfing career. I saw this movie when it first came out in 2011 and really enjoyed it the first time I watched it. I have watched it several times since, and while it would be considered a “chick flick” by most, I would suggest it to anyone who likes a heartfelt, inspiring tale. This is a family drama that includes tropical beach imagery, religion, and action/competition.  It is similar to The Blind Side (2009) film in the way that it is based on a true story that pulls on the viewers’ heartstrings with struggles, selfless help from others along the way, and ending with the main character overcoming a life-altering obstacle. The credits in both movies include real-life photos of the people who are played by characters in the movie, which serves as a nice touch to remind the viewers that many of the events in this movie actually happened, and not even that long ago. Many people enjoy watching a film that is based on real happenings because it shows credibility and makes the audience feel closer to the characters. We like a story where the main character goes through some kind of hardship and comes out on top because it gives us inspiration that maybe we could approach our hardships in a similar way and feel the same satisfaction/success on the other side.

If you like the whole bohemian, tropical, surfer image, you will definitely enjoy the imagery in this film. From the clear blue ocean waters, to the stretching green mountains, to the tall palm trees and tan/barefoot inhabitants of the islands, this movie paints a picture of the Hawaiian paradise which Bethany calls home. The colors are bright, there is a nice breeze, and the sun is shining in most scenes. There are a few parts prior to the shark attack scene that have the viewers on edge, thinking she may be attacked at this point in the film. For example, Bethany goes night surfing with a group of friends and there is a shot where the camera is below her surfboard in the dark water, seemingly from the point-of-view of a shark swimming below her looking up. I suspect this was a decision made by the director because many viewers already knew the main plot of the movie and expected the shark attack. The director probably wanted to make it more of a surprise to the audience, so he used these tactics leading up to the scene to provide more suspense.  While her childhood is portrayed in the movie to be likely much more fantastic than it actually was, it is enjoyable to imagine this ideal life of living on a Hawaiian island and spending your life outside in the fresh air, surfing and going out to parties with your best friend. Bethany has minimal school-related worries because she is home-schooled by her own mother so that she has more time to focus on her surfing career. She is well-known in  for her athletic ability in the sport, has a good relationship with her family, has a friend group in the local community, shares a strong sense of identity with the religious community, and is seemingly very content with her life. This imagery is intended to appeal to an audience who enjoys an idealistic, romanticized story.

On the other hand, there is also a lot of action included in the movie. The surfing competitions are intense and suspenseful. An upbeat song plays as the horn sounds and Bethany and her competitors splash into the clear blue water to begin the surfing competition. A half-pipe is briefly shown, with skateboarders swiftly gliding up and down and skillfully flipping in the air. The surf competitors are shown snapping off the waves and doing several stunts as the judges call out the names and points earned by the competitors. Bethany and her biggest competitor Malinda slice into the water as they race to catch the next wave. Although some of the shots are clearly digitally edited, the actors did indeed learn to surf for various scenes in the movie and Bethany Hamilton and her personal coach had a lot of involvement on the set. This makes the action scenes more authentic and exciting to watch.

Religion plays a big part in the real Bethany Hamilton’s life. When she won the 2004 Teen Choice Award, she said she owed her strength to Jesus Christ. I admired how they kept these religious themes in the movie because it evidently plays a huge part of Bethany Hamilton and her family’s everyday life. In several interviews and blogs by the real Bethany Hamilton, she describes her religion has her meaning for life and says that her faith is what gave her the strength to make it through the near-death experience and the struggles following the loss of her arm. In one of the opening scenes of the movie we see Bethany jump out of the water, throw on a sundress, and run to join her family at an outside mass. Religious songs are sang by actress and singer Carrie Underwood, who plays Sarah, Bethany’s youth group leader. There is also a scene at Bethany’s youth group where she and some of her close friends are taught about perspective and given a bible quote by Sarah. Later after her accident, this idea of perspective is revisited when Bethany is trying to understand and deal with the new issues she is facing in the aftermath. She goes on a mission trip to Thailand shortly after a tsunami which destroys much of the land and kills many people in the area. After witnessing the lives of people who are much worse off than she is, Bethany is touched and her perspective is changed. This trip and gives her a better understanding of her true privilege and fortune despite the obstacles she faces.

At the closing of the movie, several pictures and video clips appear on the screen from Bethany’s real life. There is video of her in the hospital right after the accident playing with balloons, reflecting her light-hearted attitude even right after the event. There is also a video of her preparing fruit in her kitchen and dropping the tray, which is imitated almost identically in the movie, as well as a scene where her brother is tying her hair in a ponytail for her on the beach. Another clip shows her doing one-armed push-ups on the beach. These scenes are all recreated in the movie almost exactly how they appear on this home film, showing ethos to the audience that this really did happen and the movie stayed true to the real story in many ways. We also have video of Bethany’s actual family members, her youth group leader, and her best friend. This part is interesting because these characters are definitely more glamorized in the movie; her mother and youth group leader are both heavier in real life, while in the movie they are both portrayed as younger and more in shape. Again, this is a way of making her life seem more “picture perfect” and which takes away from the credentials that this movie is true to her real life. We also see that Bethany’s real pet dog plays itself in the movie, which adds to the pathos of the movie.

Overall, this is a very uplifting film. While it may be glamorized to be more visually appealing to the audience, there are strong themes of religion, perseverance, and positivity which appeal to an audience looking for a mood-lifting story. It is also informative because it is based on true events. Bethany Hamilton continued her pro-surfing career much after the loss of her arm. If you have an interest in surfing, religion, or are looking for inspiration, this might be worth the watch.

originally posted: 2/5

Sick Scenes: A Musical Triumph about Growing Up & Old

By Molly K. Lichtner, 3/29/17

Los Campesinos! touts themselves as “your ex-girlfriend’s favorite band,” and they’re not wrong; with their often whining but immensely relatable lyrics, Los Campesinos! has become a mainstay in any true indie pop fan’s album rotation.  For their 6th studio album, Sick Scenes, they have given fans everything they’ve come to expect and more.  Their lyrics (all written by front man Gareth) have grown, matured, and developed alongside their often messy and audibly overwhelming compositions.  And it’s so good.  Below I have highlighted some of my favorite songs from album, although the whole thing is truly a gift and deserves a complete listen.

Renato Dall’Ara (2008)

“All I want tonight is a friend and a fight/Say it to my face if it satiates your appetite”

A powerhouse of a song to start the record, with tongue-in-cheek wit that cuts deep.  It begins softly, and sounds almost if it was recorded behind closed doors, until the bass drum kicks in.  For those of us not privy to European football, Renato Dall’Ara is a sports stadium in Italy where England has had some amazing victories as well as some painful losses in the 90s.  The English football team’s up and downs mirrors the band’s, who are most certainly on the uptick right now.

A Slow, Slow Death

“I got your initials inside a heart tattoo/We two in vermillion, we two a lovers’ coup”

This song is soft.  It’s wistful.  It’s docile.  It’s comforting in a strange way, like a pleasant memory that you can’t quite remember.  The drums are reminiscent of the drumline used in By Your Hand, the first track of the band’s 2011 album, Hello Sadness (another must listen, by the way).  Both By Your Hand and A Slow, Slow Death are about yearning, but different kinds of yearning; the former is about sexual lust, whereas the latter focuses on emotional longing.  The verses are performed partially in staccato, which gives the song a sense of progression.

The Fall of Home

“Another family friend fell sick/Gave the fascists a thousand ticks”

This song evokes bittersweet melancholy.  Its lyrics are vague enough to be about any time period, but knowing what the political climate in the UK was around the time it was written makes it so much more impactful.  This song also brings back the band’s fan-favorite instrument, the glockenspiel.  Gareth sings in a slow way that makes me believe he knows what he’s talking about; he knows about the fall of home.

5 Flucloxacillin

“Another blister pack pops, but I still feel much the same/Thirty-one, and depression is a young man’s game”

Easily the most relatable song, this song highlights the struggle of finding the correct cocktail of medications needed to make it through the day in one piece.  Gareth name drops pharmaceuticals like celebrities; it’s clear that he’s on a first name basis with most of them.  The song ends with a repetition of “Well, I guess we’ll never know,” which is a sentiment millennials can stand behind.

Here’s to the Fourth Time!

“All these sick scenes played out in my memory/Wake up, I’ll tell you everything honestly”

This is, by far, my favorite on the entire album.  The tempo is upbeat and the lyrics are sung in a way that makes the song feel reminiscent of a great love.  About two thirds of the way through, it fades out; the beat changes; the song changes.  This is representative of the relationship that the song is about: it was great, but now it’s not the same, but still, remember when it was?