June 15, 2019

Schitts Creek, Canadian comedy series on Netflix

One of my sisters has been raving about the comedy series, Schitts Creek on Netflix, but the show title was enough to put it on the bottom of my list. That was a mistake.

Canadian Eugene Levy of Waiting For Guffman and Second City Toronto fame, has teamed up with son Daniel Levy to create a laugh-out-loud comedy series set in the fictional town of Schitts Creek. Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), former video king magnate, bought this small town as a joke for his son’s birthday. The Roses lose all of their money and are forced to move to their only remaining asset, Schitts Creek.

Daniel Levy, Eugene’s real life son, plays the pan-sexual male progeny of this fish-out-of-water family. Mother Moira Rose is played by comedic actress Catherine O’Hara, a frequent collaborator of Eugene’s. Her parade of black and white designer duds and various wigs is almost worth the price of admission. The fourth in this comedic quartet is Annie Murphy playing self-absorbed, jet-setting daughter Alexis Rose.

As in most successful tv comedies, the supporting roles are equally engaging including Emily Hampshire playing deadpan hotel worker Stevie Budd, Chris Elliott as mullet-wearing Mayor Roland Schitt, along with his style-challenged wife Jocelyn portrayed by actress Jennifer Robertson. Other quirky side characters include the handsome local vet, a waitress at the only diner in town, the owner of Bob’s Garage and the only real estate agent in town.

At first, I thought the only joke was how cluelessly sophisticated the Rose family was in comparison to the seeming hillbillies of Schitts Creek. It becomes apparent that this new constellation of friends and acquaintances is a big improvement over their previous big city community in loyalty, generosity and heart.

For every biting bit of humor, there is a warm fuzzy realization that family and real friends help us get through any catastrophe, including losing our bank accounts, our possessions and our social standing. Laughs plus the occasional “Aw….” in Schitts Creek makes for the perfect end of day viewing.

Bag Man podcast on Agnew’s departure as VP

Sometimes I just want to get away from current political news and escape to……political history.

I confess to being quite ignorant of what happened during Watergate so I’m always open to learning more about that storied time in our country’s history.

I knew even less about Spiro T. Agnew’s departure from the Vice Presidency.
Along comes Rachel Maddow with Bag Man, a seven-episode podcast shedding light on this constitutional crisis that happened 45 years ago.

As Nixon was teetering towards impeachment or resignation, it came to light that our second-in-command was a big-time crook having taken bribes in Maryland and subsequently as VP in DC. Justice Department professionals were horrified at the possibility that Nixon could be ousted, only to have another suspect person slipping into the White House.

Bag Man not only recaps what happened but sheds new light on who was involved and how decisions were made. Particularly fascinating are interviews with members of Agnew’s defense team and the prosecutors who faced off with Nixon, Agnew and crew.

You can download the podcast app on your phone or find Bag Man at the MSNBC site to listen to the recordings or read the transcripts. However you access this fascinating story, you will feel just a little bit more “in the know.”

https://www.msnbc.com/bagman

Throat Coat Tea to the rescue

Every other person I know is just coming down with a cold, is currently battling coughs and sneezes or is slowly convalescing from this pervasive respiratory virus.

Those of us who are singers are especially brought low by this illness when our voices are impaired.

Periodically sipping Traditional Medicinals’ Throat Coat Tea is the only way I could get through singing for a recent funeral. I was grateful that the warm liquid soothed that scratchy sore feeling in my throat between songs.

Traditional Medicinals ingredients include licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, wild cherry bark, fennel fruit, cinnamon bark and sweet orange peel.

Another effective brand is Yogi Throat Comfort Tea which features some of TM’s same ingredients and a Honey Lemon version.

Other tea flavors that may be “medicine cabinet” candidates are peppermint and ginger for stomach upsets or echinacea and gingko for immunity boosting.

Who doesn’t feel better with a relaxing warm beverage? Milk, honey or lemon optional.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My sister told me about hosting a book party where she served Moscow mules and borscht. The featured book was  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

As I started this work of fiction set in Russia right after the 1917 revolution, the main character Count Alexander Rostov has been sentenced to house arrest in the Metropole Hotel on Red Square in Moscow. As a student on tour, I stayed several nights in this storied hotel so the setting was quite vivid for me.

The reader follows Rostov as he goes from an aristocratic position to being the head waiter for one of the hotel’s restaurants. He befriends a young girl who pops back into his life as an adult with an amazing request, he fraternizes with a famous actress who visits periodically and meets with friends both old and new in this circumscribed life within the hotel’s walls.

Towles begins each chapter with words starting with “A” as the decades pass in Rostov’s life. Those interested in Russian history will be fascinated by the changes that occur in the Count’s life, in the hotel and in the country at large.

The plot twists, the charming characters and the delightful sweep of the writing make A Gentleman in Moscow a most enjoyable read. You may want to have vodka and caviar on hand as you enter the world of a hotel in revolutionary Russia.

Epic Bars, gluten-free and decidedly non-vegetarian

epic-bar-beef-habanero-cherryI’m on a mission to find snacks that do not spike the blood sugar but have a little more excitement than raw carrots or celery. Voila! Epic Bars come in flavors like Bison Bacon Cranberry, Chicken Sesame BBQ, Beef Apple Bacon, Turkey Almond Cranberry, Pulled Pork, Lamb Currant Mint, Salmon Sea Salt Pepper, Venison Sea Salt Pepper and Wild Boar Bacon. These gluten-free snacks are shelf stable and perfect to throw in one’s purse or briefcase. Aside from the varieties containing fruit, I did not see any added sugar in the ingredient lists.

I buy my bars at Whole Foods or online through Amazon. One of these times, I might try buying directly from the Epic web site since they carry the full product line in all of their flavors.

Epic also sells bone broth, animal oils like duck fat, “bits” in the various meat flavors and Hunt & Harvest Mixes which they bill as meat-centric trail mixes.

Vegetarians may be quaking in their non-leather boots, but these products are paleo-friendly and the animals are humanely raised on open pastures. The Epic web site maintains that their healthy lands invite birds and animals, “hold ground water, build topsoil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.” That’s all well and good, but they also make a fantastic Bacon snack bar.

https://epicbar.com/

Olli electric driverless buses, testing in a city near you?

Family members have stated that “you’re not getting me in one of those contraptions that don’t have a driver.”  They may be eating their words sooner than they think.

Olli is a driverless, electric bus that can transport 12 people, is 3-D printed and is operated by IBM’s Watson, “a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.” In other words, it’s a computer program that can understand human language and instructs the vehicle where to go and how to get there. Passengers will be able to summon a bus using an app similar to Uber.

Trials just started in Washington, D. C. with Las Vegas and Miami to follow later in the year. The  Olli mini-buses can be 3-D printed in ten hours and assembled in just one.
As someone who does not like to drive, I say, “Bring Olli to Chicago, pretty please!”