Friday, January 16, 2009

November 2007

I'm a little infatuated by bicycles. I've had one since I was 4 and have gone through pretty much all the fads, from BMX through mountain bikes, past the ironic vintage city bike (what? Just me then) all the way to wannabe hipster fixies. I bought one off ebay almost 3 years ago and have enjoyed riding it ever since, like the great big overgrown child that I am. So, here's a column vaguely related to bicycles and desperately trendy lifestyle choices.

Novenber 2007

Like a lot of people, I enjoy riding a bicycle. Perhaps somewhat unusually, my bicycle has only one brake and if I tried to coast on it, I’d flip and crash. It’s absurdly light and has no gears at all. The type of bicycle I ride is called a fixed-gear bicycle, a fixie, ‘one of those things that couriers ride’ or ‘bloody stupid’. The reasons why I ride it are naturally complex and difficult to describe, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say that looking cool was high on the agenda. Of course, nobody looks cool on a bicycle, unless you’re prepared to forget about things like helmets and brakes, and even then, you’re only fascinating to a small subset of society, one who insurers aren’t falling over themselves to sell policies to.

If, like me, you combine this attempt at being on trend with a silly helmet, a child’s seat and the sinking realisation that you are no different to a fortysomething man wearing sunglasses on his head, you may start to wonder what this headlong rush to not let go of one’s youth will ultimately arrive at. This was on my mind when I recently heard that George Lucas is now making a television series based on the Star Wars mythos (to ascribe it a completely unearned gravitas). It’s hard to overstate what an enormous waste of time and money this is going to be. There is literally no revenue stream that this guy will not pursue, equally, there seems to be no story so threadbare and badly put together that a CGI frog won’t make it worse. I realised then that Star Wars is not some fondly remembered childhood experience that has benefited from a sentimental audience with deep pockets, but actually the Turkey Twizzler of the motion picture industry. Once you make that analogy, the image of Jamie Oliver breaking a group of aging hipsters hearts by breaking down the ingredients of the franchise (‘and here’s the dialogue you’ve been swallowing’) becomes incredibly compelling.

What is it about the recent past that was so fabulous that we need to revisit it endlessly? I remember when rave was a word that people could say without chuckling, a more innocent time, where people wore lime green Global Hypercolour T-shirts (they change colour when you sweat – great!) and carried whistles. We may think in more enlightened times, that this was just a way of saying ‘no thanks, I don’t want human contact’, but we live in a world where even this is coming back. Better by far is to embrace the onset of age by doing something sublime in its ridiculousness. I am (of course!) thinking of Rod Stewart and his recently revealed passion for model trains. Rather than fool around with an auburn rinse like Sir Paul McCartney, or Botox like everyone else, Rod has been spending his time watching toy trains. This shows an ambition and imagination far in advance of anyone I know.

Clearly, the solution is not to offer George Lucas and his disturbingly monolithic merchandising operation any more money, but to find proper, grown-up hobbies, such as birdwatching, trainspotting, stamp collecting, or my personal favourite, needlepoint, which, let’s face it, is a lot more punk rock than my owning what my wife generously refers to as a ‘ridiculous souvenir of a youth you never actually had.’ But enough about my tattoos.

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Welcome to my blog. I'm a freelance writer/journalist/researcher/editor. I write about education and ideas I've had for the Irish Times. I also research, write and edit for writers, publications and websites. Here I put things that tend not to fit anywhere else. Enjoy.

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