Saturday, 6 August 2011

An afterthought on Danny Baker and frivolity

Panes et circenses. Bread and circuses. '[A] metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement' Distractions. Trivial pursuits. Frivolities.

Listening to part of the last Danny Baker Saturday show on the website replay, I am first of all confirmed in my guess that there is no point in a 'Finest Moments of Danny Baker'. Baker needs a long runway before take-off, but once flown he remains flown, the air ever more giddy. His phone-in callers fit into his world and, to a great extent, make that world for him. They are practically co-pilots. He trusts them and they generally repay the trust. He can take the controls back when he needs to: he knows the plane inside out. He has, after all, made it. It's a package flight really, without a first class section. His callers can afford it.

He doesn't even have to talk that much. Some of the time he is simply annotating what he is given, slipping in anecdotes like footnotes, or adding a link to some encyclopaedia of trivia. Amazing that such an encyclopaedia should exist. Proper in-flight entertainment.

Of course we know it's trivial. Baker does not deal with weighty matters. He is far more interested in the incidental than the essential. Indeed it feels over-solemn to be discussing him in such terms at all: one should be slipping in the odd remark, becoming part of that world, that flight, rather than observing it from here, on ground level, or possibly from some impossibly grandiose cloud.

But here is an interesting principle. Auden was more likely to be impressed by a young aspiring poet who expressed an interest in words than in one claiming to have great things to say. There is skill and delight in doing anything well and doing frivolity well is delightful. It is a key part of understanding what it is to have things to say.

Very well, says Blake, Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Granted. I can't go on forever saying: It's not the subject but the language, because I don't really believe it. Not all the time. I whisper this as an aside: There is enough terror and sadness in the world to haunt the nightmares of any god worth the name. Are the brackets around that aside comic or tragic? Hard to say.

But the frivolous in Baker's hands is the product of precision and love which is good enough for me. It's why the plane flies and why the flight is so enjoyable.

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