Quarantine discoveries: Fresno-area creatives share their picks from 2020 (Part 1)

After 10-plus months of staying at home, you’ve probably developed a much closer relationship with Netflix. And your Kindle. And Spotify. The list goes on. And thank goodness, because film, TV, books and music have kept many of us sane. But have you run out of meaningful stuff to consume? Inspired by a recent Wall Street Journal survey in which various national tastemakers — actors, artists, directors, musicians and other creative types — shared some of their quarantine discoveries, The Munro Review offers a local version. This week-long series will feature a handful of new picks each day. You’re welcome to put your own discoveries in the comments section.

Joyce Aiken


Retired Professor of Art at Fresno State, former director to three Fresno Arts Councils and maker of the mosaic bench panels on the Fulton Mall. “I’ve stopped taking on large art projects since moving to San Joaquin Garden, except for painting designs on small rocks to scatter around the grounds.”

Quarantine discoveries: “I’ve been rewatching “Pie in the Sky,” a series I got hooked on when I spent a lot of time in England in the 1990s. It’s about an English detective who would rather be cooking in his restaurant than solving crimes. I follow that up with ‘The Great British Baking Show.’ It’s my way of canceling out all the daily news.” She recently read the “Splendid and the Vile,“ by Eric Larson, about Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II and how the British got through the Blitz. “It was especially interesting to me because of the years I spent teaching in London.”

Up next: She’s getting ready to read “Livewired,” by David Eagleman, an investigation of the ever-changing ability of the brain to adapt.

Benjamin Boone


Saxophonist, Composer, Fresno State Educator, Husband, Dad.

Quarantine discoveries: “Schitt’s Creek;” “Ted Lasso”; Jimmy Kimmel; the new Frederick Douglas bio; Jackie Ryle’s punny crowd-sourced Facebook posts; Ten Percent Happier app; occasional movies like “Roman Holiday” (“Diana Marcum suggested we get a projector/screen for the backyard to get us outside.”)


Up next: “Dust off my old vinyl  albums; learn some guitar; finish “Behave (The Neuroscience of Psychology)”; edit/record another album.”

Zaeem Shaikh


Editor-in-chief of The Fresno State Collegian, contributor with CalMatters

Quarantine discoveries: “A Man Called Ove,” Fredrik Backman’s 2014 novel. “It’s a story about an old man named Ove who lives alone and is extremely bitter. Ove’s story is both filled with moments of joy and sadness, and the book really makes you appreciate the small things in life.” He also finally got the chance to watch the movie “Spotlight,” which details the Boston Globe’s investigations into the Catholic Church. “The immense level of detail they put in to show newsroom culture and just how much work goes into an investigation made me gain a greater appreciation of investigative journalism.”

Up next: Listening to more late ’60s and ’70s music. “I’ve really loved listening to The Velvet Underground lately, so I want to find more bands from that time.”

Laurie Pessano


Creative director, Good Company Players. Writer, director, actor.

Quarantine discoveries: “Schitt’s Creek.” “I watched all the seasons in a few weeks. Loved it. Caught up on ‘The Crown.’ Was riveted by ‘Turn.’ Enjoyed some brilliant comedy: Seth Meyers’ “Lobby Baby,” Mike Birbiglia’s ‘The New One,’ Steve Martin and Martin Short’s ‘An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life,’ and Carl Reiner’s ‘If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.’ I got acquainted with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work, reading some of his articles and his bestseller, ‘Between the World and Me.’ And I’ve watched soooooo much HGTV and read way too much news.”

Up next: She wants to learn to juggle.

tony sanders


Actor/Coach/Director/Writer: Playing next in the play “The Line” (Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen) for Rogue 2020; pre-production for “landslide” (an original web-series by him); and spearheading The Valley Theatre League.

Quarantine discoveries: At the beginning of shelter-in-place, he and his kids vowed to geek out and watch all of the titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe … in order. That led to the discovery of the “Defenders” series, et. al. “However, with the onset of protests in reaction to the senseless killings of people of color, I felt drawn to literature and reference materials addressing Social and Emotional Wellness. I even received my Certification in Mindfulness and Social-Emotional Training, thereby expanding my skill set to better address the trauma of racial inequities.

Up next: “I plan on binging on some old faves (‘A Million Little Things,’ ‘This is Us’) and some new discoveries (‘Death to 2020,’ ‘Dear White People,’ ‘When They See Us,’ ’13th’), as well as catching up on some new theatricals that have been stockpiling (‘Into the West,’ ‘The Mad Ones,’ ‘Edges,’ ‘Tales from the Bad Years,’ ‘Daddy Long Legs’).”

Coming in the next installment of Quarantine Discoveries: Camille Gaston, Lee Herrick, Heather Parish, Stephen Wilson and Armen Bacon share their picks.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    This is a fun read, Donald. Got a huge kick out of Ben commenting on the puns. Great fun seeing all the responses! Thanks for always keeping us all informed and connected in your own creative ways!


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