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This Week: Personal Practice, Agnes Obel, Carmen Herrera, islands, and more!
The Small Batch List
The run

October 21st, 2016

Every other morning I go for a run on our treadmill. I look out the window into the trees, watch the occasional raccoon squeeze through a gap in the fence, listen to a woodpecker bang on the outside wall, and run like the bloody clappers, on the spot, for 20 minutes. This is so I can be the fittest, hottest hermit on our hilltop. And, oh yes, also to extend my healthy lifespan etc, blah blah blah. But I certainly don't enjoy it. That would be ridiculous. There are things I do to distract myself from the pain, the mental and physical pain. The best and easiest thing to do is put on a funny podcast and just laugh a lot. I am always at risk of laughing so hard that I might topple to my certain death (I link to one culprit, the great Maria (heart!) Bamford - see below).

Apart from that, I will sometimes work on my stand-up comedy routine. Seriously. I am hilarious on the treadmill. I kill it. I am working on an excellent bit about a twitching thumb. I will, no doubt, tell it one day to a friend on Facebook Messenger. I also come up with great retorts for imagined hecklers. If not imagining myself on stage at Largo in Los Angeles, or if I am feeling slightly pensive, then I work on my 11 minute Ted Talk. It's about creativity, and the hermit lifestyle, and maybe the health benefits of soup. I have noticed that around the 14 minute mark of my run, as the endorphins kick in, the brilliant ideas just start to fly into my head. This is the point where I compose excellent (but quickly forgotten) tweets, screenplays, emails to make my mum laugh (also quickly forgotten), travel plans to distant places, menu plans for the week and I think I probably even dreamed up this email newsletter one day in August at 14 mins, 1.123 miles. By this point I am untouchable and love everyone, everyone in my life (and probably yours). A keen sense of enthusiastic productivity lingers for about four hours afterwards, so the rewards are high. It's such a good feeling and I wish the memory of it was enough to get me to feel less reluctant to do it again the day after tomorrow. Okay! Enough said. Here's the list:


I am such a huge fan of Marlee Grace's Instagram account, Personal Practice. Every day, for over a year now, Marlee takes a short video snippet of her daily dance practice and posts it to her public Instagram account for a growing audience. It's a powerful body of work - a document of ritual and commitment. Each video is shot casually yet thoughtfully and with a definite emotional character - always changing in subtleties of body and movement.  It has been so interesting to witness this process. Marlee is also in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to publish a book about her first year of the project. With only a few days to go, you can find it here.
agnes obel


Agnes Obel, live, on the BBC's 6 Music. Find the stuff around the 22 minute mark and then again at approx. 46 mins. Thanks for the heads-up @lauraglu! She's the best. (Laura and Agnes). Agnes plays with a full ensemble - looping chellos, keyboards etc. I played her album Aventine over and over a couple of years ago until my studio mate asked me to please stop. ("Oh God, Claire. Please, please, no more"). Obel's new album Citizen of Glass is out today. Here's an interesting article about her and the album in The Guardian.


The 100 Years Show : The profile of prolific (and very old) Cuban-born American abstract-minimalist painter, Carmen Herrera, is now streaming on Netflix. Herrera has now reached the age of 101, and only started to find fame and fortune since her "discovery" by the art-world in 2004.  This doco is too short at around 30 minutes to cover such an interesting and full life, but it's totally worth watching.

Looking it up just now led me to an article from The New York Times from last year: Works in Progress. Find 11 profiles of "a very small sampling of the female artists now in their 70s, 80s and 90s we should have known about decades ago."


I live on a little island. Sometimes it feels remote, but not this remote. These incredible photographs of the world's most remote populated island make me truly appreciate all the mod-cons we do have, and how quickly we can get to the nearest city if we need to. Tristan da Cunha is a long way from anywhere else. "The islanders went 10 years without contact from the outside world until a ship stopped to inform them that World War I was over. After that, only six more ships passed by within 12 years."

Speaking of islands, you can see a little snippet of our island in the trailer for this tv show coming out soon: Island Diaries. Our island's particular episode will feature my editor-at-large. (I keep calling her that, in hopes that she will eventually writes something for me, as promised. But now, with her burgeoning tv career, fat chance).
The Un-Discovered Islands

While looking through Instagram I found that the work of illustrator Katie Scott is now featured in a beautiful new book by Malachy TallackThe Un-Discovered Islands. "Gathered in this book are two dozen islands once believed to be real but no longer on the map. These are the products of imagination, deception and human error. They are phantoms and fakes: an archipelago of ex-isles and forgotten lands." That sounds good. I should have put this book in my Coveting section. 


Some weeks when trying to come up with something I am coveting I think "huh, I really don't want anything this week. Maybe a hot bath?". This week I was feeling a little that way, when I remembered I wanted to check out Forage Studios, from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Oh boy - now I want all the stuff. Bright, cheerful ceramics with off-beat decorative illustrations. I love the mugs most of all.


Five delights for a Friday:
1) Dinner Party Download Soundtracks: I like the Dinner Party Download podcast very much as the magazine format suits my very short attention span perfectly. Each show includes a "dinner party soundtrack" where a guest (usually musical) presents four songs which they would play at their own particular dinner party and talks about why. I have discovered some great gems listening to these.

2) Guffawing at podcasts: As promised, the most charming and so very funny Maria Bamford (Lady Dynamite) was interviewed on the Nerdist podcast.

3) The Lost Boys soundtrack was once one of my favourites: (I am full of terrible admissions today). The A.V. Club gives us a rundown with a little bit of history, a little bit of nostalgia and a little bit of sexy sax from the 1980s cult classic. (Both Coreys! Remember?)

4) Deep concentration: Deep work in practice: reimagining my workflow for radically less distraction - sounds dry but, seriously, there are some good tips in here for getting the work done in this age of stimulation and distraction.

5) The Illustrated interviews - in the New York Times: These interviews seem to have been running for a while now, but I have never seen them before. I'm so pleased to have stumbled across them. Celebrities from the world of arts and entertainment answer simple questions with their own quick sketch illustrations, animated for our pleasure. Yoko Ono, Andy Samberg, Helmut Lang, Grimes, Richard Branson, Tavi Gevinson and Tim Burton, just to name a few.
That's it. Back to reality, until next week.
I have been receiving suggestions for posts from readers and I love it. If you have something you think is worth sharing or reviewing, do let me know

Over and out, 

Claire Robertson,
The Small Batch List

Person with a keyboard


p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line!
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