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This Week: Brilliant blinding lights - burn, burn, burning
The Small Batch List

March 3rd, 2017

That's my topic this week. Firey, driven, inspired, passionate people. Without further ado, let's get into it:
Abstract: The Art of Design | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
Abstract is a new documentary series about design on Netflix. Interiors, stages, footwear, automobiles and graphic design are all covered, as well as photography, architecture and illustration. Over eight 45-minute episodes, we are given an inside peek at what makes eight exceptional designers tick. All are outstanding in their fields and all hold a kind of rock-star status, as well as leading extraordinarily driven and focused lives. It's an inspiring series and I will recommend the episodes with Es Devlin (Stage designer), Tinker Hatfield (designer with Nike), Paula Scher (graphic designer) and Platon (photographer). I also enjoyed the episode featuring illustrator Christopher Neiman, as the stuff the producers do with his work and the editing makes for entertaining viewing. I will admit to some serious napping during some episodes, but mostly I give it a big thumbs up if you are interested at all in design.
There's a great in-depth and thoughtful review of the series on Curbed and in The New Yorker.

Three Iconic Musicians on Artistic Creation — and Its Importance Now. Some very earnest words in the New York Times Style Magazine about music, inspiration and artistic creation. Apart from that, Beck, Kendrick Lamar and Tom Waits are interviewed and the reason I am linking to this is mostly because of what Tom Waits has to say. He can make the ordinary sound extraordinary, until you feel little tears spring into your eyes.

French artist Abraham Poincheval is attempting to survive inside a 12-tonne boulder inside a Paris art museum for a week, in an act of inner exploration, of "modifying the self and of living in other realms beyond our own.”

"He once spent a fortnight inside a stuffed bear, was buried under a rock for eight days and navigated France’s Rhône river inside a giant corked bottle... He has also crossed the Alps in a barrel and last year spent a week on top of a 20-metre (65-foot) pole outside a Paris train station" - The Guardian.

Following this he will emerge to sit on, and hopefully hatch, some eggs after three to four weeks. I can't help but have nothing but wonderment and admiration for someone so dedicated to his art.  (via Pip)

Reading about his work reminds me of the book The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, which I read some years ago, about a family of performance artists always taking on some bizarre act in the name of art. I see that it was released as a film starring Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett. It looks worth checking out.

Around the same time, I read a book about a similarly dysfunctional family full of extraordinary people - Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. The two stories will forever be linked in my mind and will appeal to those who liked The Royal Tenenbaums, My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell) or Brother of the More Famous Jack (Barbara Trapido). Which is probably you.

Sylvan Esso - has a new single out, Die Young, which I love. I also love the news that their new album, What Now, will be out in April. 
NPR Music has been running a Tiny Desk competition - receiving over 6000 entries this year. This week they announced the winners - Tank and the Bangas. They're pretty fun! "New Orleans’ Tank and the Bangas conveys its freewheeling spirit through a sound that combines pop, hip-hop, funk, spoken word and musical theatre." 

Friday Five Favourites - guest-starring Jason Donaldson

High school drama teacher, musician, improv coach and mentor.

Most often found at GISPA and Instagram

Speaking of people who are passionate about their work, I couldn't have found a better special guest for this week. Jason is my eldest daughter's drama teacher and improv coach at our high school here. He works with enormous enthusiasm and dedication. We feel very lucky to have him in our kid's life! Thank you Jason for taking time to tell us your five favourite things. 

1) Cornel West
My interests in philosophy and civil rights are ignited in the Black Baptist cadence, rhythm, vocabulary and intellect of Dr. Cornel West. He makes me listen carefully and think critically and then stop and rewind or reread to double check what I just took in. His scenes in the documentary Examined Life continue to be a source of inspiration for me. I may have never called into question my ‘tacit assumptions and unarticulated presuppositions’ without his influence.

2) Kronbauer Guitars
Trevor Kronbauer makes fine, handmade acoustic guitars. Once upon a time, we walked through awkward high school hallways together and then later along the TransCanada highway, stopping for a while under the goose in Wawa. We hitchhiked deep into Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee and made our way across western Europe together. He is a great friend. He makes guitars with love, fine woods and his bare hands in Armstrong, BC. He is currently in Phoenix mode, rebuilding admirably, after a fire tore through his shop. I have two of his instruments: a beautiful parlor guitar, 12 frets to the body with a silver dollar from my birth year inlayed in the headstock and a magnificent, carved top mandolin.

3) Vancouver Asahi / Ebbets Field Flannels
I am cheating here, two in one, bridging my interests in regional history, baseball lore and aesthetically arresting consumerism. EFF makes throwback replica baseball jerseys focussing on negro league, minor league, international and historic jerseys, hats and jackets. If you don’t know the story of the Vancouver Asahi please check out this NFB documentary. They were the best of the best on the Pacific coast, banned from competing due to racism. When Japanese internment saw many of the players and their families imprisoned in the interior, they continued to play ball. Last year I took my sons on a little historic tour, on an evening when their last surviving member was throwing in a first pitch at a Vancouver Canadians game. We stopped at the old Powell Street grounds to see where they used to play. It was a tent city on that day. 

4) Philippe Gaulier (master clown, pedagogue, and professor of theatre)
The story of the Bouffon as told to me: The beautiful people lived in France, they were made in God’s image - obviously. The others, the deformed, malnourished and gimpy, were clearly not made in God’s image. They were ostracised (made to live in the swamps). The Bouffon were happy there, singing and playing music and having babies. One night they wondered what the beautiful people were up to and why they never came to visit. So, they clumpled into a lump and writhed their way into town. Nobody was home. All of the beautiful people had gone out to the theatre. The Bouffon snuck in the back and locked all of the entertainers in the change room. As the curtain opened and the beautiful people fanned themselves they were surprised to see the Bouffon, gimbled in a mass, centre stage. The beautiful people pulled their decorative little pistols out of their hand bags and pointed them warily at the clump. The Bouffon, who loved to have fun, encouraged one another to move forward and proceed with the entertaining imitations and songs they had created. Their wounds were on full display and helped the beautiful people to, um, see their own more clearly.

5) Vancouver Island MusicFest
It clearly marks the start of summer. There are few things I like more in the world then assembling with family and friends at MusicFest. There are people that I only get to see this one weekend a year, but we pick up as though no time has passed. My kids have been raised, coming up underfoot onto all of the awesome that is this MusicFest. We play music. We feast. We listen to amazing music from diverse genres and styles. We swim in the river. We laugh and we carve out this annual family tradition of a very special musical community.
This last week the Small Batch List hit 1000 subscribers! Happy news. I am loving putting this thing together. If you know of someone who might enjoy it, please forward it to them, just by hitting this link, and share the fun. Thank you.

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! The last time it was Groucho Marx, of course!
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