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This Week: Zombies in love, brains, improv and my special guest Rob Pingle
The Small Batch List

February 17th, 2017

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I can not stand a zombie movie. No, not even that Pride and Prejudice one. The last time I watched a zombie movie it was the one starring Will Smith about scary, fast-moving zombies in a post-plague New York. I put my neck out for days afterwards due to the fact that I sat with an incredibly tense, neck-jarring position throughout the entire one hour and forty minutes. There was something about the way they clustered in the dark that made me need chiropractic realignments. So it's a little odd that zombies feature so heavily this week ... but it just turned out that way. 
Animating: I keep watching the first 1 minute or so of this video demonstrating the amazing facial animation for the game The Last of Us 2 -- and I'm not even into video games. It's fascinating to watch the real person electronically mapped alongside (okay, I have no idea what the technical terminology is here), creating the changing expressions so accurately across the character model's face. There's also a bit of cool stuff later in the video of the character playing guitar... but just to warn you there are some bloodied bodies lying around after the 4 minute mark, as it's captures from the video game itself. I'm guessing it's a zombie game.

Watching: Despite what I said about not wanting to watch zombie shows, the tv series The Santa Clarita Diet seems to be an exception.- Timothy Olyphant! Who knew he was such a comic genius? The most deadpan cowboy on Deadwood is hilarious and entirely lovable in this zomromcom. I think there was a hint of his capacity for the ridiculous in The Mindy Project when he played her vacuous skateboarding date for an evening... (For example!  The terrible, terrible quality of this video just adds to it, in my opinion). But in his role as a completely supportive husband of a flesh eating zombie, he is brilliant. 
Drew Barrymore is funny and goofy too, just as we've come to expect. And the supporting cast are all spot-on. We thought we were going to get bored with this show, but it turns out that it keeps hitting us with little unexpected joys.

Listening: Well, you know the new Avalanches album is not news but, as I wrote this newsletter on Valentine's Day, I am going to have to stray off the zombie theme briefly and link to the video for "Because I'm Me" ... because what an awesome serenade.

Thinking and feeling: Still on the theme of Valentine's love, but also cleverly tying in a zombie's favourite snack food, brrrains, here is one of my favourite Ted Talks from a few years ago: Helen Fisher: The brain in love"Why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? To learn more about our very real, very physical need for romantic love, Helen Fisher and her research team took MRIs of people in love — and people who had just been dumped."

Fundraising: Not zombies, Improvisers! An improv team of zombies seems like an unlikely occurrence. No one is actively encouraged to shamble, or mutter or drool. My kid's team of non-shamblers got through the regional finals last weekend and is off to Canada's capital in April to represent at the Nationals in the 2017 Canadian Improv Games. We are super proud and very excited because there is nothing more fun, challenging, inspiring and ridiculous than improv. (Mind you, that movie Don't Think Twice might lead you to think that Improv is nothing but depressing and soul-destroying. Ugh. Don't watch it. But I digress...) There is a massive fundraising goal to send these kids across the country to Ottawa so they can entertain, compete and blow minds. If you feel like helping out an awesome group of wide-eyed, talented teens then please follow the link. And thanks!
(photo: Jonathan Argue)

And briefly:

Eye-candying:  "A superb all-paper Hermes showcase in Dubai" (thanks Lliam!)

Anticipating:  In very exciting news, Philip Pullman has unveiled a new novel series, The Book of Dust. Apparently it is set in London and Oxford and overlaps with the fabulous His Dark Materials series. We will even see the return of Lyra, the feisty heroine first introduced in The Golden Compass. Hooray!

Friday Five Favourites - guest-starring Rob Pingle

Farmer's Market Co-ordinator, School Board Trustee and one my oldest friends on Salt Spring.

Most often found on instagram.

So, Rob is most definitely not undead. He's alive and well, but here's my fancy zombie tie-in; Every Friday afternoon, while our kids are in sewing class, we walk with Rob and his dog Chaz on our nearby trail. We call it the Zombie Trail as it's through the post apocalyptic landscape of a deserted housing development site. As we wander amongst the piles of weed-covered rubble, unearthed concrete septic tanks, and shabby, graffitied worker's trailers, we solve the problems of the world. It's true, we could probably pick a prettier trail, as our island is criss-crossed with them. But we have our timing down perfectly to hoof it around the paths, talk fast, and get back in time to meet the girls in an hour. Okay! Tie-in done. Thanks Rob for taking the time!

1) Family
These are the people that keep me alive! (See? Not a zombie - Editor's note.) Sue was someone I had known for a long time but when she came to visit me in Australia I saw her in a completely different way and fell in love immediately. So many times over the years I’ve looked at her and gotten that same feeling all over again. Plus she is brilliant and does things that I can’t imagine. We are lucky enough to have two amazing daughters. Anything I say about them will sound corny and cliché, but at the same time I love them to pieces. I hope I can be as awesome as they are when I grow up. My family never ceases to amaze me and I thank my parents for preparing me for all this.

2) Outdoors
Living on Salt Spring Island makes it pretty easy to get outdoors and feel like you are really outdoors. That said I also love being outdoors in a city and walking around looking at buildings and where strange things pop up when you least expect them. Having a dog makes it a responsibility for me to get outside on a regular basis so, if you need more of an impetus to get outside, get a dog. You don’t really need a spotless house or hairless clothes.

3) Podcasts
These things are amazing! Information or entertainment in your ears when you want it. Here are some of my favourites. The Truth: I can’t do better than to go with the description on their webpage as movies for your ears. Headphones are a must. Criminal lives up to its name but in a different way each episode. Reply All uncovers the stories of the people behind the strange corners of the internet.

4) Hayao Miyazaki
I first saw a Hayao Miyazaki film at the Victoria Free-B film festival outdoors in Beacon Hill Park. This was the perfect place to be immersed in Miyazaki’s magical worlds. I love that so many of the main characters in his movies are female and that the environment plays a major role as well. A dream trip for me would be to visit the Ghibli Museum where Miyazaki has produced most of his works. I’m also super excited to know he is working on a new film called Boro the Caterpillar!

5) Music
It’s always been a part of my life and one of my biggest regrets is not having taken actual music lessons in middle school because I thought the teacher was gay. How stupid is that!?!?! Idiot teenage boy! Never be one! Anyways until I learn to play the accordion I’ll continue listening to music and sharing it with friends. So now that I feel like we are friends, here’s your fair share. There was a time when I was worried Canadian music wasn’t Canadian and would soon be eaten up by America, then I heard the Rheostatics. I still love to rock out to this song. In the grand scheme of things I might not be the man I am if I didn’t hear Midnight Oil when I did and end up in Australia where I met Sue. I can’t stop without leaving you with something new and fresh! Go listen to John K Samson. If you are disappointed afterwards I might have to reconsider our friendship. 
See you next week!

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List

Person with a keyboard


p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line again this week. Clearly it's zombie related. And last week? It was from The Young Ones, the episode called "Demolition". Did you get it? Yes? Kindred spirit!
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