IPPL Staff

Rare Bird Alert by Steve Martin (2011)

rarebirdAlthough this isn’t a new album, it’s possible that many people haven’t heart of it. And since it’s one of my favorites, I felt an obligation to shine a light on it. Rare Bird Alert is a modern bluegrass album by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. What’s that you ask, “Steve Martin of SNL and Pink Panther fame?” Why yes. For fans of Martin, this is good news, since his comedic chops do shine through here, but true bluegrass enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook this album.

Rare Bird Alert includes purely instrumental songs like “The Great Remember,” soothing and meandering, and “Northern Island,” featuring banjo-picking at lightning speed. On some tracks Martin takes the lead on vocals, and on others the Rangers get the honor. Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks make guest appearances.

I love the range of this album, its humor, and the contrasts created. The hilarious break-up song “Jubilation Day” is lively, and although funny, is also a bona fide bluegrass song, a musical treat. Mellow songs like “More Bad Weather On the Way,” always makes me feel like I’m rowing along a river on a sunny day, and “Women Like To Slow Dance” is actually a fast-paced song fit for dancing a jig! While most of the songs are not comedy-album material, the nonsensical “King Tut” is the most likely to make you laugh out loud. “Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia…”
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IPPL Staff

The Italian Straw Hat (1928)

italianstrawThe beauty of a silent movie is its universality; no language barrier comes between you and the delight of the film. The Italian Straw Hat is a French movie whose alternate title pretty much tells the story: The Horse Ate the Hat. Fadinard, a young man on his way to his wedding, has a confrontation along the way when his horse eats the straw hat of a young married lady having a dalliance in the woods with an army officer not her husband. Feeling she can’t go home without the prized hat, the lady and her lover blackmail the young groom into finding a replacement hat.

In the midst of trying to get married, trying to find a hat, trying to keep his relatives from finding the officer and his lady hiding in his apartment, Fadinard has quite a day. The comic timing and antics keep you laughing from beginning to end.
IPPL Staff

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance (2015)

hellorhighballThis book hits all the right notes of humor, setting, and character. In 1923, Lola Woodby, a New York society matron in her early 30s, is now a penniless widow with a dog, a Swedish cook, and a serious addiction to cinnamon buns and highballs. Talking like George Raft, if George Raft were actually talking in 1923, Lola and cook Berta go about wheedling their way into high society weekends, speakeasies, and shady businesses in order to retrieve a missing reel of film, and make the dough to pay the rent on their seedy apartment. I look forward to Lola's next adventure.

Check out Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball today.
IPPL Staff

Spirited Away (2001) PG

spiritedawayLittle Chihiro is moving to a new city with her parents. On the way the family takes a detour, and happens upon what appears to be a run-down, out-of-business amusement park. When they are lured further into the park by the smell of food, things soon take a creepy turn. Chihiro’s parents are put under a spell, and she must find a way to save them.

Central to the story is the mysterious bathhouse that Chihiro discovers. There captivatingly odd spirits abound, and the workings of the bathhouse enchant the viewer. The film is filled with suspense, and yet much levity is found in the business nature of the bathhouse, which is run by the autocratic Yubaba—who is equal parts evil sorceress and obliging hostess to her spirit-guests.

I first watched Spirited Away years ago when it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Picture (the first anime film to do so). I remember being totally captivated by the visual artistry—both the fantastical elements and the more earthly landscapes. Ultimately, though, this ghostly adventure is a coming-of-age story, in which a little girl gains courage and the power to sacrifice for love.
IPPL Staff

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard (2015)

waysworld"Max" Maxted is a WWI veteran and former POW who plans to open a flight school on the family property. When his father dies under mysterious circumstances in Paris at the peace talks, Max is determined to get to the bottom of it. Although by the end of the book many questions are answered, more have arisen to make us early anticipate book two of this trilogy. What was Max's father really raising money for? What is the secret of Max's birth? Will his pill of a brother and sister-in-law get their comeuppance?

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard is a throwback to those 1930s and early forties movies, often, but not always by Hitchcock, where an innocent man gets pulled into a web of espionage and hidden societies. Think The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, or Ministry of Fear.
IPPL Staff

Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (2014)

missingreelsCeinwen Reilly is a transplant to the Big Apple where her minimum wage job at a vintage clothing shop funds her classic movie habit and her propensity for dressing like a 1920s film star. When she gets wind of a long missing silent movie directed by a mysterious, long forgotten German director and starring her elderly downstairs neighbor, Ceinwin becomes determined to track down the missing reels.

If you love old movies and romances with Englishmen named Matthew, this is the book for you. If not, many of the allusions to old movies might leave you bewildered. Interested? Find a copy of Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme today.
IPPL Staff

Wind at My Back. The Complete Series (1996-2001)

This Canadian series ran for five seasons from 1996-2001. Set during the Great Depression in small town Ontario, Wind at My Back could be described as the Canadian version of The Waltons.

The Bailey family owns and controls the local mine in New Bedford, Ontario, and May Bailey, the family matriarch, controls the Bailey family. When her estranged son moves back home with his wife and children, May does all she can to control them, too. As the years pass, May can never quite lose her controlling ways, but daughter Grace and grandsons Hub and Fat each manages to find their own way. This is a delightful family story, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and full of wonderful characters.
IPPL Staff

The English Garden by Cecily Brown and Jim Lewis (2015)

englishgardenI chose The English Garden for the art (by Cecily Brown) but really enjoyed it for the story (by Jim Lewis). Both the artwork and the story were good and could stand on their own. I was expecting more like Monet and Brown's work is more modern. The story is a great short story that takes you on a journey with the main character, Trevor. You’ll keep turning each page for more; the story ends perfectly, leaving the reader wanting more.
IPPL Staff

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsIn this baseball comedy, Guffy McGovern (Paul Douglas), the manager of a very awful Pittsburgh Pirates team, is foul mouthed, hated by his players, ridiculed by the fans, and regularly badmouthed by the Pirates radio announcer (Keenan Wynn). Newspaper reporter Jennifer Paige (Janet Leigh) is assigned to cover the Pirates and give a woman’s perspective on the team. When she initially tries to interview McGovern, he gives her a very impolite brushoff.

A short time later, an angel contacts McGovern, and tells him that someone has been praying for him and the Pirates. If McGovern can control his temper, the angel and some of his friends will help the Pirates win a few games. McGovern agrees and suddenly this heretofore awful Pirates team are playing great baseball.

Bridget White (Donna Corcoran), an orphan who is hoping to be adopted, has been praying for the Pirates. One day, the girls at the orphanage are brought to the ballpark by two nuns (played by longtime character actors Spring Byington and Ellen Corby). During the game, Bridget witnesses the angels helping the Pirates. Nobody else can see the angels. Paige writes a story about Bridget, which causes a lot of complications for all involved. But it also leads to lot of good things including an unlikely romance between McGovern and Paige.

Angels in the Outfield has a lot of laughs and a lot of heart, plus a few cameo appearances by Bing Crosby, baseball greats Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio, and famous songwriter Harry Ruby. It also has some stock footage showing old Comiskey Park.

This is my favorite baseball movie and I hope you enjoy it too. You can also peruse our list of other baseball films.
IPPL Staff

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

missfisherDo you love the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood? You’re in luck; there’s a television adaptation! Once Phryne has caught the trail on an investigation, it’s impossible to keep her out of it (no matter how much Detective Jack tries to do so). With the help of Mr. Butler, Cec, Bert, and Dorothy, nothing stands in Miss Fisher’s way of catching the latest murderer on the scene.

Check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, set in 1920s Australia, today.
IPPL Staff

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith (2014)

starmrsblakeIn April Smith’s latest novel, Mrs. Blake takes advantage of a Canadian program to send mothers who had lost their sons in the recent war to go to France and see their son’s graves. A Star for Mrs. Blake is a quietly effective novel about a mother coming to terms with the loss of her son in WWI, her own past, and re-thinking all the patriotic trappings that come with any war.
IPPL Staff

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (2015)

paradiseskyIn east Texas, shortly after the end of the Civil War, young Willie inadvertently looks at the hind end of a white woman which causes the lynching of his father. On the run and changing his name to Nat Love, he experiences ranching, buffalo soldiering and Deadwood, South Dakota, in its heyday.

As a story of a black man shortly after the end of the Civil War, there are, of course, sad moments, but Nat's darkly ironic tone make for a read that hits many emotions from laugh out loud to frown in sadness or exasperation. Joe R. Lansdale’s Paradise Sky is a welcome addition to the genre of humorous tall tale western in the tradition of Little Big Man and The Sisters Brothers.
IPPL Staff

Spotlight: Silent Comedy

Never was comic timing and sight gags at such a high point as in the silent movies of these comic geniuses.

Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924). Spoiled rich boy Rollo Treadwell and his equally spoiled neighbor Betsy O’Brien find themselves adrift in the ship The Navigator. The two hapless drifters are at first completely at a loss when they have to try to feed themselves by opening cans of food or boiling water, but as the time goes by, they devise clever management skills and learn to work together to fight off swordfish and cannibals.

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). The little tramp, Chaplin’s signature character, goes to the Klondike in search of gold. There he survives the bitter winter, makes his fortune, and wins the girl. Along the way he enjoys the famous boiled leather dinner and performs the dance of the dinner rolls.

Harry Langdon in The Strong Man (1926). At the end of WWI, a little, mild-mannered Belgian immigrant comes to America looking for his beloved pen pal, Mary Brown. All he knows is that she lives in America. He joins in the stage act of fellow immigrant Zandow the Great, the Strong Man, going on in his stead when Zandow is incapacitated. Langdon also performs his famous backwards climb up the stairs. Directed by Frank Capra.

Harold Lloyd in The Kid Brother (1927). Harold Hickory is the youngest and scrawniest of the Hickory boys whose father is the town sheriff. When his father is accused of theft, Harold sets out to prove to his family, his girl, and his town that he is the equal of any Hickory in Hickoryville.
IPPL Staff

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs: Creative Techniques for Joining Motifs of All Shapes by Edie Eckman (2012)

connectshapesHave you ever wanted to create a crocheted afghan but never knew where to start? Grab Connect the Shapes! Edie Eckman’s book has 101 crochet motif ideas for projects to work on. Not only does the book teach you how to do individual motifs, but how to join them once you’ve made a few as well. Say sayonara to unfinished blankets!

It also has basic instructions in color theory and how to crochet and in the front of the book for beginners! The patterns range in difficulty to the most basic to ones challenging for even veteran crocheters.

The colors used in the samples are vibrant and so eye-catching that you’ll want to get started on a new project right away. Check it out today to get started. Remember, winter is coming!
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IPPL Staff

Harley Quinn: Hot in the City by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner (2014)

harleyquinnEveryone’s favorite psychopath with a heart of gold is back! This time in her own solo comic series, Harley Quinn has broken up with Mister J. She’s out on her own and ready for action. Follow her adventures in the city as she wreaks havoc on its citizens with the best of intentions (ranging from saving animals from euthanasia in an animal shelter to landing a job in a nursing home as a counselor). Check out Harley Quinn: Hot in the City today. Hang on tight, you’re in for a wild ride!