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    Pub Talk


    So, ToMax talks are no longer given by great minds in the upstairs room, and once again occur between two old friends at the bar. Two - rather than three - points of view, more arguing and a whole lot more bullshit. No transport home for the speakers. Occasional fisticuffs in the street. 

    ToMax Talks as an enterprise is in hibernation for the near future, but the spirit isn't dead to us. We will be running the odd low-key night of ToMax as a hobby, so watch this space. In case you are our parents and are wondering what we're up to, we are working for a tech start-up called HitMeUp and currently organising a thwacking three day EatMeUp (Street Food/Christmas Market) near Old Street. More on this at a later date.

    Where we're working nowDespite a scheme to take a lorry on a ToMax tour of Britain interviewing local heroes – the side would slide up revealing an interview set (a sort of mobile, less staid version of Parkinson) – and despite talk of a bar or club hosting ToMax-type activities, we are both glad to be part of something with its own momentum, rather than having to generate momentum ourselves. At least for now.

    To keep the hoards of fans amused - and our own lyricism alive - I'm going to write a blog every three weeks or so. Over a year, we met some astonishing people and have a few stories - so I shall sneak in one or two of these, as well as the usual arm-chair philosophising and pointers to cool stuff in London. Some of the most impressive people we encountered were not the most famous or the crowd-pullers.

    One such person was Lea Minshull, our faithful photographer and a familiar face at almost every talk. Out of love for the project, he took superb photos week in, week out, for a fraction of his normal fee; going an extra mile, he also compiled the collaged posters which were on display at the events. A big thank you.

    I was recently watching some speeches and wondered how, if at all, ToMax differentiated itself. In a 1946 essay, George Orwell wrote “In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.”

    I was proud that our talks evaded truisms and vague, 'imitative' rhetoric ("one nation party"?). We asked stupid questions of the great and the good and got straightforward clarification. No one (we hope) felt uncomfortable at our talks - they weren't pretentious. They combined argument with the personal. Neither was the speaker presented as a modern day priest, the context was humbling.

    So, with a massive pinch of salt, a tri-weekly gobbit - a whole outlook distilled into a single, pithy quote:

    Dr. Mark de Rond, Social Anthropologist on a happy working culture: 'Give people something greater than themselves to worry about.' Or something like that.



    Tonal weight


    There is a fine line drawn between a militant moan and an incessant whine: one drags on whilst the other gets under the skin to the point of irritation. I am referring to Niall Fergusson’s Reith Lectures on Radio 4 entitled the Rule of Law and its Enemies: it’s riveting stuff, giving an historical perspective on our financial meltdown, but gravitas and command are reliant on delivery, not just intelligence, and   can easily become emotional rant or diktat (sample my family antics if you must!).  Listening Again to NF will save you having to wade though one of his inevitable tomes later in the year, and here he draws compellingly on Darwin and Voltaire, with extraordinary multidisciplinary understanding of what is wrong with the state of the World. I wonder is it the Glaswegian-Harvard twang that grates or the higher tones? Patronizing in parts, pertinent in others, he never the less keep us on our fiscal toes. We’ve all thought it but he says it, backing up with so much fact that it’s pretty hard to resist even if it’s difficult to swallow.   Apparently ‘Anti-fragile’ is the new recommended Rule of Law. Keep munching.

    This week my peregrinations take me on many a detour: from Dorchester Abbey (John Piper chiascuro in churches) to the bowels of the RA Schools to see gravitas with a litho crayon (Archie Franks’ dark tusche drawings). To Agua  (Pina Bausch) at the Barbican  - water inside now, as well as out (see my last blog, Trenchfoot), then onto Bold Tendences – edgy and ledgy on a  car park rooftop in Peckham, with Sculpture and Campari to bring you to your senses.  & a Tomax in August.

    On Monday 16th July, Trafalgar Square has a free Big Screening of Metamorphosis and Titian (ROH Live); Somerset House courtyard starts its  open air film screenings; and Festivalitis takes Youff off all over Europe in search of more of the same, but with couscous and curry-wurst + music of all sorts - not fussy.   

    Meanwhile you’ll find me living out of the back of my car, skinny dipping my way around the country, chasing Gifford’s Circus, playing tennis barefoot on a grass court somewhere delightful, jamming (raspberries) and picking French beans  - ad infinitum. Join me?