October 17, 2003


Most of the action on k-punk is being generated in the comments boxes at the moment, and, naturally, I enjoy that.

It's funny how the most offhand remarks generate the most feedback. Witness the British Sea Power post (12 comments) and the United Response post (12 comments and counting).

The United Response post presents me (and anyone else who wants to play) with a diabolic temptation: scurry down the rabbit hole of speculation about who would win, Man U or England, and you're in danger of never returning. I suppose it's partly the impossibility of these never-to-be realised scenarios that draws us to worry on at them. I can imagine M------o tutting censoriously about silly laddish obsessing, and half of me agrees, yet our capacity to indulge in these pointless derrives and divertissements, to invest trivia with weight and significance, is what is most charming about the male of the species. It's a genuine existential triumph, almost heroic. On either side of this pleasant, seemingly harmless leisure pursuit lurk two dangers: absurdity and atrocity. The first is personified by Alan Partridge, earnestly debating who would win in a fight between Sean Connery's Bond and Roger Moore's; the second by a Fundamentalist dogmatism, a passional commitment to die and/ or kill in the name of these phantom commitments, these how many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin conjectures.

I suppose the appeal of Nick Hornby - though it's not an appeal I have ever succumbed to - is that he cheerily sets up camp betweent these two extremes: obsessive and fixated, but self-aware enough to avoid either bathos or fascism.

I have more of a weakness for Danny Baker , whose breakfast shows on BBC Radio London (which my crappy little clock radio can pick up) are delightfully and genuinely anarchic: unscripted, unplanned, interrupted only by the station's de rigeur News and Weather slots (which, like the nagging awareness in a dream that you will awake, are irritating emissaries from the Real World which you must soon re-enter), the show is held together by the charismatic sorcery and joyful force of Baker's cracker-barrel personality. Baker is the Borges of breakfast, a connoisseur and inventor of unlikely taxonomies: famous Doctors, celebrity teeth, the greatest ad slogans ever , fictional characters who wear three-quarter length trousers, the strange routines of other families (tiny details which suddenly reveal that Other People's Houses are really Other Worlds), Baker lures you into fixating on these categories that you couldn't even have dreamt of. His mind tirelessly pursues these non-topics, which have nothing in common with each other apart from the fact that they are all 'objectively' of no possible importance.

The carnival king of a world turned upside down, Baker, thankfully, makes you forget what's really important. He is genuinely Surrealist in a way that the actual Surrealists - too po-faced and programmatic - seldom were, serious about the silly. It's the seriousness that Nietzsche recommended: the seriousness of the child at play. What you're suddenly aware of, when you're cast out of Baker's wonderland, is the insufferable adult weight of the rest of the culture, with its neurotic faux-sophistication and prurience. There's not a trace of irony, not a shred of meta-self consciousness, in Baker's curatorial craziness. This is radio as a Situationist derrive, wandering without premeditated purpose through London's unconscious. The only guiding thread through this funhouse London labyrinth is Baker's enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm, enthusiasm: enthusiasm is obsession gone liquid, its calcified, one-eyed fixity transformed into a foaming, teeming froth.

Exactly what you need in a morning.

Posted by mark at October 17, 2003 09:01 PM | TrackBack

I like Danny Baker's programme too, Today can crush the life out of me in a minute, so it's a small skid down the FM dial and things get better.

Posted by: oliver at October 18, 2003 09:24 AM

I didn't expect any support on this one, least of all from you! I imagined you with your ear pressed to the speaker, hoovering up all the latest news from Guyana and Kenya...

The exact same thing you describe happened with me; I tried for a while to be Sensible and Adult and Middle Class and listen to those measured unexcitable voices on Today. By accident - appropriately enough - I tuned into Baker, and I've never listened back. Baker has that quality of intimacy of all the best broadcasting; it feels like your own private thing, that few other people know about.

Posted by: mark k-punk at October 18, 2003 11:46 AM

well my ex used to listen to the world service in the morning and that's a pretty fucking strange thing to wake up to. It sounds like it's being transmitted from the back of a jeep inside Afghanistan, and every story seems to be about political violence or oppression, and involve a hysterical woman sobbing. She used to say "it's good, because you can hear about stories that you wouldn't otherwise" and I'd say, yes, and go to work with nerves shot and the sound of tanks and mortar ringing in my ears. Now I don't listen to it because my radio doesn't do FM, which also means I usually miss the Shipping Forecast, which is a shame.

Posted by: oliver at October 18, 2003 05:58 PM