Category Archives: Atlanta

Walker Stalker Con ATL 2014 Steven Yeun panel @steveyeun

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Watching the Steven Yeun (#SHAG Smoking Hot Asian Guy) panel at Walker Stalker Con 2015 was not in my schedule. I was lucky enough to take a photo with him in 2013 and had front row seats for his panel, as well. Poor Steven felt sick last year and that supported the storyline in the show when we all thought he might die from that strange walker virus in Season 4. We all know that he didn’t die from the virus but damn, is he going to get killed off in Season 5?

I had walked in late, with my slice of cheese pizza, and plopped down in front of the screen to listen in on the panel. James and Eric of The Walker Stalkers had already opened the floor to questions from the audience. They seemed to have put a max on the number of hugs allowed which made me giggle. Although I know fans love the opportunity to get a hug and/or take a selfie, it isn’t all that interesting for the hundreds of others in the room.

Steven Yeun fielded questions about working with Lauren Cohan and Scott Wilson. The respect he gave to Scott Wilson’s acting ability really impressed me. But, Steven also shared stories about how Scott Wilson has fallen asleep during scenes. Even though that is old news, it still brought a smile to my face and sparked laughter in the audience.

As the panel continued, I heard a familiar voice on the mic. Sweet-voiced Rosie asked a quick question and followed up with, “can I come sit with you?” Turns out Rosie had on the Detroit Tigers hat that Steven had sent to her after last year’s Walker Stalker Con Atlanta. Rosie had asked if she could trade hats with Steven last year. He really didn’t want to say “no” but he told her that the hat was a gift from someone and he promised to mail Rosie a hat. Lo and behold, there were photos posted on social media a couple of weeks later and Rosie’s beaming smile peeked out from beneath a Detroit hat that was sent to her from Steven Yeun. That gesture endeared me to Steven, he really is more than just a #SHAG.

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Towards the end of the panel, a mom brought her daughter up who requested a favor. This little girl wanted Steven to deliver a message to Danai Gurira. Unfortunately, Danai had a shooting conflict and couldn’t make her Walker Stalker Con appearance. So, this young girl asked Steven to tell Danai that she was her favorite character and she loved her. It really was remarkably adorable. Steven agreed at first but took a beat and decided to one up relaying a message. He grabbed his cell phone and said, “let’s record her a message and I will send it to her!” The entire crowd breathed in a collective “wow” and off he went, phone in hand, jumping down from the stage to kneel down next to the little girl. I tried to catch that on my iPhone.

That was such a cute moment, I really think it made everyone smile, including Danai Gurira, once she opened that message from Steven.

So even though this panel was not a part of my Walker Stalker Con plan, I’m very happy that I was able to witness such a cute moment.

Almost as happy as I looked last year, when I took my photo with Steven Yeun in my Black Milk Zombie Nation Skater Dress.

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Oct 17 – 19, 2014 were the dates for Walker Stalker Con Atlanta this year. I wanted to drink it in as an attendee and just chill. Sitting in the audience is a rare treat. I’ve been running all over the country conducting presentations on Diversity this year. Of course, in my excitement about being at the con, I couldn’t stop myself from shooting a few clips from panels. Since the videos clips and pics taking up space on my iPhone, why not share some with you? Please forgive the giggling in the background, I had a ton of fun at the con and my friends were cracking me up on this panel.

Once again this year, it was moderated by Jason and Karen of “The Walking Dead’Cast” and the guest podcasters represented four other Walking Dead podcasts:  Jasmine and Michael of “The Walking Dead Girl”, Yardley from “Talking About Walkers”, Jim and ARon from BaldMove.com’s “The Watching Dead” and Eric from “The Walker Stalkers”. Each of the podcasts have a distinctive flavor and tone so if you’re a fan of the show, you may want to subscribe to one or all of these podcasts. I listen to three of the five that were represented, “The Walking Dead’Cast” and “The Watching Dead”. However, Jasmine impressed me enough to check out “The Walking Dead Girl”. She’s very sharp and a fan of both the show and of horror. On top of all that, her enthusiasm about the show is infectious. And it turns out that Yardley writes in to Bald Move fairly often so they were all familiar with him. I am taking that co-sign as a nod to go ahead and give his podcast a listen.  I now have two new subscriptions to add to my rotation. That’s good for the hours and hours of running I should be doing to get ready for some upcoming half marathons.

My point of view for this panel:

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Last year, this panel focused attention on each of the podcasts, the discussion centered on the unique flavor they each bring as they cover “The Walking Dead”.  For 2014, a decision was made to talk about the actual show.  Because the first episode was the only one that we had seen for Season Five, Jason asked questions about the show and allowed the podcaster panel to just run with it.  You can hear me giggling while I held my little iPhone 5S up to record segments of the panel.  One thing I learned from San Diego Comic Con was that trying to record long segments makes it harder to use them in my blog.  So goes just one limitation of using an iPhone instead of an actual computer to blog. No doubt there is a way to do all of the above on an iPhone, I just haven’t sat down long enough to figure it out.

About halfway into the panel, the group has warmed up to each other and Jason asked, “Who will be the first character to die?”  The conversation started with the name “Carol”.  Not everyone agreed but everyone had an opinion. Check it for yourself…

See what I mean? The all cover the show and they all have different thoughts on where Season Five is going. One thing I enjoy about listening to the different podcasts is the diversity of perspectives and how influences my enjoyment of the show.  When one host points out a detail that I didn’t pick up the first time I watched show, inevitably I will look for it during a re watch.  I am not the person or the fan who argues if I disagree with someone’s opinion. One of the things I appreciate about art, be it television or a painting or a novel, a variety of perspectives adds to the richness of the experience. There is room for everyone to have an opinion, we all have one, just like a**h****.  Value comes when people feel safe enough to share their opinions (please don’t ask if that applies to a**h**** because that is none of anyone’s business but their own). Diversity of thought and opinions adds to the richness of life and work.

The Walking Dead pulls together zombie and horror tropes with a family drama, all wrapped up with incredible costuming (Eulyn Womble) and knock your socks off special effects (Greg Nicotero).  Getting to know crew, cast and podcasters who work on the show has created a new intimacy with the show for me.  That is what I enjoy most about this panel during Walker Stalker Con, the audience is a community of fans listening to fans in a convention that focuses on “The Walking Dead.” These podcasters are fans who invest their personal time into analysis and review of The Walking Dead.  Check them out, you can find them on-line.

Here is a shot of ARon and Jim from Bald Move and the glowing mic.

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@baldmove

Atlanta Movie Tour, The Real Deal. Part 2 of Walkers & Zombies & Zeds, Oh My! @ATLMovieTours

My previous blog grew into an extremely long preamble to introduce what I had intended on writing about, my experience at the Atlanta Movie Tour “Big Zombie Tour, Part 2” in May 2014. I got a bit off track, as per usual, when I started talking about why I started to watch “The Walking Dead”. Oops.

My brother developed three rules for life and I like to keep two of the rules in mind, see if you can figure out which of the two I mean:

1) Shit Happens
2) Bring Beer
3) Know someone who works there

Now that I think about it, my big brother taught me about the importance of networking with his Rule #3. Lucky for me, my friend Grace lives in the greater Atlanta area. Luckier for Grace, she works on “The Walking Dead” as a “Hero” or featured zombie on a fairly regular basis. In fact, all of you Norman Reedus fans may remember a “blonde zombie” in the background of one of his production stills in a magazine. Daryl Dixon despondently sat on the ground in the tombs and feared what he would find behind a door that erractically open and closed. Would he find a “Walker Carol” or worse? That dead blonde zombie was my friend, Gracie Lou!

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Grace and I planned to hang out and visit Woodbury/Senoia when I came to Atlanta on business. She did a bit of research and mapped a route to quite a few Season 4 locations like Terminus, which is at the old Atlanta Motor Shop, right outside of Downtown Atlanta. Terminus was once the original name for Atlanta, the capital of Georgia. The word, “terminus”, means “the end of of the line.” When that is referring to a railroad, no one has an issue. However, when your survivor group reaches “the end of the line,” that becomes a huge problem. If you’re a fan of the show, you know that last season made mention of Terminus as a safe haven for survivors. “Those who arrive, survive.” In the season finale, that quote did not seem to be true, as Rick and his fellow survivors found themselves rounded up and trapped in the “A” car.

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While at that location, we found the “A car”

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We wandered towards the security guards’ perch near the gate, scanning the location for signs of production gear. This was May 5th, the day that production of “The Walking Dead” was scheduled to begin. The actors had been tweeting the week prior about arriving in Georgia to get back to work. Grace and I spotted a burned out car but little else. I approached the security guard and said, “Hey there, how are you? Staying cool in this heat? I’m with Bald Move and they cover The Walking Dead on their website. Any chance I can sneak on to take a really quick photo of the “A” car for my blog entry?” He stared at me for a moment and asked if I worked on the show. It became obvious that he didn’t want to refuse my request as I stood there, smiling sweetly. If I had five more minutes to chat him up, I think I could have convinced him to let me sneak on the property for a quick photo. Instead, he called his mean ole boss over to be the bad guy. The big boss security guy did not even make eye contact with me and shook his head while repeating, “I am just doing my job” over and over. Once I knew they wouldn’t let us on the set, I smiled and thanked him nicely and turned to walk back to our car. As I turned around, Grace laughed out loud. We took a few steps up the hill and she said, “He TOTALLY checked out your butt when you turned around.” What a shame, no eye contact from the guy, he looks at one of my biggest assets (see what I did there?) and we were still denied!

At least we had our tour guide and mascot, Wayne, to comfort me.

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Guided by OnStar, Grace and I headed out to a couple of different locations from Season 4 on our way to Senoia. Here are some pics from the house where Carl consumed 112 ounces of chocolate pudding. The house is located in a quiet neighborhood and on that Sunday afternoon, it sat empty with a “For Sale” sign posted in the front yard.

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Not far from the pudding house, Grace found the house Rick and Carl find shelter before the claimers stomped through to take over. We saw a landscaper working in the front yard. For some reason, I felt no shame in running across the street to pose for photos. That behavior is so unlike me, the heat must have gone straight to my brain. Even though it was only early May, the temperature crossed 80 degrees with a heavy blanket of humidity.

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Actually, I wonder if I have those two locations confused. Can you tell which is which? Here are some more photos:

Smoking patio

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Interior of the house where the Claimers came in and disturbed Rick’s nap.

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Me, on the porch

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Before we headed into Senoia, we drove out to Big Jake’s, yet another Season 4 location. This restaurant looked like they could grill up a juicy ribeye for you.

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Grace had the brilliant idea for us to experience the Atlanta Movie Tour “Big Zombie Tour 2” together. These tours are expertly hosted by actors who have played multiple walkers on the show, so I had an almost double dose of “know someone who works there.” Grace had worked on “The Walking Dead” with our tour guide, Michael, and he found it surprising that Grace wanted to take the tour at all. Michael also asked if she wanted to talk about her experience on the show to the tour group. Although Grace seemed a bit shy about doing that, I basked in her celebrity status.

The Big Zombie Tour 2 leaves from Downtown Senoia. Shrewdly, the tour begins behind “The Walking Dead” store. Apparently, this new space is much larger than the original store and it houses a museum on the bottom floor. I went a bit nerdy on taking photos inside the store.

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The store sells the usual t-shirts, key chains, and various trash and trinkets with quite a few “I ❤ Daryl Dixon” items. I found a nice dart board for the Bald Move HQ studios, hopefully you’ll see it in their video podcasts next year. But the best part of the store, in my opinion, was the museum downstairs.

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Life-sized cutouts of Rick, Daryl and Michonne could be found in various corners of the store.

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What a nice family portrait of the Governor, his wife and Penny.

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Obviously, I enjoyed snapping selfies and iPhone pics before we even boarded the bus for the actual Big Zombie Tour 2. Thankfully, the bus was equipped with air conditioning and Michael wore a wireless mic to narrate the audio portion of the tour. Our first lesson was on the status and various levels of zombies extras on the show. Michael explained to the group that Zombie School, as run by Greg Nicotero himself, is the real deal. For those of you who watch “The Talking Dead” hosted by Chris Hardwick, you may have seen the segment where Nicotero talked about the rigorous training that he puts hopeful extras though during Zombie School to learn how to bring the characters to life. Or how to demonstrate we once were. At the beginning of each season, the production does a mass audition via “Zombie School.” There could be anywhere from 150 to 200 extras enrolled. Nicotero uses two different criteria as he is auditioning potential walkers: how they look and performance. Zombies should be thin, emaciated, and look starved. Skinny extras have a leg up on getting hired. If they have to apply prosthetics to the extra’s face, it is best to begin with a thin person. The second critical part of the audition is their performance. The actor has to bring it to un-life. Nicotero has high standards for his walkers to meet to appear genuine and authentic.

The most prestigous level of zombie is to to be a “Hero,” or featured zombie. I feel lucky to have met three people who have achieved the highest level. These actors will have their make-up carefully applied by one of the four key make-up artists, with great attention and detail because they will be featured on camera. The key to a featured zombie’s appearance are the milky white contact lenses that Nicotero has them wear. Apparently, you really can’t see out them because of the opacity. These contacts cover more than just one’s iris and are meant to give the zombies an appearance of being completely without a soul. Grace and Michael both attested to the fact that one is rendered practically blind when wearing these. Some of that stumbling you see in a Hero zombie is because they are disoriented from suddenly having impaired vision.

After the “hero” zombies, there are “midground” extras. The make-up or paint jobs, are merely highlights and shadows on their faces to make them look dead. But they’re not intended to get too close to the camera so full make-up and contact lenses are not a requirement for these zombies. When you see a large crowd of zombies or walkers, the viewer will notice that many of the extras have their heads down. These background zombies may be wearing masks along with their tattered wardrobe. Chances are that they will be so far away from the lead actors and hero zombies that these background zombies may only see their arm or the back of their head on camera. Regardless, I feel like it would be a thrill to be an extra on the show.

The tour stopped at a wide variety of locations and I didn’t note which happened first so I will share with you some of my photos and commentary.

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One location that will no doubt look familiar is this one:
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Remember the Woodbury arena where residents would “fight” walkers for entertainment? It served as a stadium where, as the Governor put it, allowed residents the “blow off steam” by watching staged fights between humans and walkers in chains. This became a HUGE red flag waving in Andrea’s face, as she realized just what a nut job psychopath her boyfriend the Governor was in Season 3. In addition, Merle and Daryl Dixon were pitted against each other and walkers in a brother-on-brother-on-walker fight to the death match. Acdording to our tour guide Michael, this location gained fame before the TV series because it was where the famous water tower at Disneyworld was built.
Another location on the tour was from the season finale of Season Two, Episode 13, “Beside the Dying Fire.” After Hershel’s barn went up in flames, the last few survivors, except for Andrea, ran off into the woods and found themselves in a make-shift campground. There was a tiny fire and Rick dares the group to leave. He says, “If you’re staying, this isn’t a democracy anymore,” and declares the new Ricktatorship with him at the helm.

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The final scene revealed a prison off in the distance but at the actual location, we saw this:
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which was part of the closing scene of S2Ep13 and had the prison inserted via CGI. Remember that? Can you hear Bear McCreary’s score in the background?
and to our left, we found a stream
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This part of the tour was during the second half. I remember that we made a pit stop at a convenience store to use the restrooms and buy snacks or drinks. The nice young man at at the check out counter said that cast members pop into this store for gas and snacks all the time. It seems that fans could potential “run into” a current cast member at this convenience store. And perhaps that run-in could result in a selfie posted on Instagram?

At one point, we drove slowly through a motel parking lot. Michael cautioned us that we wouldn’t be stopping here but he did point out an area on the exterior of the motel. There was a patch of fake blood near a post. We were in Newnan, GA at a one-floor motel where Merle stopped with Michonne during Season 3, “This Sorrowful Life.” Merle captured Michonne to deliver her to The Governor and create peace between the prison group and Woodbury. Michonne was tied to a post while Merle tinkered with an old car in the parking lot. Of course, he triggered the car alarm, which alerted a group of walkers to their location. Bad ass Michonne makes a martial arts maneuver with her legs and somehow is able to use the wire restraint to bring the walker down. As they load into the car and drive towards Woodybury, a herd of walkers follows behind. Eerie close to an exciting and gruesome scene.

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Can you see the fake blood?
As we approached the end of the tour, Michael decided to introduce an audience participation bit. We pulled over at one of our last stops and Michael asked the group to do their best walker shamble. It was a delightful way to engage the tour group. Luckily enough, Grace also joined the group and showed them what she learned at Zombie School. Wayne approved.
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This last stop brought back a lot of memories from seasons past and cold opens:
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(Hershel’s bar!)
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As a woman who lives in Los Angeles, I became very interested as to why so much film and television production moved to Georgia. In the early 2000s, Georgia offered big tax incentives to entice the film industry to produce projects there. Even if it was a slow start, additional incentives were introduced in 2008 and from there, Atlanta has become the Hollywood of the South. It doesn’t hurt that there are ample plots of land available for sale at much more reasonable rates than in Southern California. Studios are building sound stages, numerous production companies have established themselves, and of course, Turner Broadcasting’s stations are headquartered there. This all translates to lots of new jobs in the area and huge boosts to the local economy. This does not bode well for my friends in the entertainment industry here in LA but it is great for the people of Georgia.

All in all, I recommend the Atlanta Movie Tour Big Zombie Tour Part 2. “The Walking Dead” viewers will delight in seeing familiar locations. The tour guides are hero zombies and fellow fans of the show. Our tour guide, Michael, shared behind the scenes stories and insider information with us. He didn’t share spoilers but Michael definitely made the tour personal and customized to our tour group’s questions. This tour is good for all Zed Heads of all ages. Our group consisted of families enjoying this activity as part of their summer vacation and a few couples rocking matching zombie t-shirts. Grace and I had a great time together, bonding over our love for “The Walking Dead.” If you’re in Georgia, make your way to Downtown Senoia to take the Atlanta Movie Tour Big Zombie Tour Part 2.

You should tell them that Grace sent you.

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Zombies & Walkers & Zeds, Oh My! Why I Watch AMC’s “The Walking Dead” May 2014

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Let me start off by saying that I am not paid by the Atlanta Movie Tours and I am definitely not paid by AMC. This blog post is an example of the “nerd” in my “DiversityNerd” self. My name is Pi’ilani and I am a big fan of “The Walking Dead”. I don’t obsess (not really) and I don’t read the comics.  But I watch the series for a multitude of reasons. I enjoy the family drama elements. Note that the first reason I listed isn’t because of the horror or gore, which I do find to be delightfully disgusting, it is because the show portrays a story of survival and relationships. When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, the remaining survivors must start over. They find themselves forced to create a new society, with new mores and social norms. That becomes an exciting foundation for a TV drama, ripe with endless possibilities for conflict. Who will make leadership decisions? What will drive those decisions, good intentions or self-preservation at all costs? What parameters will you use to determine who to trust? How will they develop the skills to defend themselves? How do they determine their weapon of choice? Where will they find ammunition for weapons? Food? Clean water? Shelter? Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs will be tested and not everyone will have the capacity to cope. Do we revert back to prehistoric gender roles and what sort of tension will arise within survival groups because of that? Will surviving humans procreate? How will they innovate to create new technologies or imitate old ones? Will they be able to “reinvent” electricity? And all of these questions come before the survivors are dealing with the impending threat from the undead. The possibilities are endless. And so far, they feed some endless good fun!

One of the other reasons why I started watching the show may not surprise you, if you’ve read my blog postings before. “The Walking Dead” has an Asian American character on the show and the production staff has wonderful ethnic and gender diversity, top to bottom. For example, Gale Ann Hurd serves as an executive producer on the show. Her producer and writer credits in film and TV are quite impressive, take a quick peek at her IMDB page. My interest in a show that has an Asian American lead character may not make any sense to some of you but seeing Asian faces on TV and in movies delights me. Especially when those characters do NOT embody Asian stereotypes. In 2014, the scarcity of ethnic diversity in media has abated. I consumed a lot of TV as a teenager in the 1980s and people of color (not just Asian Americans) did not play lead roles. More often than not, these characters exemplified overinflated stereotypes. Some of that stemmed from the lack of diversity behind the scenes in the writers’ room, director’s chairs or production offices. That is slowly changing and the shifting demographics of the U.S. drives that, as well. Not that long ago, Asian Americans could aspire to load supply trucks on “MASH,” be the dry cleaner speaking in broken English, or stand in the background as hooker wearing bright red lipstick. Those are the images I recall of Asians on TV in the 1980s. In “The Walking Dead”, Steven Yeun plays “Glenn” who is a handsome young Korean-American man who used to deliver pizzas in Atlanta. Not only does he become a badass warrior during the Zombie Apocalypse, he also wins the heart of a beautiful young woman named “Maggie,” a hot little boss with a gun. And by the way, Maggie is not Asian American. Their interrracial relationship doesn’t raise an eyebrow, which is just as it should be.

My interest in the show started during season two. When that season ended, I binged-watched S1 on Netflix and sought out a way to talk to other fans about the show. My iTunes introduction to a variety of different podcasts on the show has literally changed my life. Because of these podcasts, I have met other nerdy fans and podcasters who are now some of my dearest friends. I will name the four podcasts that I listen to, with special emphasis on two. “The Walking Dead’cast” became my refuge during the hiatus between S2 and S3 and you can find them at http://www.walkingdeadcast.com or @jasonandkaren on Twitter. That podcast is hosted by Jason and Karen, two bright and energetic fans who enjoy talking to us and each other about the show. In fact, they are big enough fans that they figured out how to play zombie extras and Jason has had major screen time getting killed as a walker on more than one occasion, much to delight of their listeners. Jason and Karen have become my friends. Honestly, we actually hang out in person, not just virtually. I appreciate how they take care in responding to fan emails and comments on Facebook. Another differentiator of “The Walking Dead’cast” is that they provide an opportunity for fans to chat with each other in real time while J&K record the podcast. Two fellow fans have also become good friends of mine, Gracie Lou and Mr. Blahg. Grace and Mr. Blahg have been a part of the “The Walking Dead’cast” community longer than me, they’ve both guest-hosted episodes and are extremely active in the chat room. Jason and Karen also interview people from both the cast and crew. In fact, if you check out Episode 117, you can hear me and Jason interview writer/producer Angela Kang. That was a treat for me!

iTunes also introduced me to “The Watching Dead” hosted by ARon Hubbard and Jim Jones of Bald Move, whom you can find at http://www.baldmove.com or @baldmove on Twitter. Much to my delight, the Bald Move network encompasses a wide diversity of podcasts. All of the hosts discuss their content with candor and wit, occasionally fueled with beer, wine or whiskey. ARon and Jim personally host a number of podcasts on a variety of television shows such as “Fargo,” “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Mad Men,” and “24 Live Another Day”. Their style in covering “The Walking Dead” feels direct and blunt, with no excessive fawning or fanboy-ing. “The Watching Dead” is definitely not a love fest for the show, just two hosts providing a brutally honest and quite humorous account of their opinions. In the spirit of full transparency, I must divulge that “Jim” is the man who I have written about in previous blogs. We met at a Walking Dead convention and much to both of our surprise, felt a connection that can only be described as #nerdlove. However, even if he and I were not in a relationship, I would still recommend baldmove.com. They are THAT good. Side note, Jason and Karen attended the convention to moderate panel discussions and I would not have gone if they, along with Grace and Mr. Blahg, weren’t there, so Mahalo Nui Loa to them all!

In addition, I listened to “The Talking Dead” with Chris and Jason and “Walker Stalkers” with James and Eric. Each podcast delivers content with a different personality so there is something for everyone. In addition, I’ve met all of those hosts and they’re just real people who are fans of the show. Thankfully, all those hours and hours content helped me train for a couple of half marathons and listen to opinions on “The Walking Dead,” a win-win situation for Pi’ilani.

All of this an extremely long preamble to introduce what I intended on writing about, my experience at the Atlanta Movie Tour “Big Zombie Tour, Part 2” in May 2014. Keep an eye out for another blog to cover that, complete with nerdy photos.

One photo from Terminus with “Jim” from BaldMove.com.

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