Thursday, May 21, 2009

Three Things You Should Try

(If you haven't already, that is...)

Since blogging should be about shared experiences, here are some pleasant surprises or novelties I have come across, and highly recommend.

1) Edmonton Public Library
Like my friend Earl, I have always been a big fan of libraries. Sure, there are a lot of books I would rather just buy outright, but the list gets smaller and smaller as my shelf space grows more and more restrictive. Besides, I don't seem to re-read my books half as often as I once did.

With EPL's excellent hold system, I am able to put requests in for anything in their catalogue, which now includes DVDs, graphic novels and comic collections, and even video-games for the Wii and X-Box 360 (!). The requested titles are brought to the branch of my choice, and an e-mail is sent when it is ready to pick up. Even with a $12 per year user fee, it is still marvelous.

2) Runaways
This Marvel comic series, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Adrian Alphona, came to my attention through an interview with Joss Whedon (of Buffy and Firefly fame, but you probably already knew that). In the interview Whedon gets asked about what comics he likes, and he confesses that he would love to write a few issues of Runaways. Shortly after that, I noticed Vaughan's name listed not only as the writer on one of the Buffy 'Season 8' comic collections, but also as a writer and producer on Lost, one of my favourite TV shows.

Using the aforementioned EPL hold system, Fenya and I have now read the first 42 issues, and they are a treat. Set in the Marvel Universe (and thus paving the way for guest appearances or cameos by Spiderman, Captain America and Wolverine), Runaways deals with 6 adolescents who discover that their parents are actually a group of super-villains known as The Pride. While escaping their guardians and figuring out what to do with their newfound knowledge, they discover their own powers, gadgets, gifts and abilities.

Working from the premise that every teenager thinks their folks are evil, but what do you do when they actually are, it spirals out into a brilliant adventure story full of humour, pathos and some fantastic art that straddles the comic/cartoon line in a brilliant balancing act. The fact that he is able to do all this in a book suitable for ages 12 and up (which not nearly enough comics bother to do these days, sadly), is nothing short of amazing. I can certainly see why Joss Whedon likes it, and I can't wait to read his contribution in the next volume. Marvel Studios is also looking at bringing it to the silver screen, so here is your chance to get in on the ground floor.

3) Chicken Shawarma
I've always enjoyed the Mediterranean take on kiosk food, most notably the donair. Why on earth did it take me so long to come around to the chicken shawarma? Two separate articles in the Edmonton Journal in the last couple of years have not only extolled the virtues of this delicacy in general, but they have both singled out Sunbake Pita Bakery in Little Lebanon, a mere 2 km from my house, as having the best chicken shawarma in the city! So tonight, as Audrey was driving me home from work and we were passing by, I suggested we take the plunge.

It would be only too easy to dismiss the shawarma as a chicken donair, but you miss the mark by leagues if you do so. While they are both served in a rolled up pita, and the meat is carved off a large vertical spit in both cases, the similarities end there. Instead of a tzatziki sauce, the flatbread is covered liberally with a rich garlic paste, to which is added the spiced chicken as well as purple onion, peppers and spears of pickled cucumbers and turnips. Being messy and virtually impossible to eat in a moving automobile would perhaps be the third similarity to a donair, so we didn't even try. The girls weren't too keen on the pickles, but they loved the rest, so we will be returning to Sunbake in the very near future. The article about the various shops in Little Leb is here: (Photo by Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal)

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