you'll be exceptionally pleased to hear that one of the sureties in life is that i will never publish my autobiography. granted, there wouldn't be that much of interest between its hypothetical covers, but that is not the point i wish to make, more that i do not have much of a memory for landmark events in my life and just where they fit into the continuing timeline. in this context, at some point in my past, i inadvertantly ordered a book from one of those mail order newspaper advertisements entitled how things work. i'm now hoping that nobody puts their hand up and asks for examples from its chapters. i can't remember. but it certainly did have words and diagrams explaining either the glaringly obvious or the hitherto incomprehensible.
'twas a fine book, but sadly, it is no loner in my possession.
it's an interesting observation that those of a more artistic bent are often less concerned with the operational values of machines and accoutrements; it's the use to which they can be put that is of greater interest. obviously i was a confused child of my time. this has now reared its less than pulchritudinous head at the photoshop and digital photography course i teach midweek at the local college of further education. there is a discrepancy between what the course entails and what the prospective particpants were told by the college, the result of which was a group of quizzical faces seemingly determined to learn the arcane camera operations as directed by all those dials and buttons that bejewel their picture boxes.
while i have a certain degree of sympathy with their mystification, my contention is that many of them have little to do with how successful their subsequent picture making might be. the art of composition is one that surely ought to be learned long before the wiles of the macro setting as described by that little black flower? i fear, however, that convincing them of this may take more than a few weeks.
but it cannot be truthfully stated that learning how things work is of no value in the world. for starters, if you don't know how it works, it'll be a devil of a job to fix it when it stops working. but it is also of great interest to comprehend how an aglomeration of rules and strategies makes a collection of bicyclists, bicycles and hordes of support staff intent on racing at the highest level into a coherent whole that can actually achieve that which it sets out to do. such is argyle armada by mark johnson. he had the good fortune to be embedded (it says so on the back cover) with the garmin cervelo team throughout 2011, with pretty much carte blanche and access all areas, the results of which can be seen within this book's 200 plus pages.
it is of large(ish) format, giving credence to the notion that its contents may comfortably attract the epithet coffee table book, but in a different context, i might quote the buyer beware maxim. for despite certain misgivings on reading its opening pages, johnson's observations both written and visual are far more important than as a vehicle for coffee stains. firstly, johnson is a fine writer with, at times, almost too intellectual an approach, though it is with temerity that i enlist such as a gentle form of crticism. secondly, he is a truly excellent photographer in both technical and observational senses. there are one or two exceptions to this (a photo of a track-mitted hand entitled, 'hesjedal's hand' which seems to have little relevance to anything in the accompanying text), but by and large the illustrative part of this volume is finely judged and highly entertaining.
the relevance and timeliness of the book almost defies comprehension; rare indeed is a volume of this breadth and depth that arrives so soon after the period of time it depicts. most cycle racing books tend to arrive displaced by at least a season or two, so both johnson and velopress are to be congratulated on a job very well done. its logical train of thought is simple to follow, commencing with the initial winter training camp and following the sequential nature of the 2011 and every racing season: cobbled classics, ardenne classics, tour of california, tour de france. i'm sure i need say no more.
jonathan vaughter's team (he provides the book's foreword) has the self-promulgated task of racing clean, not only publicly eschewing any drug culture, but making sure all their rider testing is clearly published on the internet. though i see nothing wrong with underlining this fact at the outset of affairs, johnson does occasionally become slightly tiresome in his re-iterations. he also, on occasion, becomes too embroiled in the sound of his own word processor, but since i find myself identifying with such literary lavishness, it would be tantamount to throwing stones while living in a glass house. however, phrases such as 'his patience suggests a kinship, a propinquity in common cycling values that melts the ceremonious space the kids at first keep between themselves and a man who is, in their eyes, a god.' are rather more florid than either i could manage, or, indeed, the book requires.
it is, however, a book to be recommended for even those who only wish to look at the pictures. aside from a rather dodgy use of photoshop's motion blur filter on the cover photo, i figure you'd find much of interest and enjoyment in a book that substantially and comfortably bucks the coffee table ideology.
posted sunday 8 april 2012...........................................................................................................................................................................................................