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The Propaganda of Poetry

Listening to an amazing episode of This American Life discussing the Columbian Governments Christmas propaganda campaigns against the FARC. Listen here:


Me, Gee, Will & their Family

Helpful Staff at the Arnolfini

So this is what happens when you pass your phone over to the bar staff at the Arnolfini Cafe/Bar. Not only do you get a really nice photo of you, your friend and her family, you get a photo of the erstwhile photographer as well. #priceless.

You’ll be glad to know this wasn’t the only good part of the service. There was a great range of foreign beers (Will enjoyed one), the coffee was good – great Americano – and they brought the little ones free babycinos (without us asking). The food was yum (and the portions generous; particularly of the kids pizzas, thankfully they had pizza boxes so Gee could take the substantial leftovers home!). Plus (as you can see in the photo above) the kids had drawing books and pencils, which despite us arriving in the lunch rush a server took time out to bring them over, chat to and engage the kids, which was really nice.

I’m looking forward to going back… In the meantime I’m hoping our local contemporary art gallery, mima, take a leaflet out of the Arnolfini’s book when they re-design their cafe next year.

Max Richter: The Leftovers

The Leftovers was for me one of the breakout TV shows of 2014. If you haven’t watched it, then you should and if my recommendation is not enough to entice you then take a gander at this trailer from season one:

But that’s not why I’m writing this evening, it’s because as I was watching the second episode of season two I felt compelled to reach across to my phone and imdb it solely to find out the composer of the soundtrack.

It’s surprising how a well-crafted sound can make and/or break a TV series and just how frequently the delicate, sympathetic touch of a talented composer can so deeply enhance our experience of a show; or how regrettably this skill is overlooked by the viewer, hovering just below the our sightlines.

I don’t, for example, think that Battlestar Galactica would of been quite so brilliant had it not been for Bear McCreary’s rousing soundtrack, which set the perfect pace, my particular favourite being his allegro.

Or sometimes it can just be a single moment that can define a series, where a piece of music is selected that so perfectly weds a scene – here I’m thinking of Episode 13 of the Big C “Taking the Plunge” but it still has the power to make me cry each time I watch it (see here, better still watch the series).

Or finally the fact the opening sequence to My So Called Life still plays in my head any time I think of the show, and I still think of the show all these years later, but that’s the only thing thats left a permanent imprint.

I was not surprised to find out that Max Richter is the composer responsible for the Leftovers, I knew it felt familiar in its brilliance, its poised subtlety. I think the opening sequence to the Leftovers gives you a small taste of the richness within:

Thanks to my old friend Daniel Tóth for introducing me to Max, his music has given me many years of pleasure and will do I expect for many years to come.

Durham Lumiere Tickets

It’s a real shame that Artichoke and Durham County Council chose to place online tickets with Ticketmaster who are charging an admittedly small ticket price of £1 a ticket, although not so small once you add £2.95 for postage (a standard DL is 51p 1st class), so £3.95 for a ticket when they’re free if you pick them up in a series of locations across Durham, rather than using Eventbrite and just asking for a donation that would of raised significantly more money for the event.

Just think if they were getting a donation £2 (twice what they’re actually getting) plus gift aid at 25 percent would mean an increase of 125 percent in donations. And all for the want of not embracing the innovative, the now and going with the establishment (i.e. the largest ticketing sales company in the UK). With a reported 175,000 visitors in 2013, half of which surely live outside County Durham they could of raised an additional £175,000 or £218,750 with gift aid.

Instead based on 2013 visitor attendance (and assuming 1/2 the people can’t get to a free ticket office) they’ll raise £87,500 or £109,375 inc. gift aid (assuming tickets through Ticketmaster qualify as donations for gift aid), a total opportunity cost of -£109,375 with a private firm pocketing £258,125 to print and send tickets to people effectively publically subsidised at the expense of ACE and local authority investment in the event. WTF?!

A real failure in imagination. And people ask why arts funding in this country is broken. Just take a look.

Save the Vulcan Bomber

Well not to bomb – of course! Just for the sheer spectacle, and for my childhood memories of sitting in the Vulcan at the Doncaster Air show when I was a wee bairn.

Sign the petition here.

My So Called Life

I’m not quite sure what reminded me of the greatest teen-drama ever made this evening (and the only one I bought, or rather had specially imported from the States as they never saw fit to sell it here), but I found myself on YouTube watching this:

And if I had ever got round to ripping my DVDs into mp4s I almost certainly would have dipped back in (yeah I don’t own anything with a DVD player anymore, though I sensibly backed up my raw DVDs before I got rid of the last one).

It was only one season long and was released when I was very much a teen, but it covered every possible point of teen angst (even my own) so perfectly it’ll forever hold a privileged corner in my heart.

What I was really astonished to find out (and yes these trips of nostalga are often fueled by google) is that our own Rayanne Graff (the teenager your parents hoped you didn’t emulate) had ended up married to lord, or rather an Earl…

And yes I know, it’s a Daily Mirror link, but I only click such trashy links, when enticed by “Where are they now” headlines about old favourite shows… (it’s not like the Guardian regularly publishes such “news”…)

The reverse of I’m not afraid of Heights

So over the weekend, I attended the Canal & Rivers Trust open day at the Tees Barrage. You can read more about the visit here:


Tees Cottage Pumping Station

Sometimes work can be very fun, particularly when road trip are involved (though I’m not sure you’d call a trip to Darlo a road trip, but when you don’t get out of the office much and you’re going to a new place that’s good enough in my book). Anyhow you can read more about this fab trip Ree and I took here:

Cancer Treatment

So though my father is currently on a clinical trial that involves sending his bone marrow and blood tests to Cardiff each day and then a custom chemotherapy being manufactured in Cambridge in response to those tests (presumably at great expense / and goodness knows how it is then brought to Middlesbrough in time for his treatment cycle each evening) I’m not a great supporter of the NHS simply giving in to Big Pharma and spending a fortune on life-prolonging cancer treatment drugs, such as those reported in the news for breast cancer today.

The basic argument that Big Pharma makes is that they invest millions in developing these drugs and then they require compensation for that investment from the NHS, sounds reasonable right? but as anyone with half a brain or a basic knowledge of tax right offs know Big Pharma’s investment in new drugs is completely tax deductible therefore the development of these drugs cost them precisely nothing. Nadha. This is the big con of that Big Pharma perpetrates against the public day-in day-out. And they’re prepared to let people die to improve their bottom line. It’s shameless.