Thursday, 7 May 2009

‘KAPOW!’ ‘ZONK!’ ‘SNIKT!’ 'NODDY!'...Holy Brainwaves Batman it’s Rob’s Random 5!

1. Taxi Drivers: I was down in York last Friday for a very lovely wedding, and in order to get twixt train station and hotel I had to take a couple of taxis. Now, I’m not a fan of taxis, and it’s generally because I end up getting the nutcases. The first taxi driver I had was a nice enough fellow – a talkative mind you (I had to shove over a stack of donkey hind legs in order to fit in the car) but harmless. Anyway, that’s fine. The guy drives around all day and he’s bound to want someone to talk to and it’s just politeness to engage in conversation with your fares. That’s the taxi driver I like. I’m not keen on the driver who deafens you with rock music while swearing wildly at anything that passes within his field of vision. This was taxi man No.2, who wouldn’t be out of place in a Stephen King novel, and who lectured me on the apparently fine art of DJ-ing (or, just for you Claire, D-Jaay-ing) while playing music that would make Satan’s ears bleed. He was also very well versed in the art of swearing, putting together strings of profanities that would make ‘The Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker faint. The worst part of the ride was when he leant out the window and called a woman with a pushchair a ‘f***ing bitch’ as she was crossing the road. At that point I was prepared to roll out of a moving vehicle. Now I know not all cab drivers are like that, but I do seem to get the weirdos on an all too regular basis. Anyone else out there seem to get the nutters? What’s the worst taxi ride you’ve ever had? And have you ever been picked up by number 2 on the list...

2. Noddy: Noddy is a taxi driver. That’s what I was told by someone I met at the wedding I attended (long story about how we got onto that topic). It came as a shock to me, as I thought Noddy was just a helpful chap who drove around people as a favour, not as a job. Anyway, I still refute his occupation. I’m not going to trust Wikipedia. And I don’t care if Enid Blyton says he’s a taxi driver – here are my reasons why Noddy is anything but...
-He never works nights.
-He’s never had to clean vomit from the back seat of his car (he once had to clean up some ice cream but that was only because he made a sharp manoeuvre to avoid the Skittle children and his passengers spilled it)
-He’s never picked up a drunken, kebab-wielding Big Ears and driven him home.
-He doesn’t have a fare meter in his car. Or a Taxi light. Or properly displayed paperwork certifying he’s a licensed cabby.
-His car is way too nice and way too small to be a cab – I mean usually they’re Peugeots or Volvos.
-Ever seen a cabbie dressed in red shorts and a bright blue hat with a bell on it?
-He’s a child!
Case closed. No doubt someone will contradict me with a list, but surely you agree that if there has to be a taxi driver it would be Big Ears?

3. The Wasp: The wasp. What a bastard. For the past week a solitary wasp has been buzzing outside my window, thus preventing me from opening it for fear it zooms in and commences mayhem. It hovers there, looking through the glass, clearly waiting to make its move. Perhaps it is a spy on reconnaissance? Or part of the vanguard, waiting to rush in and pinch all my lovely jam? Maybe it’s just a lone operator and it’s after my stationery or my socks? What else would explain odd socks? That’s right, wasps taking them (no doubt for some wicked scheme). Who knows. Whatever it is, it made me think that as a whole the wasp is the hoodie of the insect world: while the spider constructs beautiful and useful webs and the bee is hard at work making delicious honey, the wasp just hangs around on street corners, threatening passers-by with its stinger and getting high off sugary treats. It probably falsely claims benefits too. What a bastard.

4. The Best Comic Book Sounds: I love it when I get totally random text messages from mates – stuff like ‘Who would win in a fight between...’ and ‘If everything was made of chocolate...’. But Chris topped the lot last night when he asked me what my favourite comic book sound was (I said ‘SNIKT!’ as it’s a good rope-cutting/ claw-usage noise). This got me thinking about comic book sound effects and how it’s the only medium (well, that and the 60’s Batman show, which was meant to look like a comic) where you get to write made up but accurate onomatopoeias without anyone questioning them. And this is where the comic/graphic novel outdoes the book: succinctness. For one, you couldn’t always get away with writing ‘KRAKA-THOOOOM!’ in enormous letters in a book to simulate thunder: at some point you’d have to use a clever poetic phrase about how the thunder ‘rippled across the sky like water being poured on a drum’. And Comics are the breeding ground of great onomatopoeias because they don’t have the time or space for poetic descriptions. Every sound has to be economical. Someone fires a machine gun and you can’t spend time describing how loud or frightening it is or what it sounds like. No, you get one space in which to sum it all up in a large and brightly-coloured word like ‘BUDDA-BUDDA-BUDDA!!!’. Now tell me that isn’t just as effective as three written lines on what machine gun fire is like. ‘KAPOW!’ is a great example of this. No other five letter word can sum up everything about being punched so succinctly. Just seeing that word on its own on an empty page you’d automatically know there was some kind of physical assault occurring. It’s the same with ‘BOOM!’, although that one has managed to cross to books quite successfully. There aren’t enough comic book style onomatopoeias in books and stories. There need to be more because they’re great. They speed along the plot, keep the reader’s attention and break up the monotony of text with their crazy spellings. And above all, because they don’t follow rules of spelling or grammar and because they just have to sound like the sound they are, they’re great fun to make up on your own. Here’s just a selection of some great ones I’ve found in comics and graphic novels (you might even be able to guess what sound/action they’re imitating):
Feel free to add some of your own in the comments box!

5. A Jersey Pound Note: Nine years ago I went on a weekend trip to Jersey with my family. And at sixteen I found it was a thoroughly odd and dull place. It was not like it had been portrayed in Bergerac: it wasn’t as glamorous and populated and action-packed as it has seemed on TV and John Nettles and Terence Alexander weren’t there. Everything was closed on Sunday, the parrot zoo was disappointing, and at the age of sixteen I had no desire to go to Jersey’s famous Underground Hospital. The beach was nice however, but you can only walk along a stretch of sand so many times. Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked. I didn’t come away with a tan, a holiday-romance or even a wicker Jersey cow, but I did leave with some Jersey currency in my pocket. Nine years on I still have a single Jersey pound note that I have been unable to get rid of. It sits on my corkboard, defying the falling and rising rates of currency, knowing that it will never be spent because it’s only legal tender on an island I have no intention of going back to. It is my albatross. But if you are going to Jersey and want a Jersey pound note then let me know (I'll be more than happy to exchange it for an English pound!). You’ll be able to exchange it for a crappy parrot show, a tour of a disused German hospital or a bucket of new potatoes. Or you could just keep it in your wallet and bring it out as a conversation starter (it has a cow on the watermark. A cow! Wow!). Fun for all the family.