I sometimes think that the reason why pros and fans alike place such emphasis on the beauty, passion and suffering of professional road racing is partly to avoid confronting the ridiculousness of grown men such as myself wearing outfits that are snugger and gaudier than polite society usually allows. Yet ridicule, as a fashion trailblazer once sang, is nothing to be scared of, and it takes a unique individual to embrace sartorial silliness, which is why Dave Zabriskie’s Captain America skinsuit complemented by a matching disc wheel will always have a special place in my highly personal pantheon of cycling’s greatest achievements. Zabriskie’s eye for the absurd is also evident in his blogging, and I think it’s admirable that he is one of the few professional riders who actively campaigns for road safety. But what I like most about Dee-Zee, or D-Zed as he is known round our way, is his lack of ego, which may be counterproductive: many overlook the fact that he is one of the few English-speaking riders of the Armstrong era to have worn yellow at the Tour. And he’s got a pretty good singing voice as well. Take it away, Dave!
Archive for the 'The Dynamighty' Category
I think we all agree that it’s impossible to define objectively what is and isn’t funny, yes? Well, no, actually, let’s not agree that is the case at all, because the only reason why you wouldn’t concur with the notion that A Confederacy Of Dunces is the absolute pinnacle of funniness is because you haven’t got round to reading it yet. Absurd, filthy, wise and true, this is, quite simply, the holy grail of comic novels. Plot-wise, nothing much actually happens: Ignatius J. Reilly, a kind of grown-up version of Spoilt Bastard from Viz but with an enormous scholarly intellect that matches the scale of his girth, self-delusion and flatulency, unwittingly changes the lives of those he encounters as he wanders quixotically from one dead-end job to the other. The real magic is in the dialogue, which revels in the peculiarities of the New Orleans accent as much as Ignatius indulges his horrified fascination with popular culture and the morality of others. And I think we all, at times, have felt a similar kind of splenetic outrage to Ignatius. Or is that just me?
Anyway, ignore the background stories that have enveloped this novel – the tragic death of its author John Kennedy Toole, the movie industry leaving the screen adaptation stranded in development hell for more than 30 years – and simply buy it, read, and laugh like you have never laughed before. There is no other book like it.
I loved the rush and clatter of Hefner and their confessional lo-fi sweetness, and more than 12 years later I’m still listening to what their former lead singer is doing. The sound has become more focused and folkier as the ideas have become more conceptual (Essex Arms, his latest album, is the second of a trilogy about the eponymous county, and he is currently writing a song a day for the wonderful January Songs project). But for me, the constant factor of his varied songbook, or at least the aspect I still find so affecting, is the breadth of remoteness: the rueful, loveless cowboy in his “ramshackle stable” (Hymn For The Alcohol), the fourth man on the Moon overwhelmed by the earth’s beauty (Alan Bean), the teenage bandmates “singing songs about boys that they hate/ Into some dented SM58s” (Amy And Rachel). Or maybe it’s not the remoteness exactly but the way it’s obviated, taking characters who are unknowable or unbelievable at the outset and making them as real as you or I by the end of each song. The anger, joy, or confusion you may have experienced at some point will also have been felt by another person, in another place. This is what great music can convey with immediacy, and this is the peculiar brilliance of Darren Hayman.
Here he is, doing what he does best: creating his own world from scratch…
In the realm of grand oddities, there is a small hamlet nestling in the green nowhereland inhabited by Lewis Carroll, Douglas Adams, the Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band and Vic ‘n’ Bob, and it doesn’t take the form of a book, a play, a film or a TV series, but a radio phone-in show. It is a humble work of unalloyed joy which has been broadcasting from three ’til 5pm every weekday on BBC Radio London. It has its rules – because every tea party, no matter how giddy, must have rules. Proceedings always begin to the tune of The Candyman, and the host, avoiding the “self-regarding nonsense” of standard radio practice, never tells listeners they’re tuned in to Danny Baker (the pre-recorded faux-serious voice of Chris Morris, as quoted above, sometimes pops up in the middle of records to do the job for him). There are also central tenets of the Baker canon: the Jerry Herman show tune Mame contains the most awkwardly rushed line in recording history (“The whole plantation’s hummin’ since youbroughtDixiebacktoDixieland”), the instrument plinking out the theme to I Dream Of Genie shall forever remain a mystery, and the only hit song where everything starts all at once is, of course, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) by Squeeze. You might get to hear Chicago’s 25 Or 6 To 4 or even Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus, or more typically Fountains Of Wayne, Erin Bode, Todd Rundgren, Dylan, The Beatles, or some obscure prog rock oddity. But the true genius of the show is the contributions Danny elicits from listeners, such as the exasperated doctor who commanded a Spanish patient to remove his trousers with the immortal words “Adios, pantaloons!”, the fella who turned on his desktop printer to prove its whirrs and beeps sound exactly like the intro to Are “Friends” Electric?, and the terrified young man who heard Fire and thought The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown was speaking to him directly with the line: “YOU’RE GONNA BURN!” (His name? Conor Byrne.)
Yeah, it’s just a radio show, but Danny Baker makes radio shows a bit like Woody Allen used to make films, pitching just above the audience’s heads, so the enjoyment comes from reaching towards his encyclopaedic level of pop cultural knowledge or witnessing others matching his inventive sense of whimsy. I love the way he can make me laugh out loud with a simple yet unusual turn of phrase, and I love the obvious warmth he has for his co-presenters Amy and Baylen. But he hasn’t been around for a few months, and it looks like he’ll be gone a while longer, so I hope he makes a full recovery. Broadcasting is a poorer place for his absence.
It’s not because “500” is engraved on the handle of the boot, or the way the speedometer’s needle on the outer circle scampers after the rev counter on the inner. It’s not because the white dashboard and steering wheel lifts my mood as soon as I get in. And it’s not because “RV”, the first two letters of his number plate, gave us a reason to christen him Harvey. It should be obvious why the Car of The Year (2008) deserves a place in my top five of the greatest things ever, because extensive scientific tests have already proved that when a Nissan Micra goes to sleep, it dreams of being a Fiat 500, and when a Fiat 500 dreams, it sometimes has nightmares of waking up as a Toyota iQ. But perhaps if you believe cars don’t have to be mean, or imposing, or cutely miniaturised, then in an idle moment, you too might dream of the cheery Cinquecento.
I have never particularly liked cars, but I love Fiat 500s. That’s because, by any conventional aesthetic terms, they aren’t cars at all. If cool can still mean alienated, then cars are unenviably cool: low and reptilian, or bulkily lumbering through increasingly encroached environments, they appear as if the outside world, with all its wonder and endless possibilities, has not had the slightest influence on their design. Then there’s the 500 and its wide-eyed, placid and quietly fearless face: it is the look of an expectant traveller awaiting the next journey and all its attendant experiences and sensations. In its spirit, it is the closest a car will ever come to a bicycle, which is why I love my 500.