I am laying around at home in a relaxedly ill state, while the world outside my window is gloomy and motionless. In both my old apartment and this new one, the transitional seasons -- spring and fall -- are constantly chilly; through quirks of the heating system and the poor insulation most of the rooms are just cool enough to be unpleasant.
What better time for watching Michael Palin's "Pole to Pole?"
My brain is too foggy to come up with anything insightful, but Michael Palin's travel documentaries make me feel very, very good. He's a benign everyman, genuinely interested in every aspect of every culture, with a strange combination of extroversion and reserve.
He deals graciously with language barriers, often winning through with sheer force of persistent goodwill. He never seems condescending. Most people like him, even when he's a burden, but it's also enjoyable to watch the many people who DON'T like him. When forced to share close accommodations with a person who despises him -- as often happens -- Palin just ironically natters on at them, a form of passive-aggression that is fun to watch.
Most gratifying is the total lack of sensationalism. The film crew don't try to seek out dangerous situations; with only six of them operating with few (if any) allies in the vicinity, they can't afford to be foolhardy. Instead, the documentaries tend to be about ordinary hardships in extraordinary places; how to buy vodka in the Soviet Union, how to avoid the crazy Russian lady who is passionately in love with Palin, how to get the vehicles through hundreds of miles of thick mud, how to find running water in a decrepit hotel.