Posts Tagged ‘radio’

Can we sign two petitions? Yes we can

November 9, 2012

“The bucks stop somewhere around here, Hillary!” I imagine this is what Obama might be saying if this was actually Richmond Park.

As a British person, you may have felt left out as you watched our American chums preparing to choose their president. And now they’ve made the right choice, perhaps you’re wondering how, in your own small British way, you too can make a difference. Well, fear not! For I have found a couple of petitions with which you can express your idealism, good nature and sound judgment.

The first petition aims to increase cycling access in Richmond Park by excluding motor vehicles from the seven-mile loop on Sundays. The giddy dream is that the proposal will be debated in parliament if it gets enough signatures.

At first, I thought the concept isn’t a bad idea. Cyclists who don’t yet feel confident riding among cars would get their own mini-Sky Ride every weekend. Then I posted a link to the petition on the London Dynamo forum, and now I think it’s a great idea. Because, perversely, it seems my cycling club – one of the largest in the country – is not keen on this particular plan to promote bike riding. And if there is one defining hallmark of a great idea it is the mood of fearfulness with which it is greeted.

You can’t read the thread I started unless you’re a member, so I will try give a fair précis of the objections and provide my counter-arguments. The main fear is that with lots of beginners and children pootling along at 10mph, more serious cyclists such as myself wouldn’t be able to use the park for training rides on Sundays. Well, I’m fine with that. Dynamo’s group ride in the park is on Saturdays; everyone heads for the hills of Surrey on Sunday. Under this proposal, less experienced riders would get to enjoy the park for one day a week, ’Mos and other club cyclists would get the other six, and maybe at some point a few of those beginners would gain the confidence to ride with us. We all win!

Another objection is that it fixes a non-existent problem: you can still use the park early in the morning when there is almost no traffic. I would suggest the almost total absence of pootlers at that time of the morning shows this is a lousy option that has, in effect, already been rejected. If I had kids, I wouldn’t relish waking the family up at the crack of dawn and getting to the park to ride for a measly hour or less before the cars showed up. The other alternative is sticking to cycling on the straight strip of car-free tarmac bisecting the loop, which is an excellent plan if you want to be bored out of your mind. You’ll never get more people cycling if you make the activity seem unappealing.

Some Dynamo members appear to be thinking of other people’s concerns. What about the residents surrounding the park? Surely they won’t like golfers parking on their doorstep to use the park’s course, and they’ll be miffed at the increase in traffic on the roads in their neighbourhood. Also, if fewer people visit the park, then there will be an economic impact on the cafes within its grounds. But then there is no guarantee any of these eventualities will occur. Sunday golfers may have a round on Saturday instead. Roads surrounding the park do not become insurmountably clogged when it is closed for deer culling. The custom of hungry cyclists in cafes could replace that of motorists.

There was one alternative suggestion to car-free Sundays: a congestion charge, levied in the park throughout the week. I suppose this ambitious plan could reduce the traffic, although it can’t weed out the worst drivers, which is what really puts people off riding. So it’s only a partial solution.

Basically, it comes down to this: I would like less confident riders to experience of the same simple pleasures I have enjoyed in the park over the years – things like the big, long descent or the nonplussed deer watching you on the small climb to Richmond Gate. So if you think this a reasonable and commendable aim, then please add your name to the list.

The second petition I signed aims to reinstate Danny Baker’s weekday afternoon radio show on BBC London 94.9. You’ve probably heard what happened to the Candyman after coverage of his magnificently funny and defiant two-hour swansong last Thursday made just about every news outlet you care to mention, including the front page of The Times.

And yes, regular dwellers of this blog will have already noticed me gabbing on and on about how much pleasure Danny’s show has provided. Nestled amid the phone-in topics and chats with his co-hosts Baylen, Amy and the inimitable David Kuo was a central idea: that the kinks, quirks and fleeting moments of oddness in popular culture and people’s everyday existence are what gives these things life. So if you value originality and good humour – which, of course, you must surely do – then sign now. If you do, I promise to stop gibbering on about how much I love Danny Baker. You can’t say fairer than that.

What’s the best way to listen to Danny Baker while riding a bicycle?

October 24, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that one of the central pleasures in my life is listening to Danny Baker on BBC London while I ride my bicycle into town. To do this, I used to use the TuneIn app for the iPhone, but it has a rude habit of cutting Danny off mid-anecdote, restarting a moment later at the same point it lost the signal, then skipping a few seconds to catch up. By which point Danny has gone to a Fountains of Wayne record, and I’ve missed the funniest bit of the story. Curse you, capricious app!

For this reason, I now listen to the world’s greatest radio show on an FM radio accessory which plugs into the old version of the iPod. But I’m no analogue snob, and it’s irksome having to carry a phone as well as an iPod, so this week I gave the new BBC iPlayer Radio app a whirl.

Is it any better than TuneIn? Well, after dialing up BBC London 94.9 using the whizzy little semicircular station selector, it soon became clear that it isn’t. On my seven-mile journey, the signal conked out three times – and unlike TuneIn, which attempts to reconnect automatically, I had to stop riding and restart it. Another advantage of TuneIn is that you can listen to practically any station in the world, not just the BBC’s output. So if you can put up with your favourite show going silent mid-broadcast, then choose TuneIn over iPlayer radio.

Yesterday was a decisive moment for a number of familiar technologies: Ceefax displayed its final pixels, and Apple sounded the death knell for CDs and DVDs by announcing that the new super-slim iMac won’t have an optical drive (although you can buy an external device if, in the slightly condescending words of Apple’s marketing chief, you are “stuck in the past”). FM, meanwhile, the old iron horse of audio broadcast media, has kept on going – even if it is, like an OAP, a little fuzzy at times. Perhaps 4G will be so fast and reliable that I’ll be able to chuck out my little iPod radio attachment, but at the moment it seems clear that radio apps don’t work as well as they should on 3G. So I’m puzzled why the BBC released theirs now. In the meantime, it’s FM for the Candyman.

Apple’s greatest thingamyjigs

March 9, 2012

Over the years, I have owned and used many items emblazoned with the familiar silhouette of a bitten apple. But my two favourites are probably the least technologically advanced, which is probably why their praises aren’t sung too often. So I would like to offer my own faint warble to them here.

The first device which holds a special place in my heart is this little marvel:

It looks like a Nano that’s grown a tail, but it’s actually an FM radio. Plug it into the old version of the iPod and the screen becomes a transistor receiver dial.

Now, doesn’t that look nice?

I’ve written before about my unbounded love for Danny Baker’s show on BBC London 94.9, but without this beauty, I wouldn’t be able to indulge in the simple pleasure of listening to the great man every day while I cycle into town. Having used the TuneIn app, I’ve learnt that radio via 3G is simply a means of disturbing your listening pleasure with random silences, and I’ve heard that DAB radios have the same problem. So for the foreseeable future, I’ll stick with this fantastic analogue oddity.

My second thing of wonder is the remote control for the iMac.

It enables you to adjust the volume, pause or skip tracks, and switch playlists or albums. All of which you can do with a mouse or a keyboard, but not when you’re slogging away on the turbo and you suddenly realise that you need to go one louder or change to a completely different playlist if you’re going to last until the end of the session. Essentially, by combining this simple infrared device with a pair of good speakers, you’ve turned your Mac into a less fiddly, turbo-friendly iPod.

Yes, these wotsits are merely accessories, humble sequins on technology’s shimmering raiment. But rather than launch the third incarnation of the same tablet in less than two years, I really wish Apple would instead come up with more of these unusual objects. The sort of objects that say, “I can fit neatly into your life,” not “Fit all of your life onto me.”

The Dynamighty No.2: “Danny Baker, Monday to Friday for instance Thursday.”

January 10, 2011

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.