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Three weeks ago I left my iPod on a train: it hasn’t turned up. So for three weeks I’ve been back in 2007, in the time before I carried my entire music collection and more besides around in my pocket. It’s shaken me a little from my well-established routines, but mostly not in a good way.

I’ve missed the times when I wake up early, and instead of getting up or trying in vain to go back to sleep, I listen to something quietly, warm, still in bed. I’ve missed having my iPod at the gym, where I could listen to whatever I liked, drowning out the noise of Kiss FM or The Hits! that inevitably seems to be blaring from the speakers. I’ve missed the serendipity of the Shuffle setting, when Bob Dylan can follow David Gray, or ELO precedes Boxer Rebellion.

Most of all, I’ve missed my favourite, regular podcasts; especially The Bugle, Filmspotting and This American Life. I’ve missed the introductory theme music to the first two, and Ira Glass’ laconic tones. They are my weekly routines, and with good reason. They are my friends, I trust them, I enjoy their company, I miss them when they’re not there. They accompany me to and from work every day.

One reason I’ve missed them so much is that, especially in the morning, the radio stations simply don’t cater for a 45 minute commute. The rolling news of BBC Radio 5 Live is just so much repetition and perilously close to the sort of What I Reckon phone-ins that inspired the title of my blog almost four years ago. Radio 4 features extended interviews with politicians that just make me cross, and after about 10 minutes I can’t listen to Chris Evans any more.

Nevertheless, a light in the darkness of most radio output is Simon Mayo. He has been one of my favourite radio presenters ever since the 1980s, when his personality and wit shone through despite some of the godawful trite pop he had to play on the Radio 1 playlist. His current drivetime show on Radio 2 carries on in much the same vein. He’s an excellent interviewer, he has a great team with whom he has a great rapport, and he is a terrific judge of people, able to speak warmly and freely with everyone.

I’ve also taken increased solace (at home – where we have digital radios) in The Joy of 6Music. Despite a voting mishap that led to Coldplay becoming its ‘best song of the last 10 years’ (don’t get me wrong, the Coldplay song is fine, but (a) 6Music simply don’t play Coldplay any more, and (b) it’s NOT the best song, not by a long shot…), this station is a music-lover’s paradise. Populated by presenters who really care and know about music, who aren’t afraid to declare their eccentricities or ‘uncool’ favourites, virtually every hour brings new treats and surprises. Of course there are things I don’t like, but almost everything is either new to me, or a long-lost gem I hear only rarely.

My last coping strategy has been the classical symphony. Sibelius has accompanied me in the car for the last few days, and it’s been an uninterrupted joy. The 5th Symphony, the violin concerto, Night Ride & Sunrise… all masterpieces of orchestration and control, of dynamics and tone.Having played several symphonies in orchestras over the years, I realise that generally it’s more fun to listen to than to play, as his compositions are often dense and abstract, richly layered constructions where ‘tunes’ are more like short motifs than anything you’d sing to yourself later. But they are wonderfully rewarding, and I love the way he writes for horns, with subtly shifting harmonies and chorales, and the triumphant call in the finale of that 5th symphony…

Sibelius’ music lifts my mood in a way few things can. I may well miss him while I catch up on my podcasts.

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After 9 years of intelligent, sometimes word-y, always informed and witty, usually opinionated, eclectic writing, podcasting, live events, sponsorship of Latitude, The Word Magazine is to close. I subscribed for several of those years, and still enjoy the banter on their excellent podcasts, and have eagerly anticipated the weekly emails since one of the first I ever received introduced me to the brilliant  work of Kutiman.

But such is the current state of things that passion, good writing, and all that are no longer enough. The Word Magazine has been like BBC 6 Music for me, a source of frequent surprise and joy when I discover something I never would have without it. When I subscribed the magazine came with a CD of 15 or 16 tracks by different artists, covering any number of genres and styles. Selected by the magazine staff, it wasn’t all to my taste, but there were often things that were ‘interesting’, and usually things I wanted to keep. Occasionally there were real gems that  have found their way into my collection, prompted me to buy new albums and become part of our whole family’s music.

So instead of  mourning its demise, I’d prefer to celebrate some of the music The Word has given me. I wish its staff & contributors all the best. I hope they can continue at least some presence in podcast, email or event form. There isn’t anything like The Word, so I’m not sure how it could be replaced. But for now, just a small selection of how its made my life just a little bit better…

Kings of Convenience – Peacetime Resistance

I knew of this great Scottish band a few years ago, but the one album I owned had been neglected on the CD shelves, until I was reminded of their superb loveliness in November 2009. One of our family’s favourite chill-out/fall asleep tracks. More songs should feature the viola.

The Boxer Rebellion – Flashing Red Light Means Go

This band have been a genuine discovery for me thanks to The Word in October 2009. I’ve seen them at an intimate gig in Bristol, and their albums are terrific. Highly Recommended.

Speech Debelle – The Key

The first time I heard this I fell in love with the eclectic instrumentation. To say it rewards repeated listening is a massive understatement.

Stanton Warriors – Bushido

I’d never normally come across this style of music on my usual radio stations. Big beats that remind me of Fat Boy Slim, but better. Hannah loves this, and asks for it as her music of choice when we’re in the car. I’ve loved using track from The Word’s CDs to expand her musical experiences.

El Mariachi Bronx – Slave Labour

Another eclectic song the like of which I almost exclusively encounter through the monthly CD. Wonderfully simple, with some terrific melodic hooks. I like it even more now I’ve seen this video of the excellent singer and the deadpan band.

C.W.Stoneking – Brave Son of America

I’m not sure how a 30-something Australian can (or would want to) sound like someone from Louisiana in the 1920s, but he does. He appeared on the podcast and was fantastic.

The Candle Thieves – The Sunshine Song

Another skittish, beautiful song I’d never have experienced but for the CD. I love the sentiment in the chorus

You know we can’t stay young forever, but we can stay young for the rest of our days.

Roddy Woomble – A New Day Has Begun

I’ve written before about the immediate effect this had on me when I first heard it. If I’m feeling less than positive, or overwhelmed by what I haven’t done, this lifts my spirits. Something else to thank The Word for…

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Last week I listened to an episode of the Freakonomics Radio podcast that featured extracts from a 2011 book by economist Robert H Frank. He uses examples from Darwinian evolution to highlight contradictions in our natural world, where individual interests and group interests are not always aligned, and draws parallels with our modern political economy.

Right! Now that I’ve got your attention…!?! ;^)

He cites Darwin’s examinations of bull elks. Their genetic imperative, like many other animals, is to take multiple female mates to maximise the chance of their genes being passed onto future generations. Bull elks compete aggressively for mates with their antlers as primary weapons. Typically, bigger antlers will make an individual elk more successful in these fights, meaning he can mate with more females. And so elks will tend to evolve with larger (and larger) antlers. But although this development works in the interests of the individual elks, does it really act in the interests of the group, the species? Larger antlers are heavier, more cumbersome, making it harder for the elk to manoeuvre in dense forest and escape predators.

Bull Elks antlers

I understand from some reviews that Professor Frank’s exploration of Darwin’s work is less-than-complete, but it still poses interesting challenges. How does Natural Selection cope with this inconsistency between self-interest and the interests of the wider group? In the context of the real economy, he challenges us to consider “how much is enough?”. When does the acquisition of personal wealth become detrimental to the society?

After listening to that thorny podcast, I switched to another transAtlantic favourite, This American Life, and the episode Take the money and run…for office, which only made me think that Professor Frank is right. It would seem that American democracy has evolved to favour the candidates or parties or interest groups who can raise the most money for campaigning their message, which is almost certainly going to work in their own interests. But does it really operate in the interests of the people, in the interests of democracy?

The US and its allies have waged wars in recent decades to promote democracy against tyrannical, despotic regimes, spreading freedom and democracy around the globe. But apparently the day-to-day, week-to-week practicalities of US democracy are not primarily about understanding the voice of the people, of listening to the entire constituency of citizens to perform the will of the electorate. Instead, what drives congressmen and senators is…

a gnawing relentless voracious need for cash.

Walt Minnick was a conservative Democrat congressman, who claimed that from the very day he was elected

I needed to raise $10-15,000 a day

…every day of the year. TAL reports that congressmen can spend 2-3 hours every day sat in offices managed by the Democratic and Republican Parties, making calls to raise political campaign funds. While they’re apparently on taxpayers’ time, they spend hours every day of every week begging for cash for their own campaigns. Walt Minnick jokes in all seriousness

…the best thing about being an ex-congressmen is my friends now return my phonecalls.

But not all congressmen are created equal. Congressional committee chairmen and members have a pecking order. The House Administration and Judiciary committees are definitely not on the ‘A’ List, whereas Financial Services, Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees are very interesting to all sorts of people. Just being on these plum committees can bring in up to $200,000 more than the average, according to research from the Sunlight Foundation. Chairmen of the ‘A’ List committees can bring in more than $1m. But this blessing is also a curse. The Party leadership know this, and they set targets for fundraising so those with privileged positions can help subsidise others. And God help you if you’re not meeting your targets.

This all reminded me of Glengarry Glen Ross, the salesmen taken to task by Alec Baldwin, waving the dream of “the Glengarry leads”…

First Prize is a Cadillac Eldorado… 2nd prize is a set of steak knives… 3rd prize is you’re fired.

Worse still is the more recent evolution of Super-PACs. Political Action Committees (PACs) have long been the central repositories for financial donations. But a Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case ruled that ‘Super-PACs’ need not identify themselves as the sponsors of political activities. These anonymous conglomerates can take unlimited amounts of donations from companies, individuals, or unions.

Super-PACs raise tens of millions of dollars, but “just” a few hundred thousand dollars can change the course of a close-fought congressional election. And they can do this without declaring who donated the money. According to critics of the Supreme Court ruling, the 2010 midterm congressional elections were the most expensive and least transparent in history.

All this means US politicians are spending more and more time raising money, simply to have a ‘rainy day’ war chest that they might use to respond to intervention from a Super-PAC. Individuals, companies and unions can use their wealth to further their own causes, to get access to law-makers and to influence democratic elections. But where does that leave the rest of us…?

Is this the real state of American democracy? The most advanced state of evolution in our human political systems? Where the politicians spend a sizeable amount of their time attending fundraisers, begging for donations from individuals and lobbyists, where money can buy access to politicians, where organised money can create political campaigns without disclosing their motives or even their identity, where elected politicians live in fear for their jobs if they can’t raise enough money for advertising.

Really?

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I’ve written before about how much I love This American Life, living proof that public broadcasting is a very good idea. Every week I download the podcast introduced by Ira Glass and its eclectic, insightful, human stories of life in all its forms.

In January 2012 TAL broadcast a monologue by Mike Daisey, a long-established and successful writer and performer. The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was a compelling and powerful piece about Daisey’s experiences in China, when he visited factories used by Apple to produce their iPhones and iPads. His performance is extraordinary, relating meetings with people poisoned by industrial chemicals, with underage workers, with a man whose hand has been ‘ruined’ by machinery, with armed guards at the factory gates.

Mike Daisey is a great storyteller. That episode of TAL has been downloaded or streamed over 1 million times. He has become an unofficial spokesman for the campaigners seeking to expose industrial conditions in American companies’ plants in China and elsewhere. He has been all over American news channels. His monologue is extremely moving in many different ways. Most importantly, I believed that he had seen and experienced all these things, and it made me care about what’s behind the beautiful Apple touchscreens.

apple logo

Last week TAL retracted their broadcast of his story; not because it’s all made up, because it’s not. Many of the stories he reports are true, well-reported and documented, often by Apple themselves. Their episode in which they explore the allegations against Apple and other suppliers makes for sometimes bleak listening. The scale of this industrial production is astonishing. Hundreds of thousands of workers fleeing rural poverty has elements of the 19th century about it. But as the programme explains…

There were times in this nation when we had harsh working conditions as part of our economic development. We decided as a nation that that was unacceptable. We passed laws in order to prevent those harsh working conditions from ever being inflicted on American workers again. And what has happened today is that, instead of exporting that standard of life, which is in our capacity to do, we have exported harsh working conditions to another nation.

It is right that people raise these issues. We deserve to at least understand what is done to produce these wondrous devices.

But, and this is a blindingly tough challenge for the bleeding-heart liberal, how far should the truth be manipulated to create a more powerful, more compelling narrative?

Mike Daisey accepts that his monologue is not a factual, historical document of his experiences in China. TAL contacted his translator after a simple Google search despite Daisey claiming he could no longer reach her. She says many of the things in his performance didn’t happen. He attributes conversations to her that didn’t happen. He told TAL producers that her name isn’t Cathy (but it is, for professional purposes at least). He never met a worker whom he actually verified was 12 years old, but in his monologue he says he did.

There are countless inconsistencies in his account. But why should that be a problem if the wider story he is telling is true, and if his methods are getting that story to a wider audience?

I Reckon that the truth should get in the way of a good story, when that story attempts to challenge the status quo, expose hypocrisy or double-standards, and crusades against the the System. A challenge to the vested interests or the established wisdom has to stand up to scrutiny. Scientific research that challenges the existing paradigms, that uncovers anomalies in the way we understand the world, has to be peer-reviewed before it can become the new reality, the new way of explaining the way things are.

Mike Daisey claims that his performance doesn’t need to live up to noraml journalistic standards of accuracy, that he can hide behind the smokescreen of theatrical licence. He claims to be exposing a wider context of truths, and as such his only mistake has been to allow TAL (which takes its journalistic standards very seriously) to broadcast his story.

But I Reckon he is kidding himself. Mike Daisey seems to believe his only mistake has been to allow TAL to broadcast his performance. So lying to their team of producers about the facts and accuracy of his story was their fault?

I Reckon that deep down he knows he has run fast and loose with the facts in a bad way. Noone with his experience writes a piece called The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs without thinking, expecting, hoping that it will become news. He wants to expose the reality of the manufacturing process of the iconic products of the 21st century, but instead of his recent interviews being about those realities, they’ve focused on questioning his integrity. TV & press journalists have been challenging his standards (yes, really…). He has become the story. But he isn’t the story. He’s just a messenger, and he’s become a distraction. The TAL team believed his performance was a reflection of what actually happened to him. I believed it. He wants us to believe it.

I Reckon he should apologise, tell the truth about his performance, but keep performing.

Meanwhile, Apple has reported that in the first launch weekend, it has sold 3 million units of the new iPad3.

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A couple of months ago – on Sunday 17th July, just before 7pm I was outside a pub in Windsor and my heart was beating fast. I had driven 80 miles to meet someone I’d never met before, but whose voice I’d listened to every week for the past 4 years. I wasn’t alone: I was expecting to meet a group of complete strangers too.

I walked into the pub and looked around. I knew (sort of) what ‘he’ looked like from pictures, but couldn’t see him there. One guy was sitting on his own, and a group of about 6 people were sat around a large table, drinking and talking. I tentatively approached them. “Excuse me, are you guys Filmspotters?”

They paused for a moment while they tried to understand the label I’d given them, before politely laughing and saying ‘no’. Moments later they left the pub joking that they were “just in time to ‘spot’ the 7.14 to Maidenhead”… With hindsight it should have been obvious that they were all good friends, rather than a group of cinephile strangers with a more-sophisticated-than-average-taste-in-film-podcasts.

However, the guy on his own was one of those cinephiles: we introduced ourselves and sat down together. We were both there to meet Matty Ballgame, co-host of the very excellent Filmspotting podcast. His ‘other’ job had brought him from Chicago to the UK for a few days, and another listener had made the effort to invite him to a pub for a few beers.

They arrived a few minutes later, as did around half a dozen other Filmspotters, and until closing time we drank beer and talked about stuff – mostly films and music. My fellow Filmspotters are all very nice people, we had a laugh. Matty is charming and funny, and talks about pretty much everything he cares about with passion and commitment. What you see is what you get, in a very good way. He was also being very positive about potential acting opportunities which at the time made me wonder how long he could keep presenting the show if his intended career took off.

Matty Ballgame Filmspotting meetup in Windsor July 2011

Malcolm, Matty Ballgame, Ellen, Danny and me

And so it now transpires that Matty Ballgame is leaving Filmspotting, at present for destinations unannounced. Filmspotting is my favourite film podcast by some distance (sorry Dr Kermode), because it has done more to broaden my cinematic knowledge and experience than anything else. I rarely make it to the cinema, and FS fuels my DVD-rental list months in advance. Even better, it has introduced me to directors and films I might never have sought out, but for the passionate, committed and considered recommendation of its hosts.

Filmspotting will survive Matty’s departure (sorry, Matty!) because (a) it’s a terrific format that has been consistently delivered by the fantastic Adam Kempenaar for 6 years, alongside 2 co-hosts and occasional guests, (b) it has a scale of supporters (including me) who love it, and (c) there will always be films worth talking about.

I don’t know Matty, but it feels like I do. His frank openness and honesty about himself, his work, his love life (or lack of) and his love of films make him much more than just a radio presenter or film critic (although he might deny that he’s even a film critic!). I want to wish him the very best of luck from all his Filmspotting fans. I hope he succeeds in his ambitions (whatever they might be!?), that he continues to Bring The Truth™ and that he can occasionally return to Filmspotting once in a while.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait to see his Lear. But we’ll always have this piece of broadcasting gold…

And if you want to hear the quality and range of his performance skills, you should really check out this gem of a Massacre Theatre scene from FS#258 (starts around 33mins).

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Having only recently reviewed my blogging experience after my 100th post, I’m slightly reluctant to lapse into further review or reflections on the past year… but I’m going to anyway.

I have definitely lived up to my name this year. Moody by nature, very much so. This blog started as a result of banter at work, with emails entitled ‘And another thing…’ or ending with /rant. At other times I’ve known immense and deep joy, and I hope contributed positive enthusiasm and energy to people around me. Apparently my karaoke version of The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done at our Company Christmas Party was impressive…?!

Thinking about the things that have vexed, inspired, frustrated and pursued me this year, there’s definitely a positive and negative polarity going on. For many things that are uplifting there are aspects that could easily be causes for cynicism, pessimism or resignation.

Customer Service generally isn’t getting any better, either from brands and companies, or from our elected politicians. I started this year exasperated at Dunelm. While they eventually resolved the situation, I feel pretty confident that their staff are still being let down by antiquated company systems. I’ve moaned before about Orange, and this year I signed up to be part of their Better Together to see how they would use a consumer panel to improve things and listen to their customers. Based on my experiences so far, the answer is… Not Very Well. They address me as ‘Christopher’ (not even my mother does that any more), which kind of shows how hard they’ve tried to get to know me.  I’ll spare you the rest. Suffice it to say that if it’s supposed to make me feel more valued or closer to their brand, it’s failing.

The General Election in the UK was the most interesting for years, possibly in my lifetime. I had high hopes that something different might result from the seemingly new-world-disorder of the results. Instead, we have broken promises from virtually all sides, and The Labour Party are still tending to their wounds, silently rejoicing that this was the best election to lose for years. Johann Hari cites a compelling dossier of reasons to be depressed, angry, betrayed…

On the other hand, the near-death experience and rebirth of BBC 6Music was a joy to behold, and a victory for People Who Care About Stuff. I love listening to eclectic, considered, thoughtful playlists on this digital station, with excellent, passionate presenters like Andrew Collins, Jarvis Cocker, Lauren Laverne and more. Now, if only Adam & Joe would come back…

Similarly, albeit on a more parochial scale, a jokey conversation at work transformed into more than a dozen of us taking part in Movember, growing slightly dubious facial hair and raising money for charity. I raised over £500 out a team total of over £3,000.

If 2009 was my year of The Wire, 2010 has found me wallowing in a number of wonderful pieces of arts and culture… Mad Men never ceases to make me feel good about the world, that people are allowed to be that committed to a creative vision, when other forms of TV make me wince with actual discomfort. The Bugle continues to amaze me with its invention and sheer balls to pursue surreal avenues other satirists can’t even think of. Filmspotting is my cinematic education, this year opening my eyes to (among others) the brilliant, brilliant films of Michael Powell & Emrich Pressburger.

Lastly, in 2010 I’ve enjoyed some fantastic experiences, camping with my family, holidaying in Cornwall, volunteering for The National Trust in Dorset, and having a terrific week in Spain, basking in the very warm glow of the Mediterranean sun and awestruck by the Alhambra Palace. For the last few weeks the UK has been frozen in a way I can barely remember during my lifetime, certainly in December. Yesterday Rachel, Hannah and I went out in gorgeous winter sunshine, with some friends, and tramped across a frigid field to go sledging for a couple of hours. It was fantastic fun and it was free. It was a brilliant thing to do on Christmas Day, and definitely made us all feel good about the world.

It’s often easy to get distracted by the thorns on a rose bush. They can really hurt, and make you fearful of getting close. But they’re not the core, the raison d’être, (excuse the pun) the point of a rose (ouch).

So, while acknowledging the state of the world is not all it could be, I’m going forward in 2011 resolved to be positive: to revel in the joys around me, to remember the things and people that inspire and comfort me, to anticipate and look forward to opportunities and strive to make them happen. I hope and trust you can do the same.

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It’s almost exactly 19 months since I opened this WordPress account and started blogging. Recently I suggested to another blogger that for his 100th post he should list 100 things he had learnt since starting his blog. He gamely accepted the challenge, so some similar list is the least I can do…

So, looking back so far, a ‘York Notes’ version of What I Reckon (May 2009 – December 2010)

  1. Aiming to post 2-3 times a week is a noble aim, but not at 600 words a time.
  2. It’s about people (not data segments or clusters or whatever).
  3. Don’t try and surf if you can’t easily and smoothly stand up from lying prone on solid ground.
  4. Fish are friends, not food.
  5. Sometimes sitting down with an icecream is more fun than flying a kite.
  6. I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.
  7. The smell of Birds’ Custard makes me think of Sunday lunch when I was a child.
  8. Businesses should stop centralising and get closer to their local communities.
  9. Dr John Mislow was a friend of mine a long time ago. His death at 39 is a tragedy.
  10. Arthur Honnegger’s ‘Pacific 231’ is a brilliant evocation of the power of the steam train.
  11. I really don’t want the BBC to tell me what other people reckon about the news. I want the BBC to tell me the news.
  12. Advertising can sometimes produce very moving, powerful campaigns for good.
  13. There’s skint, and there’s middle class skint. I know which I am, and I am grateful.
  14. The Wire is the best TV series I’ve ever seen, even better than Mad Men.
  15. The menu découvert at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is expensive, but astonishingly good value.
  16. I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.
  17. Man on Wire is a fantastic biopic, documentary and heist movie all at once.
  18. The Merlin Entertainments London Eye is a stunning way to see London, but it was also a soulless corporate experience for me.
  19. Stuff takes longer when you’re camping, but in a good way.
  20. Marketing is usually the application of common sense.
  21. U2 are a brilliant band, and their live shows are tremendous.
  22. One of the best things about my week is listening to Filmspotting.
  23. Most products can be easily and almost instantly substituted for a functionally identical alternative. The difference is in design, experience and how it makes you feel.
  24. Margaret Thatcher was wrong. There is such a thing as society, and it’s not David Cameron’s ‘Big’ version either.
  25. This American Life, presented by the peerless Ira Glass, is a marvellous radio show.
  26. Queen were a terrific band, and Freddie Mercury the greatest front man of all-time.
  27. The mound above Tarn Hows is a wonderful spot to have lunch, looking across to the Langdale Pikes.
  28. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a masterpiece.
  29. Social Media isn’t complicated. It’s a conversation. Be interesting, and listen to what other people are saying.
  30. Revolutionary Road has much to praise, but ultimately I found it hollow, considerably less than the sum of its parts.
  31. The problem with most brands is that they want to talk about themselves all the time.
  32. Andy Goldsworthy is a tremendous ‘natural artist’.
  33. Sometimes my iPod shuffle command seems to know what it’s doing, and creates playlists of real beauty.
  34. The PCC  seems pretty toothless to me.
  35. Watching a film on a train can be dangerous. It can leave you utterly unprepared for the real world at the end of the journey.
  36. Orange seems to take me for granted. And yet I stay with them. What does that say about #23?
  37. The end of The Graduate is the least triumphant happy ending in cinema.
  38. A Gary Larson cartoon and a Jack Johnson quote have driven more traffic to my blog than any other post…
  39. Real mail is at least as important as email.
  40. I wish I was half as cool as Christopher Walken.
  41. If you want me to care about you’re supposedly trying to sell, at least pretend like you care about me.
  42. There’s something very empty about the same sort of people drinking the same drinks sat at the same tables listening to the same music in ‘chain bars’ all over the country.
  43. Did I mention that The Wire is the best TV ever made? Ever.
  44. The opening paragraph of Jim Crace’s Quarantine is as good as anything I’ve read in years. The rest of the book is pretty darn great too.
  45. Bono learnt a lot of what he knows from Freddie Mercury, except the bit about not taking himself too seriously.
  46. ‘Company Policy’ is usually the death-knell to allowing staff to treat customers decently
  47. Men, as a rule, hate indiscriminate shopping.
  48. Anyone who thinks It’s a Wonderful Life is schmaltzy sentimentality run riot hasn’t been paying attention.
  49. In Rainbows is as close to a perfect album as pretty much anything I’ve heard.
  50. Everyone wants to be where someone loves them best of all…
  51. I got tired of writing about poor customer service, because it doesn’t seem to change anything.
  52. Corporate car adverts need to be less boastful about how good their cars are, and pay attention to #41 above…
  53. Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together. For the sun is warm. And the world is a beautiful place.
  54. The Cluetrain Manifesto is as relevant now as when it was written 11 years ago.
  55. I need to review my old posts more often – several video embeds are now defunct…
  56. PT Anderson is a brilliant director, probably the best around.
  57. I laugh more in an episode of Green Wing than in a whole series of most comedy shows.
  58. John Hillcoat’s adaptation of The Road is a fine film, but not quite a masterpiece.
  59. Keeping a written record of significant experiences is a lovely way to remind myself that my life is pretty darn fine, actually.
  60. Many businesses swing wildly between a plan based on pie-in-the-sky assumptions with no foundation, and analysis-paralysis.
  61. BBC 6Music packs in more variety in a day than most commercial stations do in a month.
  62. I hoped the UK General Election in May 2010 would lead to positive change. I was half-right.
  63. Devon and Cornwall have beaches to rival anywhere in Europe.
  64. Many of my favourite songs are under 3 minutes long; perfectly-formed pieces of beautiful art.
  65. I truly hoped the Conservative / Lib-Dem coalition would be a progressive force for change in UK politics. I was naive.
  66. 2 of my Top 3 films of the last decade are not in English (City of God and The Lives of Others).
  67. Sometimes traffic to my blog comes from the most unlikely sources (Lady Gaga?!).
  68. Cate Blanchett is one of the most interesting actresses working today.
  69. Companies need to care more about their agencies.
  70. Uncovering decades-old diaries can be both uplifting and uncomfortable.
  71. When you are dancing and laughing and finally living, hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly.
  72. Usain Bolt is a greater role-model and champion than any English footballer.
  73. The salaries of the 24 players in England’s dismal World Cup squad would pay for over 3,300 British Soldiers.
  74. Martin Luther King never spoke in terms of SMART objectives.
  75. Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows…
  76. Volunteering for The National Trust enables me to meet great people and do some good. Nice.
  77. (Despite the doping scandals) The Tour de France is a sporting spectacle like nothing else.
  78. There is no political violence, only criminal violence. But this can be state-sanctioned too.
  79. Natwest Bank’s ‘Helpful Banking’ campaign is depressingly cautious and underwhelming.
  80. Gifford’s Circus is brilliant old-school entertainment.
  81. I am incredibly proud of the way my 5-year-old daughter deals with her  nut allergy
  82. Anvil! The story of Anvil is as wonderful a love story as you’ll ever see.
  83. There is nothing worse in life than being blind in Granada…
  84. Roald Dahl is my favourite author for children.
  85. Does our ability to overcome nature make us immune to its danger and challenges?
  86. It’s really important to believe in your own abilities: you can be better than you’re currently allowed to be.
  87. The 24-hour-news cycle means we make mountains out of molehills and forget very quickly.
  88. Easyjet are not as bad as they’re made out to be.
  89. The Bugle is the perfect antidote to the 24-hour-news-cycle
  90. The shared experience of the Twitterati watching Strictly Come Dancing or X-Factor proves that appointment TV viewing is not dead.
  91. The Cove is a brilliant and shocking documentary that does for (part of) the Japanese fishing industry what Jamie Oliver has tried to do for battery chicken farming in the UK
  92. There is such a thing as too much choice.
  93. Long live Jesse Smith’s Butcher in Tetbury and all those like it.
  94. Movember is a terrific charity, and it brought our team at work closer together. The power of the Mo is real…
  95. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen is another near-perfect album.
  96. I grew a moustache and I liked it (for a month anyway)
  97. I’m a French Horn player and proud of it.
  98. I’m also proud of this blog. Thanks for reading.
  99. Struggling now… as it’s nearly Christmas, can I point you in the direction of my recipe for a lovely festive season?
  100. Trying to plan ahead with posts, especially when my blog is reasonably wide-ranging in scope, is important. I get distracted easily and lose focus. Outlining is important, and writer’s block is real.

I hope I can continue to feel proud of this for another 100 posts, and that you can continue to find it interesting. Thanks for reading and supporting my little blog.

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