A Quiet Couple of Weeks + GIVEAWAY

A couple of weeks ago I went on some grand adventures and was so excited to share them with you. Then, as what often happens this time of year, I was struck down. Too sick to go anywhere I had to content myself with more sedentary activities and put the writing and exploring on hold. I’m slowly on the mend but I thought I’d share just was has kept me entertained these last two weeks.

I love to read but never seem to have time for it. Well, lately, I’ve had the time. I started with Movie Comedians of the 1950’s (sent to me for review) by Wes D. Gehring. I adore classic comedy and was anxious to see what Mr. Gehring had to say. Highlighting some of the top films of the decade from Born Yesterday to Some Like It Hot he explains how comedy survived through the threat of the Blacklist. While interesting the book suffered from a lack of editing and I found multiple factual errors. It was a shame and took away from my reading enjoyment.

I then moved onto I Was Saved by the Bell by Peter Engel (also a review copy). Now, I was never a big fan of the show but after reading a comical excerpt from the creator’s memoir I was eager to read more. It tells of Mr. Engel’s journey from a young boy in love with the magic of television to his success as one its most successful producers. And of course, there’s lots of behind the scenes tidbits from his most famous show. It’s a light easy read that was just perfect for my convalescence.

Growing up in Orange County I thought I was quite familiar with all things Disney but learned so much more after reading Disneyland Hotel: The Early Years, 1954-1988 by Donald W. Ballard. This interesting book details the formation and continuous success of the Happiest Hotel on Earth and is accompanied by several period photos. It was a fascinating glimpse into the history of hotel and the county it’s called home for the last 60 years.

Of course, when sick all I really want to do is watch TV and, boy, have I done plenty of it. Of course, I watched some classics on TCM but much of my time was spent delving deep into British TV and particularly the work of comedian, Richard Ayoade. How the man is not well known in the US is anyone’s guess because he’s a comic genius. I first binged on the show that brought him to prominence, The IT Crowd, then watched his two nonfiction shows, Gadget Man and Travel Man, and finally caught a lot of his panel work on various British game shows, particularly The Big Fat Quiz. I loved them all but was particularly fond of Travel Man. I’ve always been a fan of travel shows and this one’s my new favorite. A natural homebody each episode he forces himself to visit a different city for 48 hours. For the trips he brings along a companion, like Paul Rudd, Rebel Wilson or Noel Fielding, and starts exploring. The results are both hilarious and quite insightful and through the show I found so many places I want to explore!

Alas, Mr. Ayoade’s work is finite so I soon ran out of shows to watch. Then I discovered Back in Time for Dinner – a non fiction show in which a British family transforms their kitchen into a different year each day! The first series dealt with the 1950’s – 1990’s and the current series, Further Back in Time for Dinner, is covering the 1900-s – 1940’s. It’s endlessly fascinating and the family involved, the Robshaws, are game for whatever comes their way whether it’s the meat heavy feasts of the turn of the century,  rationed food during the war years or cooking everything in the microwave in the 1980’s. I love this show so much and would gladly sign up to be on a US version!

After my journey through the UK  I was happy to find two of my favorite US (well, US and Canadian) shows had returned to the air – Schitt’s Creek and Baskets. Schitt’s Creek stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy as a once wealthy family fallen into poverty and living at the local motel of the town they bought as a joke (the aforementioned Schitt’s Creek). It’s absolutely hilarious and I love every minute of it. Baskets, starring Zach Galifinakis and Louie Anderson, is equally as funny with a good dose of bittersweet moments. Louie Anderson, playing the mom, Christine Baskets, is pitch perfect and each episode is filled with both humor and heart.

After starting to feel better I decided to leave to house to catch a screening of LaLa Land at The Art Theatre. You’d think with all its nods to classic film that I’d be dying to see it but I was more curious than anything. After the first 20 minutes or so I thought I was going to hate it. The logistics of the scenes were killing me (“the beach is nowhere near Hollywood! There’s no fancy restaurant next to that mural!”) and I didn’t like Ryan Gosling’s character at all. But as time wore one I liked him and the film more and more. When it ended I had to admit I did enjoy it (especially the final montage) but I had no desire to see it again.

When I was finally out and about again I found myself listening to Sierra Hull’s album, Weighted Mind (another review copy) in the car. With a voice like Alison Kraus Ms. Hull sings a range of roots inspired songs that are absolutely beautiful. Once I put the album on I listed to it on repeat for some time and particularly loved the heartrendingly beautiful song, “Black River.” I was actually supposed to see her in concert but it coincided with my convalescence. Next time she comes to town I’d better be well because I’d love to see her perform live.

To celebrate my return to health I’m giving one lucky reader a copy of Weighted Mind. Enter below and good luck! (US entrants only).

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